Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Bicycling in Ireland Part 1

We take a long way from London to get to Ireland, by train and ferry. This is the mid-eighties, when my mate and I take our bicycles over to ride the southern parts of the country. We’re on the train heading for Fishguard Harbor, experiencing the magical English countryside, that takes you right back to a FairyTale from childhood. We pass through Reading, Swindon, Newport, and Cardiff to finally arrive at 9 PM at Swansea, where we spent the night.
Getting sick on the ferry over wasn’t what I had had in mind. But arriving on Irish soil helped. The cabbie took us up from the harbor to a very modern B & B who’s owners were named Bill and Patricia. An excellent omen we thought.
The sun was bright, even though slightly windy, the next day, as we take off for our first day of biking. We head for Wexford and lunch. The light breakfast of Weetabix just doesn’t hold when you are biking. We also bought a hefty loaf of bread. The Irish bread is the best I’ve ever had. The grain is milled differently, creating a heavenly texture that can be eaten forever, especially if biking. We take a break in a sunny hayfield with huge rolls of hay all around us. On our way to New Ross we stop at a beautiful l00- acre fourth generation farmhouse. It was now run by Kathleen, a spinster and great hostess. In her six-tabled dining room, all tables are set, even though we are the only guests. She serves us a feast fit for a bicycle queen and king. Kathleen graciously brought us lamb chops, creamed potatoes, rice and stuffing, and cabbage and celery cooked together. Then, no less than apple tart with whipped cream. Alright! With meals like this I would be able to bike the entire country.
On to Waterford in the pouring rain, where we found lodging at Mary Ryan’s four-floor flat in town. At 5 AM we were awakened by two very inebriated Irish couples, two of whom proceeded to get very sick. The insulation seems to be lacking in a few of the B & B’s. This is a first hand encounter of how much the Irish love to drink and party.
On to Dungarven and pouring rain. You see, this was late September, almost too late to ride bikes in this moist country. Riding in the rain wasn’t as difficult as trying to get warm after you got off your bicycle.The hot water was lacking in warmth as was the heat coming out of the pipes in the homes, making it almost impossible to get warm after stopping for the day.
On a sunny day we leave Dungarven and head for Youghal, where we have the best food yet. We decide to buy one meal a day since eating so heavily at night keeps us awake. At this lunch I have an excellent vegetarian salad, Bill, the oxtail soup. We both got the seafood pie. Whitefish, cheese sauce with creamed potatoes in fancy swirls.
We abandon the Cork Road to ride on the smaller country roads, more like lanes. They are wonderful, all paved and like a roller coaster running with lush green fields and low stone walls. The only flaw is there are blackberry vines everywhere, not for eating at this time of year, but for puncturing your tires. It happened more than once. We find the castle farmhouse B & B that was recommended, nice but still no heat.
We take a train to Limerick this day, befriending a couple from Connecticut, also on bicycles. Later the Shannon River invites us to picnic on its banks, no rain at all, as we serve up good brown bread, smoked salmon, English cheddar and cucumber.
In Limerick, staying at Eva’s wonderful B & B filled with aniques of very good taste, she recommends Kelly’s for our dinner that night. We dine on scallop mornay, and the best meal Bill has ever had, mussels with bacon.
We arrive back at the B & B, well-dined and happy. Looking at the guest book in the spacious hallway, we notice guests from Boulder. Bill walks into the parlor while I remain talking with Eva. All of a sudden, much shrieking is going on, “oh my god, its Bill Jordan”. My husband was semi-famous in Boulder, having written a newspaper column for years. But to actually hear female Boulder voices was quite hilarious. We didn’t know these women, but we had friends in common. No matter where you travel, the world has a way of getting smaller.

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