Hey there and welcome to the BigAppleSchool podcast. My name is Sam.
And today we’re asking what’s the craic about travelling Ireland. So we’re gonna talk about what things we associate with that one of a country, how we, if at all, are connected with that place. Is it important to travel around the world and the country where you live?
How does it differ from Northern Ireland? There is a big difference perhaps? Or perhaps not. What cities we’ve been to in Ireland and how – how did we travel there? What our favorite cities are and why. Maybe least favorite too, which we may have some.
Our favorite experiences there. Where else we might like to go, if we have not been everywhere already. And do we think it’s a little bit overlooked? People want to go to London and forget about Dublin. So that is our topic for today. Welcome, Stephen.
I’m very glad to be here, very nice to talk to you again Sam.
Good stuff, yeah. Good to talk. Almost a follow Northern Irishman, I mean, you have a strong connection.
I have connections with Northern Ireland particularly. And if we’re speaking about Ireland. We have to decide whether we have to include Northern Ireland.
I’m not sure that we’re gonna solve that today. It’s been debated for a while. But as regards with Ireland – when we say Ireland, we think of Republic of Ireland, for now.
So republic of Ireland, it’s governed in Dublin. What things do you associate with Ireland?
Well I think that one of the first things is the humor of the Irish. The blarney as they call it.
Right, and there’s the Blarney stone and you’ve got the gift of the gab, gift of talking and you can blarney quite a bit. You can talk and talk and talk.
That’s right. And the Irish are really good story-tellers I think. They spin the yarn.
But I think that is one of the things about Ireland. The other is I think the weather, which is usually wet.
Yeah, right. I was gonna say that myself actually.
And also I think of course the Shamrock. Everybody knows it around the world, the symbol of Ireland.
Whereas they wouldn’t particularly about England, I think..
Yeah maybe not really known about the English. It’s a symbol of England. Well I was gonna say green, cause it’s called the Emerald Isle. And Northern Ireland too. I mean, is it 40 shades of grey?
40 shades of grey including all of the counties in Northern Ireland and the republic of Ireland. I was gonna say green. I was gonna say contrasts. Because you got big cities, well, not so many, but you’ve got Dublin, which is a big city.
You’ve got other fairly good size cities, at least by Irish standards. And some towns and places. But you’ve also got some little little villages, wee tiny villages – we call them half towns. There’s not really much happening, but they’ve got character to it all the same. It’s got the romanticism with it I think too. Depending on…
I think the Republic of Ireland is quite a romantic place, especially for visitors. If you can get them out of Dublin I think.
Well, yeah. So Dublin’s an interesting place to visit, but maybe worth going beyond that too. What was my third thing? I was thinking of something else. Well, I was gonna say green. Maybe people, there are friendly people too. Or I could say leprechauns.
Leprechauns, yeah. I’ve not met leprechauns, but I’ve met plenty of people who claim to have met leprechauns. Which is probably not the same thing.
Probably not, probably not. I can’t claim to have met one, not yet. Although I knew a man who was quite short and quite hot-tempered, and could’ve maybe fit the description, but I don’t think he was a leprechaun, no… He didn’t have the right dress code.
Oh no, no, it’s quite distinctive, isn’t it?
How, if at all, are you connected to Ireland?
I’m connected in two ways really. If we’re speaking of the republic, my grandmother, when she was a little girl, spent some time in south of Dublin, she worked on the railways there.
Then she moved up to Belfast for a time. So that connection is strong, because she used to take me there when I was a little boy, we used to go down to Kingstown and the south of Dublin, which now has been renamed Dún Laoghaire.
And also now I have some friends in Belfast, which is not in the republic of Ireland, but my other connection particularly is that 25 years ago I was a part of a school walk across Ireland. We walked right across Ireland in two weeks.
Right, across the center from Dublin to Galway.
When I was teaching in London, we used to do weekend walks and we walked around London with some interesting country walks, and then one of the parents suggested having an Irish walk, walking across Ireland.
And so we arranged It during the holidays. We set flow in the middle of Ireland, and then everyday we took the train, festival train to Dublin and then walked to the next railway station, and then back to Athlone, and we didn’t see lakes like that. So that was an interesting… You really saw the Irish way of life that way.
Wow. So you would walk a bit and then take a train back to Dublin, and then walk back to where you’d finished, and then walk a bit further towards Athlone and so on.
That’s right. When we got to Athlone it became more difficult because the stations were rather farther apart. And we had to use buses sometimes.
Wow. So as you know, I think most people know, I don’t have a connection to the republic of Ireland per se, but I’m born and bred in Northern Ireland, and I suppose…
I mean, my family are born, all my family – my heritage is Northern Irish. So I mean, it’s very very closely linked at least to the Republic of Ireland. But it’s not quite the same.
And of course your accent is very different from Ireland.
Yeah, the range of accents throughout Northern Ireland too. But even throughout the republic of Ireland if you have the ear for them. So and my accent would be very clear to a Dubliner for example, that I’m not from the republic of Ireland.
So… It would be clear that I’m not quite republican Irish – could I say that? Republic Irish? Rather than Northern Irish. But there is… It holds a special place in my heart though. I have spent quite a bit of time in Ireland, and I enjoy when I get the chance to visit it.
So it’s good, I like it. So what do you think, is it important to travel around the world? Around the country where you live?
Cause here in Russia, I think it’s not such a popular thing – it’s a huge country and where do people start? But if you’re living maybe in a smaller country, is it important to travel around it?
I think it’s certainly important for Ireland, if you want to get to know different ways of life, especially in Ireland, because if you just stayed in Dublin for some time, you wouldn’t get to know anything about the country ways of life.
Yeah, right. Which is a very different way of life entirely.
And if you go to the west, there’s a different way of life. I think there are still some Irish speakers in those parts.
And I think there in Cork, there’s a little village as well. A wee village! I think, I don’t know exactly, I don’t know the name, but a few, yeah.
Cork and Waterford – those parts, there are some enclaves of the Irish language.
Do you say ‘wee’ a lot – it’s like a wee story or wee drum…
I’ve got a little bit out of habit saying that, but yeah, wee, wee everything. If you want a cup of tea or they’re offering you a cup of tea, they’ll say, and I would do it too, I’d go ‘do you want a wee cup of tea?’
We don’t mean level, we mean an ordinary cup of tea, we’re kinda softening I think.
It’s like in Russian, where you put the little -chik on the end, like different diminutives. They don’t have it in normal English.
But don’t you think that I speak the queen’s English?
Well, that would be another topic for discussion.
That would be a big debate.
Yes. What about you? Do you think it’s important to travel?
I think you can get a lot of… I mean, depending on the variety in the country where you live, you could learn a lot. And you could get a lot of experience that could be very valuable and interesting and insightful.
And I think, I mean, it could be enjoyable for a start, and if you’re living in the country already, you don’t need to worry about visas, you don’t need to worry about whole lot of things – you know the people, you know the language, you know the culture.
So I think yeah, I think it’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s essential, but I think it could be beneficial, it could be interesting, it could be good. But it really depends on whether or not you get the variety by travelling in your country.
You see, I have some friends in Northern Ireland, who refuse to go down to the republic. They’ve never set foot in it and don’t intend to.
There are such people, yeah.
And I suppose there’s the other way round, but I’ve never met anybody in the republic of Ireland who’s refused to go North.
What cities.. Let me see, where are we now? So we know you’ve been to Northern Ireland, and I’ve been to Northern Ireland. We know you’ve been to Ireland, and I have been to Ireland. What differences have you noticed? I mean, are there differences culturally? Any other way?
Certainly the cultural difference in the Northern Ireland – I think it’s like the further north you go, it’s more like a Scottish culture. Ballymena and they have a Scottish accent.
You’re from Ballymena, hey?
And I think they certainly have a more duo as we say in Scots. Sort of bloomy life.
Everything’s bad, the weather’s bad…
Whereas I think in the republic people are more optimistic.
Right. Well I’ll tell you the difference I’ve noticed is – I think they’re more laidback. And I think I can tell you one example – my mom has a little dog, like a wee toy dog.
Wee toy dog. I mean it’s a few… It’s quite small, I don’t know, 4-5-10 centimeters high? And I think it’s about a foot and a half. And so she has often brought it into the petrol station in the republic of Ireland, and they said ‘bring the dog in, no problems’, and they’re very relaxed about it.
But I think in Northern Ireland it would be a little bit more, they’ll be in shock… They wouldn’t chase you and tell you to leave, but they might be a little bit uncomfortable with you bringing the dog in.
So I think they’re a little bit more relaxed. And that’s jut one example. I think the culture is a little bit more relaxed about… Not to say that you can get away with doing bad things or whatever, but it’s much more relaxed I think, about, you know, practical, more practical. The dog isn’t gonna do any harm…
I think in the North they’re very keen on obeying the law.
Yeah, strictly follow the rules and not, maybe not, even when they’re not practical.
The point with the dog – it’s not gonna do any harm, you can lift it up, you know, and it’s not gonna go to the toilet or do its business.
Or as they say in official - fowling.
Fowling, yeah, that’s right.
I spoke to some Russians and they asked what it meant, this word.
In football they use it too.
There’s always a fowling on a pitch. And it’s not…
It could be confusing. What cities have you been to in Ireland? And how did you get there?
Well I regularly go to Belfast. But I also regularly go to Wexford, because I take the ferry from Rosslare. So I know that part. I know Waterford quite well because a friend of mine is a publisher in Waterford, so that’s quite a nice place to visit.
How did I get there? Usually I drive from France.
From France? Under water?
Oh, you don’t go Eurotunnel?
Well if I’m going to England I would. If I was going to…
From France to Ireland? By ferry? I’ve never went… Is it good?
Yes, it’s very good. Two services. It’s overnight. It’s very good ship, and to goes from… I can’t remember the port now…
No, Calais is further… It’s on the peninsula… I’ll think of it in a moment, but there’s route to Ireland, and then I drive up the coast.
Does that drop you off in Dublin or?
It used to drop me off in Wexford, in the port there, but now they’ve changed it, and it goes into Dublin. It’s more convenient, really.
So I think it’s quite easier to get places from Dublin. Okay. So you travel a lot by car, but you have walked and went by train as a child. How old were you by the way? I want to know more about that.
Cross Ireland walk? I was a teacher, so it was 25 years ago. I suppose I was about 35.
But the oldest teacher was in the 70s… Very interesting walk, a lot of stories about it.
And how old were the students, the pupils?
They were between 10 and 13.
And how did they find it? Was it…? I mean.. I’m gonna say it and don’t take it the wrong way, but it’s not a dig at you or anything, but I think health and safety wouldn’t allow it nowadays.
I don’t know. Well, they.. Well the children we had had quite a lot of practice on walking in England, they were on walks arranged in England. So they were used to walking. And there were all boys, so no girls, so we didn’t have any problems with the complications.
And were there a lot of footpaths on these roads?
This was the problem. But they…
The teacher who reconnoited the walk, found that to get out of Dublin was the best way to walk along the canal to paths, until canal’s going out midlands. I think one was the Midland canal and the Round Union I think.
And we walked out of Dublin along till paths. Which had not been cleared in those days practically, they were quite difficult. Now they’re tourist attractions. But 25 years ago it was just a jungle.
Then when we got in to the countryside to Mote I think it was, we weren’t across countryside, and the there were quite a lot of roads going nowhere in Ireland. There were built by the army, just for no reason apparently.
Right. Okay. Maybe they knew the reason, I don’t know. Well, it sounds interesting. And you saw… So you finally got to Galway at the end of it all?
Dublin to Galway, yes. And the most difficult part was the part out in the Wild west as you said earlier, because there were no paths. And we just had to go across country or take roads. And I think the longest walk was 25 miles. The greatest distance was we did in one day, 25 miles. But we didn’t do that until the second week.
Yeah, but still I’m sure.. You must’ve been….
I haven’t walked through Ireland, not 25 miles anyway. Well, I’ve been to quite a few cities. Sligo.
Kind of been to all the major cities, apart from Kerry, or that County Kerry. I’ve been nowhere in County Kerry to my knowledge. But I was in Sligo, in Donegal, Limerick, Cork, Waterford, Dublin, Athlone, and lots of other places too.
I actually used to go down with the group of friends and we used to give out Bible leaflets, so that’s how I got to know Ireland and travel around Ireland. Because I had a real strong desire to go and preach actually, from the Bible, start talk from the Bible.
And I used to use a megaphone. Yeah, there were three of us, and we had a megaphone, and we managed to get a megaphone. At first we had like a speaker with a microphone, which worked quite well, but the megaphone was maybe more portable, more practical.
And then we used to give our Bible leaflets to people. And we went to all kinds of, I mean, not just major city – we went to all major cities. We never got to County Kerry, just so far away. But we went to all the major cities and in some of the major towns.
And even Newark village too – we went anywhere. I had a weekend off, and just decided hey, I messaged people, you know. This was in my early 20s. Yeah, early 20s anyway. And I used to message – hey you wanna come along?
And this is the time, and this is where we’re meeting, this is where we’re going. And it was good, it was great! As I would say, it was a good craic. It was a good craic, and it was something we enjoyed sharing that message – behold the lamb of God, which takes…
That was something important for us to share. And so we not only did that, but we got to see a lot of Ireland as well which was great.
You went by train or did you take the car?
I was working and so I had a wee car. At first it was a red Ford Fiesta, and then it was Renault Clio. And so not a big car anyway, but we all packed in into it and went down, and it was great. Some older guys, even young people as well, boys and girls with us.
We just went down for the day normally. So we didn’t normally travel too far, every Saturday, every weekend. But we normally just went down somewhere for the day and then came back in the same day. It was great. Great times, good memories about that. What are you favorite cities and why?
I think Waterford is a favorite city, because it’s on the coast. It’s quite beautiful. That coastline around Waterford, Cork is very beautiful. A lot of people like to visit it from different countries I think. And go to Ireland at all, they like to go down the…
I was gonna say Waterford too actually. I like it because it’s not too big, I think it’s well laid out and it’s got the coast. And it seems like a clean city, an organized city. I like Waterford a lot actually.
The second one is Athlone because I spent a lot of time in Athlone on this walk in particular. And not being back for 25 years until last year, went with a friend, went to Athlone, and I decided to see if I could find the old newsagent’s where I used to get my daily Telegraph every morning.
The chap called Ryan O’Ryan. Irish name. And strangely enough the shop was still there and he was still in it! In his 90s! He said ‘Have you come for your Telegraph?’
Wow! My second favorite would be Dublin. I love Dublin. And actually not a huge fan of big cities as far as living there, but visiting – fantastic! And I really like Dublin to go, you know, for the day. Because it’s got a few good, really good bookshops – for the moment at least.
And it’s got some of the model shops for my model planes or model tanks or whatever. It’s got some of those shops and it’s got a place called ‘St Stephen’s Green’, which is beautiful. Beautiful park in Dublin. It’s got really all kinds of beautiful architecture, I guess, form Victorian age.
Georgian, right. Trinity College and some other buildings there. And they’re really beautiful buildings, beautiful architecture. It’s a really nice city I think to visit.
Of course when I was there first time, 45 years ago, it was a very dirty city. And I didn’t like it at all, cause the river smelled. It was like an open sewer. It was not very pleasant in summer at all.
It’s very different now. I haven’t noticed… Actually people sit…. There are quite nice places for people to sit beside the river now, and I think you can go in a boat – I never tried it, but I think there are boats that go to…
But recently there are seats there, if you’ve seen it, you can sit down beside the river and enjoy, maybe a sandwich or whatever you might’ve bought.
There’s a Ha’penny Bridge – I don’t remember when it was built.
Short for Half penny, Ha’penny is the short for half penny, which is old currency. Yeah, Ha’penny bridge, that’s right. It’s very beautiful too, and nice for pedestrians, for foot passengers only. What is your least favorite city?
Let me think about that. Well, Dublin was my least favorite, but I like it quite a lot more now, but I don’t think I have least favorite. Well I suppose maybe Armagh – it’s not in the republic. That’s near your hometown actually.
I’ll say nothing. It’s not my home city, but yeah.
I think it’s a very… When I was a boy it was a very dangerous place, Armagh. And more people were killed there in the troubles than any other city.
Right. I think it’s much better now.
Oh yes. They’ve got above themselves now by claiming to be a heritage, the center of St Patrick.
And calling themselves a city, when I don’t think it’s a city. It’s only about 20 thousand people.
Yeah, smaller than Portadown, my hometown. My least favorite might be Cork. Sorry to say, I know it’s one of your favorites. I think it’s just too cramped for me. And I got the impression… My impressions when I went there was a little bit dirty, but maybe it’s very different now.
Cause it has been quite a while since I’ve been there. But it’s not that I hate it, I’ve been there a couple of times and I went again, so I mustn’t have disliked it so much. But… No one’s really bothered by my opinion.
No. I think it’s all pretty interesting.
And your favorite experience is?
Well, there’re a lot of funny stories I could tell about strange situations in Ireland. For example, when we were on the walk, we had to take a bus from Ballinasloe to Athlone, and half the party sat on the front of the bus, half the party at the back.
And the party at the back were charged half price by same conductor, and we were charged full price. So I’m not quite sure what that was about, but it’s a typical Ireland.
Some mistake happened there.
But many interesting stories that not… I don’t think I ever had a bad experience in there, in Ireland. Lots of funny moments. I suppose you’ve got to go to experience them.
Yeah, I as well. I used to like to go to different places as I said. And Dublin was one of my favorite places, and I think I liked to just stand there meeting all kinds of different nationalities and talking with all kinds of people.
And never a dull moment, never a dull moment. It was good sharing that message with people. It was good times. But I’ve also enjoyed being there shopping too, going to Easons.
Oh Easons, that’s a famous bookshop, isn’t it?
I remember once I got lost on the road to Dublin before they had the motorways. And stopped in a little village, and I just said to somebody ‘Can you tell me how long it will take me to get to Dublin?’ He says ‘will you be walking?’ It was about 70 miles, so it was a rather strange question. I was in the car.
Pretty strange. Wow. Is there somewhere else that you’d like to go in Ireland if you got the chance?
I’d like to see the Blarney Stone, I’ve never seen the Blarney Stone. I’ve seen all the other attractions, the usual ones – Giant’s Causeway, and the other things, but the Blarney Stone I’d like to see.
Not quite sure of the story of it.
Yeah, I don’t know, but I saw it, and I refused to kiss it. Cause you’re supposed to kiss it and it’ll give you this magical power to speak.
That’s right. You’ve got to flatlie on your back if I’m not mistaken. They push you into like a coffin.
Yeah and you’re kissing it after. You disinfect it, but you’re kissing it after someone else. I refused to do that. ‘That’s for tourists!’ I said. I have the gift of the gob already, I have the blarney. I don’t need it.
Well as I said I’ve never been to the county of Kerry. And there are some beautiful mountains there, there’s a national park. Killarney I think it’s called.
So I’d like to go there if I got the chance. It’s quite a long journey by car, but I would like to see that. So do you think Ireland is overlooked? People come to the British Isles, to Britain, they forget about Ireland, and they forget about Dublin, and they go to, you know, London is the most popular.
I think it’s overlooked by a lot of tourists. I don’t think it’s overlooked by Americans, because it’s a popular destination for Americans, cause a lot of them have Irish ancestors. And you often see American tourists in Ireland, especially in Dublin.
But I think it is overlooked by people who come to England. Some Russian friends of mine went to England and I told them they must go across Dublin, and they did go, and they were very surprised. But they couldn’t understand the word that was said.
Sometimes I can’t either. Yeah. The different accent – depending on who’s speaking it can be quite strong. And even I might not understand. But then maybe if I spoke with a very strong accent, I might not be understood either.
So some may ask, and of course I know the answer to this, but some may ask – isn’t it hard to live or to visit the country with so much rain? Rain and rain and rain, every day. We have a saying – it rains just twice a week, once for three days, and another time for four.
Yes, I think this is very true. It depends if you like rain. I think for English people it’s not the problem, but for people, I suppose from the continent of Europe might think that I don’t want to go there, cause it’s always raining.
And it’s got that reputation and it’s partly true I think. But actually, when we were going, giving out these Bible leaflets and speaking and all, we were always kind of worried whether it’ll rain, you know, cause that would be quite crucial.
If it rains, we were limited to what we can do. But we found that in all the weeks we went, there were very few times when the rain stopped us. It might rain for a little bit during the day, but it would be gone.
So actually I don’t think it was actually ever a big deal, or really a problem. It generally rains for a short time, and then it’s gone. So if you do want to go to Ireland, or Northern Ireland, or the UK, anywhere else in the UK, bring a nice raincoat.
And don’t panic, just bring good, fairly good shoes, not velvet. You don’t need to have big big boots or anything, but waterproof shoes some kind, and nice raincoat, and don’t worry about it – go out and enjoy yourself! And if it rains, you can shelter somewhere, and enjoy your… and you’ll be fine.
I think it’s far better than sometimes in Novosibirsk, you get very strong rain for some time and that’s very… quite annoying in part, because it can be very difficult to go out, I think Britain – even if it’s rainy, it doesn’t prevent your doing.
People get on with it and when the rain goes away, it dries up and everything is fine. So there you go. That was the craic about travelling Ireland. So we spoke about what we associate with the country. How we are connected to it in any way.
The differences between it and Northern Ireland. Some of our travels and the cities we’ve been to. Our least and our most favorite places, and different experiences we’ve had, favorite experience, and whether we think it’s a little bit overlooked. So that was the craic about travelling Ireland.