Driving around Galway is easy until you actually arrive in Galway, when it becomes very very hard. So it’s a good thing that after our Aran daytrip we didn’t feel the need to go anywhere for a while. Like a lot of college towns, Galway is good for long hours of hanging out doing nothing significant, and that’s what we did. We strolled around and sat and ate and went to Charlie Byrne’s bookstore and strolled some more. Very occasionally I took a picture.
Also like a lot of college towns, Galway is well stocked with garbage, particularly in its waterways. The swans (which the town has like some places have pigeons) probably appreciate this, although I don’t know if they have any use for Carlsberg cans. I especially admired a giant rubbish-mound on the docks; it was unclear whether the trash was being gathered and deposited here for shipment elsewhere, or if it would later be scattered along the Corrib for the enjoyment of passersby.
All the strolling and eating and bookstore-going was good, but Galway is also known for its cultural events, and on our last night in town we felt like we should probably do something that seemed more like something. So we picked a convenient event in the Cúirt litfest, the play Grenades. Actually, I think it was me who picked it. I believe my thought process was something like “the theater is within walking distance and it says in the program that the heroine likes the Undertones, and I used to like them, so, sure, let’s go.” Unfortunately, I failed to fully consider that the play was (a) critically acclaimed, (b) intended to Make a Statement about the Troubles, and (c) told from the point of view of a tragic yet sassy adolescent girl. The combination of these factors pretty much guaranteed that we would hate it. Plus, the heroine wasn’t even a real fan of the Undertones, she was just copying her martyred older brother. So much for teenage kicks.
From Galway we took the bus (crowded) to the boat (very crowded) to Inishmore (crowded in Kilronan, empty after that).
Because none of the standard transportation options — rent-a-bikes, minibus tours, expensive horse-carts — appealed to us, we set out on foot. Walking to Dun Aengus, the big-deal prehistoric fort everybody is supposed to see, would have made us miss the boat back to the mainland, so instead we headed toward the Black Fort, which turned out to be even less popular than we expected. On the entire walk we saw only three or four other humans and indeed very few mammals of any sort, although we did pass by a pasture where frolicsome goatkids were taunting their hobbled elders, all very allegorical.
After an hour or so of stumbling over stone pavements and clambering over stone fences we reached the other side of the island. Unlike at the Cliffs of Moher, there’s nothing here to stop a person from tumbling over the edge and bouncing the hundreds of feet down to the Atlantic.
It’s very difficult to convey the scale of the cliffs. The tidy little cubes of rock you see at the bottom are as big as houses. Possibly bigger.
Everything is very rectilinear.
Except when it isn’t.
Getting to the Black Fort itself involves a number of don’t-look-down moments, but once we were on the other side of the wall it was rather cozy.
The lashing rain didn’t start until after we got back to Kilronan. There we ate warm fish chowder, and stood around soggily on the docks with assorted Australians, and watched work crews build another pier that will help more tourists get to the primordial isle and help more residents leave it.
It’s a little misleading that I’ve gone on this long without mentioning food, since the subject is pretty much always first in my mind, on vacation or at any other time.
Our very first meal in Ireland was at Govinda’s, a vegetarian Indian minichain with an outlet near where we were staying. The Hare Krishna Muzak drifting over the steam table was disconcerting but the potatoes were abundant.
Thereafter we had a few good restaurant experiences — at the Winding Stair (as R mentioned) in Dublin, Cafe Sol in Kilkenny, Ard Bia in Galway, and especially Out of the Blue in Dingle — but in my opinion our best eating overall consisted of various configurations of CHEESE. Durrus, Gubbeen, Ardrahan, many others enjoyed and their names forgotten. The happily ubiquitous brown bread is a perfect delivery system for these delights (when it’s not busy with large amounts of butter).
In Dublin our room had a wee kitchenette and a tiny table on which to spread things procured from Sheridan’s and Fallon & Byrne, but in Kenmare we had a real kitchen. This meant we could do laundry and spend days wondering whether it would ever dry; it (and the local SuperValu and the bakery and Truffle Pig and the Jam takeaway case) also allowed for happy scenes such as this:
Preparing cheesy meals meant there were dishes to do, but guess what? There really are fairies in Ireland, and they help with the washing up.