We woke up to the to the 4th of July.
Rather, we were starting ours before America was waking up to theirs.
We had a bit of a lot on the agenda— we were visiting a 2 Michelin star restaurant called ANIAR [meaning “the west”…a “terroir based restaurant located in Galway’s West End”] to talk with chef and restauranteur, JP McMahon.
Not only does he have 3 restaurants in Galway [Tartare, a cafe by day and wine bar by night with a GORGEOUS website + Cava Bodega, a delectable tapas bar with a very Latin yet uniquely Irish feel]… but TWO of those restaurants have Michelin stars. Crazy.
JP was such a cool guy. He was decked in tattoos, topped with a happy grin beneath a stylishly untamed beard of wiry orange.
Unlocking and opening his restaurant early to accommodate us between a busy schedule of restaurant-ing and fish obtaining, he unpacked for us his growing up, how he fell in love with food, his academic-turned restaurant businessman journey, and most importantly— his food mission, which includes a lot of things, not limited to:
⁃ promoting food education seminars/classes for younger kids in school
⁃ promoting unique Irish flavors through an unabashed, uniquely Irish good projects [see: ANIAR menu!] that give him life, as well as life to all customers who walk in the restaurant prepared to be pleasantly surprised.
Crazy cool stuff. If you want to learn more about him, you should *definitely* check out the feature story one of our teammates write on him. I stayed behind to take some photos of a more intimate interview, then headed back to Foróige to get cracking on the materials for the site.
After our work day was over, we had to get ready for the evening— an evening of intimate explorations of notable, cozy pubs in the area. We hopped on a bus with a friendly tour guide [and one other random American couple that had booked spots on the tour as well] and made 3 bar stops.
They were mostly located in the Connemara area, with one having a brilliant view of the Galway Bay behind it [accompanied by a yard and palm trees that make you feel like you’re on a momentous tropical escape]. Oh, and the hydrangeas were HUGE.
My roomie and I found ourselves in conversation with an older local, who seemed so content and so happy. He told us that he gets to wake up with a similar view in his backyard, that he was happy we were attending university [like his granddaughter!] and to trust ourselves and our future and where life leads us, “because if sure will take you in an unpredictable direction!” I tried the red ale of the region and while I was not a fan, it was sure an experience.
Our next bar was a bit further out— smaller, cozier, and they served our tour food [!!!] — some tasty appetizers that included chicken wings🤤 I got my G&T fix and before we knew it we were back on the bus, enjoying the drop-dead GORGEOUS scenery out of our huge windows.
On our way back to a bar we had passed earlier for final round and some traditional Irish music and dance.
Every very Irish person seemed to wish us a happy 4th [kinda cool that we have the same ties to breaking away from Britain #LOL #YOLO #separatism] so I found it fitting that I should at least pay *some* homage to the states Wien a light beer. Turns out all they had was Corona. [Can’t day I didn’t try ¯\_(ツ)_/¯]
As it got later, I recalled seeing the pics of family and friends celebrating back home, and getting hit with pangs of homesickness but also loads of pride in my home nation…one that welcomed you, and gave you access to opportunity and freedoms unimaginable…along with a bittersweet feeling knowing that there’s still work to be done back home across a wide variety of communities.
The heimweh didn’t last too long, however, as the man in the corner started playing away on his accordion while one of the younger staff/bartenders [who introduced himself as Ronan and was our age] started clogging on the wooden floor in his cool tap shoes.
He sang for us too [?!? like what? Okay renaissance man], one song completely in Gaelic, and urged one of the girls in our group to sing something for us. What came of that was Dolly Patton’s Jolene, among with a lot of foot tapping and clapping. The best part, however, is when the time was winding down and our tour guide was giving us last call warnings [even though everyone there was on Irish time and moving pleasurably slow as molasses].
The young bartender emerged again and quieted us— he wished to sing for us once more, a song of parting— “the Parting Glass”. He asked if any of us knew it, and I instantly shot my hand up— the other girl, Taylor, who had sung earlier’s did too. She undoubtedly knew it from Ed Sheeran’s album, however my ties to the song were somewhat different. The first time I had heard The Parting Glass was at one of my first ever collegiate acapella concerts— The Parting Glass was The Madison Project’s misty-eyed move-on alumni song for those graduating, and I had only heard their arrangement.
Ronan, absolutely blown away that we, Americans, knew of such a traditional Irish song, invited Taylor and I to sing it with him,
because the symbol of Ireland is a harp and they love making music together LOL
…and between the peer-pressure clapping and the sudden warmth in the bar we caved, joining him in front of all our gangly group, who started to hush. His voice was pure and rang so clearly, filled with very delicate and Irish trills that I’ve heard in Sheeran’s music time and time again. But it was a pleasure — a once in a lifetime opportunity to slip into a harmony along his dancing lyrics… and though I didn’t remember all the words I remembered a few and that’s what counts I guess 😂. He was so happy we mustered up our stuff to sing with him, and asked us about our studies. We told him about the Film Fleadh coming up, and he excitedly said he’d be in town for it as well, soon making a remark about it being a small world and all that.
Once we were finished there, we thanked everyone there, [and the locals for their support and grace with our large group celebrating an American holiday LOL] and boarded once more, back to the homestead.
After a long night we needed rest— we had a free weekend coming up and my roomie Dakotah and I had plans to see a movie the next day, catch up on work, then prepare to go to Cork for the following day.
It felt odd not being home, waving the red white and blue with family and friends, but at the same time, it was such a cool experience to be out and about in a different country, with people with widely different perspectives, many of which seemed to echo the sentiment that America always was, and is, great…and that it is still quite a beacon of light for so many countries, despite its bouts of at-times explosive rhetoric and ever-growing isolationist polices. It felt nice to have hope and solidarity nonetheless. 🇺🇸♥️🙌🏼