Day one: Dublin – Galway – Bunratty
It was a six hour red eye from New York to Dublin. And apparently, when you book the $212 bargain ticket, they don’t give you so much as a drop of water on the flight. We arrived about 8:15 am (3:15 am EST).So it was a welcome miracle that I actually walked out of the airport feeling sorta good.
I took a shuttle through Dublin to the train station where I would be catching a group tour to Galway—a small city on the coast. They had clocked in my backpack at 7.2 kg at the airport (yes, they weigh carryons) but it felt heavy enough– I was glad I had packed light (although I did realize I had accidentally left the “perfect” electric converter that I bought especially for the trip).
The train station just felt like a lot of other train stations I’ve been in…with vendors selling coffee, pastries, smoothies, etc. I wanted something to eat although I tried to talk myself out of it on the basis of it being 3:00 am and all. But I did locate the desk for the tour group. It was deserted. So I found a seat nearby waited. Then I found water and waited. Then I got a smoothie and waited. Then I got more water.
As time for the train got closer, I began to get a little concerned, but just before 11:00, Sean showed up. Followed by Pat. Turns out, I was the only person signed up for the tour that day, but these lovely retired gentleman worked as guides and made sure I got my money’s worth.
About halfway to Galway, the train stopped and about a dozen college boys got on. They ordered beer from the concessions and after one or two, started blasting their Irish tunes from their cell phones…and then started singing along. So…I got the Irish pub experience. To be clear…I didn’t go to an Irish pub. The pub came to me.
When we got to Galway, they handed me a map and a fistful of other brochures and tickets told me to meet them back at the bus in about 3 hours. All the work I had done to travel easy and light seemed undone as I constantly shifted the brochures around in my hands.
Galway is a great place to walk…especially for someone directionally challenged like me. All roads seem to eventually lead back to the city center.
There are pedestrian streets of shops including about 1,000 little drug stores. I’m pretty sure I went to all 1,000 of them looking for a converter for my computer and phone. I eventually shelled out 5 Euros for a cheap one for my computer, a few more for water and a chocolate croissant, and a few more for magnets. I was thankful I didn’t have any luggage space to spare so I wasn’t tempted to buy much. All that though, and no one gave me a bag I could put the brochures in…so now I was carrying water, a converter, and brochures. I didn’t look like a tourist at all.
Anyway… for me, the real fun of Galway was walking along the coast. There are beautiful views of the Atlantic…little boats…swans…and a small lighthouse.
I visited the church where Columbus said his final prayers before heading for his voyage to discover America. And I took pictures of the beautiful cathedral.
The streets were lively and in fact, had a lot of musicians playing here or there. One of the most prominent was playing Darius Rucker and other songs like “Take me Home Country Roads.” Glad I got to enjoy the local culture. (Actually Irish music and American country are basically the same thing…about girls and alcohol.)
100% of our group (me) was on time for our pick up, but the bus was about 40 minutes late. So Mike and Pat and I chatted some before me and my back pack loaded on the 50 person bus and headed to Bunratty Castle.
This road trip was beautiful. Lots of sprawling farms, sheep, and stone fences.
I didn’t understand why the banquet at the castle started at 9:00 pm until I realized that for many folks (coming from the US) it was only 4:00 pm and for the rest of the folks (Europeans), their nights are just getting started at 9:00.
The folks at Dunratty Castle made the evening fun with good food, good music (better than the train), and good humor. We sat family style packed in the ate with our fingers. The only complaint I heard was that the wine was awful, which didn’t bother me since I don’t drink and had already been in one Involuntary Irish pub that day.
They wrapped up the evening with a beautiful acappela version of Danny Boy and a rousing ballad about whiskey. I walked back to my hotel as the rest of the crowd headed across the street to the pub.
All in all, it was a day well spent. My fitbit said I had taken 22,000 steps and my feet suggested in may have been even more than that. And I didn’t regret a single one.