Today was my last day in Galway, and I've spent it mostly wandering about. I went on a lovely coastal walk from Galway to the resort suburb of Salthill on the wonderful bike/walking promenade they have right on the sea, and while it would have been an even prettier walk if it had been, say, sunny like it has been most of the week, I can't begrudge the super-Irish rainy cloudy weather I did have. It was still lovely.
I don't quite know why I like Ireland so much; it's not just difficult to put into words, but it's hard for me to even tell. Part of what I like are the same things I liked so much about New Zealand - friendly people, lovely countryside, ease of travel, charming scenery, lots to see and do, but a really easygoing feel as well. Cute little towns, liveable cities, a climate that I weirdly really like, a great accent to boot. But somehow it's more than that.
Maybe it's just that Ireland takes what I already liked - the quaint Britishness that appeals to me on a very basic level (I've long since had this weird fascination with living in London, which I credit mostly to reading too much British chick lit. So really, it's not that I want to live in London, I want to live in British chick lit. Sort of how I loved living in New York, but I REALLY wanted to live in 1940s film noir New York. I would have made a stupendous dame.) - and combines it with an approachability and an ease that I have grown to appreciate. Recent years and my travels have given me a newfound like of coutnryside and population sparsity, so Ireland is a good combination of the urban and the twee widdle village worlds. So far, Cork is probably the favorite city that I've seen in Ireland, and I would go back there in a heartbeat. But really, what I would love to do is come back some day when I have a valid driver's license and go explore the parts of the country (read: most of it) that you can't get to via public transit or bus tours.
There is something about the Irish, though, that I just don't fit in with. Primarily, it is that I don't drink beer. I would like to think that this is not a problem, but let's be honest: all the shops and everything closes at 5 or 6. People eat dinner at 6. It stays light in the summer until like 10. What is there to do in between? Judging by the storefronts, there's lots of pubs, smoking, and bookmaking. The Irish like their vice, clearly, but it's not MY vice. It's a mix of the old Catholic values and the listless urban ones, and somehow I fit in with neither.
Even so, as far as it goes, there is little better than biking along the Irish countryside. Can't beat that.