Our next stop was Derry/Londonderry. It's one of Europe's oldest walled cities (and the wall is pretty much intact, amazingly) and has been the site of a lot of violence and unrest during "The Troubles" in Ireland. It definitely felt a little tense there. We didn't get to spend very long there, but we managed to walk along the city walls and take some pictures before the rain drove us back to the car.
Like I said, Derry has been the site of some major clashes, as evidenced by the murals painted on many of the buildings in "Free Derry" a predominately Catholic neighborhood. We just drove through, so I didn't get any pictures, so here are a few from other websites.
From Derry we drove through Donegal County to Ardara, which is well known for shipwrecked Spanish sailors and woolen mills! We stayed a cute little B&B, where we had a delicious fancy dinner to celebrate me and Fionn's first anniversary! It's already been one whole year??
An Irish friend of mine had raved about how beautiful Donegal is, and he wasn't exaggerating. It's rugged and beautiful and wild looking. I loved it. We stopped to take a million pictures despite the winding backroads and gale force winds (not joking, we were actually under a wind advisory).
From Donegal we made the long, winding trek to Galway. We had planned to stop along the way but it was raining cats and dogs the whole trip, and after a waterlogged attempt in Donegal City, we opted to stay in the car and just push on to Galway.
I was really excited for Galway. When my mom and brother were in Ireland they couldn't say enough good things about it. Plus, since Irish music is near and dear to my heart as a musician, I was psyched to hear some good music in the Mecca of Irish music.
Since we spent the bulk of our time in Galway on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, we didn't get to see "normal" Galway. That was ok. I still managed to pop into some music shops (new music books for the harp!! and new song books!!)and heard some great buskers as we shopped around. Fionn got himself a hand knit Aran sweater and I picked up some scarves and woolen goods. We figured they'd come in handy for the German winters we still have to face! The craftsmanship that goes into those things, especially the sweaters, is so amazing. It really is such an art form and I'm glad there are still grandmas out in Clare keeping the tradition alive. :)
We stopped in a little fish and chips place for lunch before wrapping up our shopping/sightseeing and taking a drive along the coast toward Connemara. Such a pretty place! I think that area is in a Gaeltacht (where they speak Irish Gaelic) which was pretty neat to see. We also saw a rainbow. Sooooooo typical ;)
We took a detour to see a castle (forgot its name!) but it was closed for New Years. While we were walking we met the cutest kitten! We fed him some leftover sandwich (he was very appreciative) and he stole our hearts. What a snuggly cutie!!
The castle was closed, but we still managed to get some pictures. Then it was back to Galway where we had dinner and went to the pub for a drink. It was crowded for New Year's Eve and promised live music, but the live band ended up being this weird doo wop, Elvis wannabe I don't even know what, so we finished our drinks, left early, and rang in the New Year in our hotel room. Not too bad, and no hollerin' drunk girls to spill their drinks on you ;)
The next day we said goodbye to Galway and headed east for the last leg of our trip :(