Today, I headed to Galway. It was an easy drive and the roads were much more comfortable for me to drive on. I arrived at my B&B and was welcomed in. Mary and Tom, the owners, were very sweet and gave me a Galway map. I headed to the city center.
It was pretty crowded with people shopping in the stores along the small street. Bars and restaurants and clothing shops lined the street and a good vibe hung in the air. I stopped for lunch, a beef and cheese sandwich, at a pub. The onions kind of ruined it for me but it was cheap and the pub was super traditional. I loved it.
After that I headed down the street and found a shop that sold Claddagh Rings. Claddagh Rings, an Irish Galway tradition, are special rings worn as a symbol of love (the heart), loyalty (the crown), and friendship (the hands) and has the motto: “Let Love and Friendship Reign.” In the Claddagh village of Ireland, they were worn as wedding rings for hundreds of years but they have evolved into something a little different today.
The ring, worn on the right hand, with the crown and heart facing inwards means that you are under your lover’s spell. Worn on the right hand with the heart facing outwards is a sign that you’re not in a relationship and the ring is supposed to bring love to you. And if I understand correctly, wearing it on the left hand with the ring facing out means that you’ve been dumped recently. I was also told it is bad luck to wear it on the left hand ring finger if you are single.
It’s an interesting history and a neat design so I bought one for myself for my birthday to bring home a little bit of Irish traditon. And if the ring brings love into my life…great! And if not, it was still a pretty ring to wear.
However, I did not expect it to truly possess the power to bring men into my life.. .especially not seventeen men… no worries, I’ll explain soon enough.
That evening I ate at McDonagh’s, a seafood restaurant. It was delicious! The oysters were fresh, the fried cod was tasty and wasn’t greasy, the potatos had been cooked in a lemon mustard sauce that was to die for, and the mashed peas were surprisingly good too.
After dinner, I made myself go to a pub,. Although I feel uncomfortable going to bars alone, I made myself go into one pub to have a pint of cider after dinner. Sometimes you have to make yourself feel uncomfortable for a few moments to have an amazing experience. I hate sitting alone but I hoped that someone would talk to me and I wouldn’t look like a loser. One pint and if it didn’t happen, I would leave!
I walked into the King’s Head and was a little taken back: this was Irish Man Heaven. So this was where the good-looking Irish guys were! I grabbed a pint and sat down at a table near two women, a little bit more optimistic. I tried to look interested in the Gaelic soccer match which was playing on the TV but it was all going over my head. Ten minutes passed. Then ten more…it was starting to get a little more packed. Still not a word from anyone.
When the women got up to leave, one told me I was pretty but as she added, “I’m not lesbian or anything” which was funny. It’s like women feel uncomfortable complimenting each other in fear that someone will think they are lesbian. Still they were nice enough and then it was just me. And another ten minutes passed…
At thirty minutes or so, no one had spoken to me! I hadn’t even been hit on by any guys. I was a lone girl at a table in the middle of the bar floor and there was an empty table next to me and there were guys everywhere. What was wrong with me? I was texting my mom and I had to ask, is it me? Do Irish guys prefer a different physical appearance? Talk about a little blow to a girl’s self-esteem. I wouldn’t have lasted longer than 5 minutes alone in an American bar before someone, whether it be a friendly group of women or a guy interested in me, came and talked to me! This was a new one for me.
I had truly made up my mind to leave after I finished my pint. I was snap chatting a selfie to my friend Gina when a guy came and photobombed my picure which seemed to be his “in”” to begin talking to me.
He was a nice enough guy who told me everyone called him Pecker. I didn’t ask why. I was having a very difficult time understanding what he was saying. The noise of the bar and his thick Irish accent made it very difficult, not to mentiont that he used a lot of slang that had my head reeling. However, I didd manage to understand that he was from Wexford and was visiting Galway with friends.
He pointed to some guys that I assumed he was with and said something about one of the guys which I didn’t understand but I thought I heard “stag.” As we continued talking he pointed out that guy again and said something about him getting married and suddenly it clicked.
“Oh, is this a bachelor party?” I asked.
“Yes, a stag party. You call them bachelor parties in America.”
I had come across a stag party and it seemed there was about 17 of them.
“American bachelor parties are a little different. Usually they get crazy at a strip club,” I said.
He replied, “We went to a strip bar last night, I spent 35 euros and I didn’t even see anything!”
To which I replied, “It’s too cold to take your top off in Ireland.”
Next we were joined by a rambunctious pair of women at our table, Jane and Mary who looked to be in their 40’s or 50’s. They were a riot these two and reminded me a lot of my mom and her sisters having a wild crazy time. I didn’t understand half the jokes or sayings they said when they spoke with Pecker but it was interesting to listen to and the stuff I did understand had me laughing. They were pretty blunt! I guess I was witnessing the famous Irish banter.
From there, Pecker introduced me to all 17 of the stag party and soon I had everyone’s name down. They were all from Wexford and were a mix of late 20’s and early 30’s guys who worked as farmers, welders, builders, bus drivers, car salesman, etc. And if I can say so myself, there were a few cuties in the mix.
I still planned on leaving soon because I had to get up early and drive back to Dublin but Jane, Mary, and Pecker convinced me to bar hop with the stag party. It appeared as if I had become a part of the stag party. It was a little awkward and intimidating but they seemed like nice enough fellas and harmless and well, I had never hung out with a large group of guy as the only female of the group so it would probably be an interesting experience if anything. I could always leave if I ever fell out of my element.
At the bar we went to next I got to know a few of the guys a little bit more and they asked me about myself, why I was in Ireland, how long I was there, where I planned to go next. Most were surprised that I was traveling alone and when they found out I was traveling Ireland for my birthday month trip they sang “Happy Birthday” to me…, all seventeen Irish accents in perfect harmony, a girl’s dream come true.
Truly though, these guys reminded me of country boys that I grew up with in Texas so it was easy to feel comfortable around them and I had some cool conversations about the differences between our countries At the following bar, one asked me what I was most surprised about in Ireland and I had to admit that it was how men and women of dating age interract. He told me that Irish guys are quite a bit shier than American men hence the thirty minute wait. Although they did seem to gain some liquid courage as the night wore on and it was cute to watch them talk to girls. Their approach was free of all douchiness and lame pick-up lines and”Hey, baby girl” that girls tend to have to deal with a lot when it comes to being hit on by certain American guys. These guys seemed genuinely honest and “real” compared to guys I’ve come across in Los Angeles this last year.
They had me laughing as they jokingly blew me kisses or danced horribly off-beat or just interacted with each other as boys do. Side note for my American ladies: it seems that kissing in Ireland is a little bit more relaxed than it is in America. Irish fellas like to kiss a girl, sort of like a long peck, when they are out at the pubs. It’s not like they are trying to a make out with you because they’re not and it doesn’t even seem to be very sexual or intimate as we may think it is and I don’t think it always means they are interested in the girl. It sort of seems to be like how some people from countries greet each other with a kiss on the cheek, minus the fact that this isn’t a greeting kiss. Very hard to explain, but I find it interesting and thought it should be shared for my ladies that are comig to Ireland.
So basically we continued to hop between bars and clubs, they continued drinking their beers and I had Bulmer’s. We went to a club and it was fun to dance because the club played a lot of 90’s R&B and hip-hop.
I met some new people there. I met Kelsey from Maine and her friend Kelsey from Maine (real life is stranger than fiction) and their guy friend from Canada. Kelsey was teaching English in Spain and so it was cool to talk to her about visiting Spain. I also met their friend Liam who was Scottish and lived in New York. He said he couldn’t go to L.A. and pointed at his pale skin and red hair, “I’d burn quickly. Nope, my skin is not made for L.A.”
I think what made me laugh most that night is when one of the guys would say, “You’re fine.” And thinking he was asking me if everything was going fine or was I doing fine which is a common thing for people to ask in Texas, especially when you’re new to the group or hanging with them for the first time, I would reply, “Yeah, it’s great. I’m having fun.”
He would say “No, you’re fine. You’re looking fine.”
“I don’t get it,” I’d say. Of couse, I looked fine, everything was fine.
“You’re fine, means you’re beautiful.”
He did this about five times and all five of those times I thought he was asking me if I was doing fine! I can no longer use the word “fine” without hestitating now.
It was a good evening and I finally left the guys and returned to my B&B at about 1:00 am which was actually 2 am because Ireland’s spring time change occurs about a week after the States does and it just happened to be that night.
Although I had bought the Claddagh ring which is supposed to bring me love, or in other words, a man, I was instead brought 17 guys from a stag party, minus the stag, so 16! (By the way, he was a very nice guy, the stag, well-behaved for his stag party, and seems like he will make his wife a good husband!)
And although none of those guys turned out to be my Claddagh love (or at least I don’t think so), it was good to get out and have fun while on my vacation and even more so because I’ve been wanting to hang out with guys lately, something I haven’t really done in about a year since I moved to L.A. where I don’t have any guy friends, minus my roommate’s boyfriend.
I needed this experience because I was able to connect with a lot of strangers regardless of gender or where we were from or the slang we used or understood or didn’t understand. And to me that’s what traveling is all about: connecting with others on a human-level and sharing fun moments.
This experience far exceeded my expectations and had me laughing and enjoying myself as a solo traveler. I also thinks it goes to show that men can be very respectful and that women whether traveling at home or abroad, alone or with friends, can have positive friendly experiences with men they meet and they aren’t always made to feel uncomfortable or sexualized. What a bright new future for gender relations!
So thank you, Wexford boys, for giving me a fun Irish birthday gift in the form of your fun company!
And beside a girl needs a night out experience in the truest Irish manner…what else would I have to write about it?