Saturday, March 9, 2013

'Round the Salt Hill Prom with a Galway Girl

Going from Renvyle to Galway has been among the more pleasant bits of travel so far... Not only is it a beautiful drive (as the whole thing has been), but it is significantly shorter than from Dublin to Renvyle. Also, my wife whom I love was actually awake, which makes any trip more pleasant. Before heading South, we made a stop at Kylemore Abbey & Garden. The Abbey is a castle, or a mansion, that was originally built for a wealthy land owner and his family. I believe it was during the famine, and he was paying workers significantly better than average wages, while also providing decent housing, a post office, and a school for their children. He essentially made a town out of his estate, and planted a forest around it, in addition to a beautiful six acre walled Victorian garden. At one point, his son got sick, and Doctors told him the best treatment was in Egypt, so the whole family  went. The son did get better, but his wife got Nyle Fever, and died sixteen days later. He didn't want her buried in Egypt, so he had her embalmed, and brought her back when they returned to Ireland... four years later, I believe. He still didn't want her buried, so he kept her under the stairs until a mausoleum could be built to hold her, and a small gothic church built to honor her. Unlike most gothic churches, hers is adorned with angels, rather than gargoyles.
When he died, after having to spend more than forty years without the woman he loved, his worthless son (who had nearly bankrupted him in life) sold the estate to an American oil tycoon who gave it to his exceptionally stupid daughter, and her surpassingly stupid husband as a wedding present. Because the husband was a Duke, and she was stupid, she had the gothic arches and stained glass windows removed from the house, and took out a number of walls to expand the bedrooms for the royals she imagined would be their frequent guests. Because her husband was a gambling addict, and was also stupid, he lost the house in a card game. The house went unused until it was sold to an order of Benedictine nuns, who still live there, and use the ballroom to hold Mass every Saturday. They keep the house and gardens in shape, and make soap, chocolate, and jam to sell on site. The jam, by the way, is delicious, and, having been to the castle and gardens, I kind of wonder what it would take for me to become a Benedictine nun. Nothing drastic... Maybe a little Bosom Buddies type of shenanigans.

We made it to Galway and found our lodging, after a brief detour where our gps said "turn left" when it meant "turn right", and got all set to go out to dinner. We set the GPS (which I think might be an agent in the robot uprising, set on destroying it's cruel human masters) to search for a restaurant called "The King's Head" near us, and set off when it said it had been found. When it became evident the sleeper agent GPS was trying to get us on the freeway, and we'd already been driving for longer than the concierge at our Bed & Breakfast had told us it would take, we took a closer look at the rout, and realized it was trying to take us to England. We recalculated, and it eventually found the King's Head we wanted, but lead us around and around in circles before we took the first parking spot we could find outside the Salt Hill Prom, and asked a shop keeper. It was a two minute walk, straight down a pedestrian street. Of course, by this time, it was after 9:30pm, and the only place still serving food was a nice pizza place. It was delicious, though not exactly traditional Irish fare. However, when we finished dinner, we went over to Taaffe's bar, which had been suggested to us by a tour bus driver in Dublin (very nice lady). This was much more like the "real Ireland" that we had been looking for. It was packed, almost to overflowing, with locals, and had a small group of middle-aged musicians stuffed in a corner, playing "Trad Music." I've learned that drunk Irish people behave entirely differently than drunk Irish Americans do. Irish Americans drink, and fight. Real Irishmen (which it seems I am much more like) drink, then drink some more, then they get really happy and peaceful, then they drink some more, and challenge friends and acquaintances to step-dance battles. Yes, really. As I said, the room was packed, but Erika found a table near the front, with a decent view of the goings-on. Suddenly, I see a space clearing in the middle of the floor, and I immediately pull our glasses away from the edge of the table, and make sure Erika is near me, because I'm thinking there's a fight... Then I see a chubby, bald, bespectacled head popping up above the crowd, and down out of sight again and again. That face goes away, and another almost just like it starts doing likewise. Through a break in the wall of spectators, I see that attached to these chubby bald heads are the equally chubby bodies of two drunken gentlemen in their mid to late thirties... who, when standing, slouch and sway, drink in hand... dancing, in perfect form, and with perfectly assured footing, traditional Irish step dance.
Erika, upon seeing my delight, asked, "Why is it that, at home, I can't get you out to a club, or any other loud crowded place, but here you're having fun?" The answer, I told her, is that these are my people.

1 comment:

  1. So basically, Benedictine nuns are way smarter and more responsible than Dukes. I don't blame you for wanting to participate, however, I think I will continue to wait for my invitation to join the order of the Trappists Monks.