After an amazing day spent on Inis Mór, we were sad to be leaving Galway and the Aran Islands on Day 5 of our All Ireland Rocker tour! Ireland continued to amaze us more and more each day we travelled! Luckily for us, we had a late start the morning following our trip to Inis Mór and could spend a bit of time leisurely exploring the streets of Galway.
I am so glad that we got to actually explore the city! Galway is truly an amazing place full of character, where old world meets new world charm. Galway is situated in the West of Ireland and lies on the River Corrib between Lough Corrib and Galway Bay. It is in the province of Connacht and is surrounded by County Galway. It is also the fourth most populous urban area in the Republic of Ireland! Not only this but Galway is what they call a University Town. If you’ve ever visited a University Town, you’ll know it is full of energy, excitement and always buzzing, probably because of all the youth populating the area :).
Dave (our guide) had already told us that we should use this morning to go shopping for our Claddagh rings (more to come on that) and also to grab a lunch before we hit our main destination for the day.
After eating breakfast at one of the best hostels we had that trip, Kinlay Hostel, we set out to buy lunch before we went shopping. After much deliberation, we got Subway and headed out for a much needed exploration of Galway.
I was glad we could get a better look at Eyre Square that lovely morning. As usual, and obviously because we had somehow gotten the Luck of the Irish (probably that rainbow we saw 😉 ) we got sunshine following us around!
Eyre Square is an inner-city public park. Clearly bustling already so early in the morning, it was obvious school had started and everyone was about. As we walked around, we got to take a look at some of the art pieces around the square and learn a bit about its history. We were told the flags in the square represent the original 14 Tribes of Galway. These are the 14 families who dominated the political, commercial and social life of the city between the 13th century and late 19th centuries. They are memorialized here in the centre square for all to remember!
Next, we noticed a piece of a wall enclosed in plexiglass. Of course being the architectural nerd that I am, I immediately wanted to learn more. Apparently, this fragmented piece of building is known as the Browne Doorway. This is the ground floor doorway and 1st floor window that came from the Mansion of Dominic Browne and his wife Maria Lynch dated 1627. It is a fine example of Renaissance of Architecture and was moved to the square in 1905. It had previously been used as a Gate into Eyre Square but since then, on the 300th anniversary of the Square, had been enclosed in plexiglass for protection.
After getting our fill of Eyre Square, we decided to move into the flattering shopping/food district of Galway. Only now do I realize this colourfully beautiful part of the city is called the Latin Quarter and that it is “where Galway comes alive”! We had been to several pubs the 2 nights before and had seen the bustling pub night life. But it certainly looks different in the daylight and during the day it was just as mesmerizing! It was the epitome of old world meets new world charm!
Clearly this city is known for its Claddagh ring history. We were determined to find ourselves the best fitted Claddagh rings for our personalities. There are many different designs that you can choose – based on what suits you best, but the story behind the ring stays the same!
The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish symbol of love that was/is given as an engagement ring or pre-engagement ring. Nowadays the ring can be worn whether you are single, engaged or married. There are a variety of legends related to the rings’ origins – this particular one tells of:
“A Prince who fell in love with a common maid. To convince her father his feelings were genuine and he had no intentions of “using” the girl, he designed a ring with hands representing friendship, a crown representing loyalty, and a heart representing love. He proposed to the maid with this ring, and after the father heard the explanation of the symbolism of the ring, he gave his blessing.”
Of course, that is my favourite story but the legend probably closest to historical truth can be read here.
The Ring itself was designed in a fashion to illustrate friendship, loyalty and love, all of which should be present in a romantic relationship! There is a specific way the ring should be worn:
- On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is single and may be looking for love.
- On the right hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is in a relationship.
- On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the fingertips, the wearer is engaged.
- On the left hand with the point of the heart toward the wrist, the wearer is married.
So! If you do decide to purchase a Claddagh ring when in Galway, be sure to wear it based on your relationship status ;), or you may find a Irish fellow looking to change the direction of the heart!
Of course, we had to go into a dozen stores before we found the perfect one in which to find our Claddagh rings. McCarthy’s Jewellery store was the perfect and most affordable place to get a ring!
Obviously the Claddagh ring has been commercialized to the point that almost every store carries a version or another, but not all are of the same quality. If you want an affordable (especially if you are travelling on a budget) and good quality ring, McCarthy’s is the place to go! The store was tiny and offered some of the prettiest and most appropriate Irish designed jewellery I had seen on the trip. I personally couldn’t decide which ring Claddagh ring I wanted, so I opted for a ring made of Celtic Knots to remind me of my trip to Ireland!
Prices are affordable at around 15-30 € and are of 0.925 sterling silver! I’ve worn my ring everyday since the trip and am glad to say that it’s still in the same shape, which speaks to its quality! So, if you want a to take a little piece of Galway home, don’t hesitate in purchasing either a Claddagh ring or some other jewellery piece before you go!
Natalie mentioned in her last post that we were leaving our tour guide Dave this day as well and this is a feature of the tour. Because we had more than one type of tour on our bus (5 day and 7 day), we were now leaving behind the 5 day group and merging with another group who was either on a 3 day or 5 day tour.
It was disconcerting to say the least and strange to invade the bus of another group! This was probably my least favourite part of the tour because we had already formed groups and so had the people on the other tours! It’s definitely difficult to connect with another group when you had already done things and seen sights they might not have seen and vice versa! Even so, our new tour guide Gillian was great and definitely made the transition smoother than it might have gone otherwise!
It seemed to be a pattern that every locale we left behind in Ireland made us sad to leave. Galway was no exception. Leaving the bustling town behind, we got on our new tour bus and headed towards our next and one of my favourite, if not my favourite, sites in all of Ireland: The Cliffs of Moher!!
Stay tuned to see the sheer massiveness and beauty of these cliffs!
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