Ireland blog: dingle

our next stop was dingle. Stop laughing. No seriously, stop laughing. You can’t, right? Dingle. LOL.

Ok, now that we have that out of our system, dingle (!) is a small town on a peninsula in southwest Ireland.

Just like everywhere else in Ireland, it is the most beautiful place I have ever been. By this point in the trip, I have to admit that I am getting a little tired of the natural beauty. I could really use the convenience of a Duane Reade right about now. For example, as we drove into dingle with the ocean hugging the left side of the road we could see from afar a small cluster of people riding horseback on the sandy beach and galloping towards the sunset. I mean, c’mon, right? Am I in a Kevin Costner movie?

We arrived in the early evening after our long drive through the ring of Kerry, so headed out for dinner and then a couple of pints (half pints) at the dingle pub. The dingle pub was everything one might hope for in an Irish pub. A nice relaxing atmosphere. Good live music. A bartender who is probably a fifth generation owner of the establishment. It was all very quaint. The musician was playing old Irish tunes and everyone sang along. I loved it unconditionally. And then, the singer said, “who is from Scotland?” silence. “anyone from the UK?” Crickets. “how about the USA?”. The bar erupted. We were essentially in the times square of dingle. But I didn’t care. I still loved it.

That experience got me thinking about tourism generally. I always want to seek out the things that are off the beaten path and more local in flavor. But maybe that’s not what I really want. Maybe we just want to experience things the way we expect them to be. I always get frustrated by tourists that come to new York and spend too much time in times square. I feel like they miss so much of what makes the city great. But if youre not from new York, times square probably feels epic. Why would you want to find a quaint little bistro in soho?

With that in mind, anne and I were headed off to Galway. I hear there is a great hard rock cafe there.

Ireland blog: the ring of kerry

After Anne won Ireland with her hurling knowledge, we headed towards our next destination, the Dingle Peninsula. But on the way, a number of people and guidebooks, and internets had pointed us to the ring of Kerry as a must see destination while on our trip. Before I get to that, a small confession: Anne and I are not the most studious travelers. We usually buy a guidebook and use it to plan out our trip, but we like to make decisions on the go and explore cities and areas without following the books verbatim. This means, that we often visit somewhere and then afterwards read the guidebook to see if we missed anything. As a result, our vacations involve a decent period of self-loathing when we discover amazing things to do two days after we leave one destination and head to another. Hold on to that thought while (whilst) I describe the ring of Kerry.

About three miles before arriving in Kerry county, anne and I stopped for lunch to figure out what exactly it is. Turns out, it is a road that goes through a number of different towns in county Kerry Ireland. The drive puts Ireland’s natural beauty on display and winds through mountains, oceans, sheep, cows, towns, and merchandise shops. It is epically beautiful. The stunning thing about Ireland is the contrast between the lush green meadows and the searing blue ocean. The land remains largely undeveloped and natural, so the drives from one point to another are as much a destination as they are a journey.

It’s hard to explain how terrifying being the driver on the ring of Kerry can be, but I will try. start by picturing Lombard street in San Francisco. Now, shrink it slightly so that maybe one car and one bicycle can safely fit side by side. Next, picture that on one side of the road is a small rock wall built in 310 BC that provides the only protection from the ocean and on the other side of the road is oncoming traffic, a giant mountain, and a flock of sheep. Oh, and don’t forget that everyone is still driving on the opposite side of the road. Essentially, that is the ring of Kerry. The most harrowing fact is that the speed limit on the road is 100 km/hr. I’m no mathematician, but based on my calculation of how fast the Irish people were driving as they came towards me, it is just shy of 90mph. Those assholes also love tailgating and passing whenever they have an opportunity.

Midway through our drive, just as the skies darkened, the rain started pouring down, and the windows fogged up from the steady stream of sweat dripping down my face, disaster struck. The tour buses started to come back from their day long trip, which prompted the following exchange:

Rob: Jesus this is terrifying.
Anne: I know, right?
Rob: it sort of feels like we are going the wrong direction.
Anne: [nervous laugh]
Rob: are we going the wrong way???????????
Anne: I’m just reading the guidebook now and it says, “it is strongly recommended that you drive the ring of Kerry in an anti-clockwise direction.”

Whoops. As another tour bus zipped by – and by zipped by, I do mean that it forced me to essentially veer the car off a cliff into the ocean – the car became silent, mostly because I was navigating the hairpin turns, anne was in a constant state of terror, and we were both vowing to do a better job establishing a travel plan in the future.

On the brightside, we didn’t follow Anne’s initial pre guidebook plan: “we should bike the ring of Kerry.”

Kinsale Ireland and the Greatest Moment of Anne’s Life

Left Dublin and headed to Kinsale Ireland. It’s a harbor town in the southwest of the country. I played my first round of Ireland golf, which was as I expected. Stunningly beautiful, but with winds upwards of 900 MPH, a driving rain, and getting paired with a Dutchman named Orkra.

Sunday was the all-Ireland hurling final. If you don’t know what hurling is, dont worry, no one does. It’s on Wikipedia though, so you can look it up while watching the superbowl of hurling and pretend to understand it. Basically, it’s a cross between football, baseball, field hockey, and Killing people. During the game we watched, someone hit the referee with a club in his face. He was bleeding out of his eyes. They patched him up and game on. I don’t even think there was a penalty for that. In other words, it’s the greatest sport of all time.

The scoring of hurling involves goals and something else, points or field goals or something. The goals are worth 3 and the other things worth 1. The score is like 1-7 to 0-4. Meaning the first team has 1 goal and 7 other things and the other team has 0 goals and 4 other things. It involves too much math for me.

Midway through the second half, the scoreboard read: KIK: 2-9y.? TIP: 1-7€!.32@. An old irishman walked to the door of the pub we were in. There were about fifteen people watching the game, but we were closest to the door. He said to anne, “who’s winning?”. At this moment, I put the odds of a correct response at 1 in 22. Anne said “Kilkenny” I was floored. I could see Anne’s eyes saying “please leave, please no more questions.” he nodded and looked back, “by how much?” I was panicked. She was definitely going to blow this. She looked at the TV turned back, nodded calmly, and said “seven.” the old man gave a confirmatory nod and walked out the door. I am still in shock. I’ve been to baseball games with anne before where there is an enormous jumbo tron in our section that will say: YANKEES 1 RED SOX 0 and she will have no idea what the score is. It must be the Irish in her blood.

This is no longer a live blog: ireland v slovakia

Friday was our last night in Dublin. We went to our first ever soccer (football) game (match). Ireland was playing Slovaks in a qualifier for the 2012 Euro Cup, which is like the world cup but without America in it. I was surprised by a number of things at this game. The stadium was a little more than half full (suck it haters, I can be an optimist). the game play was more physical than it seems on TV. These guys were really fast and hitting each other pretty hard. As a fan, what stood out the most was how much I missed even though I understand the game fairly well. There were a handful of instances where the crowd would have a slight surge in volume – probably a player getting open or a play developing away from the ball – and I didn’t know what I missed. Other times, Ireland would have a good goal scoring opportunity that they missed and it would be followed by polite applause for the good try rather than a scathing rebuke on everything about the player.

Some other things about the game were also quite surprising. We bought the tickets from ticket master and they were available at the box office for pick up. In America, the box office is part of the stadium. In Ireland, it’s not part of the stadium and only one police officer (Garda) in the whole land knows where it is. After about 70 minutes of walk-sprinting, we found the ticket booth in some hotel, conveniently located in the general vicinity of Ireland.

The hiccup picking up the tickets meant that we got into the stadium just as the game was about to start. We were the only sober people in the whole country at this moment, and the fans walking through the gates had a rowdiness and excitedness that usually leads to hooliganism. I knew that after one beer, I would be in the same inebriated state. I was looking forward to a nice half pint from the beer stand or vendor in the stadium. And maybe a tasty snack.

The stadium did not serve beer. I repeat. THE STADIUM DID NOT SERVE BEER. Of all the surprising things that happen in the world, this was the most surprising. A soccer stadium hosting a game of the national team in a country with a thriving commemorative key chain bar industry did not serve beer. Also, there wasn’t even a shake shack.

Some not surprising things happened at the game as well:
No one scored
It ended in a tie
My U-S-A chant went over very poorly

Ireland live blog, part something: Euro 2012

We walked to the Guinness storehouse today. If you have never been to the guinness storehouse, picture exactly what it would be like. Got it in your head? Ok, it was exactly like that. A tip to any man that visits Ireland in the future, don’t order a half pint of anything for yourself. That’s a mistake I do no want to make again. “Git a load of ‘dis guy. He ordered a half pint.” (do the leprechaun voice again).

This evening will bring our greatest adventure yet. We are headed to the 2012 Euro qualifying match between Ireland and Slovakia. I bought the tickets this morning, and I’d put the estimate at 85% chance that we will accidentally be seated in the slovak section. Are they called Slovaks? That sounds sort of racist. Do their fans drink half pints?

unofficial tally:
Pints of Guinness: .5
Miles walked: 6.4
Additional McLovin sightings: 1
Extra Miles walked because neither anne nor I correctly navigated to Guinness storehouse: 3.7
Inappropriate hooligan jokes I make at tonight’s game: 9
Times I get murdered by a Slovak: 1

Tomorrow we head off to a TBD destination. We hear there is going to be an epic hurling final on Sunday. I also plan to do some epic hurling of my own when I switch back to the big boy pints.