Today we headed towards Galway from Dublin, and the real driving adventure began. It actually wasn’t too bad, and the NeverLost navigator mostly stayed on course with us.
Our first stop of the day was at Clonmacnoise, about half-way through Ireland. It isn’t listed in most tourist books, which pleased us, as we’d been purposely avoiding some of the larger tourist attractions, such as Blarney Castle.
Clonmacnoise, for those who don’t know, is a monastic site that has been around since about 80 AD. It’s been sacked numerous times, and rebuild numerous times. In some of the pictures, you can see where newer structures were tacked on to the old.
What’s interesting about Clonmacnoise is all the standing Celtic Crosses. Most of the ones outside are more recent additions from the last century, but inside the museum they have some truly ancient ones as well as some really old gravestones.
There is also a Whispering Arch, which I found highly appropriate, as it was our honeymoon. Young shy lovers for several hundred years used to sneak up to this arch (it’s part of one of the buildings) and facing away from each other, they would whisper their love to each other. The arch is perfectly constructed to capture the sound and deliver it quite clearly to the person on the other side. It was really neat, and a nice passerby took a picture of the both of us holding hands underneath it.
I got some really beautiful pictures of the ruins and of the river Shannon beyond – truly stunning shots that really seem to sum up the mood of Ireland.
We continued on, and stopped in a teeny town called Shannonbridge for lunch. There was one pub in town, called “J. J. Killeen” so we stopped in there. We both got the special – Irish Lamb Stew with homemade brown bread. It was, I think, my favorite meal of the whole trip, and it was divinely delicious. Heath had a pint of, of course, Guinness, and I tried a pint of the Irish answer to England’s Strongbow Cider – Bulmer’s Cider. It was really tasty! Too bad I’ve never seen it state-side.
While we were waiting for our food, a positively ancient Westie terrier ambled into the pub after its owner, and walked straight up to our table, as if to welcome us. He stayed long enough for some head scritches and then shuffled back to the other side of the pub. No one else in the pub batted an eyelash at the dog, and in the photo albums that the pub owner passed us to view, I recognized the dog as a young pup with a younger version of its owner.
We had finished eating, and were nursing our pints before getting back on the road to Galway. The barkeep called Heath up to the bar, and gave him a set of wooden blocks, and dared him to make it into a “T” shape. It was a lot trickier than it looked. I eventually joined him just as two lovely old Irish farmers (wearing their caps and jackets) started to take the mickey outta him. I stupidly opened my big mouth and said “well, he’s an engineer, he should be able to figure it out, right?”
They let him have it. Even funnier, when Heath couldn’t resolve the puzzle, and passed it on to one of the farmers, the barkeep kept discreetly nudging pieces around to help the old gentleman. We had a good laugh over it, though, and Heath insisted on buying the two old men a pint. When we made to leave, they were truly disappointed, and tried to talk us into staying in town. If we didn’t have a room already booked and paid for in Galway, I think we would have. The men and the barkeep were really nice and wrote down a few places we should check out in Galway if we had the time.
We set out again, regretfully, and it seemed like the roads got even narrower. We had to drive up into the huge hedges on the side of the road a few times when really big trucks came at us from the opposite direction. I got a short video of some of the craziness. Heath was really getting the hang of it by the time we got to Galway.
Galway is a great town. We only got to see a little of it, but I fell in love. It reminded me a bit of Galveston, actually, as it is on a very calm bay. I would love to go back and spend the week there, because there were so many things we didn’t get to see.
Our B&B this evening was Amber Bay – the best one yet – clean, bright, new, and while our window didn’t face the ocean, the one at the opposite end of the hall did. I’d definitely stay there again. With one minor exception – they had the TV mounted low on the wall in an awkward location and at one point during our stay I smacked my head on the corner. I ended up with a bit of a bump just under my hairline. Owie!
After checking in, we had a very long, relaxing (but slightly chilly and gloomy) walk on the beach. I feel most at peace when I’m on the ocean, and it was a wonderful experience, especially after a rather stressful drive. The tide was out, and we found tons of neat pools with tiny shrimp, oysters, and a crab that was no bigger than Heath’s wedding band (we got a picture of him leaning on Heath’s ring, but you can barely make out what it is).
Walked back to the B&B, and discovered that we were again thrown by the lateness of the sun, and most eateries were closing for the evening. We high-tailed it to a place down the road called Schooners. They were very nice and let us in, even though the only other two occupied tables were nearly finished. We had a table looking out at the sea, and it was really romantic. The staff didn’t rush us or anything, and when they heard it was our honeymoon, gave us a complimentary dessert and two glasses of champagne. Heath doesn’t like champagne, and it usually makes me quite ill (hence, the reason why we chose a port wine to toast with at our wedding), but we didn’t want to seem ungrateful, so I had a few sips and he tried to drink most of his glass. It was pretty good champagne, actually.
After that, back to the B&B and near-immediate sleep.