Anecdotes from Ireland
We decided to take our first holiday as a family to Ireland, as the only time I’d been there was to visit Dublin and I spent most of that trip with a pint of Guinness in hand. Listening to recommendations from friends, we set our sites on Cork. It’s only a 1-hour flight from London and would be a good testing ground for travelling with Baby, before we attempt any transatlantic journeys. Instead of taking you through a blow-by-blow account of our trip, here are some anecdotes about travelling with Baby in Ireland.
As mentioned in a previous post, it was cold and rainy when we arrived, umbrella-less, in Ireland. James struggled to install the inadequate child seat given to us by Hertz while he got increasingly wetter. Baby and I watched from the front seat. She was being so patient. I hadn’t yet given her the last feed of the day and it was now over an hour late. Finally, with the help of a Hertz employee, James got the seat safely installed. I passed Baby back to him and he strapped her in. He glanced up at me, looking every bit the miserable, drowned rat with his long blonde hair plastered to his forehead. Simultaneously, we both started laughing. What a way to begin our break! And then suddenly a third voice chimed in with our laughter, giggling like a maniac. It was Baby. She was all smiles and was looking at us like she completely understood the joke. I loved her so much in that moment. This was going to be a great family holiday.
On our first day, I dressed Baby in red corduroy shorts, red Converse, a onesie with a frilly collar, and a light blue jumper. James said she looked like a Victorian schoolboy.
We went to a town called Kinsale that morning, our plan being to do a nice coastal drive to Skibbereen. James wanted a coffee before we set off, so we loaded Baby into her Bjorn and we had a little amble around Kinsale. Always on the lookout for cute baby clothes, I spotted a shop called Granny’s Bottom Drawer and I had to go in, dragging James and his caffeine addiction behind me.
While I was in the corner, looking at the prettiest little dresses, I could hear James making conversation with the owner. I was only half paying attention because I was engrossed in vintage prints and that’s when I heard the owner ask what our baby boy’s name was and James replied, “William.”
“Oh, what a lovely name!” the proprietor exclaimed.
I turned around and gave James an exasperated look. In one fell swoop, he had ruined any chance I had of buying Baby any of the cute dresses that were obviously for girls, not Williams. I could, of course, have exposed him and his fib, but it seemed to have gone on for just that little bit too long. If I said anything, we would have both been tarred with the same weird-o brush and we would have had to leave the shop in a cloud of awkwardness. And there was an adorable unisex red jumper that I had my eye on.
So I went along with it.
Me: I think HE would look really cute in this red jumper.
James: HE already has red jumpers.
Me: But this one has cream edging. Shall I buy it for HIM?
James: I think LITTLE WILLY has enough clothes, don’t you?
Well, little Willy got her jumper. James decided he liked his new gender bending game and kept it up for the rest of the holiday. In various shops in Cork where the question “What’s his name?” was asked, she is now known as Percival, Tarquin, and Zing (James tells me the last one was just to watch people’s reactions. And that it’s actually spelt Xing. Sigh).
There are certain things you expect to see in Ireland: lots of pubs called “Murphys”, leprechaun tat in the gift shops, a shamrock or two, and many references to the potato famine. I hate to admit it, but once we were in the car and out of the earshot of actual Celtic people, we broke into cheesy Irish accents to talk about what we’d be doing on the holiday. Every sentence started high and ended low. Don’t pretend you didn’t do it when you went to Ireland, too. It’s addictive.
We were staying in a beautiful resort called Castlemartyr. We chose the self-catering accommodation away from the main hotel, but we had use of the spa, swimming pool, restaurants and chill-out rooms. Many a lunch-time, we ate in the Knight’s Bar, where the waiter told us that Jay-Z and Beyonce had been a few years ago, drinking the most expensive whiskey on the menu (€5000 per bottle. Gulp).
Every time we were in there, without fail, Enya was playing. I was afraid Baby would start humming “Orinoco Flow”, as we heard it so many times. Funnily, that song brought up loads of memories for James and me. Both of us were in University when Shepherd Moons was released. I used to play it while writing term papers. James used to play it while…hanging out with his ex-girlfriend. Did you have Shepherd Moons? What memories does it bring up for you?
Of course, we couldn’t visit Cork without making a trip to see the Blarney Stone so we could acquire the gift of the gab or ‘blarney’. According to the literature at the castle, kissing the Blarney Stone is on the Travel Channel’s list of the top 99 things you need to do before you die. We tried to find this list on-line, but it was nowhere to be seen; however, we found loads of references to the Blarney Stone being on this list. Is that blarney?
We strapped Baby into her Bjorn on James and climbed the steep steps to the turrets. I played the role of sacrificial lamb on this climb, walking behind them on the way up and in front of them on the way down.
Thankfully, it was at the end of the day in low season, so we were able to kiss it pretty quickly. I imagine that you could wait for a long time if there are a lot of people in the queue, especially as it takes significant manoeuvring to get into prime kissing position: you have to sit down facing away from the stone and then an old man holds onto your legs while you literally bend over backwards to kiss the stone. You’re hanging over a steep drop, but there is a metal grate to prevent any unhappy falling accidents, unless you are a 17-week-old baby, which was why she wasn’t allowed to kiss it for the gift of the gurgle. My friend who visited the stone in the early 90s said there was no grate then. I wonder what happened to make them install it. I shudder to think.
After we descended the stairs, I asked an American tourist to take our picture sitting on the Blarney Castle bench. It must be pretty frightening when someone asks you to take a photo and she hands you a professional camera. Needless to say, he put his finger on the shutter and took about 10 pictures, bang bang bang. They are a bit wonky and the composition is crap; in fact, I’m going to have to comp it together with an image I took earlier to improve the framing. But I thought it was quite funny when he asked if he should look on the back of the camera to see what he was photographing. Bless. So quickly forgotten are the days of the viewfinder. I should have tracked down a Japanese tourist to do the deed instead. They’d have known what to do.
One thing that James really wanted to do was the tour of the Jameson distillery in Midleton. At €13, it’s pretty dear for what it is: a bored Irish woman walking you around a few buildings talking about whiskey. James asked her how many times she’d done the tour that day, expecting it to be a high number as we were the last one of the day. “Two and a half,” she replied. And you could tell she was really looking forward to the other half being over.
At the end of the tour, we ended up in a bar, where James got to do a taste test between a Scottish, Irish and American whiskey. Even though he loves a good Scottish whiskey, he admitted to me afterwards that all of them were pretty awful, especially the American one. I was offered a Jameson drink at the bar, so I got a dash of liquor (I hate whiskey) and ginger ale.
Well, I don’t know what sort of super powers that combination had, but, that night, I pumped 5 ounces of breast milk instead of the usual 2.5 to 3. Was it the whiskey? Was it the ginger ale? Further experimentation is forthcoming.
As always happens, the holiday was over too quickly and it was time to pack up our home away from home to return to the UK. We’d been pretty lucky with the weather all week with very little rain, so, while we were killing time until our flight, we took Baby on a cliff walk in her buggy. What better way to remember Ireland than with amazing sea views?
I’d love to go back to the land of the leprechaun, especially when Baby’s mane of red hair gets a bit longer. Already, she was enchanting all the Irish people with her gummy smile. It was sometimes hard to take two steps with all the little old ladies stopping us to coo over her. It’s understandable though; Baby is 6.25% Irish on her mommy’s side, after all.