It’s early morning on Sunday 1 February 1998 and mist shrouds Galway as I board a bus to Rossaveal. It’s a nice effect how the mist burns off while we drive through Connemara. By the time I board the Island Ferries‘ boat, the sun is shining and glimmering off the sea. We dock at Kilronan, the port on the largest of the Aran Islands, Inishmore. The other tourists are quickly scooped up by the tour vans lining the dock, but I head to Aran Bicycle Hire instead.
Riding a bike on Inishmore is a bit unnerving, not just because of the hills but because all around me is stone – the roads, the stone fences the divide up the land into little fields, and even the fields themselves are pretty rocky. I don’t want to fall off. I pedal uphill to the abandoned fort of Dún Aengus. Half the fort has eroded into the sea creating a sheer, 100 foot drop down to the turbulent sea below. I lie on my belly and sneak a peek down, down, down.
After pedaling around the scenic but desolate island for the day, I return to Kilronan. Somehow the island was hiding a lot of people because in addition to the daytrippers, the ferry and bus back to Galway are packed with stylish teenagers who I assume actually live on Inishmore and attend school on the mainland. I can’t imagine what it’s like to grow up in such a remote place nor how they manage to still be hipper than I.
I’d planned on departing Galway this afternoon, but since my trip to the Aran Islands was moved up a day it is now too late to travel on. I gleefully avail myself of the opportunity of checking into a different hostel, the Kinlay House with it’s clean, modern, and blissfully quiet 6-bed rooms. Then I head out on a pub crawl beginning at the sprawling uber-pub The Quays.
Here I meet an American business traveler from Cleveland named Tom. A few years ago he became acquainted with a distant Irish cousin in County Galway who he now visits each time his company sends him to Ireland. We combine our pub crawls and on Tom’s suggestion go to Tigh Neachtain’s pub. The pub is charming with it’s old-fashioned wallpaper making it feel like your grandma’s parlor, but it is uncomfortably crowded. Next we go to Central Park, a nightclub which is just opening and is pretty empty.
Tom leaves shortly afterwards, but since I have no business meeting to attend in the morning, I stay and watch as the club fills with the youth of Galway. The DJ spins a pumping mix, returning to the crowd’s favorite “Sunchyme” by Dario G several times, while I watch from the side wondering if I’ll ever get the nerve to approach a woman and ask her to dance. Finally, I just get up and dance. I still don’t talk with anyone, but it’s fun all the same.
Looking somber on the pier at Kilronan.
Stone fences crisscross the landscape of Inishmore.
The cliffs of Dún Aengus.