Sunday, November 6, 2011

Moving on...(or back in time) to Galway

So now that we've established that life doesn't always turn out the way we planned, I'm more than ready to move on. Back in October, I spent five wonderful days in Ireland, and I really want to continue writing about my journeys there. In my last post on my trip, I wrote about Galway, the city about 2.5 hours west from Dublin that looks out onto the Atlantic ocean.

As opposed to my time in Dublin, which was wild and raucous and yes, a little touristy (I toured the Jameson Distillery, after all!), my three days in Galway were quieter...a little wistful and contemplative and cosy, spent in the company of Iain's delightful, welcoming family. I was promised by a fellow traveler that I would love Galway, and indeed, I was captivated by its charms. I don't want to say that Dublin is not "authentic" Ireland, but it is a capital city and I do subscribe to the theory that if the capital is all you see of a new place, you haven't really gotten a taste of genuine life in that country. Galway was much more laidback and not as touristy (although there are tourists everywhere, and they usually tend to be Americans, as evidenced by one couple walking down Shop Street decked out in brand-new woolly Aran sweaters, Guinness toques, and the Stars and Stripes proudly emblazoned on their backpacks, whilst queuing outside the new Tommy Hilfiger!).

Back in his hometown after 14 months:
Iain on Shop Street,
going for the "wistful and weary returning Prodigal Son" look.

In front of the Spanish Arch, built in 1584.
As a port city, Galway did a lot of shipping business with the Spaniards.

"The tea doesn't care who may drink it":
Inside Galway's 2010 Best Cafe for a delicious lunch

Lynch's Castle - where legend has it that
a father hung (or lynched) his son!

Yes, the sun does come out in Ireland, and the effect
is beautiful.

We picked up some gingerbread from a little
bakery and ate it while sitting down on the harbour quay looking
out at this rainbow-coloured collection of houses.

County Clare in the background

The art of the perfect pour: waiting for our
Guinness at Sean O'Neachtain's pub

If you're interested in polls (I, personally, lost a lot of faith in polls when I read one that ranked Canada as the fourth uncoollest country in the world - I'm sorry, Iraq beat us in the cool factor?!?), then Galway was ranked one of the eight sexiest cities in the world in 2007, and in 2008 was the 42nd best tourist destination in the world. I can't vouch for these claims, but I can urge every visitor to Ireland to discover Galway for yourself. And enjoy a pint or two of Guinness while you're at it!

Friday, November 4, 2011

When life gives you lemons, make sangria

Update from the Andalucia region in Southern Spain:

First of all, Spain is INCREDIBLE. Beautiful weather, mouthwatering tapas, the best mojitos and sangria I have ever tasted (especially the local Seville version of sangria, tinto de verrano), stunning Moorish architecture, and scenery that literally just makes your jaw drop.

So, my whole "pack up and explore Spain with two random guys" thing has actually turned out brilliantly.

But, other things going on right now in my life haven't been that great. Basically, I was told the night before I flew to Spain that my job as an au-pair was, essentially, over and that they didn't want me any longer. Part of me really, really wants to defend myself right now, because I feel like anyone reading this would be like, "well, what was WRONG with you? You must have done something awful." To be honest, I'm not sure what it was I did or failed to do, but I won't get into details here because I certainly don't want to be a mud-slinger and I'm trying to approach the whole situation with grace and dignity. There's no point in being passive-aggressive or accusatory, nor do I really want to victimize myself or villainize the family I was working for. So all I'll say for now is that it obviously is throwing quite the wrench into my plans not only for the next year, but even just for the next week. I have nowhere to go and I have to survive for a week before my flight back to Canada.

Right now I'm looking into hostels and couch-surfing, and trying really hard not to panic. On top of the immediate need to resolve where I'm going to be sleeping for the next week, there's the emotions of "I feel like a failure" that I'm trying to deal with. But I need to look at this next little while like another opportunity to seize and to grow from. Spending this past week in Spain has helped my attitude immeasurably - maybe its something of this Spanish "joie de vivre" and laidback approach! Or it could be the weather - how can one stay depressed when you're surrounded by palm trees? Or it could be the glasses of tinto de verrano I've been downing in Marbella, Seville, Cadiz, Granada... :)

Either way, I just wanted to take this time right now to say that yep, I'm alive, I'm healthy, I've got a place to call home and return to, and wonderful family and friends who have supported me throughout this ordeal wholeheartedly. I flash back to my first night in Russia (one of the scariest nights of my life!) and I think, "Ok, if I survived that, and I survived three weeks of no heat or hot water in my flight in December," I can survive this. Its not ideal, its not what I planned or dreamed about in my preparations for England, but its okay.

When life gives us lemons, use them to make some really nice sangria (or, if you're in Seville, you can be all cultured and call it the local version, the aforementioned tinto de verrano that is so, so bueno)!