Story of the Irish, Smithfield

If visiting Ireland for the first time, this is a must-see and #1 stop for the ‘sightseeing in Dublin’ list. This clever, visual guided tour explores Ireland’s origin and deep culture of the celtic Irish going back as far as 10,000 years showing Ireland separated from the rest of the world by geography, genetics and culture.

IMG_2338

The tour is made up of a series of six small theatres of audio visual displays showcasing the significant times in Ireland’s history accompanied by an excellent actor telling the story of the Irish along the way and guiding visitors through each theatre. What I like most about this tour is that it demonstrates the essence of what it means to be Irish with an enlightened, entertaining yet at times harrowing, factual summary of Ireland’s history in 60 minutes.

The tour will leave visitors with a greater understanding of Ireland, its culture, heritage, struggles and triumphs.

I managed to get the last tour of the day. There were only a few people in the group. While returning my headset at the end of the tour, one of the visitors asked me where I was from. I explained I was Irish. They told me they were living in Ireland since the beginning of the year and wanted to learn more about the country’s history. When I asked what they thought of the tour, they said they felt emotional and that they felt they understood the Irish more. I felt proud. I wanted to ask the other visitors what they thought but unfortunately didn’t get the chance.

While there is a multimedia digital element to this tour with special effects, essentially it’s an easy and interesting narrated tour. I only wish it had been around when I was in school learning about the Newgrange Winter Solstice, Ireland’s saints and scholars, the Book of Kells, the Chieftains, the Famine, the 1916 Rebellion and the war of Independence and civil war. I’m not surprised to learn that it’s very popular among school tours.

The Story of the Irish centre is conveniently located in Dublin’s northside area of Smithfield, just around the corner from the Old Jameson Distillery. The staff are very welcoming, friendly and helpful. Ticket prices vary and discounts are available for bookings online and early bird shows. Keep an eye out for occasional special offers such as, ‘Fiver Friday’ deals. See ticket prices here and opening hours here.

IMG_2340

Rejuvenated in the late 90s, Smithfield has been transformed into a hip, buzzing part of Dublin’s northside city with cool places to eat and stay such as, Proper Order Coffee Co., Urbanity CoffeeCinnamon Café, Oscars Bar and the Generator Hostel. There’s also the funky Light House Cinema just around the corner for movie buffs on holidays! Other Dublin Northside Attractions close by include the Guinness Storehouse, Croke Park and Glasnevin Cemetery Museum.

IMG_2337

Advertisements

A Galway wedding and day-trip

So my brother married a fabulous Galway girl a couple of weeks ago and the wedding took us to the Raheen Woods Hotel in Athenry – a perfect location, just a 10-minute drive from the church (in Maree) and Galway City, and access to the Wild Atlantic Way. A deserved winner of the IASI (Irish Accommodation Services Institute) Gold Award in 2015, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the hotel ensured we had a magical weekend.

We arrived at the hotel on the Friday evening and enjoyed a tasty meal from the bar menu. Family and friends from Dublin arrived throughout the evening and it wasn’t long before a sing song kicked off! We had great fun with the locals, who joined in from around the bar…as long as we didn’t request ‘The Fields of Athenry‘! Ha!

On the big day, the weather behaved and the beautiful ceremony was followed by a brilliant reception/dinner/party/session in the Raheen Woods. The craic was mighty and the party stayed going in the residence bar until the wee hours.

The next day and before our final night of celebrations, my sister Kathy and I took our very cool 13-year-old niece, Sadhbh, for a quick day-trip into Galway city. Sadhbh is 100% Dubliner so we wanted to show her another cool city (being the cool aunties that we are).

IMG_1836

We only had a couple of hours to spend in the city so we parked near Eyre Square and headed towards the city’s pedestrianised Latin Quarter to check out some of the best-known shops, bars and restaurants.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of the things I love most about Galway is its music and busking tradition. There were several buskers on the streets, singing and playing music of all sorts. Sadhbh is a budding musician and really enjoyed it.

We strolled through the Galway Market in Church Lane by St Nicholas’ Church. Lots of stalls filled with locally produced art, crafts and food. It was a Sunday, so it wasn’t as busy compared to a Saturday I’m guessing, but still bustling.

IMG_1800

We made our way up to Quay street and happened upon Cofferwerk + Press, a cool coffee and craft shop – combining two things I love (and another reason to love Galway). As soon as we stepped inside, good vibes surrounded us.  It felt like we were somewhere else in Europe, like Amsterdam or Berlin, which I understand are cities that influenced the owners. The ground floor served coffee and teas while the second and third floors displayed quirky art and crafts from Galway and other European cities. There was also a funky record player with a brilliant selection of vinyl records to play. There were plenty of lovely gift items. My sister picked up some retro lights and I picked up some cards designed by Screech Owl Design. I reckon Sadhbh was pretty impressed too as she took lots of pics…“#Thisisacoolplace”

We spent a little longer browsing in Coffeewerk + Press than intended so instead of wandering further up Quay Street we decided to drop back into Tigh Neachtain’s for a pint (minerals for Sadhbh and designated driver). We grew up in a family pub business, which Kathy now owns, and because of this we like to check out the famous, traditional pubs in the places we visit.  Tigh Neachtain’s is one of those pubs, oozing with character. Over 120 years old, it’s situated on the corner of Quay Street and Cross Street.  The interior is made up of several small snugs along short corridors leading to the main bar, which stocks a large and varied selection of drinks, including its own home brewed beers.

With little seating space we were lucky to have found a spot in the corner to sit and watch the comings and goings. There was an elderly gentleman at the bar counter speaking with the staff. He looked like a real character, dressed in an old tweed jacket with elbow pads, a funky man scarf and a trilby hat. Then a little bit of Irish magic happened. He made his way over to where we were seated and right beside us, lifted the cover off an old piano, which we hadn’t spotted!  He delved into a beautiful rendition of ‘Moon River’ and for the next 20 minutes we were serenaded by great singing and piano playing. In true Irish form, and just when we were settling in, our piano player (named Jerry) answered a call on his mobile phone mid-song. It was a message to let him know his dinner was ready so he had to go…only in Ireland!

IMG_1789

Sadhbh’s phone died (#Catastrophe) and it was time for us to go too. Dinner and our final night in the hotel awaited us. There was so much more to see and do in Galway city but it would have to wait until the next time.

Galway recently won European Region of Gastronomy destination for 2018, an award that recognises innovation and integration in gastronomy, culture, tourism and economy. Galway certainly deserves this accolade. I will be back for a foodie tour very soon!

All round successful yet brief day-trip to this wonderful, cultural city! Sadhbh loved it. We loved it. What’s not to love about Galway, a city for all ages!