Galway, Ireland: Where if you don’t know the words, you still sing along

ireland day 1
About 2 years ago, I took a hiatus from Corporate America, became a certified high school English and ESL teacher and took time to finish a Master’s degree. The new, reduced work load gave me time to reflect on what I really wanted to do in life, and travel was at the top of the list. Years of family research led me to tracing most of my roots to Ireland or Scandinavia. After a little digging, I found a great price on a week long trip to Ireland. I packed my suitcase, and headed to the home land for a journey.
From the airplane, it was clear where Ireland gets its nickname, The Emerald Isle. Everything really was green. Where we have fences of wood in the States, the Irish build their fences with grey stone or trees. The result was a color pallatte unlike anything I’d seen before. From my vantage point as we touched down, there were no large buildings or cities. Instead, I saw every shade of green imaginable. Light green, dark green, forest green and of course, Emerald.
The first city that we visited was Galway. On our way in from the airport, we stopped at a pub inside of a hotel that was fittingly green and grey.
green and grey.png

Inside, I was delighted by the name of the pub: Poet’s Corner. As a reader, writer and purveyor of all things literary, I could not have chosen a better stop for Irish coffee and bread pudding which quickly became my favorite Irish meal.

Flying from the States to Ireland left me with quite a bit of jet-lag. I got just enough sleep to stay awake, but not enough to enjoy an evening out. So, we called it an early evening and ventured out the next morning to Galway.

The weather was decidedly Irish. It wasn’t raining, but it wasn’t dry. It wasn’t foggy, but it wasn’t clear. It wasn’t sunny, but it wasn’t dark. It was bleak, but beautiful. Galway can easily be traversed on foot, so we first walked toward Galway Cathedral and came across the stunning and picturesque site that evoked a sense of serenity and enchantment. Ireland is itself a country of contrasts. As I was taking this picture, cars were racing along a highway behind me.

 We trekked around the Cathedral, not yet entering and began a guided tour of the town. Walking toward the Spanish Arches, we passed this loft apartment building. The orange contrasted the grey of the building and the blue of the water so perfectly. Without the pop of color, the building would look like a prison, but with the orange it appeared intentionally modern.

 Unlike the Italians, the Irish don’t seem particularly interested in aesthetics, even in the artistic town of Galway. You don’t see flowers in front of shops or decorative fabrics in buildings. Instead, you see tributes to great writers, Catholic Saints and politicians sprinkled throughout the landscape. The Irish are more interested in art of thinking than creating, pondering the mysteries of the universe while having a pint.

 

 

As we approached the Spanish Arch, I was admittedly a bit underwhelmed. The Spanish Arches are the remaining portion of a city wall built in 1584. At nearly 500 years old, they are a part of history and listed as a highlight on a trip to Galway.

In my opinion, they were neither large nor impressive, but the view behind them of Galway Bay was stunning, as was the quaint shop with yet another pop of color amidst the grey of the town.

 At this point, I would like to retract everything I said about the Irish not being artistic! The center shopping district of Galway was awash with color. It was something that perhaps my 9-year-old would design if given freedom with her crayons.

 Street art outside of a Claddagh ring shop show a poverty stricken old woman walking past the Spanish arches. Poverty is very real in Ireland, with most Irish people living outside of the island itself for work. The old woman’s hunched back show the years of hard work she has endured in the city, and her layers of clothes are indicative of a live lived in a cool and wet climate. Despite her layers, she has no shoes. One must wonder–where are her children? Have they left the island in search of work? Where is her husband? No doubt, at the local pub.

 The Irish are passionate about their music. (More on that in my Singing in the Pub post, coming soon). We encountered numerous street performers, almost all singing. This jolly group of gents, with beards and a red-head attracted onlookers who were dropping coins, clapping and dancing along the paved streets of the town.

 And of course, what would a day in Galway be without a beer sighting? As we wrapped up for lunch, we came across a fun trap door where pub workers were bringing in ale from the streets. Bleak weather, historic sites, and a bit of beer wrapped up our first morning in Galway, Ireland.

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