Colours (Ireland, Part 2)
Maybe it's because they have so much "soft" weather in Ireland (some folks call it rain) but one thing you'll notice almost anywhere you travel in Ireland is the colourful (or colorful for you Americans!) look of most storefronts and even many doors and windows on houses. While the favourite colour for the exterior walls of bungalows seems to be white (which may be said in America, too) travelling through Ireland put me in mind of an earlier time in my life....the colourful Bahamas. Well, the climate wasn't a match, but the colours were. Now did the Bahamians get the colour scheme from the Empire? Or did the Empire nick it from the Bahamians? I'll probably never know.
So, long story short, when in Ireland you'll be dazzled by the brilliant colours (set off by the often dreary weather). My sister and I were pretty fortunate during our seven days in the west and northwest of Ireland -- we had fairly good weather. Cool, windy, yes -- but not much wet weather, and a couple of days the sun was so warm that the cattle and sheep were lazing around with their legs thrown out as far as they could. They were plumb thrilled to be working on their tans. There's simply nothing like a happy cow.
'Course just like here in Wales there were lambs a-plenty (not as many as in Radnorshire, and though I never thought I'd be saying this -- our ground is a lot better than most of what I saw in Ireland, though admittedly I wasn't in the areas known for farming) and they were enjoying their youth (ignorance is bliss, most of them won't be around all that long) and it was nice to see some other breeds of sheep over in Ireland. They'd have to be pretty hardy and water-resistant! Most lambing in the areas we visited is done out in the wild, not in the relative comfort of a farm building, and those ewes have to be hardy! Lambs seem to have play cycles, and sis and I enjoyed the merriment of watching them spring straight up in the air and start spinning around and then running to play King of the Mountain on some little tump.
Oh yeah this was supposed to be about Ireland and colour, not lambs in springtime. Okay. While sis and I tried our darnedest to stay out of towns and cities we did spend about an hour in Galway (getting Euros and buying some food) which seemed like a nice city. We didn't stay. The other two towns we spent time in were Ennis (the last night) and Westport. Sadly we just didn't stay long enough in Westport, but it gets my vote as the nicest largish town I visited during the week -- plenty of good music at Matt Malloy's pub there on one of the main streets. Plenty of colour on all the storefronts, and a lot of people out enjoying themselves. We had a wonderful Italian meal at a little bistro just a few steps away from Matt Malloy's and the waiter did a wonderful job of chatting us up for a big tip!
While the brochures and tourist offices advertise "live traditional Irish music every night" what you'll find is that they probably mean during high tourist season (June through August); we did find a couple of small sessions, but nothing really astonishing (seems like every town we got to we heard, "you should have been here last night - we had a great session at the pub"). Our first night we spent in Doolin, County Clare, after passing a lovely sunny afternoon walking the streets of Ennistymon then visiting the Cliffs of Moher. Yep, it's a tourist trap (it costs 8 Euros to park your car!) but it's well worth it __on a nice day__ and the cliffs are spectacular. If I had it to do again I'd go there in the late afternoon when the sun is nicest...we arrived at high noon and made the best of it. Plenty of walking and beautiful seascapes to see and photograph.
One thing I've noticed in looking at my photos is how few people are in them. Usually I travel alone and tend to chat with a lot more people. In the company of my sister we tended to visit rather with each other!
Many folks warned me that it takes forever to travel in Ireland because the roads are so bad, but that really wasn't true. Apparently the EU has pumped a lot of money into Ireland's roads, at least that's what I'm told. At any rate, I found the roads better in most cases than those I travel in America (though there are a fair few maniacal drivers in Ireland, a little frightening coming around those blind bends on MY side of the road). Sis and I chose to take the back, back roads in many cases, or at least to avoid the "N" roads as much as possible (the biggest roads, at least one full lane each side plus even a shoulder sometimes). And it's true that I felt extra-safe because I was driving a brand new Toyota Rav4 (and I can't rave enough about how great a vehicle that is!)