Galway: Ireland’s left coast

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across the inlet looking back at houses in Galway

It was our big road trip across the island and my first experience being a passenger in the car where the steering wheel is on the right side of the car and everyone drives on the left side of the road. Thank goodness I didn’t have to drive.

Dublin is on the east coast of Ireland, facing the Irish Sea and Great Britain. Galway is on the west coast on an inlet off the Atlantic Ocean. Galway is also the heart of Gaelic Irish, where natives are more likely to speak Gaelic than English as their first language. There’s a lot of wide open country between these two coastal cities, full of grazing cows, sheep, and horses, separated by stone fences. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of thatched-roof stone houses—the ones I’ve seen in calendars of the Irish countryside. But despite the stone fences and walls, nary a thatch roof was to be found, even when we detoured from the M6—which is the main cross-island motorway at that latitude—to a more rural route.

IMG_0569Galway was a delightful mix of very old and new. There are cafes, pubs, and all sorts of eateries; a small craft fair down one alley, where you can buy ceramic egg holders, handmade jewelry, and chocolate; a “Latin quarter”; a section full of colorful little shops with murals, as well as big, modern department stores; smaller churches and quite an impressive cathedral.

The Spanish Arch that we’d read about in the guidebook was much smaller than we’d imagined and right next to some major construction, and therefore a bit disappointing. But there was still a lot to see.

We ate lunch IMG_0576at the Skeff, a charming pub with many rooms that is part of a hotel. I can’t recommend the food, but the décor made it a fun spot to drink a pint of Guinness.

We discovered the cute little hop-on hop-off trolley too late in our visit to take advantage of it, but I enjoyed waving at the driver as it passed us.

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Charlie Byrne’s children’s section

We walked through Eason, a very commercial chain bookstore that had fewer books than toys, snacks, and magazines. Then we found Charlie Byrne’s, a charming multi-room bookshop off the beaten path that had new and used books of all sorts, but particularly featured Irish literature. It also had a darling children’s section, but it had no books by Deborah Underwood, Mac Barnett, or Lemony Snicket, who in my opinion are the best writers for children in America. But they had an entire shelf of books by a local author, so I can respect that.

We ended our time in Galway with a walk along the windy promenade that hugged the long inlet, followed by a stroll along the small scenic canal that brought us close to the cathedral, where I took some photos, but we didn’t go in.

It was a lovely day trip and a nice opportunity to see a different coast of Ireland.

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along the canal
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