Sunday, April 11, 2010

Daytripping: Galway

Galway has always been one of my favourite towns in Ireland. I think this stems from spending an occasional weekend there when I was growing up. Going to the Saturday market and eating potato curry from a stall felt terribly exotic, weird and wonderful street performers sang Dylan and breathed fire, and I even saw my first live gig here. (Ash in case you’re wondering.) Galway has always had a thriving cultural scene, with its annual arts festival reaching its 33rd year this summer, and this is reflected in the laid back pace of life and creative atmosphere you feel from the people and businesses which make this town such a great place to spend some time.

My first port of call on my recent trip was to a cafe I first visited a couple of years ago, Ard Bia, an Irish name which roughly translates as great food. The food here is predominantly locally sourced, and is a curious fusion of traditional Irish and Eastern Mediterranean influences. The dining room is sweetly ramshackle, and pots of tea come in vintage teapots with mismatched china. To give all the Torontonian readers a point of reference, it wouldn’t be out of place in Leslieville. My smoked chicken sandwich with avocado and peach chutney was deliciousness itself, while my dining companion declared a wholesome yellow split pea dahl with tatziki good for both body and soul.

Continuing through some winding medieval lanes we reached Sheridans Cheesemongers, which is bright and airy and full of wonderful things. There’s a fantastic display of both Irish and international cheeses on offer here, and despite eyeing up a quivering brick of membrillo, I left with a piece of Durrus cheese and a square block of Inch House black pudding, dense and squidgy as fruitcake. Dessert takes the form of Murphy’s ice cream from McCambridges, one scoop of brown bread and one of chocolate and whiskey. Both are delicious, and a taste of the Kerry cream variety is also heavenly.

No trip to Galway is complete without a visit to Charlie Byrne’s bookshop; a rambling Aladdin’s cave of, mainly secondhand, books. A new purchase in hand, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to Tigh Neachtain (or Naughton's pub) for a cold, creamy pint of the black stuff. A good natured discussion concerning the future of Irish politics is in full swing at the bar, the music of Nick Drake plays softly in the background, and the patio is full of chat and laughter as locals take advantage of the afternoon sunshine. Galway’s still got that old magic.

1 comment:

Gina A said...

Mmmmmmmmmmmm......... everything sounds so delightful. I've been on an ice cream binge and this is not making resistance any easier!