"Red" Will Danagher
Trip Start Aug 02, 2013
23Trip End Jul 25, 2013
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Where I stayed
Arch House Bed and Breakfast
What I did
Amazing countryside, a local carnival in Ballygar, castles, princesses, dragons! (Well, just castles.) Innisfree!
"He'll regret it till his dying day, if ever he lives that long!"
What a place this land is! I mentioned how "connected" I felt to it when I was in Dublin, but now I don't want to leave! So how can one go about illustrating the sights, sounds, and smells of such an enchanting isle? Some of you have been here before, others only in your dreams. And still some of you know not what to expect, or what you're missing. Such a beautiful island and language. But unfortunately, I have only till 5:00pm to explore it a bit more. I turned in my rental car and I'm finishing breakfast in Dublin -- a good traditional Irish breakfast consisting of toast, sausage, "bacon" (which is in reality what we would call "ham"), pork and beans, and of course, blood pudding (yeah, it's really blood, hardened [I hesitate to say, "coagulated"] with something in it that resembles rice
. . . Nope. Not coming to me. Trying to think of the a supremely clever way of describing my drive through the Irish countryside from Dublin to Ath Luain (that's the Irish for Athlone, a town in smack between the east, Dublin, and Galway in the west (in Gaelic, Gaillimh). Cannot, so insterad I'll just write what comes to mind. Often the funniest things come to me then.
So I set out from Dubby in the early morning, and it was raining a bit with low clouds. The previous evening's unpleasant experience of getting lost trying to find my lodging for last night was magically turned to joy after a decent bed and a great breakfast similar to the one I just described (scabs and all). The rainy, dark weather, though usually against my mantra to enjoy, was actually exciting, and it helped me get into the spirit of adventure as I headed to Athlone. The original plan was to just drop my bags of at my Bed and Breakfast, and then continue on the N4 going towards Galway to explore it for the day. The total trip until Galway should have taken about three hours, minus the half-hour or so I expected detouring to Athlone to drop stuff off
So after getting to Athlone and before dropping my stuff off at a charming three-story B&B, I came upon a magnificent Gothic cathedral that I wanted to stop and check out. An old man walked up and I asked him if he knew where to find Sean Costello Street, which is where my lodging was located. He said he didn't know the area, but was visiting from Cork. I mentioned that I learned from Mom and Aunt Mary that many of my relatives came from there, as Cork and Kerry are evidently where all Sullivans originate, and introduced myself
We already know there are some strange pronunciations to the way things are written in Irish; my own name shows that "S" followed by the vowel "e" produces the "-sh" sound (the same sound is created when "S" precedes "i"). But as for their strange diphthongs, an example is the town name of Galway, as I wrote above. "Galway" is the anglicized way of spelling Gaillimh, and shows how the "-mh" diphthong is pronounced like the "wh-" in "when," and how sounds run together quickly. Thus, the Irish would pronounce the name, "GAH-lihwhi. Confusing as that is, other severely confusing lexical eccentricities include the sounds produced by "-bh" (or rather, no sound at all), "-ao" (which makes a long "-ee" sound, like in the name Aoife [Eva]), and "-ui," or "-oo." Needless to say, when I write something in Gaelic here, I'll do my best to put the phonetic pronunciations as well for your ease in understanding what you would hear (yeah, like I'm sure you'll go around trying to repeat it :)
Anyway, Michael was a delightful old gentleman, and I got myself interviewing him on film. I know it's poppycock, but I didn't think to get a photo with him in it. He was going back to Cork the next morning (yesterday), and I was planning on trying to meet him. Unfortunately, Cork is much further than I thought it would be, and I probably wouldn't have been able to get there and back in time without rushing (something I wasn't keen to doing while on vacation). In retrospect, though I had a fantastic time yesterday, I somewhat regret not having headed down to Cork, to see the Sullivan homeland. Next trip I guess, though I hope Ole' Michaeleen's still around then. Please pray for his wife; he's traveling alone because she past away two months ago. May her soul and all the souls of the faithful departed (particularly beloved Eíreann), through the Mercy of God, rest in peace.
So Athlone was amazing, and I was stoked I was to be going back that evening. In the meantime, I wanted to continue journeying on to Galway, where I had intended on seeing the Cliffs of Moher, along with other charming sites recommended to me by Brian and Kaitlyn, among others. But as I said before, part of traveling means changing plans. I had noticed on a map that the village of Cong was not too far north from Galway, and looking at said map, it seemed I could loop northwards from Athlone through Roscommon, head southwestward to Cong, then south to Galway and back to Athlone by 10pm (last check-in time)
I guess it may have been too fun, because I must have kept missing street signs indicating names of places and routes to take. I'll give credit to the Irish that they were there, although I've seen nothing in this country to indicate that logical things to post on roads are actually posted. Anyhoo, I'm glad I did miss the signs that weren't there. Instead, I had a great time racing through the countryside, when lo! and behold, I ran smack into a town carnival (figuratively-speaking; I didn't actually run over any people)
So now I've been driving for much longer than I had originally thought I would be, and I'm glad I did. 'Twas only about another hour till I got to Cong -- or so I thought.
One not fun thing about speeding through the skinny streets of any foreign place is the fact that the locals -- country folk or city rats -- know the area well enough to not need signs. And maps are somewhat inaccurate. And as I mentioned before, I had no GPS or internet, so I was left on my own (I already told you about how Irish folk give directions the way they design streets: indirect, and full of roundabouts). Thus, to summarize, Cong was much, much more out of reach than I anticipated it. So now I'm lost in a maze trying to find Cong, but not stressing too much: every experience is in some way a good experience when you're traveling (it had better be for the amount of money it cost you). And in the end, I finally got to Cong! The first striking thing about it is that at the T-intersection at which you could turn right to get to Cong, there's a castle! Beautiful and magnificent, this edifice welcomes you to the ficitional town of Innisfree from "The Quiet Man," and it sure is eery and beautiful like the movie depicts it
Cong features things in the movie I don't recall seeing in your and Erin's pictures, and I was delighted to have a Guinness in the Pat Cohan Bar, dinner in a restaurant called "Danaghers," see the church and Fr. Lonerghan's thatched-roofed house, and the part of the river where they fall in and where MaryKate speaks to father in Gaelic as he's fishing. You guys would have loved it! It was completely charming and picturesque, with monumental features that surprised me. Next to the latter part of the river was an enormous castle! Another one! Incredible, and green, green, green. I was very delighted to go there, and even though the lamb I had at Danagher's was only slightly disappointing, everything was like a storybook -- or a movie starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.
It was all amazing, and I wish you could all be here. I spent much of the day wandering around Cong, and wouldn't you know it, I completely missed seeing Galway. On the way back to Athlone to crash for the night, I began planning the next day: south to Cork, then Galway in the afternoon, then back to Athlone. But as I said, Cork was too far, and shifting gears in a manual on the wrong -- I mean, "different" -- side all day long began taking its toll on me poor humble neck. So the next day wouldn't see Cork or even Galway, but I'll cover all that later. Till then, hope you enjoy and comment on all the pictures. Let's start a convo! Love you all!
Oh, just wanted to throw a huge "thank you" out there to Brian and Dan, Colleen, Aunt Mary, Mom, MarkyKate and you others who have left messages on here or sent me emails