Saturday, October 27, 2001

Connemara Tour

Connemara Tour

The Lally tour company very efficiently picked us up on the street in front of the B & B at 9:20 am this morning. We were the only ones on a full size bus as we drove around the city and through a coal yard, back to the Lally garage. We had to wait until 10:20 for the bus to leave and by that time, it was quite full. Alan our driver and tour guide was an older, wiry Irish man with a good sense of humor. He normally conducts tours of seven and ten day durations all over Ireland, but the season for that is over. He tried cramming our heads with all of that information in a matter of five hours.

Alan explained that Galway is the youngest city in Ireland. Sixty percent of the population is under twenty-five years of age. It is the fastest growing city in Europe and the second most expensive. Small homes are selling for over two hundred thousand pounds. The area is growing due to Information Technology, healthcare equipment manufacture, and tourism. He also said that the number of pub liquor licenses within Ireland is limited and no more are being issued. In order to open a pub, one has to wait for another pub to close and buy their license. The last license and only the license sold for four hundred thousand pounds.

This country is filled with rock. So far everywhere we have gone today, there is rock instead of soil. Rock fences are everywhere out necessity. There is little room for farming due to the rock that has to be cleared first. Potatoes are grown on ridges to allow for drainage.

As we drove through Connemara, this beautiful area with hills and mountains on one side, a beautiful rainbow appeared through out the sky. It was the largest and most radiant rainbow either of us had ever seen. Magnificent!! For the first two hours of the tour, rainbows appeared everywhere. Some rainbows were just patches between openings in clouds. With all of the rain, what grass there is is able to stay green for longer periods of time. Alan said that it is not uncommon for it to start raining in early December and not stop until the end of March, continuously. Due to this, there is a lot of depression in the area and some families just cannot make a go of it and leave. The positive is that artists, writers, sculptures, musicians that live in Ireland pay no income tax at all and many locate in the Commemara area due to its beauty.

One of the big crops in this area is the peat bog. Peat, which takes 10,000 years to develop, is cultivated, dried and used as fire fuel. Alan said that in this day, it should no longer be used since when it is used up, there is no way of renewing it. Other fuels are readily available.

Our first stop was the only fjord in Ireland. The scenery was beautiful. We passed by some of the scenery where “The Quiet Man” was filmed, though most of it was in the Aran Island. We had a number of photo opportunities along the way.

Our lunch break was at Kylemore Abbey. This was once a 19th century castle that was bought for 400,000 pounds by Benedictine nuns and part of it is now used as a private girls school. This complex is the largest employer in Connemara. They run a large gift shop and cafeteria, besides the school and charging admission to the Abbey. The castle and the church are both created in a neo-gothic style. The church is small and has been restored within the last five years. Outside the church is a small graveyard for the sisters that have passed on to their rewards.

The Connemara pony is also from this area. They are ponies that are strong and sturdy and have a high level of endurance. There is an International Society of Connemara Ponies and each one born is DNA typed to make sure that their lineage is not mingled with other breeds of ponies or horses. Some Connemara ponies sell for as much as twenty thousand pounds. We passed a number of sheep grazing on the mountains and each had a dye marking on their back. Alan explained that each dye mark was like a branding. Some mountains are owned by up to three families and this is how they keep track of which sheep belongs to which family. As well when they let loose a ram in the breeding season; they coat him with a dye as well. When they find his dye color on the ewes, they know which he has mated with and which family owes what for the stud services.

One of the interesting things about Ireland is that there are about seventeen areas where only Gaelic is spoken. Alan explained that to the Irish the language is called Irish, not Gaelic. In these Irish-speaking enclaves, the government gives each school child one hundred pounds a year for attending school. Businesses in these enclaves receive a major tax incentive for creating more jobs.

Tonight we expected to see signs of Halloween. In Scotland and Wales, the celebrations for adults were happening tonight due to the weekend. There was nothing to show evidence of this happening in Galway. We went to Fat Freddies restaurant after returning from the tour. While we were waiting for a table though, the host suggested we go across the street to the Spanish Bar for a beer. He said he would come find us when a table was ready. When we entered, there were eight men with eight different instruments playing traditional Irish music. It was delightful to watch and listen to. I took my dinner in a doggie bag.

The clocks go back here an hour at 1:00 am, an hour earlier than at home. That means an extra hour of sleep is coming our way. There is not much planned for tomorrow, so it should be a relaxing day.

Don’t forget to send in your suggestion for the “Name My Computer” contest.

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