Where Are We?
Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
79Trip End Nov 21, 2006
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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
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
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
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