My journey began with UFC 93, where I faced Chris Lytle. After an emotional victory, I headed out on vacation to Dublin, Ireland. I went to the airport Sunday morning with many other fi ghters, but not to fl y home. I was actually waiting for my girlfriend, Lara, to arrive from the States.
Once she fl ew in, we grabbed her luggage and picked up our rental car. Like the true tourists that we were, we thought that it would make sense to rent a car so that we could view Ireland with ease. This turned out to be a bad decision. What many Americans don’t think about is that in Europe, not only are you driving on the other side of the car than what you’re normally accustomed to, but you are also driving on the opposite side of the road. This quickly messes with your mind, and after a few close calls with some double-decker buses, I gladly parked the car for the week and used safer means of transportation.
We spent the fi rst few days doing a lot of shopping and eating on O’Connell Street, which is right in the heart of Dublin. We were immediately impressed by the kindness of the Irish people. Many of them initially stopped us because they were UFC fans and, after paying us a few kind compliments, they offered my girlfriend and I tips about and directions to the beautiful spots that Dublin had to offer. These tips made our trip much more memorable because many of the places we visited would have been otherwise unknown to us.
One of the coolest places was Kilmainham jail. During the tour, we happened to bump into Jeremy Horn and his girlfriend. We learned about the treatment of the Irish while they were living under British rule. It was horrible, and having the opportunity to stand in the place where so many innocent people unnecessarily lost their lives was powerful and unforgettable. The conditions were unthinkable, especially when we took the cool, damp weather of Ireland (at that time of the year) into consideration. Hungry young children would go to prison for stealing a piece of bread and had to live in their own fi lth for as long as they could survive. Needless to say, this had quite an impact on me and clearly proved the strength and will of the Irish, that they could rise above such oppression.
A few nights into our trip, we thought we’d fi nd a pub where we could taste some authentic Irish lamb stew and other traditional dishes. We found it at the Arlington hotel. Along with the incredible food, there was live entertainment with singing and Irish folk dancing. This was, hands down, the best night we spent in Dublin.
On our last day, we decided to go on a lengthy tour through the country outside of Dublin. We knew we were in for a good time when on our fi rst rest break, after climbing through the mountains of Wicklow, Ireland, the tour guide began taking shots of Jameson’s whiskey and offering them to the passengers as well. We had the chance to view the landscape where Braveheart and Excalibur (two of my alltime favorite movies) were fi lmed. The scenery was like something out of a storybook, and words couldn’t to do it justice.
By the end of the 5 days, we were in love with Ireland and, with the exception of missing our kids at home, we didn’t want to leave. We are already planning a family trip for the spring of 2010. The kids are excited and can’t wait to see all that we’ve been telling them about.