Letterkenny, County Donegal; last stop on a blitzkrieg three day tour of the Republic of Ireland’s wild and untamed northwest.
Three days prior, I pulled out of Galway in a brand new rent-a-car, pristine, like a new born baby in swaddling cloths. “Extra insurance?” the devil behind the car hire desk asked. “You bet your ass,” I answered; I knew what those god damn roads were like.
The upside to this road trip though was that at least I had a traveling buddy. My friend Elodie’s friend Camille was going the same way as me. For Camille it meant not having to take the bus, and an excuse to practice her English (she’s French). For me it meant one less car ride spent talking aimlessly into a digital voice recorder.
We lit out of Galway and headed for the Connemara, the northwest region of County Galway. The thing about Ireland is that each time you think you’ve seen all the beauty this island has to offer, you enter a new region and are awe struck once again. Between the placid mirror-like lakes, pale mountains, deep valleys and more than occasional rainbows, the Connemara is so gorgeous it hurts.
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We hit Westport by nightfall, and this was where the wear and tear of a week in Galway finally caught up to me. I was worn out, tired and sick. But I’d heard that Westport had a must see traditional music scene, so of course we went to the pub that night where I managed to thoroughly insult a local man when I wouldn’t let him buy me a beer because I felt too lousy.
The next day rivaled its predecessor in sheer physical beauty but completely outdid it in bodily sickness. We flew through west County Mayo, a region even more unruly and wild than the Connemara, hitting remote places as the stunning and almost haunting Achill Island (only accessible by a little bitty bridge). By nightfall we were in Sligo, the famous muse of WB Yeats.
Hugging the lazy river Garavogue, Yeats’ Sligo is a charming town with brightly colored buildings and absolutely nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon. So we headed out of town to find Queen Maeve’s grave – roughly 40,000 tons of stone sitting atop a hill, with a 360 degree view of County Sligo. Apparently if you take a stone from the bottom of the hill, and carry it with you for the duration of the 35 minute hike to the top, you can place it on the enormous pile of rocks and make a wish. Unfortunately we didn’t know this until we got back to town.
It was getting dark by the time we left Queen Maeve, so I dropped Camille at the station so she could catch her bus, and I headed Letterkenny where I now sit, exhausted, and coughing up phlegm.
Stuart’s Euro Saving Secret of the Day: Learn how to drive stick shift – it’ll save you LOADS of money.