fresh eire

This past weekend, I returned to one of my favorite countries: Ireland! In 2006, it was my first trip out of the states with some of my best high school friends and a fabulous World Experience teacher and I’ve loved it ever since. Also, I am one of the millions of people that claim Irish heritage (my family came to Illinois in the 1850’s), so that makes it extra special. Finally, two years ago, I met a special someone there.

Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin, separating the north and south sides of the city

The boy and I flew into Dublin early Saturday morning – we woke up at 3am – and made our way to the apartment near the Guinness Storehouse where we were staying. That whole area of the city smells like Guinness! We decided to take a free walking tour of the city to refresh our memory.  It was lead by a New Yorker who was studying at Trinity College and it was a great way to learn a bit more about some of my favorite places and see some new ones too. After all of that walking and lack of sleeping, we indulged in a nap and then went back near St. Stephen’s Green for dinner that night. Michel had spotted a TGI Friday’s and couldn’t resist. He developed his TGIF’s burger addiction in NYC and was totally excited that there was a restaurant in Dublin. Yes, we ate American food in Ireland, but don’t worry. We made up for it!

Christchurch, a new sight that I discovered on the tour. It was once a brothel in the viking days, and was rennovated into a church later on by a rich man who made his money from beer.
Before the tour

Before our train to Galway the next afternoon, we wandered around through town, eating a yummy Irish breakfast (egg, roasted tomato, sausage, black & white pudding, beans, and bacon), browsing through old markets and music stores, and stopping for coffee. We hopped on the very classy Irish train (free wifi and decently priced snacks!) and just under 3 hours later we had crossed the country and were in Galway.

Traditional Irish breakfast

We made it easily through the city, to our B&B, back to the city, and to a pub before the extreme downpour occurred. Seated outside, we watched people all over Eyre Square scramble for shelter, several of them deciding to join us on the covered terrace in front of the pub. We took our time enjoying our nice warm bowls of Irish stew and crisp, cool pints of Guinness, waiting for the rain to subside.

After that, we went in search of some good live music. It’s not hard to find live music – just follow your ears! – but it is a little more difficult to find a non-crowded pub on a Sunday night. We started our self-created pub crawl at a packed little pub with no live music going on yet, talked with some Germans, stood around waiting for the show to begin, and left when it did. The singer was great, but we couldn’t see anything so we continued onwards. Next up we found some interesting music and a new beer. The pub was crowded again, but the music was cool (violin, Irish drum, guitar), and we discovered a yummy beer called Galway Hooker. We stood in for a few songs and enjoyed a pint or two before wandering down the street to our final destination which I loved. The crowd was just right, the musicians were talented and entertaining, there was dancing, and of course there was beer. It was perfect to be able to see lots of different variations of Irish music, taste lots of different Irish beers, and enjoy it all with my guy.

Somehow, we woke up early the next day and made the most of it. We rented bikes from Europa Bicycles and headed towards the coast. The rain followed us. It was pouring! Once we reached the water, I couldn’t take it anymore (and neither could my water “resistant” 10€ neon blue poncho that I bought from Penny’s) so Michel and I pulled over near a casino, and five minutes later the rain had stopped. For the rest of our 25km+ ride we had gorgeous weather, and we made the most of it. We stopped several times during the first half to take in the views, having a fresh seafood lunch on the way and a coffee outside at our turn-around point. We came across people swimming in the freezing cold water, cows in gardens right next to the road, and even some other American cyclists.

Biking along the coast
Stopping along the beach during our ride

We spent the rest of the day exploring the city center, enjoying some live music, and walking around the bay area. The music was fantastic and so casual. A group of under 10 people were sitting around a table, playing music together. Some played the whole time, others joined in when they could, and everyone had an amazing time. You could really tell that they loved to learn and play the music so Michel and I savored our pints as we listened for a good while.

Musicians in a Galway pub

Our final day in Ireland was spent in both cities. We spent the morning in Galway, shopping in the music shops, indulging in cupcakes, and spending some time near the bay again. After we took the train to Dublin, we made it to our apartment and went out to dinner (Friday’s again: the boy is obsessed!), had a pint at a silly tourist place in Temple Bar (disco lights with an Irish music concert going on where the musicians mention their CD for sale in between every song), and called it a night.

I could write on and on about this country. It really is special to me and I am very happy to have revisited some of my favorite and new places. Each time I go, the people I am with change but the country feels the same. The people are friendly and passionate, the grass is ever so green, and the sheep are numerous. I can only hope to return someday soon…

Not time nor tide nor water wide can wean my heart away
Forever true it flies to you my own dear Galway Bay

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