Galway days and nights

Trip Start Sep 06, 2004
Trip End Nov 23, 2004

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Friday, September 10, 2004

Oops, I realized belatedly that I haven't posted since I got to Galway. Sorry everyone! Let me cast my mind back.... Last time you heard from me, I was about to take the bus across Ireland. It cost 13€ (around $20!) for a 3 1/2 hour trip from the east coast to the west coast of Ireland. What struck me about the Irish countryside is that it looks a whole lot like the Albertan countryside. Fields, trees, cows, also sheep. The trees look mostly normal, except some that are oddly spiky, and some that are a really luminescent green (mostly bushes). Some people's front yards have trees I associate more with California...those really spiky ones sort of like palm trees...and I've even seen a few monkey trees. Ireland is so temperate in climate that it can support them.

You know how people say Ireland is so green? Well, it really is. Not all the grass or all the fields, but quite a few of them (and all of the yards) are a really intense, bright green. Especially under the bright sunshine there was on Thursday, but even (as I've since discovered) under clouds and rain. Even some of the fields that have hay bales are still green, with the bales a straw colour sitting on the green grass. The bales, by the way, are almost all the marshmallow shape that I know, although they are bundled in heavy-duty plastic when collected. I did see one field with rectangular bales piled up in teepee shapes though.

The bus took Katherine and me through a bunch of little villages. The driver didn't announce the stops so I don't know how anybody would know where they were going unless they'd already gone there before. In the seat ahead of us were two young lovers who kept kissing and cuddling. You can imagine what I thought of that. (Arvin, I wish you were here!) In other news, the bus was half an hour late by the time we got to Galway.

After wandering in the wrong direction, we found the Kinlay House hostel in Galway. The guy behind the desk (the manager, we found out later) gave us beds in a 4-bed room with ensuite bathroom for the price we would normally have paid for beds in an 8-bed room... 16€ instead of 21€. I think it was because the hostel was slow on a Thursday night. We had lunch on the main shopping street (mostly a pedestrian street) at a restaurant where the menu had notations showing which dishes were safe for celiacs. (Not very many, but at least they tried.) I had polenta and veggies. The decor was dark wood, and the tables in the booths were small. Back at the hostel for a rest, we met up with Esther from Hungary, whom I'd first met in Dublin, but we haven't seen her since then.

That night we went out to the pedestrian street again--a 5-minute walk. The street has flat, even cobblestones and really old buildings (at least several hundred years). It's very atmospheric, mostly because Galway is a tourist town. The storefronts are colourful, lots of reds and greens, with patios out front. There are lots of buskers, almost all the musicians playing Celtic music of course. A bagpiper, a fiddler, an accordionist, an old man with finger cymbals, a band with an Irish combination of instruments playing waltzes (which are not Irish!), a fire juggler, and a man standing like a statue. A few days later we saw a puppeteer with a tall marionnette.

After walking past the buskers, we started exploring the pubs, hoping to meet some Irish people. The pubs were certainly busy and there were a lot of them. They all have a really medieval look, and I can't get my head around the fact that they've actually been there since then--that the look isn't a recreation as it would be in Canada. By this I mean heavy wood, thick rough walls, low beams on the ceilings, and mirrors with carved frames. The first one we went into was huge with lots of rooms, but nobody talked to us and everyone else was in groups. The second one was extremely busy and also quite large. It had Irish music (loud because of amps), but we were getting tired and still hadn't talked to anybody, so after a few songs we left. We walked back along the pedestrian street past the fire busker again. We had the dorm to ourselves, a nice change. By the way, don't worry...just because I'm going to be talking about pubs a lot doesn't mean I've been drinking a lot. Only one or at most two drinks a night, and yes, Mom, I don't leave my drinks unobserved.

As for my travelling companion, Katherine, she looks a bit scary because she has piercings in her lip, nose, and belly button, and red and blond dyed hair. She looks aloof but is actually shy. Really she's only 20 and a long way from her small-city home (Regina is only 175,000 people) and friends and family. Since we're both uncertain of ourselves, lonely, and not sure where we want to live while we're here (except that Dublin is too busy for us), we're good company for each other.

Oops...out of time. I've been talking to Kim via MSN and she says hi. (For anyone who has MSN, I'll sign in whenever I'm at a computer that has it--like the ones at the hostel here.) I'll have to update you all on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday later. Good thing Sunday was uneventful!
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