Last Leg -- Galway and Dublin
Oct 25, 2007
|Sorry I haven't written an entry in a while, but then my email has not been overwhelmed with mail clamoring for more.
I spent the last week in Galway and am now in Dun Laoghaire (pronounced done leary), a seaside town 20 minutes south of Dublin by train.
About Galway then. I was looking forward to returning to Galway, my favorite Irish city. I had fond memories of wandering its ancient streets, enjoying trad sessions in the Crane Bar, a pub outside the main tourist drag. Just as you can't go home again, apparently you can't go home away from home again either. Galway has changed profoundly in the last five years, and not all for the better.
Along with Dublin Galway is a hub for the boom in technology-related businesses, and it is benefitting from the new-found wealth, much like Seattle in the '90s. I was most surprised to see what a city of youth it had become. The old traditional pubs now featured rock shows nearly every night, and more people went to nightclubs and after hours clubs, which run into the wee morning hours. Pubs traditionally close at midnight. The quaint pedestrian-only Shop Street, with buildings hundreds of years old, was like Pioneer Square on Fat Tuesday - every night.
My first night in town I decided to seek refuge at the Crane - surely it hadn't changed. While it hadn't succumbed to the disco beat pulsing through the city, the featured performer that night was Jim Page, a folkie from Seattle! I passed on the performance, particularly as tickets were 12 euros (almost $18). I had a Guinness and was "home" to the hostel by 10. It was going to be a long week, nothing to write home about.
Things did get better though, as I returned to the Crane several nights later and there was a very nice trad session, with an accordion player, several fiddles and a flute player. At the pub I noticed two girls who were staying in my dorm at the hostel. We ended up sitting together. It was nice to have company.
We returned the next night and the session was even better, with a nice assortment of fiddles, guitar, mandolin and flute. The accordion tends to overpower the other instruments, so its absence was a plus. The Crane had regained its place as Top Pub of Ireland, at least in my book.
I had seen all the sights of Galway on my two previous trips, but what I found fascinating on this trip were the fashions. Galway has become quite cosmopolitan, and the many boutiques and high-end shops reflected that change, with prices to match. With the weak U.S. dollar many Irish are now jetting over to New York and other east coast shopping meccas for a weekend of shopping. Prices in the shops in Galway were almost equal to airfare over the Atlantic. Simple dresses averaged 150 euro, while coats could run several hundred. It seemed crazy, yet the streets were full of stylishly dressed women.
The hostel I was staying in, the Claddagh, was very noisy. I was in a dorm with 10 beds which were full nearly every night. The door squeaked every time it was opened - and closed, and the kitchen down the hall came to life at 8 a.m. every morning. The hostel was located near the working harbor, and apparently near a major sewage outfall. Every night the hostel halls filled with the stench of raw sewage. Thankfully it didn't make it back to the bedrooms.
I cut my stay there a day short and headed to Dun Laoghaire, arriving yesterday (Wednesday). I am tired and ready to come home - home to my own quiet bed, cuddly cat and REAL coffee!
I'll write one final entry before I leave Monday morning. Thank you all for reading.