Ireland: Galway

Researching and planning for our trip to Ireland was a year in the making. Initially, I had no idea what to expect or where to begin – so I tried to make it as easy as possible for myself by first listing my must-see places (Dublin, The Ring of Kerry, Dingle, The Cliffs, and Giant’s Causeway). I scribbled down a short list of ideas since I had limited knowledge about this country. My starting point was that I knew we would be flying into Dublin.¬† I soon found I was getting overwhelmed and ahead of myself, and I found the least chaotic method was to plan the trip one location at a time. That’s probably common knowledge, but I have never planned a trip this big on my own before. After carefully organizing one city’s festivities, I would research our next destination and begin plans for that, which made it a smooth and enjoyable planning process. Creating a dream trip can come with a lot of pressure if you aren’t sure where to begin. Focusing on one city at a time painted a picture of what the trip would actually look like.

However, one key thing I wanted to make sure of was to not stuff our days, and driving an entire country forces that on you. You have to include travel time, possible traffic, unplanned adventurous stops, breakfast/lunch/dinner, bathroom breaks, gas stops, time to park, and any time photographing that you may need. I mapped out from one lodging place to the next, to where the nearest gas station was, to any surprise¬†stops we may have wanted to make along the way, time at those stops, from city to sightseeing locations, from lodging to sightseeing locations…the list goes on. And on. It was tedious work at the start, but in the end it showed me how much that can make or break a vacation. Losing track of time isn’t always a bad thing because it allows you to openly welcome unexpected experiences (remember the tea drinking all afternoon in that glowing sunroom on the Ring of Kerry? Worth it.). But honestly, I even planned for those “no agenda” times too by deliberately leaving empty spaces of time available. This leads us into this post – finally!

If you remember from my last Ireland post here, we left Lissyclearig Thatched Cottage after enjoying our homemade traditional Irish breakfast and tea, and took to the open road toward Galway, about halfway up the west coast of Ireland. On the way, we made a stop for “lunch” in Adare, about 2 hours south of Galway. By “lunch” I really mean tea and scones, because that was our entire diet in the Emerald Isle. Adare was a planned stop because we knew we needed to munch, but beyond that we had no plan – not even where we would eat. Thanks to the trusty Yelp app, we found this cute cafe in the heart of the town with great reviews, cozied up inside, and ordered tea and scones. After scarfing down our delish food – but sipping the tea of course – we strolled the main drag for another 30-45 minutes photographing the charming details of this town. Just see for yourself…more thatched cottages y’all.
We hopped back into our car and finished the tail end of our drive to Galway, first stopping at our AirBnB to drop off our luggage and walk the grounds…because it was a castle (no joke), then heading to the city for an evening walk and dinner. Galway reminds me of a smaller version of Dublin, with a splash of vibrant buildings like Cobh. A good mix of big city with small town charm, and home to the Galway Hurling team, which you’ll see proudly represented throughout the city with banners and signs (their team colors are maroon and white). I loved the wet and rainy streets in this city at dusk. Rain is just a part of Ireland, something that can be enjoyed as part of the experience of this country.Also, what’s a William’s vacation without a candy stop? Major sweet tooth people over here… They also like to speak their mind here whether it’s on a sign or in conversation. They keep it real, but somehow sound kind when they do it – so different from the States.

The most unexpected thing happened while we were wandering the streets – we came across the bartender who served us in Dingle the evening before (Dingle is four hours away). While he was serving us up some Guinness in the pub that night, we mentioned that we were going to Galway for our next destination, which also happens to be his hometown. Taking advantage of that fact, we asked for his best pub recommendation and without hesitation he answered: “Taffes. It’s the best Guinness in Ireland.

When a local recommends somewhere to eat, do it. Because he was right. We ventured to Taffes after dinner in Galway and it was one of the best experiences in Ireland we had. Chase and I frequently talk about that pub experience, not just because of the creamy/milky flavor of the Guinness, but because we spent our entire time in that pub nestled in the corner, chatting it up with the locals.

The first gentleman we met was a middle-aged man sitting right beside us with his wife. We chatted for a brief second, then Chase noticed him getting up and whipping out a leather sheath from his pockets, where he pulled out his musical instruments to go with play with the live band. The instruments inside that sheath were none other than spoons. Yes, metal spoons you eat with.

The second gentleman we met was a man who was aged with grey hair and wrinkled, well-lived skin, but had a youthful spirit that beamed through his personality. We were enjoying our pints of Guinness, while telling this man of our travels and where we were from, and getting to know him. Of course, Chase’s first question was to ask if he was retired.

“Retired?! I’m still working! All my retired friends are buried in the ground.” He chuckled, but I like to think he was kind of serious.

I think our friendliness and desire to start a conversation with him came as a surprise, because he kept wondering why Americans typically don’t like talking to strangers – our behavior was not what he thought of when it came to the customs of Americans. We (Americans) give the impression that we have nothing but our own agenda to take care of, and we pass by the opportunities that come with meeting a fellow human being and holding a real conversation. We locked eyes and he asked me “Why don’t Americans like to talk to people?”

“I’m not sure…probably because we care what other people think about us, so we’re afraid to have real conversations with strangers,” I responded.

I will never forget his reaction, and the words that came out of his mouth: “Get that sh*t out of your head!”

Let me remind you this came from an older gentleman who was still working, and had to be in his 70’s. This is one moment I regret not pulling my camera out and photographing this gentleman, because he was the most lively, honest man we had met on this trip. However, I will always remember that conversation and how much I laughed. I wish I could repeat the entire talk – but I won’t, because it was a lot of f-bombs and other words – yet he somehow didn’t sound vulgar or “cool.” Most of the swearing I hear back home is overly emphasized in people’s language – the most prominent word in a sentence and/or thought, almost coming across like we’re wanting attention through the vulgar words we use. In Ireland, it’s easy to miss those small swear words if you aren’t paying attention because its just part of the language – I haven’t figured out why or how, but it sounds completely different to me and it isn’t a distraction. They aren’t using that particular language to make a point or to draw attention – they’re just speaking. So different, but so fun to observe at the same time.

After enjoying our talks over Guinness, we walked off our dinner and pints, then headed back to the castle to get some shut-eye.

We came back to the city early the next morning when the streets were less crowded to get some tea and scones and a to-go lunch before heading to see The Cliffs of Moher (post coming soon!). We spent some time roaming through and photographing different alleyways before coming to our first stop of the morning – my FAVORITE shop – Cupan Tae.
There is always a handful of these every “shoot” we do together. He makes everything fun. Ah, Cupan Tae – a vintage style tea shop away from the bustle of the main streets in Galway. Once again, Yelp led me to this place, and it was a match made in heaven. Y’all should know by now that I am a lover of tea. There are coffee snobs, but I am a tea snob all the way. Drinking tea is not something I do quickly on the go in the morning. It’s a process.
I was so excited to try this place we got there 10 minutes before opening and stood at the entrance. Yup, I was one of those people, creepily peering into the window to get even the slightest glance of the inside. They finally opened their doors and I made sure I was the first one in, so I could pick any spot in the shop. I was like the crazy people trampling on Arnold Schwarzenegger outside the toy store in “Jingle All the Way.” No shame.

After perusing their menu for a bit we ordered our tea and breakfast goodies and enjoyed a peaceful morning. I ordered their three-tiered breakfast sweets, which included a yogurt parfait, fresh fruit, and scones…and I had to include a slice of that chocolate biscuit. It was calling my name. It knows my weakness. Chase ordered their more savory option, which came on its own dish so yes, the three-tiered tray was all mine. They had a plethora of tea flavors and I went with their house favorite (and specially blended for them) tea – Dreamy Creamy Galway. Boy, was it dreamy. And creamy. This tea is a combination of black tea, roasted coffee beans, and jasmine flowers, and is easily my go-to flavor. With a lump of sugar and a splash of milk it tastes like comfort in a cup – it just makes you feel at home and allows the busyness of life melt away with each sip…I told you I was a tea snob.

We savored our tea and breakfast, not just because of how delectable the food was, but because the atmosphere was unlike any coffee shop or cafe we had ever stepped foot in – foreign or stateside. I snapped some photographs for creative inspiration while Chase purchased some Dreamy Creamy Galway as well as their Christmas Cheer tea to bring home, and we set off on our grandest adventure of the day – The Cliffs of Moher. Keep an eye out; that post will be coming next week and it was one of my must-sees for Ireland!

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