I’m used to being alone. I spent a lot of time absorbed in solitary activities as a kid and even more time alone when I began college. When I began college I found that I had a great time exploring new places by myself and figuring out life on my own time. Now that I am in an entirely different college environment here in Galway I find that I still love to explore on my own but am really missing my favorite people. I am constantly wishing that my boyfriend and family were here to see all of this with me. Alone time is great but when you have no one close to share these incredible things with it gets old very quickly.
With that said the past two Saturdays have been spent seeing some of the most spectacular things I will ever see in my life. Though it pains me that I can’t share this personally with the people I love most I am glad to have been able to see these things at all.
Last Saturday I walked the 3km to Galway Bay with a few detours along the pedestrian only, Shop Street. First of all, Saturdays in the city of Galway are pretty impressive for such a small (by comparison to Chicago) city. Shop street is packed with tourists from every country, locals, musicians, human statues, students, and elderly couples out for a stroll. The restaurants nearby are obviously overflowing with patrons and the street air smells of powerful coffee, fresh grilled fish, seasonings from around the world, and hearty stews. Laughter leaks out of these pubs and cafes and infects the bystanders outside.
Once you step off this street the mood shifts. It is still jovial and comforting but the press of people is gone and so are the dueling scents. The calm that the mild weather of Ireland creates returns and it is easy to lose yourself in thought since there is no bright sunshine to distract you from the conversation in your head. At the end of this street lies the Galway Bay and the last remaining bit of the original city wall. As you transition from the over stimulating consumer-focused environment of Shop Street to the historical and natural environment that is the bay area it is jarring to say the least.
From what I have seen this clash of old world versus new is the way the entire country is. This is a country of immense history and natural beauty and luckily a lot of that has been preserved. Seeing so much of this then makes coming across McDonald’s and giant shopping centers all the more strange.
I spent a couple of hours around the bay just soaking in the random bits of sun, watching the father and his daughter feed the gulls bits of bread and the older gentleman walking with his sausage shaped dog.
After a stressful week of my first classes at the university I needed a break from the city and being lost on campus. A week of being lost for at least half of each day can frazzle your brain like nothing else. I decided to get out of the city and take a tour of the Cliffs of Moher.
I ended up on the same bus as a group of 10 year old Italian children on a school trip. They had no interest at all of the history the driver was spewing at us on our extended journey. I had to force my ears to hone in on his voice over the intercom so the details of everything I saw are a little bit hazy.
I went on the tour by myself and expected to spend much of my time in solitude taking all of the sights in but I ended up striking up a partnership with an older Turkish woman named Ria. She was in Galway to visit her son, an electrical engineer. She was alone also as her son ended up not wanting to go on the tour with her. Though we had some language barriers to break through we had a lovely time eating lunch together at the designated lunch stop and fighting the huge gusts of winds at the Cliffs of Moher. Her pink polka dot umbrella was our only casualty.
The Cliffs and other stops along the tour really cannot be described well by words as it was all an experience that had to be seen to be believed. I will say that the rural pieces of Ireland we toured through were so astounding in their lack of modernity. The streets were old and winding and the buildings were crooked yet solid. Years of hard work and oppressive history went into crafting these places and I am so glad to have seen all that I did.
My time in Galway so far has brought every range of emotion. I am still looking for that cliche enlightenment that so many students have when they study abroad but I’m not keeping my hopes up for it to happen anytime soon. I am torn between wanting to go home immediately and staying here forever to see
as much of the country as I can on my own schedule. For now I will stay here and chip away at my reading list for class, missing the people dear to me, and seeing as much of Ireland as I can.