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.
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).
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!