When in Ireland, don’t miss Shop Street in Galway City.

13 Jul

My roommate, Alex, and I have come to love Shop Street, which is right off of the main square in Galway City. As well as Shop Street having shops ranging from tourist stores, jewelers, and my favorite bookshop here, Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, there are also some great pubs that always have live music.

In terms of pubs along Shop Street, so far we have been to The King’s Head, The Quays Bar, and The Spanish Arch. The King’s Head was the first pub we went to along Shop Street, and it was a great pub to start with, mainly because it was really big and had loads of seating (as opposed to the pubs we went to in Dingle last weekend that were pretty small). Alex and I enjoyed the live music we heard at The King’s Head on Tuesday, but since it was a cover band playing American songs, it wasn’t music that we wanted to hear night after night. We can hear American music when we’re home. We wanted traditional Irish music like we had heard the first night that we were in Dingle last weekend.

Last night Alex and I went to The Quays Bar as well as The Spanish Arch. We saw a sign outside The Quays Bar that the live music was supposed to start at 10pm. Lesson number one in terms of Ireland pubs: don’t believe everything you see/read. We went into The Quays Bar, and despite it being absolutely huge, there was already anywhere to sit. Go figure, right? Eventually though, we did find 2 seats, so then we got drinks and waited for the music to start. I settled on pear-flavored Bulmer’s, or Irish hard cider, which is normally my drink of choice. It felt like we waited forever for the music to start, and in all actuality, we did. Despite seeing the sign outside that said live music at 10pm, the musicians didn’t even start warming up until 10:55pm. This morning the woman we’re staying with told us that that tactic is often used in Ireland so that people will drink more before the music starts. We laughed because the tactic had definitely worked. Sadly, when the music actually did start, it wasn’t the traditional music that we were looking for, so we left in search of better music.

The better music was found right across from The Quay’s Bar at The Spanish Arch. We knew as we went through the doorway that we had come to the right place because number one: they weren’t playing American songs (what a relief!) and number two: they were playing the type of songs that are normally associated with traditional Irish music: jigs and reels. Even though the musicians didn’t have all of the instruments that I have come to associate with traditional Irish music (acoustic guitar, accordion, and fiddle), the simple fact that they were actually playing Irish music (except for one slip of Free Fallin’ by John Mayer) made me happy. As well as coming to the simple realization that my favorite thing about Ireland has been having the chance to listen to live music every night for free (minus the Euros that I normally spend on cider), my favorite instrument is definitely the fiddle. Granted, I’ve loved the fiddle before I came to Ireland. It’s such an amazing instrument, and I knew there had to be a concrete reason as to why I love Alison Krauss so much (not counting the fact that I just love bluegrass music in general).

Last night was also the first night that I experienced having someone buy me a drink (and buy the end of the night 2 people had bought us drinks at 2 different pubs). It was a very strange feeling. Since I’m not of legal drinking age in the states, it wasn’t something I was used to. So when a guy brought me another Pear Bulmer’s when Alex and I were at The Quay’s Bar, I was very hesitant. Thankfully, Alex could tell that I was really nervous, so she talked to the guy who had bought us drinks so that I didn’t have to say anything. It was in that moment that I realized what a great friend I have in Alex, and after talking to the guy who bought us drinks, we realized that he was harmless (plus the fact that Alex said she would kick the crap out of him if he did anything that made me feel even the slightest bit weird, which was a definite relief). I think it was just weird for me because since I don’t go to bars in the states, I’m not used to the normality of just having someone buy me a drink. However, Alex pointed out to me that it’s a pretty normal thing. However, to be as safe as possible, we created a believable back story. We were sisters, Alex and Annie, from Oregon, who had spent the past week traveling around Ireland and were heading back to the States in three days. Honestly, it was pretty exciting and fun, and I’m truthfully glad that Alex had thought of the idea before I introduced myself. I don’t think I would’ve thought to lie. However, Alex told me later that she did it because it’s fun and because she knew how nervous I was so she wanted to reassure me that nothing bad would happen. Thankfully, it helped a lot. As well as liking the idea of introducing ourselves as sisters from Oregon, last night will definitely be one that I won’t forget. It’s pretty cool to say that the first time someone bought me a drink I was at a pub in Ireland.

The night ended with Alex and I ordering pizza and cheesy bread from Papa John’s, which we completely dominated in about 20 minutes. I knew that I would need something to soak up all the cider I had enjoyed (plus the fact that the walk home consisted of me saying ‘I’m SO hungry’ every few minutes), so why not make it a food that’s super greasy, super delicious and cheesy and wonderful, and super American? Yummy Papa John’s + watching about half an hour of the third Harry Potter movie before going to sleep was the perfect way to end such a fun night. I really think it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in quite a while.

Last night’s live music hunt was a definite success, and in a little while Alex and I are heading back to Shop Street so that I can begin getting gifts for friends and family. When I realized yesterday that I only had 2 weeks left in Ireland, I realized that I better start looking for gifts. As well as needing to head to Shop Street in search of presents today, we’ll also be back there later tonight in search of some more music. The great thing about Shop Street though is that it’s packed with pubs, so I’m pretty sure that we could go to a different pub every night from now until we leave and still not be able to say that we’ve been to all the pubs on Shop Street. We’ve got to at least try though. How else are we going to spend our nights in Ireland? In all reality, spending them hunting for the best live music and enjoying cider is the only way to go.

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5 Responses to “When in Ireland, don’t miss Shop Street in Galway City.”

  1. Errign July 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Bulmer’s is hands down, to this day, still my favorite alcoholic beverage.

  2. LA Edwards July 14, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Sounds like you are having the time of your life! Good for you. 🙂

  3. Linds July 14, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    You’ll be so happy you documented all these things in years to come 🙂 I wish I had of started documenting earlier as I missed out on all my European experiences. Sounds like you’re having a blast; I’ve been trying to keep up with your Irish adventures as best I can. Enjoy the last 2 weeks!

  4. belasbrightideas July 15, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    You make me miss the British Isles like crazy! And yes, I too remember being underage when I visited last (!! – some 40 years ago!) and going into pubs (how fun are they!!??) and buying ale. How very strange it seemed, like somebody would certainly come up from behind me and apprehend and arrest me for drinking. Strange cultural conditioning.

    Glad you’re having such fun – enjoy, enjoy – and thanks for keeping us up to date on your adventures!

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