All posts by Michael

Go Mall

Go Mall.

No this not a command to go to the Mall.  Nor is it a shout of support for the local Hurling team named Mall.  Rather, it is a warning and perhaps a philosophy to follow while visiting Ireland.

While driving in Ireland, after awhile, you begin to see the same type of road signs and marking all over Ireland.  Their national road sign plan begins to make sense.  However, one of the road markings it took awhile to understand was GO MALL.  And, after we learned what it meant, we wish we had figured it out sooner. We were slow to understand.

For example, the speed limit signs made no sense.  After a week of driving there was no way you can dive 80 or 100 KPH on most of these roads.  In fact, it was not until we talked with our host in Kenmare that we learned why.  Yep, we were, slow to understand.

In the US, speed limit signs are set as the maxim safe speed to drive on a given stretch of road.  We all drive at or about 5 miles per hour over the speed limit.   For most of us, 45 mph means you can get away with driving 50 mph and the cops will leave you alone.  If you drive over the “cushion” you can’t complain if you get a ticket.

In Ireland, as we were slow to discover, the roads are designated, Local, County or National roads, and each road is designated with a speed limit.  A National road may be 100 KPH and a County road may be 40 KPH.  It does not matter what stretch of road you are on, the maximum speed is pre-designated for that entire road.   It is up to the driver to determine what is “safe” as long as he does not drive over that designated speed limit. I wish I knew that before I hit the pot hole.  Once we learned that, we started to drive at speeds that felt much safer and interestingly, we starting enjoying our drives much more.  The pressure was off, we were not expected to drive at or near the speed limit as you are in the US, in fact, even the Irish will tell you to Go Mall.

Once we started to Go Mall, we starting enjoying the trip much more.  In fact, Go Mall became something of a philosophy.  Take it easy, go slow and enjoy the trip.  In fact,  you can not drive around Ireland without Going Mall.

Tractors on the road everywhere…Go Mall.

Townsfolk walking along the road…Go Mall.

Sheep crossing the road…Go Mall.

Right turn ahead…Go Mall.

Skinny, twisty roads everywhere…Go Mall.

Bicycles strolling along…Go Mall.

So take you time, Go Mall, and enjoy the trip.

(Mall is Gaelic for Slow)


Day 9: A Day in Dingle

Saturday, June 8

(Written Post trip: 16 July)

We woke in the morning to find the town of Dingle was shut down for the Dingle Adventure Race. We had a partial view of the swimming from our B&B.  After breakfast, the race was pretty much over and the roads open so we headed to the Dingle Wildlife and Seal Sanctuary.

Wildlife Sanctuary Sign
Wildlife Sanctuary Sign
Waterfowl at Wildlife Sanctuary









The Sanctuary, is not all that big from a tourist point of view, so we were not there very long, but we talked with some of the staff, young girls mostly.  What is it with young girls and wild animal rescues?  Megan often talked about being a Marine Biologist before turning to teaching and writing.  We saw several waterfowl, a young seal in rehab, a couple of goats and a few birds.  They have paddle boats but we decided not to partake.

After the Sanctuary, we headed for an Eco Tour of the Blasket Islands.  It is an island that held many writers from the 1920’s and 30’s.  Unfortunately too many of the young folk moved away, as young folk are want to do.  As a result, they had to move the elder folk to the main island because transportation for needs like the doctor became to much of a burden.  The island is now a tourist location and houses many sheep (of course!).

Sea Arch
Sea Arch
Sheep on Blasket Island
Sheep on Blasket Island







Our trip to the island was to be another vacation attempt to see dolphins or whale in the wild.  Our past trips to Orcas Island and Maine resulted in no sightings but our guide on the Dingle Bay Charters all but guaranteed a sighting.  We have heard this before, and he gave the standard disclaimer.  He even indicated that Dingle had a dolphin in the bay who had been there for 30 years and he known by everyone in the bay. His name is Fungi, the Dingle Bay Dolphin. True to form, our trip resulted in no Whales or Dolphin and apparently Fungi decided to take the day off, union rules I suppose?

Seal off Blasket Island
Seal off Blasket Island

We did see harbor seals and our guide was very knowledgeable and did a good job with what he had to work with.  It was enlightening to see the Island from the water.  I noticed that there were no fisherman in the waters.  If you go to Maine, the waters are crowded with fisherman.  We did see a few crab pots but not much else, not even very many sailboats.  Our guide, sadly shared with me the story and I stumbled into a huge controversy.  Apparently, in exchange for turning over Irish Off Shore Fishing Rights the European Union provided many benefits to Ireland, including subsidies for their agriculture.  It was received with mixed feelings, with the fishermen understandably upset.  Dingle Bay was apparently overfished and the fishermen can be found about 200 miles off shore.  It seems many Spanish fleets acquired much of the Irish fleets so the Spanish are now fishing Irish waters.  Like Bog Preservation, this is another tough issue for the Irish to absorb into a modernizing economy.

We did not take the boat trip that let you get off on the Blasket Islands, and while the guide was great, the boat trip turned into more of a ferry ride to the Islands.  The boat was half-full when we left.  We stopped at the Blasket Island and picked up more passengers who filled the boat and then it was a ride back to Dingle.  No whale, no dolphins, no getting off, no Fungi!  Skunked again!

The day was getting late, not that you would know as the sun does not set until about 10:30pm.  So jumped in our “sleigh” and “headed” for the Slea Head Drive Loop and the Texas Cattlemen.

Beehive Ruin
Beehive Ruin










Along the loop, you have great views of the Ocean and an opportunity to see many of the Ancient ruins.  These Celtic ruins hint at a very ancient past and I wish we had more time to spend learning about them.  I did pick up a book that has been a very good primer to Ireland and it’s history; A Brief History of Ireland by Richard Killeen.

It was time for dinner and we were away from Dingle but we found Páidí Ó Sé’s in Ventry, Co. Kerry.  As we pulled up to park, we notice a bunch of Cowboy’s, wearing cheap cowboy hats, red bandanas, and shorts.  Turns out it was a stag party.  I had a nice steak dinner, and we watched a little Hurling.  Páidí Ó Sé was a famous Hurler.

After dinner, we headed back to Dingle for dessert and saw a bunch of women wearing sparkling black dresses and red feathered headbands.  A Hen party, the compliment to the Stag party?  Do hens mate with stags???

THE IGN (Irish Gossip Network) Remains Strong

The IGN (Irish Gossip Network) is as strong as ever.

Prior to my trip, I found and reached out to Donal Friel online.  He had transcribed old school records from the Ballymichael National School, now an old empty building. These records were of William Boyle and his siblings. William is my wife’s grandfather.

On the trip to Ireland, we stopped at the old school and also saw her grandfather’s home which was across the road. Donal and Noreen Boyle (Tracy’s cousin) were very helpful in getting us to Ballymichael but we had a little difficult finding the actual home and school. So, we stopped and asked a local townsman if he knew where the Boyle home was. He not only knew, but he knew the family as well.  After a nice chat, we drove up the road and found our destination.

Upon our return from Ireland, I contacted Donal to let him know we made it to Ballymichael and to thank him for his help. To my surprise, he already knew we made it and that we got lost, and that we were lost on an old (old is relative in Ireland) road near the sea.

Apparently we had talked with one Seamus McGinley, who told a Friel cousin of Donal’s, who, in turn, jabbered to Donal’s father what we had done.  Donal then heard from his father about our mini-adventure in Donegal.

Our government drones have nothing on the IGN.

You can drive Street View on Google Maps to see for yourself.  It is listed as Cayman House in Donegal, Ireland.  The map acts a little weird right now and I have reported it to Google.

Ballymichael National School
Ballymichael National School
Old Boyle Home Remodeled
Old Boyle Home Remodeled
Rear of Ballymichael National School
Rear of Ballymichael National School

Toilet Training in Ireland

One of the joys of traveling is discovering how other cultures deal with common needs. Just about everywhere you go in the United States, you can find a place that has a Restroom if needed.  My first need for a Public Restroom in Ireland was at the Airport, and I quickly learned that in Ireland, they are called Toilets.

Now I have heard and used the term toilet in the US, it is often received as a mildly vulgar term or at least a term you said quietly as not to make others unpleasant. Restroom and Bathroom are more acceptable.  Though no one is really going to rest or take a bath.

At home, in the confines our house, my Mother would often refer to the “toilet”, meaning specifically the “thone” upon which we sit to do our business.  Where as, in Ireland, Toilet has the same meaning as Restroom, or the place that contains the “throne.” So seeing and asking for the Toilet took some getting use to.   It also took time getting use to actully using the Toilets as we traveled from place to place, town to town, and pub to pub.

In many US towns we see the signs, “For Customer Use Only.”  So far, in Ireland, I have only seen the sign about twice.  Often the town center will have a public Toilet.  Many Pubs and Restaurants have Toilets clearly marked but often you have to ask the wait staff, where is the Toilet?  Everyone is friendly about pointing you in the right direction.  No, “sorry, for customer use only.”  Though, again, we did see a couple of those signs, so use your best judgement. When I first started asking for the “Restroom,” I got a sort of quizzical,  “oh you must mean the Toilet?” look, but then quickly got the information I was needing.  It took some time, but now I just ask for the Toilet, plain and simple.

Using the Toilets has been an experience as well.  I mean, using the Toilets in the same sense as using the Restroom and not specifically the throne itself.  In just about every public Toilet, the sink has two faucets, hot and cold. Yea Ireland!  Easy enough, but often only one of them works and it is not the hot.  Oh, they might be on opposite side from what you are use to though. And, forget about water pressure, it virtually drains out slowly so you will need to scrub well.  And, unlike many places in the US, I have had success finding the soap dispensers full.  On the other hand, I have yet to find a paper towel dispenser with even a single sheet of paper towels.  You will find a blow dyer quite frequently but it has been 50-50 on it working or blowing warm air.  Thus you leave with dripping hands unless you wipe them on your pants. No messy trash cans either, usually because there are none to be found!

Now, actually using the Toilet, that is using the actual throne, is straight forward.  Whew! Finding the correct Toilet, however, can be a challenge at first.  You may encounter two situations.  Seeing a single door mysteriously positioned where a Toilet might be or a sign for Fir and Mná.  If you are lucky these will also say Men and Women and often just saying Toilets.  Don’t make the mistake of interpreting Gaelic Fir as Female and Mná as Male as it is quite the opposite.  However, if you encounter the single door, you are poised with a challenge.  Do you enter or wait outside?

Back in the US, a single door toilet usually means you need to wait outside until the user is finished.  However, you are in Ireland (one of those places where people drive on the “wrong” side of the road), rest assured, you may be bold and enter that single door. Where upon you will discover at least two or more doors marked Fir and Mná.  Getting through those doors will be another adventure however.

Back in the US, you may have encountered the term Water Closet, perhaps you remember hearing old folks talking about the WC?  Yep, that was the Water Closet.  And in Ireland, they are often just that.  A completely enclosed room that is no bigger than your basic entryway closet.  I hope your not a big guy, as finding room to stretch out on the throne can be difficult. Trust me, I know.

Once you have finished your business, you will of course need to flush.  Simple enough, just use the lever like you do back in the US, however, you will often find it on the “Right” side of the Toilet.  And do not be afraid to push hard on that lever.  A light push gives you a light flow that may not remove the afore mentioned business.  Be warned however, pushing hard on that lever will bring down a torrential flow capable of wiping out a small town.  It comes down around the entire bowl like Niagara Falls and from the front and back like a fire hose.

In fact, these toilets would not pass muster in the US as the volume would be a violation of the Toilet Bowl Flow Act.  It ain’t water conservation, that is for sure. But it does get the job done!  Back home, we often have to use two flushes to get the job done (defeating the water conservation restrictions).

Which brings up an interesting conundrum, why can’t I get that volume and pressure at the sink!

Good luck and I hope everything comes out alright during your travels.

A directional sign in Connemara National Park.  Getting used to signs that say Toilet
A directional sign in Connemara National Park. Getting used to signs that say Toilet
Toilet at Connemara NP
Toilet at Connemara NP

Day 8: The Road to Dingle

Friday, June 7

From Connemara we headed to the Dingle Peninsula.

Along the way we stopped in The Claddagh, a shopping area in Western Galway.  We had lunch overlooking a spillway leading to the Ocean and saw The Spanish Arch.  The Arch was built in 1584 an we are just beginning to learn of the Spanish involvement in Irish History.  The Arch was built to provide access to the new Quay or Warf.  Many of the streets paralleling water ways include the word Quay.

Supposed Origin of the Original Claddagh Ring.
Supposed Origin of the Original Claddagh Ring.

The Claddagh is one of a few towns who claim the origin of the Claddagh Ring.  Tracey has one given to her by her father and Megan will be getting this ring from her mother.  There are three ways (some say four) to wear the ring, one way on the right hand and two ways on the left hand.  Heart out, right hand, your love has not yet been won.  Heart out, left hand, your love is under consideration.  Heart in, left hand, two hearts have joined as one.

Another stop put us in Tralee for Pizza and pictures of a local church.  By now we are getting use to the small roads and driving on the left side.  Tracey and Megan are starting to play a version of Punch Buggy call Punch Tractor.  It seems everywhere there are Tractors on the road.

Dingle!  Almost 5 hours on the Road, our longest day of traveling.  We are staying at the Tower View Bed & Breakfast.  After check in, we were able to walk into town and go to Dano’s Bar & Restaurant for Dinner.  Then home and to bed.

Day 7: Laundry Day and Connemara National Park

Thursday, 6 June

Another gorgeous day in Ireland, this has been getting ridiculous   All the Irish are commenting on the great weather.  Apparently they have had two bad winters and one nice day last June.

Today is Laundry Day, we went into the town of Clifden to get our laundry done.  We had asked our hostess Sinead where we could take care of our laundry and she sent us to the local cleaner.  We learned that, here, you drop off your laundry and they clean it for you.  So we each dropped a bag of clothes and headed to Connemara National Park for a short hike.

Megan and Tracey in front of Connemara National Park entrance.  Sign in Gaelic
Megan and Tracey in front of Connemara National Park entrance. Sign in Gaelic

Ireland only has six National Parks.  The National Parks & Wildlife Service looks to be simular to our State Parks.  Keeping in mind that Ireland is only a third of the size of Colorado (32,595.1 sq mi vs 104,094 sq mi), you gain a new perspective on how magnificent our National Park System is. Connemara NP is only about 7300 acres. Compare that to Jefferson County, Colorado’s largest Open Space Park, White Ranch at over 4000 acres and Rocky Mountain National Park at 415 sq mi or over 265,000 acres.  But then, Ireland is one large sheep farm.

We went for a short hike and visited their Nature Center and learned about some of the issues related to Bog Preservation.

View from Connemara National Park
View from Connemara National Park
Trail in Connemara National Park
Trail in Connemara National Park
A directional sign in Connemara National Park.  Getting used to signs that say Toilet
A directional sign in Connemara National Park. Getting used to signs that say Toilet









After our hike we visited Kylemore Abbey and Victorian Walled Garden, Tracey’s Aunt and  Uncle sponsored preservation of an Oak Tree in the name of Tracey’s mom, Maureen, who passed away in Jan of this year.  The Abbey bought over 10,000 Oak Trees and you can sponsor a tree through their Forest Friend’s program. We also toured the Gardens and the Church.





Finally, we drove to the town of Roundstone and ate at Vaughan’s Pub, then stopped at Dog’s Bay Beach.  Perhaps only in Ireland can you see Cow’s strolling along the beach!

Megan on Dog's Bay Beach
Megan on Dog’s Bay Beach
Michael loves Tracey
Michael loves Tracey
Cows walking along Dog's Bay Beach at 10:00PM.
Cows walking along Dog’s Bay Beach at 10:00PM.


Day 6: On the Road to Co. Galway

Wednesday, 5 June

I woke up today at 4:30am, it was broad daylight, I went back to bed.

We got up at 8:30am and went to breakfast.  Scrambled eggs for me and Sweet Pancakes for Tracey and Megan.  Then it was back on the road and off to Clifden, Co. Galway.  We stopped along the way and saw W.B. Yeats Grave and Memorial where we had sandwichs for lunch that Tracey picked up back in Donegal.

Mostly uneventful, more beautiful country and narrow roads.  The weather was absolutely gorgeous!  It is so unusual that it is often a topic of conversation.  Bright sunny days with no rain.  Our host, Jackie, back at Rossmore said that two years ago they had a heavy snow with Ice.  The do not usually see Ice.  Everyone said that the following summer was going to be nice then.  But, alas, only one day of nice weather.  Last winter was the same, but this summer is awesome so far.  Along the drive, I saw a sign for Ice Cream.  It said, “It tastes like Summer… Apparently.” Reflecting the fact that they do not often have nice, sunny summer days.

After checking in at the Seaview Bed & Breakfast, we went into Clifden to get dinner.  We ate at J Conneely’s for dinner where they had live music.  Then back to the B&B for a little down time.  Tomorrow is our half-way day.  Laundry in the morning and off to Connemara National ParkI

Day 5: A Day in Donegal

Tuesday, 4 June

We got back to the Rossmore late last night.  It was still daylight.  A quick check of the daylight times let us know that Dawn starts about 4:10 am Dusk begins about 10:30.  Thats about 5 hours of darkness folks!

Then we headed to Glenvar to find Tracey’s Grandmother’s (Rose Logue) childhood home.  While there we were able to meet Liam Logue, a cousin of Tracey and had a short visit.  Tracey and LiamFrom there it was about 30 minutes to Tracey’s Grandfather’s (William “Willie” home in Ballymichael and his Mother’s (Bridget “Biddy” Callaghan) home in neighboring Balloor.  In Gaelic they would be, Baile Mhícheáil and Baile Úr. Ballymichael

William’s home is right close to the water, the whole area is devoid of any trees an only has small shrubs.  His home is directly across from the now abandoned Ballymichael National School.  Thanks to the help from Donal Friel, I was able to find him on on old school roster along with his siblings.  His mother’s home is just down the road in the neiboring townland of Balloor.  Now a townland in this area is not very big, in this case you might say it was just a couple of blocks away, if they had such a layout.  The homes here are scattered about and divided by small rock walls.  The roads are narrow and many are unpaved.  However, the number of paved small roads is striking actually. I have traveled quite a few back roads in the the States.  The equivalent roads would be unpaved dirt roads.Ballymichael National School

On the way back to Donegal, Megan and Tracey stopped to use the “Toilets” at a Pub.  Restrooms are often referred to as Toilets, so you must ask for the Toilet.  They also ordered a sandwich for lunch.  However the man at the bar could not understand a word Tracey was saying and had to call a coworker to take her order.  I missed it but found it funny that the shoe was on the other foot for a change.Megan at Slieve League Cliffs

Next, we stopped in Donegal.  Remember, we stayed in the town of Donegal, in County Donegal.  Ballymichael and Glenvar are also in County Donegal and were about two hours away from the town of Donegal.  The town is also known for their hats made of Irish Tweed. Tracey and Megan bought Sweaters made of Irish Wool.

Ballymichael was to the North of us.  Being on top of the Irish Island it is not all that far from Scotland, William Boyle’s parent’s apparent spend some time in Scotland, but I have yet to flesh that story out.

After Donegal we drove West to see the Slieve League Cliffs.  That was a beautiful drive.  We reached the top parking lot about 10:00 pm, it was still daylight with almost an hour of daylight left.  We headed home before sunset as we did not want to be on the roads

Yellow Shamrock....Ok, maybe not!
Yellow Shamrock….Ok, maybe not!

after dark.  We are still adjusting to driving on the “Wrong side of the Road.”  Tracey drove today for the first time.  We will have a lasting memory from this trip.Slieve League CliffsSheep on Slieve League Cliffs