So our first and only “proper” getaway of 2020 was to the Beara Peninsula in West Cork, and it did not disappoint. Amidst stunning weather and narrowly missing the abrupt Covid changes we were so thrilled and grateful to steal away for these few days at the end of the year and New Years Eve.
For those wanting to see West Cork, you wouldn’t want to miss this!
We also have videos but the current WordPress plan is being a stickler for hosting space. We might look at doing something about that in future, but in the meantime will try to send some around to ye. 😊
Here we are on the other side of December and I wanted to (finally) write an update post about life here. The last few months have been spent largely at home as we got through our second Level 5 hard lockdown and now we’re back in lockdown for our third, and hopefully final, hard lockdown that will last until at least 31 January. The festive season, even with restrictions and masks, was joyful and magical so it’s nice to write a post reflecting on our first Christmas in Ireland as well as nearing the end of a full year here.
Firstly though, Christmas!
We spent December enjoying the ramp up in delicious treats and twinkly lights everywhere. Seriously, everywhere! One of our strategies for getting through the shortest days of the year was candles, candles, and more candles based on this article with the overall goal to stay positive and embrace this cosy season. Our late October/November lockdown was scaled back on December 1 just in time for the city to be properly decked out and a growing atmosphere of excitement for the season with people wandering around the streets with a Christmassy drink in hand. As new locals, everything has very obviously been a complete discovery for us so we tried to enjoy things as much yet as safely as possible. Getting bundled up to walk around our neighbourhood, spot lights and soak up pockets of winter sun made the lead up to Christmas especially wonderful. The sense of anticipation was palpable and now that we have a sense of what a ‘normal’ Christmas is like over here, we’re very much counting down to when we can visit markets in mainland Europe for the full advent season and all of the glühwein…hopefully this will be possible in 2021. An equally noteworthy aspect of ‘the season’ was European Christmas treats from local Cork specialties through to the Aldi, Lidl and M&S accoutrement. We are loving this and in the present tense are still working our way through chocolate truffles like actual truffle pigs…
One thing we’d done here and there over the years is a ’12 Dates of Christmas’ with small dates planned out for spending extra quality time together during such a busy time of year. This year, these dates were more of a distraction to find a way to have things to look forward to as we’re still erring on the side of not socialising with people, unless it’s distanced and outside, so this was a nice way to make things feel special particularly when we naturally had some wobbly times due to uncertainty etc. We matched our dates up around merry things like watching a beloved favourite podcast’s Christmas Special at home through to writing snail mail cards for loved ones. We do still have some things on the list – like learning to play chess together – so we’ll be ticking dates off into the new year, too.
We also got a projector as an early joint Christmas present and it has made life pretty magical to say the very least. We are working our way through the ‘roaring fire’ YouTube channel and relishing a pseudo-big screen that is probably the most grown-up appliance we’ve ever owned. A solid investment and worthwhile present that’s made nights (and, frankly, the now entire months) at home much more pleasant.
For Christmas Day, the O’Sullivan family blessed us with an epic hamper of everything we needed to make our own traditional feast. This surprise was so incredible and stunned us completely. Rob, Kathleen and Paul thought of absolutely everything down to relishes and brandy cream which has kept us going from 18 December through Betwixtmas and the new year.
Simon stepped up as head chef for the meals with a glazed ham that didn’t last 24 hours and a spiced beef that similarly barely made it past the 30 hour mark in our house… Spiced beef is traditional Cork Christmas fare and we devoured ours in hoagies on St Stephen’s Day with plenty of mustard and enmental cheese. From the above, we are still working through the Biscoff spread and we have a second Christmas pudding that we’ll tuck into any night now. We spent Christmas Eve facetiming with family then on the day itself, we opened presents with a Baileys coffee before going on a long walk in a stunning blue sky winter day. We came home for more ham, more Baileys and our Christmas movie of Die Hard 2 chosen for its Christmas Eve timing and setting in an airport…needless to say, we really miss those…
Overall, Christmas was a quiet and peaceful day that filled our hearts and bellies, and then some! We actually really don’t miss the summer heat at all although we do yearn for the beach and our traditional getaway to Wooli for a week over new year. All in all, while things feel very different, as ever the main thing we miss is loved ones as our sense of ‘home’ rather rather than actual places. It might not have been what we dreamed of 12 months ago however we’re where we want to be, family and friends are all safe and healthy, and life truly is good.
Some reflections on our first year here and 2020…
After nearly a year here, it’s strange to think that this time in 2019 we were finished packing up and selling things and in the transit phase of getting over here. We often discuss the parallel universes of what might have happened if we’d delayed the move by even a few weeks or if we’d known what the majority of this year would hold. It’s obviously impossible to know for certain but I know that I speak for both of us in writing here that we wouldn’t have been able to stay the course without support in all its myriad forms. We always knew that this year would be a state of flux without a community around us like we had back home and this has become even more profoundly true as all community went remote even with the people we know here. Then, when it became apparent that meeting people, building a community and ‘setting up a life’ would be on hold somewhat indefinitely, it reinforced just how important it is – no matter the circumstance – to prioritise staying connected with loved ones is. We see how vital it is for all of us and know we wouldn’t have made it this far without connection with loved ones.
It’s meant so much to us to have you check in on us, play remote quizzes and Catan and Hearts with us, drop us voice messages and video messages, and send us postcards and care packages. You’ve shown us again and again what truly loving the people around you looks like and we have new reference points for what caring for one can be. Learning this lesson and feeling that connection of humour, concern, interest and friendship is something that we treasure above everything. Even though 2020 is going to look so weird on all of our ‘résumés’, figurative and literal, this is the important stuff that I will carry on in all the years ahead and for every single thing, we are immensely grateful.
Thank you so much and all our love, Aoife & Simon xx
This last weekend we were blessed to receive our first OS visitors, Annalise and Tendayi.
They were in good form as well as good health, and really lifted spirits here in Beale’s Hill. Though recently returned from Italy we opened with an accidental pizza tour of Cork, followed by hikes around the spectacular Gougane Barra region and Ardmore coastal walk.
Both places were not far from home, which makes us all the more grateful for the stars aligning, the heavens to “plug it” (for a while), and for us to enjoy the quality company of friends that seems to be in such short supply in this Covid era.
Other highlights include frenzied rounds of Monopoly Deal, Hearts, and Uno Flip whilst Aoife cooked up a sensational menu. Also pints, vinos, and a mind-blowing M&S chocolate…
We hope this post finds you and yours safe and healthy.
We managed to steal away for a couple of weekends in July and August to Cobh and Kinsale. Of course, tourism boards around the world right now are pushing for local travel, but both places were < 1hr trip from home and were just what the doctor ordered. So marketing aside, there is some merit to this! As Rob J would put it, “You can’t a good summer’s day in Cork”. See for yourself:
We’ve been here in Ireland for two and a half weeks (in Cork the entire time) and it’s safe to say we’re completely smitten! We’ve been blessed with blue skies as well as some unseasonal sunshine however as the day closes in, the temperature drops really quickly and gifts us with some of the most beautiful wintry sunsets conceivable (I’m hopeful we might get snow based on the extra warm days).
We are generally getting around either on public transport (double decker buses that give us a bird’s eye view of charming narrow streets and gorgeous houses). We’re also walking a lot and, as always, it’s my preferred way to discover a new place. I’ll put it out there now: Cork begs to be enjoyed and there’s so much to enjoy. We basically stop every half a block to bookmark places and take pictures.
Amongst our visits to recruiters, we’ve also made our way to UCC (University College Cork) and soaked up some of the lush campus. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves — it’s about 25 minutes walk from the city centre.
Finally, we’re still loving all of the street art and sculptures dotted everywhere — here are some gems from the last few days or so. Let me say it again: we love it here and are thrilled to be sharing this special place with you, too.
This morning Quinn finally took us for a walk down to Blackrock castle as the sky cleared. Well, I say morning. It was about noon by the time we returned back home to Rob’s. It’ll take us some time yet to get adjusted to the 9am sunrises and 4pm sunsets.
Quinn is a golden retriever–poodle–horse about about 4 years old. She just about trampled a poor lady to death who was power walking in the opposite direction. “JEAYSUS!” the woman exclaimed. Thankfully I had enough leash to yank her in the other direction. That was my adrenaline fix for today.
In other news, the precise day last week that I attempted to put Euros onto our Travelex card the company was hacked and its website and app have been down since. According to the chap I recently spoke to in the Phillipines they are having to rebuild their entire security system.
We had planned to use this as an interim solution until we set up Irish/Euro bank accounts, but it seems we’ll just continue to use our Aussie cards (albeit with the crappier exchange rate) until our bank cards arrive next week. So far we’ve signed up with N26, which is some new fandangled online bank. Aoife’s account is already created, using her EU passport, and her card is on the way, but I’ve had no end of being messed around by them and their app. I think it just doesn’t like Aussies…