How The Strongs Retired To Ireland

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How This Couple Of Retire Overseas Alumnae Reinvented Their Lives From North Carolina To Glengarriff

Glengarriff, Ireland

We were committed. After the Retire Overseas Conference we attended, we rented our home, packed up our belongings, and bought one-way plane tickets for Ireland.

In advance of our trip, we contacted an attorney in Waterford. She said she’d be happy to help us apply for residency if we would contact her upon arrival in the country, which we did. At that point, though, she responded to say that she couldn’t help us. We contacted another attorney, and, she, too, wrote back to say that she couldn’t help us. We spoke by phone with an attorney in Boyle, near where we were living, and he offered to meet with us but warned that he didn’t think our chances of qualifying for residency were good. He told us that unless we had a medical reason for why we couldn’t leave at the end of our 90-day tourist visas, it was highly unlikely that we would be allowed to stay in the country.

As you can imagine, we were beside ourselves. We’d moved lock, stock, and barrel. We were afraid we’d have to figure out how to move ourselves and all of our belongings back to the United States.

We remembered Lief’s offer during the conference to contact him if we found we needed anything as we worked through our move. We sent him an email, and we were surprised and delighted when Lief responded right away.

Lief told us to give up trying to deal with the attorneys and to contact immigration directly. He told us that we should be able to go down to the garda (that is, police) station with our documentation and leave with a temporary one-year residency stamp. It really should be as simple as that, he told us.

We followed Lief’s advice and got in touch with the immigration office at our local Boyle garda station. For weeks, he missed appointments we’d scheduled and refused to return our daily phone calls. We finally asked the garda in Carrick-on-Shannon for help. They couldn’t process our residency paperwork because we were living in a different county, but the woman we spoke to in the Carrick station was, shall we say, less than pleased when we told her what had been going on. Three hours after speaking with her, we received a phone call from the Boyle officer, who gave us an appointment that he actually kept.

We finally got ourselves registered. We were granted a three-month extension of our tourist stamps and instructed to send specific documents to the Department of Justice in Dublin, which we did immediately.

Meantime, our landlady up north, in County Roscommon, announced that she’d decided to sell the 200-year-old stone cottage we were renting. This turned out to be a wonderful thing for us. We’d just discovered that (1) the Internet service up there was woefully inadequate, causing me to have to shut down my online medical transcription work; (2) Ireland does, indeed, have winters (dreadful ones in the northwest); and (3) it’s impossible to heat a 200-year-old stone cottage. We had papers blowing off the kitchen table when all the doors and windows were closed.

All of these factors drove us to explore the south, and, when we hit Glengarriff, at the head of Bantry Bay in the southwest, it was love at first sight. We never looked back. Well, that’s not true. We had to go back up north to get our things. Now we’re still pinching ourselves every morning when we wake up: Do we really live here?!

Glengarriff is a stunningly beautiful, delightfully charming coastal town on a harbor off the head of Bantry Bay with its own unique, subtropical microclimate. We have 30 species of bamboo, palm trees, tropical plants, and lush greenery everywhere. We can walk from our property into Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve, parts of which are genuine rain forest because the canopy is so thick and parts of which are ancient oak forest. This area is one of the few places in Ireland that’s still forested.

Our house is lovely. It was built 15 years ago in a clearing in the woods adjacent to the nature reserve, with a river flowing briskly by on its way to the sea. It’s a three-bedroom, two-bath bungalow, with big windows (a lot of light), a sliding glass door in the dining area looking out over the river, and trees everywhere. It’s fully furnished (even linens and kitchenware!), with a real washer and dryer. They were asking 650 euros, and we talked them down to 570 euros. There’s a small shed on the property, and we’ve been given the green light to convert it to a ceramics studio.

Best of all, we love our landlady and her family. They’ve become great friends in the four weeks we’ve lived here. We’ve made a ton of other friends here, too, both Irish and expat.

We don’t see or hear traffic, and yet a five-minute walk delivers us to the door of any of a number of delightful pubs where we’re treated to live, traditional Irish music at least once a week. In the summer that will be nightly.

Glengarriff is small (800 year-round residents), but it has all the necessities and a lot of extras, including fine restaurants, pubs, gift shops, a pharmacy, a grocery, a post office, and a garda station (we’re lucky, as Ireland is removing a lot of garda stations, but not ours). There’s also a hardware store and a place to buy firewood, turf, and coal. Fires here are more for the charm factor than for the heat; we have 16 hours of darkness this time of year, and everyone enjoys their evening fires.

We’re running around in sweaters, while up in the northwest, where we lived for more than two months, we had nothing but grey skies, relentless winds, either rain or sleet every day, and, beginning in late October, freezing temperatures.

As you can tell, we’re very happy with our move. Glengarriff is everything we could have hoped for and infinitely more. If it was good enough for Maureen O’Hara, it’s good enough for us!

Sheila Strong

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