Day 18

August 25, Tuesday
Day: 18
Mileage: biking, 0; walking, 4
Night's Lodging: 4 Winds B&B, Salthill
Weather: Very strong morning winds after a night of hellacious gusts and squalls. Drizzle, partly sunny and in the evening more exceedingly strong winds and light rain

My tent survived the night's fury wind - didn't jump any of its stakes. It was still windy but not raining. There were clouds where we wanted to go, and the wind was straight from the west, again our preferred direction, so we prowled Galway. To quote my journal, "This weather really sucks." Jack was pleased to be off his bike. It wasn't the most comfortable touring bike.

After breakfast, strolling in the cool drizzle from Salthill to Galway along the waterfront Promenade, we watched a woman come out of the ocean after her morning swim.

"How was the water?" I asked.

"It was lovely!" she said.

I walked across the beach to put my hand into the water to check the temperature.

"It won't feel warm to your hand. You'll have to put your whole body in," said a very stocky woman, about 50, with short red hair, a friendly smile and breasts drooping to her navel in her Speedo-style swim suit. She was quite right. The water was cold; very cold. I couldn't imagine jumping into that!

The wind blew us along as if we were a spot of debris to be rid of. Roller blading children took advantage of it with their jackets held out, taut like a mainsail on a reach. At the end of the "prom," a tacking back and forth to the beginning, ready for the next ride.

In the harbor the sailing ship Pride of Galway was tied up next to fishing boats, all looking as if they would rather sink than go to sea.

More Galway rain came through on that hellacious wind-shoppers and sightseers headed for cover in the doorways of shops. An Aran sweater shop caught my eye as we waited out the shower. And I caught an Aran sweater shortly thereafter. I tried on many and after much dithering, decided on one at a place recommended by Frommer's...O'Maille's. Denim colored? Teal? Cardigan? Pullover? I ended up with a dull-sky-gray pullover.

Walking around Galway, a charming city full of crooked cobbled streets and the fastest growing city in Europe, we stopped for a salmon/seafood platter at the Old Malt Restaurant, recommended to us by a woman in Ballheigue. Jack, highly allergic to salmon, ordered his meal, specifying, "Don't even let salmon fumes near my plate."

At the Galway City Museum we received advice in how to drink poteen, an illegally distilled and powerful whiskey.

"Drink poteen only with a good friend or old relative whom you can trust. We drink it with our tea in the winter, and we drink a lot of tea," said the museum docent, winking.

"Poteen is made from barley ( I had assumed potato). It goes through two or three distillings. If it's put through only once, then it is cleared with common bleach and will take the paint off the walls," he said. Tasting a tiny bit, I believed that it would be an excellent paint AND rust remover.

Having seen innumerable churches and ruined abbeys and friaries, we trotted off to add St. Nicholas Church, built in the 1300's and reputed to have had Christopher Columbus as a worshipper in the Lady Chapel, to our experience. Typical of medieval churches, gargoyles decorated the exterior.

We appreciated the intricate stained glass windows-and the differences in windows from one rose window to the next. Entering those churches, we looked like imported mobsters, eyes concealed by prescription sunglasses so that the stained glass was more than a blurred impressionistic experience through our myopic pupils.

Galway. A wonderful town to visit. A town to return to time and again, if possible.

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