Friday, August 9, 2013

Creag Torthuil

When I say cottage, what comes to mind?  Probably the kind of place we stayed at in Hungerford, a small space, cozy, plenty of outdoors, quiet.

Creag Torthuil is a house.  A convoluted, somewhat under renovation, mishmash of a house. The history says that the house has been added on and added on, pretty much without design.

The kitchen was pretty awesome, though.  Fully stocked from top to bottom with everything you'd need (tool and pan-wise) to serve a full house, including spices, sugar, and other odds and ends. Roasting bags, tupperware, decanters, you name it this house had it, along with an awesome oven, a microwave, and a dishwasher. Some folks in our family moaned about the lack of WiFi and even cell service, but that dishwasher totally made up for it.  You know, some folks in Amman have dishwashers.  This is our fourth overseas post without one.  I cry foul.

With 5-6 bedrooms (bedroom 6 is under renovation), all with queen beds and the master with a king it's a perfect place to hold a family get-together.  The house really is odd though.  It has a hallway down one section that connects a stairwell to an upstairs bedroom (Katherine's room, it looked out to the Bay over the alpaca fields, had a bathroom and had a little library all its own), a den (with the TV that showed far too many game shows, and the library), the back door, a sitting room, and another bedroom (the boys shared this one as neither one wanted to sleep upstairs alone); a couple separate rooms in the middle that used to be bedrooms but now are pass-throughs and one has a stairwell that goes up to another couple bedrooms (one under construction, the other unused because the boys thought it was scary); and a hallway down the back section that links the kitchen, a bedroom (Rebecca's room with bathroom), a hallway bathroom, the master bed/bath, and the entrance hall.  We never used the front door, and the back door led to a small deck with steps down to an outdoor eating garden, a shed with the laundry, a pathway to the car park area, and a pathway to an alpaca paddock and the rest of the farm.

On our first day we walked around the farm and said hello to all the alpacas.  One field held baby alpacas with their moms, far cuter than the recently shorn adults.  One decided to play with a bird and was hopping all over the field, others were all grouped together with a single adult like they were in school.  Alpacas are weird.

The sitting room was the brightest of the rooms and a great place for breakfast, even better than the kitchen. I liked to sit here in the mornings when everyone else slept.  The house had a decent library and most of the Harry Potter books were sprinkled around the house so I picked up the Philosopher's Stone and enjoyed the quiet.  The house does sit on the one road through town and behind a stacked slate wall on the other side of the nearly single lane road we often had cows checking us out.

It was a house we pretty much fell in love with, after we got past the decidedly creepy feel to it.  I'm not sure if it was just those weird middle rooms that had no purpose or the family photos on the walls of strangers peering out of the darkness, maybe it was the lewd art in the master bedroom or the painting of a nursing mother that didn't seem to fit any genre, but it did take a day or two to walk from room to room rather than sidle past.

I guess it didn't help that out in the garden was a big plastic owl.  It wasn't being used, rather it was tucked along the banister of the deck half hidden in a bush.

I placed it on a windowsill by the front door, looking in.  And then on the windowsill to the living room, looking in.  And from there it took on a life of its own.

Each member of the family was "owled."  From hallways to stairs to the kitchen table and in bath tubs, the owl appeared all around the house and creeped everyone out in turn. At one point Katherine tried to put it in the boys' room but Jonathon wasn't quite asleep yet and upon seeing the owl did a minor freak out with "No no no no no no....." It said good morning to Rebecca outside her door.  And yes, it made an appearance in the master bathroom that really is creepy when you glance in the mirror and there is it, staring at you.

It was awesome.

We had plans to "Alpaca Picnic" but on our day to do it Ian twisted his ankle on a geocache hunt so we propped him up in the living room instead and left the alpacas alone.

That's OK.  Alpacas are weird.

Geocaching was huge fun though.  The Burren has a number of stashes and we saw things we wouldn't have otherwise, like the Iron Eye, and an old village that was mostly washed away by a big storm years and years ago.  The village is right behind where the current "town" of Fanore is, between the little store and the water if anyone is curious.

Mick O'Toole in the store and tackle shop was really great.  We posted a box from there, items we bought along the way and couldn't figure how to bring home with us in our suitcases.  It ended up being an expensive box, but he totally worked with us when we showed up when the P.O. was closed, provided a box for us to use, asked us to leave it open so he could figure out if the final weight would be cheaper in one box or split, and then allowed us to guesstimate the payment, leave the box there untaped, said he'd post us a receipt when the P.O. was open, and said he'd take care of all of it the following day (we were leaving early in the morning to make it to Dublin and get to the Guinness Storehouse).  A few days after our return, we received the receipt and a couple locally made cards of the Burren because we'd overpaid by 6 Euros. Mick O'Toole rocks.  Pat and Patricia O'Donohue across the street at O'Donohue's Pub were very cool too.  And they made awesome pub food.

Anyhow, we found caches along the Caher "River" and tried to find one in a park in Ballyvaughn but that ended up in a sprained ankle and no cache.  Guys, if you want to hide something well, fine, but saying you won't give any more clues after a certain point, say, the bottom of the stairs, is terrible. Especially when the GPS also stops at the bottom of the stairs and on both sides is forest, and the only other information is "replace the frame and cover with leaves."  The entire place was covered with leaves and we never deciphered "frame."  That sprained ankle didn't help.  I saw Ian falling in slow motion and wouldn't you know he probably made it worse by trying to save the Diet Coke in his hand rather than the foot attached to him.  I always knew Diet Cokes were trouble.
The view from the deck: alpaca fields and Galway Bay
Let it be known that Fanore and the Burren are one of my favorite places in the world.  And that's saying something.  Just keep the Diet Cokes away from Ian.

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