Wednesday, November 23, 2011

'Round the Salthill Prom with a Galway girl

Saying good bye to Donegal was probably the hardest morning of our trip. We ate our breakfast and wrote a bunch of postcards in relative silence. Occasionally, one of us would smile at the other and ask “do you remember last night when...”and we’d lose ourselves in thoughts of Michael wanting to know all the news from Canada, or Frankie singing some republican song, or banjo man being amazing on the banjo (never did learn his name), or Emer giving lip to some surely local who should know better than to piss off the barmaid.

Our decision to mail our postcards from Donegal would later come back to haunt us. Mailed October 10th, received in Canada on November 4th. Al and I decided that the mailman in Donegal was someone we met and he/she kept the cards a little longer to share our stories of the town with the other people we had met. Or An Post rowed the cards across the Atlantic. Either or!

We broke up our day of travel to Galway by stopping for lunch in Sligo. The guide book had talked about Sligo being a vibrant, artsy community so we figured it was good distraction from a four hour bus trip. I don’t know if we just completely missed the ‘small town artisan’ area or if Sligo had really changed that much in the three years since the book was published but neither of us were impressed. Mind, we had also just left our beloved Donegal Town; even winning the jackpot in Vegas would have been *meh* on that day.

We headed to the ruins of the friary because there didn’t seem to be much else to do. It was only €3 and a million times better than the Donegal Castle (I really can not stress enough exactly how unimpressed I was with the castle especially seeing as it was €4) but we were hung over and sad and therefore blasé about the place. With coffee in one hand and camera in the other, we wandered the ruins just taking random pictures without actually looking at what we were looking at.

When going back through my photos and remembering what I had read on the pamphlet, I found the friary a lot more enjoyable than I did on the day. It was picturesque, calm, and we all know that I love ruins. If I’m in the area, I’d stop in again... but only if I wasn’t hung over.

Despite the fact that Sligo Town didn’t really win us over, I do have to give it props for an awesome street name.

After a late arrival into Galway and a bed kerfuffle which left us scrambling for a hotel room at 9:30pm, we awoke the next morning to this:

Somewhere in that picture is Galway.


We had booked a tour to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare which would take up most of the day. We got picked up around the corner from our hotel by a young, friendly and chatty driver. He spent the whole ride into Galway (we were staying in Salthill which is across the river) telling stories and giving us tips on what to see and do in Galway. Once we met up with the rest of the tour, he pretty much stopped talking. It wasn’t a bad bus tour—we saw everything they said we’d see (sort of), we arrived and left on time, we did enjoy ourselves—it was just that the guides were the quietest people I’ve ever met in Ireland. I think I did more talking on that trip than they did.

We started the day by driving through the Burren. Having done a tour through it before I know some odd facts about it but poor Al learned only this: there are a lot of limestone rocks and it doesn’t look like anywhere else in Ireland we had been.

It’s hard to believe by looking at the pictures but people actually do farm on the Burren. Some plots were painfully cleared by hand over generations of farming, others are used as grazing land. It’s easy to think ‘why would anyone bother?’ but when the English drove the Irish west, it was farm on this land or starve. Plus the soil is supposedly quite fertile... if you can find any.

There's a hike through this region called The Burren Way.
Looks like 'Ankle Twister Way' would have been a better name...

We left the Burren and headed to Doolin for lunch before we hit up the cliffs. Doolin is a cute little village but it’s also the lunch stop for every single tour to the Cliffs of Moher. For about an hour every day, the population of Doolin quadruples as all the tourists fight for the limited seats in the main pub.

Doolin = more signs than buildings!

We traipsed back onto the bus giddy with anticipation. Anyone who has ever seen photos of Ireland has seen the iconic image of the Cliffs of Moher shooting straight up from the Atlantic. ‘Come to Ireland,’ they beckon. ‘We have cliffs!’ The cliffs have even featured in a few videos such as Westlife’s ‘My Love’. (Judge me all you want, but I like that song.) We eagerly walked towards the cliff edge and took in the glory which is the Cliffs of Moher.

Aren't they just awe-inspiring? To prove I didn't just steal that breath-taking photo from another website, here's me in front of the cliffs.

The fog came in waves and we did manage to see the cliffs... sort of... eventually... a little...

If I tilt my screen away from me, squint my left eye, then realigning the
order of the planets by mass, I can totally see the cliffs in this picture!

What can you do in a situation like this except laugh? We joked that we’d tell people that we went to the Cliffs of Moher and if they took that to mean we actually saw them then that wasn’t our fault. Do you know how many people see the cliffs every year? We’re such hipsters that we went to the cliffs and didn’t even bother seeing them!

Talking Telescope asked me why I wasted €1 on it.
On our way back to Galway we stopped at the Poulnabrone Dolmen which kind of harshed my buzz, man. It’s not that I didn’t want to see it, but the radio was in the middle of broadcasting an interview with Brian O’Driscoll when the guide turned the engine off. (Just think about that for a moment: our guide was saying so little that he actually had the radio on!!) Sorry ancient Celts, but I wanted to know O'Driscoll's feelings on Ireland's loss to Wales (especially seeing as he probably won't be around next RWC) so you were not my favourite people that day!

It’s estimated that the top slab weighs about five tonnes.* FIVE TONNES!! I have no idea how those people managed to lift it but I’m going to take an educated guess and say time-travelling-crane (and operator). I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

And with that, our tour headed back to Galway.

*I read this in a book but am unable to find anything online which backs it up (or contradicts it either...) so it is quite possible that it doesn't weigh that much. Either way, it still weighs a lot!


alonewithcats said...

Wow, Ireland is gorgeous. And I can totally see the cliffs. No squinty-eye required!

AndreaClaire said...

I might be a little biased *slips Irish passport behind her back* but it really is a beautiful country! Pictures rarely do it justice.