“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Confucius
After we eased into the quietness of Dingle, we must say that arriving in a town of 65,000 plus people and feeling the frenzy of the beach buzz, was a bit more than we could handle. We instantaneously felt the need to peacefully retreat. Though we are certain Galway is a lovely city, on this leg of the trip we decided we needed to do what made us smile and that was to escape the flurry of a city and seek refuge in the country.
Galway greeted us with a deluge of rain soaking us right down to our core, which made us quickly flee back to the car making our way to our “boutique” hotel. Robert immediately started pondering the exact definition of a “boutique” hotel and all he could come up with was a small little shop where you purchase trinkets and chotchkies that no one ever needs, hardly the name or classification for a hotel. Nonetheless, we found our hotel, which we must say felt like it was having an identity crisis in spite of all of the awards and accolades it had received. The hallways were wide and dark, with huge mirrors propped against the walls, there was mood lighting in the bathroom strategically placed over the toilet, but a dark red, and green hardly inspired us to get into the mood or peacefully relax while taking care of our daily business. On an up side, the lotions, shampoos and conditioner in this hotel were a fabulous treat – seaweed induced, organic indulgence!
Despite the Asian/Euro décor with a touch of confusion, the hotel was strategically located at the gateway of Connemara, which we decided would be a better way to spend a few days as opposed to making our way through a busy city center.
Connemara was lovely. To drive through the area is to feel peaceful serenity as there are patches of land that seem so barren that even those who dwell there might at times feel a tinge of loneliness. The landscape if vast and ever changing, taking the onlookers from rolling hills, to tranquil, almost abandoned seas. Boats liter the shores, tethered to rocks leaving the passerby’s wondering if that very boat had been neglected or if someone has intentions of one day returning. We feel in love with the tranquility of it all and enjoyed turning down narrow roads only to discover pristine beaches that made us wonder if we had landed in the Caribbean – the only things missing were the calypso bands, penetrating heat and drinks with tiny umbrellas.
We stumbled across Dog’s Bay, which was in every way sheer perfection. The water was calm and inviting and behind the ocean sat rolling hills of green, dotted with wild flowers. In a single location we seemed to have it all – ocean, hills, swimming and hiking. It was true bliss. After spending what seemed to be an eternity absorbing the beauty of it all, we elected to push on to make yet more discoveries.
We continued to drive and this time, meandering slowly made our way to the sweet town of Clifden where we grabbed a no frills lunch before we drove to see the touristy Kylemore Abbey, which reminded us of the Pena National Palace located in Sintra, Portugal though missing the Disney color theme. We elected not to pay the entry fee, stood outside, shot a few pictures and drove on. The best vantage point of the Abbey was from a curve in the road that allowed one to witness the structure in all of her glory with a lake in the forefront…superb!
The day was spent without a hurried pace, driving and indulging in sheer rugged beauty. On the way back to our little “boutique” quarters, we stumbled across the magnificent ruins of the Ross Errilly Friary.
This place was the epitome of magic – located on a plot of lush land, though the ruins had been neglected for over 180 years (though currently maintained by the Office of Public Works), the structure was still remarkably well intact. We explored, we photographed, and we desperately tried to imagine what the daily life was like for the monks who once occupied the walls of this gorgeous holy place.
On the day of our departure from Galway we made the decision that though touristy, no trip to Ireland would be complete without visiting the Cliffs of Moher. At times throughout our drive we felt utterly confused often looking at one another wondering where on earth the coast was, and how could cliffs the size of those we were desperate to see lie hidden among the landscape? We thought for sure we were on a wild goose chase, but after paying our entrance fee and climbing up a small incline, the wonder and aw of the cliffs made themselves known to us. Though touristy and at times the sheer volume of people can dampen the experience, to witness the cliffs jetting out from the sea is magnificent. The side trip was worth the drive, the fee and the crowds.
On a side note we had a deep, philosophical family conversation at the Cliffs. The Cliffs though stunning and glorious are also dangerous and a tad frightening. When we made our way to the South facing side we noticed that people were clearly climbing over the “Do Not Enter” signs that stated the risks and gave a parting farewell to those who had lost their lives by ignoring the warnings. We were certain that a walk to the end of the Cliffs would be an experience not to be forgotten, but we decided not to take chance our safety (we happen to love our lives and our two precious children) but we also felt it was a lack of respect. Respect for Ireland, for the people who work at the facility and ultimately for those who had parted prematurely at the very location. We believe it is important to bask in the splendor of the world, but when signs of caution are present not only do we value what they say (most of the time anyway), we also deem it is important to teach our children about safe and proper limits. Enough said.
Overall, our trip to Ireland was one that will remain etched in our memories for a lifetime. The country is immensely stunning, her people are warm and friendly and well, what can we say, the beer is indulgent. We one day hope to return to the Emerald Isle and until then, will relive the magic of this awesome location each time we stumble across our photos, say a cheers over a beer and allow our conversations to drift to a place that should be high on everyone’s list of travel must sees.
Oh, and if you are looking for an eclectic café that serves up some of the freshest, most delicious local meals, check out Gallery Café (http://www.gallerycafe.ie/). Now this is a place that deserves awards and accolades for its’ scrumptious salads, delectable pizzas, fresh squeezed juice, scones with the most delicious black current jam and oh, so much more. And hands down the best cappuccino we enjoyed in all of Ireland!
Time of Year: August
Duration: 2 Nights / 3 Days (part of a 10-Day Trip)
Where We Stayed: The Twelve’s
Eats and Treats: Gallery Café – do yourself a favor and eat a meal here!
Child Friendly? Yes
Likes: Gallery Café in Gort, Discovering Ruins, and Quiet Drives
Dislikes: Boutique anything
Would We Return? Yes, but probably stay in Connemara
Ireland – 4 of 4 – Slideshow