“Seventh time’s a charm?“ Mike said as we pulled into yet another vacant-looking B&B in the middle of pitch-black night. We walked into the attached bar and every single person stopped talking and turned to look at us. The twenty locals in this pub weren’t accustomed to seeing strangers in these parts, where signs are printed in Gaelic without English translations. Based on this mob’s silent greeting alone, Mike grabbed me and pulled me out the door. “No way we’re staying there,” he said as he unlocked the door and slid back into the car. So much for having a spontaneous adventure.
Mike’s friend, Martin, had told us that Spiddal was a charming town near Galway, but far enough not to be crowded with tourists – authentic Ireland. We had both pictured a seaside B&B with a thatched roof, roaring fire, welcoming lighting, and the promise of a stack of warm pancakes in the morning. What we found was a musty 1960’s hotel along the town’s main drag without any charm or quaint feeling whatsoever. Neither of us wanted to settle, so we continued down the road, out and away from Galway and into the small fisherman villages of Western Ireland in search of our perfect nest for the night.
We were over-confident.
We found out later that Martin had visited twenty years earlier and was drunk when he made the assessment about Spiddal. During our two hours of searching for a B&B past the lackluster spot we started at, Mike and I went through the full range of emotions: happiness, hopefulness, anger, fear, and, at about four points, hysterical laughter. In the end, we ended up settling for the crappy, charmless hotel and it was the most expensive accommodation we stayed in throughout our whole road trip.
This two hour period was the worst part of the whole week, and honestly, after taking the edge off with a shot of Jameson and a Guinness, it had already started to become a pretty entertaining story. It also didn’t hurt that we ended up having our best meal of the whole trip at the pub across the street.
Our first night on the road trip had a very similar moment, but that time ended a lot better. We had driven four hours down from Belfast and across the length of Ireland, trying to find a little town called Doolin where we had booked a place for the night. We got extremely lost somewhere in the Burren and, when Mike figured out where we were and started the car up to head out, Talking Head’s “Road to Nowhere” started playing on the radio. We both lost it and couldn’t believe the hilarity of the timing. This was one of those comedic coincidences I mentioned previously.
In Doolin, we walked down to a charming pub for dinner. There was an Irish band playing throughout our few hours there that kept growing and growing as people showed up with new instruments. They sat around a table drinking pints and eating dinner between each song. It was relaxed and natural, as if they were just jamming at home rather than performing for a crowd. There was even an Irish step dancer who came in and out on a few songs.
We moved closer to watch after finishing dinner and squeezed into the two empty spots across from an older American couple. At the table next to us was an Irishman who lives in Bangkok, as well as a solo woman traveler from Taiwan. The six of us talked between songs, which led to the inevitable question of how Mike and I ended up in this remote village together. It was fun to sit back and watch Mike explain our story, and even more fun to see how invested these strangers immediately became in our future. I am used to having all of these types of moments alone, so to include him (and then make him do all the explaining) felt great.
The next day, we drove to the Cliffs of Moher (not to be confused with my mother’s family name, “Moir”) and read that these cliffs had been featured in many famous films, including my all-time favorite, “The Princess Bride.” There was a majesty present at these cliffs which took me right back to the first stop on my round-the-world trip, Iceland. We walked on the high grass path closest to the edge and I held my breath as people tried to squeeze past me, forcing me to move a step closer to the edge.
The ultimate heart attack was when Mike walked out onto the edge of the furthest rock at the cliffs with the thinnest base. I held my breath while holding my shutter open and took some photos that still make my heart race.
Later, we journeyed to Galway and found a great little hotel right on Eyre Square to crash in. It’s a very walkable city, with lots of touristy shopping streets to check out. My favorite part of this stop on the road trip was our afternoon at the Pie Maker. Mike and I had read amazing reviews about this place and haphazardly looked for it during a day of walking. We finally stumbled upon it just in time for lunch and ordered some delicious savory pies, veggie curry for me and beef for him, with a side of mashed potatoes and mushy pees for each of us.
After eating, we lounged over coffees and my first ever banoffee pie. Mike read his book and I wrote about my time in Paris and, after about three hours, we vacated the table we had been loitering at all day. The Pie Maker was dark, teeny, quirky, and the best part of Galway, in my opinion.
The rest of our trip was spent stopping in various other towns for fish and chips, photo opps, and fresh Guinness. Ireland was just what I pictured it to be – green, misty, off-beat, and without many trees.
We logged a lot of miles in the car over our week together and needed to stop and stretch our legs often. Here’s a little flip book of Mike skating for your enjoyment.