travel rules with girlfriend
Travel Inspiration

The crew jumps for joy as summer hits Ireland (Inis Mor)

Just for a change, the daft commentary from the Ben corner began unseasonably early. Barely two minutes after landing in Dublin, I turned to Tamzin and remarked, quite earnestly, “It really is green, isn’t it?”.

From there Captain Obvious Commentary was my permanent wingman. Comments about Ireland’s weather, the darkness of the Guinness or other observational nuggets best kept to an internal monologue escaped my mouth like a gushing Irish spring.

Perhaps merely being in Ireland, where residents are famed for their endearing backwardness and the chocolate tea pot, submarine screen door and helicopter ejector seat are notable inventions, was to blame for my oratory asphyxiation.

Perhaps kissing the Blarney Stone, known for bestowing its many suitors with the gift of the gab, produced some sort of reverse effect whereby I was struck down with seven years of sounding like an unfunny Jerry Springer. Is that a tautology?

Perhaps it was being back on tour, for so long my safety net of bus rides, drinking holes and pub feeds, that turned my brain to mush.

Perhaps it was the fairies and leprechauns, the former perhaps incensed by my voice during a visit to a Fairy Circle, while the latter felt aggrieved after realising that cute brunette by the bar with the brown eyes named Tamzin had a boyfriend.

Whoever or whatever the culprit, Ireland certainly had me in a spin. And for good reason. The Emerald Isle is a gem.

After landing in Dublin, we made our way into the city to our hostel, Kinlay House, conveniently located only a short walk from the infamous Temple Bar region (see The Tourist Trap), a lively collection of bars, pubs and rebadged Pizza Express’ restaurants (they call it Milano in Ireland). I believe I captured our first few hours in my last blog while Tam was taking a wee kip, so I’ll fast forward to the start of our Shamrocker tour.

I like to keep these entries below 600 words if possible to ensure the ADD crowd gets the biggest bang for its buck, but pages could be filled with the outstanding tour that ensued. Our guide Sean – if you read this mate, I’m sorry but I can’t find the accent to go over the “e”, must be the residual effects of Ireland  – was, to use the local lingo, a fecking grand lad. The man knew his Irish history inside and out, and without notes, which as a former guide to me was especially impressive. I used to resort to illegible scrawling on the inside of my forearm. No such marker ink was evident on Sean.

The tour began with a visit to Killarney and a story telling session from “Pa”, who if nothing else truly embodies the crazy Irishman. I’ll upload some video latter, but suffice to say parts of his performance covered STDs, penile dysfunction and a dead man drinking at the bar. It was eccentric, at times uncomfortable, but always thoroughly entertaining. As previously mentioned, our first day also included Blarney Castle which, just quietly, must be making a fecking killing at 10 Euros a photo. No chance of taking your own on the cheap; the photographer’s assistant is strategically positioned to prevent any unauthorised photos.

We departed for Ennis the next day, taking in the sweeping landscape along the way. A stop at Coumeennale Beach could not have been complete without inscribing “BO hearts TD” in gigantic 150 point text. By this stage, I’d gone two days without doing something embarrassing/stupid, so I was well overdue.

The Cliffs of Moher and the moonscape of the Burren were the highlights of day 3 before arriving in the student town of Galway, where the craic is in plentiful supply. The following day was probably a tour highlight; catching the ferry across to the island of Inis Mor, we hired bikes and burned off some spare calories. The weather was glorious and lunch inside the ruins of Dun Aonghasa, a 3000-year old fort overlooking the cliffs, was, in the words of Bruce McAvaney, special. The sunburn I acquired – in Ireland, of all places – was not so special. A great day followed by a night of traditional Irish music in one of Galway’s many pubs.

Enniskillen, our next destination, provided some much needed downtime before arriving in Derry the following morning for a walking tour. For those not familiar, Derry is infamous for the 1972 clash between civil rights protestors and the British Army which resulted in 13 dead and 13 wounded, known as Bloody Sunday. It marked an escalation in the violence between Irish Republicans and British Loyalists and was the inspiration for the song of the same name by U2. But if Derry provided a glimpse into Northern Ireland’s troubled past, Belfast is still very much living it.

The Berlin Wall is a sobering experience because it’s difficult to conceive how a city could be split in two, how people could live side-by-side never knowing their neighbours. The Berlin Wall is now long gone, with only remnants remaining as a reminder of troubled times. However, Belfast’s wall – or rather walls – are still very much intact. The “Peace Wall” as it’s known is not as clear a demarcation line as Berlin, but it’s impact is no less significant. Entire communities are split along Catholic and Protestant lines to keep the peace, each side blaming the other for outbreaks of violence which, despite the peace accords, still occur on a frequent basis.

Despite the upbeat tone of our tour guide, the black cabbies were more pessimistic, saying the peace is still very fragile. I wouldn’t call Belfast an uplifting city, but the city’s progress towards peace is nothing short of astounding. To think we were being driven around areas that in recent years hosted gun battles was a sobering thought.

All in all, a fan-fecking-tastic trip. Drinking, sight-seeing and history all in the right amounts and a place we would be happy to revisit.

I just hope next time we grace Ireland’s fair shores, I manage to keep the inane commentary to myself.

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