Limerick, yer wan’s going ter miss ye like
I’m a Capetonian. Born and raised.
Ever since we met, my husband wanted me to get out of Cape Town and experience something other than city life for a bit. After three years on Kloof Street, one in Vredehoek and two in Greenpoint, my husband and I settled (or so we thought) in Observatory, Cape Town’s bohemian suburb. Two years later, we signed a two year contract in Limerick (🇮🇪) and with that, Kevin’s wish was realised. Limerick might be Ireland’s third largest city economy-wise, but in South African terms it feels more like a large town.
When we first moved here, there were two unexpected adjustments. The first was the lightness of living without the weight of South Africa’s disturbingly high crime rate and the second, the lack of mountains. Having spent most of my life in the shadow of Table Mountain or Simonsberg or at the very least having the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the distance, Limerick made Tygerberg look like Kilimanjaro. It was an unexpected challenge, this silly city without a mountain.
Fast forward two years and I think it’s safe to say we’re smitten. This quirky city to the west of what we now lovingly refer to as “The Island”, with her understated charm and copious amounts of potential managed to (unexpectedly) capture our hearts.
This weekend, after three months of COVID-inflicted self-isolation and under somewhat different, slightly more surreal circumstances than we had planned, we’ll be leaving Limerick for The Netherlands - with new friends and another home to miss.
Saying goodbye has been bittersweet and we've been doing a fair amount of reflection on our daily dog walks. In the process, I’ve made a list of some of the things I’m going to miss about our time in the Treaty City.
The Running Community
If there were only one thing I could put in my pocket and take with me, it would be this.
Kevin and I started doing Parkruns in South Africa, but it was only after moving to Limerick that we realised it doesn't matter where in the world you go, if there's a Parkrun - you'll have a running family waiting for you. Parkrun taught us that you can be fast at any age, Sanctuary Runners showed us what an incredible unifier running is and the Tuesday track sessions helped me push my boundaries in ways I hadn't done in years.
Running took us all over the island and eventually all the way to Copenhagen, where we kicked 2020 off with a bunch of local parkrunners. With the encouragement of the local running community, Kevin and I ran a PB in every race we participated in, I became a marathoner and (this still makes me laugh) a Parkrun first finisher. We delayed our move in order to do Connemarathon, but the pandemic had other plans - we'll be back though.
To all the runners, both human and furry! You know who you are. We're incredibly grateful for the miles we were able to log with you and the camaraderie and conversations along the way. We hope to welcome you to our new home run when all of this is over and will be waiting with that 👍🏼 kudos once our Saturday mornings return to normal.
About 4 months after arriving in Limerick, I knocked on the doors of Pigtown Hall one Monday morning just before 6 AM. About 45 minutes later I thought I was going to throw up. The next day I was back and I was hooked.
Noel runs Functional Fitness, an incredibly humble gym in the center of Limerick, and (I don't say this lightly) he changed my life. He frequently challenged me in the shape of handstands, box jumps and the dreaded complex, with some eager beaver shouting “burpees!”. I kept showing up, he kept pushing.
Somewhere in the first week I got stuck under the barbell (just the barbell) whilst doing bench presses. Fast forward a couple of months and my name’s on the board for, you guessed it, bench presses. Noel saw something in me that I didn’t have the ability to see in myself, that’s what makes him an incredible trainer.
Fair play to you, Noel. I’m so bleak I didn’t get to say goodbye, but I’ll be back for more. Don’t let it beat you 🙂
Daily walks with Wilco
Back in Observatory, we would visit the dog park with Wilco every day - something we really missed when we just arrived in Limerick. Though we never really replaced the social aspect of the dog park, we did discover an array of beautiful walks - all within stones' throw.
We loved walking The Three Bridges and along the riverbank to the University of Limerick, when Wilco needed extra stimulation, we would turn early and head back through Shannon Fields, tackle the Corbally Red Path and take the connecting trail or head round Kings Island. We're still discovering new paths and detours by chance.
Ireland is essentially one big farm and Wilco didn't waste any time before he started living his best farm life.
The River Shannon
Limerick might not have a mountain, but she's got one mighty river, the longest in Ireland. If our daily walk wasn't along the river, it was along one of her offshoots. The majority of the photos in this post feature the river.
If you pass late at night and it's low-tide, she roars like an ocean. I'm going to miss it.
We were incredibly lucky and got to see Angela's Ashes at the Lime Tree Theatre in Limerick during our time here. There's a song, Sing River Shannon, in the musical
Sing River Shannon, wash away old tears Relive the years and the memories
and it's worth the watch / listen if you enjoy musicals.
The Street Art
UL has a really lovely campus, living near the University meant that we could avail several of the campus amenities, like the athletics track and tennis courts. We would often meetup with running folks at UL and enjoyed running out to UL beach or stroll around the campus on weekends.
Elevate Community Church
The most eccentric, welcoming and supportive bunch of people I have ever met in my life and we love them all the more for it! At Elevate, you come as you are. The crew understand that being a church is much more important than going to church and, more importantly, they live it.
The Milk Market
When the sun is out on a Saturday morning, you'll find all of Limerick in town. We loved the bustling vibe and the spirit of optimism that filled the air. At the heart of it, you'll find the Milk Market. The market dates back to 1852, but it is still thriving today.
You’ll discover the very best of fresh, natural produce from great farmhouse cheeses and chutneys, just-caught fish and artisan meats, organic fruit & vegetables, to delicious healthy breads and fresh pressed juices.
If you're ever lucky enough to find yourself here on a Saturday morning, be sure to grab yourself a breakfast bap or a duck roll from Country Choice. Thank me later.
Local coffee shops
Shortly after Kevin arrived in Limerick, Rift, a speciality coffee shop and wine bar, opened their doors. It didn't take us long to get to know Dalton. Dalton's the kind of guy who will remember the wine you had six months ago and make a recommendation based on it, a stellar one at that. Watching Rift grow from strength to strength has been delightful and we look forward to coming back to give their new venture, Rift's Larder, a visit. Until then, we'll be contently sipping coffee from our Rift Tapio coffee cups.
Not long after, Green Onion Café opened their doors 450m from our house. Providing a really nice atmosphere to work from on the days I felt like a change of scenery and serving, not just great coffee, but a really yummy whole wheat vegan date scone, with caramalised banana and cashew butter.
About a year into our stay, DUO appeared on the scene. It's a lovely little retail and coffee shop with a focus on local and environmentally friendly products. Well worth the visit.
Watching Limerick's trendy resurgence 10 years after the 2008 recession filled us with hope. 2020 has taught us many things and we don't know what the future holds, but I sure hope these folks pull through.
I can't tell you what it is about this place, but it looks, tastes and feels like home. We would drop by after a long week and it always served the best date nights.
The week leading up to the Dublin marathon, I was a nervous wreck. By Friday evening, Kevin decided something had to be done and took me to Kyoto. A cosy little Japanese Restaurant next to The Locke - that's the story of how we discovered that Limerick has really good Japanese food. Both Kyoto and Taikichi are brilliant options for traditional Japanese cuisine.
There are a number of parks in the city, but our favourite was 20km out. Curraghchase Forest Park is a 774-acre estate bought by the State in 1957. My favourite part of the park is a gravestone listing all of the horses, dogs and cats that lived on the estate stating "None of them is forgotten before God."
Wilco seemed to enjoy the photo op.
They have an annual 10km race through the park that's quite popular.
Early 2020 I started training for Connemarathon and with that, the search for hills began. A strange situation for a Capetonian to find herself in. With the help of locals, I found them in Cratloe Woods about 8km outside of Limerick. Soon, the highlight of my weekend was putting on my tackies*, running out to Cratloe, up to the Gallows Hill viewpoint and back through the forest.
*Fun fact! Limerick folk call runners "tackies", like "tekkies" in Afrikaans.
Those mountains? Much to Wilco's delight, we found 'em! We did some pretty memorable hikes in both Ireland and Wales (Snowdonia). Our first hike was Keeper Hill and our last, an impromptu trip to Carrauntoohil - Ireland's highest mountain.
An experience worth highlighting would definitely be the three days we spent with Wilco, a Kelly Kettle and a 3-man tent in Wicklow. We love Wicklow and returned on several occasions.
One of the benefits of changing your homebase is having the opportunity to explore new places or places you wouldn't have otherwise. In South Africa we were covering ~2 new countries every ~2 years and each trip started with a costly plane ticket. The past two years we've been averaging ~7 countries a year, by capitalising on opportunities (like going to Wales* for a long weekend or joining a group running trip to Sweden) and prioritising travel in our budget.
*Wales was one of our favourite trips, a gift that kept on giving and a good example of something we probably wouldn't have experienced if it weren't for Ryanair and the fact that we lived on The Isles.
Arguably the biggest benefit of this period in our life was the ability to explore Ireland like a local. We often travelled chasing some running event or hiking route, but managed to cover most of the island and tick off some of the fan favourites, like The Cliffs of Moher, The Wild Atlantic Way, Glendalough, Cobh and a sizeable amount of distilleries.
Bere Island, an island off the Beara Peninsula in County Cork, deserves a special mention. Putting the Bere Island landscape and community into words is a challenge, the word pristine comes to mind. You're bound to receive a warm welcome from the locals and the island has a thriving Parkrun community - that's how we found ourselves catching a ferry from Castletown-Berehaven on a windy Saturday morning early in 2020. If you're catching the "Parkrun ferry" the regulars will usher you into a little bus, you might need to help push said bus up a hill, but by the time you get to the Parkrun starting point you'll have had several laughs.
If you're not a runner, Bere Island is worth a visit even if it's just for the scenery and a cup of coffee in the local café.
The impossibly narrow roads
I'm not saying it's not a thrill, but there were several times that the only thing saving us from losing a side mirror was the height difference between the two vehicles. How one navigates these narrow roads is a really effective way to distinguish between locals and tourists.
The no horse and cart signs on the highway
Where in the world?
The buskers without shirts
That guy on O’Connell street, half a ray of sunshine and his shirt is gone. I thought it was hilarious, but all the aunties loved it.
When it comes to Ireland, people are quick to tell you about the rain, but (and I do realise this might just be a side effect of climate change) we had some seriously breathtaking Irish summers. During our first summer Kevin would come home on a daily basis excited about the fact that they got ice cream at the office because it was 30 degrees - a pretty entertaining scenario for two South Africans.
There’s something different about the rain here. A lighter, almost natural rain that seemingly blends in. You’ll be walking in town, it’ll start raining and the people around you will either pull out an umbrella from somewhere and carry on as they were or wait it out.
When it comes to fake tans, Ireland is the second largest market globally. If you know your Friends trivia, we've seen somebody who counted mississippily at least once a week over the last two years. If you don't know your Friends trivia, what is wrong with you!?
It didn't take long before (a) spotting orange people turned into somewhat of a punch buggy spinoff and (b) we came to the conclusion that Irish girls have a super power. In the middle of winter, I've seen girls walking around with nothing but ripped jeans and a bra. Lord, grant me the confidence of a twenty-something Irish girl.
If hoodmaps is anything to go by, this phenomenon stretches all over the island.
Supposedly the fastest game on grass and arguably the greatest game on earth. When the ancient game of Gaelic origin was first described to me it sounded, from the scoring to the gear, like Quidditch. In reality, it's even better than you imagine. The combination of skill, contact, speed and crowd enthusiasm makes for a thrilling watch.
We were lucky enough to see Limerick win the 2018 All Ireland Championship, in a nail biter of a game, and bring Liam home for the first time since 1973.
For the most part, I've never met people who are so proud of their city and it's contagious.
Seriously, an airport!? Yes! My kingdom for that airport.
Our first acquaintance with Shannon Airport was the 2018 Runway Run. A 5-ish km run on the runway at midnight, after the last transatlantic arrival. We only experienced her in all her glory a couple of months later. Have you ever arrived at the airport for a business trip at 6:15 AM and by 6:25 you’re checked-in, through security and busy paying for your coffee?
That’s the beauty of Shannon Airport. It’s an increasingly connected international airport, with really charming staff, charge points a-plenty and a sliver of the traffic.
As the first “special economic zone” (SEZ), the tiny town of Shannon has an interesting economic history, well documented in this article on how it inspired China's economic boom.
The "pressure is for tires" mentality
The Irish are well known for their friendliness. After having lived here two years, I can attest to this. They're salt of the earth and seemed to have mastered the concept of tiny acts of kindness.
The character trait that fascinated me most is their ability to just ignore problems until everything somehow works out fine. The Irish will "Ah, you're grand!" their way through life and it is a breath of fresh air. There's an underlying resistance to the winds of change on the island and rules can often appear frivolous. As Dermot would say "pressure is for tires!".
How the Irish talk
"How was the craic?" In Ireland "the craic" is used for an array of things, news, gossip, a night out. Everything is the craic and there are different kinds of craic too.
The list goes on "Fair play to you", "Grand", "Eejit". "See ye later" could be this afternoon, tomorrow or next week and whenever an Irish person hangs up the phone they do so going "bye-bye-bye-bye-bye".
My personal favourite is "Yer man" - yer man could be anybody. Yer man over there was like that's grand!
Deon & Tanya
Mid-way through our adventure we got some unexpected, but happily received guests on the island when Deon and Tanya moved to Dublin. I vividly remember seeing Tanya on Irish soil for the first time and having verbal diarrhea for two days straight.
Ben Rector has a song called Old Friends. It goes
You can grow up, make new ones, but the truth is there's nothing like old friends.
I’m so grateful that we got to share this experience with old friends.
All of it. Charcoal braais, laughing over shitty imported wine, going for a pint at our local, impromptu kuiers and on the days you're longing for that city at the southern tip of Africa, being able to talk about this thing you're carrying and having somebody knowing exactly what that load is like, because they carry it too.
They're a stand-up couple and we're going to miss them like crazy.
Pub culture, Guinness and Cowies
If you're heading out for one, Limerick has her fair share of cosy pubs. I, a wine enthusiast, arrived in Ireland on a Saturday, by Sunday I was a beer drinker.
We were only 350m away from The Locke, one of Limerick's most loved traditional Irish bars. It's where we watched the Bokke win the 2019 World Cup and learnt that it's never too early for a pint. If you find yourself in Limerick looking for traditional Irish music, Dolan's is where you want to be heading.
On the more trendy or crafty side you've got The Curragower, The Commercial, Wickham Tap, Mother Macs and Cobblestone Joes, the latter serving my favourite IPA (Franciscan Well) and a pretty decent pizza. Treaty City Brewery deserves a special mention for breathing life into the local craft scene, including a highly enjoyable tour with Steve at their new micro-brewery in the heart of the Medieval Quarter.
You'll have plenty of options, but 50m from our front door, you’ll find our local pub, The Mall Bar (or Cowies). If it’s your first time visiting everyone will stare you down as you walk through the door, but they serve the best Guinness in Limerick - you can quote me on that.
The Keeper View Terraces
There's no doubt that our time in Limerick could have unfolded completely differently if it weren't for the quaint little house we were renting in one of the oldest and most central parts of Limerick. It was the first place we viewed and it was perfect.
Nestled comfortably between Athlunkard Street and the Sandmall lies a quaint old street, Keeper View Terrace. Over 100 years old, it was named so because it provided a perfect view of Keeper Hill"
For those interested, the history of the Keeper View Terraces are well documented in this newspaper clipping from 1999. It's a lovely community, that welcomed us with open arms. If you pass during the day, you'll often see a neighbour collecting bins or sweeping the sidewalk on behalf of another and on Christmas Eve you'll find the entire street bundled into Cowies.
To us, the Keeper View Terraces represented a period of growth and belonging and we'll remember it with an abundance of grattitude.
Limerick, you’re a lady and yous left some feckin’ large shoes to fill.
Bye-bye-bye-bye-bye, see ye later.