Ah yes – here now; the waking world. Almost.

The last leg of our journey has been spent preparing us to [reluctantly] head home. It’s a heart-wrenching experience to leave the Wild West of Ireland – abandoning the warm hearth of Irish hospitality for the promise of cool plane air and faraway skies; leaving behind lush greenery that smells of fresh rain. Everything is a refrain of “next time I’ll” and “x was amazing; so was y” – a choir of wistful sighs and appreciations.

That being said, a venture into the city of Dublin can be a wonderful finale; the sweeping punctuation on a journey of fun. In a choose-your-own-adventure ending; the Wild Westies get to experience, well…whatever they’d like to experience in this fine city! You’re once again spoiled for choice as there’s so much to see, do, and feel. You might need to visit more than once; wink wink, nudge nudge.

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I for one was really interested in the botanical gardens and the enormous cemetery – which just so happen to run shoulder to shoulder with one another. When we arrived; a group of Wild Westies and I set out to learn some more – ever hungry for further information.

 

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The Glasnevin cemetery turned out to be completely fascinating. I actually used to be quite afraid of cemeteries – now I find them peaceful; and this was no exception. The towering monuments and enormous statues paid tribute to a rich Irish history – over 1 million people buried there! Some of them were Irish freedom fighters [such as Yeats’ own-but-not Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz and more]; old families who existed in Ireland for centuries, and actually anyone who wanted to be buried there. The cemetery is unique in that any religion or lack thereof can coexist in burial there. The cemetery is also so big [and still active] that gravediggers and groundskeepers use an alphanumeric system to keep track of it all. Not something I could do; certainly – for someone constantly misplacing their keys, you certainly couldn’t rely on me to tell you where anyone is buried. But these guys know it all; and seem to have a lot of their system memorized.

IMG_6975After exploring the enormous grounds, I snuck off to peek at the botanical gardens nearby – they are very open and fresh; well-taken care of places of careful design. Art, interwoven with the flowers, produces a sense of man and nature intertwining – and it’s wonderful to see that much greenery in the center of a city. I found plants I couldn’t pronounce the names of [but at least I could photograph them!]; and many I didn’t know even existed. It was a little like being home; then, I feel – memories of my mother and grandmother patiently explaining which flowers were which. I think I’ll have to take my mom there someday; actually.IMG_6982

IMG_6987After that it was the Wild Westies at a pub – a rather famous one. Kavanagh’s, better known as the Gravedigger’s, because it’s where all the gravediggers from Glasnevin would go for a pint after working. The pub is majorly the same as it was back in “the day” [re: est. 1833], with a beautiful interior of worn wood and glass; swinging doors and long bar. It has a restaurant side, too, one in which service and hospitality are just as they are in the Wild West: our hostess was kind and attentive as anything, and we were served “what was left” for the day – two soups, multiple sandwiches, and crostini to choose from. Not a bad fare, considering they said they were running low. Then again, if you’re not being fed in Ireland, someone [or multiple someones] will undoubtedly ask if you want anything to eat or drink. So “low” to them is still plenty to us; usually.

Home was also hinted at in that one server had a Nantucket sweatshirt on. I got very excited and asked if I could ask him a question, and he went, “oh, about Nantucket? It’s a little island just off the coast of Cape Cod. What was your question?” with the biggest, most knowing smile imaginable. I was laughing too hard to ask him anything else after that – which is just as well, because our food arrived.

We branched out a bit more post-munching – several Wild Westies went off to tour the Jameson factory; while others went up to Henry Street for some shopping, and still others went to see the Book of Kells. We even had some folks go to the Emigration Center to look up relatives. The various opportunities for exploration were astounding. I being who I am decided to explore some of the All Hallows Campus; roam around taking more pictures, and just enjoy being where I was. To live on Irish time with no expectations for a moment – to find peace even in the bustling neighborhood of Dublin’s downtown was a real treat.

A few of us gathered back together for dinner – Wild Westies Wyatt, Robin, Virginia and I had a splendid time at the Cat and Cage. Who knew you could find Tex Mex in Ireland? Really good, too, I might add!

And now I write to you with pictures to edit, tales to tell, and another journey to take. My heart is so full – I cannot fully express the gratitude and excitement I feel being here – having had this adventure on the Heart of the Wild West Tour; something so monumentally special that it will stay with me for the rest of my life.

In many ways, the door to Ireland is always open to us. There isn’t a place you’d go in the Ireland in particular that wouldn’t welcome you in as kin – all I can say is to truly experience what I’ve experienced; with your own unique twist, you simply must come.

Come to the Wild West of Ireland, and let its food, drink, music, and hospitality resound in you.

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Come away, O human child…

Until next time…Go n-éirí an bothar leat.*

                                                                                                                                        Sam Fishkind

                                                                                                                         Wild West Irish Tours

                                                                                    Social Media Manager & Scribe

[*may you/your journey be successful]

 

It’s almost time to go home – but I’m just not ready yet!

As a Wild Westie experiencing the varied and plentiful things to do on The Heart of the Wild West Tour; I can honestly say I’m spoiled for choice to pick a favorite event, person, or place. Every day seems to bring in more and more excitement; and the crescendo to the end is as bittersweet as it is enthralling.

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Today was indeed quite eventful – Tom; one of my fellow Wild Westies and I opted to give horseback riding a try. I was grateful to have a friend to ride with; to even have the option to ride if I wanted to, and to be able to experience an intrinsic part of my life again. I grew up riding, so by the end of the scenic route along the seashore; overlooking abbey and castle ruins alike, the horse (Todd) and I had an understanding. I understood he wasn’t a fan of water, and he understood I could steer him around it – we all have our preferences, right? It was smooth sailing by hoof and sand following – embracing the natural world and imagining myself an ancient Celt patrolling the Western Shore.

We had gorgeous weather for riding – breezy, but sunny, with the tide out and the blackberries intertwining with hawthorn to frame our path. Everything was fresh and green and the sea breeze smelled of pleasant salt and tossing waters. Our guide was an expert at keeping our mounts in line and showing us around the stunning area – sand, sea, and sky were a glorious backdrop that best represented a September in Ireland – leaves barely beginning to tint gold; everything still fresh and fragrant, and the harvest season on the horizon.

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It was an absolutely perfect morning.

You think it couldn’t get better than that – but it could! After a lovely lunch at a nearby craft and antique market, we set out to meet Eddie O’Gorman with anticipation to hear his tales of the Spanish Armada.

IMG_6789Eddie is quite the character – a pleasant older gentleman with a twinkle permanently caught in his eye and another great voice for storytelling; he immediately filled our world with history and depth we likely didn’t think possible. Never in a million years did I expect to learn, for example, that the Spanish Armada wreck in the West of Ireland was so thoroughly documented by Spanish sea captain Francisco de Cuellar – nor that a chieftain liked a shipwrecked Spaniard so much he tried to give the man his sister to keep him around forever. Nor did I foresee traveling the nearly-undiscovered trails of the Wild West of Ireland to the world’s least likely places – wherein monuments to ages past stand still; sundials and sentries in the streams of time itself.

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Narrated by Eddie [punctuated by gracious participation from various Wild Westies such as Margaret, Tom, Virginia, Ian and myself], we were spirited away to a time of mighty sea vessels, clashing swords, vicious Englishmen, and treasure. Or, as the Dropkick Murphys might put it, “mischief, gold, and piracy”. Eddie has a real knack for engaging his audience and no fact felt unnecessary that he shared today.

Our journey even had an interwoven interlude – a stop at iconic waterfalls in the midst of beautiful West Ireland mountains that was both potentially a stop on de Cuellar’s journey and a place Yeats sat to write his work. We recited some of his incredible poetry by the soft roar of the falls, the shaking leaves and rumbling waters wild making for a truly terrific ambiance.

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Eddie also took time out of his day to show us what’s up and coming for the Spanish Armada in his neck of the woods – a visitor’s center, of sorts, that’ll be open to the public hopefully soon! We got to hold replicas of items from the 1580’s and chat about the upcoming conference wherein people with interest in the Armada can come mingle and discuss its past, present, and future. It was a truly extraordinary experience [and I’ll be happy to tell you all about it in a later piece if you’d care to stick around]!

Just after Eddie, we were greeted by Martin Feeney at his residence, which houses Atlantic Sheepdogs – but it’s so much more than that. The warmth of Irish hospitality runs so strongly in Martin – he welcomed us in out of the brief shower of rain and had so much to share with us – he was in no rush, and his calm & courteous nature made everything feel…natural; homey. Like we were distant relatives who had come to look into his work.

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We learned about different types of sheep and what the markets were best regarding their product output and how Martin is trying to preserve the rarer sheep breeds [among other fascinating insight – I may just have to do a sheep & sheepdog focus piece as well!]. A fun fact/example is that wool actually isn’t the main reason for sheep-rearing anymore. Any guesses what would take wool’s place in the sheep-based market?

IMG_6899Meanwhile, Jack the border collie; a sleek black and white dog whose sole focus is always on the sheep and his master, was a splendid addition to Martin’s presentation – even the penned sheep got herded by Jack; who paced the length of the pens to ensure nobody stepped out of line. For a dog of nine years, he moved like the wind and had boundless energy. I hope to be that way when I hit 60 or so…

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Martin told us much about his family, the traditions of sheep farming, why sheep are marked – he was eager to answer any questions and earnestly showed us how Jack responded to commands. The facts we learned today were flooring. I being a fan of James Herriot grew up loving Only One Woof, but that was the extent of my border collie knowledge till now – and it’s worth nothing that Martin expressed deep gratitude for his dogs. “Couldn’t do this without them,” he noted – it’d be impossible to herd sheep down off the mountains where they’d graze, after all.  IMG_6907

All this info was juxtaposed against Jack and Martin (and nine bewildered sheep) presenting for us – the fluidity of herding is something that absolutely needs to be seen in person.

Our day then wound down pleasantly with a local presenter back at the B & B homestead – Regina Fahey, a wonderful teacher well-versed in Celtic traditions; legends, Gaelic, lore and more. She is as riveting as she is brilliant, and to listen to the natural flow of her many, many stories is to be a part of the living past – becoming the present, to take with you to the future.IMG_6916

Between talks of “cures” [which are just as they sound – folk cures for small ailments, such as licking lizard bellies; then licking people’s burns to heal them – you know, just the over-the-counter stuff you can get anywhere, right?], fey folk [fairies], and discussing just who the Celts were, Regina seamlessly stitched her life into legend. Pieces of her existence are so unbelievable they seem folklore themselves – but it leaves one with hair standing on end and eyes wide as saucers.

Regina is a perfect balance between action and lecture – she and her daughter gathered stones in a bucket from the river for us, and we were able to take them with us when she left. Dreaming stones; they’re called, and they’re meant to assist with worries or questions we might have & desire answers to. She spoke to us of the elements; the Celtic calendar, religious parallels – the broad spectrum of things she could talk about was perfectly tailored to our inquisitive group of Wild Westies at the B & B.

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Regina noted that she usually doesn’t plan anything out – she can chat about just about anything, but tends to read the room and ask others what they’re most interested in. As L.D.; one of my fellow Wild Westies pointed out, “that’s the best way to do it – that way there’s something for everybody.” The flexibility parallels Wild West Irish Tours’ own; in adapting to the wants & needs of visitors – but also echoes the form of Irish hospitality that welcomes in anyone, from their physical form to their many questions and conversation. No door is closed in a place like this, and I find that truly amazing.

Altogether, today was a beautiful rainbow array of things to do, see, and feel. It’s honestly almost global; a whole world worth exploring wrapped up in a small, heartfelt part of a magnificent country.

Though it’s almost back to reality; I will carry this dream with me back into the waking world – and I feel many of my Wild Westies would agree with me there.

Until next time, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Day five on a Wild Westie live blogging adventure – a day about town, and so much more.

The Wild West Irish Tours group set out to the nearby town of Sligo; settled in the heart of various mountains flowing to the coast in its county of the same name – Sligeach, “the shelly place” is its name in Gaelic. The town itself is a colorful; quaint little central point of interest for those who invest time and energy in Yeats country. And who wouldn’t? Between the attraction of a poetic nature, the town hosts a bright and bustling art and music scene, as well as a great many historical sites that make much more sense when you did what we did: get a local guide!

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Adrian was our guide for the beginning of the day – a young man local to the area who not only knew it well, but was full of incredible little facts that showed just how passionate he was about it. Places we would’ve normally passed without a second thought [or picture] were put into new light – we got to stand and experience the history of the village as it grew (and burned down, and grew, and burned down – an official burn down number of about seven, Adrian said) whilst observing the details of the area. IMG_6635A keen example is the hand that is etched onto the bank the Yeats statue stands in front of. It’s got an interesting legend tied to it – any guesses why a hand would be used here? I certainly wasn’t prepared for the story Adrian told – and it was a grand one, too. The point is though that one might wander by the bank, admire the statue, and move on without even noticing the hand or even wonder about its origin.

Adrian’s enthusiasm for the area really resonated with our walking tour – I learned so much in about two hours time that I’m still [pleasantly] processing it – anything from the town’s history with brewing to what stones came from where to build which buildings, to other famous figures that emerged influenced from the Wild West of Ireland – particularly, Sligo town.

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And you can’t visit the area without seeing a local craftsman of great renown – Michael Quirke is known and beloved, and we were fortunate enough to get some time with him today. An expert woodcarver, Michael brought out of beech the beauty of local myths and legends – happily lecturing on them as he whittled away; drawing life from within the wood. He’d also chat with his visitors; asking favorite animals, names, all sorts of things to uniquely design something off the cuff if inspired. If he wasn’t telling a myth or legend relating to whatever he was doing, he was sharing stories of his own life – how he’s been carving since the 1960’s, things he’s heard from his neighbors, or things relating to family names. And it’s worth noting he never slowed down or paused in what he was doing – no, Mr. Quirke kept up the pace in quick wit and quick hands alike, dazzling all who came to see him.

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Then it was a lovely day to ourselves out on the town – at free range, I swung into a café and had a nice soup, then strolled around looking for little things to bring home, a few small things for myself, but most of all, new experiences [and of course, photo opportunities]. There wasn’t a place I felt unwelcome and at every corner, something new and interesting would catch my eye. Musicians kept to the street corners and overhangs – I caught a fiddle and a guitar on my way around town, but I’m sure there were even more in different parts. I spent time in a shop chatting with a local artist who makes wonderful jewelry – and instead of just leaving it at that, she wanted to know what I was up to. When she heard I was into photography and art, she delightedly showed me upstairs to a gallery with an amazing exhibit! What I liked best about the whole experience is that Sligo is a constantly moving little town that teems with energy, but never feels overly busy or crowded. A really nice visit, with beautiful weather to enjoy it in, no less.

 

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It was history and nature after that – we stopped by a historical site of sobering importance that deserves its own moment in time and silent reflection. It felt rather like paying respect to the country’s history; acknowledging that the Ireland we know today was not the Ireland of yesterday – of occupation and destitution. There’s a real sense of thankfulness upon exiting this particular area – walking back out into nature on a hike Senan guided us on. Just up to a fairy circle in the sunshine; more grateful and humbler than before, I’d wager.

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It was not my only hike of the night, however – no, we got to experience something my good friend Geraldine had been suggesting the Wild Westies experience for a good while now: the Fairy Glen.IMG_6749

Another one of those “blink and you’ll miss it” sites; this particular glen takes a bit of a walk out to – along a narrow path through the woods whose trees twine and twist in the most impish of ways. Tunnels of emerald and lime spiral around whoever dares travel up to the glen, and golden light filters through the dense leaves above to shower the ground with sparkling rays.

Entering a perfectly-even chasm of stone cloaked in ivy; looking up at stacked ferns surrounding a fresh, open space of damp and cool twinkling in the fading afternoon sun was…unlike anything I had ever experienced before. It was the utterly peaceful moment of silence that comes before diving into a swimming pool meets the adrenaline of the start of a race…and yet, it was tranquil. There was nothing but the wind to breathe life into the limbs of trees and sunlight to shift the shadows on the ground. It’s easy to imagine being watched by elfin faces between the boughs – the burbling of streams is silvery laughter and the rustling of leaves is an ethereal being passing by on a wisp of mist. A surreal renaissance painting come to life – or rococo, considering…

g2There was a swing there, too – you might be familiar with Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s “The Swing” painting? The one with the girl in the fancy dress whose shoe is flying off as she swings back and forth? It was a bit like that, albeit I was less fancy, my shoe did not fly off, and I looked a bit less graceful, no doubt. But it felt incredible to simply sway and become a part of the swaying of the forest.

For Geraldine to go out of her way to take us somewhere she said we simply had to see (she was right, of course) is something I’ll always be grateful for. To simply sit, be, and chat when we felt like it was enough – the glen in all its glistening beauty was the perfect end to an extraordinary day of learning, feeling, thinking, and reflecting. Most of all, simply allowing oneself to be – in a busy day and age like ours, time to just exist is now considered a valuable luxury.

Also, I continue to be amazed by the way the entire country seems to open its arms and show people around – the towns local people love and take pride in, history lovingly preserved, and nature respected & accepted as a part of life worth knowing. Today was a day worth experiencing fully – and I am so very happy I did so as a Wild Westie.

Until next time, see you on the other side of the rainbow.

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Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Today’s adventure takes place in yesteryear, now, and the future – for what we experienced today will come with us tomorrow…in the best possible way!

The groups of Wild Westies set out today to visit the one and only Michael Roberts; a local anthropologist whose insight into the Wild West of Ireland is without end. We were fortunate enough to steal him away for the day to guide us around his areas of expertise – and he did so with enthusiasm; narrating our adventures with a voice of quiet passion & deep resonance.

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When it comes to making anthropological connections, Michael is the person to listen to – gathering with him around the sites of megalithic tombs in the area [an area he grew up in, knows well, and loves] was a mesmerizing experience. No one else in the world; I feel, could bring the dead back to life with the poignancy and courtesy Michael Roberts has. He has, as one Wild Westie put it, “a story for everything” – but it never feels like he’s even thinking about what he’s saying. He’s thoughtful, it just happens to be that his words flow like water, a delightful and refreshing stream of concise consciousness made myth, then made word.

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We got to walk around this incredible old-world site while Michael drew connections between Ireland’s ancient past with that of Egypt’s and Native American culture – things people might seldom connect came together with absolute clarity. He focused majorly on old Irish legends, however – there were so many Celtic myths in particular that explained the natural formations of the Irish countryside; such as how the “Mother” figure of Ireland presented itself in various forms; why there was a shadow on a nearby mountain, and the origin story of the megalithic site itself [a ‘hag’ happened to drop a bunch of stones in a fit of surprise, but that’s really a legend I leave up to Michael to tell – you’ve got to hear him speak at least once in your life].

Everyone was enraptured by Michael – hanging onto every word he had to say; from his wider anthropological take on the folklore in the area to his stories of boyhood. He spent his youth exploring everything this green corner of the world had to offer – his heart thrives here, and it shows in the way he encourages people to ask questions, embrace the region’s heritage, and earnestly shares whatever information he has [it’s a lot; for those keeping score] with anyone he feels might be interested.

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Michael is all about the human connection to the earth and to each other. After a lunch with further discussion [plus delicious food], he took us to a nearby holy well; one of beautiful statues, stations of the cross, and a magnificent rag tree. Water flowed throughout the site, filling the air with the music of movement that cascaded toward the sea. Rustling leaves and hushed voices were all that filled the glen of emerald and Kelly hues. Before entering, Michael told us about the spiritual properties of one aspect of the well with an interesting illumination: that sometimes just the act of doing something to counteract a predicament [an ailment; mental, physical, spiritual, etc.] could be enough to help it. It helps a person feel less stagnant, at any rate. Like a placebo, to place oneself in an area of healing with intention to help oneself is sometimes a kick-start toward recovery – just because you’re finally able to do something to help yourself.

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After that, it was off to one of Michael’s favorite places growing up – a magnificent forest sanctuary around the lough we’d traveled on earlier in the week. Apparently he used to swim the length of it – something mad like nine miles across. He and his friends also caught their own game and cooked it out there; climbed the mighty stone in the heart of the woods, and got up to all sorts of mischief. This, he said, was his playground in his youth. And one could see why, with plenty of places to run and so much to see. He told us to take time to soak it in, and it was a beautiful contemplative walk in the shimmering woods; hearing the lapping of the lake waters against the shore, scanning the silvery surface for signs of life, and breathing deeply the scent of earth and pine…

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It was a reminder for man to reconnect with nature.

We had to split from Michael then; my group of Wild Westies and I, for it was off to the sea for a seaweed bath at a local spa.

21740290_10155468475761885_1266647936976892748_n.jpg It was a bit surreal to go from the rambling woods and sloshing lough to the steam rooms and tiled floors of the spa – but it was also somehow so inadvertently right, to lay down and submerge in nature as caught by man, rising to hear the sound of the ocean just outside the window. To sit in quiet meditation again and allow nature to soak into one’s skin was appropriate with the themes of the day. A ritual, if nothing else, to center oneself and perform an act of healing.

It’s as important for one to be an individual as one is a part of a community, and vice-versa – talking with one another today and sharing the experience of reflective silence in the forest was a really harmonious balance. With Michael spinning his stories and weaving us in, the threads of the day came together with simple magnificence.

Community, conversation, connection, and celebrating a history of nature and man culminated in David entertaining us back at one of the B & Bs with wonderful music – on three separate instruments, no less. Irish traditionals centuries old filled the air on tin whistle, harp, and guitar – David was even kind enough to sing for us [quite nicely, I might add], and the whole experience of an admiring group of colleagues communicating on several levels felt so genuine. That belonging feeling returned; giving us a sense of ‘home’. Residual memory, perhaps, from ancestral times.

Altogether, today felt like something out of a dream – I was walking among ancient tombs, then a well that’s been visited for thousands of years, then treated myself to a wonderful spa followed by private music and more stories. I simply want to curl up with Michael Roberts’ book, and relive the stories I heard today – to keep the history of Ireland; her legends and lore, and all the nature I can carry with me alive in my heart.

Until next time folks, be well!

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours

Social Media Manager & Scribe

Day three of the Wild West Irish Tours live blogging adventure – and let me tell you, folks, today was one of the greats!

After another hearty breakfast lovingly prepared by Geraldine, I set out with my group; Senan at the helm, to discover what the day had in store…

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First and foremost to wake us up was a riverside walk to a pair of caves that served as areas of prayer during olden times. The remnants of a nearby abbey and mill wheel kept watch as the Wild Westies took in the sight of the rushing waters and fragrant greenery. Just a little bit down the way and ‘round the bend was one of Ireland’s famous holy wells, a place of quiet reflection and worship. A statue of St. Patrick stood guard nearby; overlooking an inlet the sea swept toward, five crosses in a circle indicating how and where one would pray if so inclined. The area resonated with peace, and the rag tree of people’s prayers danced on the breeze in an array of a hundred colors.

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After spending some time there (and, if you’re me, squirreling away blackberries up the path on the way back), we headed further North, just across the line that divides Ireland in two. But blink and you’ll miss it, because the scenery is so beautiful it distracts from the subtle difference between Ireland & Northern Ireland –a nearby mural hidden behind a convenience store I glimpsed on our way back that said “Welcome to Donegal” was all I had to go on to know we were headed South(ish) again.

We were part of a fascinating tour of a local craft and how it’s made – iconic decorative pieces originating in Ireland with definable parts meshed with informative (yet ever entertaining) speakers. We explored a factory wherein it became a living episode of How It’s Made – complete with demos, interactive activities, and more. I’m pleased to report our Wild Westies were the bold and brave ones to volunteer themselves at every opportunity to participate – helping to illustrate the detailed process which results in elaborate, individual creations still made by hand today:IMG_6245.JPG

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After that, it was a quick bite in a local pub that had excellent fare and quite the ambiance – an eclectic collection of local (stuffed) game; nick-knacks from eras past [someone spotted a disco ball hanging out in the rafters], and a beautiful mural of a black cat and fairies, which came with folklore we could glance at on the wall. According to legend, the pub was built where a black cat used to guard the river for the fey. You’ll have to come admire it for yourself, though – nobody tells a story quite like the locals, even in written form.

Then it was off on a rollicking adventure along the seaside – a castle in the distance with storied history loomed on the horizon; surveying the great crashing waves of the Wild West Atlantic Way; which tossed foam up to the heavens and dragged saltwater by the gallon back over aging stone. Senan was kind enough to make stops for us here and there [with wonderful info on the local areas provided] so we could look down at the waves, admire the rolling fields, and, if you’re me, set off on your own small adventure…IMG_6328.JPG

IMG_6301This is when things got absolutely magical, in my opinion – all of it’s grand, but every experience is uniquely tied to the individual on a Wild West Irish Tour. You can tinker and tailor it to fit you; and, in my case, I tinkered and tailored my way across the cliffs to a friendly face I saw longing for attention [or perhaps just fresh grasses] nearby. While others were looking at the ocean, examining stone walls, taking photos for Christmas cards [no joke – ask Wild Westies Tom and Margaret about their cute travel-themed cards], I was being nuzzled and nosed by a brand new friend.

We gathered around a local time capsule after that – a brilliant piece of artwork that’s meant for generations to come; set against the water. The details of it are gorgeous – each lovingly chosen and splendidly made.IMG_6335

Then came a walk in three parts – the first being a stroll through the woods under an iconic mountain; led along by another river that ushered us into the territory of mining and intrigue. Following this, we gathered in the heart of a beloved loop whose poignant, multifaceted history shines as bright as any emerald. The third took place on a windswept plane that bridged the gap between reality and fantasy; hugged on either side by mountains of geological and mythical magnificence.

 

It was very grounding as it was uplifting; really – to be immersed fully in the truly wild aspect of the Wild West of Ireland. There was laughing into the open face of the ocean and its breezes; running up hills for a better look at the lay of the land below, and taking time to wander by oneself, allowing the grandeur to truly sink in.

We have so much to discuss among one another when the day comes to a close – swapping stories about ourselves that relate to our surroundings, asking questions, and thoroughly engaging with one another really solidifies the impact of this particular experience. No matter who you are or where you’re coming from, you really do find a home here; sitting around a table at the end of the day with your fellow Wild Westies.

Home as of now just happens to be the incredible, unpredictable, ever awe-inspiring Wild West of Ireland.

See you tomorrow folks!

                Until next time,

                Sam Fishkind

                Wild West Irish Tours

                Social Media Manager & Scribe

Welcome to the daily updates of a Wild Westie on the Move!

Day one closes on a beautiful beginning to a Wild West Irish Tour.

What an experience it’s been – now that I’ve caught up on a little sleep and a lot of food, I can effectively [and drowsily] inform you of some of what’s transpired thus far.

First and foremost, it’s wonderful to feel as safe and surrounded by love as I do here in the Wild West of Ireland. From our drivers to Geraldine; one of our beloved B & B keepers, there’s not a moment wherein I am uneasy. Everyone is helpful as they are informative and warm. There’s not a meal that isn’t good – every bite; from full breakfasts to lunch paninis and dinner entrees (tonight I had chicken goujons – and chips!) is scrumptious. The air is fresh and smells of the wet earth and sea; and everything is without restraint – the world thrums with energy.

Secondly, our adventures today were but a taste of what’s in store for all of us on this particular grand adventure: emphasizing a particular point Wild West Irish Tours tends to focus on.

Expecting great things in simple places: breaking this down, the countryside itself in the Wild West of Ireland is teeming with stuff to do: not big bus tours; mind, but rather, finding local musicians who might be playing in a pub nearby, encountering poets in unexpected areas, or, in our case, being welcomed into the home of Kathleen Meehan, one of the most talented knitters I think I’ve ever met.

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Kathleen welcomed us into her home as if we were her own kin – tea was on, the stove was warm, and her rainbow of wares was laid out for the world to see. Crimsons, lavenders, cobalts, black wool and all were on display – some sweaters long enough to serve as dresses, others snug cardigans with perfect buttons all lined up in rows. I, having had the pleasure of greeting the wind with my baseball hat in a handshake that sent my cap flying [shout out to fellow Wild Westie Tom who retrieved my wayward hat], opted for one of Kathleen’s lovely hats – something she noted tended to go quick. I counted myself fortunate, especially when we hiked later: the cap I’d brought would’ve never kept my ears warm on the way up the mountains.

What struck me about the experience was that Kathleen was just so genuine – a woman of sharp mind, enormous talent, and big heart altogether made for feeling like family who happened to knit (albeit super-humanly well). She went out of her way for everyone, grabbing mirrors so her guests could see themselves; telling us about her trade, and even demonstrating how fast she knits at the behest of a few Wild Westies. In the heart of her cozy cottage by the sea, I felt as if I’d come home.

                It’s how I feel with Geraldine; actually, too [and did from the get-go the first time we met] – the ability to simply talk to people here is remarkable. Folks seem to want to talk; and are happy to chat about any old thing. For someone like me who communicates primarily through the written word, it’s definitely helped me come out of my shell – it’s good for the soul to have human connection no matter where you go. And important to remember in the age of digital communication and urban settlement. The country is much more open in oh, so many ways.

There’s a Gaelic saying that goes something along the lines of “,” or, “there’s no hearth like your own hearth”. I would disagree if only to amend and say that these hearths of the Wild West of Ireland do in fact feel like one’s own hearth. Rather than being a visitor; this immersive, heartfelt experience allows for one to fully embrace the sentiment of “home”. Between multiple cups of tea, laughter and conversations, it’s easy to settle in –

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Until of course, you find yourself at the top of a great height looking down into a cerulean sea; transported into another world of clashing swords on bobbing waves, the foam of which thunders against the craggy stones below. You can see the waterfalls rushing down the slick sides of great cliffs; the boom of the surf muffled only by the towering height you have between yourself and the water.

There’s the surreal addition of scaling ever higher, watching the whitecaps become white commas on the crests of the waves. The mists descend to meet you; foggy hands hauling you up slippery slopes towards the heavens. Everywhere is silver and light; and the wind nips at one’s heels to urge faster travel.

“Coming back down,” noted Virginia, another one of my Wild Westie companions, “was much faster.” She said this with the comedic timing of a trained acrobat as the mountain; with a truly Irish sense of humor, refused her foot a little on her next step (she’s perfectly fine and we laughed about it later, not to worry). The rain chased us on the way back, but that didn’t bother me – there was a little cart at the bottom of the winding road that was calling my name; and my insatiable curiosity (plus rumbly stomach) brought me to the window to ask for (not a hot chocolate as the man behind the counter sort of expected) honeycomb ice cream. It was the divine nectar of old and unnamed gods; that – enjoyed thoroughly as I hastened back to the car, refusing to be late for the next leg of the adventure.

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What’s beautiful about this next part is how people and land came together: in a cove by the sea sat a village frozen lovingly in time: preserved to its fullest, with cultural significance and historical fascination. Thatched roofs and beautiful accents of color made each little cottage unique – artifacts as old as the land itself; just about, existed within – along with everything that’d piled up in the decades to follow. A note from an Irishwoman found by Newfoundland sailors in one little house was the most recent thing I could find – a letter from a bottle from the sea back in 2004, retrieved and brought back whence it came. An endless cycle of communication exists even in houses silent save for their guests. There was also something so wholesome about how the founder of that village had striven to make something good there, and how his good lived on preserved in the land and what was built upon it.

 

On a similar subject, I must add that the minute we stepped out of the van, we saw a beautiful plaque of stonework depicting each county in Ireland (with stone from the respective counties!) – another exemplary balance of people and place. What’s taken from the land always seems to be given back in some way, shape, or form.

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The closing for today was a lovely visit back at the B & B from the even lovelier Laura Ganley of the Ganley Sisters– an enthusiastic, brilliant young lady who tells stories almost as fast (and concisely) as she dances. Between her incredible footwork and her practiced methods in movement, Laura is a free-spirited person who feels the music resonate through her very soul: someone who takes the Sean-Nós traditional dancing and gives it her own twist! She’s traveled to America with Wild West Irish Tours before – something she delights in, as dancing anywhere, she says, is her deepest passion. She’s constantly trying new things, allowing the artistry of dance to become a living language that bursts out of her so fiercely it scarcely seemed impossible to glimpse sparks beneath her heels. She was met with well-deserved thunderous applause and cheering all night long; her poise and pluck unrivaled – from reel to jig and barrel dance, she made everything seem effortless and lively.

Her presence sparked more conversations – she told us of her love of Wal-Mart when she was over in America, how her dad embarrasses her from time to time with his silly antics, and all of a sudden, it was back to Earth for all of us in the best possible way, I feel. The ethereal quality of landscape, music, dance, is grounded beautifully by the people of Ireland. These are people of the earth who live and breathe their world; especially those who live by the land and the trades they can perform. They embrace passion and meet life with zeal; with spirit. To merely sit and talk overlooking the mountains and ocean; to fully experience the moment with others, was literally great & simple. Leisure time, after all, has become quite the luxury.

Today was, in conclusion, as my friends and family back home put it, “just enough” for day one.

That being said, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!

                                                                                                Until then,

                                                                                                Sam Fishkind

                                                                                                Wild West Irish Tours

                                                                                                Social Media Manager & Scribe

 

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, perhaps you’d like to join us for another trip around the world…

Recently, a few folks have come forward to express how much Ireland reminds them of certain places close to home – how the craggy edges of the Wild West Atlantic Way emulate that of Cape Town; or how the thatched houses in the rolling emerald hills are a mirror’s image to those in Tennessee. Regardless of division of geographical areas, it’s sometimes nice to recall just how small the world can be – a pleasant echo of a home away from home exists especially in the Irish West.

On a personal level, Ireland is only my second venture out of my country of origin – and said venture echoed my earlier journey to Nova Scotia, whose varied terrain and monumental hills were paralleled by the Wild West of Ireland’s own. The miles of coastline were a constant companion in either realm – and moreover, it was comforting to know the same ocean spanned around either island as well as littoral Massachusetts, which is my actual home. Nova Scotia might’ve meant “New Scotland”; but people often link Ireland to Scotland regardless – they are, in my mind, sister regions.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

Globally, Ireland is linked to many different land-forms – comparisons could also be drawn to Iceland [albeit temperately; Ireland is just a bit warmer] or even to parts of Louisiana [shout-out to the bogs!]. Typically, places with a rugged, drastic coastline, deciduous zones, and mountains or hills make the comparison to Ireland very easy –

That being said, a place you might not have considered comparing to Ireland but is worth the note?

Brazil!

                Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz, an exceptional photographer from Brazil (or, more accurately, Brasil), says she felt at home when traveling with Wild West Irish Tours in Ireland.

“Arriving in Ireland feels like a welcome home. I am Brazilian. The Irish spirit is just as musical and happy [as in Brazil].” She adds that Brazilians are friendly and welcoming – just like the Irish. Claudia herself brought that spirit with her as she embraced the scenery and people – bringing to life the many colors and emotions in the Irish landscape.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz – featuring Claudia herself!

“I loved the historical, anthropological, musical [aspects] and the times we were free to experience nature,” says Claudia of her time with Wild West Irish Tours. “I keep coming back. Ireland soothes me. Going to Ireland felt like a calling, and once I heard it, I felt it will be eternal.”

Brazil, being more Southern than Ireland and on the opposite side of the world, wouldn’t be someone’s first choice in comparative geography [then again, is comparative geography on anyone’s mind, usually?]. That being said, you can find a camaraderie in the way certain Irish houses emulate the vibrant colors of some Brazilian homes. The lush green landscape and coastal drama of land and sea is a heartbeat that pulses in time to Ireland’s own, especially its Wild West.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

The Rainforest and places such as the Burren in Ireland, while two very different ecosystems, are home to a considerable amount of life forms [some you might not even expect]. Each are home to famous rivers – the Shannon and the Amazon, respectively. In fact, both areas are known for their plentiful rivers! There are even trees that look similar – the Irish “palm” [Cordyline Australis, an arbor visitor from New Zealand] and the Brazilian palm [what you’d expect to see on a beautiful sandy beach]. The Gulf Stream seems to connect them, as Claudia connects with Ireland herself: warmly and with boundless enthusiasm.

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

“I have been 6 times and I am looking forward to being there in September,” says Claudia. “Funny thing, the first place we went, I just laid in the ground like I belonged and had missed the land…the day before I was returning home, after 3 weeks in Ireland, I caught myself in tears. Somehow I heard a voice saying, it is ok now, you will always come back. As I have and will.”

Being connected in so many ways to each other in this world is an arguable blessing.

Ireland has, by itself, an individual brilliance about it that can make anyone feel at home – there is something for everyone here, be it the culture, the music, the people, the folklore, the history, or simply a little farm in a valley that feels like the heart of wherever you’re from –

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Photograph by Wild Westie Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz

So no matter where that is, you have a piece of home waiting for you in the Wild West of Ireland. It is a unique experience unto itself, and there is nowhere like it in the world exactly – just places within itself that feel like coming home.

                                                                                                                Until next time,

                                                                                                                Sam Fishkind

                                                                                                                Wild West Irish Tours

                                                                                                            Social Media Manager & Scribe

(All photographs in this post are taken by Claudia Pellegrini Queiroz, with our sincere gratitude!)

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening to you all!

We thought we might take a moment to delve a little deeper into our brand new tour…

The Wild West Atlantic Way Tour is an epic adventure encompassing all the best we have to offer – from Clare to Sligo, Leitrim, the newly-introduced Mayo and more, we plan to bring you the most exciting and unseen aspects of genuine Ireland. The Wild West is rife with lush countryside, friendly locals, and a few locales you might have seen in media such as Game of Thrones, Star Wars, and more –

But we are here to show you a fantastical world immersed in reality, rather than through a screen.

Engaging with famous landmarks and hidden treasures alike, the Wild West Atlantic Way Tour is bound to sweep you off your feet and spirit you away on a quest for the unknown – a journey through the Land of Heart’s Desire unlike any you’ll find elsewhere. Stay in homey B&Bs, walk trails guided by brilliant teachers, and seek fulfillment in the seldom and wonderful.

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We spoke with Wild West Irish Tours’ Trish O’Donnell-Jenkins for a more intimate look into the upcoming tour – which we plan to loop you into in August with exclusive footage, photos, blog posts, and more!

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Trish, bringing sunshine & rainbows where’er she goes!

“The Wild West Atlantic Way Tour is meant to incorporate all of the best places to visit, the best people, and the best scenery all of the tours we’ve been doing for the past several years,” Trish says.

“You can see a lot more of Ireland and what we do on our tours in one trip. This tour in particular is a good cross-section on all of our tours, and at the same time, you get the depth that we do traditionally.”

 

The details of the tour are given, for the most part, in our aforementioned announcement post – but Trish dropped a few new clues about potential locations.

 

“We drive along the Causeway Coast – the Northern Coastline of Ireland with just utterly beautiful castles…places such as Giant’s Causeway are on the map,” she said.

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Something you might see along the Wild West Atlantic Way…

“Mayo was included this year as a special tribute to Sandra Ganley,” Trish added. “And Michael has some cool stuff lined up with Mayo.” What cool stuff that might be remains to be seen – but again, we’ll reveal bits and bobs toward the end of the month…

Another great chance to preview the Wild West Atlantic Way is through our video, hosted by the incomparable Rose of Mayo winner & Rose of Tralee competitor Sandra Ganley – for whom the County Mayo was added!

 

Trish also had this to say about the latest and greatest:

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That being said, it’s also an excellent opportunity to sample what Wild West Irish Tours has to offer – to expand on future endeavors with specifications on, say, a Connemara jaunt or a sweeping Signature journey.

 Find your way, find yourself, and find adventure along the Wild West Atlantic Way – dare to be wild with us!

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Expect great things in simple places.

       Until next time,

                                                                                     Sam Fishkind

                                                                                    Wild West Irish Tours

                                                                                    Social Media Manager & Scribe

Hello all! Hope you’re enjoying your July thus far. I know it’s early, but it never hurts to start the month off strong & positive.

As an Irish-American company; Wild West Irish Tours has roots in different places – Virginia, Ireland, and the many areas of the world our adventurers come from to join us on our quests (just this year we had Canadian, UK, and Australian visitors!). In celebrating a legacy of independence and immigration this past 4th of July, we thought it might be nice to discuss what the journey means to those who go to Ireland not out of lineage or genealogy, but from the perspective of an “outsider” – though nobody is really an outsider if they’re traveling with us.

Many of our visitors have come to Ireland to experience the history; folklore, traditions, culture, and beauty of the region. There really is no place like Ireland; and no people like Eire’s own. And, as we have highlighted before, the friendliness and openness of the Irish are but a few of their many positive traits – no one ends up feeling left out, and the welcoming atmosphere is pleasantly continuous.

 

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Randy & David Kurjan

Often, our guests leave a distinct impression on us – David and Randy Kurjan; Wild Westies from the South Carolina area, are but a few. Not necessarily Irish themselves; they possess a deep love and enthusiasm for Ireland that propelled them to explore it with us! Randy was kind enough to answer a few of our probing questions about her experience – from how her husband David got to see where his favorite film, The Quiet Man, took place, to Randy’s personal feelings regarding the overall journey.

“David and I never felt like outsiders when we were in Ireland!” exclaims Randy. “It was, in an odd way, like coming home. The closest we have ever come to that feeling was when we went to Israel (we are Jewish).” Many have described visiting Ireland as a “homecoming” feeling – but it seems even those without personal ties to Ireland in the familial sense can find that feeling as well.

“Even though we are not even the tiniest bit Irish (though we are ‘wannabes’ in terms of ancestry),” Randy says, “it just felt right. We  were beautifully cared for by so many kind people, from Michael [Waugh], to our hosts at the B&Bs, to shopkeepers why took the time to chat, to the lovely person at the farm market stand who went home to get an alarm clock for one of our group who had forgotten theirs back in the States, couldn’t find one in a local store and wanted to get up in time for Church!”

When asked about what she enjoyed most about her trip, Randy found it difficult to pinpoint the best parts of her journey.

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Photograph by David Kurjan.

“It’s hard to decide my favorite aspects,” says Randy. “The beauty of the country, the warmth of the people, the great music, lyrical poetry and the fascinating history and culture… From start to finish, our experience was like a dream.” On why they wanted to go to Ireland, Randy states,

“We went to Ireland for several reasons. It was definitely a ‘bucket list’ item for my husband, David – one of his all time favorite movies is The Quiet Man, and he wanted to see Ireland, especially the locations shown in the movie.” She adds, “I’m a romantic, so for me, it was seeing the land that inspired the beautiful, lyrical poetry of Yeats and John O’Donohue. David is a photographer, by avocation, and wanted to capture the beauty of the Emerald Isle.”

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Photograph by David Kurjan

There was also a lot of pleasantries exchanged between the others on the tour: “We got to know our trip-mates,” Randy says. “We really bonded. Though we were all different, we just clicked. From then on, one experience was even better than the one before. The countryside was beautiful…just as we imagined! Green rolling hills; so many sheep and flowers. We also really loved all of our accommodations. Our hosts were so warm and hospitable – so many stories! Delicious food! Elderberry cordial one night in the parlor, scones and oatmeal for breakfast…I think I ate my weight in salmon and wonderful tea! We had so many adventures.”

 

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Photograph by David Kurjan.

Some of those adventures included learning “so much about Ireland-history, culture, geography and architecture”. “There were terrific guides and speakers to inform our experiences,” Randy remarks. “Our boat ride was exhilarating, the music got our feet tapping and the poetry touched our heart…The people we met along the way were so warm! I could go on and on…”

 

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Photograph by David Kurjan

And that’s what we always set out to do – whether you’re redheaded and freckly with lineage through one of Ireland’s many clans, or just a visitor who’s interested in migrating to a foreign world of fantastical stories and rolling countryside, there is a place for you with us at Wild West Irish Tours, and a place for you in Ireland besides.

 

  In conclusion: no, you don’t have to have any direct ties to Ireland to seek her out. It’s as simple as enjoying her films; her poetry, her people, and majesty. It’s the pilgrim soul; the desire to travel, and the enthusiasm to get you there.

                In regards to whether or not she’d go back, Randy was quick to say “absolutely – in a heartbeat.”

                           Follow your hearts to a homecoming in Ireland – all are welcome without question.

Until next time, be well!

-Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours Chief Scribe

                Good morning, good afternoon, good evening! Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, we invite you to take a break from your daily lives to stop and admire the Roses…

From when she was a wildflower in the rolling hills of Western Ireland, to her blossoming as the Mayo Rose; we at Wild West Irish Tours have enjoyed watching Sandra Ganley (and her sister Laura) grow. We are pleased to announce our sponsorship of Sandra’s journey to Tralee in the hopes she will take home the crown; as she quite possibly best exemplifies what it means to be the Rose of Tralee.

We are, as you might’ve guessed, huge supporters of Irish-Americanism, and thus we believe the Rose of Tralee competition [a staple in bringing people of Irish descent together across the world] is both traditional and an exceptional opportunity for young ladies looking to make a difference in a niche area: celebrating Irish heritage and promoting the cultural poise, elegance, and energy of Celtic upbringing – all things Sandra embodies tenfold.

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The gang’s all here – Sandra, Michael, Trish, and Laura!

It is our intention to endorse Sandra in her journey and help her accomplish her dreams. From when she was just a sprout (and our tours in but their second year), we had the privilege of watching Sandra and Laura perform their traditional dances to a house band at the Michael Coleman Center in Sligo. It was an absolute smash-hit with those on our tour – and us. We became friends with the family; best-described as the “dream family” of rural Ireland – from their friendliness to their simple greatness in their ability to forge connections with the community. Sandra has picked up on their teachings and has, in turn, given back to the community with charitable focus. She is also a dance instructor (with her own studio; Jiving Juniors!), primary school teacher, and a tremendous supporter of the Irish language.

 

Back to our connection: after performing for a few of our in-Ireland tour events, the Ganley sisters were asked to come to America by Wild West Irish Tours. They obliged; and flew in with their parents to fill our world with homage to Celtic tradition in the homiest of ways. Performances on the tour and conversations with the lively sisters sealed the deal: they became like family to us; as did their parents.

With this history between us in mind, we will be moving forward to ensure Sandra has all she needs in her successful future regarding the Rose of Tralee competition. We believe she has the gumption and the generous spirit to achieve whatever she sets her mind to – Sandra Ganley exudes beauty, inside and out, which is what this competition truly is about.

Sandra was kind enough to make time in her busy schedule to talk about her journey thus far!

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Sandra and Michael taking a stroll in the Wild West of Ireland

WWIT: When did you first realize you wanted to pursue the Rose competition(s)?

Sandra: I suppose growing up in Ireland; everyone watches it on television. Looking at these amazing women; every young girl loved it. There’s a picture of me when I was about eight; dressed as the Rose of Tralee. They dressed me up in a dress and made me a sash with Rose of Tralee on it. I was always aware of it. When I was 18/19; around here ,there’s a lot of local competitions. The same kind of layout as the Rose of Tralee, all the girls get up on stage and do their piece. Curry Castle, Coleman Queen. I was quite young – when I have my degree and am more established in the world, maybe I’d pursue it. Will I or won’t I? No, I will!

WWIT: How would you describe the experience so far?

Sandra: It’s been absolutely surreal. Mayo was a great day – there were 19 of us. I loved meeting all the girls. Since I was crowned [it’s been about two months] – it’s been crazy, it hasn’t hit me fully yet. It won’t till I get to Tralee, I think.

WWIT: Enjoying the journey so far?

Sandra: It’s brilliant – I get to visit so many places and do things I haven’t got to do before. Meeting the many Irish Roses is great. To actually be in the midst of it all is surreal and overwhelming (in a good way)! I get to visit the local primary schools; nursing homes to visit the older people…I’ve been supporting local charities – on a larger scale, I got to have afternoon tea in Ashford Castle with the Galway Rose. That was something special. I also get to visit other places in Mayo [quite a big county] that I haven’t visited before.

WWIT: Excellent! Also – you mentioned charity work?

Sandra: Yes! Two charities/organizations – the Celiac Society and Mayo Mental Health Association. I wouldn’t have been able to do that before. Both are important to me, as mental health support needs more awareness and I myself am Celiac.

WWIT: Who or what would you say has been your biggest inspiration so far?:

Sandra: Maria Walsh Rose of Tralee winner – three years ago; the Philadelphia Rose from Mayo. She did so much for Mayo – and she was the first Rose who came out as gay. She was not stereotypical – she had tattoos; short hair. She’s been an inspiration to ALL the Roses. She is likewise a great ambassador. I hope I get to meet her over the next year – I think she’s brilliant in what she does! It’s also been lovely to connect with all the Roses this year. For example; we have the first Hong Kong Rose this year – and we have a group chat to know everybody’s county; area, state, & so on. We still have to remember what county they represent in Ireland – the Sydney Rose, for example, is from Kerry. There’s 65 escorts to remember and 170 in total to recall.

WWIT: It’s a little bit like exams, isn’t it.

Sandra: [Laughing] Yes, I suppose it is, yes.

WWIT: That’s awesome. Here’s the big question: would you do if you won?

Sandra: That IS a big question, goodness. I suppose continuing on with everything I’ve done so far, in terms of charity work, but on a bigger scale would be my focus. Not just local areas, but visiting all over Ireland and Irish communities abroad. I’d try to visit as many as possible. As you know, I’m quite big into Irish music and dance, so getting to spread that in other places would be a part of it. As for prize money: I think I’d start by giving a few bob back to mom & dad.

WWIT: You’re so thoughtful! Our final question: how would you describe your relationship with WWIT?

Sandra: Well, it’s been…five-ish years now; from the day Michael (and Trish) saw us dancing in Sligo, he straight away was so supportive of us. He was up talking to us right after we performed. For the first year or two he’d come to all our shows with his tours. He used to bring us presents from America. Then he offered to bring us over and we were so honored. We’ve now been [to America] three times! The support and publicity/gigs they’ve brought us is amazing. We got to dance with Cherish the Ladies, which was also so surreal. They’ve been so good to us (on behalf of myself and Laura). We’re always happy to promote them back. We’re filming a new promo with Michael [now filmed; stay tuned]! We like to help them as much as they help us. It’s been a great relationship. It’s still just worked out perfectly. And I’m delighted they’ve offered to sponsor me. The money will go toward dresses and to travel down to Tralee, which is majorly helpful. And I’m absolutely delighted to be a Wild Westie.

WWIT: Thanks Sandra!

 Please follow Sandra’s journey to Tralee here to show your support!

We have just one more surprise in store for all of you [Sandra included; perhaps]! We at Wild West Irish Tours will be launching a BRAND NEW Wild West Atlantic Way Tour as part of our Rose of Tralee initiative in Sandra’s honor – look out, County Mayo, we’re coming your way!

Until next time,

– Sam Fishkind