Tag Archives: Guinness

Ireland, The City of Galway

Galway Ireland

I confess that I was surprised to be able to sit at a table on the pavement because I had prepared myself for cool temperatures and lots of rain because the west of Ireland is one of the wettest places in Europe with some parts getting some precipitation for two hundred and twenty-five days a year.  Thankfully there was no sign of any unwelcome wet weather today.

After Guinness and sandwiches we left the busy pub and made our way into the centre of the city passing first through a street of brightly coloured buildings, yellow, green, red, vibrant, vivid and loud, the sort of thing that would have town planners in England descending into a frenzy of planning permission refusals.

Galway is the fourth largest city in Ireland and the streets were so busy I couldn’t help wondering why no one was at work.  There were a lot of tourists but also a great many local people spilling out of the pubs and restaurants onto the pavement all the way down the main street and down to the banks of the River Corrib which was flowing briskly towards the Atlantic Ocean.  Perhaps it was on account of the weather because a man in a bar told me that they were in the middle of a ‘heat wave’, ‘hotter even than Spain’ he proudly informed me.

At the bottom of the street we came to the Latin Quarter, so named because a very long time ago Galway carried out a lot of trade with Spain and Portugal (some of the ships of the Spanish Armada were shipwrecked along this coast in 1588) and then to the Spanish Arch, one of the few remaining sections of the old medieval town wall which by a twist of fate was severely damaged by a tsunami caused by the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

Galway Ireland postcard

There were some nice gardens along the elevated bank of the river and as we strolled along we spoke to several fishermen who were casting lines into the water in the hope of catching a salmon which were making their way inland towards their spawning grounds in Lough Corrib just north of the city.  We walked past the abandoned and rotting salmon traps that haven’t been used for several years now and to the section of the river below the salmon weir where several fishermen were struggling to keep their balance against the flow of the water as they continuously and optimistically cast their lines and lures.  Behind them stood a solitary heron and he was a lot more successful in catching fish let me tell you.

Richard was keen to see a salmon jump the weir but after several minutes watching and waiting we had to concede defeat and move on.  As we did so Kim and Pauline both shouted out ‘there, there, did you see it? did you see it?’  We were taken in by this for a moment or two but then the tale became wilder than the salmon as they embellished the story with a four foot leap in the air.  I was annoyed by this because generally speaking I like to be the one that does the kidding and the teasing so on the walk back I decided that I would have to come up with something to get my own back (more on this in a later post).

Northern Ireland Blue Flag

By now it was a glorious afternoon and the temperature was continuing to rise (‘hotter even than Spain’) as we walked back through the main streets where there were street entertainers every few yards, some playing traditional instruments, some improvising on spoons and bits of wood and metal and others standing around as statues.  I make it a rule not to give money to beggars who just sit around looking sorry for themselves with a big scruffy dog but I don’t mind throwing loose change in the collection box of someone who is working for a living so by the time we had walked the entire length of the street my pockets were empty of coins.

Kim and Pauline went shopping now but Richard and I declined the opportunity to accompany them and instead went to get our train tickets for tomorrow’s journey to Dublin and to find an off-licence for some wine and gin which we sampled back at the hotel while we waited for the shoppers to return.

In the evening we returned to the main street which despite the fact that the shops were closed were even busier now with people ambling through the streets, music on every corner and the pubs and restaurants doing brisk business.  A restaurant that had caught our eye earlier was fully booked so we asked them for a recommendation and made a reservation for the following night and then found the alternative eating place and enjoyed a fine meal and a glass or two of red wine.

I wasn’t absolutely certain exactly what I was expecting of Ireland and the city of Galway but as we walked back to the hotel after a long day I knew for sure that I liked it!

Galway Street Entertainment

Ireland, Preparation and Statistics

Ireland Map

There is a pub quiz question that comes up regularly and which I always get wrong, which is ‘what is the nearest country to the United Kingdom’ and the answer of course is Southern Ireland or Eire but I always forget about the border with Northern Ireland and blurt out ‘France, it must be France’.  Not surprising then that until now I have never visited the country.

Later this year of course, if the Scottish Nationalists get their way, then there will be two correct answers to the question which is likely to cause a lot of bar-room arguments!

2014 has been a big year for me as I reached the birthday milestone of sixty years and I was planning something special to celebrate the occasion and then some friends asked if we would like to visit Ireland with them and that seemed special enough so we set about making travel plans.

I suppose I have always been a bit hesitant about travelling in the British Isles because being English I have always been rather conscious that we are not going to win many popularity contests with our nearest neighbours.

A lot of Scottish people seem to hate us and the Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond and his dreadful deputy, the Anglophobe, Nicola Sturgeon, desperately want a vote in favour of independence. Until quite recently the Welsh used to burn down our holiday homes and the last time I went there I got a speeding ticket which I am convinced was issued only on the basis that I had an English registered car.  So I was a little concerned about visiting a country who apparently regard the English responsible for all their recent disasters from the Irish Famine to the failure to qualify for the Football World Cup!

Ballyvaughan Ireland

In preparation for travel I carried out my usual research and used my favourite benchmarks to try and understand the country that I was visiting. Most impressive is that Ireland is placed seventh in the Human Development Index which means that it is the top ten of the most highly developed countries in the World and before the recent economic crisis it used to be in the top five!  The Index ranks countries by level of ‘human development’ and the statistic is composed from data on life expectancy, education and per-capita gross national income.

The economic crisis has had a negative effect on Ireland’s position in the European Happiness Index however and it is rated at only fourteenth out of thirty which is a very long way behind the United Kingdom but I was interested to see that in a recent poll in the Irish Times that Galway was voted the happiest place to be in Ireland and I was glad about that because that was where we were planning to go first.

Ireland Ennistymon Bright Colours

Ireland has only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites which, lets be honest, is a rather poor performance and I would suggest that someone in Dublin needs to start travelling around and making some applications – Australia has got nineteen for goodness sake!  The country also needs to do something about its Blue Flag Beaches because it now only has seventy when a few years ago it had one hundred and forty-two!

But some statistics continue to be impressive and Ireland remains the most successful nation in the Eurovision Song Contest, which with seven wins is higher than all other competitors so who really cares about the economic crisis anyway?

We flew to Shannon Airport early one Thursday morning and after arrival set about finding the car rental office.  Being a skinflint I had arranged a vehicle through ‘Budget Rent a Car’ and that should have been a warning in itself.  The cost of insurance doubled the original quote and then I was alarmed to find that we had been charged for a full tank of diesel at way above sensible pump prices but to be fair they did promise to refund the charge if we brought it back full but at this stage I have to say that I was not especially hopeful.

We left the airport on the very edge of the river Shannon (the longest river in Ireland and the British Isles) past the peat bogs of the estuary shoreline and headed north to Galway and then the first warning light came on.  It was the engine heater plug warning light so this did not concern me greatly and we carried on but then more lights started to appear until the dashboard resembled a Christmas tree in New York Times Square or Saturday night on the Las Vegas strip.

We carried on because these seemed only to be linked to the instruction to get the thing serviced and I decided to call the hire company later after we had parked up and checked in to our hotel.  And then the Engine Management warning light came on and I thought this might be serious but I didn’t want to spoil the day so on the basis that ignorance is bliss I placed a fold up map over the dashboard display so I couldn’t see it and just carried on while I mentally calculated how much I might be charged for a new engine if it blew up.

So we found the hotel and I was interested to check out this whole Irish happiness/friendliness thing and sure enough the desk clerk was happy and friendly but I remained sceptical and thought, ‘well, of course she is, it is her job’ and then we went into the city centre.  It was lunchtime so we found a pub and I went to the bar and ordered some beer and a man immediately started to talk to me and he was happy and he was friendly and as we enjoyed our first pint of Guinness in the sunshine I instinctively knew that Ireland was a special place to be.

Ireland Guiness