I’ve never been the type that can fall asleep in a moving vehicle of any kind, which was a bit of a concern when I realized that our flight to Ireland was a 6-hour red-eye. We’d be leaving Tuesday night, and arriving in Ireland Wednesday morning. Fortunately I was pre-armed with some prescription help, and the suggestion of an iPhone app from our “Cousin Rob” that would provide some nice white noise as I tried to sleep. (Ocean waves, ftw)
It came as a total shock to me to be nudged awake by Army Boy in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, as the flight attendants brought around a simple breakfast of fruit, juice and croissants. I nearly fist-pumped with glee, so thrilled was I by my sudden new magical ability to summon slumber!
We were quite the sexy couple as we emerged from the plane into the misty darkness of the Irish predawn, and were extremely grateful for the hot coffee we’d managed to procure at the airport. We found our adorable rental car with little trouble, loaded up, and began our two-and-a-half hour drive out to the village of Clifden, outside Galway. Because of my foot situation and inability to drive a manual, Army Boy was relegated to driving duty for the entirety of our stay, and it was a remarkably freeing experience to have no choice but to sit back and relax.
We made our way west with little enough difficulty- the sight of a local traffic circle recently sent me into a spasm of post-traumatic stress induced terror- but the help of our GPS and my rad navigational skills, we were soon cruising along through mountains and fields teaming with sheep. I really think that the utter beauty of the drive was what kept us awake, because although you’re supposed to try to stay awake to ward off jet lag, we found it utterly impossible when we arrived in our room.
The roads were every bit as narrow as everyone warned, and then some, and we found ourselves being passed multiple times by local drivers who were far more comfortable with the treacherous curves than we.
Our final arrival in Clifden was met with huge yawns from Army Boy and squeals of glee from me- It was as quaint and beautiful as promised, and you could see our hotel on the hill. We pulled into the parking lot and I began the first of my series of dumbfounded sighs that we were REALLY IN IRELAND.
The lovely front desk staff at the hotel took one look at our exhausted faces and Das Boot, and hustled us back to our room with the prescription of a bottle of champagne. It was our honeymoon, after all! Though it had taken us two days to get there, we were finally ready to celebrate! We walked through our door, and were ushered right into one of the hotel’s signature rooms- a round turret with a large four-poster bed, fireplace, and giant clawfoot tub in the bathroom. At that point, we hadn’t the energy to do much more than marvel at our luck, before closing the room’s many drapes and collapsing to sleep.
Disclaimer: This was my first experience ever (shock!) with jet lag, and it is a nasty beast!! I didn’t expect it to be quite so physical… more a mental feeling of disorientation, but after our travels each way it felt like the worst hangover I’d ever had.
We woke the first day just in time for tea, and blearily made our way to the hotel bar. Army Boy was a bit skeptical, but since we’d eaten nothing since breakfast and had a couple of hours until dinner, he gamely decided to accompany me. The quiet room with a peat fire burning was cozy and inviting, and the fresh scones were restorative. We enjoyed taking the time to relax with our fellow travelers, and hear about their daily adventures while we all unwound before getting dressed for formal dinner later in the evening. Even now, Army Boy and I try to make time on the weekends to sit with a cup of tea and take a few breaths in the midst of doing all the things.
Unaware of the pace of Irish living on our first day, we were dressed and ready to go to dinner promptly at 7pm. Fortunately for us, we were waylaid in the hotel lobby by a trio of ladies who were already well on their way to “getting wrecked,” as they cheerfully informed us. Their names were Mary, her daughter Mary, and her daughter in law Miriam, and they made it a point of taking a girls’ weekend each fall to shop and relax in Clifden. One of the hotel’s owners, Brian, joined us at that moment and hearing that we were the “American Honeymooners,” insisted we stay where we were while more champagne was fetched.
(This was a trend that would be repeated many times throughout our visit- the Irish are wonderfully generous and could all drink us under the table without effort.)
We visited with “The Marys” for a bit until they needed to go change, and then went up to dinner. The restaurant was quiet, but for the occasional bit of fun that Brian would have with the guests. The food was heavenly, and the menu veered heavily toward the local seafood. I’ve never had smoked salmon like the kind I tasted in Ireland that night, and made an effort to enjoy it throughout the rest of the trip. The desserts were decadent, and we made our way back to our room for a well-needed soak in the tub before falling asleep again.
Thursday morning, we awoke refreshed and ready to start adventuring. We spoke with some of the hotel’s other visitors for recommendations about some activities that we could do relatively close to the hotel, and got some solid advice. With my foot, we had to rethink the itinerary a little (no hiking in Connemara national park, and not much to do on Inishbofin island if you weren’t able to walk), and were thankful for the help.
It was pretty easy to make the decision to spend our first day exploring the town of Clifden. I’m ashamed to admit that we drove the half mile or so into town, and parked near the town center. I wasn’t sure how far my foot would let us get in the “exploring” front, and didn’t want to chance it. It also gave us a good spot to drop any packages we might accrue from shopping. Which, I mean, DUH.
We arrived in town around 10am, and to our surprise, none of the shops were open. (see above re: the pace of Irish living) The majority of them opened around 11am, so we did a little hobbling/walking and took in the scenery. The town didn’t disappoint, being as picturesque as we’d hoped. We made it a point to visit both of Clifden’s two churches, the grand Roman Catholic St Joseph’s and the equally lovely Christ Church, part of the Church of Ireland. The two seem to stand as sentinels over the town, and it never got old using the spires to orient ourselves if we got turned around.
Our first stop was at the charming O’Daleigh Jewelry store. We knew that we’d have luck finding some souvenirs there, just not THAT much luck. We left there having spent a good chunk of our euros, but with lovely pieces for ourselves and a necklace for my mom.
The next stop on our tour of town was the Super-Valu market right across the town center. We wanted to pick up a few necessities to keep in our room (some snacks and bottled water) and I was on a MISSION, tasked me by Yezel: experience as much Irish chocolate as humanly possibly. Namely: Cadbury.
We located our more mundane purchases pretty quickly, and then went on to the sweets. I attacked the challenge with a scientific approach- grab as many different types of goodies as possible to try while we were there, and to allow us to settle on some favorites to bring home with us. Our highlights included Cadbury Crunchie, Aero, Flake, and Wispa. There were also Mars Revels, Bounty bars and some Cadbury buttons. Even if our accents didn’t peg us right away as American tourists, our haul when we reached the cash register sure did. The clerk laughed along with us when we answered that we were on our honeymoon and wanted to make the most of it.
The other exciting part of our shopping was finally getting to visit the Clifden Bookseller, one of my priorities. It was a quaint little shop along the main street absolutely overflowing with books beneath a cheerful awning. I’d decided that the best use of my euros there would be to locate a UK edition of “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” I quickly succeeded at that venture (and had to talk myself out of buying the whole paperback set…), and turned to the other shelves. To my delight, I found my copy of “The Night Circus,” as well as another magic-themed selection, “The Magicians Guild.” Keeping our weight limitations for flying in mind, I had to convince myself to leave the charming little shoppe with only those three purchases.
I won’t risk boring you with a play-by-play of our shopping adventures that day, but let it suffice to say that the back seat of our little compact was pretty well covered with parcels by the end of the afternoon.
Finally, it was time to head back to the hotel for the evening if we wanted to make sure to catch teatime and have time to get ready for dinner. The day had passed remarkably quickly, and it was hard to believe that our honeymoon was half over already.