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Ireland - Away She Goes

Ireland

My family has always wanted to go to Ireland, since it is the land of our heritage.  My mother had been in the 1970s, but it has taken us many years to get our act together.  In September of 2013, the five of us spent almost two weeks around the Emerald Isle.  The majority of our trip was with the wonderful Vagabond Tours, an adventure travel company, but we also spend time on our own in Dublin and up in Belfast and the Antrim Coast.

 

Hurling in County Clare: Up the Banner!

Hurling in County Clare: Up the Banner!

Our first full day in Ireland turned out to be the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, between County Clare and County Cork. As we drove west from Dublin to Galway, we kept passing cars decked out in blue and yellow flags. As we got to Clare, we started seeing homes with all manner of decorations. Since we were in Clare at the appointed time, our Vagabond guide, Wendy, asked if we’d like to stop into a pub to watch the match. This is a great example of the benefit of a small, personalized tour–they can be nimble in the way a large tour never could. Chatting with strangers in pubs while getting a glimpse of every day Ireland was really our top priority, so we were happy to go with Wendy’s improvisation. Like everywhere in Ireland, people were friendly and welcoming, answering all our questions about the sport. Hurling is like a blend of field hockey and lacrosse.  15 players on as side try to get the ball, or sliotar, through the uprights, either above the crossbar for one point, or below it for a goal, which is three points. They whack the ball with a stick called a hurley that has a bit of a clubbed end, which is scooped on one side. It looks rather like a field hockey stick. Wendy had gone over the basics of play and scoring, but it was interesting to learn more about hurling as a cultural institution.  Played for over 3,000 years, hurling is one of the Gaelic sports, governed by the GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association.)  All the players are amateurs (one... read more
Going Local in an Irish Pub in Dingle

Going Local in an Irish Pub in Dingle

We went inside and found ourselves tiny stools immediately, since it felt like everyone in the tiny Irish pub was staring. There was a tourist couple, perhaps Spanish, but other than that the place was full of locals. The band was in the middle of a song as we got our beers and hoped no one would ask us to leave. The walls were covered in posters for music, beer, marches, and politicians, mostly in Gaelic, which I took as a good sign.

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Surfing Lessons in Ireland

Surfing Lessons in Ireland

Surfing lessons in Ireland? Yes, you read that right! On our way toward Dingle, Ireland we stopped in Castlegregory to take a surfing lesson. It was a dreary, disgusting day, and I was not surprised that only three of us wanted to go–my brother, one half of a nice young couple who got stuck traveling with us, and me. Luckily, our traveling companions were more than happy to cheer us on from shore and take pictures. Even in the cold, Brandon Bay in County Kerry is a lovely place to spend a few hours. It was cold and rainy, and I have a feeling we were warmer than them in our wetsuits and booties. The wind was so strong that day that I could barely get myself and the board to the water without becoming a sail and blowing away. Our instructor, Jamie Knox of Jamie Knox Water Sports, was very understanding with my brother’s and my status as complete beginners during our surfing lessons. He went over safety rules and explained a few different technique we would use, and focused on getting us in the water early and often, to make the most of our lesson. Both my brother and I have terrible vision (I clock in at -8.00) and I can’t imagine that helps us in our aquatic adventures. Kevin was flying blind, and I wore some outdated contacts. There were several times when Jamie would be gesturing and we just looked at each other and shrugged because we had no clue what he was trying to say, but nobody got hurt so I guess it turned out... read more
Sea Kayaking Dingle Bay: A New View of Ireland

Sea Kayaking Dingle Bay: A New View of Ireland

Sea kayaking in Dingle was one of the things the drew us to Vagabond Tours.  We are an outdoorsy crew, owning two canoes and a kayak back home.  We knew we were going to be sea kayaking this trip, come hell or high water.  It was also one of the keys to a successful family trip–you are who you are, no matter where in the world you go. Irish Adventures was right on the waterfront in downtown Dingle.  Our guide, Noel, was funny and informative.  He also took some great images, although he didn’t seem to understand why it would pain me not to be able to take them myself.  Someday, I would love to have a camera or rig that can survive sea kayaking, but this was not that day. A few people were in tandem kayaks, but most were solo.  There was a quick lesson and continued instruction for those brand new to kayaking.  Michelle was a complete newcomer to sea kayaking but she was able to learn the techniques quickly from Noel and had no problem with the paddle.  We paddled along the bay in search of the famed Fungi the Dolphin.  I had read about him ahead of time and my bullshit detector lead me to believe there were a  few dolphins off the coast and on the rare occasion one was spotted, they were called Fungi.  Or that Fungi was a bit like the Dread Pirate Roberts or a child’s goldfish, secretly replaced every time he passed on. It turns out there was no need for the cynicism–Fungi is the rare lone dolphin, and he... read more

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