This week we mark another positive change for our lives in this pandemic so I am semi breaking my editorial ban in relation to COVID-19.

As I write, the Irish summer is in full swing (which, being realistic, could be short lived). The sun is streaming through my window and any thoughts of being cold feel almost ridiculously distant. The international travel restrictions are being eased. Ireland joins the rest of the EU in implementing the Digital COVID Certificate, which means that non-essential travel inward and outward to certain countries, is once again permitted.

A person quite a lot younger than I, mentioned in passing that she is getting her vaccine this week. That feels like real progress

There are caveats in that one must be vaccinated, recovered from COVID-19 or have had a negative PCR test 72 hours prior to arrival. It appears that the vaccination programme is progressing rapidly enough too. A person quite a lot younger than I, mentioned in passing that she is getting her vaccine this week. That feels like real progress.

I have many questions on the topic. I am curious as to what people are thinking in relation to international travel? I wonder how many people in the country are Googling holidays abroad right now. I wonder will our little country and its fantastic amenities that we have all grown to appreciate more, be forgotten. I am wondering whether the easing of restrictions will help our beleaguered hospitality industry. Will the inflow of international travellers outweigh the outflow of Irish to the EU or further afield.

At the heart of these stories are real people

These questions have been very much on my mind in recent weeks as our team has been out and about collecting stories for our holidaying at home series. This began last week with Ciara’s trip to west Cork and this week Janine and I write about our trips to Mayo. At the heart of these stories are real people.

Birds have never really interested me that much. But on my walk the other day, I saw not one but two buzzards. Well I think that they were buzzards from my Googling, as I had to look them up then when I got home.

This piqued interest could only be attributed to getting up close and personal with some raptors at the Mount Falcon Estate, which was one of many highlights from our trip.

Amii with a feathered friend at Mount Falcon Estate.

I feel that it is a fair reflection to say that at many times over the last 18 months, we – collectively and individually – have felt very “fed up”.

During our falconry experience, I learned that this phrase actually has its origins in falconry. Specifically when a hawk had eaten its fill of food, it was said to be “fed up” as it would be unwilling to fly or hunt anymore for the falconer.

Another phrase that comes from falconry is “with bated breath”. When a falcon wants to “bate from the block” – ie fly away – they can try to take off only to be held on their leash by the falconer. They get short of breath doing so, and hence the term “bated breath”.

Dia and Raine McKeever with Martin McPhillips, head falconer at Mount Falcon.

We have all been waiting with bated breath for life to return to some form of normality in relation to how we travel. That is here now. If you decide to travel, be safe on your journey. Personally, I have just “seen” buzzards. They were there but I didn’t see them until my eyes were opened. I feel the same about Irish tourism. So my own “bated breath” will be spent working out where next to go on our island. I hope that the sun will continue to shine, even intermittently, and sure if it doesn’t, we can wear coats. CL

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