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A Weekend in Fiddle Heaven – My Trip to Ireland

IMG_2135I took a whirlwind tour to Ireland this past weekend.  I had been invited to attend the Dunfanaghy Traditional Irish Music Festival from June 28-30 at Arnolds Hotel in Dunfanghy, Ireland.  Sadly, I had gigs booked on June 27th and July 3rd here at home, so I had to take a very short trip!

So, here we go:

June 28th I headed off to Moncton, NB to catch my flight.  I flew from Moncton, to Toronto, to Dublin.  The flights all went really smoothly, which was excellent.  I arrived in Dublin on Saturday, June 29th at 9:30am.

My initial plan had been to catch the bus from Dublin to Dunfanaghy, but missed the early morning run.  I was able to catch a bus to Letterkenny, and Gerarda Arnold from Arnolds Hotel made the trip to pick me up.  It was very kind of her to do so as Dunfanaghy is about a 45 minute drive from Letterkenny.

IMG_2150I arrived in Dunfanaghy at 3:30pm and was treated very well by Gerarda, who made sure that I was fed, had a chance to freshen up a bit, was checked in, and introduced me to the musicians.  The festival had started the night before, and music for the day had started at 3pm.  I met David Lennon and the musicians from the Fealty Session who were lovely, and a lot of fun.  They included me right away, and we played music until close to 6pm when we stopped for supper.  I had a lovely supper of boxty (a potato pancake) with leaks and garlic in a cream sauce.

IMG_2137The musicians from the Fealty Session invited me to follow along with them as they continued on to another pub, Patsy Dan’s.  We continued playing music there until about 10pm when we were told to stop as they had a musician coming in to play for the evening.  We headed out to the patio behind the pub and played some more music!    At 11pm I decided that I really needed to head back to Arnolds Hotel since they had invited me to come to Ireland and I felt like I was neglecting my hosts.  Liam Deery was playing in the Whiskey Fly Bar (at Arnolds Hotel), so I went to join them and sat in for a while.  At about 1am I decided to call it a day and head to bed.

Sunday morning started bright and early with breakfast:  a good Irish fried breakfast.  Arnolds Hotel puts on a quite a spread for breakfast.  There was a buffet of cereal, fruit cocktail, juice, croissants, and soda bread.  You can also order a hot breakfast from their menu.  I chose the small Irish fried breakfast, which included one sausage, one piece of bacon, one fried egg, fried mushrooms, and a fried tomato.  So good!

After breakfast I decided to go back to bed for a nap since I had been travelling so long the day before and had been up late playing music.

IMG_2177At noon I got up and headed off to explore the community.  I got in a bit of shopping because many of the stores were open from 10am until 2pm on Sundays.  I went to a store called the Green Man, which was the local whole foods store.  I also visited the local gift stores and picked up some items to bring home, including a tweed hat for my husband.

IMG_2148I also went to the Workhouse Museum.  This was a nice little museum that tells the story of Hannah, a young girl who lived in the workhouse during the potato famine.  Workhouses were created as a place for paupers to live when they absolutely needed the help.  They were very basic places with basic accommodation, meager meals, and basic clothing.  Children had to go be schooled for three hours a day and adults were required to work.  The aim was for paupers to only move to workhouses as a last resort and for them to stay as short a time as possible.

1053096_623782987641287_1439747719_oAfter going to the museum I headed back to Arnolds Hotel for more music!  I joined Seamus & Aoife from 2-4pm, Richard, Donna and Emma from 6-8pm and then Johnny Coonan and friends from 9pm until the end of the night.  All of the musicians were lovely and let me sit in on all the sessions.  Around midnight I decided to call it a night.  During one of the sessions I was talking to the other musicians and found out that one had actually lived in Fredericton, NB (my home town) for a few months.  She asked what my last name was, and it turns out that she even has a copy of my CD.  What a small world!

IMG_2168Monday morning I had to get up shortly after 4am.  The night porter at the hotel was lovely, made me some toast and tea for breakfast, and went out to flag down the bus back to the airport.  The bus came around 5:15am and got me back to the Dublin airport in plenty of time to catch my flight back home.

Everyone back home thought that I was crazy for going to Ireland for the weekend, and everyone in Ireland thought that I was mad.  I don’t know how many times I heard “that’s mad” over the weekend as I told the other musicians that I was over just for the weekend.

All in all, I traveled for 22.5 hours to get to Dunfanaghy and 22 hours to get home.  I was in Dunfanaghy for 37 hours in total.  The trip was worth every minute of travel and every dollar that I spent.  I got to play lots of music, meet some great musicians, and make new friends.  Gerarda was a very gracious host, and Arnolds Hotel was a great place to stay!  I hope to return next year for the festival and would recommend it to anyone who loves traditional Irish music.

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