Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gaillimh, Éire

I'm really hoping I didn't butcher the title of this post, proving to the world that I only know how to use Google Translate. With the hope that I'm correct, it is Gaelic for "Galway, Ireland", the city of this week's adventure! 

For the first time since arriving in the UK, I ventured beyond its boundariesonly Northern Ireland is part of the UK, not Irelandgaining a second stamp in my passport! And what better time to see the land of the leprechauns than over St. Patrick's Day weekend? Apparently, every other weekend BUT this weekend, said the locals. 

But I have no regrets of going. 

Early Friday morning, we flew into Dublin after waiting in an airport surrounded by boozersevery Brit had a beer and it was only 5 amand riding on a janky, ice-cold plane for 45 minutes. We landed with a heavy thump that made everyone squeal under their breath, even the burly men. But we made it safely in the end. 

From Dublin, we drove through the countryside, across the rolling greens to Galway located opposite of Dublin on the west coast. On the bus, I woke up from a brief nap and there against the heavy rain clouds was the biggest, clearest rainbow, both ends touching the green pastures belowI could almost see a little red-haired leprechaun sitting among the grazing sheep with his pot of gold. 

For both days in Galway, the sun shone brightwe've been extremely lucky getting sunny days on these weekend excursions since they are rarely had. The four seasons of Ireland includes rain, rain, rain, and rain. But both Friday and Saturday, the sun blinded us and pinked our pale cheeks as we walked up and down the city streets, hitting each point of interest marked on our map: the Spanish arch built in the 1500's; a JFK monument dedicated to 'Mheiricea' in Kennedy Park; a big, brown statue called the Browne Doorway; Lynch's Castle that looked more like a city building than a castlewe walked past it without noticing; the canal walk on the edge of town where the birds flew low and the daffodils grew; the Galway Museum where the Gaelic signs confused meit's a law for Gaelic to come first on signs, but I never learned; the Galway Cathedral with it's green, oxidized-copper dome; and the medieval walls hidden inside mallsit was an interesting comparison between old and present. 

Galway Cathedral
Browne Doorway

It was all one giant scavenger hunt in which we returned to our Bed and Breakfast each night with sore feet and the anticipation of hot showers, tea and biscuits, and warm blankets. Mary, our B&B hostess, was the sweetest lady who talked too fast and said in her thick Irish brogue, "ya ya ya, okay. T'at's good. okay. ya. T'anks now. okay. T'anks" at the end of every conversation. 

Late Saturday afternoon, we attended an Evensong service at St. Nicholas' Church where the choir sang psalms and verses about St. Patrick, and the Bishop swung a pot of burning incense back and forth, stinking up the church with the smell of a woodburning stove. I found a great sense of peace closing my eyes and listening to the ringing voices fill the massive hallit was a beautiful service to end the busy day. 

Both days on the streets, we watched Irish dancers jig and stomp on plywood stages, fiddlers and recordian-players sing Irish tunes, and we even saw a banjo band play on top of street poles. The streets of Galway were alive, but not compared to Dublin on Sunday. Ireland's most famous holiday in it's capital city with Ireland's biggest boozers and over 1,500 tourists, makes for "t'a worst day in all of Ireland," according to Mary. 

For miles, the streets of Dublin were painted green as people pushed and shoved through crowds wearing their tacky hats and face paint, myself included. We watched and danced to the parade, cheering and clapping with the friends of Meghan (see Project 21 #6), our "tour guide" for the day, and by midday the rain fell, drenching us from head to foot. After half an hour of wandering in the downpour, we finally found a bar that had not reached max capacity though it sure felt like it, and there I ordered my first Guiness beerIreland's national brew. It was a heavy drink, but I quite liked the flavor. 

By 4, the city had lost its sanity. It had officially gone mental.

People were passed-out in the streets, some hallucinating, some giggling out of control, and some screaming in the faces of their friends. People were running and jumping, hollering and screaming, and the Garda (the police) blew their whistles loud, shoving people around and holding some back. Because of the chaos, we even found the restrooms to be madhouses, trashed and impossible to find. 

But it's the experience that counts. Dublin on St. Patty's Day is almost equivalent to New Years Eve in Times Squareenjoyable for the experience, but not something to repeat. 

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