We’ve been in Ireland five days and have yet to see a drop of rain. The weather has been sunny and hot and devoid of any humidity whatsoever, and Irish folks we’ve met are calling it a heat wave – not so sure about that, but the weather has certainly been a delightful surprise since we had just assumed it rained in Ireland, all day, every day.
After leaving the harbour town of Cobh, we looped back up to Cork City, which was almost entirely closed: Catholic roots run deep and it was Sunday. This seemed a great disappointment to the hordes of American tourists wandering around looking slightly lost. A major intersection was closed off for a mysterious celebration which an enthusiastic bystander told us was for the Catholic celebration of Corpus Christi. We lucked out and found a perfect sunny spot for lunch at a fantastic restaurant, and Riccardo got a pint of some locally brewed stout (“better than Guinness”, we were told).
Now, many people have commiserated with me on having to endure a trip through Ireland while pregnant and thus unable to enjoy the country’s famous libations. It’s not easy! But of course, it’s for the best reason ever. I know many of you will be clamouring to tell me, “but you CAN drink! You can have a beer, a glass of wine, from time to time!” Yes. I know. But I ask you: do YOU want to have one beer? One miserable mini-glass of wine? Having such restrictions hanging over one’s head is, in my opinion, less fun than not drinking at all. However, on this sunny day in Cork City, with Riccardo practically speechless over his delicious beer, I took the waittress up on her offer to bring me a glass. I thought she was just bringing a glass so I could steal a few sips of his, but she brought me a half-pint, and I decided to go for it – after all, I could hear my friend Kelly Walsh reminding me that iron is good for the baby! But when we headed inside to get closer to the wifi signal, I walked past a table of American guys carrying my half-pint and Riccardo’s full one. Noticing one guy’s judgy expression, I said, “Don’t worry, they’re not both mine!” He shot me a look of death and spat out, “Are either of them yours?” Grr!
We weren’t feeling Cork and its touristy vibe, so decided to cut our visit short and head west toward the Wild Atlantic Way. We had booked a spot through AirBNB in a tiny village called Allihies on the Beara Peninsula, and we had all glorious afternoon to get there.
All along the route, we passed the usual stunning scenery and the occasional splendid beach dotted with Irish holidaymakers enjoying the brief “heat wave”. I hadn’t brought sunglasses with me to avoid the glare of their porcelain white bodies, so we took off quickly. (Only kidding, of course!)
Riccardo has taken to practicing his Irish accent by reading road signs, but invariably ends up sounding like a cross between the Lucky Charms leprechaun and the Beatles. A town called Skibbereen was particularly fun to say, so we made a stop – only to find the entire town essentially empty, with not a single place to get a coffee. While strolling down the lovely but lonely streets, we noticed almost every business had covered up its regular window display and replaced it with a simple religious shrine. Upon inquiring we found it was related to the Corpus Christi feast day we’d seen being celebrated earlier in Cork City. As we got back in the car, Riccardo declared in his leprechaun voice that “Skibbereen kind of sucked.”
Allihies, on the other hand, did not suck. We couldn’t believe our luck with yet another AirBNB home run. This time, we were staying with a very welcoming grandmother, retired school principal, and scholar of the Irish language in her charming home perched on a hill overlooking the sea. This past February, she told us, some massive gales hit the peninsula, and the waves battered her windows with a thick coating of salt – a real pain in the ass to clean.
Having gotten carried away chatting and admiring the stunning view, we were too late for a proper dinner at the pub in Allihies Village. Despite being a tiny village or probably no more than a couple thousand people, no fewer than four pubs lined the main drag and each was overflowing with merrymakers. But Irish custom appears to prohibit serving food past 9pm. If ever I were to start a business in Ireland, it would be a restaurant catering to anyone under 80, i.e., wanting to eat dinner at a civilized hour. Anyway, we found success with a cleverly-situated chipper truck serving deep-friend monkfish tails and chips. The kindly lady operating the truck passed around bug spray to protect against the midges, but they weren’t bothering us – the teenage boys loitering around the truck seemed to appreciate the motherly gesture.
One thing I’ve noticed is that drunk people LOVE pregnant women. I guess it’s always sort of a novelty to see one out in a bar or a pub. I always feel like my mere presence is spoiling people’s fun, sort of like the health warning on a cigarette packet, but the curious questions and enthusiastic comments reassure me I’m not just a walking reminder of what happens when you grow up. At O’Neill’s pub in Allihies, I was the star attraction, with heavily sauced ladies calling out, “When you due your baby?” and offering free advice. I played a mean trick on one rowdy table nearby, approaching them with a stern expression and asking them to please keep their voices down. Their shocked faces broke into fits of laughter when they realized I was kidding. The musicians played Galway Girl, which was actually written by Steve Earle and was the #1 single in Ireland in 2008 – the song was to stay in my head for two days afterwards. For the first time in history, I was ready to call it a night well before the pub shut down, and we were in bed by midnight listening to the waves crashing.
…And this one goes out to the Irish: