Saturday, April 9, 2016

Diary of a World Traveler

Galway Day 7: "I FOUND IT!"

We have sunshine! We have adventure! We have a market! And we have the ocean! So many things were crossed off our Galway list today, and I am very glad that we had some good weather to help us do that. I had some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, too, so that is always a happy day. Galway just keeps getting better and better!

I slept in a lot this morningI set my alarm for 8 instead of 7, just because we went to a pub last night and I was up until around 1AM getting ready for bed. I had a nice relaxing morning with some Call the Midwife and then got ready. We wanted to go to the weekly Galway Market, which happens every Saturday and Sunday. Galwegians have been buying and selling goods in the exact bit of Church Lane for centuries, so I wanted not only to see all of the amazing artwork, food, and crafts for sale, but also experience a bit of local history. But before that, we decided to take advantage of the sunshine to head out to the cemetery across from our hotel.

Forthill Cemetery is right across the street from our hotel—in fact, some of the rooms facing the opposite direction can see inside the high walls. There are many historical graves there, and it overlooks the docks area of Galway. This cemetery holds a lot of local history as well. The British army used the site to execute the 300+ soldiers that landed there during the Spanish Armada in 1588. The Galwegians, in turn, decided to bury them all there, ensuring a proper passage on. It is also, in general, known as the oldest cemetery in Galway and where “true Galwegians” are buried. This was evident from the many family graves and even more old headstones. The cemetery itself was started in 1500, so some of the graves have been lost over time, but there are still many surviving from long ago. The oldest ones I saw dated back to the early 1800s. There were also a few flower bed family graves, which I thought were a lovely idea. The spring tulips and daffodils were just starting to bloom in the warm sun and wet ground. I thanked the inhabitants for their time and for letting me stay with them for awhile, then we headed out toward the ocean.

Though we could see the roof of our hotel from the pier where we ended up, the trip there requires a roundabout walk. The River Corrib mouth stands in between the hotel and the bay, so we had to walk over to the closest bridge and circle back around to the end of Nimmo’s Pier. On the way, I took some pictures of the Spanish Arch, since I hadn’t gotten any yet and it was bright and sunny. Galway has always been a port town, and there were once many arched stalls lined up for each country of origin to buy and sell goods from. This arch is the last surviving trading arch of the old docks, and it happens to be the Spanish one. We stopped briefly and then continued on. I was glad for the walk, because it was a beautiful day and I had not seen the sunshine for some time. On the way to the ocean, we crossed through the small harbors where boats sleep, swans eat, and people sit to enjoy the view of the River’s estuary. We kept walking all the way down to the end of Nimmo’s Pier, which juts strait out into Galway Bay. The mountains of Kinvarra and Doolin loom in the distance, their snow-covered tips blending in with the low hanging clouds.

The sea breeze kicked in about halfway to the end of the pier, which I was very happy about. Salt air is one of my absolute favorite smells—it is comforting and nostalgic and means nature is close. It drowns out the petrol smells, the garbage smells, anything from the city that reminds me I am removed from the landscape. That is why I love Galway so much—it is a port town, which means the city is an eclectic mix of anything I could ever hope for, but the parks and the ocean are right there to bring me back when I need it. Once we had taken some time to sit at the edge of the pier and look out into the bay, we walked over into South Park, where there is a coastal walking path and also a bridge out to Mutton Island. Many people were taking advantage of the beautiful morning to run, walk their dogs, or take their children out to play. We did not go all the way out to the lighthouse on the island today, since it looked like it would rain and we still needed to get lunch at the market. But we plan on doing that before we leave! It really was a lovely place to unwind after a long week.

We briskly made our way back to town, where we stopped at the market to get lunch. There were many produce shops as well as flower vendors, but I had my mind set on falafel from the moment I knew they would be there. The shop itself is called the Gourmet Offensive, but they have a market trailer operation as well as a standalone shop in the city centre. Let me just say that I was not expecting too much—I have had my fair share of falafel, as well as street food. But this. This was different.

I ordered The Workx, which came with three falafel in a pita with all three types of topping salads, generous amounts of hummus and tzatziki sauce, greens on the bottom, and the optional addition of pickles, peppers, olives, and any of the three homemade sauces. I opted for green olives and the slightly spicy coriander sauce, which was delicious in itself. But the salads and the falafel were some of the best food I have ever eaten. The falafel was not hard or over-fried, the center was warm and crumbly but not dry, and the flavor was just right. The salads were also absolutely amazing. I don't typically like coleslaw, but their dry spiced version hit the spot when combined with the sauce and falafel. My favorite salad was some sort of gran salad with a sweeter sauce and ingredients. I have no idea what it was or what was in it, but I am on board for eating more of it. I might have to go back to their shop before we leave Galway... it was good enough to warrant a repeat visit. I am in love, and my tummy was definitely happy, too. 

We headed back to the hotel for a pit stop and to get some stuff done while it rained for a bit, and then I went back out on my own to do some shopping. Galway is the first place that I feel completely comfortable going around on my own—the streets are clear, the drivers aren’t crazy, and the people and atmosphere are welcoming and safe. Plus, it was a busy, busy day in Shop Street, so there were enough people there to cover me if anything were to have happened. But I was absolutely fine the entire time, and I walked in the sunshine almost all the way around the city centre. There were so many busking bands out, playing Latin music and traditional music and just plain old happy music. They helped me walk with purpose down the streets. I made a quick stop at Tempo Antiques to pick up a 1903 teacup and saucer, then popped into Thomas Dillon’s jewelry store to finally get my silver claddagh ring. I put it on right away and fell in love instantly. I am so happy that I decided to get one, even if it is silver. I will wear it while I’m here and when I’m home, and use it to remember my amazing time here and the city I fell in love with just as much as the ring. 

Those two stops finished, I swung back around quickly through the market again. We had to leave earlier because of the oncoming rain, so I took advantage of the better weather and smaller crowds to scope out more of the stalls. I got a cinnamon and sugar crepe with roasted almonds that was amazing, as well as a small punnet of fresh strawberries from one of the produce vendors. I munched on the crepes on the way back to the hotel and then had the fruit once I got there. I am definitely going to need to buy some more of those fresh fruits and veggies just to have around the room, because they were seriously delicious. And they are definitely a healthier option than biscuits!

I fit in a full workout before dinner, which was amazing again tonight. I opted for a delicious vegetable curry and mushroom soup, with vanilla ice cream and an éclair for dessert. My stomach was happy once again! It has been a good day for food, that’s for sure.

Now, we are going to take the night off and get some sleep before tomorrow. We might go back to the park, or go to the market again, or go to some more of the restaurants and shops on our list. Hopefully the weather will hold up for us, even if it is cloudy. I’m really looking forward to walking further from the city centre and exploring the seaside and Mutton Island, or maybe even going to the museum! Until then, though, I’ll be content just continuing to explore the infinite shops downtown and listening to the buskers who line the streets and make even walking an art form.

photo credit Diana Cleveland

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