During the last five weeks in Ireland, whenever I talked to people about where my research & travels were taking me, the mention of Galway would always be met with a little gasp. "You will love Galway," people told me, "Americans love Galway."
I was not quite sure what that meant (or whether to be insulted by it), but after 48 hours in Galway, I can confirm that this is most decidedly true.
Galway is often said to be the most "Irish" of Ireland's cities, in large part because the Irish language is more common here than many other places today. Its Irish name Gaillimh, comes from the Irish word "gaill" which means "outsiders" and was given to the city because it was originally made up of 14 merchant English and Norman families who Richard II granted a charter to in 1396. These families apparently clashed with leading Irish families in Connemara, and their presence here led to Galway being referred to as the "city of tribes."
Galway has a population of about 75,000 people today and about a quarter of its inhabitants are students. This leads to a plethora of coffee shops, pubs, and bookstores and it has completely won me over. I have loved long walks along the water and soaking up the quaint Ireland of postcards, no matter how much of a typical American tourist it makes me.
I'm staying with Katie, a member of the Swarthmore class of '07, who is a current Mitchell scholar pursuing a masters degree in Theater. She is generously giving me free reign of her amazing apartment for the next week and we happily discovered that between us we have eight straight years of overlapping Swarthmore Theater Department gossip and lots of mutual friends.
Best of all, Ireland seems to have discovered spring. Today was the first day since I arrived in Ireland it's been in the low-seventies (it might be my first day here that's risen above 55 degrees).
In other words, it's perfect beach walk weather.
I am happy with where my research in Dublin and Belfast has taken me, so I'm going about finding contacts in Galway in a rather lackadaisical way. In the meantime, I am eagerly anticipating my parents' visit at the end of the week (and am so happy that Galway is the Irish city they chose to visit me in), doing a lot of reading in the sun, and in complete denial about how quickly time is passing. I'll write more later, but if there's anything I have learned in Ireland, it's to close the computer screen and enjoy good weather while it lasts. (It won't last long).