I had a Branch Conference to attend in Galway on Sunday, and it’s a long 3-1/2 hour drive. So instead of driving up by myself, or trying to organize a lift, Blaik took time out from his Cork Branch Presidency duties and we made a weekend of it.
Got into Galway on Friday night and stayed in a delightful little hotel called Ward’s. It has old-fashioned decor, soft seats in corners for a chat, a large room with a wide screen tv (perfect for watching GAA matches), and a pub on the ground floor. I had read that they had a trad music session every Friday night, but evidently that doesn’t happen in the off season. Staircases with twists and turns, old photos and paintings, an antique globe on a hall table, the whole thing took you back a century. Except the rooms had modern en-suite facilities (bathrooms). Overall, much more enjoyabe than a generic chain hotel, and a full breakfast came with!
There’s not much happening in Galway in the winter, so we drove out to Connemara on Saturday. Not much happening there, either. The countryside is very barren – lots of rocks, peat bogs and sheep. And a few ponies.
It’s interesting to see where they cut peat – basically harvesting a layer at a time over a wide area, then going deeper. I don’t know if the peat that’s piled up will be dried and sold as is, or if it’s compressed into the peat briquettes that we buy in the stores.
We had lunch in Clifden and wandered the shops and bought some stuff (can’t help myself), and then headed back. Connemara National Park is supposed to be great, with a visitor’s centre that explains a lot, but the visitor’s centre was closed and there’s no road that drives through. Our clear day had turned to spits of rain, so we didn’t feel like getting out. Around a few corners, there was suddenly a castle – Kylemore Abbey, magnificent against the hills.
I took a picture, but we didn’t stop to find out if it was open or not. I want to go back in the summertime anyway.
Back in Galway that evening, we headed down to an Italian restaurant near the hotel, but found a pub by the Promenade that looked to have good food and had their Saturday night traditional music starting at 9. So we stayed, ate good food, and I had a ball!
It’s a family run place, and the gal that played the piano, the gal on the fiddle and mandolin, and the guy on the fiddle and flute were all part of the family. It was good, just music, no vocals. Then another fiddler showed up who I think was part of the band. But then someone started playing the spoons with them, the mandolin player pulled out her bodhrun (an Irish drum) and handed it to someone – she knew he played – and another fiddler joined them after a bit. A guy close to us pulled out his harmonica a while later and joined in. It really was an awesome jam session, and I guess it happens every Saturday night. Which is how they know the regulars who play, etc. I want to go back! (I have probably poor quality photos on my phone, but haven’t figured out how to get them off.)