Sunday, April 3, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Killarney ➝ Galway: "Pringle Pirates."

It has been a very long day, but I am happy to finally be in Galway. It was a wild ride from Killarney to the Cliffs of Moher and on to Galway—in more ways than one. But we made it to the Harbour Hotel and we could not be happier without our rooms and our dinners.

We were on the road by 9AM, on our way to the small town called Listowel where John B. Keane has a famous literary pub. He wrote The Field about life in rural Ireland, and before his death a few years ago, he would invite Nobel Prize-winning authors to his house to share stories without pressure or presumption. I think that is a really cool idea that more people need to try thinking about. Not everyone needs to be concerned with fame and fortune—some people just need to keep being inspired to write or dance or make more music in the company of others who feel the same way as them. We did not stop at his pub, but it was great to learn a little bit about this humble playwright who we will be studying later in the term.

The bus drove onwards toward the Cliffs of Moher, our next major stop of the day. Before we could get there, however, we needed to cross the River Shannon. This was not just a bridge situation, nor was it a pedestrian ferry situation. It was a bus ferry situation! We got to drive our bus, along with two other buses and a handful of regular cars, onto the bed of the ferry and cross the river. It was surreal to see that much heavy machinery floating on a boat, that’s for sure. The bus I thought was so big was dwarfed by its new home. We climbed to the upper level, sipped our tea, and ate our Pringles as we watched the salt water mix with the fresh water in a tumult of foam. About a half hour later, we reloaded the bus and drove off the docked ferry and continued on our way. Not a normal interlude, but interesting to experience nonetheless.

Thatched roofs and hilly landscapes whipped by our windows as we climbed switchbacks to make it to the Cliffs. All of us were getting a little sick, and were thankful to finally be arriving there. First, though, we made a quick stop at St. Bridget’s Well. Klooties filled multiple trees up a set of stairs. The babbling brook descended a step waterfall and emptied into a reservoir at the bottom. Daffodils bloomed in a little circle around a statue of St. Bridget in the center of the nook. The view of the valley from across the street was stunning. We were now reenergized and ready to see the Cliffs.

I did not know what to expect, really, but the Cliffs were definitely more impressive in person than my previous imaginings of them. Even the Princess Bride cannot capture just how large and imposing these faces are. A 600m sheer drop to the ocean, where the turquoise water stirred and crashed against the rocks with strength. There was a faint crashing heard in the distance every few seconds as the water hit the walls in a slow but steady motion. The lilting sounds of whistle and accordion reached our ears when the wind hit them the right way, sending them hundreds of feet to where we stood at the edge of the barriers. I was given a job to photograph people crossing the danger lines, and unfortunately, I was not without subjects. Multiple people jumped the barriers, some venturing so far as the climb down multiple levels of cliff to get closer to the bottom. That is completely unsafe and also completely insane—Cliffs of Insanity reference or not, the safety lines are not to be tested. We stayed back near the fence, breathing in the air and letting our hair get swept by the wind.

After we had spent enough time outside, we went in for a quick bite to eat and also a look around the gift shop. The food all looked delicious, but since I had packed my own, I settled for just a chocolate muffin. That disappeared quite quickly—it was gooey and delicious and exactly what I needed to make myself feel better after a rough ride over. Once we all finished our food, we went downstairs to the gift shop, where I bought a key chain and another pop-up model cards similar to the one from Christchurch Cathedral. Then, as a last goodbye, I helped a German couple get their picture with the Cliffs of Moher sign. Their camera was set in German, too, so I really hope I did it right!

Next, the hard part set in. The roads were winding and our driver was quick and I couldn’t really handle it all too well. The bus eventually pulled over a few times, and that helped me feel better. But I was so thankful to see the Harbour Hotel sign roll up in front of the bus. I do not think I have ever been happier to get off of a bus before. My head instantly calmed down as we made our way up to our room with our luggage.

And our hotel! What a sight! Purple crushed velvet seats, white slate floors, a fire burning in the lobby, an actual candelabra. And this is only a three star hotel! Our room is not as big as the other room we had, but it is infinitely nicer. We have real teacups, beautiful beds, and a pristine white bathroom. Our view might not be as good, but everything else makes up for it. Dinner was served in the hotel’s restaurant, a continuation of the purple plush theme complete with mirrors and candle lights and mirrors. Our meal of Caesar salad, salmon, and chocolate ice cream was so welcome after two weeks at the Holiday Inn. A perfect meal to end a trying day, that’s for sure.

I have nothing else to report tonight, other than it is great to be on solid ground. Tomorrow is scavenger hunt day, along with a hurling match in the afternoon. It should be fun to see my first (and probably last) GAA event. More photos in store tomorrow!

photo credit Diana Cleveland 

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