Homestay with an Irish Family: Day 2

Allison Harpole. NUI Galway, Ireland


February 26, 2015

17 January 2015

9:30 a.m. and my warm body snuggled into the comforts of my covers. I was so cozy that I hated to get out of bed, but also eager to eat a home cooked breakfast and begin my day with my host family. I pulled myself out of bed and prepped for the day until I heard clanking of dishes in the kitchen. I followed the noise to see who was awake and found my host, John, cleaning last night’s dishes and placing them in the dishwasher when I walked in the kitchen with a friendly, “Good morning!” He greeted me with a warm smile and offered me a cup of tea or coffee. I poured myself a pot of tea as he small talked to keep me entertained.

John wanted to go to Lidl’s to get some groceries and asked if I wanted to go with him. Not going to miss out on an opportunity, I quickly accepted his invite. We walked to the car to find that the bitter winter day had masked the windshield with a thick layer of ice. I hopped into the car while John went to get a hot pot of water to pour over the windshield. This was definitely the coldest I had seen in Ireland. It had to be low 30s, but I couldn’t tell for sure since the Irish read temperature in Celsius. After a quick tour of Lidl, a German grocery store very similar to Aldi’s (which also are prevalent in Ireland), we returned back to the home to eat breakfast.

Over a warm croissant and hot cup of tea, Angela asked what we wanted to do today. My roommate and I said we were up for anything. She was delighted to hear that and said that she wanted to take us to the nearby town of Westport to see Croagh Patrick and walk through the town. But first, we had to meet our group in town to talk about the scavenger hunt. Though it seemed like something we were promoted to do, it did not seem required, so we assured Angela that I would be happy skipping the scavenger hunt. “Great! Then we will eat a lunchy-brunchy meal this morning, have sandwiches before going to meet your group, and go to Westport right after that. Sound okay?” I smiled and agreed, making me excited for the day.

The afternoon arrived quickly and soon we were on our way to meet the Arcadia group. When we arrived, it was raining and everyone huddled underneath the courthouse. I found the program coordinator and explained to him our plans and asked if we could skip the scavenger hunt. He insisted we spend the day with our host family and said it was fine if we wanted to skip on the scavenger hunt around town.

The trip to meet our group was quick, giving us plenty of time to eat a chicken sandwich before leaving for Westport. A Taylor Swift CD played in the car as I talked to the hosts’ daughter about her upcoming concert this summer to see her. I was surprised when she said that she did not like her older country music and started listening to her when she converted to pop. She went on to admit that country music was not very popular in Ireland, so many of the Irish did not discover Taylor’s music until she converted to pop. Living in Nashville, I had witnessed the complete opposite reaction from friends about Taylor’s conversion to pop. But hearing about this topic in a different context and different country put a different perspective on the popular musician’s career choice. By doing so, she opened up her brand and music to a new global context. Just an interesting fact I thought I would share.

The car ride was scenic and quiet during the 20-minute ride to Westport. When we entered the town, we were told that the town was decorated like a typical and cliché Irish town would be thought of as being and has won the “Ireland’s Tidiest Town” for many years. As the town came into view, I could see the beautiful colorful buildings and classic Irish touches that she was talking about.

Through the town, past the bay, and into a parking lot we went until an enormous mountain came into view. Croagh Patrick nobly sat in front of us with a snow-covered tip. At the very top, I could see the chapel sitting on the tip of the mountain. I never dreamed it would be so big. It is believed that Saint Patrick spent 40 days and 40 nights on the mountain. Because of its religious affiliation, it attracts many Christians pilgrimaging every year. After some photos and a stop into the outdoor worship area, we were back in the car and driving across the road to the beach.

Near the shack displaying tourism information about the beach, a group of farmers stood watching two cows that they had corralled into a corner. They must have gotten out of their field, if I was guessing. The scene was comical as the farmers talked, others watched the cows, and the cows watched us. When we pulled up to the beach, I hoped out to snap some photos of the picturesque views of the beach with snow-capped mountains in the backdrop. It was absolutely stunning. I turned my back to the ocean to see another angle of Croagh Patrick with rolling green fields in the foreground. Every angle was beautiful and no photograph could do it justice. 

On our drive back to town, our host got a call from some old friends from Sligo who were planning on coming to Castle Bar for their kids’ tennis match and wanted to stop by their home. I remember my own family visiting old friends in Evansville when we would go to my Dad’s tennis matches. It is funny how similar two countries across the world can be. Before returning to Castlebar to greet the family friends, we stopped in Westport for a few minutes to browse around a candy shop and a department store. The town was very cute and had lots of shops lined through its posh roads.

Back at the hosts’ home, we retreated into the sitting room to cozy up next to a warm fire, hot tea, and watch “The Proposal” while the adults caught up with one another in the kitchen. Time seems to go by so much fast in Ireland. Before I knew it, we were ready to eat again. This time, it would be lasagna, mashed potatoes, bread, salad, and lasagna for dinner. Two dinner guests joined us over the carb-filled meal (it didn’t take me long to learn that nearly every Irish dish is served with bread and potatoes, no matter what it is). And for dessert, we were each served a piece of rich chocolate cake, a delicacy I could not pass up no matter how full I was.

After dinner, we all went into the sitting room and picked out a movie to watch. Since my roommate had never seen “Leap Year,” it was the winning movie. I was thrilled that one of my favorite movies was chosen and was eager to see what the Irish said about the Irish people and Irish culture portrayed in the film.

If you ever want a good time, watch Leap Year with an Irish family. I died laughing as one of the guests mimicked the character Declan’s “Diddley-eye” line in the film. They also all commented on the false information the movie portrayed, such as how geographically challenged it is (There is no reason that the ship from Wales would have sailed all the way to Cork and then land in Dingle…). It was interesting to see how quickly the group of Irish picked out each landmark in the film from the cliffs off the coast of the Aran Islands to informing us who the Irish actor playing the bartender “Eoghan” was. I laughed and smiled the entire time as I listened to their commentary.

The night was only complete with an Irish coffee. My host insisted we try them with them instead of paying an absurd amount of money at a pub to order one. I took a few sips to say I tried it but couldn’t drink anymore than that. I guess I’m just not an Irish coffee kind of girl. As the night grew late, we said good-bye to the guests and then made our way to our rooms. It was another wonderful spent with my host family in Castlebar, County Mayo.