Once it spawned one of the greatest diasporas; millions of Irish heritage are now scattered throughout the globe. Those millions have now been returning to Ireland in droves, and the affluent world has become engaged in the migration.
At different times, waves of Irish immigrants arrived here with little more than the clothes on their backs. Ultimately they hoped to return to the peaceful life surrounded by rolling green hills. Some made it but the majority sacrificed to send money to the folks back home. For a long time there was little hope of returning, or getting a good job when they came back, if, in fact, there was a job at all. Out of this struggle, generations helped to build the economies of other countries, and become prominent politicians, doctors, lawyers, engineers, builders, writers, educators, filmakers, and entrepreneurs. They were hard working, strong, friendly and capable of excelling in any field.
Fast forward to the 21st century and Ireland is at the forefront of an unprecedented economic breakthrough. It's rate of growth exceeds all expectations. Now the small island nation is the chic place to be. In 1998 alone, it had a net immigration of 22,800 people and it promises to be nearly the same this year. Aptly named "The Celtic Tiger" with a raging economy clawing its way to the future, new jobs are created daily, it has an economy loaded with a constantly travelling, talented workforce.
While Irish Culture and heritage has never been more fascinating to the uninitiated worldwide, the veteran traveller comes back and forth to Erin's shores in infinite numbers. This community of travelers also includes the global adventurer or incentive traveller, moving from place to place, country to country. And there's the youthful business traveller with new interest and new demands.
This travel success story has changed everything for those leaders of the travel industry. How has their mission changed, what are the issues and outside influences converging to transform this ever-complex and changing world of technology and globalism? Here are some of the questions and some of the answers
The State of Travel to Ireland Today
"Over 30 years ago, Jules Zimmermann, my wife 's dentist, who had no Irish roots, vacationed at Ashford Castle every year " recalls Brian Murphy ofAer Lingus, "He constantly prayed that Ireland would never be discovered, because he didn 't want to share it with anyone. " Well, sorry Jules, but Ireland has been discovered, and in a big way.
The Airlines and Airports
"Ireland is no longer a sleepy little town and people are flocking to it. Tourism is up," says Murphy, head of marketing for Ireland's signature airline. "Now the new type of traveler is varied and could be going for golfing, business, pleasure, a weekend game or whatever. Also the frequency of flights has changed from just servicing Ireland to having flights going to over 30 cities in Europe."
Traditionally the goal of Aer Lingus was to fly people back and forth to Ireland through the summer months to see their families. In 1958, service from Shannon to New York began, using leased Super Constellations. As the only customers for the airline were these traveling families, activity was seriously reduced during the other months. The many positive changes in Ireland's economy over the years have allowed the airline to grow and persevere.
[n those days Ireland was mainly an agricultural country so an excellent choice for Chairman was Bernard Cahill who came from a dairy background and possessed a unique set of executive skills. Murphy explains, "About seven years ago we were practically facing bankruptcy. The executives running Aer Lingus needed to create a safer and more efficient airline with new and improved schedules while offering lower prices. Our Chairman, Bernie Cahill, along with other executives, made some proposals to see where Aer Lingus was going to fit in. The 'Cahill Plan' strategy was focused on the growth of North America because of projections as to the economy, and became key to our investment process. The Celtic Tiger was starting to gain momentum and our investment in new aircraft was important."
Operating their main fleet of six Airbus 330s as well as business travel planes, Aer Lingus is one of the youngest and strongest fleets of any European airline and has been voted Airline of the Year in the Air Transport customer survey in two out of three years. Today, Aer Lingus offers transatlantic flights from Belfast, Shannon and Dublin to New York Newark, Chicago and Los Angeles and is presently inaugurating a new route from Baltimore.
Ireland has always been known for its hospitality. Murphy adds, "We were recently applauded on our customer service in our Premier Class. That is the result of the recognition of the passengers and caring for them in a warm and positive way while being intuitive to their needs. Our Aer Lingus staff is comprised of the Irish-born as well as Americans but the interesting thing is that they all develop an Aer Lingus persona which is constantly being reinforced. Our main focus has always been the customer. We are adding a customer care unit which will be the anticipator of customer needs. For instance, when we added the Los Angeles stop we had to adjust some problems we had not run into before such as the times we should serve food or show a movie. That was something we needed to get feedback on and then we adjusted to fix the situation. We can get information into our customers' hands in a timely fashion and we have staff here who are responsive to the needs of the customer when they want a timely answer."
The airport industry has stepped up its commitment to the business trade. Besides Dublin's airport, Shannon Airport offers the other major point of entry into the country. Shannon Aer Rianta has recently opened a 28 million pound new and improved terminal in order to accommodate the massive influx of business travel and tourists. In the past year alone services for seven new airlines were launched at Shannon, the most recent addition is Ryanair, which has instituted business flights to Britain and Hamburg.
Martin Moroney, Aer Rianta General Manager for traffic marketing says, "Shannon Airport's core business revolves around terminal service for passengers getting on and off at the airport. Shannon has always been the leading airport for airline stopovers because of its westerly location, its congestion-free facilities and competitive services in both catering and fuel." Transit business has proven very beneficial by generating revenue through fees, catering and duty-free shopping for the airport. He specifies that "while the large airlines are vitally important because of passenger numbers, smaller airlines have started services. This has proven beneficial for the airport, the airlines, and other service providers, but most particularly for the business community."
The Irish Tourist Boards
The Irish Tourist Board-Bord Failte--came into existence in 1931, under the Tourism Traffic Acts of 1931-38. Its purpose was to market Ireland as a tourist attraction while influencing the development of market-led products by providing opportunities to businesses which offered the greatest return for their investments. Today, the ITB hooks up the public and private sectors to the tourist industry, thus providing tremendous opportunities.
Joe Byrne, Chairman of the Irish Tourist Board, North America, specifies that the Board has "a commercial goal to promote Ireland and we are in the business of sustaining economic development throughout all the regions of Ireland. It's the Government, working with the ITB and others in the industry, ie, travel and tour operators, plus car rental agencies to pool resources. Instead of fighting for the whole pie, the whole travel market is sharing the pie with imaginative partnerships. "We are delighted that Aer Lingus opened up new gateways because they had a vision and delivered on it, and our partnership extends to promoting Ireland and reminding people of the new services."
In emphasizing the year-round travel opportunities to fire (where it had once been for seasonal travelers only, from June through August), Byrnes comments, "We now have 385 golf courses--1/3 of the world's links--at least 12 of those would have to be in the top 100. We appeal directly to business leaders of Irish heritage, through an Ambassador Program, to convince their company to arrange a corporate meeting, seminar, product launch, or trade show in Ireland--and add on a few days for golfing, rest, relaxation and seeing the sights. Our three partners in the incentive business are the suppliers in Ireland (hotels, restaurants, tour and car rental companies); destination management companies who specialize in setting up itineraries and incentive houses in the US and Ireland have a pride of place in all of those, and a slew of conference organizers in Ireland. Conference business is very important and the academic or professional people are also involved in the Ambassador Program to convince people to bring their conferences to Ireland." Bord Failte, committed to staff education and development, set high standards in order to maintain an innovative, proficient and efficient marketing organization. As Chief Executive of the Irish Tourist Board John Tully states, "the opportunities and challenges facing Irish tourism have never been more exciting, with revenues reaching an all-time high of three billion pounds last year."
The Northern Irish Tourist Board does the same for the North. It had its own unique set of issues to contend with but much has changed since the peace process has materialized. People are not afraid to visit the beautiful scenic North any more. One of the favorite places to visit continues to be the Giant's Causeway--the 8th Wonder of the World. David Boyce, Director of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board USA for the past eight years, has increased tourism 100%, with the number of tour operators growing from 16 to over 100. He initiated the first ever Travel Trade Road Show and in March '98 headed a delegation of the travel trade from Northern Ireland to the US, with Byrne and Bord Failte, to over 1300 travel agents and tour operators.
Travel and Tour Agencies
Barry Twomey of top Irish agency O'Connors Fairway Travel has seen many changes take place in the 25 years he's been on hand to aid travelers to the Emerald Island. "We have one of the best bargain fares to Ireland. Since 1961 we have been getting passengers to Ireland by the least expensive method of transportation. This agency is owned and staffed by friendly Irish faces." Check out www.oconnors.com, for online timetables for Aer Lingus, and the other airlines which now fly to Ireland from North America, such as Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Charter Airlines.
The owner of Sceptre Tours, Bert Accomando, echoes the fact that Ireland is a fabulous place to visit, "Dublin is a beautiful modern metropolitan city now, on the level of Paris and Pome, yet in addition it has its heritage and history of music and literature. There are many great hotel chains, one being Jurys in Dublin which has chains in many parts of Ireland. Go see the Dominick Street Theatre where you can get a walking tour for under 10 pounds. In the southwest there is the incredible St. Clarens, formerly owned by John Huston and now by Mew Griffin; the Kenmare Parc Hotel, Kinsale area, Tralee, Killarney--all these are especially good for golfers since there are so many links scattered around that area. Everyone has discovered Ireland and they want to share it with their friends."
Byrne agrees, "There is a general fashionability about Ireland and a huge pride, and everyone wants to be Irish at the moment. That pride is stimulating people to go back because there are such beautiful places to visit over there with modern facilities and conveniences that can match any other country." Maura Nolan is president and owner of Irish Links Tours & Travel Inc. Since 1992 this golf-related company promotes the Irish Golf Industry and tours to Ireland with the flexibility of customizing them to the client's need. She says, "We tailormake each tour to give the customer his dream golf vacation that is affordable, accessible and available. Wherever you play, Ireland casts its spell and you will enjoy great golf, magnificent scenery and the warmth and hospitality for which the Irish are renowned."
CIE Tours, headed by Brian Stack, a leader in delivering pack age tours for almost 70 years, promotes products for individuals as well as groups. "CIE Tours International has 68 years of experience in looking after the needs of American travelers people who expect quality, personal attention and value for their money. We carefully select hotels for location, dCcor, food, service, and as historical sites."
Naturally many traveling to Ireland have purposes in mind other than visiting the home fires. Today Ireland is a hub of activity for business-related travel which has greatly expanded the need for excellence in services and facilities.
Car Rental and Hotel Services
A transplanted North Dubliner, Attracta Lyndon has been the right-hand woman to Pat Dooley at home-grown Dan Dooley Rent-A-Car, a leading independent car rental agency in the country, for the past 13 years. As Vice President of Sales, NA, Lyndon says that "the type of driver who rents today is a lot different from when I first started out in the business. In those days it was mostly older, retired or rich Americans who could afford to go over for a visit, and those family visitors hardly ever rented cars. Today that has changed dramatically and the numbers of young people who are just out of college, between 23-27, is phenomenal. They are coming to see the country, spend money, do some pub-crawling (literally, sometimes) and to see the incredible variety of venues and sights that Ireland has. Everyone falls in love with the country and the hospitality of the people. Our company provides an expedient and convenient way for the business traveler to get around as well."
"There are some awesome sights here but I would have to say that the southwest is the favorite spot for tourists right now," says Dooley. "However, there is a wealth of uncommercial areas like Ti~peraly that are absolutely fantastic, and still untapped for tourism. I would predict that tourism into Tipperary and the middle counties is going to be the next big push. The Glen ofdherlow, a place of unparalleled beauty, is another favorite spot of mine."
He adds, "There is only one problem to note, and that is people are not putting enough insurance on their vehicles, which can be very expensive if they have an accident and don't have enough. We are constantly maintaining our cars and have them replaced after 20,000 miles to make sure they are always in top condition."
The most inclusive facilities for conferences, meetings, seminars, exhibitions, car launches and themed events is the sensational Fitzpatn'ck Hotels Group. They maintain two Irish locations: Fitzpatrick Killiney Castle Hotel in Dublin (a 4-star castle-hotel snuggled into Killiney Hill Park, nine miles from the city center) and the Fitzpatrick Shamrock Bunratty in County Glare. They also own the only two Irish family owned and operated hotels in Manhattan, the beautiful Manhattan Hotel and the elegant Fitzpatrick Grand Central Hotel, and are committed to customer satisfaction. Paddy Fitzpatrick, founder, is pleased to say, "The warmest of welcomes awaits you at our superbly located 4 star hotels in Ireland and New York. You can rest assured you will receive that special Fitzpatrick personalized service for which we are renowned. Top class facilities are at your fingertips, whether you are visiting us for business or pleasure. Every guest is special at Fitzpatricks, so allow us to make the difference by staying at a Fitzpatrick Hotel."
Of course there are many other major hotel chains and companies ranging from the Dublin's legendary Shelboume Hotel to the U2-owned Clarens (in Temple Bar) and the John Rochadesigned Morrison operating a range of hospitality services in Ireland. Among those chains, Jurys/Doyle Group of Hotels, Conrad Hilton Hotels and Four Seasons (shortly to begin operation) have given special focus on Irish oriented flavor. The range of concerns exemplified by the Fitzpatrick family-operated chain, is shared by these other companies as well, whether they be 4-star hotels or the network of bed-and-breakfasts around the country.
No report on travel to Ireland would be complete without a mention of noteworthy castles. Ashford Castle, located in Cong, County Mayo, is ideally situated near Galway and Shannon Airport. With easy access to sightseeing historic West Ireland including WB Yeats burial place, Sligo and Drumcliffe Churchyard, the castle is an elegant and lavish estate located on the northern shores of Lough Corrib which was transformed into a luxury hotel in 1939. It is fabulously decorated with fine masterpieces and elegant period pieces. It offers a diverse range of activities including golfing at its exclusive nine-hole golf course, fishing on Lake Corrib, horseback riding, working out at their fully equipped gymnasium and health center or clay pigeon shooting. Whether you are on business or pleasure, be sure to spend a few days at this exquisite castle-hotel, resounding with old-world grandeur and class.
Pat O'Riordan, CEO of KOR Associates, handles the North American marketing for Ashford and Dromoland castles through a central reservation center. He believes that what is unique about KOR Associates is that "it has an Irish staff who have complete product knowledge and know the castles inside and out as well as the surrounding areas. They are able to give the personal touch when talking with customers by telling them about interesting events near the castles." One of his staff, Siobhan Dolan, has been through the castles several times, knows them from top to bottom and has a hands-on relationship with the clients to give them personalized attention and is able to answer any question they ask her about them.
One of the most endearing things about Ireland is its rich legacy of enchantment, seducing visitors through its unrivaled beauty. It is also the ever gentle, yet unbroken people with a ready wit and easy charm that makes Lire always feel like home--a place treasured by its sons and daughters which also lives on in the hearts of those who are now getting td know her.
--Peggy Verhagen/Brad Balfour
County Cavan Wonders
Stretching almost right across Ireland from Kingscourt in the east to Blacklion in the west, Cavan is a county of contrasts. The low-lying Drumlin country of the east merges with the pastoral plains of County Meath, while in the west, the mountain range which contains the Cuilcagh Mountain and also the Shannon Pot, the source of Ireland's largest river, reaches majestically to the sky. Between these two points lies a water-splashed lake country dominated by the river Erne, which slowly winds its way down from Lough Gowna, and on past Cavan Town through Lough Oughter and on up into the upper Erne.
For the motoring visitor, with its mixture of low-lying and mountainous areas, Cavan presents a panorama that is most unique to the county. Beautiful lake, river and forest views that are both restful and tranquil are matched by the magnificent wild mountain range between Ballyconnell and Blacklion.
Two magnificent forest parks in the country (Kingscourt) and Killykeen, near Cavan Town--offer hours of delightful walks and nature trails that can be enjoyed by all the family. Butlersbridge is four miles north of Cavan Town and a beautiful spot to visit. You can stop by at one of the oldest inns in the country, The Derragarra Inn. The Inn has won 20 awards for good food and 'Old World' atmosphere.
Those with an interest in history will find Cavan a rewarding countryside to roam. The county capital has much to offer. Its origins lie in nearby Tullymongan Hill and has associations with the O'Reilly dan whose dynasty lasted almost 400 years and whose currency was accepted as legal tender on the continent. Rebel leader Owen Roe O'Neill's burial place is located in the town's old churchyard. All this can be traced back and illustrated with ruins and other evidence of times gone by which decorate the town's hinterland.
For the historian, a folk museum at Cornafean-The Pinhouse Collection--has over 2,000 items on display. At Butlersbridge, a picturesque village spanning the Annalee River on the CavanlBelturbet Road, local history museum has as its centerpiece, a wattle house constructed using the original early building techniques.
Poets, novelists and even songwriters were born and lived in Cavan. Charlotte Bronte, the renowned 18th century writer, was born at Mullagh. The controversial author Dean Jonathan Swift began writing Gulliver's Travels at Cuiluangh House near Virginia. The popular songwriter Percy French features Cavan towns Finea and Ballyjamesduff in his celebrated ballad, Paddy Reilly. In more recent years, Kingscourt, or Dun-a-Ri in Gaelic, was extolled in song for the beauty of the nearby lovers walk and wishing well.
An excellent example of Romanesque architecture is to be found at Kilmore Cathedral, while Rannford and Lough Oughter Castle are located nearby on the Erne system. It's only a matter of time before the scenic areas of Loughs Gowna, Ramor and Oughter, to name a few, will be the subject for today's recording artists to create their lyrical pictures for posterity.
The only road connecting the north west extremity of Cavan with the rest of the county climbs through Bally connell and the Bellavally Gap between Cuilceagh Mountain and Benbrack. This is a wide and beautiful area called Glangevlin. On the western slope of the Cuilceagh Mountain can be found the Shannon Pot, source of the Shannon River. Some miles north of Glangevlin the road continues via Lough Macnean to the village of Blacklion.
In tourism terms, Cavan has been a thriving success. Since the introduction of car ferries, the county has maintained a consistent growth in the amount of traffic and has now become firmly established as the preferential choice of coarse angling visitors to Ireland. The Erne and Annalee's systems provide some of Europe's finest fishing waters. Strong, healthy and often specimen-weight pike, perch, bream, roach attracts hordes of anglers from the U.S., Britain and mainland Europe. Lough Sheelin near Mountnugent and Lough Annagh outside Butlers bridge are popular trout fisheries.
A number of coarse angling competitions and festivals are staged around the county during the summer season. Competitions are held at Bailieborough, Belturbet, Killeshandra, Virginia, and Cootehill. These are popular events with anglers and attract many competitors.
The Erne River, with a cruiser hire company operating from Belturbet, comprises a large system of lakes, which give way to the slow moving water that flows from Belturbet towards County Fermanagh. These waters offer totally unspoiled tranquil cruising in an area of undiscovered scenic beauty. The linking of the Shannon and Erne through the Ballinamore/Ballyconnell canal extends a range of cruiser craft on both systems.
A fine attractive area for any tourist, this is only a brief summary of what is on offer in what is historically referred to as Breffni land.
-- Joe Murphy
Peggy's Personal Tips
Ireland is no longer your grandmother's country with the horse and trap or bicycle for transportation; no
more pigin-the-parlor-behind-the-lace-curtain Irish here. A progressive country that has elected two female presidents, (Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese), with high-tech super gadgets, gigantic malls, elegant, stately mansions and brilliantly educated young men and women anxious to take on the world, modern Ireland is full of contrasts of old and new. The plain and simple as well as the elegant and classy coexist side by side. But, you liked the quaint stuff? Don't worry, there's still need for those things--as I have found in my many travels back and forth.
Feakle, Co. Clare
Biddy Early once roamed here and is touted in Irish myth as the Witch of Glare. The remnants of her humble abode sits atop a little hill where she lived a hundred years ago. She was said to cure everyone's ills with a magic bottle, which supposedly was thrown into the Kilbarron Lake by her house, before she died.
Lough Graney, Co. Clare
A fantastic location to savor the panoramic beauty from the summit.
The Burren, Co. Clare
A limestone lunar landscape that is a habitat for wildflowers and animals unique to this area, ie the Burren Rose or the green butterfly.
Aillwee Caves, Co. Clare
Huge caverns with an extinct bear hibernation den and a huge underground waterfall.
The Gallows at Spanish Point/Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare
Armada survivors from the San Esteban ship were executed here for their allegiance to the crown.
Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
These turbulent wind-swept natural structures rise majestically up from the ocean to almost 700 feet. Scan thp crashing waves of Atlantic below.
Adare Manor Hotel/Golf Club, Co. Limerick
An RAC Five Star hotel shines like a beacon of architectural masterpieces as the gateway to Ireland's great southwest.
Dunraven Arms Hotel, Co. Limerick
Ride to the hounds if you stay at this hotel where the Hunter's Bar is a meeting place for several hunt clubs who will titillate you with foxy fables.
Blarney Stone, Co. Killarney
You must kiss the Blarney Stone! Do an energetic backbend over the castle wall to kiss a rock that is about three feet away--kissed by millions since time immemorial.
Guinness' Brewery/Hop Store on Crane Street, Co. Dublin
Meander there and hoist a few for the green, white and gold. Home to the 'World of Guinness Exhibition.'
Cobb Heritage Centre, Co. Cork
Killaloe Heritage House, Co. Clare
These are places to show you where you came from--but it's up to you to find out where you're going.
Giant's Causeway, Co. Antrim
Travel north to see the 40,000 basalt columns, ranging in size up to 40 ft high by 90 ft wide, rise eerily. Some say it's from a volcanic eruption but those in the know say it's the stepping stones of Ireland's giant, Brian Boru. Luckily, Bushmill's, the world's oldest distillery, is a short distance away; you'll need a drink after seeing this.
Eyre Square, Co. Galway
It's west to shop until you drop at the new modern complex side by side with quaint cobblestone streets in the older part of town. Be charmed by the buskers (street entertainers)--a potpourri of singers, musicians, mimes, jesters and dancers. People from all over come to try out their material and make a few pennies hustling their talents. Discover the 'New Elvis' there, perhaps?
Connemara, Co. Galway
Its ponies are world famous; see them in their natural habitat, free and wild, galloping through the heather and rock. A few miles away is a marble factory where you can purchase jewelry made from the green Connemara marble.
Saltbill, Co. Galway
An excellent place to buy Irish knits, woolens and other textiles. Prices are cheaper so grab the goodies while you may. Don't miss the unbelievable symmetrical stone fences--where stones placed one on top of the other, without cement or mortar, are held in place by sheer engineering ingenuity alone.
Spiddal, Co. Galway
Heard the phrases from Erin Go Bragh? Now visit a town where the Gaeltacht can be heard.
Claddagh, Co. Galway A quaint little fishing town where the Claddagh rings became famous--created by a lovesick young man sold into slavery who, upon his return, designed the ring as a symbol of love and friendship. If the crown (loyalty) faces up the arm you're waiting for true love, facing opposite you are taken.
Kinvara, Co. Galway
With its traditional Irish hookers (boats) tied up in the harbor.
The Crystal Factory, Co, Waterford
Go southeast to see where the Millennium Ball for the New Year's Eve celebration was created. The largest production ever undertaken by Waterford, it weighed 1,070 pounds, was lit by 168 light bulbs and contained 504 Star of Hope triangles.
Croagh Patrick, Co. Mayo
For a spiritual and literally uplifting experience where you can celebrate Mass, climb Ireland's holy mountain, one of the country's best-known natural landmarks and formerly St. Patrick's ancient retreat. On Garland Sunday (last Sunday in July) pilgrims follow St.Patrick's footsteps to pray at his Bed on the summit. You must be physically fit for this trek.
Knock Shrine, Co. Mayo
In 1879, Mary, St Joseph and St. John the Evangelist appeared at Knock and due to this miraculous occurrence over a million and a half visitors annually have visited the Basilica at top.
An American Businessman in Ireland
Day 1: Sunday, April 2000--9:35 am
Literature and the Waterloo
I arrive in Dublin where, as expected, it's chilly and raining. I'm here on business, but there are a few personal images I'd like to have as keepsakes such as the Famously friendly people, a tour of the architecture, and a pint of Guinness.
Too early to check into my hotel, I walk around the city. There's no one out but me and the occasional wanderer--foreigners I presume. Happy to have Dublin to myself, I walk along Baggott Road across the canal, through the square, and down through a tunnel to a side entrance marked "Trinity College." I go looking for warmth in the Library which presently is a dark exhibition of manuscripts from the Book of Kells transporting me back to the medieval times of Vikings, monks and Ireland in the 8th century.
Far from my pocket map of Temple Bar and Grafton Street I gaze upon the scripture, illustration, knot work and scrolling of runic symbols. I am drawn up a staircase to the Long Room, 65 meters in length and two stories high. This main chamber of the Old Library houses approximately 200,000 rare books dating back to the 16th century. I stand in front of a remaining copy of the Irish Republic's 1916 Proclamation--when it was read on April 24th, 1916 in front of the General Post office, starting the Easter Uprising.
Wherever I went literature was prominent--not surprising in a country ranked first in literacy. Heading back a little after noon, shops open, I stop for a wild salmon sandwich on homemade white bread at O'Brien's on Baggott. Above my head are pictures of Irish poets. I scanned Sean O'Casey: "An as it blowed an' blowed, I often looked up at the sky and asked meself the question,'What is the stars, what is the stars?" Satisfied with my meal, coffee and O'Casey, I head to my hotel.
The Waterloo House, first of three lodges I experience is 1830s Georgian architecture situated on one of Dublin's premier tree-lined avenues. Welcomed by a gracious staff and shown to my room hidden at the end of a maze--I have a cozy spot colored in royal blues and gold. I turn on the news, take off my shoes, and lie back on the bed as the afternoon sun glares on the TV. With closed eyes, I listen to the anchorman recapping the US market. But as quickly as I start to doze, his words turn to J.M. Synge:
"Oh my grief; I've lost him surely. I've lost the only playboy of the Western World! "
Day 3: Tuesday, April 2000--6:30 pm
The Castle and the Internet
With two colleagues, I drive to meet a new client at Castle Bellingham County Louth, about an hour north of Dublin. Our retreat takes place at this refurbished 400year-old turret once inhabited by Lady Bellingham---a far cry from the DART and Monday's all-day high-tech meets with venture capitalists. There is a dampness and fragrance around that supports the record of this bastion. We are five of a few guests staying here this mid-week, ghoulishly enhancing the solitary setting. We light up the conference and dining rooms and, in contrast to the vacancy of our chalet, the bar seems to always have a few others around. Over the course of the stay, 1 grow to like the place and enjoy strolling in the garden and small bridge on the grounds. There's fine trout and salmon fishing in the river during the season. Our rooms are large with multiple beds and an oversized bathroom. In my room, before heading to dinner, I listen to the Chieftains while reviewing our international Internet strategy in a 400-year-old castle. There's a knock at my door. Someone wants to show me a Flash presentation.
Day 5: Thursday, April 2000--8:00 pm
Back in the Dublin office I respond to emails and call the States, to secure meetings upon my return. Partnerships, marketing campaigns, BBC, online/offline, verticals, the stock market--like I'm back in New York. Europe is booming! Ireland is exporting software at a rate second only to the US. Its next greatest export is brilliant minds. I tie up loose ends before leaving. It's my last day and everyone knows what time it is. While at a table at the pub with my colleagues, she comes up to me---beautiful, dark and full bodied with a solid head on her shoulders. An American friend who moved to Dublin six months ago nods to me that they are different over here. It was love at first sight. I brought her to my lips and nearly finished the whole pint--my first Irish Guinness. Many Guinnesses later, in my room at the Mespil Hotel, a modern, comfortable place with all the amenities, I again listen to the Chieftains. They are going to have to drag me onto that plane kicking and screaming. Somehow while caught up in business, I was shot with an arrow from an Irish cupid. This country is vibrant, exciting, historical and modern. The people are welcoming and professional and at the top of their game on many levels, in many fields. There is something magical about this place, it's home the moment you arrive. Before I fall asleep, the words an old woman spoke on the street, on my way back from Trinity College, come back to me:
Now sweetly lies old Ireland
Emerald green beyond the foam
Awakening sweet memories
Calling the heart hack home.
I'm back in New York now, with my laptop. Partnerships, marketing campaigns, BBC, online/offline, verticals, the stock market. My trip to Ireland was a professional and personal success. The VC's are investing, our strategies are taking form but memories of the Emerald Isle will not fade.
Date Placement: If you plan on meeting someone for lunch on say, 7/9/2000, perhaps it would be wise to take a number of books for your reading pleasure. To you it's July 9, 2000 but in Ireland the lunch date would be September 7. They use day/month/year. Who knew? Language: Although the main language of Ireland is English, "An Ghaeilge"(Gaelic) is Ireland's national language. The areas where it is most dominant are known as "Gaeltachts".
Documentation: As a member of the European Community Ireland's visitors outside of this community require a valid passport and visa to enter the Republic of Ireland.
Currency: The Irish "Punt" is made up of 100 pence. "Punts" may be purchased from any foreign exchange departments in US Banks or at any bank throughout Ireland. All major credit cards are accepted throughout Ireland. Banks are open from 10.00am-3.00pm, Monday to Friday and Thursdays 10.00am-4.00pm.
Holidays: January 1st-New Year's Day, March 17th-St.Patrick's Day, April 5th- Good Friday, April 8th- Easter Monday, May 6th-May Day, June Srd-June Bank Holiday, August Sth-August Bank Holiday, October 28th-October Bank Holiday, December 25th-Christmas Day, December 26th -St.Stephens Day Trading Hours: Shops are open Monday-Saturday 9.OOam-5.30pm and until 9:00pm on Thursdays and Fridays in the major towns. Liquor Hours: Bars are open from 10.30am-11.30pm Monday Saturday, from March-October and until ll:00pm from OctoberFebruary. Sunday opening hours are 12.30-2.00pm and again from 4.00-11.00pm all year. Night-clubs stay open until 2.00am.
Driving Laws: Driving in Ireland is on the left side of the road with speed limits in the cities of 30mph, 55 mph on the open road and 70mph on motorways. Seat belts must be worn by drivers and front seat passengers of cars and light vans. If seat belts are fitted in the rear, they must be worn by rear seat passengers also. Ireland has strict drunk-driving laws so please do not drink and drive.
Car Hire: All major car hire companies have offices at the main air and seaports, as well as major cities. You must have a valid driving license to drive in Ireland. All car hire rates include VAT (value added tax)--12.5 per cent of the rental cost and cars must be returned with a full tank of gas.
Health Insurance: Non-nationals are not covered by the State National Health. Travel Agents can arrange holiday coverage while visiting Ireland.
Pets: Animals entering Ireland must be quarantined for a period of six months.
Electricity: Electric current is 220 volts and plugs are flat with three pins. Adapters are needed to convert American applications, so if you plan on bringing hairdryers, shavers, etc. please make sure you have correct adapters.
Weather: Weather is temperate, free of the excesses of heat, humidity, cold, wind, or rain. Ireland is in the path of the Gulf Stream so the weather is never too intense. However contact the web at http://weatheryahoo.com/Region/Ireland for current information on the weather, and at the least bring a raincoat.
Telephones: Calls to Ireland should dial the Irish International access code of 011-353, followed by the area code minus the 0, and then the number. For example to phone 091-123456 dial 011-353-91-123456 Emergency Services: Police/Fire Brigade/Ambulance and Mountain Rescue (999) Directory Inquiries (1190)
For businesses interested in a fabulous place to host conferences, trade shows, incentive business meetings or conventions, Ireland is well tuned to the demand for space to accommodate business needs. Due to the overwhelming worldwide response, validate arrangements in advance. Aer Lingus has made it easier to hold meetings by providing all-inclusive package deals linked withfive main castles or hotels. Contact Aer Lingus (800-553-3719)--PV
Ashford Castle, Co. Mayo: Historic splendor, modem amenities, noted cuisine and a great view of Lake Corrib. With rooms for up to 110; reception area for up to 140. (t) 353 92 46003 (f) 353 92 46260
Dromoland Castle, Co. Glare: Old World charm, good food and modem conveniences make for successful meetings or conferences for small groups to 450.ttl 353-368144 (f) 353-61-363355
Kildare Hotel & Country Club, Co. Dublin: Ireland's only AAA graded 5-star hotel with space for groups of 160 delegates, with a full range of audio-visual facilities.(t) 353 1 601 7200 (f) 353 1 601 7299
Merrion Hotel, Co, Dublin: Georgian style building with new technology and ISDN lines.(t) 353 1 603-0600 (f) 353 1 603-0700
Sheen Falls Lodge, Co. Kerry: A place of rest and gracious living perfect for meetings, conferences.(t) 353-64-41600 (f) 353-64-41386
Downhill Hotel, Ballina, Co Mayo: Executive conferences with a professional management team and conference coordination staff. There are golf courses as well. (t) 353-96-21033 (f) 353-96-21338.
Court Hotel, Killiney Bay, Co. Dublin: Professional staff for conferences, product launches or brainstorming sessions for events ranging from 3-250. (t int.) 353-1-2851622 (f int.) 353-1-2852085
Fitzpatrick Bunratty Castle & Folk Park, Co. Glare: Near Shannon Airport, with convention space, one to six meeting rooms and videoconferencing for up to 40-900 people (t) 61-361-177 (f) 61-471 252
Created by Brad Balfour and Peggy Verhagen
Consulting editors: Joe Murphy, Vicki Verhagen
Copy Editor: Vicki Newman
Designer: Nils Odlund
Photos: Courtesy Irish Tourist Board/Irish Links