What a perfect first day it was! After a glorious night’s rest, we had some of the fresh baked bread we picked up on our drive over.
Like everything in this country, charm and tidiness prevail, so when we stopped at a gas station last night, they were selling breads, pies, and other goodies that were baked by a local woman. We bought some spelt bread with pumpkin seeds, which is delicious toasted with some Irish white cheddar. So after that and a little Irish Breakfast tea, we were on our way.
We stopped into Ennis, an adorable town just up the road, to get a few things from the pharmacy. As we were walking back to the car, we passed a sporting goods store so we figured we’d peruse the sporty-Irishy stuff and maybe get a jersey. Well, Ted ended up finding a pair of soccer cleats and the delightful lady who helped him pronounced the brand ah-dee-dahs. So we weren’t just being coy when we pronounced it like that in high school, we were being cultural…
Next it was on to The Burren Smokehouse in Lisdoovarna. The Burren is a largely undeveloped, protected area of land in western Clare County. Some of the ancient Celts settled in this area and evidence of their presence is found in several of their structures which remain today. More impressive though is the Poulna bronedolmen, a tomb still standing from the Neolithic period…we’re talkin’ BC, folks.
The Burren was deforested centuries ago, thereby changing the landscape forever. Its hillsides are covered in limestone and it’s home to a whole range of wildflowers from subarctic to tropical terrains. Local artisans use the flowers of the Burren to make honey and jam, which can be found at the smokehouse when in season (www.burrensmokehouse.ie).
This fantastic little place ships their smoked fish and cheeses all around the world, including The White House and 10 Downing Street. Claudia, the owner – a feisty Irish woman we grew to adore over the hour that we were in her shop – also sells tea cloths, scarfs, jewelry, books, and the like, all made in the region. We ended up buying one of each to take back as gifts.
After bidding adieu to our first friend of the trip, we walked over the creek into town and found a great pub by the name of McNamarra’s. Ted ordered the Beef and Guinness Stew, which we were told was a must have (and it was deemed rightfully so) and I chose the smoked fish platter, straight from the smokehouse. If it’s good enough for the President and the Prime Minister, it’s good enough for me.
We sat at the bar and had a quintessential Irish pub experience. The pub owner/bartender held up his promise as being good company. Turns out he was a rugby player for years, and had the scars to prove it, then traveled the world as a body guard. He told us we had to see Munster (their regional rugby team) play the following night in Limerick.
Munster is currently ranked at the top in Ireland and holds their own with the internationals, so it would be a big deal to see them play in their brand new stadium….you don’t have to convince us to check out a sporting event.
Our week is quickly filling up.