Sunday, November 15, 2009

Galway & the Aran Islands

This weekend was the BEST trip we've had so far in Ireland!!! It was forcasted to rain all weekend (imagine that) but it didn't rain once on our sight seeing! Thursday afternoon Britt, Mariel and I took a bus to Galway city. After dropping our stuff off and eating at the hostel we took a night walk around Galway City. We saw the River Corrib and the Cathedral of St. Nicholas lit up at night. It was so weird though, because there were scientists catching eels in the river...we watched them dump out their nets of eels into large garbage cans. There were so many eels and they were writhing all over the place! Gross:(

Friday morning we took a bus from Galway to the ferry that would bring us to the Aran Islands. We found our hostel and then rented bikes for the day. We biked around the largest island, Inis Mor, to see the best ringed fort in Ireland. It's called Dun Aonghasa and is perched on top of some seriously high cliffs. It's about 2,000 years old, an the walls are 10 feet high and 13 feet thick! We had some lunch at the only cafe around an then biked back to the town. There are only about 300 people who live on the island which is odd to think about. Well, we were exhausted so we went back to the hostel to take a nap. It was absolutely FREEZING in there so Mariel and I took a nap with our coats on...we woke up in time for supper at Ti Joe Watty's pub. It was the best feeling to get in there because it was so warm with a fire crackling in the fireplace. It was obvious we were "outsiders" so we got a lot of funny looks and questions. The people were very nice though. It was pitch black when we walked home two hours later, with no streetlights down the rock path to our hostel. Since it was the off season we were the only three guests in the hostel. It kind of freaked us out because there were no locks on any of the doors, but we managed to make it through the night. After a nice breakfast we took the 8:15am ferry back to the mainland.

On Saturday we took a bus tour to the Cliffs of Moher. We had wonderful, but windy, weather for this attraction. It was absolutely breathtaking!!! The Cliffs go along the coastline for five miles and are as high as 650 feet above the Atlantic! As hard as it is to believe, they are only the third tallest in Ireland. They're just so famous because they are so accessible to tourists. Our bus driver gave us the parting advice of not climbing over the barricades to get a better look. He said a couple of years ago a 20 year old Hungarian guy tried this and fell to his death. At that height it's just like hitting a cement floor. Then we drove back through the Burren region that the Cliffs are located in. It's a region of National importance and protected by their government. It supports the greatest diversity of plants in Ireland. Limestone, created from layers of coral, seashells, and mud, is the bedrock of the Burren. Geologic forces in the earth's crust heaved up the land, and the glaciers swept it bare and left boulders as they receded. Rainfall reacted naturally with the limestone to create a mild but determined acid, slowly drilling potholes into the surface. Rainwater cut through weak zones in the rock to create Europe's most extensive system of caves. The beautiful flowers that bloom here are grown on a special soil that's a combination of algae powder, bug parts and bunny turds.

When we got back that evening we checked into the Kinlay House Hostel. This place was magical and like a hotel!!! It's the best hostel we've ever stayed in:) After dinner we set out to check out the local pubs. We first went to An Pucan Pub where we receive a complimentary pint. We watched a little of the soccer match on TV before heading over to the Crane. This place has the best Irish music in town! We stayed for a couple hours to enjoy the spontaneous music before heading back to get to bed.

Sunday was spent looking around the town. Mariel gave us a guided walking tour (since none were going on) with the help of Rick Steves. She was wonderful! We did a little shopping and then caught the bus back to Dublin. Once again, this was the best trip ever!!! Now it's time to put my nose to the grindstone and get some work done because finals are coming up. The only other trip I have planned now is to fly to London on December 2nd to see the Royal Ballet perform the Nutcracker...a life-long dream of mine.

We three friends embark on our journey to the Aran Islands on a ferry boat...

First photo stop on our bicycle ride around Inis Mor of the Aran Islands!

There was no fence so I peered over the edge...thank God I'm still alive!

Crashing waves on the largest Aran Island: Inis Mor

A 300 year old thatched-roof Irish house

The Cliffs of Moher, they are only Ireland's 3rd highest cliffs...I'd hate to peer over the tallest ones!

Dunguaire Castle

Lynch's Castle: Now the Allied Irish Bank, Galway's best late 15th century fortified townhouse was home of the Lynch family, the most powerful of the town's 14 tribes (more than 80 Lynch mayors ruled Galway in the 16th and 17th centuries).

Sea side street in Galway

Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Galway

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