I rolled into Galway City after two weeks of exploring the west coast of Ireland by car. Scott dropped me off at the Snoozles Hostel and I climbed into my top bunk with the sort of weary fatigue that comes from constant movement, lack of sleep, and no plan for what to do next. All I knew was that I wanted to spend a few weeks in the city, far from chaotic and expensive Dublin. I had spent a grand total of one afternoon here so far, when Scott and I joined our friend Laura at Tigh Neachtain for a pint or three before heading north. Two elderly men shuffled into the room and asked us to move aside from where we sat at the table, and then started jamming away on the resident piano and accordion. The ballad was about a soldier who had his legs blown off. It was oddly upbeat.
I knew that I needed to find a room rental otherwise my budget would be blown within a week. And so I posted my query on Couchsurfing.org: Would anyone rent me a room? By sheer stroke of luck, a guy named Cathal messaged me and said he was moving into a new house with some friends and there was one bed available, which he offered me for 100EUR. I made my way to his house to meet him â€“ alone at night in a foreign town, mind you â€“ and decided I liked him a great deal. He offered me some tea in his living room and we chatted for a few hours, watched a few episodes of The Wonder Years, and the deal was sealed. I moved in a few days later. It was the best risk Iâ€™ve ever taken.
The house turned out to be gorgeous, about five minutes from the city centre and home to two other Irish lads who proved to be exceptional tour guides. On our first night in the new house, we cooked up some pasta the landlord had left for us and had a candlelit dinner. I took a look at these three strapping Irish men and thought, yep, I am living every Canadian girlâ€™s dream.
Over the next few weeks, I hoofed it around town seeking out cafes, restaurants, and pubs. To be honest, thereâ€™s not a great deal more to do in Galway than just socialize and have fun. It’s not even a particularly pretty town, but it’s got heart. Itâ€™s simply a college town with a huge influx of Spanish exchange students, with hands down the best nightlife in Ireland, secret Sligo pubs aside. One of my most memorable nights out included meeting up with a random Couchsurfer named Ray at The Salt House pub, a cramped but cozy space where a circle of musicians played Irish trad all evening. We went to The Crane for more Irish music â€“ the kind of place where people â€œshushedâ€ you for talking over the fiddle. My roommate Richy took my friend Julia and I out to Roisin Dubh dance bar, where we piled into the photo booth and took goofy photos that I still have tucked inside my mementos box. Heâ€™s the kind of guy who sticks an Irish whistle in his sock when he goes out on the town, just in case a random session breaks out. We sang all the way home and plucked daffodils from the side of the road to decorate our new place with.
Often Iâ€™d just roam around the pedestrian streets, crowded with traditional Celtic musicians performing for a buck. Eyre Square was constantly overwhelmed with peddlers, but it was easy to blend in with the crowd. Some days Iâ€™d go to Garveys alone for a pint while writing postcards and letters back home. My Spanish friend Laura, whom I had met in Dublin, also took me out with her friends. Weâ€™d hang out by the Spanish Arches where locals come to stretch their legs and take in the waterfront. I walked the Seaside Promenade in Salthill until I got hopelessly lost. One day I embarked on a solo mission to the Aran Islands, rented a bicycle, and traversed Inishmore until I nearly froze to death and opted for the warmth of a Guinness in a pub. I know Iâ€™ve written in the past about how I prefer travelling with friends, but Galway gave me a comfortable segue into the world of being alone. Sometimes I felt exposed and pathetic, lost and wandering the cobblestones. Other times I was okay with that. Thank you, Galway.