We eventually arrived at the B&B intact. Once we got past an extended parking debacle which I won’t detail here (like my inability to dial Irish phone numbers on the first day, entirely a matter of user error), we were off to hit the town. Well, sort of.
We decided to keep it simple and visit the Crane Pub just around the corner, hearing from our hosts that the trad (short for traditional) music there is exceptional. After all, we’d been in Ireland for about a day and a half at this point, and still hadn’t visited an Irish pub or had Guinness. This was a problem which required immediate rectification.
Irish traditional music is very commonly played in pubs here, and the Crane has free music on a nightly basis. We stopped in, intending to have a bite to eat and our first pint of Guinness since arriving in Ireland, only to discover that pubs in Ireland don’t necessarily offer food. (Since then, we found many pubs do offer food, perhaps even a majority of them do. So I guess what I’m saying is: don’t assume you won’t be able to find food in every pub. We were just surprised.)
Pint first, or food first? We heard the beginnings of live music drifting down from the second floor, and so our decision was practically made for us: pint first, food later. We’ll conveniently ignore that I’m a lightweight now (alas, the woes of a healthier diet) and that this was potentially a Bad Idea.
We grabbed our drinks and headed upstairs. While the music is normally free, there was a 5 euro per person cover charge due to a special group visiting that night. Much to our surprise, they began by playing recognizably-American country music, though perhaps with a slight Irish twist. In fact, one of the musicians was American himself and played Appalachian fiddle. The irony of this was not lost on us: we traveled thousands of miles to visit Ireland, and on our first night in a pub – intent upon hearing trad music – we got American country instead!
It was still entertaining and soon transitioned to a collaboration between the original musicians and several others; they played more traditionally Irish songs on fiddle, guitar, banjo, and combinations thereof. There was also an all-fiddle trio (one player quipped: “The only thing better than one fiddle is two; the only thing better than two fiddles are three; and the only thing better than three fiddles is one.”) Admittedly, even just one fiddle was stunning, somehow managing to sound as if multiple instruments were being played at once from the way in which the individual notes overlapped and intertwined. Eyes closed, the players leaned into their instruments and swayed with the music, almost becoming a part of it.
My favorite moment was when the two women musicians played. One, a vocalist as well as banjo player, provided beautiful accompaniment – tremulous, eerie lyrics weaving around the melancholy of the fiddle. White bowstrings flashing in and out of sight behind the bow’s dark dancing wood, feet drumming the beat through the floor – the music was in our very bones and reverberated through the dim smokiness of the room.
It ends up pint-then-food may not have been the best choice after all. Any restaurant which seemed worth visiting was full up – we weren’t in the Galway city proper, just across the bridge from it. So, the options were limited and the best restaurants were also the smallest.Aside from a few grim looking pizza joints and a gastropub with only one person in it (given the bustling fullness of the other restaurants on the block, most certainly not a good sign), the choices were nil unless we chose to venture across the bridge into downtown Galway in the dark – not really a desirable option given our unfamiliarity with the area.
So, still slightly buzzed, we struck out for the Super-Valu grocery store across the street from the B&B and acquired the dinner of champions: yogurt, two kinds of muesli (don’t ask – granola is a touchy subject when you like dried fruit and your spouse doesn’t), turkey breast, andJaffa cakes(I was curious to try something a bit more regional, and these definitely fit the bill.)
Clearly, with dinner turning out to be such a raging success there was no way the day could possibly be improved upon. So, we went to bed.
Today I learned:
- The trick to avoiding jetlag is to get very little sleep the night before your flight, proceed onto not sleep on the plane, and then not sleep until evening time in the new timezone. Works 100% of the time! (Of course, it’s only a sample size of exactly two, and I’m currently not tired at all at almost 1 am local time, so take this with just ateensygrain of salt.)
- Deli meat/cheese aisles are called “provisions”.
- Jaffa cakes are delicious (they’re like those orange-flavored Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies, except the orange is filling rather than just flavoring, and the “cookie” is slightly softer – or, as the name rather appropriately implies, cakey.)
- I could more than happily eat brown bread and veg soup for every remaining day of my life.