Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Wicklow, Galway, and Clare

Saturday -- Wicklow Mountains and Galway

Breakfast was another lovely affair... the same Table of Cereals and Cakes was fully laden.  I was about to order one thing from the Menu of Hot Delights when a waiter walked by with a stack of pancakes for another table and I said, "Oooo, I want that!"  And they were DELISH. The pancakes had a slightly different feel to them, a touch crispy on the outside, perhaps like they had been cooked in a bit of butter? They were topped with cream fraiche and fresh berries. Simple but decadent.

After repacking, the lady at the front desk called a "cab" for us... which ended up being a swanky personal car driven by a lovely Irishman. (They're all so nice!) I had no idea where in the airport we were supposed to be dropped off and suggested we could probably figure it out once we got there, but he called the car rental place to figure it out for us.

After checking in at the rental office, it was time to actually pick up our car and head out on the road. In Ireland. Where the cars AND the roads are backwards.

Our first plan was to drive through the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough.

I should rephrase that.

MY first plan was to have JOEL drive through the Wicklow Mountains to Glendalough. If JOEL had known this road was roughly the size of a bike lane, he probably would have made other plans.

It really was beautiful... It's a hardy landscape, all windblown and covered in heather.. and gorgeous. We stopped at the top of a hill to get out and take in the view of a lough down in a valley, and chatted a moment with a local bicyclist who was stopping to catch her breath.

"You can get down there, you know...." she told us. "There's a path that way....  Go on, you'll love it."

So we did.  It was a bit muddy in places, but it was fun, and probably one of the highlights of my day.  Really beautiful and quiet once we got down there.  Later, I looked it up and we were at Lough Bray.

Eventually, we returned to the car and went the rest of the way to Glendalough, where we meandered a bit through the Monastic village there, and then continued along the path up to the Upper Lake. A bit to eat at the cafe, and then circled back to the visitor's center.

From here, we took the 3 hourish journey on to Galway.... At one point, Joel decided he needed a break. SO I DROVE THE CAR. And I didn't crash it, so yay!  Driving on the left hand side of the road isn't so bad. It's driving on the right side of the car.

So eventually, we made it to Galway and checked into our new B&B.  It was run by an older couple, Mary and Patrick. I never did meet Mary, though I can attest to the tastiness of the breakfast she cooks! Patrick was adorable (Older Irishman. I'm not hard to please.).

We walked into Galway and meandered through town. I really liked the vibe of Galway a lot. There was something about the whole busker scene that I just really loved the feel. I would happily spend more time there, just out in the streets.  We stopped and listened to a few different acts... Joel got roped into participating in one. There is video... but I'm not sure it's appropriate for Facebook.  Funny, though!

I popped into a pie shop that I'd heard good things about, ordered a Guinness steak pie, and ate it on the streets... Yum!

SUNDAY -- Co Clare and the Burren

Sunday was our day to drive out to County Clare and do some exploring. We started after breakfast with a trip just a touch north to Claregalway, which I'd read about on a fluke, and the old abbey that's located out there. It was a lovely place...  and it was cool to wander inside. I am mesmerized by these old places that are still standing.

After that, we drove to Kilcolgan and another ruin called Drumacoo... in which I planned badly.  My directions took us out to the middle of nowhere, where you parked in half an alcove and trompled across someone's cow pasture.

Actually, I thought this part was totally fun.

Once we got there (and walked 3/4 of the way around the building to find the door), I discovered there was a parking lot if we'd come at it from the other side. Oops!

After that, I decided Joel could probably use a driving break and we pulled in to Ballyvaughan to visit the craft fair, and then walked down the road to the pier where I met Irish cows in a field. They would not be the first cows I tried to befriend.  For some reason, I feel the need to greet all the livestock I come across..

Next, we drove out to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, which was pretty cool.  It was interesting enough just to see the site of the Dolmen... but it's up there on top of the Burren, which is just the coolest landscape.  I loved hopping around up there on the limestone rocks. What a gorgeous place.

Then, it was off to the Burren Smokehouse where I intended to pick up some smoked salmon... but during the informational video that they played for us, we discovered that they were associated with the pub two doors down. So we helped ourselves to lunch.

The day was getting a bit long by that point, so we drove to Hag's Head and planned to hike up the Cliff path to the Cliffs of Moher, about 3 miles away.  It was a calm day and looked beautiful....  what we didn't realize is that the usual wind keeps the bugs away!  Which were pretty darn awful with no wind...  so we didn't make it all the way to the Cliffs of Moher site.  But the views of the cliffs along the path were just as lovely, so I wasn't disappointed.

We took a long scenic drive along the coast back to Galway and then had a few drinks at a pub on the Salthill Prom before heading back for bed.

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