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Diary of a travel writter: Tastes of the island prove too tempting

THURSDAY Guilbaud's is full. Recession? Scallop soup and John Dory to make the toes open and shut.

FRIDAY The snow is swirling in the glare of the headlights around Rathsallagh when we arrive. It is Lent but I shamelessly break my fast with Champagne and two pints of Murphy's. Rathsallagh's dinner menu is seasonal, with lots of game on offer, and the dining room buzzing when we get to sit. Penitential this ain't.

Redoubtable owner Joe O'Flynn is holding court in the bar. One of his English guests once complained, "Mr O'Flynn, your cock was up at five o'clock and woke me."

"Sir," replied Joe, "my cock has not been up at five o'clock for many, many years."

SATURDAY Rathsallagh gleams that Scandinavian-blue light in the early morning twilight amid the snow-lined hills. There are fox tracks right by the flag at the 18th. The trees are greening as the snow runs off, black intruders on the white landscape and the sound of the birds giving it all they have.

SUNDAY Thoroughbred Trails is an Irish company that sells €250 racing packages, a nice hotel, a visit to a trainer's yard, and lunch at the racecourse. The races were postponed but we take in the yard visit anyway.

On the hill above Ardclough, Tom Taaffe is talking horse. He likes to buy his own foals and yearlings and keep them long term for the chasing, rather than going to the sales of the failed two year olds amid the other trainers looking for the new Istabraq.

MONDAY Pink for the boys, blue for the girls. The gents loo in the G Hotel in Galway has a pink door. It is one of the surprises in a hotel full of surprises, one the island's most beautifully designed hotels, its rooms exquisitely furnished, fighting hard to associate itself with the waterfront rather than the retail park behind.

Reggio Hervieaux's menu comes with a wine recommendation for each course but after my weekend mishap I am determined to see Lent through, so I ravioli without Chianti. The dinner is full of surprises, not least the cream of Mount Callan farmhouse cheese soup with Guinness syrup which comes as an add-on. Must check the herd next time I climb Mount Callan.

TUESDAY Sadly there are no recommended wines with breakfast (unlike my favourite breakfast spot in the world, Brennan's in New Orleans, which has a suggested vintage to go with each breakfast item).

At the spa, Irene my masseuse offers me a choice of smells, a choice of colours in the lighting, and asks me how I want to feel after my massage. She lays it on hard and I feel invigorated enough to tackle more of the Hangar Six controversy.

WEDNESDAY Michael O'Leary should do stand-up comedy. At a press conference in the Alexander Hotel, Dublin, a group of journalists is watching a video of Brian Cowen. As Cowen says that Ryanair did not take part in the competition for Hangar Six, O'Leary, who is present in the room, flaps his hands and says: "We weren't told about it". There is laughter round the room.

Later O'Leary plays it for laughs at the Oireachteas Transport Committee, using a packet of crisps as a metaphor, without getting anything approaching a smile. It is Christophe Mueller who brings the house down when he tells the committee Aer Lingus leased Hangar Six back.


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