Our road trip to some family resorts in County Cork was meant to be our first real vacation since having the boys. Moving three times doesn’t exactly count as a vacation.
We were going to leave on our trip Tuesday following Christmas, which meant Monday was the day for all packing and prep work. But Sunday evening, after Christmas Day where I thought I was finally getting better, sudden nausea and a cramping gut overtook. All night I couldn’t sleep but instead tossed and turned, my stomach feeling like a roiling cauldron I am heaving from side to side. Monday was a lost day; Sascha took one look at me in the blue winter dawn and told me to stay in bed and rest, he would deal with the boys the best he could. I could not eat a thing.
It meant no packing (nor laundry) got done until Tuesday, our departure day. All morning we raced around, trying to clean up the butter off the stovetop from the caramel pie, do two loads of laundry, pack, and somehow keep the boys entertained. I had been telling the boys all week that we are going to “stay in a castle,” and they were very excited about it and the car ride. Their excitement waned as we took so long to get out of the house.
Goal departure time: 12:30pm.
Actual departure time: 2:30pm.
The car is like a clown car. Once the stroller was in, the entire boot is pretty much full. We have no room for luggage. We are able to wedge in one small suitcase in the back on the floor, but soft bags that can be stuffed into any available space are key. My seat is pushed way forward, and for the duration of the drive, I must hold my purse, the diaper backpack, the water bottles, the snack bag, and what will become the garbage bag. S honks the horn every time he gets out of the car, which sends me into fits of giggles. It feels a bit like the beginning of National Lampoon’s Irish Vacation. At one point, he tries to rest his free arm. “Ow!” I say, when he plunks it on my shoulder. “Sorry,” he says, having mistook my shoulder for the seat. We are veryclosetogether. The quagmire of our situation is very evident: we live on a tiny lane, but we are a big car family. But at last, we head out of Dublin under thick clouds to see the rolling green hills and the oh-so-new roadways that our GPS fails to recognize, rendering us a graphic seemingly off-roading through miles and miles of sheep pastures.
For almost 3 hours, I play butler: handing over orange slices, taking back rejected crackers, handing over water bottles, taking them back.
“Tissue, Mommy! Tissue!”
They failed to see the logic in holding on to one for repeat use.
We roll into Castlemartyr in our tiny car close to 6:00. It is pitch dark. G has been crying “Out! Out!” for the last ½ hour or so and I am doing my best to string him along with that great parental lie, “We are almost there.” I don’t know how 23 month-olders conceptualize time other than it is one great expanse of nowness. I am terribly impatient myself, so it feels karmic to see it so purely manifested in my son and thrown back at me. I know G has lost some faith in me until we pull through the gates. Castlemartyr is a 16th century estate with the ruins of an 800 year-old castle on the grounds. The castle is spot-lit. THANK GOD.
“Do you see a castle? Who sees a castle?”
“I do! I do!” he replies. I can sense his relief.
As we wind our way toward the entrance, only candles burning in lanterns illuminate the walkway outside. Inside, the lobby still has all of the Christmas decorations and it is beautiful, so elegant and regal. I already rue that I gave the boys a suitcase and packed regularly for them, while Sascha and I more or less agree to wear the same couple of things over and over to keep the luggage light!
We have a suite and the boys have actual cribs (cots) instead of pack ‘n plays. They have tiny robes and slippers. True to its five-star rating, the room is spacious and elegant. Everything is computerized: drapes closing, lights, etc. There is a huge marble bathroom off a walk-in closet. The trouble with suites, we will discover, is that if you have a babysitter come sit while your kids are sleeping, the suite room should actually be off the main bedroom, not through the main entrance. Otherwise you have two choices: move the cribs into the main bedroom and either a) sneak in around them to go to bed, or b) risk waking them to roll them back out into the main room.
The resort had a kids’ playroom, and some seasonally-related kids activities, though not much for kids two and under, with the exception of the indoor pool. The pool is housed in a room with floor-to-ceiling windows looking out at the magnificent (albeit somewhat reminiscent of the estate in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia) grounds, with a hamper full of kids’ pool toys. In the dreary weather between Christmas and New Year’s, the pool is exactly what the boys need.
I suppose we were there during an off-season, but I was disappointed about another touted-kid experience not being available. “Earl” and “Duchess” are two extremely docile Irish setters guests can take out for walk along the grounds. Our waiter suggested it and the boys would have loved that since they love dogs, but we were disappointed to learn the dogs were holidaying somewhere warmer. Since there wasn’t any snow and dogs always need walking, I wasn’t sure why the dogs couldn’t be there. Still the boys enjoyed playing little princes among what was left of the craggy 12th c. castle and exploring the lakes and grazing horses on the grounds while we took turns using the spa.