Galway

I’ve never been the best at travel blogs. (Or, any blogs for that matter. In grad school, I started a cooking blog and wrote all of maybe five entries before the semester started again and the blog died a sudden death). I always seem to get behind at the very beginning, amidst all the frenzy that inevitably seems to accompany settling into a trip, and then it’s a bit of a lost cause. Do I go back and start from the beginning, even though I’m weeks in? Or, do I just pick up from wherever I’m at at the moment, and go back to the beginning later? Add the question of trying to upload and post pictures, and the whole venture is just fraught from the start. 

Probably the best course of action is to realize that no one else really cares all that much what course of action you take (as is probably the case with most things in life), and to blog about whatever strikes you at the moment (again, an attitude that probably would serve me well to adopt more often).

So. I’ll write about today and go back to the post-Dublin adventures later. Today is all Galway, and it’s rushing, inky black river, the Corrib. All of these coastal cities have rivers running right through the middle of them, rivers that, in many ways, seem to define the character of their cities. And Galway is, in fact, at least to this outsider, quite rushing and vibrant. Certainly my favorite of the Irish cities we’ve hit so far (Dublin, Cork, and Limerick among them), Galway is full of students and artists and just feels so, in a word, friendly. It is not very big at all, and thus very walkable, which was wonderful. We didn’t really head in to the city center until around 1 or 2 today, and we managed to walk through pretty much the whole city by 6 pm, at which point we struck out along the ocean road that circled back to the Salthill area, just across the river from Galway and where we are staying with our host M. and his partner, for dinner and drinks.

If you stand on the Salmon Weir Bridge, on the north end of Galway, they say you can see salmon hanging out right there from sometime in May through early July, before they make their way upstream. I didn’t spot any salmon, but there was one Irishman wading through the river with his fishing pole, and at least two or three more fishing from the banks, so some sort of fish was there. I did eat salmon the past two nights in a row, as I had heard salmon fishing is a huge industry in this area, and was rewarded both nights. The salmon is delicious. 

As you walk down from the Salmon Weir Bridge into the city center, the river Corrib runs along your right side, and a smaller canal runs along the left. The grassy area in the middle is full of students eating, relaxing, and reading, and looks like a lovely spot to spend an afternoon or evening. 

By the time you get to where the canal and the river meet up, you’ve hit the city center, with Shop Street full of pubs, restaurants, and shops, which curves into Market Street, on which resides (you guessed it) Galway’s outdoor market. J. bought a wool hat, I bought a wooden citrus reamer, and Mom, you’ll be getting a little something from a shop there too. No hints.

I’ve learned in my time here that Ireland has had a large influx of Polish residents in just the past ten years or so. I had no idea. In fact, our host’s partner is Polish, and also an artist. He had his first exhibition just weeks ago and sold 11 paintings. At his second exhibition, soon after, he sold none. He’s not discouraged, though. These are the ebbs and flows of making a living as an artist. We happened to be in town while the Galway International Arts Festival is in full swing, and stopped in at a gallery on Market Street. A large part of the gallery was taken up by an Odyssey exhibition, created by an artist who came to the Odyssey the first time not through the Odyssey itself, but through Joyce. Thus, an artistic interpretation of Joyce’s artistic interpretation of the Odyssey. Art twice removed. I must admit I always feel a little lost in contemporary art galleries. I enjoy the work, and I can tell you on a gut level what I find aesthetically pleasing versus what I don’t, but I always feel a bit like I’m missing something. Like I need a more skilled guide than I to explain what I’m seeing to me. The stroll through the gallery was, nonetheless, enjoyable. At least it always helps me to remember when teaching poetry to students that they probably feel a bit about poetry the way I do about contemporary art – I like it, but I need some help understanding it. That’s ok, I think. I hope. 

And so, Galway. Tomorrow, through County Sligo and up towards Donegal, where we’ll be staying in a village called Gortahork, a name I’m always tempted to pronounce in the Muppet’s Sweedish Chef voice, but will try to refrain from doing so while there.

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