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A Different View

Make the most of the gems on your own doorstep

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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

No great rush to mend the error of your ways!

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

It was St Augustine who famously petitioned in prayer: ‘God, make me good – but just not yet’. It’s a sentiment that one Sister Mary Joseph took to whole new levels, because after spending her first 61 years as a high-living heiress, she spent the last three decades as a cloistered nun.

And she closed one chapter to open another one back in 1989 with a party for 800 of her closest friends at the Hilton Hotel in San Francisco – so many guests that the hostess carried a helium balloon all night, with the words “Here I Am” so that people could find her amid the throng.

The next day the former Ann Russell Miller flew to Chicago and joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Mount Carmel as a novitiate, spending the rest of her life as Sister Mary Joseph of the Trinity.

Or as one of her 28 grandchildren put it: “It was like The Great Gatsby turned into The Sound of Music.”

Her recent obituary in the Times painted quite the colourful picture of a lover of the high life turned Holy Roller.

“She smoked, drank champagne, played cards, spent five hours a day on the telephone and, as an expert scuba diver and enthusiastic skier, travelled around the world.

“She had a season ticket to the opera, was a high-society patron of many charitable causes and drove her sports car at such reckless speeds that, according to her son Mark, ‘people got out of her car with a sore foot from slamming on an imaginary brake’.”

Because if ever a life could be described as a tale of two-thirds of high living and one-third of contemplation, this was it; the mother of ten who enjoyed the casual company of celebrity friends like Nancy Reagan and Bob Hope opted for an order which allowed her one visitor a month – and even then no touching given the two rows of iron bars between them.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Connacht Tribune

Online games will always give way to world of pure imagination

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When we were young and Wimbledon came on the telly for two weeks, we’d all rush out to hit a tennis ball off the wall and imagine for an hour that we were Jimmy Connors or Bjorn Borg.

On the odd occasion when we saw live football on TV – the World Cup, the FA Cup Final, or Jimmy Magee covering another false dawn for Ireland at Dalymount Park – we took to the footpath and pretended we were Johnny Giles or Georgie Best.

Jumpers for goalposts, games that went on for hours, fly-goalkeepers, next goal wins – a world of entertainment for the price of a plastic football.

Now when it’s half-time in Sky Sports’ fifth live match of the weekend, the kids still want to play their own version when it’s over. Except they do it on the PlayStation so they never have to leave the comfort of the couch.

Even if we re-enacted the World Cup indoors back in the day, we did it with Subbuteo – so we still got more action and exercise than today’s kids, even if it was just a flick of the fingers.

But in the absence of video games, we did all this with nothing more than our vivid imaginations on a field of dreams that was otherwise a concrete car park or a patch of grass.

We pretended we were Mick O’Connell or maybe Mikey Sheehy (but never Brian Mullins or Jimmy Keaveney) as we fielded balls majestically out of the clouds – even if reality would suggest we hardly left the ground.

It was a world of our imagination where we supplied our own running commentary; these days, FIFA 21 does it for you.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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

We’re at our most sure-footed when we find common ground

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Dave O'Connell

A Different View with Dave O’Connell

When two Irish people meet, they have thirty seconds to find someone they have in common or both of them will die.

It was a Tweet that made me smile recently – but then, thinking a little more, it’s actually so, so true.

We seem lost if we can’t make a common connection, as if six degrees of separation is about three steps too far.

Of course, we’re spoilt in Galway because you’ll never ever meet someone who doesn’t know Michael D; they were either lectured by him, they canvassed for him, they sat beside him in Terryland Park, they chatted with him at the Arts Festival before it had a tent, or they’ve been to a garden party at the Áras.

And once the pressure is off because you’ve made one connection, the rest will flow like soup off Alan Dukes’ fork, as Johneen Donnellan once observed.

It’s a small county in the scheme of things so it shouldn’t be any wonder that we’re well connected – from school or college or work or extended family or geography, we’re a stone’s throw from everyone else.

Half of Mayo, of course, knows Joe Biden – and never has a man had so many fourth cousins once removed (if it gets much worse, he might have to have them forcibly removed) since he got the keys to the big White House.

We can’t claim to know Barack Obama, but half of Galway knows Billy Lawless, who hosted the former Chicago senator in his acclaimed restaurant – we knew Billy as a politician or a publican, in Trigger Martyn’s or the old Twelve in Barna. So that’s close enough.

We’re also familiar with Pat McDonagh, who doesn’t just own Supermac’s; he also owns the Barack Obama Plaza in Offaly. So that’s a second Presidential connection to someone we’ve never actually met.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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.

 

Continue Reading

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