5. Wicklow in Autumn

wicklow, irelandRemember Braveheart? Well, this is where the movie was partly set, and mind you, only 5% of the movie was shot in the Highlands of Scotland, so don’t be fooled. The Wicklows display truly magnificent scenery, which we thoroughly enjoyed, in spite of the unreliable mood of the weather. We almost felt like walking into a dream, had our frozen limbs not reminded us that we were experiencing the real thing. Wicklow is quite a sight in autumn, and I could solemnly endure that evil cold again, just to smell that fresh from the rain air, just to see that explosive variety of leaves’ colours surrounding us, some holding on to their branches, some paving our way to the lake, some flying like crazy in the restless wind. I wondered how the landscape would transform itself in summer. Yet I was convinced that this was what I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out. So I froze and stared.

It was time for us to get back on the bus. When the driver opened the doors to let us in, a strong smell of alcohol rushing from the inside caused me to ask myself whether it was thoughtful for a bus driver to drink on duty! Especially since the roads that crossed those places needed the driving skills of an expert. But the poor man had not been drinking; he had prepared samples of genuine Jameson whiskey for us, tourists with petrified face expressions. The man surely knew how to cheer people up. We spent the following hours chattering, laughing, singing and blessing father Jameson. Happy times!

Still euphoric from the mixture of alcohol, exhaustion and happiness, we regain our hostel room. I was only to lie down for one hour that night, before saying good bye to Dublin, again. I did not mind being out in the streets alone at 3 a.m., only the noise of my luggage on the pavement following me. Nor did the pouring rain bother me much. When I’m happy, I’m untouchable, invulnerable to anything that might want to extract me from my high spirits. I waited for a bus, but I did not know where exactly it was supposed to stop and collect us for the airport. Someone called me and asked me if I wanted to share a taxi with him, explaining to me that we would pay more or less the same price as for the bus, but we would gain in comfort. I said yes, and the guy grabbed my luggage and forced it into the taxi trunk. He was going someplace sunny, I was merely going home. I might not have been fully awake: I do not normally accept a stranger’s proposal. But there I jumped in. Clearly, I was out of my regular system and I needed sleep. Problem solved as my Ryanair took off.

I’ve been to Ireland four times. It’s a difficult place to leave behind.

wicklow, ireland

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4. Dddd Dublin!

Dublin, IrelandIn Dublin things just kept being fun (I should probably mention that when I am dead beat I find everything incredibly funny). Two wasted luggage-dragging mechanisms we were in those streets, Kim and I, our minds set on finding our hostel and a bed to rest on asap. Yet finding the address of the hostel turned out to be an intricate matter that we weren’t able to handle alone. So we found ourselves a Good Samaritan to put us on the right track.

The above-mentioned, a lady, was at first not quite sure of her directions. This ought to have alerted us a bit, had our brains not been atrophied because of the fatigue. Still, our direction-giver got motivated to do her best and eventually made sure we went her way. So we mounted a street with completely wrong numbers for a very wrong number of miles and for a disturbingly wrong amount of time until, having by then lost our ability to feel our arms and feet, we realized we had been walking the wrong lane. Up on the bloody hill, we started to panic at the idea that we now had to do all the way back. We also prayed, in the name of civilized behaviour, that the well-intentioned lady who had so gently steered us away from the right path did not cross our way.

But then there was the hostel and the nice concierge whom we had to bother every now and then because the card to our room would not work. There was the perspective of shorts nights in Dublin (aren’t they all so?), there was good food, wine and good chat. Next came “The Quays” (Dublin hosts one as well), and the laughing and the Bulmers, the singing and after all that, again, the difficulty to find our way back to the hostel. For different reasons than previously, though.

I think we did manage to wake everybody up this time, because the hall leading to our bunk beds was soooo long, and it was sooo dark inside and straight walking sooo complicated. I remember Kim having a hard time climbing on the top bed, so I think I had to push her. Anyways, we eventually found a place to fit in. We woke up with injected eyes way too early in the morning, yet all smiles: we were leaving for a one-day trip to the Wicklow Mountains.

3. The Wacko Episode

irelandKim and I went to Galway’s ‘Quays’ that night. When we finally made it to our room, one of those things happened for which one has got to love sleeping in hostels and sharing rooms with perfect strangers. I was taking off my contact lenses at the feeble light that Kim had turned on for me next to her bed when a woman, whom I had previously identified as “not right in the head” (but then she was outside our room, so that did not worry me much), literally walked into our room. I immediately recognized the “nut” that I had left somewhere in the corner of my mind as a mere insignificant encounter. But there she was, standing tall, hippie-style dressed and throwing menacing looks at the two of us. My first reflex was to check the door: Did I leave it open or how else did she come in? I was far from imagining that she would actually sleep with us that night. And some sleep we had!

The lunatic started to yell at us (for the record, all this lovely circus was taking place at 1 a.m), and for cause: according to her, we were waking up the other roommates (all snoring) with the shine of our feeble, tiny, going-blind light. I obviously knew that crazy dudes have indeed a distorted sense of reality, etc., but right there, looking repeatedly at her yelling self, then at the light bulb and back to her, my source of wonders, this evidence thundered right through me. Well, looking was all that I was still able to do, so dumbstruck I was. Kim, on the contrary, got a splendid grip of herself and fought the woman right back with sane and reasonable remarks. I quickly vanished behind the bathroom door to put on my night-shirt and proceed with my going-to-bed preparations, knowing all sensitive talk was pointless.

From the bathroom, I feared that Kim might actually attempt to strangle the Shouting-Defender-of-the-Sleeping-Mates-Against-the-Light. But she contained herself beautifully. I could nonetheless hear her voice tonality change and she was by then much ruder than a few minutes before, when she actually had done her best to explain the situation to the weirdo. I couldn’t keep my seriousness anymore and burst out into laughter. This was just hugely out of our dimension.

Then there were Kim’s eyes. I had stepped back into the dorm, thinking that I could control my inner itch to giggle (I certainly would not have done that in front of the mad lady), but Kim was in no mood for sleeping. She was stuck in her anger, practically annihilating the enemy with her look. I climbed the ladder to the top bunk bed as quickly as I could, because I could sense laughter coming out loud again, and I hurried to stifle it in my pillow. I wouldn’t have wanted to unleash hell more than that. The woman still had some insults and Messiah-like prophecies to throw at Kim, then opened the window (probably to save us from earthly comforts like keeping warm on a Galway November night) and ended up by taking Kim’s kind advice to “shut the fuck up and let us all be miserable and sleep”. That night was indeed young.

Next morning, off to Dublin we were. The wacko leaves the room early, slamming the door shut, on her way to some other imaginary mission. We leave Galway behind and with it, some of the most precious memories that would keep us company for a while.

2. Night and Day in Galway

Galway, ireland

During that short November west-east coast journey across my beloved Emerald Island, we only spent one full day in what I call the “real” Galway. The town is small and magnificently surrounded by nature. It is very tempting to plan a trip to one of the Aran Islands or to Connemara, or to the Cliffs of Moher. And if during the day one keeps busy outside the city gates, Galway definitely owns the night. The most difficult part is to choose which bar to go to, but the choice can be simply a matter of musical tastes. Alalé plays traditional music on Wednesdays at ‘The Spanish Arch’, a lure not to be missed. ‘The Quays’ is another place where one would be strongly advised to enjoy some time and at least one Guinness. This two-storey pub built after the model of a French medieval church is constantly filled with people from all the corners of the world, the live band plays varied music and chances are one spends a great moment of ‘craic’ to remember for a very long time. Those were the Galway nights…

Back to daylight, we strolled along the Bay and spent some time and some camera shots on the white swans which graciously reigned over their territory. We were lucky to share some very relaxing moments under the timid rays of sun. We went forth, visited the Cathedral, and attended the Christmas market. Team work was necessary to help Kim pick out some eight-odd charm beads to make a bracelet she wanted to have. I remember my limbs were painfully frozen. Fortunately, one does not recall the pain…

Galway, irelandGalway, ireland

 

1. A Piece of Connemara

connemara, ireland

Galway. Out into the fresh air. I left Kim putting on her make-up and went to search the streets for some coffee to help us both brighten up and greet the morning. And a particularly inviting one it was, with all that bluish sky stretching above our heads to a far-away horizon. The sun loomed promising that day.

We finally made it to the bus, high-spirited and chirping. Kim threw herself merrily into her good old habit that I had grown accustomed to: that of casting her spell over the bus-driver. Only this time she drew the man’s attention to me. No danger other than spending a good time, though. I introduced myself and the day was bound to be a long, yet a fun one. What followed was that I became the centre of attention, the target not-to-be-missed by the Irishman’s mischievous remarks. He sang ‘Sylvia’s mother’ to me and served me a portion of that rude, proud-to-be-Irish ironic humour, which he melted in a hearty, honest smile, when he said to me that if I didn’t know Irish, then I knew nothing at all. That was when he heard Kim saying that I spoke four languages. He also encouraged the other travelers to go on doing dodgy things each time we made a halt in some unheard-of tiny village, and blame it on me. It was all very exciting and I started to blame it on the weather, because the sun turned into Irish myth and the ever-present rain was pouring down so densely, that we were all stuck on the bus. I have to say that most of the Irish bus-drivers acting as guides are human chatterboxes, so if one gets past the accent, one might actually get some beautiful stories.

Connemara spread out as magnificent as it could be on a very cloudy, cold and wet afternoon. Looking out every bus window that allowed my eyes to wander in that landscape, I was already cropping up a plan to come back by car one day and step out whenever I felt like. The bad weather conditions took nothing away from the greatness of that untamed beauty, or so it seemed to me, fascinated with the dramatic painting I was witnessing. This is how I was striving to keep it in mind, for this was no time to go out with a camera. We covered several sights: the Ross Errilly Friary, the Ashford Castle, passed through the village of Cong and Leenane to the Kylemore Abbey and back to Galway via Inagh Valley. Through it all, memories, laughter, music, tiredness and that bitter-sweet feeling that we were both losing and gaining something as our bus was cutting its trail.

connemara, ireland

 

connemara, ireland