Our last stop on our Ireland road trip last fall was to the seaside perch of Galway, a city I had visited back in 2003 with my pals Francie and Evan.
As we drove north from the Cliffs of Moher, we ducked in and out of rainy patches, with a few choice rainbows scattered here and there. Gah, Ireland, you are just so cliche with all your rainbows and crap—though I never did find my leprechaun (or my pot of gold).
Ireland’s West coast gem is one of my favorite Irish cities due to its laid-back nature and distinctly Irish vibe. As you wander the cobblestone paths of the small city, you actually feel like you’re in Ireland (unlike Dublin, which could easily be any big international city in any country in the world).
Galway is also the nearest big city to the cliffs, about an hour away via a road flanked by the rocky Burren landscape.
Due to the weather, it took us closer to two hours. Once we arrived to Galway City, we checked into the Sea Breeze Lodge, a gem of a B&B we found via Expedia and booked because it had a three-person room for around $150 a night.
This place was the perfect location; our room overlooked the turbulent Atlantic Ocean.
And the owner, a Frenchman, was adorable and cooked us a delicious Irish breakfast in the morning, then marked up a downtown map for us pointing in the right direction of the
After a tasty dinner at a nondescript place with an effervescent server—and OK, a few behemoth Blue Moons—we wandered across the street and into the town’s iconic pub, O’Connor’s.
We had heard tales about how this place was always packed—the place to be, we were told—and so were surprised to find it pretty empty. And at 9pm at that. Granted it was a weeknight, but every evening is party time in Ireland.
We later found out that was because the local cricket team had lost the big championship match that night, and so all of Galway was indoors sulking (and likely drinking in the comfort of their own homes, despite leaving the pub high and dry for a change).
This worked to our advantage, though, as it means we met Dennis, bartender extraordinaire who my mom then tried to pawn Kari off on—“I was hoping we’d meet a nice Irish boy to marry her off to!” she, our never-shy mother, told he, our blushing, bashful, new friend—and also the co-owners Frank and Tom, whose grandfather started the pub in 1942.
They showed Kari, Guinness connoisseur, how to put a four-leaf clover atop her pint and let her behind the counter to work (on her technique). They made me fall in love with hot Irish whiskey—and introduced us to their fun friends.
They even taught Kari an Irish gig when we confessed we were filming a video and really needed an actual Irishman to teach her a proper jig. (OK, so they actually made Dennis teach her a jig by way of watching a YouTube video on Tom’s iPhone, but details schmetails.)
We left a little after midnight, and after 16 days behind the wheel without nary an error, I made my one-and-only driving faux pas of the trip and tried to pull into the right lane instead of the lane. Whoops. (I swear it wasn’t the whiskey.)
I could have spent more time in Galway, but I was giving Mom and Kari the sampler platter of Ireland instead of the full-on steak dinner, and so a day and a night, and we were out.
But for those heading to Ireland for more than a day or two, I highly suggest just a brief time in Dublin and making your base in Galway instead.
I seriously doubt you could regret these views. Nor could you go to O’Connor’s and not have a rousin’ good time.
Just be sure and tell Dennis his American wife misses him while you’re there.