Wednesday, 22 April 2015

6 Irish landmarks I'm ashamed to say I've never visited

Trinity College, pic taken by my sister because well, I've never been there...

Since I started to work with French students, the topic comes along every week. "What should I visit while I'm in Ireland?", "we're going to Dublin on Saturday, what do you recommend?", "sure, you've lived here for so many years, you must have seen everything by now!". WRONG. WRONG. WRONG.

Of course I went around Ireland the first few years, but as soon as the kids came along (7 years ago), we kind of stopped travelling within Ireland. Now, all our week-ends are spent cleaning, grocery shopping, and just basically resting from an hectic week. All our holidays are spent going home to see the family...

I'm ashamed to say there are a good few famous sites I've never seen. So here is a selection of what I have yet to visit in Ireland (and there are no pictures, because, well, I've never been there...)

1- Trinity College & The Book of Kells

I know, I know. My sister, the French students, my brother, friends... Basically everyone I know has seen that damn Book of Kells. But not me. I was never free to go along. Am I really missing something there? You tell me...
Worst thing is, I always tell people they have to visit Trinity College. Even if I never set foot on the grounds.

2- St Patrick's cathedral

I'm a bit greedy, I'll admit it. So no, I don't want to pay to get in a church. I've seen pictures online and on their website you can even take a virtual tour. Good enough for me.

3- Kerry

Dingle Peninsula, the Ring of Kerry, Killarney... So many places I would love to visit. We never managed to have a free week-end before the kids (Fabrice working in the hotel industry was a big issue in the sense that he could never have Saturday & Sunday off), and now it seems such a big organisation and so many hours to drive that I'm giving up before even trying. Ah well, one day maybe...

4- Dublin museums

The National Gallery, the museum of Natural history, the National library ? I haven't visited any of them. And I do like museums in general. I just didn't have the opportunity, or friends who wanted to come with me. I have been to the Little museum of Dublin though, great experience and a visit I really recommend.

5- Wicklow mountains

Sure I've been up to Johnny Fox's pub, but that's pretty much it. Glendalough, Sally's gap? I've only seen them in pictures. And again, that's a place I always tell people to go to! 

6- Jameson distillery

Once again, a place I always recommend, especially over the Guinness Storehouse. Yet a place I've never set foot in. According to my sister who actually was there, the tour is very interesting, but the best part is the tasting at the end. Of course.

The list could go on and on, but I think that's enough shame for one day! What about you, is there a tourist attraction you always recommend but have never actually visited?

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Irish people through my sister's eyes

My sister loves coming to Ireland. It's a good break for her, and she usually travels on her own, leaving the kids and husband at home to spend quality time with me. The funny thing is, even if she has been to Ireland more than 10 times by now, she seems to be discovering the country with new eyes every single time. A few things stuck out during her last visit, and it was all about Irish people. So here are a few of her observations and what I think about them...

1 - Irish drivers are more civilised

Trying to find a parking space in Dundrum Town Centre on Good Friday seemed mission impossible. It took us about 10 minutes just to get into the actual car park, and once in there, cars were bumper to bumper. My sister was amazed by the fact that there was very little horn blowing, no heated discussions between drivers, and no fights over who found a spot first. Drivers were just patient. 

My opinion:
I have to agree with her. I think Irish drivers are helpful as well. When my tyre went flat and I was almost crying on the side of the road, a complete stranger stopped and changed it. But even if Irish drivers are more civilised, they don't know how to use a 3 lanes motorway properly. I guess you can't have everything.

2- Irish people are polite

"Sorry" is probably the most used word in Ireland (alongside the F-word I suppose!). In France, if you bump into someone, you get a bad look straight away, maybe a sigh. If the person is on a bad day it can even get into an argument. Yes, it looks like the French are a bitter bunch... Here, on the other hand, you can get an apology from someone you bumped into. No kidding.
My sister was also surprised by the amount of Hello, Please and Thank you she heard while she was here, especially when we were shopping. 

My opinion:
Again, I have to agree. The last time I was on a bus in France, I thanked the driver. By the look on his face, it was probably the first time it happened to him! Irish people are definitely more polite.

3- Irish people seem happier in general

Even in Tesco, people are smiling. It's so unusual compared to all the grumpy ones you come across in a French supermarket. People just smile and laugh a lot more.

My opinion:
I definitely think life is a little less stressful here. OK, we all have our problems, commute, mortgage and so on, but Irish people have this ability to laugh about anything, especially themselves, and I'm sure that is one of the reason why they are happier.

4- Irish girls have a very distinctive sense of fashion

Not only that, but there seems to be so much more variety in the type of clothes women wear here. There are a lot more choice in clothes, and for every budget. My sister went on saying that in France, if you look a little bit different, you're categorized instantly and French people don't hesitate to pass judgements out loud.

Only in Ireland you can see girls wearing this...

My opinion:
Even though Irish fashion might not be my cup of tea in general (I'm a bit conservative when it comes to clothes), I think Irish girls are not afraid of experimenting, they wear brighter colours and on the whole, I think they don't give a shit what people think. Which would also explain why Irish girls seem to have less complexes than French ones.

5- Shopkeepers don't care if you don't have change

We went to a shop to buy milk and bread and I only had a 50 euros note. Instantly my sister reached out to her purse and checked if she had a few spare coins so I wouldn't have to hand out such a big amount for a very small purchase. The thing is, as long as the cashier is given money, he doesn't care. In France, don't even try to buy a baguette with a 20 euros note. You'll be given a bad look or a big sigh, and the compulsory "Do you have change?"

My opinion:
I still feel bad about giving 50 euros for a 3 euros purchase. But I never get any bad look, or a sigh or anything. I usually get a "Thanks a million, have a good day"! 


All this doesn't look good for the French, does it? When I go home on holidays, I often have the feeling that the French in general have become a bit bitter, but then again, you can't generalize and stereotype an entire nation. In my home town, there's a very nice baker who always give chocolate to my kids when we buy bread, and shopkeepers who say Hello and Thank you. But of course you can get the occasional ***hole...

I also think my sister might have an over positive view of Ireland because she only comes on holidays so of course, she's in a great mood.  But in France, she might be one of those people who get into an argument over a parking spot!