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Adare in the Mist, and a Well-Deserved Day Off

This entry is part of a series, Ireland 2009»

Young Race Horses

You know you’re going at it too hard when you have to take a day off from your vacation to rest up. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to spend another fourteen hour day overloading our brains with more lovely memories of Ireland! We needed to slow down, just a bit. Heck, we’d taken so many pictures that the computer weighed nearly four pounds more, just from all the extra 1’s and 0’s it took to make up all those pictures.

That’s my story, anyways.

Just OneI slept in for the first morning in a while, and Paula Jo beat me out of the bed. She went down to the health center and got healthy soaked in the jacuzzi spa. We were so slow getting started we almost didn’t make breakfast, and they stay open late down at the Maigue. (I’m convinced they’d have served us even if we’d gotten there an hour late.) We had the usual, with plenty of coffee for me so I could get my blood pressure working. Tea, even good, strong English tea, just doesn’t do it for me.

The morning was a bit misty at first, and Paula Jo and I went walking, cameras in hand, to see what we could find to take photos of in the interesting light. I noticed something I’d seen before, but didn’t appreciate fully then. At each pub (Adare has four down in the village, and one up at the Dunraven) the Guinness delivery truck comes early and picks up the empty kegs and leaves fresh ones. Nobody signs for anything or checks the load; just pick up and deliver. Apparently there’s not a problem with theft either. I picked me out a nice, healthy looking keg to trundle back to the room, but PJ said that wouldn’t be polite and made me put it back.

Not polite? Heck, she didn’t need to go disparaging me that way, I would have shared. With her. I didn’t know where I could borrow a tap, though, so it was probably for the best.

The town was very quiet on this Friday morning, more so than I remember from past trips. Even the through traffic seemed light. We took pictures of most of the buildings in Adare, so we could put them in our scrapbook. All four pubs, of course. The hardware store and the Centra grocery, which are right on Main Street. Several shops that sell trinkets and clothing, like the Foolish Fairy. We noticed that the FF had moved across the street from when we were last in Adare, and that it was now up for sale. Probably a victim of the distressing economy, I suppose.

Naturally we had to include photos of the Pink Potato, a takeout shop. And the Chinese restaurant, the Golden Dragon. Although we didn’t find time to eat there, I still believe it’s one of the best Chinese eateries outside of China itself. We stopped by the pharmacy and bought a couple “necessaries,” then finally moseyed back to the hotel for a nap instead of lunch. With breakfast so late and all, we weren’t very hungry. We also had reservations at the Wild Geese, and we certainly didn’t want to eat enough to cause any concerns there!

We looked over a lot of photos and then considered what all was left to see in Ireland in the few days remaining to us. We knew we’d see the Ring of Kerry on Saturday. Then a tour of Limerick on Sunday, a shorter day than most we’ve had. Then Monday would start the long trek home by touring Birr and Tullamore on our way to Dublin airport.

Already we had to sort through brochures, pamphlets, bags and boxes to thin out all the plunder for packing. Boy, was that a lot of stuff! Already I’m on the lookout for a carry bag to put things in for the trip back. We didn’t check any bags on the way over to Ireland, but for sure we’d have to check at least one, maybe two, for the return flights.

New Irish FriendIt was tough to decide what to keep out of the papers. We’d been so many places, seen so many interesting things, that I thought we’d need these to help us keep it all straight. Then PJ reminded me of all the photos. Silly me. That sure made things easier for sorting papers, though.

In the early afternoon I got a bit restless, and decided to explore some of the hotel more thoroughly. Paula Jo and I bumped into Mr. Murphy, the proprietor of the Dunraven, as we wandered the halls. He asked if we’d like to visit “the farm” in the afternoon. We’d discussed the possibility earlier in the week, and now was our chance. We scheduled for about three o’clock, and he said he’d drive.

We had about an hour to kill enjoy before then, so we retired to the pub for a wee snack and a refresher pint. Paula ordered a bowl of cut fresh fruit with clotted cream and a soda, and I had a Guinness. Victor wasn’t there, so I didn’t have to race through my pint of Guinness this time. PJ was jealous of me always “having a pint,” so she made sure the barkeep brought her soda in a pint glass.

I thought we were in the pub for only a few minutes, but lo and behold, the hour was gone before we knew it. Time to go see horses!

The Murphy family lives only a few minutes from town, down a lovely, narrow lane off the main road. The weather had cleared and was getting on towards warm. When we arrived at the farmhouse we met Mrs. Murphy, their son and his friend. The two boys were looking forward to an afternoon at the pitch-and-putt, as soon as we came back from our short tour of the grounds. We were also greeted by a very friendly yellow lab, which made PJ all pouty; she misses her pups, I guess. (Not me; I’m never sentimental that way.)

Irish Horse Barn

We enjoyed the tour, although we had only a short time to see everything. The Murphy spread is really three farms, not all connected, where they train race horses. Their business strategy is quite well thought out. They buy youngsters from promising bloodlines, all about one year old, then they begin to train them over time for the behaviors of a winning point-to-point, or flat racing, horse. Track racing is popular in Ireland, but flat racing seems to interest more Irish, and they have more passion about flat racing. You can tell that simply by visiting a bookie shop.

The next steps, during the horse’s second and third year, is to introduce them to being saddled, bridled and ridden. This is an involved process, as they wish to maintain the horse’s confidence and spirit while making them manageable under race conditions. Trainers handle the horses regularly, lying across their backs, introducing the gear to them, and of course seeing to their grooming and medical needs. It’s a lot of work!

Mr. Murphy and Horse

When a horse is ready to try out in a race or two, they watch to see what needs to be “adjusted” in their training regimen. Once the horse is four years old and a bit into actual racing, the Murphys sell them. They don’t keep any of the horses they train. A very disciplined business model, and a tough one at times, I’m sure! It’s way too easy to fall in love with these creatures.

Mr. Murphy introduced us to his current pride and joy, a horse almost four years old and already a winner of some races. He was an astoundingly beautiful animal, and quite tame. He did look ready to run, though.

We headed back into town, dropping the boys at their golf pitch and then we got out at the Dunraven. Time to get ready for dinner at the Wild Geese! I could see Paula’s excitement building. The Wild Geese is directly across the road from our hotel. in the west half of the Rose Cottage, and PJ remembers it fondly from her previous trip to Ireland.

Rose Cottage

We had a reservation for the Early Bird seating at The Wild Geese. Given how late it stays light in the summertime here, all the eating establishments have to do something to get the early seatings filled or they’ll go broke! This “Early Bird” concept is one try; the restaurant offers unique dishes and special prices during the first couple of hours they’re open in the evenings.

We were met by Julie Randles, who we remembered from our previous visit. She’d only ever seen us once, but she greeted us warmly as old friends and asked how we’d been getting on. This is one of the more pleasant “features” of the Wild Geese; they don’t feed strangers. Everybody they meet is a friend.

We had drinks and olives in the sitting room while our table was being prepared. That gave us a chance to look over the menus. We were handed three: The standard card, the Early Bird bill of fare, and the wine list. However, the Early Bird wasn’t what we expected! Turns out we had accidentally been given the dessert menu. Paula Jo immediately began to drool, and when the server realized his mistake he almost had a fight on his hands trying to get that menu away from her. He finally relented and gave us the fourth menu.

Tomato Basil Soup

We were led upstairs to an intimate setting for our meal. This dining room, one of only two in this cozy place, has five tables. Very elegantly appointed, though, it set the tone for our dinner. Paula remembered the room fondly, and even though we weren’t at the same table as before, she was most pleased. We ordered a wine from the sommelier, who was doubling as one of our waiters. (There were three in all.) We chose the Domaine Schlumberger Riesling (Les Princes Abbés), an all-’round choice, since we had ordered everything from seafood to steak. It was a great choice for our under-trained palates, and washed down the tasty food well.

David Foley, the chef, outdid himself on our behalf this night. We began with a soup course. I had my all-time favorite, the tomato-basil soup. Paula Jo had a heaping bowl of seafood chowder, which she fell in love with two years ago. We both agreed, these dishes were even better than we remembered (and I have a vivid memory when it comes to food). Our next course was the entrées; PJ had chosen the “starter size” Scallops on Potato-Chive Pancake, served with Cauliflower Purée.

Scallops

I had chosen the Top Sirloin with Sumo Chips and Garlic-Butter Sauce. They also had a peppercorn cream sauce that I almost sprang for instead. Julie pointed out that I could have both, but I held my ground; I didn’t want too many flavors all mixing around on my plate. My meal came with a vegetable compote served in a grilled tomato cup, and a side dish of vegetables that included more potatoes, of course. And carrots, and parsnips.

The Sumo Chips were novel. They had come up with the name because of their large size, and they wanted something new for item names on their menu. I think they hit it right on the head! Of course, if you were to eat too many of these logs of potato you’d soon be wearing sumo gear, as you wouldn’t fit in your BVDs anymore. (Not that I have that problem.)

Steak

After the meal dishes were cleared away and we had a bit more wine, the desserts came by. Paula had the Brownie with Brownie Ice Cream, a double dose of deadly chocolate if I ever saw one. I restrained myself and had Crême Brulée with Ginger-Vanilla Ice Cream. This was the largest serving of burnt cream I’d ever seen, served in a low bowl that was at least six inches across. Sure made my standard serving back home seem wimpy! I hadn’t considered ice cream for a topping before, either; but now I’ve had my eyes opened. Lots of ideas for my next Throwdown with Dr. Liz.

When we finally finished all the fine eats and the wine, we settled the tab and rolled slowly strolled out onto the street. It was almost nine, and the sun was actually threatening to lower behind the buildings to the west. Time for traditional music down at Aunty Lena’s Pub! We waddled walked that way, enjoying the cooling evening and the smell of flowers in the summer air.

The Band at Lena's

We got to the pub in good order, eventually. There was a full house, with several folks sitting outside enjoying the evening as well. The band wasn’t all present, although they were beginning to set up in a corner near the fireplace. The instrumentation was quite varied and traditionally Irish: Accordion, guitar, banjo, violin, mandolin, dobro, voices. They got rolling with an instrumental piece, just to limber up the fingers, then they went into a medley of classic pub songs. Great stuff!

We stayed for “just one more song” until well after eleven, then decided we needed our beauty rest before the big day ahead; running around the Ring of Kerry…

Enjoy the (Best Food in Ireland) Heat!

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