Day 31: Thursday November 10th, 2011
I get up early and find Caroline, from MacCoole Tours. I chose the tour because it was a Mom and Pop family tour group, where they take you to their farmhouse, have homemade apple pie, etc. Another bonus was an open ended bus ride back to Dublin, so I could stay the night in Galway. Caroline was pretty funny, commenting on how good looking and smart their family is and how they all studied their cultural heritage at university. She also had a fantastic accent. She got us to our bus and then was off sadly, leaving us with a nice old bus driver.
And guess who was on the bus with me? Taylor (from Dublin walking tour/Guinness). I had a faint idea she’d be there because we both discussed wanting to do the tour, but didn’t know we’d do the same day. So now I had a friend, and she wouldn’t be the last. I basically dozed on the way to the Burren mountains and we arrived at the MacCoole family farm (I doubt that that’s their real last name). They have a cottage that the word delightful was made to describe, and a horde of springer spaniels that made me want one, and a few daft sheep. I forgot the guy’s name, but Caroline’s brother or cousin or whomever walked us up his back yard, which just happened to be a trail to the Burren mountains, a gravelly, cool walk in the County Clare of Ireland.
The mountain range, bounded by the Atlantic and Galway Bay, is a bunch of sparse, limestone carved hills. It was very tame compared to Scotland, and despite that, we had two people turn back (bitches). I talked to two old Canadian ladies who were very nice, there was a hot girl with blue highlights in her hair from Seattle (!) but she was mean, the necessary cliche Asian family, and Lea and Jazmin, the token Australians. Soon we were back eating apple pie with cream. The apple pie was delicious, but small and pricey at 4 euro. I kinda had hoped they’d be complimentary, but they were squeezing as much money from their homey feel as they could. They also served irish coffee but not a fan.
Then we went to the Cliffs of Moher for the money shot of the tour. And um, wow. There’s a reason it’s Ireland’s most visited spot. Breathtaking, terrifying, it was right up there with anything from Scotland and another tick off the ole UNESCO World Heritage list. The cliffs are almost as high as a homerun to center field in Fenway (390 feet) and made from shale and sandstone with views of the Aran Islands (three islands that can only be reached by ferry where Irish is the main language; clearly worth a visit later in life) and the Galway Bay. A few of us jumped over the fence and went a bit closer to the edge of the Cliffs and got yelled at, but there were others that were basically feet away from certain death, and I never dared because unlike Marty McFly, I don’t care if you call me chicken. It’s fucking windy up there, to boot.
After walking around the Cliffs, Lea and Taylor and I went inside the accompanying store and exhibit that had been carved into the cliff. There was a really lame video showing all the animals and birds and fishies that make the Cliffs their home but it was animation, and I was just pissed I never saw a fucking puffin. How cool would it be able to fly and swim like they do?
We also stopped for a photo op at one of the many castles in Ireland, and as usual, I can’t decipher the name in my notes. So, insert castle here.
We had lunch at Fitzpatrick’s Pub, where I had a pretty great seafood chowder with a lot of hearty (not tasty) brown bread because none of the gals ate theirs (I NEVER waste food; I’ll need those calories for later). The chowder had salmon, shrimp, oysters, potatoes, the like. Everything in Ireland has potatoes.
While driving through small towns I spotted a Greene’s Pub in Ballyvaughan, which must be a cool town. We also passed a small village, called Lisdoonvarna, that hosts a matchmaking festival (“Europe’s biggest singles event”) that gets packed with tourists from September to October. Maybe something to try next summer.
For dinner I had absolutely awful pizza from a mini mart called Centra, which is entirely my fault. Should’ve waited till Italy. While eating the pizza, I meet up with Jazmin again, and an 18 year old gentleman from, guess where, Seattle. We decide to go on the Galway Pub Crawl, where we’re joined by Taylor and Lea. And that’s it. Just the five of us. We could’ve said no and just hopped ourselves, but our guide (John) was a nice guy, and the girls wanted to do it (well Taylor didn’t; she’s no fun and didn’t pay for the pub crawl’s deals and stuff, but just followed us around. She’s smart). That night it was graduation or something in Galway, so everyone was in very classy dresses and suits. I was wearing my Ninja Turtles shirt, of course.
We started at Skeff bar, where I had a Guinness and a crap Long Island Iced Tea (I have yet to have a good LIT in Europe, but I stupidly keep trying) as well as a baby Guinness, a shot with Bailey’s, Guinness and something else that was different than just an Irish carbomb. It was nummy.
My small moment of glory in Galway came in the form of (what else) a drinking contest. We all had to start a full pint of Guinness and the closest (in one continuous sip) to get the black to below the harp on the pint glass won a green Galway Pub Crawl t-shirt. Like I needed more green clothes, but I fucking won it anyways. Jazmin still expresses jealousy. I should’ve just given it to her.
Soon, all five of us were drunk, especially Lea and Jazmin, who were making awful guttural laughing/groans between each other all night (kind of like Spongebob after 50 years of chain smoking), even in front of prospective guys. It was rough/hilarious to watch. Quinn, being so young, had little experience drinking and was a light weight; he was loopy by the second bar. We got to a bar with a mechanical bull and I bruised my hands and thighs in my efforts to stay on the damn thing; I think I did pretty good though (I’ve improved since New Orleans)! Like in Edinburgh, the five of us created our own dance circle while I sang to Rihanna (I don’t think they were as impressed as Team Sweden), and then moved onto a club.
I may have had a shot with Lea at one point in the night, but that was before she had become a violent, sick mess. I don’t even know if she made it home or is alive right now. I offered help, and I didn’t mean it in the creepy hook up way. I dared Quinn to touch the disco ball, and almost immediately he got dragged out of the club because he also had stolen an incense from the wall. Whoops. Taylor (who has dreads herself) met a guy in dreads wearing a suit, and Jazmin was just dancing all over the place, so I decided to call it a night after talking to two random ugly girls who liked my turtles shirt (to be fair, who doesn’t?). Once back at the hostel, I saw Quinn in his boxers outside on the balcony talking on the phone to his girlfriend. So at least he made it back.
Next: Galway exploration and back to Dublin.