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Ireland



On this glorious trip to Ireland, we rented a car and drove around the Irish countryside. All of our nights were planned in advance but each day we had nothing to do but really get from point A to point B. Road trips aren't generally my thing (I get so bored in the car) but driving around Ireland could hardly be boring. The scenery almost can't be believed, and the driving itself is quite an adventure.

The first thing I'd like to discuss is how I ended up driving a BMW SUV around the country. There's a substantial difference in price points for renting an automatic vs. a manual but I sagely decided to rent the automatic because I knew driving in Ireland would pose enough challenges without throwing gear shifting into the mix. So I reserved a small, but expensive automatic for our 10 days in the country. When we arrived though the car rental place was fresh out of automatics. The agent asked me a few times if I would mind just taking a manual and I assured her that I most certainly would. So we waited while she called probably every rental car establishment in Dublin to try to track down an automatic. And when she did we ended up with such a monster of a car, not at all what I would have picked for narrow roads. I called her (the car, not the rental car agent) the beast and complained about her the whole trip and then felt inexplicably sad to be parted from her at the end of the trip. What a trusty steed she turned out to be after all.

One of the highlights of Ireland for me is the food. On this trip, as in my last trip the food was consistently excellent. The food at pubs was almost always exceptional. All over that country I indulged in lovely soups and rich chowders, hearty brown bread.... and butter, so much butter! My but those Irish know what to do with dairy products. After indulging in Irish butter which I enthusiastically and unabashedly slathered on everything whilst there, I now feel a bit depressed about your run of the mill American butter.

In case any of you are wondering about the weather, let me just tell you that Ireland is very cold in May. Because we Petersen's are optimists (cough poor planners, cough), none of us had packed appropriately for the weather. This meant that at pretty much all times you could find us wearing 5 layers and looking dapper. kdding about the dapper part. Mike and I had gone to Ireland a few years ago in February and the weather had been decidedly decent for winter. I seem to recall that most days we had temps in the 50s and plenty of sunshine. So I assumed (so so foolishly) that by planning a trip for May we’d be looking at maybe upper 60s? Perhaps some low 70s? You're probably wondering, as I am, why I wouldn't have looked into this before planning the trip? Would that I had, because then I would have known what I know now, which is that cold weather in May is quite the norm… and unfortunately so is lots of rain. Weather wise then this trip posed some challenges. Still Ireland for me is magical irrespective of the weather. 

Also weather related and also of note, we saw an abundance of rainbows. Our enthusiasm for said rainbows could be said to have an inverse correlation with how long we had been in the country.When the first rainbow of the trip was sighted I would say we were all pretty excited. A rainbow over the Irish country side is a real treat. Halfway through the trip though the rainbows were almost expected and were considered something of a reminder of all the blessed rain we'd encountered. By the end of the trip I would say there was little to no interest in rainbows. Kerry may or may not have been cursing rainbows on day 10.



DERRY

On day 1 we drove from Dublin to Derry and arrived in rush hour traffic (planning fail). The drive into the city was a formidable one but Kerry and MoCo were such good cheerleaders to my rather nervous self that we made it in one piece, albeit in need of a beer. The next day we were amazingly lucky to get a tour of the city from a friend of a friend of MoCo's who happened to be a pretty important lady, as well as an all around lovely person. We learned so much about Derry's fraught history and about the challenges that still exist there today....and then we went to a really fun trad session at a local pub.






WESTPORT

After 2 nights in Derry we drove south to Westport. That drive, like most of the drives, looked pretty short on a map when planning the trip but because the roads are narrow and windy they actually end up taking all day. This is also in part because the Petersen's cannot pass up a fun detour, say to a woolen mill to look at toy sheep and blankets. When we finally did get to Westport we found a lovely, somewhat upscale feeling small town  with lots of pubs and little shops.  Westport was chosen almost exclusively as a destination on this trip so that we could see a trad session at Matt Malloys Pub (he's the flautist of the chieftans) and to a lesser extent because it was in between Derry and Doolin (our next stop). The trad session was excellent and we really enjoyed the little time we did spend in the town.


 





CONNEMARA 
Be still my heart. Connemara, as you can see, is a pretty spectacular place. We took a scenic drive through the area on our way to Dingle and that I believe, is one of the best decisions we made on this trip. These are small winding roads which feature stunning views and the occasional sheep wandering on by. There also aren't that many cars around (maybe everyone else knew Ireland was cold in May?) so it doesn't feel overly touristy at all.We stopped for lunch at Kylemore Abbey which I think is on some British movie or tv show? The food there was again, excellent. On my next trip I'd love to stay in Connemara for a night or two. We passed by some pretty swanky looking places that I think would suit me just fine.






DOOLIN & THE CLIFFS OF MOHER
Doolin was the fan favorite for us on this trip. It's billed as the traditional music capital of the country but as it happens it's one of the only places where we didn't see a trad session. I really wish I would have budgeted two nights for Doolin because even though it's almost too small to be a town, the scenery is so beautiful that I think we could have all been happy just poking around the area for at least a couple of days. Aside from the draw of the music, Doolin is also really close to the Cliffs of Moher (Kerry walked there with a tour group) and the Burren. This means that even off season there are a fair number of toursits there but I actually thought it was really fun being somewhere so special with lots of other people who were also so obviously thrilled to be there. 










THE BURREN




DINGLE
Dingle is another real gem. Unfortunately we had our worst weather of the trip in Dingle so we weren't able to bike around the pennisula as we'd hoped to do, but we did catch a couple of trad sessions and I did buy a rather large bunny painting that I then toted around with us for the rest of the trip. I also may or may not have tried to rescue a stray dog there and then felt really bummed out when I couldn't find said stray again. Single tear Wellie. I hope you found a nice home!


 





ADARE

After Doolin we started journeying back east across the country towards Dublin. We spent one night in Adare which is in Limerick Country and is yet another charming little town. We had planned our trip so that we could do high tea on Mothers Day at the Adare Manor and it worked out perfectly. The weather cooperated and the grounds were beautiful. I love the indulgence of high tea and it was pretty great doing it in a sweet old country house steeped in history.We were also staying in a pretty cute little B&B in Adare that I would definitely recommend/stay at again.









BIRR CASTLE
We stopped here on our way east and boy did we enjoy ourselves at the cafe! I know guys I actually can't stop talking about how much I enjoyed the food in Ireland. But seriously the food at the castle cafe was was even amazing. 


CLONMACNOISE

We did a quick stop here at the request of Mother Courtney, the only religious history nerd amongst us. Hi Mom! 



TRIM
Trim was the last place we stayed on our trip and where we had the best weather. The actual town of Trim is pretty lackluster especially in comparison to all of the other places we'd stayed. BUT Trim does have this sweet castle going for it and it's close to the Dublin airport and also close to a bunch of historical sites (Brú na Bóinne being the most famous). I probably wouldn't go back to Trim unless I had an early flight out of Dublin and wanted to be nearby but it worked out well enough for us on this trip.

 



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Lately





Let me start by saying Bonjour! Je suis ici! If you're noticing a certain je ne sais quoi about the blog today that would be because I am currently 4 weeks into French classes (!) I would summarize the class as a blend of hilarious misadventures in pronunciation, and a somewhat humbling experience because, my but learning a language is hard. There’s a fun sense of camaraderie in the class and I’m happy I’m making a go at learning French but I’d be lying if I didn't say it’s a bit of a struggle to make myself go to class two nights a week when we all know I'd rather be at home with Zoe Bun Butter. In general, I waver between feeling like I’m making solid progress in the class and could maybe execute some simple conversations on any future trips to Canada (Should anyone, anyone at all, ever want to go to Canada with me, anyone?) Other times I think learning another language is basically impossible and I wonder that I even deign to try. But try I shall and perhaps there will be a trip to Montreal for me in the end.

In other news, I just finished a re-read of the whole Harry Potter series. There is something so comforting about returning to these books and I love reflecting back to where I was when reading them previously. In high school, in college, In South America, and now as a 31 year old (eeek!) in D.C. And honestly I think the books are more charming every time I read them. 

 I never got around to posting about our time in Scotland last fall, but I absolutely adored it and if I had my druthers I would live in Scotland in a small town where I’d be friends with lots of senior citizens. With this in mind I found myself anxiously following the British news in the lead up to the Scottish independence vote. Clearly I have no business feeling one way or another about whether Scotland voted for independence but for some reason I felt very invested in the outcome. I suppose I’ll just say IF the Scots had wanted their independence and gotten it that would have been very moving. Since they wanted to stick with GB I feel good about that too. kind of. 

Because Michael is a prince he indulges me in my farm loving whims and recently accompanied me to a local farm for apple picking. Clearly we also brought our main squeeze Zoe along since she so enjoys a good car ride through the country.

In recipe testing news I made these biscuits for the last book club and I've found a recipe for lemon curd from Clodaugh Mckenna which is, I believe, the most impressive thing in my not so extensive cooking repertoire.  

Voila!




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