Whoa, 2016 came like a flash, didn’t it?
Well it seemed that way to me. I barely had time to blink and it was already here, and now it is already the end of Feb. Crikey!
Where has time gone?. The second half of 2015 zipped by in one big blur. Lots of changes were taking place, as you know, we moved here in May. Then there was that whole business of getting set up with jobs and rental property … etc. Most of my cooking things are still stuck in the Netherlands coz they could not fit in the car when we drove here, hence my cooking and baking has taken quite a big hit. I have bought a hand-held mixer but that’s about it. I miss my free standing Bosch cake mixer immensely! I wanted to make sweet buns the other day, randomly of course, as the inspiration hits, and I kicked myself for not having access to my cake mixer.
The move to Ireland has done wonders for my soul, really. The shops and the products on the shelves make sense once again (because English). I can find all the things I need under one roof again. Things are not as cheap as they are in the Netherlands but the variety sure is better here. The people are so charming and lovely, and I can once again have a random conversation with the lady waiting in the checkout queue in front of me. You don’t realize these seemingly small and trivial things until you move to a country where no one speaks your language. Ireland makes me feel normal again, like I can belong, not so much like a freakin’ foreigner who is to be pitied and tolerated when I get something wrong or don’t understand a word when out in public. However, I do miss how dog-friendly the Netherlands is compared to Ireland. Doopey can no longer ride with me on public transport nor join us at the cafe table for our weekend breakfast. Sadness.But overall the move has done me good.
The first few months were hard and draining, trying to get on our feet emotionally and financially, but we soon settled into a nice routine. We found a nice place to rent nearby my place of work so I don’t have to struggle after a 13-hr day on public transport that does not seem to work here. Yes, public transport is pretty shocking to the system in this city, so I walk to work.
After a few months I asked my parents to come over for a visit. I haven’t seen them since I left Australia to move to the Netherlands, five years total. Always felt bad that they did not come to visit when we were living in Amsterdam; we could have done so much more visits to neighbouring countries on weekends. Now we live on an island and we have to pay to get off it every time we want to see some place new.
My parents arrived in mid-Oct via Turkish airlines. It took them 18 hours to get here but they made it in once piece eventually. They don’t do very many long-haul journeys so I’d say this trip was quite an adventure for them in its own right. It was a pretty shit day to land, actually. It was a Thursday and it was bucketing rain – welcome to Ireland, folks! It had been lashing rain for days, and the winds coming off the Atlantic was a bit of a concern. I thought they would have to be diverted or worse, but by the time Thursday rocked round the wind had died down a bit. Mum was all eager beaver, braving the Irish weather head on. Dad was not too impressed and spent a great deal of his time here indoors.
One of our first family trips was to co. Wicklow to take in the sights of Gleann-da-loch and its beautiful surrounds. We looooooove Wicklow. The rolling hills, the green green grass and the stunning views of the Wicklow Mountains which is in Wicklow Mountains National Park. The drive there from where we live is not too bad, a nice day trip, and the good news when we got there was that it had snowed during the night. YAY! I love snow. Temperatures up the mountain were sitting round about the -5°C mark, but with wind chills it felt more like -10°C for sure.
Most of the mountain was covered in a thin layer of snow, and I was happy my Mom got to snap pictures with it in the background since Ireland doesn’t really get much snow in winter. If you are the outdoorsy type then you would probably enjoy hiking the many trails in and around this place. We saw a fair few hikers far off in the distance, high atop the peaks with only their brightly coloured winter jackets giving away their presence in an otherwise monochrome landscape.
After a few hours taking pics and marveling at the beautiful hills and bemoaning the low temperatures, we finally drove to the Wicklow Heather Restaurant for some much needed sustenance. This place not only serves up some delicious grub that warms you from within but they also have rooms available. We like this place because they allow Doopey to come in the warmer months when we can sit outdoors on the terrace. I know i usually follow up a mention of a restaurant with pictures of the food, but in all honestly I forgot to take any photos; I was that hungry. I couldn’t even tell you what I ate either. I have a vague memory of eating fishcakes and I think R. ordered the lamb. That’s where I shall leave it.
I did not manage to take many days off work to take my parents around, what with the new job and all. I settled with taking them somewhere new every alternate weekend when R. was free to drive us around. On days where I was off during a weekday I took Mum and Dad on short trips into the city by bus.
Our second roadtrip saw us heading west towards the famed Cliffs of Moher – everyone comes to Ireland to visit this place, apparently. Me, I didn’t even know this place existed until after doing research on where to take my parents during their stay. The drive is a fair distance, takes about 3 hrs if you are coming from the east coast, Dublin/Wicklow. Lucky for us R. is Aussie and 3 hrs driving is nothing to him. And to illustrate further how “nothing” this drive was to him, he decided to stop in at Cashel first, spend a good solid hour or two taking pics there only then driving off west heading to our final destination.
It being winter and all, by the time we got there at half three the sun was already hugging the horizon, glowing a deep amber. Got out of the car and got blown back in – the wind was that strong up there! I was a touch grumpy at this stage because I felt that too much time had passed and we were not going to get the full Cliffs of Moher experience since we were losing light so fast. I WANTED MY PHOTOS!! But in the end I really had nothing to worry about. The fading sun lent an extra layer of drama to the scenery and my photos turned out pretty great just the same, probably even better with lots of silhouette shots and warm orange hues bathing everything it touched.
The cliffs and the ragged coastal landscape truly is a magical sight to behold. This was also my very first glimpse at the great Atlantic Ocean, roaring away far below us, churning and clawing at the rock face creating the most spectacular sight. I love cliffs and wild ocean views like this. Makes one feel small and insignificant compared to the sheer power of the wind and waves. I could sit here for hours if it wasn’t so gosh darned cold. I could barely feel my fingers after a good 15 mins snapping photos.
Eventually it got too dark to snap any more photos and we all trooped into the visitor centre for a hot drink. R. went back to the car to accompany our dog coz he was not taken with us to see the cliffs. A quick wee (for the mutt) and a drink and we were off home.
After Christmas we booked a weekend away in Clonakilty. I wasn’t even made aware of this plan until I got home from work at 8:30 pm. I walked in the door and my parents were dressed in their coats, bags in hand. The dog was wide-eyed and ecstatic, collar on, tail wagging.
R informs me I have just 20 mins to get changed, pack a bag and we were to pile in the car ASAP.
“Where are we going?”
“Clonakilty. Short notice. Sorry, I texted you at work but you didn’t respond so I just went ahead and booked it”.
9 pm and we were off, in the dark, on the road south-west. The dog was not pleased about being shoved in the very back of the car again with no access to his window.
The house R. booked turned out to be so lovely. We arrived at 1 am, but the owner had left the front door unlocked for us. Inside she left us a basket of goodies for breakfast, milk and juice in the fridge. Even the dog was not forgotten – he got a bowl of doggie treats. Irish hospitality, love it.
Next day was a wet and stormy day, but we braved the elements regardless in our beat up station wagon (this would be our last trip in it). But the west coast of Ireland is gorgeous regardless of the weather and we were not disappointed. If anything, the wild weather made for some dramatic photos along the beach. Along the way we stopped in at towns and villages, had some great food and that was pretty much all we did that weekend. It was glorious.
When you are visiting the west coast of Ireland fish, crab, scallops and all manner of seafood should really be on your food list. They do great food here in Ireland and the seafood doesn’t come any fresher than when you are living on an island such as this, smack bang on the Atlantic ocean.
This place in Union Hall served up the best wings I have eaten by far. Dinty’s is listed on TripAdvisor and if you are ever visiting the west of Cork you should definitely swing by Union Hall and pop in for some of their Cajun Wings. I know if I returned to Dinty’s I wouldn’t stuff my face with all the food and not leave room for their desserts.
After a couple of days it was time to be heading home. The plan was to take a slow drive along the coast to enjoy the ocean a bit more and stop in at Kinsale for lunch. We were all getting dressed for the morning when this happened …
This is Holly, the 2 yr old Goldie who belongs to the owner of the rented property. She invited herself over for a sniff and a cuddle. She is too cute!!
Attempted many times to engage my dog to play with her but he is just not keen on play. So she came here instead to get love and attention, which we gladly gave.
Anyway, back to the trip and more food pics.
After a good couple of hours driving we ended up in Kinsale – food capitol of Cork and by extension, Ireland. In Irish you would pronounce it as Cionn tSáile, but to you and me it’s Kin-sale and not Kin-sah-lee.
Kinsale is very accessible from the city of Cork, it being a mere 20 – 30 km away, and is a very popular tourist destination especially in the summer months. The best parts of Kinsale is obviously down by the water, although the quaint narrow streets lend a charm to the city that is completely unique in itself. And where there is water there is seafood.
Drove around for a bit then we decided on Fishy Fishy. It looked bright and airy, and being a Sunday, it was at least open for business. No regrets. This place was amazing.
Later that afternoon we pushed off home. Initially we considered spending a few hours walking about Cork City but the weather was rapidly degenerating into what would later be a thunderstorm that effectively shut down the north-south highway.
Over the next few weeks we took my parents to various other places about the city, among them was to St Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College. Lots of walks in the city’s shopping and food district, Temple Bar and down the beach in Dun Laoghaire. In between we snuck in mealtimes at a few of our favourite places.
The BIG highlight of my parents’ visit was when we went to Germany for the Christmas Markets. If you have ever been to Germany during Christmas, you know what I am talking about. It’s just a magical feeling visiting these markets with the smell of spiced cookies and wine in the chilly night air. The food is great too … but I think I will leave that for another day, to write a separate post.
~ ENJOY! ~.