At Home Abroad ~ Galway Girl – H91
by Regina Costello
Yup, that’s right, postal codes have arrived in Ireland. The River Corrib in Galway conveniently divides the city into east and west and is further divided into six zones. We parked in H91 (Kilcolgan, County Galway).
Becoming savvier travelers with each adventure, we simplified this journey with just carry-on luggage and backpacks. Global entry passes coupled with a tailwind of 100mph resulted in an effortless crossing with an arrival in Shannon in less than six hours. What do ya know! We arrived to a fine, clear drizzle free morning!
Welcomed at the gate by the Kilcolgan cousins, the craic began before we even made it to the car hire queue. Cousins yapping like they only saw each other yesterday.
My brother Brendan and I engaged in our usual brother-sister smart aleck banter while my sister in law Stef laughingly rolled her eyes, no doubt thinking “how the heck will I last these weeks with these 2 messers!” Thankfully Deepak is here, so there will be some sanity in the house!”
Walking outside to pick up the car, I basked breathing in the fresh cool crisp air. I can smell it. It’s like therapy. I love it. The four cousins hurriedly wriggled their way into Brendan’s car, because my two wanted to hang out with his kids, Hugh and Laura. I knew there was another reason…. They love how he drives! Fast! Bumpy! And the car on occasion lifts slightly off the road for a second with speed.
No jet lag in the Costello household that day. The kids belted around the garden on bikes and scooters. The basketball hoop was put to good use. A display impressive antics on the trampoline entertained us from the patio and living room.
That evening, the yard looked like a bunch of hooligans spent the afternoon there – empty water bottles scattered on the lawn. Hurley sticks and sliotars flung near the goal, soccer ball stuck in the hedge, bikes and scooters strewn along the driveway. In truth – they were hooligans. Evidence of a day well spent.
Hungry from the day’s events and excitement, Stef and Deepak got working on a chicken curry for dinner. My sister Miriam came in from Salthill for the night and we were up late chatting and catching up on times gone by. The following day more family from overseas arrived.
The Westport Costellos came to celebrate a big birthday for Miriam, along with her retirement from teaching at Tirellan Heights National School. A lot to celebrate this time at home with the best company, which of course is family, and a tightly stuffed fridge that quite honestly had to be replenished daily with trips to Tesco and Dunnes that usually involved a stop at Centra in Clarinbridge because they do actually serve the best 99’s on the planet.
We continued our tradition of a night out at Keogh’s of Kinvarra, a village pub that is a stone’s throw from the brother’s house. Run by the Best Man at Brendan and Stef’s wedding, who married a girl in my class in school in Salthill, Chris and Louise have transformed this pub into a thriving establishment of great music, wonderful food and friendly service.
Bowls of creamy, piping hot seafood chowder, plates of fresh beet salad, crispy seafood baskets with sides of freshly made curry chips were eagerly eaten and downed with pints of well poured Guinness. Kids feasted on steaks, chicken and cokes. When their bellies were full and boredom ensued, they looked for opportunities to sneak sips of the black stuff.
We bribed the kids to come into Galway city with promises of Starbucks in the Eyre Square Shopping Center. Once that was accomplished, we knew they would settle down and enjoy the atmosphere that is unique to Galway.
Buskers on the streets, a wide variety of tiny shops to meander around in, a world market near St. Nicholas’s Collegiate Church on Yard Street to browse through. The little market is a haven of handmade arts and crafts, including jewelry, paintings, purses and more. The kids got in on the action and I was thrilled that Neil purchased a Galway registration plate that readspógmothóin. A perfect addition to his bedroom wall. A stroll down Quay street and a browse through the Spanish Arch completed the city experience for me.
Our day in the Burren was fraught with clouds and pesky rain, but we found respite at the Burren Perfumery, where we partook of a guided tour, and refreshments in the adjacent coffee shop. We anchored at Moran’s on The Weir for the night. This world-famous oyster and seafood cottage that dates back more than 250 years, with seven generations of family running the restaurant lived up to its’ reputation. Another gem on the brother’s door step.
On the last night, Deepak caught up with some old buddies from his time living in Ireland before we made a home in Cleveland. Willie Walsh, Mick O’Kane and Harry (Pat Harrolds) were as usual, decent enough to make it to Galway, driving from Westport, Killaloe and Nenagh to meet with whom they lovingly call “The Elephant Farmer from Cavan.” The foursome have been friends going on 30 years. I’m grateful Deepak has this connection to Ireland. A trip to the old sod is never without this reunion.
Difficult goodbyes though softened with words of “arragh, feck it anyway, we’ll see yez before ya know it! ………… we’ll skype yez on the weekend………we’ll talk soon” did not take away much of the sting As always, we were back on that damm plane far too soon.
Our only comfort was our excitement to pick up Boo! We missed our Ashley a lot and couldn’t wait to see her and shower her with love and beg for her forgiveness for leaving her with only a wonderful, kind, loving dog sitter.
Back in Cleveland, we are remembering many things of our wonderful time with family. Lots of happy memories for my kids and relationships with cousins further cemented.
I know I feel at home abroad fast. My mind is spinning with lists of school supplies shopping, orientation meetings for schools, dropping and picking up kids from this practice, that practice, and gentle nudges from a certain JOBJr to send in a certain column. In spite of all this, I am determined to make time to miss and touch base with my family and roots from my home abroad.
*Regina is a graduate of History and Philosophy from the National University of Ireland, Galway and a post graduate of Library and Information Studies from the National University of Ireland, Dublin. She is the former Assistant Librarian of the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin, former Curator of the Irish American Archives of The Cleveland History Center (WRHS); former Executive Director of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument Commission and former Executive Director of the Northern Ohio Rose Center. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Mayo Society of Greater Cleveland. She can be reached at [email protected]