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marianne Galway - A travel report by Marianne
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Galway,  Ireland - flag Ireland -  Galway
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marianne's travel reports

Galway, Gateway to Connemara (west Ireland)

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Galway is the epitome of the perfect city; winding streets, pittoresque façades, busy pubs, old shops, ocean views and numerous swans floating on the water.

Swans near the Spanish Gate
Swans near the Spanish Gate
Flocks of wild swans drift along the quay near the Spanish Arch. These denizens of lake, river and bay feature in many Irish poems and legendary stories. In The Children of Lir the children were changed into swans which upset people so much that a law was proclaimed against the killing of swans. This may be the reason why there are so many swans in Galway.

Galway is a small city with a population of some 70,000, yet it ranks fourth in size after Dublin, Cork and Limerick. The river Corrib, which connects Lough Corrib with the ocean splits the city into two. The centre is on the east bank whereas the cathedral and the university are on the west bank.

Gaillimh is the Irish name for Galway. Irish or Gaelic is spoken in the Gaeltacht, areas of Ireland where Irish is the vernacular language. It is not one large area but rather pockets. A roadsign saying Gaeltacht indicates when you enter one of these pockets. Place names in this area are given in Irish only. Usually this is not much of a problem because the English name can often be figured out.

These are easy ones;
Leitir Móir is Lettermore
An Spidéal is Spiddle

Others are more difficult;
Rós an Mhil is Rossaveel
Cloch no Rón is Roundstone
An Teach Dóite is Maam Cross

We used a bilingual map; Ordnance Survey, West Ireland ISBN 1-903974-81-X

Irish is a Celtic language closely related to Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Manx and Cornish. Manx (Isle of Man) and Cornish (Cornwall) are extinct. Irish is still spoken in Waterford, west Cork, west Kerry, Connemara, Mayo and Donegal.

When travelling in these parts of Ireland you need not know any Irish at all as all Gaelic speakers are bilingual. However it is quite practical to know two words;
mná and fir, meaning ladies and men.

Favourite spots:
River Corribe an Galway Cathedral
River Corribe an Galway Cathedral
Galway is a compact city, it is impossible to get lost and all sights can be seen in one day. Still, it is worth staying longer as it is such a charming city and a perfect starting point for daytrips to Connemara.

The bus and train station are together in one building. The Tourist information is in Foster Street, 2 mins from the station. Walk down Station Street and turn right into Foster Street.

They can book accommodation for you but charge €4 booking fee. This is worthwhile in July and August but otherwise just head for Father Griffin Road, south of Wolfe Tone Bridge. This street is full of B&B's. The ones approved by Board Fáilte (Tourist Board) show a sign with a shamrock. The Tourist Office also has a map with a city walk showing all the sights.

What's really great:
Eyre Square
Eyre Square
Eyre Square with Kennedy Park in the middle is an animated place, especially on sunny days. Young people sit on the grass, older ones on benches and children frolic about. The monument on the square is a fragment of a city merchan's home. Itis part of the façade; a door and a window above it. The seemingly rusty structure next to it represents the sail of a traditional Galway boat. Should it rain Eyre Shopping Centre on the north side of the square will provide a shelter.

Galway's main shopping street is aptly called Shop Street, but it changes names several times on the way down. It is a pedestrianised street leading to Wolfe Tone Bridge and eventually to Salthill, Galway's seaside suburb. The shops offer no surprises as most of them can be found all over the EU, with an exception of Eason an established Irish bookshop. It is a good place to browse books about Ireland and buy maps.

Claddagh rings
Claddagh rings
All jewellers sell Claddagh rings. They are the perfect souvenir to take home. A good place to buy is Thomas Dillon's in Quay Street. They have a large collection; silver, gold and some mounted with diamonds or other precious stones. Behind the shop is a tiny museum telling about the ring's history.

Claddagh rings are friendship and wedding rings. They depict a crowned heart nestling between two outstretched hands. The hands signify friendship, the heart stands for love and the crown represents loyalty. If the heart points towards the hand the wearer is married. If the heart points towards the fingertips the wearer is looking for a partner.

It has been a wedding ring in this part of ireland since 18th century and still is, judging from the number of girls and women wearing it.

Ardla B&B
Ardla B&B
We stayed in Ardla Bed & Breakfast, 25 Gratton Court, a cul-the-sac off Father Griffin Road. It is 10 mins on foot to the city centre and 30 mins to the train station.

Our room was comfortable but small with not much space to move about as the room contained a double and a single bed. It is not very much a problem for two persons staying, but definitely crammed for three. The ensuite bathroom is equally small, but very complete from soap to hairdryer. It is a very sunny room (on clear days) with a wide window. Full Irish breakfast is served from 8 am, but earlier if required.

Nightlife near the Spanish gate on a summer day
Nightlife near the Spanish gate on a summer day
I don't know much about nightlife but what I do know is that in summer days are very long. The sun sets at 10 pm and it stays light until almost 11 pm.

Students gather in font of the Spanish Gate. They bring picnic meals, play games and just enjoy the sun until it has set.

Beach at Salthill
Beach at Salthill
Salthill is Galway's seaside resort and 2 km from Wolfe Tone Bridge. Many people use the seaside road as a place to jog or speedwalk.

Many streets and bridges in Ireland are named after Wolf Tone. His full name is Theobald Wolfe Tone. He was a leading figure in the Irish Independent movement and committed suicide after having been sentenced to death for his part in the Irish rebellion in 1798.

Jewellers shop in Shop Street
Jewellers shop in Shop Street

I can recommend The Front Door. This pub is spread over two streets with an entrance in High Street and one in Cross Street.

There are four bars, two downstairs and one upstairs. The downstairs ones have open fires in winter. The restaurants serves food from 10.00 am – 12.00 pm prices are very reasonable. Starters from € 4.50, main course from € 11, pasta dishes are slightly cheaper.

Two Plasma screens show all sporting events. The big bonus (for non-smokers) all pubs and restaurants are smoke free.

Other recommendations:
Nora Barnacle Museum
Nora Barnacle Museum
The Nora Barnacle Museum at Bowling Green just off the main shopping street was the home of Nora Barnacle, wife of James Joyce (author of Ulysses, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Finnegans's Wake, Dubliners and more)

The museum is housed in a cottage and it gives a glimpse into how ordinary Irish people lived in those days. Some interesting material is on display relating to Nora and James Joyce.

Best of all I liked to see the house itself. It so very small and I could hardly believe that a whole family lived here. The peat fire smouldered in the open hearth and its distinctive smell spread through the cottage.

Published on Friday August 3th, 2007

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Sat, Jun 13 2015 - 01:20 PM rating by mistybleu

I recently spent a day in Galway and I completely understand the charm which you have described. A lovely informative report.

Thu, Aug 16 2007 - 11:49 PM rating by worldcitizen

After reading your reports, I always get the desire to visit the places you're describing! Not only are they well written, but straight to the point too. Bravo!

Mon, Aug 13 2007 - 09:21 AM rating by eirekay

Marianne, I wear a claddagh myself! Terrific report and some stunning photos! Up to your usual standards!

Sat, Aug 11 2007 - 03:43 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

great report ,i am glad to read this ,place seems to be very interesting and historic too.nice pictures

Thu, Aug 09 2007 - 06:21 AM rating by frenchfrog

As always a perfect report Marianne, with fine details and tips, many thanks!

Fri, Aug 03 2007 - 10:01 PM rating by downundergal

Another interesting read, full of personal observations. I liked the little snippet about the direction of the heart on the ring.

Fri, Aug 03 2007 - 06:03 AM rating by rangutan

Your reports are not only a description of your own photos or experiences but always include some suitable additional facts and research. I like that! [4.7]

Fri, Aug 03 2007 - 05:09 AM rating by davidx

You make me want to go to Ireland again. Fine report.

Fri, Aug 03 2007 - 04:24 AM rating by adampl

Marianne, another superior report. Lots of useful info plus nice pics showing the atmosphere of this Irish city.

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