Entries tagged with “an american in ireland”.


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It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I landed in Ireland. On the one hand, it seems like yesterday that I put an entire apartment worth of furniture into storage in Los Angeles and set out on what was supposed to be a one-year adventure here.

On the other hand, so much has happened since arriving – far more than the average for four years, if there was such a tracker (“How Many Major Life Moments Tracker” or something of the sort). I met and married Mountaineering Man;  lived in three apartments; had two regular radio features; am currently at my second job; visited Paris, Tuscany, Amalfi Coast, Seville, Brittany, Regensburg, London, Madrid, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Japan, Belfast, Cork, Galway, Mayo and a number of other towns and villages in Ireland since settling here. I’ve been to three wakes, two funerals, two weddings and one baptism. I’ve made dozens of new friends, both Irish and expats, and have chatted with at least 100 taxi drivers.

When you live in Ireland, you gotta (or “hafta” as the Irish would say) talk to the taxi drivers – they know everything.

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I imagine like many people in this world, I have always dreamed of going to Paris. The outdoor cafes, the croissants, the well-dressed Parisians – as an American who grew up Los Angeles, my notions of Paris were firmly rooted in Hollywood storylines and picture postcards of the French capital.

Last weekend I finally made it there, and it was everything I dreamt of and more. It was also the first visit for Mountaineering Man so rather than try to cover the list of popular attractions we opted for a real local’s experience by renting an apartment in Montmartre (via Airbnb) and keeping the tourist traps to a minimum. The apartment was perfect: on the 6th floor with a huge deck and the most inspiring view of the Sacre Coeur, a large sitting room, well-appointed kitchen and comfortable bedroom. The place was decorated with a variety of eclectic artworks and Jean, the guy who owns the apartment, left us with a list of restaurant recommendations and local hot spots.

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For four days we lived like Parisians. In the mornings we’d walk up the stairs of Montmartre and get a café crème, orange juice and croissant or perhaps some yogurt and granola for breakfast – always al fresco so we could watch all the people go by. We’d then explore on foot and Metro trains, choosing one or two spots we wanted to visit. For me it was E Dehillerin, the now-famous shop were Julia Child frequented for her kitchen supplies. The place was buzzing with locals and tourists in search of the perfect cast iron skillet, boning knife or copper soufflé tin. The store has everything a cook could ask for but due to limited suitcase space I opted for one item: a non-stick Madeleine pan for making the popular French mini-cakes.

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Chapter OneClare, if you would like to talk to me about your recent visit my number is xxxxxxxxxx. Regards, Ross.

Gulp. It was a direct message to my Twitter account from Ross Lewis, exec chef and co-owner of Chapter One. I’d tweeted a few very positive messages about my recent (and first ever) dining experience at his renowned restaurant, plus one tweet expressing [slight] disappointment with my steak. Could he really be upset about an honest tweet regarding sinew?

Far from it. Ross was upset about my disappointment, not that I tweeted about it. He told me the particular cut of steak on the menu that night is a “heartbreak” for him because while it’s the most flavourful cut it has potential to have sinew hidden deep inside the meat. Upon delivery he can cut the meat to check for sinew and see nothing; but later a steak sliced from that bigger cut could have a bit of the stringy white tissue that’s not visible on the surface but reveals itself only when the diner cuts into it. So the majority of people who order it will get the most savoury, beautiful steak they’ve ever had but a few might get a bit of tough sinew in their meat.

I could hear his genuine frustration that I ended up being one of those few; for the next 20 minutes we talked candidly about food and cooking like two people who spend breakfast talking about lunch and who eat lunch whilst talking about what to cook for dinner (read: obsessed!). It was a proper chat between two food enthusiasts and for that 20 minutes I forgot I was talking to a Michelin-starred chef. He was down-to-earth and sincere, and his passion and dedication to his craft was obvious. This is one chef who doesn’t rest on his laurels.

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For the first year after I moved to Ireland, I lived alone in a lovely upper-floor apartment in Drogheda. And for several years prior to my move to Ireland, I lived alone without any live-in beaus or roommates to speak of.

I don’t look back on this with any sadness or regret; in fact, when I finally decided to ditch the roommate situation and branch out on my own, I was beyond ready to go solo. My last roommate (in Los Angeles, where I lived at the time) was an actress who didn’t have a day-job, which meant she was in our apartment all the time. It got to the point where I’d pull into our driveway after a long day at work and groan when I saw her car there – just once I wanted it and her NOT to be there, laying about on the couch and nagging me about everything from whether I’d read her magazines without asking to when I’d planned to move the unwashed fork from the sink into the dishwasher.

Though for the first few weeks I was a bit chicken (one unfamiliar noise in the dark would almost make pine for the company of that lay-about actress) I settled into bachelorette living and embraced having my own space. It was nice to come home from work, fix myself dinner and not have to worry about whether someone else had already tuned the television to some stupid show I had no desire to watch. I could literally kick off my shoes, flip on the telly and eat cereal out of the box if I so pleased.

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Despite a forecast of thundershowers and a few looming clouds the night before, we awoke to blue skies and sunshine on our wedding day. I walked up (and up and up – it was long hike!) the grassy aisle with my father and married Mountaineering Man in front of a small group of family and friends in Tuscany.

The predicted rain and the long walk are good metaphors for my journey here; when I moved to Ireland two-and-a-half years ago, I did so out of a desperate need for change. Though on the surface my life in Los Angeles seemed great, inside I was unhappy and my future seemed clouded and uncertain; I felt if I didn’t make a big change, there’d be little hope for sunny skies in my future. It wasn’t just about meeting someone, it was about feeling fulfilled and challenging myself to try something new, something different.

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It wasn’t easy, but I took a leap of faith arrived in Drogheda in March 2010. In September of the same year, I met MM. After a few dates, I think we both knew this was something significant, and a few months later we realised that this was it – for both of us. We got engaged in February of this year and we started planning almost immediately.

We knew we wanted something small and in Italy; I’ve always loved the country and MM has always wanted to visit, plus it was close enough for our Irish guests and appealing to our American guests, all of whom decided to make a proper holiday out of the trip. What better place to holiday than Tuscany, the region of wine and food and beautiful, rolling green hills?

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I’ll start with another apology for being MIA – it’s been a crazy few months and trying to get a blog post up once a week has been next to impossible! I promise after the wedding/honeymoon, I will be back to my regular posting schedule. Thanks for being so patient!

We’re nearly there, and tomorrow my parents land in Dublin from Los Angeles – the first guests to arrive. They’ll be here for a few days and then we’ll hop in the car with Mountaineering Man and drive to Wexford, where they’ll meet MM’s parents for the first time. We’ll do our courthouse marriage ceremony there, have dinner with MM’s family and then head on back to Dublin the next morning.

My parents have been to Ireland to visit me before, so they’ll leave ahead of us and fly to Italy for some R&R before the wedding in Tuscany next week. A day after they depart, my best friend Stacy and her husband Brian, along with my cousin Dana, arrive in Dublin.

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As this will be the first visit to Ireland for all three, I’ve been trying to write an email to prepare them for what they can expect while here. As I write an entire blog on the subject of Ireland and its culture and people, it’s been difficult to craft a succinct email on the subject. There’s so much I want to say but I don’t want to give everything away; I want them to experience it with fresh eyes.

What I can say is that they can expect bipolar weather conditions, as in showers one minute and sun the next with a few other bits thrown in between. They can expect friendly folks, who will happily give them directions if they get lost, and perhaps even a tall tale or two before they get back on the road. Recently a taxi driver told me about how when he was a child, he was standing on the sunny side of the street while watching it pour down rain on the other side. Ah the Irish love their stories, and true or not they’re always told with earnest.

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So far all the things a would-be bride would do with her girlfriends, I’ve pretty much done by myself. Though my good friend Sinead accompanied me to buy my wedding dress (which, incidentally, has turned into a complete disaster – more on this in my next blog post), everything else bridal-related has been a solo expedition.

The thing is my sister and maid of honour Anne lives in Los Angeles, along with most of my girlfriends, and my best friend and bridesmaid Stacy lives in San Francisco. So the shopping trips for shoes, earrings, wedding underwear (I swear then 4here is such a thing!), courthouse wedding dress and honeymoon attire – just moi.

To be honest, I’m quite an impatient shopper and I typically prefer to shop alone. Everyone has a different shopping style, and mine involves walking into a store, giving everything a quick scan and then zeroing in on the things I like. Other people may spend an hour tugging through one ill-hung sale item after another, treating it as a treasure hunt of sorts, and when they do find that Marc Jacobs mini in their size at 75% – well, it was all worth it. Me, not so much. I find the hunt  extremely tedious and I just want to find what I want quickly and get out of there.

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It’s not exaggeration to say that for the last week or so, Ireland has been a different place all together. For seven days running, we’ve been enjoying cloudless, sunny skies and temperatures in the low-to-mid 20s (that would be 69 – 74 F).

The joy at such weather is downright palpable. People are running around in flip-flops and shorts taking full advantage by eating lunch outdoors and soaking in all the Vitamin D goodness. Needless to say, I’ve seen a lot of red skin around town in the last couple of days! Personally the heat and resulting dry air have been downright healing for me as I’m usually plagued with sinus issues and all kinds of upper respiratory problems due to the damp, cold Irish weather.

Most days, my eyes are bloodshot and cheeks blotchy and red from the incessant sneezing, coughing (I’ve had at least 3 chest infections in the last 2 years) and sniffling that afflict me for hours on end. Although I’ve fallen in love with Ireland, my body continues to reject the cold, pollen, viruses, bacteria – everything! My doctor actually said that she’s never heard me NOT sound stuffed-up, and sadly it’s true. But for these last few glorious days, my nose has been clear and my eyes don’t look like those of a heroin addict. I feel like my old self again and it’s been wonderful.

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Friends Old and New

Though I’ve never had an enormous group of friends, I’m lucky to count a good dozen who I can describe as my closest. There are a few of us who’ve known each other since childhood, a few more who met in high school and a handful with whom I connected in college and during my early working career.

Sadly, they’re all back in the U.S. and lately I’ve been missing them something fierce, as an American might say. I miss our spontaneous happy hour meet-ups after work and our weekend trips away and our long, slow dinners washed down with far too many bottles of wine. Skype is a great tool but with the time difference and our hectic lives requires some scheduling, and it pales in comparison to an actual meeting or a night out.

I do take heart knowing that some of my best friends will be here in less than six months for our wedding; it will be so, so good to see them again and to celebrate with those closest to me. The thought of being together again gets me through the more difficult days. But I’m also bolstered by the fact that I’m forming friendships with Mountaineering Man’s circle of tight-knit mates, who over the last year-and-a-half I’ve gotten to know quite well.

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Lately life seems to be moving along at a rapid pace, but then again that’s what happens when one is planning a wedding. Considering we got engaged in February and are set to be married autumn of this year, we didn’t really give ourselves a whole lot of time!

But that’s okay. We’re not having a big wedding; in fact, we’re having 32 guests total – about half from my side, half from Mountaineering Man’s side. It’ll be our immediate family members, and a few close friends. Despite the small size it will be a real wedding, not a courthouse affair but rather a late afternoon ceremony and evening reception at a private Villa in the Chianti region of Tuscany.

I was never one of those girls who dreamt of her wedding day from a young age; as a kid I put a pillowcase on my head so I could pretend to be a nun, not a bride [and no, I had no designs to be a woman of the cloth – I was merely impersonating my teachers at school!]. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit that this wedding is a dream, albeit one that was never fully formed before I met MM. To be married to this man amidst the rolling hills of Italy, celebrating with close family and friends while feasting on traditional Tuscan fare and drinking wine from the Villa’s own vineyard…I’m pinching myself just thinking about it!

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