Wednesday 12 December 2018

Bairbre Power: Talking to tourists — and being one too — there’s nothing like a sunny day in Ireland

Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power. Photo: Kieran Harnett
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

I think it's probably because I walk slowly that I keep getting stopped and asked for directions. That's not a bother to a Dubliner who positively loves her native city and I've a fair idea of the streets' network, especially the more obscure place-names like Misery Hill and Atmospheric Rd.

The other day I was stopped on College Street at the side of Trinity College by a woman looking for the 145 bus stop. I couldn't find it for her so I logged on to the Dublin Bus app on my phone and located it.

As birds fly, it was a straight line from where we were standing, but that straight line was right through the Trinity campus, past the Campanile and out on to Nassau Street, so I offered to walk her to the bus stop.

The lady explained how her eyesight was challenged which meant she couldn't see the bus stop numbers and, to be honest, in the glare of the midday sun, everyone was squinting and trying to make things out against the unseasonably azure blue sky.

As we walked, we chatted and I liked her sassy attitude. She was a fellow grandmother and was researching Trinity for a forthcoming family visit. A woman after my own heart. Research is everything and doesn't it make life's experiences all the richer?

Those directions were easy, but a few mornings earlier, I was pushed to remember my bearings because I was in Galway. I was there to do a fashion shoot for the Irish Independent's forthcoming Galway Races magazine and up with the lark, I wanted to make the most of an hour and a half of sunlight before we got back in the car to drive home.

I was a woman with a mission. I'd seen a pair of orange suede sandals in the windows of Premoli on William Street the previous night as I strolled along, window-shopping like a tourist before I headed to dine al fresco at a wonderful Italian restaurant called Il Vicolo.

Galway in the sunshine is beyond gorgeous so the following morning, I didn't bother with breakfast and went out walking very early.

The recent hot temperatures have me quite discombobulated and I've come to the realisation that I'm not really built for snow or for high temperatures.

So after locating a Starbucks in the train station, I bought my regular morning favourite, an iced latte, and I was off across Eyre Square when it happened again.

A lady stopped me and asked if I knew where there was a church. A church, I pondered. I could take them to any number of shops, hotels, restaurants and bars, but a church?

Galway is full of fabulous old churches and I remembered attending a banquet during the Oyster Festival in St Nicholas' Collegiate Church located beside the Saturday food market.

The caffeine kicked in and I remembered how local legend is that Christopher Columbus worshipped there when he visited the city. But would it be open to the public at this hour?

I looked at my watch. It was 8.35am and then I remembered another church tucked in behind Anthony Ryan's store on Shop Street. I gave the woman directions: left at the top of the square, keep straight and then left.

Since the two of us were headed in the same direction, we walked across the square together. We got chatting, as you do. The lady explained how she was waiting for the shops to open and thought she'd go to a church in the meantime. I was waiting for the shops to open too. I had a gut feeling that those orange sandals would be ideal for the Derby because they had sturdy chunky heels plus a pretty gold detail.

By the time we got to Lynch's Castle, I was firmly morphing into my tour guide mode. That building here is one of the oldest in Galway, I said as I turned on to Abbeygate Street and past the bakery with the most amazing meringues with raspberry swirls. I must bring some home, they all love them. Oh no, wait. I'm on a diet. No sweet sugary things for me and as for the offspring, well, they might not be around for days. A habit of a lifetime went down the swanny.

Rounding the last corner on to Middle Street, it came back to me. Ah yes, how could I forget the name, with the cava tapas restaurant at the far end? Funny how I navigate life around favourite restaurants these days - for some, it's pubs. For me, it's restaurants.

Turning to my newly acquired walking companion, I explained: "I think my late mum would absolutely kill me if she heard I gave directions to a fellow Cork woman like herself on how to get to a church and then left her a few hundred feet from the door, so I better go in myself and light a candle while I'm in the vicinity."

I escorted her to the doors of the Augustinian parish church and we nodded goodbye at the door. I was in what Galwegians fondly call the 'Augi'.

As I came back out a few minutes later into the bright sunlight, I gazed down and saw a white feather land. Wishful thinking, or Nan just saying hello?

And what would she make of those childish Crocs I was wearing out on my morning sortie? Hardly the footwear of a fashion editor, you might think, but between the awful vertigo, glaring sunlight and dawn plans to go walking on the sandy beach at Salthill, I had pulled on my ventilated flats and set off.

Arriving at the shoe shop at 9.15, I apologised for my footwear and within minutes, I was beyond thrilled that the orange sandals fitted like a dream and were comfortable too. It's such a drag that midlife legs, and back too, demand I wear flats and trainers, and climbing into heels doesn't happen often.

Then I spied another gorgeous pair: Nude leather with a flattering tie and, best of all, they make my legs look slim. I wasn't leaving them behind. Self gifting now and then is such a treat and I just hope the Cork woman I met at Eyre Square was equally as fortunate.

Shopping on your holidays, there's nothing quite like it.

Irish Independent

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