Thursday, 26 September 2013

Céad míle fáilte in Ireland

We have been hosted by numerous families and met many people during our time here in Ireland.  This post is devoted to those people who have crossed our paths in Ireland, invited us into their homes and touched our hearts.  Fáilte is the Irish word for welcome. It can be said by itself but quite commonly the term "Céad míle fáilte" is used, meaning a hundred thousand welcomes.

We visited the Giant's Causeway - see Ally to the right?
We also picked up some more geography lesson material at the Marble Arch Caves

You have already met Pamela and Stephen in my previous post. You know the ones that had our soggy tent and undergarments drying in their kitchen. Well as a crazy coincidence, they knew Aedeen, whose holiday home we were headed to next. Apparently the saying “it’s a small world ” came from Ireland. Although we did not get an opportunity to spend much time with Aedeen, we were so appreciative of her allowing us the use of her beautiful holiday home in Port Salon in Donegal.  Two short days in her quiet place allowed us to recharge our batteries. Shortly thereafter, we headed off to her parents home in Dublin.

Nora, Martin and their grandson Cian, were home to greet us and we enjoyed a wonderful home cooked meal and evening together.  Their daughter, Barbara, dropped in for a visit shortly afterwards. Ally and Meg were offered chocolate and treats, which made them feel as though they were at their grandparent’s house. The conversation around the dinner table also made us feel just like family.  Nora and Martin were headed out on holiday early the next morning, so it was just Cian and the Mitchell’s, in their house.  You have got to love people that will let perfect strangers live in their house while they head out on holidays!

We were introduced to the world of sailing and watched Cian participate in a race.  Cian was quick to offer assistance, when we needed information.  He even spoke with his mom (a sister to Aedeen and Barbara), living in Berlin, and we were to say there while in Germany. Eileen (yet another sister) who had coordinated our visits with her family, suggested that “she had strategically placed her sisters around the world just for our tour”.  Everyone was so welcoming.  We spent five splendid days in Dublin, took in the sights, did some shopping, had a Guiness or two and watched the Flight Fest that hosted 35 planes buzzing above the city. 

Cian's race in Dublin

Trinity College

Having lunch outside Temple Bar

We had dessert inside!

From Dublin, we headed to meet Assumpta, Gerry and Ailish in Athenry.  Again we were greeted with open arms. During our first evening of conversation, the Burkes introduced us to the world of Gaelic sport. Most of you will know that in North America what we call soccer the rest of the world calls football.  In Ireland, Gaelic football is actually a totally different sport (a cross of Australian rules football and rugby with a round ball). Other sports with strange names like Camogie (female) and Hurling (male), are sports similar to lacrosse, played with a bat and ball.  After Ailish pulled out her Hurley (stick) and ball and described the sports to us we finally had an idea what these sports were all about. We happened to be in Ireland during the finals of all of these sports and the country was buzzing with anticipation. The girls team from Galway (near our host’s house) happened to win the all Ireland Finals while we were there, which raised quite an excitement in the county.  For the finals of the football Dublin beat Mayo (county) in front of 85, 000 crazy fans. It was quite something driving around the country seeing the different waving flags from each counties team. The passion that these fans had for their sport was infectious and Mark and the girls took it all in as they watched and cheered the all Ireland finals.
We visited the very windy Cliffs of Moher

Ailish introduced the girls to Sylvanians; little animals, which are equipped with every imaginable accessory, vehicle, and form of accommodation there is.  Ailish had quite the community and the girls enjoyed setting up the dining tables, heading off to school and organizing the rooms in the hotel, school, and estate.  Ally and Meg loved having another ‘kid’ to hang out with and they chatted and giggled like they had known each other for years.  Gerry and Assumpta were lovely hosts and we were so grateful to have spent time with them.  We were wishing we could have brought Ailish along with us when we visited a 15 million dollar dollhouse near Dublin.  She would have loved seeing the 24kt gold violin, the Waterford crystal chandalier, the dovetail carpentry on the antique marquetry furniture, and all of the details in Tara’s Palace.   

Ailish's Slovanians

Tara's Palace the floors were inlaid marble and the furniture was made from bone and ivory!

We then headed to Wexford where we would meet Fran and Brian.  Fran and Brian had spent some time at our lake house earlier this summer and we were looking forward to meeting them.  They were quite experienced with house swapping and had travelled far and wide.  They gave us a tour and we were left to enjoy a lovely surprise dinner, which they had prepared for us.  This was so thoughtful after a long day of travelling.  We enjoyed another wonderful evening with Fran and Brian later in the week, as they joined us for dinner, I cooked – but not Indian!  We had lots of laughs about our experiences in each other’s homes.  The fire department had shown up at the lake house during a power failure when they were at our home, and their shower had short circuited on me just as I had finished lathering the shampoo and soap from head to toe.  We figured we were even with funny stories and experiences.  The girls enjoyed Fran and Brian’s company as well as they had brought hugs from home, to be delivered to each of them,.  They also shared their Bentley’s hot chocolate and brought the girls some Avoca sweets to be enjoyed on the Ferry to France the next day. 

It has meant a great deal to us to be welcomed into people’s lives and homes during our trip, and Ireland came at just the right time.  We have been travelling for more than two months now, and our conversations with new friends has made us realize that we are missing our socializing with friends and family at home.  It is not only the people that have welcomed us into their homes that have made an impression on us in Ireland, but many other people as well.  There was the man on the train that made sure we were headed in the right direction, and overlooked the fact that we had lost one of our tickets.  There was the Vagabond Tour Jeep that stopped to listen to Mark playing the pipes on Inch Beach.  All of the women unloaded and were so interested in what we were doing; some of them were even from Canada.  There was the fellow at the grocery store checkout, who had an interest in accents and chatted with us for quite some time, trying to place ours.  Then there was the neighbour who brought his four children over to introduce himself and listen to Mark playing the bagpipes  (Hi Keith, Ella, Mia, Hope and Drew!) Another man was celebrating his 75th birthday in Ireland who noticed our Great Britain licence plate and came over to ask us where we were from.  All had shown kindness and an interest in us, particularly in our adventure.  Many have taken our contact information and are following our travels. This a great big thank you to you, for being part of our adventure and making us feel at home.
The Vagabond Tour Friends
When looking for items in the grocery store we were personally escorted to the isle where our item resided and then shown all the different brands and varieties available. This was usually followed up with a conversation about where we were from and how our travels have been.  We have often left the grocery store with a list of places to see, things to do, some new food to try and another friend.  Asking for directions was no different.  We rolled down the window in a parking lot the other day to ask directions to a festival and the fellow leaned his arms on the truck door and started the conversation with ‘certainly I can help, now where are you from?’  The directions were interspersed with conversation and no urgency at all.  What a pleasant surprise.  These are just a few examples, but I’m sure you would agree that they would make anyone’s stay in Ireland, a little more enjoyable.

One of the things I had hoped this trip would bring was a renewed appreciation for life’s little pleasures and a new outlook.  We can get so busy with running here and there and keeping up with the day to day life, that it is easy to become selfish and overlook many aspects that can make someone else’s day a little brighter.  It is the simple things, the kindness and genuine interest in others that can make such a difference. We saw a sign in one of the stores that focused on attitude being the one thing that was within our control to change; with the right attitude you can make the world a better place. Despite trying times in Ireland, the Irish that we have met, have a great attitude towards life!

It is easy to see how the Irish have come up with their own word to describe this welcoming, caring, fun-loving and enjoyable character qualities. “Craic” I have tried my best to illustrate through example the Irish way, but words do not really bring justice to the experience.  I suppose we could all use a little more ‘craic’ in our busy lives and I know that I will certainly try to add a little more to mine!  Thanks a million, Ireland!


  1. Mark, Lisa, Ally and Meghan,

    Looks like you are having a wonderful time in Ireland! What beautiful sights and what lovely people, it sounds like. (They obviously realize that you are a particularly terrific brand of Canadian.) It must be such a relief to be welcomed into families and homes when you are in 'travel mode'. How you all still look so great in all these pictures I have no idea. I haven't kept up with the blog as much as I would've liked to - surprising, considering September is such a slow, tedious month at HSC. :)

    It's not the same without you! Safe and happy continuation of your travels, and looking forward to hearing about what's next!
    Laura/Ms. Curtis

  2. Loved reading your fantastic journal ,What a rich experience you are picking up along the way .Kudos to Eileen for guiding you through her homeland and to the Conway clan for their warm hospitality . Uncle Vince

  3. After reading all about 'craic', it must be the Irish magic but I now realize it has come to the Lake House. It will be well established here before you get home. I used to call it 'serendipity' but 'craic' suits the bill too. LOL & LOL, Aunt Sue

  4. HEY!!
    This is Sophia if your wondering. I would like to give a big thanks to Cian for introducing you guys to sailing! Its a wonderful sport and I am glade that now I talk to Meghan about it and she would actually get somethings then having me explain every little detail... Wow after reading all of this all I care about id sailing!?! Man...
    I hope you enjoy the rest of your travels!!!
    Sophia Richardson (In case you didn't know)


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