The shopping is good in Galway

Today we ventured down the cow path and into town.  As we started to exit the hobbit hole, we paused as two very large black cows stormed down the “road” with their humans herding them into the adjacent field.  So, exactly what do we do if we encounter this type of situation again but we are driving?  Scream and brace for impact probably.  Luckily, we swerved around any oncoming traffic and made it safely into the town of Galway, very photogenic and historic. 

After maneuvering into the always tiny parking spaces in the garage (our Audi is larger than most cars here), we wandered the streets where pubs and shops welcomed us.   First stop was for an Americano as there is only a hot water pot for tea in our cottage and no coffee except instant Nescafe available.  Caffeine headache averted, we found the shops to be charming and loaded with nice things for presents to others and ourselves. 

The best by far was the “My Shop…granny likes it” (www.myshopgranny.com) that had a curated assortment of all things Irish and cool, not touristy crap.  I immediately was drawn to an amazing chunky necklace made with blue and yellow stones.  Had. To. Have. It.  After chatting with the shop owner and her adorable schnauzer, Purdy, the shop dog, we also got a great pillow cover, which I collect from our travels and tea towels featuring an abstract print of the charming Galway row houses and another boldly proclaims an old Irish saying,  “FECK IT…sure IT’S GRAND”   Okay. 

Always ask the locals where they eat to get the best places.  Rona O’Reilly recommended a funky place just down the lane called Bite Club which had free WiFi, played disco tunes and had great food.  Ryan and Paddy took care of us and we chatted.  Ryan was mad at Paddy because he had saved his money and was off to America to visit any and all relatives he could find from coast to coast.  Paddy mixed me up a mean craft cocktail, Elderberry Bourbon Fizz, served in a crystal punch cup.  Delightful!  After singing along with Donna Summers and posting some blogs on the internet (the hobbit hole is without tv/internet), we were off for more browsing and shopping before braving the drive home via cow path.  If the driving over here wasn’t so nuts, we’d be back at the Bite Club in the evening when it turns into a 1980’s discotheque.  Groovy.

Staying in the Hobbit Hole

Okay, so it’s not really a “hole” but it does have a thatched roof, plaster walls and beams everywhere and highly resembles, at least in my mind, a place where a hobbit would make his home and be very happy.  The massive stone fireplace not only heats up the cottage quickly but one could imagine using it to cook as well.  Not me, of course, but the hearty hobbits who favor second and third breakfasts.

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Now, instead of “left, left, left” as our mantra, it is “duck, duck, duck” as in if you don’t duck your head under all the wood beams that are jutting low or the loft bedroom with the 5 foot ceilings, etc. then you will knock yourself out.  So far, we have no major injuries but we still have two days left in our stay.  I am thrilled to finally experience a towel warmer which keeps them toasty warm until needed. 

The main level of our hobbit home is quite comfortable with just two leather chairs by the fire and a small table.  Less is more.  There are candles for the mantle and a CD player with Irish CD’s to play.  The kitchen is efficient with a microwave and a portable oven with hot plates.  No dishwasher unless you count Thom.  Our ARBNB hosts kindly provided the Irish soda bread, butter and milk as well as tea.  Yes, the Irish drink A LOT of tea with a hot pot mandatory for all kitchens.  Unfortunately, the coffee pot is not required so we will be using the French press instead once we get up the courage to drive down the cow path to the nearest grocery to get some coffee.  galway-7

We tried walking in the countryside via this cow path aka country road but kept having to leap into the brambles when a car came so we decided that wasn’t very smart on our part and we would probably die if we kept on walking.  Luckily we discovered a lane with just a few houses so no traffic and a beautiful overlook of the water on both sides, a massive lake inland to the left and the ocean near Galway to the right.  The stone fences from the past still litter the countryside everywhere you look.  There must be a law against tearing them down as they still exist today as they would have back in the 1800’s to divide up the property lines.  You sense a respect for the culture and history in Ireland that is sorely lacking in other countries including America.  Instead of just tearing down old ruins, in Ireland you will see a piece of a castle or an ancient arch either standing alone or incorporated into more modern buildings. 

Having survived our little country jaunt, we curled up in our chairs by the fire and relaxes. No TV, no internet and no coffee.  Truly off the grid.  At least for a little bit.

 

Down the Cow Path to Galway

“We’re taking country roads” Thom was in charge of mapping our adventure driving from Limerick to Galway via small hamlets where his Irish relatives were born.  Cool, an adventure driving through the Irish countryside.  Right?  Wrong! Little did I realize that this would mean taking what amounted to a cow path (and I’m being generous) for miles, avoiding head-on collisions only by luck and chance and several turnouts we took full advantage of when faced with another vehicle using the single lane.

 

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They call this a “road” in Ireland.  It’s a cow path.

 

Just to give you an idea of how tight it was, even when not trying to avoid oncoming traffic, the blackberry brambles made some significant scratches on the Audi side mirrors as the wall of vegetation on either side of the path left no room for a normal size vehicle.  Here’s hoping the rental car company doesn’t examine our car upon returning to Dublin.  And speaking of cow paths, may I say that some of the cows we saw in this bucolic Irish countryside, when I didn’t have my eyes closed praying we would live to see another day, were HUMONGOUS, as my granddaughter Mia would say.  I’m talking mutant big heads that had bodies so large they probably wouldn’t even fit down this cow path we were driving on. ireland-3

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Flask came in handy

Given the car that the rental dude tried to give us initially bodes well for us.  After paying a ridiculous amount of money for this car, we went to find it and I took one look, turned around and entered the crowded rental counter area, pronouncing in a not-a-soft-voice, “WTF-that car has bent rims, no hubcap and significant dents in multiple places-it looks like it’s been in a demolition derby!”  The rental guy had been peering out the window to see our reaction and already had the keys to an upgrade for us in hand.  “Please come with me-I have an Audi for you.”  We marched out and got into our much nicer car and proceeded to say our mantra for our road trip, “LEFT, LEFT, LEFT” 

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Demolition derby car

Back to the cow path experience-after we drove through one of the birth towns of a relative and stopping at the local church to take pictures, I cracked open the wine and proceeded to make good use of the flask I had brought with me for just such an occasion.  After a few hearty sips, we hit the road again and I begged Thom to give up the next remote location and hit the motorway.  Even driving on the wrong side, I mean left side, of the road was nothing compared to the one lane fright so he agreed to hit the motorway and we proceeded to find our home for the next three nights, a thatched roof ARBNB cottage near Galway.

Greeting us with the fire ready to start and homebaked Irish soda bread, our host wished a quiet and restful vacation without TV or internet to distract us.  Ahhhhh…..feet up, blanket on and fire lit.  Heaven.