Within this post you may encounter the following:
1. Views that might make your heart stop. (Not responsible for any ill effects caused herein).
2. History that might bore you and you’re welcome to skip over. (But you might just like it).
3. Heartwarming story of life’s fun twisty-turns. (I’m still so excited)!
4. Video footage of me behind a bar. (It’s as ridiculous as it sounds).
Sad to leave the friendly people (and puppies) at The Frenchville B&B in Galway, we loaded up into our little car for an exciting day… one of which I’d looked forward to since I started planning this Ireland road trip! Thankfully, we had a less ambitious itinerary for the day, and therefore were able to sleep in a bit and lollygag around before checking out of the B&B. Our delicious full Irish breakfast was provided for us at 9:00am, and we joined the table with 3 Italians who were also traveling. With my limited knowledge of Italian, I was (proudly) able to pick out bits and pieces of their discussion, and finally struck up a conversation with them. It reignited my desire to become acceptably fluent in Italian! One of these days…
With sufficient sustenance to carry us through the day, we set out into the streets of Galway City. I would navigate us through the city center and out into the countryside. We couldn’t help but notice all the red and white checkered flags, which we’d learned to be flags celebrating the county Galway in the upcoming hurling championship.
As we’d hoped, what started off as a cloudy morning quickly turned in to a beautifully sunny day. We were certain God was leaving the clouds and rain for our drives, and the sunshine for out outside activities. What amazing activities they would be!
First on our list was Kylemore Abbey, set in beautiful Connemara. On our way to the Abbey, we enjoyed outstanding views. We did, however, encounter some road construction with flagmen. While typically this would be an annoyance, I took advantage of our frequent stops to attempt to capture the beauty displayed before me. At the base of lush, verdant green hills were crystal clear lakes, one of which was completely still. It looked like glass. Surrounding the lakes were fields with a mix of rugged stone, green grass and purple wildflowers. Cows and sheep grazed contently under the warm sun.
Finally, we arrived to Kylemore Abbey – one of Irelands most sought out sights. Fortunately, we beat most of the tour buses and were able to enjoy some moments of peace in this tranquil place.
Kylemore Abbey was built in 1867 by Mitchell Henry who was desperately in love with his wife, Margaret. They visited Connemara on their honeymoon, and she loved it so much that he built a castle for here there. (Man of the year, huh)? This castle was innovative in its time, and all available modern technologies and experimental efforts were used to construct an estate that was aesthetically appealing, as well as effective.
A pioneer in his time, he also decreased his electric bill by 98% when he switched from gas, candles and oil and started generating his own electricity from the lake atop the mountain. Tragically, his dear Margaret passed away from dysentery a short time after they moved into the castle and Henry never remarried. Three years after her passing, he had a Neo-Gothic chapel constructed on the estate in her memory. The architecture and detail in the church is demonstrative of his love for her.
Following the Henry’s possession of the estate, it was purchased by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester – actually, the Duchess’ father. It was his bankroll that allowed them to live there and maintain their lifestyle. Unfortunately, he (and his money) passed away, and the estate changed hands again. It eventually became property of the Nuns of the Benedictine Order, and has been their home since 1920. Initially the Abbey’s focus was on doing good works, prayer and education. It was an International Boarding School for many years, but eventually closed due to fire and discovery of uninhabitable buildings, which would be too expensive for the nuns to repair. Nonetheless, the nuns remain in residence there today and continue with their daily life of work and prayer.
Our stroll took us to the castle, and inside the “drawing” and dining rooms. The drawing room was essentially a sitting room where the ladies retired to get away from the antics of their men. We read about the love story that Kylemore originated from and the labor of love the Abbey has been for the nuns. We then walked alongside the lake, soaking in the beauty.
A little further down the path, we were able to view the chapel, the Mausoleum where Mrs. Henry was buried, and then up to the Ironing Stone. The Ironing Stone is an iron shaped stone that sits alongside the walkway. Legend holds that this stone was thrown between two mythical legends standing atop two different mountains. Evidently, wishes are granted to those who stand with their back against the stone and successfully throw a pebble over the top of it. After years of catching wedding bouquets (23 total), I fully understand this type of trajectory, and successfully threw the pebble over the Ironing Stone.
One of the major accomplishments during the Benedictines’ ownership, was the complete renovation of the Walled Victorian Garden. This garden is 6 acres of gorgeous, colorful flower bed designs and vegetable gardens. The garden once held several glass houses, which are no longer present. A small stream runs through, giving that peaceful bubbling brook sound to which you wish you could just lie down and take a nap!
Aside from checking into our Airbnb, we actually had pre-determined plans for the evening and needed to get on our way. As we drove away from Kylemore Abbey, we were rewarded with miles and miles (technically kilometers and kilometers) of awe-inspiring, breathtaking views.
The plethora of sheep grazing and napping right up to the side of the roadway made it an interesting drive. At one point I was heartbroken when I thought a sheep had been hit. As it turns out, he was just chilling.
The last landmark we wished to see before rolling into Boyle was Killary Harbour. What I thought was a charming little harbor, was actually no harbor at all. Instead it is the largest fjard in Ireland – one of 3. I also learned there is a difference between a fjard and a fjord. (A fjord is longer, deeper and less broad). Both, however, were created during the Ice Age by glaciation.
This magnificent fjard appeared as a lake initially, but the further we drove into the inlet, we soon realized what we were seeing! Aside from dramatic scenery, Killary Harbour provides a place for salmon farming and placement of mussel rafts.
At the very end we decided to stop off at a view point for some final pictures. Both of us were looking at the best place to park in the designated parking area and neglected to see the bright red car stopped in front of us. I bet you’re thinking we hit it, aren’t you? Well, we didn’t. I did get Justin’s attention pretty darn quick and after coming to a very abrupt stop… we managed to slowly roll into the parking area and park. We then resumed breathing. We decided this was a good time to take a break and get out of the car to walk around a little. We checked out a nearby gift shop offering mostly complete junk and knick-knacks.
Mentally refreshed to get back on the road, we took a few last pics of Killary Harbour and headed onward to Boyle.
As we drove through even narrower roads, we noticed a different checkered flag flying – this one red and green. We Googled it and found we had crossed into County Mayo. Killary Harbour creates a natural boundary between Counties Galway and Mayo.
The closer we got to Boyle, I was getting more and more nervous. In a sense, this would be one of the heights of my trip. You see, when deciding where I wanted to travel this fall, I was initially opting for Spain, Portugal and Morocco. I decided I didn’t have enough time to do all of them, and instead made a decision to embark on a “penpal” trip.
Let me first state there is one penpal (of 3) that I will not be meeting on this trip (Ahem, Ashley). He is from Bristol, Great Britain and would’ve been an easy stopoff on this trip. As disappointed as I am about our inability to meet up, it’s ok because he’s doing way cooler things than I am right now. Furthermore, he rivals my travel passion and I’m certain I will meet him one day in some random place.
Anyway, while he’s off photographing for Sail Week Croatia, let me take you back… waaaaaaay back to… 2011? 2012, maybe? A buddy from work had introduced me to an app called Wander. Wander was a cool little app despite all its bugs. Every week it would pair you with a person somewhere else in the world. For that week you were given 3 daily photo missions to complete. For example, it would instruct you to take a picture of your public transportation, school or workplace. The idea was to introduce one another to your differing cultures. During the week you could also chat freely. It was all fun and games until I got paired with 35 South Koreans in a row, and then it lost its luster. However, this app allowed me to develop friendships with Ashley, as previously mentioned, and another guy – Barry.
Since Ashley ditched me, he will one day have to earn his own blog post. Today we are focusing on Barry. Barry is from Boyle, Ireland and in our many years of intermittent chatting on social media, I was often left with complete confusion as to what he was actually saying. I think it was a combination of total autocorrect fails, lack of autocorrect altogether, and Irish slang. For instance, I had to have him explain what “craic” was. Every now and then we’d check in and see how things were going. He followed my fitness and travel endeavors, and I followed the growth of his family and his trips to Vegas and other appealing destinations. (For some reason he never wanted to stop in Kansas City… I don’t get it). When seeing an Instagram photo of him wearing a Toronto Blue Jays hat, I promptly instructed him to not wear it. Ever. When I offered to send a more appropriate KC Royals hat, he gave me an address that had no numbers in it. None. His response to my “No numbers?!” was met with: “No that’s it. Not a lot of houses have numbers here. Only in the city or estates. Its pretty easy to find them. The postman knows everyone’s name.”
Of course he does. It’s Ireland, right? Exactly how it’s depicted in every movie I’ve ever seen taking place in Ireland.
Anyway, on this day I would meet my friend Barry and his lovely fiancé, Nicky!!! I was so excited, but also fearful! What if we had nothing to talk about? What if Nicky was pissed about this chic coming all the way from the US to meet her man? What if it was just totally awkward? What a let down that would be…
We came into Boyle and I was giddy with excitement. As we entered the city limits, we saw the Roscommon County flag flying. These flags had become our best indicators that we are entering a new county!
We arrived at our Airbnb and our friendly hostess, Heather, got us all checked in. The room was very nice, and our window overlooked a busy Main St.
Barry had instructed us to meet him and Nicky at a little pub called The Patrick’s Well, and to find “Padsy” who would get us settled. Remember the texting difficulties I’ve experienced with Barry? Well evidently, Padsy is actually Paddy. Makes much more sense, doesn’t it? He didn’t seem to mind me calling him the wrong name, and happily provided us with two drinks while we waited for Barry and Nicky.
Just a few moments later they arrived and it was SO AWESOME!!!! We each hugged one another, and they each kissed me on the cheek with their embrace. As an American I ALWAYS FORGET TO DO THAT!!!! It felt like a first date… best to start at a bar with a drink first and decide if you really want to spend the evening with them or not. As it turned out, we all enjoyed each other’s company and after Barry secretly purchased our beverages, we all headed out together for dinner.
Barry drove us through Boyle and pointed out various places, such as King House, Boyle Abbey, Lough Key and the castle on an island that his cousin owns.
It was nice for Justin to sit back and enjoy some scenery without having to worry about driving. It was entertaining for me to ride with someone who is an experienced driver on the narrow roads of Ireland. Not timid at all, Barry zoomed through the curves and hills. His car had a lot more pep than our little Mariokart.
It was a quick ride to Carrick-on-Shannon and we soon pulled up to the restaurant, Buffalo Boy. I attempted to get out of the car, only to find the child protection locks were engaged. Justin and I waited patiently until we were let out. We took a table in the back corner of the restaurant. Buffalo Boy specializes in steak. I informed the server I come from Kansas City, so their steaks would have to be pretty good. She ensured me they were, but then I spotted a burger topped with pulled pork and went for that instead. It was amazing. Tired of so many pints of Guinness up to this point on the trip, I went for a lighter gin and tonic. Barry recommended Gunpowder Irish Gin, incidentally the same brand bottle from which our drinking water was being poured. It was a great alternative to the Guinness.
We had great conversation. I talked with Nicky about her little girls, one of whom would be starting the Irish equivalent to Kindergarten the following day. We all talked about our travels. We talked about our experiences in Ireland. Barry and Nicky made suggestions of things we could/should do if time allowed. It was a really great time and didn’t feel awkward at all. They were very welcoming and we so appreciated them taking the time out of their busy day to meet us and show us around.
After dinner we stopped at a little nearby bar to hang out a bit longer before Nicky had to head back home. Justin wanted to try some Poitin – Irish moonshine. Unfortunately, the bartender couldn’t find any of the real stuff he thought was hidden downstairs, so gave him a weaker version to try. I had a sip and it was disgusting.
After making another pit stop so Barry and Nicky could gift us two peat bricks to (hopefully) sneak home, Nicky drove us back to Boyle and dropped us all off. She easily fell into the role of designated driver as she is expecting, and also had to go home to get some sleep for her big day of sending their oldest off to school. I was thrilled she was able to come out with us, and enjoyed meeting her!
Main Street in Boyle is short and sweet. On this street was our B&B to which Justin quickly ran our peat. Not too far away, Main Street turns into Patrick St where The Patrick’s Well we stopped at earlier is located. Just across the street was our next stop, Kate Lavin, a real hole-in-the-wall pub that encompassed everything I’d expected (and hoped) to find in an Irish pub! Upon entering there was a small bar on the right with 4-5 barstools. Sitting on those was an Irish man who seemed to have been there since opening. His slurred Irish accent was simply too much for me to interpret. Next to him was an American couple who were trying their darnedest to understand him, too. Apparently Americans are uncommon in their small pubs, and Barry and the bartender were discussing how they were outnumbered 4-3. To the left were a few more barstools, on which Barry and I took a seat, and about as many booths with walls separating them from the rest of the bar. Kate Lavin was built in 1889 and is said to be haunted by Kate Lavin herself. We stayed long enough for a drink and some conversation, but I never saw her.
Finally, we walked back across the street and around the corner where we made our last stop for the evening. This pub is called Mattimoes, and is run by Barry and his buddy. This pub is amazing. As it turns out, before you take that last gulp of what you think is your last drink, there is another one placed before you. The pub has random memorabilia on the walls; photographs of old Boyle; license places; US dollars, fish mounts, etc. In the back was a pool table where several men were hanging out, a game in progress. In the front of the bar, several more men were chatting amongst themselves, beer in hand. We met the bartender, Barry’s business partner and a few of the regulars. I was the only woman in the pub.
At one point I needed to use the restroom so I headed to the back of the pub where the pool game was taking place. One man was about to take a shot, but stopped and let me pass, remarking “age before beauty,” as I passed. As I took my seat on the toilet, I pondered if he really meant to say that, and finally concluded he must’ve just said it wrong on accident. I finished my business, washed my hands and as I exited the restroom, saw the same man was again getting ready to take a shot, and stopped to let me pass. As I walked by, I thanked him and he responded, “Shit before the shovel.” It was at that point I realized that I was dealing with some real Irish characters! The night only got better from here. I later learned his name was David when Barry took me back to check out the old Boyle photos. (I was afraid to go alone)! David was a nice dude, and I actually appreciated his teasing. I am looking for the full Ireland experience after all!
When I got back to the bar, I engaged in conversation with Barry, and an older gentleman who is also a regular. He told some very inappropriate, but hysterical jokes. He gave me advice on avoiding terrorist attacks in London. He also cheered me on when I was invited behind the bar to pour a Guinness. My first shot wasn’t that great. In my defense, I wanted to stop pouring but everyone was telling me to keep going. Consequently, it spilled over. I was devastated! I really wanted to get it right. Later in the evening they gave me a second chance and I nailed it! Unfortunately, most of the patrons had left at that point, and it was a small celebration!
I finally convinced Barry to stop making drinks reappear. He insisted we all have ONE MORE. He gave Justin a whiskey that pretty well did him in, and I, having had several half pints of Guinness went back to the gin and tonic I found more refreshing from earlier. Perhaps it was the sheer volume of drinks I’d consumed, or the mixing (yes, Melissa, I was hearing you), but that last one did me in, too. To our surprise, Barry covered all of the drinks again. What a wonderful night he and Nicky treated us to.
Fortunately, it was a short walk back to Linsfort Guest House, our fabulous B&B. Barry walked us back and Justin took a picture of us in front of the conspicuous bright red Linsfort door. Barry grabbed a taxi home, and we indiscreetly made our way up the 3 flights of stairs. Once in our room, we quickly fell asleep. Following would be a long day!
There is something so magical about creating and fostering unexpected friendships. I would have never thought 5 years ago that I would meet this random person from Boyle, Ireland. (Where in the world is Boyle, anyway)? Nor did I expect to meet his fiancé and explore his city with them. I didn’t expect to connect with them. I didn’t expect to meet their friends. I didn’t expect to ever come to Ireland and experience Irish culture as a welcomed friend. The only thing I knew for certain, is that Barry was going to receive a Kansas City Royals hat. And he did.