Thursday, July 2

Ireland, Day 1

Day one of vacation. Yes, I've been on vacation for two weeks technically and have already had a great trip up to St. Pete's, but that still didn't really feel like vacation. Nope, that feeling is just now starting to sink in.

Nat and I got up at 3:30, the school sponsored ride was coming at 4 to take us to Domodedevo (my favorite Moscow airport). Right as we were getting into the car, Nat realized she was flying out of Sherymetevo! Thank goodness she didn't get in the car with me as these two airports are way far apart from each other.

The story of my flights has been moved down below, to Ryan Air Rants. Long story short BMI to Heathrow bus to Gatwick and eventually get on my flight to arrive in Dublin. Nat arrives within 10 minutes of me via Paris and finally things are starting to look up.

And that continues. We have a great car rental experience at Dan Dooley (highly recommended). At Dublin's airport, after you exit customs just to the right are all the "big" companies, Avi5, H3rtz, etc. However I'd booked online through Payle55, not just for shoes anymore. Well, turns out they're actually run through a local partner, Dan Dooley. I show up to the counter and the woman is playing Tetri5 on some sort of hand held device, so out of touch I am, I can't even tell you which one. I actually have to clear my throat she's so into it. Anyway, she looks up, clearly having just offered directions all day and I say I have a reservation. After a look of mild surprise (yikes, that can't be a good sign...), she's very helpful, gives us a LOWER rate with all insurances and theft protection thrown in. After a coffee we head to the rental site. My first thought, "wait, the drive on the left here?!" (duh!) Quickly followed by, "Oh, god, the car is a manual transmission and the steering wheel is on the right!" I'm scared, as I'm our only driver (Nat says she's going to learn and get her liscence this year, at 30, but obviously there's no need in Moscow). However, relatively quickly, I adapt and we're off. Traffic sucks getting out of Dublin, but in just over 2 hours, we've traveled 134 miles to Killiane Castle for the night.

It's so lovely here. We're currently down on the southeastern side of Ireland in Wexford. Our castle room is small, but totally functional and the bed is really comfortable. Nat's first comment, "It smells like old house." And it's true, everywhere sort of does have a slight odor, but the place was built in 1470! Our window over looks a field of cows, it was just delightful. So it was right around 8 pm in Ireland when we arrived, 11 pm in Moscow and we were starving. We ask if they have dinner and they do not, but she advises us to head back to the main road. "The tavern in the hotel actually has really good food." Well, y'all know me and my food. As soon as she says "hotel" and "restaurant" in the same sentence I am skeptical. But we could walk (about 2 km, but I was done driving) and it had food, the only requirements at that point.

In the end, We had an INCREDIBLE dinner at the Drinagh Court Hotel! You could either order off the menu, or they had a condensed version of their menu, from which you could take 2 courses for 20 euros. This was the far cheaper option (in some cases cheaper than ordering just the single main off the menu). We took both of their soups - a cream soup of the day that turned out to be vegetable for Nat (yes, she was eating veg, but it was after all, cream based and her only requirement was that she wanted hot food) and the Atlantic seafood chowder for me. We also both ordered a pint of beer, Guinness for her and Smithwick's Ale for me.

The soup arrived scaldingly (made up word) hot and I can't even describe just how good it was. The chowder was full of seafood and highly seafood flavored without being fishy, topped with lovely contrastingly flavored croutons. Nat's soup, even though it was vegetable, was equally as tasty for her and since I always love veg, great for me as well. Along side came Irish soda bread with soft creamy butter. I could have died and gone to heaven right then.

But then our mains came. I had ordered the sizzling Schezwan duck breast and sizzling it was. It came on a red hot cast iron pan and smoking like crazy as there was so much sugar (I assume) in the sauce. But boy was the meat tender and the sauce, though sweet, very flavorful. Nat ordered the steak, which we had to send back as it was over cooked, but when the second one arrived she dived in and loved it. However, we each preferred our entrees to the others. Along side came choice of potato and veg. We chose "mash" and "garlic". It was enough food to feed an army. Really we could have just gotten one of the potato sides and definitely that would have been the garlic. Lovely au gratin garlicy potatoes. The veg side was (previously) frozen peas, cauliflower, squash and carrot (BLECH!), I ate all the peas from both and most the cauliflower. Nat took one bite of carrot to verify for me before I ate it and that was all the potato she ate. I felt bad as the portions were so huge (American sized) that we left more than half the food behind.

Ah, so nice. We followed up with a brisk walk back because at 10, the sun was fading and there are no street lights on the small road leading to our castle. It was heaven sleeping at night, window open, sound of rain and this morning of birds greeting the day (at around 5). It's still raining, but it's so lush and green and after all, it's Ireland, so no complaints from me.

This morning's full Irish breakfast was also lovely. My favorite part being a rhubarb compote and clove spiced apples from the granola bar:

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