Galway City, Ireland : February 2017
So part of this second life is the reawakening of my senses. I see so much more, it’s as if my eyes are sharper and everything is clearer to me. I noticed it on the last trip but I’m really experiencing it on the trip to Ireland. Ok so I’m visiting my son in Galway City Ireland so let’s be honest it’s not hard to find beauty all around you.
Galway is a city that does not feel like a city, it’s full of character and unexpected style everywhere you turn. Also I’m not sure if this is all part of my reawakening, but I seem to be having a lot more conversations with strangers. The people in Ireland are so friendly, I’d only been here for 12 hours and I’ve already had 3 meaningful interesting conversations with the locals, on the plane, the street, and the bus. This is something Chris does regularly but I’m normally a little shy, but not in Ireland though. I’m quite enjoying it.
We are staying in an apartment in Salthill, which is a suburb just outside of the city centre, about 30min walk. The view is amazing, we are right on the sea and looking over the Galway Bay. We being, Lucas, my eldest son, who is living in Galway. And then Dylan joined us, my youngest son who lives in London. So a reunion that makes my heart so happy. Pity the other half of Parsleyspursuits is not here on this trip but someone has to work.
Salthill is a little like Seapoint back in Cape Town, in fact, it’s even got a promenade called Seapoint promenade. How funny is that! The Galwegians are big on the outdoors and just like in Seapoint Cape Town they love to walk the prom. From early morning till late at night you see people walking, running , taking the dogs and/or children out for walks. The big difference between the two Seapoint’s is that at the first sign of cold Cape Town hibernates but in Galway, nothing stops them. Rain , sleet, hail or snow they carry on as normal and ‘kick the wall’. This is the term used for walking to the end of the promenade and then you kick the stone wall and walk back again.
Galway has 67 000 people apparently but it does not feel like it. The city is bustling by not crowded. The main shopping/ tourist area is pedestrianized and wonderful to walk through. Buskers are on every street corner and the music is good. Of course it has the usual tourist traps, like sweater shops selling overpriced Irish sweaters and scarfs but I think what I loved the most is the lack of chain stores. I saw one Costa and one Cafe Nero but by far most of the coffee shops are independents. My favourite coffee was from Coffeewerks. A small scandi looking shop that not only serves really good coffee but lovely design items and also has a gallery. The other place we enjoyed was the local pastry shop called Griffiths. They make bread, pastries and cakes and seem to supply a lot of the cafes and restaurants. For a decadent treat try the choc shop Butlers where we had a delicious dark hot choc and it comes with a free choc of your choice.
Lucas gave me a great tour of the city and introduced me to some traditions which I can highly recommend. One is drinking a hot whiskey(just what it says : hot whiskey with cloves and lemon) at Tigh Neachtain as one does in Galway. We also had a delicious seafood chowder bursting with Atlantic fish flavour, wholegrain bread and butter. Really my best!
Another great find was Ard Bia. A quirky interesting restaurant which serves food is a B&B, makes pottery and had a cookbook. The food is all from local suppliers and an interesting mix of Irish favourites with a modern twist. And I quite like the attitude when I asked if they had WiFi…..”no but we have newspapers”.
Other places I enjoyed was Cafe Temple for wholesome food. The Kings Head for drinks in front of the fire. Charlie’s Byrne’s bookstore for hours of browsing and Taaffes Bar for authentic Irish traditional music.
The highlight of the tour( apart from having both my sons together with me ) was the tour to Connemara. Our guide Mike from Atlantic way tours was really informative and funny. We travelled along the coast exploring the small fishing villages and being told about the Gaeltacht (Irish speaking region). We saw the way the farmers extract the peat from the bog to use as fuel. I love the smell of the fires when they burn this turf. We also heard all about Connemara marble. In fact, I saw a really good example when we visited the Galway Cathedral. This beautiful building was actually only completed in 1962, so quite modern but with beautiful craftsmanship. According to Mike, JFK visited Galway and when he saw the half-completed cathedral & heard they had run out of funds he promptly wrote a Cheque. Needless to say, they quite like him in Galway.
The landscape in Connemara is breathtaking. The lakes and the mountains are so different from the rest of Ireland. It’s very rugged and I can imagine it’s a beautiful place to have a holiday home. We travelled through Clifden as well and although we did not stop Mike told us about the Clifden pony show which is world famous. I definitely would love to go back and experience some of the seafood they are also famous for and maybe cider or two.There was so much to see on this tour I really recommend it.
The tour midpoint was a visit to Kylemore Abbey. Such a lovely story of a doctor whose wife fell in love with Connemara on honeymoon. When he inherited a fortune he built her this castle where they lived happily with their 9 kids. Unfortunately, she died an early death at 45 and he was heartbroken. He then built a mini gothic cathedral on the property in her honour. It’s now owned by Benedictine nuns who have owned it since the 1920’s and used to run a school there but now they make handmade goods and do community work. It’s worth a visit and I don’t have space but Dr Mitchell Henry was a fascinating man who really did a lot for the local community. Read more here…
Our trip back was through a valley between the 12 Bens and the Maumturk mountains. As Mike says there are only 25 000 people in Connemara but at least 85 000 sheep!
Now it’s time to say goodbye to Lucas and having just met his new girlfriend Martina to her as well. Who knows when I will see them again but I’m not too sad as my new second life means that nothing is impossible and lots of traveling is always on the horizon.
Dylan and I are travelling together to London, and I have lots of family, friends and new babies to visit.