Tuesday, October 1, 2019
Baile Milse’ain Baile
We just spent two weeks in Ireland. I have some Irish ancestry (doesn't everyone?), but my wife has a bunch. So she was keen on visiting places where her people came from, mostly the western part of the country. She even has a notable relative, Saint Mhaodhòg (Mogue) whose relics are on display in the National Museum in Dublin. Saint Mogue became the patron saint of the O'Neill clan. His relics were kept in a fancy purse and carried into battle by the O'Neill's. Mogue was later Anglicanized to Logue, my wife’s ancestors. There is now a very fashionable Logue shoe store in Galway. That old Saint Mogue's relics ended up in a purse, and now the Logues run a high fashion shoe store definitely confirms the link between my wife and this gene pool. She’s also a Black (Blake from the Normans or Bl’aca in old Irish) and they have their own mausoleum in a little cemetery west of Galway. She has tracked down direct ancestors from that side up into County Donegal. So she is about as Irish as it gets.
So what about our trip to Ireland? Here are some of my pros and cons about Ireland.
Pro. It is a small country, 1/8 the size of Texas. So you can see most everything there is to see.
Con. It is a small country and two weeks is too long. 10 days would have been plenty.
Pro. There are some very beautiful places well worth seeing. The wild Atlantic Way has some spectacular vistas and Wicklow National park is a prize.
Con. Much of Ireland looks like countryside you can see in the States, at least during those times when it’s green. (But it pretty much stays green in Ireland year round.)
Pro. The people are just as friendly and open as advertised. Great folks.
Con. They don't get in a hurry and appointment times and schedules are merely suggestions.
Pro. It is a safe place. Not much crime or violence overall. At least not when compared to the States.
Con. The sense of security makes them vulnerable. The softest of soft targets. Churches, museums and various crowd gathering places are wide open, People carry in their backpacks and such without scans or searches.
Pro. There are some really good sights to see; churches, old castles, prehistoric structures and the like.
Con. But there isn't that much to see. And so much of what they want you to see is tied to their long fight for independence. It means a lot to them, I get it. But I found myself asking...is this it? Much the same reaction non-Texans have when they visit the Alamo.
Pro. Some of the pubs, in particular The Crane Bar in Galway.
Con. Most of the pubs. They are all about the same and either have stereotypical upbeat Irish music going or are playing hits from the 80s. The Irish really like 80s music.
Pro. You can rent a car and drive around. So there is that sense of freedom and control that I tend to like. And thumbs up for the roundabouts. A great way to keep traffic moving where roads come together.
Con. Most of the roads are very narrow. Driving on the left and steering from the right only makes it tougher. Add in the tour buses and trucks that are just too big for these old byways and you have some white-knuckle driving ahead of you. Not sure I would try to drive if I ever go back.
Pro. Plenty of places to eat and reasonably priced if you like to eat the same stuff every day.
Con. Irish food gets old in a hurry. They have some high end gourmet restaurants, but the variety of mid-priced flavor rich (spicey) food is limited.
Other takeaways from two weeks in Ireland:
_Urban economies are doing quite well. Dublin and Cork are booming. Ireland's low corporate tax rate has attracted a lot of investment. They have a well-educated, talented young work force and draw considerable talent from other European countries.
_They are very much left-leaning politically. Totally against Brexit and all in on fighting climate change by reducing carbon emissions. Don't even talk about it. Their minds are made up and closed.
_We had great weather for the most part. One heavy rain day which unfortunately occurred when we were touring Connemara. I would like to see that area again sometime. But overall the cooler weather was a nice break from Texas heat.
_Christianity is not doing well in Ireland. The Catholic church is viewed very negatively and I didn’t see much enthusiasm for the Church of Ireland (Anglican) which is a constant reminder of former English rule.
_They are serious about drunk driving. On the way from Galway to Dublin the Garda (police) had a check point right there on what amounts to an expressway (M class highway). This was a mid-morning check. My wife was driving and got to blow into the breathalyzer. I wanted so much to take a photo, but thought it better not to risk upsetting the officer. She blew too hard the first time and he politely asked her to blow softer and more gently. You cannot make this up. I am still laughing.
_One of the best parts of a long trip is coming back home. I am a homer. Give me the USA and for sure give me Texas, warts and all. We are a mess, but it’s our mess and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
Baile Milse’ain Baile….Home Sweet Home.