Thursday, November 03, 2011
A Saturday in Galway
Maybe it was because it was Saturday and many were enjoying a day off. Maybe it was because we didn't have to get in the car and drive anywhere that day. Maybe it was because it was a gloriously sunny day. Maybe it was all three but we thoroughly enjoyed our day dedicated to exploring the city of Galway.
Galway is a city that is more like a small town. There are no skyscrapers. No extremely tall buildings like in Dublin and Waterford and Belfast. We started our day getting information about a bus tour and then walking down to the Saturday market that stretched around the grounds of St. Nicholas Church. Since it was the annual Oyster Festival that weekend there was quite a display of oysters and a booth where you could have one shucked fresh for a euro. I passed but Bob enjoyed a couple later in the day.
We happened upon a farmer selling all sorts of eggs. I recognized the chicken eggs and the quail eggs but he had several large eggs that were cream colored with brown speckles. When I asked what kind they were I got quite a lesson in turkey eggs. It was great fun to listen to him.
The hop-on hop-off bus that did an old town tour was parked in front of the hotel near the TI when we returned. The tour was an hour long and took us out to some places that were a bit too far to walk. It also gave us a good chance to get oriented to where things were. And of course hear some of those great Irish tales.
Once back to our starting point, we hustled to the town square and watched the Oyster Festival ceremonies where the mayor was presented with the first oyster of the festival. She downed it in one gulp. Then there was a small parade around the town square to celebrate. It was all quite festive. The Oyster Festival itself however was very expensive to enter so we passed since we really aren't great oyster fans.
Bob and I started out for the Galway Cathedral we'd passed on the bus tour. It was a bit of a walk but a beautiful one as we found the path that followed the Friar's River. We strolled with all the others who were out enjoying the warm sunshine, blue skies, and fall colors.
The Cathedral is huge but inside it is certainly a place that welcomes worship. As stone Cathedrals go, this one is relatively young. Construction was begun in 1958 and it was dedicated in 1965. Mosaics and stained glass windows are featured in the sanctuary and the floors are made of a light green marble.
We found another route to walk down to the harbor of Galway where the Spanish Arches are. I was hoping we would find a restaurant with a view of the bay but no such luck. Instead, we found a small cafe that featured pizza and sandwiches. I saw nachos on the menu and ordered those breaking my rule of not eating Chinese, Mexican, etc. when you are not in China, Mexico, etc. I should have stuck to my rule.
The afternoon was spent wandering up and down the pedestrian mall and enjoying all the musicians that were set up every few feet and playing/singing their hearts out. Some were drowned out by others who set up amplifiers but we enjoyed some very traditional Irish music along the way as well as some more modern renditions. We stopped and watched a few minutes as a little boy broke out in spontaneous dance to the foot stomping music two musicians were playing.
It was planned that the four of us would meet at Taaffes Pub around 4 so that we could secure a seat for the traditional Irish music session that was scheduled to begin at 5. It was an interesting hour watching people come and go and mingle and mingle some more. Finally, about fifteen minutes before five, a bartender came and placed a "reserved for musicians" sign on the table next to us. At least we were sitting in good seats.
At five two musicians made their way to the table. The bartender placed a Guinness down for one and a cup of coffee for the other (Irish coffee?). One got out his fiddle and the other his guitar. Before they got started, my brother-in-law leaned over to the one with the fiddle and asked, "You're not Irish, are you?"
The guy shrugged a little, shook his head slightly and said, "No."