Posts Tagged ‘ireland’
(Note from Kevin: I almost wrote “finger things.”)
Greetings from Ireland everyone! I am having a lovely vacation while Kevin slaves away at work all day. I am a little ashamed of how lazy I have been, but then I think… I deserve it, right? My days have been pretty much like this:
1. Wake up at 9:15 for free breakfast at the hotel
2. Enjoy breakfast and tea until around 10
3. Head back up to the room and read until I fall back asleep
4. Wake up around 12:30
5. Head into the city for misc excursions
6. Have lunch between 2 and 3
7. Head back to the hotel around 4:30
8. Order a beer at the bar before I head up to the room to wait for Kevin
9. Dinner around 7
10. Sleep around 1 (unless Sarah wakes me up at 4:30 am to tell me she’s engaged)
There are a few things I have fallen in love with here that I thought I would share with all of you. Please be forewarned… I am not a writer of Kevin’s caliber, so please no judging.
Our first pleasant surprise was our hotel, Hayfield Manor. You know how sometimes you view photos of a hotel on a website only to arrive and discover that the hotel was not as advertised? Well, this is certainly not the case here.
The garden courtyard at Hayfield Manor where you can find me sipping tea and reading a British novel just like a true fancy.
The room is perfect. The service is grand. And until an obnoxious guido-esque American tourist checked in yesterday morning, I had absolutely nothing to complain about. I’ve always wondered why it is said that Europeans can’t stand American tourists. This man is why!
I have spent a good bit of time at the “Leisure Center” where there is a beautiful indoor pool, hot tub and steam room. The spa at the hotel is very similar to Halina’s on Burnet Road, and I think I’m going to give it a try tomorrow.
Then there are all the flowers. I am a little obsessed actually. The hydrangeas grow like weeds here! They are literally on almost every street corner, driveway, park, you name it. And it’s not just those pale, pastel colored blue or pink ones you see in the grocery store. I have seen them in the richest colors. Dark blues, bright pinks and even rich purples.
Put that in your pot and grow it! No… seriously, find a way to grow it. I want some for my flowerbed.
The scenery is altogeter gorgeous. You should flip through some of the pics Kevin posted of our drive. There are grand statues along the highways. Rolling hills of the greenest grass. Winding roads with historic-looking rock walls. Even the occasional pond, water lillies and all.
And finally, the finest of all things on a truly great vacation… the food. So, I wasn’t sure what to expect of the cuisine in Ireland. It’s definitely not one of those places you visit solely for the cuisine, but I did my reasearch, and we have a long list of the best food I can find in our area. But it all started with that first breakfast Sunday morning. We stayed up all day on Saturday, not going to sleep until 9 or so to try to beat any jet lag. Kevin even said, “I am gonna try to make it until 10 because I can never sleep more than 8 hours.” We planned on waking up around 8 or 9 Sunday morning to head off on our drive. Then the unthinkable happened. Kevin had a Mary Beth sleep! At around 11:45 am we woke up to realize we had missed breakfast at the hotel, and we had slept much of our planned day away!
We immediately headed out driving towards the Beara Peninsula to visit a few places and decided to stop at a pub for some much needed sustenance. We learned on this first excursion that the farther into the country you drive, the harder it is to understand what anyone is saying, and I DON”T CARE that they are speaking English. It still sounds like a foreign language half the time. A young man at the pub very quickly offered us our breakfast options, only two of which we could understand: full-Irish and mini-Irish. We went with mini. This is “mini” in Ireland.
Count that people, clockwise from the tomato: ½ grilled tomato, 3 slices thick Canadian style bacon, 1 fried egg, 1 thick slice black pudding (pudding is like blood sausage), 2 links pork sausage and 1 slice of white pudding. 8 slices of toast, 2 thick slices of Irish soda bread and 2 thick slices of country white bread, butter and jam are out of frame, mind you. “Mini”… Jesus, Mary and Joseph!!! Full Irish could throw my mother instantly into cardiac arrest!
But I must admit, it was all very tasty. Except the pudding. I’m still a little to scared to try that stuff.
That evening we had room service for dinner. A fancy salad with goat’s cheese and a burger with portabello mushrooms. We even had dessert first since it had ice cream on it. Since then we’ve enjoyed the following:
Monday – fresh bread with homemade dips and steaks with creamy mash at Cornstore
Tuesday – mushroom and thyme risotto, a crab crumble and the most divine passion fruit panna cotta at Fishy Fishy Cafe in Kinsale on the harbor
Wednesday – crispy chicken with wild mushroom crema and a sadly overcooked filet at Isaac’s
Thursday – Our best meal yet at Cafe Paradiso, a lovely vegetarian place right off the RIver Lee… the food smelled so yummy, we dug right in and forgot about photos. We shared a grilled haloumi starter with gingered gooseberry chutney and a broad bean, purple potato & marjoram salad. I loved tempura fried cheese and caper stuffed squash blossoms with sauteed squash, tomatoes and onions, grilled polenta all served with a light tomato broth. Kevin’s was the best, a phyllo and spinach stacked pastry served on a coriander crusher potato galette with harissa sauce and sugar snap peas. Needless to say, I’ll be heading back here for lunch.
I think I will devote a whole post to tea later on. Maybe by then I will figure out how to turn off italics. Now I am off to bed. I need rest for my lazy days.
The Irish people, in all their wily self-sufficiency, are able to do without that which we spoiled and obese Americans might consider essential. For example, you might consider it a necessity in a motorized country for there to be roads wide enough for the cars to actually drive on. Not so, say our Irish brethren. Except they’ve been drinking, so it comes out like “Nae suh!” and then they buy you a Guinness.
In fairness, the roads are usually at least one lane wide, though not always. When possible, they’re stretched to one-and-a-half or one-and-three-quarters lanes, thus allowing I and my fellow driver to gently brush mirrors as our cars scooch by each other—I at two miles per hour, he at 35.
Then there’s street signs. Don’t need em. Doesn’t matter, since the name of the street is liable to change three times in half a kilometer anyway. Hell, for all I know, they’ve changed the name of the street outside since this morning. As a result, navigating around the twisted roads of Cork involves a lot of landmark sighting—and, more often, blind dumb luck.
And constant, constant self-reminders that I’m supposed to drive on the left side of the road. The actual driving you get used to; for some reason it’s realizing which ways to look as you cross the road. My brain just shuts down and I simply swing my head back and forth like an idiot as my car creeps into harm’s way.
But there’s an upside to all this anarchy. Irish people are seemingly never in a hurry to get anywhere. If another driver makes a crazy looping turn through an intersection, they just stand by. If someone pulls over and mounts the curb, they just swing around. Though I did see one fender bender, I would imagine that major wrecks are much less common when everyone is constantly on their guard.
And they’re so friendly about the situation that we Texans are put to shame. On one occasion there was genuine gridlock on a tiny road in front of us, with cars stopped head-to-head; I witnessed the three cars in front of me all cheerily place themselves in reverse, back themselves out of the block, and wave as the opposing traffic passed through. Amazing.
Which is not to say the Irish are lacking in driving nuttery:
(For some reason some pics are showing as question marks right now. Refresh the page if you see that.)
Our flights between Dallas and Cork, by way of Chicago and London, were pleasantly uneventful. Biggest downer for the first half was a sleeveless-T-wearing douche-canoe, behind Mary Beth on the leg to O’Hare, who reacted somewhat violently to the notion of her seat reclining.
To have a fighting chance against jet lag, we knew we’d need to sleep as much as possible on the seven-hour flight between Chicago and London. So upon reaching cruising altitude, we ordered alcoholic drinks, and then MB offered me a tablet of Buspar, which she promised would knock me pleasantly out for the duration.
(I would also like to mention that the meds were taken along with a full meal, and that MB took *two* of the happy pills with no ill effects. Don’t tell me what I can’t do!)
Anyhoo, after eating my sleeping pill, my American Airlines Reheated Beefy Goodness™ and drinking a small bottle of water, I donned my eyemask and started drifting off to sleep.
Less than half an hour later, I opened my eyes. I was feeling rather queasy. It wasn’t a definite danger-will-robinson moment, but I also couldn’t find a barf bag in my seat pocket, and I have a brief history with trans-oceanic airplane sickness (cf: Melbourne-to-LAX, September 2007). So out of an abundance of caution, I walked back and stood in line for the bathroom.
“Sir? Sir, are you okay? Are you okay, sir?”
I became aware that someone was talking. Then I realized someone was tapping my hand. Then I realized, confusedly, that I was sitting on the floor with my eyes closed. Looking up, I saw the entire rear section of the flight staring at me with great interest.
I’d passed out.
I still felt rather groggy, but of course was equal parts embarrassed. I apologized to the flight attendant, might have attempted to make a self-deprecating joke, and said something about just needing to make it to the bathroom. So I stood up, took one and a half steps, and
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Quick intro, for those not in the loop: I’m visiting our work call center in Cork, Ireland for two weeks as part of a big call-center-agent-training project that I’m kinda responsible for. Yes, I have indeed earned the ire of many coworkers who discovered I got a free trip to Ireland just to *observe* training. Mary Beth, immediately upon hearing of my trip, announced she was coming along too.
K: “Well, you know I’m just going to be working all day, right?”
MB: [cheerful] “Oh that’s okay!”
So we’ll see how many euros she spends on Guinness- and potato-themed trinkets during my workday.
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