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Hail and ride Galway’s Coca Cola

I dunno why I’ve fallen out of the habit of writing up the final day of a holiday in a timely fashion but it seems I have. Here, then, if you’re reading on the date of publication, is the story of what happened last Monday, March 4th 2019. But if timeliness means nothing to you and you read my blathering way after the actual events, please ignore this paragraph. Thanks, etc.

So, Monday morning. Huh. It’s quite hard to recall what we did now, especially as the notes are written in a pad that’s not in the room I’m currently in and I cannot be bothered to go fetch it. But I do have a memory, and my photos, so maybe I can piece things together. Let’s think..

OK, first thing we did was get up and pack. We had to check out, after all. Cursing myself yet again for having brought running shoes which went unused but took up an unreasonable amount of space, we squeezed everything in.

I had a brief look out from our balcony, a place where we’d spent zero time. I mean it’s not really a balcony anyway, really, is it. Anyway, outside it was windy and raining. Yep, still in West Ireland then.

Down at reception we left our bags behind and went straight into the adjacent pub, for our third consecutive lovely-but-horrifically-unhealthy breakfast.

The pub was empty, the staff friendly, but our orders were a bit messed up. They at least remembered to skip the beans, but brought two large breakfasts instead of one large, one “mini”. After a while my drink status got very confusing: I’d been proactively asked if I wanted a second Diet Coke, and I did, but it never came. So a few minutes later I asked for one, which did arrive, and then 10 minutes after that a different waiter came along with a third, which I rejected. Interesting that, eh? TBH I’m only really mentioning it as a way to make the subtitle of this whole post make some kind of sense.

With a few hours to spare before our bus we thought we’d do something cultural. The museum, in whose cafe we’d had breakfast on Sunday, is only steps away.

Bugger. But also funny, and very reminiscent of our day in Moscow in 2015 when we traipsed around the city to discover, in the event, three consecutive closed attractions.

Well, there must be some other stuff we can do. Twice in the previous days we’d been past The Hall of the Red Earl without being able to stop, so let’s go look at that.

The Hall of the Red Earl

This is stuff that was discovered during excavations to build an extension to what is now, I think, some council offices? Something like that. Anyway, it’s an old hall from, like, hundreds of years ago, where .. stuff used to happen. Can’t remember what. Maybe customs things. I’m sure the rest of the internet will tell you, if you’re interested.

The next idea was to go sweater shopping in the one place which had been closed on Sunday, but I argued successfully for exploiting a brief sunshine break to walk right up to the bus station and buy our tickets in advance while scoping out where the stop was, unencumbered by luggage. This we did, via a seagull proudly eating a discarded scone.

In Surbiton the previous week we’d seen a magpie eating pizza. Feels like a nascent tumblr idea here.

The station is near Eyre Square, now in pleasant enough weather for us to stop and stare at the history and art work present. There’s a big gate, not in its original location - where, presumably, it would’ve been easier to photograph with decent lighting - and some type of sails sculpture, dedicated to ... sailing?

Also more birds: several pied wagtails that wouldn’t stay still or quite get close enough to photograph reasonably, and numerous sconeless gulls.

Went to the bus station, found our stop, bought our tickets, and wandered back through town. Reaching the sweater shop at 12:26, we’re met with a closed door and a handwritten piece of paper stuck to the inside saying “Closed for lunch 12:30-1:30”. Bloody hell! I’m laughing my head off, despite being absolutely to blame for us missing out due to my bus-station-first idea. Oops.

Finding it quite difficult to think of stuff to do in such a small city we’d already explored so much, our best idea was to go take another look at the Spanish Arch and see if it looked more impressive in today’s slightly better weather.

It does not.

Even the little plaque above it is a bit rubbish.

Like, why is it Spanish? Why is 1584 significant? Where are or were the other three? I presume the adjacent, closed museum would have told us had it been open.

We went through the arch and took “The Long Walk”, i.e. the road alongside the houses which we’d pictured from across the water on consecutive days.

Round the corner at the end and we’re soon in the harbour area. Most cities seem to have lots of places to eat and drink and just generally some nice stuff around a harbour full of fancy yachts. Not so Galway; next to this is a couple of giant heaps of rubbish.

By the time we’ve finished this walk there is still time to kill so sod it, we go to the pub. It’s actually a pub which Helen had noted as a place we should visit when presenting the holiday to me back at Christmas, so it counts as ticking a box. It’s called Tigh Neachtain (I think?) and inside is a twisty maze of nooks and crannies rather than large rooms full of tables and chairs. A stout and an orange juice and a nook, then.

Across the way I see a framed gig poster from years ago, saying “GAEL FORCE” in large letters. Damn it! That’s the title I used for the previous day’s blog, which Helen came up with independently! Who would’ve thought in this windiest of places that it would’ve been used before?

In here, Helen is, I think, mostly ordering compost. I note down some things from previous days that I’d failed to call out in those diary entries:

  • Where are all the gingers? I thought west Ireland would be chock full of them, but they’ve been few and far between
  • There was a thing called The Night Of The Big Wind
  • ... something else ... my refusal to get off the sofa and go fetch my pad isn’t helping here, is it

Finally, with the drinks finished, it’s about time to go get our bags and wander up to the bus stop. As we leave the pub there is an absolutely frantic hailstorm the likes of which I’ve never seen. They aren’t large hailstones but it is a bizarrely heavy downpour. We only have to walk 4 doors back to the hotel and it’s enough to get us battered and soaked.

And once we’ve got our bags, we’ve no choice but to venture straight back out since if we miss the bus we miss the plane.

The hail is settling to the point of appearing like snow, but it soon stops. The pavements are now really slippery and it’s all very bizarre. Despite not feeling particularly windy, certainly in comparison to previous days, the storm has passed over so fast that before we’re even at the top of town the sun is out.

What’s more, by the time we reach Eyre Square there’s a rainbow.

Well that was all quite exhilarating and exciting, wasn’t it? In the end we’re at the bus station with a good 20 minutes to spare, giving me ample time to go buy another Diet Coke. When I’m back from the shop the bus is already parked up, and starts boarding very soon. We put our big bags in the luggage compartment, a handful of other people board, and we’re away on time.

This time around we’ve got the express bus, with only one stop in outer Galway before Shannon Airport. At that stop, a woman gets on and, with around 70% of the bus to pick, sits directly in front of us and spends the next hour constantly on the phone. Yay for us. It’s a boring ride, only livened up by the increasing wind and rain as we approach our destination.

There are only, I think, 8 flights from Shannon all day on this day. Few people get off the bus with us, and there aren’t many other people around. So, once Helen’s had a vape, we head upstairs, past some excellent “one of these things is not like the other” advertising.

It’s surprising to me when we reach security that the queue is so long. The solution to a long queue, for some of our co-passengers, is to brazenly jump it. We’re not the only ones shocked by this, but no-one actually takes them to task and three people get away with it. Huh, whatever. Once we’re through there’s the World’s First Duty Free Shop to contend with, in which there’s a brief glimmer of hope that a suitable sweater might be found... but, alas, no.

Airside is a pleasant enough affair, lots of space (easy given the paucity of people), a decent looking bar, and a model plane exhibit next to the lounge. There are two lounges here, one seasonal (and we’re not in season) and one not. The latter is the Boru lounge and in we go, checking in with the reception desk that’s squarely in the middle of the room rather than near the entrance.

There’s only 2 or 3 people in there when we arrive so we have our pick of seats, opting for the comfy little booth at the end. I go straight to the booze and food and, glory be, there’s fruit! Healthy food! GIMME GIMME GIMME.

It’s a decent enough place to spend a couple of hours before the flight. There’s liquids, solids, and electricity, which is basically everything we need. When time comes to board it’s actually pretty busy, though there is another flight 90 minutes after ours which some of the people may be taking.

Standard liquid selection is standard.

The flight is delayed by 15 minutes or so, to 1740. When a gate is eventually allocated I misread it and we initially go completely the wrong way from the lounge. Mind you, when my mistake is revealed we’re still confused: most other people are leaving the lounge and following signs to gates 1-5, with the flight going from gate 6. But we do the same and sure enough, gate 6 is right there.

There are two queues: a long priority queue, and a longer non-priority one. Numerous people can’t be bothered joining either, but we stand in the latter since there’s no seats and anyway, we want on. Once we get to the head of our queue, the guy checking ID asks Helen if she wants to check her suitcase rather than take it onboard. He’s unimpressed when she answers no.

It’s not obvious why he asked. It’s well within the size and weight limits, and the plane isn’t full - in fact, I have no-one sat to my left in 8D when we take the same seats as on our way out. Our stuff fits directly over our heads, despite the best efforts of those in row 9 to take up most of the bin with 4 large bags.

Shannon Airport is on the coast, giving us predictable views immediately after take-off.

I notice that Helen doesn’t grip my hand with white knuckles. It feels to me like we climb and climb and climb for half an hour or so, though this surely can’t be true. Outside, the sun is setting.

The service reaches us, so I get a beer while Helen has a gin and tonic to help her concentrate while reading a book about squirrels.

On our descent, I’m trying to recognise the lights below us with no success. Obviously we’ve been flying from the west, and without any screens showing our progress we’ve had to guess where we might be. It hasn’t felt like we’ve done any large turns so we think perhaps we’re coming down over Oxford, Reading, until suddenly oh shit, that’s that London beneath us. We flew out to Kent and have doubled back.

We didn’t take our real camera with us, so are limited to blurry phone pics. But hey, you can make out the dome on the right and Canary Wharf right there. Helen is utterly transfixed by the views of London as we follow the Thames.

I’ve flown plenty of flights in this direction during descent, and I’m absolutely sure Helen has been with me on several of them – but she swears blind that this is the first time she’s seen London like this.

In fact, she realises as we land, she thoroughly enjoyed the whole flight. There was no terror. For the first time since Costa Rica, there was no elevated heart rate or anything similar. Hooray! Flying is fun and not merely transport again!

Landing at T2, an immigration-free walk gets us landside nice and quickly. Searching for the smoking area, we follow the signs pointing one way until the next sign points back the way we’ve come. Er. What? Well whatever, Helen will find somewhere to vape while I nip to M&S for some provisions. There is queue rage, because there’s only one guy manning the tills and it’s broken in a way that means he can’t accept cash.

In T2’s car park we wait for an Uber, who silently drives us around the M25, up the A3, through Tolworth and to our flat. It’s only about 8pm when we get home, and once we’ve reacquainted ourselves with the cat there is plenty of time to write the day up – which, patently, I don’t do, opting instead to make puerile jokes about how Sky’s EPG copes with certain programme names.

Created By
Darren Foreman
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