Saturday, February 24, 2018
“In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs.”
~Sir John Pentland Mahaffy
“”Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.
Lullabies, dreams and love ever after.
Poems and songs with pipes and drums.
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes… “”
That’s the Irish for you!”
Galway has been on my mind ever since I lived in Newfoundland, Canada.
As you may or may not know, Newfoundland has many Irish descendants… just walk down George Street in St. John’s, Newfoundland and you’ll hear the lively sounds of Irish folk music wafting down the streets.
It is the most Irish place outside of Ireland.
I adored Newfoundland… misty, foggy mornings.. brisk, cold air.. an accent that I could never quite fully understand.. the rocky, rugged coastline.. the jellybean houses in St. John’s..
I could go into more detail, but I am not here to weave tales of my days in Newfoundland..
But to share my experience in Ireland..
I started in Dublin. I was quite excited to be back in a country where English was the first language! I could talk to everyone! It certainly helped that the Irish accent is very pleasant on the ears. 🙂
I arrived late at night and had to walk through Temple Bar to get to my hostel. It was a Sunday night, but even then, in the middle of February, at one in the morning, there were crowds of jolly drunkards, their arms slung around each other, holding up their beer and singing. The colourful pubs had ivy growing on them and big whiskey barrels outside for smokers to lay their drinks on. It was obviously more tourist-oriented, but I didn’t mind. Irish music.. loud, fast, invigorating filtered through the streets. It was a pleasant thing to walk through. I couldn’t help but smile, the drunken happiness all around me was contagious.
I didn’t go out that night.. I slept. I had big plans the next day
I was very pleased to wake up to cool, fresh air and the songs of seagulls playing outside my window! Ohhh how I missed the the ocean… for a minute I was transformed back to waking up on the Oregon coast as a child.. the same cool air, cloudy morning, seagulls,…
But I didn’t linger too long… I had to go to the Jameson Factory. The top of my list of things to do. I am quite a big fan of whiskey, but definitely wouldn’t call myself a connoisseur. I knew there was a difference between Scotch, Bourbon, Irish Whiskey and American Whiskey, but wasn’t sure exactly what it was. If you are unsure, the Jameson tour was definitely the place to learn. It was a well put on show of sorts. In the first room, we were told a quick history of whiskey in Ireland and other interesting facts. The second room, we stood in front of a whiskey barrel that was laid out for us to touch the different hops and feel/touch the differences between roasted and soaked. We also smelled the difference in the smells of the distilling processes and the smell and look/colour of the maturing process of the barrels the whiskey soaked in as well as the colour as it sat aging for years. There were animations on the wall that coincided with what our tour guide was talking about… very informing.. involving all the senses.. very hands on.. And the last room we were taught how to swirl and smell and taste the different whiskeys like a whiskey taster would (yes that’s an actual job) and experience the difference between Scotch (NOT my favourite), American Whiskey (pretty good, kinda sweet) and then the Irish Whiskey.
And we got a free simple mixed drink.
All in all I was very impressed.
I was with some friends and as we were downing our free drink and gazing in wonder at the beautiful room around us (the whole of everything about the Jameson experience was exquisite) , we concluded that we were so dazzled by the Jameson tour that we decided we might as well do the Guinness tour too (even though none of us were fans of its famous dark, chocolatey-coffee taste).
So we walked all the way across the city to the Guinness storehouse. The Guinness experience was self-guided. There were many floors and you got to wander around and read and listen and see and hear… one taste test room where you got to taste one shot of their signature drink.. but the highlight for me was the very top, the end of the tour. the 360 view of all of Dublin and a free drink!! AND I never knew that they didn’t JUST make dark beer! I happily asked for the Guinness Golden Ale and Mmmmmm! We were lucky and the sun was shining…despite the clouds off in the distance, there was quite good visibility.
We went to an Irish pub that night to have a pint or two and listen to some music and chat it up. Blah, blah, blah…
The next day was the free tour where I learned a bunch of interesting things about the history of Ireland and in particular Dublin.
Like that Ireland has the same climate as Seattle… that Seattle is the number one coffee drinking city and apparently Dublin is number one tea drinking city. (NOT the number one drinking country… Ireland comes in behind Austria, Czech Republic and Germany) Also, the actor who plays Joffrey from Game of Thrones is currently working on his PHD at Trinity College there… Courtney Love also attended Trinity College… Ireland is the only place in the world where windmills turn counter-clockwise…. there is Gaelic Football and hurling in Ireland, two very intense sports in my opinion…
I went to Galway.
I was very excited for Galway.
I had asked friends and fellow travelers of where I should go in Ireland for my last three nights and Galway came highly recommended. Buskers on the street playing at all hours… laid back.. bohemian seaside vibe.. a row of jelly bean houses like in St. John’s..
They said that is where the craic is at…. A frequent word heard over in Ireland… pronounced “crack”, so I couldn’t really start saying it where I live or people would give me quite the funny look. You can here, “How’s the craic?” or “Where’s the craic at tonight?” … But if you are asked, “What’s the craic?” that means “How’s it going?” From the people I have talked to… craic is like fun.. a good time.. The craic was mighty… 🙂
A few more curious things I heard…
Oh, and snogging!!! To snog = to kiss
Langered = drunk
Racked / Knackered = tired (I LOVE the word knackered now and try to use it any chance I get)
Bang on = Correct/ right on
Culchie = person from a rural area
So the first night, I was a tad hesitant to go out… Second guessing my decision.. my hostel was full of young 20-somehtings pounding down beers and playing pool and generally acting way too cool.
The hostel offered that if you met at the desk at 7:30, they would take you to a restaurant followed by real Irish dancing…
So I did.
And ohhh man I am so glad that I went!!
The dinner was good, but the fun got started once we got to the pub. We walked across this bridge that had the fastest gushing river I had ever seen in my life! It was intense!
The Irish dancing was lovely and wonderful and oh so fun! I got to join in on quite a few songs and was hopping and swinging about with the 70 year old men and women that had been doing it for years… granted I was certainly not in sync with them and often one of the men had to grab me and swing me back to where I was supposed to be. It was the best!! The band was just three little old Irish men. At the beginning of each song, the man in the middle would stomp his foot three times to get the beat going so loud the whole pub fell silent and turned to see.
I don’t know how those people did it all night! I was exhausted after just a couple songs! Yet I didn’t want it to end! We ended the night with a Silent Disco.. which was a foreign concept to me… but WOW!
Everyone has headphones… no one can hear anyone else’s music.. there are three stations to switch to,… you take off your headphones and can hear three different songs being belted out but no music (cuz its all in the headphones!!) … Made for a silly night 🙂
The next morning I noticed the fog creeping outside my window… I LOVE how it shrouds the earth in a hazy cloud!
So I headed off in search of whatever I could see… and wow… My breathe was taken away at every turn! Crossing the river to one side, crossing back over, walking out of the touristic area… After the misty morning passed over, out came the brilliant sunshine and blue sky!! The closer to Galway Bay I got, the more intense the smell of the sea became. There was a lovely little walkway that went along the coast. On one side, sand littered with tiny shells, scattered pebbles and, unfortunately, lots of trash, stretched out to the water with piles of dark green seaweed and barnacle covered rock in the distance. On the other side of the pathway was the soft field of green grass.
I went out onto the beach.. despite the gusts of wind, the salty smell of drying seaweed surrounded me.. tiny little dirty sea creatures.. the Bay water.. shells abandoned by their former residents..
The sky was blue. The sun was shining…. I walked out on this strip of walkway to an island that was gated off. It was late afternoon and the sun was slowly settling back down to the earth. As it made its descent down, low-hanging dark clouds began to emerge.. I stopped to wonder at the contrast between the sun rays beaming down to the water and the dark clouds beyond when I heard a strange noise. It sounded almost like the bubbling of a river. I looked around and saw no moving water…. but it did look as though the rocks just below the walkway were moving… I looked closer and sure enough, almost a hundred crabs were scuttling about.. over the rocks.. on the sand,, their claws poised in the air.. some crawling over each other.. it was both frightening and fascinating.. I have a bit of a fear of crabs.. but wow.. it looked as though the ground below me was moving!
Couchsurfing is definitely my favourite way to travel, though it isn’t possible for every trip.
I lucked out during this trip and was able to find one that I connected with on a wonderful level! We talked about this and that, silly things and smart things, food and drinks, cheese and cows, Game of Thrones and adventures… the Irish accent is quite lovely to hear! I love beautiful strangers. I love picking their brain. I love learning how they came to be who they are today. I love learning about what makes them smile and what makes them hesitate. I wanna know what type of muffin you would be and who your spirit animal is. I wanna know if you were a drink what would you be and what do you do that makes you lose track of time…. And human connection. My stay there was definitely my favourite thing about my trip 🙂 People never cease to amaze me.
Every person I met in Galway was very happy to be there… whether they were visiting, had lived there a long time, just moved… it was a small town, but a quaint town with its own kind of charm.. bustling with University students during the school year and festivals and tourists in the summer.. beautiful landscapes.. the Aran islands..
They say Galway is the graveyard of ambition.. people end up falling for its charms and never leaving.. I can totally see that..
I do oh so hope to come back and do a road trip to see the landscapes and eat the fresh cheese and stay with the locals… or even camp… Have a craic