There is a world famous epidemiologist named David Moher, who used to be my boss 16 years ago when I first moved to Ottawa. Here I am taking liberties with his personage:
How is this relevant to today’s post? Well I will tell you, my droogies. Yesterday I undertook a day-long trip from Galway to the Aran Islands, culminating in stroll atop the Cliffs of Moher. Get it? Moher?
Here are the requisite tourist photos of this very famous place, including a selfie of me (duh, who else?) listening to my new favourite band, Novelle Vague (thanks to Mischa for the recommendation).
The tourist highlight these days is the crevice on the side of the cliff, which was featured in the 2009 movie Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince, in the scene where Harry searches for one of Voldemort’s horcruxes.
Or as our bus driver (who is admittedly not a fan of the series) put it, “Harry and Dumbledorf [sic] were searching for core-cruxes [sic].”
I really didn’t care much. So while everyone else was freezing their asses off on top of the boat, trying to get the perfect photo (that every other tourist has also taken). I stayed inside I took this pic through a window. Do you care? I don’t.
The Cliffs had a nice visitor’s centre and excellent wifi (the things you really want to know about). They even had this very interesting film about the wildlife around and under the cliff:
Our bus driver Raymond was a charming motherfracker. His first language was Irish and he was still a West Irish farm boy so told us many stories about his life digging up peat from the bog. He even produced a sample for us. The peat is infused with ancient petroleum, so chunks of is are used as household fuel. And indeed, the “Galway Hooker” that I had mocked on social media, was in fact reference to the sailboats that used to ferry peat up and down the coast up until the mid 20th century.
The ferry docks at Doolin were also quite proud of their hookers. But what port isn’t?
The bogs, as you might know, are famous for being the source of well preserved ancient organic material, including a large collection of dead bodies. Because there is no oxygen down there, not much decay happens. Bog bodies going back centuries, and sometimes millennia, are not uncommon.
Raymond told us of the commonness of “bog butter”, as well. Back in “the day”, butter was very valuable, so the locals would hide it for generations in the bog. A friend of his found bog butter that was a thousand years old. Yes, he (the friend) tasted it. It was hard and whitish-yellow and smelt like peat.
Raymond took us through Lisdoonvarna, which is famous for its matchmaking festival. You read that right. Apparently, there’s a third generation matchmaker who lives there who will find you a wife or husband, and the time to do it is in the Fall during the festival. Gotta love this place.
Now, the Aran Islands were something special. To my ear, they sound like “The Iron Islands” from Game of Thrones. There are three of them, but we only had time to visit Inis Oírr, the second largest. It’s very rural and sparsely populated. It’s noted for its mane stone walls meant to keep in the cattle, and its extensive network of paved roads, as well as ruins and fishing culture. So I rented a bicycle to explore as much as I could in two hours.
Here’s my sallow vegan face posing atop an unseen bicycle in the midst of that exploration:
I took a moment to visit the ruins of this 10th century church, and even took the opportunity to request from the Powers That Be some deference for a young relation facing a rather serious medical challenge:
Know what’s interesting? The types of things forbidden at these places. Camping, climbing, drones…. cats?
Here’s another view of the cycling path:
And here are ruins of the 12th century castle, which was a mildly challenging bike ride to get to:
I particularly like these views of the entirely empty and secluded arts and crafts centre:
Now, here’s a brooding, lonely photo of the ancient Dunguaire Castle:
But this is how it actually looks:
On an unrelated note, I’ve updated my last Ireland travelogue post with some video clips. In that post, I mentioned some annoying American tourists who were loudly recounting the gripping tale about how they had to fight over their last Lara bars.
Well, those seven puckers kept haunting me. They showed up on my train to Galway, sitting all around me, then again on my bus tour to the cliffs of Moher, then again on the ferry to the Aran Islands, and again on the bus back to Galway. I want to suffocate each of them.
I feel the need to describe them. There were a couple of older couples (presumably the parents), and a gaggle of adult children with their spouses. They were, to a person, grim and without facial expression. They wore only athletic gear and the sweatshirts of their various Ivy League colleges, though only a couple of them looked like they’d ever seen the inside of a gym. Their loudness, lack of charm and expression, and simple annoyingness really took the joy out of my day.
After I complained to some friends, they asked me what exactly these Americans were talking about all the time. Were they Trump supporters? Imperialists? What? Well, I don’t know. All they talked bout –so bloodly loudly– were the inanities of their individual lives, none of which had anything to do with the riches we were all observing at the time.
I’m about to board the train to Dublin, where my old friend John has acquired for us tickets to see Killing Joke, an old post-punk band from the 80s. Speaking of old post-punk bands from the 80s, I’ve been binge listening to my favourite French pop-post-punk band, Les Rita Mitsouko, hence the title of today’s post. It’s from this song, whose video I just adore:
A couple of final thoughts. I just had a vegetarian meal in a French vegan cafe run by french people. Earlier, I’d had Italian coffee at an Italian cafe run by Italians. All this is made much easier because Ireland is part of the European Union. They’ve retained their strong culture while benefiting from the presence of other European cultures. Oh, England, you are in for a serious shock.
Also, one more reason that I think I’m so comfortable in Ireland…. most people aren’t actually that much taller than me. In most European cities, I’m dwarfed. If you’re a fellow shorty like me, you know how frustrating it is to have weave your way through mazes of human skyscrapers. Not so much here. Is good.
That be all. See y’all in Dublin.