Tuesday, March 21st
The next morning, we all accidentally missed breakfast at the hotel, so we had to venture out into town to find something. There is a local chain called Coco Cafe, which has a good assortment of options that were pretty quick. I ordered a bagel with cream cheese, and get this, they served it with Ruffles potato chips. None of us have any idea why that would be a good combination, but if you know, please tell me! I was not exactly mad about it, because I love chips (or “crisps”), but it was a little early for Ruffles.
We spent most of the day walking around Galway and checking out all the little shops. There were also several street performers in this area, specifically, two teenage boys who rapped nothing but Eminem for the entire day (see video at the end).
We walked to the Spanish Arch, which is a part of a wall constructed for protection, and it was partially destroyed during a tsunami in 1755, a result of the earthquake in Lisbon that same year. Then we walked The Long Walk from the arch to the Galway Cathedral, Europe’s youngest stone cathedral built in 1965.
The Cathedral is breathtaking, and made me quite emotional. As I walked around, I felt a true presence of peace. I had to hold myself together to keep from crying too much, but it was just one of those places that felt extremely special and spiritual. There are spots throughout the church where patrons can write thanksgiving or petitions, or as the Baptists call them, testimonies and prayer requests. I wrote some thoughts down on a petition slip and slid it through the slot. These days, I long so much for all humans to remain united with one another, and it seems to be more and more difficult as things go on. I hope whoever reads my petition wishes for the same thing.
We left the Cathedral feeling rather awe-inspired, and began walking back toward downtown Galway. We ended up splitting up for lunch this day, so Kyle and I went to The Pie Maker. Kyle’s pie was chorizo, which I liked better than my eggplant one (I know, eggplant was a dumb choice but it sounded good!), but both were great. These are served with mashed potatoes, mushed peas, cabbage and gravy. So delicious. I think I’m going to have to practice some Irish cooking this year.
After lunch, we walked around town some more and did some shopping. Kyle and I found this place called Coffeewerk + Press, and it was totally our vibe. We could have stayed in there forever. We got some beautiful postcards and a few other random items that were just too cool to leave behind.
After walking in the cold all day, we went back to the hotel to enjoy the hot tub one more time before leaving, and then got ready for dinner. We went to The King’s Head for dinner, which sadly felt quite full of Americans, but the food was good. Kyle and I got fish and chips, which was delicious and fresh since we were on the bay.
Apparently the word whiskey comes from the Gaelic word “uisce beatha” which means “the water of life.” I would have to agree.
We found our way to Garavan’s after dinner, and this was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. We all enjoyed something whiskey related at this place. I ordered a whiskey tasting platter, featuring Tullamore Dew 12 year reserve (smooth with a good kick in the back), Redbreast 12 year (sweeter, my favorite of the three), and Connemara Peated Single Malt (closer to a Scotch, tastes smokey like a bonfire). The vibe here was wonderful, as well. The lighting was dim and there were cozy booths and tables all around. The men sitting at the bar seemed like they spend a lot of time there. One even had his feet propped up on an empty stool next to him at the bar.
Apparently the word whiskey comes from the Gaelic word “uisce beatha” which means “the water of life.” I would have to agree. Tasting these whiskeys in an Irish bar with my husband and two dear friends was incredibly special, and likely something I will remember forever. Because I don’t usually like to dictate other people’s plans on trips, I also really appreciated that these people did this with me, even though none of them really care as much about whiskey. They know I love it, and want to experience it, so I was happy I got to do that.
We grabbed one more drink at the hotel bar when we returned. We did a little people watching and planned our final day in Ireland. There were plenty of locals in the bar area, most of them older, and I listened an old Irish man order a whiskey and a Coors Lite (yes, they have Coors Lite here) for his wife and I cracked up.
Wednesday, March 22nd
This was the craziest day, packing in all of the last minute things we wanted to do. We grabbed a quick breakfast at another Coco Cafe beside the hotel in Salthill, where Kyle ordered probably the most vile thing of the week: a sausage roll. It was about the size of my forearm and was pastry dough filled with what looked like an entire tube of sausage like you’d get at the grocery store. Kyle is always curious about weird shit on menus, and just had to know what that was. So we laughed about that for way too long.
Then we walked over to the shore and spent some time at the ocean. I’m not sure there’s anything more beautiful than the Galway Bay.
The weather during the morning was lovely, but the rain never really let up the rest of the day. There is an old Irish saying, “Is iomaí athrú a chuireann lá Márta dhe,” which means “There is a lot of weather in a March day.” This is totally true, as we experienced every type of weather there is, I think. Snow, sleet, hail, rain, sun, wind, sunny rain, and any other combination.
We wanted to visit Newgrange, which was abut two hours away. Newgrange is a Neolithic 5,200+ years-old passage tomb, where they would lay to rest the remains of their people. It is built entirely of rocks and stones, all perfectly placed to hold itself up, which shows the incredible craftsmanship and ability of these historic people. It is covered in artwork etched into parts of the stone. Today it is considered more of a spiritual, sacred temple rather than just a tomb.
Our group was split in two to go inside, which was a little scary for me, because as you duck down and enter through the stones, the walkway gets tighter and tighter. I felt rather claustrophobic at first, but then the tomb opens up and there is a high ceiling and three different basins that would have held human remains. The architecture is a marvel, as it is built entirely of stones of all shapes and sizes. The coolest thing about Newgrange, is that on the Winter Solstice, which is usually around December 21st, the sun enters through the opening in the tomb and shines a stream of light through the Roof Box directly into the center of the tomb. Even though we were there in March, the tour guide turns off all of the lights they have in the tomb to show you how dark it is without them and use an artificial light to show you what the ray of sunshine would look like on December 21st. As our tour guide said, “it’s rather spine-tingling.”
Next, we drove back into Dublin to finish up some shopping and exploring. I wish the weather would have been better for our last day, but alas, this is Ireland, I suppose. I specifically wanted to go to the Celtic Whiskey Shop in Dublin, so we did that first. Sadly, neither my budget nor my suitcase space allowed me to purchase everything I wanted as far as whiskey goes, and I really wanted to share the whiskey experience with some of my people back home, so I ended up getting little travel bottles of several types of whiskey. Once back in town, I did a little fireside tasting with my dad, brother, sister, Kyle, Mark, and my uncle Josh. The ones I brought back weren’t even my favorites, but it was just fun to try something new with my people. Now that I have a small grasp on Irish whiskeys, I might be able to search for the really good ones I tried later. We stopped at the Kilkenny Design Center located in Dublin, and shopped around a bit there, as well. We also picked up some weird candies and snacks for Brady and Hunter, so I’m excited for them to try those.
The coolest shop we found was actually just a pop-up called Seven Wood, and I have followed them on everything online. They had this perfume by Waters+Wind and I can’t stop thinking about it. I wish I would have just splurged and got it, but I’m considering emailing them to see if I can have it shipped to the states somehow. It smelled like everything that Mountain Gypsy is about – cedarwood, bonfire smoke, and whiskey. We all loved everything in there and sadly wished for a million dollars to purchase and ship home all of the furniture there.
After walking in the rain all day, we found a cozy dinner spot called Farm Kitchen, which is an organic, local foods restaurant in Dublin. This wasn’t my favorite meal, but like I say, every meal can’t be the meal of your life. Sometimes, you just gotta eat to survive and move on. After dinner, we had to drive about an hour and a half to our last hotel, where we stayed for like 8 hours. At this point in the trip, I think we’d all reached that moment where we knew we had to leave, so we just wanted to get it over with, but I still felt sad that our adventure was at the end.
Thursday, March 23rd
If you’ve never traveled back to the states from a different country, you might not understand this feeling. But let me just tell you, the time differences like this screw you the eff up. We got up at 5 a.m. to travel to the airport for our 10 a.m. flight in Dublin, which in the United States was actually like getting up at 1 a.m. and leaving at 6 a.m. When we arrived in New York seven hours later, it was 2 p.m. in the states. Yes, this is basically one big hellish, sleep-deprived math problem. Our flight from New York left around 5, and we had a layover in Charlotte until our last flight to Charleston left at 10 p.m. By this point, we had been awake and traveling for 21 hours. When we finally arrived in Charleston at about 11:30 p.m., Chris had to drive us back to Huntington, so by the time I got into bed at about 1:30 a.m., I’d been traveling for over 24 hours. Sadly, at this point, the magic of Ireland was a distant memory, but ones that would follow me to my dreams for days to come.
Ireland is a land of greenery, of historic castles built long before any of us reading this walked this earth or were even imagined. It’s a place where magic lives. Not the tricking kind, but real, true, heartbreaking magic. The kind that takes your breath and fills you up at the same time. The magic lives in the herds of sheep you’ll stumble upon, and at the bottom of a pint of Guinness. It lives in the sound of pub music or clinking glasses or wind in your ears. These magical moments really do exist there.
Ireland is a place where strangers are kind and friendly, who tell you “you’re perfect” as a way of saying “great, thanks,” and you actually believe them. It’s a place where even if someone is telling you that you made a mistake somehow — took a wrong turn, couldn’t find the bathroom — they’ll tell you in a way that actually sounds like a compliment, as if your mistake was actually a blessing.
They say “cheers” and “thanks a million” and make you feel welcome and warm. Biscuits are scones, and cookies are biscuits. Fries are chips, and chips are crisps. When you order a coffee, don’t expect something weak, because it will be a dark, delicious cup of caffeine that will wake up the hairs on your neck and warm you up from the chilly rain.
In Ireland, moments are fleeting. It’s impossible to take it all in before it’s gone. There’s so much to see, so much to experience, that you know in your heart it will only be the first time you visit. You know in your heart, you must return.
“May the road rise up to meet you,” it tells you, “and may the wind be ever at your back.”