Post #516 Travel Adventures – Ireland, part 1

November 19, 2016 at 3:12 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

It’s been a while since I’ve written about any of my traveling adventures.  Anyone who’s followed this blog for a while knows I used to travel the world extensively for the U.S. government.  I loved the job, but I wasn’t sorry to end it when I did.  It gave me unparalleled opportunity to eat things I never would have touched otherwise.  Once, in Laos, I fed chicken quarters to alligators from a bridge about thirty feet above them.  But that’s a story for another day.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Ireland four times in my wandering.  I’m half Irish by birth, my mom was 100% Irish.  So visiting the place where my ancestors are from was exciting.  My first visit, I got to go to Belfast back in the late 90’s.  I was still learning the task of traveling and training so I was with a more seasoned traveler.  However, she wasn’t going to get to Belfast until Sunday, while I arrived on Friday.  It gave me a whole weekend to mess about on my own.  Her first advice to me was “Pick one thing you absolutely want to do in that country and make plans to do it.”  The only thing I could think of was “Eat Irish Stew.”

Per schedule, I arrived in the late morning and was at my hotel by about 1.  My routine in any hotel room was the same.  I unpacked everything, set my travel clock, then looked over any brochures, etc. to figure out what to do and where to eat.  I rushed through this part, in a hurry to get out into the city.  I changed money at the hotel desk, and almost ran out to the street.  Picking a direction at random, I turned left and walked.

And walked and walked and walked.  I don’t even remember the number of random turns I made, or even what I saw that first day, except I do recall a hiking/outdoors store that I wanted to visit given the chance.  During the “walk and walk and walk”, I did plot out the course to where we would be working so I could direct us there on Monday.  I love walking distance working.  (In Paris, I would walk back to the hotel several times a week, which was nearly four miles.)  My stomach was grumbling, I was getting tired, shops were closing down, so I decided to grab something to take back to the hotel and relax.

I figured out approximately where the hotel was and headed in that direction only to find that any stores that I could have bought food at were closed.  And I was turned around, and not certain where I was or where I was going.  Well, I had enough money in my pocket to get a cab and to order room service.  Not exactly what I wanted to do on my first day in Ireland, but not the worst thing I could have done.

Finally, biting the bullet and giving up to the inevitable, I approached a taxi and showed him my hotel key.

“Can you take me there?” I asked politely.

He grinned at me for a moment, and I know it was the sound of my accent.  “I’d love to, mate, but look down the road a bit.”  He pointed over his shoulder.  Big blazing signs announced the front of the hotel about two and half blocks away.  I gave him a couple of coins and told him to get a pint on me and headed to the hotel.  And I passed an American fast food place, so I stopped and got a couple of Whoppers, a large chips, and a large soda to take back with me.  I don’t mind cold burger so I didn’t plan to eat right away.  I did nibble on the chips some while I was walking and they were amazing!  Something about the difference between American and Irish cooking.

Later, when I went to eat my cold food, I discovered what part of that was.  They didn’t cook their fries in oil as we do here.  I had to have been lard, because when they cooled off, there was this thick congealed substance on all the potatoes that made them inedible.  At least for me they were.  The burgers were fine though.

The next day, was another day of walking about the city, but not getting lost this time.  I had breakfast at the hotel, a full Irish spread.  Enough that I wouldn’t be hungry again for the rest of my life.  When I left the hotel, the first thing I did was retrace my route back to work so I would know exactly where it was.  Then I walked back to the hotel, noting any shops I could buy food at on the way.  And I stopped in a pub for lunch and had real fish and chips.  Crispy fried white fish and freshly cooked potatoes.  Not much gets better than that.  And so inexpensive.  The barmaid raised an eyebrow at my request for wine rather than ale, but that’s what I wanted.

As I wandered some more, I found I was back on the track of work-to-hotel and there was a small convenience story/grocer so I stopped in to get something for dinner to take back to the hotel.  In the back, there was a sandwich counter so I ordered a large ham and cheese.  They asked me if I wanted salad with that.  I figured a salad would be good with dinner so I nodded.  When I got my food, I notice the salad was missing but didn’t say anything.  I got a couple of bottles of water and soda to put in the minifridge.  When I went to the checkout, I talked with the lady about my visit and work.

“I have something here that will make you feel right at home!”  She walked away and returned quickly with a USA Today newspaper.  I thanked her, and thereafter, every single time I stopped in there (which was often, the sandwiches were good), she had the paper waiting for me.  On my last night there, I told her I ‘d be leaving the next morning, and she sounded sorry to see me go.

I arrived back at the hotel about mid afternoon, and relaxed and read.  I wanted to go out in the early evening, to a nearby pub to listen to music and enjoy the atmosphere.  Maybe throw some darts if there were any.  So I unwrapped my sandwich so I wouldn’t be hungry later.

I found the salad.  It was on top of the sandwich.  Everything you and I would put in a bowl of salad was on top of that sandwich.  In America, we’d ask for lettuce and tomato, maybe a pickle.  This sandwich had it all, including salad dressing.  So I scraped it all off onto the paper wrapping and ate it separately, as a salad.  It was good.

Then I went to the pub and had a good Irish time.  Still didn’t drink any Guinness or other brews, just my wine.  But I made some good pub friends, heard some wonderful music, even managed to hit the dartboard a couple of times.

To Be Continued . . . (still haven’t had Irish Stew at this point)

Enjoy

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1 Comment

  1. I was fortunate to visit Ireland for a week in late 1997 and to date it’s probably my favorite place I’ve ever visited. Often , when travelling, places can disappoint you because they don’t live up to what you had built them up to in your mind but Ireland EXCEEDED mine ! I often tell people ” Ireland is MORE IRISH than you can hope for ” ( if that makes any sense. ).
    The people are friendly. The landscape is beyond beautiful.
    And, like you, I discovered quickly they cook with lard. My first night there I got some fish and chips at a genuine ” hole in the wall” in a small town. I brought it back to the 14th century castle in which I was staying and ate it in the kitchen. It was delicious ( and I shared some with a stray cat who lived on the property ) . But as it cooled the potatoes reminded me of tasty crayons. But I wouldn’t trade a single bite of that meal.
    I look forward to hearing more about your trip !


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