Did you think that I wouldn’t finish my holiday post? Are you crazy?
Sunday, August 8, 2021
We drove to Sligo via the midlands. Can I tell you that there is nowhere, absolutely nowhere to get a cup of tea in Edgesworthstown (ancestral homeland of Maria Edgeworth whose family owned the local big house) on a Sunday afternoon? We were luckier in Longford and managed to get an outdoor lunch at 4 in the afternoon for which relief much thanks.
We arrived in Sligo in the evening. We had rented an Airbnb in the town just opposite the Catholic and Protestant cathedrals which were situated next door to each other on a bend in the road. It was a busy road and, as herself pointed out, with the faithful now being neither nimble nor sprightly, having to cross a busy road on a blind corner to get to church was likely to be fatal to many of the congregation.
Anyway, the house had four lovely double bedrooms. Sadly the kitchen was tiny and we could just all sit down there and there was a total of 6 knives, forks, spoons and plates. Clearly it was designed as a couples’ getaway but not, I think for a family group who were hoping to eat in occasionally. The front room was tiny also but we could all sit there, so fine. The children scattered to their bedrooms once they were clear on the wifi codes.
Here’s Michael looking like he’s 102 and has lived in the Airbnb all his life.
Monday, August 9, 2021
Mr. Waffle and I went out early to try to find a walking tour of the town. The tourist office was closed for Covid reasons and there didn’t seem to be enough tourists to justify any walking tours so we took ourselves off and had a good look around the town. It has a French gothic style court house which showed that the 19th century Office of Public Works architects were given their heads more than you might think.
A lot of law firms near the court house, naturally. This one is famous in certain circles.
Bram Stoker’s mother was born in Sligo.
It’s quite a big town with it’s own independent existence and clearly not largely dependent on tourism. Lots of old fashioned department stores which I very much liked. However, overall, there are two big ticket items the Sligo tourist people plug: WB Yeats and surfing. Honestly, a strong interest in one or the other, or, ideally, both, is recommended.
In the afternoon we went out to Standhill to have a swim. You are not allowed to swim in Strandhill. It’s basically reserved for surfers. Too dangerous for swimmers. Allegedly. So, onwards to Rosses Point where everybody swam except Michael. Quite chilly.
Herself got her second vaccine appointment for a couple of days before the end of the holiday. She decided that she would rather go home a bit early than try to change it for Cork. Alas. Still, great that she is to be vaccinated.
Tuesday August 10, 2021
Herself and myself drove out to Strandhill to this cafe which is much beloved by the Irish Times and surfing hipsters alike. I thought it was ok – avocado eggs end of things – but pretty pricey. Also run by very young women one of whom used a sweeping brush to clear off an outside table which I found sub-optimal. Great view though.
We took ourselves back to the town and had a wander. Lunch was a bit unsatisfactory. Outdoor dining was chilly, the food wasn’t great and the table umbrella was poorly placed.
You see here herself and Michael channelling the energy of the group.
We went to the Model which is the local gallery – lots of Jack Yeats (brother of the more famous WB), quite good but small. We dropped in to the local library. This is something I like to do everywhere I go. I would say that of all the libraries I have visited, Sligo is safest from Covid. There was no browsing at all and people had to ask at a plastic encased counter for the books they wanted. It seemed excessive.
Footsore (I developed a sore heel which was only getting worse, so much more of this anon), we returned to the house where saintly Michael made dinner, the other children disappeared to their rooms and Mr. Waffle and I began work on the obligatory holiday jigsaw.
Wednesday, August 11, 2021
Mr. Waffle and I had a lovely breakfast in Lyon’s, an old fashioned department store.
Later, herself and myself hit the town and bought her a range of lovely dresses in the old fashioned shops which are quite a feature of Sligo.
Also, a lot of banks and former bank buildings converted to other uses.
It reminded me of Cork in the 1980s and I quite enjoyed my trip down memory lane except my heel was sore.
We went for a family surfing lesson in Strandhill in the afternoon. Michael was the only one among us who managed to stand up on his board. I mostly felt like Wally the Walrus as I heaved myself up onto the board and failed to catch any waves. Surfing is a lot harder than it looks but we did have a good time.
We had failed to book anywhere for dinner which was a huge mistake and we ended up having the vilest pizza known to man in a bar by the river. I have to say the town was heaving for a Wednesday night in August.
I limped home afterwards, the combination of my sore heel and the surfing rendered me almost entirely immobile for the remainder of the evening.
I noticed herself was a bit freckly despite constant reapplications of suncream. “I know,” she sighed “but as [the physics genius in her class] pointed out to me, the light is still hitting my face as otherwise I would be invisible.” Good point, physics genius.
Thursday, August 12, 2021
I woke up stiff all over. Herself, Mr. Waffle and I went out for breakfast. We had no real plans for the day but after the previous day’s surfing, I offered to buy wetsuits for any child who wanted one. Herself and Michael expressed an interest and we went to a wetsuit superstore around the corner from the Airbnb. We got one for Michael but notwithstanding the startling array of choices there was nothing to fit herself. The owner commented gloomily that there was a world wide wet suit shortage due to the Corona virus and he couldn’t get the stock. Apparently, in the absence of anything else to do, the world is now buying wetsuits and swimming in the sea all year round.
I attempted to take my book back to the library and arrived at 4.50 to discover that it closed at 4.45. I mean, why?
Mr. Waffle and Daniel watched a soccer match and then all of us, bar Michael who resolutely refused to come, drove out to Rosses Point to lie on our backs in the sand dunes in the dark in the hopes of seeing the Perseid shower which had been promised. It is very dark in Sligo which is good, obviously, but it was also very cloudy which was less good. Still it was atmospheric lying on our backs, listening to the sea, and trying to spot the odd star through the cloud cover.
We finished the jigsaw. A triumph.
Friday, August 13, 2021
We were all rudely awoken by hammering and drilling in the house next door at 6 in the morning. I leapt from the bed (no mean feat given that I was still recovering from the surfing extravaganza) in the mistaken belief that one of the children was pounding urgently on the bedroom door. Very bravely, Mr. Waffle went next door and pointed out that it was a bit early for works. They agreed it was and said that they thought the house next door was empty. We all went back to bed.
Later, Mr. Waffle and I went back to Lyons to again sample their delightful breakfast, but, alas, it was closed due to a Covid outbreak. We went instead to a trendier though less satisfactory venue. We had a look around Mullaney’s Drapery which is bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.
As well as meeting all your tweed needs, it boasts a travel agent and general drapery. I bought a tweed throw. I couldn’t help myself, I’ve reached the age when all my furniture is artfully draped with throws, so it won’t go to waste. Grand old chat with the salesman who told us that the Borneo teak doors dated from 1910: lovely curving art nouveau door handles remain in situ as well.
I dropped into the Yeats museum and there was this absolutely wonderful description of the cholera epidemic of 1832 in Sligo by Bram Stoker’s mother. It seems to have been terrifying. Well worth clicking and enlarging the image below for a read.
Also pretty amused by this description of the entertainment available on the Dublin stage in the late 1920s. I am more surprised than I can say, that it went over well with audiences.
That afternoon, herself and I drove to Lissadell but, alas, it was closed due to Covid. We pushed on to Mullaghmore which has a beautiful beach.
I had a lovely swim notwithstanding the slightly unusual warning notice on the approach to the beach. Sligo is full of surprises. And only 12km from Donegal. Who knew?
Mr. Waffle and I went out for our deferred 20th anniversary dinner that evening. The restaurant was nice and the food was nice. I mean, fine, nice, pleasant but not exceptional. I had the cheese board instead of dessert and I was served three pieces of small, slightly dull cheese for which we were charged €15 which struck me as excessive. In fact in general, I thought Ireland was an expensive place to holiday this year. Eating out, in particular, was expensive but the food was generally only alright. That said it was really difficulty to get in anywhere so I guess the restaurant and pub owners of Ireland know what they are doing.
Saturday August 14, 2021
We went back to Mullaney’s to get a tweed jacket for herself. Something that would last a lifetime. Sadly, they had nothing in her size. Sales have apparently been slow in the absence of Americans. However, the enterprising salesman was quick to pull out a picture of Taylor Swift in an Aran jumper as an inducement to the purchase of same (although he could not quite recall her name). We bought her an Aran jumper.
Mr. Waffle had been keen to climb up to a local landmark: an enormous neolithic tomb. I was a bit reluctant because of my sore heel but said I would give it a go. I was really glad I did. Firstly, it turns out that uphill is fine for my heel. Secondly, the views were magnificent and the tomb pretty impressive (and I speak as someone who as a child was dragged to every megalithic tomb in Munster and can identify a wedge shaped gallery grave from three fields away).
We parked in the fantastically named “Queen Maeve’s Grave Car Park”. Locally the tomb is associated with Queen Maeve. If you have been paying attention (look, I know you have), you will recall that we had been in Carlingford the previous week. This is on the Cooley peninsula where Queen Maeve undertook her famous cattle raid which is an integral part of her legend, so we were basically following her around.
Your correspondent enjoys an ancient monument:
After this early success, we went to Strandhill for lunch. Disastrous, the food was dear and mediocre and the weather was miserable for outdoor dining. We were not living the dream.
We hopped into the car and headed on to Galway which turned out to be a two hour drive away. Who knew that Sligo was so far from everywhere else? I would definitely go back though, it’s a very beautiful part of the world and quite underrated, I think.
Still glad to get to our hotel in Galway where we had booked a swim in the pool and then had the unmitigated thrill of indoor dining for the five of us for the first time on the holidays. The rules are elaborate but here’s a summary: fully vaccinated adults can eat indoors on production of a cert; children under 18 can eat indoors whether vaccinated or not; anyone staying in a hotel regardless of age or vaccination status can eat indoors. A complex compromise but a very welcome one as it was lashing and we did not fancy going around trying to find an outdoor dining venue.
Sunday August 15, 2021
Herself had a friend who was in Galway so she went off with him and his Galway friends for the day. Mr. Waffle, the boys and I wandered the quaint streets of the old town. Galway is lovely and very atmospheric but, I’ve noticed this before, there’s relatively little to do in the town unless you want to meet friends in a pub and listen to traditional music. We went to Spanish Arch, Galway’s most famous landmark, and the boys said, “Is this it?” This is fair, it’s a bit underwhelming. Galway is much more about strolling around and enjoying the general ambience but that is useless if you’re a 15 year old boy. On the plus side, as herself was off with friends, we were able to go indoors to Milano’s for lunch which the boys loved.
I booked us in to an escape room for the afternoon. It was a bit hard for us – generally we do reasonably well but we were pretty stumped and had to ask for a number of clues and I found it a bit dull as we waited around for enlightenment. On the plus side, we got good value for our money, as we stayed for ages and herself was pleased as she identified herself as the secret sauce which had helped us to triumph in the past.
We took ourselves back to the hotel for a swim and dinner mentally exhausted.
Stay tuned for the next installment where we go South.