A Travellerspoint blog

CHARLEVILLE, Co CORK

rain

After working for 1 day in a GP practice in Tipperary town, we spent the last 10 days in Charleville, with David working in a busy GP practice . On Sunday we took a chance with the weather and drove down to Killarney, hoping to explore the Ring of Kerry, but the rain came down so we drove around the Lakes of Killarney and had a pub lunch instead. Definitely a fascinating area to which we would like to return to explore further.

We were accommodated at Innisfree B & B on Limerick Road, Charleville by the GP, but on enquiring from Moira, the hostess, what her rate was, we were horrified to discover that she charged €40 for the partner as well [usually the partner sharing would pay about €25]. Sandi immediately got online while I went off to Tipperary for the evening Caredoc shift. On hotels.com she found the Charleville Hotel 0.5km down the road, who were advertising a winter-break special.
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We moved out in the morning and into 4 star luxury! A king-size bed, flat-screen TV, free internet, full gym and swimming pool and sauna, and superb breakfast with smoked salmon and croissants; all for €15/day less than we were being charged at the B&B. We felt like royalty, and relished the luxury especially as Sandi was still feeling poorly from the flu!

On David's afternoon off we visited the Donkey Sanctuary at Liscarroll near Mallow, as Sandi loves these quirky creatures.
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Over 2500 have been rescued from neglected or cruel situations and taken into care over the years and lovingly nutured back to health on a lovely farm. Single donkeys are paired up and remain so for life, as bonding is very strong. If possible the pairs are placed in approved foster homes.
IMG_7304.jpgA clever back-scratcher!

A clever back-scratcher!

Via a very circuitous route [we did not get lost!] we drove to Adare, promoted as Ireland's prettiest village, with quaint thatched cottages and castles.
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Work finished in Charleville and we reluctantly checked out of the hotel. On the way to Waterford, we stopped and strolled around the beautiful Doneraile Park among magnificent trees in all shapes and hues of green and burgundy [copper beeches and maples], lots of deer, nesting swans, rolling meadows, swathes of garlic scented white flowers and a network of rivers, streams and waterfalls.
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Posted by davidsandi 06:41 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

PEACE & BEAUTY IN DONEGAL

We arrived at The Arches Country House overlooking Loch Eske, near Donegal Town. We collapsed into the 2 easy chairs in the bay window, and contemplated the view before us: the sun was setting, stretching shadows across the peaceful loch, dark hills rising up on the other side,
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cows grazing in the meadows beyond the garden which is filled with neatly manicured Thuya trees.
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The room was divinely comfortable, just right for recuperating from the flu [which Sandi had now caught from me as well!]. We decided to chill for the whole day, rather than rush about sightseeing.

The next afternoon we took a drive along the coast of Donegal Bay, past Killybegs one of Ireland's busiest fishing ports, to see the highest sea cliffs in Europe, called Slieve League. The car struggled up the steep, narrow, winding road to Bunglass Point from where we had a spectacular view of the impressive cliffs streaked with shades of amber, red and ochre, rising up far above the sea below. We thought they were far more impressive than the Cliffs of Mohr, but probably less well known as they are far less accessible.
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Even at spectacular heights one feels the call of nature....
Culprit no.1!

Culprit no.1!

Culprit no.2!

Culprit no.2!


The windswept hilltops are home to a particularly tough variety of mountain sheep, who seem to be fearless of precipices!
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Troughs left by peat harvesting are scattered around the hills in the Gaeltacht area, which is heavily populated with traditional Irish speaking people.

The next day we had a long 7 hour drive down to Tipperary for David's next job. We stopped briefly to pay homage to Bundoran, where Jamie and Lis had lived, worked and surfed for several months a few years before. The sea was as flat as a pancake so not sure where the surf was supposed to be!
Bundoran Bay

Bundoran Bay

Surf break at Bundoran!

Surf break at Bundoran!

We followed the coastline of Lower Lough Erne [N. Ireland again] past Enniskillen and down through the Midlands, where David got a haircut next to a garage while we filled the car! Sandi says she can't afford a haircut in this part of the world, so she is threatening to wear a tea-cosy or to shave her head!

Posted by davidsandi 05:25 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

NORTHERN IRELAND

sunny

By cancelling some weekend duties, we had 5 days off to explore N Ireland. We headed up to Belfast and located Helga’s Lodge near Trinity University, which we had found on the internet. What a hellhole! It was grubby and tacky, and they wanted me to pay £60 before going to the room. I insisted on seeing the room first, and I refused the first room offered because there was no en suite bathroom [which we had booked]. The next room was like a box, with a “toilet and shower” inside a shoebox within. By now I was starting to get the flu with rigors and chills setting in, so we settled for a large room, cluttered with 3 beds and broken furniture, downstairs. The TV had a broken aerial, so did not work and Sandi spotted an open, discarded tampon flung up onto the pelmet!
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I was in no mood to argue any further and collapsed into bed for a night of fevers and chills. In the morning we felt obliged to consume parts of the stale, substandard continental breakfast offered, surrounded by 25 different types of kitsch in the breakfast room. We didn’t even risk the shower and fled Helga’s “Hellhole”.

We decided to drive around the scenic Ards peninsula, heading for Portaferry at the tip. We stopped for several hours at Mount Stewart, where they were having a “Doggy-day-out”. It was a beautiful day and everyone [except us] brought their dogs to compete, show off or just yap!
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We had a tour of the Manor House which was splendidly furnished with 19th century period furnishings, and is still occupied by the Londonderry family. An exquisite painting of the racehorse Hambletonian by George Stubbs is displayed on the staircase.
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The gardens, which were laid out in the 1920’s, are magnificent. We found topiaried hedges,
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Italian and Spanish gardens, dodo statues, fountains and pools,
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Imitations in stone!

Imitations in stone!

and loads of exquisite flowers,
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including a rare Trifolium in bloom. We had just seen it on TV the day before.
Trifolium

Trifolium


We were so inspired that we joined the UK National Trust on the spot.

We then traveled up to Bushmills on the northern coast, from where we visited the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery the next day. Irish whiskey is spelled with an “e”. The distillery has been distilling since 1490 and licensed since 1608, making it the oldest in Ireland. Unfortunately the distillery was on recess for the week, but we had an interesting tour and tasting at the end.
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The Giant’s Causeway was next, and just around the corner. It was again a sunny, calm day for us to explore the amazing multisided columns of basalt, which form a pathway leading into the sea.
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Legend has it that the causeway was built by the Irish giant Finn MacCool. He wanted to do battle with a rival giant in Scotland called Benandonner so he built a path of enormous stepping stones across to Scotland. As Benandonner approached across the sea, Finn fled in terror and got his wife to disguise him as a baby in a cradle. When Benandonner saw the size of the baby, he assumed the father must be gigantic and fled back to Scotland, ripping up the causeway behind him.
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The Causeway was really formed about 60 million years ago by molten basalt lava, which cooled very slowly forming cracks which extended down into column shapes. Later further shrinkage caused them to fracture horizontally forming concave and convex joints. The columns have 5, 6 or 7 sides mostly, but apparently one has only 3 sides. These geographic formations are truly spectacular!
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After briefly looking at Dunluce Castle
IMG_7275.jpgLooking down from Dunluce castle

Looking down from Dunluce castle

and Portstewart, a holiday seafront town, we bypassed Londonderry and drove into Co Donegal.

Posted by davidsandi 07:29 Archived in Northern Ireland Comments (0)

GYPSIES

The term "gypsy" is no longer very pc, so they are referred to as "travellers", "itinerants" or "nfa"s [no fixed abode]. They seem to be all over Ireland and spoken about in derogatory terms by the locals. They look Irish but distinguish themselves by their coarse behaviour and language. Comments abound about the women having bleached or dyed hair, wearing brassy jewellery and sloppy clothes. When they get married they apparently spare no expense, with everything OTT; dress, cake, reception, drinks etc.
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They reportedly avoid taxes and always seem to have lots of cash, and overuse and abuse state benefits where and when possible. A woman came to see me for treatment of her asthma, so I put her on the nebuliser. Because she carries a GMC medical card she does not pay for treatments. Her husband thought this looked cool, so asked if he could also go on it!

Although one may see settlements of mobile homes or caravans in places, we are told many travellers occupy state-benefit houses for a year or two before moving on, which are usually wrecked by the time they leave. The men drive rudimentary "pony-traps" , which look like a bent pole attached to the harness, at high speed along country roads, with the poor horse caked in sweat.
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Limerick City has been plagued with gangs and serious crime for 6 years now. Apparently it all started with a gypsy 15 year old girl being refused entry to a pub for being underage. She was offended and called in reinforcements to redress the issue. This resulted in the bouncer of the pub being beaten up and murdered. Since then the retaliation has continued to fuel the fires of violence in the city.

Posted by davidsandi 07:53 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

IRISH ROADS & COUNTRY-SIDE

Rollercoaster ride

Considering that the Irish have just come out of a boom period referred to as "The Celtic Tiger", many of the roads are in poor shape; full of bumps ands patches. Apart from the motorways most of the roads are narrow and winding. You can meet a large tractor around any corner, and with very little shoulder to veer off into, it is nervewracking to say the least! I am amazed that there are not more head-on collisions; apparently only 65 fatalities in 4 months, which is nothing compared to one Easter weekend in SA. The speed limit is a generous 100km/hr, which may not seem very fast, but I did not feel safe around those corners at even 70-80km/hr. The trees and hedges are so close to the road that it gives the impression of flying!
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Our GPS, which we named Molly, was a real boon most of the time, although she got very confused when we drove on a new motorway of which she had no record. She then gets quite agitated saying "recalculating, recalculating" as she tries to get back on track. She was a great help when the national road was blocked due to a fatal accident, and she took us along a detour of tiny country roads, still getting us to the surgery before the 0900 starting time!
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When we drove up to N Ireland the only way one can tell that one has crossed the border is by noting that the roadmarkings along the shoulder of the roads change from yellow [Republic] to white [UK]. There are no border posts or even "welcome" signs! Many Irish people go up into N Ireland to shop, because the pound/euro exchange rate is almost on a par at the moment, and there is a big difference in VAT [15% vs 22% in the Republic].

Everywhere the landscape is impossibly green; fields and pastures neatly packaged and divided by bright yellow gorse hedgerows or ubiquitous dry stone walls.
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We cannot imagine where the endless supply of stone comes from; is it dug up from under the pastures? We never saw any stone quarries. Even though no cement is used and the stone looks loose, they remain intact for centuries. Sheep and cows are everywhere; I wonder if they know how lucky they are to have such lush green grass to feed on all year round? 80% of the trees are weighed down with ivy growing up and around the trunks, as are many telephone poles [they look like trees with wires coming out the tops].
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Another spin-off from the Celtic Tiger years is that the countryside is punctuated with large solid, double story mansions, called dormers.
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They are opulent and apparently most of them built on credit. The saying goes that the Irish used to live in 2-roomed houses and had 12 children. Now they live in 12-roomed houses and have 2 kids!

Posted by davidsandi 07:50 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

ANCIENT TOMBS OF NEWGRANGE AND KNOWTH

The weather for the 4 days we spent in Clogherhead on the coast of the Irish Sea was cold, wet and dreary. We splashed about on the deserted beach in our gumboots, stomping in pools like naughty children. Wynsdale House, hosted by Loretta Derby [041-9889767] is a grand place to stay. The rooms are palatial, with brocade drapes over the bay windows, and enormous king size bed and flat screen TV. Access to the large kitchen was a boon, always a treat when staying in B&Bs.
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On David's afternoon off the weather cleared a little and we headed for the ancient monuments scattered over the Valley of the river Boyne. Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth are the largest of many passage graves in the area, known as the Cradle of Irish civilisation. Unfortunately the tour to Newgrange [the best known] was full, so we had no option but to visit Knowth. The tomb looks like a large upturned soup bowl, surrounded by 18 smaller ones.
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Around the perimeter are 36 kerbstones which have been decorated with geometric and spiral carved patterns.
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They look reminiscent of ancient Egypt, or is it Extra-terrestial influence? Since the 1960's the site has been completely excavated, deconstructed and reconstructed. It was used as a burial site by Neolithic rulers in 3000BC, but has been used by many different civilisations since, as evidenced by the many layers of artefacts found. On the morning of the summer solstice, the rising sun is supposed to shine down the narrow passage and directly into the tomb, as it does at the nearby, and more famous, tomb of Newgrange. Unfortunately this has never been demonstrated at Knowth, because a large Victorian house obscures the path of the sun at that time. The house was built before the tomb was discovered!
This is a very special site and one feels a powerful energy here.

On the way back we drove around Drogheda looking for a KFC to indulge a silly impulse, and came across this wonderful floral display on a traffic island!
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Posted by davidsandi 10:53 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

ROCKS AND CASTLES

Cashel, Limerick and Clonmel

David's next job was in Clonmel, so on the way down from Galway we stopped at the Rock of Cashel, a rocky stronghold rising dramatically out of the Tipperary plain.
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View out over the plain below

View out over the plain below

It was absolutely freezing up there, and we had to abandon the outdoor guided tour before the end, as we thought we would die! We did learn a lot about Irish history from the video presentation in a room which was lovely and warm.
From the 4th century it was the seat of the Kings of Munster. In 1101 they handed Cashel over to the Church, and it flourished as a religious centre until Cromwell massacred its occupants in 1647. It seems to be a recurring theme all over Ireland; there remains very little architecture from the Middle Ages, as Cromwell destroyed so much of it. Buildings are either very old and crumbling, or from the last 200 years.
St Patrick's cross

St Patrick's cross

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Carved wooden plaque in refectory

Carved wooden plaque in refectory

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In Clonmel we stayed in an apartment above Dr Quirke's surgery overlooking the main street. At 5am many mornings, we were amazed to see the street below filled with hundreds of scavenging crows. It was quite an eerie scene!
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On Sunday we drove through to the other side of Limerick to visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. This tall vertical castle was a stronghold of the O'Brien clan of kings and earls in the 16th and 17th centuries. Each corner tower is 6 stories high, accessed by narrow spiral stairways. The banquet halls and bedrooms are fully furnished in period style.
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Surrounding the castle is a reconstruction of a whole medieval village,
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complete with smouldering peat fires in the hearths,
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chickens and other farm animals, and vegetable gardens.
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There is a school house, doctor's surgery, fisherman's cottage, blacksmith's forge, pawnbroker, pub and drapery. Further out there is even a tiny church and a working corn mill.
The original fold-out bed!

The original fold-out bed!


Typical Irish stone wall

Typical Irish stone wall

Old farm implements

Old farm implements

The peasants were obviously much shorter people!

The peasants were obviously much shorter people!

On Good Friday we headed down beyond Cork to the pretty seaside village of Kinsale. By reputation it claims to be Ireland's centre of good food; unfortunately we chose to have lunch in the Armada Bar, the one place that served bad food! Kinsale has been a thriving port and centre of commerce and fishing for many centuries. It was known as the first port of call for ships sailing across from America.
View of Kinsale

View of Kinsale

Out towards the forts and the sea

Out towards the forts and the sea

Being such a strategic port, explains the presence of several castles and forts to protect it. Charles Fort, on a hill overlooking the bay, is a fine example of a star shaped fort with a magnificent view.
View of Kinsale from Charles Fort

View of Kinsale from Charles Fort

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There are a couple of locals who offer an excellent guided walking tour of Kinsale, for which we were unfortunately too late. Next time!

The rest of the Easter weekend David had to work at the afterhours Caredoc facility. On Easter Monday we had a long drive up to NE Ireland to work in the tiny village of Clogherhead on the Irish Sea.

Posted by davidsandi 07:50 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

In the sticks in Co GALWAY

After David completed his shift at Dungarvan CareDOC at 1600 we set off for Galway, a good 3.5 hour drive away. The practice of Mary Murphy is in a tiny village called Laurencetown, with the nearest town Ballinasloe about 15 minutes away. She has neither a secretary nor a nurse, so David was on his own and in the deep end. The first day we arrived at 1100 for the walk-in surgery session to find the waiting room already full. David had hardly taken his coat off when the patients streamed in one by one. Sandi was in the car outside reading and could not believe how the patients kept pouring in for several hours! David had no time to find his bearings, while answering the phone, seeing patients, writing scripts, dispensing medicines, finding files and reports, and then having to refile all the folders at the end. Many of the accents were so thick that he often had to guess what the patients were trying to tell him. Certs were to be delivered to the nearby shop for collection. Phew! it was hair-raising for him. Fortunately the rest of the surgery sessions were far more manageable, and were usually over by 1400. Being a farming community many patients arrived smelling of the farm or on their tractors.

Our accommodation was in a little apartment in a neighbouring village, Eyrecourt. The garden was full of a variety of daffodils, which we picked at night.
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We soon discovered to our dismay that we had no broadband reception! It was very distressing to be out of touch with the world, until the GP who worked below our apartment lent us his O2 broadband which did work. The beds were lumpy, the washing machine burnt our clothes, thumping noises in the roof [but Rentokill could not find any rats] which we eventually had to put down to crows of which there were thousands in the surrounding trees. The cacophony at sunset was unbelievable.
Trees full of crows' nests

Trees full of crows' nests

We tried to go for walks along the roads, but spent most of our energy avoiding passing cars by jumping into ditches. So much for quiet Irish country roads!

On our afternoon off we drove down through the Burren, which is a large expanse of wild, unremarkable Irish landscape. After several hours of narrow, twisting roads, David had spasm in his shoulders and Sandi had a crick in her neck. We were heading for the famous Cliffs of Moher, but about 30 minutes before we reached them the weather closed in and it poured down. In the face of a howling wind we parked the car, ran across to the view point, took some photos of the cliffs while getting soaked, then sought refuge in the Visitor's centre, where we could see shots of the cliffs in all their glory.
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On the weekend we checked into the Ramara hotel in Orangemore from where we could explore Galway City. We had hoped to visit the Aran Islands and also drive around the Connemara, but with the poor weather and icy conditions, we decided that we were better off staying in the city. Being a University city there was a great vibe in the centre of town with all the students horsing around, fundraising for Cystic Fibrosis. We parked in a multistorey car park for the day and ended up paying the biggest parking bill ever €25!!
High St Galway City

High St Galway City

We had a pub lunch in the King's Head, with a history going back to the thirteenth century. Legend has it that the building was given to the executioner of King Charles 1 in 1649 as a reward.
Kings Head Pub

Kings Head Pub

Later in the evening we came back to another pub to listen to some great Irish Traditional music, wonderful toe-tapping reels and great Guinness of course!

The Claddagh is an old fishing village situated outside the old city wall over the River Corrib. They were an outcast community, forbidden to use spade or hoe, and it is here that the Claddagh ring is supposed to have its origin. It shows two hands [friendship] holding a heart [love] which wears a crown [loyalty], and has been used here for 400 years as a wedding ring.
Claddagh ring

Claddagh ring


If one wears the heart towards the fingernail you are looking for love; if you wear the crown pointing towards the nail then you are in love or married.

On the next afternoon off we visited Birr Castle and Demesne [Demesne is an area of land set aside by the nobleman for the pleasure and enjoyment of everyone on the estate]. The castle is still inhabited by the 7th Earl of Rosse of the Parsons family, who have been in residence for 400 years.
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There is a remarkable display of significant scientific discoveries made by the family, including the turbine engine. In the grounds there is an enormous telescope which was the largest in the world for 70 years, constructed by the 3rd Earl in the 1840s.
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The estate is glorious at the moment; waterfalls, rivers flowing into lakes, lined with an array of spectacular and rare Magnolia trees in full bloom, and thousands of trees from around the world.
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At one point there is a meeting of 3 counties: Offaly, Galway and Clare where you can step into each one. We danced down a lane of pink cherry blossom trees in full flower.
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The formal walled garden is arranged with immaculately clipped patterned hedges and bowers. Surely this must be a wonderful place to revisit with each changing season?

In the Co Galway there are vast expanses of peat bogs, where peat is harvested and compressed into logs for fuel.
Typical peat bog

Typical peat bog

The Grand Canal stretches from Dublin through to Galway, and is still used as a waterway. There are many locks to traverse, one of which we saw at Shannonbridge, where the Canal meets the mighty Shannon River.
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Posted by davidsandi 12:04 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

THE IRISH MEDICAL SYSTEM

The Irish don't know how lucky they are; they are forever complaining! Even if it is beautiful clear day they will complain about the bad weather yesterday!
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The public health system provides enormous benefits to those over 70, children and pregnant mothers; if you are unemployed or have a low income you are also entitled to carry a Medical Card. This entitles you to free consultations with GPs and specialists, free hospitalisation, free home visits and free medicines. And Oh Boy do people abuse it! It is common practice to come into the afterhours Caredoc centres with a cold that has been there for a week, or to request a housecall for minor complaints. Those not eligible for a Card pay €40-50 for a GP consultation, or €60 for an afterhours consultation or homevisit. There is no fee for pathology blood tests, one just pays the GP or a consultation, and everyone seems to have everything tested every time! And the government moans about the fiscal deficit!
Massive country-wide protests by over 70s about threatened withdrawal of their medical cards

Massive country-wide protests by over 70s about threatened withdrawal of their medical cards

The good thing is that everybody goes through the GP for everything; they are true "Gatekeepers". They know their patients well, as they remain registered with one GP, and they cannot see a consultant without a referral. The disadvantages of the system are that there are long waits to see consultants, and for operations and many stories in the newspapers about ill patients lying on trolleys in A & E for days waiting for beds.

GPs all seem to be busy and receive a capitation fee of about €300 per card-carrying patient per year. The government has just reduced this fee by 8% in their emergency budget, so the GPs are not happy [but still very comfortable!] If one has 3000-6000 patients on your list that is a very good guaranteed income! In addition you get paid for every vaccine given, every smear tested, and you can claim an extra fee for certain procedures, home visits and afterhours consultations. Added to that is the private income which is all cash. Many private patients have their own insurance which will reimburse about half the consultation fee.

The Irish are plagued with chest complaints and very demanding for antibiotics. There seems to be very little awareness of healthy diet and lifestyle effects on health. I have come across very few mothers who breastfeed even at 6 weeks. Everyone is smoking even with asthma and COAD. Haemachromatosis seems to be a common genetic problem due to inbreeding, and bloodletting is common practice in the GP surgery. I am not sure why it seems as if every second patient, young and old, is on Warfarin. Pathology and morbidity is generally high, and I am sure much of it could be prevented with more rigorous attention to lifestyle. Although many villages and towns boast an acupuncturist, there is very little awareness of complementary or alternative medicine. The magazines back home in SA promote far more lifestyle awareness than I have seen here.

Posted by davidsandi 12:03 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

DUNGARVAN

GAELIC COUNTRY

We spent the weekend in a smart B&B called Seaview atop a hill overlooking Dungarvan and the sea, but unfortunately the fog had caught up with us again [the Sunday was nice and clear].
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View of the sea from Seaview

View of the sea from Seaview

As we had a couple of hours before 1200 when I was on duty, we drove to the little coastal village of Ardmore. There is a well preserved Roundtower [of which there are many scattered around Ireland], which the monks built to retreat into, when faced with an enemy onslaught. There is a doorway about 4m above the ground, by which they enter having climbed up a ladder. After pulling up the ladder they are safe, as there are no other openings except right at the top for a lookout.
IMG_7108.jpgRound tower with Ardmore in the background

Round tower with Ardmore in the background

We found ourselves right in the middle of a traditional Gaelic community where they still speak Irish and the signs are only in Irish. There is a lot of Irish/Gaelic being spoken and promoted on TV and radio, but we have yet to hear it spoken in the streets.
airdmhor

airdmhor

Posted by davidsandi 11:50 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

THE GARDEN COUNTY

Co WICKLOW

On Thursday we felt like we were on holiday as we headed once more to Co Wicklow for 2 days. On the way we stopped at the picturesque village of Avoca, better known for being the location of the TV series Ballykissangel. We bought some fish and chips and lunched overlooking the river.
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Sandi had found a B&B called Moneylands on a farm outside Arklow. There would have been a wonderful view over the Irish Sea if it were not for the thick fog. They even boasted a leisure centre with a swimming pool.
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We headed up into the hills towards Aghavannagh, so that we could walk on part of the Wicklow Way. It is a 126km path from north to south over the Wicklow mountains. On the way we passed a garden full of heather.
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We had an impromptu picnic next to a river, feasting on roast chicken and canned Guiness.
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The terrain is far more natural and less cultivated than the rest of Ireland.
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As we drove along a very narrow lane with tall hedgerows on either side, we were shocked to have a deer come sailing over the hedge, nearly landing on our bonnet! Before we could recover, her young mate came flying over as well. Terrified they leapt into the field and were gone [not sure who got the bigger fright!]

While enjoying nature we received a call requesting me to work in Waterford on the Friday evening, so we drove down to Waterford the next day. We stopped in at the Waterford Crystal factory, but all the workers were staging a sit-in, protesting the imminent closure of the factory. They took shifts keeping the furnace burning, because if it was allowed to go out, it would cost 6 million euros and take 3 months to start it up again. This would almost certainly put off any potential buyers, and it was in the workers' interest to attract a buyer so that they retain their jobs.

Posted by davidsandi 11:22 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

ST PATRICK'S DAY

17th March in DUBLIN

sunny

Paddy's Day brings a sense of great excitement and anticipation for days before. Chains of shiny Shamrocks get strung up in shops and Nursing Homes, and corsages of real shamrocks are sold for 3 euros. The villages string bunting across the High streets and many houses fly the national flag.

As we heard that the procession in Naas was likely to consist of a couple of farm tractors, we headed off to Dublin for the day. We parked the car at Red Cow Roundabout and took the Luas into town.
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First stop was the Guinness Storehouse, which has a fascinating display of the history and brewing of Guinness [one of our favourite drinks!].
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Did you know that 8 million litres of mountain water is piped in daily from the Wicklow mountains to make the daily brew?
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They have cleverly combined video graphics with original equipment to give a good sense of how they operated. Up and up the seven stories until you reach the bar at the top with panoramic views of Dublin [not that there is much to see!] with a pint of the creamy black stuff in your hand.
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Then out onto the streets again to join the throng of lemmings heading for the centre of town. The streets are closed to traffic and hawkers sell leprechaun hats with orange beards, jester hats and almost anything green to wear. Everyone enters the spirit of the holiday and most wore a hat or shamrock bunny ears or a green coat or green hair or painted faces.
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It was a crisp but clear day and 60 000 people crammed the route of the parade. After a long wait the parade eventually arrived and lasted over an hour. Many, many bands, lots of fantastical costumes, some big floats, but NO leprechauns to our dismay!
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Unfortunately David could not join in the spirit totally as he had to work at Caredoc that evening! Nevertheless, it was a great day and a wonderful vibe.

Posted by davidsandi 10:58 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

NAAS [pron Naice] and SCOTLAND

The weekend CareDOC shifts were in Clonmel, where we'll be going to for a week in a few weeks time. This week David worked in a very pleasant GP practice in Naas, Co Kildare, about 20 minutes away from Dublin.
Canal through Naas

Canal through Naas

Sandi flew off to Scotland for 3 days to visit her old friend Bernie Rowen for 45 euros [cheaper than staying here!]. Edinburgh is a city full of beautiful architecture and flowers, and the weather was crisp and clear.
Sandi in Edinburgh

Sandi in Edinburgh

Springtime crocusses and daffodils

Springtime crocusses and daffodils

Crocusses

Crocusses

Scott's monument

Scott's monument

Prince's Street buildings

Prince's Street buildings

Sandi really enjoyed the time with Bernie, who spent quite a bit of time working on our astrology charts.
Bernie

Bernie

On his afternoon off, with Sandi in Scotland, David walked around Donadea forest park to stretch his legs, as the weather was fairly pleasant, and there was not much else to do in the area.

The B&B called Avondale that we stayed in for the week was comfortable, but the really good feature was that there is a kitchenette in the TV lounge where you can warm up take aways etc; a real treat when one stays in B&Bs! Email Ronnie and John at kinanev@indigo.ie .

As David was not working on the Sunday, everyone recommended that we drive down to Co Wicklow and visit Glendalough. A very pleasant drive around Blessington Lake took us up through the Wicklow Gap. It is supposed to be a pass over the mountains, but they know nothing of mountains in Ireland! Glendalough turned out to be a walk around two lakes in a scenic valley with hundreds of tourists. Many people seemed to feel the need to wear sturdy hiking boots and walk with ski-poles, even though the paths were pretty flat!
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The drive back took us to Roundwood [the highest village in Ireland] where we had a good pub lunch next to the fireplace, and then back over the Sally Gap. Both Gaps take one through rather barren and rocky scrubland, which seems to be a favourite area with the locals for a good walk.
Wicklow Gap

Wicklow Gap

Posted by davidsandi 14:37 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

GP WORK IN CALLAN AND THURLES

Heading South from Dublin we arrived after dark in a little village called Callan, Co Kilkenny, where David had one day's work. Then back up to Dublin for the Saturday to try to sort out the laptop and to see the BODIES exhibition. The exhibit was underwhelming and expensive.

On Sunday David worked in Carlow for the after hours service called CareDOC [doctors on call].
Sunset outside Carlow

Sunset outside Carlow

The next week we were in a town in Co Tipperary [remember the song "Its a long, long way to Tipperary"?] called Thurles [pron turr-les]. The GP allowed us to stay in his home for the week, which gave us a lot more freedom than we had in the B&B.
Catholic Church in Thurles main street

Catholic Church in Thurles main street

Fortified tower

Fortified tower

Several Gypsey groups in the area live in groups of scruffy caravans. Many ride at top speed down narrow country lanes on a horse-drawn buggies that look like bent poles.
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Weekend CareDOC shifts were in the coastal town of Wexford 2 hours away. On the Sunday morning, which was icy but clear, we went for a crisp walk in the grounds of Johnstown Castle.
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Feeling frozen!

Feeling frozen!


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We found a Monkey Puzzle tree and some peacocks,
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and many magnificent trees in the grounds.
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David's shift in Wexford only ended at midnight and he had to be back in Callan by 0900 which was 2 hours away!

The week in Callan was in the busiest GP practice in the SE. Ena Heron our hostess is a delight and shared many insights about Irish life, and taught Sandi where to find all the best bargains. Sandi went to the market with her to collect more ducks and chickens for her farm, to join the sheep and donkeys. Sandi volunteered to amuse Ena's grandson with playdough.
Ena's grandson Jamie

Ena's grandson Jamie

One evening we set off for Delaney's Pub at Slate Quarry on a deserted country road, arriving at 2055. There was no sign of life and we thought that maybe the renowned Thursday music night was not on that night. At 2100 the door of this very old pub creaked open and the lights went on. People started arriving and by 2230 there was a merry crowd.
Ena, Sandi and Ena's friend Louis

Ena, Sandi and Ena's friend Louis

The old 80 something man squeezed the accordion with such gnarled fingers, yet the toe-tapping Irish jigs just flowed out. He was accompanied by another old geezer on the fiddle and the barman was brilliant on the piano, occasionally remembering to serve at the bar.
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Then suddenly voice broke out from the small crowd, and we were entertained with a succession of soloists singing ballads from yesteryear!
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We felt very priviledged to have been part of such a special night, and reluctantly left well after midnight.

After the mild weather for 2 weeks we were thrilled to see snow falling on 2 days during the week.
Snow on the back lawn

Snow on the back lawn

Posted by davidsandi 14:02 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

IRISH QUIRKS & ODDITIES

We are loving being in Ireland and getting used to the idiosyncracies of the Irish people. One of the first things we noticed is that many, many women wear thick yellow-brown foundation on their faces [artificial tan?]. The spoken word gives us much amusement too: "th" at the beginning of a word is prononced "t" eg. three sounds like tree, thatched sounds like tatched, Thursday is Tursday. Some of the Irish pronounciations still puzzle me: Aoeife = girls name pronounced Eefa, another girl's name is Caoimhe [pron Kweeva], Niamh pron Neev, Dun Loghaire pronounced Dun Leary, Roisin sounds like Roshin. I came across a Dr Aisling Ni Shuilleabhain [Ashling Ni Sullivaan, Irish for O'Sullivan]. Some quaint village names: Kill, Two Mile Borris, Nine Mile House.
"Now" is used for everything such as OK, well then, come here, stop it, etc. We haven't yet heard Irish [or Gaelic] spoken in the streets but they push it quite a lot on TV and all the streets and towns have their Gaelic names above the English ones. The Prime Minister is always referred to by his Irish title Taoiseach pronounced Teesherk. The police are called the Garda [or sometimes the Guards]. An Irish breakfast consists of egg, bacon, pork sausages, tomato, potato fritter, black pudding and white pudding. No-one has yet been able to tell me the difference between black and white pudding, other than that they are both made from blood!

Posted by davidsandi 13:28 Archived in Ireland Comments (0)

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