Monday, July 2, 2012

Old Golf Links Road, Blackrock, Dundalk, County Louth, Ireland

Anyone first viewing this large farmhouse is likely to be confused.  Is it an old building that has been renovated; or a new building carefully designed to look old?

In fact, the house was built in 1999, but you would be excused for thinking it is a restored older home.

It is large, probably twice as large as our house which has over 3500 square feet. A large curving driveway leads to the house and extensive grounds that are beautifully landscaped. There is also a large vegetable garden in an area that apparently was once used for greenhouses. However a portion of the land was sold off, like many parcels of land around us, for a new housing development.

With a mixture of stone and wood floors covered in beautiful carpets, heavily textured plaster walls, large beams and ornate woodwork, the house is extremely interesting. Despite its size, it is very cozy, although it is taking me a few days to not get lost. The electrical engineer must have had a field day with hundreds of fixtures and switches around the house.  I’ll never remember which switches control which fixtures!

The kitchen is quite special with most appliances concealed by heavy wood doors, other than a spectacular stove/oven.  The furnishings throughout are all very tasteful and comfortable. The bathrooms achieve the right balance between comfort and heritage detailing…something I’m striving to do at Hollyburn Mews.  I think I’ll want to make a few changes to the plumbing fixtures when I get home, but don’t tell Trasolini Chetner, the builders!

One of the fascinating things about a home exchange is to see just how much is different and how much is the same.  One of the traditions of Homelink members is to leave a few food items for the visiting family. Sally went out and purchased fresh local eggs and typical Canadian streaky bacon. They too left eggs and Irish bacon, which is very different. We both left each other wine, although we left some BC Mission Hill reserves. Our exchanger seems to have an interest in wine, and therefore chose not to leave Irish wine…a good South African instead!

“O look” Sally said, “they have the same lettuce spinner as us”. But that’s where the similarity in the kitchen ends.  But things ‘balance out’. They left us a Weber bar-BQ that uses real charcoal. Ours is a gas bar-BQ tied into the house. Each offers a different experience.

One thing I do enjoy about house exchanges is exploring different musical tastes.  And different programs on televisions…once you figure out how to use each other’s video systems! Keys and locks can also be a challenge. But eventually you always figure things out.

We left a choice of cars…the Prius and an EOS convertible.  They left us an S-Class Mercedes.  It’s a big car in Canada, but a very big car in Ireland! Parking it in a parkade in Northern Ireland yesterday was a bit of an embarrassment for Sally since there was no way it didn’t stick out about 18” beyond all the other cars! We parked it carefully.

Since everyone is interested in gas prices these days, I suspect Frank and Anne will be surprised at the low price of gas in Vancouver.  It works out to just over 1 euro a litre at the moment. Here it is 1.48 euros a litre. Diesel is about 10 cents a litre less. I don’t dare tell them how much Vancouverites complain about the price of gasoline!

Over the next two weeks I’m sure we’ll have a few experiences to share. Hopefully they’ll get to see a bit of British Columbia while we explore a bit of both Southern and Northern Ireland. There’s little to mark the border, although one can tell when they have traversed it by the speed limits in mph, car license plates and the currency. In Northern Ireland they use pound sterling while we of course use Euros.

(As an aside, Sally has had trouble loading her English phone plan with Irish Euros. I’m so confused I don’t know which SIM card to buy!)

We may use the train to get to Dublin or Belfast. They won’t use the train to get anywhere!  Our golf courses are measured in yards; here they are in metres, although there’s some confusion as to whether the markers here are to the front of the green, or the middle.  I think they must be to the front since my shots are always short!

So that’s it for now.  If you are in Ireland look us up and we’ll take you over to our new local pub!


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