August 27, 2007

One Crazy Night in Clifden

It's Monday morning. As I type this I am still suffering the fall-out from the weekend's excesses. I could quite happily at this moment put my head down on this keyboard and drift away to the Land of Nod.  So, I type to stay awake.
On Saturday morning, I woke up and felt like being near the sea yet again, so I hopped in the car and headed off to Connemara. The weather was pretty changeable but I'm not one for sunbathing anyway. I really just wanted to go and feel the sand between my toes and let the sea air clean out some of the cobwebs.

Once I reached Galway I got a bit wayleighed. The TOur of Ireland Cycle Race was on which meant traffic delays, so I had to pull in by the side of the road and wait in anticipation with Galway's onlookers. A big colourful group of maniacal pedallers eventually whizzed by followed by cops on motorbikes, cars with bicycles attached to the roofs, pace-cars, more cops and then some straggling cyclists. After 5 mins of sitting there, it seemed like it would be okay to start the car up again - clear road, no more cyclists...or so I thought. Off I went down the road, gathering speed, rounded a bend and saw another bunch of cyclists approaching. A rather irate member of the Gardai zoomed up to me on his motorbike shouting at me to "Pull In Now!!!" I wasn't going to mess with him. I veered off the road a bit too quickly, hit a kerb and nearly took the front wheel off my car.

Eventually I managed to clear Galway and was out on the open road heading into the wilds of beautiful Connemara. I miss it here. When I lived in Galway I used to often take a spin out to Spiddal in the evenings and just walk the strands. Today though, i was going further afield - off out to Carraroe in the Gaeltacht (an Irish-speaking district). Carraroe boasts a beautiful coral beach and crystal blue waters. When I got there, it was very overcast and starting to spit rain. I bundled up, brought the camera and set out for a walk. As I came around a headland, an unusual sight met my eyes. Out of the mist came a large group of handsome spinnaker sailboats, all reds and blues. Watching them from the beach below was a band of cows. It was one of those scenes that you like to think is unique to Ireland. It was a good photo op and I tried to take a few shots, but with the greyness of the day they dont look quite as impressive as they should. The quietness of the place and the postcard scene created by the sailboats was really lovely. I walked far out along the headland to the mouth of the inlet taking deep breaths of sea air and tasting the salt from the spray. There are few things I am sure about in this life, but one of them is that I have to live near the sea.

After Carraroe, I decided to drive on up to Clifden for dinner. This is a spectacular drive, one of the best in Ireland! I went to Fogerty's restaurant for some fish! YUM! By the time I was done eating, it was getting late and with the drive home being anohter 3-4 hours, I thought I might as well stay the night. Finding accommodation wasn't so easy though. Everywhere I tried was booked solidly for the night, EVEN THE HOTELS! I was beginning to think I'd have to drive all the way back to Limerick when I took one last shot and asked the lady who ran the restaruant. Sure enough, she knew of a place and an hour later I was checking in.

I had spotted a pub that had a sign outside saying "Trad session tonight - musicians welcome". I had the bodhran in the car, so I thought I might as well head up there and see what was going on. There were two fellas playing so I walked up and asked if they minded if I joined them. They were delighted to have a bodhran and set me up with a mike. What followed was a 3 hour session which was really enjoyable! We were joined by a man from Limerick with a fiddle, and another man jumped in with the spoons. We drew quite a big crowd, mainly Americans who loved it! Some of them got up and sang and danced. Quite a few of them wanted photos of me with the bodhran! 5 minute of fame people - don't knock til you've tried it. :D

After closing time, we had a lock in and I got chatting to the bar staff who were a really sound bunch. Despite loud protestations of me wanting to go to bed, they dragged me off to another shindig up the road. I met a lot of genuinely decent friendly local people. I'm not sure what time I got back to my bed, but it was late.

The downside to it all is the sore head the next day. I had plans to visit Kylemore Abbey nearby, but they went out of the window. Breakfast in the BB was a bit of a surreal experience, as Cathal (the owner) proceeded to spill his life story over tea and toast. His Indonesian wife had left him the year before, trying to take him for all he was worth, and later kidnapping their only son. I got all the gorey details about life-threatening texts and hiring security guards. The facts are a big blur at this stage. I wasn't really firing on all cyclinders while I was being treated to this drama. My head was swimming as I did my best to make the appropriate responses to such a story. After a few much needed cups of coffee i wished Cathal all the best and tottered off to my car to begin the long journey home.
I'm vowing to give up drink I think. It's just not worth it!

All in all a great night though - a spontaneous one too which made it all the more enjoyable. I got a big kick out of just wandering in and having a "jam" with a bunch of locals. I'll have to do it again sometime!

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