Thursday, April 17, 2008


The bed and breakfast experience

If you have been to Ireland but haven't stayed in a B&B, you're missing a part of our culture. We have long tried to provide warm and friendly accommodation and you can still experience this with a stay at a B&B. While it is possible to book ahead, it is also possible to go-as-you-please and get accommodation by knocking on doors, especially in the off-season. If the B&B is full, they will redirect you to another premises and phone their friends for help.

I suspect that many of you may have been slightly alarmed at the manner in which your B&B hostess may interrogate you. Before long, your life story has slipped out and the hostess will have learned every detail about your family, work and lifestyle (prepare for a Christmas card with an Irish stamp this December). This is Irish curiosity at its best, rather than noseyness - one of the reasons is that Irish people have a huge family and friend circle and love to discover that you know someone they know. You might think that this is possible in Ireland where the total Island population is 4 million, but it's sometimes possible beyond that, considering our emigration rate to various parts of the world.

So don't be offended if you feel you're being interrogated - it's just our interest in life - your life!

Labels: , , , ,


The pub with attitude...?

I was not intending to mention drinking again but a recent article in the Irish Times caught my eye. Pubs in Ireland are open most days with a few exceptions, one such day being Good Friday. Due to the difference between licencing laws in pubs and those where the drinking location is mobile, chiefly ships and trains, the latter have exceptions to the normally rigid laws. In the old days it would have taken many hours to go from, say, Dublin to Cork, and a train might start at a time where drink was permitted in bars but it might terminate after drinking would not have normally been allowed. So a little flexibility was written into the law applicable to train travellers, a situation which the rail companies have used to their advantage ever since (and why not).

The jist of this recent article was that Iarnrod Eireann had hired security guards on Good Friday at Connolly Station. You might imagine that a security risk of some proportions were imminent - perhaps some GAA trains bringing county supporters? Naaaa, we have very little crowd trouble at any sporting events in Dublin. Perhaps some political rally? Nope - Easter Monday would be the nearest (the Rising anniversary). The reason was that they had to open the bar at Connolly Station.

What sort of message does this send out? That we're a nation of lager-drinking louts, so desperate to get a drink and likely to get out of control that we need hired hands to keep order? Apparently, one of the tasks of the security hands was to check that persons entering the bar had a valid train ticket. And they weren't accepting 1.20Euro tickets to Howth either - only bone fide mainline rail travellers were wetting their whistles that day. The intrepid reporter managed to find some drinkers who had tickets alright - but to Oslo (if memory serves me correctly). They were en route to a stag weekend (that's an all-male pre-wedding party to you). And Dublin airport doesn't yet have any rail connection as you will know, and even if it did, it would hardly count as 'mainline'.

Unfortunately, Dublin seems to be gripped by this control element, ostensibly to combat rowdy behaviour in Temple Bar and the like. What sort of signal do these measures send to our visitors? Have a drink by all means, but have it outside Dublin city centre if you don't want some lads in DJs and attitude telling you your jeans aren't welcome in their establishment.

I'm working on some additions to the 'Hidden pubs' page (see link on left) and will feature establishments where you can gain entrance without embarrassment and have a comfortable evening's drinking. I would like to stress that this security madness is a feature of Dublin's Temple Bar at night and there are lots of places in and outside Dublin which are hassle-free.


"Name your price..."

The traditional image of Ireland portrayed in the cinema is one of timelessness, a slow pace of life, some great characters (typically drunk but in great spirits) and ever changing scenery. More recent films such as 'The Commitments' (and other Roddy Doyle adaptations) have attempted to create a more realistic vision of modern Dublin and Ireland. However, I can tell you that the mystical Ireland is still very much alive, especially outside Dublin.

In the mid-1990s we went on a one-week driving holiday with some pals around the south and west of Ireland during September. It is a great time to tour since the schools are back and the country is not quite so busy (by Irish standards). We had some great craic in Co. Clare where we walked the limestone pavements of the Burren, tried to (unsuccessfully) coax the chef in a cafe in Doolin for his recipe for delicious cheesecake and we also swam in the Atlantic (not necessarily in that order!).

We decided to head for the Dingle peninsula in Co. Kerry and were drawn by signs to the medieval Gallus's oratory, a gem of medieval architecture (it's still bone dry inside in all weathers although it looks like a upturned boat made of 'dry' stones in the middle of nowhere!). First thing was to park the car and we duly followed the signs. As we drove into the empty field, a man with a cap jumped out from behind a hedge and greeted us warmly. My wife rolled down the window and we had the usual hellos and how-are-yous. He was obviously collecting money for parking - the leather pouch and (even) his official 'Office of Public Works' badge gave that away. So when there was a slight lull in the conversation, she says "Well how much do we pay". His answer, after another slight pause was "name your price". This was a new idea for us and we looked very puzzled. So, after some knowing looks at each other, our pal David pipes up with "how about 50p?" [about 30 Euro cent - wouldn’t even buy you a cup of coffee]. So the man says "Fine" and we handed over 50p.

This episode tickled us so much that David designed a special section in their photo album with the narrative pasted around the edge of the oratory pictures. Our only regret was that we felt a bit mean only giving 50p but it was great entertainment! So the moral is that you can still have great experiences with Irish people on modern holidays - despite the lack of 'little people'!

Labels: , , , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?