I could not have asked for a nicer or more relaxing first weekend at Ballymaloe. Housemates Jenn, Zoe, Luca, Neil, and I decided to take it easy after a grueling first week and stayed in on Friday for the evening. We played random card games and generally had the banter (another Irish expression that means good conversation…but it’s good conversation that you can only have in Ireland…fact.). On Saturday morning, we woke up, packed ourselves like sardines into Jamie’s car and headed to Midleton (the nearest actual town to Ballymaloe – about 15 minutes away by car). We wanted to check out the famed Midleton Farmer’s Market. There were stalls filled with smoked fish, fresh produce, homemade pizzas, myriad cheeses, Indian spice mixes, pates, and pretty much anything else that could be described as delicious. There was even an aspiring young break dancer (an “organic break dancer” as Luca named him) trying out his moves on the locals, which was pretty hilarious to see. I couldn’t help myself and ended up buying some Arsdallagh goat’s cheese flavoured with garlic and tumeric, some chicken liver pate, an Indian spice mix for tikka masala, and a block of Irish cheddar. Afterwards, we headed over to Tesco’s across the street and the local butcher’s (O’Farrell’s on the Main Street in Midleton) and stocked up on some groceries for the week ahead. By that stage, we were pretty hungry ourselves, and Jamie had smartly asked the butcher for some restaurant suggestions for lunch. Without a moment of hesitation, the butcher said to go to a place called Sage, which ended up being right around the corner. The place was just lovely – great service, amazing menu, good wines-by-the-glass, and best of all, some really good company. I am really happy that I am meeting such nice and interesting people on this course. I find myself laughing and joking with them all the time. It really is great to feel this at-ease only a week into the course. When we got back to the school, Jenn and I decided to head down to the local beach for a stroll. The weather was nice – high 40s and overcast. The sky is generally grey in Ireland this time of year, but I have to say that Ireland has the best clouds. There is always some interesting pattern or shape to them, and really, I could stare out at the sea and the sky here for days on end and not be at all bored. Once we got back from our invigorating walk on the beach, we walked around a bit more to see the grounds of the school in better detail for ourselves, and then I went back to my room for a brief disco nap. Once the evening rolled around, everybody was ready for a night out, and we headed down to The Blackbird. It ended up being a really fun night….everyone was enjoying themselves and mingling with the local crowd. I started off drinking wine (yes, you can get some really nice wine down here, which is unusual for an Irish pub…take note, Dublin pubs!) but then moved on to other cocktails including my usual gin and tonic and then taking Jamie’s suggestion of a vodka, lime, and ginger ale (I think that I have found a new one to add to my rotation.). After the pub was closing (later hours than in Dublin…hmmm, maybe there really is something to be said about Cork), a group of us headed to an after-party at the house of some fellow students, which was just down the road. It ended up being a pretty late night indeed, but I’m glad for it because I got to have a good laugh with everyone (especially after finding out that some of the boys have some big-time crushes on Darina…yes, Darina Allen…hilarious!).
Naturally, Sunday ended up being a pretty lazy day. I leisurely rolled out of bed around midday and finally made myself presentable by about two in the afternoon. Zoe, Jenn, Luca, and I decided the best thing to do would be to go for a long walk down to the beach for some fresh air, and thanks to a steady stream of wind blowing right at us, it worked! When we got back, we were busy with our filing and orders of work. Afterwards, Luca treated us to a lesson on making gnocchi for dinner. We all pitched in, and it turned out so delicious. Did I mention that I love my housemates? I really could not be happier here. I have not felt this relaxed and content since…well, in a really long time, that’s for sure. Despite being away from Alan and my new home in San Francisco, I have a feeling that I am not going to want to leave this place once the course is over!
A sampling of photos from the weekend: