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A Different View

Make the most of the gems on your own doorstep

Dave O'Connell

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A Different View with Dave O’Connell

The clear skies and soaring temperatures would have ensured that nobody needed much convincing to holiday close to home over the past week or two – but too often we tend to overlook the gems on our own doorstep.

Recently our brood took a few days to visit our nearest neighbours to the immediate north – and a few days in Mayo was all it took to lift the spirits.

Westport is little more than an hour away, but it is one hell of a tourist hotspot – a spotlessly clean town with a huge choice of hotels, pubs and restaurants, and the world of amenities and facilities within a stone’s throw.

It’s a short hop to Louisburg or Newport – ancestral home of Princess Grace – or Clare Island, adopted home of the Saw Doctors, and the drive up through Maam and Leenane would justify the whole experience on its own.

But this is not just about enjoying the local natural amenities – it’s the fact that forward-thinking hoteliers are working so hard to capitalise on that by finally waking up to the sort of promotion and marketing that the rest of Europe has been at for a generation.

For too long, our tourism industry was reasonably content to sit back and simply point to this legendary Irish welcome, as though a nod in a visitor’s direction made high prices and poor services more palatable.

But no longer – now there are hotel packages with amenities built in, so that the family gets to make the most of their stay.

There is also a greater sense of community and cooperation, in that all of these amenities don’t have to belong to the hotel you’re actually staying in – this is a more holistic approach to holiday-making that ensures you are spoilt for choice.

We stayed in the Castlecourt Hotel in the heart of Westport, where a family room is what it should be – a comfortable place for everyone to retire to after a long day, as opposed to an ordinary room with a couple of fold-out beds that wouldn’t suit a three year old, let alone a pair of rapidly growing teenagers.

Without leaving the hotel, you had the pool and leisure complex as well as the ubiquitous spa, while outside the door you were two minutes from the famous Matt Molloy’s pub, one of the finest hostelries in Ireland.

If ours were younger, they’d probably have enjoyed the Kid’s Club, but the friendly staff at the Castlecourt weren’t proprietorial about their guests – they were only too happy to suggest a myriad of things to do within easy reach.

Indeed they’ve put together a range of attractions at discounted prices for guests – and a rep from each of these providers comes to the hotel every morning to help you make your choices.

Westport House is an obvious starting point, what with everything from its Adventure Island high ropes to its Pirate Adventure Park or even its pitch and putt – but more and more, the big attraction right through the heart of Mayo is the Greenway.

You only have to look at the amount of cyclists around town to see what a success story this has been – and again, they do their best to make sure it’s all manageable; you don’t have to cycle back because they’ll collect you; you can hire a bike, and there are plenty of things to do en route.

But for years the biggest impediment to holidaying at home was the price – if you go to the sunspots, the food and drink was cheaper and you’d get a package holiday for the price of a night in an Irish hotel.

That’s not the case anymore – the Castlecourt, for example, does a three night break for two adults and two children, which includes evening meals in a superlative restaurant, for just over €550.

That may not appear cheap but equally, when you break it down, it’s around €50 each per night for a four star hotel in the heart of one of Ireland’s most popular tourist hotspots.

The specially priced family passes for Westport House and all of its facilities worked out at less than half the normal price, and there was also a cut off the Greenway prices so that you felt you were getting bang for your buck every step of the way.

Little wonder then that the place was packed, as was their sister hotel, the Westport Plaza, next door – but then Westport has been to the forefront of tourism in this country for longer than most.

That’s not to say we don’t have visionary tourism providers in our own midst, because we do – it was just that this was service with a smile and at a price that doesn’t clean out your pocket.

And that’s what holidays, home or away, should be all about.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

Grandparents are the glue that became unstuck during Covid

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

IT goes without saying that lockdown has been hard for everyone – with the possible exception of hermits – but few have felt it more than grandparents, confined to barracks and deprived of those hugs from the grandchildren.

Looking at them through windows may only have made it worse, because little kids don’t understand why nana and granddad won’t come out; they don’t realise they want to, more than anything in the whole world.

This pandemic has given us plenty of time to reflect; a chance to remember what is truly important and what we should cherish instead of taking for granted.

And arguably, grandparents should be on top of that list.

You’ll have heard it said that being a grandparent is like you’ve been given a second chance; an opportunity to spend time in retirement with the next generation that work deprived you of when it came to your own.

There’s also a notion espoused by some of those grandparents that you love them more than your own kids, because this time, when you’re finished playing with them, you can give them back.

I never knew any of my four grandparents, because they were all dead before I was born. My own sons never knew my parents because they too had long departed before the next generation arrived.

But thankfully they did grow up with two grandparents as an integral part of their lives – and not just minding them, which they did with a commitment for which we will be ever grateful.

The measure of success in this department is that your children see your parents as just a part of the family; there’s an easy familiarity every time they meet, just like picking up the pieces without a second thought.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Home is still full of memories even when it’s an empty nest

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell
Dave O'Connell

We’ve all heard the phrase – and perhaps dread the concept; the empty nest, after the fledglings take flight and you’re left rattling around in a quiet house with just memories of those days of pandemonium and noise.

The social policy-makers would tell you that this is the time to downsize; save yourself the steps of the stairs and the cleaning, and cut down on the heating bills to enjoy your autumn days in accommodation more appropriate to your reduced needs.

And from a purely economic perspective, there’s merit in that. You have a house that’s now too big for you, and others can’t find a home of any size, let alone one sufficient for a full family – but that’s only one side of the argument.

The other is that your house is your home, and not because of its size – it’s because of its location, and your familiarity with its every nook and cranny. It’s also where those fly-away chicks still see as home, even if they’re now no more than occasional visitors.

As you grow older, familiarity is more important than ever; without the beautiful distraction of children, you grow even more dependent on neighbours and your community and the facilities you know on your old doorstep.

You know how long it takes to get to the shops or to the pub; you know you to give a spare key to in case you’re out when a delivery is due – or later on, if there’s a fear you might have a fall.

Your lifetime’s treasures – except for the children – are in your home; the sort of stuff others might see as clutter, but to you they are memories of holidays or graduations or births or marriages…those glory days that marked the chapters of your family life.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

 

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Connacht Tribune

Authors’ pot luck – or insight into predicting a terrible future

Dave O'Connell

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It’s eerie how some people can appear to have an ability to see into the future; forecasting an event or a phenomenon, years – sometimes even centuries – before it comes to pass.

Much was made this year of a number of books and movies that anticipated what we now know as the Coronavirus pandemic; predictions that even led to renewed interest in publications like Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year that goes back to 1722.

Edgar Allan Poe described a fictional epidemic at the centre of his short story, the Masque of the Red Death.

“No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its avatar and its seal—the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains and sudden dizziness and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution.”

More recently, Albert Camus’ the Plague explored the human toll of epidemics back in 1947 – and of course, the end of the world has been the subject of more movies than almost anything else.

But that’s not really suggesting they have some incredible insight into the future; Dystopian plots or backdrops are almost standard fare, and the spread of some toxin or virus is the easiest vehicle for writer’s to plot.

That doesn’t mean the reader or viewer isn’t stopped in their tracks when they come across a piece or a film that appears to have predicted the future.

One such slim volume that fulfils that brief is really just a long essay, entitled Here is New York.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app

The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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