Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Aerlingus Gets Lost in Translation

I like traveling with Aerlingus and I find them very reliable as well as friendly. But some things can’t just be let go…

Aerlingus’s customer service department must have forgotten that golden rule of communication which says the whole purpose of communicating is to get some feedback from those you are trying to communicate with… That is: if you try to communicate with other people in a way they will not be able to understand you, the whole effort is just useless.

A couple of weeks ago, my parents bought flight tickets to come and visit. The route: Santiago de Compostela – Dublin. The process was initially simple, as the Aerlingus website allows users in different countries to book flights in different languages.

But yesterday, my mum texts me URGING me to check an email she has just forwarded to me from Aerlingus. It is a simple Travel Advisory note from Aerlingus, trying to flog car rentals and other products – just in English!. Of course the note might as well have been written in Chinese for neither my mum nor my dad speak English. And I think: this is just wrong.

If you sell tickets to people in different countries, at least make the effort to use that same language you used to sell your tickets for any communication with your customers afterwards… pure manners really (not just customer service best practice).

So my mum is freaking out but I tell her everything is ok and nobody is to kick her out of that plain coming to Ireland on Saturday. She is such a pain sometimes but I must admit she is 100% right on this one.

I remember the last time they came she was totally annoyed because nobody on the plane back to Santiago (and that is not one single crew member) spoke even Spanish. And I say EVEN, because for most Galicians (including me), Spanish is their second language, not even their mother tongue.

Can you imagine getting on a plane from Dublin to … let’s say Moscow just for the craic… and discover all the crew members spoke just Russian? The world would be up in arms.

It just reminds me of a friend’s neighbour who went on holidays to rural Andalucía. When she came back she explained she had a ‘lovely’ time but was a bit upset as the locals ‘didn’t have any English’. As she put it: “they didn’t make any effort with the language”. Now, if she couldn’t be bothered, why should the locals?

Maybe it is an understandable attitude coming from an old lady, but surely Aerlingus should know better…

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Is Maith Liom Dun na Gall

A visit to Donegal had been in my to-do list for quite a while (something like 6 years!) and finally got ticked this Easter weekend.

The first mission was finding a proper house for the long weekend for four people. Trying to book a holiday home online can be quite a challenge, due to the vast amount of websites and properties on offer, quite often not very informative! Discover Ireland is usually quite a good guide but there are so many pages of them it is difficult to short-list.

I ended up finding a couple of options: a website called and a listing for a lovely looking thatched cottage called Curragh Mor, all roughly located in the same area (around heritage town Ardara).

Curragh Mor was just perfect: a two bedroomed thatched cottage with all the facilities and a bunch of sheep running out the back ... brilliant. The most relaxing of landscapes in the middle of the boggy mountains.

DAY 1- Gorey to Donegal

After a miserable rainy and cold Thursday, Good Friday looks surprisingly enough how it should: Good.

We leave Gorey at 10 am on the dot (that was the deal) to make sure we cover the roughly 370 km that separate us from the other corner of the country by 6pm.

We stop just outside Navan for a wee - at a petrol station with shockingly filthy loos. Next stop is Cavan town: while it looked eerily quite as we entered the town from the N3, the main street area was actually quite lively and we even managed to get a bite (despite the whole Good Friday All-pubs Closed mess) in a pleasant cafe called Chapter One with very friendly staff.

We keep going. While we managed to escape the rain all the way up, it finally catches up as we are getting to Boa Island (just outside Enniskillen) to visit the Janus Stone, refreshingly pagan but now stuck in the middle of a cemetery.

Donegal is just around the corner now and we make it to the Curragh Mor cottage just before 6pm to find an even better place than I expected from the pictures sent by the landlady, a trusting Donegal woman called Ann. This is the life.

DAY 2- Inishowen peninsula

I don't like getting up too early when I'm on holiday, naturally enough, even if there is sightseeing involved. Leaving around 10,30 / 11 is plenty of time, after a relaxed breakfast. Heading all the way to the top of the Inishowen Peninsula maybe we miscalculated the time, as the drive back from Malin Head took forever.

The day started with lots of energy though and we headed happily towards Inishowen via Glenties and Letterkenny. Fist stop is the fort on top of Grianan Hill, near Burt. A very impressive fort on top of the hill with great views of both the Loughs Swilly and Foyle, as well as Inch island and Derry city. And just in time for one of the best defined rainbows I have ever seen (check out the picture!).

Signposting within Inishowen drives me insane. After eating some hearty pub food at Tir Na Ri pub in Carndonagh, it took us almost an hour and half to find our way to Malin Head (which is supposed to be only 15 kms!) but we finally reached the most northernly point of the country. The worst thing: the drive back to Ardara seemed endless.

DAY 3- South West Donegal

Second day: glorious weather in the West. Plans of visiting Tory Island out the window. Too much driving the first day has left the crew a bit tired of sitting in the car. Instead we head through the impressive Glen Gesh Pass towards pretty Glencolumbcille. The weather is perfect and we do the 2 hours 'blue' walk trail around the village and up the mountain where we enjoy amazing views of the sea and the local beaches.

After a quick visit to Malinbeg looking for somewhere to eat, we head to Carrick for fish and chips, before driving down towards Teelin and the Slieve League cliffs, meant to be one of the highest in Europe.

Back in Ardara we get some shopping for a quick exhausted BBQ before going to a deserved bed after a long sunny and active day!!!

DAY 4- Back home via Sligo

Miserable day and I don't think anybody wants to go. We decide to stop in Sligo before crossing the Midlands and drive back to Co. Wexford. Creevykeel court tomb, one of the best examples of its kind in Ireland, is first stop and the rain is actually not too bad. Pictoresque Mullaghmore harbour is the next: a swim for the lads (mad!) and a hot cuppa for the girls.

The Midlands are next (someone should really put something interesting in the middle of the country - let's say between Longford and Mullingar- to attract hungry tourists coming back from the West- they would really make a killing...), the traffic jams, the M50 and finally Gorey. And it hasn't stopped raining yet...

In short:

I really loved Donegal. I just wish next time we can go for at least a whole week (at the very least) ...

Still in the to-do list:

A visit to Tory Island

A walk in the Glenveagh National Park

Finding a seafood restaurant

Monday, April 6, 2009

Howth is Magic - really

There aren’t many places in the East Coast of Ireland where you can find the variety of fish and seafood you will find in the fish shops of Howth’s Pier.

Just 30 min by train (you can check times at from Dublin City, it is a popular day-trip for Dubliners and tourists alike. Going up on the Dart on a Sunday afternoon feels like being on a train of fleeing evacuees from some sort of conflict zone: crowded- very crowded. It almost makes you wonder if you are really in the right train and not on the way to Croke Park for a big GAA final.

It might be overly populated on a Spring Sunday afternoon but Howth is worth all the hassle. Of course, its Farmer’s Market is part of the attraction on Sundays, and the fact that all the fish shops along the Pier are open to the public. Sunday is a big market day in Howth: cakes, fish and chips, falafels, fruit and veg, curry sauces, fried calamari and all sorts of delicacies are on offer.

There are plenty of bars and restaurants along the Pier and the seafront (all of them cashing in with the fishy menu) but my favourite is The Oar House ( ) not only for its wide variety of fish and seafood on offer at a fairly good price but also for its low key marine décor. While Aqua (at the end of the Pier) does have an amazing 360-degrees seaview, the menu is not quite as impressive as in The Oar House.

The initial mission that took us to Howth in the first place (a couple of months ago) was trying to get hold of an octopus we could cook Galician style. Third time around the mission has been accomplished and the octopus is now happily living in the freezer waiting for its time to come.

‘Howth is magic’ seems to be the tourist board’s motto for this peninsula so close and yet so far of Dublin city. And it really is…

The cliff walk (specially the long route, that will take you around 4 hours) is a refreshingly quiet affair (compared with the market flocks) and will give you some of the best views of Dublin Bay. Feeding the seals (quite obviously very well looked after by the tourists, judging by their size!) is another popular attraction for those strolling along the harbour.

The Best Of Howth:
The seafood

The Worst Of Howth:
The crowds