A Trip to the Country

23 May 2013, Thursday

The itinerary for this trip was split in the middle, neatly bisected by that most joyous of occasions, a wedding. Last September I attended, I was told, a city wedding; this May, it would be a country wedding.

Thus necessitating a trip “down the country” (that is, out of County Dublin).

I spent so many years getting up at the crack of dawn to drive into Nashville ahead of the rush that I am no longer capable, it seems, of sleeping in. My body just wakes up naturally around 5:30. And that’s what we did this morning. Packed up, checked out, and drove the ten minutes to Gerry’s place for breakfast. (Repeat after me: “Superquinn—best sausages in Ireland!”)

Gerry’s mom, Bridie, was packed and ready to go, and Cleo—the hound!—was going mad to be in the house with us. She knew something was up … and sure enough, we were soon on our way to All Paws Kennel & Cattery in Naul.

Their website says they are ten minutes’ drive north of Dublin Airport, and maybe that is true for Irish drivers, but it took me a good half hour to get us there. 🙂 It’s out in the very deep country (ooo! narrow roads! and people walking on them! with baby strollers! eeek!) but the arrangements for the dogs and cats are superior. Each animal has its own cage and run area, and the cages themselves are caged so no one can access the animals except the proprietors. When we arrived, the cats were listening to classical music (“they like it”); the dogs listen to talk shows!

Seriously, it was the best. Neat as a pin, and guinea fowl had the run of the place. (One liked to come up and stare at his own reflection in the glass door.) It wasn’t the sort of place where dogs sit in their cages and bark … because they were off playing (supervised). So we felt very good about leaving Cleo.

Cleo: She had a grand time!

Cleo: She had a grand time! (Isn’t she cute?)

And so we were off. Naturally—and this had already been an issue—I missed (and in fairness, I just don’t always “get” the signage in Ireland; it’s subtly different than the States, just enough that I misinterpret some things when I’m tootling down the highway) an exit ramp, and as a result, we headed west on the M6 instead of the preferred M7.

But no problem—Ms. Emily, GpS, just recalculated. We were headed to Lough Derg, which is the second-largest lake in the Republic. (Pronounce lough like this: lock.) The drive was uneventful, other than I found myself feeling very sleepy, which is not good for a driver. So we stopped in a little rest area so I could stretch my legs and get some fresh air. And take photos, of course.

The property next to the rest area was beautifully landscaped. The wild gorse (yellow) was just brilliant!

The property next to the rest area was beautifully landscaped. The wild gorse (yellow) was just brilliant!

Such a lovely natural landscape … somewhere along the M6. :)

Such a lovely natural landscape … somewhere along the M6. 🙂

The wedding we were going to attend was that of Gerry’s nephew, Neil, and Neil’s best friend, Maureen. She grew up in Mountshannon, Co. Clare. It’s small, y’all (pop. 133), but sits right on the lake, and really is picturesque. And, obviously, a great place to grow up. We met a lot of Maureen’s family and friends over the next few days, and they were lovely people.

After my adventures last September, Gerry and I were very intentional about choosing a place to stay in Mountshannon. We eventually decided on Hawthorne Lodge

Hawthorne Lodge B&B, Mountshannon, Co. Clare

Hawthorne Lodge B&B, Mountshannon, Co. Clare. (If desired, click to enlarge.)

—and were absolutely delighted with it. (I’d stay there again, happily.) We arrived around one o’clock and Ursula came right out and greeted us. She’s friendly—a livewire! I’m told she and Bridie stayed up talking later that night long after Gerry and I had retired—and funny. “Mmm, smells good,” I said. “Apple tart, just for you,” Ursula said.

We quickly got the car unloaded, spurred on by thoughts of that apple tart.

Hawthorne Lodge B&B. That’s our wonderful purple Škoda on the left.

Hawthorne Lodge B&B. That’s our wonderful purple Škoda on the left.

Our upstairs rooms were very comfortable and had a nice view. And after tea and apple tart right out of the oven, our first order of business was a nap! I gotta tell ya, there’s nothing quite like having a day so unstructured that you can lie down for a refreshing snooze. 🙂

Our room overlooked the driveway and the highway—that’s the R352. Go left, south, into Mountshannon or right, north, to Portumna.

Our room overlooked the driveway and the highway—that’s the R352. Go left, south, into Mountshannon or right, north, to Portumna. See the little farm lane across the way?

There was a little alcove off the upstairs hall, with a small couch, chair, table loaded with books—and a large picture window. Yes, there’s a view of the lake from Hawthorne Lodge. Just gorgeous!

There was a little alcove off the upstairs hall, with a small couch, chair, table loaded with books—and a large picture window. Yes, there’s a view of the lake from Hawthorne Lodge. Just gorgeous!

When I was Ireland last fall, I bought a gorgeous tea cozy at a cookware shop in Cork. And I was so delighted with it, I searched online—there was a beautiful tag inside—and contacted the woman who made it, Marilyn Cullen, to see if I could purchase another when I’d next be in Dublin. Marilyn doesn’t have any of her products in Dublin, as it turns out, but over the course of many emails exchanged, it came to pass that she dropped by Hawthorne Lodge this afternoon, and I bought several tea cozies—some made to order. Marilyn’s work is exquisite, and it was so delightful to meet another friend I’d made online. I am so, so grateful that she went out of her way to make sure I’d get the tea cozy I wanted. Sure, I could’ve had them shipped, but it’s much more fun to handle beautiful things in person, don’t you think? Thank you, Marilyn!

After Marilyn left, we made plans to drive up the road for a bite to eat. While I was waiting for Gerry and Bridie, I wandered out into the yard to have a look at the local flora.

I have no idea what this is. The leaves look holly-ish and the flowers look vaguely fuchsia-ish.

I have no idea what this is. The leaves look holly-ish and the flowers look vaguely fuchsia-ish.

A pub supper in the Half Barrel in Whitegate, two miles up the road, was followed by a leisurely drive. It was early evening and honestly, just not much going on. I love having moments like that—nowhere to be, nothing to do, so you can move as slowly as you’d like.

Bridie and Gerry at the Half Barrel, Whitegate, Co. Clare.

Bridie and Gerry at the Half Barrel, Whitegate, Co. Clare.

Soccer practice in Whitegate, Co. Clare.

Hurling practice in Whitegate, Co. Clare.

We looked for—and found—Magnums (ice cream on a stick). And then we wandered down to the church to have a look-see. Gerry was going to be filming the wedding, and he wanted to get a look at the lay of the land. Everyone we met knew about the wedding; Mountshannon, as noted, is small and a wedding … well, that’s huge. Heck, just about everyone we met was invited to the wedding. 🙂

Mountshannon Catholic Church—the church Maureen grew up in.

Mountshannon Catholic Church—the church Maureen grew up in.

It’s lovely inside. Perfect place for a wedding!

It’s lovely inside. Perfect place for a wedding!

The rehearsal had just ended and the florist was there setting up. Maureen was having a last look at things; Neil was feeling festive.

It’s lovely inside. Perfect place for a wedding!

Neil and Uncle Gerry. 🙂

Standing in the church parking lot, looking across the R352 to the field beyond.

Standing in the church parking lot, looking across the R352 to the field beyond. Beautiful evening light on the trees.

By then it was late—though still light. From the window in our room I watched a little black-and-white cat in the lane across the highway, sitting very still, probably waiting for a mouse or vole to move. (I learned later she belongs to the Hawthorne Lodge family.) Gerry read and I worked a little; when I turned the light out at midnight, the sky still had enough light in it that you could see. Wow!

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One thought on “A Trip to the Country

  1. Pingback: Hello, Dublin! I’m So Excited to Be Here! | Wanderlustful

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