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  • Shelley Dark

#13 riding in my car, car

'I think Europcar is the best rental car company in the world,' I said seriously.

'That wasn't always the case,' said my helper at Cork Airport.

'Really?' I asked.

'No, it wasn't', he said, 'not until they hired me.'

That made me laugh.

'Please make sure that there is no rain until after next Monday,' I joked.

I thought he didn't hear me. He looked down at the form on his desk, and wrote a few more notes. He looked up.

'Right. I've just cancelled all rain until Monday 17th. Will there be anything else?'

My day just got better and better.

Ireland is wearing its best green dress. It almost hurts your eyes.

I thought I'd slip down to Kinsale first.

It's a tiny cute-as-a-bugs-ear town. Full of tourists.

If I lived in Kinsale, I'd live in this foodie shop.

Gooseberry tarts.


Almond croissants.

A cook and a customer. Both such great sports. Seriously, remember that name. Kinsale Gourmet Pantry.

I'm amazed at how the Irish park their cars on the narrow streets and roads. On a two lane road with no parking space either side, they just park, blocking one side completely, and walk away. It's not a problem.

I was waiting at a busy intersection to cross a road when finally a tradie's van stopped for me. I waved, and hurried over. As he turned the corner behind me, the driver yelled out 'There aren't many of us gentlemen left!'

The Japanese anenomes everywhere remind me it's autumn.

The main industry is dairying and farming for it, with some steer fattening. Manure trails across roads show where cows amble from one paddock to the other.

I wanted to see Kilbrittain, and this is its castle - the oldest inhabited castle in Ireland. I'm glad I don't pay the maintenance or heating bills!

The gatehouse, complete with potted geraniums.

I went to the local cemetery, but the graves were new. These two are brother and sister: she's visiting him from England. He gave me excellent directions to the oldest graves in the area.

Driving yourself means you can stop whenever you like to take a photo. The only limitation for me is the width of the road. I just can't do that Irish park.

That's a very big dairy over there on the hill. A hive of industry. I suddenly felt I should be helping. Nonsense, I told myself. You're retired! I shook my head and took the photo.

Bandon has been a market town since the middle ages - this is the Catholic cathedral.

I found the Kilbrogan cemetery.

This was my favourite gravestone, I think the sheet is lead.

I stopped to take a photo and this little fellow was keen to give me directions.

It's clearly autumn and farmers are getting ready for winter. Lots of tractors pulling big bins of cut grass, rows drying in the paddock. They're making huge round hay bales and silage in car-sized black plastic bags.

One part of the floor of St Peters Church in Bandon - the Bernard family has a big footprint.

I'm staying at Dunmore House on the Atlantic Coast. The family began hosting guests in their home on this site in the 1930's. Now it's third generation. The sea today looks so calm and passive. It's hard to imagine it in all its fury. There's a nice casual feeling here.

I took a drive along the coast west of Dunmore.

Picture postcard stuff.

Blackberries growing on either side of the road - I could smell Roundup so I resisted the temptation!

Hello mumma!

The weather is still unbelievable. I try not to talk about it in case it changes.

The tide was out. I hope I see it in!

​This photo is taken from the little town of Inchydonie.

Plants do amazing things when they like their environment. I've never seen such huge rugosa rose hips! As big as small apples!

Back at the hotel, I went for a wander. The dining room looked so pretty - the flowers looked freshly picked. They were. A staff member suggested I visit the hotel garden - across the road, on the way down to the ocean. The gardener would probably be there.

The path down to the garden.

Not only gardens, but two hothouses.

Full of beautiful salad greens.

There was an outline through the plastic of someone kneeling. I knocked on the door, feeling a little silly. A voice. 'It slides!' Was he the gardener? 'No, he said, I'm the chef. I'm Kevin. I'm picking herbs for dinner. Are you having dinner at the hotel?' I said I was. Kevin left to continue his preparations.

The rest of the garden is very impressive too. This was a whopper!

It's such a pretty setting - I can't imagine what happens in a big storm.

It turned out that Kevin is a celebrity Cork chef and Irish food champion, proprietor of Sage in Midleton. He's here to cook a five-course meal for the Taste of West Cork food festival, one of a series all over the region, by top chefs. It was booked out - foodies from all over Ireland are at the hotel.

Kevin assumed I had booked, but of course I hadn't. No late bookings possible. He sent a message though to ask if I'd join everyone for the first course of drinks and canapés overlooking the ocean.

I was delighted. I scrubbed up and put on my sparkly jacket!

Loved the centrepieces of the outdoor tables.

And the music!

One of the guests, whose name was Áine (pronounced ONYUH) came over to me and asked if I'd join their party. Wasn't that kind? She and her husband have come from Dublin today.

And this is Richard our host who welcomed me so warmly. I read that he's a solicitor nearby and his wife's parents used to own the hotel.

It's been a magic day, hasn't it? Tomorrow, we go further west. Together you and me.

Until then,

shelley dark, writer 

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