Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Tourist Scam: Welcome to The Aran Islands

The Aran Islands: home of the Aran Sweater. The Aran Islands: one of the main reasons I'm staying in Galway for the Ireland leg of our trip. Inis Mor (the big island): the biggest tourist scam I have ever seen.

We ventured out yesterday morning to do what I truly thought would be the highlight to our Ireland adventure. I had hoped to rent a bicycle with Penelope in tow and check out the middle sized of the three islands. Just take the day to soak up the salt air and have a picnic on the rocky beach. . I let my host talk me into going to the big island. She said the fort was outstanding and there would be lots of amenities nearby for the baby and what not. Why not?! Locals would know better than me so off to the ticket office we went. The guy working claimed he was short on cash and would have to bring my change to the bus. He did not. Yes, I got a receipt from them, I'm not that trusting. I am a little annoyed that I have to go back today to get my money though. 

What started off as a horrible day, got worse. Although, before I get in to that part of the story, let me share the adorableness of Penelope on the bus to the ferry port. 

My attempt to pepper this story with bouts of cuteness and positive enlightenment is helping me feel better about the day. We made it there without any fuss, and she was great on the boat too. SHE was amazing all day. Except for the helmet incident.

When we arrived on Inis Mor, there was a pushy guy directing tourists to his bike shop. This is the same bike shop that wouldn't return any of my emails. I now know why. When I tried to ask him about baby helmets and restrictions he blatantly ignored me. So on to the next bike shop we go, where they have helmets for P but just a seat on the back of a bike, which she needs to be a toddler for. 

I figure I might as well pay a little extra and just get the horse and wagon. I have always dreamed of touring around Ireland in a little caravan. I asked one man, who told me he wouldn't take the baby because his horse was too new. Fair enough. The next guy said he would take me but that he takes 6 people. Another couple joined me and we waited for a few more people. A a group of four asked to get on. He told them to take a seat. Guess who got left out? At that point all the other horses had gone, and all the coaches had left. I just walked over behind a bush and cried. And then I cried a little more. Turns out I'm averaging one meltdown a week on this trip. Not bad I figure.

I told myself not to let this ruin the day, I had spent all this money to get here, and waited for the perfect weather to do the trip, so I wiped my nose, dried my eyes and went to another bike shop, the last on the island. They had a chariot. *happy dance* He said if P could sit upright in it he wouldn't be too strict on the age requirement. We got it all hooked up, he charged me twice what he quoted me but at that point I didn't even care. I got P situated in it and discovered they only had a toddler helmet. I tried to tighten it on her head but she... well... lost. her. shit. Massively. This was just not happening. 

I went and got ice cream and bought a sweater. Retail and chocolate therapy together. 

I decided to walk down the road and just look at the beach to figure out what to do. We had a moment in the sand where P tasted the ocean for the first time! 

So, after breathing the salty goodness that is the air here on the west coast, I decided we'd go eat our lunch in the grass and wait for the tours to return. I'd grab one as it came in. As I was walking up the road, one of the caravans came towards me, and Patrick (of course) asked me if I was the lady looking for a buggy tour. I said yes, the women in it let us join them and I smiled for the first time that day. 

We stopped to hike up to the little St. Patrick church, which is the smallest in all of Europe. That was pretty cool. Walking the rocky hills, sidestepping cow patties and connecting to the land a little.
The foot of the path to the church
Almost there
View from halfway up
The church
After that I discovered they had done all the sites the day before and were going to another part of the island. 


But, we ended up at the water's edge...

... and I failed to be in the moment. It was beautiful but the whole time I was trying to figure out what my lesson was. Why was I being put through all this. Don't get me wrong, I still soaked up as much as I could, but it didn't hit my spirit. I even got to see a seal and wasn't moved. I think by that point I was just done.

We got back to the ferry port and I went to get on the 4 o'clock boat. (scam ticket guy told me I could buy a 5 but come back early if I wanted) They wouldn't let me on. So, I got to wait another hour. Beer please! At this point I really just wanted to get off the island.

So all in all: £8 for the bus, £25 for the ferry, £15 for the jaunt to the church and water's edge, £7 for the Guinness and chips I had while waiting for the 5pm boat (okay that part was alright) and £10 for the scam on my change. £65 for the day. Not worth it, time wise (spending one of my precious days in Ireland there) or money wise. Advice: go to one of the smaller islands and just connect with the land and yourself. 

It's beautiful but the tourist scam on Inis Mor ruins the beauty.

Lesson: ALWAYS go with your gut, and ALWAYS do what your spirit is being called to do. I realize that the universe will guide us to what we are meant to do... but it's up to us to be present in that moment and recognize it. I ended up where I wanted to be when I started the day and failed to because I was so caught up in the negative that happened. 

So, today I've decided I'm going to Dublin early. It's a rainy, grey day. Perfect for travel. I leave all that behind and take the lessons with me.  Sláinte!

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