I see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
So this is the day that things in my mind started to change. I felt less like we were away from home in a strange place and more like we were travelers. I think my brain was starting to accept that each day was going to be unfamiliar and new.
We woke up bright and early to have breakfast in the dining room of Moher Lodge at 8am. I put on my same hiking pants (4 days in a row in the same pants now). The room was decorated with maps on the walls and paintings and prints of the lodge that were probably gifts given by people, like us, who fell in love with Mary and Patsy. I had smoked salmon and eggs and Chris had the pancakes and bacon which he said were a lot like crepes. Both delicious and served with coffee, tea, toast and the assortment of jams and butters we were starting to get used to.
Another couple who were staying at the Lodge came in for breakfast a bit after us. They were from Colorado. They were there to hike the area and staying for a full week. I loved talking to them. I am usually a pretty quiet person and only chatter about with people I’m close to, but I loved meeting other travelers. I have this theory that people who are interested in the same main things you are interested in probably share a lot of other characteristics with you. So when you meet someone through a favorite hobby, chances are you have a lot of other things in common; and usually the same core beliefs about things. We sighed with relief when the woman talked about how hard of a time they were having driving and that they had a day of ‘not much talking’ from the stress. She said that after several days of being there her husband’s knuckles weren’t quite so white anymore on the steering wheel. They told us about how to drive on Irish roads and we were both much more relaxed after that; understanding that it is OK to basically drive down the center of the road until another car comes along.
I loved talking to other travelers the whole trip and getting tips and tricks from them. We loved sharing the things we had learned with other people who seemed to be at their wits end trying to figure something out. We made amazing connections with other humans, helping each other out along the way and then separating on our own paths never to see each other again. It was a brand new feeling for me and I loved it.
After breakfast we drove up the coast line to Doolin – about a 15 minute drive and very clearly marked. We had a boat tour booked with Doolin2Aran Ferries. I think it was only two turns to get to Doolin Pier from Moher Lodge. We choose the Aran Island and Cliffs of Moher tour. There are several to choose from with this company; I would highly recommend them if you are going to be in the area. We found a place to park fairly easily right near the pier and went into the building to show our tickets. We waited on the dock with a bunch of other people for our boat. I loved hearing the different accents and languages; constantly asking Chris ‘Where do you think they are from?’ I would have happily interviewed each person about their home land if I could have.
After a while of waiting they started to load us into the boats and we ended up standing on the lower platform holding onto the stair rails for support. I tightened my rain jacket hood around my head (it was windy and I knew once the boat got going I wouldn’t like the cold wind in my ears- starting to think ahead on day four) and slipped my phone into my pocket. I didn’t keep my camera out for this portion of the trip because I wanted to be as present as possible.
Once we were on the boat and headed for Inis Oirr I realized that I was the happiest I had ever felt before. This was the best day of my life so far. I thought a lot about my Dad on that boat ride and I felt peaceful. I knew he would have loved being there. I thought about how maybe he hadn’t lived the life I would have wanted for him; but I could still live mine for me. When he died I wore my favorite shirt- a navy and white striped button up with little ruffles at the collar- to the hospital. I’m not sure why I wore it I guess I wanted to feel as confident as I could. After I got home from the hospital I put the shirt away and hadn’t worn it since. I decided I would take that shirt on this trip. That every time we went somewhere new or scary or exhilarating I would wear that shirt. It would be my way of making something good out of something bad. In my mind it was almost like I was living the life he should have, and in a small way, he was part of it. I had decided to wear it on this day.
I thought about my Mom and sent a prayerful thanks that she took me everywhere she could when I was young. She said it was important that I saw new places and knew how to take care of myself. She made me a traveler. I thought about my grandparents and the trips they had taken and the hours I had poured over their travel journals. I thought about how everything in life had brought me there. I tilted my head back and breathed in the sea air, listened to the sounds of the sea gulls and the people around us with their accents and languages I’d never heard before, felt the gentle motion of the boat and looked over at my husband to see him smiling back at me. I tried to memorize the colors of the water and the way the land looked inching away from us and I even thought about what my ancestors must have felt like leaving that same area of land for America. It was a moment of absolute joy and peaceful presence and I am so grateful for it.
The boat ride was about 30 minutes long and we landed and walked up the dock stairs on to the island. It was beautiful and peaceful. We saw that there were lots of houses and they reminded us of the houses in Seaside, Florida. Not so much in their architecture- more that here was a group of people who all loved this spot of Earth and lived very differently than most other people. There was a small school and a recreational building; I am assuming they go there for exercise in the winter months. The island did have cars but we only passed a few while we were walking. There were carriage rides available but we didn’t want to be stuck on a carriage if there was something we wanted to see.
We really enjoyed ourselves walking around on the island, taking photographs, going into some small shops and having a delicious lunch. We noticed several bed and breakfast and hostels and I started thinking about how great it would be to book a few nights out on one of the islands. We would watch the sunrise, eat and hike the whole area-making the trek out to the lighthouse at the end of island.
You can really see from these pictures how quickly the weather changes. It would be overcast and gray one minute and then the clouds would move and the sky would be blue and sunny.
We ate lunch at The Seaweed Café. We knew that there were several restaurants on the island but we hadn’t had one picked out ahead of time and got really lucky finding this café. The kitchen was tiny and adorable with all kinds of delicious looking foods and baked goods. We both ordered the vegetable soup. The weather was chilly but I really wanted to sit at one of the tables outside. I couldn’t bear to be inside because the surroundings were so beautiful. We were comfortable for most of our lunch but by the end we were getting cold. Our soup was incredible- like all our other food very fresh and with lots of flavor. I know what you’re thinking – it looks like baby food. But it was the best soup we’d ever had. The brown bread was delicious smeared with tons of butter.
After we ate we went in to warm up and talk to the owner for a bit. She was so friendly and seemed just as interested in us as we were in her. I asked her about her teas and told her I ordered the same brand on Amazon UK. She laughed and said that she had customers who asked if she knew what Amazon was. I didn’t doubt it- the same thought had crossed my mind. It felt like we were on the edge of the world. She answered all my questions; no it doesn’t snow there, yes they pretty much shut down in the winter, she’d lived there all her life. She asked us about where we live and knew us for our Jack Daniels whiskey! Not Dolly Parton or even the Smokey Mountains but the whiskey. I wish I had gotten a picture with her.
We made our way back across the island towards the boat that would take us to see the Cliffs of Moher and back to Doolin Pier. We came to this area because of the Cliffs of Moher so this was a pretty exciting moment.
Cliffs of Moher Facts:
The cliffs are 320 million years old.
They have been in movies such as The Princess Bride and Harry Potter.
It is home to 40,000 birds.
The cliffs are named for a fort that used to stand where Moher Tower is. The old Irish word ‘Mothar’ means ruined fort.
There are many legends associated with the cliffs. You can read some of them and learn all about the cliffs on this great website: Cliffs of Moher History
The boat took us a ways down the land and then turned back and rode fairly close to the cliffs back to the dock. It was windy and overcast and the boat was rocking around like crazy so close to the shore. I found a spot on the side of the boat and basically tied myself to it using some rope that was hanging. It was caked in salt and I remember looking at it and thinking ‘Now I am a real adventurer’.
As the boat surged forward towards the water and then tilted back with the waves I took some photos and Chris took some video on our GoPro. Looking at the images one after the other now I can see just how huge the motion was. I wish that I could have gone there on different days for different kinds of light. Again, I didn’t keep my camera out for too long. It was too special even for looking through a camera lens.
After we landed we got back into our car and drove back to Mary and Patsy’s for a bit of a rest. We decided to go back to Vaughn’s Anchor Bar for dinner. It was just down the street and delicious. I found that going to the same places to eat was very relaxing. After making so many decisions and doing so many new things each day it was a relief to know what to expect for dinner.
I loved reading the books in Mary and Patsy’s living room!
We split the fish and chips for dinner and they were the best we had our whole trip. We decided to get the dessert sampler plate since we just couldn’t choose. Whoa it was delicious but way too much dessert.
After we ate, we headed back out to the cliffs but this time to tour around the top. It was about 6pm and there was still plenty of light but there weren’t that many people there. We parked in the lot and then walked across the street and up the walkway that led to the cliffs. It was the kind of walk way where there were stairs every few yards and then it would flatten again for a bit. I was so concerned that climbing would aggravate the herniated disc in my neck. I tried to keep my back as straight as I could. And as we were walking I looked over and saw another woman walking up to the top. She looked a lot like me except a little older. And she had crutches. Not the kind that you use for a bit until your body heals but the kind you have when you have a handicap of some kind. She had to have been in pain but up, up she went. It brought tears to my eyes to see her living out what was most likely a dream of hers despite her physical limitations. It made me pick up my step.
I would stop at a certain point and take a picture and then climb some more and took another shot and kept going up like that. I think I was afraid I wouldn’t get to the top; that the light would change and it would suddenly go dark, that it might start raining- again that same feeling that something would happen to keep me from getting to this spot. But we did get there. After 4,308 miles of traveling we made it to the top for the view of a lifetime. We both knew we were somewhere amazing. That we might not ever be there again. And that we couldn’t imagine that we would never be there again.
When we got back to Moher Lodge we started talking about Scotland. We were scheduled to fly into Glasgow the next day and pick up a rental car there. We weren’t feeling very keen on the rental car. At this point even driving back to Dublin didn’t seem like very much fun. We looked into dropping the car off at Shannon airport and taking a train into Dublin but we wouldn’t make it there in time for our flight. We learned an important lesson at this point of our trip – be flexible and if something isn’t working change it. We weren’t happy driving so we altered our plans. We canceled our car rental and decided when we landed in Glasgow we would figure out from there how best to get to Oban. We looked up the Jacobite Steam Train as an option and also looked at taking a bus to Ft. William, checking out bags into a locker and exploring the area. But in the end it was going to use up way too many resources and still make for a stressful day. We knew that if we did this we would be forgoing our chance to get to Skye (Did you see the movie Skyfall? The road to Skye is where they filmed the scenes for Bond’s house) but we still felt it was the best thing to do. I was very happy that we were organized and I had my travel folder with all our reservations at hand. It was no problem to call and cancel the car rental and then call Edinburgh and add an extra night to our stay. We would bypass Skye this trip but in exchange have a much more pleasurable experience.
We felt much better once we made that decision and had the details taken care; took our showers and went to sleep around 10pm.