Warmest And Driest Spot
|by Deirdre Nuttall
see Ireland’s rugged, spectacular west coast, they are often so overwhelmed
by the sheer beauty of it all that they sell their homes and move, sure
that their life is going to be filled with rainbows and ocean waves and
red-haired beauties and great Guinness outside thatched pubs. And then
the winter comes.
horizontal hail, frozen mud and overcast skies; average rainfall well over
100mm for each month of the winter; average 24-hour temperature of 5-6°C;
sunrise at 9 and sunset at 3; all of which will make you love – or depend
on – the roaring peat fire and the hot whiskeys at the local pub.
what makes the southeast - Ireland’s warmest, driest spot - a better choice
in a lot of ways. The landscapes are pretty - gentle, rolling hills,
woods, deep rivers and a coast where you can actually go swimming without
freezing in the summer months - albeit not in a catch-your-breath sort
of way. If Ireland was Italy, the southeast would be somewhere like Umbria;
attractive in a way that makes you want to put your feet up.
Giovanni’s earlier postings know that we’ve decided to move around for
a few years, until our son Finbar starts school at least. The journey began
in January and took us, so far, from an apartment in downtown Rome to two
separate Azorean islands – São Miguel http://www.escapeartist.com/efam/69/Living_In_The_Azores.html
and Faial http://www.escapeartist.com/efam/71/Life_In_The_Azores.html.
So far so good. For a little home living and the opportunity to see family
and friends, we’ve been staying for the summer at our retreat in Ireland,
a cottage on my family farm, recently restored (although the details are
still a work-in-progress). We’re proud that our house is the original farmhouse,
superseded by my parents’ larger house in about 1730, when it was demoted
to serving as the farm dairy. And by the way, if you would like to rent
or swap http://www.homeexchange.com/show.php?id=37264,
we’re open to suggestions.
|I grew up
here in the height of Ireland’s depression, which reached a new nadir in
in the southeast was at around 25% when I was in high school and the mantra
on every Irish youth’s lips was “there’s nothing for me here.” You
could defer emigration by going to university, but the prospect still loomed
on the horizon.
We had no idea
that the famous Celtic Tiger boom was just around the corner and anyone
over 28 or so is still having a hard time getting used to it. Ireland has
been transformed in many ways, mostly (if not exclusively) for the better.
Coming back to spend the summer months has been something of a revelation.
viewpoints aside, what does the southeast have to offer the expatriate?
Well, for a start, it’s a very lively area from the cultural point of view.
counties of Wexford, Waterford and Kilkenny are home to about half a million
people, which makes the region big enough to support some serious cultural
events, notably the Kilkenny Arts Festival http://www.kilkennyarts.ie/,
which takes place in August, and the internationally famous Wexford Opera
when the small harbour town, founded by Vikings centuries ago is briefly
transformed into the sort of place where major opera stars are seen spilling
out of the same pubs and chip shops as everybody else. Wexford is also
home to one of Ireland’s most renowned street theatre troupes http://www.buibolg.com
and has a summer festival
that intriguingly combines horse racing and bluegrass music. Summer
and Autumn are the best times for culture, but both Waterford and Kilkenny
are big enough to host good theatre and cinema in the Winter too. And
of course, there’s an outside chance that you won’t freeze on your way
to see the show. But if, like us, you sometimes need a fix of the urban
jungle, Dublin and Cork are roughly equidistant from the region - each
is about two and a half hours from where we are and the roads are, by Ireland’s
still-dubious standards, not bad at all. None of this is a big secret.
|In fact, while
tourism in the west is actually declining - probably because everyone has
already been to Dingle and the Beara Peninsula and Connemara and seen it
all before - it’s actually growing here.
come in the same staggering numbers, and they don’t all swarm to the same
three places, but take things at a more leisurely pace, boating on or walking
beside the most beautiful rivers in Ireland, eating fresh trout that they’ve
just caught themselves, or having a lavish meal at one of the great restaurants
increasingly present in the more affluent towns and villages. How do
we know? Well, we’ve chatted to quite a few - and here comes a shameless
plug - because my semi-retired parents run a small tourist business http://www.macmurrough.com
on their farm, and also rent a beautiful small cottage to visitors who
like the country life. Many of the people who come here are veteran visitors
a few stay. Then there’s the cost of property. Property investors - both
real ones and the ones who just make endless fantasy purchases, like us
- know that the cost of property in Ireland has gone way off the far end
of the spectrum. A modest two-up two-down in Dublin will set you back half
a million Euro.
More if it’s
in a “desirable” neighbourhood. And the same goes for traditionally
favoured beauty spots in the West, where the cost of maintaining property
is higher, too, because they are lashed by the salty air from the Atlantic
all winter long. It’s not dirt-cheap in the southeast, but you can
still find attractive rural properties for affordable sums. An example?
A 200-sqm on 0.75-acre 4-bedroom new home in Duncannon Co. Wexford, 20
minutes from here and 5 minutes from the beach, can be bought for €385,000
- a snip at Irish prices. Run-down but eminently restorable cottages and
old farmhouses can be found, too, and the Polish carpenters are a dab hand
at bringing back their faded glory.
town near our cottage hosts quite a big expatriate community. Not just
the young East Europeans - Poles, Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians -
here for the jobs, who are transforming the culinary scene and improving
the local gene pool, but also Germans, Americans, Brits, French, Chinese
and the occasional Italian. Perhaps the most visible are the Africans,
many of whom have lived here for a long time awaiting a decision on their
claim to refugee status. The local “international club” regularly
hosts barbecues and, to judge from the variously hued infants and recently
married couples one sees at the supermarket checkout, they’re a roaring
success. As this is still quite a welcoming country, especially out here
in the provinces, villages that originally proclaimed themselves outraged
at the thought of hosting refugees often cause a ruckus in the media when
one of “their” asylum-seekers ends up with a deportation order after
having attended the local school for years and having reached a straight-A
in Gaelic grammar.
here is easy. 101translations http://www.101translations.com
and Adverbage http://www.adverbage.com
run like clockwork from our 17th century cottage with 21st century broadband
as reliable as you’ll find anywhere. Postal services are reliable and efficient.
A “common-law”-based legal system makes relating to institutions
decidedly less frustrating than in many of the countries where we have
stayed. After decades of economic stagnation, Ireland is up there in the
UN’s Human Development Index and has the fourth-highest per-capita income
in the world. And the bank manager knows our names and our faces, and -
it would appear - every single transaction on our account. But then maybe
this is just small town life.
stop—Oaxaca. We’ll keep you posted.
Index ~ Ireland