Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Being in another country during this election process has been a fascinating experience. Everyone, and I mean everyone, asks who you're voting for and what you think. It's usually followed up with some snarky (but completely welcome) comment about how terrible Bush is and that anything would be better than him. I disagree. Not just anything will be better- Barack Obama WILL be better!

Which brings me to my next point...today I drove from Westport to Achill Island. Last week when I was pulling my own pints at Dame's Tavern, I asked a couple of the locals what they thought I should do and that's where Achill Island came into play. I'm so glad I added it to the itinerary. It was such a beautiful part of Ireland and I had a couple of funny things happen while I was there.

I wanted to check out the Deserted Village in Slievemore. This 'village' consists of the remains of almost 100 traditional stone cottages and is made up of three distinct groups of cottages, which extends for about a mile. The Deserted Village is traditionally thought to be a remnant village from The Great Hunger. It was weird to drive up and see the stone house remains knowing that it was likely the result of disease, death and starvation from the Potato Famine. I got goosebumps as I drove up and and got a little glimpse of all that's left behind.

Here’s a short video that gives you an idea of what it looked like (sorry if it makes you dizzy, I go right around in a circle to give you a 360* view):

And here are some pictures of what it looked like as well:

As I was driving back down to the "main road" I saw the funniest thing and caught it on video. A sheep had an itch and went up to a street sign to try and take care of it. I don't think it worked, but it was funny to watch. Take a look for yourself:

I also got caught up in a herd of sheep who all wanted to be where my car was parked. I had to wait a few minutes until they decided to move out of my way. And when I drove away from the Deserted Village, I passed a local, a farmer named Tom who stopped me on the road. I was just driving on by and he slowed down and put his window down so I could talk to him. Classic.

The first thing out of his mouth was “So what about this election? Didya vote?” I let him know I already did to which he responded with ,”McCain, right?” Me, “Absolutely not.” Tom, “Yer not serious.” Me, “Of course I am. Obama all the way.” Tom, “You look like a Republican.” Although I wanted to speed right off and leave him eating my dust, I decided to get out of the car and show him my Cheers to O’Bama t-shirt. It was then, and only then, that he believed me! But Tom continued to give me a mini history lesson. He told me all about how Achill is a twin city with Cleveland, Ohio. He worked for 20 years for Goodyear Tires based there, but gave it all up for the good life on Achill Island as a farmer. Then told me some story about how the word boycott came about. According to Farmer Tom, the term boycott is in reference to a man named Charles C. Boycott. The term arose in 1881, when Captain Boycott, an Irish landlord, was thus ostracized by the Irish agrarian insurgents who protested high rents and land evictions. (Thank you Wiki!). I love that I found this out by chatting it up with a local on the side of the road. It was one of the experiences that made my day so fun.

From the Deserted Village I continued along the Atlantic Drive to Keem Bay which is located past Dooagh village in the west of Achill Island. The road to get there was pretty steep and made me scared more than once! There were steeps cliffs and drops and the sheep were happily hanging on the side of the mountain. I was scared to look away from the road (yes I know when you’re driving you should keep both eyes on the road, but obviously I’ve been wandering) and felt my stomach drop a few times. But wen I got to Keem Bay and saw the beach (Blue Flag Beach), it made the drive worthwhile despite me white-knuckling it a little bit.

Part of what made today so great was that the sun was shining. I actually needed to put on my sunglasses. Sun makes all the difference in the world here. I am fine just settling for no rain but getting the sun was a huge bonus. And it made for some incredible shots of the sun shining out from the clouds.

After touring Achill Island, I headed back to Westport to grab a bite to eat and then had to decide what I was going to do next. Another bonus of having no one but yourself to answer to is you can make whatever decision you want and go on your own time! I decided against Croagh Patrick (for today) and instead went to the Museum of Country Life.

The museum was very cool and definitely my type. It gave me an idea of how the Irish people lived from 1850 until recently. The exhibitions focus on customs and festivals, farming and fishing, trades and crafts, life in the home (including furniture and fittings) as well as the clothes made and worn by country people during the period 1850 - 1950. There was also a video and photos to recreate the original settings where the objects were made and used. It was really interesting and I'm glad I went.

After the museum I headed back to Westport for my 2nd night. I made it out to Matt Molloy's. Matt is the Irish flute player from The Chieftans and I'd read about Molloy's in all the information I received and read about Westport.

I met two men here, Eugene & Norman who both told me that they thought Obama would win by a landslide. Although I'm hopeful, I know that we've been burned in the past; it was hard for me to get on board with them although lord knows I'm hoping and praying that I wake up to a new America tomorrow!

It was a great day overall and I loved traveling on my own. It was great to have no real agenda but only places I wanted to try and see. I loved the opportunity to meet new people and talk with them. When you're traveling with others, you're obviously keeping mostly to your group, so this was a great chance to talk with some of the locals. Norman kept staying that this was a special day in history and I can't help but feel the same exactly way.

PS- I left Molloy's to grab a bite to eat and ended up at a Chinese restaurant (the only thing still open at half nine). I love that I am in Ireland and ate at a Chinese restaurant and my waiter was from Malaysia.


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