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Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Cliffs of Moher, Drive-by Burren and a rainy night in Galway.


Another morning, another struggle to leave whatever accommodation we were in and bleary-eyed move on to our next destination. Travelling is fun, but the hangovers aren't! However, in Ireland people honestly look at you as if you have four heads if you decline a drink - you're either pregnant or have liver failure. For breakfast, we decided to have the good old petrol station experience - this is something I really miss in Dubai - in Ireland, (and probably the UK) every petrol station has a deli of some sort with hot food and sandwiches. They will even make you up a sandwich with what you would like in it. So far, so good. Most importantly - it all looks desirable, and they all have PORK! Only other Middle Eastern expats understand how important pork is and why we consume massive quantities of it when visiting home, or anywhere for that matter. So, ham rolls scoffed, we set out the west road towards the Cliffs of Moher.

The Cliffs of Moher apparently auditioned for a place in the seven wonders of the world, but unfortunately didn't succeed. They are the highest sea-cliffs in Europe but aesthetically they really are something to behold that I can't describe. The water smashing off the rocks so far below can't even be heard from the heights of the cliffs, and the sheer power of nature is absolutely overwhelming as you look out at the Atlantic Ocean.
The sky was threatening when we arrived, but we, along with a few other busloads of tourists, decided to take our chances with a walk along the precipitous path. There are signs everywhere exclaiming "EXTREME DANGER" and others advertising The Samaritans (it doesn't bear thinking about) but I decided to ignore my fears and tackle these crags. The pathway is about two people wide at some points, and it's not smooth, and it looks like it falls away in parts. Gareth was gamboling along, frightening the bejesus out of me, until a French family pleaded with him to be careful. Gareth assured me that he's an accomplished rock climber but I tried to reason that he usually climbs UP rocks and that if he went off these, there'd be scant chance of getting a hold on anything before crashing into the rocks below. I think he saw the sheer terror on my face cos he slowed down after that and I made my way gingerly along. At times I got more adventurous and strode on, but after rounding 3 headlands I suddenly had enough. I simply felt like I couldn't go on, and I knelt down and almost wept in fear. I have a serious fear of heights that I really try to control but this was just too much. Gareth was brilliant and suggested we climb over the stone slabs into the neighboring field and make our way back as far as we could that way. The fields were full of cows, but I have no fear of cows so that seemed like a good plan. I encouraged him to go on and I would go back on my own but he was so sweet and insisted he'd come back with me. Once in the field, treading through cow-pat he began telling me stories of walkers being trampled by cows in the UK last year. Super. One life-threatening situation to another. At this point the cows were beginning to notice us; probably hearing Gareth speaking ill of them. One decided to come and investigate. He came right up behind us, and the people walking along the cliffs began taking photos. The cow was suddenly struck dumb - he looked after us, and back at the people - I could hear the thoughts forming "To go on? Or have my 15 minutes of fame?". He stuck with the camera, silly cow! We clambered over some stone walls into more cow pat and eventually made our way back, with only a couple of returns to the cliffs' edge. I'm glad I did it; I would thoroughly recommend it; even if you are a scaredy cat like me.

Back in the car we headed slightly north towards Galway. I didn't realize what a spectacular drive it would be. The Burren is noted as one of the largest karst landscapes in Europe. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burren
What that means to you and me is some unique flora and fauna, and spectacular limestone hills. Gareth slept through most of it but I actually stopped the car a few times to breathe in the beauty of the area.

Onwards to Galway and we eventually found our "boutique hotel" surreptitiously hidden under another hotel name? The room was adequate with a lovely big, soft bed - but boutique hotel it was not. We, or rather I, had made a mistake booking ANYwhere in Galway during Race Week; we paid a hefty premium for a guesthouse - that didn't serve breakfast! We decided not to venture into Galway city in the midst of the madness, and had a lovely meal at Da Roberto's Pizzeria nearby. Once again we seemed to strike gold as it had won a couple of Bridgestone Awards and we had a nice bottle of wine with our meal. Gareth was feeling a little poorly though so we retired to bed early after a drink in Oslo's. We needed a little rest ahead of the weekend to come!

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