So we are back from Waterford. If you remember, we were going there to view a house I had found online…..
Just possibly the house of my dreams….
It has been a very interesting few days. But let me start at the beginning. We drove down to Waterford last Monday. It is a long drive….over 4 hours. Ireland is a small country, but we are in the north, almost on the border of Northern Ireland and Waterford is in the south…the bottom of Ireland..the southern coast. And since we don’t exactly leave at the crack of dawn, it was dark by the time we got there. The hotel we were staying in was outside of town….the in town b&bs were closed since it is off season so we didn’t have a lot of choice. It took awhile and 2 phone calls to actually find it in the dark and because their restaurant was closed we then had to leave again and drive about 10 miles to the next town to the only pub that was open. As I said, it was a long and frustrating day.
Not the best mood to be in when you are about to view a house that might just be your new forever home, but I was confident that things would look better in the morning. And they did. After breakfast, we decided to see if we could find the cottage on our own. The estate agent was scheduled to show it to us the next day, but I had said that if we could find the cottage we would just meet him there rather than try to find his office. We had seen it on google maps and it was right off a main road so I thought we could find it. And we did. Down a lane…past a field, a farm, more fields…a bungalow and a farm. The last house on a cul de sac. And there it was.
A gate…and behind it..rising through the mist..was the most beautiful thatched cottage you can imagine. I spent my adult life as a kindergarten teacher. Stories with lovely thatched cottages are not some distant memory from my childhood….they are part of my life. This cottage was out of one of those storybooks…but real. Not part of some museum..an example of one..this was a real cottage where people lived. It had a gate and a stone wall around it..through that gate were paths to gardens..a peaceful sanctuary….just magical….and just sitting there..in front of me.. waiting for me to step inside it.
I was smitten. But we couldn’t see it until the next day, so we went off to explore the area. The town of Lismore was nearby with its castle and cathedral and heritage center so we headed there. As everyone had told us, it was “lovely.” There were little lanes and walks..beautiful old architecture and a few shops and pubs. The castle wasn’t open but we could see the outside of it….just magnificent.
More fairy tale images…I was in heaven.
But there were more adventures in store for us. Our car, a loaner from the place where we have ordered our car, is not exactly a new car. We had noticed a strange noise when we were in Doolin, but it went away so we ignored it. But it was back…and worse. Perhaps we should get it checked. We headed back toward our hotel and the Garda where stopping cars checking for road tax or something. So we asked him if he knew where we could find a garage. He was busy checking cars so he asked us to pull over. We assumed he would get to us when he had a minute, but no. This was Ireland. An opportunity for a bit of craic was not to be missed. He leaned into our car…arms on the window and settled in for a nice long chat…”were we on holiday? where in the States were we from…” We explained our situation. He asked if we owned the car or if it was a rental. We explained it was a loaner. “Well,” he said, “I wouldn’t want to pay for any repairs on a car I didn’t own” He thought we should just bring it back to them and let them worry about it. It did not phase him that they were in Donegal…..MANY miles away..and we had no idea if it was safe to drive. It also didn’t phase him that lots of cars had gone by..unchecked. He was busy helping us. After repeating that he didn’t want us to get stuck with a repair bill we shouldn’t have to pay, he reluctantly told us about 3 garages nearby..but he thought we should get the owners of the car to pay the bill. We thanked him and amazingly actually found one of the garages.
It was going to be one of those days…that was clear. The man at the garage was lovely as all the Irish people we have met have been. He started by telling us he was late for an appointment and didn’t have any time for us…but after hearing our story he decided to help us. He checked the car and said it was a broken spring….he would have to order a part..he had another car to do tomorrow…when were we leaving? After more conversation (which included him telling us about when he had lived in San Francisco) he told us to bring the car back in the morning. It might take all day to do because the part had to be ordered and he had another car, but he would fit us in. Great. Sorted. Now what?
Well, we would not have a car tomorrow to get to the cottage so we decided we should try to find our estate agent to see if he could pick us up and bring us. That would give us a chance to check out Dungarvan..another nearby town. So off we went. Found a place to park..found a cafe for lunch and even found the estate agent’s office. Things were looking up.
Of course it was lunchtime so he wasn’t there. Most things close in Ireland from 1:00 to 2:00 for lunch. It is quite civilized..if inconvenient. But I phoned his mobile and wasn’t he on his way and we should just stay there and he would be right with us. Grand.
He arrived, pleasantries were exchanged and I explained our situation with the car….But, he also had a story. it turns out that there was problem with cottage. The right of way. It used to be just a matter of getting signatures of the other people on the lane and you were fine. But they have changed it…now it is done in Dublin…at the land registry. And of course, Dublin doesn’t care much about rural Ireland so it could take awhile to sort through it all..2 weeks…maybe 2 years. !!! So the sellers have decided to take the house off the market until it is all settled. And he wouldn’t be able to show us the house after all. WHAT?!!! I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The fact that the cottage is 300 years old and the reason the lane is there in the first place was not the only thing that went through my head. Not see my magical cottage? After driving all this way? That just was not an option. I explained that this was our only chance to see the house. By the time the right of way was sorted and it was back on the market, we would be back in America. If he showed it to us now, we would have seen it and if we liked it we could go ahead and make an offer from there. That made sense to him so he agreed to call the owners and see if they would agree. Phew!
So the next day we dropped our car off at the garage and walked over to a nearby bakery to wait. Michael, our estate agent, would pick us up at 1:00 to go to the cottage. We had coffee and chatted with the people in the bakery. We told them our situation and hoped they didn’t mind if we just sort of hung out. No problem. They actually knew the cottage and were very excited for us. Fingers crossed…hopefully it will work out.
Michael arrived as scheduled and off we went. It turns out, the couple who own the house are a retired British couple. They love old cottages and this is what they do. They buy old, derelict ones and they restore them…then they sell them and move on the the next one. They have done a few. He assured us they really know what they are doing and it was a very special place. I told him that we had seen it..the outside at least.. the day before and that it certainly seemed it. And then we were there. He opened the gate and we drove in. Out of the car, over to the cottage. He turned the key and opened the door and I stepped inside. I did not take any pictures. The house was not for sale and it was very nice of them to even let us see it. It would be rude to then intrude more and take pictures. So I can not show it to you. But I will say that it felt like this lovely couple had restored the house with us in mind. You stepped into an entryway/hallway and then through a doorway into the kitchen. The walls were thick and the ceilings were low but it did not feel cramped or crowded. It was cosy…enveloping you with warmth. The kitchen was perfect. NOT a modern fitted kitchen at all. Open shelves above the sink and counter. An old fashioned rounded refrigerator…a lovely Irish dresser…a small table with two chairs… A gas hob with an electric oven AND an old AGA wood stove/cooker. There was a half door leading out to the garden with a shelf above it. The floor was terra-cotta stone. The walls were white..the lower cabinets were white and the counter and shelves were wood. Michael told us that in the summer, with the half door open, the light poured in and you could hear the birds in the garden. Yes. It was perfect. But there was more. Off the kitchen was the utility room with a washer/dryer and a freezer. Another wall of cupboards (with the loveliest ceramic knobs to open them), a WC with a sink AND a walk in pantry! I have always wanted a walk in pantry! Michael said it was cold in the pantry…so good for storing things. A cold larder….not many houses have one of those. Wow.
The living room was also nice. A small wood stove with couch and chair in front of it. Open shelves beside the stove…a gorgeous little window with a very thick windowsill (Merlin would love that!) and on the other side of the room, double doors leading to the garden…the floor in the room was wood…but the entry way by the double doors was stone. There was room for a small table by the little window…like at Brookwood Shire…We would fit perfectly into this space.
There was a second sitting room which would be perfect for Bill’s studio. It would be a big improvement on the cellar that he has at home. He was not as smitten as I was, but he really liked the house.
Upstairs were two bedrooms and a bath. The master bedroom had a walk in closet! These people thought of everything! The bathroom had a walk in shower, and more shelves for towels. They had managed to find room for enough modern conveniences to make it comfortable and still retain an old fashioned feel. It was just amazing!
Outside was a turf shed and a garden shed. There was a sort of tent like green house (not a polytunnel or a glass house..sort of a combination) and some raised beds….two had cold frames on them. The raised beds were fenced off from the the rest of the garden. There was also a lawned area with shrubs and a few fruit trees, and an arbor (which had wisteria growing on it in the summer). There were arched gates and hanging pots. Primroses and pansies filled the window boxes near the door of the cottage. There was plenty of room for hens and the yard was gated with a wall around it…safe for a puppy….and there was no passing traffic in any case. I had found my perfect cottage. It was even thatched! But it was not for sale…at least not at the moment.
We told Michael we were VERY interested. I gave him my number and my email. He gave me his card. He assured me he would contact me when the house goes back on the market..but of course he has no idea when that will be.
He dropped us back at the bakery. I was ecstatic about the cottage. I couldn’t believe how perfect it was….what an amazing job they had done…how magical it felt…..and slowly it sank in that it didn’t really matter how perfect it was. It was not for sale. Period. IF it came back on the market in time and IF we made an offer and IF they accepted it and then IF we could go home and sell our house…..IF…IF…IF. This was clearly in the hands of the goddess. Someone would really have to be pulling for us to make this happen. I had to admit that it wasn’t very likely. But we have gotten this far..so clearly anything can happen. Fingers crossed for sure!
The rest of the trip was a bit of a blur. Our car was ready..we picked it up…had a lovely dinner at the pub and went back to the hotel. The next day we returned to lovely Leitrim…
So now what? That is the question.
The adventure continues….