I thought about breaking it into several installments but I can't. I am afraid my heart will sink everytime I look at the pictures of our trip. I had such an amazing time, seen so many beautiful sights and met so many incredible folks. I miss it all and yet, I am completely and utterly happy thrilled to be back, full on work and ready for the next chapter, whatever it may be.
We started the trip by landing at 7am in Glasgow. In our rental car by 8am, we proceeded toward the Mull Of Kintyre via Loch Lomond National Park. Let's just say that with no sleep and driving on the other side for the first time in over 20 years, the first 10 minutes of the trip felt right out of a video game. A video game gone wrong that is. With cars zooming towards you, on roads barely narrow enough for two, a stone wall or a cliff on your side, depending.
I have to tell you that none of it actually mattered. Every "oh shoot!" moment was followed by a "We are in Scotland! Dude! Nothing matters! We are in Scotland"...Yep, we could have totaled the car and gotten off the road, we still would have jumped screaming at the top of our lungs "Look at this! Wow!!".
That's pretty much the feeling and phrase that accompanied us throughout the trip. The opportunity to teach at Belle Isle and take a few days off before hand to trace back Bill's ancestors was something I will always be grateful for.
We took the road to the Mull of Kintyre and stopped at Oban for lunch, Scotch and to stretch our legs, keep awake and energized. Still going strong, we headed for our evening lodging, Stonefield Castle. We were trying to be as close as possible to Castle Sween, an ancestral family stronghold for Bill and while looking at hotels in the area, Stonefield, overlooking the sea, was equal to a hotel in town. You can guess what I picked. Yes. Our first night of the trip was at this incredibly beautiful and serene castle.
We crashed on the fluffy pillows as soon as we got to our room for a restorative power nap. Rested, we were ready to head out and explore our surroundings, the woods and forest around us. Beauty everywhere. We will be back and for a longer stay for sure. Everyone at the hotel was wonderful and the food was outstanding. I ate it. I did not photograph it.
Seems like a food photographer on vacation shoots just about everything. Except food. I shot flowers. And meadows. And flowers. All the little wild flowers that never get the chance to grow in hot and hotter South Carolina. you bet I had my fill in Scotland and Ireland.
The shores at Stonefield Castle.
Walking around Stonefield.
Flowers everywhere. Lush and gorgeous flora.
Bouees on a tree. Straight out of a Tim Burton's movie.
The next morning, we starting making our way to Castle Sween and a quite a few photo opportunities unraveled before our eyes. We spent half an hour with these horses. Every time we motioned away, they would come closer and wait for us to scratch their heads a little more.
Unexpected on an almost deserted road.
The area around Castle Sween is tranquil and lush. Green grass and low forestry.
Castle Sween. Bill got quiet and reverend. I could tell that a part of him was unsettled and curious. Sad too. So much he only knew from records and old letters. I also could feel that the bigger part of him felt home. It was truly magical to experience that moment of finding one roots with him.
The view commanding Castle Sween. Yes. Nothing to squint about...
Later that day we hopped on a plane to Belfast, got another rental car and started our way up the Northern coast as soon as we landed. We spent the night in the little village of Cushendall and after a local pub owner shortened our route by sending us on ferry roads and adding bridges to an otherwise silent map, we made way toward the Giant's Causeway. A good walk later, we headed out to Fanad's Head...another ancestral ground for Bill.
I seem to have an afinity for telephone booths....On our way to Fanad's Head. Still making our way through ancestral grounds and towns. After a night at Downing's Bay, we made our way down to Donegal. We were on a mission to find Castle Doe. Another family castle. Puts my French falconer ancestral roots to shame...!
At Castle Doe. Old stone. New life. Color.
Castle Doe. There was silence around us. Except for the winds and the legends.
After our stop at Castle Doe. It was time to head out to Belle Isle Estate for my workshop. We quickly got settled into our cottage and grabbed our gear for a little walk. The estate is gorgeous and the surrounding grounds lush and bountiful. The cottages were super cozy with all the amenities one can think of. We vowed to come back with my parents and rent a couple of them for an extended stay. So much to see and do in the area. Fermanagh is really a beautiful county.
A little peek at the Castle at Belle Isle.
Reminded me of The Princess Bride. I know...
Beautiful fruits and veggies are grown at Belle Isle and used at the cookery school where the workshop was help. Apples, redcurrants, blueberries, salads, herbs, peas, etc... Cows, sheep and hens can be seen and heard as well.
View looking out from the castle at Belle Isle. Not too bad...
The walled garden at Belle Isle. Push the door opened and be mesmerized.
Finally, it was time to meet up with everyone and start the second part of our trip. The workshop. The group of attendees gathered was absolutely delightful and hard working. I say that of every workshop I teach. I know. But it's true everytime. I am also very appreciative of the non negotiating trust they bestow on me to guide them right from the get go. I know exactly what's going on in their mind and I have no doubt that each day will be better and more fun than the one before.
Leona and Victoria. Fearless and talented.
Among the group we had a wide array of cultures and places represented. Ireland, Tel-Aviv, Dubai, Australia, San Francisco, Denmark, The Netherlands, Japan, Vienna. I was honored for the miles and hours everyone put in to come learn and play. Huge props to Corrie and her staff at Belle Isle Cookery School for feeding us and providing us with all the necessary foods and ingredients for the shoots we were practicing throughout the weekends. Thank you also to Charles and Fiona, the caretakers of the castle for their generosity and great disposition throughout the weekend.
Idan. Intense. And cute as a button...
Berries from the garden.
Lettuces and chives in the garden.
Dana and Elizabeth. Focused. Determined.
After knowing them for the past five years online, I finally got to meet Simone of Jungle Frog Cooking and Pernille. Simone, a professional food photographer herself, it was a treat to have her attend and soak in the atmosphere as we all did that weekend. Pernille works as an art director at her company and I had to smile at how much I could anticipate her reactions. It was nice to show other aspects of food photography to the attendees and why the eyes of an art director pushes a photographer that extra step further toward hard work well done.
It was an amazing trip. The scenery. The adventures. The people. The food. The time off spent with my husband. He's my compass. I'm the navigator. We keep each other good.
I am off to Washington D.C in the morning for a few days and the recipe posts will resume as soon as get back.