I am a homebody. I like to be home. It’s my favorite place to be.
If you’ve followed my many road trips on this blog you might be surprised to read that. I do love to follow the old roads, see where they lead, photograph what’s on them. But then I want to go right home.
Lately I’ve wanted to be anywhere but home. I’m sick of my self, of my anxieties and my worries and my frustrations. I want to shed them. It’s why I’ve found myself pricing airline tickets to go back to Ireland. That was a place where I forgot myself for a while. It was wonderful.
Breathnach’s is a little pub in Oughterard, in County Galway. It’s where we took our first supper in Ireland, Sept. 3, 2016. I forget what we ate, except that it involved plenty of Guinness and a lovely conversation with the bar’s owner.
Margaret caught me dreaming. She gave me immediate permission to buy tickets if I found them under a certain price. She loves to travel and would rather be anywhere but home.
Our first day in Ireland began at 10 am on Friday before Labor Day, as we drove north toward Chicago for our flight, and didn’t end until Saturday evening on Irish soil.
We flew from Chicago to Dublin, taking off at about 6:30 pm and touching down at about 8 am Irish time. That’s 3 am Indiana time. I caught a couple hours of solid sleep on the plane. Margaret dozed in and out.
From the Dublin airport we took a bus to a train station, where we boarded a train for Galway. We thought we might catch a nap on the train, but a delightful couple from northern California sat across from us and we spent the hours chatting.
In Galway, we rented a car and drove out of the city to a nearby village, Oughterard, where Margaret had booked us a B&B.
We saw B&Bs all over Ireland, even in the remotest places we visited. It makes us think that tourism must be one of the country’s major industries.
I was already exhausted when we reached Galway, but driving the thirty minutes or so to Oughterard pushed me past my limits. In retrospect, it was a frightfully bad idea on that little sleep to do some mighty stressful driving. It was my first time driving on the left side of the road, on the right side of the car, and shifting gears (stickshift!) with my left hand. And we were following skinty directions on narrow, twisty roads in a surprisingly heavy rain. My internal battery was already dangerously low, and this involved driving drained it past empty. I was starting to lose it toward the end, especially as we discovered that the Irish don’t always sign their streets and we couldn’t find the turnoff to the B&B. We drove back and forth through Oughterard, trying every street until we got the right one. When we finally reached our room, I fell onto the bed in the fetal position and passed out.
I woke up at some point, still not entirely myself. Margaret had come back from a walk and wanted to walk again with me to explore little Oughterard. “Some of the pubs are having traditional music tonight! Are you up for going?”
I was still mighty tired and on edge. But I told myself: don’t squander opportunity. Off we went. Dusk was falling.
Oughterard, nestled among sheep and cattle farms along the Owenriff River and Lake Corrib, is charming. Though it isn’t far from bustling Galway, it feels remote. In the fading light it looked just like an Irish tourism brochure.
In the midwestern US, towns as small as Oughterard — pop. 1,300 — are invariably in bad shape, their best days decades in the past. Don’t bother stopping, as there’s nothing to do there. But Oughterard, like small towns all over Ireland, was fresh and vital and thriving. Each town offered something special.
We chose Breathnach’s Bar, est. 1839, for our dinner and entertainment. The joint was full! But we were allowed to take our dinner at the bar, which we figured out later is generally not done in Ireland. A very kind fellow gave up his seat so we could sit down, and finished his last beer standing nearby. He chatted us up pleasantly and told us of the places he’d been in the United States. The bar’s owner or manager, at any rate a fellow who carried the confidence of being fully in charge, also chatted genially with us and was suitably pleased for us to learn that we were on our honeymoon. After our dinners were finished, he brought us each a digestif of Bailey’s, on the house, to honor our marriage.
Here’s a selfie we took at the bar. Our happiness fully masked our dizzy exhaustion.
The music had begun, so Margaret ordered another Guinness. The tunes were delightful! But our very long day had caught up with us both. After a handful of songs, Margaret’s glass empty, we walked back to our B&B.