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Stories from a 'nice vacation' in Ireland

Running and Fitness
Saturday, September 29, 2018

I have returned from a nice vacation in Ireland. This is about our third time to visit the town of Killarney with my wife and various family members. From the very start this visit was a bit unusual. The first thing that made this a once in a lifetime experience is that trying to coordinate eleven family members to agree on one date to leave. That was accomplished and the hotel made accommodations for the group to all be in close proximity of one another. From this point on things began to change. The first is that one of the group was able to schedule some gigs to play in Scotland and England and never made it to Ireland until the last day. Three days before we were to leave two others left early to take a sailing cruise with Seascape Sailing in Greece. One day later another four left to visit Amsterdam. The remaining four toughed it out and made it to London for a return flight. The trick was to get all nine of the group at one hotel and catch the same flight. This was becoming a travel agents nightmare. It all worked out and everyone said they had a good vacation.

We had a few set backs on some of the scheduled plans. The one trip we were looking forward to was the seven mile hike over the Gap of Dunloe. A thing called ‘Storm Ali’ had 50 – 60 mile an hour winds and heavy rain the day we were scheduled.  Cancellation number one. The next scheduled day was heavy rain and cold.  Nobody wanted to hike seven miles in rain and cold – especially everyone that is used to Texas weather.  We will have to try again on some other visit.

The unique part of Killarney is that there is a 26,000 acre park on the edge of town. The park has trails for hikers, bikers, and runners, and horseback riders, to take advantage of. Cars are not allowed. You might have to move over for a horse drawn carriage now and then, but that is a small inconvenience. There are enough miles of trails that a runner could take a different route every day and get in some very scenic runs.  With 26,000 acres even a runner training for a marathon would be able to get in a long run. A few of the trails led to tourist visitation points. One two mile hike led to Ross Castle for a tour of a 14th century castle that is being restored. There are plenty of landmarks and interesting points to hike, bike, or run to.

My wife and I put in our miles hiking through the town as well as in the park. One reason is that in Ireland cars drive on the left side of the road. The streets in town are very narrow and when cars park on both sides of the street the width is only good for one car going one way at a time. I decided I could walk easier, and safer, than try to learn left side driving. I needed to get a few miles in from walking anyway, so it was just a good reason to stay on the sidewalks.  

Touring the different villages and towns near Killarney you see a common pattern of a shopping strip for tourists to buy gifts to take back home. There were also numerous bed and breakfast establishments and hotels. It was evident that shop keepers were able to pick out the tourists from the locals as soon as you walked through the door. I had one sales person look at me as I purchased an item and immediately knew I was from Texas.  I didn’t have on boots, or a hat, so I was somewhat amazed that she knew where I was from. I must have slipped and said “y’all’ in there someplace.  

There are two other ways to recognize tourists – especially those from the United States – in that we tend to be a bit larger around the midsection than most locals. There are a few locals that are catching up but for the most part we stand out for that one reason. The other reason is the pace at which we walk. As a tourist you are looking at the shops, restaurants, interesting buildings, etc. and the pace is not much faster than a stroll. The sidewalks are narrow and when you get two people side by side to window shop it becomes a barrier. The locals all seem to be late for work as they stride much faster than the tourists.  Even if a tourist is walking a normal pace they are passed by the locals. That might be one reason most of the local residents are on the normal weight side of things.

If you are looking for a fun vacation and need to stay fit, Ireland seems to be a good country to visit. And if you like to play golf you can really have a good time. It seems every town has a golf course.  We took a tour and the driver took us by the “most expensive golf course in Ireland." Killarney has three on the outside of town.  Two 18 holes courses and one 9 holes course.  

 The most popular sports are football (we call it soccer) and hurling. Hurling is a similar game to what we call lacrosse, but with an oak bat that looks like a large field hockey stick, to hit a baseball around the field. They try to explain to tourists from the United States that it is not the same as what you do after you eat a meal and get ill. Evidently it comes up in the conversation so much that they have to explain the difference between the game and our version of the word. Other than a few miscues, and a few weather days, the trip was a success.

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