Dona and Joe’s European Vacation: 2020 Version – Day 16

The Wind, The Music, The Hotel

Today was Galway day. There’s something exciting about being able to travel across an entire country by train in just a couple of hours. Since it’s only 204 kilometers (127 miles) from Dublin to Galway, and the trains get up to 90 mph, it’s not a bad trip.

Joe in front of Nora Barnacle’s (James Joyce’s wife) house in Galway. And yes, there’s the hat. By the way, Nora is reported to have said to James after he wrote Finnegan’s Wake, “Why don’t you write books people can read?”

Everyone here we spoke to said Galway was a great city for a day trip. It definitely has the potential for that, with tons of pubs and restaurants, and a few other places of interest. But the weather today didn’t cooperate. The wind was a steady 20+ mph, with gusts that had to be at least 50, since they were strong enough to move Dona and unbalance Joe.

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We’re been noticing throughout our trip that Europeans seem enamored of decades-old American music. (I think we noticed this during last year’s trip too.) Everywhere we’ve gone we’ve listened (maybe a better word is endured) oldies from the ’80s and ’90s. On the train this morning we saw an article in the Irish Times about an attempt to establish an Elvis Presley museum on the island—our seat mate, a lovely older woman, confirmed it. It really sunk in during lunch, when Joe realized he’d heard more Whitney Houston songs in the last three weeks than he’d heard in the past twenty years. Maybe this is just a tourist area thing, but even then it doesn’t reflect well on the culture here.

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So how nice is our hotel? Our travel agent, Jill Walker, found us a great deal at the Hotel Merrion, a five-star establishment in Dublin. Locals have told us that the month of January is primo for visitors, as the crowds are less dense, and hotels are eager to book people. ’Tis true. The staff at the Merrion leaves nothing uncared for—food, service, friendliness—all are among the best we’ve ever experienced. I could go on, but I think this says it all: Joe has been reading a book he bought in Lisbon. Since he didn’t bring a bookmark, he’s been using the bookstore receipt to mark his progress. One of the staff here, when s/he came in to turn down the bed for the evening while we were out, must have thought, oh no this will never do, and substituted a Merrion bookmark for the paper one. Now that, friends, is attention to detail.

– Dona and Joe