Thursday, November 21, 2013

If we had blogs in 1998: Woman from Aran

Cut off the Ireland trip for some reason. Here are the last couple of days of that particular trip. We went to Galway, the Aran Islands, and back to Dublin. It's the latest installment from my 1997-1998 study abroad journal.

As always, spelling, grammatical, factual, and emotional errors have been preserved from the original journal. Today’s comments are in red.

14 April 1998

Inishmore, Ireland

Dark clouds circled around us on Easter but never dumped on us, fortunately. The sun was in the center of a blue hole in the sky, making it a good day. We walked a good 5-6 miles upon returning to Galway, where we ate at Fat Freddy’s. I had an awesome pineapple pizza. Then the search for a good pub and “You’re not 21,” my blunder. Then the Lisheen, three pints of Guinness, and some music including Christy Moore covers. Everyone was singing along. Awesome craic. I had fun, though Steph was bored. I don’t know if Ryan was having fun or no. Then afterwards I called Grandma’s and said I was in Scotland, which was dumb. Hmm. Lying to my grandmother for no apparent reason. Guess I didn't want anyone to know I'd been to Belfast. Oh well. Then I slept. Next morning we got tickets to the Aran Islands – Inismore. Cool place. 15 miles of walking. First was the Black Fort and its amazing cliffs. Plenty of pictures. We ate lunch there. Then the walking to the other fort. You could see the cliffs of Moher. Where did the sheep go? No sheep visible on the island that day, so how'd we get Aran sweaters? Ha! Atlantis. Sundial. Spar. Mainistir House. Galway this morning. Oh yeah, no electricity. Freezing for awhile. On train to Dublin. Stream of consciousness? No, just too lazy to write it all out. Back then, I thought I’d remember every detail always. Perhaps I remember more than most, but it has slipped away.

The Aran Islands are an interesting place, to say the least. They are a group of three islands in Galway Bay off the West Coast of Ireland, directly across the water from the Cliffs of Moher, famous for the winds that hold you up even as you lean over the 700 foot cliffs, the only force keeping you from plunging to your death into the sea below. (They were also featured in The Princess Bride as the "Cliffs of Insanity.") The limestone you see on the islands dates back 350 million years and is full of the fossils of ancient sealife, and glaciers had a heavy influence on shaping the landscape. The strange environment supports arctic, alpine, and Mediterranean plants, making it one of the most bizarre places to see flora, if you're into that kind of thing, which I wasn't at the time of this trip but am fascinated by now. Ancient forts and stone walls are found on the islands, as well as some monasteries and some ancient beehive huts from the early Christian period.

The islands served as refuge for Catholics from the tyranny of the British, particularly in the time of the Cromwell conquests. The towns make the feel like you've gone through a time machine, as the people still speak Gaelic and there's not a Starbuck's to be found. It's a little piece of heaven for those weary of modernity, but then there are the tourists. Among visitors are literary types and artists - I can see how you'd be inspired by spending some time there, especially in the spring or fall when the tourist hoards are fewer and you can spend time in isolation. Rock-climbing, fishing, and diving are among the popular activities in the summer months. We went in mid-April, so there were few tourists, but the wildflowers had begun to bloom among the limestone, making it a wonderful time of year to visit, though they say May is the optimal time to view them. 

I'd love to go back and see them through older eyes, even for a few weeks to do some writing.

15 Avril 1998

Dublin last night. Check in at Brewery Hostel. Eat at sandwich shop next to The Norseman. Good ham & cole slaw sandwich. Sat on steps in Temple Bar. A little chilly but not bad. Ran around Temple Bar looking for music. Went to Oliver St. Gogarty’s. Mark the dancer was there with his perma smile. So was the guitar kid. But the others were good. 2 pints of Guinness. Cereal dumb comment. Have NO idea. Went home pissed. (not drunk) Getting sick of travelling, I think. But this is Dublin. I wish Andrea & Matt were here. Maybe Andrea would appreciate this more. (Ok, now crazy lady comes in with 3 guys – all male room, blah blah blah. I hope she doesn’t make us move.) We're in a hostel. Anyway, I woke up this morning first & ate breakfast alone. We left around 11am & got our plane tickets at USIT, then headed over to the embassy so Ryan could use the fax. Brought back memories of U2 weekend. Then I dragged them to the National Museum to see the Viking exhibit & the Rebellion exhibit. Then we got sandwiches & ate them in St. Stephen’s Green. Nice day. Took them down Grafton Street & stopped in St. Anne’s church & received a long winded tour of the stained glass windows. Then spent two seconds at Trinity College (Protestant comment). Don't know what this means, probably some pro-Catholic sentiment involved. Stopped at Golden Discs, bought the Coors & Warm Jets before Trinity. Went to Virgin Mega store, bought Audioweb. Steph had to find Irish music. I was actually ready to go. She wants to go see music again tonight. I’m shocked. She always acts so bored at the pubs. Ryan got pulled off a stool last night and danced a kick line. Minus coordination. Anyway, we’re leaving tomorrow.

Temple Bar is an area in central Dublin that has managed to preserve its medieval street pattern. The streets are narrow and cobblestone, and at one point it was a center for secret revolutionary activity. The area fell into urban decay in the early 20th century and was left for dead. At one point, the powers that be were going to tear it all down, but cheap rents began to attract artists and small shopkeepers to the area, who then fought to save it, as artists are wont to do. As a response, the government set up a non-profit organization to preserve it, and now it is a hub for Irish cultural activity. And lots and lots of tourists. Next time I visit Dublin, I may take a stroll through the area, but I doubt I have a pint in the area due to the volume of them.

I did spend a lot of money on music over the course of my time in Europe. A lot of it was native to the country I was in; some was not. I was, like so many other aspects of life, learning about music. I had already evolved somewhat - my first album had been Milli Vanilli (probably 4th-5th grade), and my favorite bands had been Def Leppard (6th grade), Winger (7th grade), Poison (8th grade) get the picture. Ugh. It wasn't until I discovered U2 (thanks to the song "One") when I began to realize how bad that other stuff was. At this time, I was still looking for new music, trying to discover new bands no one in the States had heard of (I was hipster before hipster was cool?) I had a lot of misses. A lot. I can excuse the Coors because they were native to Ireland and it was before they completely discarded what had made them unique - combining traditional Irish music with pop - and became just another crap Top 40 band. I can't excuse the other two I list. I should have bought more Chieftains or Dubliners if I bought anything. Or Pogues. Why didn't I buy more Pogues?

Pretty pathetic journal entries. We did a lot that week, and I hardly recorded any of it. I did have a great time during the week (see previous entry.) The Aran Islands were fascinating. Was beautiful to be at the ocean. 

How I miss the ocean. Any ocean. And the Mediterranean Sea. Especially that.

Read more about my adventures in Ireland here!

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