“You’ve never been out drinking before with the Doc.” Spake the Big Guy to Baby Bear.
We had driven our longest stretch, from Belfast to County Galway. We bid our proprietor, Joe, goodbye. We had no idea what he said in return. Didn’t have a clue what anyone said in Belfast.
Except when Joe kept asking the other B&B guests if they “carikikeee reedeey.” We pieced together that he was asking about the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that was closed due to wind the day we were there. The young woman getting her tea did not understand and batted the old man away.
Joe the Proprietor asked us if we wanted him to take our picture. At least that’s what we think he said, since he motioned to the camera. He took a great one. I wish we got a photo with him.
He waved us away early that morning, after a full Irish, for some. Not for me. Too much food. Seriously, who can eat that much?
We had a day’s goal to cross the country and make it to Kylemore Abbey for an afternoon view. Legs were folded and bodies curled in the back of the bitty car. The soundtrack was the white noise of light snores.
We drove across green rolling fields spotted with bright yellow bushes that over the miles was recast into the brown mountains of the West. The road was a taupe ribbon on the flats that looped around the feet of the brown peaks. Some turns unveiled blue and green flecked water pocked with a flurry of little white waves.
We had a map and a better than decent idea of where we we were headed. GPS was spotty, but based on our Belfast wifi’d maps, we made it to the Abbey for an explore. The castle and formal garden were charming, but, oh, the wild grounds. The Victorian era lord planted a zillion trees and brought in pheasants and foxes and stag and a gamekeeper so he could host hunting parties. I’m thinking The Rules of the Game.
Long day. We followed the coast on mission for dinner and a bed. Leenane was behind us. We followed the coast through delightful Letterfrack and pressed on a few miles to Clifden.
Still hugging the coast, we pass some green covered ruins and roll into the nominal capital of Connemara. The main street is a ring, but we didn’t follow it to infinity. As we were making the first lean around the loop I saw the name of a B&B that The Spouse found in his Kindle Fodor’s.
The overtaxed, driving-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road operator rolled down the hill to the sought respite. We were welcomed by the glance of a fluff of a mostly sleeping dog next to a stoked fireplace. Fire. Pup. Good signs.
The host came out and gave us two rooms. We gratefully walked the steps and put our bags down. The Spouse asked me about the price. I hadn’t asked. I just made the deal. Two rooms with breakfast. Host gave us the keys. It wasn’t like a real transaction. Nobody asked for a credit card. It was friendly. We would pay.
We made friends with the host who spent a decade a decade ago in D.C. environs. Small world. He returned to Ireland, developed the guesthouse and was raising his family with the white fluff dog, Roxy. He pointed us to dinner options 93 steps away. We stepped.
The season was just beginning and all the pubs and restaurants were open. We walked up and down the main drag and settled on a dining room that was beautiful and beautifully delicious. I still don’t understand how such a small town could support quality fine dining. But fine it definitely was.
The non-drivers wanted to spend time listening to music with a pint. The driver had had enough good craic and walked the 93 steps back to the guesthouse to settle for the night.
And that’s how Baby Bear had his first time out drinking with the Doc.
We sat at the bar at the pub with the chalkboard promising live music. We ordered a pint. The joint was shyte. We finished and moved on.
Two storefronts down we found a young man singing and playing his guitar in a window bay, opposite a bulky bar and next to a fireplace hearth. We sat in front of the hearth and ordered more pints. We had the type of talk you have when you’ve eaten a great meal, consumed a few pints, are surrounded by good music and have no place to be.
As we walked the 93 steps back to that night’s headquarters, we crossed a street to see a beautiful moon hanging over the street lamps, watching us from a comforter of clouds.
It had been building all afternoon and evening, but at that moment, when I saw that moon, I fell utterly and completely in love with Clifden, County Galway.