So Behind, But Nothing Like the Present

Hello Friends. I am about three weeks behind in writing, and am actually writing this while on a plane flying back to the US. Italy was such a whirlwind that I never seemed to be able to find the time and creative energy to write. My biggest challenege is that I always want to do justice to the experiences, places, and people, and because I know I want to write enough to try to accomplish this, I get overwhelmed and then end up writing nothing at all. Not the most brilliant plan, I know. So here is the next instillation.

Milena and I stayed in London for just one day before heading to Italy. For dinner (and of course food is one of my favorite things to talk about) I finally got to go to SAF, a vegan, predominantly raw foods restaurant created by a newer friend of mine, Chad Sarno. I met him about a year and a half ago when travelling through London with a former partner. At that time, SAF was still under construction, so it was lots of fun to come back and experience it now as a completed project. The restaurant is also designed with lots of attention and commitment to sustainability. They even have an outdoor herb garden and bar that is run with solar. The food was great, the drinks were beyond delicious, but what was even greater is that Chad just happened to be in town coincidentally as he had moved to America since last I saw him. It was so wonderful to share delicious food and wonderful conversation with Chad, Milena, and Pietro.

The next morning, Pietro—being the absolutely wonderful and generous human being that he is—took Milena and I to the airport and off we headed to Milan, Italy. We were to meet up with Alissa (Co-Director of Engage Network, Project Director for What’s Your Tree, former Executive Director of Cirlce of Life) a few hours after we arrived, so Milena and I went to a nearby park to have lunch and wait for Alissa to arrive from the U.S.

Alissa arrived a bit worn out, but ready for the adventure, and off we went to Madonna Di Campilgio. I fell asleep on part of the way there because whenever I am in a car for more than 15 minutes, I get sleepy. I think it has to do with my being raised traveling so much because if I fell asleep, time went by quicker, and I wouldn’t get into trouble—which was a seemingly constant issue for me. So now, put me in car for longer than 15 minutes, and I immediately start yawning and my head starts nodding as I feel almost drugged.

As we closed in on Modonna Di Campilglio, though, I awoke to beautiful nature all around. Huge mountains of granite and Dolomite were on either side, with the lower parts of the mountain covered in forests, a river flowed through the valley and the towns along the way, and each town seemed to be more picturesque than the one before.

I swear that much of Italy looks like a postcard or a movie set and this breathtaking place was no exception. We arrived at a gorgeous Eco-Hotel with rooms overlooking the mountains, and got settled into our rooms before meeting up with the organizers of the next day’s events. We had a lovely dinner with organizers Lory and sister Roberta, activist Giacomo and his wife, then headed off to bed for a busy next day. What an incrediblly beautiful place and absolutely delightful people!

Published in: on September 25, 2009 at 4:19 pm  Comments (2)  

Imperfect Leads To Perfect

Now on to Tippery County where we stopped to see a castle. But when we got there, Milena said, “No! This is not the castle I saw on the internet! I do not want to go in!” I jokingly told Milena she is a castle snob. I suggested we go on a walk and then have our lunch of salad in the park. On our walk we saw many very large, old oaks. It was great to see such huge and old trees in a country where so much of the old trees and forests have been destroyed. We also saw a few Yew trees which were considered Sacred to people in ancient times.

After our wonderful walk, we had a picnic in the park and then on to the Rock of Cashel. When we arrived, Milena said, “Si! This is what I saw! This is the Castle we go to!“ I am glad she is a castle snob as the Rock of Cashel definitely has a more colorful and interesting history then Cashir. It has buildings dating from the 12th century with everything from a complete round tower to a roofless abbey to the finest Romanesque chapel in all of Ireland. On this ‘Rock’ there was a Bishop who lived to be a 100 (most people during this era lived only into their 40’s) and was both a Catholic and Protestant (depending on whichever was most expedient in the moment) and had 3 wives and 27 children. Our guide jokingly said, “This leads me to believe that he was a Protestant from the waist up. And a Catholic from the waist down!” It is also on this rock that the now world-famous beer, Guiness, was first brewed by a kind of servant to this famous Bishop.

From the Rock of Cashel, we ended our day in Kilkenny. We had dinner at Cafè Sol, recommended by the Lonely Planet guide. We had a lovely dinner of Mediterranean salad and vegetable fajitas. We walked back to our hotel room, but after hours of not being able to sleep, we went out for a walk about town. It was a little after midnight and the place was a ghost town. There was only one pub open, but it had live music in it that was rock music and so loud, we could barely hear each other standing right next to each other and screaming. We immediately walked out, trekked some more around the completely closed down town, and then went back to our hotel.

The next morning, we headed on to our final stop, Wicklow. It was another rainy day, so we drove straight through to Wicklow because there was nothing along the way that really called to us. We were very excited, though, because there was an Organic store and restaurant about 15 kilometers outside of Wicklow town where we headed to have a late lunch. We got to where it was supposed to be, though, and it was not there. We stopped at a gas station and asked if they knew where the place was. The woman attendant told us that yes, indeed, that place had been there, but had been closed for three years. Disappointed, we headed back to Wicklow, where we then went to another restaurant recommended by the Lonely Planet Guide. And wouldn’t you know it—another casualty of the economic downturn—it too was closed down, although very recently.

We had passed by a health food store on the way looking for the restaurant, so I told Milena we should just walk there and ask them where to eat as they would know of the best place in town for people like us. On the window as we were walking in to the store, I saw a sign for Healthy Habits Cafe. We went inside, bought a few items and asked the young woman working there how to find the cafe. She was very helpful, but we got lost anyway. After stopping again and asking directions, we finally found the cafe tucked back in an industrial zone. It turns out it is in this area because not only is it a cafe, it is also a business and Monastery for the Servants of Love community. These are a very interesting group of people who follow the tradition of the Roman Catholic church, live a monastic celibate life, and also practice meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practices. And as it turns out, the Healthy Habits cafe is the first and only raw food restaurant in all of Ireland. And their food was great! We had delicious fresh pressed juices followed by a warm soup of dulse, avocado, red peppers, and herbs followed by an Italian vegetable wrap with a delicious dehydrated herbed tortilla. We walked back to our car happy with our find.

We went to the B&B where we were staying and checked in right as the rain began to fall. After doing some work, we laid in our beds listening to the rain fall. I told Milena, I would check with the proprietor of the place to see if we could use their kitchen to make our own dinner that eve as the Healthy Habits Cafe was now closed for the evening, and we had little hope of finding another place for us to eat. It turned out that because we were staying in someone’s home, that was also a B&B, the kitchen was not available for us to use as the family who lived there would be using it for their evening meal.

So now we had to figure out another plan. Milena was flipping through the guide book looking for what we should do. Everything said how beautiful the mountains were here, but the reality was it was raining and foggy, and the thought of getting back in the car just to drive around and not be able to really see anything was just not appealing to me. So being the enlightened person that I am, I said, “Miwe, how about we just go to town and get drunk!” Milena started laughing and said, “Yes!” Of course I didn’t really mean get drunk because I don’t like being drunk, but I figured that what better way to celebrate our last evening in Ireland (if we could not have any more great nature or ancient tradition experiences) than go pub hopping and salute our journey. And that is exactly what we did.

First, I went online and found a restaurant that sounded like we could find good food (because in case you can’t tell by now, good food is very important to me!) Then, we proceeded to walk down the main street of Wicklow Town and stop in each pub and have one drink. After three pubs and three drinks, we decided it would be a good idea to put some food into our bellies, so off we headed to Casa Pepe, an Italian Ristorante. And surprisingly, it was very good! It was a surprise to have good Italian in Ireland. We had a great soup, salad, and pizza and little bit of wine. As we left the restaurant, the weather and even the sky had cleared, so we went for a walk to the sea’s edge.

It was so perfect because it was the first time we had been at the coast of Ireland and had clear sky and weather. It was very, very windy, but so crisp and clear, alive and vibrant! We walked along the pier, then back, and on to an old castle that was now just some crumbling walls. The sky was beautiful and stars began to appear as then the moon began to rise. Then, the lighthouse at the end of the pier lit up. It was such a perfect way to complete our trip. We walked back, stopping at a couple more pubs to cheer our wonderful trip and experience.

We left the next morning, drove back to Dublin, dropped of our car, boarded a plane and headed back to London. Even though I am just now completing my writing of the experience of Ireland—days since we were there—it is so alive within me. I loved the land, I loved the people, I loved the stories, the places, the rain and wind, I loved the pubs, the music, and the Irish brogue. And I even loved the things that didn’t work out because somehow it all led to exactly the perfect experience. I carry Ireland with me now—all these years later, after hearing the call when I was in high school and knowing that I wanted someday to be able to walk the land of this place and feel it not only from a book, but first-hand. I am touched, moved, shaped by this journey. And I am deeply and profoundly grateful.

“An Irish Blessing”

Wishing you a rainbow
For sunlight after showers—
Miles and miles of Irish smiles
For golden happy hours—
Shamrocks at your doorway
For luck and laughter too,
And a host of friends that never ends
Each day your whole life through!

Published in: on September 2, 2009 at 12:39 pm  Comments (3)