Ireland: Not All Whiskey and Leprechauns

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic.  By sea, you can get to Ireland from France, Wales, Scotland, or England.  Geographically, it is comprised of relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable climate which avoids extremes in temperature.  It frequently rains.  Thick woodlands covered the island until the Middle Ages.  
 
    Politically speaking Ireland is separated into two groups: Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.  Though the civil war in Ireland ended in 1923, there are still many signs of unrest between the two areas.  I had no problem traveling the whole country, and met friendly people everywhere I went, but many fellow travelers have reported an eerie feeling in the North, akin to animosity.  Evidence of the fighting is still pretty obvious and they use the pound rather than the euro, though most places still accept the euro.
 
    Irish Foods: Most people think potatoes and stews when they think of Ireland.  This is in large part due to the famine that hit Ireland in the mid-19th century, when the population was forced to sustain itself off potatoes and milk.  Since returning to a flourishing state in the late 20th century, the cuisine now offers a traditional taste but much more fresh vegetables, meats, etc., with potatoes still playing a big role.   Ballina in Northern Ireland is the fishing capital, offering wonderful arrays of fresh salmon among other seafood.  Irish soda bread with smoked salmon is a very common dish all over Ireland.  Besides Irish soda bread, they are quite proud of Guinness bread.  Dense like soda bread it is a bit more moist, darker, and has a richer flavor.  The Irish breakfast, much like the English, offers sausages, back bacon, beans, eggs, bread, and my favorite, blood pudding.  Many “Irish” desserts feature Baileys or potato; my favorite is bread pudding with whiskey sauce!!

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