I’ve had a whirlwind of a morning, a whirlwind of an evening, and a calmer but actually windy day. Due to unforeseen circumstances, my original trip to Galway (two days, one night) fell through just as I arrived at the train station. My phone is on strike, so all I’ve got at this point is wifi and calls I don't want to answer. This definitely raised the stakes in changing or canceling my ticket. Rather than deal with it, I made the split second decision to just go to Galway by myself for the afternoon and hopped on the train. Once I was settled, I started planning my route back to Dublin. The only options were to come back late at night or only spend two hours in the city. In an effort to avoid overwhelming myself, I went with two hours. I was essentially taking a two-hour train to go out for lunch but I wasn't mad about it.
To be completely honest, I could have spent the whole day riding the train, going absolutely nowhere, and I would have been perfectly content. The vibe is similar to sitting in a cafe but without the feeling of being exposed in public or watched. Just a comfortable seat, a little table, and a window full of rolling pastures and flocks of bedraggled sheep. I spent most of the journey listening to music, journaling, and planning where to get lunch in the city before my phone gave out again. Peeking across the aisle, I got to witness a stranger slowly work their way through an hour long make up routine as we rattled Westward.
(As I am actually writing this on my way home, the sun is high in the sky, casting a honey-toned light. It is just about to start its descent. I rose early this morning so I got to see the sunrise for the first time in awhile. There were so many seagulls playing in the rosey quiet, they most move on when the streets fill with people again. Everytime I start the day that early, I tell myself I will do this more often—suffer through the early alarms to get to feel this peaceful and alive. And then, predictably, I never do. Now, today, I get to see the entire spectrum of sunlight in the sky.)
Once I arrived in Galway, I went straight for the burrito I ordered ahead on the train. At least, I tried to go straight for it, but the roads were smaller and twistier than I anticipated so my urgency was thwarted. I entered the restaurant, the sky immediately violently dumped water for all of one minute, and then it stopped completely just in time for me to leave. I expected nothing less from the West coast’s climate. From there, I wandered through the touristy “Latin Quarter,” which was an endless stream of restaurants I wish I could have eaten in. When I vaguely plotted out my two-hour stroll, I thought I would take my burrito down to whatever beach I had time to see. So we set off, my burrito and I, down the sidewalk past South Park, a large public green space, to the Celia Griffin Memorial Park. I figured there would be a bench to sit on eventually and then I could enjoy my lunch while I people-watched in peace. At the memorial, three large stones on a hill, we stopped to sit and look at the beach (we as in the burrito and I) (beach as in the stretch of sand acting as a kelp graveyard). The ocean was beautiful and the strong winds were warm but it all took about half the time I thought it would. As it turns out, Galway city is quite small and, after two months abroad, I am still terrible with maps. I wasn’t ready to stop walking yet so my burrito and I pushed onwards up the coast.
(I just looked out the train window while writing this and was forced to stop to look at the greenest of green fields I have ever seen. You don’t know just how green things can grow until you see it yourself and then you realize all those photos of Ireland you saved on Pinterest weren’t edited, it’s really just like that here.)
What caught my eye along the shore were the large rocks in the water, visible in the low tide. Between the shallow water and the washed up seaweed, there was something distinctly abandoned about the rocks—like beached animals, stuck there indefinitely, just seated in the sand and becoming perches for the gulls.
Across from the Galway Atlantaquaria, the largest native species aquarium in Ireland, I came across an arrangement of little stone tables. We looked at them, considering their lunchtime viability, but they still didn’t feel right. Again, we pushed onwards. This is how my hubris caught up with me. Sure, everything was closer than I expected but the hour I spent walking away meant another hour allocated to walking back to the station. I paused, accepted that I would not get to eat my burrito at Blackrock, and turned back. I wandered inland this time, past the strangely Floridian houses and a charming orange cat. Back across the river, I had a bit of time so I unceremoniously sat down on the steps of the Galway City Museum and, finally, tucked in to the burrito. I am confident I looked vaguely deranged, windswept and starving, stuffing my face on the sidewalk. But it was a beautiful day, it was a delicious burrito, and I had a train to catch.
Not even two minutes later as I stood to dash off to the station, I heard my name and turned to see a friend from my IES Abroad program. It was delightful to see him there but it was also a horrible reminder that while I spent the day cheekily observing things, I was being observed too. Someone saw me sitting on the train, scribbling in my notebook. Someone saw me briskly walking along the beach (and probably looking like a child at barely 5’3’’ and wearing an orange backpack, but like a child with an over-ambitious sense of fashion for their age). Someone saw me toss a stray black bean to a curious crow and stop to take a photo of a piece of street art. The kid across from me on the train, currently working on their math homework, has probably glanced at me once or twice and frankly, I have no idea what they saw.
So I did Galway in two hours, which is to say, I didn’t really do Galway at all. But I did have a great day of train travel, sunlight, cows in the distance, and a salty ocean breeze.
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<p>Hello! My name is Izzy (they/them) and I’m a senior studying anthropology at Indiana University. Within anthropology, I’m particularly interested in storytelling, intersectionality, and modern concepts of gender. I am studying overseas as a part of the IES Dublin- Irish Studies program in the Fall of 2021. I’m excited to share my adventures and discoveries during my time in Dublin. In my free time, I enjoy listening to alternative music, reading the same 4 books over and over again, and attempting to learn random languages before getting distracted after a few weeks.</p>