Although a very, very small town, Doolin is a destination that seems to be a favorite of many travelers to the Emerald Isle. Its location near the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands certainly help with the popularity of the town, especially considering that Doolin is one of only three ports with ferry service to the islands. There are also a number of outdoor activities available around Doolin including cave exploring, rock climbing, and surfing. But by far, the biggest attraction to Doolin is that it is considered by many to be one of the best places to hear and enjoy Traditional Irish Music. That was what brought us there.
When we finally got the car up the icy incline to our Bed and Breakfast, we met up with another couple named Tom and Peggy who were also staying at Seaview for the night. They were from Boston, and although they were fans of the wrong Sox, they were pleasant enough to talk to and exchange travel stories with. They were doing a castle tour, actually staying in various castles around the Ireland, but decided to take a break this night to travel to Doolin. Like us, the attraction was the traditional music. Also like us, they were disapointed to find out that there was no music to be found in Doolin on a Wednesday night in November.
Traveling in the off season does have its advantages. For the most part, I really don’t like to be around large crowds of people, and we were spared having to rub elbows with some smelly guy from who knows where. The down side is that things tend to be closed. It reminds me a little of the great Bicentenial Tour of 1975. Yea, I know. The Bicentenial was in 1976, but my father being quite the thrifty guy, much like his son, thought we could miss out on the overlarge crowds of people flocking into our country’s capital by going a year early. The only problem being that many of the star attractions were closed getting spruced up for 1976. It was not quite a Griswald ending, although I do remember something about our Family Truckster being towed while on the National Mall.
No music in Doolin on a weeknight was one of the concessions we had to make for our offseason trip, although it really had no affect on our ability to have a good time that night. Once we had cleaned up from our day of travel, it was just a short walk down the hill and across the bridge to Fisher Street and the spot where our poor tired asses would rest for the next few hours. Our hot spot for the night was a quiet pub that we spotted from the window of our room. Dinner and pints would be had at Gus O’Connor’s Pub.
The pub was fairly empty when we arrived, with just a few locals gathered near the entrance. We decided to just eat our dinner at the bar insted of taking a table or booth, and of course I ordered a Guiness to go with my meal. Maureen ordered the fish and chips and I ordered what they called a traditional bacon and cabbage, although I was tempted to order the Guinness Stew yet again. Both plates were very good, and we had our fill. By the time we finished, Tom and Peggy had arrived with another couple. They were an older couple from Australia and traveling on a retirement trip through Europe. We joined them at some chairs by the fireplace and talked about life and our travels. Although we had missed out on the music, the conversation and comeradery lasted into the night, spurred on by a few more pints of course.
Around 11 o’clock I decided it was time to try and give the kids a call. Since we had left, I had not talked to them. The phone we picked up in Belfast was capable of calling to the States, but timing was not always the best. I figured the best time to call would be between 10p.m. and midnight, that would be between four and six back in Chicago. After four because I had to make sure the kids were home from school. Before midnight because I needed to make sure they could understand me. As I walked out into the cool night air, I looked up at what I knew had to be a spectacular sky. There was not a cloud in sight, or at least none that I could see. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really see any stars either, since I smashed my glasses just hours after we landed in Ireland. At first, I was a little irratated at my bad luck, but I quickly reminded myself that this was just another reason why we would someday need to make a return trip.
The phone call was brief, but I did enjoy hearing the surprise in Molly’s voice as she realized I was calling from so far away. And the quality was amazingly clear. This crappy little throw-away phone, bouncing a signal off a satilite somewhere out over the Atlantic Ocean was getting better reception than I ever got back home in Chicago. I would have talked longer, but I knew we only had limited time available on the phone. I promised them we were behaving ourselves, really only half a lie, and then headed back inside to warm up by the fire. Another pint of Guinness was sure to speed up the warming process.
Surprisingly, Maureen and I were the last of the three couples to depart Gus O’Connor’s Pub that night. We stayed for one more pint after the others had left, and then wished the bartender and a few remaining locals a good night before we headed out into the cold. As we walked back up the hill, I was suddenly very aware of how quiet it was in this nearly deserted little town this late at night. There was almost no wind, but our voices seemed to carry across the chilly air itself. There were no sounds of cars or people or any type of creature big or small. I could see how some might find this all consuming quiet somehow creepy, but to me it was just soothing. At this point in time, we really had no care at all in the world. No jobs, no problems, nothing at all to worry about.
That is until we found ourselves at the bottom of that steep icy driveway with more than a few pints in us.
I believe it was my time to let a few key words slip.