Through my eye

A sometimes caustic view of things.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


From one end to the other Ireland is as long advertised, the Emerald Isle. Where Scotland seemed to have more sheep than cattle and Ulster had a more equal mix, the Republic had many more cattle and some rather healthy horses.

If anyone, except the Irish who live there, thought that the country was backward or economically challenged, they are wrong. Eire seems to be thriving and growing, not always in a way that everyone appreciates. We heard complaints about the new straight roads and transport systems as if they took away some of the uniqueness of the land.

We had a chance to see for ourselves by touring tourist sites such as the Boyne valley and the Newgrange tumulus or ceremonial tomb equal in age to the Egyptian pyramids, as well as passing through Sligo and staying in Dublin for six days.

Old Ireland had some disjointed roads that wandered from point a to point c before lurching to point b. I kid you not. But European Union Euros have paid for bridges, better roads and other transport. Dublin has everything, including the challenge that James Joyce suggested—to transverse the city without passing a pub—it also had some of the worse of a city of nearly two million. There was crime and drunkenness. And still the occasional firebomb thrown.

I almost hate to mention it, because my people came from Ireland. Toilet maintenance is not high on anyone’s list of things to do. As soon as we crossed into the Republic, the cleanliness of restrooms dropped remarkably. I don’t know how to account for this as all other types of hygiene seemed followed normally.

The Irish are friendly, helpful, humorous and ready to chat on any subject at any time. Unfortunately, the newspapers and TV seem to be more interested in political scandals than politics and entertainers more than either. Still everyone seems to claim to be very knowledgeable about world politics and the US specifically. For instance, the US is only in Iraq to control the oil, so they say. It must be us who makes the Irish pay the equivalent of $8.00 a gallon. No wonder the Irish have a minimum wage that is twice the average in the US, they have to pay for the high priced beer and petrol.

When we planned this trip, the dollar was worth more, so we notice how much things cost us. The surprising thing is that the same item purchased in the US, say a pair of New Balance shoes, will be half the price of what it is in Pounds or Euros. So a simple item that costs $79.00 at home will cost me $140.00 purchased in Pounds or Euros. I’d think that was to the US economic advantage, but it is true of stuff we import to the US. The VAT or value added tax causes some of that, but is not the whole difference.

We saw the Book of Kells, and the Brazen Head Pub (one of the oldest pubs in Ireland and definitely the oldest in Dublin) and three of the four national museums. We discovered that Irish clotted cream is really like a whipped cream but richer and thicker than any commercial product in the US. The food was marvelous, but baked goods were my favorite so far along with the local beef.

We left on July 1st, to Roslare and the ferry to Cherbourg in France. The overnight crossing was through heavy seas until we reached the English channel. People were seasick everywhere. I ate a light meal of fruit and cheese and diet Coke, while Connie chowed down on Pork and gravy and whatever she wanted—the iron stomach!

But I slept better because, even though it felt like the ship would capsize at times, I didn’t let it worry me. Little things like that worry Connie and cause her to lose sleep.

Next, Normandy and Caen.


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