Wednesday, June 29, 2016

IrelandbyBike-Donegal May 31st, 2016

 DAY 6

Today we are not changing B&Bs but just making a circular ride up around the Fanad Peninsula. And we have our compatriots back with us on the bike!  Knees rested and ready to ride.   Don't "kneed" to pack so head down for --Breakfasts are fantastic in Ireland!  Fruit, cereals(granola to Mueslix),  breads, cheeses,olives? (where do they eat olives for breakfast?), biscuits, and then the actual plate of eggs, potatoes, meat they set in front of you.  Always 3 kinds of meat; sausage, bacon, and of course, blood sausage.  I have not seen a pig on this trip and yet we've eaten a bunch of them.  Sheep(lamb) is not a regular on the menu and they are everywhere.  It would be useful to develop a taste for lamb/mutton in Ireland because they seem pretty indiginous.

 After breakfast we "call" for our bikes.   Interestingly we have not ourselves stored our own bikes anywhere except in Glenties. We blithely ride up to the house and lean them against the wall and when we ask where to put them, it is oh don't bother we'll put them away.    The host packs them away in the garage and brings them out for us in the morning.  I don't recall that they washed them and oiled the chain but I'd say they go a lot further in the accommodation department than they have to. We are doing a self-guided tour but we have concierge bike and luggage service.  I have a front pouch for the camera and a larger pack on a rack in the back. It almost holds everything we might need for the day. Rain suit, warm clothes, sunglasses for sun and clear glasses for overcast.  Seamus has provided us with sturdy cables and locks that are as heavy duty as the bikes. We have a repair kit, a patch kit, a first aid kit.  Kits, cats, sacks, and wives, how heavy is the bike when you overeat for a week?

We are about ready to ride.  Polly has her new e-bike and we are about to see how she can shred the hills.  Leaving Ramelton, we turn left out of our B&B and ride through the old warehouse district that is the classical picture of this old trading town.
We are heading first to Rathmullan, the famous departure point for the "Flight of the Earls".  I am a little hazy on why they are venerated since it appears that they were in danger of being overwhelmed by the English and so left for Italy to escape capture--leaving their desperate kinsman to their fate.  However, this tragedy happened in the 1600's and they have a statue celebrating? the event which is appropriately modern.  I got the feeling it was a kind of Douglas MacArthur moment with them promising to return but eventually being sidetracked in Italy. But it's the thought that counts and the Irish have long memories... They could easily be expecting their relatives back anytime.

We meandered around the small town of Rathmullan, checking out the beach and the fortress and some cool ruins.  Early in the morning it was not real busy.  It' really difficult to tell what people do for work around here perhaps they commute to Letterkenny (the big city)  but we enjoyed the lovely views over Lough Swilly.

Heading on up the bay we found the coast road to be hilly, providing us with plenty of opportunities to burn up the calories from breakfast and provide great vistas.  We are all envious of the e-bike but feel superior to compensate.

The Fanad Peninsula goes all the way up to the lighthouse on the north coast making it the second most northerly point in Ireland but  we feel like Port Salon is far enough and do not do the entire 100km loop.  We settle for 65km.

Road views and 

Mouth of Lough Swilly views

When we get to the Port Salon overlook we can see the 2nd most beautiful beach in Ireland or the world.  I can't remember what they claim but it is dramatic without being densely populated with swimmers.  In fact there are only a few tent campers in the reeds.  I couldn't swim here with a wet suit but I bet there are some amazingly tough Irish give it a week or two to get the water temps to the 50s and the air temps to the 70's. As for now we enjoy the pristine serenity.

To the left in the picture you can see the roll out of the downhill we are about to experience.  Across the inlet is the town of Port Salon.  We decide not to eat lunch there but push on to C..... across the peninsula on the east side of Mulroy Bay.

So my question is do you feel the Most free walking, biking, taking Uber, using your car, public transportation, a train, or plane?  I like to walk but you can't go very far in any reasonable period of time.  Getting a good deal on Uber is a pretty sweet feeling.  Having a car as a teenager is very conducive to feeling free but as an adult maintaining the car requires a lot of man hours in the office.  Buying a ticket is actually freer than one would suppose--As Greyhound says, leave the driving to us.  But you merely get taken to where you intended to go--not like the whimsical perambulations of a bike trip.  TS Eliot says that in the mountains you feel free but I disagree, on a bike you feel it the most.


This is the only open restaurant in  Kerrykeel.  I do not know why it is called the James Joyce Tavern.  I think of Joyce as being kind of Dublin related and of course if truth be told he is only Irish in the sense that he left it for France but couldn't get it out of his head so wrote about it.  So in a way he rejected Ireland, couldn't live there but couldn't not write about it.  I am not enough of a Joyce aficionado to know whether he ever made it to Donegal....

I might have asked these trenchant questions if the bar had food.  Sadly, they serve food on weekends, not weekdays.  With that as a baseline we could say that the Irish imbibe calories from either food or drink in a 5:2 ratio--2 1/2 times more calories from drink than solid food. They had plenty of beer which tempted us for lunch but there is always the everpresent concern that you might have to cope with actual traffic rather than cows and it "would not be prudent" as GHW Bush said, to go overboard with the liquid nourishment.
So we ended up at the restaurant our B&B host had so helpfully driven us to last night.  Ripples!  We actually didn't know we were in the same area--riding in the backseat of a small car is not conducive to navigational awareness.  But low and behold we saw a sign that said restaurant 1/2km which is about the length of my suburban street of 30 houses and not far at all when you are hungry so here we are again.  (I hope we tipped enough last night... they were so helpful to drive us back to our B&B).

I don't think they remember us. Maybe they have different family members work the lunch and dinner shifts so we go incognito on the sandwiches and can report in Michelin fashion that you can get a good lunch or dinner here.

I have forgotten what we ate because we supped with a motorcycle couple from Belgium who one of which was actually a lapsed American, marrying a tattooed, mustachioed man from Belgium with a huge hog.  They were following the Wild Atlantic Way.  I think she grew up in Chicago but was European now.  I am sure this happens a lot but it is only recently with the renunciation of citizenship by billionaire Silicon Valley guys to avoid taxes that I have become aware of it.  We clueless Americans like to think that anybody would prefer America to anywhere else. Perhaps we could have a Gallup survey taken monthly that would sample Americans about where they would prefer to live--and like a thermometer-- indicate whether our ideals that "we are the greatest" match up with the reality.  They have a stock market VIX  indicator that measures whether people are calm or frenetic about their expectations for the future and so a Love America index would denominate how many had actually moved to Mexico (or elsewhere) to "make their SS payments" go farther.  We had a good lunch inside, not on the patio due to the overcast.

We had a lengthy lunch....

The trip back to Ramelton included passing several elementary schools.  Irish schools are exactly like American at quitting time, moms and cars everywhere.  They seem to be on back roads and the last two days we end up passing a lot of schools that are "just letting out".  What is interesting is that you are riding along thinking you are in the middle of "nowhere" perhaps like the S. Dakota Badlands and you round a corner and there is a traffic jam!  There is a cop in the distance and a line of cars and as a bicyclist you haven't seen two houses to rub together to call a community in 5 miles and suddenly not only civilization, but a veritable cauldron of activity.  We are very glad the Irish are being educated for jobs all around the world.  I note that there is some European displeasure with the Irish strategy of giving tax breaks to companies to provide jobs BUT come on, just because you don't tax the company, doesn't mean you can't tax the workers.....

We make it back to Ramelton and are discussing our dinner options in the parlor when our thoroughly attentive hostess suggests that she can drive us to Letterkenny for dinner.  We accept and are trundled 12km down to the "big city" for dinner at a lovely restaurant called the Lemon Something, where afterwards we are able to walk around the biggest city in Donegal for an hour or so before heading back to the placidity of our digs in the quiet and quaint Ramelton.  We are thunderstruck at the creative helpfulness of our hosts.  No way would we have seen as much as we have without the intercession of hosts.

A final shot of our walking tour of Letterkenney.


Back to Donegal Town on the morrow.

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