Tuesday, January 19, 2016

9/30 – Inishownen Peninsula, Contd.

9/30 – Inishownen Peninsula, Contd.
More pics here.

We decided to make the grocery store café, perkily and succinctly named The Coffee Cup, our home base (bagels felt like grace at that point – even if the breakfast sandwich was still irish bacon inside the bagel, and the eggs were hardboiled, not scrambled!). This morning, our last full day in Buncrana, we began by expertly getting bagels and coffee at the grocery story, and by picking up our laundry like bosses in the old part of town. We avoided the school traffic and headed up to Ballyliffin Golf Course, where Ty would play a round of proper Irish golf and I would get a massage. Yes, it was going to be a good day.

Turns out, it was going to be an amazing day. We found out a bit late that the golf course and hotel were actually several miles apart – and while Ty had the ability to drive the car, I had the time to kill (since golf takes 4 hours – or in Ireland, 6, it turns out) and a massage is only an hour. Luckily there was a beach in between the two, where Ty dropped me off and I had my best day of the trip.

Ty’s version of the day looked like this: speed over to the Ballyliffin course, get set up with rental clubs, get those clubs thrown in for free, thus helping with the very expensive greens fees and golf balls.  While rolling a few practice putts next to the first tee of the Old Course, Ty gets adopted into a two-some with a local who literally lived on the driveway to the club, and a northern-Irishman visiting his brother nearby. Both are much older and playing the part of the welcoming and charming Irishmen. Play 6 hours of golf (more on this below from Ty), race back to hotel just as Juliana is seriously wondering what has gone wrong. Bring Juliana back to the clubhouse for dinner and to meet playing partners Patsy and James, as well as chatty Mary the caddy, who also takes a liking to us. Sadly Juliana is pooped and too afraid of missing dinner two nights in a row to chat people up, so instead we eat an amazing dinner watching the sunset over the beach, the course, and the west coast of Ireland.

Ty’s Irish Golf Course Report:
The golf course, named Ballyliffin, after the town it is in, consists of the Old Links and the Glasheady Links.  I played the Old Links, because older is better in golf courses, right?…  Turns out, the Old Links is probably the easier and less beautiful course, but it was plenty challenging and amazing anyway.  The Old Links has fairways with all kinds of undulating terrain.   I was told that the Old Links has the undulations because it was built by hand by the local members without the benefit of earth-moving equipment.   The weather was amazingly atypical.  Slight breezes and hardly any clouds.  I played poorly on all but a few holes.  The links style course demands that you hit it straight, and I did not hit it straight very often.  Missing the fairway or green resulted in 5 minutes of looking for the ball, as my playing partners insisted that we could find it, every time.  And most of the time we did!  I did have some memorable shots: a 300 yard (down breeze) drive which prompted James to declare that I don’t swing like a 14 handicap!  (but the rest of the round would prove that 14 is not sandbagging!)  I managed to make a birdie on a par 4 on the front nine, and I struck the purest 4 iron of my life on a 205 yard par 3 which checked up on the green about 5 feet from the hole.  I thankfully made the birdie putt and was pretty darn pleased. 

Juliana’s version of the day – and I’m pretty sure I had the better day - is this: Ty dropped me off at the beach around 11am, which we read or estimated to be 1.5 miles long. I wander along, happy to have 4 hours to till until my massage at 4:15. It’s beautiful, its sunny, its almost deserted, and there appears to be both tidepools and a castle at the far end. The pathway next to the beach is along the course, so at various times I get to look in and see what type of day Ty might be having. Also seems pretty nice. I’m happy we are each doing our thing and enjoying it. The tidepools are beautiful – no critters, but lovely seaweeds and interesting rocks.
The ruined castle is deserted but there is an information sign, and it overlooks the ocean waves crashing on the rocks. There is a family living nearby, so I don’t feel too alone. It’s strange and adorable to watch a young woman mothering her toddler in the shadow of a ruined castle, more concerned with hanging laundry and  preventing knee bumps than this chunk of history that seems so novel to me.
Its getting warmer and warmer, and I get to pass two horses and even pet one while chatting up some tourists and road repair workers. We all marvel at the day and I walk back to the beach, this time taking off my shoes and walking in the cool but pleasant water. Its more like a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles. Its so stunning I ask one of the few people I see to take my photo. She obliges. I ask her the time. It’s 3:30. I am still at the far end of the beach. Serene feelings are gone in a flash. I have been wanting this massage for so long I panic and start to run down the beach. I am not a runner. I have asthma. I am barefoot. I am carrying heavy winter shoes in one hand, a giant camera in another, and my daypack is flopping around like the dead dolphin we saw in Doolin on my back. I reconfigure the pack to the front, where I can stop the flopping but look even more ridiculous. I’m sweating and my feet are cramping from running in the sand. Suddenly I wonder what I look like, on this glorious “never happens” day in northern Ireland, as my foolish self is run/hopping along a beach that is literally sparkling with the remnants of the tide in the sunlight, and I start laughing hilariously. This crazy-person giggling seems to stem my asthma, and I run longer than I’ve ever run before. There’s no asthma, the foot cramping subsides, the sweat starts to feel normal (sorry future masseusse…), and I’m back to enjoying the day. I make it back to the beach parking lot, and find my foot washing station being torn of up by a giant backhoe with a drill attachment. Of course! I only have to walk up this giant hill to my massage with sandy feet and heavy winter shoes and socks…but I do. And I make it in time to have a cold drink and a sandwich in the hotel restaurant before my appointment.

My massage is glorious and includes a facial. I feel like a princess. There are giant fluffy robes involved. No fewer than 6 types of goo were kneaded into my face. Luggage hauling knots, sleeping on planes knots, motion sickness management knots  - they are no match for this. I come out a new and slightly woozy person. I think, no problem, I have time to wake up. It’s only 5pm Ty’s probably just finished golf and is heading up the hill. I wait in the lobby of the hotel trying not to be too obviously not a guest. Around 6:00 I start to wonder. I eat the remains of my sandwich. I get sick of reading my book. At 6:30 I start to really worry. How will I track down Ty? Ty has the one cell phone and the car. But he hasn’t left any messages at the hotel. The hotel could call the golf course, but what if he’s left? Just about this time, Ty shows up, apologetic. 6 hours of golf! They aren’t joking around up here!

We go back to dinner, me too tired from all my beach running and massage relaxing to talk to anyone. I’m hungry, I’ve already been stemming worry, and I didn’t eat dinner last night, which I'm determined not to repeat. We meet Patsy and James, and I’m clearly making them sad not to chat them up. I feel so bad, but more than that I have an instinct to eat dinner. We do get to talk them more later in the evening, but I’m well aware that some silly survival instinct has robbed us of some good craic. Sometimes you just have to be the tourist. We get another glorious sunset. Ty gets to overlook his course, I get to overlook my beach. We swap photos. We tell stories. We eat average food, but at least we are eating food. As we are ready to leave, the bartender/hostess/waitress decides its time to chat us up. We get a bit of the craic after all, and head home.

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