Both at home abroad and abroad at home, I nest wherever I go, and I wander when I’m at home. It’s all such an adventure, eggs and soldiers and country roads. Without fail, I decide I’m going to move to every place I travel. Ireland was no exception, and I harbor not so secret fantasies of him pursuing his masters in psychology at Trinity while I attend Ballymaloe Cookery School, of weekends getting lost in a labyrinth of stone walls built for stone walls sake, for the sake of too many stones. The way I see it, one day I won’t wake up from one of my dreams. Some are bound to come true. I throw lots of pennies in the well. Maybe Ireland will come true.
I know for two verdant weeks of the devil beating his wife in May it was. When it rains and shines at the same time that’s what we say, what southerner’s say, that “the devil’s beating his wife”. At least that’s what I heard this one time somewhere, once. I don’t remember really. All I know is that whenever it rains and shines I think “the devil’s beating his wife”. I thought that a lot in Ireland. The weather’s everything they say it is, a year of season’s in a day. It makes the land feel fierce & ruled by hormonal deities, hot and cold and young. Sauvage! the French say. It’s a land of ley lines & neoliths, sea cliffs & faerie rings. But also endless cups of tea, smoked fish, raw cheese, and elderflower cordial. And rainbows and rainbows and double rainbows. Our first day in Dublin the sun shone all day.
We flew into Dublin though we really had our eye on the west. I hear Shannon has a very nice airport, much overlooked. The locals went on about it, what a shame that it isn’t used, that no one knows. We’ll look into it next time as should anyone aiming for the west of Ireland. But I’m glad we spent a little time in Dublin, not sorry about that at all though it was really only one jet lagged day. Off the plane we hopped a bus to the Cliff Townhouse (opting to pick up our car the next morning to avoid the apparent terror of driving as a foreigner in Dublin), a pretty little B&B with an even prettier restaurant. Lots of oysters, so white. We didn’t have dinner there but rather breakfast. We ate so much breakfast in Ireland that I could recount our trip in breakfasts alone.
After dropping our heavy bags (and I could have sworn I packed light) we wandered Stephen’s Green and Dawson Street, took coffees with some of the most beautiful latté art (that’s what we call it right?) I’ve seen (the trash talk I’d heard about Irish coffee proved to be unfounded) and ogled the pastries at Walter Mitty’s before heading to Trinity to behold the library & ancient Book of Kells. You do feel something chilly & old and think strange things about the human mind when you look at it. We humans do such things. We couldn’t not see it. He especially couldn’t not, being forever in the company of books. One of the deepest expressions of affection he ever bestowed on me was telling me that if it were me or his books, he’d burn the books. So you see, we really couldn’t not. He was, as they say, in heaven. I wished I could give him the whole damn thing. “Happy Birthday, love…here’s the old Trinity College library!” I like to think he could live there, grow a long gray beard, and haunt it like a dead poet. But he’s very much an alive poet & he can’t bear to go more than a day or two at most without shaving. But I still like the idea of Patrick the Beared Poet Ghost of the Long Hall. He’d be in good company, as I’m pretty sure there are already some formidable poet ghosts in that hall.
For our first proper meal in Ireland, we went to a little bookstore come restaurant called (after the Yeats poem) The Winding Stair for what proved to be an excellent introduction to the food of Ireland. Which is remarkable. Really truly cannot speak highly enough of the food. Tuscany, Provence, the Basque country. Food destinations, right? Ireland, in our experience at least (we did have the benefit of some excellent advice from Imen of the blog Farmette), was right up there with them all. I wasn’t able to eat enough. Local food, that things I’m always on about, is thriving there, it seemed. Salmon from the burren, cheeses from Cork, mollosks from Kilcolgan. As one of our hosts at the breathtaking Ballyvolane House (which I’ll tell you all about in the next installment) put it “everyone in Ireland is at most only once removed from the farm”.
So I digress. The Winding Stair, a gezellig little gem right on the liffy. We had smoked fish paté with a panko fried soft boiled egg & black pudding fritters, crispy chicken with plums & hake piled high with pickled shrimp and rocket. Afterwards we had more lacy, intricate coffees, chocolate mousse with pistachio & cream, and little biscuits. Patrick’s enjoyment of food pales in comparison to my own. Sometimes I joke that we’re Jack Spratt & his wife of Mother Goose fame. But he was just as enthusiastic about The Winding Stair as I was, which is saying something given his natural indifference to food (opposites attract & all that).
The next morning we picked up our tiny blue car as I repeated in my head “left, left, left” & quickly overcame my mortal terror at driving on the opposite side of the road and we headed southwest to our next destination, Ballyvolane House. The weather was manic that day & the hills rolled like so many lawns & nonchalant castles crumbled alongside the freeway. We were already in awe, even as I struggled to not list the tiny blue car into the hedges… next installment all about Ballyvolane & Ballymaloe! But before that will be a little bit of Honeysuckle Syrup & a bit about all this MasterChef business!