Thursday, July 29, 2010


I arrived at the Shannon airport and waited in line. When I got to the counter, the first thing I was asked was, "Are you traveling alone?" Followed immediately by, "Are you in a big hurry to get to your destination?" For the first time in my life, I was offered a bump. I said yes, but they were able to get everyone on the plane.

The flight across the ocean was good. The meal was better than most airline meals, and I got to drink some complimentary beer (Corona, and they even gave me a lime). Even the snack was better than most. Peanuts AND pretzels. And a slice of pizza. Apparently, they are obsessed with foods starting with the letter "P." The flight came into New York from fairly far north, so we followed the Canadian coastline for quite a ways, which was much better than just staring out at water.

After two changeovers, I finally reached Green Bay and eventually home. My mother, wonderful woman that she is, has stocked the fridge with a six-pack of Guinness and the liquor shelf with a bottle of Jameson. I told her I was a little Guinnessed-out for the time being, but I'll get to it eventually.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Songs of the south

We went to Killarney this past weekend, supposedly the most touristed place in Ireland. We were there to do some touring, but also to see Josh Ritter, who is one of my friend's favorite musicians.

Since Killarney is such a highly visited place, we had difficulty finding a place to stay. Midweek, we called a bunch of places but they were all full. This is why, at the age of thirty, I ended up spending some nights in a hostel for the first time in my life.

As we rolled south on the bus, my friend said that she just hoped the people were quiet and didn't smell bad. We walked into the room and were greeted by three boys in their late teens, maybe early twenties. As my friend told me later, they smelled sort of funky. I nicknamed them the funky bunch. And two of them snored. Loudly.

On Saturday, we did a full-day tour of the area, known as the Ring of Kerry, because the region is somewhat circular in shape. Our tour followed the coastline for a great distance.After the tour, we grabbed some food (bangers and mash at an excellent little "gastropub") and then went to the concert. The opening act was local, and the best part of his act was when he started singing children's songs in Irish and the crowd joined in. I didn't know what they were saying, but it was pretty cool. Then Josh Ritter played for two hours and was absolutely amazing, putting on a great show. This was a pleasant surprise, since I hadn't heard any of his music prior to the concert. Live, he's sort of a mix between Ben Folds, Springsteen, Coldplay, and a dash of Radiohead.

We then went back to the hostel and tried to sleep through the snoring and the endless ringing of phones when one of our roommates' friends was trying to get into the room without a key at six in the morning, and they were too passed out to even answer their phones.

Today, we spent our third straight day on buses coming back to our home-base. I now have one more full day in Ireland before leaving these green hills for the other green hills of home.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

My goodness, my Guinness

This past weekend, I took the five hour bus ride to Dublin. I didn't want to stay in a shared-room hostel, so I opened up the wallet and got a nice hotel room.

One of the main things I went to see was the Book of Kells, hosted at the renowned Trinity College. The book is an ornately made 9th century edition of the gospels. The exhibition was interesting, but perhaps overpriced. Also, no photos were allowed. Now, I understand that light can damage certain items, and I wouldn't trust people with cameras near the actual book. But why can't people take pictures of printed, new museum-type display posters? Or of the library?

After the College, I carried on to my main destination, the Guinness Storehouse.
Although the storehouse, which used to be part of the working brewery until 1988, is now very modernized, I still enjoyed myself. I wandered slowly through the seven stories of the building and had lunch at the brewery restaurant. I also took my complimentary pint at one of the in-house bars where they teach you how to pour a proper pint. (That's a Kevin-poured pint in the photo above.) Because I was at the Guinness brewery, I felt there was nothing wrong with having three pints of brew starting at noon. Somewhat surprisingly, the brewery had the cheapest beer I encountered in town.

I then staggered back into the sunlight to visit Kilmainham Gaol, an old jail that played an important role in the events surrounding the rising of 1916.The jail tour was quite informative, but not the most exciting of tourist attractions. Still, I felt like I needed to mix up some history with the more commercial tourist visits.

I considered going to the old Jameson distillery, but I had read mixed reviews online and it is no longer an active distillery.

Overall, I had a good, if expensive, time in Dublin. However, I don't know if I will get back to Ireland, so I felt it had to be done.

Photos from the trip can be found here.

Monday, July 12, 2010

To the cliffs

I was going to go to the cliffs on Saturday, but when I woke up it was so foggy that I could barely see the trees in the courtyard, which are only fifteen feet away. Instead I spent the day inside and then, somehow, ended up at the pub later. They had a musician playing and for the last song, she played the Irish national anthem. Everyone stood at attention and listened. I can't imagine this happening in America.

On Sunday, the weather was finally good and I made it out to the cliffs of Moher (pronounced "more," not "mohair," as some foreigners occasionally make the mistake of saying).
The views were quite stunning and the cliffs were free to visit, as I feel most natural attractions should be. (This one didn't have much staff or too much infrastructure to maintain.) Although it was drizzly, the visibility was good. I went for a decent walk past this sign.
I was going to turn back at first, but everyone else was doing it.


This sign was posted in the town square.
The price isn't as strange as it appears; it is the equivalent to 1000 Irish pounds. However, the Irish pound hasn't been used in eight years. Perhaps it's time to adjust the fine amount.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Weather and words

When I arrived, Ireland was in the midst of the "best" summer in forty years, if "best" can be defined as hottest and driest. However, I should have known that it couldn't last. It's now been raining for a week. I was going to head to the cliffs this morning, but when I woke up at 7am (on a Saturday, no less) I was greeted with approximately twenty feet of visibility. Hopefully it clears up later.


While we haven't had too many language difficulties here, since they do speak English, or something at least similar, I have encountered some interesting rough spots.

For example, the people from Cork: you just have to give up because you're not going to understand them. We have one acquaintance, who is not from Cork, but is also strangely the only person here I can't understand, even though I can understand his brothers and sisters.

Since we get transportation from other people, I need to make sure I call this service "a lift." To say "ride" has overt sexual connotations, and then people look at me weird.

A common Irish word is "craic," pronounced "crack." If someone asks why you're at a place, and you mean you're just there for a good time, you would say, "I'm here for the craic." Our Irish friend informed us that he got some strange looks when he used this phrase while visiting America.

Here's the breakdown from Wikipedia:
Craic or crack is fun, a good time, good company, good atmosphere and conversation. If you are enjoying yourself, it is good craic.[30][31] The word may also be used to refer to events, news, or gossip, as in the phrases "What's the crack?", "How's the craic?", "Any craic?" or "It was good crack." It can also be used in a negative context: "That was some bad crack there last night."
Hopefully my trip continues to be good craic.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Freedom, feudalism, and festivals

The Fourth of July has come and gone, and we did spend the evening at a friend's house. The aforementioned Frito pie didn't materialize, but there was a cake made with mix brought all the way from the states. And ham and cheese sandwiches, which I suppose aren't overtly American, but delicious nonetheless. Overall a pleasant evening, if not exactly overwhelming in American-ness.


On the 3rd, we had a good day. A long hike through the limestone-ridged hills and ending up at a castle, or more specifically, a tower house.We then settled our weary butts onto some bar stools for an extended period of Guinness consumption, but because of the many miles hiked earlier, did not do any damage to the favorable mile-to-beer ratio.

This weekend, I hope to check out the fabled cliffs of Moher and also to venture into a nearby town to check out something called road hurling, which is a traditional Irish sport moved to the road for the local festival that will be taking place.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

From the papers

Last weekend we walked into the nearest town and then caught a bus into another town basically because that is where the nearest ATM is located. While we were there we stocked up on groceries and also bought a newspaper.

The paper offered some interesting information on the economic situation here. One article compared average prices in Ireland to prices in the rest of the European Union. Some (mildly depressing) facts:
  • Food here costs 32% more than elsewhere in the EU, despite the fact that Ireland produces quite a bit of its own food.
  • Alcohol costs a whopping 67% more than the rest of the EU. And again, a lot of it is produced here.
Another article gave a breakdown of how the Irish spend their money. Last year, the Irish spent 2.3 billion euro on tobacco and 6.5 billion euro on alcohol, for a total of 8.8 billion. Their for-home food purchases only totaled 7.5 billion euro. Even when factoring in 2.2 billion for eating-out expenditures, the total is 9.7 billion. Which means that the Irish only spent 12.5% more on food than on tobacco and alcohol.


Last night, on the eve of America's independence day, my friend had to vocally restrain me from singing Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" at midnight in a bar filled with Irish folk. She then told everyone that I am absolutely the worst singer in the entire world, which I thought was a little harsh.

Anyway, today we'll be celebrating the holiday with the other Oklahoman, who will be making us some Frito pie with ingredients she brought from America. Go USA!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Wings and walking

Today I took a walk down the big hill to one of the local tourist attractions: the previously mentioned cave. While the cave was a dud (not to sound overly cynical/critical/etc., but I haven't been in too many caves and this one still probably doesn't crack my top ten), there was an excellent birds of prey center and show.I've put up some of the photos here, which is also where I'll be adding more photos of my adventures as my stay progresses. So keep checking in.

Lastly, here's a photo of the view from the front of the apartment complex.Somewhere beyond those cows lies the sea, just past the nearest town, which is five or six miles of fairly uninterrupted nothingness away. Since I've been here, I've probably walked about 25 miles. Which means my miles walked vastly outnumbers my beer consumption. I did not foresee this happening in Ireland.