Another AirBNB success! Last night we stayed in the supremely idyllic village of Inistioge, County Kilkenny, just a few steps from the River Nore. The house was owned by a really lovely gentleman who regaled us with stories from his long career in advertising, having worked as creative director on huge brands like Guinness and Bank of Ireland. We awoke to the now-familiar sound of sheep bleating and birds chirping in the distance, enjoyed some Irish hospitality at breakfast, and set out for a stroll along the river and through an enchanted woodland. By the way, bacon and eggs taste amazing here. And Irish soda bread is fantastic. And lemon curd cake with cream is maybe the best thing ever.
It was here in Inistioge that we were first introduced to hurling. Not as in what happens after a night of binge drinking, but as in the immensely popular ancient Gaelic sport. It’s played using sticks called hurleys and the players wear funny little helmets (to protect against sustaining “a wallop of the hurley”, as we were later told). We kept seeing young guys with hurleys slung over their shoulders; now we knew what they were. I could not tell you how the game is played, but I can confirm that it’s FAST and that people are SERIOUS about it.
Our dear pals Jeff and Nicola, from Montreal but now living in Toronto, happened to be in Ireland at the same time as us! We were happy to be invited to back east to County Wexford to hang out with them and Nicola’s family for the day. Jeff texted us directions that seemed simple enough: once we got to the right road, we were to look for a large white house with ivy on it. We also knew the house’s owner ran a horse farm. The drive was pleasant and we picked up some Wexford strawberries from one of the zillions of stands along the way (seeing nothing but strawberries and potatoes for sale, we wondered if anything else is grown in Wexford… as it turns out, not really). Hilariously, every house we passed had two of three criteria – we saw a white house with horses but no ivy, or a brown house with ivy and horses, or a…. you get the idea. Eventually we made it, and spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon with Nicola’s amazing family – her parents, brother and sister-in-law, aunts, uncles, cousins, kids and five friendly dogs. Whether it was the love or the sunshine or the Irish soil, everything tasted unbelievable – barbecued plaice, sausages, tomato salad… even the leaves picked from Nicola’s cousin’s garden. Yes, they call salad “leaves” – as in, “would you pass the leaves, please?” Someone had made a raspberry cheesecake that nearly brought a tear to my eye. Why does dairy taste so amazing in Ireland?
Another of her cousins introduced us to the property’s equine residents, some who actively participate in racing and some younger ones just beginning their training. These fine steeds were a far cry from the scruffy, sad-looking creatures that pull tourists on caleches in our neighbourhood of Old Montreal.
The family was exceedingly welcoming and almost everyone had a suggestion of where we absolutely must go next. Ireland is so small and can be driven across in just a few hours, but there are countless spots that people insist can’t be missed. We decided to stick to our plan to head west towards Cork and Killarney, and after one more espresso for the road, bid our farewells and got back on the road.
We’ve found yet another great little spot on AirBNB, this time in the town of Cobh. Let’s see if our luck continues!