Ireland (Jan 2006)

28 01 2006

DSC01599 Ireland is about what I expected it to be. Fantastic. Friendly locals, lots of Guinness, whiskey and craic to go around too. (Craic being the Irish phrase for fun or enjoyment). I just got back from a week in the Emerald Isle.

Ireland is somewhat different to the mainland UK. To start with, religion and politics are definitely to be left off the conversation list, even though “The Troubles” of the last century are seemingly ancient history. Unlike the relatively secular New Zealand culture, religion is still a very important part of Ireland’s culture, even though the difference between the Catholic and Protestant faiths seem negligible to me, this doesn’t seem to be the prevailing opinion among the Irish themselves. I was discussing this subject with two Irish guys I met at the pub in Belfast, only to be told by the bartender the conversation was unsuitable, and we may be causing offence – so we either had to shut up, or leave; predictably we stayed where the Guinness was readily available.

DSC01570Many people seem to have the impression that all Irish tourist attractions are alcohol related, and it’s true, they are. Although, this is not too surprising when you consider these are a people that refer to whiskey as Uisce Beatha (pronounced: ISHka BAH-ha), or “The Water of Life”. The tours in Dublin through the Old Jameson Whiskey Distillery and Guinness Storehouse at St James Gate are well worth doing. My advice to anyone who is planning on doing these tours is to put your hand up when they ask for a volunteer, they’ll get you to sample six different types of whiskey, then give you a big glass of your favourite. Needless to say after finishing my six samples, and finishing my larger glass of 13 year old single malt, I was feeling pretty happy with myself. (On a side note, The Bushmills DistilleryDSC01523 north of Belfast has a similar routine, of course I generously volunteered again – feigning innocence – ha!) .

Other than the alcohol related activities, there is of course the Blarney Castle in Cork, originally built in 1200 AD, it is home to the Blarney Stone, which is rumoured to be half of the Stone of Scone, a stone used in the coronation ceremony of the Scottish Monarchy. Kissing the stone is said to give you the “gift of the gab” (great eloquence).

North of Belfast is County Antrim, home of the Giants Causeway. Irish legend says that Finn McCool, the Irish giant, built the causeway to Scotland so he could fight the Scottish giant, Benandonner. As the story goes, Finn McCool got to Scotland and saw Benandonner, only to realise he was much bigger and stronger than he. When Benandonner came looking for Finn McCool, his wifeDSC01516 covered him with a blanket and told the Scottish giant to be quiet as the baby was asleep. Upon seeing this, Benandonner fled back to Scotland destroying the bridge between to two lands, thinking if that was the size of the baby, how big was the father!

The Irish people are great too; they are generally very friendly, very funny, and very proud to be Irish. All in all, Ireland rocks.

Photos: http://flickr.com/photos/marksteele/sets/72157594158494936/

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