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May 26, 2006: Ireland Trip - The Burren

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Pretty much everyone we met in Ennis, as soon as they figured out we were tourists (the lack of an Irish accent and the clutching of maps and guidebooks were their first clues), asked us if we had been to see the Cliffs of Moher, or if we were planning on it. One gets the distinct sense that the Cliffs of Moher are a very big deal. And they are such a big deal that they were already on our agenda for today.

By the time we were nearing the cliffs, the fog started rolling in, and by the time we reached the parking lot, it was nearly impossible to see much of anything at all. But yet we still tried. In fact I took great amusement in the fact that the area was completely crowded with great hordes of other tourists who were all being just as determined. There is a bit of a hike up to the viewing area for the cliffs, and we all trudged up toward them, continuing on despite the fog because - and I can only assume here - we were all paying 4 Euros for the damn parking lot, so we might as well do the hike.

The cliffs are amazing. Really. See?

Or in other words, so much for seeing anything at all through that fog! To compensate for the lack of pictures of the Cliffs of Moher, we give you, instead, this. Ha ha ha! Okay, so this was all Richard's idea. You tend to get a bit punchy when you've been traipsing around in the damp for days on end.

Luckily the fog lifted as we turned a bit more inland. We stopped in Kilfenora to see the Burren Information Center, which included a short video about the landscape of the Burren, and also a little museum that covered the history of human inhabitants in the Burren. Next to the center was a tiny little cathedral with a small collection of high crosses and some interesting carved bishop heads over one of the doors. And after a few wrong turns, we finally made it into the Burren and even found the Poulnabrone Dolmen.

The Burren is this bizarre landscape made up of limestone that's been worn away into ridges and miniature canyons and lakes by thousands of years of weather. For all that the ground is nearly all rock, there is still an abundance of greenery, and much was made of the fact that there are arctic and Mediterranean plants growing side by side in these areas, many of them in an environment that they should never have been seen in. Some of the landscape - primarily the hills - is terraced from glacial movements thousands of years ago. It is certainly different than the rest of the Irish landscape we've seen, but I guess maybe we were expecting - based on what we'd read and what the video said - that it would be more bleak and barren.

We continued meandering through the Burren until suddenly there were green lush fields right next to the rocks and we could see the ocean again, and eventually we made our way to Galway and began the task of trying to track down our B&B (always a fun experience). We did stop in a tiny little town by the ocean so Richard could call to get directions (and while he was on the phone I finally met another friendly Irish cat - a portly old calico who was more than happy to get attention from someone), but the owner didn't give anything more than an address, and told him to just head for Salt Hill. So off we went through horrid traffic that wound its way through the center of Galway until we found signs for Salt Hill, and from there, it got even more fun. The B&B is on White Strand Avenue, and when they were planning this particular section of the town, someone decided that it would be infinitely amusing to name every single street White Strand. I am not kidding. There was White Strand Street, White Strand Park, White Strand Road, and White Strand Avenue, and to make it even more exciting, at least two of them ended in places and then continued on somewhere else.

But we did finally find the place, although I suspect we're going to need to map out exactly how we can get back here again, since we're using this as a base for exploring the city, the surrounding area, and the Aran Islands. There's a very touristy little strip of shops and restaurants not too far away, that make up Salthill Village (it's very much a summer holiday type town) and we quickly found an internet cafe, a place for dinner - a Slavic restaurant with delicious food - and a laundrette (since this is the last place we'll be anywhere long enough to accumulate enough clean clothes to last us until we fly home). So assuming that we can occasionally find our way back to the B&B without getting horribly lost, I think we're nicely settled for the next few days.

Pictures from Kilfenora, The Burren.

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