Tucked away, just 70km northwest of Dublin, is the tiny, and tidy, village of Moynalty. Famous, and basically only ever talked about, for its Steam Threshing Festival, Moynalty is a quaint and underrepresented corner of the Boyne Valley.
"As a traveler you often realize that your knowledge of the area's geography surpasses that of the so-called 'locals.'"
Whilst traipsing around the Emerald Isle, mi madre and I were often asked about where we were staying. While the answer often varied, due to the fact that we had several lodgings corresponding to where we were that particular week (see this trip's lodgings list here), it always went something like this:
"We're currently staying over in _________________, but our home base is a small, converted barn in Moynalty, County Meath."
Often this was met with blank stares.
"It's about five minutes from Kells; just northwest of Dublin," we'd answer hesitantly.
As a traveler you often realize that your knowledge of the area's geography surpasses that of the so-called "locals."
Small in size, the commercial village of Moynalty is no more than two blocks in length; it houses two local pubs, a post office with a bank, a hair salon, a beauty supply shop, a gas station, a café, and a small general store, complete with an ice cream counter - what else could one possibly need to create a home away from home?
But Moynalty is so much more than its businesses. It is a village of friendly faces: Armond, one of the local bartenders, Anne, the convenience store clerk, and Suzanne, the coffee shop owner whose brown bread is one of the best loaves we sampled during our month abroad - and trust me, we sampled!
Moynalty is untouched history. It is gorgeous views of the Borora River. It is a faerie village hidden within its expansive park. It is quiet evenings, and cows peaking over fences. And, for us, it was the location of one of the best parts of our entire trip to Ireland: The Dream Barn, and it's proprietors, Jim and Sue.
When first proposing a month in Ireland to mi madre, I showed her The Dream Barn, a listing I had come across a year prior, and had been pining over ever since. It's eclectic and homey charm had me picturing myself holed up there, writing at the quaint wooden desk to the sounds of hen clucks. I would eat cheese, and drink wine, and spend my days drifting out of focus while looking out at the wildflower garden.
I loved that the entire cottage was brimming with tchotchkes. I loved the mismatched furniture, and the fact that a hand drawn dog sketch hung on the fridge. I loved that it looked worn in. I loved that Jim offered, in its listing, a "starter hamper of food" if needed. I loved that it was loved.
When we first arrived - jet-lagged, and plane-chic (crumpled pixie cuts and pants without buttons) - we found Jim on his hands and knees, scrubbing the entrance tiles into the barn. Needing a few extra moments to finish "tidying," we sat and spoke with Sue as she took her wash in off the line. When Jim was finished, he helped bring our suitcases inside - cases as the Irish call them - and then alerted us to the homemade loaf of brown bread and the carafe of soup waiting for us in our refrigerator. It was instantly apparent that these were the type of people who's presence stays with you. Jim and Sue were warm, genuine, and wonderful conversationalists.
Over the next four weeks we chatted with them both, often. Jim introduced us to Roosty and "The Girls," educating us on hen breeds - Rhode Island Reds are aggressive, and must be fed by hand - while Sue corrected our pronunciation of Ha'Penny Bridge, and pushed me towards following my dreams in the way only a mother truly can.
"Jim and Sue were warm, genuine, and wonderful conversationalists."
We spent hours in the garden: eating cheese, and drinking wine, and wishing the weeks could just slow down.
The beyond-equipped kitchen saw us make lentils, and lamb shanks, and eat a disturbing amount of Malteasers, claiming each time we dipped our hand back into the bag that, "this is the last one!" The arm chair was the epitome of cozy. The line-dried sheets smelt of summer heat. And it was while looking out through our Dutch door, that we fell in love with Ireland.
Moynalty is an escape. From the manic present, the ever-rushing and worrying, the hustle, and the bustle - when you cross that stone bridge, and pass the Tidy Towns sign emploring you to, "Please Keep Moynalty Tidy," you enter a simpler place, where the most pressing decision of your day is wether or not to have cream with your meringues. And as you turn by Armond's bar, backing the rental car in beside Jim's sedan, you smile, because in that moment you realize, you're home.