A rosy pink and orange sunrise maneuvered its way through dark clouds as my husband and I drove away from Dublin Airport — a sky pretty enough to quell the effects of jet lag while sending a giddy reminder: “This is why you love to travel.” Tossing our face masks and gloves in the back seat, we settled in the rental car, happy to have made it to the other side.
It had been six months since I’d been on a plane due to COVID-19 — too long for my taste — and the immigration line necessitated new levels of patience as each officer inspected virus-related documents for incoming Americans. Their procedure seemed to be working. The Republic of Ireland had, thus far, resisted the higher percentage of case numbers in America and some of its European neighbors. (At the time of writing, Ireland has 362 COVID-19 deaths per one million residents, compared to 624 in the U.S. and 614 in the U.K.)
When it came time to answer questions from an officer behind a plexiglass wall, we agreed to self-quarantine for 14 days, provided an address and phone number for our “dwelling,” and carried negative test results from our recent nasal swab. The dwelling of our choosing was no ordinary residence, though. Rather, it was a luxurious hotel and golf resort called Adare Manor in County Limerick. We were in Ireland for my husband’s job in film production, and he lobbied to stay here where fresh air and social distancing were the norms.
It was worth it. Pulling into an elegant front gate, a masked attendant instructed us to drive through the immaculate grounds and impossibly green landscapes, presenting a stark contrast to the smoky skies of an early wildfire season back home in Los Angeles.
The Adare Manor comprises two main sections: a hotel located in a 19th-century Gothic Revival castle and a modern section dubbed the Carriage House and located next to a few dozen self-contained apartments, called Manor Lodges, where we were staying. A concierge led us to our unit while reinstating the quarantine rules. The message of safety here was as consistent as it was at the airport; Adare had even been approved for the Fáilte Ireland Infection Prevention Control — a new government initiative designed for hospitality and tourism businesses who met certain safety and cleaning protocols during COVID-19.
Walking the grounds was allowed, and so we set off on foot to check out some of the 840-acre estate. Flat paved roads with just an occasional car or fellow pedestrian beckoned, providing main thoroughfares for further exploration through sweeping parklands, formal French gardens, hidden archways, 13th-century fortress ruins, and glimpses of bathing swans in the River Maigue.
Walking quickly became a pastime. One day, we chose the woodland nature trail through towering oak trees and art installations; another, we picked the 30-minute loop that connects the two sections of the resort and offers photogenic views of the hotel and sprawling grounds. We’d often stop and while away an hour sitting at a bench along the river facing one of the more challenging golf holes. For more exercise, we would walk and jog along a row of tidy pastures leading to two horses. Sometimes, we’d pop outside after dinner to watch birds flock to one particular tree near the putting green as the sun dipped into the horizon.
When not outside, we enjoyed the bright and comfortable interiors of our own nest. The units at Manor Lodge come with either two or four bedrooms, and each is equipped with an eat-in kitchenette, living room, private patio, and laundry facilities. Cooking and meal planning helped keep the days organized, and many grocery stores in the area offered delivery options. If not in the mood to cook, we could order takeout from the Carriage House who would deliver as far as the front door. Housekeeping did not enter our unit for the two weeks, but they came by every day to collect rubbish, recycling, and provide more detergent or paper supplies.
There was no need to leave the premises. Even if we wanted to, the government of Ireland kept us in check with occasional text messages and phone calls reminding us to restrict movements for 14 days. So, we stayed put where the days flew by in a relaxed, semi-productive haze. Some work was completed, but the time was mostly used to rest, cook, talk, and soak in the beautiful grounds while recouping from the unexpected events of the previous six months. We thought, an opportunity like this may not come around again — soon we would be allowed to ride the bike cruisers, work out at the gym, sign up for golf, make appointments at the spa, and drink and dine in hotel’s bars and restaurants, not to mention venture beyond the wrought-iron gates into the village of Adare and beyond. For now, though, we were happy to oblige.
On the final day of our quarantine, my husband finished his Zoom meetings and found me in the living room. “Want to go for a loop?” he asked. I put on shoes and grabbed my camera. It was our second walk of the day and probably wouldn’t be the last.
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