Day Five
Galway City and Athenry

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Slightly rested, and a bit hungry, we woke on Saturday morning, showered, and hit the restaurant. It took all of about 30 seconds when we arrived in the restaurant for us to realize that we weren’t in an out of the way place anymore – as we had been at Cabra – and that this was a huge tourist destination. There were people, and families, from all over (U.S., U.K., Ireland, Holland) filling the restaurant, and I can only describe the experience as the equivalent of going to one of the free breakfasts in any hotel you stay at in the states. Overall, it just wasn’t the experience we were looking for – I guess Cabra ruined us of that, in a very good way! We made quick work of our breakfast, and got out of there as fast as we could. We made the drive back to Galway, passing again some beautiful scenery. We actually stopped at one point and got out of the car to take some pictures of the landscape, inclusive of one of the calmest and stillest bodies of water we had ever seen.

In Galway we found a ‘centrally located’ parking ramp to put the car in, and walked back up to Eyre Square. We stopped at the Tourist Information booth there and grabbed a map of Galway City, as well as a pamphlet about the greyhound racing in Galway. This was our ‘activity’ for the evening, I just had to make reservations for it, and this gave me the unique opportunity of using a pay phone booth – something I hadn’t done in a very long time. Reservations made, we set out to walk the pedestrian area and shopping areas of Galway. It ended up being a mix of ‘mall’ areas and older, quintessential stores. Most though, just sold the chachky souvenir stuff, and after going into a couple we realized it was the same thing over and over again. So, once again on the advice of Donal O’Shaughnassy, we found Quay Street which was supposed to have ‘the BEST’ fish and chips in all of Ireland. He couldn’t remember the name of the place, but he said just look for the line and you’ll be in the right place. He said it was situated across the street from a pub aptly name ‘The Quays’. Sure enough, there it was – McDonough’s Fish and Chips! There wasn’t a line, when we got there, so it was easy to step up and place your order. We each had a cod and chips, with water and soda to drink. It was definitely some good fish and chips, that’s for sure! And, on our way out, there was in fact a line all the way to the door!

We walked across the street and snapped some pictures of the Spanish Arches, and did a bit more shopping in the pedestrian area – well, walked through a few more shops actually, but we didn’t do any purchasing. At this point, we realized we had quite a bit of time to kill between then and the greyhound races later that evening.

In an attempt at finding something else to do, I said why don’t we drive out to Athenry. It was a short twenty minute or so drive away, and there were supposed to be ruins of a castle and church and walls and all. Plus, I wanted to see the town that my favorite Irish song was about, and I figured it was probably small enough we could find a local pub to waste time in whilst we were there.

As fate and irony would have it though, my ‘plans’ made quite a detour when we approached Athenry and saw the sheer number of cars parked along the road. I’m pretty sure the comment was “What the hell is going on here!” It was obvious we had driven ourselves into the middle of some big goings on, we just weren’t sure what it was. We followed the road for as long as we could, all the way trying to figure out what was doing, when our query was finally answered – as we reached the sports ground. The GAA sports ground. And the hurling match that was about to start there! Yet again, our travels take us to sports – ironic isn’t it??

We turned the car around and drove back a ways, finally finding a parking spot probably a quarter mile away. When we arrived back at the grounds, we paid €10.00 a piece for admission (standing room only of course). For the most part, we stood in the one ‘end zone’ since most of the stands down both sidelines were full. On the one side, there was actually a covered grandstand with seating that you could pay an additional €6.00 to sit in – but by the time we got in, it was full. Down the opposite sideline was a concrete structure that was tiered and had people standing from one end to the other. It was incredible how many people were actually there! I’d estimate there must have been 3-5,000 people at this game!

The game itself was pretty interesting. Not knowing the ‘rules’ or ‘strategy’ it was a bit more difficult to follow, but it was obvious you had to hit the ball (sliotar) with your stick (hurley) to progress down the field. One part of the scoreline was made up of balls that were hit between a couple of uprights (which looked like rugby posts), and the other part of the scoreline was when the ball was hit into a net that looked very much like a soccer goal. With it being harder to put it in the net as opposed as through the posts, I’d be willing to bet the net score was more valuable than the post one. The players wore only helmets – that’s it, no other (visible) padding. I could see where this could get a bit interesting, especially when they started swinging their hurley’s around.

We watched the game until just after halftime, and then figured it’d probably be best to get outta dodge before the thousands of other people there started to leave! As we weaved our way out of Athenry (taking a roundabout route as to miss the playing field), we actually drove past the ruins of the church and castle – our original destination – so all in all, a very surprising and interesting side trip!

We made our way back to Galway and found the greyhound track, which actually doubles as the rugby field for the ‘home team’, Connacht rugby. Previous to pulling up to the stadium I hadn’t realized this, but it would have been nice to know, especially since I was contemplating going to the greyhound races the night before and would have been disappointed (somewhat) when we got there and found a rugby match going on instead!

We had a drink at the bar upstairs and around 7:00 were escorted to our table, which was nicely marked out with an ‘Area Reserved For Tim Burns’ sign! We looked through the program, picking out a few dogs to bet on along the way. At 8:00, just before the nights program was about to start, they served us dinner (it was part of the package that I had purchased). Jill had a barbeque filet of Irish salmon rested on a bed of potato mash, served with a Thai lemongrass and herb cream. I had roast breast of Irish chicken, with Connemara black pudding and mushroom duxelle, served on a bed of garlic mash, veiled with a tarragon and whiskey cream sauce. We each had a selection of garden vegetables and potatoes. To finish off a very good meal, we had Bailey’s cheesecake! Yum-o!

We bet on the first few races, and even won on one of them! Of course, we only won 60 cents (to which the ticket broker said ‘you won’t even be able to buy a Mars bar with that’ – LOL!), but we had a good time watching the races and with the meal, and doing something ‘different’ that we probably wouldn’t at home in the states.

The only smudge on the evening was the large bus of German tourists that came in and just plopped down everywhere, including in front of us, obstructing our view a bit. Poor seating selection by the Galway folks, but the way the Germans were acting I’d be willing to bet they didn’t give the track folks any choice.

With the drive to Clifden in mind, we left around the 7th (of 12) race. We wound our way out the N59, through Ottoretard and a major intersection ahead (think ‘major award’ from ‘A Christmas Story’ and it’ll be funny) along the way . To bed when we arrived back at Abbeyglenn.

Out west, Portumna’s unbeaten run in the Galway Senior Hurling Championship dating back to the 2006 final was brought to an end by Loughrea on Saturday. Loughrea dethroned the champions by 1-16 to 1-14 in Saturday’s replay to reach the final, where they will play Clarinbridge in the final at Pearse Stadium on October 31.


My attempt at abstract art from our hotel room window


Abbeyglenn Castle, Clifden, Co. Galway


Jill at Abbeyglenn Castle


Tim at Abbeyglenn Castle


Along the N59, Co. Galway


Along the N59, Co. Galway


Along the N59, Co. Galway


Along the N59, Co. Galway


Quay Street, Galway


Where we had lunch, on Quay Street - good fish and chips!


The Spanish Arch's, Galway City


Hurling Match, Athenry, Co. Galway


Exterior of Athenry GAA grounds


Galway Greyhound Track, with Connacht Rugby team field in the middle


Papa John's is everywhere!


Tim with the big winnings! 60 cents! 'Not even enough to buy a Mars bar!'


Hmmmm, a sign with double meaning, wouldn't ya say?


Abbeyglenn Castle at night

Total Miles Travelled:
187,788 Miles!

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