Do you remember the movie The Quiet Man? It starred John Wayne as an ex-boxer from America who moves to a little Irish town. He meets up with Maureen O’Hara and the sparks fly. Well, most of that movie was filmed in the town of Cong, our destination for Sunday night.
By the way, our cousin Mary said Maureen O’Hara still lives in a mansion on the water by Galway or thereabouts.
We got into town after dark and drove around the roughly 2 x 6 block downtown several times before we settled on a B&B. Lib went in to negotiate the rates, while I negotiated the parking. I think we were the only guests in the whole place. The room was cold, and the landlord hurried to get a space heater going to warm it up. It also smelled of new carpet, so we opened the windows despite the cold.
The inn had its own pub attached. Our genial host said they served food until 8, and would have traditional music later. It all sounded great to us!
After being cooped up in the car for hours, Lib and I decided to stretch our legs and tour the little town by moonlight. We passed by the Quiet Man Museum and saw that it wasn’t yet open for the season. Drat! We had specifically come to Cong to soak up the John Wayne history!
Lib was especially keen to visit Cong, as she thinks John Wayne embodies all the qualities one would look for in a “bohunk Irishman”. I pointed out that John Wayne was American in the film. She told me to stuff it, or words to that effect.
We passed by 2 pubs/inns. One had a few patrons inside, the other just some teens smoking on the porch. That place had closed up by our second time around. I would have to say Cong was pretty dead.
Right across from the museum was a cemetery, which was sufficiently creepy at night to satisfy any thrill seeker. We took advantage of the quiet to call Mom, seeing as how it was Mother’s Day in Ireland. We figured the brownie points couldn’t hurt.
Back to the pub by 8, I approached the young man behind the bar to order some sandwiches. There was a family party in one room, 3 people watching TV in another room, and about 6 people at the bar. I had a devil of a time getting the barkeep’s attention, even with the place nearly empty. When he did notice me, it was to inform that the kitchen was now closed. Drat again! We ordered some liquid dinner and sat down to await the music.
About 15 minutes later, the landlord came in bringing dinner for the family party. So they hadn’t run out of food! He said yes, the kitchen was open, and brought some sandwiches. Apparently a miscommunication with the surly 18 year old bartender, who looked like his son. Wonder what the legal age is to bartend in Ireland?
The food was ordinary and nobody talked to us. The musicians weren’t anywhere in sight. Our host said they would be starting later, whenever that was. There didn’t seem to be any craic to be had at this establishment, so we decided to turn in early. This was the only time all week we ended up back in our room by 10.
I don’t know if Sundays are quiet in the hinterlands, or if it was just because it was Mother’s Day. The scenery had been breathtaking, but our experiences with people were pretty dull that day.
Once we had our jammies on, we discovered Muriel’s Wedding on the telly – I love that movie! Especially the part where Muriel and her friend lip sync to the Abba song “Waterloo” wearing full costumes. I want to do that!
We have GOT to have karaoke night at our family reunion this summer. Does anyone have one of those machines with all the tapes? Can you rent them for a night? Would there be anywhere on the beach/near the condos where we could do this in private?
We woke up early the next morning and went down for breakfast. Apparently we were too early, because our host was nowhere to be found. In fact, there didn’t seem to be another soul in the place. I rang a bell and he rushed in 5 minutes later, out of breath. He reminded me that we had ordered breakfast for 9, not 8, but when we apologized said it would be no trouble to get something together.
Cong is on the eastern-most edge of the Gaeltacht, which is the Irish speaking area. I figured I would never get another chance to speak Irish so hear goes. I took a deep breath and said “Bovalum rodagin a ihu.” That’s not how its spelled, but roughly how it sounds to say “I would like something to eat.” Our host looked blankly at me and said “what’s that you say about Obama?” Turns out he was from eastern Ireland. Didn’t speak any Irish.
I relinquished my quest for an Irish speaking Irishman, and stuck to English from then on. I went to the breakfast table a sadder, but wiser girl.
I was all for packing up our Honda and hitting the road. The museum was closed and the only store open for the season didn’t open until 10. But Libbier heads prevailed and we set out to see a little of Cong by daylight.
I’m glad we took the time. There are some charming thatched cottages in town. On the other side of the still-used cemetery were the ruins of a medieval abbey, which we missed in the dark. We learned later that this was the Augustine Abbey, which dated from the early 13th century. This was just another ancient treasure in someones backyard. Many of the stone carvings were still intact on the outer walls of the building; stone faces looked down at us from atop garden doorways.
We wandered down to a little river in a fine mist. This was the first even faintly rainy day we had encountered, but we didn’t need the umbrellas. There was a little stone hut erected over the river. It had arched windows like a little church, and a trapdoor in the stone floor. The roof was long gone. A sign said the monks would sit in the fishing house, cozy with a fire burning in the grate, and fish from the trapdoor in the floor. Sweet little set-up!
We crossed over the river into a lovely nature preserve. There were several paths leading away. We took the one less traveled by, and that made all the difference. We were stalking a couple of swans we had spied in the brush. They wouldn’t cooperate and get back in the water to swim majestically for our cameras. It was very cool, green and peaceful in the woods. We had finally gotten our Irish nature hike!
We learned later that we were probably on the grounds of Ashford Castle. Just a little walk down the path would have led us to “not-to-be-missed Ashford Castle, a massive, flamboyantly turreted and crenellated castle built in 1870 for the Guinness family..incorporating an earlier 1228 structure..now one of Ireland’s most luxurious castle-hotels.” But we missed it. We didn’t know it was there until we were back here.
By this time the souvenir shop across from our inn had opened. The shopkeeper was a chatty little lady (perhaps from Cork?) and we spent some time looking at the woolens and Connemara marble. Since it’s all rocks and mountains, it makes sense that the main export from the west is a lovely marble in myriad shades of green. We got pendants and coasters and I splurged on a bud vase for myself.
But it was time to settle our bill and hit the road. This was our last, full day in Ireland. We had lots to do and see, and miles to go before we power shopped in Dublin. (I was having a Robert Frost kind of day.) Time was a wasting!