Sunday, November 27, 2016

I had every intention of going somewhere this weekend...

But the cloudy weather and post Thanksgiving blues conspired to keep me at home.  This time of year in Germany can be challenging for outings.  Aside from that, one of my dogs was recently diagnosed with a mast cell tumor and I've been feeling pretty sad about it.

I'm hoping to get back to regular blogging soon, though.  If anything, it'll keep me from going crazy worrying about both of my dogs.  They are truly my babies.

Monday, November 21, 2016

At home at The Water's Edge...

I realize I've been writing about Ireland for many days now, but I promised some people in the local Facebook group that I would post a review of our stay at The Water's Edge, a self catering cottage in County Sligo, Ireland.

I found The Water's Edge on Booking.com about a month ago, when I was searching for a place to stay in County Donegal.  As it turns out, The Water's Edge is in Sligo, but I decided to book it because it's literally yards away from the Atlantic Ocean.  I was also very impressed by the price of the cottage, which was 440 euros for five nights (plus heating and electricity).

Besides being in a prime location, The Water's Edge is right next to The Beach Bar, which is a great place to have a pint as well as learn how to surf!  At this time of year, The Beach Bar only offers food three nights a week.  We were also told that the bar will be closing for about six months while extensive renovations are done.  We feel fortunate that we were able to check it out when we were visiting.  It's a really neat little place.

Once I booked the cottage, I got an email from Helen, the proprietor.  She was great to work with and very friendly and welcoming.  Indeed, when we arrived at the cottage, we found that Helen had it all ready for us and had even left us a couple of bottles of wine and some chocolates.  She remembered that I'd mentioned we were celebrating our anniversary and left us a lovely note along with the welcome gift.

The Water's Edge has a well equipped kitchen, with a dishwasher, oven, stove, and microwave.  There's a generously sized table that faces a wood stove, where you can burn peat to keep the cottage toasty warm.  Electricity is provided on a meter that you must drop two euro coins into.  We don't know how long two euros keeps the lights going, but if you choose to book, be sure to have some two euro coins available.  We also paid about 70 euros or so for heating.

There are three bedrooms and six people can be comfortably accommodated.  There are two bathrooms, one of which is equipped with facilities for disabled patrons.  There's plenty of parking, too.

The sitting room offers a television with satellite service, as well as a stereo that will connect with an MP3 player.  It was great to light a fire, open some wine, and listen to music while we watched the surf from the half door facing the ocean.  WiFi is free and it works very well!

One night, we went into town for our anniversary dinner.  Our waiter knew Helen!  I have a feeling she is well-known in the Sligo area, since she has two properties to rent!  We noticed an article hung on the wall about her family, which is well known for farming as well as Irish dancing and music!

The only complaint I had about The Water's Edge is that the double beds were indeed double beds, rather than queen sized.  While we were able to sleep fine, it was a bit cozier than we're used to.  But really, this cottage had everything we needed.  We even managed to do a little bit of laundry, which was a real blessing that spared me from having to do a whole lot when we got home last night.

I would have liked to have seen more of Sligo, but it was such a pleasure to have such a nice place to stay in during the inclement weather.  If nothing else, we could watch the ever changing sea and enjoy each other's company.  Pets are not allowed at this property.

There is a grocery store in nearby Ballysadare, maybe twenty or thirty minutes away.  Ballysadare also has a couple of bars and restaurants, though we didn't have a chance to visit them.  

I would not hesitate to recommend The Water's Edge to anyone looking for a great beach cottage in western Ireland.  It really is a gem and Helen is a delight to work with!  Below are some pictures of the property!



A nice welcome!


Master bedroom.  It has its own bathroom with a shower.


Sitting room.  Loved the reclining chairs.


Kitchen.


Second guest room.


Second bathroom.


Third guest room.


Coin operated meter for electricity.


The Beach Bar!


View from the half door in the kitchen!

Ten things I learned in Ireland...

Now that our long awaited trip to Ireland is finished, it's time to reflect upon what I learned while we were there.  Here goes!

10.  People surf in Ireland year round.  It sounds crazy, but surfing is a thing in Ireland.  Where we stayed, a person could sign up for lessons.  And they were very reasonably priced, too!  I think I saw a sign advertising an hour lesson for 25 euros or so at the bar next to our little cottage.

9.  W.B. Yeats is buried in County Sligo.  As a former English major, I couldn't help but take note that the famous Irish poet is buried in Sligo and you can stop and check out his grave.

8.  A lot of Irish bars play terrible pop music.  This may not be the case for every bar in Ireland.  I just noticed that really bad pop music was playing in quite a few of the bars we visited.  I have a new appreciation for the Auld Rogue!

7.  Irish people say "you's" a lot.  As a southerner, I have noticed when I go to Pennsylvania or Maryland, I often hear people say "you's", as in "You's need to come over for dinner sometime."  I noticed the same thing when we were in Ireland.  I'm sure it has to do with the number of Irish immigrants who settled in the northeastern United States.

6.  Free WiFi is ubiquitous in Ireland!  Coming from Germany, where free WiFi is rare, it was quite a treat to find Internet connections so wide open in Ireland.  Even at the airport, it was free to surf.  Germany needs to get with the program!

5.  Ireland reminds me a lot of America.  Of all the countries I've visited in Europe, Ireland reminds me of America the most.  I thought England reminded me of the States, but Ireland tops the UK in terms of similarities.  I heard American accents on the television and radio and saw a lot of references to American culture.  Every bar we went to was selling Budweiser and Coors beers, too.

4.  Shopping is a thing on Sundays!  When we were in Dublin the first Sunday, I was surprised to see that many stores were open and it was a bit of a madhouse.  The lady who rented us the cottage in Sligo said that Sundays are when a lot of people who work all week get to do their marketing.  I was surprised by that, since Ireland is also very Catholic!

3. Before you go looking for famous Irish cliffs, it pays to check your GPS.  We spent a long time driving to a town looking for cliffs.  Sadly, we ended up in the wrong place and missed our chance.  The weather was too horrible to try again later in the week.

2.  There are areas where Gaelic is the main language.  When we drove north on our failed mission to see Irish cliffs, we ended up in an area where all the signs were in Gaelic.  It was pretty cool to see how the Irish are holding on to their language, even though English has really taken over there.

1.  Sometimes it pays to talk to kids on trains.  I will confess that when we ran into a large group of youngsters on our way to Kilkenny, I was a little perturbed.  But they turned out to be a highlight of our trip for making us laugh hard and often.  I will always remember that group of boys on the train very fondly as they expressed incredulity that we'd want to vacation in Ireland because "it's awful!"  Too funny!

We really didn't do as much as I would have liked while we were in Ireland.  However, I will say that we found a fantastic rental by the ocean and being there to smell the salt air, watching the tide and the surfers, and taking lots of gorgeous photos was not a bad way to spend our time.  I hope we can visit Ireland again.  Now I want to venture to the south!


Surf's up!



Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part twelve

We spent Saturday driving from Sligo to Dublin, eventually stopping in Mullingar for lunch.  As luck would have it, the weather happened to be beautiful on Saturday.  It would have been a great day to explore Sligo and the surrounding areas.  Ah well.  Now we have an excuse to go back to western Ireland.

We stumbled across the Newbury Hotel in Mullingar after a quick search.  The hotel was old fashioned and kind of cute.  I wished we could stay there a night instead of in Dublin.  It was a nice place to have lunch, though.  It appeared to be very popular with the locals, who were sitting around two televisions.  One was tuned to a rugby game and the other, which was closest to where Bill and I were sitting, was set to a steeplechase.  


Oops!


Obligatory shot of Bill.

I grew up around horses, so I'm always attracted to equestrian sports.  I don't remember seeing a lot of steeplechase in the United States, but it appeared to be a very popular sport in Ireland.  There were several guys watching the races.  Bill noticed that some of the horses had full body clips, which I had to explain to him.  Sometimes, horses involved in serious competitive sports have all of their body hair clipped off.  It makes for easier grooming as well as allows them to keep cool if they grow a heavy winter coat.

Steeplechase!

Anyway, the steeplechase kept us occupied while we waited for lunch.  A handsome but somewhat inept young fellow brought us a couple of overflowing Guinnesses.  I had a bacon panini and Bill had a chicken and cheese "whoppie", which was basically like a panini made with tomato bread.  The sandwiches were served with excellent chips (french fries).


Nice hotel!


Mullingar looked like a pleasant town.

After lunch, we finished our drive to Dublin.  I had booked us a room at the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport.  We had a real problem getting to the hotel because it was located in a strange area.  Bill made several wrong turns before he finally managed to get there... just in time to run into a huge influx of people.  It turned out someone was having their wedding reception at the hotel and we happened to arrive just as they did.  The lobby was teeming with people in their Sunday best, swilling Budweiser and obstructing things.

I was pretty tired from the drive and really just wanted to go take a nap.  After a speedy check in, we went to our eighth floor "suite", which was really just a big room.  I took a shower and climbed into bed.  We spent the evening watching TV over a meal provided by room service.  I'm happy to report that the food quality at the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport was much better than at the Clayton Hotel in downtown Dublin.

Unfortunately, the wedding party then proceeded to have a very loud reception, complete with blasting music that we could hear in our room.  The noise made me very grumpy because I just wanted to rest up for yesterday's journey back to Germany.  Advil PM came to the rescue once again!

Yesterday morning, we got up and went to breakfast, which I had pre-booked.  Unfortunately, the guy running breakfast couldn't seem to find where I had pre-booked.  It took a couple of minutes for him to tell us to just go eat and he'd sort it out with the reception.  The breakfast at the hotel wasn't all that good in terms of food quality.  Fortunately, there were plenty of things to choose from, from fresh fruits to cereals, that couldn't be screwed up by someone cooking.


This was the meal we had on our Dublin to Zurich flight.  They also had lasagne.  I might have had that, but I was too worried about fungus.

After breakfast, we checked out, paying the nine euros to park our rental car in the hotel's enormous garage.  Then we made our way to the airport, where we dropped off the car and checked in at Swiss Air.  This was my first time flying Swiss Air.  It was great to try it for the first time in business class.  In fact, I'd say I liked Swiss Air better than Lufthansa.  The food was better and the service was impeccable.  Aside from that, the business class lounge at the Zurich Airport is fabulous.

My only complaint was that Bill ended up sitting behind me instead of next to me.  The lady sitting next to me had a daughter who sat across the aisle from her, so we weren't the only ones a little put out by the seating arrangement.  But the flight was only one hour and forty minutes, so it was no big deal.  I noticed the flight attendants made a point of being nice to the lady's little girl and even invited her to go see the cockpit.

We had a long layover in Zurich, which we spent in the Swiss Air Business lounge after we got through passport control.  Once again, I had to explain SOFA to the lady who looked at my passport.  I guess next time, I'll give her my military ID, too.

Our flight to Stuttgart was super short-- maybe 30 minutes in all.  In fact, the pilot turned off the seatbelt sign, only to turn it right back on seconds later.  Even though it was a short flight, we were still given a snack and a drink in business class and it was actually edible.  Our Stuttgart flight was on Austrian Airlines.  It was a turbo prop aircraft.  Everyone in business class got an empty seat next to them, so Bill sat behind me again.


Edible snack on Austrian/Swiss Air.
Once we picked up our bags in Stuttgart, we were in a hurry to get to Dog Holiday to pick up Zane and Arran.  I had been fretting about Zane all week, worried because he had a mast cell tumor removed.  As it turned out, Zane was a little out of sorts while we were gone.  I'm taking him to the vet on Wednesday, so I'll have her take a look at him.  I did have him on Benadryl, though, so that could have been why he was so listless.  Despite that, both dogs were very happy to see us.  Arran kept his head on my shoulder the whole way home.  Both dogs gave us kisses and were very excited about getting back to their people.

I'm glad to be back, too... although now the heat seems to be off in the house.  It's always something, isn't it?


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Celebrating 14 years in Ireland! Part eleven

We're heading back to Dublin today, where we'll spend one more night by the airport.  I'm a little sad to be leaving beautiful County Sligo and our lovely little cottage by the sea.  It's time to go, though.  I miss Zane and Arran and there are things that need to be done in Germany.  If I'm honest, I also miss my king sized bed.

Yesterday, we did decide to stay in and watch the surf as we listened to music and finished off some of the food and beverages we bought for our stay here.  I took many pictures, as you can see.





















Around 3:00, we went to the pub next door, had a couple of rounds of beer and a whiskey, and a little bit of food.  Although they had a set menu available, we decided to stick with appetizers.  Bill had spicy chicken wings and vegetable soup.  I had seafood chowder and fried prawns with spicy chili sauce.  It's not lost on me the significance of the spice...  The spicier the food is, the more you'll be drinking!


Last night's menu.  On weekends, the Beach Bar serves food from 1-8, but they stay open until the wee hours of the morning.  We ended up on the restaurant side last night.


Bill checks out the selections.


The dining area is very quaint, like the bar is.  We were told they will be renovating for six months after next weekend.



Rich seafood chowder and fresh, hearty, brown bread.  I will miss this.


Bill's vegetable soup, which was the soup of the day.


Spicy prawns!


Spicy chicken wings with garlic mayonnaise.

I think our bill came to about 40 euros or so.  On Saturday nights after 10:00, the beach bar has live music.  I wish we were going to be around for that.  I have been itching for some live music since we got here.  At least now we have a reason to come back.

Below are some photos I took.  The weather has cleared up and it's warmer... just in time for us to leave.  :(  Part 12.