Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Remembering one night on Inishmore many years ago (Aran Islands, County Galway, Ireland)




We raced to Kilronin on our bikes in a race to beat the setting sun.

At this point I had ingested only two slices of dry toast and one cup of tea in the previous twenty-four hours. With those calories as fuel I had climbed to the top of Dun Aengus and jumped numerous dry rock walls to reach the tall cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. Not to mention the exhausting arguments about Joseph Stalin . . ..

My blood sugar was low and my vision beginning to fade and as Shane and I rode as fast as possible into town.

We made a mad dash to the fish and chip shop on the corner. I say THE corner because it was the only corner in this tiny fishing town. Contrary to Shane's emphatic assertions, the fish and chip shop was indeed closed. Afterall, it was 8 pm on a Sunday evening.

Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands, had a population of only 800 and by sundown most of the islanders had left the bustling center of Kilronin and returned to their own corner of the island.

I tried to hide my apparent hunger and exhaustion to remain cool. It wouldn't work.
Shane reminded me that Guinness is packed with nutrients and was even prescribed to pregnant and nursing mothers not too long ago. We walked our bikes up to Joe Watty's Pub for a pint.

While the fish and chip shop was empty, the pub was full of islanders. I thought it was amazing that an island so small could pack a pub so tightly - on a Sunday night no less.

After our refreshing pint of Guinness, we coasted our bikes down the long hill to the next pint at a village pub in the center of island. This proved to be a challenge as the night air was black and muddy. After only one pint of Guiness my chances of veering into a rock wall or a sheep were very high.

The pub looked from the outside like any of the other houses scattered across the island with flower boxes under the windows. As we walked closer to the door we could hear the dull hum of bodhrain's, recorders, and violins together creating the joyous sound that they call traditional Irish music.

Because the pub was packed we took a seat at one of the few tables out in front. With empty pint glasses lined up in front of us we leaned into each other to combat the air's chill. Our backs to window, we could hear island housewives proudly rise to sing a favorite song or two as newly arriving neighbors sat down with the local musicians to play their instruments.

Through the window, we watched the couples dance across the crowded floor with their own special brand of Irish dance they had learned in childhood. We sat looking out upon the wide expanse of the Irish Sea, listening to the only sounds that could overpower the sounds of the band: the wind and the waves.

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