Well, we’ve been trying to find a massage therapist in Galway who owns a table that has the face cradle in it and having no luck at all. You wouldn’t think it would be all that hard to find, but alas… You can bet your bottom dollar that I’m not going to pay €55 and up for a massage during which I have to keep my head cocked to one side, essentially ruining any benefits a neck or shoulder massaging would provide. So in pursuit of a desperately needed massage for both of us after our long holiday, I went ahead and found a therapist in Dublin who met all my requirements. And since we were going to have to pay for bus tickets to get there, I decided we would make an entire day of it. The bus ride isn’t all that bad, just 2.5 hours, but it can get a little tiresome once you’ve done it a few times. However, the excitement of being back in the “big city” is quite palpable.
(Keep in mind that we lived in Denver, Colorado before we moved to Ireland – a city with a metropolitan population of over 2.5 million people and an area of over 150 square miles. So to call Dublin, with an area of 44 square miles and a metropolitan population of 1.8 million people, the “big city” is just small-town Galway conceit talking.)
We made our way over toward the massage therapist’s office, stopping along the way to grab a quick lunch. The city was hopping, lots of tourists – we heard a lot of Spanish being spoken – and the weather was perfect, sunny and about 21 C (70 F). We found the building with the clinic and were treated to a lovely set of stairs up to the 2nd floor. Whoever decided that putting therapy clinics on 2nd and 3rd floors of buildings was a good idea should be slapped. I realize that in limited space cities like Dublin they have little choice, but it’s tough for people like me who have a hard time with stairs to climb that many to get to the therapist. Anyway, it was a nice place, the therapist was very sweet and understanding, I got an incredible deep tissue massage that still hurts-so-good today. Claude enjoyed his massage as well. Plus we got a discount through their monthly special.
Once we were finished with the massages, it was time for a small snack and a visit to a museum. In walking over toward the museum we found ourselves at Merrion Square, the park in which there are tributes to Oscar Wilde and Bernardo O’Higgins. After resting a while in the shade, we grabbed a quick bite at a pub and headed to the National Museum of Ireland Museum of Natural History. The national museums in Ireland are free to the public – how civilized is that? – and this one is affectionately known as the “dead zoo.” The building itself is well over 100 years old so the display space and cases are the same age. It makes for a unique and very interesting experience. The most intriguing part of the museum is the 2nd floor (up the stairs again, ugh), where the animals are mostly encased in large glass cases, or the larger ones are just out there in the open air for display. There are several more floors with exhibits on display but due to the age of the building and the lack of emergency exits on those floors, visitors are no longer allowed to see them. What a shame, as I’m sure there are some amazing displays there! The docent working the floor directed me over to a cute little display of a hedgehog whose taxidermist decided to give him a smile. It was a cool place to see.
The museum closed at 5 but our dinner reservation wasn’t until 6, so we wandered off toward St. Stephen’s Green to enjoy yet another of Dublin’s beautiful mid-city parks. On this day the artists were out in force and displaying their wares along the park fence. We strolled the length of the fence enjoying the various canvases and discussing what we did and did not like. Then we strolled through the crowds on the shopping mall and made our way slowly to the restaurant.
I have complained before about the disturbing lack of anything even remotely resembling Mexican food in Galway and figured it extended to the entirety of Ireland, so when my friend from Massachusetts said she knew of a good restaurant in Dublin (Acapulco), I thought we would take a shot and see if she was right. Wellllll… It was just okay. First of all, there is no such thing as a decent flour tortilla in all of the country. They’re “wraps,” skinny little pseudo-flour tortillas that pass for the real thing. I ordered the supreme nachos for a starter. Jalapenos were promised on the menu, but nary a chile was to be found. The pico de gallo had a bit of a kick and there was guacamole, albeit very weak. I ordered a margarita reluctantly but they didn’t have any other cocktails or wine by the glass. I say reluctantly because tequila and I have never been good friends…however I was hoping this time would be different. It wasn’t. I don’t blame the barman, I just really don’t like margs. Claude ordered veggie enchiladas, which were served smothered in a nice green sauce and accompanied by a lovely corn salsa. I ordered a beef chimichanga which had a nice flavor and was accompanied by dry yet edible Spanish rice and the same corn salsa. But those damnable wraps! And they were incredibly sparing with the sour cream. As part of the 3-course meal (priced at a very reasonable €20!) dessert was included, so of course I ordered the deep fried ice cream. Blech! It was pretty nasty. The lesson here is: 1) never take Mexican meal advice from a north-easterner Yankee :); and 2) don’t expect real Mexican food in Ireland, period. I must add, however, that the restaurant is beautifully decorated with the traditional bright colors and tiles, and the wait staff is very friendly and welcoming. If you don’t know any better it seems authentic. And while they didn’t play traditional Mexican music, at least it’s not that techno-pop crap that plays everywhere else. I think we even heard Al Green!
After the meal we meandered some more, this time toward Temple Bar, which was in the general direction of our bus stop. This being a Saturday night the place was jam-packed, especially with hen parties. There are few things more amusing than a gaggle of drunk chicks celebrating like sailors just before a wedding! We people-watched for a while, wobbling girls in sky-high heels, strangely dressed hippies, tourists trying to take it all in. Fun! We found an open candy shop that was piping kiddie music and stepped inside just in time for the full rendition of It’s a Small World. GAWD! We snagged a couple of giant Tootsie Rolls and got out of there. Claude steered us down a small street that led back to the quays where we could catch our bus home.
We suddenly found ourselves in an intriguing environment – the walls were adorned with large-scale portraits of Irish authors, playwrights and poets, displayed along with names of their most famous works and quotes. There were various other pieces of art, all of them focusing on people who most would consider icons in the disciplines in which they perform. (Unfortunately I was so gobsmacked that I neglected to get more than one picture!) At the end of this street was a place called The Icon Factory, an artists cooperative displaying the artwork found on the walls lining the street and offering same for sale. The woman who was working there was extremely friendly, welcomed us into the space and began regaling us with the philosophy behind the project. She was a fascinating woman! We spent about a half an hour chatting with her about the project, art, and life in Ireland. She invited us to a showing of her art at a gallery in Dublin but we had to reluctantly decline. I’m going to try to keep an eye on this project and see if it pans out. Of course, we invited her to Galway to see for herself what a culturally vibrant city it is, so maybe we will see her again…
I had misremembered the time of departure for the bus we had booked and so we had to take the one that was an hour later. That’s always a gamble because the bus driver has the discretion to not let you on…but we got lucky and got seats anyway. We got to see an absolutely gorgeous sunset from the bus on the way out of the city. Another 2.5 hours home, a quick cab ride, and we were back in our little apartment. And another exciting Irish adventure behind us!