Starting last Friday, tourists from all over (but mostly America, if we’re being honest) have been flowing into Galway. Streets that are typically pretty deserted suddenly became so packed that I had to push my way through huge clusters of people staring at historic buildings just so I could make it to my classes. The unbelievably beautiful weather also pulled everyone up out of the woodworks to enjoy the sunshine. Students played soccer at the Spanish Arch near the river, buskers filled the streets with a variety of musical styles, and venders sold warm donuts and crepes at the outdoor farmers market.
Tuesday’s festivities started with a parade through the center of Galway. By the time we got to Eyre Square to watch, the streets were so packed that I had to stand on my tiptoes to even glimpse the groups walking by. There were marching bands, young dancers, and a school group from Mexico. But we didn’t see much because it was so packed.
Instead I got a really great view of the people in the crowd, and I noticed that there was a great divide in terms of outfits. Some people were wearing elaborate costumes complete with goofy hats, green skirts and T-shirts with funny phrases on them. But then there were families dressed in every color but green. It really highlighted the difference between the locals and the tourists.
After the parade we headed back to our apartment, which apparently has a rooftop deck that I never knew about. Our extended group of friends got up on the deck pretty early, but as the day went on we eventually had a huge mass of people relaxing in the sun. Most of the students who live in Niland House Apartments, where I live, are from America, and a lot of the people hanging out on that deck were from various schools in Wisconsin, so it was pretty cool to meet new people and just mingle for a few hours. And, like I said, I didn’t mind soaking up some Vitamin D as well.
By the time we went out to the pubs at night, Shop Street was filled with stragglers and people at different levels of disarray. The bouncers wore expressions of tired resignation and the bartenders looked exhausted. We ended up at a pub called Kingshead and once inside it felt like any other night: cold beer, a great band, and people just having a good time. It’s funny to realize that we get more into this holiday in America more than they actually do in Ireland, but I guess we tend to do that with a lot of things.
So, all in all, no green beer, no green rivers and no dancing leprechauns, but Galway definitely knows how to do St. Patrick’s Day right.