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Let’s Take a Wee Stroll Through Galway, Ireland!

When I arrived for my study abroad program in Galway, Ireland, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I’ve heard stories of rolling, green fields dotted with sheep and cobblestoned cities with pubs and tea shops. But sometimes, expectations are romanticized and create a disappointed reality. However, on my first walk through Galway, all I could think was, “This is amazing.” Not to mention the fact that I was pointing and smiling and snapping pictures every five seconds! Needless to say, Galway quickly stole my heart.
 The streets of Downtown Galway

From Gort na Coirbie, the student village I am staying in, downtown Galway is a ten to fifteen minute walk. Old, traditional buildings, tightly compacted, line the stoned street. Chipping paint or timeworn and rusty pub signs protruding from the roofs give the city that authentic and old-time atmosphere. The city is known for its churches and cathedrals, and for good reason. Huge, stone buildings with beautiful glass windows, elaborate archways, and steep, architecturally complex peaks loom over the streets. The craftsmanship is so impressive that you’d swear you were walking past a piece of art, not just a building. Footsteps and conversations in several different accents and languages fill the streets. Galway seems to have a pulse, a rhythmic beat composed of several different sources of music that melt into a unique melody. On the corner will be street performers playing guitars and drums, nodding at those that applaud or give money. Bands playing traditional Irish music can be heard in the pubs, usually accompanied with cheers and laughter and sometimes even the intricate stomping of step dancers. The smell of tea, pastries, and other delicious foods fill the air. However, there’s a constant hint of the salty, ocean air rolling off the bay.
 One of the many churches in Galway City
 Mouth of the bay

The bay and rivers are absolutely worth mentioning. On a typical day, at least one or two bridges will be crossed, providing a gorgeous view of the streaming water below. The rivers are not wild and raging, but instead seem to gracefully and calmly flow along the mossy rocks scattered between the banks. The nature trails show off just how green everything is, that incredible kind of green that screams out how lush the earth is. Then, of course, there is the Galway Bay, one of the town’s most notable features. The bustling rules of the city seem to disappear here as people sit and relax on the stone walls and grassy patches that encompass the quiet, still water. Boats reside on the nearer, shallow waters, waiting to be taken out to sea when the tide comes in, while the hazy mountains hide far in the distance at the horizon. A breeze can almost always be promised, thick with salty moisture. Humidity is a guaranteed part of life in Galway. If it is not raining, a kind of dewy feeling still develops on the skin while walking around simply because of the moisture that lingers in the air. This is intensified at the rivers and the bay with the lack of shelter from buildings.
 The rocky shore of the bay

Something that I have come to adore about Galway, Ireland, is the unsaid but understood philosophy that if you can walk there, you’re going to. It’s refreshing to actually use my legs to get from place to place. It’s given me time to absorb and appreciate everything that Galway has to offer, “stop to smell the roses” as they say! I'm sure as time goes on, I'll discover even more places that make Galway the unique and beautiful city that it is.

Rachel Balon is the Fall 2014 CEA MOJO in Galway, Ireland. She is currently a senior at Keystone College.

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