Friday, May 29, 2009

United Nations at the Aran Islands....

.... okay not the 'real' UN but 4 gorgeous girls all from different nations. Wendy, Sabrina, Sue and myself headed off to the West last weekend. We didn't really have a plan other than that we wanted to leave the city for a weekend. So we headed off in the general direction of Doolin - with a little detour to Sixmilebrigde (you have to visit the village pub with their duck pond - too funny). Anyhow, since we left quite late, we arrived around 9:30 in Doolin and booked into the Doolin Lodge. Lovely place actually and very very clean. Only problem we had, everything closes at 9:30 in Doolin (and they don't even have an ATM) so our plan to visit the Ballanacken Castle Hotel restaurant fell flat and we had to do with the local pizza place (not bad pizza at all but massive).

The next morning started with rain - rain - rain and we saw ourselves stuck in museums and shops all day so - still with no real plan - got into the car and just drove off.....and et voila.....the sun took mercy on us and came out so we headed to the pier in Doolin (not before stopping at the music store/cafe in Doolin - you have to go and see it, it is so cosy you don't want to leave).

My stomach is not the best on an uneven and moving surface (I don't even go onto a children's carousel) and I was a bit worried about the boat trip to the islands but faced it bravely. Wasn't that bad at all. It took quite a bit to get to Inis Mór but well worth it. We were greeted by bus drivers who wanted to drive us around...but since we didn't have a plan whatsoever - and the last ferry left about an hour later - we needed to find accommodation. So we headed to the Touristic Information. We settled on booking into Clai Ban (main reason, it was close to a pub :-).

Anyhow, the people were lovely. We took the offer of a bus driver and he showed us nicely around. Haven't eaten since breakfast, we were in deep need of food. There was a vegetarian restaurant but looking at the faces of the three girls......we settled for the pub next door called Ti Joe Watty's. A lovely fire was on, the pub filled with locals and the menu looked promising. Sabrina and Wendy shared mussels which came with a lovely garlic butter sauce and the smell was divine. I settled for a butternut squash soup and was happy with it. I couldn't wait for the main course as it is very seldom that raywing is on the menu.....and I wasn't disappointed. The fish was baked to perfection with prawns in a herb butter sauce. It came with mash that could improve and peas and carrots (would have loved leeks with it) but all in all a great dish as the fish was shining above all the other ingredients. Wendy and Sabrina had the same while Sue opted for a steak burger in ciabatta bread. She loved the burger but wasn't too keen on the bread and the gherkins.....the dish looked good tho.

We headed back to the B&B as I brought a bottle of Champagne along (incl. some glass flutes as I hate drinking Champagne from plastic glasses or even cups). As the weather was still gorgeous, we sat in the garden and Sabrina demonstrated how to open a bottle of sparkly as she started her working career as a waitress. We filmed it but I haven't got the clip yet....will post it later :-)

The Chanoine Tsarine Rose Brut was just lovely. Smooth, not too dry but not too sweet either, fragrant fruit that didn't overpower. It was girlie and stylish....loved it.

After that bit of style, we went back to the pub as the 2 sons of our land lady were in charge of the entertainment that night. We had a great night, the locals mixing with the tourists and I was happy when I finally made it back to the B&B (long before the rest of the gang by the way :-)

The next day started with a lovely breakfast prepared by our land lord (as the lady of the manor was still in bed :-) and we went for a few small walks. As the weather looked rough, I tried to find a chemist and asked where it might be located - 'we don't have one'. My question, what do you do when you get sick - 'we don't get sick'....bang, there it was. No chemist, no sea sickness tablets and the wind picking up a lot......but brave as I am, we headed for lunch where I had pollack for the first time. Lovely fish and it really is very very similar to cod. So fish and chips it was. The fish on the island is really so fresh, it would be a crime to have anything else.

Soooo, we made it to the boat (and I mean was really small and looked even smaller when the sun didn't shine). The wind was picking up even more and I was really worried about the contents of my insides. Anyhow, the girls went downstairs as it was freezing. But no no I stayed up there with the elements as I thought fresh air might be good. To make a long story really short - it was a good idea to stay up there as the rest of the boat downstairs got really really ill. The winds were okay in between the islands but from the last island to Doolin was just the open sea and the sea just played with the little nutshell of a boat. We couldn't even stop in Doolin as the waves were actually going over the cliffs. And guess what......I faced the elements and even so I got soaked about a hundreds times, and the seawater was polishing my skin....and I really thought I might meet my maker.....I had a good time. 3 Italians were up there and 2 Germans (who spoke German to all of us thinking that we all understood what they were saying)....the poor English guy next to me.....sorry mate, wouldn't have moved for anybody (he just made it to the stairs). The old captain had a good laugh when we finally made it to shore where we were picked up by mini busses bringing us back to Doolin.....

Sabrina and Sue were still very much shaken up and just wanted to get out of there and since I was still soaking wet, we left Doolin (and I still didn't get to the Castle Hotel) but we stopped in Ennis as we didn't want the weekend to end on a bad note. We went to Brogan's in Ennis. A pub with a restaurant - dead busy on a Sunday night, so we had to wait in the pub where I warmed myself up with a pint of cider. Traditional live music played in the back and we all could laugh again about the tour.

The food was nice, from the traditional Irish Stew to Steak dishes. I opted for coconut crusted baked goats' cheese that came with a fruity chutney and basil pesto. A bit more of the chutney and a bit less of the coconut would have made the dish even better.

We finally made it back to Cork around 1am and I dreamed of waves and seagulls......

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