My first night in Galway, I went to a packed bar where an Irish acoustic-guitar duo was playing. They sang a few Irish songs, then some American favorites like “Proud Mary,” during which a homeless man in camoflage started dancing crazily outside. A small group of people from the bar went out and joined him, starting an impromptu sidewalk dance-off.
Later that night, conversation with my new Spanish host Nacho (a former producer for an audio-visual advertising team) stretched for hours over Spanish wine as we discussed careers, creativity, and travel. My accommodations were again generous, and I had a bedroom of my own.
The next morning we walked his golden retriever (“Render,” so named after Nacho’s work in video production) downtown and had espresso in the sun outside a cafe before he had to work. Taking advantage of the uncharacteristically perfect weather, I spent the day exploring Galway’s coastline. After a few hours of walking the coastal paths, I sat on large rocks at the shore, slurping down delicious yogurt as the water lapped jealously at boulders below. People jogged past behind me, their feet falling in rhythm with the waves. An occasional passer’s dog barked toward the tide, no doubt also envious of my treat (understandably so — it was strawberry).
The sun began to set on the coast, turning dark orange behind the neighboring town of Salt Hill with its ice-cream shops, gas stations, hotels and small-town casinos. Boats with red sails skimmed the rippling carpet of algae and seaweed to the East, past Nimmo’s pier and headed for Tawin Island. Inland, a group of young men practiced Gaelic football, and beyond them a backpacker drum circle had formed, Ashland-style but with rhythm.
Walking back to town, I met a jogger from Southern Ireland named Seana who used the expression “the bee’s knees” in conversation (though only once). She told me about her home town, and how she would sneak The Dubliners to bed at night as a young girl, embarrassed to read it for reasons she no longer understands. In another display of Irish hospitality, she made me dinner at her apartment before I went back into town to meet up with Nacho.
A couple of Dutch girls, Eva and Sabine, had shown up to surf Nacho’s couch as well, and the four of us shared pizza that night before going to a busy dance club that played everything in the hipster canon from house to Mumford and Sons, Johnny Cash to Grizzly Bear and Animal Collective.
Eva and I decided on a mission the next day: to find a live hurling game to watch in Galway. I got a tip from a local about where one would be, and Eva drove us around in her rental car to find it. We stopped a half-dozen times along the way to get advice from people on the street and in stores as the process of elimination ruled out field after vacant field. One man we asked had been walking his dog briskly in the rain, but he stopped to help us and even phoned two friends to ask if they knew. Eventually we ran out of venues and, deciding the game must have been canceled, turned our attention to a surprisingly tall and wet slide in a nearby playground.