Wednesday, July 11th

We were ready for another adventure and so we set out in three cars for Ballymaloe house in Shannonbridge, Cork.  Marilyn Hotard had noticed its founder Myrtle Allen’s obituary, in the New York Times, and brought it to my attention.  I remembered Ballymaloe House from 2004, when Elvon and I, Pat Gustafson, and Mary and Sean had given ourselves an overnight treat, there.  It hasn’t changed much, but the shop is significantly expanded, and just what Cheff Scott needed.  He picked up a lot of interesting bits and bites to enhance our Lisheen culinary experience, among which, an oyster shucker.  I got a nice sweater and a jar of good mint jelly, two, actually, one for the castle and one to take home.20180711-01ShannonbridgeBallymaloeHouse

The house and grounds are beautiful.  Lunch was nicely served, by a motherly server, who really seemed to care about us.  It was unexceptional, though.  We are very spoiled.  We passed on touring the cookery school, and made for home.

Our car decided to stop at the Rock of Cashel, because Carolyn has friends by that name, and she wanted to photograph a few gravestones.  It’s one of Ireland’s better ruins, so we crawled all over it and watched its video, before we realized we might be wanted back home at the castle.  Don’t you love how that flows out of me?  To the manor born, I am.

This was Chef’s night off, and the plan was for us all to eat in Thurles, and go to the pub later, when the music started.  There’s music once a week in Thurles, and it’s on Wednesday night, you see.  Scott wasn’t totally on side with that idea, as the leftovers were accumulating in the fridge and he had a plan for them.

We had drinks on the patio and a meeting, punctuated with phone calls to the pub and Ritchie Fogarty, who had a van to take us there.  The music wasn’t to get going until at least ten o’clock, and O’Gorman’s Pub doesn’t serve food after eight.  We could have gone to Mitchel House, Thurles only five-star restaurant, but Scott really did not want us to.  He promised it would be no work at all to make a curry out of Monday’s left over leg of lamb and Sunday’s left over risotto, from the chicken dinner. Add a salad, left over potatoes, and some homemade chutney and raita, and we were done.  We even had mango sorbet in the freezer for dessert.  It was a real treat, and it took Scott all of about twenty minutes to whip up.

By the time it was time to go to the pub, there were only three people interested, John Hotard, Chef Scott and myself.  Richie Fogarty came to pick us up and had a nice conversation with Kathy and Jean, doubtless distant relatives.  The area around here is full of Fogartys, now.

By the time we got to O’Gorman’s Pub, there were eight or ten musicians playing.  They have a core group of four, whom the publican engages, and people come from all around with their instruments.  At the peak, which was around mid-night, there were nineteen musicians, playing various instruments, all acoustic.  There were four fiddles, three or four bodhráns, Uilleann pipes, a flute, two tin whistles, a harmonica, a couple of banjos, maybe, three, at least three guitars, and three very different accordions.  Yes, I know that’s more than nineteen, but some of the musicians played more than one instrument, you see.

We made friends, because you couldn’t help it, with one Patrick Fitzgerald, who was likely the town drunk.  He was an out-of-work engineer, because he had a DWI accident, and could not shut up about the Canadians who were there last week and only wanted to play golf.  He wanted us to experience the very spiritual ruin, Kilcooley Abbey, which we promised to do, and then didn’t, but we promised in good faith, and it seemed to help.

John Hotard got four local women to talk to our young, handsome chef, and it took me, John, the publican, and Richie Fogarty about a half hour to pry him out of there at 1:30 am.  It was a good night.

Thursday, July 12th

I didn’t get up any too early the next morning, so I don’t really know what the others did.  I stayed home, worked the spreadsheet, and caught up with whatever other travel work was outstanding.  Mid-afternoon Scott and I went to Kilkenny to meet the others at Smithwicks Brewery.  We got there too late to take the tour and still go to Kilkenny Design House, to see if Scott could find a present for his girlfriend.  He did, and I hope she likes her Irish earrings that look a little like spoons.

You can only get oysters on Thursdays in Thurles, which, by the way, is pronounced tur-less.  When Scott opened up the ones he got in the morning, they were mussels.  I made the run to exchange them for our order, which is why we missed the beer tasting.  The oysters, however, were well worth it.  They were tender and delicious and we had them out on the patio, where the weather was glorious, as it had been, ever since we got to Ireland. 20180711-01LisheenCastlesmaller

For dinner, we had Caesar Salad, a pork chop, with an excellent sauce, cauliflower, roast potatoes, and homemade peach cobbler for dessert. There were a lot of Irish coffees, too.

On Thursday nights, in the neighboring village of Upperchurch, Jim O’the Mill comes alive.  It was named Ireland’s best pub in 2015,There are stories you can google on the Internet.  Here’s one:  It looks like a great idea, but it starts even later than O’Gormans, and we only had two takers, John and Scott.  I probably should have gone, but even I run out of gas.  John was certainly glad he had gone, as it was very interesting.  It has expanded considerably, since the original article, and now the music is in the barn, with the house just used to serve the beer and provide necessaria for the elimination of same.  Jim greets you in the kitchen, as you go to the loo.  There are folk of all ages from too young to drink beer, to too old to sing.  This Thursday, there were no instruments.  The whole performance was a cappella and the participants just took their turns, some egged on more than others.  The regulars know who is good.

They got back from that one at two-forty-five in the morning.

Friday, July 15th

Half of our group went off in the morning to play golf in Thurles.  Carolyn and I were in the other half, and it was our day for KP.  We cleaned up the kitchen after breakfast and I begged another couple of hours to finish up the accounting.  In the afternoon, Candy, Carolyn, the Hotards, Scott and I went to Holy Cross Abbey, originally a Cistercian Monastery, where there is a relic of the True Cross.  It has been ruined and rebuilt many times over its thousand-year life, and what we saw proved it.  There were ruins of the Abbott’s house, and gardens, alongside a functioning church, where there had just been a wedding.  The participants were strolling the graveyard, when we arrived.  We visited it ourselves, when we were done visiting the church and ruins.  It was probably the most interesting part, with graves right up to the present.

Dinner was a kitchen salad of bacon, blue cheese, broccolini and whatever else Scott found in the fridge.  We had an excellent lamb stew, that had everyone coming back for seconds, and yummy Pavlovas for dessert.  Scott went around the table, asking everyone what their favorite meal had been.  It was hard.  The seafood extravaganza in the formal dining room won, but every meal, except maybe the rotisserie chicken, got at least one vote.  Scott got a lot of much-deserved applause.  Then he went out to play tennis with Zane Everard, the castle owner.  He’s unstoppable.

Saturday, July 14th

We didn’t see Scott the next morning, as he had left for Dublin airport and an early flight.  The rest of us were not all that far behind him.  Thanks to Google Maps, the cars got back to Hertz, and we re-united all the luggage at the Camden Court Hotel.  Carolyn and I had a pub lunch, with the Hotards,  at The Bleeding Horse, next door, and they went off to the airport.

We took a short nap, and walked over to The National Museum of History, which had been recommended to us.  It was good, but our backs and feet hurt, so we moved to the elegant Shelbourne Hotel for a cup of tea.  We followed that with a real drink, killing time until it was time to meet Candy and Ernie for dinner at Cliff Town House, almost next door.  I think we’ll stay at the Shelbourne, the next time we are in Dublin.  Dinner at Cliff Town House was excellent.  It’s just steak and seafood, but very well done and we were happy to be just the four of us, at last, kind of like winding down.  After dinner, we walked over to The Merrion, where the Hales had stayed before the barge.  It looks like nothing at all from the front, but has an amazing courtyard, and is a lot bigger than it seems.  It, too, would be a good choice, for a Dublin stay, maybe even better than the Shelbourne.  The Hales sure loved it.

Sunday, July 15th

And so, as all good things, it came to an end.  We took a taxi to the airport, had breakfast there.  Our plane for Rekjavik was late leaving, etc., the usual.  Thanks to all who came, old and new friends, and especially to Carolyn, who put up with me as a roommate.  There are things, up with which to put, all right.  My boat crew knows.

Today’s News – another cruise

I just signed on as the Distinctive Voyages Concierge Host for a holiday cruise.  I think I’ll be happiest at sea this year.  If anyone wants to join me it’s:

Argentina & Chile Holiday – 14 days on Celebrity Eclipse –

I think Christmas in Montevideo will be just perfect.  Are you coming?

My 2019 Assignment – Maybe a cruise for you?

Seas of Enlightenment – Oceania Insignia, March 4 to 31, 2019, yup, 27 days

Enlightenment or not, this is a dream of a cruise.  I got early access to this for long and faithful service, as a concierge host.  The starting and ending ports are Sydney and Tokyo, places I’ve always wanted to explore more fully, I love Indonesia and the Philippines, and what’s not to love about Oceania?   Australia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, Japan

Most categories are already wait listed.  That no longer scares me.  Three months before, plenty of cabins open up, and the wait list clears.  It is important to be on it.

And in October, 2018:

It’s a Mediterranean Cruise. We go Rome to Rome on Holland America’s Koningsdam.  I have clients booked in two cabins and it’s a Distinctive Voyage.  I bid for and got it.  Who else is coming with me? Take a look:  October 8 sailing.

It’s seriously inexpensive.  Treat yourselves to a suite.  Comes with a free cocktail party and shore excursion.