On Thursday April 8, we welcomed our first visitors to our new hometown of Tralee, Ireland.
Seph’s parents Anne and Bobby informed us in March that they were going to make a trip to Europe which also included a visit to family in Holland afterwards.
We were so excited to have their company for 5 days. They had not seen their grandson Baby K in almost six months! Needless to say, he has undergone a myriad of developmental changes since October.
This time around, they would find Koster a heck of a lot more sociable!
In a nutshell, here is how we filled our days.
With a rental car, Koster, Seph and I picked up our happy but tired visitors at the Shannon airport (about 1.5 hours away), after which we returned to our place where we had Swedish split pea soup and healthy berry muffins waiting for us. Courtesy of… someone. In the early evening, we visited the windy Banna Strand beach and gave Anne and Bobby their first taste of hilly dunes and absurdly narrow Irish roads. When we returned to our flat, Seph and I played some tunes and Koster was dancing so hard on his knees that he fell over backwards. Thankfully without injuring himself, and thankfully we got it all on video.
The Dingle Peninsula is one of the must-sees of Kerry. It’s a winding coastal route that takes you along the southwest coast of Ireland, revealing one breathtaking view after another. That is, if it’s not too foggy. Well, on day 2, even though the sky was not promising, we attempted driving it. Unfortunately, it was all in vain, as the fog blocked the views. We made a stop in Dingle town, had a hot beverage in a small cafe while working on a crossword puzzle together. We agreed to return on a clearer day. The only photo I captured (below, left), is a sad sight compared to what you’d normally see there (below, right, photo by Seph in February). But alas, we did return, as you will see later.
Since it wasn’t the best day for sightseeing, we all agreed to drive down to Cork. We had a tasty supper at a vegetarian restaurant called the Quay Coop. We had salads, lentil-based shephard’s pie and thai curry, and Seph and I opted for the date square for dessert. Speaking of dates, Koster had a mini post-dinner playdate with a baby called Otto who was also dining in the restaurant with his folks, and I was smiling so much at the cuteness that my face hurt that whole night. Afterwards, we dropped in at a music session at the Sin É pub which was really bopping! It was just our type of music session, but we didn’t join in because Koster was getting a wee bit fussy and our instruments were in the car, a good walk away. We listened for a few minutes which was good enough for us.
We made it back to Tralee that evening, and I took my in-laws to a late night music session at the Grand Hotel in Tralee. I played some tunes while Bobby and Anne sat close by. We all had a drink, then Anne and I showed the whole bar a thing or two about Cape Breton stepdancing. Next thing we knew, drunken couples were joining us and dancing clumsily next to us. I guess we made it look easy.
I took the most pictures on day 3 because we drove through a gorgeous area and the day was clear. We planned to visit Killarney which is really only 30 minutes away, but we took our time with the drive through the ring of Kerry, weaving in and out of mountains, and eventually arriving in Killarney via the national park.
Once in the town, we walked around a bit, found some licorice & (sugar-free) chocolate at an old fashioned candy shop, got ourselves some grub at our old stomping grounds, Allegro, where we ate fish & chips. Visiting the national park afterwards bode well as I was starting to feel like I needed to burn off some energy after the deep fried food, and not to mention sitting so much in the car! We all welcomed the walk in the woods, breathing in the scent of a diverse flora and commenting on all the tree types, including the yew tree which is a rare find in Europe these days.
It can be a glum time in Ireland when it rains. We spent some time debating the best plan on the fourth morning. High on the list was Galway, but being 2 hours away and having a baby traveling with us, this wouldn’t really make a good day trip. Especially if Seph and I wanted to partake in an evening music session, which was also high on the list. So what to do? In the end we decided to pack our bags for a night in Galway. We would stay at a hotel.
While we spent a good part of the afternoon in the car, our time in Galway made up for it. After dropping our stuff off at the hotel, we made way for the town centre and began searching for a place to eat, as it was suppertime. One of the first things I noticed about Galway is that it is very touristy. On the busy pedestrian streets, people were hired to hold (more like wear) large signs that advertised and gave directions to restaurants situated in quieter areas!
But Galway had its charm too. There was a fair bit of live music happening for a Sunday night, and the streets were alive with buskers, tourists, and locals. However, we had a difficult time finding a place that had good tunes happening that also served food. There’s actually pubs that only serve drinks, we learned! After wandering around for what felt like a long time, we decided to settle on a Thai restaurant called Thai Garden. No trad tunes there of course, but we would search for that later. The food was delicious and even made Koster salivate, but then I suppose that’s not unusual.
Scoping out the music scene after filling our bellies, we landed in front of the Tiġ Ċóilí pub. Seph told me that one of my favourite fiddlers hosts a session there sometimes, and lo and behold, he was in there playing when we showed up! I couldn’t believe our luck. There was one unfortunate thing, though. A bouncer outside informed us that Koster wasn’t allowed in. So Seph and I took turns going inside quickly to hear a bit of music. Seph had a chat with the bodhran player who proceeded to come outside and tell the bouncer to let us in, that he knew us and it was alright. Woah! That was a fib, but I was going along with it! Initially the bouncer showed much reluctance, so the bodhran player disappeared inside for a couple minutes, and then came back and told the bouncer he got the manager’s approval. Another fib? Hard to say. Bouncer gave us a little uncomfortable shrug, and we thanked him profusely and rushed inside before he could change his mind.
Oh my God, I was in heaven, sitting right there in front of Mick Conneely and his posse playing up a storm, with Koster sitting on my lap (who was admittedly more interested in two French girls beside us than the tunes). We hadn’t been there 20 minutes when the manager came to tell us it was 9 pm and that kids are no longer allowed in after 9. The bodhran player started protesting, but she wouldn’t hear it. I hadn’t had tunes yet but I left with Koster and Bobby while Seph and Anne stayed behind. I would try to put Koster to sleep and maybe get a chance to play later in the evening!
Bobby and I decided to find a quiet place where we might enjoy a tea and where Koster might nurse to sleep. We settled on The Piemaker, which caught my eye earlier on while looking for a place to eat supper because it was so visually appealing! This little restaurant/cafe was just too interesting for him to get sleepy. Next thing I knew he was playing peekaboo with the woman sitting in the booth behind us. This was after pulling her hair. She was a trooper alright.
Back outside the Tiġ Ċóilí pub at twenty to ten, and resigned to the fact that this boy was not going to sleep anytime soon, Anne and Bobby persuaded me to go in and have some tunes with Seph and the others, and they would entertain Koster for a bit. I really couldn’t ask for better in-laws. I wasn’t so sure of this plan, especially when Koster cried and tried to cling to me as his grandparents took him away, but I also knew they are fabulous with kids and he would surely be okay in a minute. To say it was a pleasure to play with the musicians in the pub would be an understatement. It was the experience of a lifetime for me. Possibly the best part of the soiree was my favourite fiddler telling us that he was having such a great time playing with us that he’d prolong his gig by a half hour so we could all continue playing! Uh excuse me, what?!?!? It was like the best present ever. We returned to the hotel that night pretty happy and Koster, pretty sleepy. And I have no pictures or videos to prove this all happened because my phone was dead. It will remain a surreal experience to me for the rest of my life.
The last full day with Anne and Bobby was spent driving back from Galway, stopping in at the Cliffs of Moher (picture below), doing some shopping in Tralee, having some killer Indian curry for dinner by Chef Sef, and in the evening we showed them the Dingle Peninsula once more, under better conditions this time around, though we were racing against sundown! It was an impressive drive that got me thinking I’ll never tire of these sights.
Early on Tuesday, we walked Anne and Bobby to the train station, only a stone’s throw away. It was bittersweet saying goodbye, but admittedly not terribly sad as we knew we’d see them again after their trip to Holland, in a week’s time! I was already looking forward to seeing them again and hearing their stories of the 59th reunion of the Peters siblings in the Netherlands. It had been 59 years since Bobby’s family left Holland for Canada, and the 6 boys were all reuniting with their Dutch family. Gosh am I glad that Bobby’s family left for Canada. Had they not, Seph and Koster would probably not even exist, and that’s a hard thing to wrap my head around!
So that’s that for this entry. When are YOU coming to visit us in Ireland?!