Westport Ireland in Pictures

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On the west coast of Ireland, north of Connemara and Galway, sits Westport. We heard there were a few decent pubs there, and decided it was the perfect spot to spend the night on the way to Sligo. Never did we imagine that a winter storm and “treacherous” roads would keep us there and very happily, I may add, for two and a half days. I emphasize the word treacherous because it was highlighted in each sentence we heard from an Irishman this trip. Everything in sight was covered in ice and snow, with not a shovel or rock salt in sight. It certainly made travel a bit more difficult but it kept us around long enough to enjoy a place we dream about living in.

Our first great experience began with Joe and Bridget at the Broadlands B&B.  Because the roads were (I won’t use it again) dangerous, it took us quite a while longer to arrive at their doorstep.  Still, despite our late arrival, Joe greeted us with the warmest hospitality, and offered to drop us into town so we could be rid of our car and walk home after a few pints.  He gave us a tour of which pubs were great and which were ok, in addition to some history of Westport itself, which by the way is the “Tidiest Town in Ireland”.  He even invited us to join him and his wife to a ceili, but with my husband’s bad foot, we regrettably declined.  I still wish we had experienced real hometown Irish dancing, but in its place we found cold stout, un-tourist-like bars and beautiful Irish sessions.

If you are unfamiliar with a session or seisiún, it consists of Irish musicians that park themselves in the corner of a pub.  They play with whatever musicians come in that night, with an array of instruments and songs that range from old Irish traditional ballads, to covers of modern songs.  They play for themselves as much as they play for the people, often in a formed circle.  Just musicians, their instruments, pints and a little wooden table amongst them.

We liked Westport so much, that we decided we would be more than glad to let the icy roads keep us an extra night. Joe and Bridget didn’t mind and our bellies welcomed their amazing Irish breakfast.  I could tell you about Westport for days, but it deserves another post one day and I will share these photos with you in the meantime.

Slainte!

Were Colonial Politics Any Different?

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Tonight, I watched the State of the Union Address, rather, #SOTU in the Twitter age. Hell, if Twitter will get our country talking about politics and something other than a Kardashian, I’m all for social media.

When I watch Democrats and Republicans, so divided, I wonder what our Founding Fathers would think. They too had drastically divided ideas about what our Nation should be, but I wonder if it ever felt like this. Would the Continental Congress drag progression out so far that the Declaration of Independence would have dried and curled up without a smattering of ink?

Did colonials speak freely or did politically correct conversation exist even then? Did they tack leaflets to their carriages condemning Democrats or the Whigs?

We know that the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and his son, the Governor of New Jersey, was severed on the argument of Independence versus Loyalty. We know that Colonial Americans had strong feelings and aspirations; a feeling of new patriotism with dreams for a future of forward thinking.

Today, will Americans truly voice their opinions, without fear of social slander, without ridicule for their beliefs? Will we fight for what we believe in?

Watching tonight, both the President and the Republican response, the American political atmosphere simply feels stalled.  I’d love to be naive sometimes, jump on a bandwagon and feel giddy with optimism because this speech touted positivity and aspirations. It just doesn’t feel as though it’s a matter of the country growing and progressing any longer, but simply a halfhearted attempt to stop slipping backward. It’s like trying to grasp pedaling your bicycle as a kid; you lose your footing and the pedals just keep swinging up and smacking into your shins.

As the wife of a Veteran and the youngest in long line of many, I wish nothing more than success and Democracy for this country, which so many fought and died for. The first step is getting people to pay attention to more than the formulated celebrity facade the politicians use to sway opinions.  It’s not a popularity contest, it’s our future. It sounds dramatic because it is.

By the way, I take it back; I hope I’m never so naive that I stop questioning what is best for our country.

Belfast’s Troubles in Art

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Being interested in history, culture and everything Irish, we made sure to tour areas in Belfast that were the hot spots during the toughest years in the “Troubles” era. That is not to say that it is over, because there is still a feeling of tension in the air, but my truest hope is that violent hostilities decrease over time. The neighborhoods in Belfast that are most affected aren’t glamourized or depicted in a museum type setting. The walls have murals, almost on every block. There are memorials almost as often, within view of walls the separate neighborhoods and chain-link fences. There are still vacant and bombed out homes mixed in between well maintained ones. If they don’t allow you to understand the fear and chaos, ask the families who live next door to them.

I don’t pretend to understand the deep rooted feelings that exist there, but I try to listen and learn. We took in each story, painting and monument, from a thick Irish brogue which carried years of resentment, frustration and awe. Since we started exploring late in the day and as winter had already set in, night fell fast. I couldn’t digitally capture a good portion of the history that’s so painfully written on the walls, but the experience is burned into my mind.