“I think we’ve come to far,” my worried dad says from the backseat of my Irish friend’s car.
“No, I think we need to go a bit farther,” I reply as I navigate down the rural road.
We’re in County Waterford near the tiny town of Ballymacarbry in the Nire Valley. So, basically in the middle of nowhere which is pretty easy to do in Ireland. And, it’s what makes Ireland such a wonderful place to visit and “get lost” in.
I look over at my mom, sitting in the passenger seat and see by the look on her face that she has far more confidence in me and my sense of direction than my dad. She’s always been more of an optimist.
We keep driving down the road, past fields and the occasional house, the lovely green hills all around us. The river leads me on.
Finally, there it is on the left side of the road, sitting right on the banks of the Nire River – Hanora’s Cottage. We drive over the old stone bridge and park. The “I told you” stays stuck in my throat, but I know that I was right in trusting my instincts. This is my third trip to Ireland and my dad’s first ever out of the country. I do know what I’m doing – most of the time!
We enter the house and feel as though we’ve entered someone’s home. Mary comes to greet us, bringing us tea and homemade cookies and brownies. She tells us about the house, when dinner is served and breakfast the next morning. We are taken to our rooms. Mine is a lovely basic room with a view to the yard in the back. My folks are taken to the large room down the hall with the jacuzzi tub and a view over the river. I had requested a special room for them on this first trip out of the States. At the ages of 77 & 79 they deserved the treat.
Although the weather has turned typically Irish and is overcast and threatening to rain, the three of sit outside for a bit on the patio by the river. Mom reads and dad takes it all in. I get my typical itchy feet and grab my camera and go for a walk. There’s a beautiful old church right next door to the cottage and beyond that the road leads up a hill. So, naturally this is where I want to explore.
As I climb higher up the hill, I look down on the valley where sheep dot the meadows. The pastoral scene slows my heart rate despite the fact that I’m walking uphill. There’s something about this naturalness, this simplicity, that calms me. I can never quite put my finger on it, but maybe it’s that we humans are deeply connected to nature, but we forget that with all our technology and machinery. Being here in the Nire Valley reminds me that I can live without all of that as long as I have my basic needs met – air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and a place to stay warm and dry for a good night’s sleep.
The rain begins in its Irish way, misty at first. I turn around and walk back down the hill to the warmth of Hanora’s Cottage. By the time I reach the front door, it’s raining harder.
My folks and I head to dinner around 7 and have an incredible 3 course meal with salads, main dish and dessert. We can barely eat the dessert we’re so stuffed with the local goodness prepared to perfection. The food really is divine.
I say goodnight to my folks, knowing they will sleep well – bellies full and the sound of the river outside their window. It’s written on their face that they’ve fully enjoyed this stay in the middle of nowhere.
Breakfast the next morning is a buffet of gourmet breads, pastries, muffins, fruit, eggs, sausages – it’s really quite the spread! I don’t know where to begin as there is so much to entice the taste buds. I think we are all still full from the night before, but we still manage to fill our tummies.
As we pay our bill for our wonderful night here at Hanora’s Cottage, I vow to come back and stay longer. There is just too much to do here in the middle of nowhere, Ireland.