Friday, July 04, 2008

Ireland Day Six -- County Clare

Today we left Galway and pretty quickly headed south for County Clare. We hugged the sea along the wee coastal road, stopping at Blackhead. From Blackhead, you have excellent views of the Arran Islands to the west and Connemara to the north, where we were touring yesterday.

Driving just a bit further down the coast, we arrived at Fanore, where they have lovely beaches. This time, I wasn't going to miss a swim in the water, so we changed into our bathing suits and jumped into the water. The kids and I all played for nearly an hour, until Ronan stepped on a weaverfish. Weaverfish are these insidious little creatures that lay submerged in the sand, until little tender feet land upon their sharp spikes, causing great pain.

Eventually, Ronan recovered, and the whole time we were oblivious to his plight. We all played blissfully unaware of the whole incident.

After Fanore, we explored some ruined ring forts along the road, being very careful not to twist ankles in the craggy ground. The ground by the sea was covered in buttercups, daisies, and wild geraniums... simply gorgeous!

After about 35 km of driving, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher--one of the must-see sights in all of Ireland. Frank Delaney describes the Cliffs as "earth that was sliced by the glacial ice, as a cake is sliced with a knife." It does indeed look as though someone has simply sliced away a huge chunk of earth here. Gorgeous beauty, but extremely treacherous. Our group stayed well back from the edge, though there were many who wander out onto the remote points of the cliffs, despite the dire warnings not to.

Most people that have seen the movie The Princess Bride will remember the "Cliffs of Insanity." That scene was shot here at Moher. I was just waiting to see the Dread Pirate Roberts show up. Inconceivable!!

Later in the day, we arrived in Doolin, eating seafood for dinner at Fitzgeralds. The steamed mussels were excellent, and paired with a tossed salad, it was the perfect combination after the greasy fish and chips from previous days.

After supper, we checked into our room for the night at the gorgeous Atlantic View B&B in Doolin. This inn sits right across the pier from the north face of the Cliffs of Moher, with a striking view of the cliffs and the sea from our bedroom. The rooms are large and clean, and the bathroom even had a bidet, which puzzled the boys for a while. (I warned Eddie not to go poop in it... a warning I never got when I was his age.)

In the evening, we had arranged with the owner of the B&B to get us a babysitter for the boys. At eight o'clock, a lovely girl named Tara arrived to keep an eye on the boys, read them a story, and see them to bed, while Becky and I met Sharon and Desi down at the pubs in Doolin.

Poobin' in Doolin! Hooray!

The most central pub in Doolin is Gus O'Connor's Pub, located right downtown. Doolin is a tiny town, so you cannot miss it. O'Connors is right after the one-lane bridge into town.

Doolin is famous for its traditional music, and the fellows in the bar did a fine job of entertaining us. My one run-in with the culture came when I tried to order a Bushmills "Black Bush" whiskey from the bartender.

Approaching the bar, I asked, "Do you have a black bush?"

He cracked into a smile, and I realized that it was rather a personal question.

The four of us grown-ups drank a bit, listened to the music, and enjoyed each others company until just about midnight, when it was time to return home, pay our babysitter, driver her home, and get to bed.

I was in no shape to drive our babysitter home, so the task naturally fell to Becky. Becky asked Tara if she would like a ride home.

Tara replied, "Oh, that'd be great, or I can take a cab," she offered.

"No, no," Becky insisted, "I will drive you."

So, off they went. Mind you, Becky hadn't driven at all in Ireland up to this point--this would be her first time on the left. And it was dark.

All of this concerned me greatly. So greatly, in fact, that it took me over sixty seconds to fall soundly asleep and begin snoring.

As Becky and Tara got into the car, Tara asked Becky, "So, have you ever been to Lisdoonvarna?"

"Uh, no, but I guess I will now."

Lisdoonvarna is about 10 km from Doolin and proved no real chore--Becky had Tara there to guide her every step of the way. But on the way back, she had to rely solely upon her memory. More challenging, in fact, was the narrow country road, barely wider than a car-width and bracketed on each side by tall hedgerows. As Becky would round blind corners on the road, her headlights would fall upon late night pub-crawlers pressing themselves deep into the hedges--so as not to be hit by her side mirrors.

Ultimately, she arrived back shortly after midnight, only making one or two wrong turns. (All roads west lead to Doolin, if you drive off the cliffs, you've gone too far.)

I was truly amazed that she made it back in one piece. (Though apparently not amazed enough to have waited up for her.)

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