Of Irish beaches, movies and romance
This is a collaborative post.
If you ask my husband why we chose to move to Wexford, Ireland from Johannesburg in South Africa, he’ll tell you it was for the beaches. If you know my husband you’ll know that he’s a messer – South Africans are spoilt for beaches. If you’ve ever been there you’ll know that the sunshine and high temperatures combined with a coastline that’s almost twice the length of Ireland’s, means that the beaches are where everyone flocks to as often as they can, for as long as they can. In fact, we would willingly drive the equivalent of the entire length of the Irish coastline in one day – which is the distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town – in order to get down to the seaside. (Ireland coastline is 1,448 km, South African coastline is 2,798.00 km, Distance from Johannesburg to Cape Town 1398km).
I recently conducted a survey on Facebook asking people what places they would recommend for first time visitors to Ireland from South Africa. Suggestions included the beautiful scenery of West Cork, Dingle and Wicklow but the one feature that came up more than once was the beaches along the Wexford coast. Wexford people are very proud of their beaches, for good reason. They are long, clean and seldom overcrowded.
Now admittedly that’s partly to do with the fact that nobody would describe the Irish climate as ‘beachy’. Most overseas visitors come here for the culture, the Guinness, the sheep and the green misty hills. However, Wexford’s beaches are popular not just with the locals but also with the rest of the country who choose to come down here to the Sunny South East for their summer holidays – that’s when they’re not going to Spain.
Not only does Ireland love the Wexford beaches but so do international move stars! Did you know that Tom Hanks walked these sandy shores? The beach landing scenes in the film Saving Private Ryan was filmed on Ballinesker beach as the stretch of coastline there resembled Normandy in the 1940’s.
One summer holiday we visited Omaha beach in France where D Day actually happened. Standing there looking over the waves and imagining the awful devastation was a moving experience but the coastline along these French beaches is now developed and the beach busy with holiday makers and fishermen launching small boats with tractors .
Ballinesker beach isn’t the only well known Irish film destination. Here is a link to an interesting infographic of over 30 films and TV shows that have been filmed in this country. Can you add any more names to the list? One that hasn’t been added is the tragic true story In the Name of the Father starring Daniel Day Lewis also used Kilmainham Gaol as a setting for part of the movie.
Thinking back to why I always wanted to live in Ireland, I blame Riverdance. This fabulous production celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and shortly after it came out, we were living in London so we managed to get tickets for a performance in Hammersmith. We could only afford the standing room tickets right at the back of the theatre but that turned out to be a good thing as I was unable to stand still. I have never done a step of Irish dancing classes in my life but that night I was jiggling about as though I was Michael Flatley himself.
To me this country was all about the romance of the haunting music; there’s an evocation that’s both magical and spiritual in the style of singing and sound of the instruments. Who can resist the moving combination of harp and uilleann pipes or fiddle and bodhran drum? And speaking of romance, we celebrate our 25th anniversary this year too, my hubby and I, and we are thinking of a return trip to London even though Riverdance has returned to Ireland.
Once we moved here I noticed on the first day on the bus ride from Dublin down to Wexford that this is a real life country and not everyone in Ireland lives in quaint thatch cottages or rides about on battered old scooters. (Have you seen Waking Ned Devine – which actually wasn’t shot in Ireland?). Also not everyone dances or sings very well, you can ask my friend Mary and she’ll tell you herself.
I’m not a fan of sunbathing and thank goodness for that as I might be a bit frustrated in Ireland. In my opinion, beaches are the best places to walk (or even sing and maybe dance), and the stormier the better! Pounding these sands with friends, I have threshed out problems, and tramped off pounds (the Christmas dinner type).
Coming from Johannesburg, I’m especially grateful that we ended up living somewhere where it takes me less than half an hour before I can put my toes in the sand and my face into a salty breeze.
Who knows, maybe one day before our 50th wedding anniversary my husband and I will fulfill our musical ambitions – mine to play the harp and he the uilleann pipes and we’ll sit (albeit a trifle awkwardly and encumbered) on the beach, our ancient and remaining hair flapping in the breeze, to the strains of our own South African version of Irish romance.