UK March 2010: Galway: Home to the Ferocious O'Flahertys

Saturday I got up at a decent hour, anxious to explore Galway after resting most of Friday. The hotel does a great breakfast. I'm not really the Irish Breakfast type, but was very happy with my poached eggs, wheat toast, fruit and tea. I took an apple for later and headed out. First I decided to just walk around and get lost on purpose. Then ended up at the Galway City Museum and the Spanish Arch by accident. it was a nice stroll, looking at this exhibit on traditional Irish currach (skin boat) which is still used by some fisherman today. It went into details about the differences in the boats by area and what goes into making them. Your food, income, life were all linked to these vessels. Some fisherman carried small vials of holy water in a rope they tied to the boat and left in the water-- to bless both. Priests would pray over new boats before they took their maiden voyages.

In case any of my east coast family members have been wondering for the last 20 years what it would take to get me to attend mass again, I've stumbled on the answer. Apparently all that needs to happen is that I show up at St. Nicholas Cathedral about five minutes before service begins and I will anxiously grab a seat and sit through the service. I'm very lucky I found myself in a Catholic church so that I could follow along without prompting. Everyone was very nice, the service was short. I wondered halfway through if they were going to read the Pope Benedict XVI letter like other churches in Ireland have been doing, but they did not. The letter has had mixed results on the island from what I can gather. Some glad to have it, others wanting more of an acknowledgment of the Vatican's reported role in any cover up and more about what other countries are facing. Some felt a bit picked on, felt like more needed to be said about the survivors of the abuse, and some appreciated that there is no longer silence at the top levels. This and the American health care debate are the topics of discussion. It is interesting to have the different perspectives on both.

Galway county is where the Irish branch of my family hails. According to what I could find we have quite the reputation around here. Apparently, part of the reason Galway was walled off was because my ancestors wanted to take it back over from the English after being driven out centuries before. A plaque was placed on the city walls," From the Ferocious O Flaherty's O Lord deliver us". This plaque is infamous and mentioned to me by friends at the music pub (see below). Now, any of you that have encountered me on a bad day know that it would take more than a damn wall and plaque to keep me out. Still, it was a touching gesture. And now that you know a little more of my family history perhaps you will never talk to me like that again or give me that type of look. Thank you.So, I hear there is this thing called "Irish Music" so I decided to head out and hear some. I left the area of my fancy hotel, clogged with drunken college students and headed across the bridges (quays in Ireland) to an area where there are slightly less drunken college students. I settled in to a bar stool and ordered a glass of Guinness. A glass would be a half pint and looking around the room, I quickly realized that unlike Dublin and London, women in Galway still drank by the half pint. Where as the guy next to me averaged about 2 pints of Guinness to every half pint I had and I am not a very slow drinker. Though, luckily, not much of a drinker these days. I was done with a pint's worth. He is still there. The music was good a blend of traditional Irish and country/bluegrass. Audience members at a couple points sang there own solo ballads to the crowd. I made friends with the older crowd around me. Talked about Ireland and the US and families and travel. I also got a good recommendation for a band to see Sunday night. Hopefully my feet hold up.It was a nice night, relatively quiet in a crowded bar. Small conversation, smaller beers. I unwound my way home to the hotel and opened my window to hear the noises of the party crowd and feel the welcoming night air on my tired skin.

Sunday started with breakfast again. Like church, the way to get me to breakfast is to just put it in front of me. I went for oatmeal this time with stewed fruit and a poached egg on the side. Protein to keep me on track during the day. Sundays are quieter. You forget when you live in the US that some countries still close down at 5:00 in the evening and don't open on Sundays. I like it though. Strange for me, someone that thrives on off-time shopping trips, but it does allow people more community time. The shops close, the pubs, restaurants and cafes open. People mill about and meet up. Dinner on time with the family. Dogs get walked often. The money I save on food by eating apples, hummus and soda bread all day, I spent on an over priced massage at the hotel. My back and legs were not going to forgive me if I didn't. After the massage I took advantage of the outdoor, wooden hot tub that overlooks the bay. And now, yes, right now, I'm sitting in a pub in Galway, watching a fantastic band. Wow, that guy I met yesterday was right, they are fantastic. He says they are one of his favorite local bands ever and he is clocking I'm over 60. I like the thought of him seeing this somewhat mohawked, alternative, band in the flood of college students that make up the audience.

By now I am homesick, but still happy to have these adventures. I'm looking forward to a restful night in the Aran Islands and the journey back through Ireland to busy London.

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