Vaughan’s Anchor Inn

Everybody Photographing Food Before Eating It. #thefutureisnow
Everybody Photographing Food Before Eating It. #thefutureisnow

I didn’t grow up eating fish. The occasional fish stick was all I was served in my younger and more vulnerable years, and that was always just a vehicle for ketchup. My mother doesn’t like cooking fish because it can make the house smell. I don’t think that I would have eaten it even if she did cook fish while I was living under her roof. I was not an adventurous eater. Not even close.

Throughout college I became more adventurous. I spent the summer between freshman and sophomore year on Martha’s Vineyard. I grew to love some seafood such as scallops and crab cakes. Gateway shellfish such as muscles cooked in a rich creamy garlicky sauce became a typical order on a night out.

A Friend's Scallops at Vaughan's
A Friend’s Scallops at Vaughan’s

I believe that I can now call myself a lover of seafood. Apart from sea urchin which I cannot bring myself to try, I have tried, and like to eat, most of what comes out of the sea.

Last week in Galway and Clare it was all about the crab claws. Oh man, even writing that has made me want another plate. All in all, I must have eaten about fifteen crab claws in one day. And I still want more, greedy guts that I am.

The first place I ever ate a crab claw was at Vaughan’s Anchor Inn in Liscannor, Co. Clare. It was just over a year ago. I have thought about them a lot since then. I didn’t know that the restaurant was called Vaughan’s, so I was thrilled, when after a swim in the sea and a long day jaunting down the West Coast of Ireland, we arrived at Vaughan’s last week.

Full disclosure: on our first stop of the day, at New Quay, our happy gang of six popped into Linnane’s and shared two plates of crab claws. Just to keep us going, obviously. I have no photo of them because we ate them too quickly.

Our Little Amuse Bouche
Our Little Amuse Bouche

So when we got to Vaughan’s and were thinking about what to order, I was going to go for the fish n chips. Only because I thought I should after already having eaten crab claws that day. But the Vaughan’s crab claws really had made an impression and who knows when I will be back in Liscannor, so “F*#@k it,” I thought, “I am going to get them again.”

Happily, Fergal was experiencing the same inner turmoil in regards to the crab claws, so we came together in one fabulous order of fish n chips AND crab claws.

I Mean . . .
I Mean . . .

It was the perfect combo. Too many crab claws would have been a sad way to end a magical day. Not ordering them would have lead to months of regret. A bad food order can do that to me.

Because we were all feeling a bit buzzed after our beautiful day in the sun and sea, we also ordered starters to share: crispy pigs ears and white bait. Always a good appetite whetter, that combo.

The Fish n Chips
The Fish n Chips

The chef sent out espresso cups full of smoked eel and potato soup for us. We thought we were being rewarded for being the most attractive table in the place, but we noticed a group of golfers getting the free soup as well. Whatever the reason, it was delicious and rich and we were grateful for it.

The crab claws lived up to my memory fully. It’s almost not worth eating crab claws anywhere but on the Western Coast of Ireland. I have yet to be disappointed.

The fish n chips was also fantastic; the fish was incredibly fresh and flakey.

You would be a Super Silly Soul not to go to Vaughan’s when you are in the West of Ireland. It is worth the trip, no matter how long the detour may be.

Vaughan’s Anchor Inn

Mountain Biking in Wicklow

View From the First Climb. Wicklow Towards the Sea.
View From the First Climb. Wicklow Towards the Sea.

I love the idea of being a tourist in your own country or city. I think it’s important to try to see the place you live through the eyes of a visitor. I always find that having visitors in Dublin allows me to appreciate the city more. I’ve complained to C more than once about the fact that I sometimes feel like I haven’t seen enough of Ireland, or that we don’t get out of Dublin enough.

Getting out of Dublin is so easy, so that last complaint is easily remedied.

I wonder if it was that desire–to get out of Dublin and to act like a tourist–that C was hoping to fulfill when he bought my wedding present. It must have been. Because I have never had any desire to go mountain biking.

I cycle around town every day. C and I did a really wonderful bike trip from Vienna to Budapest last summer, but Mountain Biking has never been a sport that tickled my fancy.

On the morning of my birthday (over a month ago), C told me he had a day of biking in the Wicklow Mountains lined up. If I didn’t jump for joy it was only because rain was falling horizontally outside our bedroom windows. So we postponed.

Last Friday we finally had a free day and the good weather to make our bike trip a reality. We boarded the Glendalough bus from Dawson Street with a bunch of American and Spanish tourists. After forty minutes, we were let off at the side of the road by a golf club halfway between Kilmacanogue and the Sally Gap. We got a warm up hike of about twenty-five minutes up to the bike rental.

Roundwood Reservoir
Roundwood Reservoir

Forty minutes on a bus and we are in the country; small roads, cottages, farms complete with sheep dog puppies and fields of sheep. No sign–smells, sounds, sights–of a European Capital city a mere twenty miles away. The road smelled of earth, sheep, honeysuckle and grass.

We found Biking.ie and met our guide, Richie. This is where things got a bit worrying for me. In fairness to C, I don’t think he was expecting to get a lesson on hard core mountain biking either.

The bikes are great; strong yet light, large-tired mountain bikes. We had to learn how to stand up on them, keeping our pedals even, and one finger always on both breaks. We had to learn how to let gravity help us over rocks and roots. I was scared. I was nervous. I was not excited.

Richie seemed to think we’d do fine. After only three “practice runs” on a little trail around the rental compound. We had a long twenty minute climb up to the trail head. That part was hard, sure, and my thighs were like, “whaaaaaaaaaat?!”,  but at least we were on a long, combed road that didn’t have sharp twists and turns, or huge rocks and roots.

We had a short reprieve at the top to take in the view before hitting the single track trail. I was not thrilled about this. I told myself, though, that I would be proud of myself if I could do it. I told myself that if C and I were just newly dating I would want to attack this challenge to prove that I am both athletic and tough. I held onto those emotions–or tried to, I really wanted to cry–as we set off.

The trails were beautiful, and I really wanted to be on foot so I could enjoy them. The actual trail riding is kind of a blur of total fear and frustration. I did it though, and was so happy to come out on the open road that looks out over the Guinness Estate just in the valley before the Sally Gap.

Made It!
Made It!

After some Jelly Babies (for glucose!) and a photo op or two, Richie gave us the choice of either riding some more trails or taking the road down around the Roundwood Reservoir.

“YES! Let’s do that. I just would feel happier.” I chickened out. But this was my birthday present and I wanted to actually enjoy it without breaking down in a mess of tears. I had managed to ride two trails. I was proud of that.

The rest of the ride was really wonderful. The day was gorgeous, I felt confident on the roads and didn’t even mind the few big climbs we had to do. I’d never seen the Roundwood Reservoir, and it is beautiful.

All in all we were on our bikes for about three hours. It was a good, solid ride, sometimes very scary, sometimes absolutely perfect for the early summer day.

The whole day reminded me that getting out of Dublin, of doing something new–even something right on your doorstep! even something that scares you!–is such a good idea.

And now I also know that I don’t want to be a Mountain Biker. So I can tick that off the list!

Me and My Bike. #nailedit
Me and My Bike. #nailedit
Mountain Biking in Wicklow

Foodie Paradise

Cheese Table at Schull's Farmer's Market
Cheese Table at Schull’s Farmer’s Market

I feel sorry for all the foodie tourists of the world who think that France or Italy or Spain is the ultimate food-lovers destination. As far as I’m concerned, Ireland, but specifically for this post, West Cork, is hard to beat.

C and I spent the weekend in Schull, West Cork. West Cork is one of my favorite places even minus the good food, but the food certainly keeps a foodie like me counting the moments until I can go back.

When we spent my mother’s birthday in Durrus three years ago, the weather was awful. One of the worst summers on record. We got through the days finding wonderful food to eat. We watched Durrus Cheese be made as we stood in torrential rain, we ate fish and chips washed down by a Sancerre in Schull harbour, and on our last night in Durrus, we went to Good Things Café.

Fish Stew
Fish Stew

Good Things was definitely a highlight of a good food week. I went back two years ago in October, on the last night they were open for the season. C and I managed to sneak in at the last minute this weekend; the first weekend they were open for the season. Boy oh boy are we glad we did.

Fresh Summer Greens
Fresh Summer Greens

Good Things does exactly what it says on the tin. Carmel Somers, the owner and chef, is dedicated to serving the best of West Cork’s ample cornucopia of goodness and to teaching people how to cook it well themselves. The restaurant is tiny (by city standards) and cozy. It is surrounded by lawn and herb gardens. As we got out of the car we were greeted by three sweet Donkey’s.

His Main
His Main

As it was the first weekend of the season, there was a set menu. C and I tried one of everything on offer, because, well, obviously. I don’t actually have enough adjectives to do the meal justice. The food is homemade, hearty, fresh and simply, wonderful. There wasn’t a bad item in any of the dishes. It was all early summer loveliness. A perfect way to kick off our West Cork weekend. (I didn’t get a photo of the rhubarb pie dessert because it somehow disappeared before it could be photographed.)

Her Main
Her Main

The wonderful thing about West Cork is that you can find incredible food in pretty much every town along the peninsulas. Pubs serve food that would put many city restaurants to shame. It is all simple, local and delicious. No one is trying to re-invent the wheel, but with cheese and salmon and fresh fish this good? Why would you want to? And chips. Pub’s in West Cork never go easy on the chips.

One of my favorite examples of this is O’Sullivan’s pub in Crook Haven. Go on a grey or rainy day when it’s not too crowded (it’s vicinity to the gorgeous Barley Cove beach means it does get crowded). Cuddle into a window seat and order the smoked salmon. Or the chowder. Or the fish n chips. Good luck finding something that doesn’t scream “Ireland!” “Fresh Food!” “Heaven!”

A Typical O'Sullivan's Lunch
A Typical O’Sullivan’s Lunch

We drove over to Union Hall for dinner one evening. We’d had a tip-off that Dinty’s was the place to go for a good steak. Our tip off was correct. C went for the mixed seafood plate. You can never go wrong with seafood in West Cork. Obviously.  But when someone tells me a steak is good, I don’t read the rest of the menu.

Dinty's Finest. And a Murphy's to Wash it Down.
Dinty’s Finest. And a Murphy’s to Wash it Down.
His Seafood Special
His Seafood Special

We ventured to the farmer’s market in Schull on Sunday morning. It is exactly what every good farmer’s market is. The only difference is that West Cork makes some of the best cheeses and sausages in all of Ireland, which means in all of the world. Buying the goods right there mean prices are half what they would be in fancy whole foods markets up here in Dublin. We stocked up.

West Cork honey has the reputation of being some of the finest honey in Europe. The European Restaurant’s Society voted it one of the key ingredients in any fine European pantry. Butter was the other Irish winner. As we walked along the roads over the weekend, the fields were alive with the humming and buzzing of thousands of happy, very busy, bees. I am lucky enough to have married a man whose uncle harvests prize winning West Cork honey. Yes, I am smiling smugly.

So to all you foodie tourists out there: go sweat in Italy or battle the chic set along the Mediterranean or the Riviera if you fancy it. Sure, Ireland cannot promise you sunshine, but I guarantee you will eat some of the finest food you have ever tasted.

Foodie Paradise

The Relief of Dublin

Mostly Empty Streets in Central Dublin at Lunchtime
Mostly Empty Streets in Central Dublin at Lunchtime

Walking through town this afternoon I was thinking about how much I love living in Dublin. Dublin is a big(ish) city, but the streets aren’t crowded. The buildings are low so sun hits your face, yet it’s never too hot.* I spent last week in the madness of London, and Dublin is such a relief! Dublin is a relief of a city! The lack of bodies on every street, in every shop, on every train, is such a wonderful change from New York and London. I love New York and I love London. I’ve lived in each for at least two years. I really enjoyed spending a full week in London last week, but it’s exhausting to be there. Just to move around is work. For a person (me) who doesn’t like crowds, Dublin is the ideal.

London was shockingly full. It felt bursting with people. Even more then when I lived there (2005-2007). Most people in central London were tourists. As I write this post a group of American tourists are chatting over my shoulder, but Dublin is certainly mostly Irish people or people who live her. In London it was rare to hear an English accent on the streets.

Some of my favorite people live in London. I love that I know it well and can get around without looking at the tube map too often. I like having a favorite place for tea, and dinner, and park relaxations. But coming home to cozy, relaxed, slightly slow Dublin is the best part about leaving.

Another Quiet City-Centre Street
Another Quiet City-Centre Street

*Yes, sometimes a little extra heat–or even a proper summer?–would be nice.

The Relief of Dublin

Ballyfin House

IMAG4342

The last part of 2014 and the first part of 2015 were filled with some pretty amazing hotel visits. Getting married and going on a honeymoon is a great excuse to treat yourselves to fancy hotel time. From the Merrion (our wedding venue) to Mount Juliet for a few days revival in Kilkenny, then onto Vanuatu’s Havanna Resort to finish our honeymoon, we were spoiled rotten. Staying at a Holiday Inn will never be satisfying again. We’ve ruined ourselves.

The most expensive hotel in Ireland is Ballyfin House in County Laoise. It had a taste of international fame last year when Kanye and Kim decided to take over the whole house for their honeymoon. Luckily, I think that the guests who would visit (and are able to afford) Ballyfin House don’t really have any idea who Kanye and Kim are.

View from the Drive
View from the Drive

My mother and I went down to Ballyfin for tea one day. One cannot simply drop in for tea at Ballyfin. You must be a guest or a friend of a guest. Happily for us, we had friends staying there on “business”, so were able to jump onto their coat tails and sail through the gorgeous house one afternoon.

The house was bought and restored by an American. Most people get nervous when they hear that an American is buying up famous old Irish houses and “doing them up”. Well, I must say that this American is a big fan of that American’s job. I don’t know much about restoring a Regency mansion, but what I do know is that Ballyfin is stunning. As much of the original details have been restored to their full grandeur as possible, and though the decore is lush, it is not gaudy.

Interior Dome
Interior Dome

I loved that the original floors, with their intricate geometric designs, were saved. The glass conservatory took my breath away, and the domed hall wouldn’t be out of place in any gallery or museum.

Floor Detail
Floor Detail
Floor Detail Too
Floor Detail Too

The public rooms are massive, the windows are 12-15 feet and there is a fire burning in all the grates. Somehow it is at once grand and cosy. We took tea in “The Gold Room”, under portraits of men in fabulous wigs. Guests are allowed (and encouraged) to make themselves at home; to use any of the public rooms available, and to ask for whatever their hearts desire. Our hearts desired some tea biscuits and some cucumber sandwiches and potato chips. I know, the potato chips were a curve ball, but the staff, without batting an eyelid promptly brought us a bowl of hand-cut waffle crisps. Those five-star ratings don’t come from nowhere.

Conservatory Detail
Conservatory Detail

After tea we got to take a tour of some of the bedrooms. Like the public rooms, the bedrooms are grand but not overwhelmingly so. They are comfortable. Cosy (not to overuse that word, but it is the truth). The bathrooms are fabulous. I am a firm believer that a bathroom in a hotel is just as important as a nice bedroom. Maybe more? A deep bath, a good shower, two sinks and a view. Each bathroom at Ballyfin has these elements.

I don’t know that I will ever be able to afford a night at Ballyfin House*, but even our few hours there were delightful. There is nothing like getting to step back in time and being allowed to enjoy being taken care of.

Grand Staircase
Grand Staircase

Even though I was thoroughly spoiled in my hotel visits over the past six months, I do hope that I will never lose appreciation for those types of establishments. It’s a treat to get to step into that world; if only just for tea.

*If anyone wants to pay me some money to do anything that would get me a night or two there, please email me.

Exterior With Mom and Friends for Scale
Exterior With Mom and Friends for Scale
Ballyfin House

The South Wall

Walking Partners on the South Wall
Walking Partners on the South Wall

I don’t consider myself an ocean person. I grew up in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is on the Pacific Ocean, but I never feel as though I grew up in a “sea town” or “by the ocean.” We didn’t live that close to the ocean so that is the obvious reason I feel that way, and Los Angeles is a huge city that also includes hills and canyons. Dublin is a much smaller city, but it is also right on a sea and it also has hills within its boarders. In both cities, though, I am always amazed at how different they feel when you are beside the sea. The city changes completely.

Bright Red Lighthouse
Bright Red Lighthouse

For the first time last Monday I went for a walk on the South Wall. The Wall boarders the entrance way to Dublin Port, the Liffey, the Grand Canal and the Royal Canal. It runs out beyond the famous red and white striped smoke stacks to a squat red light house at the tip. The views stretch from the Bray to Howth, including Bull Island and the Wicklow Mountains.

Fun and Games on the South Wall
Fun and Games on the South Wall
Smoke Stacks in the Distance
Smoke Stacks in the Distance

We walked on a foggy morning when the clouds couldn’t quite decide whether to take off or hang around. It’s always blowy on the Irish Sea. Dublin looked like it was behind a veil; for some of the walk we couldn’t even see it sitting there quietly just inland. As we got back to the smoke stacks, I could just make out the dramatic Beckett Bridge and Custom House on the quays. A few big ferries that were not in use idled in their giant slips.

Lighthouse's Little Green Partner
Lighthouse’s Little Green Partner

The South Wall is not as busy as Dun Laoghaire pier, though the walks are similar. It is not as easy to get to; you really need a car. Happily we were invited on the walk by a friend who not only can drive but was also in possession of a car for the day. We drove out past the scrap yards and energy plants to the edge of Dublin. It is odd to be behind the giant smoke stacks; to see them from a different angle. It is wonderful to be at the lighthouse and to be facing right into Dublin, right at it’s centre.

Reverse View of Smoke Stacks
Reverse View of Smoke Stacks

Even though Dublin is a fraction of the size of Los Angeles, it’s face can change just as completely depending on where you see it from.

Dublin from the Edge
Dublin from the Edge
The South Wall

Wicklow Mountains

When I am walking or cycling up from town to Rathmines, I can see the Wicklow Mountains straight ahead of me. This morning they were covered in a light snow.

You can catch glimpses of the mountains from many places in town. They are right on the edge of the city, and yet I don’t get out to them that often.

This past weekend C and I were taking care of two doggies so we decided this was a perfect excuse to get out and walk around in the mountains for an afternoon.

Mia Heading up the Wicklow Mountains
Mia Heading up the Wicklow Mountains

We drove up towards Sally Gap, following signs for Powerscourt Waterfall and Avoca Handweavers. In all the time I’ve lived in Ireland, I’ve only been up there twice before. The day was Irish: grey, windy and cold. We took a trail high above Loch Dan.

The ground is wet and muddy but luckily a walking track has been built above it all to save our shoes and keep our feet dry. Our doggie wards are both of the tiny variety, and had there not been a walk-way, we might have lost them in one of the cold puddles.

C and Dog Friends
C and Dog Friends

I love being able to see far and wide and not be able to see Dublin or any sign of a city. There were other walkers and hikers on the path but not that many. I love that a mere forty minute drive from the centre of a major European capital I can be standing on a mountain surrounded by mountains and air and sky and nothing else.

We hiked up Runyon Canyon in Los Angeles on New Years day. LA has many great canyon and hill walks. It took us about 40 minutes to park the car, let alone to drive to the base of the walk. When we hit the trail, we were some of hundreds of people and dogs walking. Everyone looked perfectly LA stylish as well. At the top we stood above the intense sprawl of Los Angeles. The city spreads as far as the eye can see. The Hollywood sign sits in the Hollywood hills to the left, and the Pacific Ocean is down on the right. Planes take off every few seconds from the airport. You are aware, totally and completely, that you are above, in and a part of a massive American city.

LA Sprawl from Runyon Canyon
LA Sprawl from Runyon Canyon
Hollywood Sign
Hollywood Sign

The Wicklow Mountains are the opposite of that, and a welcome relief. Not that I would mind of we could steal some of that LA sunshine. I hope we won’t have to wait until our next dog’s visit to head up to the mountains again.

Next time we head to the Wicklow Mountains I'm hoping for short sleeves and shades.
Next time we head to the Wicklow Mountains I’m hoping for short sleeves and shades.
Wicklow Mountains

Other Islands, Other Climes

Even In Hawaii . . .
Even In Hawaii . . .

Here is something I’ve learned over my travels: many international airports do not have a good magazine collection*. While C and I waited for our eleven hour flight from Nadi, Fiji, to Los Angeles, California the other day, I went to find a magazine to keep me occupied and help to send me off to sleep with visions of haute couture, beautiful homes, and possibly a worthwhile article or two. The only magazines on offer were the thin, nasty, gossip mongering celebrity rags. I am not at all above having a flick through those magazines while I stand in line to buy gum or when waiting for a train, but I don’t want to actually buy one. In Nadi, I didn’t recognize even one celebrity either as they were all Australian. My kindle had just died so I knew I would have to throw myself at the mercy of Fiji Airways in flight entertainment and hope for sleep.

This small disappointment over magazines was probably the low point of my month-long honeymoon. Suffice it to say, our adventures in Hawaii, Fiji and Vanuatu were completely wonderful.

Rainbows in Vanuatu. No Word on Pot of Gold
Rainbows in Vanuatu. No Word on Pot of Gold

The South Pacific Islands are as magical as you might imagine. Women in Hawaii do wear hibiscus flowers or frangipani behind their ears. You feel like T-Rex could burst from the jungle on Kauai. We saw humpback whales both from the sea and from above thanks to a helicopter trip. I even had the incredible treat of hearing them–with my naked ears!!–underwater while I was snorkeling.

We stayed on Leleuvia Island just off the east coast of Fiji for a few nights. I have never seen fish like there are in Fijian waters. The colors are electric; blues, yellows and oranges. But even more incredible were the geometric prints on some of them! Perfect straight lines in black and while or blue and orange. Intersecting black and white lines on the butterfly fish that have bright yellow heads and look exactly as if Mondrian had designed them. The coral was the color of a soft sunsets: lavender, light pink and blue. The star fish were bright navy. Our skin turned pink then brown. My freckles all came out with a vengeance, even the ones that line my top lip and make it loos as though I am constantly wearing ’90s-style brown lip-liner.

Fiji
Fiji

Then we made our way to Vanuatu, a country I hadn’t known existed this time last year. Just west of Fiji you will find this group of Islands that have not been discovered by tourists in the way our previous stops had. Granted, the Aussies have known about Vanuatu for a while as it’s a mere 5 hour trip from Sydney. But C had the distinct honour of being the first Irishman to stay in two of the resorts we visited.

Vanuatu is quiet and easy to be in. The Ni-Vanuatu people are respectfully curious but not aggressive. We saw fruit bats for sale (for eating), as well as piles of crabs still alive sitting on tables at the market. We marveled at the texture of bread fruit; not unlike a “floury potato”, and walked up to, around and down a live volcano. We also did the same up an extinct volcano. The water was like a swimming pool; as clear and as warm. Paradise is the only accurate adjective.

Local Flora: A Banyan. And This is a Small One.
Local Flora: A Banyan. And This is a Small One.

After an epic travel day that included 5 hours in Los Angeles, we are back on our own island. It is distinctly colder. But the sun is shinning (for now) and our skin is still brown (and freckled in my case).

My Husband. With Luggage.
My Husband. With Luggage.

*This also includes Cochin, India, Mumbai, India, Port Vila, Vanuatu, Mexico City, Mexico but NOT Tokyo, Japan. That airport shop is fabulous.

Other Islands, Other Climes

Happy Thanksgiving

Norman Rockwell's Classic Thanksgiving Ideal
Norman Rockwell’s Classic Thanksgiving Ideal

Thanksgiving is a good excuse to dress up on a Thursday. I’ve always been a girl who loves dressing up, getting fancy, and I love an excuse to wear fancy shoes. When I think about Thanksgiving, this is the first thing that comes to mind: planning what I was going to wear to my grandparent’s house to sit around with my cousins all day. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because I get to dress up, eat food and watch TV. I’m not sure a day gets more perfect.

The day usually starts with my mother in her nice clothes covered by an apron in the kitchen, shouting at dogs “you are in the WAY there, Chief, sorry”, and to children, siblings, cousins, spouses “if you aren’t helping get OUT of the kitchen!” My favorite thing is to set the table with small pumpkins and other gourds, bittersweet, and fruit. A full cornucopia! If you set the table, it frees you up to watch the Macy’s Day Parade on NBC and get into the cheese and crackers. No, the parade isn’t the most awe-inspiring thing; watching massive pop-culture inspired balloons maneuver down Manhattan is not awe inspiring, but it’s just what you do. It’s the white noise of Thanksgiving.

Here’s the key thing about Thanksgiving: it’s the perfect speed bump between Halloween and Christmas. The race to Christmas is exhausting and having a holiday before that madness kicks off is really nice. Only Americans could have come up with a holiday that is about stuffing a bird, stuffing your face, then collapsing in front of the TV. In my family’s case, we head to the movies once the clean up is [mostly] over.

Certainly it is a made up holiday. The Pilgrims did sit down with the Native American Indians after that first awful winter and gave thanks for being alive. It was a celebration of the harvest, and they were eating corn and tomatoes and catching fish. It certainly did not occur in late November. President Lincoln decided to create Thanksgiving after the civil war. It’s a restorative holiday. What do you do when you are a country buried in grief and rubble? Make food for each other. Celebrate your family and friends. It’s a lovely sentiment.

You don’t send cards or give gifts that are not food based. Thanksgiving is about making food and eating it. Perhaps you take a moment to think about how lucky you are to live in a country where putting marshmallows on sweet potatoes is normal. Then you go watch football or the national dog show. Depending on your tastes, obviously.

Another reason Thanksgiving is great is that it gives married couples a chance to split “holiday time” between both families; Thanksgiving with one, Christmas or Hanukah with the other. No one has to be left out.

It’s a non-secular holiday. Thanksgiving is a day for Americans of all religious backgrounds to all do exactly the same thing: shout family members and make trips to the emergency room*.

Thanksgiving food is delicious: turkey (deep fried turkey is pretty fantastic, and worth the medical risk), mashed potatoes, ham, stuffing, creamed onions, brussle sprouts and bacon, green beans with crispy onions, and PIE PIE PIE. My favorite is Pecan Pie. I like pumpkin too, I’m not an idiot. But pecan always comes out tops for me. Not that you have to choose. That’s the beauty! More is MORE! Give THANKS! Go AMERICA!

When pressed what my favorite holiday is, well, it’s my birthday. Obviously. All the gifts, none of the buying pressure. But second is definitely Thanksgiving.

*Common Thanksgiving injuries include burns from deep-frying a turkey (it’s delicious. Not just for red-necks.), sliced off fingers and car accidents.

Happy Thanksgiving

Holiday Revelations

Cycled to Budapest! Arrived well rested. That's the main thing . . .
Cycled to Budapest! Arrived well rested. That’s the main thing . . .

It has been two years since C and I have been on a proper holiday. We go back to the States at least once every year to be with my family, and we’ve had a few jaunts to London and Paris for weekends packed full of wedding or engagement or birthday festivities. But there has been no new adventures to speak of; no new stamps in the passport, no weird food or funky toilets. The past two weeks have made up for it as we cycled from Vienna, Austria to Budapest, Hungary. 

C and I are going to be married in a few months. We are planning a fun honeymoon after the marital celebrations, so yes, perhaps this “pre-wedding-moon” holiday feels like gilding the lily. Whatever the reasons that lead us to take this little jaunt–for the first time in four years we were both free in August is the main reason–it was totally worth it because we have learned something that will absolutely make our marriage stronger. And better. And more restful. 

Was it facing the challenge of cycling 50k every day that brought us this insight? No. Was it learning that Hungarian wine is a very well kept secret? Not entirely. All our beds throughout Slovakia and Hungary sported this feature: two duvets. Two duvets on a double or queen sized bed. THAT will be the savior of our restful hours and ultimately, our relationship. 

It would never have occurred to me that two single duvets would have this power. Two beds seems a bit sad. Unless you have a big enough room for two double beds, to fully “I Love Lucy” it would be a bridge too far. I do think sharing a bed is a lovely thing, and an important one. But sharing covers is a disaster. The Eastern Europeans have got it right: cuddle up under your own choice of duvet and everyone wins.

I’ve mentioned this revelation to a few friends, married and/or partnered. Each and every person agrees that this is a brilliant idea. My psychologist friend even burst out laughing when I told her my “revelation” because she says that “double duvets” is the one thing marriage therapists won’t shut up about. She says that double duveting is one of the therapy world’s little secrets. It’s so simple, yet so profound. 

So, yes, cycling along the Danube through Austria, Slovakia and Hungary was incredible. The scenery was late-summer loveliness, the food was hearty and the beer was tasty and cheap. What we will take from this holiday that will last a lifetime, however, is the wonder of the double duvet. Good thing we have a registry to start collecting some new bed linens. 

Classic Double Duvet Set Up
Classic Double Duvet Set Up
Holiday Revelations