Studying Abroad at UCC / Traveling Ireland!

10 Precious Gems in Galway

So we made it to the wonderful city of Galway during the first weekend in March (Friday 1-Sunday 3). It is the first place I have been to (other than Cork) where I have felt “at home”. Not in the sense that it’s a small town like home, but as a city of 75,000 people, there was still a very welcoming feel.

At 10 people, our gang for the weekend was the largest group we had traveled with up until that point. And it was all ladies. And since it was all ladies, we deemed it as the perfect opportunity for an impromptu “hen party” aka bachelorette party. Especially since none of us are actually engaged. Because who doesn’t throw a fake hen party every once in a while? So needless to say, with the ten of us, there was rarely a dull moment throughout the duration of the weekend.
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We boarded our Citylink bus Friday morning at 11:15 and arrived in Galway around 2. Got off the bus, all excited to be in Galway, when all of a sudden someone…Julianne…realizes she left the newly purchased hen party crowns on the bus. After some panicking and sorting out, plans were arranged to come and pick up the crowns when the bus returned to the station. “What did you leave on the bus?” “Uhhh pink crowns.” Rough start.

We were lucky to have another beautiful weekend. Literally a raindrop did not fall. We spent the remainder of the afternoon wandering about the city. We stopped at a little cafe for an afternoon snack/lunch and they actually allowed us to pay separately. So that was a novel experience. After that, we strolled through the streets and walked along the bay. And there was sunshine!

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We stayed in a hostel called Kinlay Eyre Square Hostel. It was a little pricey, but the lounge/kitchen/reception looked like a hotel. It was the first hostel we have stayed at where we had a communal bathroom versus a bathroom ensuite (in our room), but it was clean! And above all else, the hostel had a community piano. Hello. It may have been a little out of tune, but that was of little concern. Plus, they actually had a binder of sheet music…which allowed me to prove that I could in fact play the piano. Even though I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to memorizing music.

That evening we went out to dinner at a pub/restaurant called The Kings Head. I had a bacon cheeseburger. Yup. Then we headed back to our hostel, got ready for the night, played some embarrassing games in the hostel common room, and headed out to find some nightlife. Which we were quite unsuccessful at. But all in all it was a fun night! Besides the hiccup in the night where Taylor ran into a pole, made her eyelid bleed, and woke up with a cute little swollen eye. And since we had an injured child and had to get up early the next day, we didn’t stay out very late.

About 4 days before we headed to Galway, I had been perusing fun activities we could partake in and came across ferries to the Aran Islands. Which encapsulated two things of my favorite things. Ferries and islands. So I sent out a mass facebook message to get the general consensus. At €24 for a round-trip shuttle ride from Galway City to the Galway Bay (Ros a’ Mhíl) and a ferry out to the largest Aran Island, we decided it would probably be worth it. And it definitely was. One of my top two experiences thus far. The port was 23 miles away from the city center, so we left around 10:00 and boarded the ferry around 10:30, putting us on the island around 11:15. Which gave us a full day to explore the place!
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The entire island is about 12 square miles and on that land resides a population of about 800 people. That is why the island still speaks Gaelic primarily and is the epitome of classic Irish culture. The second we stepped off the ferry there were about 3 different men trying to sell us their bus tours (not to nullify my claim of classic Irish culture). We passed up all their offers, thinking we could walk to the places we wanted to see, but after a brief 5 minute walk out of the initial mob, we came across John who politely asked us to listen. After giving us a student bargain, we made probably the best decision we’ve made thus far, and decided that John should probably be our tour guide for the day.
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We piled in his van and began our tour. He gave us a lift to the “best” restaurant on the island, which even had a thatch roof. He dropped us off for lunch and explained how to walk to the main site-seeing location (only accessible by foot) and agreed to pick us up a couple hours later to continue our tour. We started the walk/climb to Dún Aengus, the most famous prehistoric fort on the islands. Between the walk and the sun we warmed up enough to the point where we didn’t have to wear jackets. So that was fun! After about a 20 minute walk, we reached the top. And while the fort was amazing, the cliffs that the fort sits on are literally indescribable. I cannot begin to accurately explain how breath-taking, expansive, and terrifying they are. There are no safety features, no rules (besides your own), and you can be as much of a daredevil as you wish. I can’t tell you the number of times I turned my head and my heart stopped beating. One of the other 9 girls were always ridiculously close to the edge. Legs hanging over the cliff. I felt like a mother. The only way I could manage to reach the edge was while lying down. Where I knew there was no possible way I could trip or have a gale wind throw me over the edge. But it was definitely amazing. Those cliffs are honestly the one place/experience-out of everything so far-that I wish everyone could have the chance to experience. Just to feel the energy and beauty. Incredible.
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Before making our way back to John’s van, we made a stop at an Aran knit shop where we each bought a different colored winter headband. All knit personally by the store owner, Sarah. Her store was this itty bitty little building, but it was full of Aran sweaters, mittens, headbands etc. She loved sharing her opinion on which colors suited each of us best and after a few votes, I decided on a red head band. She just loved talking and told us how Steven Spielberg and Amy Adams had visited her shop.
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After our stop at Sarah’s, we hopped back in the van to explore a little more. Stopped at a cemetery and made a wish/prayer. And stopped at the bay by a lighthouse. The entire time while driving John had a constant commentary and we learned a lot by continually asking him questions. He even pointed his house out to us as we passed it by. After our little loop around the island, John brought us back to where we had begun and it was nearly 5:00…time for us to get back on the ferry.

The remainder of the weekend was filled with our bachelorette party of course and some more exploration of the city and coast. We set out on a brief expedition on Sunday morning to find the famous row of colorful houses, only to realize that we had walked by it on Friday. Sometimes you’re just too close to appreciate things and it takes stepping back and looking at the big picture to truly understand. Aww. Life lessons.
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We ended our weekend by making a stop at the original claddagh ring store: Thomas Dillon’s. A few of the girls bought rings for each other as “gifts, because it’s apparently unlucky to buy them for yourself. So needless to say, I’m waiting for my family to arrive before I get one. Don’t want to buy one for myself and be condemned to bad luck for the rest of my life! That would just be a shame. 😉

Well anyway, it was an awesome weekend.

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