A Travellerspoint blog

Home Again, final thoughts

Tips for enjoying your own expedition to the UK

sunny 65 °F

I have been home for a while now and, reflecting back, here are some tips that might help make your own expedition to the UK more enjoyable.

Money:
First, check with your bank and let them know when you will be away and where, otherwise they may lock your account the first time you make an overseas credit card purchase.
Second, ask them if they have a partnership with a bank in the UK. If they do (B of A is partnered with Barclays) then you can probably use the partner bank's ATM without incurring additional fees. This means that when you draw money out, you will get the amount you asked for in local currency, converted using the conversion rate of the day. This can save you big bucks over the long run.
Using your credit card will probably get you a small conversion fee, but some retailers (not all) can charge you in dollars rather than pounds or euros. This is more trouble on the part of the retailer, so it may not be an advertised service, or their credit card processor may not be able to do it. I discovered it was possible near the end of my trip from a retailer in Ballyvaughan. He did the conversion on his calculator and then charged me the dollar amount.

Food:
If you really want to, you can find Starbucks, McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Burger King in any major city and several smaller ones, but…why? Try the local food. British food may have a bad rap, but I enjoyed it. Scottish food is not all haggis and neeps, but they really are quite tasty. Be brave; try some.
What seems to be popular right now with the Brits is the concept of fresh, packaged food. You can find cafes with names like "Eat", "Pret A Manger", "Fresh", and so forth, that are dedicated to sandwiches, salads, yogurt, snacks, wraps, etc. that were prepared recently and then packaged in neat little boxes and plastic dishes. This is just like the food you might get at Starbucks, though more British. These places tend to close early in the evening, and most of them are sit-in or take-away.

Transportation:
It seems that no matter whatever form of transportation you choose, there will be delays. Planes? Delayed. Trains? Delayed. Underground? Delayed. Bus? Late. Taxi? Expensive and stuck in traffic with the meter running. Walking? Rained on.
My advice is to accept it and move on. Readjust your plans, or better yet, keep your plans flexible to begin with and you will probably have a better time. If you are taking the train, look into a BritRail pass. For the underground, get an Oyster card.
Something to keep in mind when you are traveling is that street signs are different in the UK. I don’t mean the warning signs, but the actual street name signs. This can be a real difficulty when trying to orient yourself. The name of the street is usually mounted on a building near the intersection. This means that if you are at the wrong angle you won’t be able to see the street names. Also, if you are on a main thoroughfare, there may not be a sign at your intersection; I suppose they expect you to know what street you are on. So look for street signs on buildings and if you cannot find one, try the next intersection or guess. Or use a GPS (but see the Cellular section below).

Sights:
My best advice is to look up. European cities have existed for centuries and except for the occasional disaster, many buildings have existed just as long. Most buildings at street level have had a facelift to make them more modern and appealing to shoppers, but if you look above, you will see an amazing array of architectural styles and decor. There are statues, gargoyles, faces, saints, notables, and miscellaneous beasties sculpted into the buildings. You might also find that there are underground city tours, like in Edinburgh, where you can see what the city was like prior to renovation.
To decide what you actually want to see, consult a guidebook. If this is your first trip, then leaving London without seeing Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, and so on, is simply wrong but also dig a little deeper. Talk to people you meet on your trip or join an online travel community to get an idea of the smaller, hidden gems that the guidebooks don’t cover.

Connectivity:
Unlike the US, most of the UK seems to charge for wifi. It is possible to find a cafe with free wifi, but it is not easy, and they are not on every corner. Often, I believe it is based on the size of the establishment. Britain has a longstanding tradition of take-away shops (or "food to go") that are not quite fast food as we know it. These shops are generally very small, often just a counter to order from with no chairs or tables inside. When they do allow sit-in, there are often only two or three tables, so it makes sense at a place this small wouldn't want people hanging around all day using the Internet. The larger, newer cafes will usually have Internet, but not always free.
Furthermore, you cannot count on getting the same Internet provider at each hotspot. So if you purchase a month's worth of service from BTOpenZone, the next cafe you stop in might be using Boingo, and you'll have to pay again.
Your hotel or hostel will probably have wifi, but again it may not be free. I had to pay at two out of the five places I stayed on my trip. Also, wifi is often restricted to a common area and may not reach to your room. This makes things like Skype or other VoIP services a little impractical (although the time difference pretty much made this irrelevant).
So, don't count on free wifi or being able to access it from your hotel room, but you will be able to find wifi somewhere. I wrote a good portion of this blog offline and posted it from my hotel.

Cellular:
I always had cell service, but the carrier changed depending on where I was. Since I have an ATT iPhone, I did some research ahead of time. Some phones you can unlock and then replace the Sim card which will allow you to use your own phone on a local carrier and plan. This will probably save money if you want to use your phone to keep in touch with your home, office or traveling partners. But alas, ATT will not allow their iPhone to be unlocked. ATT also charges egregious rates for roaming, as well as for data services.
Because I was on an extreme budget, my solution was to turn Data Roaming off and only use my iPhone's data services over wifi. This essentially made it into a dumbphone rather than a smartphone. If you choose to do this, I suggest you download some good offline map apps before you arrive. Features I find useful are: ability to place your own pins in the map and label them; street name searching; ability to select an area and bring up restaurants, shops, sites etc. The one I found, CityMaps2Go works okay, but not great. There may be better ones out there.
If you do have network access, you will be glad (at least until you get the bill). Without 3G, there are no location services so your mapping software cannot find you. If you are going to spend a lot of time in one country, you might look into getting a smartphone that works there. Apparently iPhones not on the AT&T network can be jailbroken, unlocked and used in other countries with the right SIM card. I imagine other smartphones might work with just the change of a SIM card, but do your own research before trying this.

Posted by philobermarck 11:43 Archived in USA Comments (0)

London

Day 14: The Slade, Geek Toruisting-Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who

sunny 70 °F

Today began with a brief visit to the Slade College of Art and Design, part of University College London. This time, I was not able to get an appointment or talk to anyone or see the facilities. Sometime at the beginning of June, the faculty and most of the staff leave on vacation to do research, and the replies I got to my emails over the past year have basically amounted to "if you cannot make it to the scheduled post-graduate tour days in October or February, then you're out of luck." Their phrasing sounded much more British, but that was the gist of it. So today's visit was mainly just to see where it is and to pick up a prospectus (both of which I did) and if lucky, see inside (which I didn't).

The rest of the afternoon was spent with Geek Touristing. I first took the underground to Baker St and visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum. This is an old building that has been designated as 221B, since the original site is now an office flat. The Museum has been done up in such a way that each room is either a replica of Holmes and Watson's digs, or has trophies and displays. There was an old gentleman in the parlor who told me he was Holmes. I thanked him for allowing me to look around and take photos, and he was quite pleased to pose for a photo himself. The items in the museum were clearly chosen and laid out to satisfy Holmes geeks as well as tourists, from the correspondence knifed to the mantlepiece, tobacco store in a Persian slipper, the pictures of Lord Gordon and Queen Victoria, and so forth. It was fun to visit, and I was tempted to buy all sorts of Holmesian souvenirs, but refrained.

Afterwards, I took the underground to the Olympia Exhibition Centre where the Doctor Who Experience is. This was a clever, interactive tour that takes you through the highlights of the "Crack in Time" season of Doctor Who. The Doctor (shown only on screens and never in person), played by Matt Smith, has been trapped in another Pandorica ("They had an extra--and they didn't even change the color!") and needs your help to get out. I'm not quite clear what help we actually provided, although we did get to pilot the Tardis briefly. Anyway, I was retained with extermination by Daleks, walked through a forest full of Weeping Angels, flung into a time vortex and attacked by Daleks, Cybermen and Weeping Angels, only to be saved in the end by the Doctor, who managed to get free. I had a great time and I think that kids would be amazed.

The post tour portion is a sort of Doctor Who Museum with costumes and props, many original, from the entire series. There is a gallery of doctors with their distinctive consumes on display, as well as a companions gallery, monsters and rogues gallery. Also on display is the original Tardis from the 70s, Tardis interiors and of course the current Doctor and his Tardis. After seeing all the things that went into them, I think I will actually have to watch some of those original shows.

I dropped my souvineers back at my hotel and wandered out again. As this was my last night in London, I wanted to do something other than sit in the hotel room. I found one of the rare caves that have free wireless and set about updating my blog while watching the city rush past my window. All those people with places to go, things to do, so wrapped up in their day to day lives I wonder if they ever see the beauty that is all around them. I find London an odd city of contradictions. At ground level, much of the city has been modernized, with glass and chrome, stainless steel and concrete replacing the wood, brass and stone that was the past. With good reason, too. Shops want display windows, offices want light, wheelchairs need access and so many bits of our modern world infringe on the world that was. But if you look up, above the ground floor, you will see marvels. Gargoyles, statues, decorative scrollwork, window trimmings, brickwork, friezes, crests and heraldic icons, men and beasts and more. All these things lurk just above the eye gaze of the rushing masses. Do they see them? Do they even know they exist? Your guess is as good as mine.

The cafe closed at 8:00 so it was time to search for dinner. I found a Tandoori House, called the Tandoori House, not far from my hotel and tried their non-vegetarianm Thali, essentially a combo plate. It had tandoori chicken, curried chicken with coconut and a spicy lamb dish that I missednthe name of, served with nan and rice. Yum. It was all delicious and the staff was great.

Tomorrow I fly out of here and head back to the states. I has a sad.

Posted by philobermarck 13:44 Archived in England Tagged architecture london who sherlock holmes doctor touristing Comments (0)

Edinburgh-London

Day 13: Around Waverly, rail delays, an ancient room and Greek food

sunny

Today was another travel day. I relaxed in Edinburgh for the morning, going first from Haymarket where I was staying (and here the really isn't much to see or do) to the Waverly Station area where I would catch my train to London. Since my train didn't leave until 1:30, I had some time to kill.

I simply roamed about the area, which is rife with old buildings, statues and memorials to men whose names meant nothing to me, but whose visages glowered down with stark indignation lest they ever be forgotten. In this area, you can find St Andrews  square, the Walter Scott monument (I know him!), the Dugald Stewart monument, the Nelson Monument (I've heard of him, too!), and other, lesser known monuments to politicians, kings, soldiers and scholars.

I stopped and had lunch at a Chinese buffet. I thought it would be pretty good, since the bulk of it's customers were Asian, but they apparently were not here for the buffet. My guess is that the menu items were for the locals and the buffet was for the tourists, since the buffet was overall pretty bland and uninteresting. Or perhaps my view of Chinese food has been seriously skewed by my exposure to US Chinese restaurants. I may never know.

I caught the train on time and settled in for my four-plus hour trip. About three hours into thus trip, the guard announced that there had been some problems down the line (related to a lightning strike) that was causing a delay getting into London. Not to worry, stiff upper lip and all that. Instead of speeding down the tracks without stopping, we started stopping at every station-not to let anyone on or off-just to kill time while they cleared up the problem. Between this and the relatively slow speed we traveled betwixt stops, we finally made it into Kings Cross around 7:00, almost two hours late.

From there I navigated may way through an angry sea of irate commuters, tossing this way and that in an effort to reach their destinations. It amazes me how the human animal will simply pull up short and stand still staring blankly, oblivious to the people around and how he's blocking the flow of traffic. Is it so difficult to step to one side before checking your map or pulling a sweet from your purse? 

After I made it from the rail station to the underground, it was only a short jaunt on the Victoria line to Euston station and a short walk to my hotel, the St Athans. It is another older hotel and although it does not consider itself a hostel, it has it's similarities. I have a single bed room with shared bath. The room reminds me of something you might have rented on a monthly basis in the Victorian era. Or if you were very poor, you would cram your whole family in it. It is simply a box, about 5x10 feet, with a bed, desk, chair, wardrobe and sink in it. I sit now, at the little desk, imagining a candle burning down as I scratch my pen across sheets of cheap foolscap, taking down the events of the day. Except the candle is electric and the foolscap is electronic.

After checking in, I found myself feeling peckish so I wandered out for dinner, which turned out to be a little Greek restaurant down the street from my hotel. Good enough, but nothing worth writing about. With my belly full, I decided to return to the hotel to plan tomorrow's ventures.

Posted by philobermarck 13:32 Archived in England Tagged travel rail Comments (0)

Ballyvaughan-Galway-Edinburgh

Day 12: Meeting at Burren College of Art, Leaving Ballyvaughan, bus to Galway, air to Edinburgh

sunny
View 2011 University Expedition on philobermarck's travel map.

This morning at ten was my appointment with Anna Downes of the Burren School of Art and Design. The school is nearly next door to the Burren View where I am staying, so I was able to leave just a little before.

Anna was a delight to meet. She showed me around the grounds, telling me the school's history as we walked. I met the Mary, the President and co-founder of the college and Rob, the Campus Coordinator (the gentleman who handles the physical side of the school, from running the art supply shop to keeping the water running). The school was founded in 1993 by Michael Green and Mary Hawkes-Greene, and became affiliated with the University of Galway in 2005. Their mission states they "believe that emerging artists should be provided with what established artists most need: focussed time free from distractions; space in exceptional studios with the interaction of international artists; and the inspiration of a unique location."

Although the Burren does not have a foundry onsite, Anna, Rob and I spoke about building one, which apparently had been done in the past by other students. Being out in the country, they have the space for large projects like this.

Anna and I toured the Masters studios, which are sectioned off in a large room. Each student gets an 14x14 foot space. At the end of the session, for the masters show, the walls are removed and the area becomes one huge gallery. 

I also explored Newtown Castle, the ancestral seat of the Lochlainn's, princes of the Burren. The castle is simply a defensible tower, round, but built on a square base. There are five stories, plus the ground floor, and a lookout walk at the top. Each floor is a single room with a balcony above the great hall. The castle is used by the school for art installations as well as graduation ceremonies, receptions and even weddings.

The size of the school is small, and the student body is kept small as a result. One of the tenets the school was based upon was to keep enrollment small in order to provide larger teacher/student ratio. There are visiting professors from the Royal Academy of Art in London and the University of Chicago, both affiliates of the Burren, as well as visiting artists in residence from around the world. Stylistically, though, their instructors focus on conceptual and contemporary art, so I am not certain I am a perfect fit here. It would stretch me as an artist, but I am not certain it is the direction I want to stretch. But there is also the option of moving from the MFA into a PhD degree, which might also be interesting, but would take longer. The major difference is that a PhD is considered research based, so I am not certain what that could entail.

Well, after carousing about the grounds a little and getting yelled at by the cattle (they sounded so accusatory, yet all I did was walk by-perhaps I was supposed to feed them), I returned to the Burren View to settle up. Bridget had informed me after I arrived that she was forced to return her credit card machine because of the banking system here in Ireland. Apparently they do not make it easy for seasonal businesses like B&Bs. If you do not use your credit account, you still have to pay for it year round, and if enough transactions are not coming through then they penalize you. Unfortunately, there is no bank or cash machine in Ballyvaughan, so Bridget brought me into town and we settled up through a friend of hers who runs a hotel, since I only had a handful of Euros in my wallet.

After settling up and bidding farewell to Bridget (who, incidentally, reminds me of Molly Weasly from the Harry Potter storiesm) I spent an hour or so outside the grocers, writing this and visiting with my friend the store cat. The rest of the day is to be spent in travel, so I am finishing this update here at the Galway Airport. The bus trip from Ballyvaughan to Galway was thrilling but uneventful, as the bus driver dodged here and there avoiding both moving and parked cars with nary a scratch.

I spent very little time in Galway today and then hopped a taxi to the airport. I have checked in and am now simply waiting for my flight. I spend the night in Edinburgh at the Original Raj Hotel off the Haymarket, then travel to London by train tomorrow. After a couple of nights at the St Athans Hotel in London, I will be ending this leg of my journey and returning to the US.

Posted by philobermarck 00:26 Archived in Ireland Tagged art travel bus university school air burren Comments (0)

Ballyvaughan

Day 11: Walking to Poulnabrone Dolmen and Back

semi-overcast
View 2011 University Expedition on philobermarck's travel map.

The morning dawned brit and sunny, a beautiful day to go a-walking. I wanted to visit some of the archeological sights here and this was going to be my only opportunity.

I set out after breakfast along the road, starting with the same route I went on Saturday. Instead of turning toward Aillwee Cave though, I continued straight and found the Ballyaban Ringfort. This was built by digging a circular trench and piling the dirt into walls on the inside of the trench. Likely, there were wooden defenses, ramparts and buildings that did not survive the ages.

Farther along the road I discovered a small path leading up a hill. It was unmarked, but there was a short stone fence with a narrow open gateway in it that indicated to me that I should enter. I followed the path to the top and found Cahermore, a stone fort that was built in Medieval times.not much remains of it, just the entryway and two small rooms. Apparently it consisted of a large stone wall built in a circle, and off the wall were small rooms like those near the entrance. Within the wall were other buildings, the keep, and so forth. Nothing remains of these.

I soon hit the road again, consulting my tourist pamphlet which read "a little further along on the left is Poulnabrone..." I took it at it's word and continued walking.

After a while, I began to wonder if this guide had been written for walkers, after all. I walked on thinking it must be just a little further on. I passed a number of nice cottages and farmhouses but no Dolmen. I walked on. I came to a pullout, a vista point along the road where you can stop and snap photos of the view from the top of the hills surrounding the Burren. I did so and swore that if I did not see some sign soon, I would turn around. I walked on. I finally saw a sign saying that Poulnabrone Dolmen was 1km ahead, and that Ballyvaughan was 8km behind me.

Well, since I was so close to my destination, I decided to push ahead. I rounded a curve, then maybe one or two more and there it was. Not quite what I was expecting, but interesting nonetheless. Like Stonehenge in England, Poulnabrone is a tourist attraction, and unlike the stone and ring forts I had passed earlier, it had been developed as such. No teahouse or gift shop, but a large parking area for busses and ropes around the Dolmen itself, with the corresponding "no entry" signs. I arrived at the peak of a tourist feeding frenzy, so I held back until they had swarmed over the site and were summoned back to their busses by their queens.

In the late 90s, the dolmen had been excavated because of damage to one of it's post stones. They found that over thirty people had been buried there. The remains were from Neolithic times, but the indications were that they had been removed from another gravesite and reburied here. They also found the remains of a child buried here during the Bronze Age.

I sat and contemplated this for some time but came to no conclusions or revelations. I took photos and wandered the site for a bit, the headed back. The trip back was mostly downhill, but it still seemed as long as the one out. At Ailwee Cave, I stopped and purchased some water, something I should have done on the way out. I then joined the Loop Walk and headed into town. Although the day had been sunny with scudding clouds up until this point, the sky suddenly seemed to fill with gray. Soon a heavy mist was falling.

I walked the road in silence, listening to the susurration of the wind in the trees, the birds calling and the cattle grunting and lowing. It was all quite pleasant.

I finished the loop in town and rehydrated myself. I said hello to the grocery cat and sat outside with her for a spell.

For supper I went to Logue's Lodge and had their Roast Lamb with Potatoes and Veg (as opposed to Chips and Salad). The lamb, although on the well done side off medium, was very tasty and they provided me with four genorous slices. The potatoes and veg were a meal in themselves, and I had to leave them unfinished. There were three small potatoes, boiled, a large helping of mashed potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower with white sauce, boiled carrots, and mashed carrots. The mashed carrots were remarkably tasty, and I was surprised that I enjoyed them as much as I did. Perhaps there was more in them than carrots, but I certainly couldn't tell. I washed this all down with a pint of Guinness.

Although it was still early in the evening, I returned to my lodgings and abruptly crashed for the night. So much walking, approximately 12miles according to Google maps. Then good food and good drink, no wonder I crashed.

Posted by philobermarck 05:26 Archived in Ireland Tagged walking fort stone ring dolmen Comments (0)

Ballyvaughan

Day 10: Newton Castle, Aillwee Cave, the Burren, the Loop Walk

overcast
View 2011 University Expedition on philobermarck's travel map.

Today was spent walking the area. I began by going up the road a little to the Burren College of Art and Design at Newton Castle to look around. Although the grounds were open, e buildings were closed and the current exhibition of student work was also. From what I could see, the facilities look nice, although it is much smaller than ECA and DJCAD. I believe that there is only a small number of students allowed, so this makes sense.

I wandered back down the road and turned up the A480 to head out to Aillwee Cave. Now, walking along a road in rural Ireland is an experience that is unlike anything most Americans are familiar with. First, the roads are uncommonly narrow, each lane being just barely the width of a car. Secondly, there are stone walls covered in brambles lining each side of the road, and finally, there is often no shoulder at all, and when there is it is less than a foot of grass between the bramble covered wall and the dotted yellow line marking the edge of the lane. Apparently drivers use some form of sixth sense to avoid hitting walkers (which is how pedestrians appear to be designated), while at the same time avoiding oncoming traffic. How they do it, I'm not certain.

The Aillwee Cave was discovered in 1944 by Jacko McCann's dog while chasing rabbits, but Jacko takes all the credit. He apparently kept it to himself for some thirty years, though, until he mentioned it to some cavers in the 70s. It was developed as a showcave in the 90s, apparently as a way to get people to pay money to see a hole in the ground. There is everything you'd expect to see at a showcave, snack bar, farm shop, pub, tearoom, gift shop and of course, birds of prey center. Although I did see some of the birds of prey, I did not actually visit the Birds of Prey Centre. I had already paid way too much to see the cave and did not feel like I could part with more.

The cave is....ah....cavernous. You walk through the tunnels and look at the bones of a bear (10,000 years old, possibly the last bear den in Ireland!), some limestone formations, stalactites and stalagmites, waterfalls and underground rivers. Interesting but it simply wasn't a long enough tour to be worth the price. You could however, make a day of it with kids, and they'd probably have a ball.

When I left Aillwee Cave, I joined the National Loop Walk and headed toward Ballyvaughan. The National Loop Walk are a series of circular routes in Ireland that have been planned out as scenic walks. This one is about 8k and cuts through Ballyvaughan. I followed the trail through the hills, past great deposits of limestone, by pastures until finally I was back in the village. From there, I went down to the docks where the jellyfish were playing by the pier. I imagine that a combination of plentiful food and easy currents caused them to hang around there, but it was odd to see a dozen jellyfish just casually floating alongside the pier.

From there I went to the Monk's Restaurant where I had their Seafood Platter. Crab claws, mussels, shrimp and crab meat served on a bed of smoked salmon, with a side salad. Yum! It was fresh, local and delicious. Alongside this feast, I had a pint of Guinness, with which I silently toasted my friends who are elsewhere.

Posted by philobermarck 11:57 Archived in Ireland Tagged walk cave castle loop burren newton aillwee ballyvaughan Comments (0)

Galway - Ballyvaughan

Day 9: More Traveling, Some Sightseeing and Suchlike

rain
View 2011 University Expedition on philobermarck's travel map.

Last night, although not a nightmare, was certainly a less than perfect experience. My flight was delayed again, leading me to think that I am doomed to spend my days trapped in the hellish world of recycled air and expensive fodder that defines airports all over the world. Scheduled to leave at 10:20pm, our plane had landing gear issues while en route to pick us up and was taken out of service. The airline managed to get another plane in the air to pick us up in Edinburgh, but that was two hours later.

This venerable veteran of the airways was a two engine prop job that reminded me of the glory days of air flight, save for the luxury that is encompassed in that image. With the propellors roaring like chainsaws in my ears and my seat trembling like an hyperactive massage chair, I managed to fall asleep, missing the flight entirely. Somehow during my planning, I must have anticipated this and had arranged for a hotel that had 24 hour reception. Thankful that I did not have to roust anyone out of bed, I made it to my hotel and hit the sack.

I awoke in Ireland.

Breakfast was much the same as in the UK, but with regional differences, soda bread and white pudding being the ones I noticed here. Since I was traveling to Ballyvaughan today, I repacked and checked out after breakfast, leaving my bag in the hotel's care while I wandered Galway a bit.

The rain was coming down steadily, which managed to get me well soaked by the afternoon, but it's only water, after all. I walked from Eyre Square south along the pedestrian area which seems to be the tourist centr of Galway. I stopped at several historic sites including Lynch's Castle and Lynch's Window, being a grim memorial at the site where then mayor James Lynch Fitzstephens convicted and hanged his son Walter in 1493. The story says that Walter killed a visiting Spaniard for making eyes at his lover. Lynch senior punished his son by hanging him from this window. This may be where the term "lynching" came from. Or not.

I also stopped by the Spanish Arch, which was added in 1584 as an extension of the city walls. Contrary to it's name, there is no relation between the Spanish Arch and Spaniards in Galway. It is on the edge of the river Corrib and provided a lookout spot to alert the city to incoming ships, which could be Spanish but probably weren't. Nearby is the Galway City Museum which was closed for renovations. Perhaps I'll stop on my way back.

After a time, with no sign that the rain was going to let up, I returned to my hotel and attempted to dry out in the bar. I ate, I drank, and I hid from the rain until it was time to catch the bus to Ballyvaughan.

The bus ride was...exciting. Once we left the city, we sped down country roads that seemed barely wide enough for the bus, much less the oncoming traffic. The farther we got from Galway, the more the rain lessened so by the time we were well out into the country, there was just a misty drizzle. The hills out here are green, dotted with cows, sheep and horses and crisscrossed with stone fences that divide the pastures. The only word I can come up with to describe the villages we passed through is "quaint" although that may have a derogatory sound to it. I do not intend it that way. The villages are small, and they are laid out along the main roadways. The buildings are old, some may be very old, so the architecture lends a certain ambience that implies a permanence, as though nothing has changed and nothing will change. The people whom I've met have been very kind, helping a befuddled tourist however they can.

When I disembarked from the bus I went into Logue's, since it is right at the stop, a pub/lodging house, to ask directions. My B&B, the Burren View, is a little out of town, situated closer to the college and the sights. The publican directed me to "go left out the door and walk to the end of town; turn up the road, past the church and it should be about five minute up there on the right." So out the door, up the road and past the church I went with my bag on my back, through the drizzle. And on I went. And on. I began to feel like I was in the first few minutes of "An American Werewolf in London" wandering blindly through the mists as night closes in. I considered singing "Santa Lucia" but opted against it. I walked on, wondering if I had somehow misunderstood the simple directions.

Just when I thought I had gone too far or taken a wrong turning, it wasn't the Slaughtered Lamb Pub that came into sight, but the Burren View, my B&B, where I was welcomed in by Bridget my hostess and am now ensconced safely and soundly in my room.

Posted by philobermarck 12:39 Archived in Ireland Tagged travel bus village air delays burren Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 7 of 19) Page [1] 2 3 »