Ireland Redux, Part One

A friend of mine recently told me that when you get older you have two birthdays. This point comes to mind as I turn back to writing on my blog. This particular post started off as a redux of our “recent” trip to Ireland that we took in May 2016. Close to a year ago now, that trip was not so recent, but it is still worth a few posts starting with our initial few days in Galway City. In some ways it was one of the best vacations that we have taken and also one of the most dramatic.

            Galway City was our initial resting place, but I must begin with our arrival in Dublin. Excited to land and get out on the open road in Irish countryside, we quickly collected our luggage and headed to the car rental office. This is where some advice comes in – if you rent a car in Europe, particularly with Sixt, you need to bring your proof of auto insurance. Despite the fact that we knew this ahead of time, the paperwork we brought with us didn’t satisfy the rental agency and we ended up paying for insurance anyway. Any money we thought we were saving by using this particular company was lost due to this issue. (Plus, they did not have the manpower to accommodate everyone and it took close to 2 hours to get our car.)

            By the time we got in our car, we were hungry and not willing to wait until we arrived in Galway City to eat. This could have been another harrowing experience but for the fact that I had a guide called “Delightful Dublin” that nailed down places to eat all over the city with a review that left you hungry. (I wish I had this guide for every city I visited!!) We had a lovely brunch at Brother Hubbard on Capel Street before making the two-hour car ride to Galway City. Brother Hubbard – a very cool and cozy café – offers a sweet brunch: fresh scones and “spirals” (aka cinnamon rolls) as well as some damn good coffee. I had a tasty dish of eggs menemen, a Turkish dish of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, onions, green peppers and spices.  Yum!

            Upon arriving at our B&B in Galway City, “The Heron’s Rest,” we were met by a lovely staff member who showed us around and had tea and scones waiting for us once we got settled in. Based on her recommendation and the weather forecast, we decided to visit the Aran Islands the next day. The Irish are known for their loquaciousness and this young lady delivered with stories of her family history in the Donegal area and her grandfather’s involvement in the Irish rebellion.

            We had picked an ideally located place to stay. The famed Spanish Arch was within fifty feet of our doorstep and from there you could see the main cobble-stoned street lined with outdoor patios and shops. We were close to the action without being in the middle of it. Our room overlooked the bay where a group of swans lived. On that particular night, given the fact that it was Sunday and the weather was unusually warm, people were out in droves. Locals congregated in groups on the water’s edge an in the open areas sharing a drink and laying out in the sun.

            Our plan for Monday was to take the ferry to the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore, which covers 12 square miles. On the ferry ride over we decided to rent bikes and ride to the other end of the island to see the prehistoric fort, Dun Aengus. Riding along the coast the ocean was our constant companion. The ocean air mixed with the occasional waft of sheep, cows, and horses that were kept in these small plots of land. Each plot was established by a short wall of stone. With the sun shining bright, the exercise of riding bikes actually made me break out in a sweat. I started to doubt my packing skills given the warmth and my lack of warm weather clothing.  

            Arriving at the other end of the island, we dropped off our bikes to make the short uphill trek to Dun Aengus, which sits at the highest point of the island. The waves crashed against the side of the cliff sounding like thunder. Leaning over the cliff’s edge you could take in views that were breathtaking. We also encountered a local border collie that was chasing birds around the site. The dog seemed so happy just running around with the occasional pat on the head from visitors. Watching the happy dog run around brought to mind the idea of living in the moment.

            After making our way back to the bike stand, one of our companions decided to have a heart attack. We didn’t know that’s what was happening when he could no longer stand on his own two feet. Even when asked if he thought he was having a heart attack, he replied with disdain that he was not, but after we started our ferry ride back it became apparent that we needed an ambulance and emergency transport to the nearest hospital. The ferry workers responded immediately and found a doctor on board to assist. As he left us to disembark from the ferry with his family, I asked him what kind of doctor he was back in England. He replied, “A pediatrician.”

            One of the interesting things about travel is learning about other cultures. It teaches you to be open-minded and to embrace that there is more than one way to do things – some good, some bad, and some that are just different. When we arrived at the hospital where our friend had been flown by helicopter, the staff told us he was in the lab. We assumed that meant he was having some tests run, which kept our fear under control a bit. I mean, if they are running tests it can’t be that bad, right? Well, we later learned that the “lab” is the term Irish use for “surgery room.” By the time he was out of the “lab,” we understood that he had been immediately wheeled into surgery and given a stint to open up his severely clogged artery. So, we learned a new term and our friend got to live another day.

            Of course, the remainder of the trip was not what we had planned — our friend would spend the next seven days in the cardiac unit. We finished our stay in Galway City, exploring what the small city had to offer. Once we check out of our lovely B&B, our friend’s wife was graciously permitted to stay in an apartment near the hospital until he was permitted to leave. Despite our protests, we were strongly encouraged to continue the journey as planned, which we did. Next stop, Dingle Town via the Burren and the west coast of Ireland.

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