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June 9, 2003
This morning, we went shopping. We were finally in a situation where we could buy something without having to carry it on our bikes for the rest of the day, and it was our last time in a major city in Ireland before heading home. We bought books for ourselves and our house/cat-sitter, and whiskey for ourselves and Carolyn's parents. We picked up some Connemara and some Jameson, and a small bottle of Black Bush. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake. Part of the decision to do this was how small Shannon seemed when we flew into it. Flying out, however, we had to pass through a very large "duty-free" section which had all kinds of whiskey at slightly lower prices (considering tax). Further, when we went to a liquor store back in Lancaster, we found Jameson and Black Bush right there. Which is good because we can get it close to home, but means we should have brought more exotic flavors home with us. Next time. :)
So, we met Fidelma one last time as we checked out of the Galway Harbour Hotel. We finished returning the stuff of hers that we still had (saddle bags, etc.) and she said she would send us non-laminated versions of our trip info and a questionnaire about what we liked and didn't. Unfortunately, we're still waiting, and we see from the website that she's already updated the trip for next year, so who knows if anything will ever come of that.
We then headed to the bus station in Galway to catch a bus to Bunratty. We figured it wouldn't be too much trouble to get to Shannon from Bunratty and we had a high recommendation for the "Medieval" banquet at Bunratty castle. In the bus station, we bought a couple of drinks at the cafe there and proceeded to nosh on our picnic stuff. However, we were promptly told that only items purchased at the cafe could be consumed there and would we please leave. While I would have expected something like this in the US, I was surprised by it in Ireland. So, we left in a huff and ate in the "lounge" on wobbly bench-seats with no tables. Oh well.
The bus to Shannon/Limerick dropped us off at Bunratty. We found a pub and asked for directions to our B&B which was about a mile down the low road. On foot, and with all of our luggage, a mile is much farther than it is on bikes without luggage, still it seemed quite doable. With packs on our backs (and my front) we headed down the low road. Unfortunately, it was already raining, and it didn't let up during our walk. When we finally arrived, the hostess said "You poor dears! Why didn't you ring? I'd have come and picked you up." We didn't have an answer. Frankly, it never occurred to us. Just to balance things out, we did let her drop us off at Bunratty castle later in the evening through.
We got on the waiting list for the 5:30 seating at the medieval banquet and fortunately made it instead of having to mill about until the next seating at 8:45. While we waited, we took a walk around the Bunratty folk park which is also right there at the castle. It was interesting to see various mill styles, early dwellings, and some pigs.
The banquet itself was kind of cheesy, but what do you expect from that sort of thing? The food was delicious and there was singing by the wait staff except when they were waiting on us when there was music from a harpist and a violinist. It was also crowded and touristy. I guess it gave Kylemore Abbey a run for its money on that front. Still, we learned some things. We both tried snuff for the first time, and we learned a plausible etymology of the term "honeymoon." As we were told it, meade (a honey wine) was believed to be conducive to fertility and a newly married couple would drink meade each night for the first month (or cycle of the moon) of marriage. Therefore a "honey moon" was the beginning of a fertile marriage. More reputable etymological sources than medieval banquets dispute this claim, and point to the first written reference as being the period of sweetness for newlyweds that as the moon, wanes just after it is full. (sample reference.) At the banquet, we also learned that you never know when you're going to have your picture taken!
After dinner, we went into town where we came across this central sculpture/bench and stopped into the pub that had given us directions and tried a Tullamore Dew which we really liked, and a Powers which was only OK. We decided not to patronize Durty Nelly's there figuring it too would be a bit too touristy.
The next morning, we got up, repacked, had breakfast, watched some TV, took a taxi into Shannon and after a barrage of lines and security checks we made it onto the plane to head back to the states.
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