If you think it can be breezy, cold and damp on San Francisco Bay, it sometimes can be. But there is San Francisco Bay breezy, cold and damp, which is a sometimes thing, and then there’s Galway, Ireland, breezy, cold and damp, which are extremes of each of those conditions, and they are the norm rather than the exception. No wonder the residents drink so much.
Galway is on the west coast of Ireland almost exactly halfway between the north and the south. It lies on the River Corrib that quickly flows into Galway Bay. Unlike California rivers, the Corrib flows hard and fast because in Ireland it’s always either raining or about to rain. When the Wanderer was in Galway the other day, there was so much water flowing into the bay that the water level in the middle of the Corrib was at least a foot higher in the center than along the shore. Fall into the Corrb and it won’t be long before you’re in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Despite the difficult weather conditions, Galway is home to a number of sailboats and sailors. A rugged lot.
Galway’s nickname is ‘the City of Tribes’ because in the Middle Ages it was ruled by an oligarchy of 14 merchant families, most of whom, thanks to brave and hardy sailors, traded with France and Spain. In fact, Galway was Ireland’s principal port for international trade in the Middle Ages, despite being about the most distant port from the continent. Chris Columbus was a visitor.
In those days Galway was populated by Hiberno-Normans, who forbade the Irish unrestricted access to the walled city. “Neither O’ nor Mac shall strutte nor swagger through the streets of Galway without permission,” was the rule of the day. That’s ironic, because Galway, the fourth biggest metro area of Ireland, is now considered to be the most Irish town in all of Ireland. Galway is home to three universities, major festivals of all stripes, and countless pubs.
By chance we stopped in at the King’s Head pub on one of Galway’s charming narrow streets, which are lined with shops and populated with singers hoping to be discovered as the next Bono. We had a fish soup and Galway mussels, both of which were not only reasonably priced but absolutely delicious. The pub’s name came from the fact that back in the day its owner beheaded King Charles I.
If you want wild sailing, lots of pubs, and a colorful history, sign up for Galway. But don’t forget to pack the foulies.