Friday, February 23, 2007

Flynn's Castle . . .ah, Research!

Got back from Ireland Thursday night. It was wonderful -- and I would have been here earlier but I got food poisoning on the drive back home from the airport! Argh.

I will spare you details of that, but just say that I'm now vertical for the first time since Thursday evening.

We had a wonderful trip with lots of high points -- but for me the "highest" point was my experience with Flynn's drafty castle.

It was, of course, the reason I went. I needed some first hand experience with old manor houses of Ireland, a sense of what it would have been like to grow up there -- and a sense of how it would have felt to Sara to suddenly be thrust into that world.

I got it at a wonderful country house called Ballyvolane.

You can read all about the real Ballyvolane on their own website. I won't reproduce it here. But I wil say that it was a marvelous venue for a "house party" which I had with Kate Walker and her husband, another couple from Dublin and my friend Nancy who came along as gadget-master, voice-over artist, key-misplacer and potential cat-slayer (no, not really, it just looked that way).

The day we arrived at Ballyvolane -- after a drive from Galway -- we were just in time for afternoon tea. I must get the recipe for the lemon cake which was superb. We enjoyed sitting by the fire in the drawing room and getting to know Noodle, a terrier with opinions, Wriggle, a spaniel chocolate lab mix who was a wonderful hostess and absolutely determined to share every inch of her domain with us, and Archie, the largest cat in Christendom -- or at least Ireland, here in Kate's arms. Noodle, Wriggle and Archie alone would have made our stay memorable.

But then we had dinner. And what a wonderful dinner it was. I'll dig up my menu and post in sometime soon. I still haven't dealt with the contents of my suitcase. Suffice it say it was a grand meal, after which we spent more time lazing about the drawing room before tottering up to our beds.

The next day we awoke to the "soft day" I wrote about earlier -- the one where the rain was bucketing down and the winds were howling. I was sitting in the drawing room by the fire typing that. It was a wonderful blustery day. We learned first hand about drafts -- and how to avoid them. I can see that Flynn will have his hands full making his castle airtight. If he can!

We spent most of that day indoors. But Nancy the intrepid braved the gale early and came back to report on wonderful paths through the woods and a magnificent walled garden. So while it was still windy but with a break in the rain, I went out and wandered around, too. Early spring flowers were already in bloom -- some daffodils, with more waiting in the wings, crocuses, snowdrops. The rhododendrons were almost ready to burst forth. In another few weeks Ballyvolane will be awash in spring colors. It will be -- if possible -- even more beautiful than it was when we were there a few days ago.

We dined out that night and came back to a clear night sky with the most incredible profusion of stars imaginable. I haven't seen that many since the moonless night I was driving from Wichita to Dodge City and the milky way was spread before me in such a dazzling display of starlight that I didn't expect to ever see anything come close. Last week at Ballyvolane, it came close.

And then there were the trees. I was looking for trees because Flynn and Liam are going to build a treehouse (nothing like giving away the book, right?). But I knew I had to have a place they could do that. And Ballyvolane came through. It has treehouse potential in spades. Perfect places for father and son to do a bit of bonding.

And I didn't even have to imagine it as a home for little boys. It has its own in residence right now. And their own children's room -- not to mention the vast gardens complete with soccer goal -- provided plenty of inspiration for how Liam will cope.

I couldn't have asked for a better castle for Flynn. It was a great success.

The book is here in my head. Now, as Kate says, all I need are the words!


Blogger Trish Morey said...

Oh Anne, it looks fantastic! You know you have me yearning for a trip to Ireland now? It looks so wonderful. But only if you and Kate and Daisy come too:-))

The castle and grounds look fantastic! I'm loving the pics and it's so great to see Kate (waves to Kate!). That is some cat too - definitely not one to sneak back in your hand luggage.

So great for your story to be able to picture Flynn there - no doubt the words will fly. You'll have the experience of the atmosphere and feel of the place to tap into to. And all those gorgeous memories as a bonus.

But so sorry to hear you were ill on the way home. Ugh. When you;re feeling crook there's no place to be but home. I"m glad you're vertical again. Stay well!

24 February, 2007  
Anonymous rachel. said...

Oh Anne,
it looks so lovely over there. The photos are wonderful, the drawing room in close up provides quite an insight into the feel of the place. The basket heaving with logs for the fire, the cakestand laoded with goodies, the heavy wooden doors and did I spy a tea strainer on the table? No tea bags, leaf tea? - now that's sophistication!

25 February, 2007  
Blogger christa said...

Glad you had a good time. Sorry to hear that you are sick, but since you are sick at least it's better at the end of your trip instead of the begining making the trip less enjoyable.(I always seem to look for the silver lining)
The castle looks great. I think that Liam will love it there will weigh heavily on Sara's mind.

25 February, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Trish, I'll be glad to go back with you anytime -- especially since I've just shoveled 10 inches of snow. Ugh. I hope the words will fly. We'll see!

Rach, yes, it was leaf tea. You're very perceptive. It was a lovely respite from my "real world." (See 10 inches of snow above.)

Christa, I think you are right. Liam will love it. And Sara will think it's too good to be true. And then there are her feelings for Flynn -- and is she just a convenience.

25 February, 2007  
Blogger anne frasier said...

wow, that looks absolutely wonderful!

glad you got back before the storm hit, but sorry the storm hit. :D

25 February, 2007  
Blogger Anne McAllister said...

Me, too, Anne. I've been shoveling all day!

25 February, 2007  

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