Photo by Jeremy Saum
My wife and son and I took a road trip through the southern half of Ireland last summer. (And first of all, when is the United States going to embrace the roundabout? So much more fun than a four-way stop.) We like sheep. We like castles. We like bogs. We like nice innkeepers who rub a child’s head and say “You’re a good boy, so ya are.” We also like to learn things. Like this:
You could totally be a shepherd. Or at least I could. We stopped at Caherconnell, where you can walk around the remains of a thousand-year-old stone fort. You can also watch a sheepdog demonstration. And, if you’re trying to impress your son, you can volunteer when the guy who walked straight out of “Babe” asks if anyone wants to try to command the dogs. The guy said most civilians can’t get the dogs to turn right. Speaking in an odd, almost, sort of, Irish accent, I almost, sort of made the dog turn right. Like I said, I’m ready to be a shepherd.
There may be a robotic dolphin loose in Dingle harbor: I had one of the oddest wildlife-watching experiences of my life in Dingle. All along the harbor you can book boat trips to go see Fungie the Dolphin. The boat companies guarantee that you see him, and they depart every half hour or so. I was suspicious. Usually when you’re watching wildlife, you get all kinds of disclaimers about how no sightings are guaranteed. So we go out in the boat, and sure enough, after about 15 minutes, there’s Fungie. And, again, unlike most wildlife experiences, instead of keeping our distance and watching through binoculars, we zoom right over to him. And then three more boats do, too! And instead of taking off for the open ocean, which is what I would do if I were Fungie, he starts swimming alongside the boats. Like, inches away from the hull. It’s amazing to see him that close, to see the texture of his skin, the power of his tail. And he swims along with us for a half hour or so. He disappears for a minute or so, and then surfaces and we all go chasing him again. It was bizarre and raised all kinds of questions. Why doesn’t he leave? Who am I to question Fungie’s motivations? And what’s going to happen to the Dingle economy when Fungie dies? The dude’s been doing this since 1984!
Arrive at tourist sites at the end of the day: This goes against my usual Robotourist ways. My wife and I usually try to get places early, before the tour buses arrive. But the way our route worked out—and having a kid—we wound up arriving at places like Blarney Castle and the Rock of Cashel around 4 in the afternoon. We practically had the places to ourselves. Apparently you often have to stand in line in a cramped stairway to wait to kiss the Blarney Stone. Not us. We just walked right up. Plus, the light was gorgeous. At the Rock of Cashel, not only were we the only ones there, the guy gave us a discount because we weren’t going to be there very long. But we still had more than enough time to wander around, take lots of pictures, and then take the same pictures again when the skies cleared.
This is the best way to get a 7-year-old interested in a cathedral: Go to St. Patrick’s when they’re holding an organ concert and the theme from “Star Wars” is on the program. That was how we celebrated the Fourth of July.
The Vikings used moss as toilet paper. I learned that at Dublinia, in a display that also featured audible flatulence.