Sunday, August 18, 2019

Berehaven Lodge Restaurant - Grilled to Perfection

As an American, I take grilling meals on an open fire very seriously. Back in 1982, when I moved here, few people understood the pleasures of throwing a steak on a BBQ. Ah, the aroma! The taste! The fun of standing near an open fire, beer in hand, hoping you're not burning that evening's steak or chicken or hamburger to cinders!

In those days I had to search high and low to purchase a BBQ. When, in 1984, I finally found one in Tesco - a local supermarket chain - I couldn't believe my luck. I didn't bat an eye at the fact I had to spend twice what it would have cost me in the States. Made no difference. Finally, I could grill my meat in style.  

Of course, my Irish neighbours thought I was out of my mind. "What's that pyre of smoke coming from Richards's place?" they'd ask. "He must've murdered someone and is getting rid of the evidence."

Possibly true, of course, but unlikely.

Fortunately for Irish people everywhere, the fine art of grilling meat over an open fire has become de rigueur. And nowhere is that more true than in Beara Peninsula's own Berehaven Lodge Restaurant.

Friday is the Day for Grilled Gastronomic Treats

Founded by owners Grace and Mark (Grace works front of house; Chef Mark handles the
Grace and Mark - fabulous people impassioned by food
cooking), the restaurant is open most days. On any other day except Friday, they stick to a standard menu (go here to have a view of what's on offer - everything is fresh; everything sourced locally; everything divine). 


Walk into the open, airy rooms - all freshly painted, I might add, courtesy of good friend Frank McQuaid - and get a friendly greeting you won't soon forget. Have a drink at the well stocked bar (the wine list is extensive and reasonably priced), sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride as you consider what to order.

Or if it's sunny and warm, have your meal on the recently expanded outdoor deck. Overlooking Bantry Bay, you can enjoy your sumptuous local crab claws while wondering which trawler, steaming down the sun-lit waters, caught 'em. And yes, the food at Berehaven is that local and that fresh. 

But - if you're very, very lucky, you'll arrive on a Friday. Friday is "Everything is Grilled" day, and the results are to die for.

Mark is South African and takes grilling even more seriously than I do. Working at a huge outdoor grill fired by local wood chunks and charcoal, the pleasure he takes in cooking for his guests is instantly transmitted to the food we eat. 

Just this past Friday, Gorgeous One and I finally had a chance to sample  the passion of Mark's fine art of grilling. And oh! It was beyond even my demanding American-grill-for-life palate. So let's get started!

From Start to Finish, a Taste of Heaven

Aisling and Gorgeous One
As we consider the extensive Friday Menu, Gorgeous One is instantly served a glass of Pinot Grigio by lovely Aisling, our waitress for the evening. Starters form an extensive list, making it difficult to choose. Open Fire Mussels? Fire Grilled Asparagus Spears? The Seafood Potjikos, a warmly spiced South African favourite? 

She decides on the Grilled King Scallops. Because I'm having fish for my main course, I choose the Chicken & Port Liver Pate. Both are (almost) beyond description.

"Look at these lovely little fellows!" Gorgeous One exhales as Aisling serves them up. Grilled to perfection by Mark, the scallops are presented on a long plate accompanied by crispy Parma Ham and an onion puree that is out of this world (I asked Grace and it turns out the onions are first grilled then pureed. I want that recipe!) 

I had to beg Gorgeous One for a scallop, almost losing a hand when I reached before asking permission.

The Pate was...honestly, it was the best pate I've had in an age. Served with pickled cucumber and apple chutney, I took real pleasure in forking the above onto sour dough bread, doing my best to make it all last as long as possible.  And no, Gorgeous One never had one bite.

The Main Dishes. Oh the main dishes! I must admit it took us awhile to choose because everything on offer sounded fabulous. Do we go for the fresh-out-of-the-sea Monkfish Parcels, or the 12oz Cowboy Steak? The local Castletownbere Black Sole, or the West Cork Summer Lamb Rump?  

At the end of it, Gorgeous One chose the 10oz Hereford Beef Ribeye Steak. I dived for the Surf n Turf: a 10oz, 40 day aged Hereford Fillet Steak accompanied by Grilled Prawns served with a bearnaise sauce. 

The steaks were grilled to perfection. Gorgeous One's Ribeye was the biggest sample of such a cut I've ever seen; the taste (and yes, she gave me a bite) a rich mouthful of wonder. My Fillet was as smooth as butter; the Prawns a reminder of how lucky we are to have such local shellfish available, right off the trawler. 

These succulent grilled delights were served up with a huge bowl of grilled veggies: corn on the cob, tomatoes, immense onion halves, and much more. All roasted over Mark's grill until pieces of heaven. 

We had so much we took some home. The next day, all of it ended up on my grill in the back garden of our Eyeries Village Home, allowing us to enjoy Mark and Grace's efforts twice.

We were so full following our grilled meal, dessert wasn't possible. 

The bill for all of the above worked out at just short of €90, excluding tip. And it was worth every last penny.

Book Early

The Friday Grill at Berehaven Lodge Restaurant has become a 'go to' celebration by locals
who enjoy Mark's passion. For that reason I suggest you book early (and often). 

Where is it? About 4 miles east of Castletownbere, County Cork, on the seaside of the main Glengarriff Road.

For more information, go to their website: https://www.berehavenlodge.com/dining-castletownbere.html, or phone: +353 27 71464.

Opening hours vary on the season that's in it. 


Want to learn more? A Survivor's Guide to Ireland 2019 edition is Now Available.

     This travel memoir of about 80,000 words follows this erst-while American who has lived in Ireland since 1982. If you want to know more about what you can do to get a work permit, get a job, buy a house, and otherwise live and enjoy life like the Irish, I hope you'll have a look at A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Happy Trail - Tom 


Monday, July 8, 2019

Eyeries County Cork: A Little Corner of Heaven

As I write, I gaze out the window at the beauty of Coulagh Bay. Its waters glisten in the late-morning light, framed by the Ring of Kerry to the north and Beara Peninsula's Mishkish Mountains to the south. 

Beyond, to the west, is Scarriff Island, rising like a magical whale, hiding the mysteries of the Skellig Islands from my view. Further west rests only the deep Atlantic, with Nova Scotia and Labrador the next stop. 

The view is captivating. Here, I have found peace within solitude. Here I have made fast friends. Here, I have finally learned what rural Ireland is all about.

Escaping the Big Smoke

For  almost 30 years I lived and worked in the Dublin area. For almost 20 of that, I made the daily commute from Navan in County Meath to my place of work in Dublin. When visitors to my new home in Eyeries ask me about the Dublin area, thinking it still an enclave of restful business practices, I can't believe their ignorance.

"Certainly it is not as crazy as my place of work in Chicago," an American visitor will state categorically. "Dublin is part of Ireland, after all. And Ireland - well the whole country is so, so...backward, isn't  it? Surely, it must be more sane than any American big city."

Ah the silliness of such comments. So I work to set the facts straight. City life in any Irish big city is just as crazed, just as mad busy, just as stressful, as working in any other large US or European country. "It could take me up to four hours a day to get to work and home again," I explain. "The traffic was a curse. Road rage common. We'd shake fists at each other, cursing like a navvy, such was a commuter's life to Dublin."

I'd have to point out that Ireland has changed drastically since the day I immigrated here in June 1982. Back then, when first setting foot on Irish soil, I couldn't afford a car. I couldn't afford a phone. I couldn't afford many of the items I took for granted back in the States. Commuting to my place of work 20 minutes south of Navan was a matter of sticking my thumb out and praying for a lift from some generous automobile owner. 

Back then, I was not alone. Many of us living in Ireland couldn't afford such things. 

But then it all changed. As I've previously written, Ireland's economy blasted off like an Apollo rocket bound for the Moon. As pay increased and money poured into  previously bare bank  accounts, we all bought things: cars, houses, phones, computers... the list was endless. It all fell apart in the 2008 recession, of course. But once again Ireland's economy has  blasted off into the stratosphere. 

And once again, life in much of Ireland has gone mad with the business of making money. Irish people sacrifice their lives just as many do across the world, spending hours every day in the coffined life of their automobiles. They work hard, save hard, take care of children and elder parents, and otherwise do everything they can to make good and safe lives.

But of course, in the process they've lost something. Perhaps it's the lack of time to look at the beauty of the life around them. I know what that's like. For years, I lived a similar life. I lost my soul in the process.

However, I abandoned that  world almost 10 years ago. Instead I moved to Eyeries. And here, I have once again found my soul.

A Village of Tranquility

Eyeries (historically spelt Irees or Iries, from Irish: na hAoraĆ­) is a village and townland on the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Ireland overlooking Coulagh Bay and the mouth of the Kenmare River in the south-west. It lies at the base of Maulin, which, at 2,044 feet (623 m), is the highest peak in the Slieve Miskish mountain range that forms part of the backbone of the peninsula. (https://latitude.to/articles-by-country/ie/ireland/104119/eyeries)

To say the village is isolated is to perhaps minimize its distant location from what many would define as civilized. 

Just over 60 souls live in the village. We are served by the friendly owners of only a few amenities: a restaurant. Two cafes.  Three shops. Two pubs (of  course). The Catholic Church. And that's about it.

Want to go shopping? If so, we  travel  four miles south to Castletownbere (the largest white fish deep water port around). If we want something a little more sophisticated than the Town SuperValu grocery store, we must travel to Kenmare, about 60k northwest. If we want a major shop, then it's to Killarney we go (an hour and 20 minutes from here), or Bantry (about an hour), or Cork City (just over two hours).  

I doubt Eyeries is for everyone. Many simply couldn't survive here because it does not have the 'amenities' most people take for granted. That said, I now know I'll never  live anywhere else. Why?  The beauty is staggering. And what matters in my world now rests either in my house, or right outside the  back door.

For instance: yesterday I decided I needed a break. I pulled on my hardy wet suit, climbed in the car, drove a mile south (yeah, I know. I should have walked) and went swimming at our local Strand. For a half hour I was surrounded by a world of wonder: jelly fish, pollack, mackerel. A few years ago I was joined by a local seal. 

Finished, I  stood on the shore and marveled at the life I now lead, and the miracle that had brought me here. No longer do I fight my way through traffic. No longer do I struggle to survive the rigors of a global economy. 

Instead, I breathe the solid sea air. I listen to the cry of seagulls. I watch  the sun setting, golden, beneath a far horizon.

And on those nights when I am especially lucky, I reach up to the glory of stars swimming in the sea above me; stars so close I think I might grasp a bunch in both hands.

Surely I am a lucky man  to have found this place. With any luck, I will stay here the rest of my life, my ashes finally scattered in Coulagh Bay, mixing with this tranquil bit of Ireland forevermore.

For more information on Eyeries, go to their website: https://eyeries.ie/all-about-eyeries

  Want to learn more? A Survivor's Guide to Ireland 2019 edition is Now Available.

     This travel memoir of about 80,000 words follows this erst-while American who has lived in Ireland since 1982. If you want to know more about what you can do to get a work permit, get a job, buy a house, and otherwise live and enjoy life like the Irish, I hope you'll have a look at A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Happy Trail - Tom 



How to Live and Work in Ireland - A Review of the Rules Allowing You to Work Here

A few years back, and having been badgered by many folks wanting to emigrate to this country, I wrote a summary of the Rules.  Since then, the badgering has continued. So I thought I'd best reprint the following for those holding tight to the dream of immigrating to this dear country.

Here you go:

If you're an American wanting to live and work in Ireland; if you're a UK resident desiring to maintain your EU residency following Brexit; if you're a non-EU citizen hoping to move to Ireland and make a living here, you need to understand the rules.

Below find (pretty much) everything you need to know on how to get a work permit and how you may qualify to work in, live in, and become a citizen of this marvelous country.

(This is re-printed from a previous post. To see it in its entirely, go here: http://survivingireland.blogspot.ie/2016/11/getting-job-and-living-in-ireland-trump.html)

The Rules
In general, visitors to Ireland are allowed to stay in this country for 90 days. During that time they are not allowed to work. To live and work here for a longer period, there are a number of rules and requirements:

·         For non-EU citizens: Ireland is a member of the European Union. Citizens of EU member states are legally entitled to work and live in Ireland. Non-EU nationals do not have this right and must instead jump through many hoops.

·         If you are a foreign, non-EU student and studying in Ireland on an approved course: you may take up casual work without an employment permit, but only a maximum of 20 hours per week.

·         Working holiday agreements: Ireland has reciprocal agreements with a number of other countries including the United States, allowing non-EU nationals to stay in Ireland for longer than 90 days and work here. To do so you must apply for a Working Holiday Authorization. For more information go to https://www.dfa.ie/travel/visas/working-holiday-visas/

·         If you have Irish ancestry: Ireland has a ‘grandfather’ law. That is, if you can prove that your parents or grandparents were Irish you have the right to Irish citizenship. With citizenship comes the right to live and work in Ireland and anywhere in the EU. For more information go to http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/

·         Employment permits: Ireland has 9 types of employment permits. Some allow non-EU nationals to work and live in Ireland: General Employment Permits are usually considered for occupations with an annual remuneration of €30,000 or more. Critical Skills Employment Permits are available in a number of categories. To apply, the prospective employee must have a job offer. Upon receiving a permit your family will usually be eligible to join you. Go to http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/migrant_workers/employment_permits/green_card_permits.html for more information.

·         Obtaining Irish citizenship through marriage: foreign nationals who are married to Irish citizens can apply for naturalization. For more information go to http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/moving_country/irish_citizenship/becoming_an_irish_citizen_through_marriage.html

·         Obtaining residency through civil partnership: if you can prove you are in a long-term relationship with an Irish citizen, you are legally allowed to apply for long-term residency.

·         Retired and desiring to reside in Ireland: you may be granted permission to reside in Ireland for the longer-term if you can prove that you have: an annual income equal to €50,000 per annum and; savings equal to the cost of buying a home in Ireland and; comprehensive private Irish-based medical insurance. If you can prove that you will not become a burden to the state you can apply for longer-termed residency. For more information go to http://www.inis.gov.ie/en/INIS/Pages/non-eea-permission.

      Gaining long-term permission to live and work in Ireland if you are not an EU national is tough work but not impossible. If you haven’t been to Ireland make sure you visit first. Check out the place. See if you think you can fit in and survive in Ireland as I have. If your answer is yes, if you are determined and focused, you could well end up living the Irish dream just as I have. I wish you so much luck.

     Want to learn more? A Survivor's Guide to Ireland 2019 edition is Now Available.

     This travel memoir of about 80,000 words follows this erst-while American who has lived in Ireland since 1982. If you want to know more about what you can do to get a work permit, get a job, buy a house, and otherwise live and enjoy life like the Irish, I hope you'll have a look at A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland. Happy Trail - Tom 

2019 Edition: A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland

Well, I'm late this year with a new 2019 edition of the bestselling travel memoir, A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland.  Sorry about that - I've been up to my eyes with one thing or another. However, if you have a penchant to follow in the steps of Tom Richards, an ex-pat who has lived in Ireland for over 35 years, and learn how to settle in to modern Ireland like the Irish do, then by all means please read on:

Come for a week – stay for a lifetime! That’s the lure of Ireland. Essential reading for anyone considering a move or visit to Ireland. 6th edition! Over 15,000 copies already sold!

This 2019 edition of a Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland gives you the low-down on this wonderful country, and the latest international headaches that continue to rock the country.

Will the continuing political melees of Brexit and Trumpism affect your plans to move and work in Ireland? Are you entitled to an Irish Work Visa? If so how can you get one? Is Ireland the land of your dreams? Have you ever thought of staying for a prolonged visit, establishing residency, or creating an Irish business? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in Ireland? Find out in this rich volume of almost 90,000 words devoted to the ever-changing tapestry of living and working in Ireland. This fun, easy to read book contains (among other things) a brief history of Ireland, the opportunities present here for would-be immigrants, and tips on how to get a work permit, become a citizen, buy a home, cope with taxation and the cost of living, and enjoy this amazing country for yourself. As an added bonus, a Dictionary of Irish Slang and Phrases is also included! 

In 1982, American Tom Richards, fresh out of UCLA, took a four-week holiday in Ireland. He’s been here ever since. Witty and insightful, Tom tells how he overcame the culture shock of living in the Ol’ Sod, learning to twist his middle-class American thinking into a more European point of view while managing to pay his bills at the same time. Along the way, he’s learned some practical lessons that he now shares: From how to understand the Irish to how to drink a perfect pint; from finding a job to how to get a work permit; from purchasing your fist dream home to learning to take soaking walks on a soft Irish day. 
Here, he reveals that to survive in Ireland all you have to do is discover the magic of this wonderful country for yourself. A Survivor’s Guide to Living in Ireland has already sold over 14,000 copies. With it you can learn to Talk like the Irish, Drink like the Irish, Work like the Irish, and Live like the Irish. Essential reading for anyone considering a visit or move to this fabulous country.

If you're thinking of living and working in Ireland; if you think you're entitled to citizenship or a visa to move here; if you're considering a visit and want the low-down on how to best enjoy the Irish and their staggeringly beautiful country, this book is for you. 

Purchase A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland for that friend wanting to live and work in this wonderful country. Or, buy one just for you...

Happy Trails - Tom 

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Surviving Ireland in Style:The Park Hotel, Kenmare. Go!...Despite the Price

Now and then life throws a curve ball or two. In this case it was placing my father into Nursing Care. And I must admit it was one of the most difficult missions of my life. For those readers who have not walked through this particular circle of fire and who may face such a challenge, all I can say is gird your loins.

It's not only the fact you have to close down your father's old apartment, sorting through family memories that cause an avalanche of emotional joy or pain. Or must figure out what to do with Florida-based furnishings you can't possibly take back to Ireland. Or move  Dad and a few selected belongings to a single room studio apartment, knowing you have only a few days in which to do it, and certain he'll never particularly like the result.

Or get rid of the car. Get rid of the firearms. Get rid of the detritus of a full life that is now ebbing. Or find time to take care of Dad while also talking to bankers, lawyers, financial advisers and additional professionals as you attempt to put into place various measures that just might let you manage his affairs from a distance. 

Along the way you're hauling stuff hither and yon. Pleading with everyone and anyone to take this or that, knowing you'd rather see it used than thrown onto a rubbish heap. Eating little. Sleeping less. Keeping in touch with family and friends who ask you about your father because his dementia now prevents him from using email or social media or on occasion even the phone.

And when you're finally finished; when you eventually climb onto a home-bound plane, you wonder if you've done enough for his safety. And the wondering means you'll sleep hardly a bit for the next few weeks. 

At times like this you know in your heart and soul you need a break. A place to lick your wounds and recover. A retreat and a bit of respite from life where, for once in your life, people will take care of you rather than the other way around. 

Which is why two days ago I placed The Gorgeous One in the truck and sprinted to The Park Hotel in Kenmare, County Kerry. 

I must say: it's the best thing I've done in years. A few hours of life about which Gorgeous One and I can only observe - We'll never, ever forget. And here's why:

Luxurious Survival Through Thoughtful Care

The Park Hotel, hidden from prying eyes by vaulting trees and assorted green stuff, is located on the south side of the wonderful Irish town of Kenmare. Situated at the crossroads to the Beara Peninsula and the Ring of Kerry, the care...the attention to detail...the feeling you've fallen off a cliff into the laps of the Gods of Luxury, starts the moment you drive up the winding drive toward a towering castle of welcome.

Enter the elegant 19th Century stone cut mansion and senses are accosted from all sides. The Victorian fireplace is all aglow with a warmth of welcome. The reception area filled with antiques and paintings. Rich carpets muffle the outside world. And as I'm greeted by staff who treat me as a long lost relative rather than a guest paying for only a single day's break, do I imagine things? Or have our bags just disappeared?

"What have you done with them?" I ask, not quite used to such caring treatment.

"Why, they've already been taken to your room," the woman in black responds with a smile.

And the room? Such a room! They've placed us on the second floor, room 210. Open the door (with a long, brass key, I might add. None of this 21st Century key-less technology. Not in The Park!) and step into wonder.

Two adjoining rooms. Near the door, an immense bed with the fluffiest pillows I've ever encountered in a hotel. "We'll get lost in that monster bed," I say to Gorgeous One. 


"Not that we'll mind. Nor will he," she ripostes, referring to the lovely white stuffed lamb grazing on the bed.

Step down into the living room. A lovely overstuffed couch. Marble topped bureau. Terrifically comfortable stuffed chairs. And our bags? Found magically resting on suitable suitcase frames, ready for unpacking.

Complementary bottle of The Park Hotel water. Two perfect cups - not glasses! - and a delicate bag of sweets. A welcome note from our personal concierge also confirming times for massage and manicure (massage for me, manicure for Gorgeous One). Breathtaking views over the very eastern bit of Kenmare Bay. It's low tide and a single punt sits unperturbed on a nearby bank. 

The bathroom: a definition of pampered luxury. Full bathtub on one side. Two sinks in the middle. A wet-room styled shower at right, toilet next to it.  In the closet: complementary thick white robes. 

I breathe in. I begin to relax. I take Gorgeous One in my arms and say: "I have a feeling we're never going to forget this."  Later, I know I was right.

Fingers and Figures of Relaxation

If you're not Irish or not living in Ireland, you possibly do not know John and Francis Brennan. They've been at the hostelry business for years. Most Irish folk know them by name because they host an RTE television series, At Your Service. In this long running troubleshooting programme, the lads visit various hotels, B&B's and guest houses across Ireland, helping owners to sort out the most basic problems;  transforming existing situations into visitor-friendly experiences.

Gorgeous One and I have watched it for years. And now, visiting the Home they've owned and nurtured since the 1980s, I understand why they are so effective helping others to help themselves.

In short: the Brennans are very, very good at what they do. The Park Hotel is not a hotel. Rather: it quickly becomes  a loving home.

Why? Undoubtedly it's due to the people who work there.

Let's start with the Bar. Having been bowled over by the room, we wandered down to have a drink. There, we met Connor - erstwhile bartender - and John, the Hotel's Porter and also an accomplished sommelier. Though I stick at that point to my usual pint of black, Gorgeous One takes the advice of our new friends and tries the Blanc.  It is absolutely marvelous. We enjoy an hour, then it's time to get ready for true relaxation.

I go first. Down to the SAMAS Experience, a haven for those requiring healing of the spiritual kind - and aptly named because it IS an experience. Seamlessly secured to the Main House, I started my treatment by walking through a dusky hallway surrounded by walls of water, the glow of candlelight, and the wafting odors of unguents. Out to a reception area of modernity, walls of plate glass filtering in Kenmare's natural beauty.

I am met. I am escorted to a changing room. I am shown around: down a short hallway. There, a wonderful Sauna / Laconium rests next to an Aroma Steam room. A shower with various tropical spray fittings. An ice fountain to chill out heated joints. Out a door and there, the Vitality Pool. It's outside but you'd scarcely notice because the water is heated perfectly. 

I spend an hour there. Into and out of the sauna and steam room. A bit of ice. A shower. Through the door and into the natural reserve of the Pool resting beneath tall Kenmare pines. 

I'm told there are two of these luxurious suites, one set of relaxing structures reflecting the other: one for the ladies, one for the men. And I discover: it's true. With no one else around I strip off my soggy, unnecessary swim suit. It is then I remember Dad and I sob. I sob, I think, because within the beauty of this setting, alone in my nakedness, I begin to heal.

But my session is not yet done, not by half. With the hour over, and having also spent a few minutes in a gorgeous Relaxation Room with comfortable Day Bed and personal music to match, and more views of tranquil gardens, my masseuse awaits. 

Her name, as I remember, is Valene. She is lovely - and as strong as Hercules. She leads me to an appropriately lit, incredibly comfortable room. We start with - and I can't believe it - a cup of natural tea: ginger, honey, lemon. It courses warm and welcoming through me. Then it's onto the bed and I know instantly I am in knowing, professional hands.

When the hour is done, Valene has worked the days of nursing home stress and father worry from arms and hands; feet and legs; back and head. I am transformed. 

I look at wall clock. Dinner is still hours away. I smile. I know my stay in my new Home has only just started.

Meal of Magic

The Irish Restaurants Association deemed The Park as having the Best Hotel Restaurant in Ireland only last year. Now I know why.

Initially, I had opted for dinner of slightly lower fare. As John, our Porter, pointed out: "Tom, do move up to the Tasting Experience. The price will be about the same. The experience unforgettable." He was right.

John also helped me navigate the wine list. I am ignorant of wines. I am also always faced with a miserable budget. John solved both challenges by recommending a bottle consisting of 75% Sauvignon. Oh my.... I've never experienced such heaven.

But the tastes on that night! Extraordinary. It's a set menu so don't think you can easily switch things. A seven course or five course. We opted for the five. We were right. We could not have eaten more. 

But the volume had nothing to do with it. It was all about the ingredients and method. Start with small Hor d'eouvres... one of goats cheese in an aromatic shell. The other of fantastic meats. Folllowed by

Scallop in a wonderful soupy sauce.  Followed by

Crab meat in all its fulsomeness. Followed by

Turbot cooked beyond heaven. Followed by

Venison, its pinkish meat beyond description. Followed by

Dessert of a rich chocolate cake with lovely vanilla ice cream and amazing sauces

Followed by... the final glass of wine. Coffee for two. And smiles from host Lucas.

Finished, we stumbled to the Terrace Lounge for a final glass of wine. An hour being entertained by a lovely piano player, tinkling tranquil tunes on a baby Grand Piano. Then bed.  But before I stop going on and on about the food, I must mention breakfast. 

Obviously, we have it the next morning. In the same lovely restaurant overlooking Kenmare  Bay. Served by the same amazing staff. And such a treat! Eggs Benedict to die for. I've had this dish in many places. But this? This was absolutely amazing. Accompanied by bread, homemade delicate scones, fresh local butter and jam, and gallons of rich coffee. What was not to like? Nothing, that's what.

Yes It's Expensive. But Go Anyway

In an article like this, the writer must mention those cloying bits he did not like. And yet - I can't think of one thing. This is a little piece of magic. A home away from home touched by thoughtful gestures that elude many other hostelries.

For instance: I never quite did get used to Ryan, a relative newcomer to The Park team, opening the front door for me at every occasion. His youthful exuberance, his fresh smile, the fact that he truly meant what he said and did... his very human persona to me symbolized the care and joy The Park staff has in helping its guests. 

(Note: John and Francis, if you ever read this - may I commend Ryan. You have a wonderful fella there. I know you'll continue to nurture him: the lad has a great future in store...).

And yes, The Park is expensive. Our stay in the luxurious room was 210 euro for the night. The meal: 85 euro each. Bottle of Wine: just short of 60 euro. The Spa treatment: for me, 125. For her: 65. 

But on this one single occasion, I simply did not care. I blew our entertainment budget for the entire year. Because... we needed this.

We needed someone to look after us for a bit. As Francis himself told me when I phoned the day before our visit, worrying we'd arrive too early: "You two just get here. We'll take care of you from there."

Which is exactly what John n Francis n all the staff at The Park did.  They took care of us. And at a time when I needed it most, all I can say is: I'm terribly grateful and will never forget. Thank you all.

For more information on The Park Hotel, go to their website: https://www.parkkenmare.com/


Friday, August 31, 2018

Five Reasons Why, Even After 36 Years, I Still Choose to Live in Ireland

Scariff Island, off the coast of Eyeries
Recently, during a visit with my father in a Sun City, Florida, active retirement community, a rather nice woman approached me. We chatted for a bit and as inevitably happens my foreign residency came up:

Her: "It's so lovely talking to you, Tom. But you haven't told me where you live."
Me: "Ah, somewhere  overseas."
Her: (eyes twinkling) "Really? Are you in the military? Where are you posted?"
Me: "No Ma'am. Actually, you see, I live in Ireland."
Her: "Oh I love Ireland! How long have you lived there?"
Me: (gulp) "For thirty-six years."
Her: (after a shocked beat of silence) "Is someone forcing you to stay there? Don't you want to come home?"
Me: "Actually, Ma'am... I'm an Irish citizen now. You see, Ireland is my home."

She studies me closely. 

Her: "How can you say that? You told me you were born in Chicago." (she bristles a bit). "Don't you like America anymore? It's the greatest country in the world. We're making it even Greater! (glaring hard at me). "If you're a REAL American you'll come home right now!"

Then she turned on her heal and walked away in a huff. And all I can do is sigh.

This sort of conversation comes up with my fellow Americans again and again: when I'm in the States visiting; on airplanes when I'm travelling; even in my local pub where I'll be having a quiet pint and engage in conversation with an American tourist or two. 

So why have I stayed in Ireland for all these years? The answer is: because I've fallen in love with it.

Five Reasons Why This Yank Stays In Ireland

Many Americans I meet simply cannot (or choose not to) understand why I continue to call Ireland my home. It's about time I came clean:

1. A Future for my Children and Grandchildren

When I first moved to this country in 1982, Ireland was just shy of a banana republic. The country was in the depths of a horrific recession. Over 17 percent of the workforce was out of a job. Infrastructure was non-existent. Interest rates approached 20 percent. Hell, I couldn't even get a telephone. The plight of the country made me think I'd made the biggest mistake of my life.

And frankly, I was worried for my children. I wondered: Would they ever be able to carve out a future in Ireland?

Over the years, however, Ireland has pulled its socks up. Today, it is one of the most successful countries in the world. Unemployment is at an all time low. Infrastructure (at least near major cities and towns) has been fully modernized. The country is renowned for its diversified industry. It is a center of excellence for I.T., pharmaceutical, food, agriculture, and a wide range of other industrial segments. The country's artistic endeavors (everything from painting to creative writing to the film industry) are flourishing. 

Today, I can even get a telephone!

But back in 1995, desperately homesick for America and fed up with my life as an Ex-pat, I came very close to loading my family onto a plane for a move back home. Before taking that irreversible decision, however, I compared notes with friends living in the United States. What I found changed my life.

Ireland has some of the best education in the world. The country's primary and secondary schools ensure that students become truly literate in the fundamentals to succeed. As importantly, they begin the process of learning how to think for themselves. Ireland's universities and technical colleges offer students a wide range of first-rate subjects that are crucial for success in a growing world economy. Depending on the major, they also receive practical, hands-on education and training. 

Since making the decision to stay permanently in the country (like forever) my children have fared well: a daughter with a degree in business studies; another daughter with a degree in marine science; a son with a PhD in the Irish language. My kids' success are a reflection of the educational opportunities available to anyone living in this country.

And the cost? Recently I had a conversation with an American friend of mine who is facing the daunting financial task of putting his own children through college.

Him: "We've been saving forever and we're almost there. By God we can afford to send the kids to college!"
Me: "Why that's terrific! Do you mind if I ask: what's it costing?"
Him: "Well, one of the kids is going to an Ivy League college. The second will follow in two years. They'll attend an in-state school where tuition is a bit cheaper. So..." he breaths in deeply, "it should only work out  to 250 or so."
Me (impressed): "Two hundred and fifty dollars a year, each? That's terrific!"
Him: "No. Two hundred and fifty thousand. For the lot! Of course that's only for the tuition and fees. We'll have to work on room, board and spending money.  Fortunately, the kids are both eligible for student loans. We'll take a 2nd mortgage on the house. But at the end of it," (I can hear him grin victoriously) "the total debt will be less than a hundred grand. Which is amazingly low compared to many."
Me (shocked): "Well hey Fred, that's just terrific."
Him: "Sure is. Ah, Tom, do you mind if I ask... what did it cost you over there in the Emerald Island?"

I think hard, trying to figure out how not to destroy him. 

Me: "Well, you know, all the kids have finished college now. But it was pretty affordable."
Him: "Affordable. As in?"
Me: "Well, ah, er, about 10K per kid per year."
Him: (a moment of deep silence) "Do you mean like three kids x four years x 10k per year? That's a total of $120 k for them all? But that's just tuition, right?"
Me: "Actually, Fred, that's the whole taco. Tuition, room and board, spending money..."
Him: (getting a bit ridiculous) "But, and I'm not saying anything bad here, the colleges were sort of, what, sort of third rate? They're a bit dumb?"
Me: (my turn to bristle): "Actually, Fred, they're some of the best around."
Him: "What kind of loans do the kids have? What kind of loans do you have?"
Me: "Well, we don't have any loans. None. Nothing. Nada."
Him: "Oh."

And he hung up.

2. You Ain't Going to Go Broke if You Get Sick

A few years back, Dad had keyhole surgery. Obviously, he went to hospital. What was supposed to be a simple out-patient procedure grew a bit more complicated: he was force to stay two nights.

A month later he received the bill. I saw it and was astonished: $80,000. Fortunately, Dad has excellent medical insurance. 

In Ireland, we all bitch and moan about our health system. However, seeing Dad's bill got me thinking. I checked with a local medical practitioner and asked the question: "If I had to go through the same procedure as Dad, what would it cost me in Ireland?"

The answer: A little less than $1,500. And that includes everything. 

Like the UK, Ireland has socialized medicine. We pay a great deal in taxes for this privilege, and the down-sides of public health can be frustratingly cruel (complete disclosure: we have a very high incidence of troubling 'trolley-times' - meaning that those coming into hospital can wait days for a bed and are forced to wait  on a trolley, often in a public area. It's an outrage that health professionals are trying to address - but it will take forever). However, despite this I have the comfort of knowing:

Drugs - no matter what I'm prescribed, it will cost me a maximum of a little less than $200 per month

GP visits - average approximately $70 per visit.

Hospital visits - on public health, max out at about $1000 per year no matter how many days I may have to stay in hospital.

Public health services have many challenges. For instance, Ireland would not have the most advanced healthcare sciences or procedures in the world. For those, by all means go to America!  But here, and particularly as I grow older, I know one fact:

No matter what my body or mind might face, I know I will not go broke. 

3. It's Safe Here

Open an American paper or any online News site and you'll invariably find a report of the latest daily shooting, with scores of people - often children or teens - dead.

In Ireland we don't have that problem and for a simple reasons: most weapons are outlawed. 

As a gun owner in the United States, and a used-to-be fervent supporter of the 2nd Amendment,  it took me years to get my head around this. However, as the years passed I grew up.

While Ireland has murders (and the murder rate is increasing), most assaults do not involve guns. Certainly, Ireland has never experienced a mass school killing. No one walks into a newspaper office with an assault rifle. Here, guns are the exception rather than the rule.

Yes, you can apply for a permit to hold a shotgun or small caliber rifle. But automatic weapons and handguns of any kind are verboten. It's that simple.

Here, I don't have to worry that my grandchildren will die when they attend school. Here, I will in all likelihood never be assaulted by a thief holding a Glock. 

Here I know that my loved ones are safe. 

As time goes on I find I simply do not understand many American's obsession with guns, or their die-hard attitudes of protecting so-called rights associated with extreme views of the 2nd Amendment. For me it's simple:

Kids first. Guns decidedly second. In Ireland, our gun laws uphold this simple value of protecting life. 

4. The  People

It's true. The Irish are probably some of the most friendly bunch of people in the world. I like these good folks. Heck, I've come to love the Irish.

Their good humor, welcoming nature, intelligence, and caring attitudes entranced me years ago. There is a gentleness in these people that is hard to describe or define. 

All I know is I'm comfortable with these folk. And while I am not Irish at all (except by naturalization), and have no Irish blood in me, I can finally say:

I feel one with the people of this country because they have given me my home.

5. The Beauty of Finding Home

Eight years ago I moved to Eyeries, a small village of just over 60 souls located on the Atlantic coast, way, way down in the southwest of Ireland.

It is magic. 

Each morning I sit at my dining room table, sipping a cup of coffee, gazing out at the serenity of Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic beyond. If I sit at the outside table I can hear the surf crash onto the rocky coastline only a half-mile away. I hear gulls scream as they search for their morning meal, and smell the fragrance of salt spray mixed with budding gorse and fuchsia. 

I close my eyes and take a breath. I feel the sun on my brow and the wind in my face. I'll spend the day writing upstairs then eat with my partner and go out for a pint or two with my mates up in Causkeys. 

Here, there is little divisiveness over political issues. Here, we do our best to listen and make a bit of room for each other because most are reasonable creatures. Here, we do not call each other names (except in jest) and do not embrace hate.

Yes, Ireland continues to face many challenges. Its housing costs are once again astronomical. Its debt mountain intolerable. The cost of living is once again soaring.

But... and a big but...

Here, I think I've finally found a little corner of the world to call my own. A place, me-thinks, that approaches heaven. 

Here, I have found my home.


If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom



Thursday, May 3, 2018

Tent Camping in Eyeries: Meeting Folks from Around the World

Dutch Dad & son sharing a loving
moment at sunset in Solas Mor
tent camping
Six years ago, we decided to allow people to use our back garden as a tent camping site. Since then, we've been visited by folks from all over the world. 

Fortunately, life has never been the same.

"You Really Should Let People Camp Here"

It all started six years ago. As usual at mid-Spring here in the very southwest of West Cork, it was pouring. Bucketing. Rain coming down in humongous sheets. On that early afternoon I was lazing on the couch with my nose stuck in a book, when a knock on the front door.

Opening it, I discovered a poor fellow who resembled a drowned rat. Utterly soaked. Shaking with the cold. Water dripping from all extremities. He held onto a bike, in a similarly distraught condition, and I wondered what the hell this poor fellow wanted.

"Would you mind," said he through clacking teeth,"if I camped in your back garden?"

Turns out the poor fellow had just finished cycling from Cork City all the way to our tiny village of Eyeries. He had intended to camp along the seashore. While it would have been a stunning location in which to set up a campsite, the rain and gale-strength wind proved too daunting.

Thinking he would die of pneumonia at any moment I of course agreed. Mind you, I'd never had anyone camp in our backyard before. It seemed a sort of - odd - request. However, with introductions quickly made, and as I put on the kettle for a cup of tea in hopes of warming the visitor, he wheeled his bike to the back yard and as I watched from the shelter of the back room efficiently pitched his tent. 

Magically, at that very moment the rain stopped. The clouds and mist parted. His gaze turned toward the stunning horizon: blue seas, the silhouette of the Kerry Mountains and Ring of Kerry to the north; the finger of the jutting, craggy hills of Beara Peninsula to the south; the islands of Eyeries, Inishfarnard and Scarrif directly west.

And nothing but the Wild Atlantic Ocean beyond.

As I came out of the house to join him, my camper turned slowly to me. "Wow, what an amazing view," he said. "You really should let people camp here."

Camp? In our garden? Like all the time? I'd never considered such a thing. But he persisted. and as it turned out, I did.

The Plan

My camper - the first of many - had bicycled all over Europe. He had stayed in any number of back gardens - space which homeowners had turned into campsites. I grilled a hamburger for the fellow, and as we ate together beneath a cloudless sky he told me exactly what needed to be done to turn our wee little back garden overlooking Coulagh Bay and the Atlantic into a welcoming location to pitch a tent.

We followed his directions to the letter.

Today our visitors can pitch a tent anywhere in the back yard. They have use of the downstairs toilet and shower. In poor weather they can hide in the back room. They have use of our WiFi. If they're good folk, Carm - my erstwhile partner - will often throw in a morning cup of tea and slice of toast. 

We don't advertise (other than a listing on AirBnB and a mention on Google Maps). Rather, we welcome anyone who happens to tromp by and needs a place to pitch a tent.

When we set up six years ago we didn't think we'd get anybody. But since our first visitor from Cork, we've been delighted with the number of people who have visited us from as near as the next county and as far away as New Zealand. 

Stories from Abroad

We don't get many visitors to our little camp site, and for a very good reason: the Beara Peninsula, upon which our little village of Eyeries rests, is one of the most isolated spots in all of Ireland. Most people coming to set up a tent in our back garden are hikers (walking along the absolutely stunning Beara Way) or cyclists determined to knock their legs off on the steep, potholed roads you find here. 

But those that do visit us are some of the best people we've ever met. Carm and I have talked about it, and we're guessing that it takes a special kind of person to make it all the way down to Eyeries. Invariably, these people seem to be looking for some stunning views; a bit of peace and tranquility; a place to unwind and enjoy each other's company.

That sums up what Eyeries and the surrounding Beara offer. 

We've had folks from the UK, Scotland and Wales; France, Germany, Spain and Portugal; Dutch folk, Finlanders, and Swedes. People from North America and South America, Australia and New Zealand.  Iceland and the Isle of Man, as well as Israel, also spring to mind.

Each of the people we meet has a story to tell. If we're lucky, and if the weather is fine, Carm and I will sit outside and chat with our guests over a beer or cup of tea. And as they relax and their minds become filled with the peace of the area - as they listen to the early morning cuckoo that nests down the hill, or watch the gulls soar squaking above, or breath in the smells of the distant sea and its shoreline, they'll share their lives with us.

I particularly remember a German lad who visited us a few years back. He was 18 and built strong as an ox. He was here with five other buddies, all German, all about the same age. For some reason or other, we started talking about the War. And for reasons I don't understand, we began chatting about the lad's Great-Grandfather.

In World War II, his Great-Grandfather had been a sailor on a U-Boat which was interesting. But more interesting than that was the fact that his relative had survived to tell the tale. 

However, when the lad mentioned  that he was ashamed of his great-grandfather, my heart broke for him.  "My great-grandfather was a member of the Nazi Youth," he said grimly. "He idolized Hitler like so many of them did back then. I never like talking about him."

Gently, I mentioned a fact he had never heard: over 70 percent of all German submariners were killed during the War. His great-grandfather had survived.

"If he did not survive, you wouldn't be around to share your story with me," I said quietly. "What he did, and what he believed, were also believed by most Germans at the time. You should be proud of your Great-grandpa. He served his country, and by doing that, gave you a future. 

"It's been 70 years since the end of the War. Don't you think you can forgive him? And be proud of his bravery at sea? And his survival?"

I saw a change in the lad's face. Later, I met him at our local pub, Causkey's, just up the road. He bought me a pint and smiled hugely at me. The next morning, when he and his friends broke camp he shook my hand. "Thank you," he said. "You have made me think differently."

And he made me think differently too: Of how all of us are only here because of the brave  survival of our relatives, and the heritage they give us so freely.

But the lad's heartfelt tale is only one example of the many stories people share with us. We're grateful for these simple gifts of trust and friendship they give us, having come so many miles to stay.

The Serenity of Beara

I've lived in this neck of the Irish woods and along a stunning coastline for almost eight years now. Of all the places I've lived - and I've lived in many parts of the United States and a number of locations in Ireland - I've finally found home. 

There's something special about Eyeries and Beara. It has to do with the people here: their warmth and welcoming character, and the laughter often hidden behind kind eyes. It has to do with the setting sun on a glorious summer's day, or the sweeping seas during a winter's gale. It has to do with the peace found midst barren rocks, or the song of distant bleating lambs, or the stunning view of a falcon hovering over a field hunting for prey.

We've named our small tent camping site Solas Mor - the Place of the Sun. No matter what the weather, the spirit of Sol's warmth seems to shine through.

With campers from all over the world, we can now share the welcoming warmth of Beara's serenity.


For more information on Solas Mor Tent Camping check out Google Maps



If this blog interests you and you want to learn more about Ireland why not consider purchasing A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND 2018 EDITION.

Are you thinking about living and working in Ireland? Would you like to move to Ireland? Do you want to know how to get an Irish Work Visa

Do you need to know how Brexit and Trump policies may affect your plans? If so, consider purchasing the 2018 EDITION OF A SURVIVOR'S GUIDE TO LIVING IN IRELAND by Tom Richards

Now almost 90,000 words long, this book could make the perfect gift for  those interested in this wonderful country. Over 14,000 people have now learned how to live, laugh, and drink like the Irish by reading this Kindle ebook. I hope you enjoy, and my very best - Tom