Falling way in love with Galway, Ireland

Sunny Sichi/Staff

From the moment I hopped off the plane at Dublin Airport (with a dream and my raincoat), I knew I loved Ireland. No, it wasn’t only because I was unhealthily obsessed with Niall Horan in eighth grade, because I had just watched season one of “Derry Girls” or because Saoirse Ronan is one of my favorite actresses. But yes, it was 100 percent because every time I heard “Galway Girl” by Ed Sheeran I felt like jumping up on a table with a Guinness and attempting my best jig. This trip to Ireland had been planned for St. Patrick’s Day weekend, which as an American, is a pretty big deal. Sure, it’s fun to party with green colored shots while wearing an entirely green outfit in some frat’s backyard in Berkeley, but doing the same thing in Ireland is next level.

Instead of opting for Dublin, my group decided to go to Galway, where the Airbnb’s were cheap and the town was quaint. It’s an old Irish legend that every time an American goes to to Dublin for St. Patty’s, a leprechaun dies. But every time an American decides to go to Galway, it rains pots of gold over the Emerald Isle. I exaggerate, but according to the Irish, Galway is far superior to Dublin on St. Patrick’s, and they were totally correct.

When we arrived in Galway, we were blown away by the lushness of the greenery and the beauty of the chill ocean nearby. Situated on the west side of Ireland, Galway sits pretty with its quaint atmosphere, homey old pubs and cobblestone paths. It’s not too big, but it certainly didn’t feel too small. The first day was rainy, but that only accentuated the charm of the stone buildings. We checked out The Quay Street Kitchen, a fantastic restaurant with some amazing mussels and incredible calamari. Since it’s so close to the ocean, Galway’s best meals always included seafood. As we walked around that night, we enjoyed the various street performers, including one man singing every karaoke song you would ever request, an Irish step dancer and a man shredding on a very small guitar.

If you go to Galway, you need to try a Guinness and a Jameson with ginger ale. It’s pretty much mandatory. The best places to do that were Monroe’s Tavern and The Crane Bar. Both had some amazing live music and cozy atmospheres that instantly made you feel like an old Irish man wearing a tweed flat cap and smoking a pipe. There’s no better way to escape the wet cold outside than chatting with some friends. It was great craic! (Is that how you use the term? Still unsure.)

The next day, we headed to the Cliffs of Moher on a two and a half hour bus ride, filled with — you guessed it, other American tourists. When we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher, the wind and rain felt like they were going to blow us into oblivion. This certainly wasn’t a good omen for a group of people trying to get close to a perilous edge of a cliff, but after about an hour seeing waterfalls fall and getting thrown off our feet, the storm cleared.

It’s hard to describe the magic one feels at the cliffs. They’re fantastic, terrifying and almost unreal. After hearing rumors about how many people die each year from landslides or falling off, we tried to be cautious. But (don’t tell my mom), we did at one point go on the other side of the barrier to get a closer look and better pictures. Don’t worry, there’s a lot of space between the rather weak barrier and the edge, so most people go on the other side. Once the sun came out, the sky and the ocean were a brilliant blue, and the famous green of the grass shone. While climbing up a rather muddy and steep hill, a rainbow appeared, almost as if St. Patrick himself was blessing our trip. Unfortunately, the end of the rainbow was at the bottom of the cliff, so there was no way we could get to the pot o’gold, but it was a magical moment nonetheless.

When we returned to Galway, muddy, tired and still in shock at the beauty and wonder we saw, we did what college students do best, which was eat some greasy food. McDonagh’s had some of the best fish and chips I’ve eaten in my life, and were much needed after a long day with an empty stomach but a full heart. We ended the night at a pub, as one does in Ireland, and called it a fantastic day.

St. Patrick’s the next day entailed a local parade with school kids and different community groups marching down the street, and then going to the pubs. Unfortunately, we had to catch a bus back to Dublin Airport that same day, but it was a St. Patrick’s Day weekend I’ll never forget.   

If you ever have the chance to go to Ireland, don’t miss Galway. Everyone I met before told me they loved it, and now I know why. It welcomes you with open arms, a drink and a “sláinte!” for good measure.  

Contact Sunny Sichi at [email protected].