Roger Cohen recently wrote in The New York Times about a Savoy Hotel located in Germany which, for him, is the perfect place in that he sees this hotel as untouched by time. For an example of what he is talking about, he explains that the lobby has the lingering scent of a good cigar. Cohen also describes walking into the dining room in the morning for a superb breakfast – and no one asks for your room number. I imagine that someone like Mr. Cohen spends a lot of time in hotels around the world, so I can understand his enjoyment of this particular Savoy Hotel in Germany with its old-world high class, as Mr. Cohen himself has always seemed to me a classy guy.
His fond depiction of this favorite place brought to my mind what my perfect place might look like. This place would be in Ireland, for as Mr. Cohen tends to old-world high class, I tend to the landscape in the west of Ireland. My perfect place there must have both mountains and the sea, so a spot where these two meet defines the required geographical features. Next on the list is that the road that runs between the sea and the mountains must not be on the worldwide-known circle bus tour of Ireland. Now, please do not misunderstand me. This circle bus tour of Ireland guides visitors through some of the most magnificent scenery in the world. The tourist dollars spent at establishments along this road are great for the Irish economy. But in the height of summer, this circuitous route resembles a parking lot. So my perfect place is not on any section of that well-known road.
So now I have established a quiet road that runs between the sea and mountains. My ideal spot would be along this quiet road somewhere that is a 10-minute trek to a small village if one goes,say, west. By small village in Ireland, I am talking about a one or two-shop village. The village would also have a good pub or two, one with great food, the other great music, maybe a small family-run hotel, and a church. On the other hand, if I were to drive 10 minutes to the east from my spot I would have a small town, with a couple of supermarkets, local artist galleries, one or two good bookstores, three or four streets with long-established family-run shops and small cafes with tables and chairs spilling onto the sidewalk, and maybe a cinema or playhouse. You need a town like this for the rainy day that is sure to come your way when in Ireland.
But on good weather days, I would stay put in my spot between the village and the town, the mountains on one side and the sea on the other. The only decision I would have to make at some point each morning would be, if the day is a good one, to spend hill walking in the mountains or would it be better to go beach walking along the sea. This would be a tough decision made over a pot or two of tea with a couple of scones, butter, and jam.
But since I am only dreaming, allow me to push this fantasy just a bit further. Those mountains … could one of them be a holy mountain? A holy mountain being one which when you are on it, you know you are closer to God than any where else in the world. And the sea … could there be a scattering of small green islands, each island just large enough for a field or two with a handful of sheep peacefully grazing on the lush green grass, and all these little islands looking like emeralds scattered on the sparkling blue sea? And just MAYBE – I know this is really pushing the envelope – could there be a ferry that would drop me onto one of these islands for the better part of a day?
Cohen noted at the start of his essay on the Savoy that he hesitated to write about his favorite place in fear it would be trampled upon by tourists after reading about it in The New York Times. But he decided to go ahead and publish it. Just for the record, I will do no such thing. If I ever do find my perfect place in Ireland, no one will ever be reading about it in The New York Times.