It was 35 to 40 miles to Westport. Steven, from the Monastery Hostel, advised me to take the scenic routes and told me where I could turn off from the main road. He has cycled almost across the world starting in California, down to South America, across Australia to Taiwan, until the Airline Qantas broke the fork of his bicycle and abruptly ended his tour.
It was an overcast day and I put on my rain gear just in case. The 12 kilometers to Kylemore Abbey were dry with a strong tailwind. The rain came down around mile 15: a middle drizzle with wind that steadily increased. My bright yellow rain cover for my helmet blew off and into the open terrain. It started pouring and the mountain tops were covered in mist. My glasses fogged up and I needed to take them off, but Jamie was gliding at 17 to 19 mph with the rain smoothing out the rough street surface.
Initially, it was romantic to ride in the rain, be a part of the elements and, in a way, experience Ireland uncensored. I got very hungry and there wasn’t a pub in sight. There wasn’t even a dry or covered spot to eat my packed lunch. Huddled in the driveway of a farm in the middle of the rain, I was chowed down on lunch. My body temperature dropped rapidly and I was shivering.
I jumped back on my bike and pedaled as fast as I could to get my body temperature up. Being wet and cold is just a nasty feeling. I was so glad when I arrived in Westport and could take a hot shower.
Mat Malloy's and Hen Parties
Westport, according to the Lonely Planet, has the liveliest music scene on the west coast. Mat Malloy's, THE Pub, was just a few blocks from my fabulous B&B rental.
The Pub had two rooms: one for traditional music where musicians from all over the world would come together to jam (if that term applies to traditional Irish music) and a back room for modern music (popular music from the past 20 years). The traditional room was packed and the owner, Matt Malloy, who was probably in his 70s, played the flute along with a guitarist, fiddler and another flautist.
The room was noisy with people chatting. The musicians were leaning over their instruments, trying to hear their own notes. A bachelor party with several Irish guys and two young couples from Seattle were topping each other. The lads were competing to see who could down a beer the fastest. At one point, the bald, red-bearded guitarist stood up and yelled: "Lads-the hens are in the back. Can't you take it there?"
There were tons of "hens" at the Pub. They were wearing super-short skirts and dresses, as well as really deep-cut decolletes. They were decked out with layers of makeup and flashy jewelry. It reminded me of a comment Peter made years ago when he got back from a business trip to London: "Nothing was left to the imagination including the look of the thong."
They felt out of place in their surroundings. The rustic Pub had old wooden benches and casual decor. The most colorful elements were probably the different liquor bottles behind the bar. Most guys were dressed in comfortable jeans and maybe dress shirts - the hens stuck out like a sore thumb.
I was sitting next to a British guy, Tom, who was living close to London. His mum was originally from Connemara and they were celebrating her birthday back home. His younger brother Martin moved back a few years ago. It is hard not to fall in love with Connemara and Westport. The landscape is just stunning and the people are very warm and accepting.
One thing I noticed today: No Irish have asked me about my heritage or where I am from. The only people who opened the conversations wondering about my ethnicity were Americans. One was in disbelief that I am from New York, while the other focused on whether I am Chinese, Japanese or Korean. I just answered: "Does it matter?"
Whiskeys for today: Jameson (it is pretty smooth, but nothing exciting) and Black Bush (nice, but I am still a fan of the Connemara 12 and the Yellow Spot).