Friday, 17th July
Pete and Jane Turner and I left the Island on the 2.00pm ferry from Fishbourne and then it was a five hour drive to Fishguard, via Devizes and Chippenham to reach the M4 and then on into Wales. We caught the 8.45pm Stena High Speed crossing. It was a bumpy ride, and there was some inadvertent Gaelic dancing from those standing up as the craft moved about.
We got off the ferry at Rosslare at 10.50pm and it took ten minutes to locate our bed and breakfast, tucked off a dark stretch of the N25, 'Hillcrest' in Dogoat village. Mrs. Mansfield supervised our arrival as we got there at the time as a group of Germans.
Saturday, 18th July
It was bright and sunny when I woke up. After a summer of cloud, I hadnŐt seen morning sunshine like that on the Island for a while. We headed North West through Tipperary, and our first stop was in Limerick to see the giant flag poles recently erected at the the University by Spencer Rigging of Cowes, which involved our good friend Mark Spencer.
We passed through villages with groups of pubs clustered closely together into Clare. The first culinary highlight of the trip came at the lunch time stop at the Hunters Lodge pub in Newmarket-on-Fergus in Clare. Very tasty seafood chowder. By mid afternoon we were into Galway, and as we headed towards the city the stone walls became evident along the roadsides.
Pete and Jane dropped me at my bed and breakfast accommodation, 'Devondell' in Devon Park, Lower Salthill. I was earlier than expected. No one was in. It later transpired that the landlady, Berna Kelly, had gone into the city on her bike. She left a note on the door, but it blew off.
I didnŐt want to hang around. I had the bags to carry, but Galway city centre was only a short distance away. So it was back to those bright streets, and immediately there was evidence of it being Arts Festival time.
Street performers outside Taafes
There was a Victorian toy theatre show, with small cardboard characters being operated on levers, and a young lad of about seven doing Irish dancing outside Taafes pub, accompanied by two girls playing accordion and bodhran. I got the chance to buy a programme from the Festival Box Office and to check out what was going to be happening for the rest of the week.
Devondell Guest House, Galway
I got a taxi back to Devondell. It was warm and homely inside. My room was small, but bright. All of the rooms have names like Sunflower and Rose. MIne was Periwinkle. Berna invited me to come down and join the other guests for a pot of tea. This immediately had the effect of introducing a sort of laid back, relaxed 'front room' feel to the occasion.
I used to have Aunts who were like this. We helped ourselves to scones with small rolls of butter and jam. The other guests were a Japanese couple and an older husband and wife from Dublin who had come over for the Gaelic football final in Tuam the next day, Roscommon v Galway. Berna chatted away and it was all very friendly.
Back in the city that evening, I met up with Pete and Jane and then decided to go to a performance by the Oiche Conamara, at the Irish Language Theatre An Taibhdhenrc. The show expressed Gaelic culture through music, songs and stories. As it was almost completely Irish I struggled with the dialogue. I got the odd word, Tom Paine got a mention, I think to do with the Age of Reason.
It was the first time that I had seen Irish dancing performed on stage. Great music, ladies playing accordion, flute, harp and fiddle to provide the backing and to play songs in their own right. It was well received by the audience. I think that the Irish must have been the first people to tap their feet.
After the show I briefly looked into the Lisheen Bar, the Roisin Dubh and upstairs at the Crane. It was all a bit too crowded and I was getting tired. I retired to Devondell.
Sunday 19th July
It was clear that Berna's breakfasts were going to be a feature of this holiday. Today, a bowl of various fruits to begin with, then BernaŐs speciality, a thick porridge with a liqueur, Irish Mist. Berna also insists that you add brown sugar and honey. Enough to set you up for days on end, and that's before the next course, scrambled eggs and salmon, and then toast. Devondell's breakfast room is well set. There is a piano and you look out of a big window at the back on a bright garden with a big apple tree.
End of part one Onto part two