Monday, February 22, 2016

Barrage Before Bingo

Second only to my love of the Irish landscape is my total obsession with the discount store, Penney's. Otherwise known as Primark in various countries, this store is filled to the brim with clothes, accessories and bizarro knick-knacks at profoundly cheap prices. I specifically love the location in Limerick because it is not as severely crowded as in the big cities and buying products with the euro is definitely better than the British pound. For all of these oh so charming (and yes, very brainwashed consumer) reasons, Dancer Friend and I spent the early part of our day delighting in a good ole Irish breakfast followed by an afternoon of shopping.

By the time we made it back to her wonderfully and centrally located abode, it was time for some rest and some showers before engaging in a bit of late afternoon pints. We walked by the river to a fun establishment boasting an outdoor seating area along the water. Sadly, it was winter and cold and the pouring rain was not offering any respite so we tucked ourselves into a warm interior corner and hunkered down with some beer and bar snacks. When it was finally time to head off for our evening plans, we thought we had evaded the deluge for long enough to make it back into the city center, but that wily Mother Nature had other plans. After about 5 minutes of walking down the street, the clouds literally vomited water onto our delicate facades, using wind as a projectile. Our umbrellas were immediately turned futile and twisted into props of impending self-destruction, threatening to slice our limbs off at any moment. As we traversed the bridge in the attempt to get back into town, I sincerely believed we might be catapulted from the land of Zeus right over into Poseidon's realm. At long last, we found a brief sanctuary under a store awning and were able to collect our thoughts. But before we found our destination, I insisted that we pop into a local pub for a minute of warmth and a shot of Jameson. The silver lining was that the pub we chose had live traditional Irish music so we were quickly made happy once again.

Eventually, finally, and with a sense of grand relief, we made it to our evening terminus... BINGO. There is an entire function hall devoted to the age old game right in the heart of Limerick called Stella Bingo. Believe it or not, this place was hopping on a Sunday night, filled to the brim with those rabble rousing senior citizens we all know and love. From what I gathered, this place is no joke and you play by the rules or you get out. Needless to say, we were absolutely the youngest attendees and I immediately felt the intimidation of a room full of hardcore gamesters. We got our bingo sheets, our special bingo pens, and I slowly learned the rules while simultaneously slowly warming up. We won absolutely nothing, but the pure ambiance was definitely worth the effort. I made Dancer Friend grab one more drink with me at another bar after though so that I could shake the disappointment of our losses and relish in the brilliant absurdity of the day.

The following morning allowed time for a homemade breakfast, care of my amazing hostess, and a leisurely couple of hours to pack my things. Dancer Friend had to go off to work and I slowly made my way on the bus back to Dublin, the plane back to Beauvais Airport, and the shuttle back to Paris. When  I was finally back in my tiny little home, I made myself nestled all snug in my bed, with visions of leprechauns dancing in my head.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Milk Market And Adare

Every time I visit Limerick, I insist upon going to the Saturday morning Milk Market. The offerings of local vendors taking over what seems like half the city itself feels nothing less than festive and fanciful, like a fairy tale village of yore. Dancer Friend and I had some delicious local cuisine for breakfast, loaded up our bags with fresh food for dinner, and I stayed a bit longer to buy some surprise desserts while she went off to teach a dance class for an hour. After our morning of productivity we hopped a bus out of town for the day.

One of the main reasons why I love going to Ireland so much is the jaw-dropping scenery. I always end up frolicking through a new panorama or adventuring into some picturesque little knoll. This time, Dancer Friend and I decided to spend the day in the small town of Adare. I had apparently been there before during my first trip to the Emerald Isles so many years ago, and while it was not a completely new experience, it was charming enough to enchant anyone no matter how many times you may venture there.

This tiny little village is particularly known for a set of old thatched roof cottages essentially making up the crux of the main street. Along with abbeys and old castle ruins, little parks and a river to peruse, there is no end of things to feast your eyes upon throughout the day. The only disappointment was discovering that the golf course, which allows up close looks at randoms ruins scattered about, was closed for construction so we weren't able to see one of my favorite memories from my original jaunt. We spent time in the monastery, however, and happened upon an old friary as well. Since the weather throughout the entire weekend was an on and off deluge of rain, it was the perfect way to escape the wet and cold for a few minutes. When the sun was shining, however, the light and color was astounding, with luscious green grass underfoot canopied by the brightest of blue skies.

Near the end of our afternoon tour, we began a short route beside the river. While we started by walking amidst clear skies and sunshine, not five minutes passed before the skies literally opened up in rain and hail, soaking and smacking us with all manner of natural phenomena. Umbrellas were useless and Dancer Friend could not stop laughing while she took video footage of our fight against the elements. Ultimately, the brawl was entirely worth it as a gorgeous double rainbow framed the sky and the clouds went back into hiding.

After that fortuitous debacle, we decided it was high time for some afternoon tea and refreshment. We chose a cute little cafe and indulged in sandwiches, a pot of hot pot for two, and some scrumptious pastries. Before and after our libations, we made sure to stop in a few shops around town, finding some fun things to take home for friends and family. When we finally caught our bus back to Limerick, we were sad to say goodbye to such an idyllic setting but more than happy to warm up for the rest of the evening.

Our original plan was to make dinner at home, have some wine, then head out for drinks with some friends. We made such a delicious picnic of steak, mashed potatoes and brussels sprouts, however, that we couldn't help but feel incredibly contented at home. With a fire blazing and wine overflowing, we ended choosing a night of pajama party gabbing and gossip rather than traipsing through the cold and rain again. I couldn't have been more pleased by my second day in fairy tale land.