23.03.2009 - 03.04.2009
After David completed his shift at Dungarvan CareDOC at 1600 we set off for Galway, a good 3.5 hour drive away. The practice of Mary Murphy is in a tiny village called Laurencetown, with the nearest town Ballinasloe about 15 minutes away. She has neither a secretary nor a nurse, so David was on his own and in the deep end. The first day we arrived at 1100 for the walk-in surgery session to find the waiting room already full. David had hardly taken his coat off when the patients streamed in one by one. Sandi was in the car outside reading and could not believe how the patients kept pouring in for several hours! David had no time to find his bearings, while answering the phone, seeing patients, writing scripts, dispensing medicines, finding files and reports, and then having to refile all the folders at the end. Many of the accents were so thick that he often had to guess what the patients were trying to tell him. Certs were to be delivered to the nearby shop for collection. Phew! it was hair-raising for him. Fortunately the rest of the surgery sessions were far more manageable, and were usually over by 1400. Being a farming community many patients arrived smelling of the farm or on their tractors.
Our accommodation was in a little apartment in a neighbouring village, Eyrecourt. The garden was full of a variety of daffodils, which we picked at night.
We soon discovered to our dismay that we had no broadband reception! It was very distressing to be out of touch with the world, until the GP who worked below our apartment lent us his O2 broadband which did work. The beds were lumpy, the washing machine burnt our clothes, thumping noises in the roof [but Rentokill could not find any rats] which we eventually had to put down to crows of which there were thousands in the surrounding trees. The cacophony at sunset was unbelievable.
We tried to go for walks along the roads, but spent most of our energy avoiding passing cars by jumping into ditches. So much for quiet Irish country roads!
On our afternoon off we drove down through the Burren, which is a large expanse of wild, unremarkable Irish landscape. After several hours of narrow, twisting roads, David had spasm in his shoulders and Sandi had a crick in her neck. We were heading for the famous Cliffs of Moher, but about 30 minutes before we reached them the weather closed in and it poured down. In the face of a howling wind we parked the car, ran across to the view point, took some photos of the cliffs while getting soaked, then sought refuge in the Visitor's centre, where we could see shots of the cliffs in all their glory.
On the weekend we checked into the Ramara hotel in Orangemore from where we could explore Galway City. We had hoped to visit the Aran Islands and also drive around the Connemara, but with the poor weather and icy conditions, we decided that we were better off staying in the city. Being a University city there was a great vibe in the centre of town with all the students horsing around, fundraising for Cystic Fibrosis. We parked in a multistorey car park for the day and ended up paying the biggest parking bill ever €25!!
We had a pub lunch in the King's Head, with a history going back to the thirteenth century. Legend has it that the building was given to the executioner of King Charles 1 in 1649 as a reward.
Later in the evening we came back to another pub to listen to some great Irish Traditional music, wonderful toe-tapping reels and great Guinness of course!
The Claddagh is an old fishing village situated outside the old city wall over the River Corrib. They were an outcast community, forbidden to use spade or hoe, and it is here that the Claddagh ring is supposed to have its origin. It shows two hands [friendship] holding a heart [love] which wears a crown [loyalty], and has been used here for 400 years as a wedding ring.
If one wears the heart towards the fingernail you are looking for love; if you wear the crown pointing towards the nail then you are in love or married.
On the next afternoon off we visited Birr Castle and Demesne [Demesne is an area of land set aside by the nobleman for the pleasure and enjoyment of everyone on the estate]. The castle is still inhabited by the 7th Earl of Rosse of the Parsons family, who have been in residence for 400 years.
There is a remarkable display of significant scientific discoveries made by the family, including the turbine engine. In the grounds there is an enormous telescope which was the largest in the world for 70 years, constructed by the 3rd Earl in the 1840s.
The estate is glorious at the moment; waterfalls, rivers flowing into lakes, lined with an array of spectacular and rare Magnolia trees in full bloom, and thousands of trees from around the world.
At one point there is a meeting of 3 counties: Offaly, Galway and Clare where you can step into each one. We danced down a lane of pink cherry blossom trees in full flower.
The formal walled garden is arranged with immaculately clipped patterned hedges and bowers. Surely this must be a wonderful place to revisit with each changing season?
In the Co Galway there are vast expanses of peat bogs, where peat is harvested and compressed into logs for fuel.
The Grand Canal stretches from Dublin through to Galway, and is still used as a waterway. There are many locks to traverse, one of which we saw at Shannonbridge, where the Canal meets the mighty Shannon River.