Into the west
Trip Start Jul 08, 2005
41Trip End Sep 10, 2005
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I'd been through that area several times in previous years when I was heavy into Irish music. You can hear some amazing stuff in the pubs in Galway and Clare, and the land itself is something you can't believe unless you experience it in person, with the Cliffs of Moher, the Aran Islands and the Burren all within a short drive from each other, and stunning green, rolling hills and dramatic, winding coastal scenery in between.
I headed to a small village called Fanore to pay my respects to a friend who'd passed away the year before, an old and intriguing guy named John who picked me up hitching a ride a few years earlier. He ran a B&B/restaurant called the Admiral's Rest and also owned some land that he turned into an independent nature reserve, and we'd spent some really nice times talking about travelling and cultures and Ireland--I think he'd been a merchant navy sailor when he was a teenager, travelling all over Asia and other far-flung places, so you can imagine his stories, a perfect mixture of fact and pure Irish blarney.
I was actually staying with him the afternoon one of his neighbors ran in and announced the US was under attack by kamikaze pilots in New York--9/11. I'll never forget how bizarre and unreal it was, sitting there at his computer, where I had just been staring out at the cows grazing peacefully in the grass and the deep blue sea beyond, the Aran Islands just on the horizon, thinking, "Damn, this is so gorgeous and wonderful...". Then the ugly reality. I was flying out of Dublin in 2 days' time to move to Budapest, so it was an interesting time to be an American travelling abroad. Back when people were sympathetic and empathetic towards the US.
But when I got there, the B&B was all boarded up with for lease signs, so I didn't get to talk with any of his family. Instead, I decided to honor his memory by heading to one of his (and my) favorite places--the beautiful beach up the road, and spent several hours lazing in the hot Irish sun (no, that's not an oxymoron!), watching parents and their kids play in the sand and a couple of beginning surfers catch some wobbly waves, remembering the laughs with John, and thinking about life.