When I told my sister the name of this post had the word “blustery” in the title, she immediately quipped, “that’s an understatement” She suggested a couple of different adjectives, and as much as I loved her word choice, I told her it wasn’t that kind of blog. Also, my kids don’t think I curse (not that much anyway!)
We had a lazy morning at my sister’s house, an activity that I have been fond of since leaving a three-month stint in Italy about a week ago. The weather in Ireland has been anything but friendly since our arrival, but yesterday was the second day that the sun tried her very best to let us know she still existed. We were all in need of an outing of some sort and so planned to idly drive to Kilmore Quay on the coast (about 20 miles form my sister’s house) for Fish n’ Chips, and stopping at a couple of choice spots along the way.
It is not hard to imagine how Jane Austin sprung to mind when I rounded a bend on a walk around the fifty acre grounds of this 19th century castle, minutes from where we had started out little trip. I am thinking about the scene where Elizabeth Bennett, while on a trip with her aunt and Uncle in Derbyshire, decided to visit the Darcy Estate, and having the same reaction I had yesterday when their carriage rounded a similar bend to the one I was on, and she got a glimpse of his house. (If you don’t know the story, I suggest you have a movie night); splendid.
Pride and Prejudice was first published in 1813 and this castle was built just before and after this date. As we walked around I couldn’t help pretending that we were the ladies of the estate and I discussed how I was going to knock down the 15th century medieval tower on the estate’s grounds to make room for a Greek Temple I had in mind!
Our visit ended with large cups of hot coffee and rhubarb tart and fresh cream at the tea house on the grounds. Now we were ready to make our way to the harbor for some fresh fish and chips.
As we drove the windy, thatched-cottage-lined road to the harbor the temperature outside became a little brisker. I knew my kids would immediately want to run over the rocks and onto the beach to scrounge around for shells and look for crabs, and I was dreading having to stand watching them while the wind whipped around me. The words beach and Ireland are not synonymous with sunny and warm. Most of the year, it means quite the opposite. When you go for a walk on the beach in Ireland (save for possibly July or August), it is a good idea to wear a coat and scarf. Luckily I had both.
To put off the beach walk for a little while we persuaded my son and daughter that they were more hungry than in need of exercise, and trotted them across the street to the real reason for our trip; fresh fish from the Saltee Chipper. My sister had been raving about this place since she moved to Wexford nearly three years ago.
This little fish shop is a take-out (take-away) establishment only and is famous for big lines out the door in hail, rain or shine. What is all the fuss about? Miriam said that it is the best fish around and apparently waiting an hour in a queue is not a problem for most people. We happened to arrive off-season, on a cold, and very blustery day, at neither lunch or dinner time, so there was no wait whatsoever.
We ordered the very basics; fish goujons, battered fried cod, and chips (potato fries) all loaded with salt and malt vinegar. As we waited for our order, we huddled together wondering where we were going to eat? I thought we could just stand at the counter, but Miriam said we either had to eat outside at their colourful blue picnic tables, or in the car, neither prospect very appealing to me. I held out hope that we could stand there, eat quickly and leave, until the lady who took our ordered ducked her head out from the kitchen and asked if we wanted a tray for outside or a bag for the car? I guessed we were eating outside after all.
We took our tray of deliciousness to a table by a wall hoping for a little shelter from the wind gusts. While everyone was unwrapping fish and dousing their chips with vinegar I stayed behind to have a word with the owner, Michelle Cullen. She said how it was ultra important that everything that came out of her kitchen was fresh and local. She got her fish from Steve who was at the dock when the boats came in (could be early morning or late at night). She gave him an idea of what she wanted and he would pick the best fish available. She was friendly and a pleasure to talk to. Thank you Michelle for taking the time to chat!
When I arrived outside the table was covered in unwrapped newspaper covered with lovely warm fish (getting colder by the second), and greasy fingers. I found out there was incident with a greedy starling, which totally un-nerved my sister who has an aversion to anything that flies within 10 feet of her!
The fish and chips did not disappoint. The batter on the fish was crispy and thinly veiled the big flaky moist fish meat. The chips were thick and so good with a zing of vinegar complimenting every bite. Despite the bird incident, the sting of the wind, and eventual spitting rain, it was worth it.
It was then time to be a good parent and walk over the big rocks to the beach with the kids. The foul weather was no deterrent for the excitement of finding the perfect shell, running away from the waves, and crab sightings. Watching them having fun certainly made any resentment I felt for having to get wet and cold disappear. Oddly enough, it was the best part of my day.