Back to Dublin

Not much to report today. Got up, packed, cleaned up the flat, dropped the keys off, and schlepped my backpack down to the train station. The train from Galway to Dublin was very full, and many of the passengers showed evidence of having had a rather festive Saturday night before getting on the train and heading home.

I killed a little time at Heuston Station in Dublin, because it was raining and I was about an hour and a half too early to go meet my AirBnB host. I took a cab down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and found my way the block or so to the flat, and got the keys, and settled in.

I picked this place mainly because of the location. This is the view out the window. That’s St. Patrick’s Park right across the street, right beside the cathedral. I am, I must say, pretty happy with my choice.

I’ve been pretty lucky with both my AirBnB stays on this trip. This place even has a washing machine, and one of the first things I did when I arrived was put a load of clothes on.

I also walked down to a grocery store and stocked up on some drinks and some food for dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow.

Tomorrow is pretty much a free day, and I’m probably going to spend most of the day wandering the neighbourhood. I’ve spent more time in Dublin than any other place in Ireland, and I want to try and get my familiarity back. Tomorrow evening, I go to the Irish House Party, which should be fun. I just hope the weather gets back to the glorious sunshine I’ve been getting most of the time on this trip.

Three Churches and a Museum

This was my last day in Galway. Tomorrow, I’m off to Dublin for my final week of vacation. So, today I wanted to get to the last few places I’d been putting off.

My first stop was across the street at the Galway City Museum. It being a Saturday morning, it was pretty crowded, and I only managed a couple of pictures that actually turned out.

This is a statue of Pádraic Ó Conaire, a poet of Galway from the early 20th century. It used to sit in Eyre Square, but it was subject to repeated vandalism, culminating in a decapitation, so it was moved to the museum.

There were a number of the early sketches for the statue on display, and they looked nothing like the finished statue. Pádraic was on a pedestal, in an impressively serious pose, but apparently they finally settled on something that depicted more of what people remembered of him around Galway –  sitting awkwardly on a stone wall, his bow tie very loosely knotted, his hat on back to front, looking adorably goofy.

I love this statue, and I love the evolution that brought it to the final result. I don’t know what was up with the vandalism and decapitation, though.

There was a replica of a Galway Hooker1 that had been built for the museum, and hung from the ceiling fully rigged. There was a lot of stuff about the early days of Galway, and about the 1916 Uprising, and the War for Independence.  There was also a fair bit of science stuff about the sea.

This was my favourite display. It was a bunch of Styrofoam heads and cups. The heads started at the size of the white one, then kids coloured them, and they were lowered into the sea, and compressed by the pressure of the depth. There was even a little video showing it happen.

After the museum, I walked along the river down to the Galway Cathedral.

The Galway Cathedral is actually The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven and St Nicholas, but that’s too long to say every time. I stuck my head inside, and it was absolutely gorgeous. But there were First Communion services going on, so I didn’t linger to take pictures. You can see some pictures of the interior here.

I walked back to St. Nicholas Collegiate Church, at that point. St. Nicholas is the oldest still-standing building in Galway. I didn’t get a picture of the outside, because it was surrounded by the street market that was going on with the Galway Early Music Festival2.

Outside the door of St. Nicholas, there were a couple of ladies playing harp and fiddle. They were doing Si Bheag Si Mhor, and it was beautiful.
This is the inside of St. Nicholas. They’re setting up for the concert tonight. I had a nice chat with a fellow named Andrew, who I am pretty sure was the vicar, and a nice look around. I love those columns.
The stained glass window of St. Nicholas.
At the back of one of the church wings is this screen with icon-like paintings that I thought were very lovely.

So, looking around the street market, I found out that there was a concert this afternoon at the Chapel of the Poor Clares – one of the Early Music Festival’s presentations of medieval ballads and madrigals. I made my way down to Nun’s Island, where the Poor Clares have their abbey, and managed to get a ticket, though it was pretty packed. A wonderful concert, by Simone Sorini Syrenarum.

Now, I’m back at the flat, finishing up this post and getting ready to leave tomorrow morning. I’m glad I took the time here in Galway to relax, and I think I’m going to miss the city. But I’m really looking forward to Dublin, too.

  1. That’s a sailing boat, FYI. []
  2. Which was the first I had heard of it! []

Lazy Galway Friday

Not much to report today. After being on the move for tours the past three days, I was somewhat lazy today. I didn’t leave the flat until almost noon, walked down to Eyre Square to catch the sightseeing bus, and took the hour-long ride around the city.

This is a view of the Galway Cathedral, down along the Corrib River. I thought we would be stopping there, and I could go see inside, but I was wrong. Have to walk down there tomorrow.
This is the Salthill Promenade, as featured in the ubiquitous Steve Earle song Galway Girl. It’s a nice, long walk along the shore of Galway Bay.

After the tour, I went walking along Shop Street to get a couple pictures that I hadn’t managed on my walking tour.

This is a cool example the kind of re-use and recycling of architecture. The owner of this building, when renovating the windows, damaged some of the plastered-over walls, and found some pieces of medieval architecture and decoration. It has a decidedly Spanish/Andalusian feel, as Galway did a lot of trade with Spain.
Okay. Remember, I said back here that I had a story about the weird little carving on Lynch’s Castle? Here’s a better picture of it. The story is that a previous house owned by the Lynch family caught fire, and a child was saved by a pet monkey, so they put this carving on the new house they built. One clever critic said the artist must have never seen a real monkey before. The local folk maintain that he must never have seen a child, either.

What else did I do today? I found that, one block over from me, there’s a movie theatre, and I went to see Solo: A Star Wars Story. I got to meet my AirBnB landlady1 and found her to be a very charming lady. I got to dodge a number of folks campaigning for either side of the referendum happening today. And I got reminded that this is a university town, so if I want to get into a popular pub on a Friday night to have dinner and listen to music, I better get there early.

Tomorrow is my last day in Galway. I’ve got to get to the cathedral, to St. Nicholas’s church, and the museum. I can try again tomorrow for a seat at a good music pub.

  1. She’d been in London for her nephew’s wedding when I arrived, so I had only met her husband. []

On and Below the Burren

Today was the last of my bus tours out of Galway, down to the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. It was another really nice day, weather-wise, though there was a little bit of rain at our last photo stop. I’d been to the Cliffs before, and to the Burren, but the weather was much better this time.

The last tour I’d been on was from a different company1, so the stops were a little different. I was a little said that we didn’t get to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, this time, but instead we did get to see the Aillwee Cave.

The Aillwee Cave is on the side of Aillwee Mountain, and it’s got a pretty good view of the Burren. How gorgeous is that sky?
Inside the cave, it was very dark. Yeah, I know, that’s the way it goes with caves, but this one was less lavishly lit than any other cave I’ve been in. While it was very cool, I got nervous about my footing at some points. Anyway, here’s a shot of some stalactites, stalagmites, and a full column way at the back that looks orange in this picture.

After Aillwee Cave, we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which was the main stop of the day.

The Cliffs of Moher are about 200m above the sea. They were used as the Cliffs of Insanity in the movie The Princess Bride.
Waaaaaayyy down at the end of the Cliffs is Hag’s Head, an outcropping that has a small tower (called Moher Tower). It was too far to walk in the time we had there.

I also completed one of my vacation objectives here: I found a nice ring at a little jewellery shop dug into the side of the hills.

Lunch was in Doolin, and it was nice to go back there, where I had had such a good stay last time. We came in from an unfamiliar direction, so it took me a little thinking to orient myself, but it was cool to realize I recognized where I was, and where McGann’s was from there.

We stopped along the coast road on the way back to Galway at the Blackhead Lighthouse, which was right in the midst of a lot of the interesting rock formations of the Burren.

This is the sort of landscape that makes the Burren the Burren. Weathered limestone with lots of plants growing in the gaps between the slabs.
It being spring, there are a fair number of wildflowers cropping up.

Last photo stop was at Dunguaire Castle. Apparently, I’ve been pronouncing it wrong since I read about it. I was calling it “Dun-gwayr,” but apparently it’s “Doon-gory.”

Still very picturesque. They were getting ready for one of the medieval feasts they hold there, so we couldn’t really go in to look at the inside.

And then it was back to Galway.

Tomorrow, I’ve got a ticket for the hop-on, hop-off bus tour of the city of Galway. That’ll make it easy to get around to places like the cathedral. Depending on how things go, I also want to get some more pictures of Shop Street, the main street through the medieval section of the city, and get to the museum across the street.

But now, doing a little laundry, and relaxing.

  1. One that doesn’t seem to exist, anymore. []

Inis Mór

Today was my trip out to Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands. The tour involved an hour-long bus ride to the ferry, and a 45-minute ferry ride out to the island.

On the ferry ride, I sat beside a 10-year-old boy named Andrew, and we had a nice conversation about colonialism in Africa, the roots of the first World War, the failures of the League of Nations, whether Stalin counts as a war criminal or just a genocidal mad man, and LEGO1. He was a really bright, entertaining kid.

At the island, I got into a tour bus to see the island2. The main thing I wanted to see here was Dun Aengus, a bronze age hill fort. And that was our first stop.

The walk up to Dun Aengus was longer and steeper than I expected. You can just see it on the hilltop in the distance.
This is looking down the long, long way back to the visitor centre. As you can see, it was a pretty busy site today, what with the nice weather.
This is inside the outer ring of Dun Aengus, looking at the inner ring. Those of you familiar with the Burren probably recognize this type of terrain – the Aran Islands are basically continuations of the limestone formations that make up the Burren.
This is inside the inner walls of Dun Aengus, looking down the coastline. The cliffs at the fort are about 100m high.

Hiking up, taking the pictures, and hiking down took about 90 minutes, because I am old and arthritic. It was a tough round trip, but I’m glad I did it. I’m even more glad that I don’t have to do it again.

After Dun Aengus and a bite of lunch, we headed off to the Seven Churches.

This is only one of the Seven Churches. They stand in a cemetery, and are all ruined, and this was the coolest looking of the five I could identify.

Our guide also took us to his goat farm, where he raises goats3 and makes goat cheese. Besides meeting the goats4, I got to take a peek at his cheesemaking setup, and now I want to start another batch of cheese when I get home.

Then it was back to Kilronan, the main village on the island, to wait for the ferry.

I found this plaque near the Kilronan harbour, across the bay from the quays. It seems to show the history of Inis Mór.

And then it was back on the ferry, and back on the bus, and back to Galway.

As I sit here writing this blog post, I have come to realize that I might have got a bit too much sun today. Because of course I forgot sunscreen this morning.

Tomorrow, it’s off into the Burren and to the Cliffs of Moher. That should be fun.

  1. He also told me that I seemed nice, and I told him that I appreciate that, because I work hard to seem nice. []
  2. Actually, I got into the first bus, then the driver asked me to move to the second bus because he had four people that wanted to go together. I felt so used. []
  3. Because that couldn’t be inferred from the phrase “goat farm.” []
  4. And I have never met calmer, friendlier goats in my life. []

Connemara Day

Today was my bus tour up into Connemara. I took a similar tour1 seven years ago, and that tour was on a cold, misty day, with some rain, at the beginning of October. A spring tour, on a bright sunny day2, was a bit different.

Here’s the sort of terrain you get in Connemara. Peatlands, small mountains, scattered rocks, lots of sheep, and small lakes and streams. It reminded me a fair bit of the Scottish Highlands. But look at that gorgeous sky!
This is one of my favourite things – it’s called a crannog. It’s an artificial island built in the middle of the lake as a defense for local bronze-age clans. Some times, they would have special paths under water built up so those who knew the secret could get to the island quickly and safely, while outsiders would fall into the water.
This is the head of Killary Fjord, in the village of Leenane. Killary Fjord is the only fjord in Ireland.
A little further down Killary Fjord, they farm mussels. Apparently, they went to Norway to learn how to properly farm the fjord.
As with the last tour, Kylemore Abbey was the main stop. I took a lot of pictures last time; this is what it looks like when it actually sees the sun.
The walled Victorian Garden at Kylemore looks substantially better in the spring than it did in the fall.
Kylemore Abbey is beautiful, and one of the best things about it are the views. This is the view from the tea shop up near the garden.
I took a few pictures inside the abbey last tour, but I must have missed this thing, which is very cool. It’s a tabernacle and polyptych that the Benedictine nuns brought from the destroyed Ypres abbey.
This is a little stream going over a waterfall as it runs into Lough Scrib. I just think it looks neat, with the gorse and stuff.

So, that was my return to Connemara. Tomorrow, I go to Inismor, and have to get up early for that. And that means I’m going to bed, now.

  1. With a different tour company. []
  2. Which is what I had today. []

I Took a Stroll on the Old Long Walk…

Actually, I didn’t. But I was walking around Galway, and I heard Galway Girl coming out of one of the pubs, and the tune got stuck in my head.

Before I get to talking about Galway, though, I found a picture I forgot about from Killarney that I wanted to share:

This is a view across Lough Leane from the shore near Ross Castle. It was a really nice day.

Anyway, I got up this morning, and it was raining. I had planned to take the walking tour, and I waffled back and forth on it, but finally decided to give it a go, because sitting in the apartment looking at the rain would just be kind of pathetic.

So, I got all kitted up in my rain gear, and went to find the tourist office where the tour starts. By the time I made it down there, I was pretty sure that I should have brought my gloves, and was rethinking the whole tour. Still, I was there, so no point in wimping out at that point.

About five minutes late, the guide showed up in a mad dash on his bicycle. He popped his head into the tourist office, said, “Walking tour?” and about a dozen of us nodded. “Jaysus,” he said, “Give us a moment.” He ducked back outside to lock his bike up.

Apparently, he was having a bad morning. The chain had fallen off his bike on the ride over in the rain, so he was running late. And, as the rain intensified on the tour, he pulled out an umbrella which turned out to not open.

But he was a great guide, with lots of knowledge of the history of the city, and insight into the economics and art scene of Galway. The tour was supposed to run about 90 minutes, but it lasted about two and a half hours.

Because it was raining, I didn’t take any pictures. After the tour, which ended literally right across the street from where I’m staying, I grabbed some lunch to eat at the apartment. It had stopped raining by the time I was done, so I grabbed the camera and went out to get some pictures.

This is Wooden Heart, a toy store run by a German family, named after the Elvis Presley Song. It’s interesting because it’s essentially a 1580 building that was rebuilt in 1980. See, after Oliver Cromwell’s visit to the city, the place basically became a post-apocalyptic wasteland. So much of the city was rebuilt from scavenged ruins right up until the 1970s.
This bank is one of the few buildings surviving intact from pre-Cromwell. They call it Lynch Castle, even though it wasn’t a castle, per se. More of a town house. See that weird little carving below the coat of arms by the flag? I have a story to tell about it when I manage to get a better picture of it.
Down a little alley there’s an archaeological dig called the Red Earl’s Hall. It’s a 13th-century ruin that was discovered in 1997 when they were digging a new foundation for the custom house. That cross-shaped thing in the floor is the seat for an anvil that was added in the 16th century.
This is one of the central columns of the Red Earl’s Hall.
The buttresses along the wall.
Okay. So, the Red Earl’s Hall was a used by the de Burgo family to control the shipping in Galway as it was coming into it’s strength as a post-Viking trade port. It was a combination of feast hall and administration centre. It had a bunch (hundreds, according to the guide) potsherds. This thing on the wall is a giant replica of a piece of a wine bottle.

There are still some spots that I need to get pictures of: St. Nicholas church, for example, and the museum that is literally right across the street from where I’m staying1. I’m on bus tours for the next few days, but I’ve got a couple of free days at the end of the week to catch up on this stuff.

I will say that this AirBnB thing is working nicely. It’s pretty relaxing to have the place all to myself, not have to get up at a specific time for breakfast, not worry about coming back during the day for a rest, stuff like that. I took some time to pick up some groceries this afternoon, too, and it’s nice to have some non-restaurant food, including fresh fruit, ready and available while traveling.

  1. I chose well for this location. []