Sunday, February 14, 2010
Gidget goes Hawaiian? Nay, Teal goes Lahinch.
This may or may not have been the best weekend of my recent life in Ireland. I don't think I stopped smiling the whole weekend. My face and the rest of my body are SPENT.
So a little back story is necessary. If one good thing came out of going to choir that first night and not leaving early, it was the after party at the college bar. We got free potato wedges and sausages and Bavaria. It was lovely and I met some really awesome people, one of them being Liam. He's an Irish lad with ginger hair and I'm very jealous of it. Anyway we were all chatting (Dayna, Kevin, a dairy farmer from Sligo--who shared his pizza with us aka more free food, Liam and I) and we learned that Liam is a surfer and has a groovy little business going in Lahinch in County Clare. SO I basically invited Dayna and myself to have him teach us to surf and he obliged. An exchange of digits and figuring out a good weekend and fast forward a few weeks.
Liam picked up Dayna and me in his decked out surf van this past Friday and we took the lovely journey to County Clare through the Burren along the coast. The Burren, I'm told, was carved out by glaciers and now looks a bit like Mars. It's totally rocky and strange and very cool...or "class," as the Irish say. On the drive Liam regaled us with stories of him and his friends surfing out in the ocean with Dusty the wild but very friendly and lovely dolphin playing with them. It was the most gorgeous and sunny day I've experienced yet in Ireland and cold but not TOO cold. We stopped at a beautiful tower stone castle, took some pics and soaked in the surroundings and continued on our way. Eventually we saw the Cliffs of Moher (which I still can't pronounce quite right--maw-her?) and he gave us two options: take the touristy route and pay a bunch of money to park and walk the normal boring touristy way OR take some "higgeldy piggeldy" (his words, not mine but they're very funny) roads and make our way over to some farmer's fence, jump the fence, and walk to a much cooler and less well known part of the Cliffs. I think ya'll know which way we took. After some bumpy dirt roads and an awkward park job, we hopped the rusty barbed wire fence and set off to the castle in the distance.
We walked up to a grassy clearing and my jaw instantly dropped. It was seriously THE MOST beautiful natural sight I've ever seen. It was unreal...beautiful blue skies, an enormous ocean, CLIFFS and seagulls were all around me. I couldn't quite contain my excitement or stop smiling. We poked around the castle and walked some (I thought) treacherous little paths to get down to different parts of the cliffs we were on and just soaked in some amazing views and compared pronunciations of various words. I really can't get over it and I wish pictures could do it justice. You must see them..702 feet above the ocean and just breathtaking. We took some funny jumping pictures where it actually sort of look like we're jumping off the cliffs and just hung around. We also walked down a very muddy and slippy path that I definitely slipped in a few times. It was about 18 inches from the very edge of the cliff and slightly terrifying. Then we lay on our bellies and stuck our heads out over the cliffs (BA, I know) and watched seagulls playing in the wind and watched them neck. It was cute.
On our walk back to the van from the cliffs, Liam suggested we just crash at his house for the weekend rather than the hostel I had already given my credit card info to. So I called them after we got to his house and he awkwardly asked his mom while we were RIGHT THERE if we could stay as I stared on in horror. They said it was fine but I might be charged for the first night if they didn't book the beds. Whatevs. [they did charge us for the first night] So his mom was so kind and made us curry and we had wine and chatted. But before dinner we walked into town and Liam knew EVERY OTHER PERSON who passed by. I guess Lahinch is a small town and everyone knows everyone. It was cool to see. Anyway, after dinner we watched the most beautiful sunset..you can see the ocean from his living room.
Then we headed to Lisdoonvarna (home of the famous match-making festival) to see/hear a trad session in a cute little pub where everyone looked at me and Dayna when we walked in. I guess my muddy runners and mud-caked jeans gave me away as a foreigner. But the session was great--8 or 9 musicians just keepin it real and playing awesome tunes. Then a little old man in the corner started singing a song and the entire pub went quiet to hear his beautiful high tenor singing an old song about Queenstown. It was grand! Then we headed home to bed!
The NEXT day we woke up, ate some Crunchy Nut cereal and poured ourselves into winter wet suits. It was very funny to try to get them on, hike them up our legs and squeeze into them. I sort of felt like Cat Woman, though not quite as sultry. Anyway Liam gave us a bit of a crash course in surfing because he had to man his van (haha) and set up and rent out surf gear before joining us. So Dayna and I put our boots and gloves on and headed to the sea with our boards at our sides. IT WAS SO COOL to walk into the water and not be cold! I could see my breath but it just felt like a bath or something. Class. So we just played around and pretended to know what we were supposed to do. Eventually Liam came in, gave us a proper lesson and his
Canadian friend Mark helped out too. It was soooo much fun and amazing to be SURFING in February in Ireland. I even stood up on the board! WOOOOOO! Cowabungaaaaaaaaaaaaaa. But seriously, it was ridiculous.
We surfed for a good bit of time and then headed home to take hot showers and scarf down some leftover cake from the night before. After that, we headed to a pub to get linner and watch the France/Ireland rugby match. Rugby is SO MUCH COOLER than American football. It's shorter, for one, and it's just a lot more intense and exciting. Ireland lost, unfortunately. But I got the lamb stew and Guinness special for 10euro (why not splurge, I didn't have to pay for a hostel), and now I understand why the Irish aren't quite known for their cuisine. The veggies were a bit mushy and bland. But at the pub we met another handful of Liam's friends and enjoyed the match..well we didn't enjoy it because we lost but you know what I mean. Then we walked back to his house and just hung around and watched Dana O'Brien, a HILARIOUS Irish comedian for a bit. After we recovered some strength we went to Frawley's, the oldest publican in Ireland. He's 80-something, has a glass eye and only has Guinness on tap. The place was the size of my single dorm room last semester but it was super cool. We watched some boxing whilst enjoying our pints and then headed to the same place we had dunch. Again, we met more of Liam's friends and had some good craic.
Today we surfed again, though my entire body feels bruised and battered. I have bruises in the most bizarre places. I suppose carrying the board down to the beach and then having it crash against me walking into waves banged up my hips and sides, though I'm not sure where the ones on my ribs came from. Also on the back of my knees? Weird. We didn't surf too long today, as Dayna and I were exhausted from the day before and I could barely push myself up onto the board. Surfing worked out some muscles I didn't know I had in my ab region and glutes. But hey, no pain no gain! HOWEVER I stood on and rode a wave for a good few seconds, and that's all I wanted to accomplish! After catching a few waves, we headed home to shower, make lunch and pack up. We then went back to the Prom to meet up with Liam and met his Czech friend, George. He was really nice and it was nice to chat with him after I practiced my Irish with Liam. He conveniently learned a DIFFERENT dialect than the one I'm learning, so there were a few barriers. Plus he couldn't understand my accent. Irish speakers have a really strange way of speaking...super fast and kind of mumbly jumbly. But anyway he got lunch and bought me tea (Dayna coffee) and we eventually headed home a different route through the Burren. It's such a crazy landscape! The roads we took were super windy and narrow..I felt a bit sick but nothing I couldn't get over.
All in all it was such a fantastic weekend. Absolutely the best one I've had so far in Ireland. Changing up the scenery and "going on holiday" to Clare was so nice and a great way to change it up. It's made me REALLY want to see the rest of Ireland. Or maybe not come home at all. I'm only slaggin', I'll be home...but slightly reluctantly. Just Kidding!
...but seriously. Naw I'll be home :)