Posted by: ilanasmith | April 12, 2007

Go Wesht, Life is Peaceful There

Since moving to the Northern Hemisphere, I’ve become much more aware of seasons.
At home, we don’t really do seasons.  For much of my life, the yearly weather change simply alternated between "The Wet" and "The Dry".  Even when I lived in places where the change was more interesting, it wasn’t reinforced by culture the way it is up on the top of the planet.  At home, Easter is in Autumn and Christmas is in Summer.  Cold Christmases are like squirrels and unicorns and mailboxes with flags – they’re something that only happens in books or movies.
It was fascinating to move to Seattle and have daffodils or orange leaves tell me what time of year it was, and to have holidays like July 4th or Halloween backed up by the weather.  And it was fascinating to be in Ireland at Easter and see tiny lambs tottering across green fields.  It’s all so dreadfully damn seasonal.
Back when I was in Ireland at the start of the year, it was deep dark Winter with short days that didn’t let us do much.  We made a plan that I would return in the Spring and we’d venture over to the West Coast for a bit of a look around.
We set out from Dublin last Thursday morning and belted briskly across the country to Galway.  (Being able to cross a nation in a few hours is a tad weird, but convenient.)  The weather was absolutely gorgeous the entire time I was in Ireland: blue skies, bright sun, slight breeze, warm enough (by my newly re-set standards).
There are definitely worse things in the world than cruising across green Irish countryside on a lovely Spring day, eating junk food and singing along loudly and badly to crap 90’s hits.
After lunch and a look at Galway, we set off for the Connemarra and a night in Clifden.  Conditioned for green hills and trees, the west side of Ireland is surprising.  It’s bare and bleak and rocky, but quite beautiful in its own way.
On Friday, we caught the ferry over to Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands.  The Aran Islands are quite literally hunks of rock in Galway Bay.  What arable land there is has been created by hauling up sand and seaweed, and the islands are criss-crossed with hundreds of miles of stone walls.  We stayed quite near Dun Aengus, a fascinating Bronze Age fort perched high on a cliff.
The primary methods of getting around the island are mini-bus, horse-drawn carriage and bicycle.  We tried the first and the third.  I hadn’t been on a bike in 10 years, so that was a bit interesting, but it really is kinda like…well, you know.  It did lead directly to the refrain for the rest of the trip though – "My bum hurts".
On Friday evening, we rode the half hour trip from our B&B to the town of Kilronen for dinner.  It was Good Friday, most places were shut and it took a while for us to get fed.  By the time we were finished, it was pitch dark.  We rode back anyway.
Mark had a tiny dim little climbing headlamp, but it was still fairly terrifying.  We couldn’t see a thing.  The chances of riding directly into a limestone wall or (because we were terribly smart and took the flatter coast road) Galway Bay should not be underestimated.
But we survived to spend the next few days visiting The Burren, the Cliffs of Moher (or, as they’re known to the rest of us, the Cliffs of Insanity), the Ring of Kerry, the cute little city of Cork and the Rock of Cashel.

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