Reid Bramblett - Travel Writer

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On the Road with Reid 'Round Ireland: Bed, Breakfast, and Beyond (cont'd)

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I pity the poor soul who goes to Ireland and tries to keep on his diet. Breakfast spreads like this one, at Killennan House outside Derry in Northern Irealnd, pretty much assure you won't be hungry again until dinnertime

Except for that check-in ritual, though, almost every B&B experience is different, and picking a place to stay for the night can be a bit difficult. Sure, I have a lovely color catalogue from the Town & Country association to peruse, and some 2,500 properties from which to choose. But for each, all I have to go on is a picture of the outside of the house, the name/owner and address/contact info, how many rooms (usually three to six), and two lines of telegraphic description.

For instance, Mrs. Tess Haughey's Rathnashee outside Sligo—pictured as a nondescript modern cottage—is described simply: "Welcome to an Irish home. Scenic area. Midway Sligo/Drumcliff en route Donegal. Homebaking. Many recommendations. Frommer, Guide de Routard. Lounge with extensive library of Old books." Who would have guessed that (a) all of that was description was spot on and then some, and (b) it would translate into a warm and cozy home run by a kindly older couple which felt for all the world like staying in the spare bedroom of an Irish auntie?

There was a heated blanket and silly satin bedspread in our room; an antiques-filled living room down the hall where an old TV set sat ignored, surrounded by shelves upon shelves of rare old books (mostly on Irish subjects) collected by her husband John, who was a tad shy but with a bit of encouragement would pull out such treasures as a 1692 edition of Aesop's Fables. The dining room table, set with fine chine and crystal, had a view beyond the back yard of the dramatic Benbulben mountain, symbol of this entire region, and the breakfast Mrs. Haughey laid out for us next morning was the most sumptuous, tasty, and clearly homemade of our entire trip. And you know what? That place wasn't even my first choice.

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