ireland photo diary: galway city and the burren

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On day five of our trip, K and I bussed ourselves down to Galway City, a quaint little seaside shopping town.  Immediately upon entering the colorful streets of Dublin’s baby cousin, our ears buzzed with the many sounds of local music.  Traditional Irish tunes, classic American rock hits, symphonic strings played by a solo violin, a marionette and his matching maneuverer fiddling away, this place has got it all.  Walk into a pub at any point during the day (because this is Ireland, remember, and bars open up with pharmacies and cafes alike) and music can instantly be heard, almost as if pouring out through the Guinness taps, over the bars and into the streets.  The constant melodic sounds become synonymous with Galway so quickly upon arriving, in fact, that after a day there you may not notice the sheer volume of it until you’re gone and the final notes of those sweet songs drip sluggishly from your ears.

Galway City is also home to the Claddagh Ring museum, which is more of a little shop where you can see the process of claddagh-ring-creation, and even purchase one of the iconic bands for yourself.  You can stroll along the coast and stop in at Sheridan’s Cheese Mongers for a hunk of sharp Irish ghouda and some fresh produce, or swing by St. Joseph’s Cathedral for a live concert in the evening.  Pop into The Quays (pronounced like “keys”) for a fun traditional Irish pub experience, complete with two-story layout, multiple bars, and live music every night (even on a Tuesday).

Stepping just outside the city, we decided to immerse ourselves in a bit of Galway’s countryside with an 8-hour tour of one of Ireland’s most magnificent national parks, The Burren.  This expansive park’s name comes from an Irish word meaning “rocky place”, which makes sense considering how much of the area is tiled in exposed limestone pavement.  Did you guys know that limestone is actually one of the most fertile substances found in nature, consequently earning its name as “Fertile Rock”?  No wonder there is so much farming going on in the super green Burren.  K and I made a game of hopping from stone to stone as quickly as we could.  I wonder if children growing up here so many thousands of years ago may have had the same idea…

We visited a dark and stormy castle, the ruins of an ancient church, a 5800-year-old tomb (that’s older than the pyramids in Egypt!), an ex-fortress and family residence where legend has it laprechauns and fairies used to dwell, and of course, the majestic Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland’s most prized natural beauties.  It was a whirlwind of a day, with loads of information and sights to be taken in, but also one that I will never, ever forget.  The magic of Ireland’s countryside is not to be taken for granted- if you ever travel to the land of the green, you MUST go out and experience it!

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