19.03.2015 - 19.03.2015
It was early morning and we were driving along what had been deemed some of the most dangerous, but beautiful, cliffs to drive in Ireland. Justice and Jaden were chatting about all of the oddly colored sheep in the fields and I couldn't help but laugh as I heard J say "One sheep, two sheep, red sheep, blue sheep...". She had about a billion more to count! We had just finished up two stops that allowed me to photograph a couple different rock formations that I'd seen online and we were moving on - but having difficulty finding our next destination. When we spoke with a friendly gentleman that was walking alongside the road and told him what we were looking for, he chuckled and told us there were two towns by the name of Ballycastle in Northern Ireland (ahhhh, really Ireland?!) and the one we had in mind was 200+ km the opposite direction. He smiled and told us there was nothing to see here but sheep. One sheep, two sheep, time for new sheep! Next stop?
Shells Cafe. This is a small cafe that sits on the water in a surfing community called Strandhill, just outside of Sligo. The owners are a super cool couple that chased their own dream into reality and created the kind of environment that everybody wants to be in with the type of food that is easy to love. We were in touch with them prior to our trip but weren't sure if we'd make it out to Shells, so it was fun coming in for a meal and getting to say hello in person! After a delightful meal, we grabbed a mug of coffee and headed to the waterfront to watch the crazy surfers catch some pretty good sized waves. Although the sun was out, it was none too warm! We are seeing sunshine daily through the clouds, which has been nice, as it is beyond what we expected!
We had spent nearly all day in and out of the car (only one THUNK today!) and the kids were excited to hit the beach at home and I was looking forward to a quiet night in by the fire and watching the ocean. We figured we'd stroll down to the Beach Bar for one drink and then call it an early night. I ran in to the pub to make sure it was okay to bring the kids for a soda when we came back and I received a surprisingly warm welcome from a group of locals and an American couple. We all chatted for a moment and they encouraged me to bring the family back quickly, but warned me that the kids ears would hear some swearing. I assured the concerned Irish gentleman that coming from the firehouse family, my children are not oblivious to such things. Fatal error on my part (please hold...).
Luke and the kids played on the beach, while I sat next to our primary heat source (well, the electric shower was a very close second!) and enjoyed the wood-burning stove and watched the waves. When they returned, we bundled up and headed just a few steps down to the Beach Bar. As soon as we opened the 17 inch pub doors, it was as if they'd been waiting all night for a surprise birthday party! We were greeted with shouts, hellos, and welcomes! Unbeknownst to Luke, his came with a tag called the "American Firefighter" and the fellas were sure happy to harass him about it. There may have been about a dozen of us total - locals, with the exception of the other American couple and us. The pub was very intimate - one small room with a fire burning in the middle to keep us cozy. They checked in with Luke about putting it out regularly. The locals called the owner Bear and he had a couple little ones running in and out for a bit that helped pour the beer and played peek-a-boo with our kids. Justice and Jaden settled right in to a table next to us and were well taken care of through the evening by several of the guys, primarily the bartender, James, that had been on shift when I came in earlier. Their soda glasses and Tayto bags were never empty! The evening was truly magical. We shared stories, culture, language, music (they tried Born in the USA and Friends in Low Places for us!) and so much more. Our Guinness was served with a handmade shamrock drawn into the whip as a barista does with a lovely cup of joe (okay, it's foam really, but it's my favorite part of a Guinness and tastes like whip!). It was an absolute pleasure to spend an evening with a small group in their living quarters, being so well-taken care of and making unforgettable memories. An Irish gentleman walked out with us under the stars as we headed along the water to our house and he shared his thoughts with us on how important it is to "be lucky". Luck? Call it what you'd like, but as the kids giggled their way up the hillside talking about the little old man that was insistent on teaching them Irish and I tucked my fingers into Luke's hand, I'd say there's more to this than simply luck. We count our blessings daily.