From Cork to Connemara
It is 4:30 o’clock in the morning and becoming light. Birds are singing their morning song. When I went to my bed it was 10:30 o’clock and they were singing their bedtime song. It reminded of my childhood when I was sent to bed at full daylight. It is a month yet until the summer solstice and I am in Ireland. The latitude is the same as Labrador - the nights are short. Warmed by the Gulf Stream, the climate is temperate. There is a palm tree on the grounds of the cottage we rented near Dingle.
Ireland is considered to be one of the world’s beautiful places, but the beauty of Ireland is not skin deep. The Irish are what sets Ireland apart and to me they are the reason for visiting Ireland. Theirs is a people-oriented society, from the Pubs (where I can’t recall seeing a television) to the playing fields. Gaelic Games are the national pastime. Gaelic Football and Hurling are each played by local amateur teams representing the 32 Counties playing each other through the season culminating in an All-Ireland Final championship game in each sport, between the last remaining two teams. Although the sports are amateur, there is evidence that other consideration might be involved. We visited the pub in Ventry, in County Kerry, named for and owned by the late Paidi O’Se (Paudie O’Shea) 1955 – 2012, who was a dominant super star as a Gaelic Football player and coach for 15 seasons, and reportedly a larger than life character. The pub is a museum of sport photographs, photos of visiting movie stars, and several photos of Paudie and Irish Prime Minister Charles Haughey, one showing Haughey pouring beer in Paudie’s pub. I asked and was told that “Charlie” helped Paudie open the pub.
There is simplicity in all things Irish, but particularly in the way the roads and highways and traffic are managed. Traffic drives on the left side of the road, which in some cases is a state of mind rather than an actual space. On the narrow roads and highways, with roundabouts instead of traffic lights, there is kindness and courtesy – for that is required to make the system work. There are stop signs on the very smallest roads, but there are yield signs at the roundabouts, which are everywhere, and traffic keeps flowing in all directions at once. There are some thoroughfare highways connecting major cities that are four lanes divided, but the exits take up much less space than in the U. S. and often involve a roundabout. Then there are other major highways that are 1 ½ lanes in each direction with a center line that signals who can pass, with the ½ lanes on each outside available to bicycles and hikers and for vehicles to courteously pull over to facilitate passing, and with roundabouts at intersections. Then there are well marked 2 lane highways, 1 ½ lane roads, and 1 lane roads; all with roundabouts or stop signs at intersections. The roads of less than 2 lanes have an occasional small wider spot on the left outside – known as a “lay by” – intended for the vehicle heading in that direction to pull over into it, or reverse back to it, so that the oncoming vehicle can pass by on the right.
If you love language then Ireland is what heaven must be like. The sense of humor and tradition of storytelling and the way of describing all things is unique and magical. And there are many famous Irish writers to prove it. A local in some pub will be sure to make you realize that America was not discovered by Christopher Columbus, or Leif Ericson for that matter, but by Saint Brendan in a skin boat – and the documentary film, Brendan’s Voyage, is available on Amazon.
We spent 15 nights on the Atlantic West from Cork to Connemara in whole house bookings through Airbnb. All of the spaces were very nice. We experienced many great pubs – Dick Mack’s and O’Sullivan’s in Dingle, and O’Connor’s and McGann’s in Doolin were favorites. Our best meals were at Power’s Thatch, Bar and Restaurant in Oughterard and Ashe’s Bar and Restaurant in Dingle. We were seldom disappointed with anything during all of that time. Although the weather was Irish, we were happy that almost every day was better than the forecast. We didn’t wear raincoats until the last day.
And Aer Lingus is an excellent airline.