Galway past and present
I’ve got so much to say about Galway, both past and present. It was the 90s when I spent a semester at Galway University as a mature student. I rented a room in Claddagh from a friend of a friend from September until December. Then returned a couple of times since.
If my memory serves me well 2003 was my last visit.
The last visit was only for one night, en route to the Arran islands. Galway has a lot to offer both historically and as well as accommodating for all kinds of people and music. It is equally at home supporting indie bands, it’s an international city, small and compact.
It’s not all Arran Jumpers, although there are a lot of shops selling them. For anyone who hasn’t seen the Banshees of Inisherin, I totally recommend it. By the By, the sale of Arran jumpers has gone through the roof in Galway since the release of the film.
Galway has a lot to answer for
Saying I’m going to Galway is one of my ‘catchphrases’ it sums up a lot about what I’m feeling, I’m going to Galway when I’ve had enough of work/London, Brixton, Railton road, responsibility and I’m bored.
As a recent convert to the school of realism I understand, it is wishful thinking
Once upon a time, there were opportunities, to live a lifestyle that was a bit more nomadic and romantic. The links to get that were somewhat tenuous and I couldn’t quite grasp it. After all had I not lived like that in London for quite long enough?
A long weekend in Galway
I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that Pussy Riot (more on them later) were playing at the Roison Dobh in Galway and on a whim bought tickets and a return flight for my partner for his birthday. It had been a while since I visited and kept meaning to. I booked a bed and breakfast called Sli Na Mara 10 minutes from Claddagh and a 20-minute walk to Salthill, the coastal resort further up the road.
Arriving at Shannon airport
We waited about 20 minutes for the bus to Galway and paid 10 euros each. I used my newly acquired post office Travel card which is used in exactly the same way as a debit card; the only difference being is that you don’t get charged fees. You put money on it via your bank account, straight onto the app, and it changes the currency for you. It’s really handy. Returning to the airport, it was lucky we booked our tickets online, as it was packed!
Galway city November 2022
it was busy when we arrived around 3pm and we dived into a cafe in Eyre square for a late lunch. Then we had a brief look around the Christmas Market and walked through the town to Claddagh. It was exciting to see the river gushing furiously through the town centre. I can’t believe how fast and high the water is. It is invigorating, pure energy.
The name of the river running through the town is the river Corrib. It constantly flows fast, under and through 3 bridges from the Spanish Arch at Claddagh under the Wolfetone bridge, then O’Brien’s Bridge off Dominick st, and Salmon Weir Bridge. It flows down to the sea and the walk along the causeway is unprotected by any walls, be careful as a slip after a couple of drinks, could see you being swept away!
Our walk to the bed and breakfast was only 10 minutes or so and I wanted to see where I stayed in the ’90s and was pleased to see No 6 ST Nicholas Road, in Claddagh, was still the most unique house. It is easy to miss as the entrance as it is covered in green foliage making it barely visible. A lovely rosehip tree hangs over the gate.
We then headed off for a lovely short walk to the bed and breakfast. The sun was starting to set, as we walked by the sea. the silhouette of the hills in the background created a picturesque backdrop.
Sli Na Mara the way of the sea.
It is a family-owned business and they do a lovely bed and breakfast. The hosts were really friendly and made us feel welcome.https://slinamara.ie/index.html
On Saturday we spent most of the day walking around the city. In terms of size, I would say it’s about the size of Durham, maybe Edinburgh. We visited the Galway museum and found a couple of cafes. One that did fantastic pastries coffee and teas called the Ean on Druid lane, next to the famous Druid Theatre. https://www.eangalway.com/
In the Lighthouse, for lunch, we had a simply delicious soup with soda bread ( I LOVE SODA BREAD) and vegan dessert.
The lighthouse St Augustine street,https://www.lighthousecafe.ie/.
The old traditional part of the University
I studied Irish/English Studies at North London University
It started as French/Irish, after a year of French Language, I realised I would never be proficient enough, and there weren’t enough hours in a day to read the French dictionary! You have to choose what works best and that’s partly what it’s all about.
I ditched the French language
studying as a mature student, you get to decide what you want to do, and sometimes you don’t really know until you start doing it. It was an education nonetheless, and I still loved French existentialism, JP Sartre, etc, and Irish politics and History were complex and fascinating, and most of it I have forgotten. North London University was at the forefront of the Irish Peace Talks and hosted some of the talks.
My interests were mainly music/politics and literature in no particular order. I managed to get a degree and I’m happy to say I did it. They can’t take that away from me. I was a drifter and had no thoughts other than wanting to get a band together. The degree taught me a lot, mainly how to question the world, how to articulate in writing, and consider different points of view. I am proudly humanitarian.
Meanwhile back in Galway on Saturday Night
On Saturday evening we had a meal at Barnacles in Salthill and a drink at the famous Oconnor’s bar where Ed Sheeran shot part of his video for the song Galway girl. We heard the original version on the bus to Connemara which is pretty good. Ed Sheeran seems a bit watered down and I’ve yet to watch the video.
The pub doesn’t open until 7.30 pm and you have to wait to be seated, we were sat in front of an old fashioned fire with clothes hanging over it!
Galway tour company
We booked our tour online for a Sunday trip. The earlier you book the better, as it went up by 5 euros in the time it took me to get that together with one thing and another going on. Transferring money between accounts and stuff!!
We would spend most of the time on the bus but did get off frequently for photo shoots. the driver was hilarious and had lots of stories to tell, mainly funny but I couldn’t help but feel sad when we got deep into Connemara. a landscape both bleak and beautiful and it was difficult not to feel sad when thinking about the famine.
Connemara and beyond
We stopped first at Cong and I don’t know why I hadn’t heard of it. The location is famous for where the shooting of The quiet man was filmed starring, John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. Equally as famous is the famous castle now a hotel hidden in woodland.
Ashford Castle is Famous for its elite clientele
Ashford castle you aren’t allowed to take photos but the driver told us how to see it from the back of the lake. Bronson held his wedding reception there when he married his second wife. Cong is bordering on county Mayo and Galway. lake Lough Corrib is the second-largest lake in Ireland. The castle was built in the 13th century by Anglo-Normans and is a former home of The Guinness family.
There are so many stories associated with the abbey it is a massive tourist attraction as well as a functional boarding school and a place where Benedict nuns live. The nuns fled Belgium during WW1 and bought this place around 1920.
The ’90s in Galway
in the ’90s when I was staying in Claddagh, my ‘landlady’/host, drove us to Kylemore Abby and I seem to recall we stopped at Letterkenny bUt checking on the map, recently , I see Letterkenny is in County Donegal, so I can’t see that being right.! I have been to Donegal but that was around 1978-1980 a very long time ago, and a different story all together.
Bearing in mind, we did not really have the internet or mobile phones then, and all my coursework was saved onto floppy disc! I don’t have much in the way of physical memories of the time. I have a cassette recording of a Galway radio station and a yoga cassette from a Galway yoga teacher, that my friends is about it.
Back in the 90s, we stopped at a friend of Helen’s, my host at the time Her family lived in a lovely old house by a lake where cows roamed freely, and there was a rowing boat, sitting near the edge of the lake. I wanted to get in it and drift away!! It was so peaceful and beautiful. It looked like a Constable painting. One memory, I know to be true is that we visited Kylemore Abbey and I do have an actual 35 mm photograph of that.
History of Kylemore Abbey
It was originally built in the late 1800s as a 70-room private home for MP liberal politician and an mp for county Galway from 1871 to 1885, Mitchell Henry a former doctor from England an MP and a wealthy businessman. He was especially interested in the cause for better health provision for the poor. He provided employment for many of the local Irish. It was then taken over by the Duke and Duchess of Manchester who were famously decadent and gave the place a lavish makeover.
The victorian wall garden
Seeing Pussy Riot and a night out in Galway
Coming back down into Galway after a day in Connemara was somewhat weird. Having to hang about a lot, I wouldn’t have done the day out and the night out if I was at home, but having purchased tickets to this, it would be rude not to go.
First we sampled a few drinks in various bars but this bar is my favourite.
I was intrigued to know what a Pussy Riot performance would be like. I could have seen them in London, but Galway it was. the gig was a performance artist experience and the music /politics was profoundly moving. All the donations from the gig tickets and merchandise went to Ukraine Children’s Hospital.
I’m currently reading the book riot days. by Maria Alyokhina ( A Pussy Riot Activist) and will review it on Good reads once finished.
The review below is written by Guardian Columnist Zoe Williams written from the same tour in November 2022.
UNTIL NEXT TIME KEEP ON KEEPING ON.
AND A WEE TUNE FOR YER
I will leave you with my iPhone video of the lovely Corrib River.
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