‘Has anybody here seen Kelly?
K-E-double L – Y
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Kelly with the Irish smile.
He’s as bad as old Antonio
Left me on my ownio –
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Kelly from the Em’rald Isle’
It is one of those songs, which I cannot read the words without singing the tune. I still have the record (LP) ‘Come along and sing along’ with Charles Berman and company
which I’ve listened uncountable times as a kid growing up in Yellowwood Park, Durban. In my head this Em’rald Isle they mentioned was some exotic sunny island with coconut palms, white sandy beaches and hours of leisure in the sun. I simply had to one day visit it! It was with a big ‘Ahh, they talk about Ireland’ that I later learned what the Em’rald Island actually was, but it never tempered my curiosity to one-day travel over this island.
Nowadays the musical reference to Ireland is probably more Ed’s Galway Girl, and that too is a great song, rather than Kelly.
If I still had a slight expectation of sunny beaches and leisurely hours enjoying those sunny beaches in my head in anticipation of our 10 day Ireland trip, I was rudely jerked into reality when we received the message from Ryan Air about 36 hours before our flight informing us our flight was cancelled! Not delayed, sommer completely cancelled, gone, finish ‘en klaar’. Europe was caught in a week of serious snow and bad weather and Dublin airport was closed for a few days. After frantically phoning around and surfing around (the web kind, not the anticipated sunny waves kind of surfing), Cara was able to get us a 22:00 flight, for the Sunday evening! We were supposed to fly Thursday but had to wait until Sunday night. Before you think of my Ugly Story post and that infamous Lufthansa flight LH572, this was different and we accepted it as such, while keeping our eyes peeled to weather forecasts and news bulletins of the European weather scene. Oh, by the way, after 22 months, Lufthansa refunded us a few euros per ticket, of which the lawyers took nearly half.
We landed in Dublin at 23:30 Sunday night, picked up our rental car, grabbed a serious coffee or two or six, and headed into the snowy, misty darkness of the M4 and the 215km I had to drive to get to our Galway accommodation.
It was a good call to drive through to Galway that night, because we woke the next morning at our destination, with a view across the bay, and a little grocery store stocking real bacon, eggs and cheddar among a few other necessities just around the corner. English breakfasts instead of continental in itself is sufficient reason for visiting Ireland.
Somewhere between my youth in Durban and me growing up, I have realised that the Island I have in my head looks vastly different than the real Emerald Island, and today was the first day of connecting those dots in all earnest. We headed north for a typical day road-trip, that thing we do when we explore anew environment. Camera batteries all charged, coffee flasks filled to the brim, Apple music playlists lined up and spirits super high after a good night’s rest, we meandered north on small little roads fascinated by names such as An Bothar Bui, Derroe, Camus Oughter, Screebe before stopping at Joyce’s Craftshop and the pub next door. Though it was a touristy pub next to the road, there were a few locals enjoying local refreshments of a darkish colour. It was a good sight, specifically one guy, who immediately completed the picture of the stereotype rural Irish in my head. He was rugged, weather leathered with a thick wool jersey, and an accent thicker than his jersey. It took me a while to recognise he was actually speaking ‘English’; when I listened carefully, I understood. We continued our journey passing Lough Inagh, Kylemore Abbey towards Connemara National Park. At Connemara, we strolled the 4km Bog- and Lower Diamond Hill routes, which provides breath-taking views across the far lying sea and the valleys, before returning to Galway passing Letterfrack, Cleggan and Claddaghduff to name a few, for the sake of just mentioning these beautiful names. It was a good day, with spectacular scenery. We were happy.
I did, however, realise that we, as Africans are super blessed in a specific aspect. When you visit such pristine wild life areas such as Connemara in South Africa, there actually is wild life. We were peeling our eyes for the slightest sign of red deer, or any other living thing, but alas, though stunningly beautiful, there’s not much wild life in the wild life areas!
Our next destination was Annascaul, on the Dingle Peninsula, but there were three must stop via points listed for the day. We spent the morning in Galway, just feeling the city,
and then headed south. Obviously, we had to stop at the Cliffs of Moher, and they are worth the stop. They are definitely worth the stop as much as you have to stop at Checkpoint Charlie when in Berlin, the Eifel Tower when in Paris or Big Ben when in Londen. Your trip will not be complete without a tick next to them, but unfortunately visiting these sites come at a price – tourists! There are just always people, whether ignorantly strolling into your photo, or deliberately photo-bombing your photo, or whether it’s just the masses on the opposite side of the cliffs spoiling your photo, there’s just always people. Yet still, when in the area, it is more than worth the stop to see the cliffs. We were a few weeks too early to see any puffins. I will bare the tourists somewhere in the future to visit these cliffs again, just to see those majestic illusive puffins.
Being a passionate rugby (union) supporter, I simply could not let the opportunity pass to take a selfie at the Garryowen Football Club. Its situated just outside of Limerick, which meant a slight detour. I kept it quiet to the family that there’s a shorter and probably more scenic route down to Annascaul, which included a ferry crossing, but I decided I would fulfil my selfish objective in stead. Fortunately, being South Africans, all bought into my route when Stean found a butcher advertising on the internet that he sells biltong! Thus, my detour through Limerick was approved without further ado, I got my photo, but that butcher was lying! We found no biltong, but did find an excellent portion of newspaper wrapped and salt and vinegar covered ‘fish and chips’ to fill four growling tummies.
Garryowen Rugby Football club was founded in 1884 and the name means the Garden of John. I still hear the legendary Bill McLarren and his familiar commentary of rugby matches when the high-kick-and-charge or up and under tactic, also known as the Garryowen, is deployed. That tactic was named after this club, for it was a well-known tactic of theirs. It’s a famous club, who produced some great Ireland international players and since I was in the area I simply could not allow myself not to set foot on that ground.
The Dingle peninsula is absolutely inspiringly beautiful in natural scenery, with the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ highlighting this peninsula, as an Irish must travel destination. It may be the most scenic part of Ireland. Or is it? So much more natural beauty is yet to come. Yet, it is scenic enough to have been chosen as the location where the latest Star Wars movie was filmed.
After a leisure day trip around the peninsula, I planned enough time so that we could also ride over Conor Pass, which was a thrilling experience as it was actually still closed due to the snow. However, our rental car and I proved well capable, the scenery amazingly impressive and the experience one worth mentioning specifically. Conor Pass is the highest pass in Ireland and provides an enjoyable drive with worthwhile scenery. We ended this stunning day first with a beer, or maybe more, in Dick Mack’s Pub in Dingle and thereafter a dinner and some local folk music in John Benny’s Pub, which is also a good seafood restaurant.
Dick Mack’s is a historic pub, serving drinks since 1899, and being in the same family from those days. It’s a bit of a mix, as they do their own brewing, they have the pub, where the drinking of various whiskeys and beers take place, plus its actually partly a leather monger shoe-shop type place too! It’s a definite stop over when in Dingle, but beware, the chances of getting stuck with a beer in hand and a local on chat is seriously high. I’m still slightly disappointed that I didn’t take Dermot up on his Fungi canoe trip offer. Fungi is the resident (wild) dolphin, who’s been living in and around the Dingle seaside since the 80s.
Watch the video clip, its home made
The Gap of Dunloe took us through the real mountain splendour of small rural, scenic wonderland that is Ireland’s famous natural beauty towards the east. This little road needs time. Every nook and crevice, brook and bridge, bend and gap needs to be appreciated, photographed and discussed before venturing further. From remote farmhouses in the spectacular settings to an old farmer with his horse drawn cart adds to the beauty of this area of Ireland. One should not visit Ireland, without at least once driving through the Gap of Dunloe.
In Dublin I surely missed an opportunity of a lifetime. Our apartment was a stone’s throw from Landsdown Road rugby stadium (I know it has a new name, but that’s just for business purposes). When I say a stone’s throw, I mean really, I could have, but didn’t, throw a stone there; that’s how close we were. And it was the second last Six Nations test of the season for the Irish. Probably not that big a game, as Dermot in Dick Mack’s Pub in Dingle assured me a few nights before. In his words, ‘the Scots are like our brothers, the same people as us, you know, Celts. If they beat us, its okay, but next week, on St Patrick’s Day, we’ll play the English on Twickenham. That’s the one!’ And in hindsight, which is perfect science, I know, I can now say that thàt was the one. The one where the Irish were crowned clean sweep Six Nations Champions for 2018. I wish I could have shaken Dermot’s hand a week later and say ‘Well done, the Irish’.
But we were already in Dublin and have just finished a wonderfully interesting Guinness brewery tour. Did you know that when Arthur Guinness signed his lease contract for the land on which he built his brewery in 1756, he was so confident in his business plan and product; he signed a 9,000 year lease contract!
That means Guinness will be brewing those lovelies on that same site for the next 8 738 years!
Running out of time between the brewery tour and the Six Nations kick-off, I asked the taxi driver to take me to a suitable pub, to watch the rugby. I was lucky, I found the most enlightened taxi driver in the entire Dublin. He understood the perfect balance needed between good beer prices, not to crowdie and a good seat in front of the telly. He dropped us off in front of the Palace Bar in Fleet Street, central Dublin, and this turned out to be a very enjoyable rugby pub evening, ending with another excellent Irish Stew and live music in Bachelor Inn Bar across the canal where a young musician rendered the most passionate version of Foggy Dew I have ever heard! It’s a passionate song as it is, and being sung in a full Irish Pub provides excellent incentive already, but credit to that young man, he was oozing passion. I know it was a passionate affair from the way the guy next to me sang along, tears flowing and annoyance very evident when I dared to enquire about the exact name of the song. That was a serious faux pas at that moment.
Ireland is a fascinating destination. It simmers with history and conflict, culture and humour and the Irish possesses an incredible friendliness as part of their natural make up. It was an exceptionally enjoyable week’s travel through the rural, and some city scenes in Ireland, complimented by the English language and some more familiar general products such as Cadbury, Marmite, cheddar and breakfasts, proper English breakfasts. We even took the breakfasts that step further, when challenged by Brendan, our host at The Old Anchor Inn Bed and Breakfast in Annascaul to have some black- and white pudding. There’s nothing funny about those puddings, unless maybe the fact that its definitely not pudding. To say the truth, though, it’s rather tasty. Even after having lived in Germany for 2 340 days, you realise how much easier life is when change is not too drastic and simple everyday things, such as language amongst a few, are slightly more familiar.