Friday, February 13, 2004
As fabulous as each and every day has been, Kinnitty Castle and Cross Country International has saved the best for last. It dawned another brilliant, sunny day filled with riding fabulous field hunters through bubbling crystal streams and on trails framed by moss-laden ancient trees with magical calming abilities.
A few of the more saddle-weary singles chose to tour the countryside, with a few plannng a visit to the Irish National Stud. Most of us are planning to wait until the Bachelor's Ball tonight (blush!).
The intensity of today's ride would have satisfied even the most ardent cross-country riders. We started our day by trotting through the lovely and charming Kinnitty Village. Quaint litle homes and shops are painted in sweet pastel colors and are surrounded by lush (already mowed!) lawns and tiny gardens. I am feeling so blessed to be a part of the Irish springtime. As if magically, the window boxes and planters of the locals are filled to overflowing with glorious colors of pansies, primroses, daffodil, crocus and snowdrops. The dark forests are alive with unfurled fiddlehead ferns, brilliant burning bush and soft lavender heather.
Today's ride was hard, fast and long. After a sustained fast trot on a grand logging road, Charon (our fearless Advanced Leader) called us to a halt to point out a few wild goats scampering up what looked like a "Black Diamond" slope. We smiled and admired them until Charon told us that we too were going to be scampering right up after them. Each of us glanced surreptitiously to each other hoping that she was joking. She wasn't. I'm a pretty bold rider, but this wasn't even a goat path. It wasn't a path at all. Undaunted, up we charged at our own speed, creating our own paths as we went. The incline had to be at least a 45-degree angle which went on for at least a half a mile.
At the top we rested the mounts (and ourselves) for about a minute before heading off again at a full gallop. Just as Charon was calling a slow down, another herd of unsuspecting goats were spied on the distant path and with a shout, off we charged, chasing the goats until they finally left the trail.
Towards the end of our journey, we rode through pastures filled with sheep and cattle. We took a final gallop around these beautiful fields before heading back to the castle for lunch.
Once back to the stables, we said sad goodbyes to our faithful mounts who took great care of us all week.
This afternoon the spa will be very busy with ladies getting ready for the Bachelor's Ball this evening. Since I have been using the computer in the castle's event coordinator's office to file these reports, I have been privy to some of the arrangements--and they are spectacular!
Katrina and Pearse, the event coordinators, gave me a sneak peak at the Great Hall this afternoon.
It is right out of a fairy-tale book. Katrina told me Ozzy Osbourne's son was married here this New Year's Eve and the castle was set up the same way then. The vast banquet tables are fit for kings and queens. She told me Irish National Television will be here televising the event.
My digital camera has been faithfully recording the past week's events and I will post the pictures when I return to the States. Unfortunately the camera dock is not compatible with the Irish computers and wiring! So stay tuned!
I will give you all of the details of the Ball (okay, those I can...) in my next installment. Since these "Singles" and the Irish have an affinity for all- night parties, I have no idea when this one will actually be over. It is only scheduled for one night, but, who knows.