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Tuesday
May122009

Ireland 

I have been wanting to visit Ireland, the beautiful land of my ancestors, for quite some time.  As I was turning 60 this year it occurred to me that I had better get this trip underway if I was going to get there while young enough to walk some of the beautiful fairways about which Ireland boasts.  That is exactly what Stephanie and I recently did.  We decided to turn loose of a little of our retirement number, and take the trip.  I can now highly recommend Ireland, a wonderful country full of beautiful people.

We arrived Saturday morning after flying much of the night from Philadelphia.  Stephanie had a seat in coach, but due to the flight being full, I got to sit on the jumpseat in the cockpit with the flight crew.  That was alright as the captain was a good friend of mine, and we got to visit and renew our friendship for six and a half hours.  After a quick afternoon nap, we hit the streets of Dublin for a quick look-around, and later met the crew for dinner in a local pub.  After dinner we went to a local hotel where we got to enjoy a legitimate Irish combo and an Irish dancing group.  The next day we spent touring Dublin on the local on and off bus tour.  St. Patrick's cathedral, where Jonathan Swift the great British satirist  is buried, and the Guinness brewery were on the tour.  We found Dublin to be more interesting than we thought, and really quite lovely, although we really did not like the Guinness!

Monday morning bright and early we sat out in our rental car, GPS firmly affixed to the window, for the west coast.  Before we cleared the Dublin city limits, the GPS failed, and it is nothing short of miraculous that we found our way around Ireland.  The good Lord for sure, and perhaps the ghost of St. Patrick, as well as all of the guardian angels were watching over us as I drove the narrow roads of Ireland.  I was honked at only once, and made the mistake of driving on the right side of the road only once, and then only until I saw the oncoming traffic!   Along the way we visited the Cliffs of Moher (a must see on Ireland's west coast), Bunratty Castle, the beautiful village of Killarney where we visited the Muckross House and gardens, and Kilkenny Castle.  We flew home on Sunday morning, eight days after our arrival, but we could have easily spent another week touring the Emerald Isle. 

Stephanie encouraged me to play some golf while there, and on Wednesday, I gladly obliged.  If you play golf in Ireland, it should include at the least the Old Course at Ballybunion.  Set along the coast near the small village of Ballybunion, the course opened for play in 1893, and is perennially ranked in the top twenty courses of the world.  It is one of the two or three most beautiful course I have ever played, and without doubt the most difficult.  It tumbles along, over, and through the huge sand dunes hard by the Atlantic Ocean, and the wiry grass just off of the fairways devours golf balls.  If you can find it off the fairway, you likely still cannot  play it.  In true Irish fashion, I played the first nine holes in the rain. On Thursday, while Steph relaxed at the Ballygarry House in Tralee, I played the Cashen Course, also at Ballybunion.  This is a Robert Trent Jones course opened in 1993, also set along the coast and also lovely.   It must not be as difficult as I scored much better than I did on the old course. We also visited Lahinch, another notable Irish links course, but visit it is all I did.  Ireland has about 40% of the links courses in the world, and I would love to go back and play a few more.

The Irish people love Americans and are very friendly, although one Irishman told me that they weren't really all the friendly; they just want to know your business!  At any rate we met a number of friendly/nosy Irish.  There was Brian who spends half the year as a ferryboat captain in Newport, RI; there was Michael and Geraldine, our hosts in Killarney, who were really hilarious and quite entertaining; and there were Mick, Kiam, and Frank, my Dubliner playing partners at Ballybunion who made me feel one of the group.  Thank you to all of them for making our trip special.

I have always thought that travel to other countries and cultures is important.  It makes us more appreciative of what we have in America; it broadens our perspectives; and it forces us out of our ethnocentic mindset.  It forces us to consider that there are other ways of living, believing, eating, and indeed, of being successful in life.  I loved Ireland, Italy, Germany, Australia, and most of the other places I have been fortunate enough to visit.  I hope to visit more of this big world eventually, but I doubt I'll ever see anywhere that I think is as beautiful as our own United States of America!  Just call me biased in that regard!

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