Saturday, March 21, 2009

Doolin and O'Connor's Pub

We spent the second night of our Ireland trip in the town of Doolin, which is known as a musical hot spot in Ireland. Although Doolin is nearby to magnificent natural sights like the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, and of course the Atlantic Ocean, the town itself is really just an ugly spattering of houses and shops on the side of a hill. This makes it all the more surprising that it is so well known for its music (and as I just found out on Wikipedia, for being the only earthly gateway to the realm of the dead.)

On the night of our stay, we walked down to O'Connor's Pub, founded in 1832, for an authentic Irish pub experience and some live music. The atmosphere did not disappoint. We were seated at the massive bar in the center of the pub, with all of the usual Irish beers on tap (Smithwick's, Guinness, Murphy's, Bulmer's, etc.). On our left was a group of people having a jam session, with their Irish flute, guitar, violin, mandolin, and other instruments typical of Irish music. Throughout our stay in Ireland, we saw that the coolest thing about live pub music is how intimate it is; the musicians are almost always just seated behind a table, playing their hearts out between sips of their beer, and audience singalong is highly encouraged. The experience at O'Connor's was no exception. The music was intermittently drowned out by roars of joy from our right, where a crowd was huddled around the big screen television watching Ireland beat Scotland (in rubgy) to come within only one win of their first Grand Slam since 1948. (All they have left is Wales, who they're playing today, in fact.)

The next morning before breakfast, we took a walk down to the harbor. On the short walk we saw the usual assortment of brilliantly green grass and farm animals milling about.

At the shore, we could see waves in the distance crashing menacingly against rock outcroppings and shooting spray into the air. The shoreline has limestone formations just like the Burren, and we went skipping from rock to rock to get a closer view of the shore.

If we had more time, Doolin is a good point of departure for visiting the Aran Islands, but we were nearing the end of our stay. The small island in the picture below, Crab Island (not one of the Aran Islands), is near to shore and is the home of an abandoned outpost and also - as I see from a Google search - a popular surf spot.