One thing our tour host has advised us about a few days before leaving America was about the full Irish breakfast offered at the hotel. In America, hotels often offer a “continental” breakfast. This will consist of cereals, bagel, breads, toppings and fruits, with beverages like coffee and juice to go with. Occasionally they will have meats or egg as well.
By contrast, a traditional Irish breakfast is a hearty meal of meats (bacon, sausages and black and white puddings), eggs, vegetables and potatoes. it is served with a generous helping of homemade Irish soda or brown bread, and is all washed down with a cup of breakfast tea or a glass of juice. Our spread this morning had all of these items and more. Yogurt, fruit, granola, cereals, coffee, pastries, rolls, and I am sure quite a few other things that did not make it onto my over flowing plate. I did try black pudding for the first time. For those of you who are unaware of what black pudding is, it is also known as blood pudding (which sounds even worse). However, it really is just a different variety of sausage (although in my opinion, the breakfast puddings reminded me more of the flavor of meatloaf). These small round patties are made of pork meat, oats and spices and for the black pudding, pork blood, which gives it the dark color and slightly different flavor. I would recommend that you try a sample of everything possible. There was a vast variety, but it was easy to decide what I did and did not like without wasting too much food by starting in small portions and going back for the bits I really enjoyed.
After lunch, the tour bus dropped us off down the road near the center of Galway by the Spanish arch, with plans to swing by ever two hours after that to pick up anyone who decided to return to the hotel early. Since we got there shortly after 10, many of the shops were still closed or just setting up for the day. We wandered down the main street in the center of Galway, peeking at menus posted outside restaurants and stopping to chat with people for recommendations on places to stop at during the day. I am friends with a few guys in another Celtic band originally from Galway, and Enda was able to point me in the direction of some of his favorite spots. After the first stretch of road, my parents and I set a meeting time and place and we set off on different paths. My next stop was this charming book store. Each room took off in at an angle into a different directions, creating odd nooks and crannies with books tucked away. I found a few pocket sized books about Irish cooking and songs, but I ended up not buying any. With limited space in my luggage, I am trying to take pictures, make memories, and only bring back souvenirs that I simply cannot resist. Sort of like the tea steeper and Chai tea I bought later on at Cupán Tae (I am currently enjoying a cup of it while sitting in bed at the hotel typing this up before bed). After checking out a few more places I came across, I ran back into my mother and we decided to wander together for a while until we met up with my father later in the afternoon. Galway is a fairly small city, so we were able to cover a good distance in a short time, traveling to the Cathedral, town center, out to the lighthouse and beach and back in only two or three short hours.
Once we got back together with my father in the afternoon, we decided to try and hit a few more places on Enda’s recommendation list, starting with fish and chips from McDonagh’s. I also tried a noodle box from a little Asian shop I’d seen earlier down the main road. My dad had been on the search for some shirts, a vest and a hat to go with his kilt and other traditional clothing he wears from time to time, and he came across each of those items today many times until he was able to purchase each one. One of the perks of being in such a bustling, culturally rich town was seeing all of the artists and performers that lined the street, playing all kinds of music, all day long. I caught a few videos and pictures of a few of the acts we stopped to watch. One toward the end of the night was particularly enjoyable called Bianco Sporco. The second song they played was a version of the title track from “Last of the Mohicans” which is a favorite movie of mine.
We ate dinner at restaurant called The Kings Head after finding ourselves with a majority of our group. It was nice to have 14 or so of us seated all around one big table, able to chat, joke, and share food. We probably had the restaurants thinking “Silly Americans” but we were all having a “large time” as Shawn says. Their seafood was “to die for” according to a few people, and the steaks were juicy and tender, and the soup was flavorful and nice and hot. All in all, it was probably one of the most enjoyable meals of the trip so far thanks to the ambiance of the restaurant, the company, and the food itself.
After dinner, we listened to some more music, and wandered a bit more with members of the group, but then some started splitting off and catching cabs back to the hotel since our tour bus drive was home for the day after the last drop off at 7. A couple of us went back toward the river to see if the water level had risen any with the evening tides, took a few more pictures and then were lucky enough to catch a cab that was right next to us to share back to the hotel.
While I think today would have been little more fun if I weren’t worried about space and money, I enjoyed window shopping and stopping through shops just as much as if I’d bought the whole town. Wandering is my favorite type of traveling, rather than rushing around trying to reach one destination then another. Half the fun of going new places is discovering all the little things that make that place special, not just the big tourist attractions. There was plenty to do, and I’m sure I only caught a portion of what Galway really is, I am leaving with a sense of satisfaction that I saw everything I needed too, and more.