Mile 15: A small group of us had intended to take a road trip out to Galway the day before, but--because I'm a complete airhead and get my days mixed up-- we load up the car and set out a day late. To drive in a foreign country is to make yourself one part test pilot and one part circus clown. You don't really know what to expect, and you feel like a complete buffoon while you're at it. Some of the biggest challenges we face are identifying the roads that aren't marked, mastering the roundabout, and GETTING CLEAR DIRECTIONS FROM LOCALS (read: the most frustrating process in the world)! After finally reaching Galway, we check in, drop our bags, and get in the car again almost immediately...this time headed north.
Mile 16: We notice damage to our rental car. Biggest cluster*&$% ever. Up until this point, we had not hit anything while in the car, or gotten into any sort of accident. Our only conclusion is that the damage must have been there prior to renting the car and we didn't notice, or that someone dinged us in the Dublin hotel's parking lot. Even though this is a huge headache that ultimately costs us hours in the Galway rental car office and an additional fee for changing the driver on the contract, we eventually get things sorted out (thank you rental car insurance).
Mile 17: As we twist and turn through country roads, we eventually round a bend and see our next destination - Kylemore Abbey. Built in 1867 as a "gift" from Mitchell Henry to his wife, Margaret, this corner of Ireland is stunning, if somewhat haunting. What is so cool about the Kylemore Estate (at that time, it was not an abbey) is that Mitchell Henry's romantic gesture actually became a functioning micro-economy and a financial salvation to local people. The estate provided work, lodging, and even education as the surrounding villages recovered from the famine. Up the lake-side path from the abbey, there is also a cathedral "in miniature" and a mausoleum, where Margaret Henry is buried.
Mile 18: We head to the nearby national park, Connemara to see if we can get in some hiking before sunset. It is fun to just walk around enjoying the scenery. We do as much of the Bog Trail as we can, and taste the salt in the air.
Mile 19: We drive back to Galway in the dark and then venture out on foot for some food. My friend asks for directions from a chatty local, who then proceeds to walk with us toward the city center. Along the way, we pick his brain for dinner suggestions. Chatty local had a heavy accent so I didn't quite catch his first suggestion for dinner. To me, it sounds like "McDonalds", so I laugh and explain that we are from the States and get McDonalds quite a bit. He in turn laughs at me and annunciates again, "No, I would never point you there! I meant Mc - Don - agh's!". Awkward Aimee Moment of the Day, folks. We did, in fact, end up eating seafood at McDonagh's and capping off the night at Quays, across the street. We stumble back to our B&B, not from drunkenness, but from fatigue.
Mile 20: As much as I want to hibernate under my covers, we get up and spend the morning exploring Galway.
***Water Break***Miles 21 - 26.2 coming soon!