Sunday, May 13, 2018
Happy Mothers’ Day!
The Rosapenna Hotel has become an awfully comfortable nest, and we start our day as usual with coffee in bed, blog catchup while gazing at the bay, and a Mothers’ Day message from Janel. Breakfast awaits downstairs. This morning we’re seated at a great table, and wave to our new Irish family friends seated nearby.
There’s the usual grand buffet with musli and weetabix and dry fruits and fresh juices for starters. Our plaice for breakfast yesterday was so good we’ll do the fish again, this time poached eggs with kippers. The kippers are smoked and strong and salty and fishy and delicious.
John’s family is heading back home today and we bid them safe travel. It has been a real pleasure to share laughs with. John’s gregarious and fun loving traits seem to spill over to every member of the family. John would say, “Good craic.” Another thing I noticed is that not one minute of family time was spent with noses in electronics, even the youngsters. Their sharing of themselves with us was generous and will make a lasting impression.
Linda has blog management to do. The beautiful cove out our bay window has been beckoning to me so I end up taking an 90 minute walk out on the beach to the other side and back. The floor is very flat so that the tide comes in hundreds of yards. There are a surprising number of seashells, including lots of razor clams, and I wonder why we’re not seeing those on any menus.
We reluctantly pack up, check out, and hit the road. Two thumbs up for the old school Rosapenna Hotel – it would be fun to return here some day. Where we’re headed from here is south, but the details have been concealed from me – I just follow the GPS blue line to a destination Linda has entered. The one hint I’ve received is that we will be “as close to camping as Linda will ever get.”
We stop for gas, noting it’s somewhat high price. I think 1/2 tank went for more than 35 euro (around $5 or $6 per gallon). Still, our rental hybrid (a Kia Nira) is getting around 55 miles per gallon so it goes a long way.
Just after we cross the border back into Northern Ireland (UK) we reach Finn Lough. It’s a densely wooded area with an intimate resort feel. At the reception office, we drop our bags and are soon guided to a first ‘activity.’ The staff knows it constitures a surprise for me and they are guarded with their word choices. I assume we’re going to be setting up our tent. We are instead led to … the Forest Spa. What the…
A dashing young lady provides a briefing for a self-guided 2 hour experience, and we then change into robes and slippers. We walk down a path in the middle of the dripping forest, already with a feeling of wonderment. Our first stop, the Floatation Room.
Inside is a wide 30″ deep pool of hyper salted heated water. The buoyancy is incredible. Once we’re in, a automatic timer starts. [The timed element exists to keep spa-ing parties isolated from each other.] We spend a minute or two getting our floating pillows adjusted, and figuring out how to properly relax, well, everything. Very soon all is quiet, save for mystical spa music, and we can’t feel our bodies anymore, allowing our minds to go somewhere else. It is perfect floatation at a perfect temperature. Our 20 minutes goes by like 3. Truly an out-of-body experience, and unique.
There are no photos of the Forest Spa, incidentally. Not only are electronics forbidden inside, but bathing suits are, you know, optional.
A short walk through the woods leads to the next room, a traditional sauna. It is super well made in a Scandanavian style, with a huge floor-to-ceiling window that gazes out onto Finn Lough. A sign suggests 2 or 3 cycles of heating and cooling, using the sauna and dips in the lake. After 6 minutes of supreme heat, Linda and I decide to test the lake. It’s already cold and raining outside, but we dutifully find the railed ladder steps and descend to the lake surface. God – it’s like ice, a few degrees above freezing. Linda finds a cooling shower to use inside, while I keep trying the lake. The 3rd time I get the whole body in but just cannot push off the railing. If I had to swim I fear my heart would stop.
The 3rd room is an aromatherapy sauna, with lavender and rosemary and other wonderful things tickling our senses, also with another huge glass window overlooking the lake. A big ladle is provided to spoon water over the hot coals, and we were reminded of the spa up in New Hampshire at Bob Ball’s place. For periodic cooling, an outdoor shower is hung from a tree. It’s likely fed by lake water because it’s that cold, but Linda and I both manage to dance through it repeatedly, wincing and giggling.
The 4th experience is a traditional outdoor hot tub with another magnificent view over the lake. While very warm, it’s not so hot that cooling cycles are required, so we stretch out and linger in the jets for a full 20 minutes, try to take in where we are.
The final stop is the Relaxation Room. Inside is a small fireplace burning birch, cold water with lemon and herbs, herbal teas, and heavy wooden furniture. It’s a place to focus on the fire and zone out and hydrate.
We take a final shower in the exit changing room. Its design is pretty cool in that the locker drawer where you store your clothes has 2 different access doors, one on the entrance side and another on the exit side. That way each party never ‘collides’ with another.
The Forest Spa is a unique experience. The Floatation Room was our fav definitely. But the entire Adam-and-Eve feeling of being in the woods together in Eden was unmistakable.
Back to Reception. I think, we must be off to our tentsite now, right? A golf cart arrives to take us to ‘camp’ and no one is saying much, except that this will be our next surprise. A few minutes’ ride through the woods leads to a gate and path and …. Oh my god, what are these? Our ‘tent’ is actually a huge transparent bubble! I’m serious! Picture a 30′ diameter clear beach ball perched on a wooden floor in the middle of the woods! Well, picture two of them sort of knitted together to create 2 rooms. Unbelievable – how cool is this?
There is a double doorway to get in, lest you let all the air pressure out. Inside is full water and power, big frame bed, and a standalone tub. The floor is lightly heated as is the bed. The little touches are equally amazing: coffee maker, old time radio, tiny flameless fireplace, a suitcase phonograph player. There is even a Polaroid camera preloaded with film and a little book to assemble your pictures.
One of the weirder things is the acoustics inside. There are strange foci of sound at various points. I could listen on one side of a sphere and hear Linda’s every breath with extreme clarity. John would have loved it.
With typical MP greatness, Linda has arranged a bottle of Prosecco for us with an anniversary greeting. Happy 37th – all month long! This place is not just a hit – Linda has knocked one out of the park!
An old Otis Redding album goes on and we pop the Prosecco. Linda reaches her mom and dad on the phone for a lovely 1/2 hour of conversation. We try to describe this place but it’s hard to do.
Once we figure it out, the tub is a thing of beauty, except when you have to get up to flip the album over. We are surrounded by leaves and birds and sky from every angle.
Hunger beckons us to the restaurant – a five minute walk on the lighted forest path. There are maybe 3 other parties dining, but we decide to first hit up the ‘snug’ bar, a cozy little corner room. As soon as we enter, a bartender appears behind us. We start talking Guinness and gins and wines. I ask about the razor clams and why they are not on menus. He says Irish palettes are very traditional and while fish is cherished, shellfish generally is not, except for maybe a few places in Dublin. In fact, he says most of the razor clams from Ireland are probably shipped to Spain.
I ask for a fine juniper-flavored gin on the rocks but he ends up preparing a gin-and-tonic, using a gin called Bathtub. GTs are so popular here, he probably thought that’s what I meant. Linda’s GT uses a berry-infused gin and is called a bramble. Both are delicious.
Dinner is ordered separately but shared of course, duck and lamb. Much attention is given to the reductions for both. The duck used a five-spice creation while the lamb is ultra-reduced lamb stock and onions – sinful stuff. The ultra-informed sommolier helps us with a great wine selection from Austria. A really wonderful dinner.
We close up the place, and ask if we can take our last glass of wine (and stemware) back to our bubble. No trouble.
The short evening walk back through the forest feels good. If that wasn’t enough, we climb into our gently heated bed and put on an album by a classic Italian tenor accompanied by a simple piano. I’m not sure what he was singing about, but surely it must have been something about being with my girl in the middle of the woods in a clear bubble.