Upon arrival at their home-away-from-home cottages at the Old Deanery in Killala, we greeted our travelers with the traditional Irish welcome: Céad Míle Fáilte–One Hundred Thousand Welcomes. The welcomes came in many forms: warm hugs, glowing turf fire in hearth, kitchens stocked with tea, biscuits, fresh bread and pastries, and a bottle of wine to enjoy while settling in. Then a nap for some, a brisk walk for a bit of fresh air and time to freshen up for the Eire Retour welcome feast–the first of many delicious meals to come.
Many of our exceptional meals were prepared for us by premier chef, Paula Austin. Paula brought her expertise and heart to each dish she created and served at our table. And we were all eager and appreciative diners. The days Paula donned her apron signaled the promise of deliciousness to come…she created mouth-watering specialties from local ingredients; pure delight at first bite.
Well-fed and weary after their long journey, a good night of sleep was in order…with no pressure for an early wake-up call. As part of encouraging our participants to relax and renew their spirits, we began our days well after the sun rose ~ typically gathering at 10 am for a morning talk with tea and a lovely treat from the kitchen. Folks were free to spend their early mornings doing whatever suited them. Some rose early to venture out for a morning walk, exploring the quiet village neighborhood, its harbor and paths, while others preferred to stay in their cottage reading, journaling or enjoying talking with their cottage mates over breakfast.
From the next day onward we ventured into the remarkable landscape surrounding Killala–visiting sacred, ancient holy sites, digging for cockles, harvesting mussels, feasting, rambling among ruins and abbey walls, hiking over wild and remote terrain and stretching our eyes over the Wild Atlantic Way. We also ventured inward–reflecting on the dream world and listening to music that softened our hearts to reclaim love and wisdom. We opened to the beauty and ease of our days and the unexpected but anticipated grace that arrived through a visitation from an extraordinary healer.
Over the next few weeks we will post a bit about each day of the May Retour ~ recounting the memories and magic.