Paula invites you to visit Galway in the west of Ireland, which features in all her 'Irish' books.
Galway lies on the River Corrib where it enters Galway Bay. The Irish name for the river is Gaillimhe, meaning stony river, and the original settlement was called Dun Bhun na Gaillimhe, ‘fort at the mouth of the Gaillimhe.’
One of Galway’s nicknames is ‘City of the Fourteen Tribes’ which refers to the merchant families who controlled the city in the Middle Ages. They are remembered in the flags which fly in Eyre Square in the centre of the city, and also in the names of the roundabouts (traffic circles) on the Galway ring road.
The city thrived on international trade in the Middle Ages, especially with France and Spain, and the ‘Spanish Arch’ was constructed near the harbour in the 16th century.
There is also a legend that Christopher Columbus visited Galway. Several years later, he wrote a note in his copy of Imago Mundi, saying, ‘Men of Cathay have come from the west. We have seen many signs. And especially in Galway in Ireland, a man and a woman of extraordinary appearance have come to land on two tree trunks.’ It is said that this is what persuaded him to sail across the Atlantic, having seen the signs of a land beyond the ocean. This monument was presented by the city of Genoa to Galway on the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America.
Adjacent to the city is Claddagh, originally a small fishing village outside the city walls. The thatched cottages were demolished in the 1930s, and colour washed stone houses now line the quayside.
And, of course, there is Galway Bay, one of the largest inlets on the west coast of Ireland. About 30 miles long, and between 6 and 19 miles wide, it separates County Galway in the north and County Clare in the south. Here’s the view of the bay from one of the hotels I stayed at on the promenade at Salthill, Galway’s seaside suburb.
From one of our favourite restaurants on the coast, a few miles west of Galway, we once saw a beautiful rainbow over the bay (but not the pot of gold at the rainbow’s end!).
And here, near the western end, is where the bay meets the Atlantic. If you sailed due west from here, you’d reach Goose Bay in Labrador.
One of my favourite Irish songs starts:
“If you ever go across the sea to Ireland
Then maybe at the closing of your day
You will sit and watch the moon rise over Claddagh
Or see the sun go down on Galway Bay.”
One evening we hoped to see the sun set on the bay, but got stuck in a traffic jam on the way. Watching the sun go down on the Galway Ring Road isn’t quite the same! But the next evening, we reached the small beach at Furbo in time to see the sun going down on Galway Bay, one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen.