Ireland Travelogue – Day Six

September 17, 2009

“It’s difficult to adequately moderate your temperature in this country.”

We got up quickly and quietly to avoid our still-sleeping roommates and checked out without a shower or partaking of the free breakfast, since we couldn’t find it. We walked back to the car and got out of the garage before 9:15, when it would have started to cost more money. We had endured the evening commute traffic the day before, so now we got a taste of the morning commute. I navigated okay, mostly due to good planning and good signage, and we got out of Cork without incident.

We were running low on petrol so we decided to stop just north of Mallow to top up. We had no idea whether the car took unleaded or diesel, but the gas cap told us. Then we had no idea how many litres the tank held, so we went inside to ask. The attendant told us we could fill up BEFORE we paid. We were so used to Maryland where no one trusts you to do this, and it was refreshing. We got gas and everything worked out. We realized the price was not as low as it seemed because a) it’s Euros, b) it’s liters which are less than half a gallon. I believe the listed price was €1.14. We also both used the ATM here to top off our wallets as well.

After about a two and a half hour drive (Andy smoked in the car after Charleville and Limerick using stressed city driving as an excuse) we came to the Cliffs of Moher. This was pretty much the only thing we had planned to see other than Dublin when we arrived in country. Parking was €8, but seeing the cliffs was free. It was very impressive and very beautiful. I paid €2 to go up in a small tower at the edge of the cliffs. It would have been worth it except there was a cloud of gnats everywhere at the top of the tower, so many that you couldn’t really see. I advised Andy not to partake.

The Romanian casino dealer Andy had talked to the night before told him the best parts of the Cliffs are past the sign marked “Private Property” and “Extreme Danger.” When we got to that point, there were a lot of people just going through but many were turning around. Andy was determined to do the hour-each-way walk but I was not sure and said I would stay behind. You walk right along the cliff edge with no guardrail or anything past the sign. So, Andy started off. I took pictures of people for them and watched the goings-on while staying behind. Then one group came. They looked like Americans: a man, his parents, and his wife or girlfriend. She just started up the quasilegal path without a second word while they stayed behind and fretted and called out for her to come back. She did and they teased her about falling to her death and they left.

I pondered on it for a while and figured that I would rather be like her than like them, and I might only ever come to this place once in my life, so I decided to do the walk. I set off about ten minutes after Andy had. We each had to walk our own path, I guess. It was about an hour and neither one of us made it to the actual end. I met up with Andy as he was returning. It was a good hike but very hot and tiring: tiring enough that we could definitely feel it the next day.

The obligatory tourist image of the Cliffs

The obligatory tourist image of the Cliffs

When we got back to the public area of the cliffs, we stopped to look out over them on a concrete platform and heard a thunderous noise. It was something like: BOOM… BOOOM…. SPLASH. After looking around and hearing a few people talk about it, we learned that some of the cliffs had fell into the sea right below where we were standing. It was pretty exciting.

Highlights from the Cliffs of Moher

Highlights from the Cliffs of Moher

We checked out the gift shops and left. We had determined that the next stop was going to be a cave. The question was: which one? There were two choices that we could determine: Doolin Cave and Ailwee Cave. I was determined to do the second because it was on my map and the brochure had a picture of a bear on it. But Andy decided on Doolin Cave and had his heart set on it. That’s where we ended up and he made the right choice in the end, I think.

Doolin Cave was gorgeous. It has the largest stalactite in the world along with everything else you might want in a cave: underground rivers, stalactites and stalagmites, reflections, darkness, and little unexplored cave offshoots filled with the unknown. The tour guide had been a caver since the early 60’s and had a wonderful sense of humor. When someone asked him if the big stalactite was going to fall down, he said “I hope not, the bank manager would be very upset.” He had a lot of knowledge about the caves and the various scientific studies being performed on them.

Closeup of the most massive stalactite in the world.

Closeup of the most massive stalactite in the world.

After Doolin, we continued along the coast road. We didn’t know but we had entered The Burren, a protected area of limestone steps and sheets that is quite otherworldly. This goes from the ocean all the way up to the mountains. We stopped off at the side of the road to explore and enjoy the landscape. Andy said this was the best part to drive because it was fast, easy, and beautiful.

Highlights from The Burren

Highlights from The Burren

We had considered going to Galway but city life is not for Mr. Poob. So we stayed on the scenic coast road a bit longer looking for a place to stay the night. First, we found a place to eat called Vasco. It reminded us very much of California cuisine. Some British guy who looked like the villain from Underworld, we’ll call him Nigel, forced his wife to eat a whole piece of chocolate cake.I liked it because they had a non-alcoholic drinks section and promised the food was local and healthy. I had a mixed berry smoothie, tomato and seafood chowder, and a mini-cheese platter. Andy had potato and Italian basil soup and the small meat platter. The platters came with grapes and horseradish which were both yummy.

Also, this town had a graveyard where we looked for ancestors but all the graves older than 1930 had been eroded and couldn’t be read. We eventually stopped trying to do this for this reason and because it feels kind of weird to be a tourist in a graveyard.

The town also had one last interesting feature: haybales that smelled like olives. They smelled really good.

After doing a B&B and a hostel the previous two nights, neither of which provided a successful showering experience for us, we decided to stay in a hotel. The waitress said there was a new one in the next town over so we set out.

She had said that it was across from the pier so when we came to one, we pulled over. All we saw was a bar with lots of old women singing “Boots are Made for Walking,” so Andy went in and asked where the hotel was. They told us it was next door. When we went next door and walked in the open entryway, it seemed wrong. An old man across the street questioned what we were doing and told us where to go. I think we the place we had walked into was his house.

The hotel was great except it had no wifi. I showered that night and the next morning. It was glorious. Andy asked me for some godforsaken reason to set my phone alarm for 6AM, so I did. And laid down my head.

Here is a map of where we went on this our sixth day: