"Travel with Stephanie Abrams!" Radio Show - August 30, 2015
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite
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Hour 1

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Paul Ratchford, General Manager, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, Fish Camp, California, USA.

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Paul Ratchford, General Manager, Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite, Fish Camp, California, USA.

Hour 2

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Joanne Papineau, Regional Director, Public Relations, Eastern Canada, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

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Joanne Papineau, Regional Director, Public Relations, Eastern Canada, Fairmont Hotels and Resorts, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Hour 3

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Click here to listen to Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive, Tourism Ireland interviewed by Stephanie Abrams without commercials.

Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive, Tourism Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.

The Ever Present Irish American Connection

Originally broadcast on May 16, 2015. Travel Expert Radio Show Host Stephanie Abrams talks with Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive for Tourism Ireland, the official tourist board for the Island of Ireland including Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Niall is based in Dublin and says "Greetings from Dublin, Greetings to the United States" to listeners and fans.

Stephanie says she would love to abduct Niall, especially if it means getting him to the Berkshires of Massachusetts during the summer so he can enjoy Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Stephanie's recording studio in Pittsfield Massachusetts, at the Berkshire Crowne Plaza Hotel is only about five miles from Tanglewood in nearby Lenox.

Niall says it's an invite he can't refuse and that it's never been easier to get from Ireland to Boston. Niall mentions that there is a lot of connectivity between the US and Ireland with 11 major gateways. Stephanie says this is the time to go, or if you can't go right now, buy your Euros now because of the conversion rate. Stephanie and Niall talk about the current US to Euro conversion rate as being very advantageous for Americans compared to two years ago. Stephanie mentions the rate as being roughly 1.54 USD to 1 Euro two years ago, while today it is roughly 1.09 USD to 1 Euro.

Stephanie says life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of your plans. Niall agrees, "don't put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today". He says there's never been a better time and it's never been easier to get to Ireland and there are great things to do and see in Ireland and with the current monetary conversion rate now is the perfect time to visit.

Stephanie says that when travelers weigh the cost of staying at a make-believe castle, that is a modern creation, versus going to Ireland where if you stay in a castle, it's an actual castle dating back 400-800 years or more, they will see that the opportunity for an authentic historical stay is within reach. Stephanie mentions Glin Castle as an example of an 800 year old castle where she once stayed. Niall says the families that lived in those castles "can tell you chapter and verse the history of the castle; who lived there; the battles and conflicts it was engaged in". Niall says some of the castle experiences of staying in 800 year old castles "are amazing, and its real, and it's here and it's waiting to be discovered."

Stephanie Abrams and Niall Gibbons agree that there are many connections of people, family, heritage and culture between the United States and Ireland. In Massachusetts, for instance, four towns in the Berkshires are celebrating their 250th Anniversary this year. They were all originally incorporated under the King of England and are Becket, Richmond, Williamstown and Lanesborough, Massachusetts. Notably, Lanesborough, MA is now twinned with Lanesborough in County Longford, Ireland which are both named after the Irish family, Lanes. The twinning partly was made possible through efforts by Stephanie Abrams and her husband Mark Abrams.

Stephanie urges Niall to retell a story he was telling her earlier. He says it’s a bit of a long story, but he was recently in California, in San Francisco, to do some promotion regarding a new Aer Lingus route from San Francisco to Ireland. He met a member of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD ), Val Kirwan, who was there to escort him into the building. Niall asked him where he was from, and it transpired that he'd been in the US for 25 years and is originally from Lanesborough, Ireland. Niall says his own uncle taught in Lanesborough for 44 years, "what a small world? And they used to know each other, and play cards together and they were great friends". Uncle, Tommy Patterson was a pillar of the community in Lanesborough, though, he's sadly passed away. Niall says he gave Val Kirwan a mention from the stage at an Irish community reception and he got a great round of applause and he's a well respected member of the community. Val told Niall that if he's ever coming back he should give him a shout and he'd make sure he was well taken care of and give him a tour around.

The week afterward, Niall was in London in a pub called the Horse and Groom in a posh area called Belgravia. He had been at a tradeshow promoting Ireland in the UK and he went up to buy a pint of Guinness at the bar. He asked the guy that served him, "you've got a west of Ireland accent, I can tell. What part are you from?" The bar tender said he's from Longford, Ireland. Niall asked him "what part of Longford" and the bar tender said "Lanesborough". Niall said, "You won't believe this. I met a guy in California from Lanesborough only ten days ago." The bar tender asks, "Was he named Val Kirwan?" Niall said, "Do you know him?" And it turns out the guy said they sat together at school.
"Isn't that amazing", asks Niall?

Stephanie thinks it’s a great story and tells one herself about meeting Sheila Moffatt of the Moffatt School of Irish Dancing. She can remember originally meeting her in Lahardane, Ireland on April 14, 2012 while leaning against the outside wall of Leonard's Pub. Stephanie says she and Sheila both were waiting to be interviewed by a local Irish radio station, Midwest FM. The day was so memorable because on that date a special ceremony was held at midnight for the 14 people from Addergoole Parish who sailed on the Titanic. The service is held in the courtyard of St. Patrick's church. The Titanic sunk on the 15th of April at 2:20 am in 1912 and that year was the 100th anniversary.

Stephanie says that on a later trip to California while talking with John Steinbach, the General Manager of the Lake Tahoe Resort Hotel, she learned that his wife is an Irish descendent, but has never been to Ireland. Stephanie convinced John that they've got to go to Ireland. Later, in December, on a winter trip to Tahoe she learned that the Steinbach's family connection is with Lahardane, Ireland. Stephanie put John and his wife together with someone in Ireland to research the Steinbach family history. It turns out that Mrs. Steinbach's grandfather left Ireland circa 1890 but returned in 1905 and bought a piece of land upon which he built a brick building. That very brick building turned out to be Leonard's pub, the very spot that Stephanie originally met Sheila Moffatt.

Niall says it’s a sad case that 14 people from Addergoole were on the Titanic and 11 of them died. He says, each year on the anniversary of the sinking at 2am they ring the bell 14 times for each of the victims. Stephanie chimes in that they actually rang the bell 3 times for each of the 14 victims when she witnessed the ceremony. Of the three who did not die in the sinking, Stephanie says, one became a nun, one settled in New York and one settled in Chicago. Recently, the great granddaughter of Annie McGowan, the Titanic survivor who moved to Chicago, was crowned the Rose at the International Rose of Tralee Festival in Tralee, Ireland.

Niall Gibbons and Stephanie Abrams change channels to talk about Ireland being featured in film and TV including current "Game of Thrones" excitement, as well as about "Braveheart", the TV show "Ballykissangel" and more. "Game of Thrones" is HBO's popular fantasy series filmed on the northern coast of Northern Ireland and along Giant's Causeway. Niall says that GOT is the biggest show that HBO has ever commissioned and it's principally filmed in Northern Ireland. Stephanie mentions Giant's Causeway inspired jewelry and says a wonderful assortment was commissioned for an artist to design pins, necklaces, rings, etc. to help remind you of your trip and that she's been wearing a new piece since her last trip. Niall mentions the Gubbins Coastal Path Walk a recent 8 million dollar reinvestment and renovation project for a cliff path about half mile long that navigates a portion of the cliff walls and even juts straight out into the ocean at a point.

Niall says there's a new connection between Tourism Ireland, Game of Thrones and HBO. He says that together they have put a few props around Ireland and do a few publicity stunts. Today they had some three-eyed ravens, from the show, around Belfast. They put dragon's eggs in St. Georges Market. He says what's great about it is that "in a normal functioning grocery market the eggs … put your hand on them and they started to vibrate making a big 'ole racket". The stunts are filmed and put on social media to coincide with each new episode.

Niall mentions Tullymore Park and County Down in relation to Game of Thrones tours for fans and that in addition to Film tourism, there are archery, cycle, castle, equestrian, boat tours, overnight mini-breaks, and private tours if you want them. He says the themed tours are proving to be a big hit and putting Northern Ireland on the map. For Niall, the "Game of Thrones" sensation is a big surprise and says the show is contemporary with a big international following. Niall recently had a meeting of international buyers and says "they were bowled over" by some of the companies doing the GOT inspired tours.

Stephanie says the Mel Gibson film, "Braveheart", was actually filmed in Ireland, not Scotland where it's based, and that visitors to Ireland can take the Braveheart trail and seek out the various locations used during filming.

Niall mentions a PBS TV show from the US called Ballykissangel. He says it's an old show and was filmed in Avoca, the same village where the Avoca Woolen Mill store is located. He says it's fun to watch the show and then walk along the streets where it was filmed and see where all the characters would walk. He says it's in County Wicklow, which is known as the "garden of Ireland", and lives up to its name and is beautiful.

Niall says a little further south in County Wexford is where the famous "Saving Private Ryan" movie scene of the storming of Normandy during WW2 was filmed. Stephanie mentions Dunluce Castle In Northern Ireland on the Antrim Coast as being used in "Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl." Apparently Dunluce is used in the scenes portraying the Caribbean castle of Captain Jack Sparrow, played by Jonny Depp. Stephanie says to watch the movie "Waking Ned Devine" to get a sense of the west coast in Ireland and also to watch a recent film, "Life's a Breeze".

Niall suggests that if you travel to County Down into Belfast up by Giant's Causeway there are many things to take in, including the World Heritage Site Giant's Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Stephanie advises visitors that if it’s a windy day, they'll close bridge and that even on a calm day the attraction is not for the faint hearted.

Stephanie and Niall close out this wide ranging conversation by talking about the Dunbrody Famine Ship and Irish American Hall of Fame and Visitors Center of Dunbrody. The Dunbrody Famine Ship is a recreation of the ship that brought people from Ireland to America. Stephanie tells us that if you've been to the Jamestown Settlement in Virginia it is a similar kind of reconstruction. Stephanie says that if you travel a little west to New Ross you will come to Waterford the home of Waterford Crystal.

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For more information visit www.ireland.com

Guests Include:

Niall Gibbons, Chief Executive, Tourism Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.

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