Where Are We?

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
Trip End Nov 21, 2006

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Flag of United Kingdom  ,
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I was grateful for the opportunity to enjoy Galway on a peaceful Sunday morning. Not grateful so much because I could enjoy it without the distraction of a hangover, but because I had merely survived the experience of my dorm room. The ladder that nearly did me in the night before came much closer to finishing the job in the morning. I did manage to bail in a different direction from which it decided to fall to the ground, and while it didn't kill me it killed the attempts any of my roommates had at sleeping.

Galway, essentially the culture capital of Ireland, is itself a very nice little city. There's a main square where many of the main hotels and a few restaurants are located that spills out of the long pedestrian mall. The mall has cobble-stone streets and is lined with pubs, restaurants and little shops that would all seem very nice if it weren't Sunday and completely shut down. We weren't sure if Sundays were for God or for hangovers but either way Galway on a Sunday morning was a ghost town on par like nothing any of us had seen.

Once it was obvious that a deserted Galway was going to provide nothing in the way of entertainment we decided to clear town to drove through Joyce's Country. Though the land is of absolutely no use and completely unfertile (thus why the English drove the Irish to this part of the country during those nasty colonial years) it made for some nice scenery, especially since we chose to hug the coast for the majority of our drive. The highlight of the drive -- as denoted by our crappy Irish map that noted items of note but made no particular mention as to why they should be noted and makes it impossible to deem if its noteworthy without actually going there -- was the abbey that sits on the lake. The abbey was incidentally my turn to tell the group the legend behind. Adrian, inspired by his recent tour of the Scottish Highlands, had decided that as we toured the country we would rotate making up legends accompanying the sites that we visited along the way. It made for some entertaining, if not completely uneducational, tourism.

After we were done with Joyce's Country it was a matter of picking a suitable spot to spend the night. There was a groundswell of support among the girls to find a campsite, build a fire, and spend the night with a deck of cards and a box of wine or a crate of beer. We started our search in Donegal to take a gander at the castle and find a campsite, but it was shut. We pressed on north and stopped in a couple other small towns that had campsites but they were all shut as well. Something about it being October in Ireland. I guess that's not exactly peak time for camping.

Therefore, the decision was made to scrap our grand plans for solitary fireside drinking and find a hostel in Derry, all the way up on the north coast. Derry (sometimes known as Londonderry) is famous for being the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre -- as in the U2 song 'Sunday Bloody Sunday' -- at the height of the British-Irish conflict in Northern Ireland. We had been driving for a while, darkness had set in, and all of a sudden the highway had come to an end. We had no idea at all where we were so we rolled down the window and asked someone walking by. We thought we were somewhere short of the Ireland-Northern Ireland border, and yet we were informed that we were in Derry. How about that. While I'm in tune enough with the political scene to understand that they might not necessarily have a 'Welcome to Northern Ireland' sign or even a 'Welcome to the United Kingdom' sign. But it would be handy if in some form there was something that stated, 'While you are still technically in Ireland, we would like to inform you that you are now officially in the UK and all speed limit signs are now in miles, not kilometers, and you'll be asked to pay your ticket with British pounds and not euros. Cheers.'

After much confusion, a lot of driving around and numerous stops to ask for directions we finally found our hostel. It was a cozy little place with a nice chilled-out common room, if not much security -- the room door never fully locked. We went our for a cheap fish 'n' chips dinner at a local pub where we immediately noticed the difference between Ireland and the UK. After a few days of enjoying smoke-free bars and restaurants (at least Adrian and I enjoyed it, Kate's a smoker) we were back in the land of smoky public places. After dinner we headed into town to a local pub where we were promised there would be a traditional Irish band. And this is the great thing about Ireland. As backpackers, we generally don't care what day of the week it is when it comes to our decision to go out. It's not as if we have anything to do the next day. But Ireland is the one country where, as far as I can tell, the natives operate just like backpackers and can be found packing into the pubs regardless of it's a work day. Not only was the band a lot of fun, but we were the only non-locals so we garnered a bit of attention. This also meant getting hit on by undesirables, namely two old ladies for me and Adrian and some crazy Irish guy trying to pash Heather. Naturally, we created aliases, so meet Rebeca, Sally, Nate and Chad (me). While the women eventually left us alone, the guy wouldn't, meaning our night would never again be normal. He spent the night calling everybody fat #u%$s and hitting on no one in particular, possibly Adrian but mostly Heather. At one point he challenged Adrian (Nate) to a game of bloody knuckles, entertaining in that he was actually breaking skin while Adrian only pretended to take the game seriously. Once his knuckles were properly fucked, he spent the rest of the night trying to pry Heather's mouth open with his fingers for a kiss. How romantic. We got kicked out (because the pub was closing, naturally) at 1 and on the way home started talking to a girl because she had a cool hat, who announced that she was 'not roasted like, just roasted.' Back at the hostel, Adrian set about convincing yet another Aussie that he was in fact Scottish. Just another night in the life.
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