September 18, 2009
“Everyone says we should go to Galway.”
“I say you should learn to drive a manual.”
Andy got up at 6, as promised. I slept in until 9:30. Andy claims he took pictures and saw the sunrise and that it was the best morning ever. He also paid 4 euro for two cups of coffee and found some sugar packets with quotations that he liked.
When I finally got my comparatively lazy butt up, I had another shower and spruced up for the first time in a couple days. We were feeling good which was important because we had a lot to do that day. Our plan was to hit as many historic sites as we could in county Galway before backtracking a bit to hit one place we had missed, Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which came highly recommended by a few people including the fellow who checked us out of our room.
We chanced upon our first stop accidentally, called Dunguaire Castle. It was closed, so we wandered around outside. It had a very impressively sized moat, but at low tide it seemed more like a bog. We didn’t stay too long as tour buses started to arrive.
After a short drive was our first planned stop in Athenry. We stopped at the ruins of an Abbey outside of town and took some pictures. Then we walked down the street to get scones at a very nice bake shop, wandered the town gardens while eating them, then drove the two blocks over to the castle. The main attraction there was a 20 minute A/V presentation that was mainly good except for the two-to-three minute sections that were just slideshows of castles and abbeys in the area that all pretty much looked the same. Andy said “at least now we don’t have to visit all of them.”
The next stop on our whirlwind tour of county Galway was the Turoe Stone. We drove about ten kilometers out of the way to see this, and it was a little disappointing. The actual stone was locked in a little house to protect it from the elements with a tiny window in the door to look through. The whole thing was surrounded by a closed “family fun park” which included an inflatable city. This led Andy to yell “inflatable city!” every time something underwhelming came up on the rest of the trip.
Thorr Ballylee, the next stop, was the castle that Yeats restored and lived in when he was writing. The place was closed for the season but there were some people there cleaning up who let us in for free to see it. It was a beautiful towerhouse located next to a babbling brook. This was the first time we were able to go out on the battlements, which was exciting. There were also Yeats quotations all about and I especially liked his dedication of the tower to his lady.
After that excitement, we decided it was time to find something to snack on for lunch. We drove down to eat lunch in Gort just to be able to say we did something in Gort. Andy made his only foray into parallel parking here, which elicited a bit of a cracking sound from one of the hubcaps. It turned out to be okay, though. We had sandwiches in a bar that was almost entirely empty, which seems to have been a trend throughout the trip. The barmaid was flirting with the only two other customers there, and they were all young whippersnappers. We walked down to see the city centre of Gort, then wandered back to the car and set off for Bunratty.
We back-tracked a bit down to near Limerick to visit the Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, which came highly recommended. Comparable to Colonial Williamsburg, in theme if not in scope, it features recreations and originals of all types of living spaces from around Ireland. I especially liked the home from the Burren area, made entirely from the flat limestone slabs of that region we had seen just the day before.
The Castle of Bunratty had spiral staircases on all four sides with interesting things to see on two floors of each. They also had a full sized banquet hall where they hold actual banquets in the evenings. We were able to go up to the very impressive and extensive ramparts on top of the castle. This and Barryscourt Castle were the two most impressive and exciting castles we visited.
At Bunratty they also had a very cool miniature work pony about the size of the dog that loved to lick Andy’s hand, and some very cool working dogs that were the size of large ponies. Their re-creation of an Irish town from the 19th century seemed spot-on. I especially liked that the pawn shop was recessed so you could go in without anyone noticing. The pottery shop was very nice and the shop owner very friendly. At this point, Andy had run out of Euros, but he let us buy some gifts with American dollars at a very good exchange rate. He was quite tickled by the $2 bills I used to pay.
They also had very neat examples of horizontal and vertical mills. The mills weren’t running at this point in the season, but the vertical one was attached to a wishing well. I threw in a 50 eurocent piece and wished for a sick friend of mine to get better, a 20 eurocent piece wishing for long happiness for Andy and his new girlfriend Claire and another 20 eurocent piece wishing to find a little love of my own. I guess the luck from this will have to do, since we didn’t try to get the gift of gab from the Blarney Stone.
The one thing Andy says he regrets was not going to the banquet at Bunratty but it looked quite expensive, so we skipped out on it. Andy will have to catch it the next time! We headed down the road towards Dublin. At this point, Andy was very tired after having got up for the sunrise and needed some caffeine. After about an hour of looking, we found a fast food takeaway place to stop at in the town of Golden called Golden Kabob. Andy got fish and chips, a spicy wedges, and a can of Coke. I got a small margherita pizza and a “Club Orange,” a popular soft drink kind of like Orangina. We sat in a nearby park next to a brook and a castle ruin to eat and reflect on the day. It was very relaxing and the food was surprisingly good.
We decided that we wanted to see the “Rock of Cashel” the next day, so we drove the last five kilometers of the day. We parked in a car park and started looking for a hotel. The first one we tried (which was inside an old towerhouse) had no vacancies, but the clerk pointed us to a hostel. It was very nice and quaint. I went to the ATM to get cash and Andy moved the car out front and we settled in. We had a four-bed room to ourselves.
Before bed, we talked and agreed that even though it was super-fun, we were both about ready to head home.
Here is a map of where we went on this our seventh day: