Today on the GoAbroad Blog we feature a guest post from Dr. Jessie Voigts of Wandering Educators, where she discusses some of the authentic characteristics to be found in Ireland! Do you think you know everything there is to know about this diverse country? Read on ahead to see what you may be overlooking, and share your own tips with us in the comments!
You’ve dreamed about Ireland. You’ve planned your trip. But do you really know what to expect? Guidebooks don’t have all the answers – in fact, they mostly focus on the main attractions! So how can you get the most out of your trip to the Emerald Isle? Know that you’ll have to get out, explore, be flexible, and look around. Here are five things the guidebooks don’t tell you about Ireland:
1. The Food
Yes, everyone knows how great Guinness Beer is, and how you can have such excellent times at pubs. And I DO recommend eating in pubs, at times – there’s a convivial atmosphere that can’t be matched.
I highly recommend the seafood chowder – we never had a bad bowl of it. Served alongside that delicious Irish Brown Bread, it’s a worthy meal. But the rest of the items on the menu at said pub? Don’t order any roast – it’s going to be dry and not so tasty. Hamburgers? Not what you’d expect? That lasagna I ordered was just sad. What was I thinking?
For your best bet, if you’re a foodie, find the restaurants that are leading the way in the new wave of Irish food. Ballymaloe is one such cooking school and restaurant, located in County Cork. You’ll be surprised at how delicious food can be. Discover local markets, and stock up on the goodness of handmade food. Ask locals where THEY eat.
You know that in Ireland, they drive on the left. The best advice we ever got was from the good folks at IrishFireside, who said, Look Twice! Then look Right, Turn Left. Don’t forget the windy roads, cows, tour buses, and very steep cliffs. You can do it!
Yes. Bring a raincoat. It rains in Ireland almost every day. But what you won’t know is that the rain is usually only for a short period of time. That’s what makes the island so very green. Pack your lightweight raincoat, and layer underneath. That way, you can adjust to ANY weather without having to go back to your hotel, B&B, or hostel. As well, bring at least 2 pair of walking shoes. One will always be wet.
4. Who the People Are
You hear stories of how convivial the Irish are. They ARE! But, unless you’re at a pub, it is difficult to break out of the tourist mindset and really meet people. Do your research – find local newspapers, go online, and find local events. Whether it is a book signing or a local festival, you’ll have more opportunities to see the REAL Ireland.
Ask questions of locals, hear their stories. You’ll come away with much more than you imagined- maybe some excellent conversation about the state of the economy in Ireland, and how it has affected one family. Or, you might learn of a locals’ only beach (such as Derrynane Beach, on the Ring of Kerry), or a fantastic restaurant, or the best times to hit the local market. Be open to listening and learning, bring a curious mind. You might make friends for life!
5. Relax – you’re on Ireland time!
We often try to pack our vacations to the brim, so that we can see EVERYTHING and experience all that a destination has to offer. But that is one way to do a quick crash and burn. Ireland is for meandering, for exploring, for slowing down and letting its goodness come to you. Poke around Kenmare for a day - you might decide to take a kayaking expedition, or explore the ancient stone circles, or just shop all day (well, and eat, of course).
Take an hour or two to explore the grocery store and see what goodies you find. Ask a local and find cool, out of the way things to see and learn about (Staigue Fort, on the Ring of Kerry, is an especial favorite). Go horseback riding – Ireland is famous for its horses. Don’t hit the trail of literary Dublin – hit the bookstores and then discover the neighborhoods. It’s what these authors did themselves! Most of all, relax and explore – you’ll have the Best Time.
Dr. Jessie Voigts is a mom who loves sharing the world with her daughter. She has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie and her family live on a lake in Michigan, enjoying the summers swimming, kayaking, and sailing, and planning travel for the winter months! Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel site for global educators.