Maps at the ready, Gino navigated from the front passenger seat, Mom from the back. Everyone was on sign look-out — signs were difficult to spot and appeared, if at all, at the very last moment. We laughed at some of the names of the towns we passed: Letterbreen, Gortgarrigan, Dromahair, Ballynacarrow, Ballygawley, Ballintogher. We laughed more at our attempts to pronounce them. And it was fun to see the names written in Gaelic beneath their English versions.
Almost four hours after leaving Armagh, we turned off at a sign indicating “Aghamore.” A narrow lane flanked by stone and sheep-studded farmland led us into a tiny village — nothing more than a few houses, a post office, a church.
Studying the verbal instructions provided by the proprietor of our next temporary home, the Millhouse Thatched Cottage, once again we found ourselves driving up and down a stretch of road in futile search.
In desperation, we called the owner, John Lyons, on Mom’s cell phone. John, who lived in Dublin, explained that we must turn off on the first road to the left, then go so far up until we found the cottage. This very important final piece of the directions had not been relayed to us when we had booked! Without having phoned, we would have yet again found ourselves knocking on some unknown door in desperation for further information. The Irish are bend-over-backwards benevolent, but their directions stink.
A handwritten note lay at our feet just inside the kitchen door. Dorothy, Gino’s cousin, had already been by to check if we had arrived. Pressing mom’s cell phone into service again, we called back. Dorothy said she would give us some relax time and then pop over. In the meantime, we surveyed the house.
Although built in the 19th century (we learned later that John’s father had been born there), the house had just been thoroughly renovated. Outfitted with modern appliances, a bright clean kitchen with plenty of cupboards, a living room with an electric fireplace, and four bedrooms, the house was quite comfortable. There were one and a half bathrooms, but only one was functional, so that was a minor drawback.
One of the bedrooms was upstairs — Gino and I claimed it immediately. A tiny wood-panelled room at the opposite end from our bedroom oddly contained a dryer and nothing else.
A knock on the door surprised us. It was John’s sister-in-law who was staying a few days at his other house a couple of doors down. He had sent her over to make sure we had figured out how to operate everything, especially the heat. She got everything set up, but none of us could ever figure out how to get the heat to work in our bedroom upstairs. We ended up borrowing a thick comforter from one of the unused bedrooms, replacing it before we left.