Our final weekend in Ireland was spent in Dublin, my old stomping ground. As I’ve mentioned before much has changed there, as is inevitable with the passage of twelve years, and as it was new for Tim and Adelaide we decided to act as complete tourists and take in the sights.

Said sights started rather early, as our little miss had a shocker of a night (to be fair, the only bad one of the holiday) which resulted in Tim heading down the coast to Dun Laoghaire to take absurdly early morning snaps (note: I luxuriated in bed in a child free apartment. Best).

We carried on with a tour of the city, which took us to Dublin Castle, Christchurch, through Temple Bar and along the Liffey and back through Trinity College and the Book of Kells. The tour was interesting, giving a snapshot of the capital’s history from the Celts through to present day, however our temperamental lass once again showed a deplorable lack of historical interest and preferred instead to ineffectually chase pigeons with her stroller (for which, incidentally, we were accosted by a stranger who accused us of raising our child to abuse animals. Tim respectfully disagreed and given that the pigeons were at no absolutely no risk of being even remotely hurt we let her carry on). The tour was quite different to the ‘Wendy Noller Tour of Dublin’ which I would give guests back in the day, which featured the Body in the Bog (a mummified delight that many Australians learned about in high school history class), trying to locate the deer in the Phoenix Park, then a pub crawl to places I liked to drink at the time. It’s little wonder mine is no longer in business.

Although I am currently off the suds, happily there was someone who was able to enact the Dublin Pub Crawl: Tim hit the town that night with his sister, her partner and another mate from home. Although I confess to being jealous, it was definitely for the best that at least one of us got to hang out and enjoy my favourite classic Dublin drinking establishments (and being hangover-free the following morning for the first time – possibly ever – in Dublin had its smug perks).

The next day was, if not warm, then at least not wet and we hit Howth for a walk along the headland. My mate Lynsey, a keen sailor, tried to help us locate Wales across the horizon (even harder for my sight-challenged peepers given I’d heard whales).

Ireland Holiday 1790 - 20160810The east coast of Ireland lay beyond us, and as we mounted the peak we could see down to Bray and Wicklow. As always, our little love had far more fascinating pursuits (although at least this time the only nature in danger was any and all puddles).

The weekend was also peppered with more catch ups with old friends and colleagues (I realise I refer to my time in Dublin as my ‘fake life’ for a reason, but without fail every single ex-workmate of mine expressed extreme surprise that I had settled down with a husband and kid. By the end I rather think Tim was questioning what exactly he’d gotten himself into), and lots of lovely Auntie Dommie time for Addie (and subsequently Addie-free time for her mama). We left on Monday evening, bidding a fond farewell to friends old and new, and vowing not to eat that amount of butter, sausages and black pudding for a long, long time to come.

The Wild South West

When planning this holiday, apparently I ignored two things: that Tim hadn’t met any of my friends from my time in Ireland, and that we now have a small child in our lives. The resulting itinerary was pretty much a trip down Wendy-memory-lane, done in a style that perhaps suited us better when we were sans child/ren. After our stop in Ballymaloe, we had several days driving along the Cork coastline and the Ring of Kerry, which included visiting a bunch of my old workmates who had very considerately relocated themselves within easy drives of each other.

We followed the coastline through Kinsale (to visit Trish), Clonakilty (Mandy and John), up through the coastal section (debating constantly as to whether it was north or south or east or west or even remotely like a compass) of the Ring of Kerry to Killorglin (Ann), and then across the country via the town of Tim’s forefathers to Kilkenny. We had four nights on the road, in three different locations, and in hindsight probably should have stayed a little longer in some of them as we short changed a few lovely wee towns. However, pre-family Wendy and Tim loved this type of travel, and it was a delight to roam the wild, wet and windy Irish west.

Last year, the south west of Ireland boasted 301 days of rain. This percentage held in our experience, with much of our road trip being splattered by varying degrees of downpour. Whenever it cleared, we’d try and jump out and explore (slash enjoy refreshments).

For two nights we stayed on Caragh Lake in County Kerry, a random internet pick based purely on the neck of the woods in which it was located. An old estate turned into a garden lodge, we arrived in time to take a stroll around the property, glimpsing the lake and easing into afternoon tea (slash gin) and relishing the time off the road.

We continued tripping around the Ring of Kerry…

…enjoying returning to the homestead the following night (and wishing we’d booked longer. I suspect the other guests, once hearing our girl’s piano skills, were relieved we were moving on).

On our way to Kilkenny we decided to swing by Rathkeale, in County Limerick, the town from which Tim’s ancestors hail. Tim was aware his forefather* had arrived on the 17th fleet*, and for years had understood that it was due to having stolen a loaf of bread and being sentenced to hard time in the colonies. However, as his family undertook research it emerged that the crime was actually far more significant: Purtell Senior* was actually part of a rebel group that undertook the Rockite Rebellion*, bombing a series of churches* before being caught, secretly tried* and deported.

* Please note several of these facts are sketchy and somewhat vague; not because of their factualness so much as my listening ability. I’m fairly sure this is how the tale went, but given I can’t even get my beloved’s last name correct in the snap below, I’m not sure how much I can be trusted.

Rathkeale itself is a settled travelling community, and this time of year was quite desolate. We drove through the boarded-up town stopping only to photograph the nearest-to-Purtell sign we could find.

The family history jaunt complete, our final stay in rural Ireland before heading back to the capital was just outside Kilkenny, in an organic apple orchard. Unbeknownst to us while booking it, the farm is also a micro distillery and makes its own apple based gin; something that cheered Mr Purcell no end. He and the little miss wandered the grounds – Motsy sampling the wares and Ads practicing looking nonchalant.

Our road trip over, we made tracks for Ireland’s capital. As we drove the rain cleared, and we got increasingly excited as we approached Dublin where we were due to meet Tim’s sister and her partner for Fun Weekend Times.

Busts, bread and beasts at Ballymaloe

After my lovely solo trip to Ireland I was enthused to return, and to bring my expanding family slash waistline with me. Like many people from across the globe Tim has a dash of Irish heritage and was keen to check the place out, and Addie has never met a potato she didn’t like, so Team Purler was all in. We arrived on Saturday evening, fumbled our way in a manual car on the (now) wrong side of the road to a mate’s house, where we spent a fabulous evening catching up, Tim getting into the spirit by trying some poitín and Adelaide earning her keep by picking raspberries the following morning (and promptly eating them all, undermining any help she may actually have been).

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We hit the road the next day to County Cork in the south of the country. For years, I have wanted to visit Ballymaloe House (I’m still not entirely sure why I didn’t when I lived in Ireland. I suspect it was due to the fact that all of my available dosh was spent on propping up the local bar) so we’d planned a night there to kick start our road trip. We arrived as the rains cleared, spying the lovely old house from the road and finding the gardens of the estate dotted with sculptures.

In keeping with the spirit of an organic farm, we let the girl go free-range to explore the surroundings.

And mimic the sculptures (although unlike my lass I don’t think the dude in question is actually smiling).

Following some hide and seek, sand angels and hill rolling…

…we made our way into the house for the famed feast. The spread was made from organic vegetables grown on site, meats and seafoods sourced either from the farm or locally and house made breads and condiments. It was every bit as amazing as I’d anticipated.

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Ballymaloe is famous for its cookery school, and the following morning Bread Boy had enrolled in a bread making class bright and early in the kitchen. He arose leaving us to dream of freshly baked goods while he slaved making Irish soda bread and spotted dog for the breakfast buffet (also revealing where his daughter gets her ‘smile face’ from).

The consumption of said bread was even better knowing there was a chance we’d get it again at home.

The farm is over 300 acres, and is home to the afore mentioned veggies as well as pigs, poultry, sheep and cows. Laides was offered a chance to go on tour with one of the farmers to muck in with the chores. Given there was bucketing rain, muddy ground covered in animal poop and left over food slops to feed the animals, I decided the best outfit for the lass to wear was white jeans and white shoes (which are now brown jeans and brown shoes). Addie had a ball. We fed a sow and her week-old piglets (the gestation of pigs is apparently 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days, making this mama-to-be somewhat jealous….although not of the litter of 11 little ones), bravely touched hens (the most prehistoric of his animals, according to the farmer) and sorted still-warm eggs for the restaurant, which uses over 100 dozen each week.

Our keep earned, we said a fond goodbye to the lovely Ballymaloe, and hit the rainy road for the Cork and Kerry coast.

A dozen years, 48 hours

There was John Alexander when I turned five or six, a rip off Cabbage Patch Kid that I loved dearly (obviously a rip off due to his less-than-crazy name). A cherry red walkman with a cassette of my choosing (somewhat embarrassingly Slippery When Wet, by Bon Jovi) when I turned 12. The most thoughtful gift ever for my 30th: a beautiful oil painting commissioned by my bestie and painted by a good friend of his from a photo of me that will always hang, Joan Collins style, in our home. And then, for my 38th birthday, another amazing and life-long memorable gift: a trip, solo, to Dublin for the weekend from my Tim and our girl.

It had been 12 years since I had left the Emerald Isle after falling into a pub sometime in early 2000 and scrounging together enough dosh for my airfare home at the end of 2003. During that time I lived in the city’s north near the Phoenix Park, where I drank at the local, took long walks during chilly daffodil season, shared a house that had a roaring fireplace with two dear friends, and worked at a local disability service. I had a ball, and refer to it at times as my ‘fake life’. On leaving, I returned to Australia, finished my degrees, settled down with a Proper Job and a Nice Boyfriend, and of course still drank at the local. I’ve longed for years to return.

I flew out of Zurich on Friday night for a late arrival in Dublin. There were epic queues at the airport, but no baby! I grabbed a champlane before the flight because no baby! The flight itself was two hours, and – guess what – no baby! (Also, um, a few more champlanes.) The solo flight reminded me of the travel I had done for work prior to having her; already it felt like years were being stripped away as I returned to the place I’d called home for close to four years.

Naturally the city was different. It was hard to determine how much was actual change versus how much of my memory of it was incorrect. In my absence Ireland lived through a recession and is only just starting to come out the other side, and it feels like a tangible imprint of that time remains. The city has seen some physical changes – a new tram line and associated dug-up-streets in anticipation of its extension possibly being the most noticeable. There were more derelict and empty buildings than I recall, and in some suburbs a grittier feel than I remember (I have admittedly been brainwashed by always-sparkling Switzerland). However there was also a change to the vibe of the city, and I am confident I’m not imagining that. There was a buzz, a hum to the central town areas, which had been fleshed out with cafes and restaurants, galleries, artisan stores, funky hairdressers and of course all the old familiar watering holes. It felt the city was far more alive than I remembered, and it was truly exciting to wander its streets (it was also awesome to eat some fantastic Japanese food, one of the culinary holes in my current country).

The primary reason for my return was to catch up with friends (well, the primary reason was whisky but that happened concurrently, so let’s call it friends). Before leaving on Friday, in fact for some years, I have considered how I’ve changed since the time I lived there. I don’t mean the accumulation of life events – husband and child being two stand out items – but rather how my time in Ireland shaped me, and how it changed the path of my personality. I was eager to see how a dozen years had impacted on my friends and, subsequently, on our relationships.

The answer, which I should have known, was not at all. Sure, there were photos of children and new houses and changes in job circumstances (see afore mentioned recession), but it felt like I had only seen them at the same bustling pub a few weeks prior (naturally still mocking my accent. I have a suspicion some of them might actually think my name is Windy). I thought, prior to going, that I had changed during this time but after mulling it over with friends and said whisky, maybe it’s more accurate to say that I have been refined (we all know I don’t mean that in the classy sense of the word, more in the sense of becoming concentrated). Although I look back on my years there as formative, perhaps it was because they honed my personality rather than changing it. I consider myself far more confident, more independent, more trusting of my own instincts than the girl in her early 20s with extraordinarily bad hair (bleached! spiky! why didn’t someone advise against it?!) who was nervous around strangers and second guessed everything she did or said. This can happen with the passage of time of course, but for me it was also highly influenced by the people I met and admired there, the decisions I made and followed through even though I wasn’t sure they were correct, and finally the biggest decision of all – to go home and, I guess, grow up. Sadly, I still have bad hair, but at this stage I have a sneaking suspicion I will forever.

I’m home now and have written this with a Barry’s tea in my hand (and since Tim implied it’s just like normal tea, I won’t be sharing any with him) and a cheeky packet of Hula Hoops demolished. There’s an Irish breakfast pack biding its time in the fridge until next weekend, two Irish craft gins as a present for Tim waiting to be sampled, and of course Kerrygold butter, stoneground bread and sharp cheddar for my lunch. There are promises made to return with my little family to show them the city I still love, for them to meet the people who were along for the ride that shaped the person I am today (‘Windy’, apparently). But to return just for 48 hours by myself, to be reacquainted with the lass in her early 20s who fell for the town and its people, and to have the time to reflect on how much has happened internally and externally since then, was the best gift I could have been given. Except, maybe, for Slippery When Wet. I really loved that album.