Friday, September 16, 2005

Emerald Isle or Rip-Off Republic?

Ireland. Definitely along with the Alps one of the places I looked most forward to visiting in the European portion of our trip. After 10 plus days I have to say I'm of two minds. The west coast has absolutely breathtaking natural scenery while being a very strong reminder of how difficult life has been historically and continues to be for those who have to live off the land. And the people are (as everyone mentions) super friendly and nice.

However this has been offset (though not completely) by the very touristy feel of certain areas (Doolin excluded) and the absolutely stunning expense of living in Ireland. The prices for everyday items rivaled those seen in Norway and what we expected in England. Let's put it this way; two hamburger and chips and two pints should NOT cost €30 (that's approximately $36). Of course, it's not just the tourists they're gouging; the Rip-Off Republic special (showing how the government is gouging the locals) has just finished its run on local TV with heavy support.

I don't want this to sound like we've disliked our time here; we've enjoyed Ireland as the people and scenery have been as advertised. We're just left feeling a little burnt and a lot lighter in the pocket. As Becca correctly stated (being a econ major and all) it's all about supply and demand and what the market can bear. I just feel bad for the people that live here and have such a high cost of living every day. And for those of you in NY and LA, I know it's more expensive there though I'd be hard pressed to believe that the Irish people are getting paid equal wages.

The heavy editorial content portion of the blog finished, here's our highlights from the rest of our time in Ireland.

Cork- Stayed in a jail like room at Sheila's Hostel. Termed a "Budget Accommodation Center" (not exactly the most welcoming, cozy beginning to our trip), the folks outside smoking 24/7 gave me the impression that it was a little bit more like a halfway house. Our two evenings were spent having pints at a local pub. Both nights we were showered with free pint coupons from Murphy's and Beamish reps. Not bad at all, especially since the first night I drank both of our freebies. More shocking was the second night where we were subjected to the two local couples who came in, refused their free pints and then proceeded to drink Coors Light with ice cubes. What?!? Coors Light not watery enough for you? You need ice cubes? I don't think Becca has ever seen me so stunned.

Dingle- Home of Fungie, the "feckin' dolphin", Dingle was a nice location but one that has been pretty heavily "touristed". The real highlight though was the day we spent biking the Slea Head Road. We got an absolutely breathtaking day where we biked approximately 50km (around 30 miles or so), stopping and admiring the beautiful views of the west coast as well as exploring a number of historical sites. Western Ireland has rightly been called one big open air museum. There are thousands of ancient (BC like) and early (low ADs) and just plain old (mid ADs) ruins just lying in farmers fields. Many/most are accessibly and free, and really made us wish that we had rented a car so that we could find more of then.

The day after the bike ride we ended up visiting the majority of these sites again the next day as part of a really interesting archeology tour. Normally the duplication would have sucked but it worked out as it gave us a lot more information about the sites and a chance to see a few of them without having done 40km of biking beforehand. Just stunning to be biking along such natural beauty, being surrounded by over 2000 years of history all while gaining a better understanding as to how hard it must be to live here. The weather (when not clear) doesn't let up and coupled with the rocky soil makes for difficult living conditions.

Doolin- First of all, thanks go to our friend Kevin, who we met in Gimmelwald. He suggested the Aille River Hostel to us and Doolin as a good place to go and recharge the batteries (which we sorely needed) and we're glad we took him up on it. Our two highlights were just chilling the second day in the hostel while storms raged around us (the weather reports threatened Swiss-like flooding but it never got that bad) and using the first day to go golfing. Becca and I decided to partake at the Doolin Pitch 'n Putt, where we had amazing views of the ocean and the Cliffs of Moher. We also somehow didn't lose a ball, despite shots like this. And Becca can say she broke 100 on an Irish golf course!

Dublin- We stayed in Dun Laoghaire (home of another piece of the Bloomfield empire), a suburb of Dublin because it was the weekend of the All-Ireland Hurling Final. Final day and Dublin was covered with 100,000+ plus Galway and Cork fans headed towards the match. The weirdest part was seeing folks come out after the final (which we didn't watch due to a bad bit of scheduling on our part) and not being able to tell who won. It was only until the evening when we saw the highlights on the news that we'd knew. The one major highlight was visiting the shrine... The Guinness Storehouse. The tour itself wasn't overwhelmingly impressive (save for some of the old equipment and all the whole advertising campaigns) but the fresh from the source pint had here made up for it all. I don't think Becca has seen me a) so giddy and b) drink a pint of Guinness that quickly. Guess that's why I drank half of hers...

All in all, I'd give Ireland a B+ for sights and a D for value for the dollar. And next time, Becca and I are renting a car so we can better explore all the cool little places scattered throughout the west coast. Back to France Tuesday for a week of big city (Paris) and a long weekend of historical side trips (Omaha Beach, D-Day, etc.)


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My family and I adored Ireland, but we stayed only on the west coast. Spent time in Blarney, Dingle, did the Slea Head tour by car, then spent a night in Ennis on our way to the Cliffs of Moher. Glad to see you caught some of the same sights!

(I hear you both on the thought of paying 5 Euro for a pint - after awhile, I just couldn't think about the conversion rate any longer and just went with it).