Thursday, January 3, 2013

An Irish Christmas

A very belated but still Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! It's day 2 back in the office and I must say, I'm not really feeling it. Even though I had 9 days off, I'm still rusty and not back in the groove. My first yoga class of the year is tonight so hopefully I can ease my way back in smoothly.

I know I haven't really been blogging much lately, and we're going to touch on that in another post tomorrow. But before we get into reality, let me fill you in on my Christmas. I spent it with The Irishman and his family in Dublin, as we alternate every year – last year was the US with my family, and this year we went to his home. We had a few lovely evenings in Dublin, joining in the festive cheer, and spent the rest of the time having meals with family and friends. On St. Stephen's Day (Boxing Day) we went for a walk on the South Pier out by the iconic stacks.

The day after St Stephen's Day, we all piled into the car and drove out to County Clare in the west of Ireland near Galway. The Irishman's uncle lives out there and, get this, has a castle on his property. In actual fact it is more like a keep, but he has restored it to a liveable space and we had dinner there one night and a tour of the fuller property. It's pretty cool – but very cold. We stayed in less historic accommodation, in this little thatched roof cottage.

The landscape of Clare is pretty dramatic, owing to its glacial geography and The Burren. It's hard to describe, so I won't really try, except to say it is barren, bleak, and utterly beautiful. I'd suggest going in the summer, though, because the wind and rain make it particularly raw so you tend to not spend too much time outside seeing the sights.

And sights there are! Clare also hosts evidence of some of the earliest settlers to Ireland, who left these epic burial tombs called dolmens across the region. There are also several other castles, military fortifications, medieval crosses and crumbling churches littered across the fields – not to mention the geographical wonders like the Cliffs of Moher. We went on a cold and rainy day and I was very dumb not to take a hat. Learn from my mistakes, people – always take a wooly hat to Ireland. Even in July.

From this area, if you wanted to go out to the Aran Islands, you could easily take a ferry there but they weren't running over Christmas and I don't actually think they run during the winter. But there were other places to see too, tiny towns like Ennistymon and Doolin and lovely little hamlets with one pub and one church. Lots of Irish to be had – this cafe we went to in Ennistymon is literally named "food house." Apt, I think!

After a week with The Irishman's family, I was ready to come home. Don't get me wrong – they're a lovely bunch and we had an amazing and warm and lovely family Christmas. But we, and when I say that I really mean me, wanted a break for just us, too. We had 3 days in London together but it simply wasn't enough for us to unwind together. So as 2013 unfolds, I'm really looking forward to some quality time with this chap that doesn't include family, friends, DIY, or modern (in)conveniences.

Despite my crankiness about that, we still managed to have a fabulous New Years Eve at The Ledbury restaurant in Notting Hill and then caught the fireworks down by Parliament.

I hope you all had just as wonderful a Christmas and New Year, blogfriends. Tell me how you spent it! Next post will be about why you haven't heard from me in a while, and what I'm planning to do about it in 2013. Until then, I hope you're finding the transition to 2013 smooth, joyous, and relaxing.

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