March 16, 2010

Best Irish Moments

Ireland is to families what Amsterdam is to backpackers. As St. Patrick's Day approaches I think about all the adventures we've had over the years in Ireland on vacation and filming for Travel With Kids Ireland . The dramatic landscapes fading to cozy villages packed with friendly people has made Ireland a favorite for the whole family. Below I've listed some of our best memories from the Emerald Isle. Please share yours as well!

My favorite memory from Ireland was, as most favorites are, an impromptu event. Even the best planning can't top the things that happen as pure kismit...the right components of all that is good coming together to create that perfect moment. On this occasion, we were at a traditional music session, which by definition alone is impromptu in Ireland. Residents and people from neighboring villages began gathering at the pub to play music together. One musician would start a song and the others would join in as they learned the tune. The Guinness was flowing, the locals chatting in their gay Irish lilt, and the music was jamming...all seemed wonderful. Then came the kismet moment. My two sons (ages 6 and 8), who had been in Irish dance lessons back in the states, jumped from their chairs and began to dance the reel, or what they remembered of it, around the pub. The locals began clapping and cheering them on. It was something none of us will ever forget!

When we were filming in Belfast, it was just about the time the Northern Ireland ruling parties, who had been fighting for know "The Troubles"...were to come together to rule as a team for the first time. We had no idea it would be on the day we were there. After leaving our mark at the Wall that separates the Catholic and Protestant sides of Belfast, we headed over to Stormont, the old Parliament building, where history was being made as Martin McGuinness (leader of Sinn Fein) and Ian Paisley (leader of the opposing DUP) were agreeing to minister together. To our surprise, the soldier at the guard gate generously passed us through to the front of the building where the kids could make peace signs and get a first hand glimpse of the peace process in action!

One of the best places we stayed in Ireland was Dromoland Castle. The kids loved the idea of being knights in this stony remnant of medieval times and we loved the luxurious rooms that accompanied the rich history. A highlight of our time there was the ducks. The kids loved feeding the ducks that roam the wide expanse of lawns at Dromoland, but I have to say the first day it was quite a shock. We went out with an old loaf of bread from the kitchen and the ducks surrounded us...actually chasing us across the lawn. Check out video of the DUCK ATTACK on our YouTube Channel.

One of the reasons many people go to Ireland is to hunt down the family genes. My family originated from County Mayo, so when we heard that Clare Island, in Clew Bay, was nicknamed O'Malley Island, we knew we had to go. After a rolling boat ride over Atlantic waters that brought the word capsize to a whole new level of real, we landed at Clare Island, which was guarded by a Grace O'Malley castle. Being that she is our great (times about 6) grandmother, we felt free to explore. We were told her tomb was also on the island. But there are no taxis and it was raining. Lucky for us, one of the locals, with their van packed with grandparents and kids, in true Irish fashion was on their way to the church and offered a ride. To our dismay the church was locked. They told us to ask at the house next door as they bid us goodbye. We did and sure enough the home owner appeared with a key. We had the old church to our selves (the new one was next door where there was a christening attended by the whole island) and we discovered lots of ancestors' graves, including Grace. On the way back to town, the driver decided we must attend the opening of the new museum where the locals filled us in on all the happenings in the O'Malley clan.


Traveling With Children said...

Ireland sounds great. I look forward to taking my family there in the near future. Any "must-see" attractions?

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