I only lived about 10 months in Galway, the 4th largest city in the West of Ireland, but the friends I made there have stood for decades. I was really looking forward to meeting up with everyone, it’s been too long. Not that that ever matters with the folks from Galway. For those of you who know Nepta, Joe and Emma – they are all doing well and loving life in Rosscahill for the past 7 years. Emma is nearly as tall as I am now and has just started secondary school … time sure is flying.
We had a great few days and spent much of our time in Connemara, where we hiked Diamond Hill – a really stunning place. I love it’s bleakness and harsh surroundings, the brown of the bog at this time of year and oh those pitch black clouds that followed us everywhere!
The starkness of this landscape does not always suit everyone, some find it deeply depressing but for me, it is just beautiful. The remoteness and solitude is what appeals to me, I love what looks like desolation but in fact is a place brimming with life in it’s quietness. When I was in Nepal climbing Island Peak in 2011, my friend Tandi took a photo of me walking alone across a boggy plain at about 15,000ft near to the village of Dingboche in the Khumbu Valley. I could have been in Connemara. Take a look.
As we walked back down to the village from Diamond Hill, we came across a memorial garden for boys that died while at St Joseph’s Industrial School – some as young as 5 years old. Heart wrenching really. The idea of taking young boys from their parents for innocuous “crimes” like slogging apples, was unbelievable. What is more unbelieveable, is it only closed in 1974. Another shameful chapter for the Catholic Church in Ireland.
I also spent time with long-time friends Aine Hynes, Ita Gilmore and Ger Fahy. We had a great night recalling memories of a holiday to California when we could no more afford it! Kilmeaden Cheese had an offer at the time – collect the coupons, buy a flight to anywhere in the world and get another flight free. You can imagine the pounds of cheese we had to buy to fly 5 of us over to the US for the price of 3. We were young and naive and it was a wonder we survived at all …. driving the wrong way on a 5-lane highway springs to mind. But clearly it still remains in our happy memories. 25 years has passed since then, Good Lord! I was sorry to have missed Fiona McGann and meet her for a little something …… next time for sure.
After Galway, I headed to Foxford Co Mayo for a quick visit to my friend Rita Moran. I had never been to Foxford and realised as I journeyed on, we are blessed to have such good and fertile land in my home province of Munster. The land around Foxford is boggy and wet wet wet …. and I loved it. We hiked through a few trails in the Ox Mountains, crisscrossing the River Moy a few times, failing to catch sight of any fishermen, the season is now over for the year. Interestingly, I learned the founder of the Argentine Navy hails from Foxford – Admiral William Brown. Ireland is always full of surprises.
I was dying to get a long walk on an Irish beach so Rita drove us out to Enniscrone, Co Sligo. The Atlantic waves were rolling in as we walked the long beach, I was in my element. Nothing like seasprayed wind in your face!
I did a bit of cooking on this trip also. That Bengali Chicken Curry recipe I learned in Kolkata has become a hit and is now a feature in a few households from Australia to New Zealand and now to Ireland. The world is small for sure. Two restaurants I went to in Galway require a mention because they were so yum: Kai Restaurant serves fresh and local food, definitely worth a visit. Tapas at The Black Cat is also worth a visit … mmmm delish.
I’m back in Cork for the next week and besides spending time with my parents, will also be catching a few films at the Cork Film Festival with my sister Maeve, celebrating my mother’s 80th birthday next Saturday, and then will be on the road again to Derry, Donegal and Dublin. Looks like I’ll be seeing all parts of the Emerald Isle this trip.