Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The cats of Galway and other tales

Remember The Cat?

Maybe not. But when we were looking for a place to stay in Galway, I eventually narrowed it down to two places -- one advertising a cat and one not.

The cat won.

And when we got there, it turns out he wasn't real.

Well, I suppose the cat is real, but he doesn't live there. He has a tapestry counterpart who is enormous. And the non-tapestry cat's photos are there. But HE is NOT.

I was disappointed. I realize that realistically "boutique hotels" cannot provide cats for all their guests. I know a B&B in Minnesota that does, but that's not the same thing. AND it's a B&B. And it is Minnesota. And Ballyvolane had Archie, of course, which made up for it.

Still . . . it was a sad moment of truth -- rather like discovering there is no Santa Claus. Sigh.

But even though the lack-of-cat was a disappointment, the choice of hotel was not. It was a lovely place. Very posh. AND it wasn't right above the streets where all Friday and Saturday night the revelers with their Drinks stood around and made a lot of noise.

The other hotel, it turns out, was. You'll have to imagine them here because I took these photos on Sunday morning when it was dead quiet.

Still, it didn't take me long (about a single split second, if that) to decide that we had gone to the right place -- and while I'm sure the other hotel was fine, this lack-of-cat one was quieter.

The cat, wherever he was, would have approved.

We arrived there on Friday. Saturday morning we left Kate and her husband to their own devices and we took a day trip to the burren and the cliffs of Moher. When I told Kate we wanted to go, she visibly shuddered and said, "You're not getting me anywhere near that again! Even lying flat on the ground I still thought I was going to fall off."

Not being one with a great love of heights, I wondered what I was getting into. But "progress" has spend something like 31 million Euros to gussy up the approach to the cliffs of Moher. Kate wouldn't have to worry now. It's all very civilized. They apparently wanted to charge admission, but were prohibited by law. Hooray, law, is all I can say.

The cliffs themselves are spectacular -- like looking at the Grand Canyon. I'd seen so many photos, it was hard to think I wasn't just looking at another one -- in 3D. But the sound of the waves breaking against them was impressive. And the fact that we got a fabulous, reasonably warm, very sunny day was definitely God's gift to us. The coach driver said many times he brings groups of people up who can't see a thing for the rain and fog.

We marveled at the cliffs, then also at the burren, the rocky limestone outcroppings that make the landscape in this area of County Clare almost lunar in their inhospitality. I can't imagine anyone thinking they could plant anything here and have it grow. Well, obviously some things do -- there is even a species of orchid that grows amid the rock. But I wouldn't want to have to make a living there, I can tell you that.

We got to visit a limestone cave that descends beneath the burren. And for all that the landscape above didn't even remotely resemble where we live, we are blessed with an abundance of limestone caves along the Mississippi River. Ours are every bit as amazing -- or even more so -- than the one we visited there. It was interesting to see how similar the subterranean landscape was since on "ground level" things were totally different.

We also got to take some pictures of Clarin Bridge, County Galway for a friend whose family emigrated from there to England and a generation later to New York. Two years ago I took pictures of the village of Bole in Nottinghamshire for her and sent them to her. Now I'm adding photos of Clarin Bridge. It was one of those places without much topsoil and a lot of rock. They must have thought Nottinghamshire was the breadbasket of the world after that!

I'm happy to report that FINALLY Flynn seems to be cooperating.

At least he didn't stalk off and refuse to do anything today. He's about to dismantle a coffee shop in his impatience. But that's progress. Michelle Styles says I'm having trouble because James Purefoy is my Flynn inspiration and he's difficult to get a handle on. Good idea. Blame it on James.

We're expecting another blizzard. Maybe while it's raging outside I can get Flynn moving two days in a row. Maybe he'll wreak mayhem in the coffee shop.

It wasn't in the synopsis. But then the best things rarely are.


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