Ireland Trip: 5–Galway, A Different Dance

There’s a comfort in ritual, regardless of the origin. Perhaps it’s the way you fix your morning coffee or maybe it’s in the community-wide response to the death of one of its members.  We can’t afford the cognitive effort to deliberately ponder, plan and execute every single one of our actions. For so many scenarios it’s just as well that our response is more-or-less predestined. How we prepare certain dishes, the routes and means by which we get to familiar destinations, the customs with which we greet those with whom we feel a sense of kinship, these and so many other actions are best left in the realm of the familiar.

And so it goes, day after day so many of our affairs are carried out, semi choreographed. Life proceeds and we step out to tunes so familiar, the movements rehearsed and precise, made so much more refined from decades of practice.

But from whence comes the music? For whose pleasure, ultimately, do we perform, day after day, week after week, year after year?

The Cathedral. The university is not far in the background; just a few minutes walk.

The Galway Cathedral. The university is not far in the background; just a few minutes walk.

A vacation brings with it the chance to vary the daily rituals. Sure, you can replace the day-to-day habits with ones equally mundane, returning, perhaps, to a childhood home, a cabin in the woods or whatever else happens to be “your” vacation spot, wrapping around yourself a place almost recognizable as home yet separated sufficiently by distance, time or even appearance that a visit there offers just enough variance. Your momentum carries you on unharried, only the vista changes.

You could, instead, choose to try something new and visit a place for the first time, maybe even do things you’ve not done before. Sometimes comfort is not what we seek. New experiences bring with them the opportunity for change, even growth. As some, including N N Taleb have pointed out, stress, skillfully applied, can result in renewed strength. So, too, time spent in foreign surroundings brings with it the chance to reacquaint oneself with the finer points of the senses while, at the same time, use that input to explore, play and, perhaps transform somewhat.

The trip to Ireland had been playing out more or less that way. Dublin—recognizable, Carlow—new, Cork—a bit of both. And now Galway. Since neither of us had ever been there we figured the experience would lean more towards the new. In the three days we spent there, though, there was as much accustomed as was not. The city is right on the sea, at the head of a largish bay; not far away are stretches of impressive rocky cliffs that end at the cold, unforgiving north Atlantic—all so very familiar.

Doing it right!

Doing it right!

Salmon trap in the Corrib River

Salmon trap in the Corrib River

Like just about everywhere in Ireland, though, there’s an overall feeling of strong and complex links to a storied and often torturous past. Canals, a river with evidence of salmon traps—things unheard of in my familiar environs. Old bridges, an even older port–Columbus was said to have visited here, a sub-community (the Claddagh) that, even in the recent past, still spoke in the ancient tongue. Even the vessels, though nonetheless seaworthy, were built on thoroughly different lines from the ones I’d grown up with.

Sturdy and well suited to the wild wind & waves and wilder coasts. Still, designs that would stand out as "different" where I live. These clearly get little use. Passed on from relatives long gone or perhaps just kept "because?"

Sturdy and well suited to the wild wind & waves and wilder coasts. Still, designs that would stand out as “different” where I live. These clearly get little use. Passed on from relatives long gone or perhaps just kept “because?”

Signs of a people in the process of moving on. Whether it's for better or worse is for someone else to decide.

Signs of a people in the process of moving on. Whether it’s for better or worse is for someone else to decide.

Strolling along the narrow streets of the city centre, in the midst of a throng comprised of university students, residents and tourists such as myself it was not hard to imagine the place as just about anything: fishing town, college town, port, fort, tourist destination…your choice.



And so it went. For three days we strolled around, explored and had a few laughs, willing participants in a dance at once ancient yet still eerily familiar.

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About Maurice A. Barry

Coordinator: Teaching and Learning Commons, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Parent & Husband. eLearning consultant/coordinator. Program Development Specialist - eLearning (Department of Education; Retired). Writer: over 40 Math/Physics texts/webs. Developer & Manager of web content. Geek. Not into awards but loves comments.
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19 Responses to Ireland Trip: 5–Galway, A Different Dance

  1. SJ O'Hart says:

    Beautiful! I haven’t been to Galway for years. I’d love to go back, and your post has fuelled that desire. 🙂

  2. If I haven’t said it before Maurice, you write well. Your introduction to this post read really nicely and I appreciated the way in which you dissected ritual and habit. Galway seems a very pretty place. Given its location along the coast I think it even more pretty than the other places you have taken us to of late. But, it did look a bit chilly. More? D

    • Thank you. Yes, the wind was a bit up on one of the days and i noticed many of the other tourists wearing jackets. Hearty bay folk such as ourselves just figured it felt that much more like home and enjoyed the sweet maritime smell in the salty breeze 🙂

  3. Mary says:

    Wonderful story and photos. You probably remember this one:
    “If you ever go across the sea to Ireland,
    then maybe at the closing of your day,
    you can sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh,
    and see the sun go down on Galway Bay.”

  4. elkement says:

    As Dave, I marvel at the introdcution of this post! I see the images from an unusual perspective, having read the first paragraphs!

    I think there is a weird tension if a place seems both familiar and new. I cannot recall one specific example now but I remember that often places reminded me of other places and it took me a while until I had figured out why they touched me in a strange way and what that connection was after all. Sometimes, it is obvious – there is e.g. a European city that is often said to be similar to Vienna… and it indeed was. But sometimes it is about specific details only that are harder to track down.

    • Yes, sometimes it feels a bit like what we call Déjà vu and other times it’s just weird. I suppose it’s what happens when our thought processes work to accommodate something novel into whatever frameworks already exist in our minds. It can be very pleasant but also a little tiring.

  5. Beautiful photo’s Maurice and I have enjoyed your holiday thoughts and memories.

  6. Tiny says:

    I loved the writing – the philosophical musings – in this post as much as the pictures! I wonder if you learned the trick shown by the street artist in the slideshow? I’m sure you at least figured it out 🙂

    • Ha Ha–scary; you have me figured out. I saw two main things–one he expanded his chest when they wrapped the chains so that when he contracted his chest they were looser and he could shake them off. Two–OUCH—he dislocated his elbow. OUCH again. Look at the last picture in the series; his arm is just plain wrong. OUCH one more time! He was also hilarious 🙂

  7. Loving your trip. Some beautiful photos and although I’ve been to most of the same places, they don’t look the same. Somewhat like the dissonance between memory and what we see in front of us.

    • Indeed. In some ways photography is such a gift, a means by which we can check up on what really happened. For the individual experiencing the events this may or may not be wanted, of course. For many–including me from time to time–the facts just get in the way of an otherwise good story! In the long run, though, it’s good to have a trustworthy reference. Oh, dear–Photoshop. Okay: history is in trouble 🙂

  8. jennypellett says:

    As I said before, I’m loving this series. There’s one thing that’s bugging me though. Your pictures are beautiful and consistently show good weather. Where is this soft rain that Ireland is so famous for? 😊

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