Recently I decided I wanted (or needed) a break. Jennifer concurred. It’s off to Cashel with you, she instructed. Now I would never willingly abandon my wife and kids for the best part of a week to holiday in the west of Ireland, but since Jenn insisted, far be it from me to ignore her instructions. Now of course, it could have been that she needed a rest from me, but either way, Friday afternoon saw me heading out to JFK.

What way you want go ? inquired my semi-lingual cabbie.

Take the Shore Parkway instructed your illustrious correspondent.

Huh ? came the response.

Sod it, we’ll take the midtown tunnel…


I was well prepared. I had a car booked, and the two essentials in hand – passport and credit cards. And of course, a pile of books, a rather eclectic collection as it happens : Boyd (about the fighter pilot who was instrumental in developing the strategy for the Gulf War), In the land of the white death (about a ship trapped in the ice in the Siberian Arctic), The devil in the white city (about a serial killer at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893), Melmoth the wanderer (an Irish Gothic novel), and The Back Of Beyond (about a jaundiced tour guide in Ireland), among others… Almost before I knew it, I was winging my way back across the pond to Shannon…

The weather was surprisingly mild in Shannon when we landed, especially considering the raw, frigid New York we had just left, until I remembered that it was almost exactly the middle of spring in Ireland – no wonder there were flowers blooming on the sides of the road. An easy hour drive north brought me to Gort (home of the Roxboroughs at Coole Park, where I took a right to detour past Yeats’ tower and headed out to meet Vera at Loughrea.

(At this point I should recommend that the reader in search of a wonderfully witty yet insightful view of Ireland pick up a copy of The Back Of Beyond by the fabulous cantankerous eccentric, James Roy. I highly recommend it to anyone – Irish or not – visiting Ireland. And so I shall refrain from commenting on most of the places I refer to in this entry; Roy does it far better than could I).

Had an enormous breakfast – a harbinger of gluttonous feasts to come – with Vera, before my visit was curtailed by that Irish institution, the country funeral. Dropping Vera off at a church a few miles down the road, I continued out to Connemara (how many Americans can pronounce “Oughterard” properly ?) towards the appropriately named Recess and my haven for five nights.

After check-in on Saturday it was, serendipitously, time for Afternoon Tea, a suitably decadent start to my week, complete with the usual strong tea, finger sandwiches, and scones with clotted cream. Thoroughly hedonistic. Indeed, afternoon tea constituted an important milestone in my days in Cashel : the unvarying schedule commenced with breakfast at 10AM, followed by whatever passed for the day’s activity – a walk on Dog’s bay Beach, for example – which comfortably filled the interval before lunch. Suitably fortified, I managed to struggle through until afternoon tea at 3PM, which set me up nicely for an afternoon snooze followed by a languorous bath. At this point, being in dire need of sustenance, I would repair to the bar for some aperitifs with which I would have to be contented while engaged in the most demanding activities of the day – deciding upon the fare for dinner and, of course, the vino. If I still had the strength, I would return to the bar for a digestif or two, before hauling my weary bones off to bed, to prepare for the morrow.

Needless to say, dinner on Saturday was splendid, as was the wine. Sunday saw the arrival from Dublin of Dave (aka Daithi Fada). Among the highlights of the day were lunch in Clifden, an ’89 Latour over dinner, a pair of Cohibas, and (wonders of modern technology) screenings on the hotel wall of Buster Keaton in Daydreams and a still stunning Rita Hayworth in Lady from Shanghai.

On Monday, we checked out Kylemore and did our bit for Hiberno-Slovakian relations before more afternoon tea and Dave’s departure.

Tuesday brought both the sublime (Cong Abbey) and the ridiculous (well, bizarre – “The Quiet Man Cottage”, commemorating the wonderful eponymous movie). Cong Abbey is marred by the hideous modern church plonked down on its oxters, but if you can ignore that and mosey down to the river and woods, it’s truly serene and captivating.

Wednesday saw nothing more significant than a ’90 Palmer, but that was excitement enough for the day.

Thursday brought me back to New York, and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations with Kevin, Rob, and the great unwashed of the Tri-State Area. But that’s a story for another day…

In short, it was a completely uneventful trip – just as I wished. Cashel was, as always, wonderfully therapeutic. It’s my home away from home !

Click here for pictures.


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