Category Archives: Ireland

How to turn a Claddagh ring into a Celtic knot necklace

On a visit to Ireland maybe 10 or 12 years ago,* one of my father’s sisters gifted me with some euro. I felt inspired to use the money, along with some of my own, to buy a lasting souvenir for my boys…Claddagh rings for all!

                                                                   

I visited a well established jeweler on the St. Stephen’s end of Grafton Street and selected 3 gold rings, in adult sizes, with the intention to put them away for when my boys were grown. Upon my return to the States, they went into the fireproof box where they sat in their sturdy green boxes for nearly a decade.

       

In recent years, two of three rings have seen the light of day. Middle son decided to wear his and promptly lost it. Way to go, G! Youngest son, the one with the serious Donegal McMenamin genes, has been wearing his ring on his rather large hands for about a year or so and seems to cherish it in the manner that I had imagined when I initially purchased them. Good job, Q! As for oldest son, he had no interest whatsoever in wearing his ring, which left it in the lockbox for the foreseeable future. L just wasn’t feeling it. Somehow he’s an Anglophile of all things. 

                         

As I prepared for my most recent trip to Dublin, I decided that I was tired of leaving this meaningful piece of jewelry in its box for eternity – or until Donald Trump causes the world as we know it to end with his insane policies. Like each of us it needed to be appreciated and enjoyed.  I went online and located the McCormack’s website https://celticdublin.com/ and sent off an email explaining the situation and asking if they might consider taking the ring back and providing me with store credit. It can’t hurt to ask, right?        

                   

A number of days later I received a polite response advising that after such a length of time they were unsure what they might be able to do, but I was welcome to stop in when I was in town. Perfect. I packed the ring. On my first day in Dublin, I stopped in the shop and spoke with the same man who had both sold me the rings and responded to my email, Robert. After hearing my story and giving the ring a lookover, he offered me a more than reasonable store credit which I promptly put towards a beautiful and sentimental necklace. For myself. Isn’t it beautiful? 

 

*I’d have to look at an old passport to be exact

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Filed under Boys, family, favorites, Ireland, Irish, Recommendations, travel

Don’t ever buy me earrings

It would be impossible to count all the earrings I’ve lost over the years. Hoops, studs and danglers – none are safe in my ears. Even screwbacks have inexplicably gone missing my from my lobes. I just can’t win when it comes to earrings. Until recently, that is.

A couple of weeks ago, following dinner with friends in Dublin, I decided to enjoy one last pint in town before hopping the Dart to my AirBandB. With its proximity to the Tara Street Station, Mulligans was the obvious choice. I happily sipped my Guinness and people watched the Friday night crowd until all that remained in my glass was the telltale white ring of my perfect pint. Time to go.

As I rounded the bar a group of guys engaged me and asked if I would take a photo of them with the Nikon hanging around my neck. Of course! Unfortunately, though, my camera’s battery was dead which caused the gentlemen to reconsider their request – how about a group selfie? Sure. The five of us gathered together and as I snapped our selfie I heard something hit the floor. I checked my lens cap to see if it was still in place and it was, so I assumed something else must have fallen. I left to catch to catch my train.

Note the left ear!

Twenty minutes later, home for the night and partially undressed, I realized I was missing an earring. Immediately I knew what had made that noise in the pub – a very nice earring. Shit. As I considered what to do, I recalled the bum’s rush we had received at Mulligan’s the week earlier as we lingered over our after dinner drinks…they could be closed by the time I got back there. I needed to phone them.

I googled the number and turned on my cell phone service to make the call. After just two rings the phone was answered and I quickly explained the situation, describing where to look for my errant earring. In minutes I had good news – my earring had been found!

Late Saturday morning, I returned one last time* to Mulligan’s and gratefully retrieved my diamond earring from the rocks glass behind the bar where it had spent the night. My celebratory pint tasted particularly delicious.

 

*last time for this trip

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Filed under drinking, Europe, Fashion, favorites, Ireland, Observations, stress, vacation

Don’t let a beautiful day get away

I can’t believe it’s already been two weeks since I spent Easter in Ireland. It feels like it was just yesterday when we stayed in the back garden until Easter Sunday became Easter Monday when the wine finally became more persuasive about us going to bed than the air was about begging us to stay awake.  In my heart it was just a moment ago.

The weather in Dublin Easter weekend was, in the vernacular, brilliant. The morning I arrived there had been a chill in the air that manifested as a moody fog, but as the hours, and days, passed the sun became stronger and the skies a more saturated shade of blue. Perfect holiday weather.

I spent a couple of days walking for hours and hours on end, to the point that I felt myself limping. I stayed fairly near Phoenix Park, which is a tremendous plot of land that sprawls into an irregularly shaped garden with a zoo, playing fields and picnic areas. There are gorgeous trails, soft underfoot, that beckon to be run upon and explored.

Perspective

One day, I took the northern piece and wound my way through meadows and wooded areas, seeing blooming trees and flowers, herds of wild deer and a cow-filled pasture. The next, I ran the southern piece on some of the most beautiful terrain I’ve ever experienced, wide paths lined by leafy trees with wood chips to cushion my feet. Magical, even with the nearly constant discomfort in my hips and feet forcing me to rein it in and not push myself too hard.

The slower pace left me with plenty of time to reflect. How lucky was I to have these hours that belonged only to me? To be outdoors breathing and smelling and seeing? Are there people who take this gift for granted?

It’s been a week now since I left Ireland.  In an odd way it feels like it was forever ago that I boarded the bus to the airport to come back to the life that I know and love. Or maybe I should say “return.” There’s no going back, just forward with appreciation and knowledge.

What you don’t have you don’t need it now

Don’t need it now.

It was a beautiful day.

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When foreign is familiar

I travel as much as I can. It’s more important to me than  new furniture, a 2000 square foot house, a fancy car or piece of jewelry. It’s what I need to do on many levels and I’ve arranged my financial life so I can get on a plane or train, or even a bus, numerous times a year to see something new or visit a place I’ve only read about in books. It is the biggest priority for me beyond my children and the career that make it all possible. It helps me breathe.

It’s a funny thing when you’re born to people who have a combined total of nearly 30 siblings. Yes, thirty. My mom is one of 15 and my father one of 14, which means I have a lot of family. Since neither of my parents were born in America, their our families are all essentially still in Europe. As a child, that was isolating but, as an adult, it has provided me with some wonderful places to see while getting to know my aunts, uncles and cousins of various degrees of separation. It also gives me a sense of home as clearly being in more than one place.

During my most recent time in Ireland, I’ve rounded countless corners only to realize that I know exactly where I am. I’ve been here before. This place is familiar to me in a way that makes my heart full. The neighborhood where I’ve spent the last four nights is a bit beyond where I’ve stayed my previous two visits, but on my first morning I searched out a grocery store to pick up a few items for my lovely Airbnb. Google maps directed me to a nearby market in close walking distance and as soon as the store was in view, I immediately recognized it as being the same store I went to in 2013. I knew it.

When I’m in Ireland, I hear my vocabulary shift to a different gear. I use words like “delighted” and phrases such as “thanks a million” and “that’s grand.” The vernacular finds its way to my lips and I feel myself softening into a different version of myself. Granted, I’m on holiday,* and don’t bear any responsibilities here for children or work or household tasks, but it’s beyond that, I think. It’s a sense of belonging to a family, to a culture and to a place that, while it may not be my place of birth, feels like home.

I haven’t yet left for the airport for my return to the States and I already miss Ireland and everything it means to me. Until next time. xo

 

*holiday rather than “vacation” is how we say it in Ireland.

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Best bites – Ireland, 2019

People say all kinds of negative things about Irish food – it’s bland or all fried or what in God’s name is black pudding?, but I’m here to tell you there is some excellent food to be had on the Emerald Isle. While my first day of eating was a disaster with two subpar meals, it’s all been good since then. Here’s a round up of my favorite places to get a good quality meal.

Dublin proper

Vintage Kitchen. Apologies in advance for not having photos of my fantastic dinner, but it’s hard to snap pics when your hands are full of wine glasses! This established and highly regarded spot, near Tara Station, is a tough table to get and had been booked a full 6 months prior to our Saturday night reservation. My lamb shank was divine, but following the starter course of a potato gratin with crab (served in an adorable mini copper skillet), I was hopeless to finish it. This place rocks.

Italian food in Ireland can be dodgy, but Ciao Bella Roma, excruciatingly slow service aside, does a good job with a fairly broad menu. Our table of five enjoyed an array of items including pizza, a calzone, three pasta variations and a couple of salads and everything was surprisingly tasty. Was my cacio e pepe as memorable as what I had in Rome? No, but it was really good and the portion was tremendous. Desserts and a cappuccino rounded out the meal and all were thoroughly enjoyed.

Searsons Pub – This large, popular pub serves a terrific pint as well as a full menu of delights. I had the seafood chowder and found it excellent, chocked with fresh fish and a touch of cream. Very nice and social spot.

Outside of Dublin

Tranquil Tearooms in Deansgrange Cemetery. After a drenching walk trying to locate my father’s resting spot, this cafe was like a welcome mirage promising warmth and coziness. I had no expectation for the high quality of the offerings and I only wish I could have justified ordering a slice of any of the cakes on display, following my sweet potato soup with a slice of brown bread. Wholesome, fresh and precisely what my chilled self needed prior to making my way back outside again on a damp day.

Octopussy’s in Howth. Get on the Dart to Howth and make your way to this small tapas place. If you’re lucky, they’ll find a table to tuck you into, but if you need to wait for availability (reservations not taken), settle in. It’s worth waiting for oysters like the 1/2 dozen I enjoyed. Rounds things out with another plate or two – I went with the scallops and patatas brava. Solid selections. Bonus – great music and very capable service.

Galway

Quay Street Kitchen on the lower part of Quay Street, is a wonderful spot to enjoy a meal while watching the crowds make their way up and down the busy pedestrian street. This was probably my favorite chowder of the trip and it’ll be hard for anyone to exceed the quality and freshness of the ingredients prepared with a respectful and light hand. Absolutely delicious and served with warmth and hospitality.

Oslo Bar  in Salthill, luckily for me just a few minutes walk from my Airbnb, is a place that takes it beers quite seriously. Fortunately, their menu rises to the occasion and I thoroughly enjoyed lunch of broccoli salad with a side of the best polenta fries I’ve ever had. The service was a bit distant, but the food hit the mark.

Cava Bodega, a wine bar and tapas spot, made my last evening in Galway a sensory delight. After a bit of negotiating between sitting indoors and out, my server found me a lovely high top table and I settled myself indoors with a view of the street and dining room. My glass of cava came from a fresh bottle and the anchovies with peppers paired beautifully with the dry bubbles. I enjoyed the evening’s special preparation of local mussels in white wine and garlic and despite the loudness of the nearby Americans, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this well lit and cozy nook slightly off Quay Street. Find it.

Maybe you have some recommendations to add to my certainly incomplete list?

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Filed under Dinner, drinking, Eating, Europe, favorites, Food, ideas, Ireland, Recommendations, Restaurants, soup, Spring, travel, vacation, Wine

Baking with Kate – an Airbnb experience

Airbnb has been my got-to for accommodations abroad for the last 4 or 5 years, I’d say. Basically, if I’m going to spend more than two nights somewhere, I want to have the amenities that make a stay feel more like a home – kitchen facilities, perhaps or lounging space when I’m traveling with friends or family. I don’t recall ever having a bad experience with my bookings and really enjoy having a sense of being part of a community rather than a mere tourist. It’s worked so far in Paris, Normandy, Barcelona, Lisbon, Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Galway and Dublin, which is a pretty good run.

In addition to places to stay, Airbnb offers what it calls “Experiences,” and yesterday I took advantage of my first – a baking class outside of central Galway. The class was taught by Kate, an experienced baker and restaurateur, with a focus on brown bread (my favorite) and scones. As I was the only student for the morning, and reliant upon public transport, Kate suggested I come directly to the small, cozy cafe that she owns in a shopping center, rather than her home, only 20 minutes by bus from Galway’s Eyre Square.

I arrived and easily located her cafe upstairs. Within minutes, I had an apron on and was reading through the recipes which she handily provided. We elected to make half batches of the recipes since I would be taking the goods with me and certainly couldn’t eat more than 6 scones and a loaf of bread over the next few days by myself. We began with the scones, weighing the flour rather than measuring by volume. Side note: I think I need a kitchen scale. After using my hands to gently mix the dry ingredients, Kate asked my preference for cranberries or raisins (the former was my pick) and tossed in a casual handful of full, frozen cranberries. Next in was a combination of cream and beaten egg, lightly mixed in with a wooden spoon. The dough was slightly wet, but when turned out onto a floured surface, it firmed up nicely. I formed a 2” or so thick rectangle of the dough and used a glass to cut my circles, which went onto a baking sheet after a quick brush with the remaining milk/egg mixture. They came out gorgeous and fabulously light. Delicious.

The brown bread was a similar process. Again, hands were used to combine the dry ingredients with a spoon only being used for the final stirs. It’s a quick bread, so it feels more like a batter than a dough, and I correctly gauged that it was a bit too loose. Kate rectified that with an addition of oats and the batter ultimately had the consistency of porridge, or oatmeal as we might say at home. I poured it into a loaf pan and it was given a final kiss of oats on the top prior to going in the oven. The result was fantastic.

After about ninety pleasant minutes of baking, chatting and sipping a coffee, I gathered up my baked goods, now placed in handy sacks, and went on my way back to Dublin. On the bus ride east, I inhaled that bag of treats more than once and was powerless to resist eating another half scone. It was a great first “Experience” and I’ll be enjoying my handiwork for breakfast for the remainder of my time in Ireland.

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Filed under baking, breakfast, Europe, Events, favorites, Food, ideas, Ireland, Recommendations, travel, vacation

Vacation thoughts

74941E52-7459-4928-8B41-D5EF49C731A3.jpegHow can I be late
If there’s nowhere I need to be?

How can I be lost
If I don’t know where I’m going?

How can I have an appetite for tomorrow
When I’m full from just today?

How can I be anything other than delighted
To be exactly where I am?

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