Ireland Revisited

The Emerald Isle: Another classic travel blog

 by Mary Jo

Ironically, yesterday the Mayhem Consultant and I returned from our first vacation in a year and a half: a cruise of the Chesapeake Bay.  But I didn't have the time to write a proper blog, so I'm recycling an older blog about a week we spent in Ireland, because who doesn't want to visit Ireland???

The Mayhem Consultant and I sailed from New York to Southampton on the Queen Mary 2 purely to enjoy the leisure and romance of a transatlantic crossing.  But once we reached England, we certainly weren’t going to waste being in Europe! 

We’d vaguely planned to go to Ireland some day.  I’d spent a week there many, many years ago when I was living in England, and the MC had never visited Ireland at all.  Clearly, it was time. <G> 

Neither the MC nor I have any known Irish blood, but no matter.  We loved Ireland forIreland by satellite its beauty, wonderful friendly people, and deep sense of history. Rather than ramble on indefinitely, here’s a few bits and pieces, with a modest selection of pictures.  (Ireland is a very photogenic country!):

Travel the easy way:

We decided to try something new: instead of hiring a car ourselves, we’d hire a car with a driver/guide to take us around.  No stress, and a driver who not only knew the fun, off the beaten track places, but could tell us the history.  We worked through an agency recommended by a friend of a friend, and the Ireland Chauffeur Travel company turned out to be a good pick.  We worked out an itinerary, rooms were booked, and it worked as smoothly as silk. 

We were particularly lucky with our guide, John Daly, Besides being capable, welcoming, and knowledgeable, he’was a certified tour guide with a special expertise in Irish history.  Hog heaven for a historical novelist! 

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Christmas Dreams

Cat 243 Doverby Mary Jo

I’m going out on a limb here to say I don’t think the world is going to end today, Mayan Apocalypse notwithstanding. <G>  Instead, it’s the winter solstice, the first day of Capricorn, and the heart of holiday madness.  People are shopping, wrapping, cooking, collapsing.  So I decided to ask the Wenches just for fun what they might choose for a Dream Christmas.  As always, the replies are as varied and amusing as the Wenches. <G> 

PolarlichtJoanna:

I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights.  So maybe my dream Christmas is a fancy ski resort somewhere in the far north.  Norway perhaps.  Good food in the lodge.  Big roaring fire in the lounge.  Cheerful skiers hanging about.  (No — I don't want to ski myself, thank you.) 

And then, along about midnight, I'd go out on the deck and look up.  There'd be curtains of blue and red and green waving and shimmering across the sky.
Merry Christmas. 

Red_and_green_aurorasinnorwayNicola commented: 

Joanna, we went to see the Northern Lights in Norway a few years ago, staying in a very cosy log cabin we had rented. When the locals heard we were there to see the Northern Lights they said "They come out at 8pm." We thought this was weird – how could they be so predictable? But bless me, at 8pm for three nights in a row the Northern Lights came out right on cue and we lay in the snow and watched them shimmer overhead. (The island we were on also had a hidden military base in the centre of a mountain just like in James Bond, but that's another story.)

Pat: Hawaii--Pat

I'm California dreaming. I've had enough snow and ho-ho-ho in my life, and while I appreciate the joy of those Christmases, life has moved on. I need sun and warmth and my family, and they're all in California right now. Although I spent a delightful Christmas in Hawaii with family one year, and that worked beautifully too!

Ashdowninthesnow1--NicolaNicola:

There's a definite appeal about going somewhere hot for Christmas but I am so steeped in tradition that I'm not sure it would feel quite right. Wonderful but not Christmas. So I think my dream would be a little house in a big wood, the snow deep outside but with a warm log fire inside and lots of delicious food. When I've eaten too much I'll roll out of the front door and take the dog for a walk in the snow. Definitely the fairytale option! (And ok, the photo isn't exactly a "little" house but it would do fine!)

Christmas lights at nightJo:

Funnily enough, the Christmas setting that twangs my heart strings is dark and wet. Yes, truly. I realized this when we moved to Victoria, British Columbia, in 1996. It's the part of Canada that has mild winters. By then, we'd been in Canada for twenty years, living in places where a white Christmas was a given, and to be honest the appeal of that was long gone. I went downtown to shop, and the short day meant that darkness fell. It was raining lightly — not enough to be uncomfortable for a Lancashire lass — and the Christmas lights were gleaming on the wet roads and pavements. Instant nostalgic bliss. Christmas as it ought to be!

Nicola commented:  Jo, I love this and as a Yorkshire girl I can identify with dark, wet Christmases too!

Cara/Andrea:

My mother was Swiss, so I grew up hearing St. Nicholas stories of fairytale Alpine WinterinDavospostersettings with timeless traditions. So my Dream Christmas is to go to Davos, where her family spent the winter holidays. (We went there together in summer, but never in winter.) 

It’s a famous ski village, with world-class slopes and miles of cross-country skiing over frozen lakes and scenic trails. So I’d enjoy the snow sports all day, then savor mulled wine and “biberli” (a traditional Swiss confection made of gingerbread and almond paste) as the setting sun painted the mountains in a rosy alpenglow. At Andrea at Davosnight, I would walk through the streets to enjoy the festive Christmas lights, the smell of fresh cut pine, the glitter of real candles on the trees—and to stuff myself with more wonderful Swiss pastries! (Hey, I skied all day! There I am on the left.)

Anne:

A Bondi Beach ChristmasChristmas in Australia is a little bit weird — with a large part of our culture transplanted from Europe, and still fairly British by tradition, we're raised with the secret  belief that A Proper Christmas is a white one — a belief reinforced by American Christmas movies and songs.  So all the shop windows are decorated with fake snow, and Santas sweat under thick red costumes and fake beards. And  on Christmas day we sit in our light cotton clothes, in roasting  temperatures, eating roast turkey or pork or ham with baked vegetables and gravy, followed by steaming hot plum pudding . . and then we go to the beach!

It's slowly changing, and we're increasingly adapting traditional Christmas dishes to be more suitable for a hot climate (plum pudding ice-cream, anyone?) but when I was a kid, even families who were camping over the summer holidays would slave over a hot camp oven to produce a delicious roast dinner followed by hot plum pudding.  Because that's what Christmas is.

So having only experienced one cold Christmas in my life, and that a drizzly London one when I was eight, my fantasy is the Christmas of all those gorgeous Christmas stories that we all enjoy so much. I've built a snowman, but never around Christmas, I've cut down a pine tree for Christmas but always in roasting temperatures.

So I'd like Christmas in a gorgeous old English country house, with delicious things cooking up in the aga, a big blazing fireplace in the sitting room and a bunch of good friends, drinking and sharing stories and delicious nibbles. It must, of course, be a white Christmas, so I want to wake up on Christmas morning to see big fat flakes of snow drifting down to coat the world in a blanket of white — no blizzards in my fantasy, thank you. Then in the daytime I'd want to play in the snow doing all the things I've written about and never done — tramping through snow to gather holly and mistletoe to decorate the house, making snow angels, skating on a frozen pond, taking a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh (with bells on) through a hushed white landscape, and coming home to a blazing fire, roasting chestnuts and hot mulled wine. 

(Now excuse me while I turn on the air-conditioner.)

Ashford Castle in the snow
Mary Jo:

I love my home and burrowing in with the cats and Mayhem Consultant, with plenty of food and entertainment and NO responsibilities!  But for a dream Christmas?  I’d join several of the other Wenches in dreaming of a beautiful house in a beautiful place. In fact, why not Ashford Castle, where we had a wonderful visit in September?  There would be room for all the Wenches and significant others and our pets, because what’s a holiday without our fur friends???  The rooms are large and gracious, with beautiful views of the grounds or the lake, and the food is marvelous.  So we could have chatting or privacy or roaring fires, and maybe go out to watch the trained falcons fly. 

We’d love if you stopped by to join us for tea as well.  There’s space by the fire and plenty of delicious tea and cakes for all!

So what would your Dream Christmas be?  Have you had one already?  What would you choose for another?

Happy holiday dreaming!

Mary Jo