Galway is one of my favorite cities in the world...even with all the grey and rain the colors and vibes of this little city pop, and there always feels there's something more to be explored. One of my favorite pass-times when I'm in town is to park and just aimlessly walk the streets, wandering along and finding new routes and views. If you're swinging through Ireland it's a definite stop for some fish and chips, a guinness and a stroll!
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Macnas Street Parade at the Galway Arts Festival
The Galway Arts Festival happens every July. For the past few years, a company called Macnas which specializes in street spectacle stages a gorgeous and elaborate parade during the festival. This one was full of steampunk-esque metal sculptures, fire, and all manner of oddly-costumed characters. It was also POURING rain. But that's what Ireland does. Somehow made the whole thing even more magical and weird.
Hard by the dramatically tidal waters of its namesake bay, this university town always has visitors staying longer than planned. The narrow streets meander in a skewed manner unchanged in centuries and are lined with cute little shops, beguiling cafes, bookshops aplenty, and possibly the country's best selection of pubs. Good food is central to Galway's soul, whether it’s the seasonal fare drawn from the region at the splendid cafe above McCambridge’s or the beloved fish and chips at McDonagh’s. At night you're spoiled for music, whether it’s a band aspiring to be the next U2 onstage at Monroe's or the top-notch trad sessions at Tig Cóilí. When adventure calls, the beauty of the Connemara Peninsula is less than an hour away.
Ireland's music traditions are far larger than you'd expect from a country of only 4.5 million people. Sinead O'Connor and U2 are just recent examples of tuneful talents that stretch back centuries. It may sound like a cliché but there truly seems to be a song in every heart. Get a few locals together in a pub and don't be surprised if they start singing. Ballads with stories are beloved by all, and visitors will know they've arrived when the crowd inveigles them to contribute their own rendition. Outside of winter you'll find impromptu performances of folk music, or “trad sessions,” nightly at pubs in even the tiniest of towns. Feel free to pull out your harmonica and join in.