Gaelic is the Irish word for Irish. I learned this from our guide after curiously asking “Why does everyone refer to Gaelic as Irish?” Speaking Irish? Written Irish? I’ve never heard that before.
Irish is written everywhere in Ireland and the language is alive and everywhere you turn your head starting the moment you arrive at the Dublin airport with the bilingual signs.
On I went adventuring through the Irish countryside further into the land of sheep, fields, greenery, clovers and oceanside. Heather covered rocky terrain slipped by as steep cliffs approached and castles graced distant hillsides. We kept stopping for pictures luckily for my greedy camera, but unfortunate for our schedule.
Seatrails: Spanish Armada Marine Archeology Walking Tour
Being a geek for marine anything and always interested in Archeology, this tour practically made my brain explode. Kaboom. (In a good way of course.) Time to really geek out with the ocean, science, geology, history and fossils. Yes!
Arriving at the beginning of the Spanish Armada Walk offered by Seatrails, the Benbulbin mountain resembling table mountain in South Africa rose magestically into the misty low skyline off in the distance.
“Wow, does it always look like this?” I asked Auriel, the owner of Seatrails and a professional Marine Archaeologist. It couldn’t possibly. Permanently this gorgeous? We ooo-ed and ahhed and click, click clicked our cameras away to our hearts content at the landscape and skyline.
We cut through a sandy beach past piles of rocky fossils and listened to stories of early settlers and ancient man that would have seafood feasts in that very spot thousands of years prior. I found a little fan-like crystalized form in a smooth worn stone that I picked up. “Oh… this one’s special,” I thought. When Auriel see’s it, she’ll be surprised.
I imagined her saying “Oh wow Scott, I’ve never seen one of those. I just don’t know which one it is! It must be really really special.”
When I asked. . . “Yep, thats a crinoid stem,” was Auriel’s confirmed reply, of which we had just seen roughly several hundred.
Neither plant nor animal really. One of those in between-er sea life creatures that inhabit our oceans in vast numbers even today and not much changed from millions of years ago. Regardless of it being the same species as all the other hundreds of fossils we saw in multiple shapes and sizes, this one was my particularly special (and perhaps several million year old) souvenir. Tres cool indeed.
Up a grassy hill, past a stone burial site and rocky cliff, we made our way by a fossil-lined rocky area with crinoid stem /sea lilly fossils several feet in length. An island in the distance had at one point housed a monastery, and old shipwrecks grace the sea floor offshore.
Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Get out your pounds sterling because your Euros are no good in Northern Ireland. Ok, perhaps they will take them, but you get back pounds.
A small home bakery in town provided a solidly *perfect* tea to carry me forward on my last part of the journey back through Northern Ireland. A short stop at the Free Derry museum showed the history of the event Bloody Sunday and the troubles faced by Northern Ireland in the not so distant past.
Word is that those who name the city by it’s original name of Derry or the adopted prefix Londonderry which happened in 1613 are choosing sides between Catholic and Protestant. From a logistical perspective, the name Derry is shorter and simpler but politics are politics. Even the names on some brochures contain both Londonderry and Derry so as not to upset one side or the other.
Our 20 person group piled into this little cafe and enjoyed a quick lunch. Tasted just like homemade in a cozy country-home-type atmosphere. I joked that if our whole group tweeted at the same time, we might cause Nancy’s Barn’s wifi to explode and we might see little smokey fumes oozing out of a little box in a corner somewhere. Fortunately no fireworks entertainment this time, just lunch.
Harvey’s Point, Donegal, Ireland
A quick stop at Harvey’s Point revealed a super green lush countryside hotel on a lake with superb service. In my view, the perfect anniversary or wedding spot. I imagined the several couples staring glassy eyed at each other over dinner in the fine dining room were either celebrating an anniversary, about to propose, or thinking about it. Perhaps their anniversary/proposal/wedding leads then to a special executive suite with two beds, a desk, a bar. The luxury bathroom with double sink, jacuzzi tub and separate shower in marble would impress any lover (or person with a pulse for that matter).
Northwest Irish Culinary Samplings
My taste buds were only slightly prepared for exploring Irish delights like lamb stew, Irish coffee, fish and chips and Guinness enjoyed throughout Ireland. An impressive array of locally sourced seafoods and organic vegetables was widely available in the Northwest.
Eithna’s by the Sea provided a seafood lunch accompanied by soda biscuits, fresh breads, a refreshing fruit juice infused water-like-drink and a tasty blackberry seaweed concoction, merengue and creme dessert.
The food here tastes even better then it looks (yes it’s possible!), and was a meal to remember. Had enough of the gorgeous Irish seaside sunsets by the Atlantic coast at Strandhill beach? Drag yourself across the street and relax at a beach cafe for dinner on the Atlantic.
With some Irish heritage, I could feel a sense of connection to Ireland’s culture and food. For a true “foodie” like myself, Ireland will not disappoint and some of my most memorable Irish experiences happened over meals. Everywhere you turn there is seafood and fresh healthy food selections to experience.
Ireland without this culinary element would not be the same. Aside from the leprechaun that gave me a pot of gold under a misty Irish rainbow (right…), the food was an unexpected and most pleasant surprise of Ireland. The sheep, green fields and Guinness are uniquely Irish, but my number one reason to return will be my appetite and the food.