August 6 2011 Trip: Day 4 Ireland — The Aran Islands Part 3

So, you may be wondering from whence this ability to blog several times a week comes? How am I finding the time to write so much?

Glad you asked. I have bronchitis. Somehow, in forty years of getting nearly every disease known to mankind, I have avoided this illness. But two days before we flew home, I awoke in the night with a severe sore throat. By the time we got on the plane, I was a miserable ball of snot. I have never had such a wet cold, with such gross snorking and sneezing and honking. Within a day of arriving home, the horrible hacking-till-I-throw-up cough began. Finally, I went to the ER yesterday at the advice of my doc, who wanted to be sure I could get a chest x-ray if necessary. No need, but oh my, am I sick! I haven’t been this exhausted since I had pig flu two years ago. I literally can’t get up off the couch for more than a few moments without getting dizzy and weak. Yet my brain is perfectly active and normal. So here I am, blogging away. My fingers are very tired, though, I assure you.

Anyway… the Aran Islands. Warning: there is really no reason for this entry to exist except to show off how glorious this region of the world is. I wasn’t even on a bike much. But oh, how lovely it was! And c’mon, how often do you get a personal tour of half a mile of Inishmore?

Unlike much of Ireland, the Aran Islands (and the Connemara region) are a Gaeltacht area, where Gaelic is recognized as the primary language spoken. Whether or not this is actually true of most of the population is debatable these days, but the signs posted are only in Gaelic. Since I wasn’t driving, this was perfectly fine with me!

This sign is for the cultural center, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just liked the sign itself.

After revisiting the town center to check on the morning’s ferry, my Co-Worker and I headed back toward the hostel. We had already passed this way once, and I had noticed a run-down old tavern on our route. This time, I also noticed the chickens living in the tavern. I stopped to take a picture, and my Co-Worker continued on to the hostel to text his wife and relax.

Hey, is that a Campy cassette on that thing?

The chickens had managed to peck a sizable space under the door, and the babies slipped in and out of the building as the mothers clucked nearby.

It was a rather lavish chicken coop, I must say!

I watched the chickens for a few minutes, munching on a peanut-butter Cliff bar. Before we realized how dare-tee the fecking hostel was, we had booked dinner there. It wasn’t being served until eight. So what to do?

Maybe take a picture of the lacy stone walls silhouetted against the sky?

This is an Aran Islands classic. Right up there with Celtic crosses. Irresistible!

What else? Tiny shrines to the Virgin, you say? Why yes, we have those too.

Perhaps horses standing in front yards? Yeah, I’m cool with that.

He was like a dog, waiting for his master to come home from work. I saw dozens of horses in what would essentially be front yards on this island, and few of them seemed like animals one would ride (though this one does). I got the impression that many folks in Ireland keep horses the way Americans keep cats or dogs, for the pleasure of a pet. The Eldest Girl would be all over us keeping a horse in our front yard, I’m sure, though I suspect our HOA would have issues with it.

When I travel, or in fact most of the time, I don’t spend much time sitting. I can be lazy in the evening after work, but I have a pretty exhausting job. I guess I’m a bit type-A, really. I rode back to the hostel, figuring someone would be up to something interesting. No such luck. The kids were still hanging out and watching videos. My Co-Worker seemed to have been washing his socks and napping. I had no desire to sit on my creepy-crawly bed as long as the sun was still shining. It was time to walk.

Yes, it’s rideblog. I should be on a bike. But frankly, I had ridden enough. Inishmore has a nice coastal road, which my Co-Worker and I had blitzed down earlier. It seemed to me that a slow jaunt alone would allow me to see more of the extraordinary island beaches. Our hostel was a short walk down a twisting side road toward the coast.

See that extraordinary giant red bush? That’s a fushia. Yeah, the flowers you buy in cheap plastic buckets at Home Depot to hang off your porch each summer: only here, they turn into hedges! I realize these are probably not exactly the same variety, but it was rather astonishing to see a basic summer planter flower growing in such vivid abundance.

Having lived in the Northwest, which is a veritable gardener’s paradise, this profusion of domestic flowers growing wild was something new.

Those orange flowers are crocosmia, which I used to grow in my garden at my previous home. Here, they line the roadsides. We saw them in every area through which we traveled. I knew they spread aggressively, but had no idea they could go so completely “native.”

At the coastal road, I turned left and walked until I found a comfy rock wall on which to perch.

The views were spectacular as ever, with the waving golden grasses and blue-gray sea.

Self-portrait? No problem.

The beauty just doesn’t seem real, does it? Of course, I’m referring to the coastline.

The Aran Islands are covered in a network of teeny, tiny walled fields. This little fellow was very curious about me as I strolled by, particularly as I had no problem with talking to him. I have little shame about these things, and he was adorable. Actually, probably she.

Look closely here and you’ll see this calf’s companion, blending nicely with the water trough.

From my seat, I could see a small beach a short distance away. Walking back the way I’d just come, I chanced upon something that at first appeared to me to be a driveway. Well, I thought, surely I couldn’t offend anyone by strolling down their driveway for a few moments.

The light was soft and golden as the sun set. I was now feeling an odd combination of joy and loneliness that was intense enough to move me to action: I called my son. I had to share all this glory with someone! As I stood on the empty country road, surrounded by glittering fields, I felt sort of ridiculous holding a cell phone. Of course, at that exact moment, a local man walking his dog strolled up and gave me a look that clearly said: “fecking Americans and their fecking phones.” Ah well.

My son was thrilled to hear from me, though he didn’t particularly care where I was calling from. He was unimpressed by my blubbery descriptions of the epic beauty by which I was surrounded.

That was okay, though, as I had figured out one important fact: I was on the road to the beach I had seen from my stone wall perch. The light was perfect for taking pretty beach pictures. I’m just going to go for it on this one; here they all are!

How about a final rock-wall-silhouette shot?

When I arrived back at the hostel, the sun was firmly behind a wall of rainy clouds, my Co-Worker was up and perky and the kids were starving. Surprisingly, the dare-tee fecking hostel served us a magnificent dinner, cooked up by their chef, who hails from France. The cherry tomato salad was one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten. Eventually, it was time to retire. I had packed out the day with forts and beaches, deep discussions and loneliness. I could hardly believe my time on the island was over. So much beauty in less than twenty-four hours!

As I was headed upstairs to the bed that was making me itch just thinking about it, my colleague called my attention to one last photographic detail he couldn’t quite capture on his cell phone camera. Not a problem for me!

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Love to ride my bikes!
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3 Responses to August 6 2011 Trip: Day 4 Ireland — The Aran Islands Part 3

  1. Erin B says:

    Now I have to ask… Did you get many bed bug bites on your trip?

  2. rideblog says:

    Erin, I was more worried about fleas. Fortunately, I seem to have escaped unscathed. But there was definitely an “ew” factor there that I haven’t had anywhere I’ve stayed in a long time.

  3. gl. says:

    i love those rock pools on the beach!

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