Galway is a smallish city (about 80,000 people) on the western coast of Ireland. Mom and I drove there from Dublin, and since we’d had a couple days driving on the left and deciphering Irish directions, we were feeling pretty cocky about getting around.
Ha! Silly us.
I found the highway signs reading “Traffic Calming” a gentle, soothing message as we got closer to the city and I knew we’d be leaving the ease of the highways.
We hit Galway and found our hotel pretty easily, but in retrospect that may have been because it was on the very edge of the city, so we didn’t have to drive too far in to find it from the east. (We stayed at the Clayton Hotel – modern, comfortable, and affordable.)
We parked our rental in the tiny parking spot and hauled our luggage to the front desk, proud of our painless arrival.
The clerk checked us in and told us our room was in the next building on the fourth floor at the end of the hall. Simple enough.
You’d think, right? You’re about to see what I meant by an entirely new level of lost.
Turns out it was the woman’s second day on the job, and she didn’t yet know the layout of the hotel. Didn’t they train on these things? Or at least give them a map for reference? Or were they truly trying to drive us to drink even more than normal out of sheer frustration and misery, thereby bolstering the Irish economy as we handed over euro after euro to drown our sorrows?
Yes. The latter.
After the clerk told us how to get to our room, we dragged our luggage down a long hallway, up an elevator, then down another long hallway. We did not see our room number.
We double-checked the number. Maybe we’d misread it.
We retraced our steps, and after awhile I began to think we were in some sort of Irish Winchester Mystery House, but without the fun and amusement.
Finally we gave up and asked a maintenance guy about our missing hotel room. I told him the woman at the front desk had said it was here, and he gave a knowing smile and said, “Ask her again.”
So we trooped back down the hall, down the elevator, down another hall and back to the lobby. We asked her again.
She frowned, flustered, and shuffled papers on her desk. (Which I would like to reiterate did not include a hotel map.) “Sorry ma’am, my mistake.” Our room was in a different building, down a different hall, on a different floor. Of course.
So we finally got to our room. Relief.
But the lights didn’t work. Really? Now we didn’t know how to turn on lights, either? Had our brains fallen out during all that wandering of hotel hallways?
I called downstairs and the clerk said we were supposed to put our room key in a little slot by the door.
Huh. Okay. We put the key in the slot and the lights went on. Success!
Then they went off again after 30 seconds. We tried once more, same thing. I called the woman back and she said that shouldn’t happen, that she’d send someone up. We waited.
Then she called me. We were supposed to leave the key in the slot while we were in the room. (We had swiped it thinking it worked like the door lock.) I said, “Did not know that.” She said sweetly, “Oh?” as I was preparing to run down to the lobby and slap her repeatedly with my passport.
Room found, lights working, we needed dinner, but I can tell you this: We were sure as hell not driving into town, because after our ordeal even we were not so dumb to think we’d ever make it back alive if we got in the car at that moment.
But we were in luck! A bus stopped just outside the hotel that would take us to Eyre Square for shopping and dinner. Never mind that the desk clerk told us the wrong side of the street for the bus stop, then called after me as I was leaving and corrected herself – we were to wait at the bus stop on the other side of the street. I am not making this up.
God bless public transportation. We had Tandoori for dinner and took a lovely, slow walk along the River Corrib.
Buskers sang on the cobblestone streets that were lined with shops full of Irish woolens and t-shirts with shamrocks. We people-watched outside a pub and relaxed for the first time all day.
We caught the bus back to the hotel and made it in time to see the bar’s TV broadcasting England beating Ukraine with only a couple minutes to go. We didn’t feel like sitting with the crowd so we ordered a glass of wine to take to our room, and the bartender asked, “Small or large?”
You can guess our response.
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