Ireland - What's it all about???

Old Feb 19th, 2004, 04:20 AM
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Ireland - What's it all about???

I have used Fodors for a few visits I have made, and value the comments that I have received from other users. With this in mind I have to ask the following -

Ireland Whats it all about???

Let me explain. Firstly I am not Irish and have no ancestral connection with the country. But my girlfriend, like millions of Americans, does. Her grand father was born in Ireland and moved here (the US), when he was a young man. She has grown up with all things Irish and loves her heritage. Her Grand Father died 2 months ago and she was and still is totally lost with out him. Anyway with out taking up too much space, his passing has prompted a trip to Ireland, my first to Europe and hers too.

I can understand her desire to see Ireland but my fear is that the reality of the place will not live up to her 'Fantasy' expectations, especially since her Grandfathers death. I don't want to see her disappointed as she is placing so much on the trip.

So those that have been, tell me what is it that makes you go back so many times? Especially as it is an expensive vacation, this year more then ever!!!! What is it that makes so many Irish Americans hold onto a country that many of them have never seen and maybe will never see? I'm told of the hospitality of the people, the beauty of the scenery all the usual things that sell flights and hotel rooms, but is this really what Ireland is like or when you get there is the reality a bit more.........real? Can Irish people be THAT MUCH MORE welcoming and friendly then anywhere else? Or is it only in the tourist traps? Can Ireland be SO MUCH MORE beautiful or more impressive then we can find right here at home in the US?? Or is it just Hyped to sell expensive vacations!

Any comments would be helpful. We are arranging things at the moment and hope to go some time July/August.

Rob
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 05:12 AM
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We're going back this May for our 3rd time. We love everything about Ireland. I am half German/half French (what a mixture), and I think of myself as "Irish after dark."

Ireland is scenic, rustic and full of history. I've traveled the world and find the Irish to be the most friendly I've associated with.

My first time in Ireland, we were at a pub in Killarney that was supposed to close at 11:00. The Irishman I was standing next to and conversing with kept buying me Guinnesses, and the pub owner kept serving them and stayed open. Finally my wife had to drag me out because she didn't want to drive.

I'm from New Jersey, and in our conversation he mentioned that he had a cousin who lived in Connecticut, he told me his name, and thought that I might know him. Needless to say, no, but that is an example of how tightly knit the Irish are. Everybody seems to know everybody in Ireland.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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Ireland has it all. Rich history,great scenery and never a dull time unless you want it. It is very easy to see Ireland at your own pace and Budget,which really separates from the rest of Europe.

Find out where her Grandfather was from and return to that town and I am sure you will find friendly people who may even know family members of hers. And when in doubt,buy them a pint.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 05:55 AM
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This anecdote doesn't quite answer your question, but:

A few years ago, Mrs F and I were having dinner (in a, frankly, mediocre restaurant) on the West Coast of Ireland. Over a bottle of (overpriced) Ozzie red, we chatted to the (teetotal) American couple at the next table. Who, to be honest, were bored out of their minds. The scenery was OK - but the US has millions of square miles of great scenery. They had no interest in coming down to the local pub to join in the singing (which spared them the sound of my less than mellifluous version of 'Wild Rover'). Going back to their room to watch British or Irish TV was less than sensational. It was raining, so walking wasn't an option.

And, like their forefathers and mine, they felt that this bit of countryside really wasn't meant to detain them long. Like their forefathers, they couldn't wait to go to America.

A few months later, in Dublin on business, I told this story to a cab driver. He claimed he'd heard it frequently from his
passengers. Especially from passengers who'd had a fantasy about delightful little villages.

Incidentally, he'd observed this disillusion was much less common among diasporid Australians (who share Ireland's pub culture and mix well) and us diasporid Brits (who've never entertained too many illusions about Ireland, as our families had been coming back every decade or so pretty much since the first emigrant got off the boat).

He also suspected that many of the Americans he took back to the airport gushed so much about how they loved the place that they must have been really hiding their disappointment from themselves.

The truth is, there are 80 million of us in the diaspora. We're not interesting to the Irish in Ireland (why should we be?), though most native Irish have the charm to disguise the fact - and a few days in Ireland almost always throw up some very "Irish" piece of behaviour, like the pub that says it's closed, but would you like a drink?
The Irish, increasingly, don't holiday in Ireland (would anyone, when Ryanair's offering flights for €2 to the Spanish beaches?)

Ireland is pretty short on things to see, compared to the parts of Europe that have been richer longer, and haven't had their religion so aggressively suppressed. For many people its weather is terrible.

And it's now a pretty modern country, and tourism isn't that big these days, compared to IT, call centres, financial services and all the other Celtic Tiger stuff. Roughly half the Republic's population live in one, rather miserable, city. While all the usual stuff like drugs and rising crime preoccupy everyone a lot more than ancient legends, self-pity over English aggression or the music of Count John McCormack.

It's a perfectly nice place. We still contemplate moving there. Presumably your girlfriend knows where her grandfather grew up, and you shouldn't underestimate the emotional power of going to a church or house a few thousand miles away that your ancestors must have known intimately. That power can hit people whether the house has the most beautiful view from a cliff or is on a traffic-congested road by a Dublin municipal housing project. But it's possible for some people to have a miserable time in Ireland.

It's a real country. It's not a theme park, and its culture isn't America's. Just don't expect you're in a remake of The Quiet Man.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 06:29 AM
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I like the last post. Having returned not too many months ago from our second trip to Ireland, I have come to the conclusion that it is a nice country, but what is all the fuss about? The scenery is nice, but upon return I couldn't help but notice that the fields and hills of rural Massachusetts where I live, were just as nice. The small fishing town of Gloucester where my daughter lives is just as quaint in many ways as the fishing villages I drove thru in the west of Ireland. I guess to me Ireland is nice, but also, much ado about nothing. I know that will anger people who are in love with Ireland. I think I really enjoy cities more than country. Give me Paris any day. And yes, I have read all the posts about people who hate Paris.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:04 AM
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"The small fishing town of Gloucester where my daughter lives is just as quaint in many ways as the fishing villages of Ireland"

I know this is ones opinion,but,being born in and a native of Gloucester,I could not disagree more.If you really knew anything about Gloucester,you would understand why we would disagree. I guess I just feel Gloucester is ANYTHING but quaint. Maybe you are mistaking it with Rockport.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:18 AM
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I am afraid that the person who may REALLY be disappointed in all this is YOU...and I'm not sure why you've agreed to "accompany" your friend to a place you don't particularly want to go.
Nothing anyone here, or elsewhere, says is going to change your friend's desire to go there. Are you up for a lot of lip-biting or for a trip that you'll enjoy to the fullest.
It may not be too late to bail out..otherwise be self-sacrificing..it seems to fit in with the Irish mentality we hear so much about.
 
Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:31 AM
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I realize that doc who is a native of Gloucester has much more insight than I do. I certainly have read and heard about Gloucester's problems over the years. I think it is probably the same with the "quaint" villages in Ireland. We perceive them to be one way when those who live there really know what goes on. As to Gloucester, the Main Street does look "quaint". It seems to have been fixed up and the storefronts and restaurants look nice, certainly as nice as they do in say Galway.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:42 AM
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Don't get me wrong,I love Gloucester. I just can't see travelers coming away from Gloucester with the same feeling as,say,Dingle. Gloucester is trying SOOOO hard to improve itself with the demise of the fishing industry. And I think they will be successful.But if its a quaint village your looking for,try Rockport,which is all that.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:48 AM
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Hello bhill...Nothing explains my love for Ireland more than a poem I have framed in my great room. My husband (who is Swedish and Norwegian!), have been to Ireland six times and plan on another trip soon, I hope. This poem says it all.

Where the sun is warm and golden
and the rain is soft and green,
Where the meadowmist is fragrant
and the hills are emerald green...
Where a wish becomes a poem
and a dream becomes a song,
Where my heart, at least in memory,
goes home where I belong.

Enough said....Helen(an O'Leary)
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:53 AM
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Hello again..That sentence should read--My husband (who is Swedish and Norwegian!) AND I have been to Ireland six times---so much for proofreading!! Helen
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:55 AM
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Rob, my tourist-perspective take on your questions:

No, Ireland is not so much more scenic or impressive than what you can find in the US.

The coastlines as a whole will not completely blow away the views as seen from some of the US pacific coast - although there are moments when you just got to say "wow". Cliffs of Moher, Slea Head, etc come to mind. The cities, even Dublin, will not compare to London or Paris or NYC in the number of things to do. Some of the countryside might be reminiscent of New England or other parts of the US. The castles, in terms of being ornate or plentiful will not compare to Germany. Most villages will have buildings and amenities that will remind you of modern life, because the people living there desire those things and it likely makes life better for them. The people you encounter may or not be friendly, depending on who you come in contact with and their mood and/or motivation at the time.

Now, after saying all of that...

I really love Ireland. I find it pleasant and for the most part, real. Outside of a few areas that are heavy on tourism, I find the whole "being there" experience rewarding. Relaxing. Entertaining.

I find both Vermont or Arizona and don't expect either to be the "most" anything, I find that Ireland is an experience unto itself, as are many places if you go with realistic expectations and the willingness to enjoy what you find.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Thank you all for taking the time to comment.

JonJon - Don't get me wrong it isn't me or the possibility of a BAD vacation that was my motivation for posting this message, it is just very simply that I am concerned for Emer (my girlfriend). I quite naturally feel a sense of protection over her. Just the way it is.

I do appreciate all your comments. Flanneruk - thank you for giving the good and bad aspects of what is I suppose a modern society, with modern realities such as drug and crime problems - inner city slums etc...

It is only right to expect a country in 2004 to have moved on from the quaint, sleepy, sweet world of the quiet man or Ryan's daughter. Just hope that it isn't too far the other way.

I am looking forward to the trip very much and will be visiting a town called scarrif in county clare wher Emer's GP came from.

Thank you again for your comments.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 07:58 AM
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Speaking of proofreading... I should try that too sometime. But you get the drift.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 08:09 AM
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just read the few comments while i was writing my last reply.

Helen - strange but true Emer's mothers maiden name is O'Leary as of course was her late Grandfather!!! Strange that!?!? But I suppose with a surname like that you grew up in exactly the same sort of family environment as Emer. Thanks for taking the time to post your reply.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 08:28 AM
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This is not about Ireland, but one's idea of quaintness. I much prefer Gloucester over Rockport, which I find way too quaint. Gloucester is appealing because it is full of working class pink and blue collar workers like myself.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 08:36 AM
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opaldog - i suppose it is about one's pre conceived notions of what some where is like, that have been built up over time and then the sometimes stark reality when you get there. It could be about Rome, Paris, Florence as much as Ireland.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 08:51 AM
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Hi, I am from Ireland, I left there when I was about 21 and live in the US now. It has always puzzled me what the big deal was. I think it was at one time a mystical romantic place, and maybe some parts still are. Since it has been a huge recipient of EEC $$$$, well, it has "improved" itself like any other modern country. Where there were once country lanes and cottages, now there are highways and housing estates.

When we are driving through upstate NY, along the Hudson River, or CT and Mass I see many more pretty and quaint little places than I ever did in Ireland.

I really think its just a romantic notion of a bygone era, but I feel it fading rapidily.
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 09:08 AM
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Hmmmm, not sure I have the energy for this level of cultural philosophy, but I'll try.

I agree with flanneruk that it is not a theme park ... thank the deity of your choice. People who go to Ireland expecting to see wee people dancing down an Irish country road merrily playing their tin whistle are sure to be disappointed. I remember reading a remark here from a man complaining what a disappointment Ireland was. Why, he spent multiple afternoons from 2-4PM sitting in pubs and not once did the patrons break into song, arm in arm swaying back and forth to the ballads that they had grown up with all their lives. Give me a break.

Has Ireland changed over the years? Of course. Is it a modern country? Well duh. The Irish should be allowed to proper as much as anyone else. There is a growing concern that the rolling green hills that rise up from the seashore are slowly (or too quickly) becoming dotted with vacation homes. I talked with B&B owner on the north Dingle coast and no more building is allowed in the area that she is in. If you want a house there, you'll have to wait for someone to move. You can imagine what has happened to real estate prices.

Despite flanneruk's comments, tourism is an important part of the Irish economy. According to a report from the Irish Tourist Board in 2000, tourism had increased 10 during the previous decade. Just like the US economy, the Celtic Tiger has slowed down a bit and yes, tourism is not what made it so strong. None-the-less, you can't miss the importance of it when you visit.

I'm glad that flanneruk was also able to meet Ireland's resident cab driver/psychoanalyst. Of course this man has amazing insight into the minds of happy travelers. Yes, no doubt he was able to detect that they were hiding their true feelings and indeed they hate the place just as much as he apparently does. Cynical people exist everywhere and there is no reason to suspect that cab drivers are immune from cynicism.

I visit Ireland because the culture is different and I appreciate the difference. I enjoy watching the local news there and that they don't have 100+ channels. I like that they go out at night to meet their friends instead of sitting around the tube all night watching Survivor and then getting up early the next morning to watch the "Early Show" to hear coverage of it. I love that breakfast is at 8:00 AM, not 5:30. This list could go on and on.

I'm a simple person. I don't need a $100 bottle of wine for the dinner to be good and a nice plate of not overly greasy fish n chips serves me just fine. I enjoy great beer as much as any wine and a case of the most expensive beer (never mind that Sam Adams Millennia stuff) cost less than one middle of the road priced wine.

I disagree about the expense of visiting Ireland. Though the cost has certainly increased dramatically, what you get for your dollar is still a great value. An average B&B in the Denver area runs $175-250 a night and your view is of, well, the street outside the place. For about $80 a night in Ireland, you can get a room for two looking out on the ocean. Try to get a room with a view of the ocean in the States for $80.

About your particular vacation that you are planning: July and August are the busiest months for tourism in Ireland and I wouldn't want to travel then. I would opt for May or September or even April or October. I also suggest that your girlfriend read up on current Ireland and see if that is what she wants to do.

Finally (whew!), though I'm only reading between the lines, it seems unlikely that you will enjoy Ireland. I think it's difficult to enjoy a place that you really aren't excited about visiting because you may have a hard time approaching it with an open mind. I'm not saying that's you, I'm just saying generally I believe that to be true. If you don't want to go, then don't. If she wants to go, perhaps she could enjoy it more with members of her family and the two of you could share a separate vacation, somewhere in the States that you could both look forward to.

Ireland is not for everybody. That's not a good thing or a bad thing, just please don't suggest that the people who like it are just deluding themselves because they are incapable of accepting that the 2-3 weeks they just spent touring the country was actually a truly miserable experience.

Bill


Bill
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Old Feb 19th, 2004, 09:12 AM
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OK, bhill, in the time it took me to write my disertation, you had commented a few times that I hadn't seen. I'm glad you are looking forward to it. If so, I think it will be hard not to have a good time.

Bill
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