It is a phrase that we’re all well acquainted with and although strictly speaking it is supposed to refer to a person rather than a thing, it has become common practice in recent times to denote the lack of respect that we attribute to persons, places or things when they become so familiar to us that they become boring. A perfect example of this behavioral phenomenon is global tourism. You and I often travel at great inconvenience and cost to marvel at both man-made objects and areas of natural beauty that the people living in those areas already take for granted as they exist on their doorstep, metaphorically speaking. Whilst we ooh and aah at their treasures and photogenically pleasing landscapes, they, too, are spending money and investing time coming half-way around the world to experience what we have to offer!
The fact of the matter is that human nature thrives on novelty, difference and those things (be they landscape, culture, cuisine or people) that are fundamentally different to what we’re used to, or which occupy the other end of the experiential table. Whereas you and I could take a walk along a deserted beach almost for granted (it being a relatively common-day experience in Ireland), someone from Delhi or Beijing might consider it a life-changing experience. Such is the relativism of everything. Having said that; I also feel that the expression is often overused and somewhat exaggerated in its claim.
Take me for example! I’ve spent over forty years of my adult life travelling the world. I’ve seen some amazing places and enjoyed some truly incredible experiences but there’s no place I’d rather live than in my adopted village of Dunmore East in Co. Waterford. Ireland. To me, it’s a little bit of heaven that ticks most of the boxes that are important to me. In case you’re not familiar with my little corner of the earth, Dunmore East is a picturesque fishing village with a population just under 2,000 which is located on the western side of the Suir estuary and Waterford Harbour, in the southeast of Ireland. Such is the pleasing aspect of the village — particularly when views from the sea, that it has become a regular stop with many cruise lines in recent years. Unlike many other towns and villages across Ireland which suffered from rampant development during the infamous ‘Celtic Tiger’ years, Dunmore East has remained largely unchanged so still retains much of its character, including some really photogenic thatched cottages. But it is really its setting, located on a series of cliffs overlooking the mouth of the estuary with great panoramic views across the river which is several miles wide at that point to county Wexford and famous Hook Head — which boasts the oldest operations lighthouse in the world which was built back in 1172. ‘Hook or by Crook’ is a well known phrase whose origins are attributed to none other than Oliver Cromwell who is reputed to have claimed that he would capture nearby Waterford ‘by hook or by Crook’. The ‘Crook’ referred to is a small fishing village further up the estuary.
As you would expect of a small fishing village, all things aquatic are very much on the menu of the the two dine restaurants and one gastro-pub that cater for locals and tourists alike. The Strand, a pub/restaurant/small boutique hotel that sits on the waters edge is renowned for its home cooking, whilst Azurro which lies just 150 metres away at the top of the hill overlooking the same small cove produces what none other than celebrity chef Richard Corrigan once described as some of the best pizza one can get anywhere in the world, outside of Naples itself! Rounding off the trio of eating establishments in the village is the Spinnaker, a maritime-themed gastro pub which boasts an unexpectedly diverse menu and which regularly features live musical acts.
Boats can be chartered in season to take you out for whale watching expeditions whilst there are some great cliff walks that can be tackled along the rugged coastline. Dunmore East also has what has got to be the tennis courts with the most spectacular views in the world — just take my word for it!
So, there you have it! You don’t necessarily need to travel to the corners of the earth to experience amazing scenery or exceptional cuisine. Sometimes, such treats are literally right under you nose if you just go looking for them!
* First recorded use of this expression was in Chaucer’s Tale of Melibee (c. 1386).