Ireland is a nation of six million people, two in the north and four in the south.
I’m privileged this week to be travelling as a guest of Tourism Ireland. After flying into Dublin, we drive to Kilkenny Town, and start with a visit to Kilkenny Castle, a medieval fortification strategically located on a bend in the River Nore. Home to the Butler family for a period of 600 years, this fine stone building presents a complex mix, some might say hotchpotch, of various architectural styles and décor. It was sold to the people of Kilkenny in 1967 by the last of the Butlers for a token payment of £50. Sadly there are no longer guided tours of the castle, but a stroll, with notes, takes 45 minutes and staff are situated in most rooms to help fill in the detail. My favourite section is the Picture Gallery Wing which was added in the 19th century in castellated baronial style. Later a pitched roof was inserted admitting more natural light to highlight the features of the ancestral and royal portraits and fine landscapes.
Reading The Irish Times at breakfast and watching local news updates provides a potent reminder of how badly European nations have been affected by the GFC. Compounding this, the Irish economy has experienced a building boom and bust with local people aghast at the billions of dollars required to bail out their major banks as well as the massive sums seemingly wasted on high salaries for politicians. Anger is rising and a demonstration was organised in Dublin on Sunday to reinforce the vast gulf between the rich and the poor in this nation. Called the 1% Network (after the fact that 1% of Irish people hold 34% of the wealth), the demonstrators were taken on a guided tour of the Golden Circle, with some of the grandest houses in Ireland – to see how the “1%’ live.
To balance these serious facts of Irish life, as we pass a sign to the village of Ballycumber, our driver, Allan informs us that this is the home of the famous international frog swallowing competition. Sadly the festival was closed down some 30 years ago and Allan knows not why… One can only imagine.
Yesterday morning we had the pleasure of visiting Christine Jordan’s Tasteworks Studio. Christine is a self-taught cook who is passionate about good, fresh ingredients cooked in a spontaneous manner – and she loves nothing more than to share her knowledge with inexperienced cooks or those whose training has eroded their ability to enjoy the cooking process.
It would take many pages to share all of Christine’s insights, knowledge hints and recipes, but as a special treat for YOURLifeChoices readers, here is her recipe for fish soup which was ABSOLUTELY sensational. You will probably need to substitute local fresh fish for the mackerel (not available fresh in Australia as our water temperature is too high), but try to follow the recipe as faithfully as possible and you will be rewarded with an amazing taste sensation.
For those thinking of travelling to Ireland, Christine’s studio is located in the village of Leighlinsbridge (pronounced Lachlansbridge) in County Carlow. You can travel there by car, or train, from Dublin and stay in Leighlinsbridge. The studio is an easy walk from the centre of town.
With an increasing number of tourists depending on smartphones for information and guidance on their travels, it was only a matter of time before the app became a serious threat to the guidebook and map.
But how well do they aid the visitor experience?
In Belfast and Dublin we are privileged to test two new iPhone apps. The Belfast Music App is the brainchild of Gawain Morrison and it’s the world’s first music city tour app. Features include a music tour, gig listings videos and a Belfast Music Hall of Fame. Gawain established the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Gordon Street – a buzzy building with displays, studios, writing rooms and a café where musicians can drop in, create or connect.
The Dublin iPhone App was developed in September this year and uses the iPhone’s satellite navigation to establish your whereabouts before taking you, via text instructions or arrows, to the feature you wish to visit. We tested its navigation capacity from the centrally located Irish Tourism office to the newly established Leprechaun Museum in Jervis Street. And it worked! Next we selected Trinity College, home of the Book of Kells, and again, following the arrows we navigated our way to the library where this ancient manuscript is stored. At the college we activated the audio and listened to a brief history of this historic university. Other features of the Dublin App include restaurant listings and reviews and general points of interest.
So did the Dublin App add to my experience of this fascinating city?
Yes and no. I’m not yet ready to hand over my navigation to an iPhone. I actually enjoy reading a paper map and plotting my directions. I’m also more interested in observing the surroundings- the people, the architecture and the natural features – than watching a screen with an arrow. I don’t mind getting lost. In fact it’s the unexpected that often adds most to a traveller’s adventures. But for those who like security and support when they travel, then an App seems to be the natural answer. The main thing to beware of is unexpected download charges as the App accesses the Internet. To prevent such charges you will need to switch OFF your Internet connection before you start to wander.
For great information and updates about Ireland, become a fan on Facebook of the Tourism Ireland page.