My adventure that began on a turbulent Sunday was arduous, rainy, draining, but also highly rewarding. I walked with my ISA Galway group down to Eyre Square and waited for the bus in the rain. Then we boarded the bus, rode to the docks, and boarded the ferry. We hunkered down for the 40 minute-ride, battled sea-sickness, and then enjoyed being on the water.
Once I stepped foot on TagsInis Mor, I fell in love. I gazed about, did a full panorama and whistled. This was the view I had been imagining in my pretty little head whenever I dreamed of Ireland. Sure it wasn’t that green, but it was still magnificent. There was a clear blue sky and fields upon fields divided by those infamous stone walls. It was my very own Irish patch-work quilt, and I intended to see as much of it as time allowed.
On the way over on the ferry, everyone in my group kept debating whether they were going to rent a bike or not. Dermott, the ISA Galway Resident Director, suggested that if the weather permitted, we should. I soon learned I was glad that I did rent a bike. However, within the first hill, I learned the biggest truth about myself that I had forgotten: I hate biking.
Ironically enough, we took the Hill Road. The next 45 minutes were the most agonizing minutes of my life. I drudged up the hill as fast as I could. Which translates into many, many stops. I learned that because I was at the back of the pack, I could bike at my own pace. I wasn’t holding anyone back. Therefore, I could inhale the salty air, admire the isolated white cottages, dispersed around the countryside, and gaze longingly at the beautiful sea. I patted some nice horses and learned which was the correct side of the road to be on; as a stereotypical American, I was veering all over the road, oblivious to everything except the blaring of a car horn.
When I finally made it to the top of the hill, where the exceptional cafe waited for me, I rushed inside with the rest of my group. We huddled by the roaring fire. I was never more grateful to see an open flame than at that moment. I had a lovely bowl of seafood chowder, some water, and tried my best to keep my teeth from chattering. I had thought my tank-top, shirt, sweatshirt, and rain-slicker would be enough to ward off the typical dampness that Ireland gives to all its visitors. Regardless of how wrong I was, the chowder and marvelous brown bread did the trick.
After lunch I trekked farther up the impending hill with my group to behold the fort, the ocean, and try not to fall off the cliffs. I succeeded, took endless pictures of the ocean. I stumbled across the limestone, to see some diving place that Dermott had told us all about. I led the group back to the path that led to where we had left our bicycles. I stopped at the cafe again, bought a toffee square, saved it for the ride down to reward myself for the no-doubt treacherous ride to the bottom, and said a prayer for myself, for the other drivers on the tiny road, and for the weather to hold.
To make my long ride short, I nearly died… thrice! I recovered, didn’t wipe out, and made it to the bottom of the hill safely. I looked around the Aran Sweater shop, sighed because I dearly wanted to get one, yet did not bring 80 euros. I returned my bike, walked around, then experienced my toffee square. It is by far the most scrumptious morsel of goodness I have ever tasted outside the Ithaca Bakery, and subsequently in Ireland. It was moist, sweet, “toffee-y”, buttery, and exquisite crumb base. I have found similar sweets, but none as delectable as from that Sunday on Inis Mor.
So although it was quite the trek, I highly recommend visiting at least one of the Aran Islands. There are three: Inis Mor, Inis Meain, Inis Oirr. If you’re not very outdoorsy, but you still want to see the islands, you can take a bus up to the fort, or if you’re feeling up to the task, by all means, rent a bike and see how in shape you are.