Tuesday, January 19, 2016

9/24 - Galway, Cong and Clonbur

9/24 - Galway, Cong and Clonbur
More pics here.
Road trip leg 2 here.

On Wednesday morning, we retraced some steps through County Clare on our way north, stopped for lunch in Kinvarna, a cute port town, and made our way up to Galway. We visited the old part of Galway, where the cobblestone streets are closed to cars, making for a fun tourist district. However it’s pretty run over with touristy shops which makes for a less interesting experience. We also had modern-city and crowd-shock after being in such a remote county! But we got good hipster pizza, and enjoyed a small but informative museum about the salmon fishery on the River Corrib while watching the tide and rain-swollen river rushing past the little tower museum.

We then walked back up the river to visit the Galway Cathedral, which was most interesting because it wasn’t built until 1965. I didn’t realize cathedrals were still being built so late! It was a mix of architecture to provide both the sense of tradition and grandeur, but updated references as well. The mosaic of Jesus on the cross was distinctly modern, as well the vaulted wooden ceiling and celiac-friendly communion station. The rose window was a stunning five-petaled stained glass flower, and there was a modern etched glass mural at the entrance. Yet the size, the expression of power and awe, the heavy stone construction were all distinctly old-european cathedral. I was happy to have some sort of cathedral time on our trip – in fact this was the only major church (aside from ruins) that we visited.

We continued on to our lodging in Clonbur, just next to Cong, in the “Lakes District of Ireland.” The countryside was lovely, the sun and clouds poetic, and the pace more relaxed once we left the “big city” of Galway. 
We arrived at dusk at what appeared to be a hunting lodge set on the edge of a wood and lake. And pretty much, it was. Except instead of a hunting lodge, it was our B&B (Ballykine House) run by a local couple who had retired back to their hometown. Our hostess was warm, informative, and fond of affectionate hand pats and handholding. It was like visitng your favorite aunt. The house and expansive grounders were beautiful, very traditional, and a joy to visit. 

The towns of Cong and Clonbur are small but charming. We walked through Clonbur’s one street downtown and into the residential neighborhood, which reminded me somewhat of the east coast of the US. We watched rugby in the local pub and slept in a great room, waking up to sunrise over the nearby lake. We ate an enormous home-cooked breakfast in her formal dining room and enjoyed chatting with her about our plans and a bit about her life here.

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