Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1922: Coasting Through Ireland on Pints of Cider
By Green Dragon from FL, Spring 2011
Page 7 of 21: Tuesday, May 17th: Thou Shalt Not Waste the Pickle!
This morning V was introduced to white pudding for the first time, which she liked. I enjoy both black and white pudding, as well as haggis... I truly don't understand why people don't like it, it's just sausage with some grains in it. However, some folks are a little squeamish about ingredients, I suppose. We had breakfast with a woman and her mother, both from Australia.
We decided to head towards Errigal Mountain today, to see if we could try to climb it. We drove north through vast peaty bogs, saw some well-placed wind turbines, and traversed tiny, windy roads, windswept vistas of brown and black. There had been some devastating wildfires in the region a couple weeks before, but they were all under control now, thanks to a massive effort by the community, and we saw evidence of the char in many places.
We stopped at Errigal Hostel to meet Karl, a gentleman who climbs the mountain often with groups, and takes wonderful photos of it (he posts them on Facebook). He gave us advice as to where to start, and off we were. We started up the slope – and realized it was very muddy and squishy. Even though we had proper footwear on, we were both rank beginners, and the slope did rise rather steeply for us. Another group of hikers (with walking sticks and better gear) went up past us, and we decided it probably would be better not to try. Besides, we reasoned we could see nothing from the top, as it was enveloped in mist. Sour grapes, and all that, doncha know!
We wandered around the area a bit, TomTom tried once again to do away with us by taking us across a lake into diminishing sheep tracks. We turned around and went back after some scenic photos. We decided to head up to Letterkenny to see if we could find some adaptors, as the ones I brought were evidently outdated and no longer useful in Ireland, and/or a recharger for my video camera.
While finding Letterkenny, we came across Griannan Aileach, a stone fort on a high hill I had wanted to visit. It was a long, rather scary drive up the narrow road with high hedges and limited visibility, but it brought us most of the way to the top. The remaining walk was short and well worth the effort. Again, we had the place to ourselves. The view was sublime, and it looked like you could see half of Ireland from the top. Though the sky still looked stormy, and the wind was fierce, it didn't rain while we were surveying the landscape, and it was a very powerful spot. It was one of those places you were reluctant to leave, because you knew that when you did, the magic of the spot would no longer hold you enraptured and timeless.
We saw another ruin nearby, and found a road that might have led to it – but it simply went around it, through flower-framed lanes in a big circle around the hill it was perched upon. We dubbed it our second Ruin of No Consequence, and moved on, almost running over a rather questionable-looking farmer with an axe, standing on the side of the road.
Letterkenny was a maze of traffic circles and cars. We started at Dunnes (like a Walmart), got sent to B&Q (the equivalent of Home Depot), Argos (like AT&T) and then Mats (like Circuit City) – adapters we got cheap at B&Q, but no recharger. I resigned myself to taking videos via my still camera until and if my recharger came from Amazon.
We decided to give up and head down to Donegal for the evening, though we ended up back in the UK by accident once or twice. The only place to park in Donegal was a Pay and Display, and we had no Euro change yet, so we went to the tourist office, and they were helpful and happy to provide change. We wended our way through busloads of tourists in the center Triangle of the city, and settled on the Castle Bar Restaurant for dinner.
After having been in places that weren't very tourist-ridden, I had forgotten how braying a group of American tourists could sound, and felt sad that I was one of them. "Is the bus coming back? I had to walk a whole block!" "Oh, look at this cute leprechaun doll I bought! Isn't it precious?" "When is this rain going to stop? It's ruining the whole vacation!" Sigh.
I had a delicious smoked salmon and crabmeat salad, and V had seafood chowder, and we each had a pint, and I felt better.
In Donegal we did our first serious shopping of the trip, going from kitschy tourist shop to kitschy tourist shop. I have a tendency to pick up several postcards from each area to give to folks at work, while picking up actual gifts to those closer to me. While I try to avoid the 'tat and tacky', I still enjoy looking at the offerings and giggling a bit, like the glow-in-the-dark Guinness boxer shorts, and such.
I prefer local crafts, and enjoy supporting the local economy. I waited to buy a knit hat until I found one that was locally made, for instance. Much of the jewelry I purchased was locally made. I won't refuse to buy something commercial, but I do prefer the handmade. I can get commercial stuff on the Internet – the handmade stuff isn't as widely available, and helps someone make a living doing something they love. Since I make my own jewelry and photography as well (link in Resources) I sympathize and support the effort.
The last place we visited still had several other shoppers, but was unable to take credit cards as she had already sent in the night's report, so it was cash only.
The drive back to Ardara was less than a half hour, as we had traveled in a large triangle across the county. We inquired about a launderette, and Marian said there was one that could do our washing for us the next day. We then relaxed a bit in the B&B before we went out for pints.
We decided to try Nancy's again, and as we reached the door, a thin young man named Angus insisted that we come right in. He mentioned that my hair was fabulous (he was rather fabulous himself, which we didn't expect in such a small town!), and introduced us to Daniel and Michael, who were sitting at the bar. He said Daniel was a fantastic cook, and therefore with my glorious hair, we would make a great couple – certainly anyone could see the logic there! We settled down to a table, ordered pints and a Ploughman's Lunch of cheese, pickle and bread for a late night snack.
In the course of our dinner, we chatted with the men at the bar, who were quite nice, despite Angus' matchmaking attempts. Angus was evidently quite drunk, and left shortly thereafter. He evidently was a star at the event the night before, dressing up as the Toucan from the Guinness ads. I said he was quite the character. V said 'Character? That's the C word you're going with?' and the whole bar started laughing. We enjoyed the food – it had some nice cheddar and brie, and V and I fought over the bits of delicious sweet pickle relish. A bit fell off the plate - Thou shalt not waste the pickle!
We all had a lovely conversation about politics, economics, music, etc. with everyone, perhaps a total of eight people including us. The place was much less crowded than the evening before. It turned out Daniel was a cook there at the pub, but was off for the evening. He was one of the sons of the owners, and Michael was a cousin. There were six children, I think, and most of them worked in the pub in some way or another. It had been in the family for three or four generations, and was a very welcoming place.
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