I immediately fell under Galway’s charm. I arrived here on Monday in the afternoon, and once I got my hostel situation all sorted, I wandered the streets and the shoreline before darkness set in. I returned to the hostel, met my pleasant roommates (from Mexico and Argentina), and had dinner with other hostel guests before heading to bed.
The next morning, I spent part of the morning reading more about Galway. Lonely Planet explains that Galway’s Irish name, Gaillimh originates from an Irish root word meaning ‘outsiders’ or ‘foreigners’ which, as it turns out, still is the reality for a good part of the Galway population. The city contains a LOT of students. In fact, students make up around 50% of the population here in Galway. Talking to the people around town, it’s obvious that I am not the only one from outside the country. While the Irish make up most of the population, different accents can be heard all over the city! In the summer months, tourists swarm the area, and for good reason.
Much like Dublin, the buildings here are old. They have a lot of character, and brightly painted store fronts contribute to the city’s charm. Pictured below is the latin quarter of Galway. Lights strung overhead bring a very special atmosphere to the street brimming with restaurants, bars, and shops.
On top of having great pedestrian streets and unique shops and restaurants, Galway is very artsy and quirky. Buskers are out in numbers playing all kinds of music for passerby locals and tourists. Today, as I strolled down a single street, I saw 6 individuals and groups strumming, singing, drumming, and playing the flute for coins in a guitar case. There is always music in Galway. Traditional folk music can be heard drifting into the streets from local pubs every night (the pub on the main floor of our hostel building offers free trad music twice a day, every day) and a guitar hangs in the common room of our hostel for guests to strum away in song for other guests. The guitar in question rarely actually hangs on the wall because it is in use.
This kid, probably 12 or 13 was giving busking a shot. A true Galway local, he was giving it his best go, but if I have to be honest, he was completely terrible. His effort was appreciated by many though! I saw more people put coins into his can than any other busker on the street.
My favourite part about Galway, though, is the beautiful shoreline. Galway is on the West coast of Ireland and looks over the Atlantic Ocean. From Galway Bay, you can see the Aran Islands in the distance. To the West the ocean is open, and you can see as far as the eye can see without anything obstructing your view. Today, the sun was shining through the clouds, until the clouds cleared up and the sun was blinding the runners, walkers, dog walkers, kids on scooters and cyclists.
On top off the beauty and charm of Galway, the people have been so so welcoming. Beyond anything I’ve ever encountered. I’ll write another post entirely about house hunting in Galway and provide more details about these special experiences, but on multiple occasions, strangers have welcomed me into their homes with open arms and a hot cup of tea. The staff at the hostel I am staying at have gone above and beyond to make all of the guests’ stay as pleasant as possible, and I’m happy to report they are very good at what they do. I have been told stories of Ireland and Galway, been given multiple tips on what places to visit, what food to eat, and who to meet.
Among the recommended places to eat was a wood-fired pizza place hidden among the narrow streets of downtown Galway. Dough Bros started off as a mobile pizza trailer. They set up shop at different markets and grew their business enough to be tossing pies full time in a restaurant. Their story is pretty cool though. After their first event ever, they were driving home and crashed their brand new trailer into Ireland’s lowest bridge. Pretty crap way to start a business, but after begging and borrowing all over the place, they got a new trailer and were in business for the area’s next big event. Just proves that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
I had this strange but totally delicious pizza:
An olive oil base with marinated prawns, some sort of pickled and shaved Asian root vegetable, cilantro, hot chiles, cheese and hot sauce. Fresh squeezed lime juice to top it off, and an amazing house made garlic dipping sauce for the crust. If you’re ever in Galway you cannot miss this place.
There is also quite a variety of beer made in Galway. Probably the most popular brand is the Galway Hooker. Calm down, it’s not what you think. It’s actually named after the iconic local fishing boats. I found this out after the second pint of hoppy greatness. Not sure if I was slightly disappointed, or moreso relieved to find out the favourite local beer wasn’t named after the possible after hours market in Galway.
All that to say that Galway, to me, feels the most like home, so this is where I am trying to settle down for a while… Whether or not that ends up happening, expect to hear of Galway again as I most definitely will be spending more time here.
My hostel in downtown Galway.