I arrived in Galway a day late following an airport meltdown traced solely to emotional hunger. My acquaintances had managed to “lose” their luggage and were in the process of arguing with the tour guide, the airport, the hotel- anybody who would listen and/or take action on their behalf. I say “lose” because it didn’t get lost; it got left behind. A general PSA, dear readers, whenever you change air carriers, YOU are responsible for getting your bag and taking it to the next leg. It ain’t magic but it is why I pretty much only fly with a carry-on.
While said acquaintances located the nearest souvenir shop for enormous, oversized t shirts and underpants, I checked into our hostel and opted for a shower. Look, I get that Europe is much less reserved about bodies than America but building planners of the world, there is no reason why a floor to ceiling window with no glazing or obscuring should face the shower and/or toilet. And hotel owners: if you insist on having a shower next to a floor to ceiling window, at least have the decency to install a shower curtain that wraps ALL THE WAY AROUND instead of all the way to the edge of the window.
So, while muttering, “This is Europe” to myself in my lukewarm shower, revealing myself to the passersby of Galway, I showered, steam-skated my way out of the bathroom, and made myself more or less presentable.
“You missed the entire tour of Galway today,” my guide informed me. “But the walk into town is pretty much the same thing.” We paired off and went out for drinks and dinner at a little pub where we ordered lagers and ciders and read the menu. Everything came with three sides of carrots and potatoes with your choice of fries, boiling, or mashed.
“Can I get the shepherd’s pie but can I just get carrots as the side, no potatoes?” I asked.
“No potatoes?” the waitress, a craggy woman, asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah if that’s ok. You know, since it’s got potatoes in it and mashed potatoes on top.”
“But it comes with potatoes,” she said.
“Right. That’s ok.”
With the world’s most skeptical stare, she disappeared into the kitchen. My dinner companions were east coasters. We chatted about Maryland and the Atlantic beaches- all areas I visited frequently as a child. We talked boys and school and plans for the future. We laughed. And when my shepherd’s pie came out, gloriously adorned with piped, golden mash, we laughed some more. I had carrots as my side, sure. But they were dwarfed by a mountain of boiled potato totally nearly four cups of starchy material. It was clear I had struck a nerve with the kitchen.
The next morning, we took the ferry to Inishmore and Dún Aonghasa. Ruins jutted up from the green as the wind whipped around. The dusky Irish Sea (Atlantic) crashed against the towering stone. Neon orange lichen etched its way across the granite creating an ever growing lace. The grass was left long save for a single shorn walkway. It twisted and clumped into elegant tufts like a mop of unruly hair. People scrambled over the blocks of stone, peering over the edge, swinging legs over the sides, teetering a few hundred feet over the cold sea.
I stayed with the stone, pressed against it by the wind and my own volition. My hands graced their rough and sun-warmed surface. There was life left in them- life eking out from thousands of years of habitation saying, come listen- we still have things left in us to say.