The Worst Thing That Happened in Galway Was They Ran Out of Mushrooms
No seriously, that was the worst thing that happened while I was in Galway. It was on my second day while I was out to a late lunch with Maia. The overwhelmingly charming restaurant/café Ard Bia was out of the poached eggs and field mushrooms that I wanted to order. Damn. Oh, you have a delicious and hearty seafood chowder instead? Ok, ok…it comes with freshly baked bread and butter, I guess I can compromise here, Ireland.
And that’s just one of the many things I learned about the Irish way upon my second trip to the land of green, Guinness and sheep.
Here are a few others:
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
I can’t tell you how many times a drink was spilled due to an over-zealous dancing duo. So many times. And you know what? It’s cool. Go ahead, knock over a drink or two, or three. Not only will some poor young bar back sweep up the beer or cider or beer and cider while dodging your still dancing feet…we all know you’ll buy whomever’s drink you just dropped two more rounds. So go ahead, keep dancing.
No matter what you’re doing, make sure music is a part of it.
It seemed like everywhere I went, someone was strumming a guitar, a banjo, belting out a tune, boisterously singing along to a classic folk song or simply humming a little melody. Music. Music was everywhere. And it reminded me why I’ve always loved Irish writers – they’re all such amazing storytellers because they’ve got musicality. In both Irish music and writing (be it plays or novels), simplicity is absolutely key. Nothing ornate or overly-complicated. Just something beautiful that says what you mean to say. Or at the very least, stop to listen to the music that’s around you. I remember walking through the town square and being stopped dead in my tracks by this incredible voice beaming from a lad standing on the cobblestone, and breaking everyone’s hearts – in only the way the Irish can.
And as a shout-out to my dear hostess Maia, here’s Van Morrison singing my very favorite Irish tune (which I also happened to hear on the bus from Connemara to Galway)
There is very little in life that can’t be made better with a bit of sun.
I’m completely a product of my environment. When I first arrived in Galway it was dark, cold and wet…as expected. But! It smelled like chimneys. I will never ever forget the smell of Galway. The very next day, Maia and I ventured into town to explore the center, peruse the shops, make our way through the little Christmas village – and then … ah, Salt Hill. As we crossed a bridge, out of the city center and headed towards the open land and sea, the sky broke apart and the sun came out. Everything glimmered in its vast brightness. That sky seemed bluer than any I could remember. And all was right with the world. We spent the next hour or so just walking and taking moments to stand still and take it in. It was as if we were breathing in the sun. I could’ve sat and stared at that water for days, let the world pass behind me. But, the benches were terribly damp and I’m not one for a wet bum.
When there isn’t any sun, you’ve got to have a sense of humor.
As Maia and I walked through the incomprehensibly gorgeous grounds of Kylemore Abbey in Connemara, it began to rain. Seriously, seriously rain. That sort of “I might be in a car wash” feeling. Thankfully I had my Hunter wellies and trusty Target umbrella (one must always balance luxury and thrift) to keep me safe. As we happily trudged through the mud, a cheery old man pulled over in his car and asked us, “Excuse me ladies, how can I get to the dry part or Ireland?” “Up the road and take a left,” I told him. He gave a big laugh, waved and was off on his way. That, to me, was the Irish way of life.
Everyone has a story to tell.
The thing that I loved the most about Ireland was the way people talk to each other. There is an open humanity to the way the Irish go through the day-to-day. Everywhere you go, someone says hello. If you have a seat somewhere, someone is bound to join you, or say a few kind words towards you, or if you’re really lucky, someone will want to tell you their story. Some stories involve a helicopter pilot who you meet at a greasy burger joint at 2 am after a night at Monroe’s. Some are about a lad telling you to always keep in touch with your “ma” and “dah” because you never know when you might not be able to. Wisdom from a 22-year-old at 12:30 am on a Sunday. Or maybe it’s the beautiful restaurant by the water, which looks and smells exactly like your grandmother’s house. The owner serves you your meal, and you just know there is a great story there. Then you look out the window and see what’s around you, and it all makes sense.
What are weekends?
From what I’ve gathered, the only thing that really differentiates weekdays to weekends is the whole school and work thing. Big ones, sure. However, I’ve found that life is as full on Monday as it is on Saturday. Tuesday? Of course there is something to do or someone to see on a Tuesday. The only problem is, it’s raining quite a bit and it’s getting cold. Very cold. So maybe you stay in. Cuddle up under a blanket and enjoy some bad TV. Maybe with your best mate, or maybe by yourself. You might be bored. You might not. Either way, it still smells like fireplaces outside, so you can just pop open your window and fall in love all over again.
Magic, it’s not just a card game that happens in the commuter lounge.
No seriously, walking through the Irish countryside will make you say “yeah ok, I get where all these myths about fairies and giants come from.” The landscapes are so stunning, they almost don’t seem real. The way the mist rolls in and out of massive hills. The tiny houses with glowing windows surrounded by sheep and sky. The trees that creak and sway in the wind, almost speaking to one another. The old ruins of castles and cathedrals overgrown with moss and ivy. The rivers that cut through the land, racing the wind. It’s magical. It really, really is.