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Day 10 – Dublin arrival

Today we head to Dublin by train to finish off our trip. We’ll be in Dublin for Bloomsday as well as Aimee’s birthday. First I drop off the car at the Galway airport. I get there before 9 am and the Avis desk isn’t open yet. So I leave the keys in the drop box and catch a cab. It’s an interesting cab ride. The driver is this nice Romanian man who’s lived in Galway for 7 years. He’s seen it explode in population. It is rush hour so he takes some back roads and avoids the main highways (I’m amazed that he doesn’t get lost). We make a stop at his house to pick up his 3 children for school! I move to the front seat. His wife ushers the children out of the house and they pile in the back. The school is close by and we’re back on track to Corrib Village. We chat about more things. His children know 4 languages – Hungarian, English, Romanian, and Irish. It was quite a fun ride.

Back at Corrib Village we packed to catch the train at 1:30 PM. We catch a cab (no extra stops) and get to the train station by 1:10 — we have time to spare. Unfortunately I misread the schedule and the train is leaving in 2 minutes! Luckily the ticket transaction is fast and we’re on board and off to Dublin! The train ride is great. The countryside is beautiful.

We arrive at Heuston station and take a cab to the Harding Hotel. The room is simple and the bathroom has the same plastic walls and floor as Corrib Village! We have a window that overlooks the front of the hotel. This room would just be for 2 nights though (more on that later). The Harding is right across the street from Christ Church and near the trendy Temple Bar area. It’s a great location to explore Dublin’s center. Dublin’s city centre is split by the river Liffey into a north and south part. Christ Church is number 3 on this map (right in the middle). That’s basically where we were. The Harding has an old alley, Copper Alley from the 13th century, running through its lobby! That groove is common on many Dublin streets for routing water from downspouts.

Tomorrow is Bloomsday and we need to figure out what’s going on. Aimee calls the James Joyce Centre and they are doing some walks around Dublin to sites from Ulysses. We also decide to stop by the Tourist Information center (they are found throughout Ireland, very helpful) to see what else we can find out.

Dublin observations

  • Dublin is clearly an international city. On the streets we hear many languages and see people from so many countries. It’s very fast-paced and fast-moving.
  • We really enjoyed the crossing signals that had an audible change when it was safe to cross (note the change near the end of the clip). This seemed like a brilliant idea for the blind. Upon returning to the US we’ve read that they’ve been switched off!
  • I also enjoyed the standard exit sign in Ireland — green with a running man.
  • The sidewalks are rather narrow and difficult for a couple walking side-by-side to navigate together. Holding hands seems to help. I guess you must appear a single entity so people will move out of your way.
  • The city wakes up late, especially on the weekends. I’d go out every morning between 8 am and 9 am to get some breakfast items and soda from a 24-hour convenience store. The streets were almost devoid of people and the streets nearly empty of cars (most businesses weren’t open). During the peak of the day the streets are very busy.

Day 9 – The Aran Islands

We were supposed to return the rental car yesterday, but extended our rental 2 days to allow for a few more sights. Tomorrow we head to Dublin for our final 4 days in Ireland. But today our goal was to get to the Aran Islands. The largest of 3, Inishmore, has many things to do and see. We got going late and missed the first ferry to the islands. So we hit the road west out of Galway to Rossaveal to catch the next ferry. But we ran into horrible traffic on the little road. With amazing luck, along the way we saw Aer Arann flights to the islands. We booked the next flight to Inishmore. We boarded the little plane about an hour later.

Soon we were airborne and heading to the island (only about 10 minutes by plane, 40 by ferry!). Aimee got to sit in the co-pilot seat and film some of the flight. We aproached the small landing strip.

Our time was short, about 2.5 hours, until the last flight back. Known for its sweaters, we made a point to visit the sweater market and each get one. I could tell mine was real because it smelled like sheep (we used to have sheep when I was growing up and that wool smell is specific). We wanted to bike to some of the sights but time was short so we rented bikes and went first east of town then back through town and stopped on the beach [1][2]. The tide was out and the beach was a strange grey sand with ripples — sort of looked like water from a distance. Huge chunks of limestone dotted the beach. Rocks covered in kelp (maybe ?) also are found. Aimee found a jellyfish on the beach too. There were also the coral-like formations made of tiny shells. Other parts of the same formation had seaweed (?) and larger distinct shells. Here’s a collection of stone, seaweed and kelp (like hair). A large area of stones near the road also had a lot of broken shells (the white stuff).

We caught our flight back (it was windy there) and packed up our things for the train ride to Dublin the following day.

Day 8 – The Cliffs of Moher

So next we drove through the Burren to the west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher. According to Wikipedia, the cliffs rise 400 feet above the ocean. We were so hungry when got there, and as is typical with our luck, the power was out in the area. So the visitor’s center cafeteria was barely functional. Also, they were doing some huge construction for a new visitor’s center. It seemed strange. They were digging into the hillside to make a partially underground visitor’s center. So they were destroying this beautiful hill to build something and then cover it back up again to make it look like it was before?

We started at O’Brien’s Tower which is the main tourist stop (see map). We snapped a few pictures from up there (note the hat!). The winds were fierce. Water droplets from the ocean surf below (400 feet!) were carried upward, like reverse rain, and dropped on the walking paths. The “safe” tourist areas had a nice stone pieces that made a barrier. They are full of trails left by organisms millions of years ago when the stone was mud on the ocean floor. These barriers barely slowed Aimee down as she climbed over to get some great video of the cliffs. The furthest point you see in the video is likely Hag’s Head and where Aimee will shortly make her way to.

Her first jump over the barrier near the Tower yielded this footage of a small island, maybe Goat Island, full of birds. The cliffs are FULL of birds nesting. Those little specks are birds. I left the audio in to hear the wind. All of the white spots are birds nesting in this picture.

Then Aimee went over the barriers to a very flat area. Notice the tower in the background and the sheer dropoff to the left. This was still close to the tourist area.

I followed her past the first “danger” sign. It appeared to be an area that was used in the past but hadn’t been kept up like the other areas. That was a short walk and we came upon another sign noting private property beyond the fence. I tried to to continue but being less than 10 feet from a sheer drop was too much for my height issues. I waited and Aimee continued on (having no such height issues). Her first video beyond the fence shows the walking path that exists and the proximity to certain death! Some brave tourists are going this way, but very few in comparison to the tour bus mobs back in the main area. The tower and that bird island are looking further away.

The winds are even stronger and she’s further from the tower now, pretty much as far as you can go. Her jacket gets blown in front of the camera. The path is pretty basic at this point. There’s maybe 1 or 2 other people that come out this far while she’s there.

Obviously she makes it back safely and has some great memories of an adventure beyond belief. We make the long drive back to Galway (it’s not the distance in Ireland, but the winding roads and variable speed limits).

Day 7 – Cong and county Mayo

Feeling a bit better and on a liquid diet I got back on track with some sights. It being the weekend my mother (and our host) didn’t have class so we were able to drive all together to some places. We headed northeast of Galway (Connemara is more northwest) out of county Galway into county Mayo.

Cong – Coffin Ship – Croagh Patrick

Cong Village
The main claim to fame for Cong is the 1952 John Ford film starring John Wayne, The Quiet Man, was filmed there. We hadn’t seen the film but that’s OK. There’s plenty to see in the town. We have now seen the film upon returning to the US and…. well… not my first choice in films. I’m not a big John Wayne fan, but do like his 1962 film Hatari! The Quiet Man seemed to me to present the stereotypical Irish characters and wasn’t too kind to the female lead Maureen O’Hara.

Anyway, with my mother’s awesome digital camera we have many good pictures of this trip. We started in the main part of Cong Village. Cong Abbey, or what is left of it, is right in the middle of the town. It had its origins in the 7th century but as been destroyed and rebuilt 3 times since then. The entrance is still mostly there [1] [2]. Just inside the entrance is a graveyard area.

You can see the town buildings in the background. That video starts with a view into a small room off the graveyard. This video below shows the view from inside that room, looking down to a courtyard and at your feet is a lone grave. Parts of the Abbey have been rebuilt (15th and 19th century) so you’re seeing a mix of old and not so old. As you walk through the Abbey you have to walk over graves, such as this one of Patrick Mcganveren who died at age 30 on 7 January 1837. It’s a little strange walking over these old graves but there’s no other way to walk!

Beyond the abbey is a path to the Monk’s Fishing Housing where monks would drop nets through a hole in the floor to catch fish. A line attached to a bell in the Abbey would alert them to a catch. On the way was neat tangle of tree roots. So many of the old stonework had beautiful details like this head on the bridge near the fishing house and these details at the entrance to the Abbey.

We saw a few Quiet Man locations, again before we knew anything about the movie. Seeing the movie after visiting Cong was fun to point out locations we had walked.

Next was to Ashford Castle. It’s an active hotel so we couldn’t see inside without being a guest. But for 5 Euro you can mill about the grounds. It was also setting for a few scenes in the ol’ Quiet Man. The entrance to the castle itself is grand. But the long drive up to the castle, through the golf course, is also neat.

Here’s a few views [1][2][3][4]. The castle gardens had some impressive flowers. Check out this rhododendron video — see the scale when I walk into the frame. Notice the hat is a permanent fixture in all of my shots now. The entrance/exit to the walled gardens again featured some amazing details [1][2][3].

National Famine Memorial : The Coffin Ship
This memorial is relatively new, from 1997. It’s very moving. A coffin ship was the name given to a ship bound for America during the potato famine that had terrible living conditions combined with crowded sick refugees that became a floating coffin for many on board. From a distance the ship looks very quiet, but closer examination shows the emotion conveyed in this steel sculpture.

Coagh Patrick
Just across the road is the mountain where it is said St Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland. Funny, I didn’t see any snakes during our trip.

Still feeling a little under the weather from my sunburn we headed back towards to Galway. We stopped and took some photos of the lakes, or loughs, along the way [1][2][3][4][5][6]. I’m not sure which lough this is, probably Lough Carra.

Day 6 – sick day

Well, according to the news yesterday’s unusually clear and sunny weather was really bad for sunburn. And it didn’t help that we were hiking near the ocean on elevated land and didn’t prepare for sun exposure. By the end of yesterday my head and neck were turning bright red and were hot. A fever ensued yesterday evening along with the inability to keep anything down (I hadn’t intended to see that dinner again, but there you have it). Day 6 was spent resting, applying Ambre Solaire “After Sun” lotion, and trying to remain hydrated. This day was a total loss. Aimee bought me a hat (notice it will be in all subsequent pictures) and sunscreen. I don’t remember too much of this day, not until the next morning of day 7.

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