Day 11: Galway, Connemara National Park, and a Dear Abbey

October 12, 2010 18:14 – 18:14

We spent most of today west of Galway, as we headed towards Connemara National Park and the Kylemore Abbey. There was lots of beautiful scenery along the way—once the fog lifted.

We got away shortly after 11 this morning, after wresting with the internet. I finally figured out how to assign my €10 credit to the borrowed wireless broadband USB. And I used “broadband” advisedly, since the connection is only marginally faster than dialup. Rather than having general Wi-Fi or wired internet, this place hands out USB broadband modems. It’s then up to us to go to the store & buy credit for the account, and figure out how to top off the modem, and allocate the credit for broadband usage. It’s a pretty complicated and unintuitive process, in my opinion, but I did manage to figure it out for the O3 modem. On the O2 modem Karen’s using, it was a bit more difficult. It took our host 45 minutes on his cell phone to get it straightened out. No amount of figuring out would’ve helped, since we needed his password and he had forgotten it. Our next place — a cottage near Belfast — is supposed to have more conventional internet access. So, hopefully, it won’t require jumping through hoops.

On to more scenic activities. Driving west, we encountered lots of fog—and I think I learned how to use the fog lights in our rented Toyota Avensis. En route, we stopped for petrol at a place that advertised Tim Horton’s, of all things. It made me a little homesick for Canada.

Back on the road, our first scenic stop was on the road between Oughterard and Clifden, in an area known for its vistas of the 12 bens (mountains). When I stopped, I hadn’t yet noticed these Connemara ponies!

Right next to where we parked, we also saw this sign, which I’m guessing doesn’t mean “Teach your children not to write graffiti on signs.”

Damn. We’ll miss Sea Week.

Oh, and there were views of mountains, and rolling fog. I actually took a video of the rolling fog, but my connection’s too slow to post it. Maybe from our next lodgings if the connection is fast enough.

About five minutes earlier, we had been in fog so thick it was impossible to see more than 20 metres ahead. Then—boom! It was mostly gone, and the sun made an appearance.

Back on the road, our next stop was in Clifden, for lunch. Driving along the main road through town, we decided to park and walk to try to find something. After checking several menus, we settled on this place, EJ Kings:

We both chose the Irish lamb stew—which was freshly made and delicious. Karen had a pint of Stella, and I had a half pint (driving, you know). Afterward, I took a few more pictures of the area around the square where the pub lives.

And, of course, the obligatory random mid-bally sculpture:

We interrupt this blog…

We’ve been fighting with the dryer in the apartment all night trying to get Karen’s clothes dry. It kept flashing the message “Empty Tank.” We thought that might mean that it believed the drying drum was empty. After downloading the manual (don’t you love the internet), I found out that this kind of dryer doesn’t have an exhaust hose. Instead, moisture extracted from clothes gets collected in the “water reservoir.” And so the message was telling me it needed to be emptied. After performing that chore, we’re back in the drying business.

Back to the trip…

After leaving Clifden, we headed for Connemara National Park, about 8 km away.

Arriving at the visitor center car park, our first view was this:

It’s one of the 12 bens… maybe Ben Casey or Ben Franklin. Probably not Ben from MVUC.

Ben is home to several Connemara ponies.

And, if you need the leithris, rest assured.

The park trail has lots of vistas and flowers.

I’ve forgotten what these yellow flowers are called. Each petal is about 2 cm long and .5 cm wide. The pattern is complex.

These were called bog something:

We were looking for a special kind of heath that grows only a few places in the world, but they seem to have stopped blooming for the autumn. I thought these might be cranberries, since they grow in bogs. But, these tasted nothing like cranberries.

Next, we headed down the road to Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore had an interesting reflection in the lake in front of it.

But, the non-reflection version was nice, too.

But, forget about the Abbey. The other views here were spectacular. Anybody want a post card? Here’s one:

And another:

These also look very cool upside down:

But, seriously:

We saw some of the birds on this sign, but none of the mammals.

Upon leaving the Abbey, we next made our way back to Galway. While it was still light outside, I took a few pictures from each of our three (count ’em) balconies. The first balcony overlooks the Galway Bay, which is part of the North Atlantic. Here’s a map showing where we are:

And, here’s what we see out the front balcony:

Here’s what we see from the balconies at the back of the apartment (we’re on the second floor, which in the U.S. would be called the third floor).

And that’s it for today’s scenery. Well, one more, if you like inventions. Here’s my homemade doorstop to keep the hallway/kitchen door open.

It’s a wooden spoon stuck in a cabinet handle. It uses the weight of the door’s spring to stay in place.

For dinner tonight, we took a cab to McDonagh’s for fish & chips. Touted as the best in Ireland, I believe it. We had cod and plaice, and both were just-caught-fresh, and perfectly battered and fried. The chips were the best I’ve had in Ireland so far. Thank goodness for the wholesomeness of lard. For dessert, I visited the Gourmet Tart Company, which is on Salthill Road just behind and below our apartment. Last night when were desperately trying to check in, one of the nice young women at GTC lent us her cell phone to call. Thanks to her helpfulness, we finally found our host, who met us at the car park (which we hadn’t known where was), let us in, gave us full instructions and modems for the computers, and even helped us tote our luggage up to the apartment.

In any case, we shared a small chocolate tart and a chocolate mousse hazelnut praline cake. Both were delicious. If you’re ever in Galway, go to the Gourmet Tart Company for a meal, or for dessert. They open at 8 am and close at 10 pm. Yum.

That’s today’s entry. Tomorrow, we’re off to Dublin to pick up our passports, and then to Ballycanal—a little to the west of Belfast, where we’ve rented a cottage—one that hopefully has internet that’s faster and more reliable. As always, I’ll post now, and proof later. Any errors you see are figments of my fumbling fingers. While I have a full-sized keyboard with me, there’s not enough room for it on this table. Therefore, I make lots and lots of typos, as well as genuine mistakes… all of which I hope to correct later.

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