"Better put some money in that machine over there," the little girl said as she walked along the low wall at the entry to the car park.
Very observant, this child of no more than eight years. She must have seen my confusion. I knew that parking wasn't free. Town Centre parking, if you're lucky enough to find it, is 60 cents an hour. Here on Connaughton Road, just three blocks from the Hyde Bridge, it was €2.50 for all day. I was about to walk away after putting in my coins.
"Better punch the green button for your ticket."
This child knew the ropes. She'd been here before. In fact, her family lived here. Their caravan, one of many in the lot, was parked quite close to my car. I asked if I could take her photo. Marie posed on the steps of her little home while her dog, Rocky, hid underneath. Her mother stuck her head out the doorway to reassure me that she and her neighbours kept a close eye on things. My car would be safe. Marie's little sister, Matilda, burst out the door past her mother. She wanted in the picture, too. I showed them the results on the monitor of my Nikon D80. They were delighted.
"I'll be back this afternoon," I promised, "and we'll do some more."
The Garavogue, the shortest river in Ireland, runs swiftly through the centre of Sligo and travels no more than 2 miles before it empties into Sligo Bay. Both sides of the banks on the upstream side of the Hyde Bridge are lined with restaurants, pubs, and shops. Tables scattered along the promenade invite outdoor dining to the music of the rapids that tumble over an escarpment and disappear under the arches of the bridge.
In a by-gone era, the Garavogue fed by Lough Gill and run off from its surrounding mountains provided power for a mill. The mill wheel doesn't turn anymore but it's still located just where it was at the turn of the century. The Left Bank Pub, located prominently on the north side of the river has kept it as an architectural feature. The huge geared wheels and shafts of its inner workings are clearly visible from the inside of the pub. I leaned over the banister on the promenade to view the now silent race.
After lunch at the Osta, I chose a different route back to the car park. I followed the north side to the foot bridge and took a left toward Stephen Street. Immediately ahead of me I saw the magnificent chancel window of a church. People were entering through a side door. I followed to quickly discover that this old church of Ireland is now the town library. I took in the gorgeous window from the inside, spellbound for a moment at the unique setting. When I turned to leave, I was almost equally stunned by a sprawling mural on the wall at the opposite end. Columcille, St. Columba, prepared to do battle over his book.
Coming in the back door, so to speak, of the car park, I found the children playing in an old horse cart. Matilda wanted to be in a picture all by herself. With her long red braids and ringlets, she was irresistible. When it was her older sister's turn, the exuberant Matilda dove into the cart right on top of Marie. Good natured Marie didn't complain. She knew what was going on. Thanks to her, my parking receipt was just where it should be: right on my dash for any passing Garda to see.
Written by Joy Davis - Summer of Travel 2007