After ten years here, you would imagine I'd be sick of the place. Nope! Not happening. There's magic here: something secret that ripples under the surface of the River Corrib; a feeling, which sits in the air outside Tigh Neachtains; a spirit, dancing alongside us in the dark corners of the Roisin Dubh; an innate sense of home, which attracts blow-ins from the four corners and makes locals proud to call themselves true Galwegians. Of course, if you live here for a certain time, you too become an honorary Galway-head. Last year, I was given the honour of being Mr Galway and my reign (of terror) is almost over. Yes, we are looking for a replacement. But before I hang up my crown, here are some of the reasons I love this crafty, craic-filled mini city
5. The Islands
Just a short drive out west and a quick swim through the Atlantic sit the Aran Islands. A few years ago, when I was an English teacher, I frequented these wonderful spots with hoards of language learning teenagers (God help me), and showed off these treasures as if they were my own. We'd cycle the length and breadth of Inis Mor (the biggest of the three), with only the Ocean at our side and the Sea air in our lungs. There, they have beautifully retained their Irishness, through language, music, and spirit. National Geographic cited them as: "one of the world's top island destinations", and I'm proud to say it's on my doorstep.
4. The Street Performers
Would you like free entertainment all year 'round? Then you're in the right place, here. And does the name Ed Sheeran ring a bell? How about the Galway Street Club, Mikey and the Scallywags, or even those breakdancing boys whose names I'm not quite sure of, or the beautiful dancer in a green dress outside Evergreen health Food? Yes, many a musician, dancer and artist have had their humble beginnings on the cobbles. Stroll down the street anytime of day and you'll be captured by art, talent, energy. Galway would not be the same without you. We love you, buskers of the Tribes.
3. The Festivals
The Galway International Arts Festival; Galway Theatre Festival; Japanese Film Festival; Burren Slow Food Fest; The Film Fleadh; Seafest; Abu Halloween Fest; I could list about 152 more annual events that make Galway City of the Vibes. Seriously though, it seems like there's a festival every week, especially during the summer months. It makes staying in and saving cash slightly difficult. Pints for arts week? Yeah, go on! This year, Canadian electronic music outfit Caribou has been named as one of the headliners. Roll on summer.
2. The Food
When I'm visiting a city, one criterion used to measure its level of awesomeness is the food. Galway fare does not disappoint. Whether it's an early breakfast, late brunch, evening dinner, or late night bite, there is something for all pockets and palates in this laid-back locale. With two Michelin star restaurants—Loam in Fairgreen and Aniar on Dominick Street—Galway has, of late, seen something of a food renaissance. It seems like every month a new spot popping up: Tartare Wine Bar, Kasbah @ Neachtains, or Xi-an Street Food (get their dumplings). For a simply stunning avocado and egg Sunday treat, head to Ard Bia (pictured), or my favourite city centre lunch spot 56 Central—go for the prosecco, stay for the view of Shop Street and their Zen Garden out the back.
1. The West
Grabbing the coveted number one spot? The craic and shenanigans of Galway City afterdark. Although I prefer to stick to the west side of the bridge, every nook and cranny of the place has something to offer for a range of sensibilities. Where would usually find me? Most likely in the always funk and soul-filled Blue Note, sipping Blue Moon, dancing to whatever they are spinning on any given night. Hop a few feet either way to find the dark, crowded and usually sweaty rooms of the Roisin Dubh and the crafty Beer Haus, or the new and slightly more swanky Universal and the vibrant Massimo. For the early birds, by day, pop into the Secret Garden's back garden, or one of the many vintage shops to appease the bargain hunter within.
Cover Photo Courtesy of Giuseppe Milo