Last week we headed off on our staycation to the Kingdom of Kerry for a week. We had plans to link up and dine with other family members who were to be glamping in Drumquinna.
So, on a dull wet and windy Monday morning we packed the car , loaded up the flasks and sandwiches, just in case we couldn’t get a cafe or hotel that wasn’t fully booked for food and off we drove.
You know that great feeling of release when you finally get going and you’re on the road. We were headed for the M7 direct route from Portlaoise to Adare passing through Tullow and Carlow en route.
As we approached Tullow there was a discernible slowing down of traffic and we inched our way forward getting through the 3-minute drive in 18 minutes. Someone forgot to tell Carlow County Council that they should not be digging up the Main Street, all 100 metres of it, during staycation.
We eventually got on the road and passed through Carlow but when we attempted to get on the Portlaoise Road we encountered a further obstacle in the form of a diversion . This sent us on a merry tour for approx. 10 miles with signs for Swan, Abbeyleix , Ballycolla etc and finally one which sent us on to the N7 outside Portlaoise. We had a nice unwanted scenic tour of Laois .We had our refreshments at a little layby during diversion.
This motorway driving was fine until we arrived outside Templeglantine on the Limerick side when we had 2-mile tailback due to roadworks. This was really frustrating being stuck in an unmoving line of traffic but once again we were released and, on the road, south.
The final obstacle was a slow crawl through Adare, but we are accustomed to delays here.
Finally, after 6 hours and 10 minutes we hit our hotel for food and drink and some very necessary unwinding after the frustrations of the journey.
We retired to bed around 11pm tired and weary and ready for a lie in. Some time around 4am I heard an alarm and was immediately up and on the floor. Senior management rang the desk to be told it was a false fire alarm and so we retired again. The peace was short lived with the sound of a prolonged fire alarm. We dressed quickly and hearing lots of commotion in the corridor we realised that a full-scale evacuation was under way.
By the time we got to the front exit most of the guests were assembled in huddles in the grounds and many parents trying to get young children into cars.
We heard the fire brigades and garda cars arrive. We were then told that there was a drier on fire in the basement and that all was under control, but the smoke was activating all alarms. We had to wait for clearance from the chief fire officer. Meanwhile we walked around the grounds in the cool morning air, sat in the car for a while, got out ,had chats with fellow evacuees etc. We were fortunate that it was such a nice dry night. I was even tempted to do a long canal walk but common sense prevailed, and the thought of the warm bed overcame any athletic tendencies I thought I was developing.
The all clear was given around 6 am when we all crawled back to our beds. Sleep was definitely in scarce supply. Some people, who were leaving early, just went back for showers and an early breakfast and headed for home in Newry and other far flung places.
It was a real firecracker start to our staycation and definitely not one to be recommended.
The rest of the clan were following down on Tuesday but on the way, they got a phone call from the glamping site that all glamping was being cancelled because of the impending arrival of storm Ellen and the danger to people. And so, they had to ring up a hotel they had booked into for 1 night and fortunately they were able to accommodate them for the extra nights. They had pool, kiddie’s playroom and cinema, so all was well again with the world.
We had some lovely weather visiting Ballyheigue beach and sitting on the prom in lovely warm Kerry sunshine on Tuesday.
There was great excitement while we were in Killarney National Park on Wednesday when who should sit down near us only Leo Varadkar and friends eating their cones. I pitied the poor man with the number of people looking for selfies and photos with him. People, especially young staff members, were quite excited by his presence . I don’t think there is a table in Ireland as clean as the one next to Leo’s when it was sprayed and wiped about 14 times by several staff members during his visit . Social distancing was observed at all times of course.
Anyway, we enjoyed our time in Kerry. We observed social distancing by staying outdoors and one great visit to my sister was conducted in 3 sheds which the kids thoroughly enjoyed. The 2-year-old saw the ride on lawnmower which he sat on and suddenly he saw one of those old light up santas hanging in the shed and he would not budge because he had found Santa and wanted to mind him.
In another shed our 7 year discovered a 30 year old toolbox full of old gear which fascinated him, and he was not for moving indoors. The outcome of all this was my sister sitting in another shed while our visiting crew stood at the door with masks on and we got some great photos of a santy minder. We’re living in strange but still good times.
We visited another nephew while the kids played outside on their all-weather patch.
Another very enjoyable visit to a niece of mine necessitated visiting her son’s art studio and admiring his art in his garden shed /studio.
Another garden shed contained her son’s different bicycles. He is 14 and is a Munster cycling champion. We saw all his medals and photos and took the appropriate photos and shared their pride in his success.
It was great to catch up with family, relations and friends and sample the great air, scenery, food and character of Kerry after such a long-enforced absence from the Kingdom.
We had decided that we would come home via Macroom and Cork stopping in Midleton for refreshments in the distillery restaurant. I was salivating all way from the Jack Lynch tunnel to Midleton thinking of their warm beef salad in their excellent a la carte restaurant.
Sadly, it was closed down due to Covid and they were only serving teas, sandwiches and baguettes but hungry people can’t be choosers and so we tucked into the best they could offer which were fresh sandwiches from “Sage “in Midleton. How bad!
And now being nourished and refreshed we were on the road to Waterford and home.
We drove home in over four hours enjoying the scenic drive through Waterford and crossing the spectacular Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Bridge for the first time. This bridge was opened this year and is the longest bridge in Ireland measuring 887 metres.
When I sat down at home sipping a welcome cup of tea, I had a what’s app from the in laws in Perth who were holidaying in Broome in Northern Western Australia. The message contained the usual pleasantries of ,hope ye enjoyed the holidays. We got 3 photos of beautiful setting suns in Broome and one of him standing on a crocodile’s closed mouth. Broome here I come.
I pray that the good lord will please give us a wee bit more sunshine ,less diversions, no more fire alarms and we will be fine with our staycations .
Stay safe and stay well in these strange times with masks and social distancing and sanitising. We will survive and thrive.