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2012 IRELAND – a visitor’s paradise

Premanand M E 8/8/2012


CHAPTERS Page Number Culinary Delights Giant’s Causeway (World Heritage Site)

2 5

Motorways – Symbol of past-paced life


Limerick – Ireland’s Sports City


Preservation of Nature


Rathlin Island


Roadside Descansos


Shannon River


Fields of Athenry





Culinary delights Waiter, this coffee tastes like mud! I'm not surprised, sir, it was ground only a few minutes ago.

Wake up with a freshly brewed coffee and you will understand why the Irish love coffee. Bewley’s have been around for 170 years and are Ireland’s major supplier of coffee and tea.

At the Spire in Dublin is a great location for a brunch. The specialty is that they serve breakfast all day and it was a good chance for me to sample an Irish breakfast. The exterior is neoGothic, something like what a café would have looked like in the 1920s.

Kylemore is cafeteria style, the type where one grabs a tray, select items for eating and brings it to the till for billing. My breakfast consisted of bacon, mushrooms, baked beans, and sausage with toast.


Lunch too is quite a treat. Lunch at a pub with in hand is what every Irish would love. Tourists like me also love baked chicken, roast beef or succulent lamb served along with hash-brown potatoes.

Dinner too must be in an exotic place and my place of choice was in Howth. (Take the Dart train straight to Howth station and then follow the smell!!!) It is one of the first shops in the small village. There is not much of variety on the menu but everything there is nice. The fish is fried in a golden batter ( Cod or Haddock) with huge chunky potato fries to go with it. A dash of lemon, salt, vinegar and airplanes the flight path) or maybe watch the sun setting (sometimes at 9 pm!!!).

4 All said and done, I would still prefer my brother’s home – cooked meal

On this particular day, when my camera was nearby, he had made this exotic dish-- Moroccan style Chicken stir-fried rice, mixed vegetables, broccoli, served with different sauces and exotic salad dressings. The piece-de resistance however was a Toblerone Chocolate chip-cake served at the end of this tantalizing dinner!!! I leave this image to your imagination.


Giant’s Causeway (World Heritage Site)




Ireland’s iconic World Heritage Site is a wonderful experience to cherish. It is also one of the top destinations in the wonderful countryside of Ireland. One can enjoy some of Europe’s finest cliff scenery. You’ve got to be there to enjoy it!!!

This geological wonder is composed of some 40,000 regular shaped basalt columns packed closely together as if to form ‘a stepping stone’ pathway stretching out to sea. These columns were formed by the cooling and shrinking of an ancient volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago. Most of the basalt columns are supposedly hexagonal but I found them to have 5, 7 and some even had 8 sides. The tallest columns are almost 12m (36 ft) high.


It is a 25 minute walk for the adventurous. The rest of the pack can travel in a cute mini bus that whisks you near to the fantastic location. From there, on a clear day, one can see Scotland. Everyone was interested to hear the legend of Finn MacCool

Legend of Finn MacCool


ur tour guide talked about a Celtic warrior who got too big for his boots and went a-

knockin’ on the wrong giant’s island. Legend goes that Finn MacCool built the basalt highway to Scotland to challenge rival giant, Benandonner, to a fight. But when Finn saw him, he scurried back to Ireland. In order to hide from Benandonner, his quick-witted wife, Oonagh hid Finn MacCool. As Benandonner thundered down the highway after him and into the house, Oonagh disguised the quavering Finn as an infant. “Don’t wake the baby” she scolded the giant Scot as he burst in the door. Seeing the infant, Bennadonnner said, “If that’s the kid, I don’t want to meet the father”, and ran back to Scotland and ripped up the basalt


paving stones behind him. Thus Finn’s oversized luck provided a more lively explanation than the geology lesson.

There is also a great heritage experience travelling on a steam locomotive along a magnificent coastal stretch of line between Bushmills and the World Heritage Site at the Giants Causeway. The railway has been built to the Irish narrow gauge of three feet and runs for two miles along the track bed of the


former Giants Causeway Tram.




Motorways – symbols of fast paced life? Long ago, villages everywhere stood for serenity and tranquillity until the arrival of the …….. Yes, the motorcar signalled convenience for many but it also disturbed the privacy of villagers. In the beginning, when people in villages wanted to cross a road, cars would have to stop by and let them pass. Later on, pedestrian crossings were introduced with zebra lines. People began moving from one place to another in motor cars and very soon, villages became chock-a-block with traffic, especially during rush hour. To pave way for modernization, Motorways were set up with the idea to help decongest traffic but it took a toll on villagers, farmers and landowners through which these express highways had to cross.

Motorways reduce travel time between cities. An interesting thing about the motorway is how a balance is achieved between the land owners and the authorities. I don’t say it is completely a bed of roses but when one looks back and thinks of the time frame taken to complete a project, it will set our minds alive and thinking. When motorways had to cut across huge farmlands, a bridge is constructed so that farmers could get on with their life and grow their produce without interference. It is interesting to note here that some of these bridges are built mainly for cattle and sheep to cross in search of fodder.

11 Wooden fences are also erected to reduce noise from fast moving trucks and cars.

Special bridges for cattle, sheep etc. In 2008, when I visited Ireland, passing through villages during rush hours was time-consuming. Traffic used to move very slowly. Now that is a thing of the past. In 3 years, there has been tremendous activity to reduce commuting time. I wonder whether our authorities will sit up and ponder how expressways can be speedily implemented in Kerala.


Limerick – Ireland’s Sport City One of Ireland’s top destinations and famous for its archaeological and historical wonders is also the third largest city. This city is widely known for its warmth and ‘hometown’ feel. It is also a city synonymous with sport and in 2011 this city was awarded the coveted title of European City of Sport. Welcome to Limerick, birthplace of the Cranberries (rock band) and Hollywood legend Richard Harris to name a few. This is a city that constantly reinvents itself, mesmerizing every tourist with its

diversity,breathtakingg landscapes and spectacular coastlines. It is also a seat of learning. University of Limerick and Limerick Institute of Technology welcome students from all over the world to enter their portals of knowledge.

Our bus arrived in Limerick at 9am in the morning. We only have a whistle stop in this city. Far beyond stood the medieval and majestic King John’s Castle overlooking the Shannon River. We were told that this castle is a 13th century one. In 2012, the castle is set to celebrate its 800th anniversary. Many houses near the castle are believed to be of Viking origin. The castle is worth a visit for its unique construction, massive gate house, battlements and corner towers. The huge stash of armaments in its armoury reminds us of the turbulent history the castle has witnessed.


St. Mary’s Cathedral is the oldest building in Limerick that is still in use. This Cathedral was built in 1168. We were told that the altar is made of a single block of limestone and is one of the largest in Ireland.

As we leave the city, our tour guide points to a swanking new stadium, proof that Limerick is truly a Sport city.


If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind? P.B. Shelley

Preservation of nature and its components is a key essential to fostering growth in tourism. Ireland also takes great care to ensure that its beauty is preserved. Castles, monuments, old houses located on private property are instantly preserved for posterity by law. An interesting annual feature however, is the preservation of woods, trees and shrubs for birds.

Greenery on both sides of the roads in Ireland provides a pleasing sight to the eye. We toured Ireland in March – April, just the time winter had bid adieu and with spring heralding its entry. Our tour guide mentioned that trees were spruced and protruding branches cut only during winter. After that there would be no infringement by man. Nature would be allowed to play its part by inviting migrating birds to settle on its branches and bring forth their young. It is a wonder to see birds building nests by joining the ‘leafless wintery branches’ together to form a thick mist, sometimes in the center of tall trees, It also acts as a protective barrier from marauding birds of prey.


These scenes can be seen across the whole countryside, city and along busy motorways. If these winged wonders can build nests alongside motorways and still breed a new generation, imagine the silence and calm, peace and tranquillity and the mutual balance between man and animal. Of course, many countries are doing their best to preserve nature. In fact, in Muscat, where I lived for 6 years – the Civic authorities build tree-lined roadways, beautiful manicured lawns and water them continuously in spite of the sweltering heat. One can see birds there too. I do hope that we can learn a lesson or two from this.


Rathlin island The bus stopped for a few minutes from where we were shown Rathlin

Island, the northernmost point of Northern Ireland. Rathlin island became famous because the world’s first commercial wireless telegraphy link was established Marconi






message Rathlin

from island


Rathlin island

Scotland way back in 1898. It is said that there was a dispute long ago



ownership Rathlin


the of –

Ireland or Scotland. The Court ruled in favor of N Ireland – reason, no snakes. Legend has it that St. Patrick drove out all the snakes from Ireland.


Roadside Descansos When we read of a road mishap in the newspaper or watch the news on TV, how do we react? Do we place ourselves in that particular situation? Do we think of the trauma that has been cruelly cast ever so suddenly on the grieving family? In this fast paced world, all we do is simply read these news items as if they were just day to day events and sometimes casually glance to see whether any of our loved ones have been struck down.

What about the local community (naattukaar?) At the scene of the mishap? Oh! My, they swing into action and create roadblocks, possibly even organize a dawn to dusk hartal in that area (depending on the clout of the person), help out in all the rites and as a cruel reminder to everyone, they install a BIG hump or jolting rumble strips bang on the road (be it NH or any other) so that every traveller will definitely have to slow down. Back in 1992, I was returning from Bangalore by bus. We had crossed the check post and were speeding along the road towards Calicut. Unfortunately, we had to stop because of a roadblock. On inquiry, we understood that the bus prior to ours had struck down a school girl while she was returning from school and there was pandemonium everywhere. All vehicles were being stopped. Our bus too had to wait for 4 hours. Finally the traffic started to move slowly and when we reached near the bus, we found that it had been torched. The driver apparently had been beaten, possibly in such a state that he would never be able to drive again. After 3 months, on the way to Bangalore, around 2am, I was rudely jolted by two humps. I wondered where I was and when I got my bearings, I understood that we had just passed the spot where the unfortunate incident had occurred. Many years later, I passed by and I found that there was only a very slight hump. The

18 authorities had paved the roads and the hump has become a thing of memory. In stark contrast, I happened to see an accident site on the Motorway in Ireland. It must have been about 15 minutes prior to our reaching the place. A pileup was slowly forming but cars were still moving at 50 kmph on a 100 kmph road. The hard shoulder, slow and fast lanes were cordoned but the express lane was still active. There were a handful of policemen around, no onlookers, no naattukkar (of course the population is much less compared to India), no nosey pokey business!!! 4 or 5 days later, we passed by the same road and guess what we saw, a freshly erected cross with a photograph of the victim with fresh flowers set well inside but clearly visible to motorists to reflect on life’s cruel exits and departures. Ireland's Roadside memorials, mostly elaborate plaques and

monuments adorned with photos and inscriptions, are among the most sophisticated and most prolific of any country. This helps to make the loved ones mourned and prayed for.

Descansos – Spanish name word meaning rest or resting place. A descansos is usually erected at the site of a tragic accident in which someone’s life was cruelly cut off from the face of the earth.


Shannon river

While touring Ireland, one cannot miss the mighty Shannon river, The Shannon is Ireland’s longest river which cuts across Ireland for over 360 kms, The origin of the river can be sourced to a place called Shannon Pot, a small pool (aquifer) up in the Cuilcagh Mountain in County Cavan. According to Celtic legend, the Shannon is named after Sinnan, a lady who came to the spot to eat the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, which was planted by the Druids (or priests) inside the well of knowledge. She opened the cover and water began to flow out of it which became the Shannon River. The river provides fishermen and kingfishers with leaping salmon as they glide their way upstream. Along the Shannon, one can see many charming, sleepy Celtic villages, ancient monasteries and fairy forts.



The Fields of Athenry

25 km from Galway city lies the small town of Athenry (Athenrai). As the bus whizzed past, our tour guide played a song (ballad) on the audio system that gave us a sense of the Great Irish Famine (1845 – 1850), the potato famine that had killed over a million men, women and children. The song mentions a farmer, Michael from Athenry who stole a few heads of corn (from Lord Trevelyan’s field) to feed his starving children but got caught, imprisoned and deported to Australia (Botany Bay). In the ballad, Michael tells Mary to raise their child with dignity. Watch the haunting Irish ballad on YouTube. The lyrics are given below.

Lyrics By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young girl calling Michael, they are taking you away, For you stole Trevelyan's corn, So the young might see the morn. Now a prison ship lies waiting in the bay. Low lie the fields of Athenry Where once we watched the small free birds fly Our love was on the wing, we had dreams and songs to sing


It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry.

By a lonely prison wall, I heard a young man calling Nothing matters, Mary, when you're free Against the famine and the Crown, I rebelled, they cut me down. Now you must raise our child with dignity. Low lie the fields of Athenry Where once we watched the small free birds fly Our love was on the wing, we had dreams and songs to sing It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry. By a lonely harbor wall, she watched the last star falling As that prison ship sailed out against the sky Sure she'll wait and hope and pray, for her love in Botany Bay It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry.


It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry. Low lie the fields of Athenry Where once we watched the small free birds fly Our love was on the wing, we had dreams and songs to sing It's so lonely 'round the fields of Athenry. Premanand ME, Associate Professor, Dept. Of English, Malabar Christian College, Calicut


The village of Moneygall While travelling across Ireland, our tour guide pointed to a quaint little village that we were passing through. This cute village had suddenly shot into prominence on the world map mainly because one of its inhabitants happened to be the 7th cousin of President Barack Obama. Courtesy - wikipedia

Last year, May 2011 the President decided to trace his roots to Moneygall. ( Irish – Muine gall) and there was celebration everywhere. My brother recounts the events at Dublin airport – usually cars within sighting range of take off and landings. On those days (visit of the President), the whole area was cordoned off to receive the important visitor. Driving through Moneygall

Our tour guide talked about Falmouth Kearney, a maternal great-great-great grandfather of the President of USA who had emigrated from Moneygall to New York in 1850s.

On May 2011, President Obama arrived in Moneygall to rousing reception by the 5000 odd villagers. The President it seems was greeted by Henry Healy ( President Obama’s eighth


cousin). They walked down the street and the President was insistent that he shake hands with all the residents of that quaint village. It was a nightmare for the secret security. Prior to his visit, 50,000 gallons of paint were donated by a paint company to keep the houses spic and span. Even today, you can see American and Irish flags in this village Houses even have the American flag painted on its walls.

President Obama walked the whole length of the village and met many more relatives. From there, he went to Hayes’ Pub where he had a look at his ancestral records and drank the famous Irish beer, Guinness.


Hayes’ Pub

Premanandnd M E, Associate Professor, Dept. Of English, Malabar Christian College, Calicut, , Email –

Please read the comments from my brother, Vijayan from Ireland:

In fact in his speech to 50,000 people outside the Trinity College, President Obama said "'I'm Barack Obama, of the Moneygall Obamas". It was a great 3 days of security drills and military tanks and vehicles every where (esp) around the Dublin Airport and seeing the Air Force One land and take off ,along with a decoy aircraft of the USAF and another aircraft of Delta airways for the staffs and reporters covering the Trip.


The most interesting was seeing the loud Boeing c 17 Globe master that transports all the vehicles and equipment's for the Presidents travel along with the Cherokee helicopter. Really great to see all this, in a once a life opportunity.

President Obama had to leave the same night to the UK because of the "Volcanic Ash" scare from Iceland.


Below websites are really interesting:

Ireland - A Visitor's Paradise  

Join me as I visit Ireland's famous tourist spots. This journey was undertaken in March 2012.