Monday, October 29, 2001

Last Day in Galway

Last Day in Galway

This was our last day in Galway. We bus off to Dublin once again tomorrow now that the Bank holiday and the national marathon is over with. We booked our B & B at the Dublin Tourist Office before leaving so that we had direction once we go off of the bus.

Today, we occupied our time by taking another Lally tour. For you future travelers, their web site is . Since we had taken their tour on Saturday, we received a one-pound discount each. Normal fare is fourteen pounds for younger people and our senior friends as well as students receive a discount bringing their fare to eleven pounds, fifty.

Today was the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. The tour bus was supposed to pick us up at the B & B at 8:50 am, but did not turn up until 9:20 am. It usually would not be a problem, but it was very windy out today and being across the street from the Bay, it makes it feel worse; the wind chill factor is heightened. When the bus arrived, they brought us to the Lally station, which is across the street from the Tourist office. They don’t leave there until 10:10, so a ‘full day tour’ is a misnomer.

The seats on the bus were the most cramped we had ever experienced. Poor Ron had to keep his knees up to his chest most of the day. There was no room for long legs. Well when you travel in countries with short people, what can you expect? I had to fold my legs under the seat in order to survive the seats. Half way through the day, we switched. The aisles were so narrow; you could not spread your legs into the aisle without having the back of the seat digging into your back.

One of the things that we are learning about Irish tours, at least in the Galway area is that the brochures are very misleading. The brochures lead you to believe that you will be stopping at a number of sights along the way during the day. The truth is that since the roads are so narrow and in some areas poorly developed, the bus only drives by and you get a look. For example, the brochure advertises that we will stop at a number of picture stops including the Poulnabrone Dolmen. This is a 5,000-year-old megalithic burial tomb. We passed by it as the driver explained that it is on private land owned by a farmer. Last year, a woman from a tour walked out to the tomb and fell. She sued the farmer, who has a ‘No Trespassing’ sign on the gate. Since he does not have insurance, he was out of pocket for the expense that never should have happened. Returning to the tomb, it is two giant upright rocks with a two ton rock crossing over the two of them. Professors of Archeology at the University of Galway, found the remains of a man, woman, and two children that were carbon-dated to 5, 000 years ago. Nothing else is known about them.

A second example is where the literature states that we will visit places such as Doolin. This is the home of traditional Irish music. The driver/tour guide explained that this is the city where every man, woman, and child is involved in Irish music and instruments. They have music camps here for those that are interested in learning more. We drove through the town and did not even stop for a traffic light. We were told that if this was one of our interests, to be sure and return to this town. Pardon me, but isn’t this the reason we are taking a tour and not renting a car?

We had three actual stops, but one was only a tea or coffee stop with a restroom. The pub where we first stopped had a fire roaring in the fireplace so it was a cozy place to curl up for a stretch. For the second stop, we found ourselves at the Cliffs of Moher, one of the primary reasons for taking the tour. The cliffs are over six hundred and sixty feet above the ocean. The driver warned us repeatedly not to go near the cliff. He said there are rock fences that we will be safe and secure if we do not go beyond them. He warned that every year people die by taking risks trying to see over the edge. The winds pick up and stop suddenly and without warning. At one moment you feel like the wind is supporting you and then it stops and you are falling toward your last dip in the ocean ever. There is a paved path to the right and a dirt path to the left. We were told that the path to the left was private land and we were not to use that path. That side did not have security fences either. The right path was to the right. There were signs in six languages with warnings all along the path, not to go beyond the security walls. There were at least two dozen people that were over the walls and crawling to the edge. I was waiting to see a catastrophe happen while we were there.

To climb to the highest point where the look out point is, you follow a cement pathway. The wind was so severe, any wrinkles we once had were blown off of our faces. Our hair is now a half inch longer than when we started. The wind was so strong, it pulled our hair out of our scalps. One little girl literally flew away and landed on the grass. She thought it was fun, but her parents didn’t.

The cliffs cut out into the ocean in five different areas. Each cliff is rich in green grass on the top layer, but from the observation area, you are able to see the layers of earth all of the way down to the ocean. These would be a geologists dream. In spite of the height of the cliffs, the wind is so strong that the water comes over the wall on the path. It is a beautiful sight and was worth the trip just to see this. Our lunch break was at the little restaurant here. It is a tiny little thing that can only handle about fifty people at a time. The tour bus clients have to take turns going in to be served.

We passed by a number of building remnants that were identified as castles, but the guide stated that they were build in the 16th and 17th centuries by wealthy families who still own them many generations later. None of them were acknowledged as castles of royalty and not one is currently habitable.

The Alliwee Cave was our last stop before returning. There are over 3,000 caves in Ireland, but this is the only cave that is open to the public. The cave tour was not included in the tour and cost three pounds seventy-five with the group discount. It was purported to be the most incredible sight that we could see with incredible colors of stalagmites and stalactites. We chose to do the tour. A farmer who followed his dog who was chasing a rabbit founded the cave in 1949. It was not until 1976 that the cave was established as a tourist sight and now hosts hundreds of thousands of people a year. Inside the cave, they found bones of bears that they can date back over 2,000 years ago. There is what they call a bear bed. It is a hollowed out area that a bear would dig out in order to hibernate. The bears in Ireland were no larger than a goat and were hunted to extinction over 1,000 years ago. The inside of the cave, the temperature remains a constant ten degrees Celsius or fifty degrees Fahrenheit.

There were some areas that were claustrophobic and I had remembrances of climbing through the caves in Turkey, last year. The difference being this time, it was a guided tour and we knew we were safe. As Ron stated later, the caves in California with major stalagmites and stalactites have jaded us. The few they have in this cave were tiny little things.

One photo stop on the way back to Galway was the Dunguaire Castle. They still hold medieval fairs and parties there during the summer. One town we passed, but did not stop is a highlight for those that need a date for Saturday nights. This town has a yearly festival dedicated to Matchmaking. It started over a hundred years ago, when farmers would come down from the hills and allow themselves one month from September 5th to October 5th to find a wife. If they did not succeed, they went back home for another year. This tradition is still in vogue today and this town has a full-time yenta or professional matchmaker, who happens to be a man. Surprise!

Basically, this tour was drive, drive, drive, stop, drive, drive, and drive some more. If you like sitting on a bus and watch the sights pass you by, these tours are wonderful. Those of us you are tactile and more active, we want to get more involved in our sightseeing, so there is some disappointment, but live and learn.

In retrospect, we agree that we are not sorry to have come to this area for a week’s time. The sights were interesting. We never saw so much rock in all of our travels of any other country. There are miles and miles of rock covered ground in any direction you look. The places where you see grass cannot be cultivated due to the soil being so thin. Under the thin layer of soil, there is more rock that is not visible.

On a different note, shortly after arriving in Galway, I had this thought that my tasting problem may have been caused by a sensitivity to the toothpaste I was using. For the last four weeks, I was using Rembrandt toothpaste with peroxide. Was it the peroxide that was killing off my taste buds? I switched to McLeans, an Irish brand and have been using that for almost a week now. It is with sadness that I report that nothing has changed, which means that the nasal spray has not had any positive consequence either, though the nasal drip is gone. What confuses me is that my sense of smell is so acute. The only satisfaction I am able to get from food is from smelling it, but the enjoyment ends there. I am ready to try Acupuncture, Reiki, Spiritual Healing, or a Witches Brew. Fortunately, we are taking vitamins everyday, because I don’t think all of my nutritional needs are being met from the little food I am eating. If this continues I will not mind wearing a swimsuit in public, but we will need to find a heated pool first. Just my luck; right body, wrong season.

A couple of times this week, I have noticed people walking up to others and greeting them, then exclaiming how good it was to see them and how it had been so long. The first time I noticed it, I had a twinge that friends and acquaintances can bump into each other in the street. The second time I was envious. Ron and I are with each other twenty-four seven, but it would be so pleasant to run into someone we had not seen in awhile. Fortunately, that happened in London with Nick and Yolande and then again with Anne and Bruce, but there are so many faces from the recent and not so recent past that I would love to run into and share a moment. I think this is why I started dreaming about some of you the last few nights. The dreams were not spectacular and not in any order, but different faces come in and out of the dreams assuring my waking up is filled with a sense of warmth and familiarity that I am missing. It is over two months since we left California and well over a month since we left New Jersey. Although I was ready to make changes, I don’t think I was as prepared for the loss of camaraderie as I may have thought I was. New cities, new sights provide an inordinate amount of interest to the day, sometimes just a simple distraction and most of the time an escapade, but it is less meaningful when you don’t have people with whom to repeat the stories and show the pictures. I have taken fewer pictures on this trip than I have ever done in the past. We don’t want to cart the pictures around and there are few people to share them with anyway. Do I wish we were back in Modesto? Not for a red hot minute! Do I wish some of you where here to share the experience? Every day!

We get bits and pieces on the news about the Anthrax scares and today we heard about the recent related deaths. It is unbelievable that a country the size of the U.S. cannot track down were it is coming from. We heard that the embassy in Peru had an envelope with Anthrax. Why pick a country like Peru? That seems so strange. The most upsetting news was the televised press conference by Ashcroft about the government knowing that there will be another strike in the next week, but they don’t know more details than that. It seems to us that this is another time that the government knows more than what is being shared with the public. How can they possibly know that much and not know more. The fact that a small group of terrorists with outdated weapons can cause this much grief and fear in the “greatest nation of all” should be a humbling experience for every citizen. From what we have seen of Bush and heard him speak, it has not been very impressive or reassuring. Just about every church and other organizations here have fundraisers going on for the victims of Afghanistan. As much empathy as I have for the innocent people that are suffering, I cannot help but wonder if they will ever see any of the aid that the money produces. We read reports that the government and other entrepreneurs were collecting the ‘yellow care packages’ that the U.S. has drop shipped into the country and then turned around and sell it to the people at the open air markets. I am glad we are here at the moment, but I fear for all of you that are there in the States. If they are targeting Peru, then regardless of where you are in the States, it is a potential target.

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