Saturday, April 7, 2012

Dingle Hoppers

While a delegation of my folks (Father, Sister Kaci, Sister Aja, Sister Ali, and Friend Natalie -- a regular ecclesiastical troupe) were visiting us in mid-March, we all took off for a three-night stay on one of the western fingers of Ireland. Dad had originally hoped to road-trip over most of the island during the week here, but cautionary suggestions from us and a firm smack upside the head from reality reminded him that if he wanted to see anything but the wrong side of the road, he'd be wise to pick a single mid-week destination and stick with it.

So Dingle Peninsula it was! And what a beautiful choice, too. (Check out our Dingle Photo Album) The Five Faithful Followers braved the hazards of right-hand drive, and Jenny and I took the train and bus there. (See Jenny's last post for a description of the Southwestern-esque views.) Night fell as we arrived in the town of Dingle and joined the rest of the fam at the Alpine House B&B. We did a bit of dusky wandering, discovered that much of Dingle doesn't open on Tuesday evenings unless it's tourist season (which is decidedly not mid-March), and ended up dining in an excellent jazz and pizza joint. The entire place felt like it was lit by blue and black candles, and the French proprietor started quizzing us on the artists once Jenny pegged Django. Pizza was great, music was groovin', and the Dingle Hop had begun. (I even got a compliment for pronouncing properly the French wine I ordered! But I'm really surprised Zach has not shared here the long-winded topic of dinner conversation, which had everyone reduced to tears of hilarity... Well, if he won't blow the lid off this one, I suppose I can't.)

The next morning the Clerical Quintet went horse(pony)back riding, and Jenny and I stayed behind in the hotel to do some writing (grad students are cursed that blessed. I mean blessed). That afternoon, Jenny, Natalie, and the Sisters Three went shopping (and they spoke not a word of it to me hence), and Dad and I holed up in the renowned, National-Geographic'd, half-leatherman's and shoe shop and half pub called Dick Mack's. This was such a great atmosphere for a pint -- rooms behind/within/upon rooms, wood older than Dick Mack himself, a coal fire, and Sean, the artist-in-residence. Dad and Sean got to talking about priorities in life and the very meaning of existence. It was a trip.

That night, reunited, we enjoyed dinner in a different pub (apparently Wednesday nights are better for opening than Tuesdays) before shifting down to O'Sullivan's for the only live music we could find in town. I'll be honest, the ladies playing sounded lovely, but it was far from the best trad music Jenny and I have heard here. (When the Sligo festival is the point of comparison, I suppose we're ruined.) The fam all seemed to enjoy themselves, though, and we got to try the local brew -- Tom Crean's Lager. This beer was actually as creamy as its name almost suggests, which I never expected from a lager. The combination was pleasantly enjoyable. Heck, we were tickled just to find a craft beer!

If only we knew what awaited us the next night. But first, we had to brave the Great Slea Head Drive of Fog, Frustration, and Near Doom. (The Friars Fünf thought that the drive was perilous; Jenny and I figured Grendel's descendant was just waiting behind some damp boulder to tear our arms from our bodies as reparation.) Despite the view-blocking fog, the drive around the peninsula awed and oohed us. (Pictures of several stops on this tour will be on the pics page!) That afternoon, folks were just about Dingled out. There was much napping, until high time for Dad and me to go get a pint at Foxy John's. "Who needs shoes?" Foxy John's says. "We've got beer, hardware, and all your bicycling needs!" That's right: this pub felt like half bar, half your grandpa's garage. Jenny swapped out with Dad at one point, so that Dad could go wake up the Cinco Sisters (by this point, Natalie was pretty much another sibling). We had dinner at the Canteen, highly recommended by the barkeep at Dick Mack's.

The food was ohhh so good. I've been craving pork and applesauce ever since. But this place really promoted the Irish craft beers... which we didn't even know existed. I swear they didn't. I had an Eight Degrees porter, Jenny had the richest, sweetest hard cider, and the night was beautiful.

After we peeled ourselves out of the Canteen, we went back to the jazzy pizza joint for some live tango-jazz and a glass of wine to wind down the night. Our favorite French proprietor was in absentia, but still, his establishment provided the perfect wind-down to a relaxing and adventurous Dingle getaway. (Thanks for making it happen, Dad!)

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