Ah, well, it has been so long since I last wrote anything that I can't even remember what I wrote. Suffice it to say that nothing has happened that was worth writing about! However...
Way back in June or July, when I was desparate for a holiday, I had the idea of getting a last break of the year in. Somewhere not too far from home (last year we headed up to Scotland having dumped Alice at Grandma's, the year before we visited the Yorkshire Dales), and somewhere new. We settled on.... Ireland.
So, I was up at my normal time on Friday, ready to check the crossings (the previous day they'd been cancelled due to stormy weather), pack the car, the family and the cats, and then to start our latest holiday.
Fun and games started almost immediately, the first stop being to drop the cats off at the cattery at half-past-eight. Knock, knock. No answer. "I arranged to bring them early", says Jacqueline. Knock, knock. No answer. Give them a ring. No answer. Even the woman's neighbour helped at one stage. At a quarter-to-nine, signs of life. "I don't open until 9", she says, "Early? I've nothing written in my book". Anyway, by ten-to-nine we're on our way. Me, stressed out because we need to be at the ferry for 2 o'clock, and Tomtom is warning us of a four-and-a-half hour journey ahead, so not much slack to play with.
In the end, of course, I needn't have worried. There we were, sitting on the quayside at one o'clock, blessed by good driving conditions and, for the most part, with Demon Jac behind the wheel. Anyway, onto the ferry for a lunch of fish and chips - first food since 7 o'clock in the morning so I was ravenous. Next priority was to get some sleep. Fortunately the ferry was pretty quiet, and in a coffee bar I found a deep, three-seater sofa with my name on it. Choppy? Errrr, you could say that. I could hear continuously car alarms going off on the deck below, and the ship was fair rolling around. But did it stop me sleeping? Not a bit of it. And Alice spent the crossing playing, too. Only poor old Jacqueline sat there feeling sea-sick!
On schedule, we made port in Rosslare, and set foot on Irish soil for the first time (apart from a holiday and various business trips to Dublin). The first night, we were only headed as far as Wexford, so literally twenty minutes off the ferry we were checking into the hotel. After the long drive to Pembroke, I didn't want to have to do any more that day. Still quite tired, Alice and I want for an excellent supper in the hotel restaurant while Jacqueline (who is still on her diet) visited the health club. After that, bed. Knackered. We felt quite high up in the hotel, and throughout the night we could hear the window rattling, for the wind was certainly picking up. True enough, by the time we checked out on Saturday (after a hearty Irish breakfast - my first cooked breakfast for ages!) we faced quite horrible conditions for the drive to our cottage.
According to Tomtom, the drive ahead of us was not long, so we stopped for a couple of hours at Waterford. More by luck than good judgement (the road signs/layout was terrible, something we found once again in Limerick yesterday), we found Waterford Crystal and as obedient tourists went on the factory visit. I have to say it was excellent. They had an exhibition of some of the one-off trophies that they have made, including Wimbledon championships and many golf tournaments. We even bought some of our very own (well, Grandma's christmas present actually, hope she doesn't read this!!). In all, well worth the visit.
Onward and upward, though, and as the weather became worse and worse, we passed through (the former cyclist) Sean Kelly's home town of Carrick on Suir, on our way up to deepest Tipperary. A village called Dromineer on the edge of Lough Derg. Really, the heart of Ireland. Despite the rain, Jacqueline and went out for a walk, and whadd'ya know? We found a pub. And whadd'ya know? They were serving Guiness. So, of course, I felt obliged.... (Jacqueline was still very good, sticking to mineral water.) Of course, when we arrived back at the cottage, Alice was very jealous, but there again, it was she who had declined to come with us in the first place. So, anyway, that was Saturday. Fortunately the cottage was warm, for the storm outside was a bit furious.
Sunday, however, we woke up and the sky was a lot brighter. No rain either, but quite a biting wind. Having had an extra hour's sleep, we then went for a walk around the harbour, en famille. Saw the castle ruins and had a good old walk. Very wet underfoot, though. We were sufficiently optimistic about the weather that we decided we might just get a good day out of this, so we headed west. On the car radio, the forecast was basically "sunshine and showers", and that's exactly how it turned out. Having said that, when we arrived at our destination - the Cliffs of Moher - in the middle of a hailstorm and gale-force winds, we almost didn't stop. But the rain stopped, the sun came out, and all in all we had an excellent couple of hours there (followed by another good hour or so in a Rock Shop we'd seen close by). I haven't checked the photographs yet but there are bound to be some quite spectacular shots. But I simply couldn't get over the wind. Okay, that was the Atlantic out there, but it really felt like if you didn't keep your balance you were going to be blown over. I saw one unfortunate couple who tried to put up an umbrella...
Ultimately, well worth the four hour roundtrip, although I'm not sure we'll venture quite so far today. We were back at the cottage for 6:30pm, of course the clocks having gone back it was dark, and Alice and I had hot dogs for supper. Real "holiday" food. To cap it all, today is a Bank Holiday in Ireland, so the rest of the country is on holiday too. It has just gone 10 o'clock and I've hardly heard a peep from outside. But the sun is once again streaming in through the window, it is about time I got a shower and discussed with the womenfolk what to do today. I could quite fancy a drive around Lough Derg, I'll see what they think.