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Volvo Ocean Race Finale 2012, Galway, Ireland

Galway was proud host to one of the biggest sailing races in the world, the Volvo Ocean Race, over the last few weeks. Here are a few photos of the experience. As well as in-port racing and sailing demonstrations, visitors were treated to free concerts every night and fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July for the American contingent. Galway was alive during the race and did its utmost to make sure everyone had a good time. Hopefully the race will stop in Galway again in 2015.

Eyre Square transformed into a mini-funfair for the kids

Galway Docks- Leisure boats

A crowd waits for the Saw Doctors to perform

Galway Bay

The Main Stage

A selection of the racing boats, including Abu Dhabi, Groupama and Camper

The famed “Sails” in Eyre Square were covered in patchwork by a local school

Galway Docks with Ferris wheel in the distance

Jordan Trip Report: Getting there and Settling in

Our tale starts on the Galway-Dublin Citylink bus. Strangely, the bus driver had no uniform and appeared from nowhere. I wondered for a moment if some random Polish guy in a football jersey had decided he’d like to drive a bus tonight.I decided to go with it.

A Chinese guy was playing mandarin rap, loudly. I shouldn’t have been surprised, I have a bad track record with bus travel and foreign rap. (One memorable 13 hour trip from Vegas to San Francisco listening to more Mexican rap than I ever needed to hear being the best example).

When we reached Dublin airport, we bypassed the horror that was Terminal 2 and its queues to get to Terminal 1.
I set off the alarm going through security. No biggie. (As mentioned in my ode to Glasgow, this happens all the time). I was told to take off my shoes, then lightly frisked. Still sounding. The security guard broke out the magic wand to sweep me. It went off. She looked excited and wheeled out a contraption. It looked like one of those giant scales in shopping centres where you can weigh yourself and test your blood pressure. There was a  picture of a foot on the metal platform.

Did I mention that the date was the 11th of September and I was flying to the Middle East? Yeah. I placed one foot on the picture and stood with my arms out straight while the guard swept me and frisked me a little more vigorously this time. She told me the contraption was so she could get more “leverage” to frisk. This was not as comforting as she might have imagined. I repeated the procedure with the other foot, the other passengers looking quite amused at this stage, and relieved it wasn’t happening to them. The wand sounded at my boobs.

Frisky McFriskerson grinned and said she wanted to “focus more on the chest area”. I felt like she could at least have bought me a drink first. She proceeded to feel that region, eventually conceding (with evident disappointment) that my bra was to blame. My boobs would not take down national security that day. But be warned: they may strike again at any time.

We reached Heathrow Airport for our connecting flight and had a bit of a wait. We killed time by people-watching. There’s a children’s playground situated strategically by a “Toy Box” shop in order to maximise sales. The cashier wandered around in fairy wings and wafted bubbles in the children’s direction, trying to entice them (and their parents’ wallets) to her like a twisted Pied Piper.
To my complete surprise, a guy I became friends with while flyering for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival  was on our flight. He’s Jordanian and was going home for a short visit.

The first person we met in Jordan was an Irish guy. (Of course). I had spotted him eyeballing us in Heathrow and wasn’t sure why. Apparently he saw us, thought we “looked Irish” and wanted to give us a helping hand, greeting us with:
“Are ye irish? What are you doing here? I haven’t seen Irish tourists here since February”. (No-one could get past him, apparently).

As the queue of disembarking passengers was entirely made up of returning Jordanians and middle-aged English businessmen, I had no trouble believing him that Amman was not exactly the Lanzarote of Irish tourism. He worked in Amman for a Swiss bank as a programmer and had been there for little over a year.
He turned out to be our saviour as Jordanian queues are lackadaisical at best and he had the insider track on how to navigate them. The baffling visa line was a kind of abstract pentagram shape, with no-one quite sure what direction they should be facing. Some of us were moved into the “Jordanians only” line to help speed things along.  The actual Jordanians looked very confused.

I had a brief conversation with a guard about my business in Jordan and my plans. He took a picture of me and then filled my passport with stamps.
After scanning our luggage just before leaving the airport (not sure of the logic of this), we made it outside to the chaos. In the darkness we headed to the taxi rank, where everybody was yelling at each other even though no-one was angry. This bled over to the driving style displayed by the drivers. It’s a bit…gung-ho. Everyone beeps their horn, as naturally as you would use the clutch. Our driver put on an english-language radio station. I caught him singing along to “Love is a Battlefield” under his breath. I joined him.

Ammanians decorate their shops with neon lights, which anywhere else would look tacky. Everyone on the streets was loud and boisterous and energetic. Small mobile food stalls had popped up to catch people seeking a late dinner. Amman is a city of hills, you feel like there is no house you cannot see at one time. Like the whole city is participating in something.

We arrived at our accommodation, Abbasi Palace. “Palace” may have been an overstatement but I liked it immediately. It was located on the kind of street where you would struggle to find a bottle of water to buy but where you could procure a mobile phone at 3am without stepping outside your door.The manager was in high spirits and made us tea while he got our room key. I don’t like tea but I appreciated the gesture and drank as much as I could. Tea is serious business in Jordan. (One of the many similarities between the Irish and the Jordanians). We quickly became accustomed to the toilet paper “situation” (similar to countries like Mexico, toilet paper is discarded in the bin rather than flushed) before heading to bed, exhausted.

We planned to do a tour of Madaba, Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea the next day.

Do you love where you’re from?

It’s normal to take the place we live for granted every now and again. I often find myself staring blankly at tourists when I see them excitedly taking photos of what, to me, is pretty mundane stuff. You’re taking 10 pictures of that shop-front? Okay…

It’s nice to see your hometown through fresh eyes sometimes. To see the beauty you’ve become desensitised to. I’m lucky in that I’ve always thought of my home (Galway, in Ireland) as beautiful. I don’t take the time to appreciate it enough, though.

That’s going to change. I went to the beach near my house today and even though I’ve been there hundreds of times, I stood and looked around as if seeing it for the first time. Taking it all in, not just physically being there.

Be a tourist in your hometown for once, you never know what you might stumble across or “see” for the first time.

Galway Bay

30 Days of Indie Travel- Day 13…HOME (Galway, Ireland)

BootsnAll says: For some people, no matter how much they love traveling, there’s always no place like home. Other travelers make their homes wherever they happen to be. Tell us about your home – where is it and why do you consider it your home?

My home is the city of Galway, in Ireland. I’m horribly biased of course, but I would rather live here than anywhere else.

I think Galway strikes that perfect balance between traditional Irish village and exciting capital city. It prides itself on being a bi-lingual city (Irish and English) as it is so close to the Irish-speaking areas of Ireland (Na Gaeltachtaí). It is home to many different nationalities and has one of the most vibrant arts scenes in the country.

Galway attracts a lot of artistic types, with a reputation for being a bit “hippyish”. Its cobbled streets and medieval buildings attract multituded of tourists but it hasn’t quite been overwhelmed by them yet, often being overlooked for Dublin.

Galway has the benefit of being a city with the atmosphere of a town. You are very likely to meet someone you know when walking the main streets and it has a very friendly feel overall.

A short drive outside the city, you reach the spectacular scenery of Connemara, a national park.

A trio of islands just off the coast (Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oirr) are home to what I consider to be the greatest and most dramatic site in Ireland, Dún Aonghusa a ring fort overlooking a cliff with a sheer drop into the Atlantic Ocean.

Dún Aonghusa

Galway is home to me because I always feel safe here, that there is a shared bond and sense of humour in all Galwegians. It’s a place where I feel close to city life while still feeling part of Irish culture. As a university city, there is always a sense of youth and vibrancy and the number of theatres and writers means there is a great creative scene that is nice to be a part of.

National University of Ireland, Galway