(it's been awhile since I posted due to poor Internet, but here are the events of the last few days)
After a surprisingly good night sleep in a room with 10 other people, ranging from Finland, the USA, and France, we woke up at 8 ready for our first full day in Galway. Today is one of the days that I have been looking forward to the most since I decided to take this trip; touring the Cliffs of Moher. Everyone that I have talked to that has been to the cliffs say it is amazing. I get worried when people say that because I don't want it to be a let down after all the build up. We were planning on taking a tour with Joe and Rae so we all met in the lobby of the hostel and made our way down to the train station. Casey and I had gone out, after we got ready, to a little market in Quay street to get some food before the tour. They have these ham and cheese loaves o' bread that are amazing. It's bit of ham and cheese cooked in to a plate sized loaf for only 2.50 euro. Oh yeah. So back to the tour. We arrived at the bus stop and to our dismay realized that Casey and I had signed up for a different tour company than had Rae and Joe. Terrible! Thankfully Erin showed up and was on our tour. John was the name of our guide. Older chap with the a quick wit and hilarious sense of humor. I think things are funnier when said in a dry Irish accent. So as we made our way out of Galway city, John would tell us facts about the economic boom, the Irish Tiger, that had happened and how now Ireland is nearly bankrupt. I had no idea. Our first stop was Dunguaire Castle. Very very cool. It was our first opportunity to get off the bus and actually touch history. Its about time we started seeing castles! The castle was closed and we were not allowed in to the court yard to my great disappointment. The castle sits right on the edge of the bay but I can't remember the history behind it. Since it wasn't open I took some great panoramic shots. After only ten minutes we had to be back on the bus and I knew right then that I would have to come back to Ireland and rent a car. How in the world can you really appreciate history in a rushed ten minutes? I need to touch and breathe the history. I need to sit there with my eyes close and picture battles and people living there without tourists jostling for pictures! Yes, I count myself apart from the throng. We then headed around Galway Bay down the coast toward the cliffs. In Ireland, to see ruins and castles, all you have to do is look out the window. They are everywhere. This brings me to reason number two for needed to come back and tour in my own car. We passed a ruined Abbey and I felt my heart jump out of my chest and smack up against the window. I'm dying here! John informs us that the Abbey would have been a popular site in the region where monks would have come to study and teach, and we pass right by. My eyes are bulging out of my head trying to soak it in as we pass. I'm seriously contemplating jumping off the bus! Further down the road we drive by a castle that was built by the O'Niell family, one of the most prolific tribes in all of Irish history. I stared at it until it was out of view because of this darn Non Stopping Bus! Finally on to the cliffs.
I noticed that my anticipation had been building the whole day for this. I sure hoped they would live up to the hype. When we got off the bus I noticed I was already way ahead of Casey and couldn't slow down! The cliffs just loom up in to view as you get closer to the edge. I remember just thinking "whoa". As we walked closer there was a guy playing the penny whistle with his hat out. It's impossible to be irritated by street performers because they are all amazingly talented. As you get ever closer to the ledge the cliffs grow and grow. I hate to say that my first look at the cliffs was underwhelming. The reason being is that the view you first see is the exact view I've been seeing on the Internet for months. Here though, is the magic of the cliffs. The more you walk around and see different angles, the more your awe and humility grow. At this point I had been planning to give myself a "moment" at the cliffs. I pulled out my iPod, put on my head phones, and played Paul Cardall's "Redeemer". I hate to admit this and be vulnerable, but I tear up just recalling that moment. That song plus watching the waves crash and the birds whirl and absorbing the majesty and size of the cliffs has been one of the most amazing moments. Oh, I forgot to talk about the rock walls that are ALL over Ireland. I remember hearing that the walls were started over 1,000 years ago to divide the lands. As time went on the lands were divided among the children and then among their children and so on. A thousand years if building these walls makes sense because they literally are all over the country. It would have taken that long just to gather all those rocks. They truly are a marvel. No mortar of any kind and the rocks can range from the size of a dinner plate to much bigger. These walls even run up the mountains and over. These people had serious motivation. I figure the reason there are so many green fields of grass and pasture is that they picked up every single rock in the country for the walls. The last site we visited was a 5,000 year old burial ground. I have some picture of these rocks stacked on each other and I can't believe they haven't been pushed over by some dumb group of teens. So perspective: USA = less than 300 years old: Burial ground = 5,000 years old. Need I say more?
Later that evening after a bit of rest we reconnected with Liam, Rae, and Joe. We headed out into the mist filled night in search of dinner. I heard from a canadian fella (whom I only ever saw in the common room at the hostel reading a book. Dude you're in Ireland, go outside) that Finnegan's had a bunch of good food for cheap. It wasn't exactly hard to convince my cohorts to go. I had bangers and mash! Fullest I've been since David fed us in England. From there we go on to the last night of pubs and fun in Galway. We headed to Monroes because we had heard that there was going to be Irish dancing. Instead there were yelling soccer fans watching the game. An experience in itself. There is something much less stinky and dirty about Irish pubs as compared to bars back home. Bars back home are rather depressing to me, whereas Irish pubs are lively and welcoming. We left in search of some music and ended up at the King's Head; live band included. In the spirit if the night I bought myself a pint! No, not a Guinness, but a cider called Bulmers. It's a refreshing little draft that actually reminds me of Arbor Mist. The five of us made our way to the center of of the action by the band who just started playing "Hey Jude". At this point the whole pub began singing along. Are you kidding me? At that moment I absorbed and appreciated the fact that I was in a real Irish pub with a pint, singing along with friends and the Irish!
As I head to bed my heart really begins to sink at the prospect of leaving Galway and the people I've met that have made the experience. It's a terrible and amazing thing to experience Ireland with like-spirited travelers and then have to part, knowing you may never see them again.