We arrived at Shannon airport ahead of our scheduled time of 6:30am. Once we got off the plane, went through customs, and grabbed our luggage, the group headed toward the main doors to meet our tour guide. When we reached her, we took over a large corner of the airport seating section to wait for the last two band members that had come over on a separate flight later in the morning. Many of us took naps on benches or in chairs, and the rest wandered around looking for food and coffee to start the morning off. I went for both of those options, dozing for a bit first and then finding a sandwich and a mocha at the small little general store by the exit.
As time went by, the boys in the band broke out their instruments and eased into a jam session that soon had everyone in our party awake and clapping along. Other folks waiting for rides and coming off of flights came around the corner to watch the commotion. Many were smiling and dancing along as they played. One lady with a baby not more than a few weeks over came over, holding the sleeping infant to her chest and swayed with is as the music played. One lady came over to introduce herself as airport staff. She asked if she could film a bit of them playing to post on some of the airport social media later on, so that was pretty cool. If you happen to follow Aer Lingus social media, keep an eye out for a clip of Father Son & Friends!
Once Quentin and Liz arrived, we were able to meet our driver, a lovely gentleman named Pat. He has quite the enjoyable Irish access to listen to as he speaks. I will admit that his driving has been an experience in itself. To start, in case you didn’t know, one must drive on the left side of the road in Ireland. For some people that is very disconcerting and hard to get used to. On top of that, the roadways in America are a good bit wider than those here, with many roundabouts and large vehicles, so going around corners and down small lanes was a terrifying experience on occasion as you watched the cars sneak pass with just an inch or two to spare. At one point, we had a turn that was probably less than 90 degree angle, and you could see from the chipped pink paint on the building where many a bus had scrapped the edge before. Luckily, with some maneuvering of other cars and our Pat, we made it through to the Cliffs of Moher unscathed.
The Cliffs of Moher have got to have one of the most amazing views I have ever seen. When we arrived at the cliffs, we knew we only had a limited amount of time, so we went straight past the visitor center and started up the hill. When you arrive at the Cliffs, you have the option of going left which takes you up and around to a point that looks out over the water, or to the right, which takes you up and to O’Brien’s Tower, the highest point of the Cliffs of Moher. We decided that the left side looked less crowded (most likely since there was no tower) so we chose to take that path instead. As we walked along, the path would split of so those who were a bit more brave could walk along the edge, while another path a few meters back was held in place by a stone wall. Looking down the cliffs you can see birds perched on outcroppings and ledges. Other areas are more slanted and have bits of grass and flowers rather than rock. Either way, going over the cliffs would land you on rocks and crashing waves, so I made sure to tread carefully when I ventured out towards the edge. My mother was kind enough to remind me that I was making her nervous multiple times, to which I would give her a glare and tell her she didn’t have to watch. I could’ve spent hours more standing up there, wandering father along the coastline. However, we had more exciting things to do with our evening.
After we arrived back at the bus, we headed to the end of the cliffs, where we boarded a small ferry to take us out and looks at the cliffs from sea. As my father said “The cliffs look high up when you’re looking down. They look really, really high when you’re looking up.” And he is absolutely right. Down along the shoreline the waves were crashing, and birds were calling and flying all about. We drove below O’Brian’s Tower, and close to the singular rock tower outcropping right next to the cliffs, catching sight of a few puffins and many other gulls and cormorants who had made their homes along the rock ledges. It was a nice experience to be able to view the cliffs from such different angles.
Once the boat tour ended, we were on our way to our hotel stay for the night over in Galway, just an hour or so drive away. Along the route we took, we passed through an area known as the Burren, famous for the Poulnabrone Dolmen, a group of standing stones (with a roof) which is dated back to Neolithic times. The word “Burren” comes from an Irish word “Boíreann” meaning a rocky place, which is an extremely appropriate name when you consider how the entire landscape is bare rock with only bits of soil here and there. Since we didn’t stop at any point to get out and walk around, I’m afraid I did doze off on the bus for bits of this part of the drive, but I will try to steal pictures from the others to show you so you can understand what I mean by ” a rocky place.”
And finally, we made it to The Clayton Hotel, which is to be our home base during our time in Galway. We made it there with a good bit of time for those of us in need to catch a short nap before we all came together again in the hotel restaurant for a group dinner. After that, we all took off to our rooms, and while I cannot speak for others, I was asleep by 9:30pm due to being so exhausted from traveling that I could no longer keep my eyes open. Another fun fact, the sun was up until nearly 10:00pm here, so it was still glowing outside as I was falling asleep. I haven’t been to bed (and asleep in bed) before 10:00 in a tragically long time. But I tell you, i was out withing 5 minutes of putting my head to the pillow, and there I stayed for the better part of the next 10 hours.