I woke up the next morning still full of food from our memorable dinner the night before. We were treated to an Indian feast of huge proportions and portions. Special guest chef Sanjay travelled all the way from Dublin to Ballynahinch Castle to prepare us a meal that was fitting of royalty.
An adventurous boat trip was scheduled on our second day of the Lens & Larder retreat but I wasn't prepared for how amazing the location and setting was for day 2 of our retreat. It was a cold day enveloped by grey skies. We boarded a fishing boat from Roundstone and made our way to an uninhabited island called Inishlaken. There was once a small population on this tiny island until it was completely abandoned in 1954. Now, only the rabbits live on the island. The old schoolhouse would be the location of our next workshop. It was an extreme privilege to have been given reign of the schoolhouse.
Once inside the schoolhouse, the fireplace was already lit in preparation for our arrival. Lobster (caught that morning), seafood chowder, soda bread and dillisk butter was on the menu, all expertly cooked by Cliodhna of Breaking Eggs and Triona of The Tweed Project. It doesn’t get better than this.
The light shining through the expanse of the schoolhouse windows was perfect for taking photos. The weather in Ireland may not be great at the best of times, but I personally think the grey skies provides a wonderful, silver light that is perfect for food photography. After an afternoon of more workshops and learning, we closed the doors to the schoolhouse. I looked back one last time from the boat. A unique place that I may never get to experience again.
During the boat ride back to the mainland, I tried to take it all in, to be in the moment. The scenery, the people, the place, the weather. As the boat chugged along, the Atlantic winds blew the sea air onto our faces one last time. The grey clouds continued to loom above us, and as the light rain hit my face, I was reminded of where I was.
For our final group dinner together, we were presented with a 6 course degustation meal. Our days here have been filled with so much food, we ate like kings and queens. Sadly, the retreat was coming to an end.
Irish hospitality is a hard act to follow and for those who have experienced it, you will understand why. This act of genuine and generous hospitality was displayed no better than by our hosts. A special heartfelt thank you to Imen of Farmette for organising the retreat, and to the Cliodhna and Patrick of Ballynahinch Castle for your generous and genuine hospitality. Your kindness and warmth has left a lasting impression on me. Thank you to Susan Spungen and Beth Kirby of Local Milk for sharing your teachings with us.
My connection with Ireland goes much further beneath the surface. My husband and his people are from this land. A proud Irish man with a deep, faithful and loving connection to his country. Through him, I too am deeply connected to Ireland. Perhaps that is why it felt so right for me to come on this retreat.
This trip was more than just about learning new skills on food styling and photography, it was also a personal journey of self-discovery. Time to be alone, reflect, and gather my thoughts. Stay tuned for my next post on the days that followed the retreat, as I journey my way around Connemara, on a quest for lonely roads, solitude and contemplation.
I am grateful for the people I met on the Lens & larder class of 2014. We were an eclectically interesting bunch of bakers, chefs, bloggers, photographers, authors and stylists.