Sun 17 Feb 2013
The west of Ireland – with all its wind and rain and general bi-polar weather – holds a special place in my heart. It’s where I had my first weekend getaway (a mini-break, as Bridget Jones would say) with Mountaineering Man and where he proposed to me in February of last year.
So to celebrate our engagement anniversary and both of our birthdays (he’s a Valentine’s baby, just like my mom!), we headed west. We first hit Galway, where we strolled around the cobblestone streets, caught an impromptu show by some talented buskers and then feasted on beautiful salads at Kai. MM had a smoked chicken salad, which came with rustic field greens, smoked almonds, red cabbage. I opted for the goat cheese curd salad with blood oranges, toasted hazelnuts and lots of lovely greens. Both came with Kai’s addictive moist-on-the-inside, crusty-on-the-outside brown bread. The food was fresh and innovative and the décor was rustic and charming. We’ll be back!
We then headed to our final destination: Knockranny House Hotel & Spa in Westport. Knockranny, with its expansive rooms & suites, first-class service and award-winning restaurant, is a worlds apart from other hotels in the area, many of which cater to stag and hen party-goers. Everything about the place is relaxing; from the muted, earth tones of the room décor and candle-lit spa to the roaring fireplace in the bar and plush armchairs in the lobby, we feel a million miles from the stresses of life when we’re there. The service is top-notch as well. When I wasn’t feeling well at dinner on our second night our waitress had our dessert and half-finished bottle of wine sent up to our room, and as they knew it was our birthdays there was “Happy Birthday” written out in chocolate on the plate. They think of everything.
Last year when we were here we took an afternoon trip to Leenane, about a 45-minute drive from the hotel. We’d stopped by a cosy little pub there called Gaynors to have a pint and a sandwich for lunch. I wrote in my blog about how an old man named Tom came over and talked to us (he kept referring to me as “Lady”), and how he asked MM if he planned to marry me. Of course at the time I didn’t realise that MM had the ring in his pocket – it was on our way back to Knockranny that he proposed. We laughed and talked fondly about Tom for the rest of the weekend.
Well low and behold, he was there at Gaynors when we walked in on this visit. I went over and told him the story, and he was touched to know he’d been a part of our engagement day. Again Tom sat with us, though this time he treated us like old friends. And by old friends I mean he had no problem asking us to buy him a Lotto scratcher at the bar! We figured it was the least we could do, and MM even offered to buy him a pint before we left but Tom said he’d rather have the money instead, lol. As we headed toward the door, he looked at Cormac and said, “I told you to marry the lady and you did!” He was absolutely pleased with himself!
We spent the rest of the weekend enjoying the hotel: we had breakfast every morning with a view of Croagh Patrick, got spa treatments, read in the comfort of our beautiful suite and enjoyed some bubbly at the hotel bar. It was a fantastic way to celebrate our birthdays and engagement anniversary at a place that has come to mean so much to us. We’re already planning our trip for next year (and Tom, if you’re reading this we’ll see you at Gaynors!).
*Should be noted that we were paying guests at Knockranny House; this is a strictly voluntary review and I was not paid to promote the hotel.
Celebration Aperitifs: Crisps, Caviar & Champers!
This may seem like an odd combination, but trust me when I say it’s absolutely fabulous. My sister gave me the idea of pairing good, thick-cut crisps with caviar and champagne and so for MM’s birthday dinner at home I put this together for our aperitif. The key is to use a plain, salted crisp; flavoured ones won’t work here, and neither will the thin variety. I used Burt’s Salted Potato Crisps and they worked beautifully.
Bag of thick-cut, salted crisps
Crème fraiche or natural yogurt
Caviar – it’s up to you what kind! We used Goatsbridge Trout Caviar and it was wonderful (available at Fallon & Byrne)
Champagne – get a good one! We had Moet & Chandon that my co-workers got us for our wedding
There’s really not much to it – just present all of the above together in a nice arrangement and there you have it! Enjoy, it’s a wonderful pairing!