Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Does the ‘Real’ Ireland Still Exist?
You have probably noticed that Failte Ireland have been marketing the attractions of Wild Connemara in a very adventurous and catchy ad campaign over the past 3 months, (it's actually doing a great PR job for the entire western seabord and I suppose this fop is a fair crack at addressing the down-grading of Shannon debacle and the general fall-off of domestic tourism), so it was good to see that our little piece of heaven was picked up overseas. Yes, Connemara - nearly, made the NY Times yesterday.

The NY Times article captures a visitor's eye snapshot of lots that is beautiful about the west of Ireland. It's interesting, accurate and articulate. What a pity the NY Times travel writer, Dan Barry wasn't more 'fiorr Conamara' oriented. His article focusses more on the Burren and Kinvara than anywhere else. Was he afraid to drink the clear waters flowing off the Connemara mountains?

Still, at least he made it all the way to Cong, albeit that he promptly fled back to the safety of the Burren, as soon as he had filled up with our $7.93 cents-a-gallon petrol in O'Connors, perhaps for fear that the well known Connemara gangsters, the 'Furious O'Flahertys' might capture him, and hold him to ransom for his Remington, or the contents of his gas-tank or something.

I was also particularly taken by the potential new business opportunities he identified, particularly the need for Connemara Tourism to hire local lads, and send them droving white-clotted flocks of sheep on boreens all through the west in order to preserve the original 'rush-hour' Ireland feel for visitors to snap-shoot. (We locals have of course moved on in our driving tastes, we get to savour the new rush-hour Ireland twice a day, every day, so we won't be hankering after the past too much, our idling purgatory is so much better).

The elusive eco-minded, double-jobbing fisherman in Kinvara no doubt will be tracked down by a smorgasbord of agencies including the Revenue men, the Department of Fisheries, the Water Safety authority and the Health and Safety folks, all checking his Tax clearance certificates, CRO registration, Safe-pass, Boat registration, Fish-quota licence, Salmon tags, helmet, lamp, lifevest and marine insurance. I'd not be relying on him much longer for me crab-claws and leaping mackeral filets.

Dan Barry really ought to be given a 'Presidential' award for his perseverance in finding Ireland's rarest commodity, a rural pub that was still open for business, despite the Government's best efforts to erradicate them all. Well done Dan. Never fear though, with this publicity, Fahy's Travellers Inn won't survive much longer now that the Traffic Corp's random breath-testing flying-squad have gotten wind of it, that pub in the stamp sized village of Nogra wont be slaking travellers' or for that matter, any other drinkers' thirsts much longer. ( and speaking of stamps, sure didn't they get rid of the Post Office there last year too).

Dan writes with great insight about Kinvara and the Burren, sensitive stuff, empathic, well researched. All quite positive. His comparison of Gort and Kinvara's million dollar sub-divisions to Levittown, Long Island, is one that I disagree with. In fairness to Levittown, the average house price there is less than $350,000, so we won't be seeing mass migration of settler Americans here anytime soon. Good job too, where would all our Brazillians and Poles go?

Dan also paints a very pretty picture of our restaurant attractions, lauding our seafood especially, now that the French have finally let us have some, now they have tightened their belts.. Dan loves his fish, including that new yuppie dish, 'Surf'n'Turf with Celtic Tiger (prawn) sauce'. He also lauds the new Irish salad of 'Helicopters, Lobsters and Oysters, served on a bed of thieves ('leaves' I meant sorry),'. The poor-mans staple of a 'Pint o' plain and a ham samidge' was really so out-dated anyway, wasn't it?

All in all, Dan captures the magic and mystique of Ireland perfectly. Our new Ireland is so much more, well, y'know, it's just so much more! However, I am still trying to figure out whether Dan was writing tongue in cheek. I suspect he might have a point. 'Romantic Ireland's dead and gone. It's with O'Leary in the Algarve'