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June 2, 2003 - Carolyn's birthday.
Having arrived rather late last night, we didn't get much of a chance to talk to the proprietors of this particular B&B, something we were very much looking forward to. The B&B, called the Cappabhaile House, was run by Conor and Margaret Fahy, and, as has been mentioned, Fahy is how Carolyn's last name would have been spelled had her grandfather not dropped the "h". Conor told us that even that spelling is an anglicization of a still earlier spelling - "Fahey". The B&B was comfortably and luxuriously appointed, and included a large bath. The picture on the right is the view out our window at the Cappabhaile House ('bh' is pronounced as /w/). Since today's route was a loop, we'd be staying there tonight as well which we were quite looking forward to.
While in conversation with Conor, it came up that Carolyn's helmet was too large, and Conor offered Carolyn the use of his son's helmet, which Carolyn accepted and wore today and until lunch tomorrow when Fidelma was able to purchase a new one from a bicycle store, and exchange it. We also asked Conor about laundry facilities, because we needed 'em and according to the information from Cycle West, this was one of the few places that had a laundrette on our tour. We were very surprised to learn that there is NO self-service laundry facility in Ireland. Apparently one (some?) were tried in major cities, but the Irish had such a knack for cheating the machines that they closed down. So, we dropped off two loads of laundry in the morning, and got them cleaned (at €10 per load!) Still, it was quite a pleasure to pick up clean, folded clothes at the end of the day, even if we did get a extra-large, bonus pair of ladies knickers thrown in with the bundle. (We left these with Conor for him to do with as he saw fit!)
So, after dropping off the laundry, we headed out for our day's tour. It was a fairly quick jaunt up to Ailwee Cave - Ireland's Premier Showcave! We didn't go in, but we did stop long enough to get some food for our picnic later that day, and for Carolyn to step into a "thatched crannog" in the Children's area (photo to right.) And, long enough for the cashier at the place to exclaim "Crikey!" as we explained yesterday's itinerary and milage.
Setting out from the Premier Show Cave, we headed back up into the burren. The climb wasn't quite as bad as it would have been had we been going back up corkscrew hill, but we were relieved to get to take a break part way up to see a "Cairn" or stone fort. The hill we were climbing was another (the other?) venue for the Galway Motor Club hill climb.
After a Mars Bar, and a couple of pictures at the Cairn (above), we continued up the not-quite-as-bad-as-corkscrew-hill to get to the Poulnabrone Dolmen at the top. Apparently there are better and less-touristy Dolmen around, but that's the thing about being a tourist, other tourists want to see the same things you do (or at least some of them!). So, this particular Dolmen attracted various buses, and it took some effort to get the people-free photographs that I did.
In 1985 when I bicycle-toured Ireland with my parents and my buddy Nathan, my dad would tell a "joke" that went something like this: "What's the difference between an American and a European? An American thinks 200 years is a long time, and a European thinks 200 miles is a long way." Nothing drove that difference home for me like the Dolmen. It's a stone tomb monument from approximately 2500 BC. Some people, about 4500 years ago piled these huge rocks on top of these other huge rocks to mark the burial of some other people. So, we stopped here for our picnic in a light mist and watched the tourists hop off and back on their buses as they raced from site to site.
Our day started late, so our lunch started late. This also means that it didn't finish until about 4 PM. So, I raced down the not-quite-as-bad-as-corkscrew-hill because we had a 5 PM appointment to pick up our laundry. I did notice something on our map that we'd missed on the way up though, so I stopped to take a picture of this earthen ring fort (fairy ring?) just a short ways down the hill from the stone cairn. It was there that I got to participate in the "stinging nettles" experience. I brushed my hand against some accidentally, and they lived up to their name. My hand stung slightly the rest of the evening.
For dinner, we headed back to Monk's where Carolyn repeated her wonderful seafood chowder and brown bread experience from yesterday. I had an "open prawn sandwich" which turned out just to be small cold shrimp on brown bread with some sort of sauce on the side and a side salad that was mainly carrots. That's the thing about spending much of a day cycling, just about anything tastes good, and you can eat all of it. Carolyn got an "open crab sandwich" which was pretty much the same thing (but with crab, of course). We also took this opportunity to try Bushmill's. Unfortunately we failed to specify straight-up when we ordered, and it came on the rocks so it was hard to get a real taste of it.
So, Carolyn ended her birthday much the way she ended our anniversary with a long, relaxing, hot bath.
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