Parades and crowds are not my pint of Guinness, you might say. The pushing, the shoving, cameras in your face, drunk men getting right up to your nose saying, “How are YYYOOOOOOUUUUUU doing?” tends to annoy me more than charm me. I arrived in Galway the day before Saint Patrick’s Day. I decided to get my sightseeing in for the day as I knew March 17th would be the day for people watching.
Instantly I was charmed by Galway and its small town feel. It doesn’t overwhelm you like a big city, but it is also incredibly lively. It could be due to the fact that it is a major university town. You know you are getting older when you are wondering why there are so many high school kids in a city. They are not in high school anymore and apparently I am far, far away from that age too. Then again, it could be the sounds of street musicians around every corner adding a spring to your step.
Galway sprawls out across the River Corrib. There is something so peaceful and alluring about city set along a river. Perhaps it is just the poetry that comes from looking at the glassiness of the water next to city life. The two are so far from each other, but in a place like Galway, they are inextricably linked.
I head for Thomas Dillon’s Claddagh Gold, supposedly the oldest jeweler to begin making the recognizable Claddagh ring. Established in 1750, the shop is predictably small, with what is called a “museum” in the back. The “museum” is one you don’t know where to look, but features a number of historical rings and documents pertaining to the claddagh ring including the world’s smallest claddagh ring.
After peeking in colorful shops and wandering around the somewhat disorganized Galway City Museum, I enter the Galway Cathedral for some peace and quiet. While a relatively new addition to the city, I am amazed by its beauty from top to bottom.
Another day ends and another begins, perhaps the day to end all days for Ireland, Saint Patrick’s Day. Being a writer, I know I must take photographs and get the best spot in the house for parades and festivals. I plant myself behind a barricade with cappuccino in hand in hopes of scoring the best view. However minutes before the parade begins, a horde of people come just in front of my section. A group of teens push up behind me making the experience somewhat hard to enjoy and even see.
However, there were those characters. I had always thought the Irish didn’t wear head to toe green or those funny hats, but listening to accents as I walked through the crowd, I was shocked most of the red-beard, shamrock painted people were Irish.
The procession featured some random floats, all in keeping with the theme, “World of Wonder”. My favorite performance came from some “jugglers”. A group of guys who clearly had some difficulties juggling, specifically the one named Dave they kept yelling at, were quirky and real just the same.
Into the night, Galway gets louder and louder as the pubs overflow with those looking to celebrate. It is a bit crazy, but a welcoming scene. It could be due to the city’s name, from the Irish word gaill, meaning “foreigners”. In the land of foreigners, Galway does tend to embrace like that of a claddagh ring, wearing its heart in the middle, held up by two hands and topped with a crown.