Monday, May 18, 2009

A place once missed is now re-visited.

Dawned bright and sunny but by 11 am was cloudy again with the prediction of developing storms and showers (sigh).

Even the Irish are despairing of the weather. Everyone we speak to either says "do NOT talk about the rain" or something like "we haven't had a good summer for years". And here I was beginning to think that we had brought the rain with us - guess not!

From Waterford we drive back to Limerick through Tipperary, a journey of just under 150 kms. As we leave Waterford, we drive through patches of rain and decide that today we will keep a record of the rain events. Now in order to do this for today's trip, we decide that it is 'raining' as opposed the showers when I have to turn the windscreen wipers on full, not intermitent - so here we go:
Start Stop
12:03 12:05
12:26 12:30
12:31 12:37
13:15 13:31
13:41 13:56
14:01 14:04 at which time we get to Bunratty.

On the way we went through Clonmel in County Tipperary and all of a sudden see row after row after row of tall, thin vats. At the end of a seemingly endless line of these we reach the gate to the Bulmers/Magners Brewery. Home to the fantastic and famous Apple Cider and the new Pear Cider that is taking the UK and Ireland by storm. Take a look at their TV advertisements here! So that is where it is made! It does not appear to have a visitor centre and we are pushing to get to Bunratty so we don't stop.

Despite the terrible weather, there are some dry patches where we can see the beauty of Ireland under a cloud (or two hundred)!

When Mum and I were in Ireland 3 years ago, we had tried to see Bunratty Castle but as they were setting up for a banquet that night, the castle was closing early - in fact only 15 minutes after we got there. So we did not get to see it then. I was determined to make sure we got there in plenty of time today!

As we had arrived just after 2 pm, and given that we were hungry (more like ravenous!) we first went to Durty Nelly's. This local public house was first opened in 1620 on the site it now stands (but somewhat smaller!!). Many people had told us that we should go see it, pull an ale and have a bite to eat. Today we just wanted food. We both ordered the Grilled Plaice with lemon, butter and capers. Served with mash, pumpkin and green beans. The fish was just de-vine!

So then it was in to Bunratty Castle. The castle is located at the end of a path that winds through a the Bunratty Folk Park - a village of reconstructed buildings all roofed with thatch that house typical activities of the day. Fishermans huts, a blacksmith's forge, farmhouses, a Bothon Scoir (labourers one roomed hut), the tea room and the school house as well as a village street with dwellings and shops and services (doctor, chemist) as well as a relocated church of the time. We explore these after we went through the Castle.

The present castle is the third on the site and dates from 1425. Bunratty Castle is unique. The main block has three floors and attached to this block, on each of the corners is a six-storied tower. The main block consists of a single great room or hall on each floor. The towers house the family's apartments, guest apartments, chapels and kitchens. Each of the towers is accessed from the Great Hall on the top floor of the keep through spiral staircases. After getting to the Great Hall, Michael continued to the tower floors alone as the stairs got narrower and steeper. Still, you, like me, can appreciate these through his photos.

Tonight we are staying with friends Bill and Greta Clohessy and their son Luke in Portdrine down the road from Bunratty. This is a lovely little village with views across fields of grazing cattle to the Shannon River and beyond. We sit catching up in front of the open fire with Bud, their one-year-old a Jack Russell/Fox Terrier cross jumping excitedly up and down on Michael who is allowing him to play. Lovely hot cuppa before we migrate into the kitchen/dining room where Bill is preparing (it's just) pasta. Now, Bill is a man of many talents and cooking is definitely up there with the other ones. Three types of sauce and two types of pasta, garlic bread and crisp fresh salad washed down by copious quantities of red wines. All so delicious and so lovely not to be having restaurant food!

And to make my day sublime, Greta makes a Rhubarb Crumble for dessert - I am in heaven. It was hot and sweet and bitter and crunchy and just o-so-good! Luke has a great appetite and unlike many 10 year olds enjoys even the spicier sauce and the salad. Nice to see. He is a lovely young man (little boy, sorry Luke!) who can hold a conversation, use lovely manners and still manage to get excited at little trinkets and his remembering the whole poem in Gaelic that they are learning in school.

We finally hit the sack well after 1 am. Bill and Greta have added another room upstairs and we lie in bed knowing that in the morning we will have lovely views through the glass doors opposite the bed and across the deck. Gosh, how spoilt are we?!

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