Setting up camp in Inverness

I’m in a cozy little apartment, attached to a B&B that’s run by a fantastic couple, Maggie & Malcolm, near the centre of town on the castle side of the river in Inverness, the gateway to the Highlands. At least, it will be that for me. I had originally planned just to ride from one place to the next, finding a new place to stay each night, but my experiences on this trip so far have demonstrated there’s a clear benefit to having a hub that you ride out from and return to each day, so that you’re not carrying everything with you everywhere you go. And in many cases, for me, this means literally carrying (and wearing) things I wish I didn’t have to, simply because I have no place to store them safely while I wander around on foot. For the next few days, Inverness will be that safe place.

But here again, I’m getting ahead of myself. I should be writing first about the ride from Loch Lomond to Inverness, before getting into conjectures about the next few days. And that ride was brilliant.

But before that, let me say a few words about Scottish breakfasts. They are the most ridiculous thing imaginable, with the possible exception of Irish breakfasts. In fact, they are very nearly the same thing: egg, back bacon, sausage (banger), beans (boring tinned beans, not Mexican refried beans with chiles, or American BBQ pit beans, or even pork & beans in molasses, but sad little white beans in a sea of bland, vaguely tomotoey sauce), black pudding (a.k.a., blood sausage), haggis (in place of the Irish breakfast’s white pudding), potato scones (which are not even a little scone-like), a charred tomato, and, of course, toast. This was included in the price of my hotel last night. I did my best.

Actually, with the exception of the black pudding, which I find more than a little challenging (I had an easier time with tripe, tongue and tendon at dim sum, but that’s another story), and the objectionable beans, and the potato scone (which tastes like someone mashed up potatoes, formed a patty, dredged it in potato flour and fried it)… except for those few things, it was pretty good. Surprisingly – to me, anyway – the haggis was the best part. And while it was, taken as a whole, far too much food first thing in the morning, it did keep me full until about 3 in the afternoon.

Anyway…. With breakfast working its way slowly through my digestive tract, I packed up the bike and was soon on the road again. Although, not before I saw this beautiful old Jag in the car park, and decided I had to take a picture. (Do not adjust your set. It really was that weird creme de menthe colour.)

The A82 is a motorcyclist’s dream. Or it would be, if not for the all to frequent convoys of cars and vans and caravans, motorhomes and motor coaches, consistently clogging up the artery. Fortunately, like the Irish, the Scots are good about being overtaken, and the Tiger is happy to overtake anyone. Have I mentioned how zippy this bike is? I feel like I have to add some hesitation of my own, since the bike has none. Twist the throttle and go!

The landscape, too, is more than just a little impressive. Loch Lomond, for example, is stunning to see. Like Lake Louise back home, but without so many ostentatiously tall mountains to distract you. The road hugs the shoreline, more or less, for several miles, and it makes for a beautiful ride, the bike tilting from side to side around the bends. The weather started well, too, if not so fine as it had the previous week or so. High cloud covered most of the sky, but scatterings of blue showed through, and the sun had enough of gaps to peak through and take the edge off the morning air. This is not really farm country, and there were no cows or horses, but here and there were cloud-shaped sheep grazing lazily on the bright green mirror of the sky. This gave way to heavily wooded areas, towering oaks an birches lining the roadsides and stretching out their limbs towards each other, the shadows of their leafy branches mottling the pavement, as I swept northward.

A sign announced that I’d entered the Highlands. The landscape became more jagged. At one point, a boulder at the roadside with a tree growing defiantly out of it. By this time, the cloud had formed an iron grey ceiling, the temperature dropped, and I had to zip the vents on my jacket closed. I switched to my regular glasses, too, as it had become too dark for sunglasses. The sheer, in-your-face beauty of it all was utterly striking. Like the Canadian Rockies, but on a slightly smaller scale. Or maybe just concentrated.

I stopped for coffee in Fort William. It was normally lunchtime, but I still wasn’t hungry. The clouds had broken up, and it had become warmer, so I switched back to my sunglasses and re-opened the vents in my jacket. It wasn’t long, though, before I regretted that. I’d heard the castle that was featured near the start of the movie Highlander (one of the best B-movies ever made, in my opinion, although you’ll want to avoid the director’s cut, if you can, and just watch the original theatrical release). The GPS claimed to know the way, but instead took me to a posh hotel. Maybe I’ll see it another day.

The A82 eventually skirts what is arguably the world’s most famous (or infamous?) loch, that being Loch Ness. The only things to be found resembling monsters, though, were the previously mentioned convoys, slithering serpentinite around s-curves. I decided to stop and take a picture of myself at a lay by, and thought briefly about looking for the house where Jimmy Page lived. (He hasn’t lived there for quite some time, I’ve learned from Google, and the place was all but destroyed in a fire several years ago. But maybe I’ll stop by Bron-Yr-Aur when I’m in Wales.)

It wasn’t long afterward that I arrived in Inverness. I love the feel of the old city. So much stone. The buildings, and many of the roads, made with it. The River Ness cuts through it, with Inverness Castle on on bank, and Inverness Cathedral on the other. Talk about separation of church and state! I imagine medieval lords and bishops glaring at each from their respective sides of the river, thinking, One of these days!

But in more contemporary terms, I checked into my place. I showered and changed and went out to find dinner. I did. It was light, small and delicious. I followed it with a 12 year old Tomatin, which I’d never actually heard of before. It was nice, fairly sweet, very smooth, almost no peat (which to my mind is a failing). I picked up some things to make for breakfast.

Tomorrow, I plan to ride either to Applecross or John o’Groats, to be determined, sort of, by weather forecasts. Wednesday, I may take the bus and/or train to some distilleries (so I don’t have to ride back from them). I mentioned that idea to Malcolm, and he kindly printed off some info about a distillery bus tour from Inverness. Unfortunately it’s only on Friday, and my plan was to be gone by then. But we’ll see. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

You take the high road

I don’t know if the A77 qualifies as ‘the low road’, but I’m in Scotland right now, on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond. Well, across the street, anyway. I can see it out my hotel room window. What the hell do you want?

This trip has been amazing so far. Ireland (all of it) gave me more than I had hoped for, and I wished I never had to leave. I felt so at home there. I’d have been even sadder to leave, though, if I hadn’t been looking forward to Scotland so much. Scotland, after all, was really the beginning of this trip – or, at least, the premeditation of it.

Originally, Adele suggested I tag along for the start of my friend Scott’s trip (he’s going for much longer – six months!). Scott, in turn, suggested I might want to meet him part way through, since he was going to be spending the first week or so visiting his ex’s family in England. I thought about it, and it occurred to me that I could, instead, spend that time riding around Scotland, and we could meet up when it was convenient to both of us. That was the start of the idea. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it, and thought, I might as well add Ireland, if I’m over there. And I’ve never been to Wales, either. Or to England, outside of London and a day trip to Cambridge. Gradually, the whole thing began to take on a shape very different from tagging along for part of someone else’s adventure.

So, this morning, I woke up in Northern Ireland. Looked at the time on my phone. And went back to sleep. Seriously, who gets up before six on a holiday? Eventually, I got up and set about packing up my things and loading the bike back up. I’m becoming gradually more efficient with how I load the Triumph bags, which are quite a bit smaller than the Happy Trails cases on my GS. Still, squeezing them closed is always a bit tricky.

I shaved, ate some cereal for breakfast, made some coffee, and cleaned up after myself. At a little after ten I was on my way to the Belfast ferry terminal to catch the Stena Line to Cairnryan. I stopped off for coffee on the way, and a few other bikers pulled up and we chatted. I asked if they were taking the ferry across, or just stopping for breakfast. It was the latter. They asked where I was off to, and where I was from. Essentially, they were politely sussing out whether or not I was an American. This happens a lot, and it always seems to relieve people to hear I’m Canadian, after which they mutter something about the ridiculous orange catastrophe in the White House. One of them mentioned he had relatives in Toronto. I told them I lived as far away from that as they do from Berlin, which is a pretty big understatement, actually, but still impressed them.

Anyway, they told me about journeys they’d done – the tallest bridge in the world, somewhere in the south of France – and told me I had to go to the Glenfiddich distillery. I often ignore these kinds of suggestions, but I may take this one, since it was my father’s favourite whisky.

Soon it was time for me to get to the ferry, so I said goodbye to them, put my helmet back on, and fired up the tiger. It’s an excellent bike, and I’ve largely gotten over most of my minor dislikes. I’ve learned to deal with the clusterfuck of controls operated by the left thumb, for example. I still think, given the choice, I’d pick a GS over a Tiger, but it would be a close decision, and the trade offs are real. The Tiger is just so much more zippy. Thank god for the cruise control, or I’d likely rack up a lot of fines.

The ferry ride was efficient, comfortable and pleasant, and there really isn’t much more to say about it than that. The food was far better than on the ferries back home.

Riding up the A77 toward Glasgow, I was impressed by how different the landscape and flora in Scotland are from Ireland. Scotland is just as beautiful as Ireland, certainly, but it feels more fierce about it. By turns lush and austere, there is little middle ground (in my extremely limited experience) where things are merely pretty. There were stretches that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in southwestern Alberta, if not for their proximity to a very large body of water. Others were more like my home province of British Columbia. Perhaps this is why western Canada is so full of Scottish place names. The rest of Canada, too, for that matter.

A little more than two and half hours after docking, I was here. In a hotel facing Loch Lomond. As I write, I’m watching the sunset colour the clouds in the east and cast shadows over the loch. Once again, the threat of weather hasn’t come to be. I’ve had sunshine pretty much the whole day.

A little while ago, I had dinner in the hotel bar. The most enormous piece of battered cod I’ve ever seen with excellent chips, a couple of pints of bitter, and for dessert, a dram of 18 year old Glenfiddich. Tomorrow I’ll be off to Inverness, which I’m going to use as a base from which to launch excursions into the Highlands over the next few days: to Bealach na Ba, John o’ Groats, Fort William, probably Dufftown and Tain (for distilleries) and wherever else I get a notion to go. As the signs at the edge of towns here say, Haste ye back!

****

P.s. – I want to thank all the readers who are following along, clicking like, commenting, or just reading. I know many of you, but there are obviously strangers in the mix – from Japan, Mexico, India, and Cameroon (!), among other places. I’m happy to get your feedback, if you feel like giving it. If you’d rather just read anonymously, that’s cool, too.

North

We Canadians like to think of ourselves as northern. Our national anthem even tells us we live in “the true north strong and free.” Well, I’m about five degrees further north than I would be at home, and I’m planning to go further north over the next several days.

I’m currently sitting in a suburb of Belfast called Newtownabbey. It’s a pleasant, tidy, ordinary place, and I expect most of the people here are pleasant and ordinary. They go to work, come home and eat dinner, tend their gardens, and some nights go down to a local pub for a few pints with their friends. They watch movies that make lives like theirs look like a crime. They laugh at the dumb suburbanites, who are very much like them, when they are the butt of the film’s jokes, and then they continue on as before. Wash, rinse, repeat. I know. My own neighbourhood, my own life, is not so different. And it’s not so bad, either.

I woke up early this morning, and got myself ready for my last full day in Ireland for the next couple of weeks. Tomorrow I’m off to Scotland (and hopefully not to hail storms like they had today!), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Today is what we need to deal with now. Tomorrow can wait.

After getting the bike mostly packed, I went down for breakfast in the hotel. If you find yourself in Bundoran (god knows why you would – but if you do) you could do worse than to stay at Fitzgerald’s Hotel. The barman/proprietor is friendly and gregarious. He remembers something about everyone, and makes it seem like he’s talking to an old friend, even when it’s just a guest he met less than an hour ago. The staff, generally, are helpful and pleasant, if not quite as affable as their employer. The rooms are spacious, the price is pretty good. The one downside is their proximity to a country & western bar, down at the end of the block. But you can’t choose your neighbours. Thankfully, as a motorcyclist, I travel with earplugs. Even better, last orders came relatively early – around one, I think, but I fell asleep with my earplugs in, so don’t hold me to that.

Anyway, breakfast. Which didn’t come with – or didn’t have to, anyway – beans, various “puddings” (really sausages), fried tomatoes, and so on. I ordered two eggs, scrambled, and bacon. They were puzzled that I didn’t want cereal to start. As it was, they brought me a basket of toasted breads (dry, as is the fashion here), a croissant, and a small dish of butter, along with my coffee and orange juice, prior to my order. That’s more than I normally eat in the morning as it is. I can’t imagine adding cereal and yogurt to that.

Once breakfast and the hotel bill were sorted, I set out through the north of Ireland, not to be confused with Northern Ireland, although that was my destination today. The GPS led me along the northern coast, past Letterkenney and Derry, across the international border on my way to the Giant’s Causeway. The morning was grey and cool and damp, like the day before, only this time it didn’t burn off until I was in Co. Antrim, and even then, it kept the temperature to 17C.

Along the way, I noticed that sheep had come to outnumber cows, as they had in Connemara the day before. In most of Ireland, cows are the dominant livestock. Dairy, I expect, is one of Ireland’s top exports, the others being Guinness, whiskey and Irishness (a.k.a., “charm”). From the sheer number of B&Bs, I’d say their main import is tourists.

I arrived at the Giant’s Causeway a little after noon. This is no €8 tourist attraction, let me tell you. It’s an £11.50 tourist attraction. When you work out the exchange… But why? It’s a holiday. We’ll count the cost later.

Anyway, it’s a spectacular site, the result of ancient volcanic activity creating the interlocking basalt pillars that seem to form enormous stepping stones. Of course, the less prosaic explanation is that an ancient Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn MacCool) was challenged to a fight by an ancient Scottish giant named Benandonner. Fionn builds the causeway so the two giants can meet. There are similar columns from the same lava flow on the Isle of Staffa, and that may be how the myths originated. There are variations on how this turned out. No spoilers here, you can look it up for yourself. (I’d start with Wikipedia, and then look at the source materials.)

The causeway itself is a short distance from the village of Bushmill’s, where they make, of all things, Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey. The parking lot of the distillery was at least as full as the parking lot for the causeway, so I rode on past. As I did, I remembered being told that Bushmill’s was ‘Protestant whiskey’, while Jameson’s (and I assume this goes for all the others made in the Republic) is ‘Catholic whiskey’. I’ve never thought of whiskey as being associated with a religion, myself; although, it could arguably be a religion in its own right. I did notice in some of the pubs I’ve been in over the past few days that Bushmill’s, if they had any at all, was kept behind the other whiskeys. I haven’t noticed any similar religious or political tendencies with beer here. Guinness is just Irish.

There was a street festival of some kind in a village I had to pass through that required the GPS to do some recalculation of my route to Newtownabbey, where I’m staying for the night. Again, it sent me careening along narrow country roads, between overgrown hedgerows and beneath the verdant canopies of arching tree limbs, the motorcycle whirring happily along beneath me.

Tonight I sat for a while in a pub near the water and wrote postcards home. I had some ecumenical beer, and bangers and mash. It’s hard to believe this is my last night in Ireland for the next couple of weeks. I’m sad to leave it behind, but also looking forward to new roads and adventures.

The thunderstorms threatened by the weather forecast this never materialized. I hear they did in Scotland. With hail. In the Highlands. Where I will be heading tomorrow. I hope my Irish luck with the weather follows me!

Under Ben Bulben

I left David & Lin’s place this morning filled with gratitude, and just a hint of sadness that I won’t see them (or Davey) again for… who knows how long? The sky was grey with low clouds, and the air was cool and damp. The forecast said rain, but less than it had threatened when I looked yesterday. I loaded the bike and said my goodbyes, and then I was off.

David suggested going to Roundstone, on the south coast of Connemara, and I was happy to take his advice. The ride was brilliant, and it wasn’t long before the low cloud burned off and the air warmed itself in the sunshine yet again. With the exception of about a quarter hour on the bus ride to Lisburn, I’ve had exceptional weather so far on this trip. Knock on wood.

The N59 was a brilliant ride, and could, in different stretches, be renamed The Ram Road, given the number of horned sheep grazing along the verge. (In fairness, there were likely some ewes, and definitely some lambs, but those don’t alliterate.) At one point there was a ram standing on the centre line of the road staring in my direction, as if to say, “Go on, I feckin dare ye.” But I slid past without incident.

The landscape in much of Connemara is, as Oscar Wilde said of, savagely beautiful. Reminiscent of parts of the Rocky Mountains back home, and yet different enough to have a wonderful strangeness mixed with that familiarity. So different from what I’d experienced elsewhere in Co. Galway, or anywhere else in Ireland for that matter. In place of the lush vegetation I’d grown used to, here everything was rock and scrub, with only the occasional gnarled tree jutting up above the level of the ubiquitous stone walls. No hedgerows here. I have a notion the Highlands will be similarly austere and beautiful, but I’ll find that out soon enough.

After stopping for coffee and a scone (with clotted cream and raspberry jam!) at the Bogbean Cafe, I rode through Cliffden to Westport, watching the landscape transform itself back to lushness, while still retaining a certain wildness.

After a quick lunch (Irish Toasty with salad), I was back on the road and heading steadily northward, through Co. Mayo to Sligo. The N5 has wide lanes with broad shoulders, and the optimism of Irish speed limits finally felt well placed. That wasn’t encouragement enough for some drivers, though, who insisted on keeping to 80 kmh in a hundred zone. I passed them happily, and they seemed happy enough to be passed, pulling a little to the left as I zipped past.

I passed through Sligo all too quickly. I should have stuck to my plan about not booking accommodations until I arrive in a place lesson learned, which I’ll apply in Scotland (or try to).

Just outside the city, I found the churchyard in Drumcliff, where Yeats is buried. I studied Yeats in university, of course, but I had already introduced myself to his poetry in the summer before I began my undergrad in Calgary. I looked at the inscription on the stone, which he composed in his famous poem “Under Ben Bulben”:

Cast a cold eye

On life, on death.

Horseman, pass by.

A motorcyclist, I thought, is as close as we come now to a horseman.

Riding past Ben Bulben, I think I understand why Yeats was so impressed. It stands out from the landscape with conspicuous enormity, much as his poetry stands out. No photograph could hope to convey the feeling – at least, not one I’m capable of taking – so I didn’t stop for it.

Tonight I’m in Bundoran, a slightly sad little seaside resort on Ireland’s northwest coast, in the nicest hotel I’ve stayed in so far. Tomorrow I head eastward, and a little further north, to the Giants’ Causeway, then down to Newtown Abbey, before leaving Ireland behind for Scotland. The threatened rain still hasn’t materialized, and I’m hoping my weather luck holds for a couple more weeks. But, as I’ve said before, I’ll take things as they come. I’m not made of sugar after all.

Towers, cliffs & Celtic crows

One way to tell you’re in Ireland, rather than a particularly lush corner of North America, is the difference in birdsong. Sure, the Irish finches sound pretty much like their Canadian cousins, but Celtic crow definitely do not. They squawk instead of cawing, almost (but not quite) like a dog’s squeeze toy. They’re also smaller & less tricksterish. And at David & Lin’s place there are also cuckoos, which I’ve never heard outside of a clock.

Today I went to the Cliffs of Moher, and I was hoping to see puffins, but didn’t, which I’ll explain later. Puffins are not a bird you’re likely ever to see in Vancouver. Apparently they breed on the cliff tops. But I’m jumping ahead.

I took the coast road down to the Burren, the geographical region of which the Cliffs are a spectacular piece. The road took me through the village of Kinvarra, which is home to, among other things, Dunguaire Castle. It was built in the 16th century, although it has a decidedly medieval feel to it. I decided to stop, since I’d already passed by a bevy of ruined farmhouses, churches and towers in the few days I’ve been here. I decided I shouldn’t pass them all, and besides, today was all about sightseeing.

It costs €8 to go up into the tower, and while the view of the village and the surrounding countryside is good, I’m not sure it’s worth handling over €8 for. I got better pictures from the outside. (At some point I’ll have to transfer some photos over to my phone/iPad from the camera.) Still, I guess they’ve got to raise the money to keep the doors open somehow.

I bought a coffee in the courtyard, and chatted a little with barista about her motorbike, which was parked behind the coffee wagon. Then I headed back to the bike and continued on to the Cliffs of Moher.

Access to the Cliffs’ visitors centre & parking also costs €8, although I don’t feel bad about it. The views are spectacular. And I even made sure I took one picture with my phone. Sadly, I’m blocking most of the view, but I’ll post better pictures later, and in the meantime, there’s loads of pictures on Google.

I walked up to the Norman-looking observation tower, thinking it might some historical relic. But in fact, it was an early attempt at tourist trapping, having been built a mere 183 years ago for Victorian tourists by the then landlord, Cornelius O’Brien. I decided to forego ascending to its battlements.

I’d read in the visitors centre that there was a place to see puffins along a path in the opposite direction from the tower, so I set off to see if I could find them. After a while, though, I started to feel more inclined to find lunch, and so headed back to the snack bar at the visitors centre, which is is called The Puffin’s Nest. Life is pretty funny sometimes.

After lunch and a quick tour through the gift shop, I headed back to the bike. It was already after 1 p.m., and I wanted to make another, less common tourist stop.

I set the GPS for Gort, and when it tried to make me backtrack, I promptly defied it. In my brief and limited experience with the Zumo, this often leads to more interesting routes. Today it resulted in a two-hour detour along wonderfully winding, terrifically twisty, brilliant Burren backroads. Narrow lanes between stone walls and hedgerows, past old stone farm buildings with roofs missing and walls caving, cattle lazing in the sun and horses seemingly posing for photographs.

I passed another castle, and stopped to take a picture since it appears still to be in use, at least as a holiday rental. A little further on I came across the ruin of the Monastery of Kilmacduagh, which was more impressive architecturally.

Eventually I reached the village of Gort, and near that Thoor Ballylee, the tower where Yeats moves with his wife and children in the midst of the Irish Cicil War. Only €7 for this, and worth every penny if you’re a fan of Yeats. (How can you not be?) Yeats wrote some of his most important poems here.

I sat through the audio-visual presentation made by the tourism board, by the look of it sometime back in the 70s, and then went up to see the inside of the tower itself. They even have a stare’s nest in one of the windows, with birds living in it. (No honeybees, though. You can’t have everything.)

I talked for a while to the volunteer who was running the place, an older (than me) woman named Toni. I asked where she was from, since her accent was clearly not local. She said she was from Florida, that she had worked for the Miami Herald, and told me how she came to be there. About Yeats, she said she couldn’t imagine what George (his wife) must have thought about being brought there, close as they were to Lady Gregory’s place at Coole. I said she likely had confidence he was no more attractive to Augusta as a married man thane had been when single.

After leaving Yeats’s tower it was time to come back here to rest up before another long day tomorrow. I’ll be sad to leave Galway behind, and David and Lin have been marvellous hosts. But tomorrow I’m heading west to Connemara, and then north to Sligo and Donegal. I’ll visit Ben Bulben, and Yeats’s grave. I’m hoping my luck with the weather holds, but I’ll deal with things as they come. There isn’t another way.

Galway for a rest

I’ve been invited to spend “as long as you like here” in Galway. That’s a dangerous offer. It’s fantastic here. I don’t want to take advantage of others’ good nature, but I’d be a fool to rush away too quickly. So, I’ve decided to stay through Thursday, and head out Friday morning for Sligo & Donegal.

Yesterday we spent the day exploring Galway’s historic centre. We stopped in a pub for a whiskey, and another place for pot pie. We visited Galway Cathedral, and walked along beach at Salthill. It was a fantastic afternoon.

The Corribh flows through The centre of Galway

After a nap & dinner, we went back into town with Davey & Lin, and stopped for a pint of bitter (and clean the birdshit off of Davey’s new hat from Canada). Davey & Lin got ice cream. It was a lovely evening, even if there weren’t the buskers David had hoped for.

Today I’m taking the bike down to The Burren and the Cliffs pod Moher, and may stop by Yeats’s tower on my way back.

Finding Zen in Galway

I’ve woken in a little corner of paradise on the edge of Galway. David & Lin have a fantastic place, surrounded by a barely tamed garden filled rhubarb, grape vines, roses, oak trees and hawthorns, and much more. The tension between wildness and order is palpable and beautiful.

I rode here yesterday from Ardfert, after taking a detour down through Dingle. There was a light fog in the hills, not enough to impair vision, but enough to put a chill in the air. By the time I reached Dingle, though, it had burned off, and I had good weather the rest of the day.

Dingle is postcard pretty and filled with your buses. I expect it is the perfect image simultaneously of Ireland as it once was and never has been.

I talked to a fellow from Dallas who commented that the riding gear looked overly warm. I said I’d rather sweat than bleed, and he asked where I was from. He said he’d grown up in Seattle, and although he lives in Texas he runs a motorcycle touring company out of Fresno that focuses on camping in the Sierras. He was waiting for a whale watching tour. When he heard I was going to Galway he suggested I tour the Arran Islands, and told me which tour he thought was best. Also, to visit a castle I forget the name of, which he said is “better than Blarney.” I thanked him for the advice & wished him a good time on the boat.

The road up to Galway was mostly dual carriageway (two lanes in each direction) or motorway (like an interstate). The surrounding countryside was beautiful, in a typical Irish way. It was a long but pleasant ride until the GPS started misnaming roads, which resulted in a couple of detours.

When I arrived here, after filtering through the afternoon rush in Galway, David greeted me like an old friend. It’s great to finally meet him, after hearing so much about him from Adele over the years.

We had dinner and walked around the garden, sat outside and drank cider and talked. His son Davey came out and joined us. He’s a great kid. Full of energy & curiosity, and very smart. (He speaks English, Chinese & Irish. I wonder how many people can say that. Not many, I think.)

We came back into the house, and I borrowed the use of their washer, and David and I sat and talked while Lin played the guzheng, and Davey showed how he catches spiders.

Today we’ll head into town for a while. It’ll be nice to have a day off from the road.