A weekend away in Galway. Or, more correctly, 28 hours touring west ireland, given that I was working til 5pm on Saturday afternoon.
Still. What's a stranger in a strange land without some sort of savage burn in a rental car. A rental Volvo s40 no less. Chocolate and Sugar got me through the rain to a hostel in downtown Galway City.
Time to get out. Time to see the other side of the country.
I'd heard tell of this mythical "shop street" and checked the map at the hostel door and headed off. Shop street itself was remarkably boring. But what shop street turns into, and the other street that street turns into, and so on, was much more interesting. Yet another town that seems to think it's clever to have a straight street to change names multiple times.
Walked into a big busy looking place, but it turned out to be basically just big and busy. They had coopers though! Score!
Wondering on, I found a much better establishment. Cozy, nooks, chatter, not just busyness. And, joy of joys, a local micro brew. Finally, irish beer that wasn't Guiness. It was called Hooker, and was a nice medium pale ale. Proper beer :)
Mingling, I managed to meet two kiwis with belfast roots, and some dublin friends of theirs. After less than 5 minutes, it was last call, but my new friends were extremely friendly, and insisted that I accompany them to later bars. Who was I to refuse?
Over the course of the remainder of the evening, I met more belfast boys, and then through the strange ways that big groups mingle with other big groups, I ran into a rather large heard of Dutch people. Cute and friendly, but eventually the night had to end. Late night food in the park, and debates about the regulatory restrictions that mean a Spar in Iceland and Ireland can't sell alcohol, but a Spar in Holland can sell just about anything.
But this is not the end of this story. Although I was headed around western galway, into connemara, and the dutchies were headed south, it turned out that one of them in particular was having a party in Dublin in two weeks, and would I do the honour of coming along?
With that in mind, I merrily returned to my abode for some hot sweaty hostel sleep. Sunrise in the morning in a hostel is always a killer.
Half the trip already gone, I had to be back in Dublin that night, or into work at 8am the next morning at the latest, time to hit the road!
Well, maybe after breakfast. :) Shop street, despite the hostel staff assuring me of open cafes, was deserted. But down by the river I found a perfect diner. Coffee, orange juice, a nice breakfast, and Van Morrison. Which for some reason just fitted perfectly Normally I found Van Morrison bland, but at 9:30 on sunday morning, with warm colours on the wall, and comfy seats, it was somehow just right.
Now for the road.
Which was just a road.
Really. I drove all day.
Ok, I saw a nice abbey, and a nice church attached to it. And there was some reasonably decent sights. But if this was the "fabulous west" then I'd been had. Oh well, it wouldn't be the first time :) Maybe Kerry's better.
This isn't to say that I didn't see interesting things! Oh no! I found a superb community radio station, playing a two hour block of dub reggae. I found some odd plants on the side of the road. And I found signs saying, "watch out! some people in this area choose to speak gaelic!"
They didn't actually say that of course. But there were areas in the west where as you approached a village or area, there would be a big bold yellow sign with black writing saying, "Gaeltacht" Which means that you are entering a gaelic speaking area. As if the country is ashamed of their own language, and feels a need to label it. Of course, given that every second farm house is a bed and breakfast, there's still plenty of english signage.
Later, it was back to just the savage cross country burn. Dealing with people that drive the same speed on a 1.8 lane wide "hiway" as they do on a 3 lane motorway, (slowly)
It was a lot more fun than Dublin, mostly because galway was small enough that the locals were actually in the same place as you were. There was some nice country too, but not _that_ nice, and separated by a lot of bog standard rolling mediocre farmland.