Day 16- Wednesday October 16th, 2013.
With Gene away last night into today, I thought this would be the perfect day to finally, really and truly stay in bed and be lazy. But that didn't actually last all that long. I did manage to stay in bed until nearly noon, reading and writing, but then I felt like I had to move. And it was raining out, so I actually researched and found a gym in town and went there. Listen. I'm just as shocked as you are. But I've been serious about getting in at least 10,000 steps each day (thanks Fitbit!) and with the weather not so great, I knew I'd have to take matters into my own hands. So yeah. I went to a gym and stayed there for almost an hour and a half on the treadmill until I couldn't take it any longer. When I left the gym, it wasn't raining so bad, and I ventured to Strokestown Park where I was hoping a puzzle I had seen in the gift shop last year was still available (it was!). On my way, just as I entered Elphin, I saw some horses grazing underneath a beautiful tree and had to pull over to photograph them. As I was heading back to the car, I heard all these loud noises/voices and then I remembered on Monday when Gene and I drove through Elphin, he told me the cow mart was happening and we actually saw one of my favorites from the Pub, Allo, dropping off a cow. Curiosity got the best of me today and before I knew it I was walking through this random building with the strongest smell of cow manure dodging the most authentically Irish men I'd ever been around. Suddenly it was me, a building full of farmers and cows and the sound of an auctioneer. I sat in the back of the building and just took it all all, just smiling and shaking my head to myself thinking "only me." I couldn't understand a thing the guy was saying or what was happening, but it was fascinating and such an insane experience and I was so glad I had my camera to capture it! I continued on to the gift shop and got the puzzle then headed back for Gene's where I had another memorable and wonderful Wednesday night at the Thatch. I took a bunch more photos, helped out behind the bar and stayed until closing to help Gene clean up. All in all, another wonderful day!
Day 17- Thursday October 17th, 2013.
Today started out to be a lazy day but, naturally, with Gene involved, it didn't last long. I stayed in bed reading for a couple of hours before making my way into the kitchen to have breakfast. Percy, Gene and I visited for a while, which has become a nice morning ritual. I mean, it's just how things are for Gene and Percy, but it's been nice for me to be a small part of that. After Percy left, Gene got a call from a telemarketer asking if he plays any sports at the pub (meaning, does he show any on TV). The conversation that ensued had me moments away from wetting my pants. I'll do my best to try and capture it:
Telemarketer- What sports do you play in the pub?
Gene- (full well knowing what the poor telemarketer was asking, but taking the conversation in an entirely different direction) Well. Sometimes we play mouse catching. Because there's a space underneath the front door and mice get in (this isn't true, by the way), and whichever local catches it/them gets a prize.
At this point, I'm laughing, Gene's pointing to the phone and laughing and I can't even imagine what the telemarketer is doing. How he didn't hang up at that point is beyond me.
Telemarketer- Okay. But do you play any sports?
Gene- (still pointing at the phone and laughing, which is making me laugh more) Yes. We have beetles too. And we chase them all around the pub and see who can get the most. We keep track of how many each person has gotten throughout the year. We write it down and keep a tally next to each person's name. And then the person who catches the most at the end of the year may win a gift voucher to one of the restaurants in town. Which we get donated. The town likes to get in on it you see.
I mean. This is what happens when you're with Gene. Every single moment of the day is like this. It's absolutely insanity and I swear I've never laughed harder and more than when I'm hanging out with him.
Finally satisfied and thoroughly pleased with himself, he finally let the poor guy off the phone and then we started thinking about what other things we'd do for the day. I asked Gene what adventure was in store of us today and he said, "Anything you want." When I suggested bowling though, he shot it down saying I could do that anywhere. Next thing I know, Gene's friend Dermot called asking if he wanted to go golfing in Strandhill. So off we went. I did more walking of the golf course than golfing on the golf course this time around. I walked the first eight holes of this beautiful course, one I've typically only admired from the fence near the ocean, before leaving the boys to it and getting lunch at Shells Cafe and doing some reading. Gene said they'd be back by 5pm, but by then there was no sign of them. Around 545pm they finally showed up when I reminded Gene that he had his Philosophy course. I spent the better part of those 45 minutes imaging that Gene would be running so behind schedule that I'd have to go to Philosophy class with him. Which honestly just made me laugh. I was torn between wanting some down time at home while he was at class and wanting to go just for the pure comedy that would ensue. But as it turned out, Gene dropped me off at home while he went off to class. I enjoyed a bit of downtime and then went to the Thatch where I was able to write in my journal, talk to Percy and have a couple of hot whiskeys.
Day 18- Friday October 18th, 2013.
Wow. What a long day! I picked Robin up in Sligo (passing my future cottage in Ireland) and off we went for all points north! Based on the recommendation of my friend Tif, we set our sites on Malin Head- Ireland's most northerly point. Today reminded me how lucky I've been with the weather because it was the first day of really crappy weather that I experienced. And of course luck would have it that it'd be my longest day in a car. But it gave me and Robin time to catch-up, properly, on what's been going on in each other's lives over the course of the past year. We have the type of friendship where we pick up right where we left off and I'm so grateful for our easy going and fun relationship that has only gotten stronger with time. Which is pretty amazing considering how we only see one another once a year! While we saw some really beautiful sites on our drive up to Malin Head, we didn't stop as frequently as we normally would have. In fact, as soon as we rolled into town, we went straight to Banba's Crown where I was certain we were going to blow away. It was intensely windy, but very cool to be up there and even nicer to be out of the car. From there we went straight to the first pub we could find and had a drink before wandering off to find our B&B for the night. The place we are staying at, Seaview Tavern had a restaurant, grocery store, gas station, pub and B&B all in one place. And the pub was very, very cool. It's one of those pubs where you can walk in and buy a box of cereal and a pint of Guinness. There were fewer than 10 places to sit and plenty of locals to talk with. Exhausted from our day, Robin and I only had one pint before going to the restaurant for dinner where we decided Malin Head, as lovely as it was already, was not some place we needed to stay for two nights. We tried to have an early night but because our room was right on top of the pub, that was a little harder to do. It was a late and rowdy group of drinkers in the tiny, tiny pub and since our room was approximately 100*, we had to have the window open. Needless to say, it was a bit of a restless night.
Day 19- Saturday October 19th, 2013.
Holy cow. What a difference the sun made! Someone was looking out for us today and gifted us with a mostly dry and really sunny day. We hightailed it back to Banba's Crown to see what it looked like without crazy winds and rain and it was absolutely stunning. I already know I'll be getting some of my photos from there put on canvas. It's funny to look at photos from yesterday and compare them to the ones below to see just how different it looks in sunshine! Robin and I both felt like we could have stayed there all day just soaking in the energy and the sunshine. And then a family with a handful of kids showed up and we got in the car and took off :) Having given a wee tale the night before, we got out of our second night at the B&B in Malin Head and decided to go to Donegal town for the night. We took a very long way (obviously) around a northern coast road (N56) that brought us to a beautiful beach, Dunfanaghy, that one of Robin's friends recommended. We got out and walked around for a bit and then continued through Connemara like mountains down to Donegal town where we got into our B&B and relaxed a bit. Right around the time Robin almost successfully gave into a nap, I looked out the window of our B&B and saw the most amazing and beautiful double rainbow. Robin and I practically ran each other over trying to grab photos and videos of the beauty unfolding before us. I literally hung out the window (sorry Robin!) trying to capture the best footage of it. It was so vibrant and lasted far longer than either of us anticipated. After the excitement of the rainbow died down, we enjoyed some more down time before deciding to go to Bundoran to check out another old school/traditional Irish pub (thanks for the book Robin!) called Brennan's. The pub is run by two sisters, Nan & Patricia Brennan, who were born in a bedroom above the bar that their grandparents opened on St. Patrick's Day in 1900. They've lived here all their lives and take turns serving behind the bar. I'm glad we went, as I got some cool photos and it's always nice to go somewhere with such rich and interesting history. Tomorrow we keep heading south and Robin and I go our separate ways.
Day 20- Sunday October 20th, 2013.
Making the decision to not spend two nights in Malin Head was very, very smart. It cut our drive time down considerably today and I know both Robin and myself were incredibly grateful for that. We drive from our lovely B&B to Easkey where I was looking forward to showing Robin some surfers and surfing. Only we got all the way out there (about a 30 minute drive) and the were no surfers and no surf. Total bust, but we of course managed to get some great photos. I then wanted to take Robin to Strandhill since she'd never been. It was my fourth time on this trip, and still great- even though Shells Cafe was insanely busy with every mother and her child in a 20-mile radius being inside the restaurant. After dropping Robin off at the bus station in Sligo, I parked the car and walked around Sligo a little bit. I went in search of another traditional/classic Irish pub based on the book I already mentioned that Robin got me for my birthday. I went in and had a pint with a handful of old guys and then left. There wasn't too much warmth in the place, although it was beautiful. From there I drove to Gene's and packed up/organized all my things and caught my breath. Before long, Gene asked if I wanted to go for a walk, so we went into town where we walked for a good hour before heading back to the pub for some drinks. It was my last night in the Thatch and I enjoyed just being in the presence of these people who I've come to really enjoy being around. You never know who's going to walk through the door (or what time!) and what kind of joking around will be happening. I just always know that I'll leave with a smile on my face. Just as I did.
Day 21- Monday October 21st, 2013.
It's always sad when I leave Gene, Percy and the Thatch. But that's exactly what I did today. I waited around for two hours to try and help Gene clean-up his computer (it's painfully slow) and for him to get dressed so we could take a photo. He puttered around for a while doing this and that, and then entertaining Percy and then Nolan (who just got the heat working at Gene's over the weekend). I started my morning writing a card of thanks out to Gene. Seems impossible to thank him for his generosity in letting me stay for so long at his place. As I was getting ready to leave he said, "I was just telling Pierce that I was going to miss you when you go. It's been nice having you around the place. And all the lads in the pub like you. You can tell because they were hugging you when they left last night. They ask about you during the year. When's Molly coming back? They like your sense of humor. You're a part of the place. Doesn't always happen that way." It was a very sweet thing for Gene to say. And it's always nice when you feel such a connection to someone, to some place and it's reciprocated. My trip has come full circle today. My friend Teddy (or Michael, he goes by both) picked me up and we went into Malahide for dinner and drinks. I probably had the most to drink tonight than I have had for most of the trip. We split a bottle of wine and then went on a three pub pub crawl. Teddy liked that I had my first and last pint of my trip with him. I did too. Mostly I sincerely appreciated being saved from being depressed in the airport hotel.