5 Great Cafés and a Poem.

Wild Geese, Geese, Formation Flight

“Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

As a lover of Sunday morning poetry, I was sipping my coffee this morning, pondering the spiritual, if almost pagan message, of Oliver’s “Wild Geese”. It seems in many ways the antithesis of the traditional Catholicism, that is an almost intrinsic part of the fabric of Irish society.  Catholics love some penance and sufferance, Oliver seems to suggest something entirely different – follow you heart, trust your instincts, accept your mistakes and move on. For me, there is a suggestion that prioritising yourself is not necessarily selfish – maybe it is just human!!!

There is real wisdom to be found in the unpacking of the metaphoric here. And it is an exceptional composition in its ability to speak to every reader differently and to mean completely different things at different points in life. Creative, challenging and contemplating life’s big questions – a work to revisit throughout our lives?

And then there was the coffee!!!  Having received a very generous gift of a Nespresso machine from my favourite Scottish chef, I was enjoying a particularly good cup.  It led me to wishing wistfully that there were no bad cups because paying for bad coffee or bad food irks me more than most things.  And then, in a glass half full frame of mind, I realised that things have improved on Ireland’s café landscape and that I have been lucky enough to experience some high quality brewed beans in recent weeks. Here are some of my favourite places to pick up a coffee on my travels.

  1.  La Cucina. Limerick.   

Without question, one of Munster’s gems for a coffee and cake to break a long journey.  I almost dream of their strong Italian coffee and a fresh Toblerone cupcake.  If my visit coincides with lunch, the decision between pizza and pasta causes me real problems, as to choose one means missing out on the other.  Food is fantastically fresh, ingredients are carefully sourced and the place buzzes at any hour of the day.  I love it.

2.  The Good Room, Adare

Nestled in one of Ireland’s prettiest villages, on a ridiculously cute street of thatched cottages, The Good Room also offers welcome respite for a weary traveller. The wonderful array of baked goods is difficult to resist and so coffee accompanied by Rocky Road or Biscuit cake is the norm.  It is also lovely to pick up some chocolatey treats for my mother in law, a self-confessed addict for anything derived from the cocoa bean.

3.  The Roast House, Tralee

In a town that was guilty of serving a lot of very mediocre coffee over the years, things are improving significantly in Tralee.  Not only does The Roast House have quality coffee, brewed well, they are generous with the refills, an all too rare treat.  They do the best breakfast in town if you are in the market for pancakes or porridge.  As recently as yesterday, I relished a perfectly prepared pulled pork sandwich that was well priced and very satisfying.  Noticing our dog was with us and offering him a little bowl of water and some gentle affection, definitely secures some bonus points for service.

4. Rogue, Roscommon

Moving to the other town that currently serves as home, I love the urban city vibe of Rogue for a weekend coffee with the paper, or a quick cup to take away after shopping.  The place is modern and vibrant, the food is fresh and the menu just a little more ambitious than is normal for a small market town.

5. The Bookshelf, Cork

My final selection, is a new find but I am anxious to return. A cafe, in an old library, celebrating books, what is not to like.  Add in an uber-trendy breakfast of smashed avocado on toast with a soft poached egg, coffee and the Sunday papers and you may be in coffee heaven.  A city centre location, with a real neighbourhood vibe, what is not to love?

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Have a great Sunday – read some poetry, sip some coffee and wrap up for a long walk in the great outdoors.  Well that’s my plan at least xoxo

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