Saturday evening. A word of advice: If you find yourself in Ireland, on a Saturday night, and expect to spend the evening in a hostel in a major city – Dublin, Cork, Galway – make your reservations in advance. I originally booked three nights at Barnacles in Dublin. Yesterday was our last night with beds secured. Brian and I didn’t formulate a solid plan until mid afternoon today and it was 7pm by the time I began searching for a bed – not a good idea. This should have been evident when Brian and I checked out of Barnacles this morning and watched two women book beds at EUR50.00 a night.
No beds in Dublin, Cork, or Galway. The next thought was to get midway across the country. Brian and I referenced an Ireland hostel map and located The Auld Shillelagh – a bar / hostel in a village called Aughrim, County Galway. We called and found ourselves in luck – two of Valarie’s 12 beds were available at EUR 17.00 a night. As I write this it is 9:10pm and I’m sitting on a cramped bus heading towards Galway. The bus doesn’t actually stop in Aughrim but it passes through. Brian is in charge of following a map and asking the driver to stop so we can get off.
I hope you didn’t doubt Brian’s map skills – he recognized our stop about 5 kilometers before we needed to know it. The bus dropped us off with our packs directly along a highway heading to Galway. It was almost humorous as we stood with our packs in the exhaust of the bus as it pulled away. “Where’s the church,” we asked the driver. “I’m not sure,” he replied, “but the village of Aughrim is that way.” He motioned past a gas station and a short five minutes later we came within view of The Auld Shilleagh.
A barmaid showed us to our room equipped with two bunks. She questioned whether it was okay – compared to our 10-bed room at Barnacles, it was a palace. We dropped off our packs and made our way to the adjoining pub. As per the norm, we entered to find a comfortable pub with live music. We have yet to have pints during the evening and not be entertained by live music. Not surprisingly, we ordered two pints of Guinness. Soon after we sat down at the bar, we introduced ourselves to the old, Irish boy sitting behind us. Penny, as he introduced himself, gave us the rundown on Aughrim. “Not much left to Aughrim anymore.” he let us know. “We have three pubs, a church across the street, and a school.” Brian asked Penny how big Aughrim was. He informed us that they don’t actually describe villages such as this by population – but Aughrim, is home to about 110 families.
I was ready to leave Dublin. I greatly enjoyed the three nights I spent in the city, but I can’t imagine myself settling down in the city for the four months of my work permit. There were just so many people. Dublin is home to nearly 2/3 of Ireland’s population. I don’t think it was the total number of people that didn’t strike me right, it was more the close vicinity in which they were populated. This was especially evident today – Saturday – as Brian and I were making our way throughout the city centre. Most Dubliners had the day off and had taken to the streets to go shopping. You couldn’t walk down some streets without bumping into fellow walkers.
We made it to St. Pat’s Cathedral today before leaving Dublin – a massive church that was built nearly 1000 years ago. I’ll post pictures later but I’m sure they won’t do it justice. We stopped in at a pub before going to the cathedral to have lunch and a pint. Two Americans – a mother and father – sat down next to us. They were from Pennsylvania and had just arrived in Dublin. The mother was a typical mother and was full of questions about our history and our plans now that we were in Ireland. I had mentioned to her that I spent the fall semester of my senior year interning in DC. She followed up with, “Where you with The Washington Center?” One of her children is apparently considering interning with TWC in the future. Struck me as amazing – what a small world we live in.
As I write this I’m lying in bed getting ready to fall asleep – it is 2:28 local time. In Iowa City, it is 8:28. The Hawks are battling it out at Kinnick Stadium … I would hope winning. A couple hours ago at the pub, the guitarist played Sweet Caroline. Brian and I guessed that over 1,000 miles away, someone was playing Sweet Caroline at their tailgate – if not, I’m sure it was next up on the playlist at Bo James.