Is there a place so special that it makes your heart sing? For mom that place is Ireland. With each visit, she falls more in love.

Every year we try to do a big vacation. As mom is now 91, I leave the decision of where up to her. I want each trip to be something that makes her happy. This year we had been planning to go to Norway, and per usual, we would get indecisive about the final decision. Should we fulfill mom’s longstanding wish to see the fjords? Should we take our friends up on their invitation to stay with them in Malaga, Spain? What about that New Zealand trip we had to cancel last year?

We did the carousel of indecision, round and round, even getting close to booking Norway. Then mom called me up one night and said that instead of going somewhere new, lets go back to Ireland and Northern Ireland. She wanted to visit friends that we made on our last trip to Belfast. Plus, we’ve had such wonderful trips to both in the past and the people have been so wonderfully kind and warm. OK mom, let’s go back!



From the moment we landed in Dublin, everything magically fell into place in the most fabulous way. We arrived in time for dinner at the Scholar’s Hotel in Drogheda. I’d been emailing and talking with their concierge, Will, prior to our trip and even though we were only having dinner and not staying in the hotel, he was always so happy to answer any and all questions. Unfortunately, Will wasn’t there the night we dined, but that didn’t prevent mom from getting spoiled.

Mom was given her choice of any room in the restaurant or pub and as well as any menu to choose from, no matter where we were seated. Our waiter then pulled up a chair to have a chat with mom, not only to make sure that everything would be perfect, but also as a friendly “get to know you.” It was such a warm and friendly gesture of Irish hospitality. Mom simply loves to be spoiled. You’d never know from this smile that mom just got off a 10+ hour flight (with barely a catnap).



Our next stop was Belfast and a reunion that mom had been eagerly looking forward to—seeing her friend Cathy, who we met last time. Cathy was one of mom’s inspirations for our trip and I hoped that reunion would be all that mom had been wishing for. It was even better! From the moment we arrived, they resumed their special friendship.



Mom never doubted that their bond would still be intact. It was a love fest of who could spoil the other more. Mom brought gifts from California and would bring Cathy a little extra treat from our excursion of the day. Cathy took mom to visit her horses. (Nothing brings mom joy like spending time with horses!) And then each day was capped off with dinner together and an enthusiastic long chat. The final morning, Cathy pulled out all the stops and surprised mom with a picture of a horse by the talented local artist, Wendy McClatchey. Mom was overjoyed! What a special memory of our visit for mom to take home. It now has a place of honor on her favorite shelf.



Our next few nights were in Donegal. When traveling with mom, at the top of our list is finding places that have either ground floor rooms or elevators, which isn’t always easy to find at a B&B. My search led us to The Arches Country House, along a lake, just outside of Donegal Town. Apart from the ground floor rooms, I was drawn to the whimsically-trimmed trees and lake view. I’d hoped that the charm of the location was a sign.


The Arches Country House, Donegal


We drove up and were greeted by the owner, Noreen. Not only were we warmly greeted, but Noreen also graciously attended to mom’s every need. It’s important when you’re an older person to know someone is there for you and anticipating your needs, sometimes before you may even know them. Mom would love to come again for Noreen’s kindness. As mom told me, “I know Noreen will take care of me.” So, Noreen, we’ll be seeing you soon!

After visiting Slieve League (which is among the highest sea cliffs in Europe), we stopped for dinner at Kitty Kelly’s. After walking in the door of this beautifully renovated farmhouse, we were greeted by the owner, Donna. Donna was completely won over by my outspoken, feisty, and witty mom. They had a lovely chat filled with laughter and mom’s stories, which are quite entertaining to say the least.



Since stairs are difficult for mom, we were given our own dining room on the ground floor. If you want to be spoiled, travel with mom! Our dinner was divine—everything was delicious and beautifully plated. We ended up closing down the place, chatting into the evening with Donna and her husband, Chef Remy Dupuy. The night ended with us being given a goody bag of scones and mom extending an invitation for them to come visit. Mom loves making new friends.

On our last night, mom was the belle of the ball at Bon Appetit in Malahide (just outside of Dublin.) At the table next to us was a group of local women enjoying a festive night out. Once they heard mom’s age, they became her new fan club. Not only did they want to chat and hear all about mom and her adventures, but they also excitedly gathered round to take a group photo with mom and immediately posted it. They gleefully shared the responses like, “which one is the 91-year-old, I can’t tell!”

And what trip isn’t complete without a hug and a kiss from a cute Italian! Mirco, the manager of Bon Appetit, was amazed by mom’s youthful attitude and appearance. He dedicated the evening to her, checking in on us regularly and with such charm. With mom, flattery will get you everywhere. Of course, we couldn’t leave without getting a video of mom and Mirco together. How cute are they! Thanks, Mirco, for a memorable night of pampering.



As much as she enjoys the spectacular beauty and delicious food, what brings mom back to Ireland and Northern Ireland year after year is the people. It’s a love affair, and it’s not stopping anytime soon. Even before we left, mom already started planning for our return. We’ll be back next summer and mom will be on the road again at 92!


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