I forgot to mention last night before I went to bed I checked to see the schedule for the hop on, hop bus tour of Galway & the area. It leaves from downtown around 10:30, noon, and every hour and a half or so. I noticed that the same company also runs day tours out to the Aran Islands, and booked a spot on the tour tomorrow out to Inis Mor, the largest of the islands.
Ten years ago today I left home in South Florida on my only previous visit to Ireland, the ten day, nine night CIE tour Mom sent me on as a 50th birthday present.
Since I'm going to be here in Galway through Monday night, I decided to kind of take things a bit easier than I have been. I got off to both an early and a late start. The early start was because I had to drop my laundry off at the reception desk before 9 AMthere is no laundry service on Sunday, but I could have waited to have it done Monday if necessary. I thought if I had it done sooner I could move the two suitcases with spare clean clothes back down into the trunk of my car before I leave Tuesday morning.
The shower in my room was pretty bad this morning. The water pressure was so low I had to hold the hand-held nozzle really close to rinse off the soap and shampoo; in addition I couldn't get the water temperature much below almost scalding.
After hauling four plastic bags full of laundry around and down to drop them off at reception, I had the breakfast buffet here in the hotel. It was pretty good.
The late start was because other than dropping off my laundry, the only other things I planned on doing was taking one of the hop on, hop off tours, then wandering around for a couple of hours, probably coming back to the hotel for dinner, and taking a cab into town to listen to some traditional Irish music around 8:30 or 9, so I hung out in my room until I went back to reception to call a cab to be dropped off where I would get on the bus.
At first the weather was grey & even a bit drizzly from time to time, and not warm at all this morning.
I had a little time before the bus came and found places to buy another large flash drive to backup all the pictures I'm taking, another USB to micro cable, and a Boots where I could stock up on more Slimfast. (I'll probably have one for breakfast before I leave to get downtown for the tour to Inis Mor.)
The trip takes in a lot of downtown and the surrounding area and goes past some lovely scenery and buildings and past lots of nice houses with pretty gardens. It also goes out to Salthill, Galway's beach area (kind of like Seattle's Alki) where I had stayed ten years ago. Salthill hasn't changed much since I was here last, so I decided to not go back out there but to just get off the bus back where I had got on and just wander around downtown.
I had mentioned to the bus driver I had already booked the same company's day tour to Inis Mor tomorrow, and he told me where I actually needed to go beforehand to get the paper ticket I need for the tour bus to the ferry, the ferry over and back, and the tour bus back into town, so that's where I went first after getting off the bus.
After that I wandered back into the Claddagh area looking for somewhere to have lunch. I had an OK lunch in Taafes, which is very well known for hosting traditional Irish music but the place is so small I decided I'd not be going back tonight. I also got my time zones a little confused. Michael had sent me an email that he and Renee would probably call my US Verizon iPhone sometime in mid-afternoon our time to wish me a happy birthday. I remembered that Chicago is 6 hours behind local time here, but did my math wrong and thought 2 PM here when I called was 10 AM there instead of 8 AMsorry, Michael!
We must have driven past Eyre Square on the tour ten years ago, but I don't remember it. I do remember wandering around the Claddagh area and down to the waterfront near the Spanish Arch and the building that used to house the city museum, and certainly remember Salthill very well because I was there on two evenings since that's where my hotel was.
I saw most of the areas and places I want to see, such as the amusing Browne doorway (all that remains of a very old building), the new statue evoking the once common local type of sailing ship called a Galway hooker, and the small memorial to JFK who visited Galway for a whole hour on Saturday, June 29 in 1963. I found the lovely Claddagh church, but there was a wedding going on when I got there so I just took pictures through the windows in the door. I went to the small but very well done Galway city museum, which is another fine example of a local museum.
There's a maritime festival going on this weekend. I didn't have a lot of luck finding out where most things were taking place, so all I saw when wandering around town was what looked like a possible rescue demonstration since a helicopter was hovering around over the water.
I did find the very beautiful St Nicholas church and wandered through the small market there. When I got to the church, the American youth choir that was going to be performing there tonight was having a rehearsal. I decided I'd go back into town Monday afternoon and see the cathedral and go back to St Nicholas for a better look then.
I stopped in several pubs on the way back to Eyre Square, where I knew I could find a cab back to my hotel. I had forgotten how small most of the pubs here in town are. I decided to not stop anywhere for a drink or cup of coffee until I got back to the Square but once I got there and saw many cabs waiting I just came back to the hotel.
There's not nothing in the vicinity of the hotel after all. Up on the corner, there's a surprisingly nice small store with a meat counter, fresh vegs & fruit, and food freshly prepared there in house. Right across the street from there is a large hospital complex. As I was waiting to cross the street to go to the store, I was rather surprised to see an army tank come through the intersection. I was later told by someone at reception that there's an army barracks around the corner and down the street a ways.
I had an OK dinner here in the hotel. Once again, the main restaurant was closed for a private function so I ate in the small restaurant attached to the bar. I used one of the free drink coupons Owen at reception had given me last night when I told him today is my 60th birthday.
I came back to my room for about 45 minutes, then went back to reception to call a cab to take me back downtown to hear some Irish music. I'd chosen another of the places the girl in the Boyle visitors center had recommended yesterday morning, the Crane bar, which also has a good reputation for local Irish music. I got there a little early, since the upstairs bar where the music would be didn't open until around 9:30 and the musicians didn't actually start playing until after 10 PM. I only stayed until around 11 because I wanted to type today's notes and I need to have a fairly early start tomorrow. When I left there were ten musicians, a guitarist, two guys on bouzouki, two guys on flute, one on pennywhistle, an accordion, and three fiddle players. And a woman had done a bit of step dancing a couple of tunes before.
Not a bad way to spend a 60th birthday, wandering around on my own here in Galway. I talked with Michael & Renee, and had birthday emails from Tim, my youngest brother, and Kelly, the only friend from high school back in Portland I'm still in contact with.