Summer Travels 2022 - The Friendship Tour - Chapter 1 - Galway

I've been home for almost 8 weeks now and it's funny how our 4+ weeks of travel already feels like it was ages ago. As the kids have gotten older, I'm so profoundly grateful for the time we spent together as a family, and for the time we got to spend with the most wonderful friends scattered across our trip. That was really the theme of this trip...a friendship tour...sparked by a wedding invitation to our friends' son's wedding on the coast in Bretagne, France. It was another epic trip (with both ups & downs) with many interesting chapters or stops along the way.

Getting dropped off in Boston

Chapter 1 - Galway, Ireland

We love Ireland, and have been lucky enough to visit twice before. (Thank you Aer Lingus for being a really friendly airline! SO happy to hear they are resuming service to/from Hartford in 2023!) On one of those past visits, one magical night at dinner in a pub in Killarney, which we had walked to from our beautiful Bed & Breakfast, Friar's Glen, we met a lovely girl and her lovely mum. We got on so well that we decided to meet up for dinner again the next night, where the kids learned some traditional Irish dances with our new friends and the live band! She & our son stayed in touch and 5 years later (Covid had cancelled our 2020 visit) we met up with Ellen on her home turf in Galway, on the West Coast.

2022 - Reunited in Galway

2017 -Look at how young they were!

International Travel Tip: I always give our first couple of days a very loose schedule as we adjust to the time difference and get over the jet lag, especially as we always travel overnight from the East Coast of the US and land early with almost no sleep. I also try to book a comfortable space/inn/house/apartment for us to be able to rest, and that is within walking distance to amenities, or at least to caf├ęs or groceries.

There is something so welcoming and familiar about Ireland, and I will go back again & again. It's so easy to get to from the East Coast. If you were to say to me that we have tickets to fly there tonight, I will have my bag ready to go in about 30min. (The key is to travel light, have your toiletry bag always at the ready, as well as adapters & charging cords already in a travel pouch. Don't worry about not having currency on hand - everywhere we went there accepted credit cards, and you can buy whatever you need once you get there. Oh, and since it's Ireland, bring a jacket, even in Summertime!) We have perfected travel with just a carry-on each (even on the 6 week trip we took!) and I fell in love with the Away carry-on when my son got his years ago, and now we own 3. They're well-designed and roll so smoothly. Dublin Airport, btw, makes travel a breeze. We've never had a problem flying through there. 

Travel Tip: If you do have to check a bag, like we did for our son's backpack which he is using to backpack solo across Europe right now, consider putting in a tracker, like an AirTag or Tile, so you track it if the bag doesn't make it to baggage claim. 

In the past, we've stayed in guest houses and the friendliest Bed & Breakfasts. Especially in Ireland, I'd recommend considering these since no one does hospitality like the Irish, and we've been known to make friends from sharing a breakfast table. On this trip, since it was our 1st stop and our "decompression" location, I booked a great 3 bedroom apartment on AirBnB right in the center of downtown Galway (just 1 block from a parking garage and also one block away from the shops & pubs, so it was quiet save for the seagulls.) We were given a warm Irish welcome by Clarence, who had pre-stocked the kitchen with some goodies for the kids and even a few beers for Scott, who was delighted!

Cozy Living Room

Our apartment had a rooftop terrace

Our son was so happy to reunite with his friend after all these years! I wish I'd been there to witness their hellos. He also met up with other friends he'd made through her, and they took him out to experience the local pub scene.  Ellen took us to Pascal, a cozy coffee & pancake house that I had wanted to try and can highly recommend (get coffees and share a pancake order - they're huge!) She joined us for the day as we stopped in Clifden for a pub lunch at Guy's Bar (my dad's name was Guy, so it felt like a sign we should go there, and the food was excellent) and walked around town for a while, popping into shops. Later we explored beautiful Kylemore Abbey and the grounds, lit candles for my dad and Ellen's grandfather in the chapel, then found beautiful sandy beaches, and hiked in Connemara National Park with views that just stopped you in your tracks.  The scenic drive back through hills reminded me a bit of driving in Iceland, complete with sheep, and singing in the car. It was my favorite day in Galway. Do you ever have those moments when it hits you how beautiful life can be? I've been lucky enough to recognize several of these, and I hope the memory of that day in Galway will stay with me. I tried to get some photos to help. That day was pretty perfect.

Kylemore Abbey

Chapel at Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey

Beginning of the hike at Connemara 

Views from Connemara

Views at Connemara - just stunning!

Walking past horse pastures

Driving back to the city

One of my fave photos. 2 friends.

One of the things we learned in Galway was that the Irish eat dinner early, and so restaurants & pubs generally don't serve food past 9pm. Between the jet lag and the sun not setting until after 10pm, we did have trouble finding a place to eat, but a friendly local pointed out the one restaurant still serving, a middle eastern restaurant, which was filled with tourists like us who had missed dinner. Another thing we learned in Galway was the Guinness pint glass drinking challenge - to get to the mid-point of the G in the first gulp. Scott tried, but it's harder than it looks!

Galway was a great stop for a few days! If we had an extra day or 2, I would have added more hiking to our itinerary, and gone to Burren National Park. It was on my list but we didn't get to it. In town we walked everywhere, and visited the museum, the waterfront, the Spanish Arch, Curry's Fun Park at Salt Hill (that ferris wheel is oddly scary!), took in the street performers and laughed as the wandering silent disco group got their groove on in the middle of the streets. We hit up 2 escape rooms, and between the 2, we found Great Escape Rooms was more fun and well-organized...we even made their leaderboard for The Vault Room! We visited shops, went back to the Galway Arts Festival a few times, and in between all of this fun, we had naps, drank tea, watched Netflix, took walks through lovely neighborhoods, and started to let go of the stresses of our every day lives. (I was still worried about our cat though, who was staying at my mom's and in protest went on a hunger strike and didn't eat until the 5th day we'd been gone.) 

Ireland is always such a great visit. If you've been considering it, I say go! It's lush, green, has sandy coasts and rugged hills, doesn't get crazy-hot in the Summer, and is full of music, history & culture. The Irish are just lovely people, with that great self-deprecating sense of humor. There's not as much culture shock and no language barrier. The hardest thing is probably driving on the other side of the road, unless you're my husband, who is an ace driver! As Americans, we find this to be an affordable place to visit, costing less than what we would spend for a similar vacation in the US, especially with the USD so strong. We actually felt that way about a lot of our trip - Europe is more affordable (with gas and tolls being the exception as we did a lot of driving on this trip instead of trains just because we were headed to several smaller towns & vineyards.)

It was a great start to our most recent adventure together as a family. 

Come back to read about our next stop - The Return to Roma!


designwaitress said…
I love this so much! Your tips on travel interspersed within the entry are great!
You are inspiring me! (So many exclamation marks!!!!)
Can't wait to hear about ROMA! :)