Galway to Portstewart and a little coincidence along the way…

April 15, 1998 Wednesday, Galway.

Had cornflakes for breakfast. Very nice coastal route on the way to the Cliffs of Mohr. Spectacular. Like the Great Ocean Road. Huge cliffs dropping away to the sea. (Great Australian Bight, he means. I visited the Great Australian Bight as a 10-year-old and while the cliffs are similar the landscape surrounding them couldn’t be more different. In Australia, the desert runs all the way to the cliffs and simply drops away, hundreds of feet below, to the churning ocean. The Burren, the rocky landscape nearby is stark but lush greenery typical of Ireland surrounds the cliffs.)

People were lying down on the edge. Looking over. I could see stress fractures in the rocks. I wouldn’t even think of it. Irish countryside is very ordinary – plastic bags and rubbish everywhere. (My husband uses the words ordinary and average to mean not great/terrible as a rule. I do recall the countryside being choked under plastic bags and other rubbish. If you looked over a bridge into a creek, it was not unusual to see at least one baby pram (buggy/carriage/pusher whatever you call it where you’re from!) and a shopping cart chilling there with other rubbish. I am not sure why prams were so disposable? I very much hope things have improved. Ireland imposed a plastic bag levy of €0.15 in 2002 but no ban is in place. In July 2021 however, like Australia, Ireland banned a variety of single-use plastic items like cutlery, cotton buds and straws.)

We drove through Limerick. Didn’t take to it at all. Ended up at a place called Cashel. Went for a walk around. There’s a Castle. Nice little town. Hostel had heaps of Aussies. Went to pub with two Aussie girls. Had quite a few beers and listened to live traditional Irish folk music. Good time had by all. Finished up around midnight. (I believe this involved a lock-in, where they lock the doors at a certain time so you can’t just wander the streets being a pissed eejit. Then they let us out a couple of hours later… I can’t be 100% sure as I got very drunk. It was possibly the first time I’d had an alcoholic drink since Bali.)

The Rock of Cashel

April 16, 1998. Thursday, Cashel.

We visited the Rock of Cashel, the castle on the hill. Visited Kilkenny for a few hours. Great craft area. Got quite a few ideas – things we can do in our own ways. Amazing craft works everywhere. All very good quality. (The Kilkenny tourism board still describes the town as a ‘craft hub’ so that’s nice. I recall going to the Kilkenny Design Workshops and being in heaven!)

Drove through one hour of bad traffic at the end of the day to end up in Dún Laoghaire, the beach retreat town of Dublin. (Dún Laoghaire is a suburban coastal town just south of Dublin. It was known as Dunleary until it was renamed Kingstown in honour of King George IV’s 1821 visit, and in 1920 was given its present name, the original Irish form of Dunleary.)

Major ferry port in the Republic of Ireland. I wouldn’t swim there. Anything with water is coastal retreat, no matter what or where it is. (We Australians are very picky and snooty about beaches, having been spoilt rotten our whole lives.)

We cooked up a huge meal, chicken and potatoes and noodles. Could hardly move afterwards. Decided to go to bed about 10:00 PM. Evil football children once again were running up holes. Banging on doors, shouting for about 3 hours. Spoke to them a few times. Not much difference. Very bad sleep. (It’s very poor form to let your kids spoil other people’s sleep. Not cool. I only hope those young kids are now parents themselves, all these years later, and their sins are being visited upon them!)

April 17, 1998. Friday, Dún Laoghaire

Couldn’t wait to get out of the place. Caught the train to Dublin. Spent half a day there. Visited the castle, the university and a few other attractions. Didn’t like it very much. Not very nice buildings. Alleyways were nice, and the back streets. (This was a novelty for us. In Australia, the concept of using the laneways for anything more than a place to store garbage has only recently come into vogue. Back then if someone opened a café or shop down an arcade or side street it wasn’t expected to last very long. Now with Instagram etc., if you have a good concept, you can be anywhere!)

Eating lunch in Dublin.

A few good shops around, but just wanted to get away from the big city. (Wow…okay . My hubby loves the city! It’s very difficult to get the feel of a place in one short morning, especially after a shitty night’s sleep. My apologies, Dublin. Obviously my unworldly, tired husband will need to revisit Dublin one day to do it again.)

Drove to the small town called Drogheda. Decided to get an early night sleep. Stayed in a B&B – very nice and quiet. Good night sleep. (I think this was the B&B owned by the local head of the police force. We watched Father Ted with the family and had what our son would call ‘mad chats’ with the owners. I remember them saying when they’d moved there 15 years before, so in the early 80s there were only a couple of officers but as it was in 1998, they had dozens. 60km north of Dublin, they said the town became a haven for those being forced from the gentrifying city who brought with them drug and alcohol issues among other problems.)

April 18, 1998. Saturday, Drogheda

Did some clothes washing. English breakfast was okay but not cooked the best. Lady of House (Very posh!) is head cook in a very busy bakery/takeaway slash restaurant. She only gets 4 pound an hour. Wages here are very low but apparently single mothers get more benefits here than in Australia. (Interesting. I don’t know why this made it to the diary. Perhaps it was a continuation of the conversation with the copper and his wife.)

Saw the tallest stone cross (High Cross) in Ireland. (I’ve always been a little obsessed with these things… There was no visitor’s centre or entry fee. The cross was just in the middle of a field surrounded by sheep.)

Had a long drive to Portstewart in Northern Ireland. Countryside is very boring and repetitive. (I’m so sorry… I’m not sure what he was expecting…)

Arrived around 3:30pm. Beautiful little town. Right on the ocean. Beaches were okay. Reminded me of Australia, particularly Bondi Beach, so we felt at home. Went for walk along the Esplanade. Very clean, great place. Weather is apparently rarely this good. Double bed in hostel for a change. Talked with a group of others and covered all topics. A couple of them were very cynical and very negative, especially about art and were outright pigheaded. Their loss. Late night not about 1:30 am. (I remember they were a couple and hated all contemporary art. They particularly detested Damian Hirst who had won the Turner Prize in 1995.)

April 19, 1998. Sunday, Portstewart

Weather was good initially. Then it remembered it’s supposed to be drizzly and cold, so it was. Went for a drive along the beach. Coastal roads are very pretty and lots of little towns. Except for the ugly caravan parks everywhere. I don’t think I would like to see the crowds in summer.

We went to the Giants Causeway. Amazing! Wandered around for one or two hours and went to the top of the cliffs. Amazing natural formations. Interesting legends and tales. Spent rest of the day just plodding around in the car from town to town. Staying in extra night in Portstewart. Went and had coffee and cake. Yum cooked nice meal. Early night tonight!

(In the hostel common room, they had a Calvin and Hobbes comic book. I read it from cover to cover while curled up on the sofa enjoying the fire. I had never seen Calvin and Hobbes before and thought it was hilarious but deep. I have the book, so it’s possible I stole it! I remember thinking to myself, ‘If ever I have a son, I will call him Calvin.’

As it turned out, on this day, 19 April 1999, in 12 months’ time, I had a baby boy and we called him Calvin. Mad coincidence or what? I was blown away when I read that we’d stayed in Portstewart exactly a year before our own little Calvin was born.)