IRELAND: Part Four, Galway/Aran Islands
Tuesday, June 16
Off to Galway...We ate breakfast and left the Rocky the dog and the Lifford farm house around 9:30, only to realize that we still had the keys to our room. Luckily we were only half an hour away, and Val was able to borrow a cell phone to call the farmhouse to see if we could post the keys or if we should come back. We came back, confused Rocky, and were on our way again. We drove for a few hours and stopped in Donegal for coffee break and a snack. We've had good luck with upstairs locations, and we tried a little place called "Fillet of Soul". No, really. It was actually a very nice quiet spot for a break but looked to be pretty stylish for the dinner crowd.
Back in the car and our next break was Knock, where in 1879 the Virgin Mary and some other holy folks appeared in a vision. 100 years later, the Pope visited, and then a few years later, Mother Theresa. This is a recreation of the vision, in a glass addition to the original chapel.
It was a strange mix of devoted and tourist, and religious/tchotchke shopping.
Lunch was on the cheap, but the places clearly catered to an older pilgrimage-type crowd.
And on the way out of town we had to stop for a photo op by the roadsign with the international symbol for YARN.
Back in the car once again, and into Galway. We stayed right "next door" in the beach neighborhood of Salthill, but it was a 15 minute walk into Galway.
We found traditional Irish music in one of the Rickie-Recommended™ pubs, Tig Coili. There were famous face pics on the wall, including the only two we recognized, Elijah Wood and Shane MacGowan. I declined to pose next to the Elijah photo. Sorry dude.
After a coupla pints of Smithwicks and chatting with some locals, we headed down the street to find a bite to eat at The King's Head, a British-ized pub, but with great cheap eats. Val got the mussels and they came in a giant pot with enough to feed 3 people. I got the fish and chips and it was a single piece of cod that was at least an inch think, without the batter.
On the way to our next pub, we ran across mini-travellers!
Back to the pub crawling, we ended up at The Quays, another recommended "youth" pub.
It was crowded and we ended up outside under the awning, sitting with an American family from Spokane, Tom and Mary??Beth?? and their 18 yo daughter Paige. Their 20 yo son Jimmy was inside trying to hit on chicks. We ended up avoiding the rain for a few hours, talking to Tom and Mary and Paige, and Tom bought us a round of drinks. The best part of the evening was watching the Tom agonize about letting Paige go off with Jimmy and some tour group so they could go dancing....
"Take a phone!"
"Jimmy doesn't read signals all that well..."
"Do you have the right keys? Wait, those are for our room! Do you have a front door key?"
"Here's 40 euros, but half of that is for your brother..."
"Dancing? I don't know..."
"They're with a tour group? The group leader is taking them dancing?"
"Jimmy's not the brightest, but he's got street smarts. Paige is just naive..."
"Jimmy doesn't have any raingear!"
They made a point to say that Spokane wasn't as rainy as Seattle, but they were definitely a family concerned about raingear. Eventually Paige and Jimmy went off into the rain, and Tom and Mary went home. We were smart and caught a quick cab ride back to the B&B at the eventual end of our rainy evening. Jimmy DID have his raingear, by the way.
Wednesday, June 17
We woke up for breakfast, decided to nap after breakfast, re-awoke, and decided to catch a boat out to the Aran Islands, despite the cloud cover and rain forecast. This was not our boat, and that was not our captain.
The boatride was a bit bouncy, but it was full of day-trippers such as ourselves as well as those who were staying for a while, and came prepared.
In case that's too blurry for you, the young lady is filling her satchel with cheap-ass-yet-delicious Bulmers Cider. Scratch that, nothing is actually cheap-ass in Ireland. I meant, relatively-inexpensive-yet-delicious.
As soon as the boat docked, the rain started right up, and as soon as we had braved the Bike rentals and Minibus tours and Horse & Buggy Tours in the rain, Val tripped and hurt her knee. We found the nearest restaurant and took a lunch break. As it cleared up outside we sat and regrouped.
We headed out and looked at the Aran Sweater shop/"museum" and then decided to rent some bikes since the weather had cleared and Val's knee seemed ok, and we ran in to Jimmy, Paige and Mary, as they had decided to rent bikes as well. Tom was out walking somewhere, but on our return bike trip we ran in to him as well. We were able to ride around an area of the island with mostly stone fences and livestock.
We missed a few of the ancient sites on the island, but it turned out to be a nice side trip, and a nice day overall, and we each got a new sweater on the island, though neither is the traditional full-on Aran style or weight, but we're not fisherfolk, either. The return boatride was quite choppy, but upon our return to dry land we drove back to Salthill and walked back into Galway for dinner at another upstairs restaurant.
Delicious local seafood, and Val had a fantastic spinach and cheese tart. For desert we opted to walk most of the way home and stop for a pint at a neighborhood pub, PJ Flaherty's. It was a great little place, open since 1870 or somesuch, but we sat in a little section that had some "kids" drinking cider, and there were two guys, and then a guy and a girl making out in front of them, and in front of everyone in the bar for that matter. They got up to go outside and smoke, and one of them knocked a full pint of cider on the floor, causing a serious cleanup scenario. The bartender decided to ask them to finish their pints outside and not return. The makeout queen got a little lippy at this request, but they stayed outside and then left, never to return as far as we could tell. End scene.
Thursday, June 18
I ate breakfast, while Val ate 2 prunes, 1 apricot, a plate of cheese, a bowl of muesli, coffee, orange juice, some berries, some brown bread. We checked out of Salthill and left the Galway area for points south. Stay tuned, it ain't over yet.