Ireland on a Working Visa #12



May 14th
To the rhythm of the creaking of our hardening arteries, let us meditate a moment on the heart-stopping grisliness of gristle and grease that is the brilliance of the Irish Breakfast:

Three sausages, two rashers, one egg, a half a tomato, fries, toast and butter and jam… And, if you want to go all the way (which I didn’t): baked beans, black pudding and white pudding.

Mmmm…

Let us meditate a moment, too, on white pudding and black pudding; if you have never tried them, then I advise you to take up your fork and investigate the matter closely. Unless you are a vegan or vegetarian, consumption of one of both should be one of Immigration’s exit requirements for Scotland and Ireland; in any case, be sure to give them a go, and continue reading after the next paragraph –

(For all of us who have tried the puddings, please join me now in touching your pinky-finger to the corner of your mouth, Dr. Evil-style) –

After breakfast – for which Wendi, the wimp, only has some toast – we make for our tour bus, to make way for Dingle and Slea Head, including such points of interests as the Southwestern-Most Point of Europe.

The guide opens the door for us, and, once we’re in, adds, “You might have trouble finding a seat.” He was right, too: there were so many to choose from and, in the end, the 10 of us hardly gave a half-full feeling to the mini-coach. The driver’s jokes filled in the empty space just fine, though: “Does anyone have a map? I’m not sure where we’re going.”

The music, however, was about to drive me mad; unless you like country-western music, bring along your personal stereo – and, so you don’t meet the same fate as I did, be sure to include some spare batteries.

Looking through my notes as I bullshit my way… er, as I fine-tune this skillfully crafted piece of writing, one more comment on Irish roads: they make my handwriting so bad that not only can I barely read it, but that if not for cursive, this scrawl and scribble would be indistinguishable from the handwriting exercises I did in kindergarten.

From crap scrawl to html, then, some random observations, as we passed the towns and drove through the verdant countryside, shall remain:

  • In large red capital letters in a window: GERMAN BUTCHER AND COFFEE SHOP, OPEN 8 A.M.
  • The town where the famous Australian outlaw, Jack Doolin, was from, but from the way the guide is talking, you’d almost think that Doolin never left Ireland. “See, Ant, the Irish keep trying to claim back all our famous people,” says Wendi, her Australian blood heating with patriotism. “He’s likened to Robin Hood,” explains the guide, “except that instead of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, he stole from the rich and kept it for himself.” Smiling, I tap Wendi on the shoulder: “How does a country full of convicts have outlaws?” She glares, then laughs. “Oh, shut up!”
  • White vertical sticks poking out of the water in Dingle Bay: “They mark the oyster beds. Very rich oyster farming around here,” says the guide. Along with fishing, sheep farming and tourism, oyster farming are some of the main subsistences and incomes in the Dingle Peninsula.
  • White sign saying “an Ghealtacht”: along with Co. Galway, Co. Donegal, the Aran Islands and Connemara, in the Dingle Peninsula Irish not English is the primary language.
  • The pretty yellow bushes that are everywhere in the countryside are actually just signs of very poor soil.
  • Nearing a bend above the cliffs and rocks, the side of the road seems a strange place for a sculpture in white rock of Jesus’ crucifixion. “Peace at Sea” is in fact a monument built in remembrance of all who have lost their lives to shipwrecks on the rocks.

    At one point, as we start to make our way back towards the town of Dingle for lunch, the bus has to wait for a car that is stopped, in front of and facing us. The sightseeing driver jumps in when he sees the tour bus, but he has to back up quite a ways before he can turn off and let us by. Fenced in on both sides by hedgerows of fuchsia (“It’s everywhere here”) the narrow road seems more a garden path that somehow got paved.

    Arriving in Dingle, lots of yellow and red shop-fronts – just like Killarney.

    Walking around town after lunch, Wendi and I crack at what is probably one of the funniest sights in Dingle: a tourist shop whose outside signs list such wares as ‘IRISH WEE’ (at one time, perhaps IRISH TWEED – but looking more like IRISH WEED, which I find very interesting) and ‘LACE RAFTS,’ but I can’t say I’d want to go whitewater rafting with one.

    Back in Killarney, Wendi and I chat for an hour, then she walks me to the bus. Another 4-hour ride has me in Galway by 10, but the bumpy ride is softened by some casual chat with a girl from Maryland. She and her friends (all Marylanders, except one from Colorado) are spending the semester at a college in Limerick; on the bus from Limerick to Galway, two more Maryland girls – in 17 years of living in Virginia, just south, I never met so many people from Maryland. They are in Galway for tonight and tomorrow, before returning to London, where one is visiting her friend who is studying there. Back in Galway, we go for a drink and a bite to eat; we say good night, and soon I am back in my bed in Galway, asleep, the trip over.

    Okay, So It’s Touristy
    One afternoon at a coffee shop in Dublin, on the radio I listened to a discussion about tourism in Ireland. Callers kept making, in various forms, the same comment: “I’d hate to see such-and-such turn into Killarney,” said in much the same way that Europeans in the 1300s would have said, “I hope that fever doesn’t turn into the plague.”

    Despite being little more than a tourist town, Killarney is worth going to. The town itself doesn’t have much of interest, just the requisite shops and pubs and such, but the town is useful as an epicenter for day trips, such as to Dingle and Slea Head, the Gap of Dunloe, or the Ring of Kerry.

    For more information, Where Killarney is a bimonthly magazine that details everything from surrounding tourist attractions to local sightseeing to a calendar of events. It can be picked up at many locations around town, including Neptune’s.

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