Top Five Overrated Irish Experiences:
1) The Blarney Stone:
Much like our Statue of Liberty or Grand Canyon, the Blarney Stone is one of those things you just do when you visit Ireland. It’s one of their main tourist draws, and while I’m glad I kissed it, it was by far the most overrated thing I did on the Emerald Isle.
The Blarney Castle is impressive, and has an interesting story behind it, but that story is only partially told. What could have been a really interesting exhibit on medieval times (dungeons, defense of castles) seemed whitewashed in a Disney sort of way.
The castle was also excessively crowded and the passages very, very small. I’m not claustrophobic, had I been I don’t think I would have fared well.
Once you get to the top where the fabled stone is, you basically are rushed through a line, and if you want a picture kissing the stone, have to pay.
Then there’s the whole nonsense of kissing the stone. You have to lay on your back and lean out over a sheer drop a little farther than I felt safe doing. I’m sure it’s perfectly safe since it’s one of Ireland’s number one tourist attractions (although the Cliffs of Moher were decidedly not 100% safe) but as soon as I was done with the kiss, I pretty much bounded down the spiral staircase to be on solid ground.
2) Irish Portions:
I now understand why Americans are fat. Our portions are out of control, and I’d honestly have it no other way. Irish portion are TINY.
In general, I eat a lot. Probably more than the average person my size. I also eat all day. I’m sort of like a baby, I need to be fed every two hours or so, or else I get cranky and tired. My first overseas meal tricked me. I got breakfast in the Birmingham, UK airport on a layover. Irish breakfasts are solid: for 4-5 Euro you get an egg or two, bacon, sausage, hashbrowns, black pudding (not sure what it is, avoided it at all costs) and toast. That night we went out in Dublin for dinner. I got an order of hot wings and a salad. Now, being the American fatass I am, I’m thinking I’m getting a dozen decent sized wings, and a whole plate of lettuce. This is what I got:
It’s like a child menu, or midget food. This was one of the smallest of the small, but in general the portions served in Ireland were nothing compared to what I’m used to. The concept of free sides and refills was also off the market.
I spent a lot of the trip hungry/and/or trying to find Subways where I knew for 5 Euro I could still get a footlong. Breakfasts though, they did right.
3) The Ring of Kerry:
I wasn’t sure if I should include the Ring of Kerry on this list, because it wasn’t terrible.
The Ring of Kerry is a scenic drive (much like Slea Head Drive that I was obsessed with) that starts and ends in Killarney. As stated before the Ring of Kerry wasn’t terrible. It was the first time since being in Ireland (which was a week at this point) that I found myself bored.
I don’t know if it was because the weather during our tour of the Ring of Kerry was absolutely miserable, or maybe because I found Connemara, the west Coast, and Slea Head so breathtakingly beautiful. Or maybe, a guy can only take so much scenery.
I think alot of it had to do with the Ring of Kerry’s emphasis on pastoral Irish picturescapes. These green hills dotted with sheep, cattle, and farms were pretty, but weren’t anything I haven’t seen in NEPA. I’m pretty immune to the beauty of livestock, fields of grain, and tractors.
I’m not talking about the county. County Mayo is just fine. I’m talking about the condiment.
The Irish love there mayonnaise. It’s on everything and in extremely large quantities. Sandwich? Mayo. Burger? Mayo. Fries? Mayo. No on asked. It was just there. Now, I don’t hate mayo. I actively even like it sometime…when it knows its place…on a turkey club.
5) Getting Mugged:
I got mugged in Belfast. Now, I always do say that if a funny story evolves from an incident, than it wasn’t a bad thing. I can laugh about this now, and in fact laughed about it later that day, but still have to file it under the “overrated” column.
Why did I get mugged? As far as I’m concerned it had nothing to do with Belfast being a “violent” city. I had just left the post office (where you can exchange money) and was walking down a side street I probably shouldn’t have walked down (you know, being the stereotypical dumb, American tourist who thinks he’s invincible). It was young (probably high) opportunists who saw the moment and struck. I know more people who have been mugged in Philly and more violently in Scranton, so I want to make it clear that this isn’t a “I got mugged in Belfast” story as much as an “I just got mugged” one.
* I know this is a European thing in general, but I just don’t and probably will never get techno. It wasn’t as prevalent as the mayo, but much like the condiment it did end up creeping up on you in the most unexpected places, especially public bathrooms.