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Christmas Markets

We like to do things a bit differently here in Redwood!

You know the way so many people head off to Europe, especially Germany, for the Christmas Markets?  Well, we do the opposite!  Today, we took our German guest to two local Christmas Markets.  To say, she was surprised is probably a bit of an understatement.  Her comment was ‘the Irish are always thought of as always drinking’… yet, at these markets today there was no drink.

We’ve never been to a German Christmas Market but we are told they are all about mulled wine and food.

There are so many markets on in the neighbourhood this year.  Today, we visited Terryglass and Lorrha for their markets.  We finished off our tour of North Tipperary with afternoon tea at Redwood Castle where we got a preview of what’s in store for next weekend’s inaugural Christmas Market that will run over two days 8th and 9th.  They are promising a marvellous selection of craft and artisan producers from all over the country.

Birr Christmas Market is also on next weekend.  It is different opening times to Redwood Castle, so we should be able to get to both!

On Sunday 16th we will have another market in Lorrha.

Huge selection of crafts

Who needs to rack up the air miles, when you can drive a mile or two down the road to enjoy a market?

We are only an hour from Galway or Limerick if you fancy coming to markets with a difference.  And I should of course mention that we have limited bed and breakfast availability for these weekends too!

Giving Thanks

With this past weekend having been Thanksgiving, I thought it appropriate to say ‘thank you’ to someone I met briefly and don’t even know his name.

I was reminded of this incident over the summer when we had our first guest visit us from Wales.  Geraldine was from Cardiff, and her stay reminded me of a wonderful weekend I had there once, many many many years ago.

Those who know me, know I love rugby.

There was a time when I was leading my city life, and able to ‘get away’ and fund such things that I would have travelled for the rugby internationals.  I went to Twickenham (London) and Murrayfield (Edinburgh) many times, but only once got to go to Cardiff.  Back then the stadium in Cardiff was still known as Cardiff Arms Park.

I had travelled to Cardiff with my sister and her then boyfriend.  We had no tickets but had been assured that was not a problem…. “you’ll get tickets, no problem”.

Well 5 minutes before kick-off none of us had a ticket.

Angel Hotel, Cardiff

Photo courtesy of The Angel Hotel, Cardiff website.

I remember standing in what I can only describe as an inside porch in the Angel Hotel which is directly opposite the stadium, with hundreds of people milling past me heading to the match.  I was feebly asking the crowd if ‘anyone had a spare ticket’.

This all happened in the days before we had such phrases as ‘paying forward’ or ‘random acts of kindness’.

Suddenly a man stopped in front of me, asked me would I promise to use the ticket myself… which, of course, I said I would.  He handed me a ticket, refused to take money, and disappeared into the crowd!  I hardly had time to take in his features… I would not have recognised him five minutes later.  He had given me a ticket to sit with all the Welsh Rugby referees …. basically one of the best seats in the house!

I doubt if he reads my blog, but anyway this is my way of saying ‘thank you’…. your kind gesture has never been forgotten.

Ireland lost that day …. but it is still a fond memory.

The content for this post has been racing around in my head for months.  I just haven’t had time to sit down and write it, and to be perfectly honest, I suppose I was also unsure of how to approach it.  Today the light dawned!

As you know we joined AirBnB way back in 2013.  Earlier this year, we felt that the bookings were slower to come in so we asked over on our Facebook page what booking platforms people used?  We rarely get to go away so we don’t get to use these platforms ourselves.

Well, my word, I never knew there were so many!!  We had joined various platforms since 2013, but even still the response to my question stumped me at how many others there were out there.

I thought I’d share our feelings and thoughts on the platforms we’ve used and/or tried to use.

Oldfarm – book now

AirBnB

Our first foray into the bed and breakfast world was with AirBnB.  To put it simply, we love it.  We have met some wonderful people.  The couple of times we’ve had any difficulties the staff at AirBnB HQ have been extremely helpful and had things sorted in jig time.  The website/platform is easy to use.  The guest/host review system works and is a great way to assess who is coming to stay.  The payment system is efficient and trouble-free.

Booking.com

This was the platform that was the second most popular response. We had always avoided Booking.com because of their fee structure.  However, with it getting so many votes we thought we had to give it a try.  We signed up in May and almost immediately bookings started to roll in.  Our thoughts?  It is definitely a different ‘type’ of person that uses this system…. don’t get me wrong, still lovely people, but the pre-visit communication is not the same.  Guests can review us, but we can’t review guests.  The ‘extranet’ (that’s what they call their website?) is a bit cumbersome to use. We have to collect the payment ourselves.  On the plus side, we have been invited by Booking.com to trial a new app they are developing and we are excited to be part of this process.

TripAdviser

A disaster.  Again it was one that was recommended.  We went through the process, but failed to get anywhere as we didn’t have a ‘staff’ list for housecleaning….. it is me and him!!!

Wimdu

I cannot remember how we found this app, but we signed up to it many years ago. I think about 5 years ago.  In that time we’ve just had one booking.  It works in a very similar ay to AirBnB, and for that one booking everything worked seamlessly. And, just now, as I tried to find a link to share with you, I’ve discovered Wimdu actually redirects you to Booking.com!

FreeBirdClub

This is an interesting new platform.  It is Irish.  I think about 2 years old, and is aimed at people over 50 hosting people over 50.  A pretty cool idea.  I can’t give any further comment on it as we haven’t had a single booking through it yet.

HomeStay

Again, I believe, this was developed in Ireland.  We’ve been on this platform for about 4 or 5 years.  We’ve only had one booking in that time.  The way HomeStay works is that they take a commission as the booking deposit, and then it is up to the host to collect money on departure.

HomeAway

What can I say about this?  I’m sure it probably works well for some, but it was nothing but trouble for us.  We signed up earlier this year, got bookings, met lovely people.  However, payment was very slow to come through.  When we tried to chase it, we were told we shouldn’t even be on their platform as it is only for ‘entire’ properties!  Why then do you have a B&B category listed? In the end I just removed our listing… the staff were not helpful at all.

 

In conclusion, AirBnB is still our number one.  It gets so much bad press.  For those outside of Ireland, AirBnB is being blamed here in Ireland for causing the ‘housing crisis’.  Now let’s make it clear, I am quite sure there are greedy landlords going for the short-term let rather than long term.  However, to put our side of the argument… here in rural Tipperary what few people we bring into the area, spend money locally and are helping to sustain and improve this little patch.

We are enjoying the process of working with Booking.com on their new applications.  Check out the new ‘book now’ button that they’ve initiated on our Facebook page … more I am sure will follow on this.

We are always open to suggestions.

Are there other platforms we should be using?

We are now in November, but on the last day of October I took a walk around the (very neglected) garden and this is what was in bloom.

I know we’ve had an extremely hot summer, but seriously so many of the plants seem to be so utterly confused as to what season it is.

Is it climate change, or is that all just fake news?

Borage

Buddleia

Fuchsia

Nasturtium

Sweetpea

You’d have to be living in a bubble to not know tis pumpkin season!  Our pumpkin season started quite early as I had planted a couple of Hokkaido pumpkin plants in the polytunnel this year, and they gave us lots and lots of fruit.

Just as well we like this pumpkin… and by the way, it stores really well in a cool, dark press… if it gets a chance to.

As we had a busy time through September, and even into early October, with B&B guests this recipe featured quite a bit.  It is definitely a keeper!

The original recipe from Olive Magazine features butternut squash, but let me tell you it works just as well with pumpkin.

If you are carving a pumpkin this weekend, try this out with your dinner.  It is totally yum.

Creamy Pumpkin Gratin

Ingredients:

  • Hokkaido pumpkin – peeled and thinly sliced (I use a mandolin)
  • 300 ml cream
  • 150 ml milk
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 clove garlic – crushed
  • A bunch of sage leaves – chopped

Method:

Heat oven to 180 deg. C

Prepare your pumpkin.  Grease an ovenproof dish, and arrange your pumpkin slices.

In a small saucepan heat the cream, milk, mustard, chilli, garlic and sage for a few minutes.  Stir well to incorporate the mustard.  Pour this liquid over the pumpkin.

Bake for 20 minutes or so, take your dish out of oven and press the pumpkin down into liquid (I use an egg flip for this).  Return to the oven for another 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.

You can leave the gratin to sit for a few minutes before serving.

 

 

Afternoon Tea

I’ve told you before about how some members of our community are fighting back, and doing their very best to stop the ebb of activity in rural Ireland.  Our community shop continues to thrive and is open for even longer hours these days.

Well, I’m delighted to tell you that another local group have come together and are hosting a variety of events at Redwood Castle.  They started the whole process on Sunday last with Afternoon Tea.  I popped along to take some photos that I could post here and hopefully, encourage you all to come along and visit.

 

Tea in a china tea cup

Lots and lots of home baking

 

Is there anything nicer that whiling away a few hours with copious amounts of tea and cake, in front of a roaring fire?

Woodburning stove in great hall at Redwood Castle

Numbers are restricted at the moment, so you definitely need to book well in advance.  Contact them via email redwoodcastleireland@gmail.com or call 00 353 89 480 1888.

I could go into a ton of detail on the history of the Castle, but I’d rather just say you should try to incorporate a guided tour with your afternoon tea.  Ger, the guide, is brilliant at telling the history of the Castle.

Stunning views across Co. Tipperary

Other forthcoming events planned for the Castle are an upholstery class in November (which I believe is already booked out), and then on 8th and 9th December there will be an artisan craft and food Christmas fair.. you could make a weekend of it!  And, of course, don’t forget we can do bed and breakfast for you, either before or after your visit to the Castle.

Cosy Alcove from which to admire the view

There are also major plans for various events in 2019…. watch this space.

We wish Coleesa and the team at the Castle, all the best with this new venture.

Isn’t it wonderful to see rural Ireland fighting back, and bringing more people into the area?

A bucket list thing

It’s on the bucket list.  In fact it has been on the bucket list for way too long.

I want to go up in a hot air balloon.  That is all.

I stood in awe for hours a couple of weeks ago as the Irish Hot Air Balloon Championships were held in Birr.  I was fascinated watching the weather along with them, waiting to hear if it was going to be a ‘Fly’ or ‘No Fly’ decision.  It was all quite technical but fascinating at the same time.

We were lucky that Monday evening was a beautiful evening, the winds were right, so it was a ‘FLY’ decision. We dropped everything and raced into Birr.

Aren’t they just magical?

There was a very enthusiastic chap who jumped out and parachuted back down!

And then I was lucky enough to be able to capture them on an early morning flight rom our kitchen.

Early morning flight over Tipperary countryside.

 

Early morning flight in the mist.

Someday that bucket list ‘tick’ will be marked.