Friday started with another fine breakfast at the Brook’s Hotel. Again, our dapper gentleman, Conner, dressed in his full morning suit, stopped by our table to discuss that fine Teddy Kennedy and the funeral arrangements. He reminded us that the Irish ‘luv’ the Kennedys and consider the family a wild bunch of local lads.
Conner arranged a taxi for our ride to the train station. Why can’t the US have proper train service? It is such a handy way to get from point A to point B. Mike and I had envisioned a lovely, scenic trip across Ireland from Dublin on the east coast to Galway on the west coast. We boarded the train with about forty-five minutes before departure. The cars were fairly empty at this point, and we figured that our trip would be quite relaxing. The seats are configured in groups of four, two facing front and two facing back and a table between. The cars are nearly new and very clean. Soon an older gentleman sat across the aisle from us. He was then chosen as a seatmate by a young man who was traveling alone. We had nothing to do but eavesdrop on their conversation. The older man asked the younger how old he was and was he traveling alone. Yes, he was alone and he was seventeen. Next he asked if the teen was traveling across Ireland to visit family. Well, not exactly. The story, and I am not making this up, is that the youngster claims he just got out of jail. He had been arrested for public drunkenness and sent to the prison in Dublin. His time was up and he was given a ticket back to Galway where he had no idea where his family was. This unlikely pair sat together for about half the journey. The last we saw of the boy was when he bummed a cigarette from another passenger and headed to some other car to smoke. I’m not sure if there is an actual smoking car or if he was hanging out between two cars, blowing smoke across the midlands.
Now, you probably think that was the height of any train adventure. Not so, In the Dublin station about twenty retired ladies on a holiday chose our car to travel in. My grandmother would have called them cackling hens and that is exactly what our car sounded like. These women were jumping from seat to seat, hugging, laughing and shouting to friends in the far end of the coach. I have been to rock concerts where the decibel level was lower than that rail car. The best news is that they all got off the train in Athloan, about half way to Galway.
Was that all the excitement on our car? Why, no it wasn’t. Mike and I had taken a pair of seats, side by side, facing the front of the train. We had two vacant seats across from us. A father and son, also on their way to Galway, claimed these seats. I guess the son was about seventeen, just like the convict lad across the aisle. This boy wasn’t a convict though. He was Down syndrome. Where is Sarah Palin when you need her? The boy had his DVD player and spent the entire journey watching Mama Mia. If I hear Dancing Queen again, I promise I shall jump from a moving train. He knew many of the dance moves and would punctuate the music with the arm waving and wild abandon that make the movie so fun. And about every five minutes he would kiss his dad gently on the cheek and then pat him on the belly. The dad got up from his seat at one point to find the bathroom, leaving the boy with us. The boy gently rearranged his DVD player, used a tissue to wipe to his 7-Up bottle off and lift and replace the foil wrapped sandwiches the dad had brought on board. The pack of sandwiches was good size and Mike said, “ooh, heavy”. The boy nodded his head and pointed to the square, foil wrapped package and said “Guinness”. I am not making this up. I must say that the father and son were special men and it was a joy to see how much they loved each other.
We arrived in Galway in a torrential rain that lasted all of ten minutes. Then, the sun came out. We rolled our luggage into a nearby hotel lobby and enjoyed a late lunch before finding a taxi to take us to our B&B. After checking in, we took a walk into Galway and I remembered how much I love this city. We happened into a small shop named O’Maille. This is the home of the real Aran knit sweater. I struck up a long conversation with the owner. She employs two hundred knitters, all in Ireland, who hand knit Aran sweaters for sale in this shop. About ten years ago the owner was involved in a project called Woman’s Hands for Oprah Winfry. And this shop provided all of John Wayne’s tweed jackets. The owner and her daughter have a knitting school. If you’re interested, the site is www.omaille.com. I am returning to the shop later today to share some of my Canadian yarn with her.
We finished our first day in Galway with a wonderful dinner and a walk back along the sea to our B&B. Saturday will find us at the races. Horse racing and knitting. You have to love Galway.