We are getting quite good at our road trips now. Our days are easily 3-4 hours on the road with picture pullovers and gas station stops extending time where needed. We know how to identify the gold mine gas stations that have great coffee and 99s (an Irish soft ice cream cone with a choice of flavored syrup toppings that is good for a late morning snack). Today's journey was moving us from the Northwest corner of Ireland down to the western coast just outside of Galway. After watching P.S. I Love You this winter, J and I decided that we'd better put this area on our visit list as well! On our way down, we stopped at Crough Patrick, the most holy mountain in Ireland, where Saint Patrick spent his 40 days and 40 nights while converting Ireland to Christianity. This stop was recommended to us by J's soccer coach and wife and our timing was great - catching the mountain just as it was peaking its tip through the top of the clouds for pictures! After, we were able to head down and see Kylemore Abbey, a picturesque castle nestled into a heavily wooded and ivy-covered area next to a lake. We dropped into a very small town below Galway called Kinvarra and grabbed another delicious dinner at a pub in the middle of town. As we were getting ready to head out, the owner joined us at our table and ordered up the kids a couple of Dirt and Worms desserts and Luke and I a couple of Irish Coffees all on the house while he grilled Jaden about football in Colorado to ensure that Beau was aware of Elway's dominance in the NFL. Jaden knew exactly what he was talking about! Unfortunately, I wasn't on my game when the Irish Coffees came out. For some reason, I was thinking Bailey's and coffee and I couldn't have been more wrong. Padraig's drink creation is primarily whiskey with a couple of other side ingredients that were likely added to make it legal. Wow! We sat and chatted for quite some time, learning about his business degrees, law degrees, restaurant franchises in the States and the handful of pubs that he has scattered here. Who would have thought? It's amazing what you can learn if you take the time to slow down and talk to people. Everyone has a story.
After a late night in the pub last night, we were planning on showering, pulling out our journals, and enjoying a cozy night in before heading out early. As we pulled in to Ronan's Cottage, our home for the night, an Einstein-haired gentleman waved his hands and met us in the driveway, letting us know that we'd just arrived in time for the pizza party with the Chinese! I wasn't sure what to say, as I was trying to figure out why Ronan (the house owner) was here when he lived next door, where the Chinese came from, and what the pizza party had anything to do with it. Fortunately, Luke saved me, but Ronan kept on rambling about pizza as we moved our backpacks inside. On our way upstairs we learned that Ronan was either crazy, drunk, (or both), and that the Chinese that he was referring to were 4 doctorate students from Dublin that arrived today leaving him stressed and in a tough spot for lodging. He decided to put two in his house and two in the treehouse in the backyard. I looked past the word 'treehouse' for a moment while I found my pajamas and journal and as I started to write, I decided that the people in this country have been so good to us that it would be silly to not see what opportunity might be awaiting us here. Oh little did we know...
Let me paint a quick picture for you... Ronan has a typical-looking duplex for his rental guests and he lives in a small space next door. His ENTIRE property is under construction right now with parts, pieces, and building going on everywhere. There was a slight resemblance to my Great Aunt Edith's house in what we saw. He had an American couple tucked in asleep in a space that was closed off behind a sheet in our kitchen wall. There was a man that he referred to as the oldest living man in Ireland (103 years?) that was hidden somewhere near the kitchen as well. We never saw him. Ronan said he could take up to 20 guests, which was slightly unimaginable, considering the space. However, if you add the cracks, crevasses, and treehouse, it was possible. He was hoping to build his space to hold up to 40 guests! Outside between our house and his was a fantastic wood pizza oven that was the life of the evening's party - well, behind Ronan and his two Irish mates.
We all ended up piled in our living room around the fire place and listening to the Irish guys play music, tell stories, and revive history (some true and some flooded in wine). We learned some Chinese and enjoyed sharing in their culture and laughing as they grabbed the guitar and took their turn at playing and singing too. We learned how to make crazy pizzas that included cracking our own hazel nuts, slicing potatoes, and adding peppers, pepperoni, tomatoes, mozzarella and anything else that could be found on the 12 foot prep table. Unfortunately, Ronan was unable to remember anyone's name for the evening, with the exception of mine, as my reservation came in writing while he was sober. He frequently called Luke "Dennis", and Jaden "Henry", but not consistently enough for them to adopt the names. I decided it would be best for them to adopt the name of Liam Joseph, Ronan's dear friend and our pizza maker, as that one came to Ronan's memory on occasion. The next time Ronan lost Luke's name, I introduced him as Liam Joseph and it took him a second of looking back and forth between Luke and the original Liam Joseph before he accepted it, but he did. We did the same with Jaden the next time Ronan called him Henry, which then put three Liam Joseph's in front of the very drunk Mad Hatter Ronan. It was definitely more efficient for all involved. His regular phrase was "more alcohol, drugs, sex, and pizza, please!" - particularly when confused or when his white wine glass was empty. On occasion, he'd refer to the "Chinese workforce", often when we ran out of pizza and he was ready for another to be made (although he wasn't eating!). Luckily, his Chinese workforce guests were in great spirits and we Americans or his Irish counterparts took it on instead. We played one last round of music that somehow brought Ronan to the consensus that he was literally THE country of Ireland and was hatched by Mother Earth and with that in mind and his white wine bottles empty, it was a very appropriate time to tuck himself into bed to make sure that the sun would shine again on HIS countryside in the morning.
As we walked up to bed, I glanced at the card that he had out on the table with his wifi information, and considered whether or not I had the energy to stay up and get my blogs posted. Nah, time to go dream of Cheshire cats and tea parties. I couldn't help but smile as I noticed his password though: MADCOWMAD. Sweet dreams to you too, Mad Hatter.