And so it came to pass that my wife and I became Staycationers.
Loading up our bags, we headed West. And it was a long and arduous journey for there is no easy route to Connemara, our destination, Clifden to be precise but not the Station House. In fact there wasn’t a golf ball, golfer or golf course in sight!
Lots of wild, woodland walks, however, and a picture-post-card, tranquil lake. Idyllic really, the almost perfect escape, except there’s no escaping Covid.
And the place was packed. And I have never heard so many Northern Irish accents in a Southern hotel. Ever!
And which of them, I wondered, was driving the brand-new Bentley with the signature, yellow registration plates? Arlene? Michelle? Don’t think so.
After three most enjoyable nights (any longer and I’d be talking with a Northern twang) we motored on to the final leg of our break – a small village on the south coast of Galway. This is where our Staycation stalled. Stopped!
Firstly, what we assumed to be a quiet and quaint village by the sea turned out to be more like a busy pit-stop for traffic en route to, and from, Galway.
And then there was our hotel which, of course, we’d checked out on the internet but the internet hasn’t the franchise on every detail.
We entered our room, pulled the curtains and there it was, right across the way, a bloody building site and the unsightly gear that goes with it.
And to compound matters, directly outside our window - the non-stop, noisy traffic. I dial reception.
‘Reception we have a problem.’ Reception will get back to me. ‘Sorry, sir, but we have no other rooms available.’
‘In that case we have no other choice but to leave.’ Reception does another check. Amazes me sometimes how, although there are no rooms left, a room can somehow or other materialise.
‘Sir, we have a standard room looking out on the hotel car park.’ We take a look. We see a car park (what else?) and cars. And it’s not that we came here expecting to see the wild Atlantic crashing off the rocks or the tips of the 12 Bens (Pins if you prefer) poking the clouds, it’s just that if we wanted to look out on cars we could have stayed at home and had a coffee in that nice, new outdoor seating space across from Kyteler’s Inn while gazing out on the multitude of vehicles in the Market Yard car park!
We checked out. And in fairness to management there was no issue about charging us. We appreciated that. In the meantime, however, it’s 5pm and we are homeless in the West!
We need a drink. We hit the nearest bar, a dry one, have a beer, a glass of wine and some class of food or other. The glass of wine not alone calms my wife’s nerves but it also sparks a brainwave.
‘My cousin Catherine lives in Oranmore’, she announces, ‘I’ll text her’ which she did. ‘Catherine, homeless in xxxxxxxxx, long story, would you have a spare bed?’
One hour later we are sitting in Catherine’s uniquely renovated cottage which is part art gallery, part library. We are in clover.
And, most importantly, we are in a bed for the night.
Catherine is heading to a musical performance of The Playboy of the Western World, a Galway Arts Festival event, and drops us in Armorica, a charming restaurant in the centre of Oranmore, where we immediately, and rather giddily, order two Proseccos.
‘What are ye celebrating?’ our waitress asks. ‘Having a bed for the night.’ my wife replies and we briefly relate our story.
Leaving the restaurant our waitress, a Social Science student, quietly informs us that the Proseccos are on the house to celebrate our good fortune in finding a bed for the night.
Where would you get it?
A restaurant we’d never been in, a waitress we’d never met and this wonderful gesture! Thank you, Hannah.
Later over a bottle of wine, Catherine, my wife and I fall into animated conversation about Life, Love and Religion. The perfect end to what could have been a very imperfect day.
PS - And then, this email from the hotel we never stayed in: ‘Thank you for staying with us. We truly hope you enjoyed your stay. To help us improve we would appreciate your feedback. How likely are you to recommend us?’