Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Westward to Westport

We awoke bright and earlier at 11am the next morning, much rejuvenated from our long night sleep and reminded of how comparatively quiet the country is when compared to our house and it's constant overhead traffic. Over coffee, we decided that our first destination would be Westport, a little less than an hour north of us, and it's euphoniously named Westport House. Before departing we'd for Ireland we'd already decided that we'd alternate between more ambitious day trips, and more downtempo adventures closer to Jody and Sandeep's house. We figured that this would be the best way to keep from getting the kids too strung out and, and -after the previous days odyssey- we figured the kids could use a day "closer to home."

(As a side note: It was surprising how quickly the kids seemed to settle into our new location. Often, when we've traveled, over even visited a friend or family members home, they have a brief period where they'd "warm up" to their new location. With this trip the seemed to settle into our new location almost immediately. And, by day two, they were already saying things like "are we going back home?... and I don't mean our home-home, but our Ireland-home.")

Westport. And our first non-sleeping kid photo of the trip.

Anyhow, Westport proved to be a quaint Irish town, straddling the Carrowberg River, known for it's lively pub scene. We'd been directed to a pub called West by Jody, who had recommended the seafood chowder to Sarah. And, where I got to have my first Guinness of the trip.


Probably the most common question I've been asked, since I've been back is: "Is the Guinness really better in Ireland?" To be honest, it's hard to say because, while I do enjoy a dark beer from time to time, I tend to skew toward hoppier beers, like IPAs, which are more common in the Pacific Northwest. That said, I will say drinking Guinness in Ireland is oddly satisfying in a way that it isn't in the States. And, as the trip went on, I did notice that some pubs did seem to pour a better pint than others.

It is also worth mentioning that, while the Irish are understandably proud of their Guinness, it was interesting to find out that the pride partially stems from the fact that, until recently, Guinness held a near monopoly on beer production in Ireland and that it has only been in recent years that smaller microbreweries have begun to gain any sort of foot hold.

Food eaten and beer sipped, it was onto the Westport House. The Westport house had, at one point been the home of the aristocratic Browne family, and before them had -purportedly- been the castle headquarters of Pirate Queen, Grace O'Malley. Now it's grounds served double duty as a historical attraction and amusement park... that later leaning heavily on the "Pirate Queen" part of the house's history.

Sarah, Stella and Otto outside the Westport House. A rare instance on this trip of Otto willing looking at the camera.

First up, we did a walk through of the house itself, with it's elegant rooms proving too tempting for a certain 3-year-old boy who quickly decided to duck under the velvet ropes which designated the "off limits" area, setting off a loud klaxon bell that rang through estate house. Based on his facial expression, I'm fairly certain Otto learned a lesson that day. But, while Sarah and I could appreciate the peak into the lives of the family that used to reside there, the kids were less interested; and even the peaks at the Victorian era bathrooms barely held their attention. So, after a quick stroll down the river and across a bridge, it was on to the theme park.

The Pirate Adventure Park was apparently usually quite popular with visitors, but given the shoulder season and the chilly weather of the day, it was nearly a ghost town. And, while the miniature train ride along the river, with it's statue of snakes (in Ireland?) and busty pirate princesses, and it's overly enthusiastic conductor, was charming the big win for the day -as far the kids were concerned- was the giant potato sack slide.

...Ok, so maybe the parents enjoyed the slide too.

At one point, after about 30 minutes of sliding, I commented to Sarah: "So, we've travelled halfway around the world to spend the day on a potato sack slide." To which she replied, "Yes, but we have the slide to ourselves." Touché.

After several hours taking advantage of nearly abandoned amusements, the kids started to hit the wall, so it was back home for dinner with Jody and Sandeep. An evening that quickly turned into a cozy blur of red wine and amazing, home-cooked Indian food. Then off to sleep again.

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