Kilcolgan

Irish leftovers

IMG_6749 (1)

Last week’s blog post covered highlights from our Irish adventure. So what’s left?

Odds and ends.

Like the moment of gastronomic nirvana, when I stumbled on a cheesemonger peddling his wares in Kenmare.

IMG_5238

Time out: It’s possible that the term cheesemonger, and fishmonger and other mongers have gone the way of the Dodo bird. But this might be my only opportunity to ever use cheesemonger, so I’m running with it. Okay, time in.

Cheese is my one, true Kryptonite, my Achilles’ heel. I am powerless around cheese. If you apply the litmus test of questions that define addiction, I fit the profile.

“Do you eat cheese alone?” Sure. “Do you eat it in excess?” Absolutely. “Do you eat cheese to forget your problems?” Doesn’t everyone?

Decisions, decisions. I spent several minutes drooling over options. The cheesemonger was very kind; he offered samples to taste, even a smidge of his top-tier products. I bought several wedges and a 1/2 wheel — at a fraction of the price typically charged at home. One cheese choice was quite pungent. I stashed my stuff in the trunk, but within an hour, my haul had stunk-up the entire car.

Aside from the delectable cheese display above, I should also point out my constant travel companion: Ugly Backpack — that dingy, gray sack strapped over my shoulders. Ugly Backpack is a story in itself, and probably warrants a separate post. But suffice to say, it is proof-positive that Ralph Lauren’s Polo line includes some hideous looking merchandise. That said, Ugly Backpack is practical as hell; it has logged more airline miles than all of you readers, combined. The 4 of you.

Seriously, Ugly Backpack has visited 5 continents, and countless countries.

Here it is on a trip to Paris, 12 years ago:

IMG_1082.JPG

And before that, in Romania:

Romania and Budpest 039

Its travel log predates digital photography. (And based on these photos, that purple polar fleece is a real globe-trotter as well.)

Now I’m totally off-topic. Forget the cheese and Ugly Backpack. On to Kilkenny, which should have just been an overnight stay. But we were awarded a bonus day, thanks to Frog — shorthand for frozen fog — which hit London, and grounded hundreds of flights, including ours from Dublin. We couldn’t rebook until the next day, so we kicked around Kilkenny. And checked out Kilkenny Castle.

IMG_6883

We toured the place, both inside and out.

IMG_6895

As everywhere else, simply brimming with tourists…

Our hotel was a stone’s throw away from the castle. (Hadley, don’t touch my laptop.)

IMG_5390

Admittedly, our fabulous trip wasn’t all sunshine and roses.

In our travels, several items were lost, including Cayden’s retainer. We searched every pocket of every bag, and contacted the hotels where we’d stayed, to no avail. Retainer replacement adds a big line-item to our vacation budget.

The missing mouth wear was a touchy subject until Martin broke the ice on our journey home. While we gained a spare vacation day, with it, came a 5-hour layover at Heathrow. We killed time wandering the concourse, eating, shopping, eating some more, shopping some more, until finally, we slumped in a row of airport seats and gazed at the digital departure board.

The kids didn’t want to slump and sit; they wanted to explore. But Martin and I were too tired to shlep our bulging carry-on bags and plod in pursuit. So we let them go. Alone. In Heathrow. One of the busiest airports in the world.

Cayden and Brynn were first to venture out, and as they slipped among the moving mass of bodies and luggage, Martin shouted, “Hey! Don’t lose your sister like you lost your retainer!”

That was worth a laugh, even as the kids were swallowed by a stream of travelers — some striding purposely to their gates, other wandering aimlessly between stores, parents dragging resistant, wailing toddlers, and solitary souls sprinting desperately to distant gates.

I got a little anxious when boarding time approached and we were still two kids down. But they turned up. (So did the retainer, according to hotel staff, but the news came when were home… after we’d ordered a new one.)

But hey, we left the States with 3 kids and we returned with 3 kids. And a bit of laundry.

Not too bad!

The questions is: Will there be another trip next year? An Irish five-peat? Are plans in the works for Sheepfest 2018?

As President Trump has taught me, anything is possible.

IMG_5215

Hodophilia

 

IMG_5525

If “hodophobia” is the is the fear of traveling, then I suffer from “hodophilia” — a strong desire to hit the road.

Really, it’s a disorder and I blame my parents (always good to blame them for everything). They planted the seed, by dragging me on their jaunts through Eastern Bloc countries in 1970s. We’d fly on a dodgy, patched-up plane, owned by a now-defunct charter company, and that thing would cough and sputter across the Atlantic, before depositing us in a Western European city. Then my parents would rent a tin can on wheels, and we’d wade into various Communist countries where vacationing Americans were a rare species.

I took the hook. Now I’m afflicted with traveler’s itch: I believe that passports shouldn’t nest in drawers. They should be cracked open and stamped violently by a passport control officer who barks, “reason for your visit!?”

Which isn’t how they behave in Ireland.

My passport was supposed to ride the pine for a year. But I caved 3 weeks ago and Martin caught me in the act… making a call to an airline customer service agent. I tried to disguise the conversation with airport code — “Yes, I’m calling about EWR to SNN, for 4, departure Feb 19…”

Martin wasn’t amused but he knows my track record. I’ve bolted twice to Ireland in February. It’s just this time, I was sneaky and last-minute. I hastily stocked-up on provisions (this year’s requests from overseas: tuna fish, Heinz relish and bras). And I crammed a couple of suitcases full of clothes, collected the kids’ freshly minted passports and off we went.

IMG_1869

So here we are in Eire, letting me get my travel fix — to smell Ireland, taste it, and see it again. And all the while, I’m planting the seed for the next generation of hodophiles.

They are already on their way.

IMG_5611

Ireland at a gallop

IMG_4464

I’m posting a few more photos from Ireland, because past travel is more palatable than the current situation: snowed in and housebound with three antsy kids.

Ireland is not a popular winter getaway. No one ventures there in February to escape the weather. But I do. It’s good for fox hunting and the tourist population is minimal.

Weatherwise, I dodged a bullet. Martin texted this picture from Maryland.

IMG_8638

 

While he was shoveling snow, I was kicking around Ireland with Brynn and friends. (Home base was Kilcoglan Castle. My friend Karen owns it. I blogged about it last year, here.)

We spent two days in Co. Cork, near the southern coastal town of Clonakilty. While there, we got a dose of stormy weather and roiling waves.

IMG_4443

 

When the clouds broke, however, everyone spilled out onto the beach.

What a mob scene. Barely a square of sand to spare.

IMG_4513

 

Actually, the resort was packed with vacationers. It was mid-term break for Irish schools, and lots of families were on holiday. Brynn had plenty of company. Especially after dinner, when random kids roam the hotel, meet one another, and travel in packs.

They kinda reminded me of rodents: at first you wouldn’t see any, then you’d spot one loitering on the stairs, or one nosing around a bookshelf. They’d band together and suddenly you’d spy a herd of 4- and 5-year-olds. Then they vanish for 30 minutes and reappear again.

By 11 pm, they’d be out of steam.

IMG_8580

 

 

Back in Co. Galway, at Kilcolgan Castle, Karen (a.k.a, “Auntie Sheep”) put ‘Zilla to work walking dogs.

 

IMG_4570

 

There were plenty of dogs to walk.

IMG_4597

 

On Saturday, Auntie Sheep kindly watched Brynn while my friend Sarah and I went fox hunting with the Galway Blazers. Sarah drew a nice hireling named “Harvey.”

IMG_8634

 

I wasn’t quite so lucky.

My hireling — a dull-mouthed, chestnut monstrosity named “Jumbo” — pulled me at lightning speed over miles of countryside and oodles of obstacles. When a fox took us for a run, we ran… past everyone else. When riders lined up to jump a wall, Jumbo seized the bit, lowered his head and rushed forward, knocking aside anyone in his way.

“Sorry!” I’d scream over my shoulder. Once his hooves hit the ground, Jumbo was off again, apparently fueled by rocket propulsion.

We hunted for five hours. Occasionally my rubbery arms got a rest and I’d pull out my phone and snap a rear shot.

IMG_8633

 

All in all, it was a good day. It’s always a good day when you dodge injury.

Ultimately, there was no time to whine about the long drive from Clon, or five hours on a runaway horse. That evening we attended Blazers’ hunt ball.

IMG_8641

Pre hunt ball, in the castle

 

 

Later in the trip we stomped around Galway, Connemara and beyond.

It was a great jaunt. I wish I could be back there again.

Honestly, I’d take a teeth-clenching ride on Jumbo to escape the scene right here, right now.

 

IMG_4732