Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Lasting Memories

Four things I noticed about Ireland (and then 3 more).

1. The word "wee" doesn't mean little or small, but more like inconsequential, and used as an adjective anywhere. "I'll bring you your wee lunch now" or "Here's your wee bill".  (Mostly in the north)

2.  Newspapers are alive and well in Ireland - most stores would have a news stand of 8-10 different papers.

3. Youse - as in "Can I get youse a drink" - I thought it sounded kind of  'hick-ish' but it makes perfect sense when you realize 'youse' is the plural of 'you'. (Again - mostly in the north)

4. Many Irish people have Irish as their first language.

1. Hurling
We had never heard of this sport before the first time we came to Ireland. Along with Gaelic Football it is a national sport but is only played in certain parts of Ireland. We kept asking along the way about the chance of seeing a 'live' game but we didn't have any luck until we got to Ennis and found a U16 match going on (kind of like Little League I guess). So it's not as exciting as the All-Ireland playoffs that were taking place in Dublin at the time, but we stayed and watched for about 1/2 hour until the rain started.

2. Marcus Hernon
Marcus is an amazing flute player and flute maker we heard at the pub in Clifden. After chatting with him about his flute, he invited me to his place in Carna, about 30 kms away. However, he wouldn't give me his address and just said to ask anyone in town where he lived and they would point the way. In retrospect this makes sense, because there really are no addresses in Ireland and telling us it's the 3rd white house along the road over the bridge and around the corner would make no sense to us. So we got to Carna and looked for someone to ask. I'd estimate there are a mere 150 people living in the area but we found a corner grocery and asked there. The directions were something like - go back to the intersection and turn right, drive a few kilometers, past the college, past the factories, up the hill, around the corner and it's the house overlooking the water that looks like it has 2 roofs. Well we even surprised ourselves when we found it based on those directions!
House with 2 roofs there in the distance
Marcus wasn't there but his wife Mary offered us tea until he arrived a few minutes later. He talked to us about his flute making process and took us into his workshop where he showed us the lathes and woods he uses. He also advised me not to order a flute right then and there, but to try a few others first.

Marcus in his workshop

3. People
The first time we went to Ireland we realized that the most fun we had was when interacting with the locals. We did that a lot this time mostly because the places we stayed were with local people. There were a couple of pubs we went to that were absolutely jammed with tourists (such as in Doolin) and we basically walked out. Not that there's anything wrong with tourists, but it wasn't what we were there for. As well, many of the tourists were from northern/western Europe and it was difficult to interact with them.
Although we booked a lot on Airbnb the places were mostly just bedrooms in people's houses which sounds like it might be a bit awkward but they all were very well set up. The rooms were usually separated off by themselves. Some of our least favourite places were the few hotels we stayed in (could be in any country) or the bnb's that are set up as commercial enterprises and you never get to interact with the host. Almost all our hosts offered us tea/coffee when we arrived and Margaret in the last place even had freshly baked apple pie for us. They all offered us local information and answered any questions we might have. Most Irish people LOVE to chat and you can strike up a conversation in the most unusual places.

Margaret's pie was delicious.

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