We often got asked what prompted us to travel to Galway, Ireland. I’m someone who usually has an answer for everything, but embarrassingly, we found it really hard to say, we just wanted to, and we were never so right! We knew we loved the music, and Galway has a reputation for some of the friendliest people in the world; wow is it well-earned.
My Irish Vacation Wishlist
- Hear trad music in a pub. (Check, check and multiple check)
- Sing at an open session in a pub. (Not checked: by the time I had a sense of the etiquette, we didn’t end up at any more open sessions; better luck next time.)
- Hear a full-on flow of coarse language with lots of the F word. (Check)
- Provoke but not participate in a bar fight. (Not checked, but we walked by a few promising situations.)
- Drink whisky. (Check, check and multiple check, I even got to taste-test the expensive stuff at 10:00 in the morning at Dublin airport! I’ve never had whisky before noon, except for after midnight.)
- Go to mass. (Check, with a lovely choir)
- Hear a spontaneous expostulation of the curse phrase “Jaysus Mary and Joseph!” (No luck, this might be a North American cliché.)
- Sail on the ocean. (Not checked, but we did spend 45 minutes on the ferry to Inis Mor and back.)
- Give money to buskers playing trad music. (Check, and often.)
- Get lost, but find our way back. (Check, Jason you’re the most intrepid guy I know; I’d never try these things without you!)
At first I thought the pedestrian-only sections of Galway would be harder to navigate because of a lack of landmarks, but the walking actually felt much safer, and the boiling street life was fascinating! Shop street is a pedestrian area in the tourist part of the city. It’s lined with pubs, restaurants, shops, buskers, tourists, and at night becomes a sea of drunk people. The surface is cobblestone which is picturesque, but a bit nerve-wracking when the ground is wet 3/4 of the time.
It’s definitely a tourist part of town, and the people were maybe 1/3 local. The rest were a mix of Brits, Scandinavians, Spanish, Americans and Germans. Most travellers we met were only in Galway for a couple of days as part of a larger trip. I preferred our choice to stay in one place and get to know it. We were up and down Shop Street a few times a day for this and that, and I know we got to be sort of recognized after a while. I mean how often do you see two blind tourists walking around?
In fact, walking up and down Shop Street became its own entertainment. There was music every 20 meters or so, and a never-ending display of the human condition. One night, we walked by two women having a screaming match outside a pub. The only words I could distinguish were “your mother,” then there was the dramatic sound of glass shattering on pavement and a shout of “garda!” The Irish police. We just kept walking.
Another night, a Spanish man stopped me and asked politely, “Excuse me, is that your husband?” I called to Jason who’d been walking ahead to hold on a minute, and told the man that yes, he was. There was a pause, then the man said, “I’m crying right now.”
“Don’t cry,” I said. “Why are you crying?”
“That’s just so beautiful! I’m pulling my hood up now because I’m crying,” and he walked away. You can never really know how you affect people I guess.
On our last night as we were hanging out listening to a busker, someone who the busker described as “a cheeky young drunk bloke,” walked by behind me and slapped my ass. Setting aside the offensiveness of targeting someone who can’t identify you, all I could think of was, oh if only there was someone around with an exaggerated sense of honor who would chase after this idiot and take him on, I could check off provoking a bar fight from my vacation wishlist.