In which I discover that I have something in common with Sarah Jessica Parker
2016-06-28

I didn’t know anything about County Donegal when I signed up for a four-day, three-night bike trip in northwest Ireland with my family. I just wanted to go on a cycling trip with my husband and our two college-aged children, and the Ireland by Bike people, who had the best reviews of any of the cycling companies I contacted, only run trips in County Donegal.

donegal-map_3365219

I am now a County Donegal convert. I will happily return, even to cycle in the rain, because the people are so friendly and hospitable, the scenery (when you can see it through the rain and fog)  is beautiful, it’s heaven for a knitter (I’m a knitter) and, apparently, if my timing is right, I may well run into Sarah Jessica Parker.

imgres

SJP’s husband, actor Matthew Broderick, has been spending time in County Donegal since he was a child, and the couple own a house in Kilcar. Kilcar is the home of Studio Donegal, where Dave and Elizabeth and Noah and I spent about an hour and a half on Friday afternoon, admiring the beautiful woven fabrics, and learning about looms and yarn while waiting out a fierce downpour.

IMG_4637

The wool I bought at Studio Donegal. All but the mohair is produced by and for the business.

We did not discover the SJP-Donegal connection until after our visit to Ardara (pronounced “r-DRAH”) the following evening. Ardara is a charming little town where every other store sells knitwear (sweaters, scarves, hats, socks), tweed (jackets, scarves, dresses, coats, blankets), and/or yarn.

day 3 town of ardara

The walk to Ardara from our B&B took about 10 minutes and involved a nice downhill stroll (not so nice cycling up, however).

Our favorite shop was Eddie Doherty’s, two doors down from Doherty’s Pub (also owned by Eddie, and managed by his son).

Noah and I visited Eddie’s shop in the afternoon, after we’d dried and thawed out from our 30-km cycle in the rain from Sliabh Liag. (Elizabeth and Dave stayed behind at the B&B: they were still drying and thawing.)

The sign on Eddie’s door said “Ring the bell and wait one minute.” So we rang the bell and as we waited I peeked through the front window, taking note of the wool jackets, caps, and scarves, and waiting for someone to appear on the other side of the door to let us in.

You can imagine my surprise (or perhaps you can’t – but I encourage you to try) when a woman appeared next to me on the sidewalk, brandishing a key. She had come from up the street to let us in.

“Eddie will be right here,” she promised, unlocking the door and ushering us through.

Sure enough, Eddie appeared shortly thereafter. A charming septuagenarian (he will be 78 in November), he has been weaving in Ardara for more than 60 years. His tweeds, in every color of the rainbow, and every combination, are sold all over the world.

 

day 3 eddie at loom

Eddie didn’t mention SJP, but he did tell us about a customer who once watched him weaving and bought the fabric right off the loom. I understood the temptation: I wanted to buy his fabric right off the loom, too.

Noah and I fell for Eddie’s beautiful blankets. Each was about 4 x 6 feet, and cost €125. Given that only minutes earlier, in another shop, we had seen a tweed coat on sale for €250, that seemed like something more than a bargain. However, at the time we were on a recon mission, not an actual shopping trip. We agreed to come back later – but not until after 9, because Eddie was going to watch the Donegal football match and we didn’t want to interrupt.

Later that evening, Dave, Elizabeth, Noah and I walked back into town, looking for a place to eat dinner.

We wound up at Nancy’s, the strangest dining establishment I have ever visited. It’s in what clearly used to be a house, albeit one that hasn’t been renovated all that extensively since it was built – probably sometime in the late 1800s.

IMG_4533 (1)

Nancy’s is up the road, the white building on the right. 

When we first walked in and saw that the tiny dining rooms to our right and left were full, we figured there were no tables.

We kept walking anyway, hoping to find a hostess of some sort. When we reached the end of the entryway, we found ourselves in a bar/dining room, which was attached to two more dining rooms. Every seat was taken.

day 3 bartender at nancy

“Are there any tables?” I asked a server.

“Just hold on a minute,” she said, disappearing.

She returned shortly, with a smile, and said, “Follow me.”

I could not believe there was more space – but she led us through a back room, and then up some stairs, into a space with four tables — and two shelves overflowing with books.

day 3 view to downstairs at nancy

day 3 upstairs room at nancy's

The food was as eclectic as the place: Elizabeth had a “Louis Armstrong Sandwich,” which was basically the world’s cheesiest tuna melt, but made with smoked salmon and smothered with some kind of astonishingly delicious perfectly melted cheese. I intend to spend the rest of my time in Ireland trying to find a restaurant that makes the Louis Armstrong Sandwich.

Noah had salmon and corn mixed together with cheese melted on top. Dave and I had smoked mackerel. For dessert, we ordered Guinness beer cake, and then, because it was so good, and we’d cycled a lot that day, and it was 9 pm and all we’d eaten since breakfast was a scone, we ordered another piece.

day 3 devouring guinness cake

That cake tasted even BETTER than it looks.

After dinner we went back to Eddie’s, where we watched him weave, learned a bit about his family, bought a blanket and a scarf and some socks (the latter of which Eddie doesn’t make), and noticed an article on the wall with a picture of SJP wearing tweed.

day 3 eddie at till

Eddie rings up Noah’s blanket and a pair of socks.

I didn’t read the article: the print was tiny and the light was dim and the headline – “Weavers Prosper as tweed sales get set to rise and rise” — suggested that it was about economics (zzzzzzz) and the picture a mere tease.

When I sat down to write this article, however, I got curious. Why was there a picture of SJP on Eddie Doherty’s wall? So I googled “Eddie Doherty” and “Sarah Jessica Parker” and lo and behold, I discovered that the article was hanging on the wall because Eddie was quoted in it.

Apparently SJP has bought some of Eddie Doherty’s tweed, proving, yet again, that she has excellent fashion sense. (I, on the other hand, have very little fashion sense, but I know what I like, and boy, I liked Eddie and his tweed.)

IMG_4638

My beautiful scarf. A reason to look forward to winter! Thanks, Eddie. 

Advertisements