An October 2002 trip
to Galway by Carmen
Quote: Galway was our stop on day three of our driving tour, and our first real Irish "city". We took advantage of that with shopping out the wazoo!
Here are a few of my Galway highlights:
1. St. Judes B&B in Lower Salthill. I had no idea before we went what to expect out of the Irish B&Bs, but I never expected them to be this nice! St. Judes easily had 12 rooms, and was decorated in high fashion without making you think you couldn't sit on the furniture and relax. The foyer featured a colorfully tiled floor and a chandelier, and the dining room looked as if it was set with the best china and silverware. Our room had three beds and a heater (a luxury in Ireland B&Bs). I was also fascinated by the towel warmer in the bathroom.(I was cold a lot in the B&Bs) We also had a glorious view of a rose garden (how they bloom in that cold, wet environment I'll never know). We liked the B&B so much, that we decided to stay in and rest and watch a little Irish television and forgo walking back out into the cold for another smokey pub. And I don't feel like we missed out on anything.
2. Shopping on the pedestiran-friendly Quay Street and finding my perfect Irish Claddaugh ring
A Claddaugh ring is one with two hands holding aheart with a crown on top and symbolizes friendship, love and loyalty. As a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan, I wanted a real Irish Claddaugh as my souvenir from the trip. (On the show, the ring is a big part of a Buffy romance.) I wanted one that was a little less "traditional" and saw a picture of the perfect ring, but couldn't find it. Galway was the place - being that the now-mostly-defunct town of Claddaugh was on the outskirts. When we arrived on Quay Street, we checked in one of the several jewelry shops and were directed to Fallers Jewelers. They said if we couldn't find what we were looking for there, we never would. And we found our rings and more -- even a Celtic cross necklace for my sister.
3. Eating at Kirby's at Cross Street
Great food, great atmosphere and great staff are the hallmarks of Kirby's, at least in my opinion. Probably my favorite part was drinking some magnificent hot chocolate to warm up after hours of shopping on Quay Street. To our surprise, the waiter offered us marshmallows for our hot chocolate, one pink and one white. It added a whole new sweetness to the brew. We had the place mostly to ourselves, since we arrived just after they opened, so we were pampered a bit. Fine by me.
Hotel | "St. Judes B&B"
Ita Johnstown is the owner, and she was full of hospitality. When she took us to our room, I momentarily thought she had made a mistake. The room was huge, and had three beds (two twin, one double). The bathroom was also large, equipped with a heated towel warmer. And joy! There was a portable heater in the room. I'd be warm for one night in Ireland!
She also had a nice sitting room, equipped with a television, and we managed to catch a very odd European game show with 49 players that we never figured out. She also had plenty of tourism books to help us plan our next adventure.
As with all B&Bs we stayed in, breakfast was included in the stay, and it was a fine breakfast at that.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 26, 2002
Saint Judes Guest House
110 Lower Salthill
+353 (91) 521619
Kirby's serves dinner from 5pm-10pm, and lunch from 12:30-2pm, and we made it just in time to catch them opening for dinner. We pretty much had the place all to ourselves, and the full attention of our waiter. This may sound a little wacky, but the highlight of my meal there was my hot chocolate. I guess it was that he had no one else to wait on, but he even offered us special marshmallows for our hot chocolate - one pink and one white, which made them taste even more lovely.
The atmosphere in Kirby's is upscale, but not stuffy. There are beautiful paintings on the wall which show various parts of the Quay in Galway and scenes from within the restaurant. The bathrooms are very nice (not that I usually judge the bathrooms in restaurants, but these caught my attention) and make you feel like a queen!
On a scale of 1-10, I'd say Kirby's was a 7 or 8. The food was good, the service staff was very attentive (again, we were the only ones there), and the atmosphere was Irish - exactly what we wanted.
Kirby's of Cross Street
+353 91 569404
Attraction | "Fallers Jewelers"
The Claddaugh ring is a traditional Irish ring with a heart in the middle, held by two hands and a crown on top. Signifying love, friendship and loyalty, when worn on the right hand with the crown pointed in, the wearer's heart is not yet taken. When worn on the right hand with the crown pointed outwards, the wearer is considering love. When worn on the left hand, the wearer has found true love. The town of Claddaugh, of which there isn't much left, was originally just outside of Galway
Anyway, I wanted a ring that you could tell was a Claddaugh ring, but that didn't look the same as everyone elses. I'd seen a picture on the inflight magazine from a maker named Solvar, and it was a more modern-looking rendition of the ring. Sure enough, Fallers had the ring, but we had to ask for it, as it was so new they hadn't set it out on display yet.
Fallers is a duty-free shop, so the ring cost me around 59 euros without tax. A good buy - but then I wanted it badly, so it would've been a good buy anyway. :)
Aside from my ring, the shop had a grand selection of Irish jewelry. Fallers is known accross Ireland for its selection. There were Celtic cross necklaces - one of which I got for my sister (cost me about $25). There are also plenty of Celtic knot rings, which are often used for wedding rings (the knot has neither a beginning nor end.) There's more selection in silver than in gold, but that's the case most places.
If you can't find the jewelry you want at Fallers, you're not going to find it.
Fallers of Galway
+ 353 91 561226
Attraction | "Quay Street - Shop 'Til You Drop"
Quay Street is closed off to traffic to allow pedestrians full access to the hundreds of shops that line its cobblestone streets. You can find jewelry, clothing, watches, souvenirs, pubs, restaurants - whatever your heart desires. Just watch out for that credit card bill!
It's also important to note that most of the shops in the Quay are closed on Sundays, and many close after 6pm on weekdays. Take that into account when you're planning.
Here are some of the shops/restaurants we frequented while on Quay Street, and links to the full journals.
1. Faller's Jewelers: We had been looking for a specific claddaugh ring to take home as an Irish souvenir, and the first jewelry store we stopped in told us to go to the end of Quay Street and visit Faller's. Sure 'nuf, there it was -- along with any kind of jewelry (Irish or otherwise) that you could want. Full journal
2. Killkenny: This shop was full of beautiful Irish pottery, and I found some nice gifts to bring home to my cat-sitter. There were traditional designs and unique designs as well. Full journal
3. Kirby's of Cross Street: We looked around for a pub or restaurant for dinner that wasn't so commercial and so "American." We came upon Kirby's and took a look at the menu, and decided to eat there. It was great - good food, good service, the place all to ourselves. Full journal
Galway City Centre
The Irish use very colorful glazes on their pottery. The favorite colors seem to be blues, maroons and browns. The glazes are almost iridescent, so if you have a blue glaze, you can see greens and purples in the color. Most of the pottery features some sort of Celtic symbol - Celtic knots for example.
The prices here were a bit pricier, but fair. They took great care in wrapping your purchases so you could take them safely on the plane back with you. Or, they offer to ship your purchases home (small fee.)
I bought my kind cat-sitter a wonderful coffee mug - big enough to hold three cups for sure, and it cost me around 15 euros. I could've bought out the shop, but I didn't. My credit card would've yelled at me. Phone 091-566110
Kilkenny - Irish Pottery Galore!
High Street, Galway
Cary, North Carolina