Well I wasn’t planning on doing another blog post until I got home, pulled out my laptop which has a real keyboard, and sorted out my who-knows-how-many thousands of pictures I’ve accumulated.
But then I went on a bike ride today, and it was just so beautiful I had to share.
So I’m skipping the Louvre, Paris, Londonx2, Downham Market meeting relatives, and the first 2 weeks of Ireland. We can come back to visit those memories and trips, if you’d like. Let’s just jump to my today…
I’m currently in a town called Letterfrack, a town 2 hours by bus from Galway. Olivia and I split up for a few days, since she wanted more time to see the Cliffs of Moher, and I wanted to see more of the West Coast in our few days before we head back to London. So on Tuesday I took the bus from Dublin, after saying goodbye to my mother who flew out that morning, and got here around 6pm last night. As I was walking down the street looking for my hostel, a man ran up to me and asked if I was looking for the Old Monastery Hostel. Now, everyone in Ireland has been exceedingly helpful, but locals running after you to make sure you know your way? What next?
It actually turned out he was Steven, the owner of the hostel for the last 23 years. He gave me directions then disappeared back into town, probably to the pub. The door to his hostel was open and a sign invited me to make myself welcome. So I plopped my things down next to an unoccupied bed and became friends with a German couple that walked into the door a few minutes later. They had also run into Steven, but they had asked him for directions to a different hostel in town. He’d gave them the directions then added on directions to his hostel.
This place has quite a character – besides the easy going manager, who collects your money whenever you hand it to him. There are stacks of faded paperback books in the dorm rooms, animal skulls and bones around the dining room on the bottom floor, mismatched furniture in the lounge, blue twinkling Christmas lights for the bathroom lighting, and a few peat fires keeping the whole place warm (one is in the bathroom – but don’t worry, there is a loveseat in front of it so you can lounge and enjoy).
A ginger cat named Messieur (sp?) seems to live here, and a random local woman showed up to invite us to music in the pub. No, not traditional Irish music, just 3 locals taking turns starting a tune and the others joining in as they will. Ghost Riders in the Sky, Ring of Fire, and a song called Spaces were a few played. The woman did convince Steven (who was also in the bar, of course) to sing part of “The Rocky Road to Dublin.” I wished I knew more songs, could play the guitar better or at least sing well, as I was reminded that night what a universal language music is. After we walked back through the park, where she stopped and took advantage of the wet grass to let us watch her practice her fire twirling skills.
But I was just going to tell you about my bike ride! :) This morning I rented a bike from Steven and set out to do part of the Connemara loop. I rode past Kylemore Abbey, past hills and peat bogs, sheep fields and large lakes, out to and along the oceanside. It was gorgeously sunny. Wild blackberries, fuschias, roses, ferns, and rhododendrons grew lush by the sides. The road had hills, but I surprised myself by being able to cycle up them. At home I can’t even cycle home from the mailbox. Must be the Irish air. Due to places being closed this season, I didn’t find a place to stop for lunch until three, when I paused at a pub for a huge fish and chips meal – the fish took up half my plate! I relaxed in their windowsill reading “The Princess and the Goblin” by George MacDonald.
After the lunch the road went up and down more, winding along the coast and past homes perched for ocean views. Cars passed me occasionally, and the driver always waved hello. At one spot I stopped to walk onto the beach, and had the entire sandy strip to myself. I could easily read the story of the few prints trailing along, and left my own temporary tale.
I had to walk up hills more at the end, as my legs started to question what in the world I was making them do, but in the end I had biked 40 kilometers and was proud of myself. I made one more stop before the hostel – to balance out all that exercise with a surprisingly large slice of cheesecake and nearly a whole liter of water.
But let my pictures tell the rest – describe half of the beauty, that is. Seriously, you can’t even know. The crazy part is this area is so secluded and untouched.