Saturday was a wonderful day for boys and girls. Mike made money at the races and I had my knitting admired by many.
One of the perks of staying at a B&B is the breakfast. You can take a shower, get dressed and then simply walk across the hall to the dining room. You sit down with wet hair and your breakfast magically appears. The Periwinkle is located within walking distance of the city center, so following breakfast we packed our rain gear and my knitting and set out for town. We walked a block toward the sea and then followed the promenade along the strand. OK. In case you don’t speak Irish, that means we followed the sidewalk along the break wall that runs alongside the shore of Galway Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a lovely walk. What? Camels? Four camels lying down in the grass grazing? Seems the circus is in town and the camel owner had staked out a little pen, using a wee single strand of electric tape to allow his camels to have a bite of grass. Two humps, if you please.
We continued toward town center, walking through the Claddagh (yes, that Claddagh with the rings). You cross a beautiful bridge and you have arrived in the city center of Galway. In my bag of knitting I had packed a few unwound skeins of Koigu yarn and a hand knit sock to share with Ann O’Maille, whom I had met the day before. She was with customers when we arrived in her shop and I waited, wondering what she would think of the hand painted Canadian yarn and my work. Glory, Glory. She was awed by the colors and fineness of the yarn and said my work was extraordinary. To any non-knitter reading this, let me just tell you that this is akin to Julia Childs asking for your receipe for coq-au-vin. Of course, Needless to say, I am now very conceited.
And now to the main event for Mike. The Galway Races. Racing was to begin at 5:00. The racecourse is about a fifteen-minute bus ride from Eyre Square in downtown Galway. By 2:30 we were seated on a wall in the Square watching the busses. Mike was a bit excited and didn’t want to take a chance on being late to the races. Yawn. We sat. We watched babies in strollers. Yawn. We chatted with a young woman who was waiting for her husband to arrive, along with the other 1000 motorcyclists who were on the cross Ireland ride. Yawn. We sat. We remained seated until a girl from Indiana walked right up to us, sat down and said “HI. How are you guys?” Well, the American accent and the friendly way made me think we must know her. She and I chatted for a few minutes about the weather and the lovely day. Finally I said, “Excuse me. Do I know you?” Nope. She said she was traveling through Europe for eleven months, camping with a group of other Christians who were going to pray for peace everywhere they visited. We smiled, wished her luck and left the wall before she could ask us for money or worse, to pray with her.
The bus dropped us off a block from the racecourse and we were only an hour early for the first race. The bookies weren’t even set up yet. I staked out a lovely spot inside the grandstand area where I could knit away and Mike wouldn’t have to worry about me. He was free to handicap the races, watch the horses being led to the track and do the mental exercise of shopping the bookies.
The real fancy Galway races are held in July, for one week, and they are attended by upwards of 40,000 race fans. The August races are just four days and might attract only 8,000-10,000 fans. But, what a sight. The stands look out over the ruins of a castle tower in the infield and all the way out to the Aran Islands, sitting in Galway Bay. The track itself is a turf course with several configurations to suit different flat distances as well as steeplechase and hurdle racing over jumps. The races are run clockwise and the course undulates. As the field heads for the second turn, the track dips. The last turn, just before the stretch runs uphill and one lap is roughly a mile and a half with the race distance being 2.5 to 2.75 miles. The fans are quite well dressed and really know their horses. I watched boys of around seven years old standing with their dads. As the horses came up the hill for the final turn, these boys were jumping around, waving their fists, calling their horse’s names and willing them to finish well. It was lovely to hear the announcer calling out the winner of the race, followed by the horses in second, turd, fort and fit place. Racing is Irish.
Mike was Euros ahead for the day so we took a taxi back to town and celebrated a great day with a wonderful dinner and wine.
Today was to be much of the same. When we crossed the hall for breakfast, the two smaller tables were already seating other guests. Two men preparing for a day trip to the Aran Islands were at one table. A mother and father with two sullen early teen daughters were at a table for four. This left a table of six for Mike and me. We sat at one end and had just started sipping our coffee when four men arrived to claim the other four seats. They were in town for the races. We enjoyed a very lively breakfast with them. Of course the talk was mostly about racing but we did spend a bit of time getting to know a little about each other’s lives. The four men are from the midlands of England and travel to race meets quite regularly. We all shared little stories of our lives. I told them about seeing the camels the day before. This naturally turned to subject to circuses, in general. The short man at the end of the table then began to tell us about some of the adventures his son had had while he traveled the country as A Human Cannonball. He had to quit the life though because he became so accomplished that he was in great danger of overshooting the net. The other three men backed up this story and all said how talented this young man had been as a cannonball. But, they assured me that the actual shooting was all done with springs and the explosive charge is not real dynamite. That’s just for show. I swear I am not making this up.
Mike had another great day of betting and we were forced to find another wonderful restaurant and drink another lovely bottle of wine.