Thursday, July 24, 2014

Exploring Galway, Pt. 2

So much has happened to us in the past couple days that I can hardly believe that we left Ireland on Monday. Monday! And today is Wednesday, and we've already been to and left Paris. So much has happened, in fact, that I haven't even had a chance to blog about it, and for that we are both very sorry.

Also, the rest of Europe uses a differently-shaped plug than Ireland and the UK, so we couldn't get power to our computers until recently, so that might have had something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, we didn't get a chance to blog until now, and we're sorry. Here's what we've been up to in Ireland recently.


Before I get into our last weekend in Galway, I just wanted to show everyone some pictures we had floating around that didn't go with a particular story I've told so far. Here's a little bit about what we did in Ireland over the past month that wasn't covered in Exploring Galway Pt. 1.

In the third week of our stay in Galway, we went kayaking with the NUIG Kayak Club. They lent us some boats and some advice and took us kayaking down the canal. There were some structured activities (Sarah and I both participated in a foot race across the top of the floating kayaks, probably the most dangerous thing we did all month, including the several-hundred-foot-drop-to-certain-death moments), but mostly we just paddled around. Not all of us had kayaked before, so some of us struggled to paddle in anything but frustrating circles. It was hard work, but I had a lot of fun.

But Jonah, you're saying, how is that picture related? Well, that's a picture of the canal at night, when the water was high--we came back later to take the picture. Our kayak trip ended with the most fun event of all: after climbing out of the water and over the railing on the right, we hoisted our kayaks up over the same railing, into the street, and onto the railing, we sat carefully in them while two other people held us steady, and then we dropped off the bridge into the canal, kayak and all!

Swans may be the most populous waterfowl on the River Corrib. There are a fair number of ducks, but it seems that for every one or two ducks, there is a family of swans like the ones above. The mothers are hilariously overbearing, fiercely protecting her babies from the most rascally of overhanging branches, and very careful to not let her downy babies go out in water deeper than they can stand in alone. We saw families of swans up and down the River Corrib all month.

We had the privilege of attending a couple screenings at the Galway Film Fleadh (pronounced FLAW, obviously) later in our stay, and one of them was located in this awesome "mobile cinema". It's a movie truck. Inside are three columns of plush red flip-down movie theater seats, and a huge projector screen. It was awesome.

The screening we saw in the movie truck was the "best of" Little Cinema features, with some of the funniest and straight-up weirdest indie short films I have ever seen in my life.


So that takes care of the stragglers in our pictures folder. On to a recounting of our last weekend in Galway.

It was a sad weekend, because we knew we were going to miss Galway so terribly--the strange enchantment it had placed on us when we first saw it had never faded, and each time we rounded the corner of Eglinton Street and saw the little shops of William Street tucked away, or saw the swans on the canal, or sat down by the bay, we felt that same thrill. I swear, there is something about the land there that just catches hold of you and never lets go.

So we made the most of it. And we think our last day in Galway was the best day we'd had yet.

The last view of our dorm building in Corrib Village on the NUIG campus. Ah, the memories. The smell. The crawling through the first floor windows headfirst because you forgot your key.

The last view of the Quadrangle building under a beautiful sky. We took these pictures as we were walking from the NUIG Campus to Bethany BnB on Saturday morning. It was a forty-minute walk, even though the BnB is right on the other side of the city center, just because the NUIG campus is so huge. It was a beautiful walk.

Our cute little room at Bethany BnB. We were at the back of the house, overlooking the garden and the rest of the sleepy little neighborhood. Unlike Tony's flat in London, this was a fully-functioning BnB--there were five or six other guests there with us, but we were able to enjoy Galway in relative peace and quiet while we were there.

Bethany BnB is a house in a beautiful little neighborhood just a five-minute walk from Eyre Square, in the center of Galway--but you'd never know it. It is quiet back here, and serene. Tall trees line the sidewalks, and long, grassy parks are across every street. A lot of people were staying here. At breakfast on Sunday, I met a woman who worked for a certain animation studio that is working on a certain sequel to a certain superhero movie featuring a certain ninety-year-old soldier, a certain ex-Russian-spy, a certain billionaire-genius-playboy-philanthropist in a certain nickel-titanium alloy suit that is not actually iron, a certain boring sharpshooter, a certain God of Thunder, and a certain green rage machine, that will feature a certain omnipotent robot lovechild of several of the above characters... and she told me some interesting things that I'm not allowed to tell you.

After this great and secret conversation, we (Sarah and I, not me and this anonymous hero) headed out to Galway to spend our last day in Ireland together.

Abandoned boats down by the river after lunch. Here, the river widens and slows as it meets the bay. We ambled on down here after visiting a truly magical bookstore tucked away in a little side passage off of Shop Street.

Who do they belong to? Why don't they move them? We don't know. I think they just look nice.

This is the sort of picture you would see on a postcard of Galway: the last row of houses in Galway from across the river in what used to be Claddagh, the bay stretching out to the right and the city to the left.

And here is the view further upriver, looking down toward that row of houses on the same side of the river. The Galway Museum is tucked back in there, as is the Spanish Arch, a 500-year-old arch that still stands, part of Galway's original fortifications.

We walked on down to the water and sat on the stone walls that jut out into the river and provide docking places for boats.

We sat there for over two hours and just read and talked in the sunshine.

We took our time down by the water, reading our new (but old) books, then wandered up the river to where the canal empties into it all along the north bank. We were eventually trying to get over to a
print shop in order to print our boarding passes, but we were taking our time.

The doors in the little back streets of Salt Hill are strangely small.

Another shot of the view without my ugly face and Sarah's beautiful face in the way. Galway is truly charming.

Hidden deep in Galway, beyond hill and dale and across several cute little bridges over the canals and river... lies a place beyond compare: DUNGEONS AND DONUTS. Part hobby gaming store, part donut shop, they have tons of miniature war-gaming figures, paints, and arenas, stacks on stacks of gaming dice in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and rows of doughnuts like these ones, all gooey and obscenely frosted and with absurd names. My favorite was "The One Ring", the little gold-and-chocolate frosted one below. The only way to destroy it is to consume it... before it consumes YOU.

There are always great street performances in Galway, especially down William Street and Shop Street (as well as some duds, but there is usually a bell curve of performance quality), but we found this guy in Eyre Square, in downtown Galway (to the extent that Galway has a downtown. Downtown Galway is like the driveway of the family on the culdesac that lets every other family's kids use their basketball hoop). Mark Cronin uses paints and big plastic mats to make 3-d street art that he can roll up and take away when the police ask him, for hassle-free aesthetics anytime and anywhere.

We were lucky enough to be visiting Galway during the International Arts Festival, which takes up a few weeks of the summer, every summer. The Galway Film Fleadh (meaning "festival"--can't remember if I mentioned that before) is part of the Festival, but so are dozens of other concerts, markets, performances, and other artsy events. There were a lot of people around for the festival, clogging up the streets and making us introverts feel a little hemmed in... we escaped to the Crane Bar. It's a traditional bar in Salthill, across the river from Galway proper, that hosts exclusively two types of people: old crusty Galwegians jabbering to each other in a frenzied mix of Irish and English, and tourists, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, often dressed inappropriately in one way or another, whispering at the top of their lungs: "DID YOU HEAR THAT MARTHA HE'S GOOD HE'S VERY GOOD THE WAY HE PLAYS THAT THING THAT UM THING THE BLOWY THING NO HIM WITH THE TEETH AND THE THING IN HIS LAP".

We tried very, very hard, to be neither.

We sat down near the back and had a nice tall pint with John Joseph Hanratty, father of Diane Perry and grandfather of Sarah Perry, a man who wanted all his life to return home to Ireland and never got the chance. When we finished our pints, we made sure he was settled in there, and left for a while. We'll be back someday to visit him, but for now he can sit and rest and listen to the music. We think he'd like that.

The morning of Monday the 21st. It was a soft morning.

Goodbye, Ireland. We'll miss you very much, but we'll see you again soon.


And so the great European adventure began.

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