Hear from smarTours traveler and former Senator of Iowa, Daryl Beall about his 2018 smarTours family trip to Ireland which included his wife, his children and their spouses, and 11 grandchildren!
Why did you choose to plan your trip with smarTours? Why not plan the trip yourself, or choose another tour company?
We trekked to Ireland in 2005 and rented a car and set out to discover the beautiful people and landscape of the Emerald Isle. Frankly setting out on our own in 2005 was a fun adventure but without a professional guide we missed a lot of the history and significance.
We traveled with SmarTours to Australia and New Zealand last year and were so pleased with the quality and cost. So when we started to consider taking our 11 grandchildren and their parents to my ancestral home it was natural that we contacted SmarTours to help plan and orchestrate our customized tour.
Why did you choose to travel to Ireland and not another destination?
I have always been proud of my Irish heritage and helped my mother obtain her American-born Irish citizenship.
I wanted my children and grandchildren to appreciate and understand their Hibernian heritage so we worked with Suzanne at SmarTours to plan our weeklong pilgrimage to Ireland. We wanted them to share my pride of our Irish heritage so we visited my Great-Grandfather Loftus’s hometown of Foxford in County Mayo. He emigrated to America at the age of 17 largely because of the potato famine so we visited the potato famine museum.
I wanted my kids and grandkids to understand the Irish fight for independence from Britain and the subsequent “Troubles,” so we explored Belfast and Londonderry. Our superb guide and driver Paul did a marvelous job of showing us around and explaining the significance of what we were experiencing.
We wanted to experience the beauty — sometimes terrible beauty — of natural and historic Ireland. Highlights included Newgrange and site of the historic Battle of Boyne, Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher and Inishmore, Aran Islands. It was there where Father Hughie Loftus, whom we had met there in 2005, celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary by renewing our wedding vows, or as Father Loftus said, “retying the knot.”
What would you say where the highlights of your trip?
Paul was the best guide we have ever had on our numerous travels. He was very accommodating, especially in regard to our 16-year-old grandson Drew who lives with autism.
The Loftus Descendants Hibernian Heritage Pilgrimage, as our green T-shirt emblazoned with the green, white and orange Irish flag proudly proclaimed, was a marvelous legacy for our 11 grandchildren, aged 6 to 26, and their moms and dads.
The pilgrimage provided ample opportunities to bond with every child and grandchild. We all had a great time and we were all still on speaking terms at the conclusion of our travels!
We armed every grandchild with his or her own camera so they were able to chronicle their own pictorial record. Daughter Christen is designing and publishing a photo essay book for each family which will help relive this experience as a living legacy.