Kinsale – Even the name evokes the sea.
Sitting on the southern coast of Ireland, the city has long been known as one of the country’s culinary hotspots. Even when I first came here 25 years ago, it was called the “Gourmet Capital of Ireland” because of its restaurants featuring fresh seafood and local ingredients.
And it’s our base for the rest of the week. Our friends Jim and Stacey bid for – and won – a Curing Kids Cancer charity auction for a week in an apartment in Kinsale. Their only condition? That we come with them.
I know – tough sell, right? They donate money to our family’s charity, support pediatric cancer research, and invite us to come on holiday as well.
We set off from Dalkey this morning, saying our goodbyes to Donal, Siobhan, Barry and Aisling. The Irish landscape is as gorgeous as ever on the drive down. Green hills are dotted with white sheep and brown cows. The sea is never far away as I steal the odd glance while concentrating on keeping the car on the left side of the road.
About five hours later, we roll into Kinsale and meet our host for the week, Jim Good.
Mr. Good is a bear of a man with soft blue eyes and a wicked sense of humor. He also knows how to get his guests organized quickly. Within 10 minutes, we’ve learned how to operate the garage door, the locks and keys, the washing machine, dish washer, the Wi-Fi, the television and the climate control.
In the next 10 minutes, he has us sitting in the café downstairs with a drink in our hand. He has arranged a couple of orders of complimentary fish chowder with the café owner. Now he’s going through the tourist booklet describing every restaurant in town.
“Now I can’t really recommend one restaurant over another,” he says. “But here’s a pen. Mark this one with one star. Mark that one with two stars…”
For a guy who doesn’t recommend restaurants, Jim seems remarkably opinionated on where to eat.
He tells us where to find grocery stores, liquor stores, drug stores and laundry facilities. In fact, he even volunteers to pick up our laundry if we need to drop it off for a “wash and fold” service. Jim promises to show us around town tomorrow morning at 10:30 to help us get our bearings and make the most of our time in Kinsale.
“It’s all part of the service,” he says with the smile.
The rest of the afternoon is spent buying groceries. Grainne and I make sure to buy a number of favorite local items – Irish soda bread, several local cheeses, Kerrygold butter, Tayto’s potato crisps (AKA potato chips). Perhaps not the most healthy choices, but certainly among the most tasty.
We settle in to our apartment, uncork a bottle of Chianti and relax. Outside, a mist rolls into the harbor, the lights of nearby houses twinkle through the darkness and the masts of the many sailboats bob up and down in the water.