Thursday, September 24, 2015

Don't Forget Yer Sea Legs (2)

As you may have read in my last post, the first night of travel in western Ireland was one for the (soggy) books. That night, I curled under the covers of my bunk bed and relished in being completely dry and warm.
The next morning greeted us with an unperturbed sun rising over Doolin. I walked up the road, towards the pub we had eaten dinner at the night before, and soaked in the surrounding countryside. I had to pinch myself, because there isn’t such a thing as a world as picturesque as that one… right?
Day broke over the sleeping town, and rested its twinkling eyes over dewy grass and distressed cows high on a hill. The expanse of land was glorious. An absolute postcard. Which we had all been holding our breath for, because it meant that our day trip to the Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands, was on. Under the condition, though, that it was going to be a rocky ride out.

Our group clambered aboard a small boat headed for the islands, and was set to be about an hour long. I sat on the inside of the boat, clutching the seat ahead of me for balance and within twenty minutes needing to keep a sick bag beside me. Nausea became too good a friend on that trip over, and I sat watching the horizon and listening to my classmates on the deck outside scream with the splashes of water that struck them. Poor things, they who got wet again.
We finally docked, and I stepped onto solid ground and into yet another dream world. Inisheer looks as if it hasn’t been touched in two hundred years. The cluster of homes, pubs, and craft stores remain intact in the snow globe they seem to be a part of. For ten euro, we were able to rent a bicycle and tour the island that way. My friends and I headed off, and I couldn’t keep from laughing with exhilaration. We sped down narrow pathways towards a lighthouse, and the rock walls that lined us and held their grass and animals in were unreal. Basically, everything about this island felt like I had stepped outside of myself and into an entirely new (or old) realm.

Climbing the ruins of a castle!
The few hours we had were spent riding, climbing the ruins of a castle, examining a shipwreck on the opposite coast, grabbing lunch in one of the local pubs, and taking pictures of the island’s haunt, a dolphin. As the group of us waited for the boat’s return, we watched as a man in his wetsuit padded across the sandy ground and through the deceivingly clear water to play. Many munched on the famous Aran Island fudge that they purchased, offering me some and me refusing politely. My stomach would not handle that on the way back, despite the motion sickness pills my friend Kayla was wonderful enough to give me.
Through the looking glass

The location of a shipwreck, the boat found as is.
The ride back was even worse. We tilted at angles that none of the crew seemed worried about, but I remained fine until we were taken on a brief detour to the bottom of the Cliffs of Moher. When we were told we could go to the front of the boat to see, I stood up and knew that it wouldn’t end prettily. I went anyways, my sick bag in tow, and stood at the helm at the view before me. It was the exact opposite of our experience the day before; sunny and clear. We passed the cave used in filming Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, though at the point we were told which one, I was curled over using that nice plastic bag. I was mortified, and sat at the back of the helm, drinking in the sights. It’s something I’ll never forget, for more reason than one.

A much brighter view of the Cliffs!
To round out the night, we headed for The Quays, a restaurant and bar that hosts live music every night beginning at nine in the evening. One of my roommates was there, and we met her and a few of the guys in our program. The band was setting up directly across from where we were, and I stood along the railing tapping my hand all the live long day to the songs they covered. Covers ranged from popular American music to alternative music that I didn’t know but fell in love with. I tried to take note of lyrics to remember them for later.
The scene was set for the young. For us. Again, people held onto their one drink all evening and swayed along to the music. Some on the floor below twirled around and sang out. The stage lights flickered red and green on the performers, and they caressed the room with their voices. I left with two friends early because we were beat from the day, but walked along Shop Street and took in the crowds weaving through one another. We stopped at a hanging bar set up on a corner of the street, where people can pay ten euro to hang onto the bar for one hundred seconds in an attempt to win one hundred euro. A young man hung on for sixty three seconds before falling. We waited to see if anyone else meant to try, but nobody stepped forward.

One of four Spanish arches placed here in 1584

Shop Street, Galway's main hub for shopping and eating
The shops were closing, but life in Galway City was just beginning to take form.
I left the city center that night still buzzing with the bustle. And it stayed with me through to the next day, when we hopped aboard the bus for one of the last times that weekend to go watch a sheep dog demonstration in Connemara. And like the rest of the west, stepping into the open fields was like stepping into a Romantic landscape painting. Many of us made a comment like, “This isn’t real. How are we actually in a place like this?” as we climbed up the paved hill to the home of the Joyce Country Sheepdog.
I smelled like sweet, wet puppies for the rest of the day. But I got loads of cuddles!

 Puppies abounded, and the little things were passed around and had their share of cuddles and kisses from us. At the same time, we witnessed a herding demonstration.
It was something to see. The owner began by showing us the different signals he gives to the dogs via his whistle: this one to go right, that for left, this for come here, that for stop. The dog then climbed up the hill and disappeared behind the rocky terrain; and it wasn’t long before a flock of fluffy white began running down the hill. They were “chased” around the field below for a bit before being sent into their fenced area. And to finish, we got a chance to hold one! They’re way lighter than they let on—it’s the illusion of the fluff.
The valiant sheepdog and its innate tendencies towards herding.

To end the weekend, we had lunch and a brief wander in the town of Cong, where The Quiet Man was filmed. The rain began as soon as we were back on the bus, and stopped before we arrived back in Dublin.
I grocery shopped and then collapsed in my apartment for the night. It was a go-go-go weekend that I wouldn't have wanted any other way. 
Go to Galway. Just make sure you've got those sea legs ready.

Connemara, Co. Galway
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” -Ernest Hemingway

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