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A 'remote' holiday in Clare - without leaving the couch

TG4's four-part series on the Burren will take you there, writes Declan Lynch


The Burren

The Burren

The Burren

I have come to accept that my annual holiday in France will not be happening this year. No, it's not because of travel restrictions, it's because the Tour de France will not be on television this year.

For long I have argued that holidays can be taken more 'remotely', and now it seems that in many other areas, the world had finally caught up with me.

No longer do people automatically assume that they have to be physically present in an office every day, or physically travelling to that office, or physically doing many things that they used to do.

I had reached that conclusion in relation to leisure activities too, noting in particular that by watching the Tour de France on Eurosport every day, I was getting none of the drawbacks of an 'actual' holiday in France, and many unique advantages.

You didn't have to travel to France, for a start, with all the unpleasantness that entails. You had aerial photography to give a true perspective, and if you weren't enjoying it, you could go 'home' simply by changing the channel.

'Le Tour' even takes a different route every year, so that you get the broadest possible 'experience' of the country - often you will hear of people who go to the same little village in France every summer, which to me seems terribly limiting, next to the infinite variety to be found on Eurosport.

And by the way, they throw in an excellent bicycle race too. Not this year, though.

And yet I am pleased to say that I have been able to make other arrangements. Thanks to a new four-part series on TG4, An Bhoirinn, about a year in the life of the Burren, I am doing what you might call a 'staycation'. And it started very nicely last Wednesday with the 'spring' episode, which had many of the elements which are so attractive to the 'remote', or perhaps remote-control, holiday-maker.

For a start, I didn't have to go to Clare to be wandering, as it were, through the famous landscape. And even if I had gone to the trouble of going down there, I would have missed all the useful information being imparted about the flora and the fauna.

Hey, what do I know about flora and fauna? There I would have been, just thinking "this is very nice", without really knowing anything; whereas now I know loads of things which enhance my enjoyment of the scenery, without leaving my home on the east coast.

But it's in our meetings with the people of the Burren that this series really gives us an edge. Generally in such programmes we are told about the botanical wonders of the area, but here we meet an actual botanist, Eugene Lambe, who also makes musical instruments; he plays the uilleann pipes, and sings.

If I had just gone down there, on spec, probably I'd never have encountered this excellent fellow.

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I mean, I might have run into him by accident - but a good TV treatment takes all the anxiety away, and you get to know these people at their best.

Nor in all likelihood would I have met Rainer Krause, the fisherman originally from Germany who has been going out in his boat since the mid-1960s, catching fish in the sea. I mean, I might have spotted him in the distance, but I'd have known nothing of his interesting back-story.

And anyway I am quite a shy person, so it is a boon for me when I can be 'introduced' to such interesting people without actually going through the difficult rituals of meeting and greeting.

I can participate in 'conversations' with people in Lahinch or Kilfenora or in Kinvara, where Annie Nolan runs a vegetable stall; or in the Cheese Press in Ennistymon, which looks like the ideal establishment for anyone wanting to meet good people and drink good coffee - something I was able to glean from this TV visit without needing to go down there in person.

In Ennistymon too, there's a gallery run by the painter Sara Foust who came over here from San Francisco - and again, as a reserved sort of person, I wouldn't be going up to Sara Foust in her gallery and talking to her.

I'm happy to leave it to the TV people - in this case probably the director Martina Durac - to do the heavy lifting in this regard.

That's their job, I'm on my holidays.

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