Monday, February 16, 2015

Galway: In which the laundry gets done, and Michael saves a party of Frenchmen from disaster

Wash day.  I cannot think of anything that I would rather do less than sit in a laundromat in Galway. Now mind you, I don’t mind doing laundry—I do it all the time at home. But I’d rather not have to do it while I’m in Ireland, thank you. I am avoiding most other quotidian tasks, like grocery shopping, shoveling snow, vacuuming, dusting, and doing the dishes. I’m not sure when I would fit all that in right now, anyway. Basically, each day I get up and do physical therapy exercises for my sciatic pain, go to the pool, eat breakfast, ride the bus to work, work, ride the bus back from work, go to dinner, catch up on email and videochat with Nancy, then go to bed.

So I was thrilled to find the Olde Malte Launderette down a little alley in the pedestrian area of town (where I seem to do most of my “hanging out”). I can drop off my laundry in the morning and pick it up at the end of the day. However, this means that I get to work a bit later because the launderette doesn’t open until 8:30. This morning, in order to maximize my time, I was there promptly at 8:30. Silly me, I know. It was close to 9:00 when the proprietor finally showed up, very apologetic. I was only slightly annoyed, mostly because it was cold.
The red door at right is the Olde Malte Launderette

The launderette closes at 6 p.m., so I made sure I was back by 5:45. I thanked the man and told him I would see him next week—which maybe was a not-so-subtle hint that I would again be there at 8:30. He said he’d be on time. We’ll see.

Coming back into town before 6:00 p.m. meant that I was there before it got dark, which, a la Monet, gave me a very different view of my surroundings, a whole new set of lights and shadows. Because I had arrived at the hotel earlier than usual, I decided to redeem one of the spa coupons I had found in my room last night. I spent some time in the Thermal Suite, which features heated ceramic lounge chairs, three variations of steam rooms, a sauna, showers, and the Sabia Med: a simulated beach with sand, the sound of surf, and a complete rotation of the “sun” from dawn to dark and back every thirty minutes.  I took advantage of everything except the beach.  My coupon entitled me to only an hour and I thought the attendant had said someone would let me know when my time was up, but no one ever did and I completely lost track of how long I had been there. It was 8 p.m. by the time I got showered and dressed.

Galway City Pedestrian Area
Galway is home to a campus of the National University of Ireland, and I had been warned that this was Rag Week, sort of a spring break bacchanal for the students. So I was not surprised to see a lot more people on the streets, and not surprised to see a lot more immature behavior among them. I simply walked on and made my way to the Artisan restaurant—which I figured would not be a place students would find appealing. I had a very good vegetable soup followed by salmon and then a dessert sampler: ice cream, chocolate cake, cheesecake and crème brulée in miniature portions.

I got an upstairs table overlooking the street, so I had a good view of all the restaurant’s comings and goings. I noticed the arrival of two couples in their late sixties, who soon were seated at the table next to me. They were speaking French, so I began listening intently to see how much of their conversation I could pick up. It didn’t take long to determine that the men understood no English at all and neither did one of the women, and the one woman who apparently thought she understood it was doing a miserable job of translating the menu to the others. When it came time to order, both men asked for steak “saignant,” which the English-speaking woman translated for the waiter as “well done.”

Well, I knew that wasn’t right because saignant is French for bleeding. Besides, I could not imagine a French person ever allowing a piece of well-done meat to be placed on their table, let alone eating such a travesty. So I leaned over and asked, in French, if by saignant they meant that they wanted their meat pas trop cruit (not cooked too much). “Mais, oui,” they replied. So I explained that “well done” meant tres cruit (very cooked). “Mais, alors!” they cried. So I got the attention of the waiter, explained what had happened, and saved the day. The woman asked me what word she should have used instead. When I said, “Rare,” she contorted her face, tried to say it, but failed miserably. I realized that this short word has not only one of the hardest English sounds for a French person to pronounce, but two of them in rapid succession. (Today’s program was brought to you by the letter R.) 

Trad Musicians at Tigh Coili
We enjoyed a little more conversation while we ate, and as I was finishing, they asked if I knew where they could go to listen to some music. By this time it was after 9:30 and the evening music sessions had begun, so I drew a map on a card to show them how to find the two nearby pubs where I knew the music would be good. I also indicated that I was going to one of them myself.

Tonight Tigh Coili was not as crowded as it had been on Friday, and I was able to get right up front again. I made it through only a couple sets, however, before I decided that I needed to get to bed.  As I was leaving the pub, my French friends were just coming down the street, so I was able to direct them to the right place. I hope they enjoyed themselves.  At least I knew that their evening had not been ruined by well-done steak!

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