I think a lot of people like the romance of the idea of love at first site. I know I’ve seen enough movies glam this concept up that it seemed like the best way to go when it came to love.
This was a sound principle to me until I realized I might meet the right person at a costume party and they may be wearing a mask. Or I may meet the right person in a dark alley and their face may be in shadow, you know… stuff happens.
Perhaps, I should re-evaluate these ideas if I decide I’ve had enough of this state of affairs at some point.
But I’m still not ready to take my dad’s advice and lower my standards in either realm.
So, I haven’t found that person or place, but for the first time, I found myself feeling like a part of a place without ever expecting it.
That place was Galway.
I arrived in Galway for what I thought would be two or three days and then just kept staying and staying and staying.
It started with making a friend who lived in Galway. Her name was Joelle. She was Lebanese and had only been in the city a few months, so we both had a lot of sights to see and music to hear. We had a ton of fun together. It was like finding a sister from across the world.
Then, it was going to the same pub for music every night. Soon we knew a few of the locals. There was Johnny, who was a bit of a flirt, maybe drunk too often but still good company for the first drink.
After that, it was hard to say whether he was a former pro soccer player or pipefitter or both. Also, best to move on before he started retelling the story of how he found out what transgender meant. That one got old faster than he realized...
Then there was Major, he was an older man with incredibly kind eyes who stood on chairs and recited poetry on occasion. When Major played his guitar and sang, the entire pub would go quiet. When he played Falling in Love with You, I thought I would faint. Then the rest of pub joined in singing, my heart about exploded.
Then, the bartenders started to recognize us. One night we asked if there was anywhere in town to go dance to Irish music. In a few minutes, some local boys came over and danced with us. The bartenders had told them we wanted to dance and that became the bar to go dancing in.
“Oh ladies, are you here to dance again?”
What?! That was one time! But if people are dancing, I mean… of course!
As the moon rose over Galway, the pub music would play into the night.
I mean, I guess I could dance.
Because I kept changing my booking and staying longer, the hostel kept needing to have me switch rooms.
No matter which room I went to though, there was always the same Irish guy there. He had just moved back from a year in Australia and was in Galway looking for work. We’d talk about his job hunt and the other people in our dorms.
We had some sleepless nights when a group of Germans took over the dorm. You could sleep from about ten to midnight, but once they came back from the pubs, that was the end of it. Soon, the four of them would pass out drunk and sleep. Then the symphony began. Two of them snored and one talked in his sleep. If you think sleep talking is weird, try hearing it in German. Yet, me and the Irish guy were together, commiserating over coffee in the mornings.
“Did you hear that group of Germans come in last night?”
“Christ-almighty, I thought they were a herd of elephants.”
So, despite the short number of days I had planned in Galway, I started developing a routine of people and places. Back at my hostel, the girls who worked there all knew me.
“Still here Rachel? Ay, It’s a good place to be.”
I had friends, a neighborhood pub and a routine within less than a week. Galway had welcomed me with open arms.
And yet, as is often the case, I had to move on.
My stay in Galway came to an end with St. Patty’s Day coming up, the hostels were out of beds, the AirBnB’s were full and hotels were priced at a level that makes asking for your firstborn child as payment look reasonable.
The world seemed to be pushing me to pack my backpack again.
On the streets of Galway.
I went out for a last night with my friend Joelle at our favorite pub, Tis Choili. The music was as good as ever. We talked with locals and some American tourists. Major sang Falling in Love with You and I about fell in love with him. Then, me being too shy to ask, I asked Joelle if she could see if he knew Moon River. He didn’t respond. He just came over to my corner of the bar with his guitar and sang the entire song.
I think my face is still sore from smiling.
I know there may be higher highs in life, but I can’t imagine what could be better than being sang Moon River by a darling old Irish man in a pub.
As the night wore down, Joelle and I said our goodbyes on the cobbled street and I walked back to my hostel. The only sound that accompanied me was the clip-clopping of my boots down the sidewalk. I hadn’t felt like Galway was the home I’d been looking for, but I had just fit here. For once, I didn’t feel like a traveler or a tourist. I felt like a part of the city. With pub songs still playing in my head, I made my way back to the hostel the last time.
You can fall in love with whatever or whomever you want, but you really should consider falling in love with Ireland sometime, just to hear how it makes your heart sing. And maybe take a leaf out of my book and fall in love with Galway in particular.
Ireland, I decided, sings the songs of my soul.
And Galway, I can’t help falling in love with you.