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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Welcome to the Giant's Causeway, and please leave it where you found it ....

Randi's painting of the Causeway reminds me...

The Giant's Causeway is often noted as "Ireland's most visited tourist attraction", but it is interesting how little reference is made to the fact that it is located in Northern Ireland in the "official guide".

When I received my Fulbright a couple of years ago, I knew as much about Northern Ireland as most of us do -- mainly through the news about the Troubles. But I obviously needed to know more, especially about mundane things such as the weather. So I asked those I knew who had visited Ireland what they could tell me about Northern Ireland (and Belfast especially). Almost everyone offered the same reply: "Oh yes, I've been to Ireland; beautiful country, lovely people. But, oh no, I have not been to Northern Ireland -- too dangerous, ya know..."

That was typically followed with travel and tourism advice -- you must go see this, and you must go see that. And almost to a person all would advise that I shouldn't miss seeing the Giant's Causeway -- after all, it's "Ireland's most visited tourist attraction".

Clearly these folks had been to places they would never have thought of going -- and it is obvious that the official site for "Ireland's most visited tourist attraction" does a pretty good job of hiding its location from those unsuspecting tourists who board the bus and never realize they had ventured into the 'Troubled' north.... Want the truth -- stick with the official site for the Northern Ireland Tour Board.

Then there was the 2003-2004 Holiday Inn brochure -- you know the one that lists all HI properties in Europe, with maps for each country placing nice little stars to mark the location of each major 'must see' tourist spot. I can't seem to find an online copy, but the one I have in my collection clearly shows that the Giant's Causeway has moved from its prominent position in County Antrim (near that other 'must see' spot at Bushmill's) to a location somewhere in the County Mayo area on the northwest coast or Ireland -- obviously quite safely situated within the Republic....

I have nothing against County Mayo or the rest of the Republic -- fine places, indeed. But if you want to see "Ireland's most visited tourist attraction", I'm afraid you'll have to risk a trip to Northern Ireland -- and bring your new British pound notes, please; there seems to be a shortage of the local variety at the moment.
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