After another relaxing day of work, jumping hostels and getting settled in I decided to finally hit the touristy trips. My main concerns right now are my fingernails, which are growing uncomfortable and I can’t find clippers at any of these convenience stores. In other news, my beardcation growth is substantial and it’s now at the point where it will become increasingly ragged. I’m going all Paul Bunyan on Europe.
But first, Pascal Coffee House. Thus far, Pascal’s will received my coveted “best coffee shop to work from” award for Galway. Great coffee, nice people, outlets, and good Wifi. They make a great almond apple croissant too.
Most of these hostels have tour packages designed for all these day trips, so I figured I might as well do them. First up, the Cliffs of Moher.
This trips combines a bus tour of the countryside with a visit to the cliffs. The driver was very entertaining, and looked like a Vladimir Putin who didn’t have a horrible childhood. He seemed really obsessed with Irish faeries. I never really believed that Ireland was made up of rock walls and sheep just wandering around, but that’s actually what it is.
That, and more rocks. All of the things to see in Ireland are rocks. Their tourist demand and historical significance is based solely on when and how these rocks were arranged. To be fair, that’s really how you could describe just about anything, but what’s unique about Ireland is that they don’t really change or shape the rocks. They just rearrange them into piles.
One of these rock arrangements is called Dunguaire Castle. If they had arranged the rocks to make a bigger castle it would probably be more sought-after, but they didn’t, so this is just your run-of-the-mill Irish castle.
Next stop was an old cemetery. This is a picture of that cemetery. There are more gravestones inside that thing, some of which are very old.
The next stop was like, a natural circle of rocks or something. As the rain poured down, about half of us elected to brave the weather and take a chance (it was not visible from where the bus stopped). But it was just more rocks! We told everyone on the bus it was awesome though (no we didn’t I didn’t talk to anyone all day).
Here’s your classic combination of old rocks stacked together in a special way that makes them special. Skateboarders could do all kinds of sweet tricks off this. No one brought a skateboard though, so no one did. Also, I wouldn’t recommend recreational activities in most of Ireland. Too many rocks. Maybe that’s why they made the walls in the first place, out of necessity so they weren’t always tripping.
And then we finally made it to the Cliffs of Moher. If you want good pictures of it, feel free to Google it. But these are the ones I took. When we got there, it was raining and it was difficult to see the Cliffs very well, but it was still pretty cool.
There’s one of those “don’t kill yourself” signs at the top, but it’s written just in Gaelic. All their signs are in both English and Gaelic, except this one. I think it’s their way of saying “go ahead and jump, tourists” while encouraging the Irish to give life another go.
Then the rain and mistiness started to subside.
And then towards the end it was fairly clear.
This is the view from the other side of the cliffs.
On our way back we stopped at this plateau of rocks with a nice view of the ocean. It was finally sunny, which was nice.
And here’s one final picture from the bus as we ended the tour. I realize this is the first picture of the traditional Irish rock walls. They’re EVERYWHERE. And lots of sheep and cows. But mostly just walls for the sake of walls.
Back at the hostel, I met Alex and Ryan, brothers from Minnesota. I haven’t been out in Galway yet, so I agree to muster the necessary energy to have a few beverages. These two are well-trained, efficient, and execute at a high level of consumption. They’ve applied the speed-dating system to drinking, enjoying just one drink at each establishment before checking out the next one. Our line-up included:
The King’s Head – Nice atmosphere with locals hanging out here. Live music advertised, but nothing going on yet. I had a Kronenbourg.
The Front Door – 5 separate actual bars on two stories, this place was like a fun little maze. Except instead of getting lost, you just find another bar, so it isn’t too taxing or challenging of a maze. I had a Guinness.
Taaffes – Live Irish music twice a day. I had a Bushmills and ginger.
The Salt House – This place was packed, and we met Derrick, Theresa, and Grace here. They live in Galway, and gave me a lot of travel recommendations. Derrick loves the Titanic. Like, loves it. He loves the movie Titanic. He loves Titanic museums. He loves Titanic displays. He loves Titanic facts. And there’s a Titanic exhibit opening in Belfast he really wants to go to. I had a local craft beer, but I forgot what it was.
The Crane Bar – Another local dive, this one features live music. Here’s a picture of people playing that music. The guy with the accordion stared straight forward the entire time, like he got extra accordion points for not moving. But he didn’t – there were no points it was just Irish music. I had a Guinness.
Massimo – I had a Bulmers Cider. Alex and Ryan were big cider fans. This experience reinforced my previously unwarranted dislike of cider into a warranted one. I do not like cider as an alcoholic drink, it should be abolished, and everyone who enjoys it should be imprisoned for having poor taste.
The North Atlantic was hungry the next morning, ordering 50 full Irish breakfasts as we left port. As the gusts of wind rocked the boat back and forth through the 45 minute trip, traveler after traveler stumbled sternward to deliver the orders. A few didn’t quite make it, leaving a stench throughout the ship. Luckily, I wasn’t one of them.
So I arrived at the Aran Islands and had rented a bike as part of my package. Risky move, given said rainstorm. But I bought a pair of ladies gloves (they’re snugger and cover the wrists) and started my journey. What they didn’t tell you in the tourism pamphlet is that it’s rather hilly. The first stop is the “must see” highest point of the island. Great.
But I biked to it (walking it up a few hills, including the final steep hill). Coupled with the fact that it was raining, had these been the Cliffs instead of a tower overlook, I probably would have just thrown myself off. But alas, here it was. It was “closed for renovations” but I went in anyways because I’m a rebel.
One could say that I often take wrong turns. It’s Ireland and everything is lovely, so I’m rebranding these “wrong turns” as “unintended joyways”. Here’s a picture of one, taken from some guy’s farm.
It turns out that the proper directions were just “bike straight that way.” Once I got that all figured out, I found Dún Aonghasa, the main cliffs here. It was quite the walk up there, but I managed and it was worth it.
My favorite thing about cliffs with steep drops are watching each person’s strategy for getting as close to the edge as they dare. It’s windy, so most people give it a couple feet, peer over, then that’s enough. Others have some real balls and sit right on the edge. My favorite one was the guy who got down on his stomach about 15 feet from the edge and army-crawled his way to the edge.
This is the picture of the ocean from the platform. It’s like other pictures of the ocean, except in this one I’m higher up. And it’s storming between me and the sunshine in the distance.
You can’t actually see it in this picture, but I took this while it was hailing. Randomly it would just start hailing, be nice for 10 minutes, and then hail again. But here’s the bike path at least, and proof I wasn’t the only moron to rent a bike.
This is a beach. It was too cold to get a tan.
I think I was sitting with a group of high schoolers on the way back. One girl kept calling buoys seals. And once she made that proclamation, there was no going back. Got to give her credit – she really stuck to her guns, going the whole 45 minutes insisting that they were seals (they were buoys).