Galway (where the Black Irish roam)

Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Aug 09, 2005

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Monday, July 25, 2005

July 24
This morning was misty, but not rainy and we headed off to Croagh Patrick, the hill where St. Patrick spent 40 days and 40 nights doing something holy. It is now tradition for people to take a pilgrimage up the hill barefoot, and some nice individual has paved the way with pointy rocks and slippery boulders (even though the rest of the hill is grassy and soft). We climbed part of the way up (well shod), but could not go much farther as you are not supposed to climb in the mist. We did see some people attempting the climb barefoot, and the best of luck to them! Nearby is one of the National Famine Memorials, commemorating the Great Famine of the 1840s. After this sobering reminder of the blight we drove through the picturesque Doolough Valley, where 300 people (out of 500) died in a snow storm after walking out to petition their landlord for famine relief. There is now a memorial there as well. After this morning, we all needed a drink and headed to a lovely pub in Connemara. Drinks and scratch tickets cheered us up and we made our way to Leenane, which has a lovely waterfall where scenes from the movie "The Field" with Robert Harris was shot some time ago. (Maybe we shouldn't tell you that the scene shot at the waterfall involved Robert Harris' character cracking Tom Berenger's character's head open and dumping his body in the lake below, or you may think that this was a day revolving around death)! Peace at last was found at Kylemore Abbey (the most photographed place in Ireland), which is now a girl's boarding school still run by nuns. The cost is only about 10,000 euros per year, which we felt was reasonable! Our next stop was lovely Gurteen Bay, which is a glorious sandy beach. We spent some time picking up all sorts of shells that made their way to the beach and generally relaxing in the sand. Ireland has some lovely beaches, though the water is less welcoming than the sand. This nice break from the bus was over too soon as we headed to our last stop of the day, Galway. Galway is an interesting city, where you will find a large concentration of people labelled "Black Irish" from when Spanish sailors crashed during the ill-fated Armada of 1588. Many were executed, but obviously enough survived to leave their imprint on Western Irish genetics. We had dinner in a hopping pub, whose atmosphere improved after they stopped playing AC/DC and had a guitar player step up to the mike. All-in-all a good day.
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