From Galway to Clifden & Cleggan

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I don’t recall a lot from this part (although I do recall gouging my legs while bushwhacking) and the photos aren’t that great but here are a few shots of me on the trip to get a flavour of where we were.

Funny thing about Casey is that obviously he had an impact on me at the time but I do not remember him in the least now.

And saying goodbye to Em…the interesting part of the story with her was that she ended up marrying Martin. I don’t think they’re together anymore, but it’s always fascinating when you meet people who then go on to forge something stronger than deeper than you’d ever imagine.

Other than that I don’t feel particularly reflective today though so I’m not going to write much more than this. Happy Friday!


Aran Island Tour & Irish Boys in Bars

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This is where I start writing less frequently but try to catch up so technically the date at the top is the date I wrote but the actual content comes from other days. So even though it says June 5, I’m posting the section that takes place on June 1 since that’s today.

So…20 years ago today I went to the Aran Islands. It was a beautiful trip and it was fun to rent – sorry,”hire” (as I said above) – bikes. It was a beautiful spot. To this day I really remember the Irish coast vividly because I found it so beautiful.

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I think about all the different people I have met along the way already. It was almost addicting, constantly meeting so many people from so many places, everyone willing to go out and have a pint or just hang and chat. So many people doing the same thing, swirling around…locals and travellers alike. And I was young and blonde and loved the attention from boys – there always seemed to be loads of them around to give it to me! Part of the beauty of traveling alone, although I did have my girls to hang with as well and that was a key component of my journey. Seemed to write about them less though…

Galway Girls

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Started speaking a bit more about food. The hostel life leads to a lot of cooking of pasta but I did love the Irish cheddar on a baguette with Granny Smith apple. I don’t know what got me trying it in the first place because I was never really that into mixed fruit with savoury food.

Funny that Irish sweater I bought has been packed away for a long time but just 2 weeks ago, I dug it out so my sister could borrow it for a canoe trip. It’s giant (why did I buy a sweater SO BIG?) but so, so warm. I could never get rid of it – it’s one of the few things from this trip I still have to this day.

I have ever have seen so many sunburned in one place at the same time – I have Irish in my background so I burn, too, but I’ve never seen that much red skin! It was exciting to be able to swim in the ocean in Ireland. It hadn’t been that warm yet on this trip.

Simon was a sweet guy. I’d forgotten that we had our educational background in common. It was exciting to envision using a marketing degree abroad. I don’t think it really dawned on me that it was possible before.

It was a romantic evening,..when we left everyone we just wandered around Galway till we found that gate and talked till all hours of the night. I remembered when I saw Before Sunrise I hoped that one day I would be like Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy and have an experience like that and I got to,

The Irish Tour Begins

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So…taking off across Ireland in the Slow Coach, here’s the route we took. Love how I specified where I stopped and where I didn’t. Colour-coded, no less! Evidently I decided to start writing more and I think that with longer entries, it will show more of my age and, evidently, interest in meeting and hanging out with boys. So forgive me.

I think my problem with Kildare is that I got St. Brigid mixed up with Hildegard of Bingen. Remember having a thing for women saints for a time back then. And I grew up in the United Church – but women having power in a religious context was always of interest to me.  Here’s the cross the man gave me along with the info about it and a photo of the Kildare Cathedral.

But I had a hard time with the bigger cities. Once I saw what I had to see I found them kind of boring because you can access the same fast food restaurants as in other places around the world and you get such a better handle on the flavour of a country when you are in the smaller towns and rural areas as evidenced by my improved mood in Galway.

I like that I mentioned the things about the history and culture that I found meaningful to me. I felt consistently amazed by the preservation of these things. Here’s Newgrange (including the closer-up of yours truly) & Trim Castle from Braveheart:

I remember that pub we went to in Galway even thought I never put the name in. To the point that if you took meet Galway today and it was still there I would know it in a second. That’s the beauty that revisiting this experience provides…memories. Remember these guys well – in fact, Paul and I are friends on Facebook even now. But there was none of them for me like there was for my friend, Em.

Interesting how I analyzed the burger prices. That’s a 23-year-old talking that’s for sure, as I can tell you 43-year-old me doesn’t frequent fast food joints unless I’ve had several pints. But I loved that Veggie Bean Burger that Burger King still make today. It was progressive in Europe to be able to go to a fast food restaurant that you recognized and get a veggie burger – certainly couldn’t do that in Canada in 1997. I had decided to stop eating meat in 1991 and ended up stopping eating poultry in 1995. So cheap vegetarian options were a goal for me. Can’t remember if I was eating fish back then…I’m not sure I was. But I do now…still don’t eat meat or poultry though.


In Dublin’s Fair City

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I liked traveling with the jump-on-jump-off (JOJO) passes, which is what the Slow Coach was. None of these services exist anymore…I’ve been trying to find out when they all disappeared. They all seemed to start around the same time in the mid-90s but it sounds like they couldn’t make a real go of it so the services don’t exist anymore. That would have made my European trip a very different adventure for me. The JOJO passes were almost like a tour where the drivers explained things about where you were going along the way, and it had a defined route (as you’d have seen in my earlier map of Britain) but there was no commitment other than that; people could get on and off as they liked so you weren’t with the same people all the time. I loved it.

Dublin Castle was my first castle. And funny enough, that table really was my favourite part. I had been bummed that I didn’t take a photo of it at the time but I found one online (ah, the power of the internet):

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Doesn’t seem like much, I know, but it was beautiful and intricately done.

Obviously was a good little tourist and did some of the things I was supposed to, not surprisingly, based around alcohol (even when it’s a church!). The Guinness brewery really did have the best pint of Guinness I would have my entire trip (and truthfully, I had a lot!). Someone told me recently that Guinness will never tasted the same here because it has to be transported overseas and there’s a chemical they have to add to it for stability. Not sure it’s the case…I just think there’s none of the River Liffey in it.

I vaguely remember Eamonn…was a little put off as I recall when he talked about Jack the Ripper while we had a pint at a corner table at O’Reilly’s…that must have been after he kissed me, because obviously I let that happen.. He was a bit hard to work out. But what a 23-year-old experience to have. I feel like I made the right decision by ditching the second night. It did freak me out a little as well, because the first night he had walked me back to the hostel, so I felt like he knew where I was and would come and find me if I didn’t show up. Still, it’s not my style to ditch someone, or make plans and not show. I’m just not like that, hence the slight feeling of guilt.

I loved Tom Robbins – read every one of his books in my 20s, still have copies on my bookshelves…they are some of the books I just can never pare down. They meant a lot to me…That’s another thing I should return to 20 years later. See how that feels. Jitterbug Perfume I think was my favourite. If you’ve never read it, here is a rabbit hole of quotes to give you the flavour of the fantastical cult classic.

This also sparks again my interest in religion related to the feminine. I had spent some time exploring goddess religion – I loved the feminism and the empowerment and action behind it…still do. But ultimately I found while that religion of any sort is so fascinating, and I love educating myself on all different kinds, practicing any kind or organized religion isn’t for me. But learning about women who became saints was of particular interest. Will look forward to re-learning more about St. Brigid of Kildare.

And as a recap, because I spelled it out so neatly, this is the trip so far:

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So many people who seemed significant and memorable at the time have faded from memory. But some remain, and some come back to life when I reread bits and pieces about them. I do think I get a bit more detailed in future posts…

Manchester onto Dublin

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So in writing this post, I was in the Wed Wose Cafe, which seemed to have closed down in the mid-2000s but this map gives you an idea of where it was in Dublin. Pretty central…I don’t recall this specific spot but I can certainly romanticize what it was like!

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But this post was really more about Manchester than Dublin and covered the 24th & 25th. A little bit tricky when trying to honour the anniversary…should it be the anniversary of the event – I’d think so – or when the entry was created? Maybe I have to read ahead a little after all. Guess I’ll have to work that out.

I find it interesting that I tried to go out alone and was told not to. I’m glad I asked. I’m not much of an asker these days, I like to try to figure things out myself. But I’m guessing my Spidey sense was probably tingling…but nice that Nick guy was a good dude. He was just a guy who wanted to go for a beer. Probably a little unfair of me to refer to him as “goofy” as he did me a favour in hanging out when I had no one else.

I’ve never been a clubbing type – it’s just not bred into us North Americans the same way it is for the Europeans. I remember wanting to check out the Haçienda because of its legendary status but I knew right away it wasn’t my scene. But what I didn’t realize at the time is that it closed a month later, nearly to the day. I had no idea.  And now gone for good. As a music fan, it’s cool I got to visit one of those legendary venues.

Can’t find evidence of the music festival but I found a little history on Toss the Feathers. Still have a love for Celtic music. It was exciting to find a few small music festivals. I love seeing live music whenever I can and this is something that’s been with me for years. Especially a festival like this which seems like it reflects the Winnipeg Folk Festival which is of course, so near and dear to my heart.

Especially as a new traveler I loved meeting other single women on the road. They all seemed to be something so cool, which was both inspiring and motivating. Most of the time I loved the freedom to move, to meet and hang with different people learning about different cultures along the way. I tried to steer away from Canadians, whom I felt I could meet at home, and Americans, because they felt too much like Canadians. I was enamoured of the Australians, New Zealanders, South Africans and other Europeans. They were all so exotic, with their accents and their slang, many of them on their gap years or lengthy overseas stays with their parents’ heritage leading them to work visas…

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That’s what I did and where I stayed. Feels like not much yet…I know it took a while to ease into it all, to have my Canadian life melt away. I don’t think I quite had a sense of how free I was then. I was so uncertain of where I was going to go in life. This seemed like a justification. I did feel supported by my family when I left, which was good. They believed in travel as a form of education, so it felt like I was extending my learning before really starting in the working world and I didn’t feel like I was copping out or escaping. OK maybe I was escaping a little. But I needed to do something different. My dreams of working in Advertising (which I thought I would do from when I was about 14) were shattered after actually taking an advertising course and learning what it was really about. I was single, I had no debt (huge thanks to my parents for saving for my education all those years) and more than that, no plan. So it really was the best time to go.

When I was with my mom last weekend in Sonoma we talked about this blog. She asked me why I was doing it. Why was I sharing this online with the world to see. My first answer is that I felt the need to commemorate this trip somehow. I needed the impetus to read the journals again, and I needed a framework to put it all in. She knew it was a hard time for me back then. She said the trip changed me. I hope she meant for the good…but maybe not entirely, I didn’t ask her to elaborate because I don’t know if I want to know.

But I am at peace with my life now. And I’m really proud I made this all happen for myself. It would have been really very easy NOT to make the journey, NOT to take the risk. But with all risk comes results one way or the other – and I can say in this case, rewards.

Two Days in Manchester

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Girl leaves boy to move on with travel. I really liked Greg but am glad I had my wits about me to carry on. That way it was way more fun. Gotta leave wanting more…

So this is where I saw my pals from home again…I’d forgotten. Here’s the evidence of Stratford-on-Avon:

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Dig that I was into the “indie” hostels that were less clean and nice. HA! They definitely did have more character. I really liked the group cooks as well. It was a really fun way to meet people, one of the other things I liked about hostels in general.

Planning for Ireland was fun. I had wanted to go hiking in Wales (hiking is still my jam) but it was too difficult and expensive in the little time I had, especially with the holiday. It was £33 to get the overnight bus/ferry to Dublin in 1997 – which is $57.39 in today’s Canadian dollars. It’s now about $70CAD to take the same trip, and you have the options of comparative shopping online. Always good to travel overnight when you can as you save yourself a night’s accommodation – that was something I learned early on.

I remember not being very taken with Manchester. It was a stop along the way, not a destination for me. That said, I had only just discovered what “football” meant in Europe  but it was fun to see the other girls excited about seeing the team practice. Knowing later what Man U actually meant in the late 90’s…I mean, David Beckham was playing then!

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I’d forgotten about Poor Superman – it was cool to see a Canadian playwright’s work performed in the UK. It was funny to hear them try to say “about”.

These are the bands I checked out…cannot find evidence of a band called “Alone”  but I have the photo as promised along with an Australian performer:

I could see myself being a bit lonely after leaving the friends and fun I’d had in Bath. And I remember being excited about meeting someone foreign but not wanting to ruin my trip by following someone around instead of making my own trip what I wanted it to be. That was the important thing about going it alone. Not so sure why I was so worried about trust at that time…seems like that was probably something about where I was at during that time.

See you in Dublin on the 26th.