G Factor: A five-star getaway in Galway
The five-star g hotel makes a stunning short break for Anna Coogan and her mum in Galway...
We are greeted by a summery sky when we disembark in Galway, which is still not to be taken for granted given that our original plan to go west had been postponed due to the Beast from the East.
Remember the snow, which has returned to - well, I don't know where it has returned to, or care, as long as it stays there. But at last, and better late than never, mum and myself are on our way for our two-night break at the five-star g Hotel.
We're determined to relax over the next couple of days, so the first thing we do when we get off the train, is pop around the corner from Ceannt Station into Eyre Square, and into the Hotel Meyrick, for seats you sink into and a delicious traditional afternoon tea.
This detour is to be recommended if you're on the chill of a Sunday, as we are, with an armload of newspapers to get through. The refills of tea are endless, and the three-plate-high afternoon tea stand is a cascade of finger sandwiches and scones. Plus pretty fancies, like salted caramel and chocolate gateaux, lemon Napoleon mille-feuille and chocolate and hazelnut praline tart.
There are lots of groups of women in, and one poor unfortunate soul manages to knock her cake stand over, on to the carpet. All the cakes fall face down, and we feel very sorry for her. The waitress is very kind about it. From there on out and until it is empty, we approach our cake stand with extra respect.
This Victorian hotel dates back to 1852, and is full of character, and ideally positioned for some refreshments before you jump into a taxi and head off out the road to the g Hotel.
It's only a five-minute drive, and a short tour of Galway city later, we hop out of our taxi and into the g Hotel and Spa which - with 101 light-filled bedrooms and suites and a two-floor ESPA Spa - was designed by flamboyant milliner Philip Treacy, who himself is a native of Galway.
It has long been evident from his amazing hats that Treacy's head is full of the most extraordinary theatre, and so too is the interior of the g Hotel. Its buoyant and vibrant decor sees mirrored balls of light tumble in their dozens from the ceiling in one of the lounges, and another lounge is shockingly and glamorously decorated in bold pinks. Restaurant gigi's has several very inviting giant seashell-shaped banquettes in purple velvet for sitting on.
There are mirrors everywhere in the hotel, some with a swirling surround which is reminiscent of the gold-leafed feather headdress which the designer created for Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for her wedding. How could you not be down with Treacy, who magics up fun hotels, and makes middle-aged women look pretty on their wedding day?
The g Hotel is located on the edge of Lough Atalia, and we have a great view of the lake from our twin bedroom, which is a spacious room decorated in soothing colours and lots of charming stylish flourishes, like lamps which look like they were inspired by elongated elegant necks, and topped off with hats.
There are some fancy welcoming touches too, like sumptuous chocolates and Irish Atlantic Dillisk Gin from the Galway Gin Co, should we be tempted.
Dinner this evening is in Restaurant gigi's, and we may as well cut to the chase and say that the food and service are superb, and we are served up a very memorable meal. We dine on pan-seared scallops with black pudding, soy glazed fillet of monkfish with sticky pork belly and carrot and spring onion, and the speciality of the day, lemon sole on the bone.
We have no room for dessert, and yet we hear ourselves ordering tropical baked alaska and opera cake. It's worth it. Our fellow diners are in the main couples, both young and middle-aged, all very glamorous and spruced up and chatty, and you get the feeling that gigi's is a restaurant you go out to, and that the g Hotel is a popular romantic getaway.
We have a great sleep when we retire, during which we don't hear a peep out of any of our fellow guests, which in itself is a very good reason for recommending a hotel. And on waking, we do what we would like to do every Monday morning - enjoy a leisurely breakfast, followed by relaxing massages in the luxurious ESPA Spa. Then, with a huge measure of determination, we manoeuvre ourselves into a taxi and head to the Latin Quarter, which is home to Galway's medieval heritage, plus lots of charming little shops and restaurants. Is there a more chill place in Ireland? Probably not. The locals amble slowly in this part of the city, and so do we.
We visit the Hall of the Red Earl in Druid Lane, and inspect the medieval ruins of the large hall which was home to the de Burgo family back in the 13th century, and which served as a courthouse, tax centre and banqueting hall. In 1997, with the expansion of the city's Custom House, these ruins were unearthed, along with 11,000 artefacts, including a clay wine bottle, with the wine still uncorked. It's a small and very fascinating museum.
Charlie Byrne's bookshop in Cornstore Mall has been recommended to us as a place to go for a good browse. It turns out to be a warren of rooms of different sizes, each of which has shelves covering every inch of its walls. Seemingly there are 100,000 books in this book lovers' haven. I've never seen so many books crammed into one place outside of a library. It's a treasure trove. If you get out with only one book each, as we did, you're kind of missing the point. But in our defence, it's another sunny-skied day outside, so we feel obliged to go for a walk down by the water and through Spanish Arch, which - built in 1584 on the River Corrib - is where Galway's river meets the sea.
Our cup of tea during this time - and in between popping in and out of shops - is in Martine's on Quay Street, a welcoming and delightful restaurant. Dinner this evening is in McDonagh's Seafood Restaurant, also on Quay Street. It's a bit predictable to go to McDonagh's, as everyone goes to this gem of a place while in Galway, but that's because this no-frills dining area with its plain wooden furniture is the scene of mouth-watering food.
I have wild Clarenbridge mussels, served in a garlic, chilli, lemongrass and coconut milk sauce, while mum has scampi made with Dublin Bay prawns, and we're both convinced we've made the best choice.
Thoughts of another potter around town are killed off by the anticipation of a drop of rain, so we head back to the g Hotel, and a nightcap. We enjoy another good night's sleep, and then following a go of Eggs Benedict, we're off to catch a train.
It's been an extremely relaxing and pleasant trip, and we don't know why we don't go to Galway more often, especially now that we have discovered the g Hotel.
* The g Hotel is Galway's leading five-star hotel and offers dining breaks starting at €130. A perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of life while indulging in some locally-sourced cuisine, the g Hotel is a popular dining destination thanks to its two AA rosette award-winning Restaurant gigi's.
* ESPA at the g offers spa packages starting from €185 per person which include a 55-minute treatment and a one-night stay in one the g Hotel's King Superior Rooms.
* For more information or to make a booking visit www.theghotel.ie or call 091 865 200.
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