Your hero, that would be me, returned recently from a week’s vacation in Ireland. From the get go, let me say a few things. I wrote most of this column at a desk, in pencil on paper, in Galway.
First, and it should not have surprised me, the natives are nice. We asked lots of questions just like tourists have a way of doing, and every native we talked to smiled and answered. They were super relaxed and it was very refreshing. Said my son Sean, “They are so chill. I want to move here.”
I was able to understand about 95% of the native dialect of English spoken by the indigenous peoples there. And, I was able to understand only one word of any conversation spoken in the Irish (Gaelic). While on the train from Dublin to Galway, I sat across from four elderly women speaking Gaelic. They were going on a million miles an hour, but every once in a while their conversation would be broken up with a “so.” Then they would go back to gibberish.
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Went with Sean to a pub called The Crane Bar to listen to a storyteller of Irish and Scot lineage. One of the stories he told was of an American named Toby, who came to Ireland in the 1970s. What was interesting was how he described Toby. “He was tall and fit, with thick dark hair and those beautiful American teeth – so straight, shining and white. Now, I’m not saying Irish teeth aren’t beautiful. They care, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors . . .”
His story continued that poor Toby fell off a bridge, into the river and died. They couldn’t find Toby, he was stuck in a hole under the water, “like cork in a bottle he sat down there, floatin’ and waivin’ and decomposing.’”
It was a funny story, but I guess you had to be there.
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Remember a wee bit ago, you read how relaxed and “chill” the Irish are? Well, their dogs are, too. Everywhere we walked, on sidewalks next to small roads or on paths by the river Corrib, dogs walked with their people, no collar. The dogs didn’t jump, sniff, lick, growl or even acknowledge others who walked by them. Why aren’t the dogs stateside like that?
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I can unapologetically say this: I am not a fan of the small roads and cars driving on the wrong side of those small streets. And, don’t get me started on the electric scooters and bikes that come up behind you in super stealth mode. I read in one of the Irish newspapers there a little story headlined: Menace on our paths. “In the past 18 months alone, there have been 54 serious and fatal accidents in this country involving e-scooters and e-bike . . .these things are absolutely lethal, traveling silently at speed, often on pavements, with their riders rarely bothering to sound a warning when they’re passing . . .”
All the taxi drivers I talked to were not fans of e-bikes or scooters, either.
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I stayed in a small room furnished with a bed, desk, closet and bathroom. No TV, no air conditioning (not that I needed AC, because it was mostly gray and rainy). My Spartan accommodations were about a 15 minute taxi ride from all the fun in Galway, or a 45 minute walk. Each day, I took a taxi to and from the Latin Quarter of Galway. About 20 euros per trip.
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Speaking of taxi drivers, in Ireland, I wanted the old, “we’ll get there when we get there” drivers versus the young drivers. The older drivers, I learned while chatting with them, drove for the extra income. The younger drivers hustled. They wanted as many fares a day as they could and yikes, did they drive fast. Little cars on the wrong side of little streets traveling supersonic speeds meant I usually just closed my eyes and held on tight. Those were some white-knuckle travels.
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At 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 15, Sean and I stepped off the train at the Rush/Lusk train station. As it was our last day in Ireland we wanted to spend it in Rush, Ireland to see what the sea-side town was all about. We discovered it was a small town, with a population of about 9,000. It had a two or three block Main Street. We stopped and took pictures at any business that had Rush in its name . . . like the Rush Florist and the Rush Express party store.
There were four or five pubs. We stopped at one to dine and two to see what the locals were like. (Wait a minute, random thought: Would you call those locals Rushites, Rushians, Rushers or Rushiganders?) The natives of Rush were a friendly lot who raised their pints to our good health and invited us to return soon.
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While there, I found myself trying to map out where I was going as if I were still in Michigan. I took my mitten, right hand. Closed my thumb. That is the isle of Ireland. Where my thumb met my palm, that’s where Dublin is. Up to the second knuckle of my right index finger is where Rush is. If you were to head west (left) from the Dublin Thumb Knuckle, all the way to my little finger, that’s where Galway is.
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And, a final vacation thought: One week is way too short of a time span for vacationing in Ireland.
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