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Emma & Maneesh on the Big OE

A Few Weekends Away in 2011

IRELAND | Tuesday, 15 November 2011 | Views [1034]

The two of us at Malin Head, Co. Donegal, Ireland's most northern point.

The two of us at Malin Head, Co. Donegal, Ireland's most northern point.



After our nice new years and exciting December with the freezing temperatures and snow, the first part of January was back to reality with normal wintry weather and work. However on January 21st we were off again and back to New Zealand. It was strange because it seemed like we were only there last week. We went back for Raj and Janey's wedding and had a fantastic time in the sun and warmth. Their wedding was on January the 28th in Hawkes Bay and we had a fantastic time there. It was a wonderful celebration at The Mission Estate Winery.

It was great to spend some time in the prime of a New Zealand summer. Come February 8th it was back on a plane and back to Ireland. We landed February 9th and were back at work the next day. Thankfully we only had 2 days of work to survive before a weekend to rest up and recover.


It was normal life really until mid-March when our friends James and Julie came over from London for the weekend to visit. The arrived Friday the 11th of March. On Saturday we headed down to Dingle and did a day of sight seeing there which was fantastic. It was chilly, but we left a rainy Limerick and it was quite clear down there which was nice. We took them to the Beehive huts which they enjoyed, before we had a picnic at Slea Head, probably our favourite place in Ireland. After lunch we spent about an hour on the beach making dams on a small stream there and enjoying being by the sea. We were wrapped up nice and warm. From here we headed back to Limerick and arrived back at about 6pm, got the fire going well, and sat there and had dinner while we chatted. After dinner we took JJ to the pub and had good fun listening to the band and chatting for the night.

Sunday with them was much more restful. We had sleep-ins and relaxed for the morning. We went out for a late lunch to the Curragower for seafood chowder which was very tasty then we came back home and watched a movie before we had dinner and went to bed. They left early Monday morning after another fun weekend with them.

March 17th, St Patrick's Day we had a restful morning before wandering into Limerick city to watch the parade for a while, then we came back home. It was a quiet enough day for us, but good to have a day off work.

April, May & June

We did not really have any significant trips or events really up until May 1st. We did have a number of lovely nights out at Ray and Jan's, friends of ours at Ballina, Co. Tipperary. I met Ray at my first job. They are our 'Irish Parents', but they are actually New Zealanders, from Nelson. So we always enjoy going out there for dinner and relaxing for the evening, chatting or watching a movie. We always feel like we are at home. It must be mentioned that April was a stunning month with weeks of sunshine and warmth, getting close to 20°c. It was actually the hottest and driest on record! We did have one nice outing on April 17th to the Adare manor for my birthday and Jan's birthday (which is the 16th of April). We had high tea and a lovely afternoon out there. After the afternoon tea we wandered around the grounds for about an hour which was so relaxing and peaceful.

May 1st arrived, so did Mum, and so did the cold rainy weather. She had come to visit and travel Europe for 6 weeks. We picked her up in Dublin at about 6pm and bought her back to Limerick. It was fantastic to have her over here with us. After dinner we stayed awake until about 10pm. On Monday May 2nd we went down to Dingle to show Mum around. We left at about 10am and had a nice trip down, including driving over the Conor Pass, which is a narrow mountain pass with a nice view. We were lucky and it was clear, but it was not as rough as we were expecting. We passed through Dingle town and stopped for lunch and had a picnic in the car as it started raining. Next, we went on to Slea Head beach and the Dun Quin pier. This is a famous place often featured on Irish calendars and we have always wanted to find it - we finally did which was great. We went on from there to the Gallarus Orotory, a place we had not been to before. We were staying down in Dingle for the night, so checked into our B&B and had some cheese and crackers and then went into the town for dinner. We were going to stay for trad music but were too tired so went back to the B&B and went to bed.

We left our B&B at about 9:30am and stopped at the Beehive huts to show Mum which was great. Then we drove to Killarney, another favourite place of ours. Unfortunately the mist covered the hills. Still we stopped in near one of the lakes and went for a walk and then went to Muckross House (near where we got engaged) and had a wander around the lovely gardens there. After that we went into town to have some nice warm soup to eat before coming back to Limerick. Later on after dinner, we took mum to some sights in Limerick on the way to the supermarket. Wednesday Mum went up to Belfast and we worked for the remainder of the week. We went up to Dublin on Saturday and met her up there. We took her to Dalkey to show her where Nan was from and then we went and checked into our hotel. We still had a few hours so we decided to go to Avoca, a town in Wicklow which became famous because this is where the TV series 'Ballykissangel' was filmed. Mum was a huge fan so she was delighted at having this unexpected outing included in her trip. We had a wander around the village before we headed back to Dublin to our hotel to get ready, and then went to Peg's for dinner. Peg is Mum's aunty (Nan's sister-in-law). This was the first relative outside immediate family that Mum had met in her living memory. We had a lovely evening there chatting and Mum had lots of questions to ask. On Sunday morning we went with Peg to church as this is where Nan and Poppa got married. After the service a gentleman took us out the back to see the church records and we found Nan and Poppa’s marriage record, which was fantastic. From here we went out to lunch. On the way Peg took us around to a few different houses where Nan lived growing up. After a nice lunch we said our goodbyes and thank yous to Peg. She was so kind to take us around, it was lovely. We wasted a small amount of time, before driving to our airport carpark to drop the car off and head to the airport to go to Turkey! (See separate Blog entry for this wonderful 10-day trip

After Turkey Mum went to London for 5 days, and we came back to Ireland. She then went to Europe and did a wonderful 16 day bus tour of Germany, Poland and Austria before returning to Ireland on the Sunday 5th of June. On the Monday we drove up to Donegal (no rest for the wicked!). We went to see Jean, Mum's half-aunt (half-sister of Poppa). We got there mid-afternoon and after having a lovely afternoon there eating sandwiches and scones, we went to a few places around the area to show Mum where her Dad had grown up and lived. We even stopped in at a house where a 93 year old lady lived, and she had done all of her life. She had actually looked after Poppa when he was a little boy, amazing! Even more amazing – she remembered him! From there we headed back to Jean's and spent the evening with her until about 10:30pm when we returned to our B&B. Tuesday morning we looked around the township of Donegal before going out to Jean's. Her son, Robert was there, so we were there for a couple of hours before it was time to make the 4 hour journey back to Limerick.

I worked the remainder of the week, Em had to work Thursday. On Wednesday Em and Mum went to the Grange Stone circle and then went with Jan to the Adare Manor for lunch and then scones and tea which was great. They had a lovely day and thoroughly enjoyed it. On Wednesday evening we went to Bunratty castle to the medieval feast. It started at 8:30pm and we had a fantastic evening in the castle. It started with a mead reception with entertainment by the castle bairds, which was followed by a delicious 4 course dinner (including ribs). Guests are only given an ‘eating knife’ and no other utensils; soup is slurped straight from the bowl. During dinner there was music with live singers and musicians. It was a great night out. We were there until about 11pm when we headed home.

On Thursday Mum caught the bus into town, and explored Limerick, doing well to fill her day. Limerick is not the nicest of cities, but she was happy to see it for herself. On Thursday evening we went out to Ray and Jan's and had a lovely evening out there. Before dinner Ray took us for a great drive around a few local areas overlooking Lough Derg which was great. Ray and Mum actually lived at Waikeria at the same time, and although they cannot really remember each other they had great times reminiscing.

On Friday Mum and Em went to the Rock of Cashel and had a nice morning there, before going to Claudia and David's house for lunch. Em works with Claudia and she had invited them out so Mum could see their house, which was built in the 1700s. That evening we went to our pub, the Curragower, to listen to some trad music, but we were out of luck, they changed the night, so we went to another pub called Dolan’s, and managed to hear some so that was good.
Saturday the 11th of June was Mum's departure day. We went up to Dublin in the morning and went to Rush, where she’d had a beach holiday when she was younger, then onto Malahide Castle, where her Uncle Austin was the head gardener. We had a nice afternoon exploring around there before going to the airport at about 4:30pm. We got Mum checked in and stayed there until just after 5pm when it was time for our good-byes. It was sad to say goodbye, but it was fantastic that she was able to come and visit and that we could show her around a few of our favourite places.

On Tuesday the 21st of June we went to Cork to go and see Paul Simon in concert which was great. We came out at 10:30pm and it was still light. It was the longest day of the year and sunset was officially 10:02pm. It was light until after 11pm, with the skyline still light at midnight!

A friend from Univeristy, Adeline, came and visited on June 24th. We picked her up and relaxed for the evening. On Saturday morning, the 25th we went down to Dingle again. We did not leave until about midday. We did a similar trip to the one we did with Mum, going over the Conor pass and then passing through Dingle town out to the pennisula. It was much different though, with the fog so thick, you could not see further than 15m in front of you. Still Adeline enjoyed what she could see and at Slea Head it cleared a small amount which was good, and by 5pm when we were heading back towards Dingle it was clearer again which was nice. We came back to Limerick and got some Indian takeaways for dinner before going to the pub for a drink.

On Sunday we took Adeline out to the Grange Stone circle and Lough Gur. It was a much nicer day with the sun breaking through. We spent the afternoon outside as it was very warm and sunny, lovely. We had an early dinner and had home made ice cream which was great for the day, before we dropped her off at the bus station and she headed back to Dublin to fly across to London.


For a week from July 16th we were out at Ray and Jan's house in Ballina house and cat sitting which was good. Unfortunately the weather was pretty dire, but we were still able to relax and enjoy Ballina and the peaceful village. Unfortunately we still had to go to work for the week, but just being somewhere different still gave it a holiday feel.


For the first week of August, my work was closed, so Em also had the week off. We got on the road on Saturday the 30th of July and headed north to Donegal. We went to my great-aunt's house, Jean, and had lunch with her. She had told us of a local event that was happening, at the Leghowny community centre - sheep races! We had to check this out, and it was one of the reasons for the trip. It was great fun. We watched 5 races which were highly entertaining. There were 12 sheep in a race, and they all had saddles and numbers and teddy bears (the jockeys) stuck to their backs. It was a fundraising event, so you could bet on them. They ran around the track and had to jump hay bales in 3 places. It was great to see. In between races there were a few stalls and things around the place to check out as well and places to have a snack. While we were there we even met the Mayor of Donegal! It was all good fun and a nice community day. We got back on the road at about 5pm and headed through Ballybofey, Letterkenny, Burnfoot, Lisfannan and ended up at Buncrana. We drove through the town on the hunt for a B&B for the night. We found two but they were both full. We were directed to another one, and thankfully they had vacancies. It was run by a lovely family with four children, all with very nice Donegal accents. She gave us tea when we arrived and then we had a sandwich for dinner as we were still quite full from the food at the sheep races.

On Sunday the 31st we had breakfast at 8:30am. After breakfast we got our bits and pieces ready and then we chatted to the family about different things. It was after 10:30am before we left them and started our drive around the Inishowen Penninsula, called the Inishowen 100, as it is a 100 mile drive. Our first stop was just up the road at the Dunree fort. We then headed up towards Malin Head, stopping off at some old thatched cottages to take some photos and then passing through Malin town and up to the top of Malin head. It was quiet enough when we got there, but within 10 minutes there were loads of people there. It was windy, but quite pleasant. Malin head is the Northernmost point of the Irish main land. The drive to get there was slow, but the roads were not the worst we have been on in Ireland that is for sure. The landscape was very green, and quite hilly, speckled with lots of small stone cottages.

From there we headed down the east side of the peninsula before stopped at a small village near the water at a picnic table (a rare sight in Ireland!) to have our picnic lunch. After lunch, soon after we had started driving we passed through a village where there was a graveyard mass on, and wow, what a turn out. The graveyard was packed and cars were lining the street for more than a kilometre. There must have been at least 2000 or 3000 people. It was an unusual sight for us to see, but a common occurrence in this part of Ireland. We kept on driving and when we got to Muff, cut across back to Burnfoot and then on to Letterkenny. We decided to head towards Churchill. When we got there, it was just after 5pm so we decided to go and find out where Glebe Museum was. We had been recommended it. It turned out there was a tour leaving at 5:30pm so we decided to get on that. It was almost an hour long tour, shown around an artist’s old house. It was interesting but I was happy we did not pay more than 3 euro to get in. Once we were done we headed to the B&B. After unpacking our bits and pieces we decided we would go into Letterkenny to have dinner at the Indian restaurant where we ate last time we were up this way. It was a good move, we sat at the same table and had a 3 course meal which was delicious. Once we were done there we headed back to our B&B and watched TV before going to sleep.

On Monday the 1st of August, August bank holiday, we got up and had breakfast with 2 sisters who must have been in their late 60s / early 70s who were Irish but now lived in Scotland and Switzerland, and were back for a family reunion. It was a nice breakfast, and there were even homemade jams. Em managed to get the owner’s recipe for the delicious rhubarb ginger jam.

We left the B&B by just after 10am and headed to Glenveagh National Park which was only about a half hour drive away. It was already starting to get busy. When we parked the car and were getting ready we noticed hundreds of midgies everywhere which were very irritating. We went into the visitors centre for a look before walking the 4km to the castle. When we got there we bought some insect repellent wipes as the midgies were still quite thick and were making a meal of us. Then we walked around the castle gardens and went to the birds of prey show which included 2 beautiful owls. They were impressive to see so close, and Em had a turn holding the snowy owl on her hand with a thick leather glove. We next went on a 3km walk up to a waterfall and then turned around for the 7km walk back to the car. We were both quite hungry, so we drove a short distance to get away from the midgies. We stopped on the side of a bog road and ate our sandwiches for lunch. There was bog everywhere you looked and we had great fun further up the road. I stopped to take some photos then got Em to come onto the bog too. It was very bouncy, and when Em jumped up and down about 4m away I felt the vibrations like an earthquake. It was very cool.

From there we drove west and ended up in Dungloe. We managed to drive around the town and find a B&B. After we had unpacked our things we had a cup of tea we went 10 minutes up the road to Burtonport where we had read in the guide book about the Lobster Pot, a good seafood restaraunt. Unfortunately it did not live up to it reputation, we had 'The Titanic', a seafood platter. Well it was very disappointing. The smoked salmon, smoked mackerel and pickled herrings were nice, otherwise it was very disappointing.

On Tuesday after breakfast we got our things together and loaded up the car, then went for a small walk around the waterfront of Dungloe. The sun was out, and it was blue sky so we were very happy to get out and enjoy it while we had it. We got back to the car and were on our way at about 10:30am and drove across country to Ballybofey. It was a nice drive, it showed just how similar most of the Donegal landscape is really because there was a lot more bog on the drive. We had a busy day in Ballybofey / Stranorlar. The reason we came here was I was doing some family tree research and this was the area of the country where I wanted to be looking. The first stop was the church that we thought we should go to. It was a Presbyterian church in Stranorlar, but we could not get in or find the graveyard, so we left there and went for a drive. We then went in search of any more churches and came to the Church of Ireland which was the correct church. We managed to get in and have a look around the graveyard, but after searching for about 20 minutes looking over every headstone we found nothing. We decided it was time to go to the information centre, so across the river we went to Ballybofey and went to the information centre there. The lady there was very helpful and she directed us to a few townlands around the area that we wanted to go to and also to births, deaths and marriages. It was about 12:30pm, so we decided to try our luck at births, deaths and marriages… and were in luck! The lady was available, and was very helpful so I was able to buy some copies of records that they keep in a database, which was brilliant. We left there and went out to a church that could have been a local parish for both the McCleery's and the Elliott's (my Mum's paternal grandparents). But again there was no graveyard and no one answered the phone. So we went to the townland that we needed to get to, Em did some fantastic map reading. We came to the road and decided to find a house that looked old enough that it might be an old family house. We choose correctly, and the man living there was an older man, who had been there for 50 years. He knew of the Elliotts and was able to direct us to an elderly lady down the road who would know more. We went there, but unfortunately she was away on holidays. Still we saw where Elliott's shop would have been and spoke to the man who now owns the house and shed. We headed back into the town and went back to the information centre to check if there were any other graveyards in the town and were directed to one. Again we searched for about a half hour, and again the sun came out which was nice. No luck though, so we went to the hardware shop, some advice given to us by the information centre lady. When we got there we spoke to the older man who owned the shop, about 5th generation! He could not help us himself but told us of a couple of people who might know. His son was also there and spent about a half hour on line looking at different things for us as well which was very helpful. He had also done some family tree research, so that was good. We left there and went to the first of the two people he had recommended, but, he was away on holiday too! At the next house, the lady was home and very friendly. We had the correct person, but unfortunately, she must have had some dementia as she knew that she should know because she had grown up in the area, but could not tell us anything. She also asked us about 5 times in the space of 1 minute where we were from, to which we replied New Zealand, and were met with astonishment each time. After thanking her and heading on our way we went back in to town, none the wiser. By this time it was almost 6pm. We decided to get some dinner and then get on the road. We felt like a fish burger so went to the 'John Dory Diner', surely a good place to get fish. Well we never found out, they did not have fish burgers! So we went for chicken instead. It was a good proper burger with lots of salads and things, so we sat outside and ate that, then got on the road and headed for Clones, Co. Monaghan. We were only driving for about 5 minutes and we were across the border and drove through Co. Tyrone and Fermanagh to get into Co. Monaghan. It was about 1 hour 45 minute trip but unfortunately I took the wrong direction on a motorway and there were no exits for 15km, so that added time, then when we got to Clones we could not find a B&B. So we drove around for an hour, and eventually found one. By this stage we were both very much over it, and very happy to have somewhere to stay. The B&B was above a bar, but it was massive and very nice. There were about 20 rooms and I think we were the only ones there!

On Wednesday morning we slept in until 8:30am and then got up for breakfast, and went downstairs to the restaurant to have our breakfast at 9am. When we got down there we were the only ones in there and the lady was on the phone. She stopped chatting and came over to us and started chatting and got us orange juice. We told her how we were in the area looking for family for the townland of Radeerpark. She said that she was from this area, but she had moved away to America for 15 years, and so she would ring her brother and he might be able to help us. While she did all of this she made us a lovely breakfast. When we were ordering Em asked if there was potato bread and she said no. Well about 5 minutes after she brought us out our breakfast, she brought us out delicious potato bread and said to Em, “Once you are done there, you come into my kitchen and I will show you how to do it.” Anne was her name and she was lovely. So after breakfast Em went and had a lesson and learned the secrets of potato bread.

Anne told us her brother was coming into town at 10am and he will pop by for a chat, so we went up and got our things together and then packed the car. We were back just before 10am and Anne's brother Paddy arrived with another of Anne's sisters. We told him our story, and he told us that he remembered the family, because they grew up in the same area. He said to let him go and get his bread then he would take us to a few places. He was back in no time and we said our goodbyes to Anne and her sister, and headed on our way. Paddy was a brilliant and very lovely man. He was full of brilliant Irishisms such as ‘Bejesus’ or ‘Bygod’ at the end of every sentence, and changed these to 'Bejepus' when we went to visit a Reverend!

Our first stop was the spot of my great grandmothers (My maternal grandmother's mother) family home site. There used to be a shop, but both were burnt long after that family had left. We went across the road to see the Reverend who directed us to someone else just up the road, so we went there and it was an old farmer. He could remember the family and told us the name of another gentleman who might know more information, and also told us to go to the local Reverend for the Church of Ireland parish. We went to the Reverend’s house, but she was not home. We thought we may have been able to get access to the church records. We then headed to a church where Paddy thought we might find someone relevant in the graveyard, and we did which was good. He then took us to the local undertaker, the Presbyterian one, and he searched his records and found the information of the funeral of my grandmothers uncle, including the cost of the coffin! From there we went to another old graveyard, with people who died in the late 1700s and early 1800s onwards! We had a search around and had some luck, finding one relevant headstone which was nice. It was brilliant going around the graveyards with Paddy as he knew lots of people or had dug the grave, or knew the old stories that had been passed down to him from his mother. Then we headed about 5km up little lane-ways to a man who was 90 and lived in his family house with his sister. Wow, what a house! It was over 200 years old and not a lot had been done to it. The 90 year old man had been out for the morning on his tractor mowing the paddock! The floor in their lounge was amazingly uneven, it was a great experience as I am sure this house had really not changed for the last 100 years. He did not really remember the families, but it was still great just to see their house and meet them.

That was the end of our time with Paddy who had been a fantastic guide, he had been with us for more than 2 hours. We stopped near his house and said our goodbyes. He declined our offer to go for lunch or tea. We were so grateful to him. He lived alone, his Mum had been living with him until 2 years ago when she died at 90. She had been widowed with 8 children when the eldest was 10 years old and the youngest was just 4 weeks.

We left him and headed back into our B&B and had a cup of tea with Anne and told her of our busy morning, before we headed away and got on the road back to Limerick. We left Clones at 2:30pm and were back down into Limerick just before 6pm. We spent the evening unpacking and getting things sorted out. It had been a lovely 5 days away, and we were not too tired either. We went to bed early and read for a while before going to sleep.

We spent the remainder of our week of visiting different friends around Limerick.


Half way through August we went to a 'Barn Dance'. It was a fund raiser, where they had a band, at a barn and an evening of entertainment there. It was very well organised, with 600 people attending. They had a bar, and a huge dinner which was delicious. Thankfully the rain held off for most of the night. There was a mechanical bull which was good fun. We left there at 2am, and caught a bus back to Limerick. Unfortunately the bus broke down and we did not get home and into bed until 5am. Boy were we happy to see our pillows.


September was very quiet for us. We were busy at work as the schools start in September and we had a lot of teachers ringing about kids that are on our caseloads, so that kept us busy really. At the start of October we went out and stayed with Kate for the week. She is a friend of Em's, and has a beautiful little daughter Alexa. She is currently living at home while she studies, and wanted company for the week while her parents were away on holiday. We had a fun, busy week out there. Again it was a nice change, being away from our normal routine, and the week flew by.

October & November

At the end of October we moved out to Ray and Jan's in Ballina to house sit for 5 weeks. They headed back to NZ to visit family and for the arrival of their new grandson. So we were house and cat sitting once again. Unbelievably come November 1st the weather got warmer and sunnier, and to date November has been the warmest on record! We have had just 1 frost and that was on October the 31st. It is now just 4 weeks until we go to Egpyt for Christmas. We will have to wait and see what the weather brings, it was about the start of December that the snow started last year, so lets just wait and see. So there it is really, our year of 2011. The highlights obviously were out trip back to NZ in January for Raj and Jane's wedding and then my Mum's visit in May and June and our trip to Turkey with her. We started the year in London, and all going to plan we will see it out in Cairo.

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