Thursday, September 27, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

A week ago we returned from a fabulous trip to Ireland, the ancestral home of about 45 million North Americans. Here's a few of the things I saw in Ireland that were new, unfamiliar, or unexpected.

1. Laundry drying on the clothes lines--rural and urban communities both. In many U.S. neighborhoods this is against zoning or neighborhood regulations. You don't realize it has disappeared until you travel where it is common.

2. Unusually large windows, even in modest homes--there used to be a "window tax" in Ireland, but they're over that now! Glass enclosed entry ways for front doors of homes and town houses so the house can be open but not exposed to the weather.

3. Very strict no-smoking rules. Fines for public places could be over 3,000 euros (over $4,000).

4. More auburn and red-haired people in one location than I'd ever seen in my life, and I married a red head. Even so, most are brunette with very pale skin and light eyes. Recent DNA testing show the Irish are probably not Celtic at all, but descended from an area of Spain from which they migrated after the last glaciers melted in Ireland (earlier global warming). When the Celts arrived from Europe, the native Irish absorbed them and took over their culture.

5. Dark skinned, head covered nannies pushing prams of chubby, pale Irish babies on cobble stone and brick walks. The Celtic Tiger has spawned 2 income couples with few or no children.

6. Immigrants from many countries--Eastern Europe, Africa, middle east, far east, Pacific islands, even the U.K. and Germany. They were working primarily in the tourist industry (I'm guessing strict unions keep them out of the skilled trades), so that's who the tourist from America sees. Looks just like home!

7. More Mercedes and BMWs than I've ever seen in Central Ohio, even in our wealthiest suburb, Dublin. However, there are one-car garages attached to the most upscale, newest, elaborate homes. There might be 4 or 5 luxury cars in the drive-way, but the building space is being used for the house, not the automobile. A welcome change from our pattern where the garages often dwarf the main house and the cars are still in the drive-way.

8. Platters of food with mashed potatoes hiding under the fish, and roast potatoes mixed with either parsnips or rutabagas on the side.

9. The most beautiful large, healthy grass-fed animals I've ever seen--the soil is very thin and rocky but extremely nutritious. Pastures are ribboned in stone fences, with cattle lying down, calves frolicking, and horses grazing.

10. Brightly painted stucco homes of yellow, maroon, blue and red in the city and white stucco houses on the farms. An artist's dream (except for the barns which aren't very attractive) when found on curving streets and gentle hillsides. Our Midwestern climate has such extremes that stucco is not a good finish building material--Ireland's climate is very mild with few extremes.

11. Public toilets in Ireland are very clean and modern with ample t.p., but with the same long lines for women as we have in the states. Separate spigots for hot and cold in the sink; every toilet is water-saving, which means you flush 2 or 3 times. Yes, Ireland like all the EU is very "green."

12. Very exotic landscaping. Some yards looked like postcards from Florida or Hawaii. Fabulous flowers, especially roses.

13. Bill Clinton is Ireland's newest saint. He is revered everywhere for helping to broker the current peace in the North. That achievement abroad and welfare reform at home (forced on him by the Republican Congress in the 90s) should be enough legacy for any 2-term President, without the need to be First Laddie, and we can all be proud.


Unknown said...

Ireland always interested me. Thanks for the insight. This week I visited Irleland in my blog as well, well mainly the men of Ireland. Happy TT!

Chelle Y. said...

It sounds like you had a wonderful time! My son has an Irish name. I never knew that until after he was born. :)

Special K ~Toni said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful vacation and learned plenty! Welcome home!

Anonymous said...

We so want to go Ireland next...
thanks for the tour...

Anonymous said...

Im glad you had such a good time. The dark haired and dark eyed people you see are called Black Irish. Lots of them are descended from Spanish soldiers and sailors who were shipwrecked on the Irish coast as the defeated Spanish Armada was fleeing back to Spain in 1588.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Ireland - how cool! I'd love to visit their someday. Thanks for the mini tour guide!

Lori said...

Wow...I thought everyone smoked over there. Great list...thanks for sharing. Happy TT.

Gattina said...

What you wrote only confirms what my two irish girlfriends told me. And they are very much like Italians with their hospitality. The only thing which is not true is your € exchange rate, lol ! 1 € = 1.42 $ ! only since a few weeks before it was around 1 € = 1 $.

bichonpawz said...

Very Interesting TT!! Thanks so much for sharing. It sounds like you had a wonderful time!

JAM said...

You are such an observant person. I learn so much on your blog about life, and the world.

Three cheers for clean public restrooms! Next time I'm out and have to "go" I'll just swing by Ireland;)

Robin said...

It's illegal to hang out your laundry in the US? What a terrible waste to force the use of electricity even on lovely sunny days.

Ireland is very high on my "one of these days" list, maybe even as soon as this November.

Joyismygoal said...

Iso want o go I am very Irish and orig from Canton Ohio I hang out my laundry too:>

Anonymous said...

I don't use the public bogs if I can avoid it. Clean, I have no idea where you have been, but try Leeson street bars. Clean is not the first word that comes to mind when I think of the facilities there.

I always thought it was odd that people didn't serve two or 3 kinds of potatoes with dinner. We did when I was growing up. I can still peel a boiled potato with one utensil while I use the other.

Black Irish I am indeed.

Everyone does smoke there, just now they all stand around outside and complain about having to stand around outside and smoke.

The immigrants have sure changed Ireland even in the last five or six years. Not that that is a bad thing. Now I know of a 24 hr chinese restaurant / internet cafe near the SIPTU building just north of O'Connell bridge.

You think the animals look nice, they taste .... well the butter and all dairy taste better. (Some things I don't like to think about.)

I think the houses are painted those colours because the paint was on sale.

I've never understood the Clinton thing. The Irish are a very strange people.