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Published: October 6th 2011
We are seated in the sun room opposite a group of boisterous Australians, waiting for our breakfast. The Australians are buoyant because they are sure they will trounce Ireland in the upcoming Rugby World Cup. Poor Aussies, they will be sad by the end of the day. We are joined by a young Italian couple- she is beautiful and fresh and young enough to wear her pj’s to breakfast and look good. He is a delightful breakfast companion- she is shy or has too little English to join in but bathes us with her smile, and the weather alternately turns from driving rain to sunshine as we have our lovely, lovely breakfast. Smoked salmon in Ireland is the best, truly the best, ever. Tea is better, whole milk and butter is better, eggs every morning and I truly do not want to see my cardiologist for about six months after this trip.
We pack up—sadly only one night in Doolin at Daly’s House- and Susan our enthusiastic and charming Innkeeper is very concerned that we will not see all of the Burren. She rings her favorite guide but he is booked, so we trek on with her guide to
“Favorite Walks in the Burren.” We also take her suggestion to stop in Lisdoonvarna for smoked salmon from the Burren Smoke House. Lisdoovarna is an interesting little town- they hold a Match Making Festival here every year and this year Sinead O’Connor has gotten involved, to mixed publicity reviews. We cruise through the town which is all decked out with heart and flower cut-outs, and lots of people looking single, hopeful, and I wish them the best of luck. However, the Burren Smoke House is Nirvana…..had we known the USA price of what we were buying we would have purchased tons! We stock up on such essentials as Rose Petal Jelly, a sampler platter of smoked salmon, and I come away with the ugliest pair of socks I have ever seen. What can I say? The light was very low.
We drive on to Kilfenora, County Clare to the Burren Center. Everywhere in Ireland there is a real sense that the communities are supporting their national treasures through their own efforts. The Burren Center is such a community based Visitor Center: informative, yet a bit touching in it’s lack of glitzy technology. But, it doesn’t need glitz; we just need
John with Susan
Leaving Daly's House and our hospitable Innkeeper
a heck of a lot more time to explore this surprising landscape of limestone pavement hills, and cracks called “grykes” and rocks called “clints.” It is also known as the land of fertile rock: over 70% of Ireland’s native flora lives here in surprising juxtapositions with rare Irish species of animals. We take the time to explore the Caherconnell Ring Fort which was built between 900 and 1000 AD and still in use until the 17th century. Caherconnell is especially noteworthy because it is twice the size of the normal ring fort. We love that an ancient elderberry bush still thrives…truly an elder berry. (sorry) Next we squeak out the time to visit the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb just as the rain begins to drench us. We hate to leave: a return to Doolin and The Burren is definitely going onto our bucket list. But, we are running late and it is time for us to head north to County Louth and our dear friends Niamh (Neeve) and Pierce.
We arrive at the lovely home of Niamh and Pierce Collins in Drogheda (really you can pronounce this any way you want because I heard at least 30 pronunciations whilst there, but
the most common seemed to be DRU-edda) and are enveloped in the arms of our Irish friends and introduced to their three little boys: Rhonan, Nial, and Daragh. We are shown to an impressive guest room and soon pre-dinner drinks are offered…yes, please! Then, Niamh lets us know that we will be in the middle of a family reunion. She didn’t want to tell us before our arrival fearing that we would bow out and feel as if we were intruding. It turns out to be one of the best nights of the trip—from what we can remember-- and we never felt as if we were intruding. Irish hospitality is certainly not over-rated. Before we can change from grubby travel clothes, we are hustled off to the local pub to meet more relatives. A pint of Guinness ordered turns into 2 pints in front of me and the hilarity has begun. By the time we have reconvened at the Collin’s home, eaten a lovely dinner of Shepherd’s Pie, sliced tomatoes, and the salmon platter that we brought from Burren, along with several liters of red wine, I have already laughed so hard that my stomach muscles are burning. I tell
the story of falling in love with Jameson’s Whiskey through our tour at Middleton, and the next thing I know a bottle of Jameson’s has arrived, via taxi no less, so I will not go without. It is far past midnight and John goes upstairs to bed. But they especially sent for a bottle of Jameson’s—how can I refuse? It is 4AM when I finally crawl up the stairs, stomach aching from all the laughter.
I really, really like Irish Family reunions.
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