Shining some light upon the blarneyALANA DIXON
Unless you insist upon holidaying in Magaluf, going travelling inevitably means you learn something.
(If you have been to Magaluf, know that I am judging you.)
You don't exactly go out of your way to do so - knowledge, yuck! - but it's impossible to visit countries several centuries older than ours, and ignore the bits of information springing up around you.
I thought I better do my bit to a) refute the clichs the Irish undoubtedly tire of and b) share some of what I learned. 1. There is a leprechaun museum, but no leprechauns.
Sure the museum, in Dublin, is worth a visit and all - you hear some sweet stories about fairies, walk through a "rainbow" and rooms jazzed up to look like enchanted forests - but I remain deeply disappointed. I posed as one for a photo, but it was little consolation. 2. The redhead persuasion is not as abundant as you'd think.
Playing "spot a ginger" is much more fast and furious here than in, say, Bolivia, but Ireland isn't exactly teeming. I've since heard Scotland has a higher percentage of us, and yes, I am planning accordingly. 3. The Irish do not eat potatoes constantly.
Notably, though, they have found a way to incorporate that particular carbohydrate into breakfast - potato pancake, anyone? However, if you are all potatoed out you are free to order other starches as you wish.
(Everybody in Ireland is going "whaaaaaaaaaaaat. . ." right now.) 4. Being told off by an old Irish dude is fun, because of accents.
I found myself on the receiving end of a very gruff lecture from a Dubliner, but because it was in that accent I didn't understand most it and just thought he was being cute anyway.
The gist was I needed to pull my head out of a certain orifice and put my camera away, before a shady-looking character walked past my al fresco table for the third time.
(I blamed it on the G&Ts the night before.)
We ended up yarning for about an hour, 20 minutes tops of which I understood. 5. Ireland has a burgeoning Game of Thrones tourism industry.
If medieval soft-porn is your bag, or you're that "into" something you base an overseas excursion around it, then Ireland is the go. You mightn't stumble across any of that (admittedly, I may have been looking in the wrong places) but you will get to visit filming locations like the Dark Hedges - much more spectacular than my photography skills make them appear.
Question: what is a Khaleesi, and why so many dragons? 6. Walk into a bar, any bar.
Yes, that pub in Galway might look fairly run-of-the-mill. But The Quays is actually among the oldest of bars in a city full of them, and that stream of people disappearing inside can't be wrong. What's not to like: having a drink while listening to a cracking band, an interior that was once a French medieval church, and an *ahem* lively crowd - I'm sold. 7. Yes, it rains.
But only for a bit. 8. That whole peace pact is a wee bit shaky.
I'm not even going to attempt to dissect the whole Unionist/Nationalist thing. Suffice to say, a city where they still close a giant gate overnight between two neighbourhoods has some pretty major underlying issues. 9. Whiskey (with an "e") ice-cream is one way to indulge even before a socially-accepted time of day.
It's 5pm somewhere, just not here.
Fair play, Ireland. 10. Google Maps is not a reliable substitute for GPS.
After leaving the Cliffs of Moher for Caherdaniel, you might end up driving hours.and.hours in the wrong direction - there isn't actually a bridge spanning that section of water, despite what your iPhone says. Your boyfriend might be so cranky at you, he stops smiling when you keep saying the word Sneem over and over again in a Gollum voice.
Particularly after seven hours.
Above all, I discovered both the north and south - and the bits in between - are ridiculously, gloriously beautiful.
As the locals say: thanks a million, Ireland.
* Pictured (top) Alana at the leprechaun museum
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