A Few Days in Sligo

We left our stone house on Loch Conn and made our way North and East to Sligo in county Sligo. Its sits on a bay and is a wonderful little town surrounded by mountains and the Atlantic ocean.

When we checked out of the house the owner came to collect the key. I knew it wouldn’t just be a say-thank-you-just-hand-over-the-key type of deal, so I wasn’t surprised when he walked us down to another stone cottage on the property to show it to us and give us a history lesson.

The house they live in was the house his wife, Rose, was born in. This cottage he was showing us, while our car was still running and the doors were open, was one occupied by a ‘bachelor man’ who had sold it to them in his dotage. The roof had fallen in but they bought it from him and totally refurbished it. It was snug and lovely.

The ‘bachelor man’ had been born there. One of 12 children in 3 rooms. As the older children reached their age of majority they were sent to America to live with relatives who had gone there years before and were established.

The windows were so small and I commented on how dark it was in these houses. He happily explained that during Brisish rule of Ireland they taxed the Irish on the amount of light coming into the house. So many Irish homes had half front doors so if the tax man came and the front door was open they would only be assessed tax for half the light coming into the house. Unbelievable.

We took the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’ to Sligo. We’ve been on and off of this scenic route since coming to the West last week.

Emilie and I walked into town to see Mary Poppins Returns. A very fun movie. On the way back to our hotel we were offered directions by a little old man who didn’t understand that I had a cell phone with GPS. He was bound and determined to “help’. So I explained where we were staying.

‘Ah! You’re staying at the looney bin!’ He laughed so hard at his own joke. We didn’t get it and said so.

‘Well. Your hotel used to be the asylumn.’

Emilie was aghast. The hotel looks like an old castle but it’s a former asylum. For some reason on this trip it seems appropriate.

He asked us where we are from and it turns out he’s spent a fair bit of time in Tacoma, Olympia and Bellingham in Washington State in the US. He even spent a summer in Alaska fishing for the deadliest catch in the Bering Sea as a young man. Small world. Walking back, Emilie said she thought he might have been a former resident of our hotel in its prior incarnation. I think he is just Irish. We heard his life story on that street corner.

This trip has included a lot of reading, watching some tv (when the weather has permitted little else) and visiting pubs.

We’ve watched a fair bit of the Irish game Hurling. Its fast paced and played with wooden sticks with a spoon on the end. Like a cross between soccer, lacrosse, rugby with a baseball. Mesmorizing.

And the Irish channels have a fair few competitions for folk singing and Irish dancing. Culturally based entertainment is front and center on tv and as live entertainment in towns.

Emilie is on her third book so she and I went out to stock up on more. Easons is the Barnes & Noble of Ireland so we headed there.

Then had the best hot chocolate either of us have ever had. I had an ‘after 8’ with a mint kicker and Em had the ‘Nutella’. Both like a dessert.

We checked out the rest of the town seeing if we could get in some early prom dress shopping for Emilie. But no such luck. So a hearty lunch at the Swagman Pub was in order. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the food in Ireland. Especially pub food. But what impressed me even more today was Emilie’s ability to teach me chess, and then summarliy shelack me. By the time she was through with me, an hour and a half later, the whole pub was trying to help me, including the owner/bartender. But none of them could guide me to a win. Well done Em.

Sligo is the inspiration for much of the writing of WB Yeats – the Irish poet. The Yeats Society is here in town.

His famous quote ‘There are no strangers here, just friends I haven’t met yet’ seems to sum up our entire experience since we landed in the West of Ireland. Everyone is a potential friend, ready with a story and a helping hand.

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