Galway

Goodbye, Adare Manor! How you will be missed!!

Mr Crow…or Mr Raven, not sure which

Thatched cottage in Adare

Ruin on a hillside on the way to Galway

Breakfast at Adare Manor was a similarly lush affair to that of dinner – ample cold buffet selections (including oodles of mini pastries, that were so small that, surely, they couldn’t hurt . . . could they??), and a menu of hot dishes for all tastes for the chef to whip up in the kitchen. This morning’s indulgence (besides the pastries!) were: smoked haddock with béarnaise sauce and lemon, and eggs benedict (cause, let’s face it, who is going to go to the effort of making those sauces at home?).

The cliffs of Moher – still a magnificent sight (even without the sun being in the right spot!)

The Burren

Abandoned trailer

A very lonely graveyard

Our departure was delayed because neither of us really wanted to leave (!), but we did manage to drag ourselves away from the luxury and headed north-west to the Cliffs of Moher. The best time to visit these dramatic cliff faces is when the afternoon sun is shining on them, but since that late in the day would be inconvenient for our travels (and there would be no guarantee that there would sun, even if it DID fit our schedule), we went with what we had, and still enjoyed the vista. Even though it was lunch time when we arrived, we went straight to the cliffs for our scenic walk – John commenting on the marked changes since his last visit, with the catering to tourism quite ‘high end’ in terms of the underground souvenir shops and café cut into the hillside and the perfectly formed stone walkways for the hundreds of feet that traipse along the clifftops every day.

Our corner room at The House Hotel, Galway

Reception area, The House Hotel

Cocktail, anyone?

It really is a spectacular sight – but there are similarities to ‘The Gap’ in Sydney. And, in light of that, it was good to see a sign from the Samaritans offering assistance and a phone number if you “need to talk” near the area that would be easiest to get over the railings to a jumping point.

Old guy, bike and the Spanish Arch

River and sun – lovely combination!

We timed our visit well (as usual) as it started to rain when we ducked into the café for lunch. Can you guess what we had? Yes, vegetable soup! Luckily, we were leaving the café just as another busload was descending – well-timed, again!

Interior of St Nicholas’ Cathedral

The disco light effect of the afternoon sun through the stained glass windows

The cathedral from the bridge near our hotel

From the Cliffs we drove through a part of County Clare called The Burren. This barren landscape is too, too surreal – the entire area is acres and acres of limestone, and with few landmarks in some spots, it is impossible to gauge the scale of the expanse. Some views are quite apocalyptic, almost like we are on location scouting for Cormac McCarthy’s The Road!

Gubbeen gnocchi at Ard Bia – delicious!

Chickpea pancake and polenta

Even the greens looked fabulous (and tasted just as good!)

Arriving in Galway in the late afternoon, we checked in to the funky and very unique House Hotel – immediately fell in love with the décor – pink camp with plenty of bling goes a long way with a ‘fruitfly’ like myself! The fact there was an excellent cocktail bar downstairs didn’t harm matters, either!! This hotel has the perfect location – the Latin quarter, right in the thick of it all. We walked everywhere! Go to The House Hotel

Galway, as evening falls

Ard Bia Restaurant, through the Spanish Arch

Pedestrian street

Tig Coili – excellent trad music pub

We took Matt’s advice (in reception) to take the walk along the River Corrib to the imposing St Nicholas’ Cathedral. The stroll was at such a serene time of day – yes, it was still cold, but watching the swans and ducks in the river and smiling people out and about with the sun starting to get low, made for a very nice way to pass the time. The Cathedral itself is quite new – finished in 1965, and it’s recency is apparent in it absolutely stunning and gorgeous stained glass windows. The colours are gobsmackingly vibrant and lush, and the actual scenes depicted had a modern feel to them. The sun streaming through them at 5:30pm made it all the more spectacular – especially with the coloured light bouncing off the columns like we were at a disco.

Smoker, smoking (maybe he didn’t have his glasses with him!)

John’s jamming mate at the music shop

The other quite wonderful thing about this cathedral is the mosaics. There are no paintings, just mosaics – a hint of the Vatican to it all really! Due to the timing of the completion of this building, there is a particularly relevant and kind of poignant portrait mosaic in one of the side chapels – JFK, in a circle (or halo?) looking up at a huge gold and cream mosaic of Christ. The Irish worship them both!

Michael Jackson chihuahua artwork

And Ozzy Ozbourne great dane!

After our stroll back along the other side of the river, we ended up at Ard Bia at Nimmo’s for dinner. An outstanding choice – another restaurant that offered inventive and exciting vegetarian fare (as well as the usual excellent seafood and meat!). We went all ‘carby’ and had: Pan-fried squash and smoked Gubbeen (cheese) gnocchi, with artichoke, hazelnut picarde, confit fennel & carrot;Chickpea pancake stuffed with purple broccoli, with garlic & feta piquillo pesto. Delicious and very filling! Go to Ard Bia at Nimmo’s

Boats moored right in the city!

 

Pretty Galway

The bell was tolling in this church – someone’s funeral

I went back to the hotel to catch up on the blog while John took some photos in that lovely ‘evening into night’ light. We then went for a wander together to find some music and found ‘the red pub’ (real name – Tig Coili) – they had a 9-piece traditional music group playing. These musicians were outstanding – fast, accurate, all very talented. Easily the best we have heard so far. The place was so packed, with people standing shoulder to shoulder to listen to them – and their playing was as tight as the audience squeezed into the room. Cause it was so packed and we could hardly move, we listened to a few songs and went wandering again (people trying to subtly elbow their way to the front to see gets tiresome).

Cloud shot 1

Cloud shot 2

On our amble down the busy evening streets my ears pricked up to the sound of brass – a big band. John was sure it was a recording, but I wanted to investigate. We went into Busker Brown’s and gazed in amazement – an 18-piece big band was crammed on a tiny stage at the front of the pub, playing their hearts out while people were swinging on the wooden boards in front of them! Sodding brilliant!! They were called ‘Black Magic Big Band,’ and I was so damned happy to have found them! They play every Sunday and Monday night, and the place was filled with regulars, with only a few tourists. Their repertoire included all the old faves as well as some new one – Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, and Harry Connick Jnr as well – FABULOUS! We left after the first set, but most people didn’t arrive till after 10:30pm (we are such old farts!!). Have no idea how people do these weeknights when they have work in the morning (past midnight seems to be no big deal). Maybe other people don’t get up as early as us! It was a great night, though!  

Cloud shot 3

The next morning after another sound sleep and hot breakfast we wandered about the town, pretty much covering Galway’s sites before lunch. It’s a city that really comes to life in the afternoon and evening, in fact it was quite touristy later in the day – sun was out and everyone was walking the pedestrian street and buskers were out. John had some fun hanging with a local bloke in one of the music shops playing guitars and enjoying the craic. This bloke was a self taught guitarist – learnt by watching his brother play, which means HE plays with the guitar upside down! 

Rocky low tide

Went for a walk across the river – it was such a joy to be out stretching our legs and not having to worry about having to get the umbrellas out in the miserable weather! Many were out with their dogs, and the joggers, with their lily-white legs and spandex outfits and ear buds bopping, were soaking up the sun too.

View from Ard Bia window at lunch time

Smoked Gubbeen polenta cake

Went back to Ard Bia for lunch: squash, chickpea, sweet potato green curry with brown basmati and coriander; crispy red chard, smoked Gubbeen polenta cake with sautéed garlic courgettes, tomatoes and a piquilo, pistachio pesto. Another winner – would highly recommend this café/restaurant/wine bar to anyone visiting Galway. Apparently, their breakfasts are mighty fine, too . . . and the freshly made cakes that grab your attention the moment you walk through the door, are way too appealing!

Garlic prawns at Oscar’s Restaurant

Oscar’s

John worked on his photos after lunch while I went for a manicure and pedicure – am quite fat, so it’s nice to have a PART of me looking good!! Dinner was at Oscar’s Seafood Bistro, not only was the food of a high quality, but we also had a REALLY nice waitress – one who obviously enjoyed her job and was very good at it. We shared: Prawns sautéed in garlic and lemon butter, served with basil marinated tomato salad; Smoked salmon and Mexican style spiced avocado and tomato salad (basically guacamole); baked banana with caramel/toffee on top, butterscotch parfait, homemade biscuits and chocolate drizzle; dark, dark chocolate pudding (with sauce), Bailey’s ice-cream sandwiched between homemade cookies, served on sweet orange slices.
We piked out on any pub or music scene after the meal, instead we went back to hotel and I wrote like a demon! 6:30am get up to catch the plane to the Aran Islands, so in bed by 11pm.

Galway Marina

The House Hotel

About bontaks

Nic is the the 'Bon' part of 'Bontaks.' Together we are Nic and John - two travel-addicted teachers who enjoy every opportunity to go places, meet people and experience life.

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