Just a heads up, this will be a post on the longer side, so if you’re about the run out the door and are hoping for a quick read, save me until you get back!
Phil and I arrived in rainy Galway on Wednesday. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel and then decided to walk around and see what was there. We asked the guy at the front desk for a few dinner suggestions and a few pub suggestions for after dinner. After he scribbled illegibly all over the map and talked really quickly about a lot of places with gibberish-sounding names, we were off. We ate at a restaurant near the Spanish Arch, cleverly titled, The Spanish Arch, and then decided to go walk to this place called The Crane. The Crane is a bar that this guy said was so great and has lots of locals and live music. The Crane was located on the edge of our map, but Galway isn’t that big, so we decided to check it out anyways. When we got there, there are about 12 people there, all over the age of 45. Immediately un-sold on this idea, we decided to try somewhere else. Somehow, we ended up on backroads, in the dark, off our map, and totally and completely lost. Since we had been in Galway for all of about 4 hours, we really had no idea what was close to our hostel or what constituted the center of town, so I of course began to panic. After a lot of sleuthing (i.e. using the direction of the taxis to ensure that we were headed to the center of town), we managed to make it back, alive, and in much need of beer. Lots of beer.
We spent all of Thursday on a guided tour of the countryside of Ireland and at the Cliffs of Moher. We wound our way through the west coast, stopping at old monasteries and beautiful sites along the way. The bus also stopped at the location of a medieval fortified residence (Phil and I are struggling to come up with the proper description of this place!) in the middle of the forest. The trees surrounding it had grown in a circle, helping to disguise the trench in the middle. While we were there, this super bizarre couple had a “moment” in the middle of the circle, where they just stood there hugging each other in silence for a solid 10 minutes. We then drove up into a mountainous region called Burren. The mountains are covered in stripes of rocks with grass and flowers peeking through. (I will have pictures soon, but feel free to google it as they were stunning). We stopped at a stonehenge-esque rock formation and got to walk around before we continued on through a funny village called Lisdoonvarna, which has a gigantic match-making festival! After a quick lunch, we made our way up to the Cliffs of Moher (after asking many different people how to pronounce this, we have settled on Mo-Her as the correct way). If you are going to google anything that I have written about thus far, these cliffs are the thing to type in. The cliffs overlook the Atlantic Ocean and you can see for miles. To the front of you, you can see the water and the Aran Islands, and to your right and your left, you can see more green than you thought possible and cows – everywhere! We climbed up O’Brien’s Watchtower so that we could see further, and everything was green and lush and breathtaking. Walking along the cliffs was amazing. To our right was a straight drop down with nothing between us an the edge of the cliffs, and to our left were cows taking their afternoon nap. As we walked, we could see the striations in the cliffs which made them look even more beautiful. If you ever make it to Ireland, I don’t think I could recommend anything more.
Because we loved the bus tour so much the first day, we decided to hop on a bus the next day again, this time to Connemara. Our bus driver was a man named Michael Rooney, and he was wonderful. He told jokes and sang to us all day. If you are an aspiring stand-up comedian, become a tour bus guide – you’ve got 50 people stuck with you as you have a microphone at your disposal for 9 hours. At least most of his jokes were funny! Connemara is a national park and is simply amazing. We stopped in Cong, a town built around a monastery, and is the town where the movie The Quiet Man was filmed. I had never heard of this movie, but you would think that it was the greatest movie. Ever. Within Cong, which has 185 people living there, there is a Quiet Man walking tour of the locations used for filiming, there is a Quite Man museum, and you can buy your very own Quiet Man calendar! Oh, and in case you’re wondering, most of the scenes were filmed in Hollywood. From our bus window, we were able to see the farms left behind from the potato famine, which I thought was one of the coolest things, if not one of the saddest things we have seen. When one prepares the ground to plant potatoes, the ground is striped, creating a fertile bed for the potatoes. Years and years later, grass has now grown over the beds, but the ground now retains a striped look. Did you know that during the time of the potato famine, not a single person needed to die? There was enough food for the entire country on the east coast, but the government was more focused on exporting goods to England so that the cost of their goods wouldn’t change in England. Horrible.
Our last stop was another one of my favorites this trip. Kylemore Abbey. Ok, I lied. You should probably google this one too… Kylemore Castle was built by Mitchell Henry for his wife, Margaret. The two were in Ireland shortly after their wedding and Margaret absolutely fell in love with Connemara and told her husband that there would be no happiness for them unless they lived there, so being the good husband that he was, Mitchell purchased 1000 acres and built an enormous castle for her. (Future husband, take note!) On the grounds, there is also a catholic church and a 6-acre walled garden. Unfortunately, on their travels, Margaret contracted a disease and died and Mitchell could not bear to be at Kylemore without her, so he sold it. It was sold to couple for a few years who then sold it to the Benedictine Nuns, who have been living there since (I believe) the mid-1800s. The castle is now called Kylemore Abbey. They run an all-girls boarding school there now, maintain the museum, and have restored the garden. Even in the rain, this place is stunning. The abbey sits overlooking a lake with expansive views of the green Irish mountains.
Yesterday, we decided that we just could not sit on a bus for another day, so we decided to walk around Galway all day. We found a free walking tour of the city, which was pretty useless, but we did learn that the term “lynching” comes from Galway. There are 14 “big” families in Galway’s history, one of them being the Lynchs family. There is a long story involved, but in the end, one of the sons commits murder and gets hung out of a window, which is where we get the word lynch from.
As I write this post, I am on a bus from Galway to Dublin, looking out at rolling hills, cows, horses, and a few sheep. This afternoon, Phil and I are going to a Gaelic football match between Cork and Donegal before we catch another bus from Dublin to Belfast. (Go Cork! (we think…))
(This post was written with lots of guest-blogging by one Philip Edward “Extreme Danger” Drexler)