Headed north this morning to the Connemara Region of Ireland.
Stopped in the village of Cong and had the greatest breakfast at an awesome little coffee shop called The Hungry Monk. Small, local, traditional, and very quiet when we arrived. Breakfast consisted of some great coffee (I love the coffee here) and then I ordered a bacon sandwich with butter and ketchup on brown soda bread. I got a plate with two pieces of bread each stacked to the ceiling with bacon. It was heaven.
Right across the street are the ruins of the Cong Abbey and these wonderful old graveyards. The ruins were great. Totally accessible. And for the most part, completely free of tourists. We were where we strive to be: Off the beaten path. Took a short walk down to the crystal clear stream behind the abbey and watched a couple local boys pulling Salmon out of the river. Also, out here is a little Monk’s fishing hut where they would hang a net through a hole in the floor and tie a little bell on top. When the bell rang, it means a fish was caught in the net and they’d hoist it right up. Talk about easy!
We then drove through peat bog fields, forests, and rolling hills to reach Clifden. This is another adorable little local village. Bigger than Cong, but not by much. It made the perfect stopping point for a pint out on the western coast.
Headed back inland, towards Galway, and came upon Aughnanure Castle which has been restored and provides an awesome backdrop for pictures. I like to sit in the yards and look around at the castle and buildings and try to imagine what life might of been like in 1100 when it went up and passed down through generations of families. Very beautiful, quiet, and serene. And for the most part, tourist free. The castle was totally accessible to all four floors up a winding midevil stone staircase. Each floor was visitable and we could learn about the families and life in the fortress. It’s restored wonderfully, but doesn’t have any furniture or decoration so you have to use a bit of imagination, but it proved to be a worthwhile stop.
Headed back to Galway in search of a laundromat, only to discover, there are no coin operated laundrys in Galway. Only drop-off/pick-up service. Being it was Saturday and we’re jamming out Sunday (they’re closed) this wasn’t going to work.
Before I came out here, I had heard an old friend from Einstein & Shoreline was a traditional fiddle player out here in Galway and that’s how he makes his living. His name is Mike Chang. He’s a tall Chinese man, and he’s become very well known in these parts and runs several “trad” sessions and plays in bands. We had been in email contact and made plans to meet that night. It’s been over 25 years since we’ve seen each other.
Walking out of the laundry, who do we see, but Mike Change walking across the street carrying his fiddle case. Kinda cool. I recognized him immediately. Looks the same to me, just a bit of gray in the hair. We catch up quickly and make plans to meet up in a few hours.
We meet Mike at Taaffes on Shop Street and have a great time catching up over pints. Michelle knew Mike too. So we played the game “…so what’d ya do after high school”. By far, Mike’s story was far more interesting than either of ours. Jenny commented his story was so interesting he should write a book! How he got involved in Irish music and how he wound up in Galway 14 years ago is nothing short of a tale that will keep you wanting more. What a life. It was great to see him, and he promised to ring me the next time he gets back to Seattle. All in all, it was an awesome day and a great finish.
We wound up at The Crane Bar where Mike leads a traditional, called “trad”, Irish music session. These are traditionally, when musicians show up with their instruments in the middle of the bar and break out in a big jam session. It was awesome. Mike was the leader of this night’s trad and it was awesome watching the group of 20+ play tune after tune while the locals soaked it up. Such a treat.