So, that week really flew by... Today is the last day and my folks are currently making their way towards the International Airport in Antrim. It has been a blast indeed!
On the first day I managed to give my da his birthday surprise
. Well, it was more than a birthday gift, it was also a massive 'thank you' for all the help he has given us, and for being such an awesome da. The bottle of Old Comber whiskey, aged 'atleast' 30 years old should be a grand gift indeed. It even came in it's original box and all! The distillery in question closed in 1956, but some reserves were found in the 1980's and these were bottled under the old comber label. Either way, a grand gift of appreciation
The plan would have been to go out and travel along the coast stopping at B&B's along the way. Sadly, their arrival also came with a week long forecast of intense rain and storm. With this in mind, and Mr. Richardson's new till system arriving, we decided to stay close.. as Oscar needs his attention as well.Bushmills distillery
was on the agenda yet again. It seems to have become a ritual whenever they get over; get more personally labelled bottled for friends and friends of friends. On the previous visit my da managed a bill of over 400 euros, as he ordered his 'shopping list' from friends back at home. This time it was rather subdued. Following from Bushmills back into County Down we went to the Quays restaurant.
We have been incredibly pleased with their service, portions and food quality, and thought it would be an excellent place to have dinner together. Under the pleasantries of a fine white wine much 'piscean' delights were enjoyed. When it came to settling the bill, my dad was aiming to take the costs as a favour for us. Sadly, whenever he decided to go to 'the toilet' (aka, sneak off to pay the bill), he soon found out that Mr. Richardson's toiletry stop also involved the same motives, and soon found out there was no bill left to settle and dinner was our treat.
The next days were spend just mucking about. A visit to the Donaghadee garden centre
was had, along with checking out surroundings to note the hawthorn berries. My original stretch of noted berries in the hedgerows were unfortunately trimmed quite violently by a road side hedge-trimmers... Bring back the hedgelaying craftsmen!
Tuesday night was enjoyed in Belfast's Lavery's
, under the musical delights of the local band Buana. Simply philosophy, if you have an instrument and know how to play it you can simply join in for the night. Needless to say it was a delight to hear some proper folk music on a Tuesday night.
Another restaurant that was sampled was the Mahkulu5 restaurant
near bloomfields. Our first visit there was delightful, despite the fire alarm going off. Middle priced food, but good quality. Plus, what person (pagan or otherwise) can resist the look of a HUGE fire-pit in the cooking kitchen. This was also the reason for the fire-alarm going off, but all part of the small 'kinks' of opening I suppose. This time we took our parents, and though the food was decent the steak I ordered rare was served as a well-done, and not overly warm... Ah well, all part of those kinks I suppose. We'll see them again in a few weeks time to see how they're doing.
On Thursday I was meant to have a taxidermy student on, but sadly he had to cancel due to bad travel plans. Hopefully I'll be able to re-schedule with him within the next 14 days. But this left Thursday wide open for travel. Since most of our plans thus far had been for my da, we decided to do something for my mom. Grabbing a local guide we looked up Tyrone Crystal company. Now there was a feeling in the back of my head, but I couldn't place it.... so off we went.
The nearer we got the more non-visible to roadsigns became. Some signs even had the place in question taped over. Never a good sign. After some digging around we finally found the place. It looked rather empty, and upon entrance we saw nothing... literally. The hall-way was gutted, and a note was on the front door to try the side entrance. This was again greeted by a gutted look. I started to remember vaguely... but decided to call Mr. Richardson at the shop to confirm... turn out my feeling was right, as the place closed down on the 12th March 2010 after 40 years of business.
We went to the town of Dungannon, to have some lunch and find out where we would go next. We stopped in at 'The Fort' pub,
had some lovely lunch and then tried to locate a tourist information place to see what was about and around Dungannon. Just a wee bit up the hill from that office was the last fort site for the O'Neills
, and from it's high point you can see seven counties! It was a lovely view, and it was also interesting to find out that Time Team had actually uncovered a moat and walls of the castle previously undiscovered.... must see if I can find that episode.
From Dungannon we went to the 'Bog Museum'
, which had to be the biggest (boggest?) let down ever. It was a small room, filled with a couple of find here and there. Some information bits were printed on paper, and stuck to the wall, other bits were scattered in rather messy displays. Felt like the whole place, as small as it was, could have done a wee bit better. From there, we set out to Killymaddy
, but upon reaching it we were all just too tired, and decided to turn around and head home. It felt like a wasted day to be honest, but atleast my mom said she enjoyed the scenery.
On arrival home we spend the night toying with Oscar, and we stopped to stare at out pigeon splotch on the window. The elderberries I couldn't reach have started to ferment, and our backyard is now an avian pub, drunk regulars and all. The shape on our window was so detailed you could make out individual feathers and all. We couldn't find a body, so we assume it got away. While staring at it, giggling, we soon noticed a wood pigeon, not two meters away from the doors. We were sure we checked the yard to see if we could find 'the splotch pigeon', but we didn't find anything. This was a new one, and berries were scattered all around. Stepping outside to inspect, we turned our eyes towards the second floor, and not only was there a giant splotch, the window was covered in elderberries and juice. Poor thing had eaten to such that the craw of the bird had ruptured. Followed by it's crash on the pavement below it was a certain death. The body was still warm, and fresh for that matter, so we decided to bring it in and fillet it for tomorrow. Yum!
The final day was all for my da and I. Having scaled the Hare's Gap
on his previous visit, I thought it would be nice to send him up to Donard park, along the waterfall and see how far we would get. I had faith that he could reach the summit, but it was awfully windy that day. Taking many pictures of mushrooms and waterfalls along the way the walk in Donard park was, per usual, a breeze. Half way through the park, there's a rocky feature in the middle of the fall, which allows for an excellent lunch spot with water flowing down on both sides.
Soon we came out of the woods, and passed the 19th century ice house, and in view now came 'the saddle'. A dip inbetween the two highest peaks; Slieve Donard
and Slieve Commedagh.
Commedagh is unmistakable with it's collapsed, rubble-cluttered slopes. It always looks so impressive but to date I've been unable to capture what I see and feel when looking at it. It's a hard one to capture!
Going up the 'steps' towards the saddle was.. different. The winds kept pushing me to the side and I was literally getting blown over from time to time. Near the end of the steps I again landed in between the rocks, while my dad got a boost up the final step. I can honestly say I've never been so pleased to see the Mourne Wall in my life, and instantly scrambled over it and to the other side, sheltered from the worst of the winds. Nothing burns 'fuel' like a good hike, and another bit of lunch was had to keep the legs strong. After a brief rest of taking in the sights, and taking photos we set out on the last climb to the top... only to run into a pub colleague of mine along the way. It was one of those 'what on earth are you doing here?' moments, but it certainly brought a smile. Soon camera was in hand again, to try and have another go at capturing Commedagh. I was also looking to see if we could spot Scrabo tower
from that height, but no such luck as it was far too hazy.
Needless to say my dad reached the summit, and really enjoyed it. He also put his stone on the summit, one he had collected below in Donard Park. We didn't stay at the top too long, as the fierce winds soon made our fingers burn with cold. After coming down from the mountain, and back home after a short car-ride he sat down for a rest and a beer, while I started cooking. I made my folks a lovely dinner of pigeon breast and port sauce, accompanied by chicken fillets, carrots and roast potatoes with thyme.
( . )Slán go fóill!~Ingrid Houwers
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