Ireland Travel Skills


So good morning, everyone. Welcome, welcome, welcome to all of you here in person this morning. I appreciate you coming on a beautiful, sunny, and very rare sunny Seattle day. For those of you watching us streaming on Facebook right now, hello to you as well. Just wanted to mention first my name is Pat O’Connor and I co-write the Rick Steves Ireland travel guidebook. I’m actually flying over there tomorrow for two months. So this is our guidebook here. I’ll be over there leading a couple of tours and then doing the guidebook research for next year’s 2013 edition. Just very quickly I wanted to mention that we have a great sale going today for 20% off on all of our merchandise and guidebooks. That’s right around the corner down here at our Travel Center. For those of you in person and for those of you watching us streaming on Facebook that same sale is available to you as well at ricksteves.com. And you just need to use a festival code–or code I should say, that is “festival” — our promotional code, just the word “festival.” So thanks very much. Rick and I sort of have a playful little
debate about Ireland. He always calls Ireland the “rainy Italy,”
and I can kind of see his point, you know. It’s a place
full of history, full of people who are in love with life and wear their emotions
on their sleeves, and a beautiful place, but I prefer to think of Italy
as a “dried-up Ireland,” okay? Okay, we’ll just kind of
get our Irish pride going here at least for the next
hour and a half or so. How many of you have Irish heritage?
Wow, most of you. How many of you have been to Ireland? Great, quite a few. How
many of you are planning a trip to Ireland? Yeah? Good, good. How many of you
wear green on st. Patrick’s Day? Cool, okay, good, good.
So we’re all part of the same clan on St.
Patrick’s Day anyway. By the way, “clan” is an Irish word. We
have lots of words in English that we’ve adopted from the Irish language. “Clan” is
short for” Clannad” which means family, and so that terminology was transported
across to the States, particularly into the Appalachians. We refer to those clan
feuds and so on. A lot of Irish and Scotch-Irish people settled in the
Appalachians. So let’s start our travels around Ireland here. When we’re looking at the map of
Ireland, it’s about 300 miles north to south, maybe 150 miles east to west.
What this means is that you’re never more than 75 miles from the ocean. And what
that means is that you’ve got a very mild climate, right? It’s rare to get a
lot of snow in Ireland, even though when you’re in Dublin you’re as far north as
Edmonton, Canada, and when you’re up here on the northern coast, Donegal,
you’re as far north as Ketchikan, Alaska, on the panhandle up there. So it is pretty
far north. Longest days of the year in late June, of course you’ll have really
long days there. We’re looking at a map though that shows the
four different provinces of Ireland — the
ancient provinces. We’ve got Leinster, Munster,
Connacht, and Ulster. Now, Ulster makes up nine counties
and only six of those counties are part of Northern Ireland. We sometimes hear
Northern Ireland called Ulster, and that’s true, Northern Ireland is a
subsection within Ulster, but Northern Ireland is also part of a different
country — the United Kingdom versus the Republic of Ireland there in the south. So let’s start moving around here. I like to fly nonstop to Europe when I can,
or at least I don’t want to be stuck in between, if you catch my drift here. Flying from here to Amsterdam non-stop,
from here to London non-stop, from here to Paris non-stop, from here to Frankfurt
non-stop, and then make a short connection. My thinking is, you know, I’d
much rather be stuck either here at home if the flight is canceled or something,
or stuck in Europe, but not stuck in Dallas or Chicago or Minneapolis
or somewhere right along the way. So if you can book far enough in
advance, you should be able to get some nonstop flights across over to Europe
and then make a short hop over to Ireland. There are no non-stops from here
in Seattle that go straight to Ireland. Now, if you are combining your travels
with United Kingdom or Britain you can connect over to Ireland using the ferry
system. There are three different ferry ports that go across — two from Wales and
one from Scotland. It’s about a three-hour crossing in between. But if
all I was doing was tying London together with Ireland, I would fly it. You know, don’t spend a whole day of your
valuable time surface-travel getting it all the way across to
the Welsh coast and then taking a three-hour boat ride from there across
to Dublin. Just fly it unless you want to do some sightseeing in the
rest of Britain. Now the thing about Ireland is
that it is the youngest per capita population in the EU, so about 40% of the
population are under the age of 25. It’s a very youthful population and a very
vibrant population. Kind of a baby boom going on there right now. When we talk about traveling
around Ireland, I’ll kind of go through some of the nuts and bolts
of traveling here first before we start looking at destinations in particular. When you’re traveling around Ireland
the trains are fine where they exist but the problem is that they don’t serve the
country as well as some of the other European countries. Basically a third of
the people live in Dublin so all trains lead to Dublin and that means that if
you’re on the west coast you might not have the train service that you
need in Ireland. So as an example, if you’re here in Tralee and
you want to go to Galway, you’ve gotta ricochet across
the country by train. So when you can’t get there by
train, you can augment that by bus instead, going across Ireland by bus. Now
having said all of that, my favorite mode of transportation in Ireland is by car,
and we’ll be talking about that for sure. Here’s a bus — a few years ago I took a
bus ride from Kenmare in County Kerry to Dingle in County Kerry. Took me four
hours and I had to take two transfers. I can drive that same thing in two hours. So if you’re debating whether or not to
go by car by train, just understand, you know, buses and trains are fine but
they’ll put you in slow motion compared to a car, and a car will get you to all
the little nooks and crannies that you want to go to. This is actually myself back in
1981 on my very first trip to Europe and I am, believe it or not,
reading Rick’s very first edition of “Europe Through the Back Door.” On a train, you know,
you can sit there, you can read a book, write a
postcard, take a nap, and you meet a lot of great locals, but
again, the car gives you total freedom. Now, at that same time in the summer of
’81 that I was doing this, there was this long-haired hippy freak named Rick Steves
out in the bogs, and he was out there writing his second edition of the
book and I had no idea that years later the two of us would be able to team up
on our Ireland book that I do every year now since 2002. Now in Ireland they use the euro. The euro at the moment is worth about
$1.30 — that’s in Ireland, the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland they use the
British Pound, which at the moment is worth about $1.60. So the Euro is almost ten years old now.
It’s not a big adjustment, it’s pretty straight-forward. These are the countries
that use the euro. Actually, we need to update this because now Slovenia
and Slovakia also use the euro. So you can pull money out of a ATM machine
in Helsinki and spend it in Athens or Lisbon or Dublin. But now look at the
island of Ireland here and look at this little chunk up here — that’s Northern
Ireland, and of course as I just mentioned they use the British Pound.
ATM machines are the way to go for cash. The traveler’s checks are really dying out,
kind of a dinosaur, and slowly dying out. ATM machines are open 24 hours a day and
you get a good bank exchange rate. The thing about an ATM machine, though, is
that you’ll get dinged with a fee every time you use it, so rather than use it
every day and pull out a little bit of money, you know, maybe go twice a week and
pull out a big chunk of money instead. And do keep it safely tucked away in
your money belt because, unfortunately, there are pickpockets even
in mist-kissed Ireland. So yeah, wear a money belt,
you’ll be fine. Also, call your credit card
company before you go, to make sure that they know where you’re
going, so that they don’t freeze your card, thinking that a thief has
taken it to Belfast or something. Just a good
idea to do that as well. There are some great little city buses
that will drive around on tours, little tours around to the 15
or 20 main interesting spots in town. In the bigger towns — this happens to be
Galway — right in front of the tourist information office. The tourist information
office is a good resource for you guys for maps and for finding out about
festivals, and if you ever really get in a pinch and you don’t have a room, they
can book your room as well, based on their database of approved lodging that
meets certain standards. So, just know that that’s kind of a fallback. In our guidebooks we have our
very best options, but you always have the tourist
information office as a fallback. Now, for sightseeing, there’s a fantastic
card here called the Heritage Card. And this will get you into the 20, or,
pardon me, the 80 or so most important castles and monuments and parks, and it
will, you know, you just buy it once and you’re good to
go for all these government-owned castles
and parks and gardens and mansions and so on. About 20 to 22 euros, as I recall,
for one person, so if you’re going to see
half a dozen sights, this will pay for itself. Plus, it’ll save you
from waiting in line. So you just buy it at any tourist information office, like the
one we just saw in the previous picture. Or there’s a second guide that
can be useful, as well. There is no overlap on this pass, I should say (not
guide). This is the Heritage Island pamphlet — similar-sounding. But this
pamphlet covers privately-owned establishments like crystal factories or
brewery tours or those types of things. This is best for couples because
primarily what you’re getting is “buy one, the other one goes in free.” So if you’re
traveling alone it doesn’t quite pay off as much. If you’re traveling alone, you’ll
get about a 10 or 20% discount instead, so it doesn’t quite pay off when you’re
traveling alone unless you’re doing a lot of sightseeing. But between the two–
the publicly-owned or I should say, the governmentally-owned sites
here on this card and the privately-owned here — this
one cost about 7 euros. So for about 27, 28 euros, which
is under $40, you’ve got all your sightseeing covered. You buy both of
these at the tourist information office in the first town you come to, and then
you’re good to go. Sometimes I just buy them right at Dublin Airport, right when
I land, and just get it out of the way, and then I’m footloose and fancy-free. Now, for lodging, we try to find, every
year, locally-owned, friendly, clean, good-value places to sleep in. And this
happens to be one of my favorites in a little town called Trim. This place has a
story, because it is a former Victorian maternity hospital, of all things, and a
really cozy little place. You know, we do list a few chain hotels but we’re
primarily not looking for those unless there’s really not any options.
We like to put you in touch with with the small merchants and the locals
who are, you know, more representative of the culture that you’ve gone so far to see. So you can get a great room like
this in a B&B for about 80 euros, roughly. 80 euros is maybe $110 —
that’s two people in a room, so you’re spending $55-60
per person, in the countryside, for a room like this — en suite,
with a bathroom. If you’re in Dublin, it’ll cost
you about a third more. Dublin’s still a very expensive city. And you get to meet these wonderful
people like Chrissie and Tom here in Kinsale — couple of my favorite,
favorite Irish people. They’ll sit you down at their
breakfast table in their kitchen, and they’ll make you, you know,
breakfast, and they chat with you and jokes and just, you know,
good fellowship. I really love meeting
people like this and I really advocate trying to stay
locally as much as you can. Now, a breakfast in Ireland is
something that’s really hearty. In some places in Europe you’ll
just get a roll and some yogurt and maybe a piece of fruit and some juice,
coffee. In Ireland, you get a cooked breakfast, so you start with fruit and
toast and juice, coffee, eggs, here we go, tomatoes, sausage, then this
mysterious-looking object right here — that is black pudding and black pudding is
sausage made from pig’s blood. So be aware of anything on your plate
that looks like a hockey puck. It’s an acquired taste. Also, just to mention briefly,
if you’re traveling on a super-tight budget, there are hostels, we
used to call them youth hostels, but really people of any age can stay in a
hostel — except in Bavaria, one state in Germany — everywhere else you can be any
age and stay in a hostel. And we list the best ones in our guidebooks in any town
that we feel is is worthy of it. Now, driving, yes, they don’t drive on the
“wrong” side of the road, you guys, they drive on the “other” side of
the road, okay? And, you know, an Irish road, it’s really
not my side of the road or your side of the road, it’s just kind of a
shared cooperative adventure. But you do get used to it,
you do get used to driving on the other
side of the road. But you can’t be in a hurry, so that
means you have to get an early start. You have to have a good map. It helps to
have a patient navigator next to you. I pull over frequently to let any faster
local person scoot on by me. And it’s, you know, you do get used to it.
It is the best way to get around. Now, keep in mind, first of all,
that you can save about 30% by getting a stick-shift over an
automatic. But you’re sitting on the other side of the car with the stick-
shift in your left hand, driving on the other side of the road.
So, you know, at least the brake and gas and and clutch are all in
the same place that you’re used to. That’s something to be thankful for.
And the stick-shift, you know, the H pattern of a stick-shift, you know,
first, second, and so on, that’s the same, as well. So some things are the same
but, you know, you do get used to it. So, I just had to kind of give
it to you straight there. Now, this is fun for me. I love
driving down a little, tiny Irish lane. There are little pullouts here — if
another car came the other direction, whichever one of us came to this little
pullout first would pull into the pullout and blink our lights and let
the other guy go by. The Irish are generally courteous
drivers — it’s we tourists who are fouling things up over there. Now, Irish roads are beautiful out in the
countryside but you have to be a cautious driver because you never know what’s
going to be around the corner. You got to be a careful driver because around the
corner could be a tractor or a couple of pedestrians or maybe some of these guys,
or a few of those guys, and even sometimes one of these guys. So you just
really have to be a careful driver and take your time as you’re
getting around there. I figure I can average about
one kilometer a minute in Ireland. Here in the States,
I figure I can average a mile an hour, right, or
probably a mile a minute, not an hour, a mile a minute,
you know, if I’m driving from here to Portland, what is it, 200
miles, you know, might take me, you know — two and a
half hours or something. In Ireland it’s going to take you lots
longer because the roads are narrower, they’re building new roads, they’re
building some highways, but it’s a slow process. So when you’re looking at a map
and you see a distance in kilometers about a kilometer per minute,
which is about 40 miles an hour, on average in Ireland. Now you do need a good map
because when you’re looking at a street sign like this in Ireland,
you gotta have some patience. They are converting from miles
to kilometers right now. So on this street sign, you’ll see
to Ballinadee, it’s seven kilometers, but to Kinsale it’s seven miles.
If you see “km,” that’s kilometers, if you see nothing, it’s miles.
So it’s 39 kilometers to Cork but it’s five kilometers to Kilbrittain, so, or
five miles, rather, to Kilbrittain. So just kind of roll with it, you know.
You’re over there experiencing another culture and, again,
you’ll get used to it. This is my brother Tim, and I took him
to Ireland in 1995, and we rented a car, and we were in Dingle, and the brakes
started to squeak, so we went into O’Connor Motor Company here,
we’re proud members of the O’Connor clan, and we said
we’ll get our brakes fixed here, and we slept great that night because we knew
that if those brakes failed the next day, our kin would still get
our business here. Keep it in the family
no matter what, right? Okay, let’s start traveling around the
country. Dublin — biggest city in Ireland,
really the most important or the most visited site in Dublin has to be Trinity
College because it has a wonderful illuminated manuscript called the Book
of Kells. Now, the lines in to see this can be quite long so you want to make
sure that you find out the opening hours and either go early in the day or late
in the day because midday, you could be standing outside for 45 minutes or
something, waiting to get in. But this is one of the illuminated manuscripts of the
Book of Kells — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — the scriptures copied down on
calfskin vellum way back 1,200 years ago in a little island that’s now
part of Scotland, called Iona. And it was raided by the Vikings and
they started massacring the monks and the monks fled with their precious
manuscripts. The Vikings, by the way, were raiding not because they were
anti-Christian, but more that they were raiding for the plunder of the jeweled
book covers, the golden chalices, the silver candle holders. And the monks
just were massacred in between. So anyway, they moved to the center
of Ireland — these particular monks from Iona — they went to Kells, and
that’s why we call it The Book of Kells. And the library at Trinity Colleges is
gorgeous. I believe one scene of one of the Harry Potter
movies was filmed in this. It’s just a lovely,
lovely old structure. The Guinness brewery is a
holy pilgrimage for some people. When you walk into the lobby of the
Guinness brewery, you’re walking over this glass plate here,
plexiglass, I should say. The original lease that Arthur Guinness
signed is right here and you can see the terms — it says
this is the original 9,000-year lease signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759.
9,000 years at forty pounds a year — a pretty good deal.
At the time he didn’t know, you know, there were many
breweries in town, he might have gone out of business. It was a
risk for him, but he certainly made a success of it. And Guinness has this
wonderful advertising campaign you’ve probably seen a lot of, they’re sort of
colorful cartoonish-looking ads all over the place, on the sides
of pubs and so on. To save some money, get a carvery
lunch in a pub. Pub grub, comfort food — not gourmet but filling and economical. In Dublin, the city is cut in half by the
Liffey River — the north side and the south side, we’re standing on the south
side here at the Halfpenny pedestrian bridge. And I was there on St. Patrick’s
Day in 2006 and it was just a zoo, it was lots and lots of fun. In the Temple Bar
area of Dublin — kind of the party zone — lots and lots of fun,
big crowds, lots of great people-watching. The Dutch soccer team was in town and
they were playing the Irish. This guy’s about six-foot-eight,
so nobody’s going to argue with him but, his friend’s looking at him, going
“what were you thinking of?” Okay, now we’re outside of Dublin, and if
you’re looking for a less expensive Dublin sleeping option, there’s a couple
of great ones that are only about 20 minutes out of town on the light rail
Dart system. This is Dún Laoghaire, which is also the ferry
port — one of the three that goes over to Wales.
Very quiet, nice little town made famous by James Joyce
in the novel “Ulysses” — starts in this round tower right here. And then the
other town on the north side is Howth, which is a fishing village. Again, quiet —
the rooms are about a third less in these two little suburbs than what you’ll
pay in Dublin. The trade-off is that you need to take a 20-minute light-rail ride,
no connections, just straight in and out, real easy, and we write those up in
the guidebook. Now, this is Dublin in the center of
town on O’Connell Street Bridge. And I’m going to show you this same
view about, what, 96 years ago. What the heck’s going on? Well, that would
have been 1916 — Easter Monday of 1916. Rebels in Ireland rose because they knew
the British were tied up with World War I and distracted. And the rebels rose, tried
to get a national revolution going while the British’s backs were turned because
Ireland was part of the United Kingdom at that time. And the British came in
with gunboats and troops and within a week they put down this rebellion — the
Easter uprising. But the rebel leaders were taken here to Kilmainham Gaol. If
they’d just thrown them in in the clinker and thrown away the key, Irish history
would have been completely different because these rebels were not, all of
them were not well-thought of by Irish people whose town had been destroyed
because of their uprising. But when the 16 major leaders were executed, suddenly
they were martyrs, and public opinion reversed about 180 degrees. And within
half a dozen years, Ireland was on the road with limited autonomy from Britain,
and by 1947 was a republic completely separate from Britain — other than the six
counties of the north, which chose to remain with the United Kingdom and we’ll
talk about them later. This is the the stone breakers yard
where those rebel leaders were shot, so this is sacred ground to the Irish. And
the closest thing I can think of in our own history would be to go to the
Arizona Memorial or something like that in Honolulu. The Irish feel super-strongly
about this particular place because it’s the birth of their modern
Republic, after being under the thumb of the British for 750 years. These are the
Irish leaders’ names and you’ll see it’s written in Irish, the language of Irish
first, and then in English second. The general post office is where the rebel
leaders held out, kind of like an Alamo, for that week. And here’s a statue of
James Joyce looking across there, the famous novelist, looking up at the Irish
flag, which is a tricolor of green, white and orange. Green representing the
nationalist Catholic perspective, orange representing the unionist Protestant
perspective, and white representing the hope for peace between them. This was
a gift from France to Irish rebels back in the 1840s and when Ireland finally got its
independence they adopted it as their national flag. Trinity College, pardon me,
Dublin Castle here is where the British turned over control of the country to
the Irish in a ceremony right here in this courtyard. And the sad thing
is that within a few months or less than a year, the Irish were at each other’s
throats over the terms of the treaty, and that’s a very involved thing that I
don’t have time to get into now, but the first shots of the Irish Civil War were
fired here at the Four Courts, which is their Supreme Court building. If you’re
trying to track your genealogy and having trouble tracking your genealogy
in Ireland, part of the reason is because the public records office in this
building went up in flames, and there were records and went way back to
the 1200s — precious documents that went up in flames during the Irish Civil War. Irish sports are fantastic.
This is Irish football, not soccer. You kick it past the goalie, you get
three points; you kick it over the top, you get one point; and this
guy can pick it up and run for three steps and then he
can pass it to his buddies. So it’s not soccer. A little bit different.
Each county has their own colors. The gentleman here in red is from
County Cork — that’s Cork in the Irish language, his wife is from County
Kerry — that’s Kerry in Irish. So this is a mixed marriage. This is like a Husky marrying a Cougar
or a Duck marrying a Beaver. Yeah, they have a truce
on weekends, whenever their teams are playing each other. The kids from Kilkenny and
their colors here. And this is my favorite game — this is
hurling. This is a 2,000-year-old game that the Celts used to play. Very fast-
moving game, very rough-and-tumble game. This guy here has just hit the ball,
you can see it going out there, this guy’s just trying to block it with it
with his mallet there. Think about standing in front of, I don’t know, Mark
McGwire or Barry Bonds with a bat and trying to block their home run? It can be pretty, pretty…a pretty
rough game. Very exciting game, though. Oh, and horse racing and steeplechase
are huge in Ireland. Steeplechase was actually invented in
Ireland where there was a race between two steeples across a horizon down in
County Cork. So let’s start moving around the island.
This is right out of our guidebook. Each one of these little circles are
towns where we list lodging, so we feel it’s worthwhile to spend the
night, if you have the time. And here we go.
So Powerscourt Gardens are in County Wicklow — just an easy
hour’s drive south of Dublin. Beautiful Renaissance, Italian
Renaissance gardens here at Powerscourt. Glendalough is the, what am I trying
to say, the monastery of Saint Kevin founded way back in the mid-500s. Also in County Wicklow, they call
it the Garden County of Ireland. You’ll see these round towers in
these monastic settlements, very historic monastic settlements, all
across the country. There’s between 80 and 90 of them in varying states of
repair across the countryside. But you can figure that most of these towers are in
the neighborhood of 1,000 years old. Kilkenny is our favorite interior town
in Ireland. This is Kilkenny Castle, which is more of
a palace now. It’s worth a visit if you are
cutting through the interior. Cashel, though, is my favorite stop in the
middle of Ireland. It’s in County Tipperary. St. Patrick himself visited here and last
year the Queen of England visited here. This is the first time since the
Republic was founded in 1922 that the Queen set foot in the Republic of
Ireland. So it was a huge watershed moment. And actually she was better received
than anybody really would have expected. It was a real cathartic moment in Irish
history, modern Irish history. If you’re going to the Rock of Cashel,
the crowds, again, are big in the middle of the day, so try and do
it early in the morning or late in the afternoon
to minimize the crowds. And you gotta bring extra film,
memory for your camera. My tour members are always asking me halfway
through the tour, you know, “where can I buy another memory chip? I didn’t bring
enough memory,” you know. Just do yourself a favor: think of how much film–it’s not
film any more–memory you want for your camera and now double it, because you’re
just going to be taking tons and tons of photos and you don’t want to spend a
bunch of your time trying to find a camera shop as you’re traveling around. Waterford is actually an older town than
Dublin. Dublin, Waterford, Limerick were all founded by the Vikings. The very first
towns in Ireland were Viking settlements. We know Waterford, though, for
Waterford Crystal, which went out of business in 2008, and then it was bought
up by American investors who’ve reopened a new Waterford Crystal that’s even more
accessible and more interesting to tour than the old one.
So if you’re into crystal, now you can walk down the
assembly line and actually pick up the thing and talk to the guy
and really get a feel for their craftsmanship. It’s a smaller-scale thing
because most of their production is done by cheaper labor across the world, but
the really most important and most intricate creations that they do are
still done here in Waterford. Now I love finding out about
different characters in Irish history. This is my favorite character in Irish
history — just indulge me here for a minute or so — this gentleman
is named Thomas Francis Maher. He was born in Waterford in the 1830s.
He became an Irish rebel in the 1840s. As a young man — he’s the
guy who went to France and brought back that first
Irish flag, the tricolor, as a rebel. He survived the famine,
he was in an uprising, he was caught, he was
sentenced to death, but Queen Victoria commuted his sentence and
banished him to Van Diemen’s land, which is Tasmania today, off the coast of
Australia. He was there for three years, he got in a rowboat and escaped, got out
in the shipping lanes, and an American whaling ship picked him up, got him to
the state of New York, in New York he started a newspaper, he became wealthy, he
went down to Central America and started jaguar-hunting and looking at the
possibility of maybe creating what later became the Panama Canal, then he heard
the Civil War might start, so he ran back up to New York, he became a general and
founded the fighting 69th Union regiment that fought on the bloodiest day of the
Civil War, which was Antietam. In September of 1862, had his horse
shot out from underneath him, survives the war, after the war he
becomes the first territorial governor of Montana, ten years before Little
Bighorn, and now he’s about my age. I’m out of breath just talking about him.
What happens to him? Well, he’s on a riverboat in the Missouri River, falls
overboard and drowns. And his body was never found.
So somebody’s got to make a movie about this guy, he was everywhere. And if you’ve ever been to the state
capitol in Montana, I always forget, Missoula or Helena? Helena, thank you.
There’s a statue of Thomas Francis Maher right there in front of the capitol building.
But nobody knows where his body went. So Irish history starts with these
stone circles, just the same vintage as Stonehenge, but much more accessible, and
much more intimate. You can’t walk up and touch Stonehenge very easily, but you can
these stone circles in Ireland. There’s over 200 of them spread across Ireland. And then from people-early man
went from Stone Age, Stone Age tools to the Bronze Age,
where they began smelting tin and copper to make bronze. And they were able
to create axe heads, and then they figured out how to make iron, and you
know, the ages progressed technologically. So about, oh, a thousand years
before Christ, this would this would have been the way Irish people were living. Now, about the time of Christ, in the
Iron Age, if you were a wealthy Irish chieftain, you would build a fort out in
a swamp like this, and your wealth was measured by how many cattle you had, how
much land you had, and also how many slaves you had, because this is a slave
trading economy. And St. Patrick himself was a kidnapped slave, kidnapped from the
coast of Britain — they think, maybe Scotland, they’re not 100% sure —
and brought to Ireland for six years where he kind of found God and
eventually escaped again, and then had another vision that he should become a
member of the clergy and come back and convert the Irish. He was not the first
Christian missionary to Ireland but he was the most successful and of course
the most famous. So when Christianity came to
Ireland, it wasn’t really at the point of a sword, it was through the
persuasive powers of people like St. Patrick. Ireland is unique, perhaps, in Western
European history in many ways, for being converted to Christianity not with a
crusade and not with the Inquisition or anything like that, but rather with the
persuasive powers of the early missionaries who would take nature and
help to explain to the pagans, for example, the Trinity:
three and one, right? The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost —
three and one. They take a shamrock — three petals on
one stem — and they would explain the Trinity to the pagans, you know, people that
way, and make it more palatable to them. Anyway, that’s why the shamrock is
one of the national, one of the symbols, I should say, most associated
with Ireland. Now in the 800s, here came the Vikings.
We already talked a little bit about them raiding, and after a few
years, instead of just raiding, they set up camps so they could trade with the
Irish, and you know, rob them on a more regular basis. And those Vikings
became the Normans within a couple hundred years, the Normans, the men of the
north, the Norseman, who had settled on the coast of France and Normandy and
came across at the Battle of Hastings in 1066, took over Britain, and about a
hundred years later in 1169, came over at the invitation of a couple of Irish
chieftains as sort of a military muscle in the 1160s, and stayed, and became
eventually what evolved into the British aristocracy, or the English aristocracy
in Ireland. When they landed on this beach, the Normans — this beach is called
Baginbun — and there’s an old Irish saying that goes “on the beach at Baginbun,
Ireland was lost and won.” Lost to the Irish and won to the English-
by the English for the next 700 years. Now, there’s a little lighthouse, actually
a big lighthouse, that was built by the Normans and it still stands. It’s a
modern lighthouse today with a modern light on the top. But when Oliver Cromwell
came through with his British troops in a “scorched earth” policy to
take over Ireland in the 1640s, he looked at Waterford, a very strategic town, and
he said, he looked at the map and he said “I can either go through Hook Head
by that lighthouse, or I can go through the little town of Crook on the other
side of the bay. I’m going to take Waterford by Hook or by Crook.”
That’s where we get that. Oliver Cromwell — kind of the boogeyman
of Irish history. And then there was the 1798 uprising with
the pikemen who tried to rise up against the Redcoats, but the Redcoats had
already lost the 13 colonies and were battle-hardened and were not
going to give up Ireland. Ireland to the British was like
Cuba to us in the 1960s. If you were trying to get at the
British, let’s say you were a French or Spanish monarch who shared
their Catholic faith with the Irish, they said “well, we’ll get at the
British the back way through Ireland.” So the British were not going
to let that happen, they weren’t going to let Ireland
fall, and they put down this rebellion in 1798.
30,000 people died in six weeks in this rebellion. The bloodiest
Irish rebellion. In the 1840s, 1830s, the Irish
were looked at in a very sort of bigoted way, as subhuman in many
ways — this is a cartoon out of an English newspaper of the time — and when they came
across to the states, they were portrayed very ape-like as well; very, you know,
uncomplimentary ways. They were given the most basic labor jobs: washerwomen or
ditch-diggers and so on. But eventually the Irish, the first mass migration of a
European country, there are many other proud nationalities that came
soon after: Italians and Germans and Poles and so on, but the
Irish for the first major influx of immigration into the States. They made
their names by helping to build the Transcontinental railway, they helped to
build the Erie Canal, they helped to build some of the first skyscrapers in
Chicago, they fought bravely on both sides of the Civil War, and eventually we
had our first Irish Catholic president. He was not our first Irish president —
there were about eleven other Irish presidents before him — but they were
Scotch Irish from up in Ulster, or at least their heritage was from up north, and
JFK was the first Irish Catholic president. So if your heritage is Irish, chances are
good that your people got on a boat in this town. It’s called Cobh,
C-O-B-H. And that was a main port of emigration, it was also the last stop of
the Titanic. In those days, the town was called Queenstown. It was renamed Cobh
after the Irish got their independence. By the way, you guys, at 7:45 tonight,
if you start feeling a little chilly, 7:45 tonight will be the 100th anniversary of
the striking of that iceberg. The ship sank on April 15th of 1912. And then
three years later the Lusitania sinks right off the coast of County Cork,
torpedoed by a World War I German U-boat. So lots of interesting maritime
history here on the coast of County Cork. Our favorite town is Kinsale in that
region. Beautiful little town, wonderfully painted. They have a contest called the
Tidy Town contest and Kinsale has won that more than once. Has a wonderful
star-shaped fort that the British built to try and protect this strategic harbor
from invasion by either the Spanish or the French. Great walking tour guides
like this gentleman named Don Herlihy who will tell you all about the local
history. And again, we write this up in our guidebook. Blarney Castle is nearby.
Blarney Castle, if you want to kiss the Blarney Stone up near the city of Cork,
you’ve got to climb up into the tower here, and right up here on this parapet, eight
floors up, you got to lean over backwards and these bars will keep you from
falling through, but you gotta kiss the stone which supposedly will give you the
gift of gab, or the cold of the people who’ve kissed it before you. You got to have a
good back to do that. The Ring of Kerry is beautiful,
but we like Kenmare much more than Killarney for a town to
launch from. Here’s the town of Kenmare. It’s located right here on the Ring of
Kerry, about a 130-mile loop. Killarney is over here. So we come
from Kinsale way over here. We come through Muckross
and visit the mansion there, go over Moll’s Gap, and we get that
part of the Ring of Kerry done on our entry day, spend the night here, get up
early, and we drive this way around the Ring of Kerry. The convoy of buses
we’ll be going this way around the Ring of Kerry, so we don’t want to be going
this way because then your lasting memory of the entire trip will be the
license-plate number of the giant bus blocking your view. So we prefer to go
the other way around, which is the way the locals do. Now, eventually that convoy
is going to meet you, but what you do is you go out on this little Skellig Ring
road, which is too narrow for the buses. The buses go this way, you have lunch and
enjoy the views, and then you continue on like that. So that’s the way
we like to do it. Here’s Staigue Ringfort, which is one of
the Iron Age ringforts you can visit out on the Ring of Kerry. Here’s passing one of the coaches.
Now, they widen the road every single year. I’ve been back to
this same exact spot and this- they’ve dynamited out, the rock on
the right, and it’s a wider road now. So the horror stories that
you heard from relatives trying to drive this 30 or
40 years ago is outdated. It’s really become much easier to drive. And now here’s the Skellig Ring Road.
Now, a coach could never drive this. But you can in your car, to
get away from the crowds. Looking off the Skellig,
or the coast here, you’re looking out at the
two Skellig rocks. The most magical thing I’ve ever done in
Ireland is to take a boat trip out there. I’ve been out there a couple of times.
45-minute boat ride out there, the boats will not go if the seas are rough, and
they’ll know right from shore whether or not to go or not, so you don’t go halfway
out and then turn around and come back. So let’s go out there for a few minutes.
Taking a boat right out to Skellig Michael, named after the Archangel Michael.
The monks built these little beehive huts right up here on the summit
and they lived out there from the mid-500s until the early 1100s, living
off nothing but birds’ eggs and rainwater and fish. A dark, damp, devoted, you know,
life, trying to get away from all the temptations of the big cities, you know.
Or at least, any city or any town. So they lived out here on these rocks, and
they built these stairs — 600 vertical feet of stairs, no escalator,
no railings, no coffee shop, no bathrooms, no nothing out there except for
fantastic atmosphere and beautiful scenery. So you start climbing up these stairs
that the monks built, you know, hundreds and hundreds of years
ago, and you’ve got puffins all around you. If you’re there from
mid-April until about the first couple weeks of August, you’ll see puffins.
And I didn’t use a zoom lens on this. This is about, this puffin was maybe
10 or 15 feet away from me. So you’re climbing up the stairs and
you’re puffin’, too. They’re puffin, everybody’s
puffin out here. A little more puffin’,
and eventually you get to the top and there is a ranger up there
who spends the summer, and will explain these amazing stories of the monks
who lived up in this area way off on what was then the edge of the known
world. They didn’t know about the North and South America — this was
the edge of the world as far away from civilization as they could get. There are the graves of
the monks right here and a 600-foot drop right
over the edge, right there. Here’s the trail. You know, you
just got to have good footwear, keep your eyes open, you know.
The Irish don’t, you know, usually build railings, they take us all
to be adults and be, you know, able to sort of watch out for ourselves
and just walk carefully. So now we’re back on the mainland
and Killarney National Park is a beautiful national park along the way. Heading north, here’s Muckross House
on the way as well. A nice mansion to visit in the
Killarney National Park area. There’s a full park here with
thatched houses and so on. Definitely worth visiting. And the reconstruction of the
original houses here, you learn that in the old days, people were taxed by how
big their windows were, because glass was a luxury. So in order to avoid taxes,
you’d build a tiny little window. And the Irish called that daylight robbery.
So that’s a another thing that we get from the Irish. Dingle is our favorite town on the west
coast, a beautiful little fishing village. And you can visit Fungie the dolphin, who
has adopted this bay in Dingle harbor. You can take boat cruises
out there to visit him. They’re nuts about Fungie in Dingle. This is the loop that we like. This is the
Slea Head loop around the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. And you get
great, great, great scenery like this out on the tip of the Slea Head Peninsula. Again, you can only do this by car.
Rugged, rugged scenery out there. And this is the westernmost point in
Europe, Slea Head itself. Now I took this picture in early August
with one of my tour groups and I came back to the same viewpoint two
weeks later in mid-August. You can’t out-guess Irish weather,
you just can’t. It could be like this, or it could be
like this — you never know. This is both August, alright. Oscar Wilde, the famous author, said
“there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing.” Okay, so if
you’re a sun worshipper, you know, Ireland’s a gamble. Gallarus Oratory, an early Christian
oratory, almost 1,100 years old, beautifully constructed with no mortar, those stones are just stacked on
top of themselves. I love Irish pubs, they’re the public
living room of the people. Sometimes they’re, you know, little communal houses
like this out in the countryside. Sometimes they’re romantic little places
like this one in Kinsale, the Spaniard Pub in Kinsale. Sometimes
they’re very quiet and introspective, and sometimes they’re kind of steamy and
conversational and kind of loud and boisterous, but the thing I love most
about Irish pubs, beyond the beer, is the music — wonderful Irish traditional music
in these pubs. The musicians show up just for the love of the music, they’re not
getting big money for being here, they just know that on Thursday night
O’Flaherty’s is the right place to play with their friends. And they also do church concerts
in Dingle, so you can hear the same musicians in the pubs who
you will hear later in the pubs, you can hear earlier in the church in a more
sort of serene setting. The Uilleann pipes are an Irish bagpipe.
It has double the number of, has two octaves instead of one,
unlike the Scottish bagpipe, and it’s a very complicated thing to play. He has
fingering here that’s like a flute, but he’s also hitting with his heel these
different drones on this here, he’s got one bag under one arm to keep the air
going, and another bag on the other side like a bellows to pull it in, he’s got
five or six things he’s doing with two arms, and in order to keep this thing in
his lap, he’s like wrestling with an octopus, he’s got this thing in his lap,
he’s got a seat belt or a little belt to kind of hook it on to, and he’s got two
bags on either side. These guys joke that it’s the safest instrument in the world
to play because you got a seat belt and two air bags. Blasket Island, the great
Blasket Island is off the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. A wonderful hiking area
if you’ve got the time, and nice weather. You’ll see these round circles in
different parts of the Irish countryside. These are old raths or ringforts that
were built, again, roughly the time of Christ, in most cases for the Iron Age, to
keep their cattle safe from other clan rustlers who would want to steal
their cattle during times of war. You can walk around on the edges
of these ringforts. And there was an Irish folklorist who said, you know,
these were built by the little people, the fairies, the little people, and it was
bad luck to pull any stones away from the ringforts. They say the Kennedy
family has had such a tragic, you know, series of generations because someone on
their County Wexford farm must have taken a stone from the ringfort.
Bad luck, right? Superstition. Well, anyway, they asked this woman
“do you believe in fairies” and she thought for a second and she
said “no, but they’re there anyway.” Irish logic. Cliffs of Moher, 700-foot tall cliffs
right on the coast of County Clare. Look at these people walking right
up at the edge, I can barely even watch. They don’t build fences, the Irish just
believe in natural selection. There’s a wonderful little holy well
nearby, Bridget, St. Bridget’s Well. You can walk right in there and
see all these wonderful artifacts that were left behind by
people who are making offerings to the Virgin Mary. The Burren is a national park in
Ireland, there in County Clare. “Rocky, stony place” — that’s what the
word “burren” means in Irish. Here’s an ancient dolmen burial mound structure, the
mound around it has been weathered away but the interior superstructure of it still
remains. The cremated remains of the royalty would have been
put inside this way back, 3-, 4-, 3,500 to 4,000 years ago. Great castles all across Ireland. One of
my favorites is here, it’s Dungaire Castle, where you can do a castle banquet, the
waiters and waitresses sing songs and tell jokes, and then, you know, serve your
meals in between each song or each course. But really it’s the people that
you meet in Ireland. I was talking to this guy, he was out in the Burren, he was
leaning against a stone wall. I know this sounds like a cliché, but I looked out
there at that rocky ground, and I wondered what it’d be like to live here,
and I said to him “have you lived here all your life?” and he looked me right in
the eye and he said “not yet.” Okay, so we’ve come around the southern
part here, we’re in Galway now, and we’re going to go across the north, but let’s
spend a few minutes in Galway and the Aran Islands in Connemara on our way north. Galway is a college town, a university
town, a youthful, vibrant town, so it’s a good base for the west. Now, to get
out to the Aran Islands, you can fly out, I’ve done that many times.
But normally, flying in, you get some great views of the three
Aran Islands, coming in. I like Inishmore, the largest of the
three, most. But if you go in by boat, which is fine — it’s about a 45-minute
boat ride versus a 10-minute flight — the boats are subject to tide, so
once you dock at 10:00 in the morning, you’re there until 5 or 6,
4 or 5, actually, in the evening, before the tide comes back in. This is where the Irish language is spoken
most prevalently, out on the Aran Islands. They’ll speak English to you and me but
they speak Irish to each other. This is where you find the thatched
hut culture that we see so much in the postcards, and that’s
unfortunately dying away, but you can still find it out here. This is where the Aran
sweater comes from. Just remember to get your VAT tax form if
you’re buying crystal or sweaters or something expensive like that, so that
you can get a refund on the 20% tax that you’ll be paying. A European is stuck
with that, they can’t do anything about it, but you guys can, you know, get a refund
of about 20%, that VAT tax, by following the instructions we have in our guidebook
and so on for getting that refund. Really slow out on the Aran Islands,
really relaxing. You’ll make friends beside the road like this guy.
You can compare dental work if you want. But the way you get around on the island
is by minivan. If it’s raining, I get in a minivan. These guys are waiting right on
the dock, you know, they’re hawking their wares, so to speak, and they’ll drive
you around the island for five or six hours for about 10 euros. You get eight or ten
people in there and it’s a good deal. You can also get a little pony cart,
a driver to drive around on the island if the weather is good. It’s
slower and it’s twice as expensive, but it’s very romantic and relaxing. Or you
can rent a bike and get around this way if you want. They’re relatively flat and
easy to get around. You got to worry about bandits along the road, though.
These guys will charge you a toll, trying to get through past their corner here. The main site, though, is Dun Aengus,
this Iron-Age ringfort, right on a cliff, up there on Inishmore, 2,000 year-old
ringfort, with these concentric ring walls, and then you look out here and you see
these, like, tanks’ teeth sticking out. These are man-made defensive structures,
rocks that they carried with a ton of labor, like this. So if you’re charging
that fort, you gotta tiptoe through these things, and by the time
you get close to the walls, they’ll have picked you off. So it was a
lot of labor, but it certainly made them very well-fortified 2,000
years ago with the weaponry that was
available at that time. You have wonderful little currach
boats, very maneuverable little boats that the Irish would fish from.
Very light and easy to carry but also very fragile. If they took a goat ashore or a
sheep, they would have to lay the sheep or the goat on his back and tie all of
its legs together so that it wouldn’t kick a hole through the
canvas and sink the boat. The rough-and-tumble, hardy people
of the Aran Islands, you can just read it on their faces,
the no-nonsense, tough, and, you know, life that they lead out there.
They literally, in the old days, had to manufacture dirt, because it was only
rock. So they had to get sand and seaweed and animal dung and just start
scraping it together to have a little plot of land to grow some vegetables in,
and to have a more varied diet. So a really hardscrabble life the people
have lived out there. This little young lady, I met
her in 1981 on my first trip, and I was just a kid with a
bicycle, right out of college. She was so cute, I stopped and
I said “can I take your picture?” She said “ok,” I snapped this picture and
I pedaled away. And whenever I’d show my pictures to my friends
or relatives, they would see this picture
and they just thought she was really cute. So when
I went back over there with my brother Tim in 1995, he said —
great suggestion, Tim — he said “bring along a little photograph of
her, see if you can find her.” So I did. And Tim and I are having our lunch in this
little cafe before we start bicycling around, and I walk up to the cash
register at this cafe, the only crossroads in town, the only cafe,
practically, on the island, paid the bill, and then I pull out this picture and I say
“you know, I was here 14 years ago, you have any idea who this little
girl is?” and they look at the picture and they said “sure, that’s Suzy Gill,” and
I went “oh cool, can you tell me where she is? I’d love to just show her
the picture,” and they said “yeah sure, she’s in the back cooking, we’ll bring
her out.” True story, true story. So she didn’t remember me from
Adam, but when she looked at the picture, she remembered her red galoshes,
her little kitten, and she recognized her brother there in the back. So my whole
point is, just reach out to the Irish. You just never know what sort of magical,
you know, magical interactions you’ll have. Last time I talked to Susie, she sent
me a postcard from Australia, she was headed for Boston. I know that sounds
like another cliche for the Irish, but she’s out there, and the Irish diaspora,
you know, moving around. Suzie Gill. Okay, we’re back on the mainland
moving north up through Connemara, beautiful countryside in Connemara,
moving north up the west coast, some of the greenest “40 shades of green,”
you’ve probably heard that cliche about Ireland, really is
true out here in Connemara. This was the cover shot on our
guidebook here a few years ago, one of my favorite little areas
of Ireland, Connemara. Beautiful lush vegetation out
here — this is in May, when the rhododendrons are blossoming,
the fuchsia start coming out in June, you get the Irish Rose coming out roughly
midsummer or a little bit earlier, you get heather, you know, all
the way through the summer, the foxglove is growing, as well,
in mid and late summer, and my favorite, you
can’t quite see it here, but this is orange flower here
is called montbretia, and that grows lushly in August.
So some great wonderful flowers out there across the Irish
countryside, but you’ll also see signs like this. There are many famine
graveyards all across Ireland. Just a quick little history thing here — in 1800,
there were four million Irish in Ireland. In 1900, there were roughly four
million Irish, but in the middle of that century, in 1845, there were eight million
Irish. There was a huge population boom because of the potato, you could live off
potatoes and buttermilk, you had enough vitamin C and vitamin A to survive, so
peasants would grow potatoes in this rocky wet ground and, you know, survive
off that. But when a fungus started to kill the potatoes for four years in a row
in the late 1840s, a million people died, and another million and a half emigrated,
and after that time, only the male, one eldest male got the land and
any other male had no choice other than to join the clergy or to emigrate. So
with just one male staying home, the population started to go down again.
So I think Ireland is unique in history as well as being the only nation to double
its population and cut it in half in a hundred-year span and it wasn’t by warfare,
it was by dependence on the potato. So here’s a healthy potato field,
and here is a ghostly remnant of an old potato field from the famine. They call
these “lazy beds.” And I’m out here in the middle of nowhere, and I’m realizing that
in the old days, Ireland was much more densely populated and people were living
way up these slopes, and you can still see where they were living from the
scars of the lazy beds from 150 years ago. And of course they
commemorate that with a variety of memorials
across the country. Okay, let’s get off that heavy subject. A friend of mine calls a pint of Guinness
the “tall blonde in the black dress.” There is a subculture in Ireland called
“travelers.” We used to call them “tinkers” but that’s derogatory now, politically
incorrect. You call them “travelers.” 30,000 of them living nomadically
across Ireland. Sometimes they’re called gypsies but they’re not ethnically
gypsies at all — they’re as Irish as Irish can be. They were displaced during the famine and
displaced during the Cromwellian wars and just adopted a nomadic lifestyle, and
they live in these little trailers that they move around every so often from halting sight to halting site. Travelers. And then out in the West and in the
center of Ireland you have these bogs where they literally cut peat or turf
out of the bogs, they let it dry, and then they burn it like Presto Logs in their
fireplace, which would have been all you would’ve needed to grow your potatoes as
a peasant — go to the bog, cut some turf, let it dry, and then you can boil the
water to boil your potatoes. The Irish, by the way,
the Irish peasants would have one long thumbnail
and that was to peel the potato, because they were too poor
for silverware — dirt-poor, literally. Out in the bogs you can still see these
plants called sundew, they’re carnivorous plants like a Venus flytrap, because the
bogs don’t have enough nutrients in the soil, so the plants have to get their
nutrients from other places. Here’s one of my tour groups — we’re out
in front of Kylemore Abbey. Our tour groups are usually roughly
25 people in a group. This is our whole tour itinerary, all
across Western Europe. Here’s Ireland up here. Our Ireland tour
spends a couple nights in Dublin, two in Kinsale, three in Dingle, two in Galway,
with a trip out to the Aran Islands, one in Westport, two up in Portrush, and one
back in Dublin. So that’s our best two-week itinerary. By the way, if you
don’t want to take one of our tours, we have a consulting service as well, which
you can do in person or by phone, and we can help you plan an independent
trip if you prefer not to do a tour. But we feel our tours are really packing in
the best that you can see in a couple weeks’ time. Think about this — when
you’re traveling independently, you’re going to spend 25% of your time
figuring out where to sleep and where to eat and how to get from
A to B. On a tour, that’s all figured out for you. So a tour is more
efficient. You’ll see in three days on a tour what it would take you four days to
see on your own, because it’s all figured out for you, so you have to balance that
against the compromise of living by the schedule of the tour. By the way, we have
a special going today — if you decide you want to sign up for a tour, you can
get $100 off by by signing up today. Just consider that. And our tours, again,
are active tours, we have fun-loving easy-going, flexible, open-minded people on
our tours, because we’re very upfront in saying how active our tours are. You have
to carry your own bags and you might not have an elevator in a building that might
be three floors tall. So that filters out people who want that extra sort of
“someone to carry their bags” kind of thing. And they’re, you know, God love
’em, there are other tour companies that would cater to that, and that’s
great. Our niche though, is a little bit different — we try to
have one open seat on the coach, one extra open seat for every
person, so if we have 25 people on a tour, we’ve got 50 seats
on a coach, generally speaking. So everybody can spread out and have an
empty seat next to them. And these are my colleagues —
there’s about 75 of us who lead tours across Europe about half of
us are Europeans and about half of us are either American or Canadian. Our tour
brochures, I may have mentioned, that we’ve got it out there for you to grab
if you’re interested, and inside the tour brochure we have our CD, or DVD I should
say, that’s about 45 minutes long, that goes along on one of our tours, so you
can kind of see our style. And of course this is all free, if you’re interested,
out in the lobby. And also on our website at ricksteves.com. For those of
you watching right now on Facebook, you can just dial that up any
time and look at our specials. Our guidebooks — this is the
guidebook that I co-write with Rick. The TV shows he’s filmed,
and our other guidebooks are packed with good,
useful information. One of my very favorite guidebooks is
this one — Europe 101, which is the art and history guidebook
that my colleague Gene Openshaw wrote. He’ll be giving the talk later
this afternoon about Michelangelo. Now we’re back on the mainland of
Ireland, and I’ll speed it up because I don’t wanna keep you here too long.
Croagh Patrick is the mountain that St. Patrick supposedly banished the snakes
from. Now, there were never any snakes in Ireland. Okay, they never made it across
the land bridge at the end of the last Ice Age. But the symbolism here is
that he was replacing the pagan beliefs with Christian beliefs, you know,
the pagan beliefs, the serpent, like the Garden of Eden, you know,
“serpents bad.” So that’s the symbolism there. You can climb this
mountain — I’ve done it a couple times. It’s 2,500 feet and a, you know,
relatively straightforward climb. About 20,000 pilgrims do this on the last
Sunday in July every year, called Reek Sunday, to hear Mass set up on
the summit. There’s the little church on the summit. I did that pilgrimage
back in 1981, and you get great views from the top looking down on Clew
Bay, and you can see people of any age do this, so it’s not a technical
climb in any way, but it is 2,500 feet straight up through the rocks. If you’re
truly devout, you do it barefoot. Yeah. Okay, Westport is our favorite base town
at the northern end of Connemara. Westport I like a lot, and my favorite
pub there is Matt Malloy’s — he’s the flute player for the Chieftains,
if you’ve ever seen the Chieftains in concert, they come to
Seattle. When he’s not traveling around he is tending the bar here
in Westport, Matt Molloy. So we’ve come along up here
and we’re going to head north. Here’s the border of Northern
Ireland — those six counties of the north. We’ve gone into
the United Kingdom when we enter Northern Ireland, and it’ll stay that way
as long as the majority of the people want it to be that way. There’s about
a 55/45 split between the unionist people who happen to be
Protestant and the nationalist people who happen to be Catholic. The unionist
people want to remain part of the union with Britain, the United Kingdom. The
nationalist people were displaced when the British moved in 400 years ago
and planted Ulster and they wanted to be Irish. So it’s really
not about the religion. They’re not debating about the Pope’s teachings,
they’re debating, really, about “do we want to be British or do we want to be Irish?” And Northern Ireland is quite unique
because if you’re born there you get to choose your passport. You can choose an
Irish passport or a British passport, your choice. Some amazing American “movers
and shakers,” leaders came, or at least their heritage was from the north —
Woodrow Wilson, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, just to name a few there.
The Scotch-Irish who came across Scotland first, and then a few generations in the
north of Ireland, and then it came across to the 13 colonies, and then when they
couldn’t find the land they wanted, they were the first ones to go over the
Appalachians into Kentucky and Tennessee and fight the Indians there. People like
Davy Crockett and Andrew Jackson’s kin. Well, these people were followers of a
king named King William of Orange. King Billy. So when they came across, their
hero, King Billy, these guys were called “Billy boys” and then they decided, since
they couldn’t find the land anymore that they wanted in the 13 colonies, they
would go over the hills, over the Appalachians, some of them settled in the
Appalachians — “hill billies.” So that’s where we get that term. And if
you listen to Appalachian bluegrass and you listen to Irish music, you can
hear the similarities. Now, one of the interesting things in the north is the
British pounds. This is a British pound from England, these are British
pounds from Scotland, issued by three different banks, these
are British pounds issued by three different banks in Ireland. All of these
bills are worth 10 pounds sterling, but all seven bills look different, so kind
of a different system up there. Now, Derry or Londonderry, a walled town,
one of the last walled towns built in Europe in the early 1600s, one of
my favorite towns in the north. When I was in high school, this is
all I saw on TV was, you know, “The Troubles” right after the Vietnam War
stuff started to go down, suddenly stuff was going on in Ireland, what was that
about, you know? Well, it was about the Irish people of the north hearing about our
civil rights movement. Believe it or not, Martin Luther King is a big hero to the
Catholic nationalist community over there. They saw it on TV, TV was new, they
started to emulate that and it, these, it’s a long story but basically
these civil rights marches became persecuted or at least, you know, people
on the marches were beat up by the people who didn’t want things to change
and the troops had to come in and it got ugly for 30 years. But since 1998, the
Good Friday peace agreement, things have really settled down. It’s kind of “two
steps forward, one step back” kind of a process. Today that same neighborhood
looks like this. I feel completely safe walking through the Bogside neighborhood
of Derry or Londonderry. And the murals of these people’s heroes are painted
there on those, on the sides of the walls in their area. Now, I was here in
1981 during the hunger strikes of Maze Prison — one of the ugliest periods in
Northern Irish history. 25th day of the hunger strike
for Bobby Sands, he died on hunger strike and so did the nine guys
after him. Really, really ugly time, very, very, very tense. But the same
neighborhood today, again, is looking much better. I want to point out to you
though, this flag right up here, that is a Palestinian flag. Why? Well, the people of
this community relate to the Palestinians. These people want to be
Irish, there’s the Irish flag, but they’re stuck inside the United Kingdom and they
feel it’s unjust, this community feels that way. So they relate to the
Palestinians who are trapped within an Israeli state, and so their perspectives
are similar. So you go across the tracks and what do you see? These people, who are
unionist, they feel like the 13 or however many tribes it was of Israel who
moved across and finally found their homeland and feel justified in staying
there, and it’s also kind of a knee-jerk reaction — “you say black, I say white”
kind of a thing. But, yeah, it’s very interesting
in the north. In the unionist communities, they have
red, white, and blue curb stones, the colors of the Union Jack flag,
and they say “no surrender, we’re going to hold this turf” —
kind of a siege mentality. In the other community they
see kids throwing Molotov cocktails back in the ’70s as having been
heroes rather than terrorists. Two different points of view, depends on
where you were born. This little girl was the hundredth victim of The Troubles, she
was killed accidentally by a ricochet bullet. When the mural painters painted this and
when I first started going here, the butterfly was blank and the gun was
black and solid. They said “if we ever feel that peace has taken hold, we
will finish this mural” and about five years ago I went back and I’m telling you,
I was moved almost to tears because suddenly the mural had been finished —
they put the colors of life into the butterfly, they broke the gun, and they
pointed it towards the earth, meaning the guns are dead. And, you know, things
are, you know, not, you know, perfect, obviously — there’s still sectarian
tensions — but getting much, much better. Two communities reaching
out to each other, hands across the divide,
the symbolism here. Hopeful. My friend Stephen McPhilemy,
in the old days, we would take our walks up here and we’d see British
military towers and troops on patrols and listening-posts up here. We were
walking around, it’s only about ten years ago, and this camera was panning around,
watching us, and so Stephen said “don’t worry everybody, just relax and turn
to the camera and wave” so we all turned, 25 of us, and we wave, right, and all of a
sudden the camera stops and the little windshield wiper then goes [mimics a
wiping gesture] — the guy’s waving to us. You know, he’s just a bored
conscript going “huh, let’s see if there any pretty girls
on the tour, today” right? By the way, this has gone now too,
but I just had to show you a photograph of the way
things used to be. Now, in the North, I quite often
get around by train, and I was dying for a cup of coffee here in the
Derry/Londonderry train station. I walked inside, there was no place to buy a cup
of coffee except this: And you know what? It tasted just like
coffee out of a vending machine. So you know, we look over there,
we think “leprechauns,” they look over here, they
think “Starbucks.” Okay, you can tell which
neighborhood you’re in — red, white, and blue,
red, white and blue colors all over, “God save the queen” — you know
that this is a unionist town. Red, white, and blue curb stones
and the Union Jack flag, red, white, and blue bus stop, red, white, and blue tree, and get your hair done
like the Queen, okay. So you know which side of the
fence you’re on. And then we like to stay in a town like Portrush, up
on the northern coast. A nice little relaxed town near Bushmills Distillery, the
oldest whiskey distillery in the world, take a hike at the Carrick-a-Rede Rope
Bridge, beautiful Northern Irish coastline up there, the Giant’s Causeway
is another protected area here, with this unique geology here. Just fantastic scenery in the north. Do go
to Northern Ireland, it’s beautiful up there. One of my favorite castles here, which is
Dunluce Castle on the northern coast. You can see Scotland on a clear day across
the water there. And last but not least, we’re heading into Belfast. This is the
city hall of Belfast, this was bombed during the war, the shipyards were bombed
during the war, the Luftwaffe saw the shipyard might of the north and they
were trying to, you know, destroy the British war effort, which Belfast was a
big part of. Again, just to mention again, it’s not about religion, it’s about
whether or not you want to be British or Irish. Religion is brought
into it by those who want to stir the pot and stir up trouble. Now, this is their Northern Irish
parliament building and the reason that the flags are at half staff is
because I took this picture on 9/11. We all remember where we were and this is
where I was, and the people of the North could not have been friendlier to us
because they’d been living through 25 years of the possibility of terrorism,
so they were very sympathetic to what we were just encountering, really, for the
first time in our history. The shipyards of the north
where the Titanic was built, there it is, the 100th
anniversary of the Titanic sinking tonight commemoration. And also, the DeLorean was built here,
if you remember the DeLorean. So don’t judge Northern Ireland’s
workmanship on those two failures. There are literally
t-shirts that are selling like hotcakes this year in Belfast and it says “Titanic:
it was okay when it left here.” They got a point. Okay, and black taxi tours, I love to
take a black taxi tour around town to sort of hear the locals, you know, explain
their murals. There’s some great guys who do both communities — we write them up
in the book — so you get an even-handed view of both communities. The Northern Irish flag,
which is the cross of St. George. The loyalty of the crown and the
five, or the six, points of the northern, six counties of the north, and then this
mysterious red hand, which goes back to a story called “The Red Hand of Ulster.”
Two clans were trying to row to shore, they were fighting each other, first guy
to touch the shore gets the land, they’re rowing, they’re rowing, they’re rowing,
and as they’re just almost ready to touch the shore, they’re neck-and-neck, but the
guy in the boat that is behind sees that he’s not going to make it, he pulls out
his sword, chops off his hand, and chucks it onto the shore, and touches the shore
first. This is the legend, right, this is mythology, but the idea is, you know, the
people of the north are tough hombres, and they’re going to get it done no matter
what. The Red Hand of Ulster. You’ll see that red hand symbol
all over the place in the north, all over the place. And some of the
murals are pretty, intended to be intimidating and kind
of in-your-face. This is a unionist loyalist community
area called the Shankill, using kind of like coming out of the trenches like
World War I, and then, in other neighborhoods they give you the soft sell.
This is an IRA guy by the name of Bobby Sands. I mentioned him earlier. He
died on hunger strike in ’81, but here he’s smiling and, you know, hey, “revenge
will be the laughter of our children.” It’s the soft sell versus the hard sell —
two different ways to kind of spin it. And it is both being spun on either side. But now today Belfast is a
booming town and not in the old way of booming, but it’s really a
growth town now, I’m not talking about bombs. The condos are being built, a
new Hilton Hotel, there’s a brand-new sports stadium here. They wanted to bring
in a sport that would be good for both communities. They couldn’t make it
hurling, that’s too Irish, couldn’t make it cricket,
that’s too British. So what sport did they bring in? Can you think of any sport that’s about
brotherly love like hockey? But yet, it works. The
communities have no history with hockey, so they both
come together and it works. Belfast Giants hockey team. Okay, one of my favorite pubs in the north
is the Crown Liquor Saloon. Mr. Flanagan got married, he was Catholic, she was
Protestant, they had an argument, “what should we name our pub?”
She said “it’s got to be The Crown,” and she was loyal to the
queen or the king, “it’s got to be The Crown,” and he
lost the argument, he said “okay, we can name it The Crown but only
as long as people can wipe their feet on it as they walk in the front door.” So you got the friendly guys
at The Crown pouring you a pint, so you sit in a snug and kind of
contemplate what you’ve seen in the north. Now we’re leaving the north, back in
the Republic. One or two more sites here. Here’s Trim Castle right in the town of
Trim, this is where the movie “Braveheart” was filmed — about Scotland
but filmed in Ireland. Those guys with the blue faces were all Irish soldiers on
leave, as extras. Great little festivals — look at the
Irish tourism website to find out what might be going on when
you’re in town. Hill of Tara, where the kings of Ireland
were crowned way back in the dark ages and way back 2,000 years ago. St. Patrick with the shamrock. Again, the
symbol, one of the symbols of Ireland. High cross here at Monasterboice.
The people were given the stories of the Bible, but they were illiterate
so they couldn’t read the Bible, so the abbots or the priests would carve into
these stones the stories of the Bible. So for example, you have here, Eve giving
an apple to Adam in the Garden of Eden. There’s a snake going up here. You’ve got Cain slaying Abel
with a mallet to the head. So these are the stories of the Bible.
This cross is 900 years old. And the last and biggest, one of the
oldest, most important sites in Ireland is here at Newgrange. This is
a burial mound built before the pyramids, almost 5,000 years ago.
When people first were efficient enough to stop hunting and gathering
and start building things to last, you know, they’d build things like
this to honor their dead. And they were so advanced that they were able to line
up this opening right here to the one spot where, on the shortest
day of the year, the sunlight would penetrate the inner chamber — December
22nd. They were that advanced to do that. And they had their cremated remains of
their royalty inside, so the sun would carry the spirits of the dead off
on that beam of light, and the gods would be pleased, and then from that moment on
the days would get longer, and then they could grow their crops, and have a warm
summer, and survive. If they didn’t please the gods, as far as they knew, it would be
darker and darker, and longer and longer, dark and colder. So they were able to do
that — they built this amazing mound right here, the light shines right through
that chamber, and they built this over 5,000 years ago. Really incredible
workmanship, right down into the inner chamber, you can enter in there, and it’s
a very atmospheric place. So in closing, I just
want to say that it’s the character of the Irish people
who keep me coming back. Okay, it’s the beer, too. Do you see the
shamrock in the suds on the top there? The bartender will kind of move the cup
underneath the dripping tap there. It’s the music of Ireland, for sure,
that keeps me coming back. It’s the people you meet — these guys
were at the Bushmills Distillery, they were a Finnish biker gang.
Nicest guys in the world but they, you know, they look like Hells Angels.
They asked me to take their picture and I said “only if I can have my picture taken
with you.” I don’t know if you can pick me out in the crowd there or not. It’s the traditions of Ireland that keep me
coming back, like this young lady at a First Holy Communion. It is the humor of the Irish, and it’s the mythology of the Irish,
like the Leprechaun. You know, it’s the optimistic spirit, too, in Ireland
because they’ve had a boom economy and then it went back down and now they’re
fighting their way back out of it again. So I just want to thank you very much
for coming today, thank you so much. Thank you. Cheers, thank you. Thanks a lot folks, and again, just
remember that we’ve got this 20% sale going on today over in our Travel Center,
for those of you watching on Facebook thanks very much, you can use that
“festival” promo code until 6 o’clock in the evening tonight. Cheers.

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