Saturday, September 5, 2009
Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
Since it was Saturday and the store managers would likely not be in, we decided to get some tourist stuff in and not waste CVs that would likely not find their way to the right people. We joined the tour Marcus had signed up with for 17 Euro (student price). We got a bus tour of the area south of Galway from 10am-5pm. We stopped at an old medieval castle where they have banquet dinners at night for 56 Euro. That would be fun, but not quite in the budget.
We stopped at a pull off to take pictures of the landscape and the Atlantic Ocean. The Burren hills where we were are 315 million years old. Very little grows on them and they are made from limestone – a very soft rock. Burren actually means rock. At one point they were buried under the ocean.
Zach and Marcus were having a discussion about Ireland and Northern Ireland and countries splitting up and getting back together. Zach mentioned that as soon as there are more Catholics in Northern Ireland than Protestants, N. Ireland will likely rejoin Ireland. The Catholics were thus reproducing in numbers far faster than the Protestants. I thought this bit of information was interesting.
We stopped for lunch in Doolin. A LITTLE town with a pub that is set up for all of the bus traffic to have lunch as they drive by. Lunch was also not in the budget today if I could help it, so I had a pack of crackers and water I had brought as well as a Euro 50 muffin that was possibly the worst thing I’ve tasted as far as muffins are concerned.
From there we went on to the Cliffs of Moher. So far the weather had held off the rain. It was just really overcast and cold. The cliffs were beautiful. 650 feet tall, the ocean below crashed against their bases with some fury. The wind was so strong up there I could lean into it a ways and not fall over. After that I think I’m well on my way to starting my own dreadlocks! It would rain in certain areas of the cliff. Those areas where the wind was so strong it carried the ocean spray up that 650 ft. and further to fall back on the top of the cliffs like rain. Sea foam also accompanied the spray. It was kinda like the Rock of Gibraltar, but much much windier.
After our hour stop at the cliffs, we visited an old burial ground marked by a 5 ton slab of limestone atop four other stones. It was like a mini Stonehenge. The carbon dating puts the place at 3,000 BC before the Great Pyramids were built.
The next stop was Aillwee Cave. It was an extra 8 Euro to go in. Since I had recently visited Linville Caverns in the good Ol’ North Carolina mountains, I passed on this option. Marcus did as well, but Zach took the tour. I wandered around the gift shop and then sat down at a table with my map of Europe checking off places I’ve been and circling those I still wanted to visit. I was sitting near the bus driver, so I had a good idea of when to leave and not get left behind.
The drive from the caves to Galway was about an hour. An hour straight of Irish music the driver decided we needed on the way back. At first I liked hearing it, but it’s all really similar and kind of got to me after awhile. I realized that this bus tour was one of the touristiest things I’ve done in a long time and while it is convenient to see Ireland, it kind of ruins it at the same time. You feel like cattle being herded along. Tourism opens up the world to people, but it also pollutes the culture by mixing it and warping it. People are always trying to find the “old” ways/roots of places, and when they do it gets turned into a way to make money – commercialized. Probably because it is so easy with today’s technology to get on a bus, train, plane. Take the masses to see it. We have printing capabilities to advertise and promote in mass production; we have the ease of making things accessible. I can see both positives and negatives in this, but the things that are hard to achieve are the more valuable ones. Supply and demand. It’s almost like capitalism vs communism in a way. If everyone has access to it, is it as valuable? Does a place as beautiful as the Cliffs of Moher lose its value? I think it can. I believe I would have liked the cliffs better if I was one of few people out there discovering it for myself, not being told to step here not there. The masses of people crawling around the place took away from it a little, but is that price worth it for everyone to have access to it? We are also kind of looking at some of the principles of natural selection. Those best capable of seeing it can (physically and monetarily) while others can’t. I realize that these principles still apply, but in most cases we’ve dumbed it down a lot. Sure you have to pay for the plane ticket and the bus ride, but think if you had to pay for a boat passage, roughing it in the wilderness, hiking across to the cliffs with maybe a guide, maybe not.
Anyway, when we got back in town we were famished. Papa John’s was the verdict and Marcus came over for dinner. Our first guest! We settled up with Mrs. Teresa the rest of the deposit and the first week’s rent then ordered pizza with free delivery. I felt so cool and proud when they asked for the address and I spouted off 8 Mary Street.
Waiting for the pizzas got creative. Without TV, radio, sound etc. conversation is about the only thing going for ya. Conveniently, even though we all had just spent the day together we had a subject none of us ever tired of – History. Zach, being the history buff that he is, actually has podcasts on his phone of history lectures that I’m super excited about. Who needs TV. I also think I’m going to figure out how to get a library card here. Marcus had seen me with my map at the caves and suggested we hang that up on the wall. So I did. It pretty much consumed our conversation for the remainder of the evening.
We were delivered two Carnivale pizzas. The special was a large sausage, pepperoni, salami, onions, roma tomatoes, and balsamic drizzle for 10 Euro. It was a good deal because the regular cheese was 12 Euro, so we got 2! I chowed through 5 pieces, Marcus 6 and Zach 7, so I’d say the leftovers are mine.
After dinner I stayed and chatted for a bit, told Marcus goodbye, and left for the internet place 2 doors down around 8. After 8 they have a discounted rate for usage, so that works for now I guess. Marcus stopped in and said goodbye one more time when he left our apartment. That’s probably the last time I will ever see him again. That happens a lot with people when you’re traveling.