Wednesday 21 October 2009

Europe in Ireland

On Monday we drove up Connor Pass in the rain to look north towards Fermoyle. The height of the pass meant we were just below cloud level and able to see the rain falling out the clouds to the pass below. Yesterday Sharon and I drove along the southern edge of the Dingle peninsula which affords spectacular views across the channel to the mountains of the Ivereagh peninsula. The power of the Atlantic is evident in the long, rolling breakers that advance relentlessly on the three-mile strand of Inch beach, a spit barring entry to the calmer waters beyond. We were taking advantage of Michael and Marie being down in Kerry in advance of the wedding, by leaving the boys in their hands while we headed to the The Europe, a five-star hotel on the outskirts of Killarney.

Maybe it was because of the low season but Killarney seemed less of a tourist trap than when we previously visited it in 2001. We caught up with Dermot O'Sullivan at the latest restaurant in the O'Sullivan commercial empire and had a good lunch on the house. Sharon fairly enjoyed the craic! From there we took up residence in The Europe. It's undoubtably stylish but a bit cold-looking for my taste at this time of year. There is a lot of bevelled glass and mirrors and high ceilings and pale stone in the reception areas but the location next to Lough Leane with a view to the mountains is spectacular. We enjoyed a pleasant stroll down to the lake through the immaculately planted gardens, had a warming drink by the fire then settled in to our very spacious and comfortable room for a read before dinner.

Our meal in the brasserie was good without being outstanding. Details to follow. It was great to get a good sleep in the vast bed after nights of child disruption and we crammed in some breakfast while looking out at the lough. We had time to take in the very luxurious health club, all dark slate and stylish lights, but not time to exploit it fully. The hotel was very empty and so lacked atmosphere but the upside was we got the pool to ourselves, both indoors and outdoors. Parts of the pool were contoured so you could recline in the water and look over the infinity edge of the pool towards the lake and the mountains. Very relaxing! I didn't think I'd be swimming outdoors in Ireland in October!

The family arrived before noon. I took the boys on a tour of the hotel while Sharon fed Angus. They'd gone to the Dingle aquarium while we'd been away. Sean got a fright when a ray almost jumped out of its tank and his dislike of the sharks was picked up by Finn and Rowan too. We left the hotel in pouring rain and headed back to Dermot's place for lunch. Once more we were told to keep our money in our pocket. In ten years of dealing with Irish families I've found there's no point in arguing (recall the Father Ted episode where Mrs. Doyle and her friend end up rolling about on the floor of a cafe fighting about who is going to pay - that pretty much sums it up). Sharon had wanted to go to Muckross House, a childhood holiday haunt of the Coens, but the jarvies (the horse and trap drivers) were picketing the entrance in protest to being told the horses are to wear nappies and we didn't fancy a long walk with four children in the rain, so I took Rowan and Finn on a brief walk to see the spectacular Torc Fall instead. Fair play to them both for persevering in the rain, although Rowan did turn a bit whingey when faced with some steps.

We drove to Tralee and located the soft play there as a drier option. The boys more or less had the run of the place as the Irish schools aren't off until next week. Rowan, who is doing well with his toilet training, had a bit of a lapse, doing a poo in his pants when at the top of the most inaccessible tower. After that we took over Edel's house for the boys to have their tea then we drove back to Dingle in the dark, playing "who am I" games to keep the boys awake.

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