Conquering Dingle during the Tourism High Season

Some summer we are having here. It was roasting in May and followed by rain that lastest all of June and through the start of July. Today it’s sunny again and I have been watching the diggers excavate the field behind my house. The field is to no longer be a field.

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I have a bag of Hunky Dorys open on the bed beside me and the Olympics playing in a tab. Four years ago, I was doing the exact same thing at the other end of Ireland. Angry Pete (how he got that name, I don’t know) had helped me run a cable up two flights of stairs so we could watch the games on the big hostel TV in Killarney.

Speaking of Killarney, I recently made my annual pilgrimage back to the town I lived in during my first visit to Ireland.

Since Jack was busy with football and Tiernan was working, I took my Aunt with me. It was her first time in the county, so I wanted to show her some of my favourite places. Sadly the weather was scheduled to take a turn for the shocking. In anticipation of this we picked what was supposed to be the “best day” weatherwise and used it to drive out to Dingle and Slea Head.

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The sheer quantity of people in Dingle over the Summer is outrageous! It’s unsurprising for one of the top scenic drives in the world, but it really was teeming. I drove around the waterfront a couple of times before taking a chance on a rouge, blue P sign which lead me to a great little pay & display near the Lidl.

Happily parked, we wandered back through the town, browsing and buying from the many gorgeous boutiques. I know Claddagh rings are kind of Galway’s thing (named after the town that is now a suburb of the city), but I bought my first and only, much loved Claddagh in Dingle.

For lunch, we went for the packed variety. There are a lot of awesome pubs and fish and chipper in Dingle, but there is no way my hangry beast would have the patience to deal with the crowds of seaside pilgrims pouring off the Fungi tour boats and out of coaches.

We sat on the walls of the marina and watched the Fungi boats go out, one after the other, into Dingle Bay. It was breezy but pleasant. The threat of poor weather was looming; not yet realised. Our ham and cheese sambos were consumed with some excellent people watching (my favourite sport) and, after an hour, we agreed to try our luck on the scenic drive.

Unbelievably, the Slea Head drive itself was mostly devoid of cars. The coaches must tackle it earlier in the day, coming into Dingle for lunch. This left us with ample opportunity to pull in from the tight roads and take in the view – which was amazing! I regaled as many of the Tour Tales I could remember as we wound our way around the peninsula.

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An hour or two later we pulled into the South Pole Inn in Annascual (where I was recognised as a former hostel employee). We ordered a huge wrap that appeared twenty minutes later, dripping with sauce and the non-driver also downed a pint of local brew. Driving back to Killarney, in the twilight, on full bellies, brought back so many memories of the times I drove that route back in 2012. I think we have that food to thank for our excellent mood going into a really bizarre Hypnotist show at the Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney. Now THAT was an experience I can hardly find the words to describe.

I think with those sorts of hotel shows you need to go in willing to play the game – for the craic, like. Fortunately, there were either some fabulous actors or some really convincing hypnotism. Each to their own with that, I say. Although, the girl pretending her pants were on fire was PRETTY HILARIOUS.

I hope you are enjoying these lovely photos and this arbitrary trip summary! At the moment I am living to a rhythm of wake up, work, come home, collapse, repeat. So I do apologise for the low frequecy and dubious quality of these posts. I just wanted to post something rather than nothing.

But I have three weeks off in October; you’ll be sick of me then as there will be nothing to do but write blawgs!

Belfast Trojans v. Dublin Rebels: My Opinion on the Shamrock Bowl 2016

Unfortunately for the Trojans, I arrived at the Shamrock Bowl knowing a little more about the sport of American Football than previous years. I brought with me a small kiwi contingency including my Aunty Bev and my friend Brigette. And our honorary kiwi – Tiernan. I acquired a curry chips and settled in to watch the 30th Shamrock Bowl sandwiched between a young family and a group of Rebels fans that notably included a girl with blue hair.

Teams ran out on to the immaculately presented Tallaght Stadium, which shone brighter in the wake of last years’ Shakespearian tragedy. This year the Belfast Trojans were facing off against the Dublin Rebels – looking for five in a row. The ‘strive for five’ some have said. Sadly, I don’t think the Trojans will find this write up quite as hilarious as last year.

From the very beginning it was clear that the Rebels were here to play some extremely competitive football.  They came with a sharp offensive line up and although they only have a couple of key players, they found the ball every time, ultimately scoring the first touchdown of the game.

The veteran Trojans were not prepared to acknowledge the inconsistencies which had plagued them all season. Ineptitude was clear, communication a thing of the past. Players passed the ball back and forth like rugby (or perhaps piggy-in-the-middle) before inevitable fumbles and interceptions. Set plays were lost with key players not being where they were supposed to be and the team was left to scramble to make something from nothing. How they managed to respond with a touchdown before the end of the first half, I have no idea.

By the second half I was on my feet and screaming random things (I like doughnuts, etc). Somewhere about this time Tiernan figured out the game as well. The dawn of understanding was reflected in his face as he realised that the Rebels were about to launch a final offensive campaign which would ultimately win them the game. He started screaming too.

The game had been played overwhelmingly in Trojan’s territory and it is a huge credit to the Belfast defense that the Rebels were denied again and again for 23 minutes and 30 seconds. You see where I am going with this.

With 6-7 in the Trojan’s favour on the scored board, a couple of things happened which plagued me all Sunday night. First, Belfast were playing their only strong offensive of the game. They had gained over 30 yards of territory when they were overcome by what I can only imagine was overconfidence. In trying to keep the ball running they flopped the ball backwards and forwards between themselves on a second and ten rather than allowing the tackle, accepting a little loss of yards and having another go. The Rebels were there and ready to make something as a fumble was intercepted and the ball turned over to give the Rebels their last chance to get winning numbers on the board.

The Rebels made their way slowly but surely back up the field. With a little over 20 yards to the goal line, they were looking to make 10 yards and go back to first down. This is where things get… well just a bit dodgy in my opinion. Fourth down needed to land right in front of me to get the Rebels that chance at another 10 yards.  And it didn’t. It wasn’t even a little bit there. In fact, the stretching out the player did to ground that ball was a little dubious in itself in relation to where his knees hit the ground – but I’ll spare you the detail. There may or may not (except there totally was) a certain sideline ref who took a massive step to the left that was not exactly (or at all) appropriate (do I sound bitter?).

Alas, the decision was made to walk the chains out. You know how I don’t like to blame the ref, but if this line ref were competing on the beam in the Olympics she would have been the one to snap her leg. Like a drunken sailor, she listed that chain to the right and when it was ultimately laid down – surprise! – the ball was exactly at the marker.

This was absolutely crucial to the game because the Rebels went on to touchdown from the next set of plays – building the score to 12-7 with only 10 seconds to go. The Trojans reformed admirably and did what they could with their final ball, fumbling it into full time.

So it was a massively heart-poundingly disappointing game to watch as a Trojan’s supporter. I can only imagine the Rebels heartbreak had they lost after playing so confidently all game. Fortunately for them, that is not something they have to think about now they are carrying their Gold medals back to Cabinteely and Sea Point Rugby Club (which is, ironically, nowhere near the sea).

Photos to come – my expanded hosting has expired.

How to Travel With Your Sibling

img_4983This sort of post crops up in the blogging world every couple of years and after two years of living in Belfast with my brother Jack, I feel we are qualified to contribute to the discussion. In fact, we have sibling travel down to a science.

There are five years between my brother and I, a bit larger a gap than I have seen in other sibling pairs. We travelled frequently as young children and my parents knew the woes of a family of five being stuffing into cars of various sizes. Although the getting there was often difficult, memories of enjoying a destination together as a family remain.

When I decided to go back to Ireland, I heavily suggested that Jack should come too. Now he is heading home to New Zealand, and in light of our great trip to Paris in May, I would like to share some tips about how we made sibling travel so successful!

1. Plan together

A bunk in a hostel dorm can often get my thrifty senses tingling. An extra 30 bucks to spend on something else? Whhhhhaaat? Too bad for me Jack prefers private quarters.

Planning together allowed us to cater for our different travel styles. My rule here is err on the side of the most private person. You can get cheap, private rooms in a low budget hotel or hostel. Although that will never be as barrel scrappingly cheap as a dormitory, it is a lot harder to pursuade a private person to share with six strangers than it is to increase your budget with plenty of notice (for saving purposes). Why make someone feel uncofortable? It won’t help the trip vibes. And if the money really is unsavable… well, this sibling journey just isn’t for you, because compromise is the backbone of YOUR ENTIRE TRIP (see point #2).

Key quote: “It’s important to agree about what you are going into so you can have max fun and minimum disappointment on your adventure.” 

2. Be ready to compromise

Very few people get the chance to spend an infinite amount of time travelling. It’s extremely unlikely that you will spend tweleve solid months globe-trotting with your sibiling (and if you are that lucky – I am so, SO envious).

The point is, time is valuable when you are on the road. Neither of you will get to see and do everything you want. Make sure you both get the chance to prioritise something you want to see.

Key quote: “Try making a Top 5 list each and see how many you can work into you trip. You might find you have similar ideas. You are related after all!”

3. Realise each other’s strengths

We were a planner and a non-planner travelling together, which can be a powerful combination! I typically do all the pre-trip bookings, printing of boarding passes – the organisational stuff. Whereas Jack is better navigating the metro. A couple of times in Paris I had to make a concious decision to stop negotiating the stops and directions because I was wrong more than half the time. He was also really great at taking over when I was too hangry to think… see point 4.

Key quote: “Don’t be afraid to step back if your sibling is in their element!”

4. Eat often!

This is a rule for travelling with anyone.

If someone (named Rachel) is getting even a little bit cranky, stop immediately and find food. If you don’t, all kinds of nasty and not meant things will be said ‘in hanger’. This is best avoided.

You can avoid such senarios by scheduling snacks little and often throughout the day. We aren’t talking three course meals which require you to find a trattoria or cafe. Oh no, just a few tasty treats in a backpack and a mutual decision to spend an extra half hour in the park to nom them down.

I can become a very hangry person, I’m not the best when I am tired and sometimes I just can’t be arsed. That’s a pretty special little combination when you mix it with travelling. After two years of travelling my sibling and I have learned that we can and will drop anything for a food stop.

Key quote: “Never underestimate the power of hanger.”

5. Support each other

Sitting across the road from the Eiffel Tower watching tourist after tourist fall into traps. Or standing on the metro and watching a woman get pickpocketed of her passport. Knowing my sibling has my back has been the biggest reward earned from this type of travel.

Your siblings know you best. Jack and I have travelled together so many times that we know what each other’s limits are and when to step in. We have unspoken systems for checking zips, getting on and off transport, and negotiating crowded areas. Not to mention, it’s AMAZING to have an extra set of eyes watching your backpack on a bus!

Although we were always alert, it was reassuring to know that no one was going to be able to grab my arm and force me into an ‘African Friendship Bracelet’ because my brother was with me.

Key quote: “Travelling with siblings is like travelling as secret agents – someone’s scanning the crowds, watching your six, and they are on your side.”

6. Chill

I’ve seen some suggestions about ‘scheduling alone time’. That made me laugh a bit. Excuse me, it’s 6pm, time for my scheduled 15 minutes alone now fek off.

Taking time out doesn’t need to mean going off on a dander, alone for a couple of hours. If you are siblings who can do that, great. As a general rule, we don’t do extended alone wanderings when we sibling travel because neither wants to be paranoid about the welfare of the other.

I think it is more important to be able to enjoy sitting in silence or doing nothing vaguely together. Someone could take their book onto the hotel balcony, for example. Or I might look in some nearby shops while Jack sits in the cafe. In the evenings I would write my blog notes and Jack would check the newspaper. Our own thing, in the same space.

Key quote: “Just because you are travelling together doesn’t mean you need to be in each other’s pockets.”