McKinney Gypsy Caravan

One part travel blog. One part nerdy history lesson.

Our first two weeks in Ireland

Sorry it’s taken a couple weeks for me to get this up… but I’ve had trouble catching some wifi. ha But more on that later.

We arrived back in Dublin from Sweden and drove out to Tulsk to meet Phyllis, a sweet older lady who had a cute little “apartment” to rent. They converted a garage into a cute little one bedroom house from her mother in law years ago and now they rent it. I found it on AirBnb and with it being only 15 minutes from our purchased house, it was perfect.

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The windows bump out a couple of feet and Norah has taken this over as her play area… and I think it’s perfect! Is it just a Norah thing…or an all little kid thing… that they love small confined spaces? Norah will crawl into her closet under the shelves and watch her iPad. ha weirdo.

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Our first trip to “town” was to go to Roscommon to open a bank account and get groceries at Tesco- the Ireland version of Walmart, sort of… at least as close as it gets.
We parked in the square downtown… (which I’d come to learn throughout the next two weeks was completely coincidental that we found a spot. haha) This is the old Gaol (jail). Built in the 1700s, used as a jail, a leprosy hospital and later a mental asylum in the late 1800s. Of note, Ireland’s only hangwoman worked here, Lady Betty. This lady put the Capital C in Crazy. Apparently, she was a destitute widow, with one living child. Her son left for America at a young age in the late 1700s to escape her crazy temper… She was slightly insane and a recluse. She lived by herself for years and years in Roscommon in a tiny little shack. 20 some years later, a man came to her door and asked to pay for her bed for the night because the inn was full. She, being slightly insane, stewed and thought about this seemingly wealthy man who had taken her bed and how terrible it was that he had so much while she had so little… so she took a knife and killed him in his sleep.

Going through his effects she found letters addressed to her…and quickly realized she had murdered her own son, who was thought to have not disclosed who he was in an attempt to see if she had changed for the better over the years. She was immediately taken to jail and sentenced to death at the gallows. The morning she was to die, the sheriff paraded the inmates into the square to await their public hanging, only to find out that the hangman had taken ill. With a restless crowd anxious from some hangin’, Betty called out to the sheriff that she would perform the hangings. The sheriff was stunned and agreed. (probably just for the entertainment factor)…but it turns out- she was just cold and heartless enough to pull it off-executing up to 20 people that day. She was so cold and emotionless, that when the hangman died shortly after, the sheriff appointed her the hangwoman of the jail and she lived inside the rest of her life.  Oscar Wilde’s father recorded that she was so heartless, she used to draw portraits of all the people she hanged with a burnt stick on her wall and she also was in charge of the flogging of the prisoners, earning her the nickname “the woman from hell”.

So…there’s that. lol Now its building full of commercial businesses and some apartments… including the worst Italian restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. ha Seriously. It was terrible.

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Turns out you have to make an appointment to open a bank account in Ireland, so we made an appointment for the next day. Stopped by Vodafone and 3, two cell phone providers, trying to get internet. We cant get broadband internet at our house (although I’m pretty confident there will be fiber there within the next couple of years through Imagine.ie- a fiber company that is targeting rural Ireland to get the most rural areas high speed access. Sadly, this should include us! haha), which leaves us with 4G SIM card internet. There is no “unlimited” SIM 4G internet, but with a contract, you can get 250GB a month for around $70. While I can use more than that by streaming Netflix or Amazon…and letting Norah do Youtube.. if we don’t stream TV and monitor the munchkin’s Youtube time, this should be fine… plus, we WILL have unlimited data on our Irish cell phones… so 250GB for the TV and computer should do just fine, even if it makes me grumble a little to have to monitor my usage. I have had quite the issue getting a contract so far, though. First they said I had to have a bank account in Ireland because they needed the IBAN number. So I got that. (which was no easy feat either) Then it was, no we’ll need the debit card… Well, those wont show up for another week. So they said they could use a utility bill as proof of address. So, I called PrePay Power, which is what is connected at this house, and got a letter with address verification. But they said PrePay power doesn’t work- has to be a billing statement. grrrr.

So, for now, until my bank card comes in- I have prepaid internet. $20 per 7.5GB haha but I’m connected!

PrePay Power brings me to another strange thing here. Instead of the electric company sending you a bill every month, you have the option of prepaying your electricity. For me, it doesn’t really matter, but I think this would be really good for someone living on a small fixed income…or really terrible at managing money. You can top up when you want to…and the box in your house tells you how much credit you still have remaining, it also has options where you can view your usage by hour, day, week or month… I talked to the company and they said they never shut the electric off for $0 balance during nights or weekends, and they even have a feature of a $5 IOU where you can press a code and “owe” them $5 of electricity if you cant top up but you’re at zero. All pretty neat. Also, because they get payment for 100% of the electricity they give, they have the lowest kilowatt hour rate in Ireland. Something like .17/hr …so I went ahead and activated it here. So for now I literally have no Irish “bills”. Cell and internet is prepaid, water is free and electric is prepaid. I think that’s pretty awesome!

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Back to Roscommon:

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We did get to witness a traditional funeral coming through town. I thought they looked Greek or Sicilian, but Kegan thinks they were Irish… People were walking alongside the hearse very slowly through town, I’m guessing on their way to the graveyard. Sure did back up traffic for 20 minutes…. I have no shame, I snapped a photo- for anthropological purposes… 🙂

After our trip to the grocery ($106 by the way…. like half of US prices for the same type stuff…), we went back to the rental. I had been promising Norah some makeup, so we did that. Green eyeshadow, purple eyeliner and gold lipstick.

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Dog became a muddy country dog for the first time. haha

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Kegan tried to start a fire, which proved difficult since the turf they left us was still a little wet and the wood stove isn’t really ventilated properly. (we tried the fire for a couple nights and woke up freezing so we just decided to go with paying for the kerosene fuel oil that runs the radiators. ha)

I know that its supposed to be terrible weather here….and we’ve only been here two weeks- but there is an awful lot of sunshine for a place that is supposed to be miserable. haha

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Kegan and Norah and dog all walked up and down the road here and met some friends, including a horse that the lady said we could have if we wanted it. haha

img_3184Also, a Swiss guy named Bruno who gave Norah chocolate. Unfortunately, no one on the road here is giving away miniature donkeys…which is what I want. haha Phyllis- dead serious- told me a pair of donkeys would be LOVELY in the front yard… that if I wanted to get them, she would gladly let me keep them here. hahahaha these Irish people are the BEST in the world. hands down.

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After hanging around a couple days with no internet (seriously guys… I was having some mega withdrawal. not even reliable cell data. or cable television! haha) and exploring a couple area towns to see what stores and such were there, it was time to tackle the barn at our place (Sept 16) since our container was arriving from the states on the 19th.

The current owners didn’t exactly clean it up for us. They took a couple things they wanted but left the rest of the crap.

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We’re running a fine line right now, because our sale still hasn’t closed…but the owners gave us the keys, said come and go as we please, and didn’t even want a lease agreement or anything. So we know they are done here and full expect us to be proceeding as if we own it. However, because legally we don’t own it until Ireland issues the owners a “grant of probate” allowing them to actually fully sell this property on behalf of the estate of the late owner, we don’t even want to remove anything from the property yet. So, we just piled everything that was in the shed into the back 1/4 of it, allowing us to put all of our belongings in when they arrive.

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And for those keeping track, we made a cash offer at auction back in May for this property. It is now September and we’re still waiting on this clearance from the government. The law office expects it “any day” but has expected it every day for over 2 months. But…what do you do? Our lawyer told us it could take 3-4 months… so we’re just now on the tail end of that….so from his estimates- it’s about time to hear back. I figure I’d wait until October to make a stink. We have tons of exterior work to do, like fixing up 2 years of overgrown grass… and planning the improvements for the house and ordering the items, so that when we do get clearance to close, we can immediately begin.

We cleaned up the barn nicely, so we were ready for Monday.

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Me, on Monday that week:

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We talked to Phyllis at our rental house and said that if she knew of anyone looking for some cash work on the side, we could use some help on Monday unloading our shipping container. She volunteered her son. haha We didn’t know what to expect, but on Monday, her son and her husband showed up to check out the house and help us. Turns out they are plumbers and electricians- husband has been doing it for 40 years! Life just works out sometimes. So, while we waited for the truck driver, they turned our water on for us. Willie, the husband, said the house had great potential… and I think he meant it, because he later told Phyllis the same thing. haha  Also, they climbed in the attic, looked around, noted that it was full of insulation and totally dry which was the one last thing we were really worried about was finding rotting trusses or mold…but it honestly looked like a model house up there.

I had wanted a plumber on site when we turned the water on, so that if we ran into busted pipes or anything, we could address the issue immediately…and good thing we had one! The owners had removed a washing machine from the kitchen…and left the uncapped pipe wide open. So, the second the water was on, it was pouring out into the kitchen floor. doh. but it was quickly addressed and its not like we cared about the floors or anything anyway. haha

Turns out Dominic, the son, has a 4 year old son himself that cant wait to get together and play with Norah. I’m pretty excited about that as well! Life just has a way of working out. He even said to let him know before we hire out anything in the house and he’ll make sure we get in touch with good people for fair prices. Gotta know someone in a new area… so this was just a perfect encounter. Plus, he brought a dolly (a “trolley” here) which came in MIGHTY useful, because the semi couldn’t get up to our building like we had planned… and we ended up trucking EVERYTHING across the yard into the barn.

This is how far we had to move everything.

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But we’re lucky he made it THAT far…He spent 20 minutes just trying to fit and get the momentum to get up the hill. Kegan had to advise him on shortening the bed, make the corner. Stop, lengthen the bed, climb the hill, then shorten the bed for unloading again. Luckily, our man Aiden wasn’t a quitter. He did it and viola, we were at least in somewhat of a position to unload.

We had some curious cows come to check us out.

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2.5 hours later, it was done. And our nice clean barn was full of everything we own. haha

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Dog found the first familiar smell in a long time and was loving it.

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We tried to go ahead and take the sofa in the house, only to find that it wouldn’t fit through the doors!! We thought about taking out a window and passing it through, but truth is… the room is really too small as well haha so….Dominic got a free couch! ha (and paid… we paid him, too, of course)

We headed home that night, but exhausted we didn’t want to cook, so we picked up kebabs from SuperBites in Elphin. They have fish and chips, indian food, pizza, burgers, and kebabs…and they’re open until midnight most nights…and they deliver ALMOST to our house, so I’m sure for an extra 5 bucks we COULD get delivery at our house…which really make me giggle. haha And the food was goooood.

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**Full disclosure, these photos are from multiple meals over the last two weeks. We did not eat all of this food for dinner one night. haha

Since our stuff had arrived and the house is still not ours, the only thing left we can really safely do is exterior yard work. So begins the weed-eating and the raking. Kegan spent a good hour looking for his earplugs and safety glasses, but couldn’t find them. So he borrowed Norah’s from a science kit. haha i guess better than nothing.

**Note the hair as well. One of Norah’s hair clips to hold it back out of his face while it’s in the awkward growing out phase. I think he’s going for a viking braid or something. Who knows at this point. Why not? Who’s he gotta impress? haha

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Kegan got his Husqvarna weed-eater out that hadn’t been started in over 5 years. Since we lived in Louisville…and he started it up in 3 pulls! Those Swedes know how to make some tools.

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Started the day on the backyard behind the house.

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We discovered a sidewalk that goes all the way to the turf and wood shed. Who knew?? lol so that was a cool discovery.

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Also, figured out why there was rain seeping in on the concrete in the back bedroom…. this lovely pile of turf bags. The guy had been buying bags of turf, using them inside, then tossing the mesh bags out the bedroom window into a pile for at least a couple years. The pile wasn’t allowing for any drainage. So, first homeowner problem solved.

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I have a feeling this wont be the last eye-roll we give on this house. haha

Norah found an earthworm. haha even though it was making her antsy…she still held it, which I was impressed with out of the girly girl. We’ll make a country girl out of her yet. ha (doubtful)

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Next up was the front raised yard. Eventually we want to enclose this area a little better, put down giant pavers and pea gravel…or moss in between and make this a front patio area with seating and table… but for now, cutting down the grass to a walkable level will do just fine. 🙂

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img_5728Dog has been helping us weed-eat, too. lol Goat dog.

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Currently, Kegan has weed-eated (weed-ate? weed-eaten? I’m not too sure what the past-tense form of weed eating is…) the west side of the house and uncovered the septic system as well as an entire fence line of blackberries. Yay! (this, in addition to the couple of apple trees in the front yard.)

Tomorrow our flooring for the entire house will be delivered. (figured this was safe since we can store it in the barn and I found a good sale price on wood-look tile at a local store.) It’s the best wide-plank barnwood replica I’ve ever seen…so I’m very excited. I figured with an humid as Ireland is…and the fact that there’s a chance the house can sit for weeks or months at a time in the future… that tile would be a good choice over carpet or hardwood. Also, since it tends to be on the cold side most of the year, we’re going to do the under tile radiant heating mats in the bedrooms, bathrooms and living room with individual thermostats on the bedrooms so they can be turned off when not in use or set to a certain temperature overnight. We had old school radiant pipe heating in California in our rental house…and we both loved it… said we’d try to remember how “worth it” it was when it came time for us to tile again. So I’m trying to remember that as the price tag seems a little pricey. But… the tile was half the price of hardwood… so I’m factoring that in.

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We had hoped to save the kitchen cabinets and just paint them…. but they’re just nasty and falling apart. Cheap laminate, left to sit with food and who knows what in them….they gotta go. I’m currently talking to a guy through DoneDeal.ie (the Craigslist of Ireland) that is selling his existing kitchen and remodeling. He has maple shaker cabinets that will paint just fine and let us replace the entire kitchen with cabinets and appliances for $1,000. Hoping that works out! Would REALLY help keep the total remodel costs down.
**Update before even posting: The cabinets are ours!

For now, the exterior clean up continues….and tomorrow we’re heading to Dublin to fly out Tuesday to Copenhagen, Denmark for a few days. Long story, but a friend of mine, Juliana- who I met through AirBnb when they rented our house in Florida- has been travelling all over Europe over the last few months and came to Ireland the week we went to Sweden. It was my fault. I had her dates wrong… so since I messed up our hanging out in Ireland, I asked where else she was going to be…and we settled on Copenhagen for the last couple days of their trip. So, with low cost airlines at $41 each way, it’s not a big deal to hop a plane to another country to basically have a play date for our 4 year olds. lol

I’ve never been there, so it will be fun to explore. We only have 3 full days there, so i’ll probably roll it all up into one Copenhagen post. We return to Ireland on Oct 1st…. and on Oct 4th, Kaleb and Lindsey arrive for their 10 day Ireland/Paris guided tour. ha Looking forward to introducing Ireland to them and I hope they love it as much as we do. We’re going to jet over to Paris and Normandy for a couple days towards the end, which will be new for us as well. I’ve never been to France. This will be a nice little one day introduction to the area for planning our future trips 🙂

After that bit of fun, it’s all business until Christmas- house and remote IT work unless someone else decides to come visit us as well! I’ll keep you guys posted on any new developments. 🙂

5 Comments

  1. Love your posts Erin! Sounds like a great adventure! We will come to see you one of these days!

  2. Looks like you’re having lots of fun there. Lol You can warm up when you’re here for Xmas.
    Sounds like Dvds would be a good gift for Norah this year. She can watch the same 10 about a 1,000 times
    and never get tired of them, plus they don’t take up much space in a suitcase. #foundherxmasgift

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