Traveling to Ireland couldn't have been easier. I left Newark on a direct 6-hour flight into Shannon, about an hour and a half south of Galway. I wasn't really ready for the schedule of the Irish winter, though, with sunrise not until around 8 am. So basically we flew in under complete darkness, which really ruined my plan for a nice aerial arrival shot from the plane. The rose quickly though, already up in the sky by the time we emerged from the airport.
The bus ride to Galway showed off some of the great country scenery that you would expect in Ireland. The road north runs right along the west coast of the island, and with the sun still low in the morning sky, the countryside looked very picturesque. One of the things that I've noticed about the landscape (and will try to show in pictures) is the bright colors of the country in person. The grass is a very lush bright green, and the water a very deep dark blue. The countryside really does look like a stereotypical postcard of from Ireland; sheep and cows roam the side of the road, separated by centuries old low limestone walls. We passed in and out of small villages along the way, as the much maligned Irish highway system still passes through the direct center of all the towns that line the way between the big cities.
I arrived in Galway at 10 am local time, half a mile from my apartment, and decided to save myself the 10 euro for a taxi and do a little exploring on foot while looking for my building (Attempting to save Euros has become a fairly constant theme of my time here). The walk to Niland house, my home for the next 5 months, took me right through Eyre square, the grassy quad right in the middle of downtown Galway, and a very scenic part of the city.
Niland House is ... adequate at best. The location cannot be matched; it sits one block east of the city center and one block west of the wharf and the bar. The amenities on the other hand are .. interesting to say the least. Our hot water works occasionally, provided you turn on the hot water heater at exactly the right time (10 minutes before you intend to get in) and get out of the shower in about 5. For anyone who is familiar with my love of showers, this has really been rough going. Our heat didn't work the first few days, apparently because the landlord, Oliver, simply forgot to turn on the utilities before we got there, so the first few nights were pretty cold. Adding to the cold temps is the fact that the window of my bedroom doesn't close, which in addition to making my sleeps cold (which i actually like) also allows me to hear every thing that is happening on the city street below (drunk irishmen at 5 am on the other hand can get annoying). Our "wireless broadband internet" is actually just one internet hook-up, which i really wouldn't mind, but we're pretty sure that Oliver has just paid for one hookup for the whole building and has split it between 30 apartments or so, resulting in some of the slowest internet I have used that isn't dial-up. Our "satellite tv," is wild. It gets about 3-8 channels depending on the day, and is controlled with 3 buttons on the tv that somehow, in certain combinations, control every function. We have yet to figure most out, though we did just discover how to change the channel a few days ago. Our washer and dryer is, not are. That is apparently they are both the same thing, but as of yet we haven't figured out how to dry things with it. I plan on not doing laundry since I've heard that even when the dryer "works" it doesn't work. Our stove has one working burner and the oven presumably works but the dials have worn away their markings, rendering it relatively useless (Oliver has told one of my roommates that we just need to use "intuition," which though true is a pretty bold thing to say). Anyway enough of complaining about the place; I actually really like the place and couldn't be happier. The location saves us 10 euro a night easily taking taxis into town, and the 3 extra pints that buys a night is worth the troubles.
A word on Oliver Niland - He is apparently one of the richest men on the west coast of Ireland, presumably from family money because he really doesn't have great organizational skills. He neglected to separate all the visiting students (his main tenant) before we all got here which resulted in him first asking us to do it ourselves, and then when that didn't work in him moving people around constantly for about 4 days or so. Luckily I wasn't one of the ones who got moved into several apartments, but I know some who still have the threat of moving 10 days after move-in.
Here are some photos of the place - 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, 4 person apartment, really all that I could have asked for. My roommates are all great, which is really what I worried about the most.
(for reference, if you want to sound like a local, "cheers" roughly rhymes with "hers")