Monday, March 5, 2012

Aran Islands with Jamie and Jessie

After the semester in Rome with Thomas More sophomore year, I traveled around with Jamie. With her DK Eyewitness Travel Book for Europe and a little too much tuna we had great adventures.  Jamie (Lyn) and her sister Jessica went to Germany and then came to visit Ireland. I met them at the train station and we got fish and chips from McDonagh's (the bestest) and then we went for a pint and tried to find some Irish music.  Using my roommate's wonderful DK Eyewitness Travel Ireland book (I seriously love those things) we decided on visiting the Aran Islands the next day. 
     The ferry ride over was very bouncy though. Very very choppy. And the Dramamine was safely sitting at home still.  But hey, puking on Irish strangers/your friends/off the back of a boat is an experince everyone should have at least once right? I'm sure it is on some bucket list of things-to-do-when-traveling right? Right? No? Oh oops I must have been mistaken then...
     Anyway after our -ahem- adventurous ferry ride we made to the beautiful Aran Island of Inis Mor (Irish for the big island, oh so clever)  Renting bikes was almost entertainingly easy: we each paid the old Irishman 10euros and he handed us a bike. Then we left. That was it. No ID, no time it needed to be back, no helmets, no locks, no deposit, and there was nothing on the bikes to identify them as his. Although I suppose it is a small island so you couldn't go too far with them.
Took this impressively-not-crooked photo while riding a bike
Biking through the amazingly-Irish-and-very-beautiful scenery was great.  Although there were nearly as many hills as there were little stone walls. Which was a ton. It seems to me that Aran Islanders just enjoy building stone walls. The majority of them were too close together and too random shaped to be fields or yards, they seemed to have the same purpose as Frost's Mending Wall: just to be built. Peddling up the bizillionth hill with way-too-fast vans passing you on the wrong side was almost enough to make one reconsider the choice to bike instead of taking one of the van or bus tours.  It was actually really fun though.

Great soup and brown bread and tea and scones and a fireplace to boot!

We got a yummy lunch at an adorable cafe then found a tiny shop owned by an wonderful old Irish woman sitting behind the counter knitting away making a sweater. Jamie found a great hat-- in the same color as the Sarah Jessica Parker's hat from the lil ol' lady's shop, she was quite proud to tell us that Steven Spielberg had been one of her costumers as well.  She also had two very exciting pieces of information for us: that the ferry is always calmer going back the other direction and that there's another road closer the coast that is far less hilly. Excitement all around.

 Then we left the bikes at walked the rest of the way up to Dún Aonghasa, a stone fort that's thousands of years old.  Can't imagine that anyone would have ever dared to try taking that fort cause it's pretty well situated.  It's built right on the cliff so it's got stunning views of the cliffs and waves. The highest point of the cliffs is over 300 feet (But totally safe mom! Honest! No need to worry ^_^ Really...something like that) 
 We got some great photos (and were very very careful by the edge, don't worry).  It was a beautiful day (it barely rained on us as all and that's practically sunny in Irish terms). Because we stopped for lunch and at the knitting shop first we had the fort to ourselves once we got up there. Then we had plenty of time to bike back along the non-hilly-road and check out lots of Aran sweaters before the ferry left.
Jessie also played fetch with a RedBull can and this awesome sheepdog
The Aran Islands are definitely worth the trip, especially since the ferry, bus, and bikes didn't add up to cost very much.  Inis Mor is gorgeous and peaceful and very very Irish. I very much enjoyed it.

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