After a pact was set with my best friend that I would make my first trip to Ireland with him, we finally made good on it by going for 10 days in July!!! Now a threesome (my wife Tara came as well- she actually gave the green light for us all to go together!), we decided to focus on the Central West Coast area for our first experience among the green, Guinness, wonderful people, and cows....many many cows!
We landed in Shannon and made our way up to Galway for 3 days, traveling each day to different areas (highlight the stark, cruel beauty of the Connemara region, and Inishman, one of the Aran Islands - rent a bike on the island and go out on your own!), and the terrific nightlife in Galway...we were there during the Arts Festival, and it was a blast! Live shows outdoors as well as a multitude of theatre, music and performance art to see!
After 3 days, we headed through the Burren region (AMAZING Beauty, and lots of cows!), heading toward the Dingle Peninsula...we rented a small, gorgeous little cottage just outside of Dingle town for the week, and made it our home base.
Each day we explored different parts of the peninsula, as well as spending every night at either The Small Bridge for incredible live music and comradery, or Paudy O'Shea's, the famous former footballman, who still is behind the bar pouring pints for customers while they gaze at pictures of him with the Pope, Tom Cruise and Colm Meaney...we were graciously befriended by a local who helped us feel immediately welcome and appreciated by the locals that were consistently hanging at the pub...my buddy Dano was treated to a lesson in "Hurling", a hugely popular Irish sport that is part Hockey, Soccer and Rugby, by an 8 year old enthusiast!
MY ADVICE!!! Meet people, talk to as many as you can!!! DON'T go to the "tourist" bars and restaurants, wherever you go in Dingle, etc...search out the smaller, more local pubs and joints, you will LOVE the folks you meet and the world in which you have entered...Seek out Gerry O'Bierne if he is playing anywhere, he is simply magical!!!...and most importantly go to the Blasket Islands..they are stunning and mysterious, from the wavy boat ride to them, to the abandoned, old stone homes that are still standing, to the seals that want to play with you (if you stay on shore!) and the soft SOFT grassy land that meets your feet when you set foot onshore...take OFF your shoes, regardless of the weather...
I did not want to leave, and I cannot wait to go back...I thank my best friend for persisting in making our trip happen, and my wife for letting the 3 of us experience it together...what a lucky man I am!!!