Galway, Ireland – Books & Bookstores

For fellow bibliophiles, should you go to any of these places, leave your wallet in the safe at the hostel – especially if you have credit cards. Leave your pack in storage as well, because if your reaction is anything like mine you will want to simply move in to one of these kickass bookstores (again, not a complete listing, just a smattering, as there are scads of hole-in-the-wall secondhand bookstores all over town):

Eason’s – Shop Street.

A bit like a scaled-down Barnes & Noble (for the Americans) or Waterstones (for the Brits), Eason’s is a chain bookstore with branches all over Ireland. They also sell newspapers and magazines from all over the country and around the world, so this is a good place to stock up on regional newspapers, or to find out the news in your home country.

Charlie Bryne’s – The Cornstore, Cross & Middle streets.

Secondhand, discount, new books (often discounted), review copies, a book exchange… I’d go on, but my near-obscene love for books is making me quiver. A couple of carts and shelves outside hold literary and discounted paperbacks, many of which can be picked up for just a couple of quid.

Hughes & Hughes – Galway Shopping Centre, Headford Road.

I’ve not gotten to check this place out yet, as it’s a bit outside the city centre and whenever I have the time to make the walk, it’s bleedin’ raining, but all the same this is supposed to be a cool place, and it has its own coffee shop.

Kenny’s Bookshop – Shop Street and Middle Street.

Not only a 3-level bookstore, but an art gallery as well. What more could you ask for? Food, a bed and a lamp, as far as I’m concerned. Rare and antique books, as well as an excellent stock of secondhands. The art gallery hosts exhibitions; however, I’ve not really checked it out, having restricted my delving into the visual arts here to the awesome posters lining the stairs. All in all, a must-see.

Also, if you have bibliophile loved ones, Kenny’s will put together a Book Hamper for them: a collection of books, the recipient’s interests selected by you, compiled by Kenny’s and delivered anywhere in the world – hint, hint (just e-mail for my mailing address).

Sub City – Eyre Square Centre (near the escalators across from Kaytoo).

Okay, it’s a comic book shop, but still, just because you’re abroad doesn’t mean you can’t keep up with The Flash, The Crow, or even Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Stocks Pokemon, Star Wars and Star Trek (as if I need to say it), as well as Transmetropolitan, Preacher, and all the other underground books, like Johnny The Homicidal Maniac, that we all know and love.

There’s more to learning about a place than Lonely Planet or, dare I say it, even BootsnAll. Sometimes you just have to turn off the computer and crack the covers of something other than a travel guide, so pick up some of these texts for a greater understanding of Ireland. (Titles marked with ‘*’ can also be found in the Galway Library.)

* Celtic Britain and Ireland, A.D. 200-800: The Myth of the Dark Ages
By Lloyd and Jennifer Laing. Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 1990.

Celtic Mythology
Translated by Proinsias MacCana. London, 1968.

* How the Irish Saved Civilization: The Untold Story of Ireland’s Heroic Role from the Fall of Rome to the Rise of Medieval Europe
By Thomas Cahill. New York: Anchor Books, 1995.

(Some comment here: A widely renowned book that details just what the title says. Believe it or not, the Irish are responsible not only for returning literacy and culture to Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire, but also for introducing things such as monastic culture. Aside from all the knowledge, it’s also just a damn good read.)

Tain Bo Cuailnge [The Cattle Raid of Cooley]
Translated by Thomas Kinsella. London: Oxford, 1970.

(Some comment here as well: I’m not sure how widely available the Tain is, but it’s worth checking out as it is to the ancient Celts what the Aeneid was to the Romans, or what the Iliad was to the Greeks.)

The Reader’s Companion to Ireland
Edited by Alan Ryan. New York: Harcourt Brace & Co., 1999.

(And a wee bit more comment: A selection of some of the ‘best’ travel writers’ writing about Ireland, up through the 1990s. Good stuff.)

Field and Shore: Daily Life and Traditions, Aran Islands 1900

Edited by Paul O’Sullivan, revised by Nora Godwin. Dublin: O’Brien Educational Ltd., 1977. Reprinted 1989. (You can find this in the hostel on Inisheer.)

The Galway Magazine: The Essential Guide to Galway
May 2000-April 2001 edition. Available in Tourist Office and newsagents for IR�1.50. More a tourist rag, but still has some useful info.

Irish Is Fun! A New Course in Irish for the Beginner
Using cartoon and simple exercises, a good intro to the Irish language. Available in the Galway Tourist Office for IR�4.40.

Island Stories: Tales and Legends from the West
Edited by Paul O’Sullivan, revised by Nora Godwin. Dublin: O’Brien Educational Ltd., 1977. Reprinted 1989. (You can find this in the hostel on Inisheer.)

General Info

As far as small cities go, Galway is pretty multi-faceted: one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe (though the present population is about 60,000), a cultural capitol of Ireland, a seaport, the capitol of County Galway, a student town, etc, etc.

For traveling the west of Ireland, it’s a good city to base yourself in, or at least set out from, as places such as the Burren, Connemara, and the Aran Islands are all easily accessed from Galway.

The River Corrib runs through Galway and empties into Galway Bay to the south; the river also separates the city centre from the Claddagh, an old fishing village on the west.

To the northwest of the city centre is the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG). The city centre itself is compact and pedestrian friendly (most of it is pedestrian access only), and a local bus service is provided to suburbs.

Prices are a bit lower in Galway than in Dublin (you’ll pay about IR�2.20 for a pint, instead of at least IR�2.50), and the city itself feels more like a small town that has gained the sophistication, but not the crime and dinge of a larger city. Coffee shops and cafes abound, and in the summertime Galway is the epicenter of many cultural festivals. Many local pubs nightly feature live music, usually traditional Irish.

This is an eclectic place; much of the architecture is Spanish, as from the 13th to the 17th centuries Galway conducted a lot of trade with Spain. Fishermen walk around with professors, and once June arrives salmon swimming upstream can still be seen from many of the city’s bridges (such as the Salmon Weir Bridge).

Though more so in the county than in the city, Galway, despite all its European and American influences, is also one of the main Irish-speaking regions in the country.

The most annoying thing about Galway is the weather. Winters are said to be miserable, and during the summer months (as opposed to the ‘summer season’) expect it to be sunny and hot one day, raining and cold the next. You’ll soon get used to wearing shorts with your winter coat, however, and sunglasses with your umbrella.

For help in getting around town, go to Eason’s bookshop (O’Connell Street in Dublin, or Shop Street in Galway) and put down IR�3.50 for the Galway Street Atlas, a small, pink, spiral-bound indexed street atlas published by Ordnance Survey Ireland.