Aran Islands, The Crane, and The Roisin Dubh
After a nice 2-hour power nap from my previous night's adventures, I was up and ready to go for day two around Galway. We took a bus to a ferry and took the ferry to get to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands. Largest is a relative term: the island only has 800 inhabitants and is 12 square miles! But the island is absolutely stunning. The ferry ride over gave us a glimpse of the island from afar but up close it was one of the most picturesque things I've ever seen; it made the quaint countrysides of Ireland look like a city. The island looked like a time capsule from a couple hundred years ago; there were two schools, one doctor's office, one library, two pubs, no roads, and no houses younger than 150 years old. The island had only gotten running water in 1950 and electricity in 1975! All along the island were stone walls that used to line ancient farming territory; they are still standing strong today without the use of any cement.
After walking around the oceanside of the island, we walked to the top of the island to the fort Dún Aonghasa, which means Fort of Aonghas. It's estimated that fort was built in 200 BC. Can you believe that? There is a structure over 2000 years old that is still standing and I got to see it and even touch it. The fort itself is built right above a karst (geological formation shaped by dissolution of layers of rocks) and the view is BREATHTAKING. This was what I was expecting at the Cliffs of Moher. We could get right up to the edge and look straight down to the ocean 100 meters below while looking out and seeing miles and miles of ocean on one side, and rolling hills on the other. It was also incredibly sunny and warm that day and I can't even describe the feeling of seeing that beauty and feeling the sun on my face and breathing clean air all at the same time. It was a wonderful sensation. How lucky am I that I got to see something that incredibly beautiful?
Coming back to the "town" of the island we got homemade ice cream (delicious) and several people bought sweaters handmade from Irish wool. Ideally I would have liked to have gotten a really nice sweater, but to be honest they were really itchy and they were so thick they made me look like a walking marshmallow. Not exactly how I'm going to meet my Irish husband. And nothing really screams "tourist" than a group of 35 Americans, half of which are wearing matching wool sweaters. I'm an individual - plus they didn't have any pink sweaters.
On the drive back to our hotel we saw A FULL DOUBLE RAINBOW! Literally what are the chances? I've never seen a full rainbow before, but this one was a double rainbow. It was absolutely unreal and I half expected a leprechaun riding a unicorn to come galloping past the bus.
That night after dinner we were all pumped to go out for night two of Galway. We wanted to try something a little different so at first we checked out The Crane which is a very small, traditional Irish pub known for its local music. I wasn't sure what to expect but I absolutely LOVED it. When we walked in, there was a long table of about 15 musicians playing traditional Irish folklore. They had fiddles, banjos, violins, flutes, harmonicas, and the musicians ranged from late 20's to late 70's, but most of them were older Irish men. The crowd seemed to have a lot of locals and people sat on worn wooden stools around the room and clapped and stomped with the music. Most of the songs were purely instrumental but one older man sang a few songs as well which was very enjoyable. That pub was a place that I would have loved to have spent the night at if I had the time and a couple people to enjoy it with; overall it was a very different experience and it really showed me what some of the more traditional Irish culture and music scene is like.
While The Crane was awesome, people weren't exactly interested in staying there all night so we moved on to another club that had been recommended to us, The Roisin Dubh (pronounced the row-jing dove). It was a fun spot - there were three floors and dancing and music on each floor, but the music was mostly Irish alternative rock which I liked, but not a lot of other people could appreciate it in the same way. It also wasn't as crowded as we were expecting (which is sometimes nice), but we also wanted to talk with the locals! After an hour or so at the Dubh, we split up to find what else was going on for the night. By this time it was almost 2 and many of the places closed at 2 or 3 so we didn't have a lot of options. Because of our success the night before, we decided to head back to The King's Head to finish out our night. This night was much more casual but there was another live band and I loved just sitting and talking and listening to the band with some of the other people that were at the pub. Again, a responsible person would have been in bed at a reasonable hour in order to get up early and after a long night the night before...again, YOU'RE ONLY IN GALWAY ONCE! It was another 5am night for me but it was completely worth it!