Galway, Ireland

May 21st and 22nd 2010

I went to the Bus Eiranne station and looked at the departure boards. Where did I want to go? The man working at the Belfast train station told me I should visit Newcastle if I liked mountains. I was set on going until the very last minute when my spontaneity kicked in. Some of you may or may not know this but I have a habit of changing my mind at the very very last minute. I could open a menu, tell you I’m getting a particular dish, and when the waiter is taking my order, I pick something else I wasn’t really thinking of getting. Gut feeling selection. It’s more exciting when I don’t think about something too much and just go with whatever feels right.

Galway is all the way west of Ireland. Belfast is all the way east. It was a 6.5 hour bus ride. I had about 2 hours to kill before my ride so I went to the local grocery store, picked a maple pastry and Tim Horton coffee, sat on the steps of a building and just people-watched. Everyone was starting their day, school/work… I enjoy people-watching. I move around a lot when I backpack, so sometimes it’s nice to just be still and observe.

I walk back to the bus station and wait. Some girl comes by later and is also waiting. I strike up a conversation with her and turns out she’s heading to Galway (and Cork later as well, which was my plan too). She’s from Sydney, Australia. Kiera seemed friendly enough so I asked her later if she wanted to travel in a group.

Anyway, off to Galway, what a long ride but what a long beautiful joyous ride. Taking a bus gives me a chance to enjoy the countryside and small towns I otherwise wouldn’t have seen. Lush green open lands filled with sheep, cows, horses…and some were laying flat in the middle of the open, sleeping. I have never seen animals sleep like that in the open. Just laying there, sunbathing, looking dead but really just sleeping.

Once in Galway, Kiera and I decided to stay at Kinley Hostel. The place has a great feel to it. It felt cosy, warm, friendly, homely. I loved it. We left our bags in luggage storage, went to wander the streets. It was a small town connected to the ocean via a river than ran through it. The place was bustling with people, both locals and backpackers alike. Plenty of pubs, eateries, gift stores. You could tell lots of tourists make their way here. But despite all this, it didn’t feel too touristy, it felt warm and friendly. Kiera and I ate at Fat Freddy’s, got some great pizza and salad. It was either FF or MacDonough’s, a fried seafood joint. We were by the coast, seafood would be great but nah, I’ve had fish ‘n chips already.

We went back to the hostel to check into our rooms. Upon walking into the room, I see a petite girl sitting in the corner of the room, looking shy and lost. I know that feeling and I’ve always wanted people to just come up to me and be friendly. I decided I was going to do that. I had a small group of two going, why not more?

Turns out her name was Sandie, she’s French-Canadian from Montreal. Her English wasn’t great but she said her mission during backpacking was to come out of her shy-shell as well as practice her English. She had the cutest mannerisms and French accents are always awesome. She was going for the Cliffs of Moher tour tomorrow as well so I invited her to join my little group. She looked relieved and happy to have made some friends so easily. Later, a French guy named Armand came around and asked us if we wanted to go pub crawling. Me and Sandie decided to join in. We met Sebastian and Michelle as well.

Sebastian was a 19-year old German whose accent was very thick on top of his decent but not too easily understood English. He was in Europe for a few weeks and was heading back to Germany in a few days. Michelle was a pretty Swiss girl. She was also 19 and was in Europe in a soul-finding mission. She left a job in a bank and wanted to discover what she wanted to do with her life. I understood how she felt so it was easy for me to emphatize. She was going to travel for while.

We all headed out to a pub called “The Quay”. It was packed. Michelle got a cider and let me taste it. I decided it was too sweet for me and wanted a beer. So I looked at what was on tap…decided to pick the one that said “Bulmer’s Irish”. Guess what? THAT WAS THE CIDER I DIDN’T WANT. Awww hell, I paid €4.50 for it and had to finish it. Anyway, had a good laugh about it with everyone.

Next day, we went to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a well known location for one of the most amazing views in Ireland. I had missed out on the Giant’s Causeway while in Northern Ireland so I was hoping this tour would make me feel better. That morning, I saw an Asian girl eating breakfast by herself. Again, I hated having to see a solo traveller so I invited her to be in our group.

Sae Young came on the tour with us. She was a Korean citizen but she grew up travelling with her father who worked all over the world. She even lived in Kenya for 2 years. Her English was very good, unlike most Korean natives I’ve met. Turns out she was born in Chicago and lived there for a few years growing up. She was pretty cool to talk to. She has backpacked before and wasn’t too fazed by the experience. I have a lot of respect for girls (anyone for that matter) who have the guts to travel solo (Kiera and Sandie included).

We stopped for a walking tour of the Burrens before. It was a rocky countryside mountain and we hiked up it. Ireland’s landscape has its history and it was cool to be able to enjoy the vast countryside instead of just sitting on the bus. We ended that tour with the tour guide’s grandma’s homemade apple pie with homemade cream. My God it was so good.

The Cliffs of Moher was amazing. Nuff said. The view blew me away. We walked past the warning sign that basically said “If you fall, it’s your fault”. I got the edge of the cliffs where there were no barriers for tourists. If you fell, you were dead. But the views…I wish I could fly. Nothing but miles of beautiful countryside and the vast Atlantic Ocean in front of me…all the way to the Aran Islands in the distance.

We headed back to Galway but stopped by for lunch in a little town called Doolin. We sat outside under the beautiful weather, and there was a golden retriever mix walking around looking for food from random people. He had a Manchester United collar on so he was immediately my good buddy. He was even lucky enough to get 3 huge pieces of pork ham the Italian lady beside us didn’t finish. He was a happy country dog. It made me think of American dogs, cooped up in homes and leashes when this fella was lucky enough to have the beautiful Irish countryside to roam freely.

Got back to Galway. We had a big soccer game to watch at the local pub that night (Inter vs Bayern, CL final). But first, Sandie and I split some hostel-made pasta (being dubbed the Pasta King at home by my family, I cooked, she washed up). Kiera’s idea of adding veggies to pasta is killer, I am going to do that from now on, not just meat.

Went to watch the game at King’s Head with Sebastian, Sandie, and Michelle. Sae Young had left for Dublin earlier and Kiera was still sorting some banking issues so they didn’t join us. We met Jessica and Jasmine on the way, who were Sebastian/Michelle’s roommates. They were both American. They joined us for the soccer game and we had a blast watching it with the crowds. Everyone seemed to be going for Bayern but me. Inter won 2-0 haha. And I didn’t order a Bulmer’s this time. Good end to a good day.

Leaving for Galway wasn’t easy because I had to say more goodbyes. I hate meeting these cool people because I know we’ll probably never see each other again. We were friends in this particular place for this particular time and we would always have that I guess.