An Irish Idyll

Tim and I attract good fortune:  we have excellent health, wonderful friends, both new and dearly familiar, families who love us, great lodging luck, and reasonable expectations for a long and comfortable life together.  Unfortunately, we also attract lousy weather.

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The rain DOES bring moments like this!

The last time we were truly warm we were in Italy.  We weren’t just warm, we were FRYING in the worst heat that country had experienced in 200 years.  Then, when we arrived in Venice in February, there was snow on the ground. After that, during our five weeks in Portugal in late February through March, they experienced one of the coldest spells anyone could remember.

Which brings me to April in Ireland.  Now, we knew for a fact that it would be wet, and we expected it to be cool.  Ireland is, after all, an island in the Atlantic Ocean, the last stop before Europe!  Of course it would be lousy in April.  But every Irish person with whom we discussed the weather, which means every Irish person we ever spoke with, told us that it was the WORST April in recorded history!

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We didn’t mind having cabin fever one bit!

The weather did keep us inside much of the time, but as you can see, this was hardly a burden!  We were extremely comfortable, warm and secure, and we happily spent the really stormy days writing and enjoying the benefits of our excellent kitchen and cheerful fireplace.  The garden developed outside our windows and we witnessed spring overtaking the barren landscape of the winter in the southwest of Ireland.

There were some breaks in the storm patterns and each time it happened we would dash out to enjoy Ireland’s magic.  The rugged Beara Peninsula began five minutes from our house, right over a little stone bridge.  We were instantly captured by its grandeur, and a beautiful drive through deep canyons of Healy Pass led us to a little town and a pub lunch of local mussels and brown bread.  A pint of perfectly pulled Guinness gave me the stamina to go home and hit the computer again!  I was writing articles and trying to finish the book manuscript, too.

We took one of our famous two day in-country vacations to see two stunning sites which were less than two hours away. We were lucky once more and enjoyed a rare warm, sunny day.  Cahir Castle, which is one of Ireland’s largest, was built in 1142 by Conor O’Brien (ahem, my mother’s maiden name) and has a spectacular history of wars, destruction, rebuilding, and remodeling (some of which reminds me a bit of my Irish family history).  Like all Irish monuments, it is beautifully maintained, and the informative staff is helpful.  They even gave us sun!

At Cahir Castle.

At Cahir Castle.

We drove on to Cashel, where the twelfth century Romanesque church commands a tall outcropping. Its carvings and dramatic windows, which are open to the sky today, demanded our attention, and Tim was very busy clicking away at the magnificent masonry and irresistible views. The chapel walls contain the oldest and most revered wall paintings in Ireland.   We spent a long time walking through the graveyard, with its toppled stones and high crosses. On one side we looked down to Hore Abbey, the desolate ruins of a twelfth century Cistercian community.  The site was almost empty that day, which gave us the rare opportunity to appreciate the work of ancient people without the noise and confusion that other tourists bring to such places.  It’s a treat to be allowed some time of reverence without someone smashing into us with back-packs or shouting at their friends.  

We spent the night in a very comfortable small hotel right in the main street of Cashel town, chatted up the barman across the street, and had a delicious dinner in the hotel’s dining room.  The place, built many centuries ago, was beautifully refurbished and very comfortable.  It was a memorable getaway and the next day we drove home via Waterford where we had lunch with two of the editors at International Living Magazine who have been kind enough to publish some stories I’ve written for them about our life on the road.

We hurried home through a series of wild downpours, Victoria, the GPS, calmly chatting away as Tim dodged lorries, sheep and rain-filled potholes.  We had a lunch date the next day to meet our new friends Renee and Pat Hanrahan from Wichita, Kansas.  Renee had written to me weeks in advance and we’d made a date for a pub lunch in Kenmare.  They were charming company, and it gave us an opportunity to talk face to face with people who are reading this blog and following our home free life.  They came up with some fresh ideas like the comment section at the end of each post, where we hope you will tell us about YOUR experiences!  It was so nice of them to share part of their day with us!

Renee and Pat Hanrahan from Wichita, Kansas

Renee and Pat Hanrahan from Wichita, Kansas

An OPI red is always right!

Toe toasting.

It was almost time for us to leave Ireland and I was writing demonically every day to try to make my own deadline and finish the first draft of Home Free by the time we left for France.  I took one afternoon off from my labors to have a manicure and pedicure, and I flip-flopped my way to the pub next door where my tootsies dried in front of a peat fire and a little Irish whiskey made me feel as bright as my toenails.

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Maureen and Alan Grainger, Bray, Ireland.

Alan and Maureen Grainger, who were our neighbors the year before in Bray, outside  Dublin, came down to Kenmare on their way to visit other friends in the area.  It was wonderful fun to catch up and I had a chance to cook for them, which is a rare thing when we’re living on the road!  We had a wonderful Irish evening with a big storm raging outside and a big fire inside to make us all feel cozy.

I made my personal writing deadline in spite of all the delightful distractions and we were soon packed and locking the house and gates on our idyllic hilltop for the last time.  It was a bittersweet moment because we had enjoyed ourselves in so many ways, yet we were looking forward to new adventures in our favorite city, Paris.

First we stopped in Dublin for a couple of days.  It is a musical, fun, fascinating city full of vibrant life, grounded in ancient history.  Dublin is as complex and lyrical as the Irish people themselves, and I’m always sad to leave.

We were bound for Paris with the newly finished manuscript and the hope that our new temporary home would give us better weather.  We were thinking so positively that the wool Salvation Army coats we had bought last year in England remained in Ireland.  We wondered all the way to Charles de Gaulle Airport if we had made a mistake.  With our recent weather karma, it certainly was a possibility, and no one can predict what the French climate will produce from one moment to the next.  We tell ourselves often, especially when we’re broiling in heat or shivering with cold that uncertainty is part of the fun and excitement of being Home Free, but personally, I like the part when we’re comfortable and dry in a fabulous room with a view!

If you’ve had interesting experiences in Ireland or have something to share with future visitors, please feel free to add your comments below!  We’re all learning about the world together.!

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