Galway for the Craic
Cheers to Galway: A town that stole my heart and buried it beneath the Irish soil
A two hour, ten euro bus ride from Ireland’s capital city lies a town that’s name typically rings a familiar bell. Galway. Away from the fast-paced city of Dublin where skyscrapers line the streets is a town that stole my heart and buried it beneath the Irish soil. Armed with my two best friends and a love for Guinness, I set out for Galway with the encouraging last words from my server earlier that day at the Temple Bar in Dublin: “Yes, go to Galway. Get out of Dublin. You’ll have fun there, I promise.”
I doubt she has ever spoken truer words. I remember the first night we spent wandering down the street as local musicians sat outside in the cold, strumming a familiar song with their empty guitar case hoping for a euro or two. We had a late start on the night since our bus arrived to Galway later, so as the three of us clambered into a welcoming pub called Taafes it was already packed. We slipped through the crowd of young and old, Irish and not Irish, until we reached the end of the bar and the beginning of our night. Before us, propped up on a wooden stage that was more of just a slight step, were three musicians that could play their instruments so well and with such fierce passion I was blown away. As traditional Irish songs filled the pub, a drunk Irish man sauntered up grabbing one of my friends hands pulling her into the middle of the dance floor to teach her how to step dance. Little did he know that Gabby had been trained in Irish step dancing for thirteen years so as soon he carefully showed her where to place her foot in a very simple yet sloppy way, she was up in the air and out of his shadow as she traipsed around the floor to the beautiful combination of violin, guitar, and accordion along with a large amount of cheers from the entirety of bar patrons.
Every night that we went out, which to be honest was every night we stayed in Galway, we gained at least five new friends. From local Irish college students to a few French on holiday to a Canadian completing his masters at the university, making friends was as simple as stepping outside. The pure kindness and friendliness of the Irish people just seemed to rub off on anyone that happened to be standing on Irish soil. There was never a lonely moment in Galway. It is impossible to be sad in a place where every single person is your best friend, you just have not met them yet. And the stories! The Irish never run out of stories. They are just filled to the brim with something to say so a conversation never becomes awkward.
But be warned, when they start talking about craic they are not suggesting to go do drugs down the street. Craic means to go for a bit of fun as in, “We’ll have a bit of craic down at The Front Door!” This confusion caused a bit of an embarrassing mix up between us American girls and our five new Irish friends when I whispered to them, “Uh, excuse me sir but we don’t do cocaine.”
Galway has some of the best opportunities to see some amazing parts of Ireland as well. There is a little bike shop in the city where we rented bikes for the day and took off through the Irish countryside in search of an abandoned castle someone had mentioned briefly in passing. We pedaled up hills and off the sides of winding roads until we were far away from the small city and surrounded by cottages and rolling, emerald hills. We discovered secret paths, lovely scenery, and not one abandoned castle but the trip through this area of Ireland we had not yet experienced was so breathtaking and incredible I almost forgot we were looking for a castle.
And of course, we saw the Cliffs of Moher. The hostel we stayed at offered us a great deal on a tour there. Now I know what you’re thinking, organized tours are so not the way to go. However, being that the Cliffs of Moher are about a two hour drive away and along the route there are tons of castles, churches, and other interesting sights to see, it really was more reasonable to sign up for a tour. Especially since the Irish are hilarious and I think the majority of the bus ride I was cracking up to every story our tour guide decided to tell. For each site, he gave us the background on the way there and then dropped us off to explore on our own. We even got to grab a bite to eat in the tiny town of Doolin before he let us roam the cliffs for two hours. Yes, two hours at the cliffs. It may seem like more than enough time but honestly, it will go by so quick because you will be so wrapped up in the stunning beauty of Ireland.
It seemed to be that way with Galway, as well. It felt like we had endless amounts of time when we first stepped off the bus. Four whole days in a small Irish town… but then those four days zipped right by and we were trudging our way back to the bus station, our hearts heavy with the idea of leaving such a magical place .
I am already planning on visiting again. The first reason being that I never got the chance to jump off the salthill diving board into Galway Bay or see the Aran Islands. The second reason being that I became so incredibly attached to this place that I almost felt at home while being miles and miles away from my actual home. It was in the moments sitting in the pubs sipping on ciders and listening to Irish songs fill every corner of the room. It was in the moments walking down paths with confused expressions on our faces about where exactly we were supposed to turn and always having someone shouting across the street, “Hey, do ye need help?!” It was in the moments when I just stopped and stared at miles upon miles of gorgeous, green fields that seemed to change my mind about how I even defined the color. These moments of such simple happiness are what made me fall in love with this part of Ireland. Galway will forever be home to the friendliest people with the most breathtaking scenery and some of my absolute favorite memories.