I meant to write one last post before leaving Ireland, but that didn't happen. I've been back home in Quincy for just shy of two weeks. As a result, this entry will go in reverse, and rely heavily on pictures.
I'll start with my reception upon clearing customs after landing at Logan Airport in Boston. My receiving committee was pretty awesome:
Kieran was a little shy for about five seconds, then he was laughing and yelling, "Da! Da!" until we got to the car. Since then, he gets mad at me if I leave his sight for more than fifteen seconds.
The flight was uneventful if long due to a strong headwind. We arrived in Boston a half hour later than expected. I spent the night before at a hotel within a hundred yards of Shannon Airport. I was expecting the planes to keep me up but I only heard one take off, and that was when I was in the hotel pub earlier in the evening.
I spent the afternoon in Galway. I thought it would be a quiet afternoon of shopping for Sarah's anniversary present and grabbing a few farewell pints. I found the gifts--hand-woven Irish lace table settings--and I did get to stop in to The Bunch of Grapes and The Quays where I had Shepard's Pie and a couple pints of Kilkenny's, a sort of golden guiness type of stout which you can't get in the States, although I've heard conflicting reports about this lately. This next picture exists only to make my wife jealous.
The color didn't come through the way I wanted. You'll have to trust me that it was awesome, as were those that followed.
It was anything but a quiet afternoon, though. Around the second or third stop on the bus ride from Carraroe to Galway two girls boarded the bus, I'd say they were between sixteen or eighteen, decked out in dresses that didn't cover very much, their hair all done and fancy. The next stop a couple the same age got on, the girl in a dress, the boy in an expensive-looking suit. The trend continued for five or six stops until the back of the bus was heavy with loud, laughing, dolled up kids. I figured there must be a dance at one of the Irish School's, but after passing several and no teenagers departing, my theory seemed shot.
The kids didn't leave the bus until we entered Galway City. As they filed off, and tapped on of the boys on the arm and asked him why they were all dressed up. He gave me a goofy grin and said, "It's Lady's Day!" To this I said, "Lady's Day? What the fuck is Lady's Day?" The girls he was with pushed him down the aisle and off the bus before I got my answer. The traffic was thick the rest of the way through the city. When we passed the Radisson Hotel I saw a woman standing out front of the doors in a slinky white dress that had to cost a fortune and a hat that wasn't really a hat. It looked more like a desert you'd order at a French restaurant.
When we got to the station, I put my bags in the "Left Luggage" room and headed into Kennedy Park, headed toward Shop Street. This is why it's called Kennedy Park:
The park was full of teens and twenty-somethings in suits and dresses and weird hats. When I came upon this scene:
...I had to ask a Garda (cop) on a bike what the hell was going on. "This your first time to Galway?" he said. "It's like this everyday." "Bullshit," I said. "I've been here before. It's never like this." The Garda laughed. "It's Lady's Day," he said. "This is the biggest day of race week. All the girls dress up and go to the track. They pick the best dressed and she wins 20K Euros." I had completely forgotten that it was race week. I'd learn later that horse racing is HUGE in Ireland, race week being the Super Bowl of the sport. The Garda asked me if I had a hotel room in the city, and I explained that I was only there for a few hours and was staying in Shannon so I could catch a plane the next day. "Cancel the flight," he said. "You don't want to miss tonight." I laughed and thanked him and went off to get some drinks and food and to buy some presents. I can only imagine what the place must have been like when everyone came back from the track (it was fifteen minutes outside the city) but here's what I saw.
It was a mad house. Next time we go to Ireland, I'm making sure we're there during race week.
Hard as the month was, I was a little sad to leave. Being there for as long as I was, longer than I'd ever stayed anywhere I wasn't living, I was forced to make a little home for myself and carve out a routine. I said goodbye to Lorna, Nora and Triona and thanked them for all their generous help. I packed the night before, ate my last bowl of cereal in the morning and cleaned out the apartment. I hit me that I was leaving after I had lugged my bags down to the bus stop. I was feeling pre-maturely nostalgic, so I took out the camera, stood on a wall and snapped a shot of the little grocery store I visited almost ever day that I was in Carraroe.
I don't know if I'll ever the chance to, but I'm not sure I'd ever take a month away without the wife and boy (and the other kids we might have) ever again. But I did last the month without going hungry or getting tossed in jail, and the time alone let me get a lot of writing and research done, so I can't look back at it with anything but fondness. It was difficult, but that was to be expected. If it wasn't difficult, I don't think it would have been worth doing in the first place.