We landed in Dublin on Good Friday. In other words, we landed in a place known for its stout and whiskey on a day when no one would/could sell us any stout or whiskey. Even the gas station beer selection was covered in bed sheets. Great planning on our part. Undeterred, we hopped in a car and drove west toward Connemara, hoping to find some sort of wild-west-we-do what-we-want spirit. We pulled into a convenience store/bar (because most establishments in Ireland are a something slash bar) outside of Clifden, hoping to charm the proprietor into selling us a welcoming brew. The little Irish man behind the counter seemed physically pained that he couldn’t send us off with a Guinness. Really, we could tell that it hurt his soul. And we’re also pretty sure, based on his pointing and winking (something that the Irish confusingly do a lot), that he would have sold us some if his wife weren’t working the register next to him.
Finally, we arrived at our hotel – an instantly depressing sight. It looked like a retirement home built in the 50s to look like an amusement park castle. Luckily, however, the place very quickly endeared itself to us through its warm-hearted staff and delicious food. Much to our delight (much to our relief), we learned that the hotel bar was, indeed, open. We eagerly ordered a round and toasted to a one of the most beautiful countries we’d ever seen! Then one of us pulled back a heavy drawn curtain to admire the view of the bay and we were quickly chastised by the hotel’s suspender-clad owner. “It’s Good Friday, don’t you know? The curtains have to stay closed.” If those curtains are not the quintessential physical representation of Irish Catholic guilt, I don’t know what is. We quickly learned that as a hotel is the only place allowed to serve on Good Friday, the entire town of Clifden was hanging out with us at the hotel that night. While the curtains did nothing to curtail behavior, and the whole town was inside, i guess were hiding from someone else….
After checking out the town and a delicious dinner of local seafood, we went back to the hotel bar to enjoy some live piano playing. Not only was everyone in town there again, but everyone in town was insanely talented. One by one, the town folk stepped up to the mike with a guitar or a fiddle that they magically pulled out from under their tabled and dazzled us with their voices and musical skill. We listened to Elvis, the Beatles, and a few Irish folk songs. A guy who’s played the fiddle alongside Mic Jagger even got up. At no point did we care that the “castle” wasn’t real.
The next day we biked around Connemara and, if we hadn’t fallen in love with Ireland already, our hearts were completely overtaken by the natural beauty of its West Coast. If God had seen through the curtains the night before, this landscape was proof enough to us that we were already forgiven.
Later that day, we ate the best Guinness beef stew in Roundstone, and then drove down to Galway for another night of incredible music at the King’s Head and a moonlit walk home around Galway bay. To be honest, I didn’t love Galway as much as Clifden, but I’m very much looking forward to giving it another chance one day soon.
The next day we hiked the Cliffs of Moher, well worth it’s place on many-a-bucket list, and drove back east for more live music in Dublin at the Brazen Head. The band playing was out of this world. At one point, S and I looked at each other in total awe of the speed of the banjo player. At one point, the other band members stopped and he went faster. Everyone cheered, wide-eyed. Then he went faster. Then faster again. It was an incredible night to top off one of our favorite trips thus far. We then fit in a quick trip to the Guinness storehouse and it was well worth the pre-flight rush. Cheers to you, Ireland! We can’t wait to come back!