Journey to Galway
Alesha and I awoke on our final morning in Killarney to another soggy Irish sunrise. Our life in the luxury estate was coming to an end and it was time to pack our things. We enjoyed another wonderful breakfast, hot coffee, and the warm company of Olive and Billy. As usual, we watched the morning talk show “Lorraine” on BBC, and discussed our thoughts on Donald Trump, Brexit, and the weather patterns in Ireland. At 9:30AM, “Jeremy Kyle” started up (this is basically the British equivalent of Jerry Springer) and Olive promptly strode over and switched off the TV, as she does every morning. She commented that Donald Trump would be a great guest on the show, which we agreed.
After breakfast, we packed the car and said our final goodbyes to our hosts, who gave us both a big hug (and even a kiss on the cheek) and recommended a scenic route to Galway that would take us through the countryside, along the Atlantic coast, and past the Cliffs of Moher. We made our way north to Tarbert, where we queued up for a 25-minute ferry ride across the Atlantic and into the town of Killimer.
From Killimer, we started west along the N67 Highway towards the Atlantic. We stopped for lunch and a pint in the seaside town of Kilkee, had a quick look at the ocean, and drove on. This stretch of drive from Kilkee to Lahinch (just south of the Cliffs) was beautiful. Eventually you get to a point where you see some old ruined castle and you just nod your head casually and acknowledge it, but really it’s not that big of a deal. Some of the area here is pretty commercial (especially Doonbeg) and you’ll see a lot of giant homes, hotels, golf clubs, and dapper looking middle-aged gentlemen at the golf clubs.
Cliffs of Moher
Well, this was a bucket list, must-see, non-negotiable item for Alesha. We hadn’t planned on seeing it on a certain day or anything, but it was kind-of on our way to Galway, so we hopped off the N67 and made up way along another narrow, windy road until we ended up at a big pay-to-park parking lot near the cliffs.
At the front of the viewing area, there’s a line of five little shops that are built into the cliffs like hobbit holes. Beyond that, there’s a big indoor information center / museum that discusses the local wildlife, the cliff formations, etc. Past that is the main viewing path for the cliffs, which is a combination of paved road and then a human made dirt path which continues for miles along the cliffs, which isn’t exactly safe but everyone walks along it anyways. Honestly I was a lot more nervous about the height than I expected, and I REALLY didn’t like Alesha standing anywhere near the edge. However the views were pretty spectacular.
Once we’d soaked in the majesty of the cliffs, we once again hit the road following signs to Galway. We passed through countless cute towns along the way, including Ballyvaughan, Ballindereen, and Ballybane. One thing we noticed across the country is that there are countless cities starting with certain prefixes: Bally and Kill were ones that we encountered often. “Bally” is derived from the gaelic phrase “Baile na” which translates to “place of”. “Kil” or “Kill” translates to either churchyard, graveyard, or woodland, all of which are common sites in Ireland.
Galway, Day 1
Our stay in Galway started a couple of miles east of the city center in a small residential neighborhood. Our hosts (Paul and Bruno) were a couple of guys in their 30s who were musicians by trade. We arrived in the early evening, and Paul gave us a tour of the house before taking off downtown for a gig (it was Friday night). Their living room was packed with guitars, drums, and even a double bass, and they let us help ourselves! Unfortunately the bass was packed away in a case during our stay and I didn’t get the chance to play it.
My friend Glen (who I worked with for a few months before leaving Vitech) actually spent a year studying at a University in Galway, and made us a list of things to do and pubs to visit during out stay. His first recommendation, O’Connell’s Pub, was a lot cooler than we expected. There’s a normal Irish bar when you enter the front door, but after venturing in further, there’s another full bar in the back, and then there’s an exit off to the right which opens out into a big outdoor area with a bunch of shops, another bar, and a food truck serving fresh pizza. It kind of had a McMenamin’s mini-city feel to it, if you’ve been there in the Pacific NW. They also made a pretty great Gin and Tonic, and served some American IPAs, too!
After eating some pizza for dinner, we headed off across Eyre Square (in city center) and made our way into the Latin Quarter. It’s a big neighborhood of winding streets packed with good food, pubs, and shopping. Every other corner has a busker on it with live music, too. This place was bumping on a Friday night. We looked around for somewhere to sit and found the King’s Head, which was another huge bar (two levels, multiple seating areas, etc.) and had a couple of pints. I developed a habit of drinking Bulmer’s Irish Cider, which is pretty good if you like ciders that aren’t too sweet. After we got our fill of people watching, we walked back along the Lough Atalia (a lake near Galway, which takes it’s name from the Gaelic phrase meaning “salt-water lake”) and turned in for the night.
Galway, Day 2
Despite having nice hosts, we didn’t really feel super comfortable overall. There was a lot of noise outside, we were sharing a bathroom with a few other people, and the shower had a literal eight-step process to get working and took about 20-40 minutes to warm up the hot water. After a night here we decided we’d rather finish up our stay in a place a little more quiet and comfortable. Also it was Alesha’s birthday, and what the birthday girl wants, the birthday girl gets. After doing some research we found a cottage west of Galway (right out of a little town called Spiddal) and booked it for two nights.
We packed up our things, thanked our hosts for the shortened stay, and drove into Galway for another day in the city. We found a great coffee shop called Esquires where we got a great coffee and a full Irish breakfast. After our meal we headed off for a little retail therapy. Alesha bought a dope Irish sweater and we got a few souvenirs for the family.
After spending our shopping fund, we headed back into the Latin Quarter and noticed a few stands selling raw oysters on the half shell. It turns out we wandered into the International Oyster Festival! It looked pretty cool but was 70 euro to enter for the day, so we just enjoyed a few oysters on the street (with some Irish stout) and called it a day. We also got some meat and cheese (and bread) for lunch at the Saturday market and headed out to Spiddal to see our new cottage.
The cottage was really nice, the hosts were cool, and it was nice and quiet. We even had a (small) view of the Atlantic ocean from our yard! For dinner we wandered about a mile into Spiddal and found an awesome restaurant/bar called Tigh Giblin. We ordered some dinner, watched some live Irish music, and met a couple from New Zealand who had a very similar itinerary to ours.
Overall, it was a great night until we got back to our cottage, and Alesha noticed that my down jacket was streaked with vomit on one of the arms (also one of my shoes). I guess I must have grazed a bush that someone puked in… Anyways that sucked, and I think I ruined my jacket by putting it in the washing machine, but oh well.
Galway, Day 3
Our last day in Ireland was pretty quiet. We started off the day by sleeping in until 10AM, and then did a little driving west into some rural sections of Ireland. We knew we were leaving the city when all of the signs were all in Gaelic (no English translation) which was new. We also found a nice beach and walked around the rocks enjoying the smell of the ocean.
Later in the day I went into Spiddal to pick up some dinner, and the bar from the previous night was full of locals speaking Gaelic (really cool). I had a pint and tried my best to play it cool… but my American accent gave me away.
The rest of the day was basically watching NFL Football. Due to the time difference, we had to stay up late to watch the Seahawks. After that we headed to bed and rested up before our next leg: flying to Amsterdam!
To see all of the photos from Ireland, click here.