When the sun shines in Ireland – my flirtations with food, friends and coffee in the sunny strawberry counties………
I don’t normally blog about trips; however when I take to the road my passion is visiting coffee shops and also exploring the gluten-free options available so that I can ‘phone home’ and inform my clients and support them on their travels when they take to the road. Also I would like, for my International followers, to help you fall a little more in love with our beautiful island of Ireland.
Last month saw me pack the car up with books, pens, paper, learning CDs and DVDs, a stash of kale from the farmers market, my juicer, my blender, my health supplements and well, pretty much the kitchen sink as I made a mass exodus to our family holiday home in Clonea Strand, Waterford. Two weeks all on my own; utter bliss!
This holiday couldn’t have come at a better time, I was utterly exhausted from the intense energies of life and work the previous month. This was supposed to be a working holiday :-), however I chose to listen to my body and it said rest and so rest I did.
Clonea strand is a beautiful special place; I have been coming here since I was 10 years old.
My extraordinary grandmother Muriel Williams purchased a site and mobile home here for all the family to share back in 1986 and every Summer as a child we packed up and spent at least a fortnight here having the time of our lives. We brought so much ‘stuff’ with us we even borrowed a second car one year to fit a dingy, 5 windsurf boards and kit, 5 tennis rackets, badminton rackets, rounders equipment, kites, 5 bicycles and that was before you include the 3 additional friends in the mix; so now you see where I get the over-packing trait from! Everyone here thought we were the crazy family, the only time we stopped doing stuff was when Wimbledon was on the box; in a grey haze of poor reception.
The weather is always better in the South and South-East, and the bay at the Gold coast is the ideal place for children to enjoy water sports without being on the open waters.
I always break my trip down to Clonea with a stop in Cahir, Co. Tipperary. I usually grab an Americano (coffee) in The River House café and soak up the ambiance of this historic tourist town.
This is the view from the River House café over Cahir Castle. Please see here for more information on what to do and see in Cahir: http://www.discoverireland.com/gb/ireland-places-to-go/placefinder/c/cahir-south-tipperary/
The character of a town or city for me is made memorable by the ambiance of her cafés.
And being gluten intolerant myself, I will always remember a café by her ability to meet the demands of Coeliac and Gluten Intolerant clientele. The River House Restaurant and café bar does nice food; with a good selection of salads, soups, hot food, and also boasts a smoothie bar. However I normally only stop here for the nice cuppa and the view; so I cannot write a detailed critique. They do not provide much by way of gluten free treats should you like something naughty with your coffee (it is your holiday after all); this fact however is good for my waist line!!
Dungarvan, Co. Waterford is the closest town to Clonea strand and is a really lovely unassuming place that I would highly recommend for a stop on your tourist trails. The ambiance of the town is of summer holidays, shenanigans, live music, sea-food, GAA sports, cycling, walking, and when the sun shines you are guaranteed a great farmers tan or more if you brave the bikini. There is an abundance of excellent cafes and restaurants and the following here is only a description of my recent holiday; there are many more special finds to wine, dine, and Guinness your way through.
There are superb cycle and walking tracks all around the town and should you decide to go further afield there is an abundance of outdoor activities in nearby counties Cork, Tipperary, and Waterford. A quick online search will point you in the directions of your passions.
I set myself the task of being healthy, so this involved a lot of sleeping, walking, and eating well.
Every day I set off on either an 8km walk or 10km run (not too many of these done on my stay!), around the bay which took me by the following scenery. I lost myself in myself and nature; save the hellos and good-mornings shared by every person passed. Everyone here is friendly.
I took it upon myself to name the local seals Warldorf, Nicoise, and Florentine. My Dad emailed the Irish Seal Sanctuary as one poor fella has a band around his body constricting him which may lead to problems.
I absolutely love spending hours sitting in a café reading and writing. Many of my latest blog posts were written in Meade’s café in Dungarvan while on my stay here.
Meade’s serve a great coffee, and has numerous gluten free treats and healthy options available as well as a good lunch and dinner menu. The gluten-free treats here are a vision for the gluten-free treat deprived eyes and I broke more than once on my 2-week stay here. The ambiance in this café is simply lovely and the staff friendly; I spent a lot of hours in here working away; and there was no problem finding a power point for my laptop; nor was I kicked out which I am sure they were tempted to do!
The people in Dungarvan are incredibly friendly and rarely a day went by without a local inquisitively asking me what was I writing or reading. There is no better way to spend time than learning new stories and making new friends :-).
I also visited Nude Café several times; Nude Café is listed in The Bridgestone Guide and is an old-time favourite of mine here.
The chef Louise is bubbly, friendly, and ever so helpful. She has several times baked me a batch of gluten free brown bread to take home. When visiting this lovely café please don’t forget to go through the café to the back; where the most fabulous outdoor seating is hidden and if you are lucky you may catch a glimpse of the gardens.
Despite being in hibernation mode here I did hit the tiles for one night out on the town with old and new friends. We ate in Lawlor’s hotel, watered in The Lady Belle and were entertained in Merry’s by local Tramore talent Ross Kearley. Catch him if you can; a super singer with a lot of energy and some funky lyrics if you pay attention. http://www.rossk.net/Ross_Kearley_Music/Home.html
Lawlor’s had a 25 Euro menu on offer that we are all still scratching our heads over; it contained 6 courses! Catch this offer if you can when you see it.
That same weekend we caught a late Sunday lunch in The Moorings; again the service was great, my gluten intolerance accommodated for with a smile and when I couldn’t finish the large delicious portion I was allowed to bring left-overs home on a real plate… which reminds me! My friend Ronan’s fish cakes looked delish also; there were no complaints :-).
When in Dungarvan do what the locals do; enjoy the wealth of locally caught sea-food. If you are cooking for yourself then visiting Helvic Seafood and the Thursday market is a must for fresh catch. I enjoyed Brill several times on my stay. All that it needs is a pan-fry in butter and a dash of sea salt.
I was blessed on my trip to meet a new friend through a friend; if you visit Dungarvan please pay a visit to Emer’s fabulous beauty salon, Revival Beauty Salon, on main street http://www.revivalbeauty.ie
Although I didn’t visit on this stay in Dungarvan, it would be remiss of me to not mention The Tannery Restaurant and Cookery School. Run by local chef Paul Flynn, The Tannery is regarded as one of Ireland’s leading restaurants. I have eaten many a fabulous meal here and I highly recommend a visit to try for yourself.
The gastronomic high of this particular stay was a visit to Ardmore with my parents who blessed me with a three-day visit. We took the scenic drive to Ardmore and in the glorious heat-wave that will be remembered as the Summer of ’13 the Irish countryside couldn’t have looked more fresh, vividly green, and like the Ireland that we all know is there somewhere underneath the habitual wrapping of rain.
We ate in the White Horses Restaurant, please book well in advance if you plan a meal here as the restaurant was buzzing to the rafters with happy diners and no one was in a hurry out. The atmosphere here is relaxed; the food fantastic, and the ambience that of lazy hazy holidays where nothing matters, you have nowhere else to be and you most certainly have nothing better to do!
This photo of White Horses is courtesy of TripAdvisor
I settled for duck, Mum for lobster and Dad for prawns; the photos say it all.
Perfect dining was finished off with a stroll through the town down to the harbour (with some tourist antics along the way) to catch the last of the light and some eager dogs jumping the pier and swimming laps.
I was sad to hit the road again after my fabulous fortnight away however there is always another coffee shop adventure on the horizon and my next find was The Lazy Bean Café in Cahir, Co. Tipperary.
This café is a great find and the staff ever so friendly and plenty of healthy gluten-free options AND the staff ran around refilling punters cups with fresh steaming brew; no better way to my heart. I treated myself to fresh bright yellow scrambled eggs, a sure sign they were local and free-range with a gluten-free bagel on the side (last day of holidays and all).