Seek Journeys: Finding Solace in Ireland with Jackie Bonfini
There are many advantages to living in the “Live Music Capital of the World” – music, arts, and culture being just a few accessible perks of Austin, Texas. But no matter how low you crank the AC down, between July 4 and – well let’s face it, October 1 – everything that’s hip and glamorous about Austin melts faster than your long-wear foundation during the dog days of a Texan summer. Like the mass exodus Manhattan experiences each Friday around 4 pm from Memorial Day to Labor Day, there’s an unspoken rule that one must escape the 105-degree heat and parade of bachelorette parties marching down 6th Street at all costs. For most, this means a road trip to one of Texas’ famous hill country lakes or a quick flight north to Colorado or Wyoming. As luck would have it, my boyfriend happens to be an Irishman from Waterford – and yes, that’s Waterford as in the namesake of the hand-crafted crystal stemware popular among grandmothers with fancy dining rooms globally. Waterford, where the mid-70s are considered heat waves, and sunlight is measured in hours because of its scarcity – even the name sounds cool and refreshing. Naturally, I was over the moon when we agreed we’d be spending the entire month of July there, visiting his friends and family while exploring the emerald coastline.
Having been confined to climate-controlled spaces for the past two months, we made a beeline for the beach upon arrival. Within four hours of landing, we headed straight to Kilmurrin Cove on the Copper Coast. The view pulling up to this horseshoe cove where emerald green cliffs collide with sapphire surf was simply breathtaking. The picturesque cliffs and seaside made me feel like I was Demelza in Poldark – never mind the fact that we were in the wrong country and time period, all I needed was my horse to complete the scene! We were soon joined by the entire family, and we settled in for an Irish picnic of tea, Blaa and sausage sandwiches. The rest of the afternoon was spent drinking in the mild sunshine, building sandcastles, and flying kites with the kids.
The family fun and Irish summer festivities continued in the days that followed. In classic Irish style, we caught up with friends and family over pints of Guinness at the pub, house hopped from garden BBQ to BBQ, and sang late-night around the fire. Before we knew it, we were in need of a vacation from our vacation! We decided to book a last-minute getaway, and – curbing my planners’ urge to scour Trip Advisor – I placed my trust in my local tour guide/boyfriend, and we headed to Monart in Enniscorthy. He didn’t let me down – and he knows me well! I was delighted to discover that we would be staying at the 18th century Georgian Manor that happens to be Ireland’s only five-star spa. Situated on 100 acres of lush Wexford countryside, this was an absolute dream. We originally planned to stay one night, but one tea time in the Zen garden overlooking a flowing creek and waterfall sold us on a second night. We spent the next 48 hours disconnected from the outside world, enjoying the thermal suites, serene gardens, and nourishing food. We left feeling relaxed and rejuvenated and ready for the next few weeks of adventure!
We returned to Waterford for a week before embarking on a family road trip to Kilorglin in County Kerry. This charming town is the home of the famous Puck Fair, Ireland’s longest-running street fair that predates the American Revolution. My local travel companions bypassed the Ring of Kerry tour buses and went directly to the spectacular Rossbeigh Beach overlooking Dingle bay. We spent the afternoon on horseback, and I finally got to indulge in a true Poldark moment, galloping through the waves and lush fields. I was living the dream!
Before I knew it, our final weekend had arrived, and we were preparing to say our goodbyes – but not without one last adventure. With two Irish sojourns under my belt, I’ve decided it’s a rule – you can’t visit Ireland without seeing at least two or three castles. So, we passed the time on Sunday castle-hunting in Kilkenny and roaming its quaint medieval streets. It was the perfect ending to another magical summer visit to Ireland. While three weeks abroad sounds like a long time to be away from home, in reality it flew by, and it was just the right amount of time to truly unwind. I left Austin seeking relief from the heat, and I returned refreshed and with a renewed sense of a serene connection with both myself and those around me.
In loving memory of my nana Mary Anne. She taught me how to drink high tea, travel the world, and live in the moment.
Other must-see castles in Ireland:
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Thank you Jackie for sharing your magical trip to Ireland. Seeing you in such lush surroundings provides tranquility for those of us enduring the heat of a Texas summer.