Sunday, January 31, 2010

Aran Islands "Ireland's Alcatraz"

This past weekend Tom, Jane, Lauren, and Kristina came to visit and to see what Galway and the west coast has to offer. We met up Friday night and I showed them a few hot spots in Galway’s nightlife. In the midst of the night they convince me that I should come to the Aran Islands with them tomorrow morning. After waking up to my alarm at 8:30, which I don’t remember setting, and I stumbled over to the Kinlay House where they were all staying. Thank God it was right down the road. 26 euro and an hour and a half later we found ourselves on the ferry taking us out to sea. The ferry ride is 45 minutes long, and after quickly realizing that sitting below deck along with a hangover and an empty stomach is a horrible combination. Good thing the sites you see as you travel out to the Atlantic on the top deck are completely worth the cold temperatures that you go through. We arrive on the largest of the three islands and realize that we don’t really know what someone does once they get to the island. So we decide to take a bus tour around the island with a man named Bertie Flaherty, probably the nicest man I’ve met in Ireland, and that’s saying something. Bertie has lived on the Aran Islands for the better part of his life and recently retired from being a fisherman. The Aran Islands consists of a population of 825 people, that’s smaller than my high school by 300 people and I felt like I knew most of the people there. Basically everyone knows everyone. Bertie brought us all around the island which is 10 miles long by 2.5 miles wide. The coolest part of the trip was definitely the area called Dun Aengus. Dun Aengus is basically identical to the Cliffs of Moher is every way except that it is not on the main land. This place was amazing. It was by far the coolest thing that I have yet to seen while on my European adventure. Imagine hanging off the side of a mountain with a 300 foot drop down into the ocean. Pretty cool huh? I literally felt like an 8 year old in a candy shop, never wanting to leave and always wanting more. After Dun Aengus Bertie brought us to the furthest west edge of the island. It was here that I realized that when I stepped out the furthest from my friends I was the closest person in all of Europe to America. Pretty cool. Miss you USA.

Then things started to get really interesting. After realizing that time was running short we ended our bus tour and went back into “town” or at least the harbor. We realized that we had a couple hours to spare so we went into a bar to wait until our 5:45 ferry departure. After a while we left the bar and walked down to the dock, and didn’t see the boat. We started to panic a little but then thought that it must be coming in any minute. So we looked at our tickets and saw that the ferry leaves at 5 pm and the bus ride home ticket leaves at 5:45 pm. Perfect. We run into the tourist house and ask if there was another ferry leaving the island tonight. He laughs at us and says that we should be looking for a place to stay the night. Let’s just say that tensions began to rise and rage surfaced. After words had been spoken within our group and pointing the finger at each other we knew that there was no way that we were getting off this rock until tomorrow morning at 8. Well since there is only 1 hostel on the island the choices were limited of where we would be staying. After securing down our room, which we didn’t even end up sleeping in because our roommate was a creepy Italian that was not only giving the girls “the eye” but also Tom and I, we knew that we had to get supplies. Step one: Spar for alcohol and bagels. Step two: drink the alcohol and eat the bagels. Step three: repeat step two. After getting past the feeling that we were being imprisoned or enslaved on the islands that are only 9 miles off the coast of Ireland, we tried to salvage the night. It was like our own little Alcatraz. We ended up meeting up with some Americans from New York who were planning on staying on the island that night along with some really nice Irishmen and a South African. We raided the two bars they have on the island and saved everything we could from the night. By the way, you want to see stars like you have never seen before I suggest going out to the middle of the Atlantic and looking up. I felt like I was looking through a telescope and thankfully it was a clear night and a full moon. The five of us slept in the Rec Room on the couches for about 3 hours and then rolled out of the hostel in the morning and onto the ferry. 2 hours later I took a vow to myself that next time I go somewhere I can be stranded I will look at the ticket for my ride out of there myself. Would I go back to the Aran Islands? Yes, definitely. Would I spend the night there again? No. Has the reality of what happened to me yesterday become a funny story now? Absolutely.

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