Tag Archives: Ireland

Why Ireland is so special

We all have that place that has a special place in our hearts and mine is Ireland. My mom was one of 7 and grew up on a small (very small) farm in the Irish countryside and I often get the chance to go to Dublin and visit my aunt and cousins who live there. I always get such good feedback from clients we send to Ireland. Dublin has become quite cosmopolitan – it is after all, the main city and capital. It is in the smaller towns and villages that you will get to meet the real Irish – and it is quite the experience!

As kids we would love to sit down and hear all the stories my mom would tell us about the place she was born called Ballyjamesduff. She told us about the man down the road who went out to work the one day and never came back. Apparently he had emigrated to the USA where he found and married (illegally) another wife. 40 years later when he was close to death he walked back into the same house and told his wife “I’m home”. She made him a cup of tea.

Then there was the lady who lived in a house that had a big hole in the one wall. There were different stories of how the hole came about – some said it was a bomb that went off by mistake and blew out the wall – others said that the hole was knocked into the wall when a charging bull was let loose. No one ever knew the truth – not even the local priest (and that is saying a lot because they know everything that happens in the small villages). When anyone came to visit her they could have easily have stepped right into her living room through the hole in the wall but they were polite and went round to knock on the front door. Sometimes she would pretend not to be home, even though they had seen her through the hole in the wall, and would shout through the letter box – “no-one’s home”.

Everyone helped each other out in that farming community. If things got very tough and there was no money to buy groceries my grandmother would slap her hands on her thighs, stand up with a sigh and announce “To hell with poverty, let’s kill a chicken!” One Christmas a kind neighbour donated a goose to them for Christmas dinner. This was a treat indeed. My mom was sent over to pick up the goose which the neighbour had killed and plucked. All the family would have to do would be to remove its innards, stuff and roast it. Mom dutifully carried the goose all the way home, which was no mean task for her – the goose was big and she was very little. She set the goose on the kitchen table and went out to the vegetable garden to call her Mammie. By the time they returned to the kitchen the goose was gone! Mystified they went through the house only to discover that the goose had not been dead, just stunned, and was running around the front garden as naked as the day it was born!

Ireland is full of stories and full of pubs and you will usually find musicians playing traditional Irish music on fiddles and Irish bagpipes. The funny thing is they are there to share a song and a drink with their fellow musicians and will quite often sit with their backs to the “audience” and will possibly accept the gift of a Guinness every now and again.

Now you may know that the Irish have a reputation when it comes to having a pint (or two) and so it became customary that at confirmation Catholic children had to take the Pledge to never touch alcohol. I can remember my gran having a little lapel button showing that she had taken the pledge. She was very strict about this but this did not change the fact that her daughter (my mother) married an English sailor. Hmmm. Not exactly the type to take the Pledge. My dad loved teasing her about this. On one outing to the local pub (yes even if you had taken the Pledge you could still go to the local) he went to the bar and got himself a beer and bought a lemonade for my gran. After she had finished it he said to her “So how did you enjoy your first gin and tonic?”. She nearly fainted. “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, she said “what have you done to me”. He had to confess !

Talking about beer – even if you are not a beer drinker you have to have a Guinness in Ireland. I can promise you it is NOTHING like the Guinness you will get anywhere else. It is smooth and sweet and, can you believe, very low in calories. There is a knack to pouring a good Guinness – if you watch the barman he will usually fill it about three quarters full and then leave it standing for a while for it to “settle”. I made the mistake at one pub of reaching out my hand to the glass standing under the pump. I just wanted to feel if it was cold but he thought that I was going to take the glass and literally shouted at me to leave it be! Very strict. I soon got around his good side and had a go at pouring my own –

Do you remember….?

I wonder if you remember your first vacation? Or perhaps you were one of those poor kids dragged around Disney in a stroller not really understanding what the heck was going on. It always makes me chuckle how Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on earth – so why are all the kids crying?

I’m kidding. I have had some fun times at Disney and I do feel for little ones who have been out all day and desperately need a nap – but the rest of the family has to get the most value out of their day pass. They are not cheap!

So when you think back about your vacations (the good, the bad and the ugly) what memories stand out for you?

In Swaziland our vacations would often be a sailing vacation at a local lake. We would take the trailer and our sailing boat and go and have a weekend there – sometimes more. It seemed like no big deal to us then that we were sailing on a lake filled with crocodiles. It did help a lot when we capsized – we got that boat up damn quickly I can tell you!

So vacations can be good and they can be bad …. and then they can be just downright horrible. Like that little girl in the poem ….

There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right on the top of her head
And when she was good, she was very very good
and when she was bad, she was horrid

Now I have to really think – what was my worst vacation …. ever? Hmmm. Let’s just say I have had bad moments on vacation. On one of our trailer trips in South Africa we camped out at Cape Vidal.

Cape Vidal lies within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site about 30 km north of the town of St Lucia. It is a three-hour drive from Durban. It is a real nature paradise with rich marine life and populations of elephant, rhino, buffalo, cocodile and hippo. The beach there is incredible. We used to take the 4 wheel drive and load up the picnic basket and drive along the beach to a remote spot where our small group would have lunch and swim. Completely deserted – absolute paradise.

So where’s the bad moment? Well the guys in our group decided that they were going to go crayfishing at night. Now the waves in this area wash up onto the rocks with tremendous force and these three guys, including my husband, headed out in the pitch black with baskets and long sticks. I could hear the waves crashing from our small caravan and I worried for hours before he returned home triumphant with tales of nearly being washed off the rocks – what the heck? There I was 6 months pregnant with two kids. Mind you – the crayfish were AMAZING. We had them cooked the next day over the fire. Yep…. I guess that holiday was pretty good.

I am lucky – I have visited so many amazing places around the world – each one becomes my favourite – Argentina, Japan, India, Egypt, Ireland, Morocco….

I can’t really find a holiday that I have hated. I just love to travel which is why at the moment I feel bad that I have had to cancel my travel arrangements along with everyone else. So my travel dreams are keeping me going. I can’t wait to get out there again and see new places and revisit some old favourites.

I have lots of memories to share and I am sure you do too. Take a look at my recent segment on Global TV with Jordan Witzel – we are sharing travel memories.


If you have a travel memory you would like to share on Global News send it to me at info@southtravel.ca. I would love to hear your best (or funniest) travel memories and see your photos.

In the meantime – stay safe!

Why you need to go to Ireland

Ireland is a wonderful land – a beautiful green island that has seen its fair share of war and famine.  Go there – soon!  Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.  Walk the coastal routes and marvel at beaches that would rival anything you see in the Caribbean.  Travel on roads so narrow it is incredible how two-way traffic is allowed – and works.  Find yourself in a Derry pub with traditional music playing and the owner might even invite you behind the bar to pull a pint!


You see it is the people and the Irish spirit that makes the island so special – and yes I say island and not country because Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland together make up the Emerald Isle.

I toured the cities of the “troubles” – Derry and Belfast – and saw this from the unique perspective of both sides – Loyalists and Republicans.  Our group drove through one of the many gates in Belfast which still separate Catholic and Protestant and closes each night at 6 pm.  We even had a chance to add to the multi-coloured murals with our own graffiti –
belfast wall

I was there during the semi finals of Gaelic Football with Dublin playing Kerry.  My goodness – makes the Red Mile in Calgary look sad.  Every house was decorated in the blue of Dublin’s team and although I didn’t go to the match we went to the local pub to “celebrate”.  I think the bar tenders there must be lip readers – they certainly couldn’t hear any of the orders shouted across the bar.

You see the Irish have a turn of phrase – a way of saying things that make you stop, think and then laugh.

Take the famous statue of Molly Malone – I am sure you have heard the old song – and the statue is a popular tourist attraction in Dublin.


Leave it to the Irish – she is known locally as the “tart with the cart”.

Then there is the famous Spire …. The Spire of Dublin, alternatively titled the Monument of Light, is a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument 120 metres in height, located on the site of the former Nelson’s Pillar on O’Connell Street in Dublin,   This was erected to replace Nelson’s column which had been blown up by the IRA in 1966.  They did have another go at it during the Easter Rising in 1916 but apparently the explosives failed to ignite due to dampness – my goodness me!  Rain in Ireland?  What a concept.


Leave it to the Irish – known as the Stilleto in the Ghetto!

Or how about this beauty?  Meant to personify the River Liffy this statue was erected where the Spire is now.


Leave it to the Irish – this became well-known as the Floozie in the Jacuzzi.

So go there – have a Guinness – have a laugh – have a cry.