Since I spent most of my last post talking about things I’m bad at, this time I will write about something at which I excel: OVERTHINKING (The almighty spell check doesn’t think “overthinking” is a word. I say it is.) I spent twenty minutes last night agonizing over whether I should take the bus or train from Drogheda to Galway (spell check also doesn’t think “Galway” is a word, which I think proves my superior knowledge). Once I get started on something like that like that, it’s not long before I’m nearing The Cliffs of Insanity: “The train is way more comfortable than the bus. But I can’t afford 65 freaking euro when the bus is 25…But it is so much easier to get on the wrong bus than then wrong train, and I’d have to transfer to a different bus in Dublin and that freaks me out because what if I accidentally buy a ticket that is only good on one of the buses I need?” I finally reeled myself back in when I got to, “What if the driver gives me one of those looks (you know, the look that public transportation employees, from New York to Belfast, save for unusually stupid passengers)?” Of course, when I sourced my stress to the possibility of feeling like a stupid tourist, I realized that I wasn’t actually facing a real problem. I am an intelligent, grown human being with thumbs: I can figure it out. Also, I am a tourist.
I figured it out. Took the bus, easy as pie. Cheap, free wifi, onboard WC, and the driver did not seem inclined to hate me. Plus, a nice one hour layover at Dublin Airport for coffee and an a pain au chocolat, which is my travelling abroad breakfast treat. I love airports. Despite the fact that thousands of people must do it every day I felt quite cosmopolitan eating a French pastry in an Irish airport watching the news about Russia (I’m not the only one who suspects Vladimir Putin leapt, fully formed, out of an Ian Fleming novel, right? I’m picturing a volcano, somewhere in Siberia, that opens to reveal a lair with shark tanks in the walls and a fluffy white cat on a throne…”I killed you too quickly last time, Mr. Bond.” In all seriousness though, there’s scary stuff going down in Ukraine, keep the people in your thoughts and prayers.) I made the Airport to Galway reservation on my smartphone over the free airport wifi. It is possible that I am not being at all careful enough with using my credit card over whatever random open wifi signal I can find in various foriegn countries, but there you are. I needed a bus ticket.
The drive was lovely once we left the environs of the airport. There are parts of the Dublin/Belfast route that resemble parts of America’s heartland; then you come over the crest of a hill and understand why people love this country. Even in the most fertile regions of the U.S. I’m not sure we have that shade of green…when the sun comes out after a wee bit of rain, the land, sprinkled with sheep and ruined stone towers, looks absolutely luscious.
There’s a small part of me that felt like it was some kind of betrayal to my Scotch-Irish ancestors to take touristy bus tours while I’m in Ireland (as opposed to, I don’t know, walking from Cork to Belfast in my bare feet or picking up work on a sheep farm?) but then I did a tour to The Giant’s Causeway from Belfast, and it’s the best thing I’ve done in Ireland so far. Naturally, we had a charming ginger guide named Patrick. I was the last person to board the bus, so he offered me the jump seat next to the door. This placed me right under the windshield so I was almost surrounded by glass–definitely the best view on the bus. We stopped first at Carrickfergus Castle, and as we pulled in Pat the Guide told us what time we’d be leaving again and then showed the group a small paper clock, which he adjusted to 10:25 and placed near the steering wheel, “for anyone who’s not too sure of my accent.” He did a nice job with combining facts (Carrickfergus was a garrison during WWI and an air-raid shelter durng WWII), and legends (“They say that fairies live under the hawthorne bushes. Now, the farmers here are hefty guys, strong as oxes. You ask if they believe in fairies and they’ll say no, but they won’t disturb a hawthorne bush!”) and comedy ( “We should fit through this tunnel okay, as long as they haven’t changed it since yesterday…”) I was taking notes the whole way so I could write about it later. On the way back to Belfast in the evening, Patrick played a soothing mix of Nora Jones, Eva Cassidy, and Bread over the intercom, which made me laugh for some reason. It was enormously fun, so I’ve already made two day-tour reservations for my stay in Galway: the Cliffs of Moher (the ACTUAL Cliffs of Insanity!) and Connemara. I almost didn’t make the second reservation, because I hate to miss time in Galway City, but Ennis, my next stop, is only an hour away. This is the great part about traveling alone: if I feel like it, I can come back to Galway for a few hours. I can do whatever sort of crazy thing I want. Have you ever had the sensation, “No one in the whole world knows where I am right now?” It’s a beautiful thing.