Our goodbyes were said and I left the gentleman to continue his day. Following his directions, I set off to my destination, The Quays Restaurant to meet Dara the airbnb owner. After crossing the park, I land on Quay Street (pronounced Key Street).
A long, pedestrian road lined with shops, restaurants and pubs. How did I miss this gym in my research? Arriving at The Quays Restaurant with a dead phone, I wait for it to charge to contact Dara to let him know of my arrival. Twenty minutes later, Dara shows up and leads me to my home for the evening. A few paces up the road and to the right we enter a door, climb 3 flights up stairs and onto a roof top balcony which leads to another door. Here is an apartment with 3 rooms and a bathroom. One of these rooms is mine for the evening and it was simple, lovely and perfect. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/10563207
My hangover had subsided but I was still exhausted. A friend once told me, “when traveling it doesn’t matter how tired you are, how hungover you are, get up and GO.” I have lived by this on every adventure, thanks Rebecca. After showering, putting on clean clothing and makeup (which I had not done in 7 days but it did feel good), I got up and went.
There was one place in Galway that I wanted to go; it is Thomas Dillion’s Claddagh. http://www.claddaghring.ie/ If you did not know where to look you would miss Thomas Dillons, it is located at 1 Quay street in a red and black building that seems to be incognito compared to their competitors.
Thomas Dillon’s is a jewelry store specializing in the Claddagh which is the iconic symbol of a heart in the center (heart), with a crown on top (loyalty) and hands holding both (Friendship). To me, this is a symbol of Ireland and the traditions they hold. Many people use this ring as their wedding ring with the symbol facing down. Wearing my facing away from me means, I am waiting for that one person. “Thomas Dillon’s was established in 1750 and we are the only Jewelers that have the right to have “ORIGINAL” stamped on our claddagh rings. No other jeweler has this stamp as we are the original manufacturers of the rings.” (http://www.claddaghring.ie/content/4-our-company)
This store is amazing; there is a fire place that warmed it nicely, the attendant is a lady of around 80 who is as helpful as can be and there is a tiny museum in the back where you can look at the history of the store and the Claddagh. Purchasing my ring, I strolled down the bustling street of Galway.
Ending up in a local pub off the beaten path, something that I started to do on this trip, unintentionally. It was small, and the only woman in there was the bar tender. As I open the door to the dark room, all heads turn, and watch me sit down. This place was the “Cheers” of Galway, it seems.
Now finding a way to talk to strangers has not always come easy to me. Finding something they like or you both have in common is a way to start the conversation. A horse race was on and I asked a simple question about betting and this opened the flood gates. All the men, old and young engaged me in conversation, helped me with directions and wished me well.
After stumbling (not literally) upon a place to have dinner and a few pints I made my way back to my airbnb. It was early and I was not ready to turn in, I found another pub with outdoor seating, the Tigh Neachtain founded in 1894. Going in I purchased a pint and sat alone to watch the foot traffic. Feeling a bit lonely, yes this does happen, I made my way inside to sit at the smallest bar I have ever seen in my life. http://www.tighneachtain.com/
A low ceiling, small cubbies for people, which I learned are snogs ( where women use to have to sit to have a drink because they were not allowed to sit at the bar with the men) ,only 3 seats at the bar and one table in this walled off section, I begin to talk to a man from London holding up the wall. As soon as one of the seats was free at the bar, I claim it.
Quickly making friends with the people at the adjacent table who were film makers, making a film for Bernie Sanders, I stayed and had a few laughs and pints with these fellows. They ask me to join them at the next pub but finally my exhaustion caught up with me, so I headed back to the airbnb.
Because Thomas Dillon’s was only a few steps from my apartment I knew it was close. Once I found Thomas Dillon’s, I walked straight there but there was a problem. After a few pints, being exhausted, arriving and leaving in hast from the airbnb, I failed to recognize which door lead to my apartment.
My GSP said, “I was there” but which door was it? A pub with a door man was across the street surrounded by a group of middle aged men. Walking over with key and GPS in hand I asked the men which door it was…”wheee do nooot speak English, whee are French”. Hmmm ok then, I turned to the doorman. Looking at me, then smiling, he says, “this happens more than you think. I suggest you just try all three doors with your key.” Laughing, because that is all I can do, I say thanks and ok. Door #1..nope, Door #2, nope, Door #3…YES. I am in. There are cheers of celebration like I just won the Tour de France come from across the street. (I really wish I had taken a photo of all of the doors in a row)
Finishing off one last pint in my room (left over can cider I purchased on my first day), I fall quickly asleep, to only wake up at the crack of dawn to head to Connemara National park.
Tips: Talk to strangers, ask for help!