Our backpacks held enough clothes for a week. After three days in Dublin on the heels of two in Drogheda, by Athlone (say it with a lilt: at-LONE) we needed to do some laundry.
Just up the street from Ireland’s best Airbnb was a dry cleaning shop that advertised wash and fold for a euro per pound. What luxury!
The best part of having someone else wash your knickers on vacation is it frees you to explore. Here are a few things we learned about Athlone on laundry day.
(Click on the images for larger views.)
Athlone is divided by the River Shannon.
Two men guard the bridge across the Shannon. At one end is this fellow, Patrick Pearse, poet, writer, and republican revolutionary who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916.
It was Pearse who read the proclamation outside the General Post Office, which marked the beginning of the Easter Rising. Ten days later he was executed by firing squad, along with 15 others. These words on his Athlone monument are part of the proclamation.
At the opposite end of the bridge, on the Shannon’s left bank, this chap battles valiantly day and night to keep intruders away from Athlone Castle by fiercely wielding his accordion.
I took his picture from behind because a frontal shot would have obligated us to give him money, and I didn’t want to encourage him. He wasn’t that bad, but the constancy was annoying as hell.
A person always knows what time it is in Athlone, because the bell in the twin clock towers at Saints Peter and Paul, across the street from Athlone Castle, chimes the hour.
Athlone remembers the ladies other towns forgot.
Like the rest of Ireland, its business owners diversify.
(Elsewhere in the country we saw even funnier combinations, like Mary’s Bar and Hardware.)
Not only can you get your shoes repaired in Athlone, you can have your liturgical books restored.
And just a few doors down, you can enjoy a pint of Guinness in Ireland’s oldest pub.
A 200-year-old building in Athlone stands up well.
After 400 years, you can expect some wear and tear.
Even the utility covers on the streets are beautiful.
Its citizens are happy and well fed.
The city’s playgrounds have a strict “no shooting” policy.
Colours are bright.
And Michael Jackson hangs out in the Bastion Gallery, just waiting to be kissed.