Saturday, August 27, 2011
I kind of expected this to happen, this lagging of posts at the end and doing a final post after I was already back. Didn't anticipate that it would take about a month and a half for me to write the last post though.
Don't worry about the validity of my statements though, I'm not just going to be writing what I remember and my feelings looking back a month after the fact. This will mostly be just what I wrote in my actual journal each day. The recount of Inishmore and Connemara are also going to be incredibly picture heavy, because I'm not sure I can quite convey how absolutely gorgeous both of these locations were with words alone.
Thursday July 7th
The Aran Islands, Inishmore.
It started off as an incredibly gray day, with a light rain drizzling down from the moment we left to get on the bus. After about an hour of a bus ride we arrived at the ferry which we then boarded and made our way over to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands. The ferry ride was actually more intense than I anticipated, it was windy and Galway Bay had bigger waves than I thought it would. I probably should have expected the ride to include such waves, what with it being on the Atlantic ocean and all.
It was still raining when we arrived on the island, and Bethany and I (as well as a good number of people from the ferry) decided to go to the B&B restaurant on the island to get some lunch, and to warm up. So a group of us got a table by the window, looking out at the predominately gray landscape.While we were eating the rain basically stopped, but our group still opted for a bus tour rather than renting bikes to ride around. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of a hill, by small shops and where you purchase tickets to go up to the Iron Age fort.
The friendliest of the many cows came up to say hello to us.
The stone wall the cows were behind was just one of the many stone walls that mapped out the entire island's landscape. It was actually very interesting, that very rarely I saw any actual walls or fences. (Or what I think of an actual fence anyway.) Instead of bricks or stones with cement holding them together, chain link, or wooden fences there were just these walls with stones of all shapes and sizes piled atop each other. Or just hedges. On the island though it was the stones piled up, making the landscape seem incredibly gray. These karst limestone walls blended with the gray clouds, which all reflected off the water, making it seem gray as well. The path up the hill to the walled fort of Dun Aengus was also made of the karst limestone. This limestone is really the defining feature of the island, and I suppose that all the gray should make it seem at least vaguely depressing...but I don't think it did. The entire island was incredibly beautiful, and looked very charming...in a way I don't think I can actually put into words. There was also a lot of green everywhere, with some red plants and light purple flowers. Perhaps a bit less of the unbelievably vibrant green that marks much of Ireland, but still pretty vivid.
After we walked up the slick, uneven rock "steps" of the path and go into the lower level of the fort Dun Aengus you're at the cliff edges. Let's take a look over the edge!
No nets or any safety measures at all are used on the cliffs at Inishmore, unlike some of the more popular areas of the Cliffs of Moher (which I unfortunately did not get a chance to visit). What a great place to sit! And it really was a a great place. It had stopped raining, the limestone dries quickly, and the view out into the Atlantic was...much like I imagine the view looking out at an ocean is anywhere, but absolutely amazing nonetheless. Probably so amazing since Missouri is landlocked.
We also visited the area called The Seven Churches, which is monastic ruins of the two churches that are left. Ruins that I climbed on, because climbing up on anything that does not explicitly tell me not to (or that does not look as though it will break) is my thing right now.
Before the end of the bus tour we were also able to see a few of the seals in the seal colony that frequents the island.
Afterwards we just wandered about in the area with shops, and the whole time I debated getting one of the awesome Aran wool sweaters...but they were all incredibly expensive. Understandably so, since it is entirely handmade and looked like it was such high quality. But I still opted for being cheap.
All in all I really loved being on this island. Irish is still primarily used here, so I heard it spoken constantly. Our bus driver told us there is about a population of 300 or so that actually resides on the island year round. It's all very much rural, and a lot of the poetry we read by O'Malley detailed the dangers of fishing in the Atlantic on these islands (and from seeing the water, the rocks, and the cliffs I can understand that). In order to farm seaweed is mixed with sand to plant in. I wish we could have spent more than just a day here...it was a good change to go to one of the more remote, isolated and very much old-fashioned areas of Ireland.
Friday July 8
Was spent walking along the pathways by the coast, and exploring Galway city a bit more. Five of us also went to the Galways film festival where we saw The Pier, a movie about a man that left for New York and comes back when his father calls to say that he is dieing. It takes place in rural southern Ireland, and was actually very good. I don't know how you would be able to get hold of the movie, but if you can manage it I do recommend seeing it.
And now I only have two more days to cover. I will be making another post shortly to cover Connemara and our final day in Ireland.