As we have been behind in our blogging, I thought adding some dates might help!
Just added another terrible sleep to the list this week, but was happy to have woken up at ‘home’. Luggage took its sweet time but it was now in Ireland! Saskia was nice enough to hop on the train to meet us in Celbridge instead of getting picked up at her Airbnb.
I should probably explain who Saskia is. Years ago I met this dear friend of mine in Vancouver where she was on an internship with an organization I volunteered with. She is from a town close to Düsseldorf in Germany. As she wasn’t too happy with her homestay I offered to take her in, and soon she became my homestay daughter! Till this day we joke about her being my daughter and I being her mother – but truthfully she has become like family over the years. We have now met in Toronto, Mexico, Romania, and Turkey! From casual visits, to weddings, to family reunions – she’s someone who you can just bring anywhere! So when she found out I was visiting Ireland she thought why not! And so here we are, picking her up at the train station in my boyfriend’s hometown, Celbridge, where she will now meet his parents a day after I have met them for the first time!
Just after lunch and a quick stop at the airport for our luggage, we were now off to tour Ireland! First stop Donegal.
I wish I could tell you about the drive there, but apparently, the car is the only place I am able to sleep these days. But I do remember waking up when we had to call Eamonn to get directions. He was on speaker and Lorcan was asking about which exit to take off the roundabout. “After you exit you drive awhile and you’ll see a set of big houses, then there’s a pub, take a left after the pub”. What big houses? Saskia and I were laughing.
The days are very short in the winter here so we arrived in Donegal when it was already dark. The house we were staying at has been in Lorcan’s father’s family for several generations. Donegal is where his father’s family is from. Eamonn’s brother Johnny had already been by to turn on the electricity and start the fire.
We ventured out to find dinner but no restaurants were open. I say restaurants lightly, as there are not very many. In fact there wasn’t much at all around, it was true countryside. Luckily we found a takeaway (take-out) place and brought home some pizza, chicken and chips (fries) and just sat by the fireplace and talked. There was no TV, no internet, and really nothing to do. You could get reception but only if you stand in a certain place by the window, or if you climb the hill outside. So instead we talked. Actually talked. It had been a long time since we had conversations without the distractions of phones or tvs or the internet. It would have been what Lorcan and his brothers would do when they were younger – talk, play games, and I’m sure scheming all sorts of shenanigans while horsing around in their 4 bed room.
We laughed about how Renie insisted it wasn’t correct that we used clover instead of the shamrock for our blog name and how we should change our business to SC instead of CC! Or the hilarious comments she’d make to her son as we drove away after only having just arrived “I don’t know why you even come!”. Or how Costa Rica kept turning in to Puerto Rico – which is something my mom kept doing too.
It was cold in the Glen (the name they have for the area/house) but the electric blankets and the heat the fire gave in the evening made it manageable. In the light of the next morning we could really see the property and how beautiful it was. The air smelt like a campfire, a smell I’ve always loved. As we traveled around, and even back in Celbridge, I came to realize most of Ireland smells this way and it’s because it’s common to have fireplaces to heat homes instead of central heating like back in Canada.
After breakfast we drove to the beach where Lorcan would come with his family every summer as a kid. Everywhere we drove I kept thinking I hope the car doesn’t break down! There was never really anyone around and the car was getting quite the workout with the roads!
We climbed up one of the sand dunes to catch a view and heard childhood stories of running around, sliding down, and at times, breaking bones!
Next stop was Lorcan’s grandfather’s house that him and his family would spend time in every few weeks in the summer growing up. The house is now in ruins but we were still able to take a look inside and see the property. We found old pairs of reading glasses and wicker baskets his grandfather used to make. For me, it was like stepping inside an old black and white film! It’s not something that I will ever experience in my own family – a home or property that’s been around for generations, in a town where everyone knows each other. In a place where there are no postal codes or sometimes not even numbers on front doors. I asked Lorcan’s uncle later that day how mail gets delivered and he said:
“oh you just put Johnny McFadden from Donegal and the postman will know!”.
On the same property is Lorcan’s cousin, Anne Marie’s, home so we went for a visit. Her home is a beautiful, newly built, cozy brick home. From her window she was able to point out her father’s house and garage across the street. I’d have to have google maps open to show you where my family lives!
We then set off to Gweedore, a town nearby and found a diner that was open along the harbour to have lunch. This time of year everything was closed and very quiet.
While at Anne Marie’s we were given instructions on how to get to her sister’s house, Sarah Jane’s. Lorcan knew what road but we were told “just keep driving down, she’s the off-white house after the pub with the red trim”. We drove, and we drove, and finally stopped at a house with red trim. It didn’t look like anyone was home but Lorcan was able to peer through the window to see some picture frames to confirm that wasn’t the house.
We turned around laughing and headed to Uncle Johnny’s. Another lovely and welcoming family. Had a cup of tea and chocolate, of course, and then Johnny drove us to Sarah Jane’s so we wouldn’t get lost. Where we had another cup of tea.
I had been sick the moment I arrived in Ireland, unfortunately. I think all the moving, and lack of sleep really got to me. But I think the reason I hadn’t slept since arriving was because I went from one cup of coffee and maybe one cup of tea a day to at least 5! Without a doubt, every home you enter will offer you one. And over the holidays, chocolates and cookies were included.
The next morning we packed up, took all the trash with us, paid a visit to the neighbour’s sheep who scared the life out of me the night before (it’s pitch black at night so even a sheep will scare you), and headed out on the Wild Atlantic Way towards Sleeve League.
Sleeve League has some of the highest sea cliffs in Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way was an initiative by Ireland to create a scenic route for tourists along the west of Ireland. We never actually made it to Sleeve League but had an interesting time trying to get there! Through the fog and haze we honestly couldn’t find our way, and being literally the ONLY car on the road we decided it was best to save it for the summer.
We stopped in Killybegs (a small fishing town) for coffee and cake at a cute shop and then walked to the harbour to take some pictures.
We arrived at the Augusta Lodge in Westport where we would stay for the night. Saskia and I ventured in to town to walk around while Lorcan checked in to work for a couple hours. Westport is a cute little town with lots of little shops and restaurants. A town that is only busy during touristy seasons and therefore was completely empty! We found a nice restaurant where Lorcan joined us to dine and then headed to Matt Malloys for a few pints of Guinness. Matt Malloys is famous because the owner is one of the members of the Chieftans, a band that has won 9 grammies, 2 of which are displayed at the bar.
As we were the only guests in the Lodge we had the entire food hall to ourselves. The owner cooked us breakfast and taught us that Westport is where all the botox in the world is made!
On our way to Galway we took the scenic route, passing by Croke Patrick mountain where apparently St. Patrick magically banished all the snakes from Ireland. Naturally, every year then there is a pilgrimage to climb to the top.
We stopped in Leneen, a small town in Cannemara where the famous movie The Quiet Man was filmed with John Wayne.
My favourite moment, however, was when we stopped in the middle of the road to take pictures of a sheep crossing!
We arrived in Galway in the afternoon and checked in to the Sleepzone Hostel. So far, Galway is my favorite town. Crowded and tons of pedestrian streets. Bar after bar and beautifully decorated for the Christmas season. We stopped in at Lorcan’s favorite bar, the King’s Head and had a delicious meal. We ended the night at the Quay’s pub and drank hot whiskeys until I forgot about my flu.
At the center of Galway they have a square, like many cities do. This time of year they have a bit of a carnival and Christmas market. Something out of a Christmas movie! I can see why people in Dublin come here for a little escape. A beautiful, fun town just an hour and a half from Dublin city.
This is also where Lorcan bought me a Claddagh ring! No…not a diamond ring…doesn’t come close! But a traditional Irish ring that represents friendship, loyalty, and love 🙂