Next Class: May 10-12, 2011 www.obus.ie
Almost every year since 1999, I have been fortunate to travel to Ireland, the most beautiful place on earth! There is so much to see and do. Every trip, I visit my favorite old familiar places, and discover some new ones. I never get tired of the scenery or just breathing the Irish air. I count the days between trips.
Since I first started teaching at the Obus School of Healing Therapies several years ago, there are usually therapists from America interested in coming over to tour the country…and taking my class makes that a tax-deductible trip! Even if you’re not coming to take my class, you’ll still find the information below useful in case you get to visit the Emerald Isle.
The classes I teach in Ireland are usually condition-specific…treating a variety of ailments like sciatica, back pain, carpal tunnel, etc. with a variety of techniques, including trigger point therapy, myofascial release, stretching and joint mobilization techniques. Most American therapists will already be familiar with these techniques…many Irish therapists aren’t, so it’s a popular class. In the words of one American MT that I gave this warning to, “I want to come to Ireland, I don’t care if you’re teaching pinky-toe massage!” You won’t be disappointed. You must register for my class directly with the Obus School. For any American traveling over, I will also give you my Home Study Ethics course at no charge, and that will satisfy the requirement for most for a licensing period.
Getting There: The Obus School is about 15 miles outside of Dublin. I personally prefer to spend my vacation days on the West coast of Ireland, so I normally fly into and leave from Shannon Airport, on the opposite side of the country, instead of the Dublin airport. However, if you’ve never made the trip before, and you want to stay in and around the city, flying into Dublin will suit you fine.
Getting Around: The Irish drive on the wrong side of the road! If you’re comfortable with that, by all means rent a car. Both the Shannon and Dublin airports are full of car rental places. The one I like is Budget Car Rentals. I usually get the smallest car available. Irish roads are much more narrow, aside from the main roads, than what Americans are used to. They can give a whole new meaning to the term “country lane.” You don’t want to be driving some big SUV over there. Bear in mind that you will have to pay extra for a collision damage waiver insurance for the rental car. Visa covers that in most countries if you have a Visa credit card–but they don’t cover it in Ireland. Pay the money for full coverage. That way you won’t be taking any chances. There are very few traffic lights in Ireland. Instead they have roundabouts. “Traffic Calming” means “slow down.” A big black dot on a sign means it is a dangerous place on the road where accidents have happened before.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving on the left, no worry, the bus goes everywhere. The Irish are known for walking everywhere, too. All the towns and cities are pedestrian friendly, and there are numerous “hill walks” that are well marked and great for hiking. Ireland is very well known for its hiking and biking trails.
Except in the cities, if you want a taxi, you will need to find a phone number for a local cab and call them. It is impossible to hail a cab on the street. If you’re in Dublin or one of the bigger cities, you could grab one at a big hotel.
Where to Stay: If you’re attending my class in Leixlip, you have several alternatives. I personally stay in B&Bs when I’m traveling in Ireland, for the most part. Occasionally we have a night in a hotel, usually when we want to go to a spa. Hotels also offer “Bed & Breakfast.” Believe me, if you eat a full Irish breakfast, you’ll probably eat a very light lunch, or skip it altogether! So, in Leixlip:
The Courtyard Hotel is just a few blocks walk from the Obus School. It has a great restaurant. The Ryeview B&B is nice and clean and about a ten-minute walk. However, you’ll have to get by with the continental breakfast so you can get to class on time. I have stayed there and found the landlady doesn’t like to get up early–and her idea of early is different from mine–so you’ll have to skip the full Irish breakfast if you stay there and just do the self-serve continental. Just for that reason, I personally stay in the next village over, which is called Maynooth, at the Aaronbeg. Their breakfast is fabulous and they get up early, too. Be sure to tell them Champ and Laura Allen sent you.
If you feel like splurging, the Leixlip House Hotel is more expensive, and quite grand. It’s a 5-minute walk from the school. Their restaurant is cozy and the food is fabulous there. Although I don’t stay there, I do usually eat there a couple of times during my trip. I’ll list other favorite destinations and other places to stay at the bottom of the page.
Money: Don’t forget, the money there is Euros, and you have to figure the exchange rate, which changes on a daily basis. You can check that here. Today, for example (11/08/2011) it takes 1.38 US to equal 1 Euro. Yep, we’re screwed where the US dollar is concerned. However, prices in Ireland for food and lodging are not generally any more expensive than they are at home. You can find something for every price range.
Food: Ireland is after all an island, so fresh seafood abounds…even if you order a fish sandwich, it will be a fresh piece of fish. For crying out loud, don’t go to McDonald’s. There are the usual American chains like Subway and Mickey D’s, but I never eat at those. When you see a sign that says “Carvery,” that means buffet. They are very generous with portions.
I’ve touted the Irish breakfast. That tends to include a full continental setup, such as pastries, cheese, fruit, yogurt, and cereals and juices. The Irish are tea drinkers….even a five-star restaurant might serve you instant coffee, if you order that. Tea it is. The full Irish also includes eggs, potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, black and white pudding (don’t ask), bacon (what they call bacon is similar to Canadian bacon or thinly sliced ham), sausages, sauteed tomatoes, and in some places, baked beans. Irish brown bread is my favorite food on earth. They’ll serve you that and a pile of toast as well, unless you tell them otherwise. Most of the B&Bs have a signup sheet so you can write down what you want the night before.
Irish cows and other livestock are hormone-free. Their steak, lamb chops, etc are wonderfully tasty. Some cultural differences: Vegetable soup is always creamed. “Veg” usually means carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and maybe turnips. At the carveries if you ask for potatoes, you may get both mashed and whole potatoes. If you want bread with a lunch or dinner meal, ask. It doesn’t automatically appear. “Rocket” is salad. “Red sauce” is ketchup. “Brown sauce” is similar to A-1. “Biscuits” are cookies. “Scones” are biscuits. Banoffi pie is the Irish version of banana pudding…different everywhere you go, and my favorite dessert. Guinness stew, or Irish stew, is sometimes made with beef and sometimes with mutton or lamb. If you care which it is, ask.
Ethnic foods are popular in Ireland; there are a lot of immigrants from other countries there. Almost every town has an Indian restaurant, a Chinese takeout, an Italian/pizza restaurant. And don’t forget “Pub Grub.” Pub Grub is usually what we would have for bar food here….maybe fried mushrooms, burgers, etc. The cheese in Ireland is fabulous. A cheese sandwich is an event. Believe me when I say it is not Kraft American Cheese Food. Chances are the farm is right down the road. I’ve had cheese that was still in the cow the day before. It’s killer.
Speaking of pubs, if you order a “pint” you’ll be served a pint of Guinness. If you want something else, you must specify that. A “glass” of beer is 8 oz.
Language: All Irish folks speak English. You will find, however, in the areas that are marked “Gaeltacht” that Irish is still spoken, particularly by older people. The farther North you go, the harder they are to understand. Signs are almost always both in English and Irish.
Some of My Favorite Places:
Donegal Town is at the top of my list. It’s a neat town with a big diamond (not a square) in the center. Cool shops, including McGee’s, which is where I treat myself to a new wool shawl every year (I collect them). The Donegal Castle ruin is right in the middle of town. The BlueBird Cafe is my favorite lunch spot. The Plowman’s Lunch is my meal of choice…and there’s an Internet cafe upstairs in case you’re jonesing for FB. And a killer music store upstairs next door. Also, the Catholic church has a great thrift store in town. Champ bought an Aran sweater (those usually start at about $150) for $3. He’s a sucker for thrift stores.
Either stay at the hotel on the Diamond or venture outside of town to a B&B…they’re everywhere. Literally. It’s really never a problem not to have a reservation. You can just stop and knock on the door to see if they have room, and if not, just go to the next one. The sole exception to that would be if the World Cup of Soccer happens to be happening in Dublin, in that case, you’ll have a hard time finding a room. I usually have a reservation for my first and last night there and the rest of time, we wing it. If you want to be fabulous, go to the Harvey’s Point Hotel on Lough Eske. If you want to be not so grand, go to the Atlantic Guest House. Head outside of town toward the Blue Stack Mountains and take the Blue Stack Way. The scenery is breathtaking. Ask a local to tell you where the Dew Drop Inn is in Lahinch. It’s full of Irish folks.
The entire county of Donegal is something to behold. Just this one county has over 400 miles of coastline, most of it wild and beautiful. The red cliffs up north are something else. The Caisleain Oir Hotel (formerly Teach Jack’s) has live music many nights and a very nice restaurant. Leo’s in Meenaleck is owned by the father of Enya and the members of Clannad and managed by the oldest Brennan son, and there is no telling who will drop in there to play music…you might see Bono having a pint and joining in.
Sligo is another favorite….Yeats’ grave, Benbulben, and the Voya Seaweed Baths in Strandhill, my favorite. The little cafe next door to the seaweed baths serves great food, and rising in the air close by is the grave of Queen Maeve. Sligo is a busy town so there’s plenty of options for hotels and B&Bs. I actually like the Clarion Hotel there–because it used to be the insane asylum! Beautiful old property that’s been modernized. The food in the restaurant is good, too. The Clarions are usually very nice. I’ve also stayed at the one in Limerick.
Connemara is simply one of the most breathtaking places in the world for scenery. The Renvyle Peninsula is remote and beautiful, and the Maol Reidh hotel is nice and clean without being ostentatious or expensive. If you want to be more grand, the Renvyle House is unsurpassed. Last year my room wasn’t ready when I arrived and they immediately upgraded me to a suite. After you’ve rested, take the road to Clifden, and then on to Westport. Both are beautiful towns with quaint shops and great restaurants. If you want to book a massage, or energy work, call my friend Michael Wallace. He lives just up the road from the Renvyle House and is available by appointment only for massage and Reiki. I met Michael on my second trip to Ireland and I try to see him every trip.
Achill Island is the biggest island off the coast of Ireland and the only one that has a bridge going to it. There are four or five substantial hotels and plenty of B&Bs. The International House of Prayer is a draw there. The Deserted Village at the base of Slievemore is not to be missed.
The Burren is on my list of “have to go there” every year. It is incredible. The Burren is a 75-mile long piece of limestone rock, basically, with over 200 varieties of wildflowers growing out of the rock. The Burren Perfumery is on my short list every year, not only for the essential oils but also for the organic tea house…and it’s in the absolute middle of nowhere so get a GPS or have a good map. Right beside the Burren is Lisdoonvarna, sight of the annual Irish Matchmaking Festival where single people go to meet up. The beaches are wild and rocky. The landscape is just surreal and wonderful. Plenty of B&Bs and hotels in the Burren.
Doolin is a hotbed of Irish music. O’Connor’s Pub, McDermott’s, and McGann’s all have live music. I can almost guarantee that after a shot or two of Bushmill’s or a couple of pints of Guinness, you’ll be up trying to do Riverdance. Oh, wait, maybe that’s me! Stay at the Seascape. Tell them I sent you. Right across the street from that is the Roadford House, with some of the most fabulous food you will ever eat, and I’m hard to impress. Take a left at the driveway of the Seascape and in just a couple of minutes you’ll see the ruins of a church, where you can pass an hour or two among the stones and Celtic crosses.
Just a few minutes away from Doolin are the Cliffs of Moher. It’s worth the money to take the boat ride. It leaves from the Doolin Pier. When you’re walking on the cliffs, there or elsewhere, do not get to close to the edge. Someone makes the big fall to the cold Atlantic every year because the soft ground gives way. And no, they don’t usually survive.
As you travel the countryside, you will see magnificent round towers and castle ruins, and most of them aren’t marked. Many are on private property; if there’s a fence, don’t violate that, but if there’s no fence, it’s usually okay to explore.
The Irish are very friendly people. I have never met one rude person there. If you’re in the pub most of them are glad to have a conversation.
That should get you started…I have a lot more to say about Ireland and places to recommend, so I’ll add to it as I have the time. In the meantime, you can see many pictures I’ve taken on past trips here:
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