Can there be any better way of getting under the skin of a foreign country than living alongside local residents? Probably not. The problem for most people however is that they don’t have the time to duck out of life for a year or so to go and live elsewhere – you can’t be a student forever! So what about those of us who have family and career responsibilities, how can we get an authentic taste of what it’s like to live in another place?
Going on holiday is of course the obvious answer, but hotels are expensive and they are all the same the world over – bland and characterless; you could be anywhere. Moreover that kind of holiday tends to be hijacked by people wanting to organise you onto tours of so-called “traditional” sites and relieve you of your hard-earned cash. And can you imagine living in hotel rooms for a few weeks with young children?
One solution is to rent a house or a series of two or three houses. That way you get more of an opportunity to experience life in that particular country first hand. You might even get the chance to be sick and have to visit the local doctor rather than see the hotel doctor. That way you get an insight into the Health Care system! (Yes, we have one).
A number of excellent companies have emerged in recent years which have helped to put Ireland on the map as far as this kind of self-catering holiday is concerned. Several reliable web sites offer houses and cottages for short term rental all over Ireland in places that can give customers a real sense of being in charge of their own time and experiences. By choosing well a foreigner can rent a house or cottage in as many different locations as he wishes, giving the chance to spend time everywhere from large cities to remote wilderness.
The company I have used about 7 times is Imagine Ireland (www.imagineireland.com) and is well worth a visit even if your planned visit to Ireland is no more than a pipe dream – you never can tell!
Imagine Ireland acts as an agent for private property owners and is based in England. They also have rental property in France.
Having rented cottages in counties Donegal, Mayo, Sligo and Galway I can say that the descriptions are 100% accurate, the cottages are all furnished and equipped to a very high standard, and using the site is very straightforward.
Some things need to be remembered however:
- TV reception is very poor in remote areas – you can’t depend on setting the kids in from of the TV when they get bored.
- It WILL rain, but that should not be seen as a serious problem – look at it as local colour!
- Cafes and restaurants tend to be expensive – not a problem since you have your own kitchen and you will get to rub shoulders with ordinary Irish people in ordinary Irish shops.
- Road signs don’t always point up the road that leads to your destination, but getting lost is part of the challenge and Ireland’s not that big anyway.
My favourites are the cottages in the wilds of the Gaelic speaking areas of Donegal and Galway. I know I’m not a foreigner, but I keep going back year after year, always to different cottages of course, but always with Imagine Ireland and my kids love it.