A mall for a wall

We took a walking tour of Galway this morning and were reminded of some fascinating facts about this city – yet another town which is actually the center of the universe as we know it, at least according to our guide.

About the wall. In the 1970’s, a fire burned down a block of Galway. Rather than rebuild the houses which were destroyed, a developer wanted to put in a shopping mall. He was given permission if he would also undertake to restore the ancient city walls that were within the site. No problem, says he. And he did do his part. However, the restored section looks mall-like in its reconstruction, and even has shops within it, for that proper mall feeling. Preservation is alive and well here too, it seems. Just don’t interfere with shopping.

Next, the JFK connection. He came here and spoke in June of 1963, and was well-received and is well-remembered. However, almost exactly a year earlier, Lee Harvey Oswald, his wife and child also passed through the city, on their way back from Moscow. Spooky.

And then there’s Christopher Columbus. When he was in Galway around 1477, it was the tales of the Galwegian fishermen that convinced him land lay across the Atlantic. This fact proves that the Irish got to the New World well before him, or that they thought they would play a good Irish trick on him. Go know. But Genoa said “thanks for that” anyway, and sent a statue over to recognize the event.

James Joyce’s wife, Nora Barnacle, was born and lived here, making this town important in literature.  Unfortunately the museum is closed.

And then there is the excavated site of the Hall of the Red Earl, Galway’s first municipal building, used to collect taxes, dispense justice and to host banquets. It took its name from red-haired Richard de Burgo, the Earl of Ulster, who was the grandson of the town’s founding father. Just across the street is the famous Druid Theater of modern times, where we are passing on Waiting for Godot.

Then there was the river and the weir, and the scenes of the old mills and distilleries, all powered by water. Today it’s fresh and clean and rushing off to the sea.

One sad note is the reminder of a recent dark time in Irish history, when the Magdalene Laundries were operating, and bad things would happen to so-called “bad” girls. The stories of abuse, child-selling and even murder have come to light, but nothing can make up for those days.

Even so, a good day in Galway, though it was one of those average days where it would rain for a few minutes and then stop. You hardly notice it anymore. I have friends who can relate, as Galway is twinned with Seattle, probably the only city that gets more rain. They have mutually marked large rocks to prove it!

Don’s Food Corner

At lunch today we went to one of the many Galway restaurants featuring fresh fish from the city’s bay. I started with a half dozen Galway Bay oysters. Plump and strongly briny. Then I had a very nice grilled fillet of plaice that was topped with a bit of sun-dried tomato butter and a few asparagus spears. A few large boiled potatoes came with it, cooked evenly all the way through without breaking the skin or being mushy on the edges, as only the Irish know how to do.

Jo eschewed the fish offerings and went with a bowl of leek and potato soup (somewhat underseasoned) and a Caesar salad (somewhat overdressed).

We washed it all down with a pretty good bottle of savignon blanc from Australia. A pleasant enough meal, shared with a nice German lady who was also on our tour.


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