Thursday, February 26, 2015

Galway: Nancy arrives

After a couple of weeks pretty much alone in the house with Puck, spending much of her time alternating between shoveling snow outside and vacuuming cat hair inside, Nancy was excited to get on her way to Ireland this morning.

Lough Atalia, as seen from our hotel window
Temperatures in Cincinnati—and all across the eastern U.S.—were still way below freezing when she left home, but fortunately for her, the day’s snow and ice storms stayed farther south and did not cause her any transportation delays. On her flight from CVG to JFK, she enjoyed talking with her seatmate, who was beginning a journey to India to visit her ailing father. They found many points of common interest, from the anxieties of caring long-distance for aging parents, to the joys and woes of raising teenagers, to the differences between planning an Indian wedding and planning an American-Mormon one. About halfway through their two-hour conversation, they discovered an unexpected intersection in their lives: the Indian woman had attended California State University at Fullerton—the school Nancy and her high school friends used to refer to as “ATS” (Across the Street).

During her five-hour layover in New York, Nancy was annoyed to learn that JFK Airport does not offer free WiFi service, so she was glad she had loaded plenty of reading material onto her Kindle. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison—a novel about a Mormon woman who indulges her penchant for sleuthing when a member of her ward mysteriously disappears—held Nancy’s attention almost as well as Gone Girl had last year. (The two books share some similar plot points, but Gone Girl won’t tell you anything about LDS theology.)

The flight from New York to Dublin wasn’t much longer than the layover at JFK. The tarmac was wet with recent rain when the plane pulled up to the jet bridge early Thursday morning, but shafts of bright sunshine were pushing through the inky clouds. Nancy didn’t have to wait long to claim her baggage, and then was surprised that no one even looked at it, once her passport was stamped. Following the explicit instructions Michael had sent on where buy a bus ticket, which bus to take, and where to catch it, Nancy was able to board an express to Galway just minutes before it left the airport.

A stone wall near Galway's bus station
Although she kept dozing off during the three-hour bus ride, Nancy got a better introduction to the country than Michael had on the same route, because she was traveling in daylight. The first thing she noticed was that there are stone walls everywhere: lining roadways, surrounding buildings, and dividing parcels of farmland. In town, they usually are built of rough-cut stone and mortar; in rural areas they may simply be long piles of rocks.

A typical window
The next thing she noticed was that every house she passed either was built of stone or was covered with stucco; no wood, no vinyl siding. The other distinctive feature of the houses is the windows, which are set directly into wall recesses, with no exterior frames and no shutters. There is an obvious lack of wood in Irish buildings, apparently because timber is scarce, and rotting moisture is not.

Although it was past lunchtime when Nancy arrived in Galway, she had had two meals on the plane and was much less hungry than tired. Nancy went directly to the Radisson Blu Hotel, which was easy to find because the bus had driven right past it about thirty seconds before pulling into the Galway station. She picked up a key, found the third-floor room where Michael had been staying, snapped a picture of shimmering Lough Atalia from the window, then hid the view behind heavy curtains and fell asleep.

Artisan Restaurant
Michael came in about 6 p.m., ignoring the “Do Not Disturb” sign Nancy had hung outside the door. Soon he was leading her through the center of town to Taafe’s, where the sound of lively fiddling was spilling into the street. They stood in the doorway and listened for about fifteen minutes, then went on to the Artisan Restaurant, where they ordered from the three-course Early Bird menu. Michael chose the goat-cheese salad, followed by roast chicken with a gratin of root vegetables; Nancy started with honeyed pork-belly paté on sliced brioche, then had the hake fillet with ginger rice and sautéed vegetables. The best items on the dessert sampler plate were a chocolate truffle and a spicy cake square, but the pistachio pudding wasn’t bad, either.

Michael's additional comments for the day:

I have to admit that what I am about to write may be a bit sappy. But it surprised me so much that I have to suck up my pride and admit that it really did happen to me.

About 3:00 this afternoon, I started getting a little antsy at work. By 4:00 I was out the door and on the bus on my way back to the hotel. Why? Because I knew that Nancy would be there when I returned--or at least I hoped she would be, if all had gone according to plan. She was supposed to arrive in Dublin this morning, then get herself to Galway on a bus. I had arranged with the the front desk at the hotel to give her an extra key when she arrived so she could get into the room and take a nap.

And I was almost as giddy as a madly-in-love 22 year old anxious to see his fiancee. Okay, I will admit that I missed her and was glad she was going to be able to share the rest of this trip with me.  


  1. Dad, that additional comment made me smile. :)

  2. These travel logs are gems, Michael. You and Nancy are a team, so being giddy-in-love is very appropriate, just making me miss you both all the more. Thanks for your posts; it feels like I'm in Ireland!

  3. Oops! I want to be sure I'm not cancelled, so I'm adding a brief "notify me!"