In September, I spent two weeks in one of my favorite countries in the world… Ireland!
Usually I never return to places I’ve visited internationally (except Chiang Mai) so I felt very lucky indeed to be back in the Emerald Isle. It is really interesting to go back to place you have already been and have a completely different experience. I was counting on it. Last year my best friend and I embarked on a fast-paced 5-day backpacker bus tour from Dublin to Galway and up to Northern Ireland. We were constantly on the move while overloaded with experiences and surrounded by strangers who became fast friends.
Instead of going somewhere new every day, we set up camp in Salthill, right outside Galway for the first week, doing day-trips here and there. And you know what? It felt so good to stay put and settle into our little condo on the sea. I had my own bedroom, my own bathroom, clean towels, and access to a kitchen and laundry machine. I was spoiled rotten and loved every second of it.
Driving was also fun! I loved driving on the wrong side of the road in our itty-bitty car, aggressively navigating the small streets. Driving in Malaysia on the wrong side of the road has made every other driving experience laughably easy. Don’t drive in Asia. Please, just don’t do it.
Our first day in Ireland was spent setting up rental cars and driving with my sister and her boyfriend to our parent’s hotel in Dublin. After a quick lunch and stroll around Dublin, we left the bustling city to drive cross-country to Galway, my favorite city in Ireland. I was so excited to be back for some more live music and good atmosphere. The first night we were too exhausted to do anything but eat and eat we did at the best seafood place in town!
The next day we bundled up in our scarves and coats and walked to Quay Street Cafe for some lunch before meeting a guide for a Galway walking tour. Thankfully there was no sign of rain which would serve us well for the rest of our trip.
Oh Guiness. I missed you.
Beginning at the Spanish Arch, our guide told us the long and somewhat brutal history of Galway, built as a fortress to protect foreign Normans from local Gaelic peoples. Most of Irish history revolves around invasion and conflict so it was interesting to hear about how the Normans eventually became as Irish as the Irish themselves as the conflict evolved over time. Galway is now a bustling city home to several universities and biotech companies while also home to incredible music and culture. Galway is my favorite city in Ireland!
Even the swans were cold in the chilly air.
We walked down Quay Street, through Galway Market and to St. Nicholas’ Collegiate Church, the largest medieval parish church in Ireland. Our guide showed us evidence of the destruction of Catholic imagery by Cromwell’s soldiers, except for a lone and smug medieval stone angel.
We then walked to Lynch Memorial, which is actually a tourist trap constructed in mid-19th century to represent the legend of Mayor Lynch, who is said to have hung his own son for murdering his adopted son from Spain. So much drama!
After hearing more puns and stories of hidden Galway architecture and local characters, we left our guide to go watch the Hurling Final between Galway and Kilkenny. It was a massive event and the entire city was decked in red and white, cheering on the home team. The square was packed full of people watching the match on a big screen so instead we went to a pub to watch and have a pint. Sadly Galway lost the match, leaving the entire city quiet and dejected. It was sad but I cannot imagine the absolute chaos that legions of drunk celebrators would have caused if they won (don’t tell them I said that).
We walked home to rest before driving back to town for dinner and live music at King’s Head. It was relatively dead on a Sunday night so we went home without hearing much music at all. However I was determined to come back night after night and listen to the incredible traditional Irish music I had been craving for a year.
It felt great to be back! So much to see and only two weeks to do it all. Bring it on.