If you're looking, like I was, for a place to land for a week at a time, check out holidaylettings.co.uk Don't let the URL confuse you, they do rentals all over the world.
Although we did a night in Cardiff at the Future Inn, and a night just outside Dublin at the Kingston Hotel, and 2 nights at the Hayes and Harlington StayCity Serviced Apartments, the best times were had at the cottages.
Staying in London can be prohibitively expensive. For 6 people at a hotel we always need 2 and sometimes even 3 rooms (like at the Kingston). This time I looked at cottages. Since we knew we were getting a car, the cottage could really be anywhere, so I looked far out of town. To get from to our first cottage in Hungerford, not far off the M4, directly west from Heathrow, took about an hour.
This was College Barn.
If you couldn't tell, it's a converted barn, and it was in the middle of nowhere, or so it felt even though it was less than 20 minutes off the M4. The yard would fill with rabbits at night and birds during the day.
Inside, the home had a very open floor plan. Den, kitchen and 2 "bedrooms" upstairs were all open to each other. The upstairs was something special, a floor that was split in 2 with an open hallway between the two sections, It was like walking on a gangplank. One end was the master bedroom that had no door, only a curtain to pull, and the other end had a bed right out in the hall space (Nicholas slept there), a bathroom, and a closed door bedroom (Rebecca). The other bedroom downstairs with 2 twins was shared by Katherine and Jonathon and had its own bathroom. It was actually a very cool and very cozy space. We didn't spend much time there with all the driving around we did, but the beds were comfortable, the outdoors spacious, and our host very kind. When we were driving to the place we arrived later than we'd hoped. Our host said it was all right and he'd leave the house open. He meant open. Both sets of glass double doors were wide open to let in the fresh cool air after a warm day (you heard the UK was in a heat wave, right?). It was a reminder of how very far away from Amman we were.
Next door (loosely "next door") was a massive plot of land guarded by huge gates that apparently belonged to a Saudi prince. But who cares when the approaching sunset looks like this at 9:30 at night?
And the drive to get there winded through paved cow paths under tree domes. Actually, we spent a lot of time on this trip careening down single or nearly single lane roads trying not to die.
But that's neither here nor there. It was pretty.
Then we moved on to Ireland and landed in Fanore at Creag Torthuil.
Oh if only it had been that easy.
We'd stayed overnight in Cardiff to cut a bit of driving time for our transit day. It was a long day anyway. An hour plus to the ferry port, an hour waiting for the ferry, a 4 1/2 hour ferry ride, then a 5 hour drive from the Ireland port to our cottage. Late sunsets for the win. But after a stop in Tipperary for dinner and a Tipperary fair, even the late sunset wasn't going to help. We called the homeowner and told him we'd get there pretty late. He said he'd leave the house open. We made it to Fanore in pitch dark at midnight.
And the directions for the house were practically useless: 2 km past the town, yellow house on the left.
Here's what you need to know about Fanore. It's really dark at midnight because there are no street lights so a yellow house is indistinguishable from a blue, green or pink house, the roads are very narrow with hedges on both sides, there is a town line but here's the kicker, there is no actual town.
There is a pub. There is a store. There is a cafe'. There is a tackle shop. They occupy the same section of street, and if you blink you will miss it. So we did what every lost traveler does in Ireland, we stopped at the pub. It helped that it was the only thing open.
We bickered for a few minutes about who was going to ask for help at midnight about an alpaca farm at a yellow house, when I approached a lone girl sitting outside at a table.
She had no idea what I was talking about. Seriously, a town this small and she had no idea about alpacas. And then the guy she was with came out with their pints and he had no idea. We'd found the two people in the whole town who were not actually from Fanore and had no idea. She thought she might know which house though, and we hopped in our car and followed her in hers up and down the dark street stopping at homes and peeking in yards. Eventually we ended up calling the homeowner and getting directions and finding the place.
But get this... these folks who helped us out, we're "friends" with them on FB now.
They didn't know Fanore, but they do know Amman. They come here every year, to Dubliners, for Saint Patrick's Day, and they plan to come down for the opening of a new Irish bar at one of the hotels at the Dead Sea.
We've promised to buy them a pint when next they're here.
So back to the cottage we finally found. It was a house, a convoluted, mismatched, wonderful house.
More on that tomorrow though.