Trip Start Mar 08, 2013
Trip End Mar 18, 2013

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Flag of Ireland  , Western Ireland,
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

We set out from Limerick toward the coast in the direction of the Cliffs of Moher. The country roads became more narrow and winding along the coast, which seemed thrilling to Rufio and frightening to his passengers. In an hour or so we arrived at the stunning park.

The expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding County Clare from the cliffs, not to mention the beauty of the cliffs themselves were breathtaking. We walked first to O'Brien's Tower for the best vantage point of the jutting cliffs, as well as the Aran Islands. We then trekked along a narrow walkway atop the cliffs to get better views of the Branaunmore sea stack and the puffin and other sea bird colonies. We nervously peered over the open edges along the way, and took a "falling over the edge" photo op along the way. We briefly considered walking all the way out to the ruins on the farthest end of the cliffs, but the day was growing late and we had spent ample time admiring the beauty already. We visited the Atlantic Coast exhibition at the welcome center before we left. As we headed out, Ryan grumbled about the number of other tourists visiting. More on that later...

We took off in the direction of Galway, winding along the narrow roadways of the Burren. The Burren is a geological zone of rolling limestone pavements. Part of the region has been designated a nature reserve, as the area supports rare species of flora and fauna, many of which are found only in that area. We stopped along one of the cliffs to admire the strange landscape, and take in the views of the Cliffs of Moher in the distance. We continued on through County Clare until we reached Galway.

As if the dangerous country roads through the Burren were not tumultuous enough for the driver and his passengers, we arrived in Galway at rush hour without proper directions to the hotel. When we finally navigated our way, Rufio was in desperate need of a good pint to calm his nerves. We changed quickly and set off for dinner and drinks. We walked around for a while, indecisive on what we wanted. We finally settled on the Cellar Bar, where we enjoyed local Galway salmon and other delicious local fare. Although the food was good, the pending Barca football match and the booming drum noises from the cellar below inspired us to set out for a good pub atmosphere. We settled on the King's Head Pub, considered the oldest pub in Galway. The pub was packed with football fans, but we luckily happened upon one small table in the center of the viewing room. We sipped on pints until the end of the match, then headed across the street to Tis Coili, a narrow pub boasting trad music. Patrons crowded around a small band of Irish folk singers seated near the window. We had one pint and enjoyed the music, but the dense crowd was too uncomfortable and so we moved on.

The next bar, the Quays, was much more spacious with two floors of seating and bar area. The band played local favorites including John Denver and Johnny Cash. We found a cozy bench under the staircase where we enjoyed a few pints before moving on to our last stop, the late night Dail Bar. I was overcome by exhaustion, so after one pint we headed toward the hotel. Along the way Rufio found a doner kebab stand, and as is tradition we stopped in for a bite to go. Ryan and Kerin had never tasted such a delight, so we shared our delicacy with them at the hotel.

The next morning Rufio and I led the group, albeit in a roundabout way, to the Pie Maker for a soul warming breakfast of meat pies. When we were warm and full, my first order of business was procuring an original Claddagh ring from T. Dillon and Son. The traditional ring, representing love, friendship and loyalty, was something I had wanted since childhood. I was elated to discover in my trip planning that the ring originated in Galway. It just so happened we stumbled across T. Dillon and Son, arguably the oldest functioning Claddagh manufacturer in Galway and the only bearing the official Irish Assay Office stamp of approval. I noticed the store the day prior, as it bore the initial and last name of one of our good friends back home. After I snapped the picture to post on Facebook for him, I read the inscription which piqued my interest in the store. That morning we walked inside the small artisan's shop and took a look at the selection and the homage to the history of the Claddagh in the back room. I asked the salesclerk to show me some pieces, and after her pitch about the history and authenticity of the rings I was sold. While it was a high price for silver, it only cost 10 euro more than the "replica" dealers were charging, so I made my purchase. Kerin followed suit.

With my shiny new ring in hand we continued on through Shop Street. Our goal was to visit the few historical sights in the city center during the afternoon, and as such our first stop was the Spanish Arch. Adjacent to the remnants of the arches was the Galway City Museum. I implored the group to check if admission was free and they consented. Free of charge we spent a little while learning about Galway history from the Stone Age through the Great War, as well as visiting an exhibit of the lesser known Jack Yeats, brother of W.B. . I managed to charm my way into getting a free book about the Galway textile industry before we ventured down the river. Along the way we cringed as we watched novice kayakers flip into the freezing water during an excercise near the lock. We stopped in at St. Nicholaus Cathedral where a handful of believers were practicing adoration during the Lenten season. Rufio lit a candle and said a prayer for some friends and family in need while the rest of us admired the expansive cathedral and beautiful stained glass. We doubled back to then see the less grandiose St. Nicholaus collegiate church.

Bouts of sun showers were beginning to pass overhead, and I insisted upon finding a wool cap to cover my hair. We darted in and out of boutiques and the ever-present Dunnes department store for a while, each of us procuring souvenirs and warm gear along the way. The afternoon had grown late and as such the group decided it was high time for our first pints. We stopped in to the bright hued Tigh Neachtains for pints, and so began our pre-pub crawl pub crawl. Our next stop was Sonny's Public House on the way back toward the hotel. In Eyre Square we previously noticed a sign advertising a nightly official pub crawl, so we stopped at the Skeff Bar at Skeffington Hotel to have a pint and ask the bartenders about the crawl. After hearing the pub lineup on the agenda we decided we could enact a better itinerary on our own. With that we went back to the hotel to get ready for the evening.

After our showers a very hungry Ryan was eager to set out in search of dinner. The Catholics in the room, however, insisted on sitting squarely in front of the 10" box TV to await the announcement of the new Pope. After a solid rant from Ryan and finally the announcement of Francis, our hungry crew made way for the night. We wandered for a shorter distance this night, although we were entirely unsure of where we were going when we left. All I knew was that I wanted the fabled Galway seafood chowder. Luckily we found Blake's Bar in a timely manner, just as the night's football match commenced. We ate a hearty chowder and west coast seafood board meal and stayed for the duration of the match.

Our next pub stop was very clearly a bookmaker bar. As it turns out, bookmakers do not bind leather covered James Joyce classics, as one might imagine. I finally ordered a Redbreast whiskey while the others enjoyed their pints. We moved to the next pub, Murphy's, which also boasted an older male crowd placing their bets. We stopped in for one last pint at Garavan's before turning in for the night. On the walk home we were able to relive college memories as we watched hordes of university students pile into the late night clubs amid the bartering of promoters handing out admission bands for 3 euro.The rest of the way we reminisced about our younger days before collapsing into our beds.

Cliffs of Moher

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