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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

Back into Irish Life

IRELAND | Tuesday, 31 August 2010 | Views [736]

Us at the top of Croagh Patrick on a rare sunny and clear day.

Us at the top of Croagh Patrick on a rare sunny and clear day.

It's hard to believe that it is coming up to six months since we arrived back in Ireland. We had a reasonably quick settling in period when we arrived. We landed on March 25th, and after Em had a few troubles with the lady at customs (as she did not know anything about the Visa Em was coming to Ireland on), we were met by Eva and Shane. Eva is an Occupational Therapist that Em works with. We had arranged that we would live with them when we got back. It was so nice being met and knowing we had somewhere to go. I had a job interview the next morning, which went well enough as I was offered, and of course accepted, a physiotherapy job. It is the same as my last job here, working with kids with disabilities, but at a different centre, Newcastle West. It is only 30 minutes drive which is great. We had our car a couple of days later, and that had also been prearranged. It was a shock really to be back in the cold weather, especially as it rained a lot. Still we got used to that quickly.

I started work on the 12th of April. It was nice to be back and working really. Em started a week and a half later, but on a volunteer basis as she was still waiting on her work Visa to be processed. Unfortunately the immigration department was on a "work to rule" strike, and there was a massive back log of applications. However she was lucky and got it approved quite quickly in the end.

I had a lovely birthday on April 17th, especially as it was Saturday. We had bacon, bananas, and pancakes for breakfast. The night before we had been to a Ceili (Irish set dance) in Co. Clare, about 1 hours' drive away. It was amazing. A spectacle of 'river dancers' really, from age 5 to about 75. It was brilliant to watch, but not really something you could join in on. After the first bar of music everyone knew the tune and away they went. Still after a midnight supper, which were delicious sandwiches, Em got up and danced a set which was entertaining for Eva, Shane, and I, but she did well, and managed to get to the right place at the right time.

For my birthday we had a drive to Portumna, a small town about 1 ½ hours away. It was a nice sunny day, but with the Spring chill in the air. We had a walk around the town, then lunch out (a great seafood chowder) before going for a walk in the nature reserve there. We had picked up rack of lamb, so had those for dinner which was delicious.

At the start of May we had a long weekend and went up to Eva's parents house in Co. Leitrim. It was her sisters 21st, and there were great celebrations planned. Eva's family live on a good Irish farm. Generally speaking Irish farms are on the small side of farms, compared to NZ anyway. They have bog on their land from which they cut turf to burn on the fire over the winter. It was a great weekend, and we were treated to Mammy (the Irish equivalent of Mum) Gildea's cooking. She taught Em how to make brown and white soda breads, which Em has been practising since then.

On May 19th we went up to Dublin to see Mark Knopfler play which was brilliant. It was even a nice evening, so we had a nice wander around the river Liffey before going to the concert. He played a good mixture of Dire Straits and solo songs, including more recent songs which were very Irish sounding, using pipes and tin whistles. We really enjoyed it.

On Friday the 21st our friends James and Julie who currently live in London came across from a weekend, and we were treated to spectacular weather. On the Friday night we picked them up and took them to the Curragower for a trad session and of course a Guiness for James. It was a good night. We left at close, which was about 1am, and came home. On Saturday the sun was shining brightly and we got into the mid 20s. We had a nice day up in Galway. We wandered around the water, then through the town. After fish and chips for lunch, (which were disappointing) we went further north for a short drive. It got us into some more rugged Irish countryside and we were able to show James and Julie a bog and the turf that they cut. After stopping to dip the feet in the Atlantic Ocean, which was freezing, we got in the car and headed back to Limerick. We were all pretty wrecked from the day, so did not stay up late.

Sunday took us to Co. Cork to the Blarney Stone. Again it was beautiful day, so we had a lovely morning walking around the grounds of the Blarney Castle, and of course kissing the Stone. Still no effect for either Em or I (we're supposed to now have the 'gift of the gab'). On our way back to Limerick we took a diversion and went to the Grange Stone circle, which is older than Stone Henge. When we got back home James was keen for one last Guiness in Ireland, so we walked down to the pub, and sat outside! It was a lovely afternoon, and the pub up the road was in the sun and had a band, so we stopped in the there for a drink as well on the way home. They left early Monday morning, but the great weather luckily did not go with them.

The following weekend we went north to Co. Mayo, to Castlebar. We arrived early afternoon and wandered around the town before we went to our B&B and had tea and biscuits, then went into town. We had come to Castlebar because Crowded House were playing that night. It was a little strange going to see a NZ band in Ireland, but it was a great concert. It was the loudest, most animated Irish crowd we have seen at any concert we have been to. People were up out of their seats dancing. They were given beers from the crowd. It was all going well until one guy bought up 4 Guiness' and was handing the tray to Neil Finn, but proceeded to spill them all over the mixing equipment, which called a small halt to the evening. Still once that was cleaned up it was fine.

The next day we drove to Westport, which is a lovely town, and usually a tourist hot spot. It was quiet being a Sunday morning, but nice to have a wander around in. From here we drove further west and then south. We drove past Croagh Patrick, which is a mountain named after St Patrick. Every year on St Patrick's day there is a pilgrimage up to the top of the mountain, and if you a really dedicated you do it in barefeet! We decided we should take a walk and climbed to the top. It was not high, nowhere in Ireland is. But the top third was tough going because it was all very loose gravel. It gave us a stunning view from the top, and we were happy we had taken advantage of the beautiful day that we had. After having lunch, we thought we should start to head toward Limerick. We had a beautiful drive through Connemara, surrounded by big hills and water along one side of us. We were back in rugged West Ireland countryside. It was nice driving. We ended up getting back to Limerick after 7pm.

The following weekend was another long weekend, June bank holiday weekend. Em and I were up early on Saturday morning, and out to the airport as we headed across to London. We landed over there just after 8am, and after managing to negotiate tube closures we made it to my cousins house near Great Portland St, about 3 blocks from Oxford St. After having tea with Pram and Vani, we went out for lunch, back to the fantastic Indian restaurant that Pram took us to last year. It was brilliant. After eating too much we had a wander through a few shops, before going back to their apartment. We said our goodbyes there and Em and I went about trying to get to my friend Cath's place in Whitechapel. We made it there and just stayed in for the evening.

On Sunday morning we headed into the city to do some shopping. We thought we were late, but being a Sunday we were in there before the shops even opened. After wasting some time we had a good look around the shops, before heading to China Town for Yum Cha, which was delicious. After a little more shopping we went to the musical 'Stomp' which was brilliant. It was a percussion musical where they used everyday things
(e.g. brooms, rubbish bins, basketballs, packets of matches) for a performance that lasted more than 1 hour. It was entertaining. We had dinner out as well, before heading back to Caf's for the evening. We left London early Monday morning and flew back to Shannon, and we had a day at home.

The beautiful sunny weather we had in May continued through June as well. It was sunny and hot almost every day. We planted a vege garden. Shane had seed potatoes, and sprouted Onions, and planted lettuce seeds, so we got those into the garden.

July and August have flown by really. Unfortunately the normal 'summer' set in and the rain started and was pretty consistent.

At the start of August we had the last of our summer bank holidays, so we decided to head to West Cork, a part of the country we had not been to before, but one that lots of Irish people love.

We had a early start on Saturday morning, the 7th of August, we headed towards Cork, and then on to Kinsale from there. It was a busy little town. It is another tourist spot, and was nice, but we did not feel like it was anything special. From there we headed further west to Timoleague. We were now driving along the southern coast line of Ireland and it was very nice. We ended up getting to Timoleague late afternoon so we went to our B&B and checked in, and had a cup of tea, before heading to Clonakilty for dinner. Clonakilty is the home of black and white pudding, and it was a beautiful little town. We had a delicious dinner here. We were aiming to go to some trad music but we were both pretty tired, so went back to the B&B for some much needed sleep.

Sunday was a big day of driving. First of all we had a great breakfast. I had an 'All Irish' which is eggs, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, and black and white pudding. Since we were near the home of pudding I thought I should try it and it was suprisingly tasty. With a big meal to start the day we hit the road. We passed through Inchydoney, Leap (pronounced Lep) and onto Baltimore, which was at the end of a pennisula, but was not really much, which was a little disappointing. We continued further west from here and went to Mizen Head, the southern most point of the Irish mainland. Here there is a lighthouse that you can usually walk out to, but the bridge was being rebuilt so that was disappointing. When we arrived here it was quite foggy, but thankfully that blew over so we could admire the view. The rest of our day was spent driving, and we passed through Bantry, Glengariff, and down the Beara Pennisula to a B&B near the Dursey Island Cable car. This place was remote, really remote. Narrow roads, and not many people around, but it was such a refreshing place to be. We had to drive to Allihies for dinner, then went back to our B&B for the evening.

Monday was another big day of driving. It turns out our plans were a little ambitious in terms of covering so much ground over 3 days, but still it was a nice weekend away. We drove north from our B&B to Kenmare, where we had been before. They we drove further northeast, before going over a mountain pass that was literally like a narrow driveway. Single lane, grass up the middle. It was 25km over the mountains. It was great a great drive. The aim of our drive was to get to Gougane Barra, a national park, where there was a little church on the lakeside. It was recommended by someone at my work, so we went there. It was a very cool little place, although a little hard to find. In the end we made it, and had a nice walk and picnic lunch there. From there we drove home via some back roads in County Cork, and then on up to Limerick. The weekend was a good taster of West Cork, and there were definitely places to go back to.

August and September have been quiet enough. We have stayed home for most weekends. We have both been busy with work, and it feels like we have never left. I have been busy training for the Berlin Marathon, which is now just 2 weeks away, and Em has also been running almost every day. The rain has started, and the autumn colours are starting to creep across the trees. The days are much shorter as well, a sure sign that Winter is creeping up on us.

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