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]

 

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 up to, perhaps you could take a moment on this August Thursday and enjoy an international form of communication: music!

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Photograph by Wild Westie Darcy Banks (with our gratitude)!

Music has, for centuries, been a means of speaking to one another – be it a romantic love song between the wooer and the wooed, a tune to pick up one’s spirits during the war & bolster morale, or simply something to dance to and connect with others on the dancefloor. In the Land of Heart’s Desire, music is all of the above – and more.

Besides the numerous festivals Ireland has dedicated to music, its prevalence exists throughout hundreds of small venues – places such as pubs, the streets, and other unexpected realms possess a pounding energy that comes only from the sound of Irish music. Be it fiddle or flute, the delightful accordion (or even the notable tin whistle); the Wild West of Ireland is full of song. Music spills out over the cobblestones and hills to ensnare travelers in a comforting sonic blanket – encouraging them to stay and listen to what Ireland has to say in a different kind of way.

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The incomparable Cathy Jordan of the band Dervish!

On a Wild West Irish Tours adventure, finding melodies isn’t hard – following one’s feet to our secret venues and meeting who we meet almost always ensures a musical experience unlike any other.

We have had the pleasure of experiencing the resounding musical presence of a one talented Cathy Jordan of the acclaimed band Dervish, whom you might remember narrating our beautiful video encapsulating the Wild West of Ireland.

You might also recall the incredible Mirella Murray of the Cherish the Ladies and singer-songwriter Don Stiffe; who is arguably one of the finest Irish voices out there today.

Music is an intrinsic part of our journey – even during travel, we find ourselves tuning in to some truly quality playlists provided by Michael and Trish; who are, of course, connoisseurs of all things Irish (and therefore tend to pick amazing songs/artists). The harmonies of Ireland add another layer of life to a country that teems with passion and artistic exploration. We are more than happy to bring you performances of Irish song and dance – or, more aptly, bring you to the performances!

Of course, we can’t mention all this musical entertainment without bringing up our beloved Ganley Sisters – Sandra (Mayo Rose winner & Tralee Rose candidate) and Laura are another fantastic example of Celtic talent! While not musicians in the basic sense, they are communicators with every tap of their feet – a rhythm which is offset by reels and rallying notes; all of which comes together in a symphony of sharp claps and timely maneuvers.

No matter where we go in the Wild West of Ireland, we intend to take you only to the best places of Celtic song & dance. All we ask you to take with you is a willingness to tap your feet, clap your hands, and sing along if you so desire. In the Land of Heart’s Desire, the pulse can be found in the power of music.

  Until next time,

                                                                                                                Sam Fishkind

                                               Wild West Irish Tours

 Social Media Manager & Scribe

Hello all!

With less than three weeks till the Rose of Tralee International Festival comes to fruition, we thought we might take a moment to recognize the competition our dear Rose of Mayo; Sandra Ganley, has entered into.

For those who don’t know, here’s a brief background on the Rose of Tralee competition in the words of the Festival itself:

The Rose of Tralee International Festival is one of Ireland’s largest and longest running festivals, celebrating 58 years in 2017. The heart of the festival is the selection of the Rose of Tralee which brings young women of Irish descent from around the world to County Kerry, Ireland for a global celebration of Irish culture. The festival also includes street entertainment, carnival, live concerts, theatre, circus, markets, funfair, fireworks and Rose Parades.

Dozens of young women have come forward to compete again this year – you might recall from our previous mentions of Sandra that she has befriended fellow Roses from around the world! It might be difficult to choose a favorite, but it’s easy to be reminded why we chose ours…

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From left to right: Laura Ganley, Trish, Michael, and Sandra Ganley!

While each young lady is exemplary when it comes to Irish tradition and heritage, we truly feel in sponsoring Sandra Ganley, we’ve made the right choice. Between dance and languages, Sandra promotes a great deal of the Celtic spirit.

She and her sister Laura are, as aforementioned, well-known for their beautiful dancing! And Sandra, in speaking being the Irish Language Officer at Kilmovee Comhaltas, encourages the continued tradition of Irish Gaelic – you can actually hear her speak it in our most recent release for the upcoming Wild West Atlantic Way tour (which she helped inspire via County Mayo)! Sandra was kind enough to host this video for us, and we want nothing more than to see her succeed.

In sponsoring Sandra, we also believe in choosing someone who best embodies compassion, enthusiasm, and heart. She has inspired us beyond belief, and it has been a privilege to see her grow as an individual to pursue her dreams. You can take a moment to read her bio on the Rose of Tralee website here, if you like – it describes her better than perhaps we ever could.

Please show your support for Sandra by following her Facebook page and spreading the word! We’d love for everyone on Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere to cheer Sandra on!

Stay tuned for the festivities of the Rose of Tralee in a mere 20 days!

Until next time,

Sam Fishkind

Wild West Irish Tours Scribe

Ken and Antonette Kaufman came on a Wild West Irish Tours special “Emigrant Trail Ancestry Tour” to find his family roots. Here is his story:

“As long as I can remember, I have had a desire to know more about my Irish ancestral origins. When I was considering visiting Ireland for the first time, I knew I wanted to see the area of my great-grandfather, John Gallagher, an ancestor whose origins I learned about from a letter my grandmother received in the 1960s. However, I was afraid this goal was unrealistic for one who never navigated the country lanes of Western Ireland. Much to my delight, I discovered that Wild West Irish Tours was offering an emigration themed tour in County Sligo, the home county of my Gallagher/Mullarkey line.”

Read the full article on thewildgeese.irish.

The Irish Embassy in Washington D.C. praises Wild West Irish Tours

“on the work they do in bringing people from both sides of the Atlantic in a fun way…”

Wild West Irish Tours was delighted to celebrate the launch of our new Ireland Music & Dance Festival Tour, with the help of the Irish Embassy and Irish singer, Mai Hernon.

At a recent launch of the launch of the Fleadh na hEireann in Fairfax Virginia, Claire Fitzgibbon, the Cultural Attache of the Irish Embassy, stated the following:

“The Embassy is delighted to be associated with Wild West Irish Tours’ launch of the 2014 tour season and the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, which this year is taking place in Sligo. The Fleadh is a major event in the Irish cultural calendar, and one which brings people from all over the world together through their shared love of traditional Irish music. We applaud Wild West Irish Tours on the work they do in bringing people from both sides of the Atlantic together in a fun way, further cementing the bonds of friendship between our two great nations.”

Read the complete article on Sligo Today.

In America, it was turned into a business. Now, it’s benefiting the local economy, bringing bus loads of tourists into Sligo and the north west. Its origins go back to March 2007. That’s when American Michael Regan-Waugh brought his partner Trish O’Donnell Jenkins to Sligo for a holiday.

Four years later, on March 17th, 2011, they left their jobs, sold their house in the U.S. and started Wild West Irish Tours.

Read the whole newspaper article on The Sligo Champion Digital Edition.