Wednesday 16 August 2017

Musings and optimism on summer trips south

There is an impression of revitalisation in Kerry, but businesses still depend on tourism to make a living, writes Brendan O’Connor

FEAST FOR THE SENSES: The monastic island, Skellig Michael was founded in the 7th century and is a big tourism draw especially since the filming of Star Wars. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
FEAST FOR THE SENSES: The monastic island, Skellig Michael was founded in the 7th century and is a big tourism draw especially since the filming of Star Wars. Photo: Valerie O’Sullivan
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

We have to order before 7.45pm because there’s an 80th birthday on in Dooley’s in Waterville. There’s a huge gang of them, enjoying steaks and seafood, many of them friends since school; there’s even local hero Mick O’Dwyer. It’s looking lively, and a guy is getting set up to play music. Naturally, I am related to some of them. Every second person you meet around here is a cousin of some kind.

The local post office was robbed that morning, and there is much hilarity about why anyone would conduct a robbery in Waterville when your exit strategy is so limited. You are close to the edge of Europe here. As it happened, the robbers chose the worst of the escape routes, out the cliff road, where they nearly collided with a tour bus. The buses loom around corners at you on the tight roads. It felt like there weren’t as many of them circumnavigating the Ring of Kerry as you might see other years, but things certainly feel like they’re booming in Waterville.

They reminded me of the older people I’d been observing in rural Italy recently, as they went about living their lives and chatting away joyfully with each other as they did their daily business. These were older people who were living, not dying. And while Micko is a bit of an institution, none of them seemed ready for an institution. Indeed, Kerry has a lot of similarities with rural Italian life and a lot to learn from how Italians monetise their rural idylls.

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