Sligo, day 2

Day two in Sligo. Spent a better part of the day sleeping, I’m embarrassed to report, but I always have a hard time with jet lag and it usually takes me at least three or four days to really get my bearings after the transAtlantic flight. Hubby has a much easy transition than I do, and even the baby is coping well. We all went to bed last night around 9:30 p.m. Baby and I slept for pretty much a solid 12 hours; hubby got up about 4 a.m. local time and escaped off to the lobby downstairs to do a couple hours of work before returning to bed. 

We all arose around 10 a.m. and set off in search of breakfast. There is a huge number of cafe-type places here in Sligo, so had our pick. This is a change I’ve noticed in Ireland since I started coming here four years ago – the coffee culture has definitely taken a firm hold. No Starbucks, mind you, but there are coffee shops popping up on every corner. You can barely spit without hitting one. We settled on a run-of-the-mill place inside a shopping mall across the hall from Tesco’s (the big supermarket chain here). It was almost a repeat of yesterday’s early morning meal – I had a muffin and a glass of milk while hubby again had a more-than-generous full Irish breakfast complete with eggs, toast, sausages, fried mushrooms, beans, a pancake and black pudding.

What is black pudding, Americans may ask? Well. Let me tell you. I’ve been urged to try it on every visit to Ireland thus far (and this trip makes my sixth), and I have refused. Black pudding is sort of a mush-like concoction – essentially, it’s a thinly sliced fried sausage patty that is held together with pig’s blood as a filler, which gives it a black-ish appearance. VERY popular here in Ireland, it’s seen regularly on breakfast menus, and sometimes incorporated into other recipes as well. At the wedding of one of my sisters-in-law, one of the entree menu choices was a chicken breast stuffed with black pudding. Many guests selected it. Not me, but many other. Sorry, I just can’t bring myself to do it knowing what it is.

After breakfast, hubby set off toward Rally Ireland. The baby and I retired back to the hotel for a nap. We arose mid-afternoon, baby had lunch and we set off for a walk around Sligo. This is really a nice town, there are tons of shops, cafes, bookstores and such. The weather is chilly and typically Irish today. Not terribly cold, but terribly wet, cloudy and off-and-on rainy. No problems with static electricity here, let me assure you. Every time I come to Ireland, I optimistically pack my hair straightener, and every time, I kick myself for having bothered and just resign myself to frizzy ponytails for the remainder of the trip. 

Baby and I stopped into a small cafe called Grappa so I could grab a cup of tea. Despite the recent influx of coffee shops, tea is still the thing here. It’s available everywhere you go, and never served iced, only hot. It must chase away the damp. Three years ago when hubby and I were married here, my brother and my dad came over for the wedding. They immediately idolized my father-in-law, as did I. When my mother-in-law offered them hot tea, they first looked to my father-in-law to see him readily accept before doing so themselves. I don’t think either of them had ever drank a cup of hot tea in their lives, but if Andy was having some, then it was obviously the right thing to do. My dad remains a hard-core coffee drinker, but when in Ireland, he enjoys tea instead.

I also chuckle at the memory of a trip to Wales with my hubby before we were married. We went into a small cafe to grab a quick lunch and a group of burly, local construction workers occupied the next table over. Every single one ordered a pot of hot tea. This is no biggie in the U.K. or in Ireland, of course, but as Americans, we are conditioned to view hot tea drinkers as stuffy, high-falutin’ types. I secretly chuckled to see this table of most manly men enjoying their cuppas. It changed my view of tea aficionados, for sure. 

Anyway, back to Sligo… We regrouped with hubby for a pub dinner tonight. My mission of the day was to find a nice location for our evening meal, and I chose a pub called Fiddler’s Creek, just down the river a short walk from our hotel. This is a quintessential Irish pub – heavy dark wood decor, a well-stocked bar, a handful of regulars, lots of casual tables and several strategically placed televisions alternately showing rally coverage and Eastenders, a horribly melodramatic night-time English soap opera.

The place was just crowded enough, I imagine they’ll get a lot of business over the weekend due to the rally. We started off with the hubby ordering a Guinness, of course. Everyone says Guinness tastes much different, and better, here in Ireland than in America. And it certainly seems true, these pints are poured in two steps and arrive at the table with a head of creamy foam thick enough to top a milkshake. Alas, I am not a Guinness fan. I really wish I were, but the taste is wasted on me. I can appreciate the pints for their aesthetic appearance, but when it comes to Irish libations, I’m a Bulmer’s girl at heart. Bulmer’s is a light, not too sweet hard cider that I love. Another selling point of Irish pubs is that you can order a “glass,” or half pint, of beer, cider or whatever if you don’t want another full pint. Nice!


a perfect pint

a perfect pint


Irish pub menus seem to have steadily improved in the past few years as well. You are still hard-pressed to find any sort of fresh salad or side that doesn’t consist of “chips” (fries), but it’s getting better. I ordered a large and juicy breaded chicken breast that came with mashed (“creamed”) potatoes, a little ramekin of peppercorn gravy on the side, and a little bit of salad that contained mixed greens, green onion, shaved carrots and corn. Hubby got chicken fajitas with the same salad. Very, very tasty stuff and we were well pleased. Dining out in Ireland is expensive though… this meal, a starter of garlic bread, two pints of Guinness for hubby and a pint and a glass of Bulmer’s for me, ran us 60 euros (not including a 5 euro tip). That’s about $70, and reasonable by Irish standards.

When baby started kicking up a fuss, we decided to beat a hasty retreat back to the hotel room. Hubby has currently taken him down to the bar downstairs to enjoy a post-meal pint (for hubby, not baby) so I can write. Tomorrow, we’re headed south to my mother-in-law’s house in Millstreet, County Cork. Should be about a five hour drive. Wish us luck.

Fiddlers Creek, Sligo:

view from our hotel room in Sligo

view from our hotel room in Sligo

I go, you go, we all go to Sligo

So hubby, baby and I arrived in Ireland today for a two-week stay. After a somewhat rocky start out of Indianapolis due to ice storms, we finally managed to arrive into Shannon Airport this morning after layovers in Detroit and Newark. The trip was long, but uneventful and we got in safe and sound, which is always the most important thing.

This being my sixth trip to Ireland, I’ve grown fairly familiar with some of the customs, culture and cuisine. I know what I like foodwise, and I know where to find it. As far as airport food goes, Shannon Airport has a pretty darn nice cafeteria breakfast, I must say. When we arrived at 5:30 a.m. local time with body clocks that had no idea what hour it really was, we decided breakfast sounded like a good idea. The airport cafeteria offers up a traditional Irish breakfast, a topic I’m sure I’ll cover in greater detail in a future entry, and my hubby can never pass it up if given the opportunity to partake. He loaded up on eggs, sausages, baked beans, fried tomatoes, toast, and I’m not sure what other artery-clogging goodies.

a traditional full Irish breakfast

a traditional full Irish breakfast

I’m a nervous flier. I rarely eat anything during a flight and usually don’t eat much before I get onboard either. With a nervous stomach like mine, I figure better safe than sorry. This means I’m often ravenous by the time I get to my final destination. When we land in Shannon, my first craving isn’t necessarily a standard Irish “fry” breakfast; instead, I seek out my favorite hazelnut yogurt. And, hello! Yoplait! Why,  oh why, can’t we get this stuff back in the states? With a scone, some juice and coffee, it’s darn near a perfect early morning meal.

After loading up, we headed northwest three hours to Sligo, where my hubby is going to be crashing (no pun intended) the Rally Ireland tomorrow to make some business contacts. Hubby didn’t paint a very appealing picture of Sligo, so my expectations were low. I’m ashamed to say I’d written it off as an industrial backwater sort of place before we’d even arrived. I must retract my words and say that I’ve been pleasantly surprised. 

For starters, our hotel is the most modern building I’ve been in anywhere in Ireland. The Glasshouse Hotel seems to pride itself on innovative architecture and outlandish color schemes, and it overlooks the rushing Garavogue River below. Our room is decorated in a neon orange decor, if that tells you anything. Not that this is bad, it’s really a very nice place, and the staff was great to accommodate us with an early check-in. 

After hubby lugged all the bags up to the room and we took a solid two-hour family nap, we were ready to go exploring. Sligo isn’t a huge town by any means, but it’s certainly well-appointed. We took a stroll through several pedestrian shopping streets and, realizing we hadn’t eaten anything since our Shannon Airport breakfast nearly 12 hours ago, suddenly realized we were hungry. 

For our first night back in hubby’s homeland, our first thought was to look for a traditional Irish pub dinner. However, a place called Bistro Bianconi proved intriguing. The handpainted rally-themed mural on the window was what initially drew us inside, but the enticing garlicky tomato aroma that hit us as soon as we walked in the door and huge wood-fired oven we spied were what convinced us to stay. Although they weren’t due to open for another half hour, the staff was more than accommodating and even let me enjoy a glass of delicious Valpolicella while we waited the requisite 30 minutes. 

Our son usually garners us a little extra attention, and the lovely servers made a much-appreciated effort to make sure we had plenty of room at our table for a high chair and the stroller. The menu was classic Italian, another pleasant surprise. This is the first time I’ve seen an Italian restaurant anywhere in Ireland, and I was hoping for the best. I’m thrilled to say Bistro Bianconi delivered the goods, and then some.

As soon as we were seated, our server dropped off a bread basket and a ramekin of garlic-marinated black and green olives that we couldn’t eat fast enough. We emptied that baby in record time and our server, bless her, offered us a refill of the addictive little orbs that we drained just as quickly. Hubby ordered up his first Guinness of the trip. For the meal, we split a Caprese salad – this being Ireland, I apologize, but I have never had a decent tomato here. I’m spoiled by those juicy, flavorful end-of-summer Indiana beefsteaks and nothing else compares. The mozzarella and the fresh basil were lovely. 

For our main course, we split a Bistro Bianconi specialty pizza – a thin crust version topped with cheese, thinly sliced little coins of ham, mushrooms and olives. Although the pie could have used a little more sauce in my humble opinion, (what can I say? I’m a sauce girl), the flavors were a delicious combination. The server told us that the restaurant has won awards in international pizza competitions and was voted best pizza in Ireland in 2006. 

She then tempted us with dessert. In a role reversal, I said no and hubby said yes. I conceded that I would eat a bite or two, and he went for for the first option the server recited – a chocolate fudge cake that turned out to be Chocolate Sex, Part II. This being Ireland and not America, we figured the serving would be smaller than we’ve grown to expect stateside. Nope. This was a full plate that took in a slab of sinfully rich chocolate cake slathered with hot fudge, a blossom of whipped cream and a scoop of chocolate ice cream on the side. Even the baby got to partake of a little bit of this chocolate nirvana. The doctor did say it was time to start introducing him to table foods…

We rolled out of there, full, tired and happy. I heartily recommend this place if you’re ever in Sligo. According to the brochure we picked up on the way out, there are also Bistro Bianconi locations in Galway and Dublin as well.  

I’d like to write more, but jet lag is overtaking me… much more material to come I’m sure in the next two weeks we’ll spend here in Ireland, then it’s on to Paris!!! For now, though, may the road always rise up to meet you.


The Glasshouse Hotel, Sligo –

Bistro Bianconi –