Christmas 2017 & New Year's 2018

Galway city, Co Galway, Ireland

Maldron Hotel Sandy Road

Park Inn by Radisson Shannon Airport

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
    December 20, 2017
Traveling to Galway
December 21, 2017
Arrival
December 22, 2017 December 23, 2017 December 24, 2017
December 25, 2017
Christmas
December 26, 2017
St Stephen's day
December 27, 2017 December 28, 2017 December 29, 2017 December 30, 2017 December 31, 2017
New Year's Eve
January 1, 2018
New Year's Day
January 2, 2018 January 3, 2018 January 4, 2018
Original date scheduled to drive back to Shannon airport
January 5, 2018
Original departure date for back home
January 6, 2018
Shannon airport
January 7, 2018
Finally traveling home
January 8, 2018
Settling in back home
           

Wednesday, December 20th & Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Written the morning of Friday, December 22nd , 2017

Travel to Ireland
  Wednesday, December 20th, 2017
3:15 PM Leave Ft Lauderdale–Air Canada 1605
6:30 PM Arrive Montreal
7:55 PM Leave Montreal–Air Canada 864
  Thursday, December 21st, 2017
7:30 AM Arrive Heathrow
9:50 AM Leave Heathrow–Air Canada 6917/Aer Lingus
11:15 AM Arrive Shannon airport

My ride to the airport was at 12:30 PM on Wednesday. This gave me enough time to run across the street to my pharmacy to pick up a couple of prescription refills and to finish packing even after I had housekeeping clean my room at the hotel. (I had of course been planning on leaving the set of house and car keys I used to drive across the street back in my hotel room but discovered them in my pocket while going through the airport security in Ft Lauderdale.

I'm only going to mention just this once the almost eight months I've now spent trying to get the mold and water damage insurance claim I filed back on May 8th resolved. It seems that the contractor chosen to restore and replace the missing internal fire wall and the rest of the repairs hasn't actually filed for construction permits with the city of North Lauderdale, where I live. Since work on my home obviously won't be done when I get back on January 5th, I had arranged to keep my room at the hotel where I've been staying until at least January 20th. I may have to extend my stay beyond that.

My first flight, from Ft Lauderdale to Montreal, wasn't until 3:15 PM so I had plenty of time to check in, get my bags checked, get through security, and down to my departure gate well before 2 PM. There weren't that many places to get something to eat in the terminal down by my gate but I had something unmemorable anyway.

While we were waiting the airline announced that they were looking for people who wanted to check any of their carry on bags so I took advantage of the offer to check my hat box which was the only carry on I had. I knew I had to transfer flights at two airports and was glad to not have to carry anything other than Chris's cane and what I had put in the pockets of the sweatshirt and fleece vest I was wearing.

I was in premium economy on this flight on a very nice, newish, and large plane with plenty of leg room. They also fed us. I had the beef which was tasty if almost uncuttable with the bread knife they provided. I read and watched a couple of shows I had downloaded on my Kindles.

In Montreal I only had about an hour to make it from my arrival gate, through Canadian customs, into the terminal and on to the gate where my flight to London Heathrow boarded shortly after I got there.

I had a bit less leg room on this flight, the longest of the three, because my otherwise very comfortable seat was on the aisle behind a bulkhead.

As usual I was not able to fall asleep sitting up on the air plane but read some and watched something else on my Kindles and just kind of sat there resting in the dark for a while.

Once again at Heathrow I only had less than two hours to walk from my arrival gate into the terminal, find out where I needed to go to catch my flight to Shannon, and make it to that gate. I got a bit confused because although my flight from Ft Lauderdale to Montreal and the one from Montreal to London were both on Air Canada the one from London to Shannon was on Aer Lingus which I didn't notice on the boarding pass. What was also confusing is that although I got to the correct terminal for my departure to Shannon before 8:30 AM for my 9:50 flight, Aer Lingus didn't actually announce the specific departure gate until after 9 AM. I had stopped by the Aer Lingus information desk in the terminal and learned that my flight would leave from a gate between 21 and 25 so I just waited by the reader board near gate 21 until they announced the departure gate.

The flight from Heathrow to Shannon was short, although somewhat surprisingly they did offer meals and food for sale. I didn't have anything, thinking I'd just eat at Shannon before leaving for the drive up here to Galway. It was grey, chilly and drizzly when we got to Shannon and the weather didn't improve much all day.

Shannon is a small airport and although there are a couple of small restaurants the luggage claim is right next to the car rental desks. I was feeling too tired to be hungry so I just went to the Hertz rental desk to pick up the car I'd reserved. I also got the extra sat nav primarily because I thought I'd give it a try and by then wasn't sure where I had put the car vent holder for my cell phone which I had been planning on using to get here to Galway.

I've driven between Galway & the area near the Shannon airport twice before, once going the other direction on my way from Galway down to Doolin in Co Clare the summer of 2016 on my 60th birthday trip. It's a lovely area, and goes through places such as Coole Park and Thoor Ballylee which are associated with Yeats and the Irish literary revival. Bunratty with its castle and folk park, a town I like quite a bit, is only about 20 minutes away from the Shannon airport and not far from the road to Galway. However, since it was grey and drizzly and I was starting to feel the effects of sleep deprivation and probably low blood sugar, I decided to just make the drive from the airport up here to my hotel in Galway instead. I knew I'd probably get here way too early to check in, but at least I could find the place, leave my car, and go find somewhere to have lunch while waiting for my room to be ready.

The route from the Shannon airport to Galway is quite straightforward and involves driving on very lovely, well maintained roads since it's mostly on the M18. I'm probably not going to use the sat nav again since it failed far too often to keep track while driving along the M18 it said things like "In 80 yards turn right" or left when there were no roads to turn onto. It did seem to straighten out when I got to the N6 which is the main road into town, and where traffic became very heavy. It took from half an hour to 45 minutes to get from the M18 here to the hotel.

The only problem I had is that I often got a little too close to the left margin of the lane I was driving in but usually only when I was driving over the speed limit which was too easy to do since there wasn't a whole lot of traffic on the M18 and I was frequently being passed when I drove just at the limit. I kept having to pay attention to the visual cue of having the right hand lane marker exactly in the lower right corner of the front windshield which is what I need to do to stay far enough over but when I slowed down to the speed limit everything was fine.

I could actually see the hotel a couple of blocks before I got to it. It's a very nice looking, fairly modern hotel that's several stories tall and is taller than anything else in the immediate area. It's a very pleasant hotel with a nice lobby and bar & restaurant and a fitness room which I might check out and possibly use while I'm here.

I got here about 1:30, well before the usual check in of 3 PM, but there was a room available. There's no view to speak of, as is the case with most of the rooms in the hotel although you might be able to see the water of Lough Atalia which is perhaps half a mile away from the upper floors on that side of the building.

I dropped my car off downstairs in the parking garage and brought my two larger suitcases up to my room.

For me, the parking garage is a little scary and tricky to get into since there isn't a lot of room over on the left hand side of the car and the car's sensors kept telling me I was too close to the wall as I inched my way down to where it got less narrow. And the spaces downstairs are a little narrower with more frequent pillars than I like as well.

At the moment the only plans I have that actually include my driving anywhere are going up to Brigit's Garden tomorrow, which is about a half an hour drive from here. I might leave early enough to stop by the Connemara Marble Company which is sort of on the way, and where we stopped on the CIE tour Mom sent me on.

My two other main out of town trips are day trips on buses, although I will probably drive up to Tuam one day and out to Salthill and the Prom there on the way to Spiddal another day.

Even though Dad's grandparents were from the Tuam area I've never been there before. On the CIE tour Mom sent me on 11 years ago for my 50th birthday, we only stopped long enough for me to take a picture of the road sign for Tuam on our way past it. And last year on my grand tour I didn't make it there either during my time here in Galway and again didn't make it there when I was here for a week this past April.

The reason I haven't made it to Tuam is because there really isn't that much to see other than the cathedrals there, the Cathedral of the Assumption and St Mary's Cathedral.

The rest of the time I'll just leave my car parked downstairs.

I rather like my room with a larger bed than the one I've been sleeping on at the La Quinta back home. It has small tables on each side of the bed, both tall enough to see the tops of while lying down and with a nice sized drawer. There's a large, long desk which has three drawers and a large closet which also has a couple of shelves as well. The bathroom is quite large as well with lots of places to put things including in the tub area.

There are only three minor things I dislike. The desk chair doesn't actually raise high enough to comfortably use when working on my laptop at the desk. I tried for a while last night and was using it there until just now when I moved my laptop to the slightly lower, smaller side table between the desk and the window where it is much more comfortable.

Another thing I don't like about the room is the tub itself, which is a tall, deep soaker tub which is actually about knee high and makes getting in and out of a bit difficult for me.

The third thing I mildly disklike is that the room is on the second (US)/first floor (here and in the UK and Europe) and looks out onto the roof over the ground floor lobby and restaurant. No one can directly look into my room except if they're actually working on the roof which they were for a while yesterday afternoon but I think I'll keep the heavier drapes mostly closed most of the time.

Now back to yesterday. After I brought my two suitcases, one of which had pretty much just a heavier winter coat, a lighter jacket, my heavier vest, and my rain jacket, up to my room I actually unpacked before doing anything else. One reason for doing so is that I wanted to dig out my camera so I could take pictures of my nice room before cluttering it up with my stuff (OK, it's not very cluttered really and I have both of my suitcases out of the way). The other reason is that the room doesn't come with an alarm clock and I really like knowing what time it is and wanted to have at least one of them out and plugged in before I took a nap.

Before I took a nap, there was a problem with false alarms caused by someone working on the system.

I then stretched out for a while and think I even fell asleep for a couple of hours. About 6:30 PM or so I took some time to wake up and finish unpacking before taking a shower.

I had planned on going down the street to the Galway Shopping Centre since I wanted to stop by the Carphone Warehouse or one of the other cell phone places there to get a new, current Irish SIM for my older iPhone as well as stopping by the Boots to get some Slimfasts for when I decide to skip breakfast here in the hotel (I have to pay for each time since I didn't get the added breakfast plan) and the Cunniffe Electrics there, primarily to get an extra power strip/bar since there aren't quite enough outlets in the places I wanted them to charge all my devices. I wasn't sure I'd have time after taking my shower but when I checked the hours of the shopping centre using the hotel's wifi on my home iPhone I saw that it's open until 9 on Thursday so I'd still have plenty of time to get there since it was only a bit after 7.

I was going to walk down to the shopping center and take a cab back but it was rainy and I was still rather tired and by now feeling a bit of low blood sugar since I hadn't eaten since much earlier in the morning, so I came back inside and brought my hat box and Chris's cane up to my room first. I then took a cab down to the center instead.

I was really ready for dinner by then. There are several places to eat or buy food at the shopping center and several of them look like they'd be pretty good but the first place I saw was the Supermac's in the small and very busy food court there so I had a bacon cheese burger and some fries. I've been to other branches of Supermac's before, including the one in downtown Galway, and rather like them. They're at least as good as branches of McDonald's at home or elsewhere.

I then went to the Carphone Warehouse to get a new SIM card for my older iPhone. What made this visit enjoyable for me is that the only two employees working the front desk were both attractive younger women both of whom were wearing glasses. What can I say? I love techy, at least somewhat geeky women especially when they're attractive and these were and also wore glasses.

I didn't see Cunniffe Electrical at first but did find a power strip at the smaller, non-grocery branch of the Tesco although I had to ask when I couldn't find any. They only had two and they were on a bottom shelf in the small electronics section.

I then found the Boots where I did find some Slimfasts.

My cabby had told me the best place to call a cab to take me back to the hotel was over by the larger, grocery Tesco there in the mall. I was able to find small bottles of Jameson's and some spiced rum and some of Tesco's own brandy. They did have the much larger bottles of Bushmill's honey whiskey which I might just have to buy if I can't find any smaller ones elsewhere.

Calling a cab to come pick me up turned out to be just a little complicated. The driver who had dropped me off had told me to look for a dedicated wall phone down near the larger Tesco but when I asked one of the security guards there he told me to go back to the now closed customer service desk down by the other, smaller Tesco which is where the cab phone now was. When I called, the dispatcher told me to wait at the "main entrance". I had to ask her to be more specific and it turned out I had to go back to the entrance where the driver who dropped me off said the phone was.

Part of the building that has the hotel also houses a gas station and a fairly large convenience store. After I dropped my stuff off back here in my room, I went back outside and around the corner of the building to the convenience store for some juices. diet coke, sparkling water and some chips and cookies.

When I got back to my room it was close to 11 PM. I unpacked my shopping bags and put stuff in the small fridge. That's something I really like, and noticed when I made my reservation in the first place. Unlike many of the places I've stayed here in Ireland or in Scotland or at my usual hotel in London, these rooms have small refrigerators. That meant I decided I could skip taking my diabetes shots in the chiller bags I usually use but could just trust in the colder weather during the flight and between flights and from Shannon to here and on the way back home, and then just put the boxes in the fridge while I'm here.

I was going to send Michael & Renee my new Irish phone number but decided I'd register it online first with Three, the carrier, first and possibly top it off by 15 Euros as well although I shouldn't need to. I also had to take some time to figure out what they'd need to dial from the US to call my Irish phone, so after playing around with my home iPhone and my Irish phone I figured it out and then sent Michael & Renee the number.

I also went through all my email since I'd left my hotel back in Florida on Wednesday.

It was while I was watching some stuff streaming via the hotel's wifi that they once again started having problems with false alarms on the fire alarm system. I know because the first thing I did, as I had when it had happened earlier in the afternoon, was to call the reception desk. This started after 1 AM this morning and lasted almost until 2 AM when I finally went to bed after it had stopped.

Thursday night I also had some fairly unpleasant stomach problems which resulted in my having to go to the bathroom about five times in about two hours before things settled down.


Friday, December 22nd, 2017

I had accidentally set the alarm on one of my plug in alarm clocks when I was setting them last night, and it went off at 8:30 this morning. I wasn't feeling very rested and it took me a while to feel awake enough to get on with the day.

It's now about 12:30 PM. Earlier I took a shower and shaved, had one of my Slimfasts, and have been typing up my notes since then as well as going through all my email and catching up on Facebook from after I left home on Wednesday.

I was also figuring out what I wanted to do today. My only firm plans for today are going to the Celtic Nutcracker at the Town Hall Theatre which is at 7:30 PM so I need to stop by the box office to pick up my actual ticket and for the Beauty & the Beast panto on New Year's Day. I also want to stop by the Tourist Office to find out what else is going on while I'm here so that's what I'm off to do. I think I'll go by the tourist office first and then head on over to the theater and see where I might want to go for dinner. I think I might then take a trip around on one of the hop on, hop off bus tours or find something else to do downtown like go to the lovely city museum instead of catching a cab back here and then pack towards the theater for dinner.

Before I left I saw that although the battery cases for both of my iPhones had charged over night, somehow only my home iPhone had charged and apparently my older iPhone which now has my new Irish SIM card didn't like either the charger I had plugged it into or the cable I had used. I wasn't too worried because I could use my home iPhone for just long enough until the battery case had charged my older one. I thought I might at some point want to buy another USB charger and USB to Apple Lightning cable as well but won't worry about it.

I also plugged both of my Kindles in to recharge before I left.

More later.

Before I went to bed early this morning I discovered that someone on the hotel's staff had placed a nice, polite note under my room's door and presumably those of all the other guests as well apologizing for the false alarms late last night. There was also a note doing the same and saying tests were going to be run on the alarm system this afternoon on the front reception desk when I went past on my way out about 12:45 PM.

It was grey and drizzly when I left. Once I got outside I thought about coming back up here to my room to switch from my water resistant jacket to my actual rain jacket but it was only drizzling and the jacket was warm enough.

The walk from here at the hotel towards the tourist office and the Town Hall Theatre took me right past the Galway Shopping Centre where I had gone last night and it really is a short walk from here to there. I had also noticed last night a sign close to the shopping centre that had pictures of some wildlife on it, and today I learned that is where the Terryland Forest Park is located. The shopping center is also located across the street, the N6, from another large shopping/retail mall with an Aldi , a large grocery chain, and the IMC Cinema Galway. And just down the road is another mall with a large Lidl store, another large shopping and grocery chain, as well as a branch of Argo , the chain of catalog-based stores where they have little merchandise actually on display but you have to order most everything from a catalog and then they bring it out to the front desk for you. I've been to branches of Argos in several other cities here in Ireland on my last two trips and rather like them.

All these shopping locations probably have something to do with why the N6 is so busy getting into town.

I had planned on going by the tourist information office before I went over to the Town Hall Theatre but instead of turning off the road I was on when Google Maps told me to, I kept going along that road until I got to a corner with some interesting buildings I'd noticed several times before and one of them is the theatre so I went inside to the box office to pick up my tickets.

I then turned off towards the tourist office and along the way I noticed that there didn't seem to be many places to eat in the immediate area at all so I'd have to find somewhere else to eat before tonight's show.

I had a pretty good ham, cheddar, and tomato sandwich and a lovely soup for lunch at a small, very popular bakery Dad would have loved.

I followed the directions on over to the Discover Ireland tourist information office, which I had been to on each of my last two visits here, and recognized the area which was rather pretty with all the Christmas market and decorations. I picked up copies of their December events listings–the January list wasn't out yet–although there doesn't seem to be anything going on I already didn't know about.

From there I went back towards Eyre Square. On my way to the tourist office I had noticed that although the Galway tourist train's web page indicates they're closed for the season they seem to be running a smaller circuit during the holiday season so I paid the 5 Euros for the short ride which was fun.

When we got back I went over to take a ride on the large Ferris wheel next to the Square and the Christmas market, which was enjoyable although it was still drizzly so I might go back for another ride on a day with better weather. I can't find a web page for the wheel, other than news reports from earlier this season when riders were on it when it got stuck although the recorded announcement kept mentioning it's on Facebook.

By now it was only about 3 PM. I thought about catching a cab back here to the hotel and then catching another one back to the theater in time to find somewhere to have dinner but decided I'd just find a couple of places to have some coffee or whatever to kill the time between dinner and then.

A place I'd really liked on my last two trips here to Galway is An Cupan Tae, a small bakery & tea shop down by the Spanish Arch and the wonderful Galway City Museum which I'll have to go back to while I'm here in town, so that's where I headed first. I was delighted to see a notice that they were serving mulled wine. I've mentioned in the past that I'm not a big wine fan, but I do love a good cold sangria or a good mulled wine or vin chaud, so I had a glass with one of their lovely pastries.

It was still only about 4:30 when I left An Cupan Tae. I didn't feel like going anywhere for a beer so I went to the nearest coffee place, which was a Costa Coffee where I managed to make an iced coffee last over an hour.

Earlier I had gone past a buffet place which I thought I'd try for dinner. When I got there after 6 PM, however, and my glasses finally cleared up after having completely steamed up when I went in the door, I discovered there didn't seem to be anything I really wanted to eat there at all–it all seemed to probably be too spicy for me. I was running out of time by now, and headed on over towards the theatre hoping to find somewhere along the way. I came across a small Italian place that looked good and was very busy but I went in anyway. It was now past 6:30 PM and I wanted to be at the theater not much past 7 PM.

When I went in I noticed lots of kids wearing what seemed to be costumes, and I wondered whether they were part of the "Celtic nutcracker" performance at the Town Hall Theatre I was going to. (They were.)

I mentioned to my server I was in a hurry and needed to get my order pretty quickly but the food didn't come until almost 6:45 so as good as it was I had to eat as much as I could in under fifteen minutes. It was tagliatelle with a seafood sauce and was quite good and I wish I had more time to enjoy it.

I got up to the theater, which was only a couple of blocks away, before seating had opened which gave me a welcome chance for a quick visit to the restroom.

I enjoyed the Town Hall Theatre almost as much as I did the performance. The lobby area where the box office is is quite nice, and the theater itself although older is still very pleasant and rather nice. I noticed that rows of seats are designated in reverse alphabetical order, with A being up at the top. My seat was third from the right aisle about six rows from the front and leg room was OK if not great.

The whole performance was excellent. They use a wide variety of music, some from Tchaikovsky's original score for the "Nutcracker" and a lot of Irish music of several different styles. All of the dancing including that to the original score was Irish, again of several different styles including some choreography that is visibly modern, and all the choreography was very impressive and all the dancing was very well done, from the smallest and youngest members to the older kids and young adults.

Tonight's performance was the main showcase and charity fund raiser presented by the Hession School of Irish Dancing. Several of the school's dancers had completed in the world Irish dancing championships this year, including a young man who won the world championship in his division, and they all were featured at the beginning of the second half and the world champion presented his full routine.

I am not sure how many people were actually in tonight's performance, not being very good at estimating numbers of people especially when they're moving around, but each number in the second half had over a dozen dancers and there were seven or eight different sets with different dancers in that half and when at the very end they all were out on stage it was a very impressively large number.

Near the outside door of the theater there was a dedicated phone line to another, different Galway cab company so I used it to order a ride back here. Before I came up to my room I wanted to stop by the Spar convenience store next door for a bit of a snack since I hadn't had a lot of time for dinner before the show and bought two different small yogurts and a small thing of rice pudding.

When I got back to my room I discovered that for some reason I didn't have my room's key card in my wallet and had to go back downstairs to the reception desk and get another. It seems that after I let myself in last night, I put the card on the desk here instead of back in my wallet as I usually do.

I had my snacks while finishing the chapter on my Kindle I had been reading during intermission back at the theater.

I then went through the pictures I'd taken on my iPhone earlier in the day, and sent them via email to Michael & Renee and some other friends and posted them to Facebook before beginning typing up today's notes/

It's now about 12:30 AM and I'm about ready to go to bed.

My ticket for Brigit's Garden is for 2 PM tomorrow afternoon. The Connemara Marble Factory in Moycullen is about 20 minutes away from here and Brigit's Garden is about 10 minutes past that, and a 25 minute drive back here to my hotel.

I have no idea what I'll do after I leave Brigit's Garden; I should be able to spend a good two to three hours wandering around the different gardens on the property even if I skip most of the Christmas stuff. I think on the way there I'll see if I spot any likely looking places to have dinner on the way back here.

Before I leave I need to make a reservation for brunch Christmas day here at the hotel if that's what I decide to do; I've already made arrangements to have the buffet here Christmas evening.

And that's it for tonight.


Saturday, December 23rd, 2017

Written at 3 AM the morning of Sunday, December 24th

Today was kind of an odd day although still very pleasant. I spent most of it asleep and the way I feel now I won't have a lot of trouble going back to sleep when I go back to bed.

I slept quite well Friday night but for only a couple of hours, and woke up about 4 AM and couldn't get back to sleep.

As I said last night, there were only a couple of places I wanted to go to today and had a ticket for one of them at 2 PM so I wasn't in a hurry to get moving even if I really felt like it. I read and watched something streaming until 10:30 AM or so when I finally got up, took a shower, got dressed and headed out for the day.

Before I left I stopped off at the reception desk downstairs and did make definite reservations for the Christmas lunch at 1 PM and the dinner buffet at 7 PM on Christmas Day. When I was in Dublin at this time last year it turned out to be quite hard to find anywhere other than restaurants in hotels open on Christmas at all, and many of those–like this hotel itself–were only open to guests actually staying there.

While I was driving around today I used both the extra sat nav I got with the car and Google Maps on my now Irish iPhone. I wasn't too sure about the Hertz sat nav because of the way it kept telling me to take nonexistent turns off the M18 yesterday and wanted to compare directions on the two.

I found the Connemara Marble Company all right and recognized the building even though I had only been there once, on the CIE tour Mom sent me on eleven years ago. What I wasn't prepared for and still don't see any indication of on their web page is they were obviously closed and the entrance was blocked off. I drove past them, made a U turn, drove past to double check, and pulled over.

In retrospect I very obviously should have made another U turn to keep going the same direction in which I had been going originally but Google Maps said I should make the next left turn so I did. I anticipated making another left turn to get back onto my original route but wound up being routed through about half an hour of very narrow country roads, some single lane and the rest theoretically wide enough for two cars to pass.

The road's terrain was quite varied, and so was the countryside I drove through, ranging from farm country to kind of scrub lands to being in the outright Burren with its lovely barren rocky landscape. There was no traffic at that point so I pulled over once to take some pictures out of the car windows.

I got to Brigit's Garden a bit before noon. My ticket wasn't for until 2 PM but they let me come in anyway although I would have had to stay until 3 PM to see the Christmas show if I wanted to but since it was for kids and families I knew I probably wouldn't,

Brigit's Garden is quite small but is still worth the admission price. Although the grounds themselves are perhaps twice as large, the main part consists of four adjacent areas, each of them landscaped around the themes of the four seasons of the Celtic year. I wandered around for a bit and followed a path into the wooded area next to it and had to find my way back out the way I had gone in when I couldn't get back to the landscaped area I could see from where I was wandering around.

For being quite a ways from anywhere out in the countryside, the place was very busy today with families and their kids, most of whom were running around finding clues on the Garden's Christmas treasure hunt. I kept spotting a lot of clues myself because I am a fairly observant sort of person.

I decided to skip the rather popular face painting which was going on in what looks from the outside like an Iron Age round house but is finished and furnished inside in a very nice modern fashion.

The Garden does have a small, very pleasant and busy café and since there was nowhere else in the area to go I had a very nice bowl of soup and an open faced sandwich for lunch there. It was only 1:30 PM or so and I decided I wouldn't stay for the Christmas show but headed back here to Galway.

The drive from there back was extremely straight forward and turned out to be along exactly the same road I'd been traveling on before I diverged onto country roads back at the Connemara Marble Factory.

I was back here in my room well before 3 PM and stretched out for a bit. I wasn't sure I'd actually be able to get any sleep but to my surprise I fell rather deeply asleep and remained so until well past 6 PM.

It took me a little while before I felt awake enough to make dinner plans. Other than hotels and the shopping centers down the road I'd been to and past already, there are no places near here to go for dinner. The Huntsman Inn, with its very nice restaurant and which I'd been to on my trip here the summer of 2016 and this past April, is only a 15 minute walk away so I decided to go there.

It was a very pleasant walk although most of it is through a very light industrial/warehousey area. The only problem I had is that I couldn't figure out where I needed to go when I got to the major roundabout since the directions over my iPhone told me to "take the fourth exit" onto a specifically named and numbered road and the signs there didn't show a road with that name or number.

I recognized the area, though, since that intersection is at the corner of the New Cemetery in Bohermore which I had only briefly wandered around in during a previous visit and want to go back to and see more of some day on this trip as well.

There is a gas station with a small store on that corner so I went in and the guy at the counter checked his own smart phone and told me that I wanted to take the street pretty much directly across the intersection and go along it, which turned out to be the road that goes past the cemetery on that corner–which I then vaguely remembered from having seen on Google Maps some time before I left home.

The road descended a small if steep for me anyway hill until I got to the corner where the Huntsman is about five minutes later.

Along the way I thought I was hearing noises from a sporting event somewhere nearby. And I found out later, after dinner when I was waiting for a cab to take me back here, that I had been right. While I was waiting outside I saw large groups of people walking past, most likely coming from the same direction and event. My driver told me that the match at the rugby stadium & club down the road just a bit closer to the town center had just finished, and the home team Connacht Rugby had just beat the Ulster team quite handily. I had heard people cheering what was probably a sporting event in the Huntsman's bar while I was there.

I rather like the Huntsman, the way it looks from the outside, and the way the restaurant and bar are set up inside. It's also probably a very nice place to stay in its boutique hotel. The restaurant itself has a small, somewhat limited menu but there always has seemed to be a usual menu with their usual wonderful seafood chowder and a few main entrees and desserts with their daily specials as well.

I had a bowl of their very good creamed vegetable soup followed by their fish & chips made with their own ale in the batter and Christmas pudding, which was pretty close to what I think of as fruitcake, for dessert. My dinner was quite good, although the fries were thicker and chunkier than I really like and the pieces of fish were less finger food than I like so I had to cut them up and eat them with a fork. It all was pretty tasty and so was their own tartare sauce.

After I caught the cab back here, I came back up here to my room and stretched out to read for a bit. I guess this might have been about 10 PM or so, and that's all I remember for a while until I woke up again, maybe around 2 AM.

It's now almost 4 AM, and I don't think I'll have any trouble going back to sleep again.

The only plans I have for tomorrow are going on a walking tour of downtown at 2 PM, so I'll probably go into town between 11 and 12 to find somewhere for lunch and maybe somewhere else for a pint or cup of coffee and then I'll probably go to the cathedral or St Nicholas's church or the Galway city museum to kill some time before having dinner downtown somewhere.

If the weather is nice on Christmas Day, I think I'll walk from here to the Long Walk down at the water's edge downtown. The shortest, most direct route from here takes about half an hour but I might take the longer walk down to Lough Atalia and St Augustine's Well and along the lough into town. I'll probably take my walk in the afternoon to kill time between lunch and the dinner buffet here at the hotel.

And now back to bed.


Sunday, December 24th, Christmas Eve, 2017

Although I've been here in my room for most of the day, it's now 11:30 PM and I'm just getting around to typing up my notes from today. That's not going to take long, though, because I didn't do a whole lot.

I wanted to make sure what hours the lovely Galway city museum was open today so I checked online early this morning, and it's a good thing I did because they're closed until after the New Year.

When I left my room about noon I had planned on walking into town, first to the lovely Cathedral and then on to St Nicholas's church before having lunch somewhere before going on the walking tour at 2 PM but it was chilly and raining and a cab had just arrived to pick someone else up who wasn't there any longer and was therefore available so I had him drop me off at the cathedral.

Not surprisingly for a Sunday morning, there was a mass going on. I stood in the back along the sides for a while, just long enough to hear the choir do a couple of songs. I'll have to go back some other time to take some pictures of the very lovely interior.

It's a short walk from the cathedral on over to St Nicholas's. When I got there the mass had finished shortly before but lots of people were bustling around setting things up for the "Carols around the Christmas tree" program this afternoon at 4 PM. I sat quietly for a while, just enjoying watching the activity, before I left, I thought about going back for the carols but will go back there as well at some other time to take pictures of the church's interior.

It was now about 12:30 PM and was still raining. I thought I'd grab something to eat and then if the weather had improved I'd head on over to the Jury's Inn by the Spanish Arch to meet the walking tour. As I was walking back up Shop Street towards Eyre Square https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eyre_Square looking for somewhere to have lunch there was a younger woman standing under a doorway playing guitar and singing. I didn't recognize anything she was playing, but she was quite good and had a very nice voice. I handed her a 5 Euro tip, stood and listened for a couple of songs. We chatted about the weather a bit and she mentioned she's actually Canadian.

For some reason I decided to check out this very little cafe/bakery/coffee shop I've been past many times and never been in for lunch and I'm very glad I did. I was rather surprised to see that such a small place has a very extensive menu, several pages long, that has a wide variety of dishes and baked goods. I had a wonderful bowl of creamed vegetable soup and their Irish breakfast crepe, made with bits of black pudding and Irish bacon and a fried or poached egg on top, and everything was excellent.

(I have to admit I didn't remember the place's name when I was writing these notes, and had to go past it again later at least once to take a picture on my iPhone to make sure I knew what it is called--An Pota Caife, but they don't seem to have their own web page.)

Not surprisingly it was still raining when I left after lunch and was still also quite breezy. I decided I'd really rather skip the walking tour for better weather, which I can do since I'll be here in Galway until January 3rd.

As I was walking closer to Eyre Square I heard some brass music and stopped to listen for a couple of songs to the St Patrick's Brass Band which I think disbanded right after I left because it was still raining.

When I got to the Square, I noticed that the Christmas market and the Big Wheel that had been there when I was there on Friday were all gone. I stopped at an ATM and then caught a cab back here.

After I got back I sent an email to the guide for the walking tour today and told him I'd decided to wait for better weather.

My room hadn't been cleaned yet when I got back so I just kind of hung out reading until the house keeper–a guy this time–came about 4 PM. I went and read on a very comfy chair in the small lounge above the loby downstairs for a while and he stopped by and let me know he was done.

After that I just hung out here until it was time to go downstairs for dinner at 7. I hadn't been into the bar/restaurant area before, having had a Slimfast for breakfast each morning instead of eating downstairs, and really like the way it looks. Dinner itself was excellent as well. I had a lovely bowl of seafood chowder, very good tortellini, and a good dessert as well.

I've been back up here since about 8:45 PM or so, just hanging out, reading, and watching a couple of things streaming via the hotel's very good wifi.

And that's it for today. I'm going to check my email and Facebook and watch something else streaming before trying to get some sleep.

I have no idea what I'll do tomorrow other than brunch downstairs at 1 PM and the dinner buffet at 7 PM. I still think I'll go for a walk in the afternoon to get some exercise but if it's raining as hard as it was today I might just use the treadmill in the fitness room to get my exercise.


Monday, December 25th, Christmas, 2017

As usual, once again it's about 11 PM and I've just getting around to typing up my notes from today and as usual that's not because I just got in. I've been here in the hotel almost all day, and up here in my room for most of that.

I wasn't in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere today. My fixed plans were to have lunch here at 1 PM, and then dinner at 7 PM.

I slept reasonably well last night, and woke up about 9 AM. I had one of my Slimfasts for breakfast, and after I shaved & showered & got dressed I hung the "Ready for cleaning" sign on my room's doorknob hoping someone from housekeeping would see it early and he did, sometime before 11. I of course gave him a 10 Euro tip, then headed over to the little lobby above the lobby downstairs to read for a while before coming back here to my room.

Lunch was pretty good, with the appetizer served at our tables and the rest was self-serve from a small but good buffet line. I started with a lovely chicken & mushroom vol au vent, and had the salmon for the main course. That was pretty good but was baked on a bed of mixed vegs which had some peppers and gave me a bit of indigestion for quite a while afterwards. I had some very good fruit cake for dessert.

I came back up here to get my heavy winter coat, hat, walking stick and camera and then went back downstairs to head out for a bit.

I had planned on walking directly from here at the hotel over to the Long Walk, saving walking to and along Lough Atalia for another day, but when I walked around the corner of the hotel to the main road I could see what looked like possibly severe storm clouds many places on the horizon and not having any idea which way they actually were moving and not wanting to get caught out in the open if it started raining I went back into the lobby to call a cab from the little direct box on the front desk.

It took a while for a cab to show up, about twenty minutes after I eventually called the cab company directly.

I had the driver drop me off at the Long Walk, after we drove down to and along the harbor around the corner. I then walked up through the Claddagh back to Eyre Square.

It was a lovely, pleasant if short walk. Downtown was pretty well deserted, with very few people out having a wander around as I was. The sky was starting to get dark even that early so I was actually able to get some better pictures of all the Christmas lights along the way without people blocking the view.

There had been a singe cab waiting at the cab rank at the Square when I got there, but after I took some pictures of the Christmas lights on the Square itself it was gone. This time, however, it only took about 10 minutes after I called for a cab to come.

After I got back here to my room I just hung out and read until it was time to go downstairs to dinner at 7. I might have even fallen asleep for little bit.

Dinner was also pretty good, with a choice of chicken, beef, or turkey main dishes, with rice or mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts or diced & roasted root vegetables as well. There might have even been a soup. I didn't see it but I think the man at the table near mine had some. I had some more of the very good fruitcake for dessert again.

After that I've just been hanging out here in my room reading, and talked with Michael for a bit over the phone about 9:30 PM. He & Renee still hadn't opened their Christmas presents, so I stil don't know if they liked the Irish peat briquettes I ordered for them from Amazon. I hope they do. I still remember the first time I smelled a peat fire, over 11 years ago, and when I've smelled it other times since then–if it was a liquid, I'd drink it; if it were an aftershave, I'd wear it; and if it were an air freshener available in the US I'd use it all Fall & Winter long.

So what are my plans for tomorrow? Judging from my experience in Dublin last Christmas, I don't expect that many more places to be open on St Stephen's Day which is of course what tomorrow is. I'm hoping that the Galway Shopping Centre down the street might be open, or at least the Supermac's so I'll have somewhere else to eat.

If the weather is decent, and currently the forecast is for it to be grey & chilly but not actually raining, I might walk over to the New Cemetery at Bohermore for a wander around. When the cab drove past it earlier today, I noticed some cars moving in and out. It looked like a nice cemetery to visit when I briefly was there this past trip in April.

Or I might drive out to Salthill & the Prom there, maybe going all the way out to Spiddal.

We'll see.


Tuesday, December 26th, 2017

It's only 8:45 PM and I'm starting on today's notes. This evening there's music in the hotel bar downstairs from 9 to 11 and I might go down around 10 for a listen and maybe an Irish coffee.

Although it turned out that many if not most places were back open today, I decided to wait to go out to Salthill and Spidall until a bit later.

Last night once again I slept pretty well but not long enough, waking up about 4:30 AM. I read some, watching a couple of things streaming on my Kindle, and think I eventually fell asleep about 8 AM for a little while, waking up again at 10.

I wasn't in a hurry to get moving, and it took me a while to actually feel fairly awake, so I took the rest of the morning easily. The big excitement was sorting out the next week's doses of my various pills, putting them from their individual bottles into my two weekly pill containers (seven separate compartments each, one for morning and one for evening).

Although I thought many places downtown and probably over at the Galway Shopping Centre would be open again today I was pretty sure I wouldn't be hanging around downtown late enough to have dinner somewhere there, so before I left I asked the nice girls on the front reception desk if I still could make a reservation for dinner here and did so for 7:15.

The weather today was quite chilly–low 40s–and mostly cloudy but blessedly no rain.

As I thought I might do last night, when I left a bit after noon I walked from here over to the New Cemetery on Bohermore, which is about a 20 minute walk away. I'd been to the cemetery once before on one of my earlier trips, perhaps the one last summer instead of this past spring, but there was a major funeral going on then so at that time I didn't wander around taking pictures as much as I'd like. I also walked past the cemetery on my way over to the Huntsman to have dinner a couple of nights ago, so I knew where I was going.

The New Cemetery is actually quite lovely, very well maintained, with most graves lovingly maintained and taken care of and three very pretty buildings as well–a caretaker's lodge, and separate mortuary chapels for Catholics and Protestants.

For a cemetery founded in the Victorian era there are a lot of very recent graves as well. I saw several that were as recent as last month. There are two graves I wish I had remembered were there and knew where to find, both members of the Irish literary revivalYeat's patron and patron of the arts herself, Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory, and Irish language poet Padraic O'Conaire of whom there is a popular statue of in the center of Eyre Square downtown.

As it is such a picturesque place, and the clouds with the sun sort of shining through adding to the ambience, I wandered around taking quite a few pictures before I left.

I had thought maybe I'd just go across the street and call a cab to come back here to the hotel when I left the cemetery but I felt pretty well and the walk down to the road running along Lough Atalia, which opens onto Galway Bay downtown, was only a 10 to 15 minute walk from the cemetery so I kept on going.

The walk along the river is quite pretty in places and not so much in others. The side of the road across from the Lough is lined with houses and other buildings, some of them apparently deserted and derelict but most quite nice and well maintained. The side nearest to the water is lined with small fenced patches which might be the gardens belonging to the properties across the street.

I walked down past St Augustine's holy well which is quite pretty. There was a large building down the road towards the city and I thought that might be a good landmark and reference point from which to call a taxi.

When I got to it, it was the large, fairly modern Radisson Blu Since the entrance seemed to be around the corner and a bit uphill, I checked Google Maps on my Irish iPhone and saw that Eyre Square was less than a 10 minute walk away from where I was so I kept on going.

The route took me to the corner where the large, modern bus station is right by Eyre Square. I'd never actually been past the bus station before, but had been past that corner which goes a bit uphill to the station.

There were quite a lot more people wandering around downtown than there had been yesterday, and many were carrying shopping bags. I was able to find an empty table at the Supermac's and had a good burger and sweet potato fries for lunch, then went back across the street to the Caffe Nero https://caffenero.com/ie/en/ where I had an iced coffee and a lovely small mince pie before going back across the street to catch a cab back here.

In all the times I've taken cabs here in Ireland, I could understand the driver I had this afternoon the least and not because he had a thick Irish accent but seemed to be from Africa and didn't seem to speak English all that well.

I enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, just hanging out here in my room, until going back downstairs for dinner at 7 PM. I had a lovely cup of potato leek soup, some excellent roast beef and mashed potatoes, and what I think was the very nice fruitcake for dessert.

Tomorrow I have my day trip & tour out to the Cliffs of Moher and into Connemara with Galway Tours. Before I left this morning I called the tour company because I wasn't sure if I had arranged to be picked up here at my hotel instead of having to meet somewhere else downtown and I'm being picked up here at 9:05 AM for our 10 AM departure.

It's now about 9:30 and I think I'll go downstairs in about half an hour to hear some of the music, and have an Irish coffee. More tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 27th, 2017

Written the morning of Thursday, December 28th not because I got home too late last night to do so. More about that later.

Yesterday was the Galway Tours day trip from Galway into the Burren and Connemara on the way to the Cliffs of Moher and back.

I had no problem being awake early enough to take a shower and get dressed and downstairs well before my pick up at 9:05 AM for the 10:00 tour leaving from downtown but that was largely because once again I had slept badly and woke up before 6 AM.

It was very cold yesterday but not raining or even drizzling which was a relief.

I was waiting outside for my pickup about 8:55 when I realized that I had not taken my neck pouch with my passport and credit cards, not that I really expected to buy anything along the way.

The shuttle showed up pretty much on time, and this hotel apparently was the first on that particular pick up route. We went to most of the other hotels in the area, including the G Hotel down the hill from the Connacht, where I had stayed last year and this past Spring, and picked up a couple of couples at the Huntsman. There has to be a better, more organized way for them to do the pickups because the driver didn't know whether there was anyone waiting for him until he got to each hotel and that included the Connacht which was actually closed until 2 PM yesterday afternoon.

We were dropped off at the very nice bus station, which is used by quite a few other transportation and tour companies and transferred to another bus which was already quite crowded when we got there and which was full to the capacity of 53 or 54 before we left. Although it was a nice, newer bus there was not quite sufficient leg room for me and the seats were rather crowded with everyone wearing heavy winter coats.

I was rather amused and frustrated that since I was sitting on the right side of the bus and my seat belt fastened on the left I could never quite get the buckle into the receptacle and each time we needed to put our seat belts on the guy seated next to me had to very kindly fasten it for me. Wearing a sweatshirt under a heavy winter coat didn't help.

Our driver, Gary, was quite good and entertaining and informative despite two minor quirks, one of which was annoying and the other a bit worrying. The mildly annoying quirk was that Gary often referred to himself as "Gary"; the slightly worrying quirk is that he often gestured with his left hand, steering with only his right.

We went past or through more places than we actually stopped at.

The first place we stopped, only long enough to take pictures of, was Dunguaire Castle

We then drove through the town of Kinvara, Co Galway and past the entrance to Ailwee Cave

Our next stop, out in the Burre , was the Poulnabrone megalithic portal tomb. Unfortunately we got there at pretty much the same time as several other tour groups so it was hard to get pictures of it without including too many other people.

We then drove past the stone fort at Caherconnell on the way to Kilfenora in Co Clare where unfortunately the lovely Burren Centre was closed for the season. Although the graveyard next door to the Burren Centre and the former monastery was open, the gate to the enclosed area where the famous high crosses are located was locked.

We next drove through the lovely little town of Lisdoonvarna, known around the world for its matchmaking festival.

Gary told us that Galway tours had often received bad feedback about the food and service at the Cliffs of Moher so they decided to stop for lunch at Gus O'Connor's pub in the delightful little town of Doolin. Apparently I didn't make it down to O'Connor's the two nights I was in Doolin in July 2016, but it is at the other end of town from where I stayed and I did make it to both of the two pubs with traditional Irish music which were down near where I was staying.

Lunch was pretty good at O'Connor's and actually quite fast, which was rather amazing considering how crowded it was when we were there.

We then spent about an hour and a half at the Cliffs of Moher which wasn't anywhere long enough for me to make it down to either of the far ends and back in time. That was okay for a couple of reasons. When I was there last summer, I was there on my own. The weather when I was there last summer was excellent and that day I had more than enough time to make it up the hill to O'Brien's Tower and all the way up the hill on the other side to the South viewing area. And although it was lovely and sunny when we were there yesterday so you could actually even see the Aran Islands it was cold and very windy which made it feel even colder. I just went to the area around the middle viewing area where I was still able to get some good pictures of most of the site. I then went into the Visitors Centre to use the restroom and sat for a few minutes in the calming and charming little meditation room out by the entrance before making it back to our bus where I was the first one back and had a chance to chat with Gary for a few minutes before everyone else started coming back on.

It was a bit after 4 PM and already starting to get dark when we left the Cliffs and we only made one very short stop. I can't remember quite what Gary thought was worth stopping to see but it was rather scenic along the coast road back to the N67 which we took back into town. Although every one else rode the bus all the way back into the bus terminal, Gary did let a small group off somewhere on the outskirts of town, presumably where they had been picked up and arranged to be dropped off again,

When I was here in Galway on one of my earlier trips, either last Summer or this past Spring, I had eaten at Venice, a small Italian place not far off from Eyre Square towards the river and rather liked it, so I went back there for dinner last night and had a very nice mushroom risotto and a pana cotta for dessert.

I then went back up to Eyre Square to catch a cab back here to the hotel.

I hadn't need to use the bathroom at all during the day except for having to piss a couple of times but shortly after I got back here to my room after 8 PM, I started having mild but unpleasant stomach problems which resulted in my having to go in and out of the bathroom several times over the next three or four hours, and I really didn't feel well enough to type these notes up then, so I really didn't do much more than get some rest and read or watch something streaming via the hotel's wifi.


Thursday, December 28th, 2017

When I really went to bed well after midnight last night, I was pretty sure I wouldn't feel like taking my laundry downstairs to the reception desk for the 8 AM pickup.

Once again, however, I woke up far earlier than I wanted to despite not having fallen asleep until much later than I had hoped to and was awake and actually feeling OK and reasonably rested enough to take a shower, get dressed, and sort my dirty clothes out into two of the hotel's laundry bags and fill out laundry slips for each of them and I was actually downstairs about 7:50.

I had run out of Slimfast yesterday so I had breakfast in the restaurant downstairs. I was going to bill it to my room but apparently I actually included breakfasts when I made my original reservation.

I had some very good porridge with red fruits, a small bowl of fruit salad, a couple of fried eggs with black & white pudding, and a rasher of Irish bacon, along with juice and a couple of cups of tea, all of which were quite good.

I had been thinking of trying to take a nap after I got back to my room but kind of randomly checked my email on my Irish SIM iPhone and saw a message from one of the guides with Walking Tours Galway , whom I had planned on going on a tour with before Christmas but it rained very heavily that day. Brian wanted to know if I wanted to go on one of his tours today and we eventually settled on 12:45 PM. I figured I would have lunch somewhere after the tour.

I caught a cab downtown to the Jury's Inn, which is where the tour would start, about noon. It was even colder at Jury's, which is right next to the water front and was very exposed to the wind. Shortly after I got there I checked my phone again. I had just taken a picture of myself and was going to send it to Brian so he'd know what at least one of the people he was looking for looked like, and saw that Brian had an unforeseen change of plans and wouldn't be able to take a tour out until 2 PM if I still wanted to go (his daughter had missed the bus from Galway to the Shannon airport to catch her flight back home and he had to drive her there and back). Since I was already there and it wasn't raining, I figured I'd just find somewhere to have lunch and maybe a coffee (preferably iced, but that's usually how I drink it when not a home), so I said OK.

An Cupan Tae was closed today, so I went back up towards Eyre Square to the small café with the surprisingly wide and varied menu I'd been to on Christmas Eve. I didn't remember the place's name when I was there then, still don't now, can't find it on Google Maps and will have to take a picture on my iPhone the next time I go past it so I'll remember. (It's called An Pota Caife, and they don't seem to have a web site.) It was quite crowded when I got there, but most of the people there then were apparently just getting coffee and something to go because a few minutes later while I was still looking at the menu the only two people in the place were myself and the very nice young woman who was also working there Christmas Eve. I had their lovely creamed vegetable soup and some almost a bit too spicy lamb meatballs with some sort of beans for lunch which was quite good and only gave me the mildest of indigestion later if at all.

While I was wandering around before the tour and making my way back down to Jury's Inn, I saw the Canadian guitarist and singer I'd met on Christmas Eve but I didn't stop to hear her today. There was an older guy with a couple of older dogs, a small cart like a traveler's caravan, and a rather cute donkey with fake antlers who allowed small kids and small adults to sit on him to have their pictures taken. I of course gave the guy a bt of a tip, for himself and his friends. There were also a couple of kids busking, one playing a concertina and the other fiddle and these guys were good, as good as many adults I've heard.

I got back down to Jury's Inn and since I had put my fingerless gloves on by then and was completely bundled up it was tolerable waiting for Brian outside. While I was waiting a couple came out and asked if I was there for the tour and when I said I was they went back inside to wait for Brian. I found out later, after Brian got there, the he lives in Chicago and his girlfriend is from here in Tuam but met him when she went to the Chicago area for a Master's in Communication (I think).

Brian was a very good guide, informative, educational, and well informed. We didn't actually go anywhere I hadn't already been to, such as the Spanish Arch and St Nicholas's church, but I did learn quite a bit of stuff about Galway and the specific places we went to I didn't already know.

We ended up over on Shop Street about 4 PM. I didn't feel like having a pint anywhere or even catching a cab back here to the hotel that early so I went back up to the Costa Coffee where I'd been to before Christmas and once again confused the staff a bit when I asked for an iced coffee along with my mince pie. I still wasn't ready to have dinner, since it was only 5 PM, and decided I'd have dinner later back here at the hotel, so I went around the corner to the very nice Galway Baking Company, which I don't think I've ever been to before, and had their fresh fruit salad (mostly apples) and a very nice Irish coffee.

It had started raining lightly when I left but I still wanted to go back down around the corner to the Boots pharmacy which was open until 6 PM to pick up some more Slimfast for when I want to skip breakfast downstairs and something like Bengay because my left elbow occasionally bothers me a fair amount.

I walked back up to the cab rank at Eyre Square and caught a cab back here to the hotel. I should have asked about the laundry after I'd come back up here to my room and dropped off my coat, sweatshirt, hat, cane, and camera but instead wound up bringing both full bags (laundry) and vest/waistcoat (dry cleaned) on that trip.

It was only about 6:15 PM by then and I wasn't quite ready for dinner yet but decided to finish what I'd been reading (The killing of the tinkers, one of Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor Galway mysteries) then and sort out and put away my clean clothes after dinner.

I went back downstairs about 7:30 PM and had a pretty good sandwich, a very good creamed potato leek soup, and pint of Guiness in the bar.

After I came back up here to my room, I put all my clean shirts on hangers and the rest away on the shelf in the closet or in one of the drawers in the desk.

I then got out my atlas of Ireland, wrote down where I could remember our having gone yesterday, looked them all up, and tried to work out the order in which we'd most probably gone to them, which is the order I used when I typed up my notes from yesterday.

And then finally I typed up my notes from today, and it's now 11:30 PM.

I'm going to watch a streaming program via the hotel's wifi on whichever of my Kindles is charged (I've pretty much been alternating them daily since I moved from home into a hotel back in May when I filed my mold/water damage insurance claim back then). And I hope I sleep better tonight than I've been doing.

I'm not sure what I'm going to do tomorrow, other than going to hear Kila, a band I've often heard on the various Irish & Celtic music podcasts I listen to, at Monroe Live at 9 PM. I'll probably take the morning off, and might drive on out to Spiddall and Salthill and the Prom, or drive out to Tuam and see the cathedrals there, or just go into town and visit and take pictures at the Cathedral, the Claddagh church, St Nicholas's church (which I didn't take pictures of during the tour today).


Friday, December 29th, 2017

For once, I'm typing up my notes from the previous day the following day because I actually got home too late to feel like doing so before I went to bed.

I really didn't sleep very well Thursday night, much as I've been doing most nights. I woke up somewhere between 4 and 6 AM and wasn't able to get back to sleep.

I had decided that I'd leave here early or late enough to have lunch somewhere in Tuam or on the way there if I passed anywhere that looked interesting.

The sat nav I got with the car didn't find either of the cathedrals in Tuam but once again I might not have been using it correctly. Unlike with Google Maps, where I can just type "cathedral Tuam Galway" or "cathedral Tuam Ireland" and get results, with the TomTom you have to know what city the place you're looking for is nearest.

The only problem I had using Google Maps on my iPhone with the Irish SIM card is that I headed out of the hotel's parking lot in the wrong direction. I had pulled over once I came up out of the hotel's underground parking garage to look up the directions on Google Maps. Instead of turning right, which would have taken me pretty directly to the Tuam Road, I went left, through the parking lot & gas pumps of the gas station/Spar convenience store next door to the hotel, then through the parking lots of the shopping centers next to that until I could turn left onto the main road running alongside.

When I followed what I thought were the directions taking me to a connecting street, I turned onto a small street that may have been one way. It took me over five minutes to back up the length of the car because a lot of pedestrians kept walking behind me. All the time Google Maps kept freaking out and kind of stuttering, which was rather interesting.

I eventually got to the Tuam Road, which apparently was formerly the main road between Galway and Tuam before the motorways. The road between Galway & Tuam mostly goes through very nice, rolling but countryside with the occasional nice, small village. Unfortunately the only place I went through that I can remember the name of was Claregalway.

I found St Mary's (Church of Ireland) Cathedral quite easily and parked on the street next to it. Unfortunately it was closed so I could only take pictures of it from the outside.

According to Google Maps, the other cathedral, the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption was a short walk away so I left my car and walked on over. I didn't see all that much of Tuam but the road from one cathedral to another seemed to pretty much go right through the center of downtown. I went past several pubs and small restaurants but the first place I came across that was actually open then was a small Supermac's so I had lunch there.

The Cathedral of the Assumption is part of a larger complex of church buildings around it. It was open when I got there so I went in, and rather enjoyed and liked it. I thought it's a very pretty and pleasant place.

On the way back to my car I walked past T J Loftus's pub, which at one point was owned by Junie Loftus who is some sort of relation on Dad's Mom's side of the family, but it was closed when I went past.

I decided to use the sat nave to get back here to the hotel, since I'd already done so twice before. I saw the sign for the M17 towards Galway and followed it. I had exactly the same problem with the TomTom along the M17 as I had driving along the M18 when I drove from Shannon Airport last week–it kept saying "In 80 yards turn left" or right and there were no turns there. And just as it happened on the way here from Shannon last week, it wasn't until I got onto the N6 that the sat nav righted itself and knew where I was and gave me correct directions from there on.

I got back here to my hotel room sometime between 3 and 4 PM and hung out until I wanted to head on out and get some dinner before hearing Kila at Monroe's . I saw on my ticket that it said "(Limited) Seating" and decided that I'd better get there around when the doors opened at 8 PM for the supposedly 9 PM show to make sure I had somewhere I could sit.

I had been looking at the area around Monroe's on Google Maps to try and find somewhere to have dinner but didn't see anything that looked appetizing or interesting but saw Xian Street Food , which is across the river from Monroe's neighborhood,in the main pedestrianized area downtown.

I wanted to be there not much later than 7 PM and was going to walk into town but it was raining so I took a cab instead.

Xian has a small area with counter seating downstairs and additional seating upstairs but I decided that the counter seating was acceptable and had a very nice, quick dinner there.

It was still only 6:45 PM or so, and I had over an hour to kill before the doors would open at 8 PM. I went in several places along the way, hoping to find somewhere with a free small table. The Costa coffee I've been to a couple of times was now closed, unfortunately, as was my favorite An Pota Tae down by the river. I didn't find any places with small tables available in the area around Monroe's either, but by now I'd managed to kill enough time wandering around on the way there that it was about 7:40 and I decided I was warmly enough dressed to stand under the awning by the door and wait.

The concerts/shows at Monroe's are held upstairs with the stage and a smallish open area on one level and the only seating and another open area on the level above that. I wasn't very pleased to see that the only seating were tall bar stools on the far side of the room and a few picnic tables with benches end on alongside the railing up on the second level. I found a seat closest to the stage on a table at the far stage right end of the tables and just stayed there. With my knee problems, and especially when I'm wearing knee braces under long pants, I have trouble swinging my legs up and over the benches. Because I knew that if I had a pint while waiting I'd need to use the restroom sometime, which would be a nuisance from where I was sitting, I didn't. The music playing over the loudspeakers was too loud for me, so since I had a pair of my Bluetooth earbuds in one of my pockets I stuck them in my ears to cut down on the volume a bit.

It wasn't until well past 9:30 PM that the band finally came on stage, which rather annoyed me especially since I'd been there since 8 PM when the doors had opened.

Over the years that I've been listening to and keeping track of what's played on my Irish & Celtic music podcasts, I've frequently heard Kila's music and usually rather like it and did last night.

I was one of the older people in the audience, from what I could see, but there are two guys in the band itself who might be my age or even a bit older. One guy, who mainly plays bodhran, was almost unnaturally energetic.

Kila plays what they call "Irish world music" which I would say is based on Irish traditional music, often with lyrics that seemed to have been in Irish Gaelic, with musical influences from around the world and which are now found in immigrant communities as well.

The audience seemed to think that pretty much everything the band played was wildly danceable. I rather enjoyed watching quite a few women I could see who were apparently very into the music and dancing. Even when I was doing dancing myself, it was always contras or squares or swing or English country dancing, which are all done at a dance walk and it's the figures and moves themselves that interested me. Watching these (mostly) women who were putting pretty much their whole body into it, waving their arms, bending at the waist, etc, was always entertaining, often interesting and often rather sexy. I especially noticed one young woman I wouldn't have wanted to be behind or next to because you'd get her swinging hair in your face most of the time.

I finally gave up the ghost sometime after 11 PM. I'd been sitting on an uncomfortable bench for close to three hours, and all of that time being careful not to kick the people across the table from me whenever I needed to stretch out my legs as I often do. It was raining when I left but fortunately there was a cab right outside the venue.

I got back here after 11:30 PM, used my own bathroom, and since I had dinner much earlier than I usually do, I had a caffe late Slimfast but added a shot of brandy as well.

I watched somewhere between 10 minutes and half an hour of a streaming program and fell asleep,


Saturday, December 30th, 2017

I slept slightly better last night, waking up closer to 6 AM than 4 AM this time. I wasn't in a hurry to get moving since my only plans were to go downtown early in the afternoon, and breakfast is served from 8 AM to 11 AM on weekends, so I watched the program I'd been watching before I fell asleep last night from the beginning again and read for a while before taking a shower and getting dressed around 9 AM.

I was going to walk from here to the Cathedral, which is less than half an hour away, but although it wasn't raining at the time it had been and there was noticeable moisture in the air and it was fairly chilly. I was dressed reasonably for the weather but the dampness was unpleasant enough that I took a cab instead.

I love the Cathedral, which is contemporary and is just a lovely space over all.

From the Cathedral I walked on over to the lovely, smaller Claddagh church which was also open so I went in for a short visit. When we'd gone by on the walking tour a couple of days ago there was a wedding going on then, and some of the decorations were still up which was quite pleasant.

From the Claddagh church I walked on over towards St Nicholas's church, which is another of my favorite churches, stopping to take a couple pictures of the harbor and the Long Walk from across the river along the way.

When we went to St Nicholas's on the walking tour I didn't take any pictures then because I knew I'd be coming back. The Christmas market alongside the church was still going on. I had seen a stall where amongh the many handmade, natural fiber things they sold were waistcoats or vests as we call them back home. I liked the way they looked, and they were in several colors and were 25 Euros each which seemed reasonable to me, so I stopped and asked the woman working there what was the largest size she had them in and she said they had a size that would fit me so I told her I'd be back. I wanted to find an ATM and there was one other church I wanted to find first as well.

The fourth and last church I wanted to visit today was the smaller but equally lovely St Augustine's parish church, a block or so off from the main pedestrian area. Right near it was supposedly another place I wanted to go.

When we were here in Galway for those two nights on the CIE tour Mom sent me on for my 50th birthday I had found Mulligan's, a record store I remember I liked but also remember had a crappy web page. Their web page is still crappy and I'm not entirely sure they're still in business. Although Google Maps still lists the place, every time I walked past where it's supposed to be I couldn't find any sign of it so I gave up after a few minutes and headed back on over to St Nicholas's where I bought four vests in green, red, brown, and blue.

There were quite a few buskers out and about today, in spite of the frequent sprinkles. I stopped to listen to a couple of them, including a young girl on accordion, a boy on guitar, another boy on bodhran, and an older girl or young woman on fiddle who were all quite good. My friend from a few days ago was back with his patient donkey and two older dogs.

While I was out and about wandering around downtown, I stopped to take a picture of that small café with the huge varied menu I've been to twice on this trip but somehow never went to on any of my other visits here. It's called An Pota Caife but doesn't seem to have its own web page.

My hotel here does afternoon teas and I decided to skip anymore stops downtown, especially since I now had a shopping bag, and caught a cab back here. Unfortunately you have to make a reservation in advance for the tea here, you just can't show up and get it.

It's now 5 PM.

When I was here during the summer of 2016 and this past April, a couple of times I walked downhill from the Connacht Hotel to a very nice cafe/restaurant, the G Counter which is right by the G Hotel and Eye Cinema . There is another cinema even closer to my hotel, the IMC which is also open on New Year's Day but there is nowhere to eat near it other than the Galway Shopping Centre a bit up and across the street from the cinemas.

I'm going to go on over to the G Counter for dinner this evening, not only because I liked it when I was there before but to see if they or the other restaurant back there will be open New Year's Day. Although I'm going to the "Beauty & the beast" panto that night I have no plans for that day so I might go see a movie.

It's now just 7:30 PM and I'm back in my hotel room for the rest of the evening and night.

When I left to go over to the G Counter it was if anything a bit colder and was drizzling a bit so I decided to catch a cab on over and back instead of walking there.

I like the G Counter. It's always a pleasant place and I think it's busier during the week with traffic from all the businesses in the area than it was this evening. I had some pretty good if a bit overcooked chicken goujons, what we call chicken tenders or fingers or stripes back home depending on which restaurant you're at, along with pretty good fries and their version of cole slaw.

Unfortunately the G Counter will be closed on New Year's Day, but the Rockin' Joe's, an American-style & themed diner I've been to before, there and at its former but now closed location downtown, will be open so I think I'll go there for lunch before a movie at the Eye Cinema for New Year's. I have the Christmas panto that evening and will hope to find somewhere for dinner nearby, maybe the nice Italian restaurant where I was in too much of a hurry before the "Celtic Nutcracker" last week.

So what am I going to do over my last week here in Galway, before I leave here on Thursday to spend that night in a hotel next to the Shannon Airport since the first of my three flights home is damn early Friday morning?

At the moment there is some concern about the possible weather for the next few days, with possible storms but probably no snow here in Galway, so that might affect my plans.

Tomorrow, New Year's Eve, I think I'll drive on out to Spiddal and the craft center there . There is a music & CD store there I want to check out. I'll also stop by Salthill and the Prom there which are along the way. I plan on being back here to have afternoon tea downstairs at 3 PM and then dinner here in the hotel at 7:15 PM. I stopped and made reservations on my way out earlier this evening.

New Year's Day I think I'll walk on over to have an earlier lunch at the Rockin' Joe's before an early movie at the Eye Cinema, then head into downtown about 6 PM to find somewhere for dinner before the panto.

On Tuesday the 2nd I have my final out of town day trip, out to Kylemore Abbey and into Connemara. I loved Kylemore when I was there on my 50th birthday present from Mom but didn't make it back there on either of my last two trips here to Galway.

On Wednesday the 3rd I want to head into downtown for a visit to the Galway City Museum since they reopen on the 2nd after their Christmas break.

I'm spending the night of Thursday the 4th at the Park Inn hotel right at the Shannon Airport. Since it only takes about an hour to get from here to there and check in isn't usually until about 3 PM I'll have breakfast and a leisurely morning here at the hotel before checking out and heading out. The town of Bunratty with its castle & folk park is sort of on the way between here & Shannon Airport and is only 15 minutes from the airport so I think I'll try to be there for a late lunch, about 1:30 or 2 PM. The hotel is right across the parking lot from the airport so I can just take one or two trips to drop my stuff off at the hotel–one if I grab a baggage cart–even before I return the car. I'll have dinner either in the hotel's bar or over in one of the airport's restaurants.

And that's the rest of my plans so far.


Sunday, December 31st, 2017

I changed my plans this morning and had a very pleasant, quite, restful day instead.

About 10:30 AM I was having my second cup of tea after a leisurely breakfast downstairs, and looking out the window where I could see the grey skies and rain, and decided I really wasn't in a hurry to do anything or go anywhere and still be back here in time for tea by 3 PM. Although I have the Christmas panto tomorrow evening and I'm going on a full day tour of Connemara & Kylemore Abbey on Tuesday, I still have quite a bit of flexibility as to what I do the rest of tomorrow and all day Wednesday. I can go to the same movies anytime back home, and I can combine trips out to Spiddal & Salthill with a late afternoon visit to the Galway City Museum in the same day, so I just decided to take the day off and maybe go for a bit of walk in the afternoon just to get out of the hotel for a while and get some exercise.

I came back up here after breakfast and spent the next couple of hours reading and watching something streaming on one of my Kindles via the hotel's pretty good wifi.

By 2 PM it had stopped raining and was actually only partly cloudy. I walked down the street to the Galway Shopping Centre where I'd been my first day here and took a bit of a wander through it. It's quite a nice small mall with an ice cream place, at least two coffee places, several different cell phone carriers as well as the Carphone Warehouse which also offers plans from the same carriers, and along the outside on one area a small but very well stocked produce vendor and a fish and seafood vendor.

I had seen the Gourmet Tart Company when I'd gone to get my Irish SIM card for my older iPhone but they were closing then so I wanted to check them out. I bought what looks like a very nice fruit tartlet which I'll have as soon as I'm done with today's notes.

It was still only about 2:30 when I started heading back so I went across the street to check out the Curry's PC World which also sells larger electrical appliances as well. I was sort of looking for styluses for tablets & smart phones. I brought a couple with me and have others back in my hotel room at home but am always looking for long, thin tipped ones. I didn't see any and didn't really see any staff on the floor I could ask so I left.

I crossed back across the street and walked back up to the hotel. I had never noticed that on the other side of the Sweeney's gas station/Spar convenience store there's a large DID Electrical which I also went in for a quick look around. It's a very nice store, very well laid out. What I found quite amusing was an obvious cultural difference. Back home, even the very largest home good stores might have four different models of electrical kettles and maybe that many coffee makers of various kinds but I counted at least 24 different kinds of kettles at DID Electrical.

I came back up to my room to drop off my hat, coat, walking stick and camera before going back downstairs to have tea. I was rather unpleasantly surprised to learn that although I had made the reservation at the front reception desk yesterday afternoon at the same time I had made my reservation for dinner tonight neither of the two waitresses who helped me at first could find it, and the manager on duty in the bar eventually learned that although my dinner reservation had been noted correctly the person I had talked to had not actually put down a specific time for my having tea so they didn't have anything for me.

The manager asked me if I wanted to make a reservation for tea on another day and I said "No, I'm only here for a few more days and might not be around here in the hotel those afternoons". He offered to give me a free lunch so I had an Irish coffee and their pretty good version of tiramisu.

By now it was about 4 PM so I came back up here to my room to read some more and maybe watch something else streaming before going back down to dinner at 7 PM which wasn't very busy. I had smoked salmon for an appetizer, and since the other entrees both seemed to have peppers I had the baked salmon with mashed potatoes & chopped & roasted root vegetables as well along with a pint of Guinness.

After dinner I came back up to my room to get my hat and coat and went out for just long enough to walk around the exterior of the building before coming back inside.

I had seen a couple of older guys unloading musical instruments and equipment as I was going out. I'd seen them playing in the bar here before but hadn't been too impressed with what I had heard then but thought I'd go back downstairs and check them out about 10 PM which I did.

I'd guess the two were each somewhere within five years of my age, somewhere from 55 to 65. One guy sings fairly well and plays a half tambourine sort of thing. The other guy is a very good guitarist and an OK singer and also runs their drum machine. Once again I wasn't too impressed with what I heard them playing, mostly vaguely country with John Denver & Johnny Cash thrown in.

It's now about 11:15 PM. I think I'll skip anything further alcoholic tonight and just have my fruit tartlet with a glass of juice. All day I've vaguely thought I might have a cold coming on and have had a very minor but still noticeable headache.

I have no idea what I'll do tomorrow after breakfast. Technically tomorrow's a bank holiday so most places will be closed so I might wait to go to Spiddall and the Craft Village there until Wednesday when I'd head out there in the morning to still have time to have afternoon tea at An Cupan Tae before going to the Galway City Museum. Something else that will probably affect what I do tomorrow is the weather. Earlier this evening I saw on Facebook that the city was shutting down the road out in Salthill that runs alongside the water and was closing down the Prom itself due to an expected strong heavy storm.

So that's it for tonight.


Monday, January 1st, New Year's Day, 2018

It's now just a bit before 11:30 PM and this is actually one of the few times that the reason I'm starting to type my notes up from today is because I got home late, about 10:45. Since I've been back I had a small thing of yogurt I picked up at the convenience store around the corner of the building when I went over there after I got back here to the hotel to see if they had any pocket packs of tissue, and they didn't. I also sorted out my prescriptions for the next four days.

This morning I decided I wasn't in a hurry to do anything so I took the morning off. I decided not to walk all the way over to have lunch at the G Counter and see a movie at the Eye Cinema, since there is a movie theater multiplex just down the road from here which is on the way towards downtown and the Town Hall Theatre where I was going for tonight's performance at 7:30 PM.

Although there are no restaurants in the complex with the movie theaters I was going to, it is right across the street from the Galway Shopping Centre. I figured that Supermac's would be open there even if nothing else was and I was right--they were one of the very few places open.

I decided I'd see the new "Jumanji–Welcome to the jungle" and save the new "Star Wars" until I get back home, maybe next week. I rather enjoyed the movie. I often like Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson quite a bit and although I'm not usually a big fan of Jack Black watching him channel a 14 year old, popular, self-centered girl was often amusing.

The movie was at 2:30 and lasted two hours, which gave me far more than enough time to walk from the movie down to the Town Hall Theatre and find somewhere open to eat dinner.

I got down to the area by the theater not much past 5 PM. I was very pleased to see that the very nice Italian place I'd been to the night I went to the "Celtic Nutcracker" shortly after I got here last week but only had time for a hurried, rushed supper was open tonight. It was rather odd feeling that I was the only customer there the whole time I was having my very nice appetizer (fried polenta cubes), main course (cannelini with meat & spinach) and dessert.

Before I went in to the restaurant to have dinner, I saw that the church of the Franciscan abbey across the street was open and I went in. I'm very glad I did, since it's another of Galway's very lovely churches. I do not remember whether I'd been there before last summer or this past April, but probably have.

I managed to make my dinner last until 6:30 PM. I went back to the theater and found a place in the lobby to sit while waiting for the house to open at 7:15.

Tonight was this year's offering from the Renmore Pantomime Society, "Beauty & the beast". All of it was very well done, from the small orchestra to the choreography and dancing singing of the main characters and the chorus. There was a rather large cast, with a good sized group of adult dancers and one number with several dozen small kids.

Tomorrow I have the day tour out to Kylemore Abbey and into Connemara with pick up here at the hotel at 9:20 AM.

My final full day here, Wednesday, I need to drop a last load of laundry off at the reception desk downstairs before 8 AM. That day I want to drive out to Spiddal & the Craft Village with a stop at Salthill & the Prom there before dropping the car off back here at the hotel and either walking or taking a cab back downtown for a visit to the Galway City Museum and afternoon tea at An Pota Tae.

Thursday I have all day to drive from here back down to Shannon Airport, which is not much more than about an hour away. Since check at my hotel isn't usually until about 3 PM, I think I'll have a leisurely morning & breakfast here and stop off at Bunratty for a wander around and maybe lunch on the way.


Tuesday, January 2nd, 2018

It's a little before 8 PM and I've been back in my room after a long but very enjoyable day despite some often very bad weather. Using the maps in my Irish atlas I've also worked out as best as I can where we went today and the order in which we went to them.

I slept OK if not quite long enough last night. Unusually for me, I decided I'd skip taking a shower before getting dressed for the day. I thought that after all, I'd be spending the entire day wearing a fleece vest, a heavy winter coat, and a wool cap and most of the time would be on a bus so I'd shortly be as sweaty again as I was when I woke up this morning. Besides that gave me about half an hour more time to leisurely wake up and get dressed and downstairs.

It was grey and drizzly when I first went outside this morning but perhaps not quite as cold as it had been yesterday.

I had to call Lally Tours twice to confirm my 9:30 AM pick up for the 10:00 tour and I'm glad I called the second time because the first time I hadn't asked what kind of vehicle I should be looking for. It turned out not to be a Lally Tours minivan but a cab the company sometimes uses instead.

Unlike on the trip last week to the Cliffs of Moher, this time there were only about 15 or a couple more of us on a bus that was pretty much the same size. It looked like pretty much everyone else, except for another guy I could see, was traveling with and seated next to someone else, which was lovely for me since it meant that I could sit on the left side of the aisle so the seat belt buckle was on my right, and not only did I not have anyone next to me but there was no one on the other side of the aisle so I had an unobstructed view out of each side window.

Perhaps not surprisingly as we had been going through the Galway coach station to get on our bus for the day, I saw Gary, the driver from the Galway Tours tour last week waiting for his group for today.

We left Galway city along the West side of Lough Corrib which is primarily known for its fishing and the somewhat fishy count of a supposed 365 islands in the lough.

We then went through the towns of Moycullen and Rosscahill which were both familiar to me from my first trip here to Ireland on my 50th birthday present and from last week when I tried stopping by the Connemara Marble Company only to find it was closed on my way to the lovely Brigit's Garden.

Somewhere along the way we very briefly stopped on the road for a quick view of a couple of locations used for filming the John Ford/John Wayne/Maureen O'Hara film "The quiet man".

We stopped for a brief break in Leenane at Gaynor's The Field Bar which doesn't seem to have its own web page but we were told by Michael, our excellent guide & driver, that it was named after the 1990 movie called "The field" with Richard Harris which was filmed in the area. I'd never heard of the movie before.

Leenane is also famous for being at the inland end of Killary Harbour, which is Ireland's only fjord

From Leenane we headed on for our main stop of the tour, the wonderful and lovely Kylemore Abbey which I had been to only once before, on the CIE tour Mom sent me on for my 50th birthday.

By now the weather had turned for the worse, with higher winds and heavier rain. I had to put my fingertip-less gloves on for a bit of extra warmth. We were going to be there for just two hours, so I decided to see as much as I could before trying to at least have a quick snack before we left again. I went in through the Visitors Centre/ticket office and along back to catch the short shuttle ride up to the wonderful Victorian Walled Gardens with a very brief stop into the lovely little newer Abbey church which the retired nuns living at the Abbey use since it's closer.

When I left there I accidentally was waiting on the far side of the closed for the winter tea shop from where the shuttle bus actually arrives and leaves and so spent the next fifteen minutes waiting in the small enclosed gazebo for the next ride back down to the Visitors Centre.

I then walked as quickly as I can up past the main Abbey building itself to one of my very favorite places I've ever been to here in Ireland, the very beautiful and charming Neo-Gothic church. I didn't continue along the short walk to the mausoleum for the original owners of Kylemore, the Henrys. I wanted to make it back down to the small restaurant & coffee shop with at least enough time to have a quick snack before we left.

The main building of the Abbey is currently having some repairs & renovations done so scaffolding is up on about a quarter of the facade.

I did indeed get down to the restaurant about 2:40 PM, which gave me just enough time to have a tomato & cheese scone and a slice of a salmon & spinach quiche, both of which were quite tasty.

Michael, our very excellent driver & guide, gave us a very good and thorough explanation of Kylemore's history on the way there and as we were leaving.

As we were making our way back down into Connemara along the way to Galway Bay, which we would follow back into town it seemed to already be getting dark although it was still before 4 PM. When we got to Spiddal it was pretty dark by then. We didn't stop at the Spiddal Craft Village which I still want to see but at the fairly large & very well done Standun gift shop. I saw some very nice tweed waistcoats I was interested in but they didn't have one that was quite large enough for me.

From Spiddal on into Salthill, which always reminds of me Seattle's Alki area, with its Prom, the road runs pretty close to the water's edge. Waves were so high that occasionally the windows of the bus on that side got splashed. Needless to say we didn't see anyone out strolling along the Prom when we went past.

When we got into Salthill the area closest to the waterfront was actually flooded almost up to the base of car doors. We swung inland and onto slightly higher ground until we got back into town along the River Corrib over by the Spanish Arch, An Cupan Tae and the Galway City Museum where the water was if anything even deeper. It of course got much better as we continued to climb up the slight hill towards Eyre Square and the bus station.

It seemed even windier when we got off the bus here in town, so windy that I had to put the hood of my coat up to keep my cap on my head,

I decided I'd head on down the pedestrianized area to have dinner at Xian Street Food where I'd eaten on the 29th on my way to the Kila concert at Monroe's Live. I had Singapore noodles which were very good if almost too spicy for me; even though I had asked them to go very light on the chilis there were still some green pepper slices which I fished out as best as I could.

As I was heading back up to Eyre Square to catch a cab back here, I was delighted to see that the Boots was still open and went in to buy a couple of pocket packs of tissues since the store downstairs and around the corner was out last night. I was also delighted to see that the small Murphy's ice cream which I've been to whenever I've been in Dingle, since that's where they're based, was also still open. I had some of their excellent ice cream and a bit of a chat with the nice kid who was working then. I was the only customer there then and might have been the last customer since I think he closed up at 6 PM.

By a very odd coincidence, the driver whose cab I got into at Eyre Square to bring me back here to my hotel was one I remembered and who remembered me, a guy from Africa whose English I once again found a bit hard to understand,

It's now about 9 PM and I'm pretty much done for the night. I think I'll have a drink and a bag of crisps (chips to us) I bought a couple of days ago while watching something steaming and read for a bit before going to bed.

So what am I going to do tomorrow, my last full day here in Galway, other than taking my laundry down to the reception desk before 8 AM and having breakfast downstairs? I'm not entirely sure.

I still want to head on back to Spiddal, which you can also get to from here on a route that swings inland, and go to the Craft Centre as well as Gannon's, the music store there in town to look for some CDs, which I haven't seen much of anywhere yet this trip, as well as possibly going back to Standun. After that I was going to stop off at Salthill and then come back here, leave the car, take a cab back into town, and head on over to the Galway City Museum and An Cupan Tae but after seeing how high the water was today I might find a route a bit further inland and skip Salthill altogether. I think I'll still catch a cab back downtown after dropping the car off here but I think I'll just stick to Eyre Square and the higher parts of the pedestrianied area around it. Afterwards I'll either eat somewhere downtown or possibly back here at the hotel depending on when I leave downtown.


Wednesday, January 3rd, 2018

Much like yesterday it's only 7:30 PM and I'm in my room for the night.

I am a little concerned at the moment because when I checked at the front reception desk after dinner just now, my laundry hadn't come back yet and I'm leaving here tomorrow. The guy on the desk was going to check and get back to me. If he doesn't call within half an hour, I'll have to call downstairs. (I just called; it's done and will be delivered back here to the hotel soon. One of the guys on the reception desk just called back–he'll bring my laundry up within the next half hour.)

I slept very poorly last night. Once again we had a false alarm, this time about 3 AM this morning. The official story as detailed in a memo from the General Manager which was slipped under our doors later this morning said "The source of the activation was a broken glass frame in the carpark area of the hotel due to the stormy weather being experienced in the west of Ireland presently." This strikes me as rather an odd explanation for several reasons. Almost all of the hotel's parking is on two levels underground, and I've never seen a fire alarm of any kind on the outside ramp between street level and the first underground level. I have to admit, though, that I've always been concentrating on getting in and out of the structure without scraping a wheel on the right or the mirror on the left. There is very little outside parking adjacent to the hotel's entrance.

After the alarm I could not get back to sleep at all. I was feeling not rested and rather sluggish, though, so that I didn't have time or the energy to take a shower before taking my laundry downstairs before 8 AM, I just put on a clean t shirt, underwear, socks, slacks and shoes. I had a very nice breakfast of porridge, fried eggs, Irish bacon, juice and tea and was back up here in my room by 8:30.

I took off my pants, shoes, and socks and closed the heavy blinds over the windows to make it as dark in here as is possible and then went back to bed. Unfortunately I don't think I actually dozed off at all, just read for a bit and rested with my eyes closed.

I finally gave up about 11:30. Before I took a shower and got on with the rest of my day, though, I tried to get more current information about the condition of the roads and water levels online and surprisingly couldn't.

I decided I wouldn't try to make it back here to the hotel early enough to drop the car off and catch a cab back into town to make it to the Galway City Museum before they closed. I've been feeling rather sluggish and lethargic all day, with a bit of a cold on top of lack of sleep from last night.

I decided that all I would do was to head on back out to Spiddal, to pay a longer visit to Standun than we did on the tour yesterday and to see if I could get some lunch at the small café there, and to go on to the Craft Village and then on to Gannon's music store. I had carefully checked for opening hours on both the Village's and Gannon's web sites and from what I could see assumed they'd be open since they didn't list anything about being closed today.

Because the hotel's parking is underground I really didn't have a clear idea what it felt like outside until I got to the parking lot of Standun's behind the store. When I got out of the car I realized that it was still very windy, so windy that I put my hat back in the car, and before I took some pictures of the ocean just a little way off from the parking lot I put my rain jacket on over my jacket and heavier vest.

Standun's a pretty nice store, but yesterday I hadn't noticed that the café pretty much sells only coffee, tea, and a small selection of baked goods which although tempting didn't seem to be enough for a full lunch instead of a snack.

I found the Craft Village all right, although Google Maps told me to turn right one driveway earlier than I actually needed to so I found myself going up this single lane road until I could turn around. When I actually got there everything was shut down so I didn't even get out of the car.

As I drove past where Google Maps told me Gannon's was I didn't see any parking spaces on my side of the street but did see some on the other side. I had to drive another five to ten minutes, though, before I could actually find somewhere I could turn around and come back.

I found Gannon's but when I got there there was no sign on the door or shop window which listed any hours at all; Google Maps had indicated they were supposed to be open from 3 to 6 this afternoon. I wandered around the charming, small village of Spiddal for a bit. I had a good cup of soup and toasted sandwich for lunch at a very small café before going a lttle further down the street to St Enda's, the very small but very lovely Roman Catholic church nearby.

When I got back to my car there was still no sign of life at Gannon's although it was now about 3:30 PM but the little pharmacy near it was open and I went in to see if they had any bottles of glasses cleaning solution since the one I have with me is almost out, and they did.

The weather was still kind of crappy, as it has been all day, so I just stopped off at the large parking lot in the center of Salthill to take a couple of pictures instead of going for a walk. You could tell that the water had been high enough to leave large patches of seaweed in the parking lot itself.

The next part of my route back here took me right down to the water's edge where we had driven through flooding about the same time yesterday and the road was entirely clear.

I got back here to my room about 5 PM. I had thought about catching a cab back downtown to find somewhere to have one last dinner here in Galway but as I said earlier I've been feeling lethargic and unergetic all day and thought I'd just have dinner here in the hotel's quite good restaurant instead, which I did about 7 PM.

I had thought I might make a trip downstairs and outside to the convenience store around the corner of the building since I don't really like the chips I have at the moment, and still might after my laundry shows up.

What are my plans for tomorrow? Check out is about 11 AM so I'll take a shower, get dressed, pack, load up the car, and then have one last breakfast or have one of my two remaining Slimfasts, saving one for Friday morning.

It's an hour's drive from here directly to my hotel at Shannon Airport. Although the route will take me past several places well worth visiting, I'm not going to take the time except for trying to be in Bunratty for a late lunch and wander around. Bunratty is a short diversion from the direct route to Shannon Airport and is only fifteen minutes away from my hotel for the night.

Since I know where I'm going this time, I'll just snag a luggage cart at the airport and wheel my luggage across the parking lot to the hotel, even possibly before returning the car since that way I'll still have the key while doing so.

I stayed at the Park Inn last April after my trip here to Galway, Dingle, and Killarney and rather liked it. It has a rather nice small restaurant and bar which is probably where I'll have dinner tomorrow or I might walk across the parking lot to eat at the airport's only food venue on the arrivals side of security.

My first of three flights home Friday leaves Shannon at 7:30 AM, which is why I'm spending tomorrow night there. I'll probably need to be up not much later than 5:30 AM to take a shower, get dressed, snag a luggage cart, wheel my stuff back across the parking lot, and get checked in. I hope I'll at least be able to get a decent longer nap tomorrow night before then.


Thursday, January 4th, 2018

9:45 AM There have been some unexpected (to me, anyway) changes in my itinerary. As usual even at home, I haven't been looking at the news for anywhere other than here. Consequently when I checked my email on my Kindle sort of randomly even before getting out of bed, I was very surprised to see an email from Priceline stating that my flight tomorrow from Newark into Ft Lauderdale had been cancelled.

When I called the number for United listed in the Priceline email, I learned that Newark and most of the other airports in the US Northeast have all been closed due to a major snow storm and that therefore although I could fly from Shannon to London Heathrow tomorrow morning, I then would be unable to fly from London into Newark and then of course from Newark down home. The United rep I talked to was unable to find my reservation even though I have a United confirmation code which was listed in the Priceline email so I had to call Priceline and wait on hold for quite a while.

The United rep said the first day she saw any listings of flights into and out of any of the airports in the US Northeast was Sunday. While I was waiting on hold for the Priceline rep I checked their app and saw several flights from Shannon connecting to Ft Lauderdale on Sunday and now I'm waiting for the Priceline rep to call me back after he himself is able to contact Air Canada or United to transfer my booking.

I already checked with the reception desk here and will be able to extend my stay until Saturday. After I confirm the details for my flights on Sunday I'll call the Park Inn at Shannon and see if I can change my reservation until Saturday and then call Hertz and let them know I'll be returning the car on Saturday as well.

Although I'll enjoy a couple of extra days here in Galway, there's nowhere other than the Galway City Museum and Bunratty which I haven't been to yet. Either I don't really feel like going there, like the small town of Athenry which doesn't have that much to see, or I've already been there either on my own or on one of my two day tours such as the Cliffs of Moher, Tuam, Kylemore Abbey, and Connemara.

If I don't hear back from the Priceline rep by 10:30 AM I think I'll call again. This time I think I'll use my older iPhone with the Irish SIM in case Priceline calls me back on my US cell phone while I'm waiting.

12:00 PM I finally heard back from the Priceline rep. I had already looked up flights from Shannon to Ft Lauderdale on my laptop, one of my smart phones, and one of my Kindles so when the rep said he'd found a flight that would get me to Ft Lauderdale Monday morning I was able to tell him that I was looking at Priceline's own web page and they showed Air Canada flights, the first leaving Shannon at 7:30 AM on Sunday and arriving at London Heathrow at 9:05 AM, a connecting flight leaving Heathrow at 1:00 PM and arriving at Montreal at 3:25 PM, and finally a flight leaving Montreal at 5:25 PM arriving at Ft Lauderdale at 9:05 PM. While I had him on the phone, and without putting me on hold, those are the arrangements he made and I received a confirming email from Priceline listing those flights a few minutes ago.

7:30 AM Leave Shannon, Aer Lingus/Air Canada 6916
9:05 AM Arrive London Heathrow
1:00 PM Leave London Heathrow, Air Canada 865
3:25 PM Arrive Montreal
5:25 PM Leave Montreal, Air Canada 1606
9:05 PM Arrive Ft Lauderdale

I had already arranged to continue my stay at the La Quinta back home since I'd be staying there still and will be until I can actually move back home after all the work is done, so I sent an email to Michael the hotel's manager to let him know I won't be back until Sunday and also called Go Airport Shuttle to let them know I won't been needing the ride from the airport until then as well, so everything is covered.

My only additional costs will be an extra two nights here at the hotel. I did get travel insurance for this trip, which might cover that so I'll have to check when I get home.

I think I'll put on my shoes, put on my fleece vest and heavy coat, and catch a cab downtown. I might just be downtown long enough to have lunch and go to the City Museum, catch a cab back here, and then maybe head back downtown again around 7 to have dinner instead of eating here in the hotel's nice restaurant as I've done the past two nights.

More later.

It's 8:30 PM and I'm back in my room for the rest of the night. I did have a very pleasant day after all and did pretty much what I thought I would do earlier.

As I was leaving I had closed the door to my room behind me and then noticed I hadn't taken a spare charged battery for my camera. When I tried to come back in I saw that my keycard no longer worked in the door--it was already past when I was originally supposed to be checkng out. Fortunately one of the housekeepers whom I've met several times let me back in my room and then I stopped off at reception to get the keycards recoded on my way out.

I subscribe to a couple of Irish news sources on Facebook, especially a couple for here in Galway. Some time ago I read an online interview with the current head of McCambridge's who I think is the daughter of the original owners. McCambridge's is probably the finest food shop in downtown Galway and also has what turns out to be a small restaurant/café upstairs from the main floor which is pretty much open only for breakfast and lunch so I hadn't been there yet.

I had the cab drop me off at Eyre Square, headed down the pedestrian part, walked past McCambridge's probably when I was trying to find a very good busker I heard and on down to Jury's by the water's edge, and had to turn around and come back up until I actually found McCambridge's. Because the restaurant is rather small and quite busy I had to wait for about 10 to 15 minutes standing on the stairs until a table was ready.

Lunch was pretty good. I had the soup of the day, mushroom, delicious. I also had what's listed as the "Smoked salmon & dressed crab sandwich" which turned out to be quite good but was actually two open faced sandwiches, one of each.

I then walked back down to the river side to the wonderful Galway City Museum, which is one of my favorite museums dedicated to a single city anywhere. I have to admit that since I don't stop to read most of the very well done informative signs and it is a small museum it doesn't take me that long to go through it.

From the museum I went back through the Spanish Arch and across the street to one of my very favorite cafes in town, the lovely little An Cupan Tae. I also have to admit that part of the reason I like the place is that all the young women I've met who work there are very pleasant and attractive. I had a slice of tea infused polenta cake and a pot of tea both of which were very pleasant.

I then went on over to the Jury's Inn and didn't have to wait long for a vacant cab to come by and was back here before 4 PM.

I've had a bit of a cold for about a week now and although I think it's breaking up that's almost worse because the drainage is making me cough and blow my nose a lot as well as leaving me a bit more tired than usual–and since I haven't been sleeping well or long enough that means that sometimes I feel rather tired. So I spent the rest of the afternoon reading and resting a bit before leaving about 6 to catch a cab back downtown.

I used the ATM at one of the banks near the Square and headed on down the pedestrian area looking for somewhere to eat dinner I hadn't been to before. I didn't get far because I heard another busker, this one playing banjo, who was quite good and was sitting on the bench with the statues of Oscar Wilde and the Estonian author Eduard Wilde, who never met in real life.

There are usually several people standing around with advertising placards for various cafes, restaurants, and shops. I'd seen one for Finnegan's advertising Irish food but had never been there before. I was checking out a couple of side streets I'm not that familiar with and came to the corner where Finnegan's is. They have a placard outside saying the restaurant is in a medieval building and the menu looked pretty good so I went in, and rather liked the look of the place. I had a cup of a very good and very filling seafood chowder and then bangers & mashed which I couldn't eat all of.

When I got to Eyre Square, the first cab in line was apparently waiting for someone already, the second cab was a wheelchair van which was too high for me to get into the front seat and the only seats in the back were all the way at the back, and so I caught the third cab to get back here, and here I am.

Tomorrow is now my last full day here in Galway. As I said earlier today, there really aren't that many places in the area I haven't been to that I'd still like to go to. Bunratty's on the list but it's so close to Shannon I'll just wait until Saturday when I'm going down there to spend the night before my early flight Sunday morning.

One exception is the Aran Islands. The boats to either of the two out of the three islands they serve leave their terminals at 10:30 AM. The ferry's web site suggests passengers get there at least half an hour before departure and also state "Passengers are advised to allow one hour driving time" from Galway city to the port, so I'd have to leave here not much later than 9 AM. If I wake up early enough without an alarm clock, and feel well and rested enough, maybe that's what I'll do but probably not.

I did go out to Inishmore when I was here in the summer of 2016. Then I made the mistake of booking a shuttle bus from here in Galway out to the ferry terminal and back, which turned out to be a real nuisance coming back when they had sold more tickets than there were room for on the available buses and we had to wait until another bus could be fetched for the rest of us. I subsequently learned that the ferries have their own parking lot at the terminal and I have my own car.

What I'll probably do tomorrow, though, is pretty much like I did today although I'll probably walk in for lunch, take a cab back, and then take cabs both ways to go back into town for dinner.

I still haven't heard any traditional music in pubs yet this trip and probably won't tomorrow night either, but that's pretty much because with the bit of a cold I've been having I don't feel like hanging around until past 9:30 PM which is when the music starts most places.


Friday, January 5th, 2018

8:30 PM I had a quiet and enjoyable day on my last full day here in Galway. For the first time this trip, however, I didn't take any pictures anywhere.

As I expected, I didn't wake up early this morning feeling well rested and eager to make the drive out to the Aran Islands ferries terminal to spend the day on one of the islands.

Once again I woke up about 6:30 AM, certainly not feeling well rested and energetic. I spent the next couple of hours reading in bed, occasionally trying to get back to sleep but failing and finally giving up about 10.

I had a couple of possible plans for today if I didn't go to the islands. One was to have lunch somewhere before going to a movie. Since the same movies are playing at the Eye Cinema which is over half an hour's walk away and at the IMC Cinemas just a few minutes down the street I would have gone to the IMC. When I checked movie times, however, the only movie playing I really want to see is the new Star Wars which I'll wait and see after I get back home.

I could have done what I did yesterday, walk or catch a cab into town, wander around, find somewhere to eat and then somewhere else to have a pint or cup of coffee, take a cab back here for a couple of hours, then find a cab to go back downtown to have dinner somewhere before taking a cab back here again.

Every time I've been to the Galway Shopping Centre I've seen what looked like probably a nice café called Franklin's, which doesn't seem to have its own web page and is open just when the mall is and was closed on Christmas or Boxing Day when I went there last, so I thought I'd give it a try. I also wanted to stop by the Boots for a bottle of Slimfast for Sunday morning before I leave to walk across the Shannon airport parking lot from my hotel to catch my plane and to buy a couple more pocket packs of kleenex just in case. I also wanted to stop by the Gourmet Tart Company to pick up a small pastry for this evening.

When I first walked outside a bit after noon to walk down to the Shopping Centre it wasn't raining but was still gusty enough to almost blow the cap I was wearing off of my head so I stuck it in a coat pocket instead.

Franklin's turned out to be a very nice and very busy place, a combination of coffee shop and café with daily specials. I left my cane at a small table to claim it while I went through the short line to order today's quiche, which was ham, cheese and onion and came as two delicious mini quiches with a large scoop of mashed potatoes and a scoop each of two different vegs.

When I got back to the area where I thought the table where I'd left my cane was I couldn't find it. I put my tray down on a different table, and asked the woman nearest me behind the counter if anyone had seen it. Two women at a nearby table said "Oh, was that your walking stick?" and they thought someone had left it behind so they had given it to another worker. They found it for me. And when I was leaving after a nice lunch and had actually gone around the corner of the hall I felt my coat pocket and the cap had apparently fallen out sometime. Fortunately it was still on the floor next to the table where I had been.

I did stop at the Boots and the Gourmet Tart Company as I had planned as was back here before 2 PM. Housekeeping hadn't done my room yet but that was OK, I knew they'd get here eventually. One day they came as late as after 4 PM.

I had been having trouble sending pictures as email attachments from each of my iPhones, either just connected to the hotel's wifi or through my Irish SIM network, but was having no problems receiving email so I wondered if the problem was trying to send too many pictures at once. Fortunately I still hadn't deleted the pictures I had tried to send, so this time I sent them as lots of separate messages with no more than four smaller pictures attached which worked. I watched each message separately as it went from "Sending" to "Sent". This took a while since I had been on different trips the days I hadn't been able to send the emails with pictures.

After that I just hung around and read. When today's housekeeper came I went around the corner to the lovely mini-lobby upstairs from the main lobby on the ground floor and read a while there.

I caught a cab downtown to Eyre Square about 6:30 PM. As usual I really had no idea where I wanted to eat and was still not feeling very hungry so I kind of wandered around for a bit, down to the end by Jury's and back. The weather was pretty decent then, not as windy, and there were still some buskers out and about but this time I didn't stop to listen to any of them.

I finally decided to go back around the corner to Venice, the small and very good Italian restaurant where I'd been on previous trips here to Galway and once on this trip as well. Service was a bit slower than it should have been but dinner was as usual very good.

As I was walking back up to Eyre Square, I heard a busker who I thought sounded very familiar and was probably the younger Canadian guitarist & singer whom I met earlier this trip. I'm still feeling a bit tired from this cold so I didn't stop to listen to her either, just carried on up to the Square.

It only takes an hour to drive from here to Bunratty or directly on to Shannon airport. Check in at the hotel is usually not until 3 PM so my plans for tomorrow are to get up about 8:30 AM, shower, dress, get packed, load the car probably taking two trips just because I'll have my two suitcases, my hat box, and a bag with stuff I'll use at the hotel tomorrow night, check out, have one last breakfast here in the hotel, and leave for Bunratty not much after 10 AM.

I'll probably have lunch at Durty Nelly's and stop by the Blarney Woolen Mills and anywhere else in town that looks like they might have a decent selection of traditional Irish music CDs, which I have not been able to find here in town or anywhere else on this trip.

I'll then finish driving down to Shannon airport and my hotel, filling the car with gas somewhere as close to the airport as possible. Tomorrow evening I might have dinner there in the hotel's nice bar or walk across the parking lot to ear in the airport itself.

I have to get up at about 5 AM Sunday morning to shower, dress, pack, check out, and get across the parking lot to the airport to check in not much later than 6 AM for my 7:30 flight. If I were flying out of Miami or Ft Lauderdale I'd be there at least two and a half hours early but since it's Shannon which isn't as busy an hour and a half should do. I'll of course ask what they think at the hotel's reception desk when I check in tomorrow afternoon and probably also arrange for a wake up call as well.


Saturday, January 6th, 2018

5 PM Things today went pretty much as I had planned.

I woke up on my own about 6:30 AM but read in bed until just about 8 AM. I then took a shower & dressed and went downstairs for breakfast, of course paying this time instead of charging it to my room, figuring I'd come back up and finish packing after breakfast instead of trying to rush either. I took two trips to take my stuff from my room on the first (second to us in the US) floor down to the first level of the parking garage. On the first trip I took both of my suitcases since they have wheels and Chris's cane. I then went back up for my hatbox and a smaller shopping bag with my Slimfast for tomorrow, what's left of the small bottles of rum and brandy I bought the day I got to Galway, and some things to drink them with.

(As soon as I typed the bit about Chris's cane, I realized that I had actually left it on the back of a chair downstairs by the reception desk here when I checked in a couple hours ago. I had taken two trips to bring my things up here to my room and hadn't remembered it either trip. I just called downstairs and they had found it and were holding it behind the desk. I'll get it when I go downstairs for dinner about 7 PM.)

I took my last load of stuff downstairs a bit after 10 AM and stopped off at the reception desk to check out on the way.

I really liked the Maldron Hotel Sandy Road as much as I've liked staying at the Connacht Hotel on my trips to Ireland the summer of 2016 and April of last year. Their both very nice, newer hotels with very good showers, their own good restaurants and bars, with large convenience stores either across the street (the Connacht) or around the corner of the same building (the Maldron). Both are very conveniently located for access to or leaving Galway and are within walking distance of downtown, although the Maldron might be about five minutes closer. And the staff I met at both hotels were very nice as well.

The weather today was the best we've had here in Ireland for I think over a week, still quite cold to me but mostly sunny. That made the drive from Galway down here much more enjoyable than it had been going from here to there, when it was grey and drizzly. The rolling farmland of Galway and Clare was lovely in the sun today.

I was using Google Maps on my older iPhone with the new Irish SIM card when I noticed that somehow neither the phone itself nor the battery case actually charged last night even though I had them plugged into a wall adapter. Fortunately my newer, home iPhone and that battery case were charged so I pulled over on the side of the highway, turned on my newer iPhone and turned roaming on for it, found Bunratty on Google Maps, put the newer iPhone into the car vent phone holder I was using, and took off again.

There's not really a lot to see and do in Bunratty although it is a lovely little town with Durty Nelly's, at least one other restaurant, what looks like a nice modern hotel, a huge outlet of Blarney Woollen Mills with a garden store and a very nice café, and of course the Bunratty castle and folk park

There don't seem to be either of the Irish evenings or the medieval banquets in the castle going on this time of year, which I would have enjoyed going to either, but I have very good and fond memories of the Irish evening when we went on the CIE tour Mom sent me on eleven years ago, and I did make it to the wonderful castle banquet when I was in Ireland as part of my grand 60th birthday tour. When I went down for the castle banquet I took a cab down from Limerick city and had the people at the banquet call another one to take me back up after the show.

I first went into the Blarney Woolen Mills and had a good wander around. I did find their Irish music CDs section which was disappointingly small and consisted almost entirely of themed anthologies (drinking songs, pub songs, etc), none of which interested me. I did find that they carried bottles of the mead brewed for the castle banquets and bought a small one which I plan on having after dinner. They have a very nice café upstairs where I had a very good bowl of beef stroganoff with rice and a slice of carrot cake for dessert.

I had parked in the lot around the corner past Durty Nelly's and across the street from the entrance to the gift shop and admissions for the castle and folk park so I left my bag from Blarney Woolen Mills in the car and went into the very nice gift shop as well, where they had much the same small uninteresting collection of Irish music CD anthologies.

After all this time since I first rented the car on December 21st, I had to fill the car up with gas before returning it, so I followed the signs into the really small town of Shannon and found the service station there.

After that I continued on to the airport and stopped to return the car to the Hertz returns. Although the Hertz desk in the terminal is right across the parking lot from the hotel, their returns booth is at the far end of the parking lot. I was going to get a luggage cart and wheel everything over here but the guy helping me offered to just drive me around here to the hotel.

I got here about 2:30 PM, and was able to check in, and as I said earlier taking two trips to bring my stuff up here to my room, forgetting Chris's cane both times.

This is a very nice hotel, with very comfortable rooms, but is a bit older of a hotel. I didn't see a plug anywhere near the beds or one over by the desk although that's where the TV is plugged in. The floor lamp in the corner by the window has a special plug in a special outlet that nothing else can plug into. I eventually had to have someone from reception come with a power strip; he plugged one I have with me into the outlet behind the desk, plugged two he had to find to get from the wall by the desk around the bed and plug my second power strip into that to let me put an alarm clock on the bedside table.

The room is heated by an actual radiator which doesn't seem to be working very well although I had the guy from reception turn it up for me. I might have to ask them if they have any heaters available when I go down for dinner.

After the guy from reception left I went outside for a walk around the building. On the drive from the Hertz return to the hotel's front door I noticed the road goes alongside the Shannon estuary which you can't see very well from within the hotel, although I do have a better view from this room than I did when I was here last–then I looked directly at the room on the same level of the next wing but this time my room is further down a longer wing so I can see much of the airport. I got a few pictures of the estuary before the sun really started going down then walked on around and into the airport itself to see what else is there and make sure I know where to go in the morning.

My plans for the evening are to transfer the rest of my pictures over from my camera's memory card to my laptop and backup USB hard drive and to backup this journal as well. I'll spend the rest of the evening reading and watching something streaming via the hotel's wifi and hope I actually get a few hours sleep before I have to get up early tomorrow morning for my flight.

When I checked in this afternoon I asked at reception when they think I should be in the airport for a 7:30 AM flight to London Heathrow. If I was traveling directly to the US as I've done before they would recommend being there between two and three hours early but since I'm taking basically a commuter flight getting into the terminal between 6 and 6:30 tomorrow morning should do.

I had a pretty nice dinner in the hotel's bar although I wasn't extremely hungry. I had their creamed tomato soup which was actually a little too spicy for me. I can't remember what the entree was. When I ordered and paid for the dinner at the bar I had included ice cream for dessert, one scoop each of three different kinds. I forgot all about the ice cream after I ate as much of the rest of the dinner as I could, and shortly after I had returned to my room I got a call from the bar reminding me I'd paid for the ice cream and asking if I'd like someone to bring it up to my room? Which I thought was very nice.

The rest of the evening was quite relaxing. I drank my small bottle of Bunratty mead, which I rather like, while I was copying the rest of my pictures from my camera's memory card to the laptop, then backing them up as well as my documents and html directories to the USB hard drive I had with me.

Monday, January 8th, will mark a full eight months that I have not been able to use or live in my own home since I originally filed my claim with my own insurance for mold and water damage caused by a leak in the unit behind mine. I have spent most of the time waiting for work to actually even be done.

Either Monday morning or possibly even tomorrow night before going to bed I need to send an email to the contractor, with copies to my insurance, the HOA's insurance and property manger, telling the contractor that if they cannot satisfactorily explain to the HOA's insurance and property manager why the contractor needed to change the estimate they filed and show that the work to replace the missing fire wall can be done in a timely fashion they will probably lose the contract to do so, have to refund to me my $2500.00 prepaid deposit, and will probably also lose the contract with my own insurance to do the rest of the restoration.


Sunday, January 8th, 2018--Shannon airport to home–well, actually the La Quinta where I've been staying since August

Written & typed the evening of Monday, January 8th

Although I went to bed before midnight Saturday night I didn't get to sleep much before 1 AM and woke up before my alarm clock was set to go off at 5 AM. I didn't feel at all well rested but I felt OK, and in fact better than I often do when I haven't had enough sleep the night before.

It took me longer to take a shower than it should have because it took me a while to figure out exactly which knob controlled the water temperature. The top knob controlled whether the spray came out of the overhead rain showerhead or the adjustable height handheld one. That knob was quite easy to turn even when wet. For some reason, however, the one that controlled the temperature was rather difficult to turn. I had to grab a wash cloth from the towel rack and that made it easier and eventually I had adjusted the temperature from close to scalding (well, okay, maybe not but certainly too hot for my comfort) to pleasant.

I had only unpacked the clothes I was going to wear that day, my laptop and USB drive, and some other small electronics such as my two Irish/UK plug in alarm clocks. It didn't take me all that long to get dressed, pack up, take two trips downstairs to drop off my two suitcases, my hat box, and Chris's cane, and check out.

I wish I had kept one of my cameras out or dug out one of my iPhones from my coat pocket because it was actually quite beautiful outside early Sunday morning. Every car I could see in the entire parking lots, including the ones at the hotel, all the rental cars, and any private car in the rest of the airport's lots, was covered in frost. I can't remember the last time I was anywhere it was that cold in a long time. It didn't get quite that cold in Dublin or London over the holidays last year. Even when I was in Paris a couple of Christmases ago, when Michael, and Tim, Jill, Nicholas and Chelsea and I met to disburse some of Mom's ashes in the Seine and it got cold enough for small ponds to ice up, it didn't get as cold then as it did Saturday night and Sunday morning by the Shannon river.

I was in the airport and over at the departure check in desks well before 6 AM. My timing could not have been better since although it wasn't busy when I got there while I was there at the desk a very large of people suddenly showed up there at the Aer Lingus service area. I probably could have checked my hat box in at the departure gate since they made the usual announcement that "It was a full flight and would anyone like to check in any of their carry ons?" but I decided to ask at the check in desk how much it cost to check in a third piece of luggage and decided that it was well worth the extra cost since that way I wouldn't have to carry it with me through three airports until I finally got home.

We of course had to go through security at Shannon, as I would also have to do at London Heathrow and at Montreal. Today, however, I didn't have to go through the 360 degree scanner where you hold your hands up in the air in front of you but could hang on to my pants with one hand until I could put my belt back on each time.

The flight from Shannon airport to London Heathrow is not a long one. They barely have enough time to serve coffee or tea.

I rather like Heathrow although it is a very large airport. The only thing I really dislike, besides how far away from the main terminal our arrival gate was, and then how far away our departure gate was from the main terminal, is that they didn't announce which was the departure gate for my Air Canada flight from London to Montreal until about an hour before departure. I had almost three hours there at Heathrow. That gave me plenty of time to have a pretty good omelet for breakfast while waiting.

Before I had breakfast I had found someone who told me that although he didn't know specifically which gate my Air Canada flight would be leaving from, it would be one of the B gates so after I ate I went down that way and found a place to sit with a view of the reader board listing the actual departure gates themselves and stayed there until my actual gate's assignment was posted about noon. I then headed on over to my gate and people were already boarding when I got there.

The flight from Heathrow to Montreal was of course the longest of them all, almost twice as long as the flight from Montreal to Ft Lauderdale would be. When I make my own bookings I try to reserve an aisle seat, knowing that I'll probably have to use the restroom on the plane at least once on a long flight. When Priceline rebooked my flights home after the snow cancellation last Thursday I was assigned a middle seat for this flight instead, which turned out to be acceptable. I had adequate leg room because I didn't have anything under the seat in front of me, and although I had a bit of gas & indigestion I only needed to use the restroom once during the whole flight and was actually able to do so when the woman seated on the aisle next to me had already got up herself to do the same thing.

As usual I wasn't able to sleep. I read quite a bit and watched a movie ("Inside out", which was pretty good) during most of the flight.

When we landed in Montreal it was clear but quite cold. This time my layover wasn't very long. I basically had just enough time to stop quickly in a restroom along the way between the gate I arrived at and the departure gate. When I arrived the flight to Ft Lauderdale had already begun boarding. Once again I had to wait until the last group to board because Air Canada boards by zones and although the boarding passes Aer Lingus had printed for me back in Shannon listed my seat number they didn't list any zone.

Priceline had booked a window seat for me this time. This meant that at first I had someone sitting next to me on the aisle but since this flight wasn't quite 100% full she disappeared to another seat so I had both seats to myself.

I wasn't sure we were even going to be able to leave Montreal. The weather had really deteriorated as it got dark and as we were waiting to complete boarding and get permission to take off not only had the temperature dropped quite a bit but it had started snowing. They deiced the plane at least once while it was being refueled. I could see the deicing equipment in operation and it was pretty cool, no pun really intended.

Once we took off the flight was quite uneventful. I still couldn't sleep but actually felt well enough to read for most of the time.

Just as I had done the night before I left here to fly to Ireland two weeks ago, Saturday night I had charged both my iPhones' battery cases and the phones themselves and had made sure that at least one of my Kindles was fully charged as well. It turned out that even in economy on all three flights on Sunday I could have used the USB charger on each seat if I had remembered to stick a charging cable in a coat pocket instead of packing all of them into one of my suitcases.

We arrived here in Ft Lauderdale at about 10 PM. I wasn't sure how far I'd need to drag my bags to the nearest Go Airport Shuttle dispatch desk for my private ride home so I paid the $5.00 for one of the baggage carts. I probably didn't need to since it turned out that the dispatcher was pretty much just right outside the nearest exit door from the carousel where our bags had arrived.

I only had to wait for between five and ten minutes before a driver was available and was back here at the La Quinta just before 11 PM. I grabbed a luggage cart downstairs and used it to bring my two suitcases, hat box, and Chris's cane up to my room.

Because it had been quite a while since I had last eaten I had an Ensure and went to bed after sending an email to Michael letting him know I was safely back here and watching a streaming program on my Kindle. The best part about coming home (well, okay, at least to where I was living before I left) is that I don't need to unpack anything right away, especially since I didn't even have to dig out my plug in alarm clocks since I had left my US ones here in my room and taken my Irish/UK plug in ones with me.


Monday, January 9th, 2018

The La Quinta where I've been staying since August

I slept OK last night but not long enough, since I've still been having problems with sinus drainage from the cold I've had for the last couple of weeks and kept waking up coughing and trying to clear the crap out of my throat. I finally gave up about 7 AM and read for a while and watched something streaming on one of my Kindles.

For some reason the VPN app I've used before while traveling to access the same streaming services I can at home didn't work as well this time so I had been restricted to what I could watch on Netflix and YouTube so I'm glad to be able to access the rest of my services now I'm back in the US.

After I finally completely got up about 9 AM I didn't completely unpack until after I had taken a shower and gotten partly dressed, just digging out my toiletries. It didn't take all that long to unpack everything after showering but it took pretty close until about noon to actually sort out and put everything away, including sorting out my pills for the week.

I wasn't feeling very well all day today, a bit tired and sleep deprived and having problems with congestion and sinus drainage from the cold I've been having. I decided I'd give myself one last day off before starting on the next round of sending emails to the contractor, my insurance, the HOA's property manager and their insurance about getting work going at my house.

I had put all my UK electronics stuff and gloves into a bag and had collected my heavier winter jacket and coat on the spare bed I have here in my room and took them all back to my house, saying "Hi" to my friends at the reception desk on the way out. I had been including Michael, the manager here, in the group of people I had been sending pictures to while I was gone.

I dropped the bag of electronics and coats back at my house, picked up the mail which was resumed today or last Saturday, and then went out for pizza and salad for lunch then an iced coffee at Starbuck's before coming back to my room. I wasn't sleepy, just tired, and rested and read and watched something streaming for a couple of hours.

I left here for dinner about 6 PM. I wasn't hungry quite yet so I went to my other nearest Starbuck's for another iced coffee on the way. I went to one of my favorite Asian places and had sushi and chicken teriyaki for dinner and came back here.

I read for an hour or so, then started typing my notes from the trip home yesterday and today, and it's now about 11 PM.

My plans for tomorrow are to check my email from the last couple of days and to send emails to the contractor and insurances and the HOA's property manager after showering and dressing. Then I think I'll go do a load of laundry, including the sweatshirt and fleece vest I wore during most of my trip. They both got rather sweaty and smelly despite it being Winter because I wore them under my heavier winter coat.

And those are my last notes from this trip.