|MIKE AND LEO|
Before I can tell the story of Galway, Leo and the Aran Islands, I must back track. I forgot to tell you about Foynes. What an interesting place! Thank you Mary for catching me on this omission. See? This is why I should not write a blog entry late at night, after Mike and I have shared a lovely bottle of wine. It’s too easy to forget something really spectacular.
Chances are pretty good that you have not heard of Foynes, unless you are an aviation buff. Foynes was a major player in the development of trans Atlantic flying boats and is now home to the flying boat museum. During WWII it was one of the largest civilian airports. In 1942, you could fly from Foynes to New York City in a mere twenty-five hours. The museum holds an exact replica of this plane, a Boeing B314 Yankee Clipper, complete with sleeping berths, a dining room, cabins and an upper level navigation area. And, yes, these planes were seaplanes and they landed in the Shannon River. As you can imagine, passengers arrived cold and tired, and thus the invention of Irish coffee at the Foynes Airport! Today the airport is lucky to have a patron who has been very generous. The actress, Maureen O’Hara, was married to pilot Charlie Blair and she has been very involved in the museum. Blair flew the last flying boat from Foynes to New York.
OK. So now that that little bit of housekeeping is complete, you are asked to remember that Mike and I have arrived in Galway. I will get to the story of Leo soon. Mike and I spent Wednesday doing a lovely little walk about the City Center and reading the menus posted outside the many restaurants, trying to decide where to have dinner. We were keeping a close eye on the weather because we wanted to work in a trip to the Aran Islands.
Friday was one of those promising days again – promising rain. A dash out the back door of our hotel and we were in the new bus terminal and queued up for the bus to the ferry for Inis Mor, the largest of the Aran Islands. I say we were queued, but in truth, there was only one other passenger who thought a misty, foggy day was a smart way to see the Aran Islands. And, this is how we met Nina. She was a college student from Louisiana, via the University of Texas who was “couch surfing” Europe. I had to ask for an explanation of couch surfing. As Nina explained, it is a web site that matches travelers to hosts with a couch or spare bedroom to offer. She claims that it is very safe and reliable because everyone posts recommendations and critiques. Ummmm. ???
We did have a lovely tour of Inis Mor, and the misty rain gave the entire island a very mysterious look and feel to it. I’m glad I have seen it, but in truth, there isn’t a lot to see. There are four ancient forts because it seems that the four ancient tribes liked to spend their days fighting each other. There is an area called seven churches with only a shell of one remaining and lots of fallen over tombstones and litter. You can drive to the end of the island and look out toward Boston and maybe catch sight of a few seals. But, man oh man, can you ever find shops to sell you a sweater! Now, our driver had warned me to only buy from his cousin, Rose, who really did knit REAL Aran Island sweaters and not those made in China tourist versions at the big mill shops in the harbor. And, he was right and I did get a few minutes to chat with Rose and admire her inventory. We even had a few minutes to talk knitting and yarn. That was the high light of the Islands for me!
We were back in our hotel by 7:00 and enjoyed another lovely dinner in the dining room. If the Brooks Hotel in Dublin has Conner, The Park in Galway has Kitty. She hovered over Mike. I am not making this up. At the end of our first full days stay, Kitty had asked us if we were enjoying a full Irish breakfast. We assured her that we were and then laughed, telling her that we had learned about putting a wee bit of whiskey on porridge during our stay in Dublin. So, Kitty just winked at Mike and said she would look after it. During the next days breakfast, here comes Kitty with an entire half a snifter filled with whiskey. She ever so sweetly leans in to put a hand on Mikes shoulder as she proceeds to lace his oatmeal with enough whiskey to knock down a seasoned sailor.
Today arrived as the most deliciously sunny early summer day imaginable. We planned a day of walking and generally taking in the city. When we arrived in the dinning room for breakfast, our waitress seated us at a small table for two and I went to the buffet table for some fruit and juice. Kitty was there and greeted me as she scanned the room, looking for Mike. I pointed to the small table where we had been seated and she said she was so sorry we were at a small table and she would move us immediately. I told her there was no need and we were just fine where we were. I was talking to the empty spot where she had stood four seconds ago. Kitty had already left to tend to Mike. By the time I got to the table, Kitty has whisked us to a better table. Turning to me she said, “I TOLD you he would want to move. I do know my men.” Well, all right then Kitty.
Shortly, we were walking the few blocks into the city center. It was already filling with tourists and town people going about their business. Leaning against a shop front was a lovely little man with a Jack Russell Terrier who appeared to be a bit grey around the muzzle. Of course, we had to go chat with the dog. Well, the man began to talk and tell us storied about Leo and what a wonderful companion he was. Leo is ten years old and has one ear that falls over. He sat patiently while his master told us story after story of his life with Leo, confessing that the dog slept in bed with him. The man’s wife had left him twenty years ago and now the man did not miss the company of a wife because the dog was much more faithful to him. After about twenty minutes, we gave Leo one final pat, shook hands with the man and continued our walk.
We decided to head toward Salt Hill and have a look about. It’s a bit of a hike, but rather interesting. We left the city center and passed the Spanish Gate, crossed the river to the Claddagh, where the fishermen used to live. From there we headed toward the promenade that runs along the seaside. When we were in Galway a few years ago, this area had held a traveling circus and we had met a few camels, but not today. We followed the sea wall for about a half a mile until we finally arrived in Salt Hill. This is where we stumbled upon a wonderful restaurant and enjoyed a great lunch. It had been a long walk and I’m guessing we had covered several miles. So, we took our time over lunch because we knew we had to backtrack to our hotel.
The weather had become even more splendid and the long expanse was filled with families with strollers and people stretched out on the grass or sand and sitting on the break wall. Dogs were popping up everywhere, following their masters to the beach for a game of Frisbee or a run into the surf. After covering a short distance, we sat on a bench to soak up a bit of sun ourselves. Something caught my eye, heading toward us. It was a stray dog, trotting along with no human, strictly on his own. This was the first stray we had seen. Leo? One ear flopped over. “Leo? Is that you, Leo?” No doubt about it. He came when we called his name. “Leo. What are you doing out here, alone?” We were AT LEAST two miles from where we had met Leo three hours earlier. In all of Galway, there is one stray and we find Leo? I checked his tag and, sure enough, it said Leo on one side and a name and phone number on the other. Mike took off his belt and slipped it onto Leo’s collar and we started walking. After a bit, we found man with a cell phone and asked him to please help us by phoning the number on Leo’s tag. This kind man chatted with the person on the other end, explaining that a couple had found his dog and we were standing across from a park entrance. The owner said he would be there in two minutes. So, Mike and I are standing, Leo has jumped up onto the sea wall and here comes a man on a bike, peddling for all he’s worth. There is no way I can describe the look on his face when he sees who has Leo. How, in this entire city of 70,000 people, plus tourists, did Leo bump into us? The man was beside himself with relief. It seems that this is the second time that Leo has gone on a little walk about without permission. Leo is accustomed to a regular walk along the beach at 2:30 every afternoon. For the second time in recent history, the owner has lost track of time as he was working in his shed and Leo has become impatient enough to take himself for a walk. So, all’s well that ends well, and Leo will not be returning to Canada with us.
Time to pack. Tomorrow we return to Dublin for the night before flying home on Sunday.