Street haunting in Galway

I was only in Galway for a couple of days. I had a flight back to Manchester from Dublin late Tuesday afternoon, but I had the morning to have a bit of a wander around the city. The weather was a real mix of sunshine, rain and sleet, but wrapped up warm I managed to have a decent walk around, even getting to a few places I hadn’t previously seen. Here’s a few photos.

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Galway Hooker monument, Eyre Square
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Music shop window
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The Long Walk
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Galway Bay
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The Long Walk
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Galway Swans
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The harbour
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The harbour side looking towards the Claddagh
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Street art
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Irish post box
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Galway Cathed
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Equality Emerging

Oysters at O’Grady’s on the Pier

Last Monday in Galway was a busy day. I met a friend for coffee first thing before heading over to NUI Galway late morning to prepare for my workshop in the afternoon. It seemed to go well.

In the evening I’d arranged to meet my old friend Veronica who was born and bred in the city and lives in Salthill. We always meet up when I’m over and go out for a meal. We both love seafood so usually go to one of the many great seafood restaurants in the area. This time Veronica had booked us a table at O’Grady’s on the pier at Barna, a few miles west of the city.

We had a most excellent seafood meal and I started, as usual, with a plate of oysters. Veronica said she didn’t want a starter but might pinch one of my oysters. In the end, they were so tempting she stole two!

As the name suggests, the restaurant is situated next to the pier on the harbour. Unfortunately, being late January it was too dark for me to take in the coastal scenery (I really have to go back during the summer!). But I could see the pier. It looked familiar and, indeed, it was as it features in the final scenes of the film starring Brendan Gleeson set in Connemarra – The Guard

Back in Galway

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Last Sunday I travelled over to Galway on the west coast of Ireland for what has become an annual trip to the “City of the Tribes” to run a workshop at the University. It’s a great opportunity to see some friends who live there and mooch around what is probably my favourite Irish City.

Only problem is that due to having to fit into the course timetable my visits have all been in the winter – normally February, but this year I was there a little earlier in the year. I really must make an effort to get over there when the days are longer so I can see this stretch of the Wild Atlantic Way at its best. (I’ve promised my friend Veronica that I definitely will!)

I took the plane from my least favourite airport to Dublin and then caught the express coach over to Galway. It was windy leaving Manchester which meant a bumpytake off in the Aer Lingus twin engined turboprop. But the short flight wasn’t too bad. It was cold and sunny with blue skies in Dublin, but as we travelled west on the coach I could see clouds in the distance. By the time we arrived in Galway it was cold and grey and starting to rain. I checked into my hotel, and then set out for a mooch. It was just after 4 p.m and there was about an hour and a half to go before it would be dark so I wrapped up warm, and wandered across Eyre Square and down Shop Street and Quay Street down to the small harbour at the Claddagh (the streets in Galway do exactly “what they say on the tin”, by the way).

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I stopped and took in the view over to the picturesque row of houses known as the Long Walk and then decided to brave the weather and take a walk along the coast to the seaside suburb of Salthill.

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After walking to the end of the turbulent Corrib river, where it enters Galway Bay, I turned west and set out along the path that skirts the coast, passing Mutton Ireland and on towards Salthill. A little further on I diverted off the path to take a look at the Famine Ship Memorial in the Celia Griffin Memorial Park, Gratton Beach.

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As I carried on towards Salthill I passed a plaque, engraved with a poem – ‘The One-Armed Crucifixion’ -by Paul Durcan, accompanied by an engraving by John Behan. It’s part of the Galway Poetry Trail which I’d used as the basis of a walk around Galway last year, but I hadn’t come across this particular plaque as I hadn’t wandered out this far.

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There were a couple of more plaques further on along the coast road and I must have passed them, but wasn’t paying attention and missed them. Rather negligent of me, but there’s always next year!

Reaching Salthill I carried on along the coastal path, passing the Aquariam and various other seaside attractions in the small resort, until I reached the sea diving platform. It was dark by now so I couldn’t see too much and little point in trying to take photos! I wandered over close to the sea to listen to the waves breaking, and was startled by someone appearing from out of the sea. A brave soul, the water must have been freezing. I stopped for a little while peering into the dark and contemplating life and the universe as you do before turning round and retracing my steps back to the City.

Reaching the city centre it was time to get something to eat. In the past I’ve treated myself to fish and chips at McDonaghs chippie (it is the seaside, after all). But I’m trying to be good and lose a couple of kg, so resisted. Instead, I had a home made noodle dish in Xian Street Food, a rather nice little Chinese fast food place that had opened on Quay Street since my last visit.

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Afterwards I continued wandering, taking the path along the Corrib as far as the Cathedral before cutting back across to my Hotel on Eyre Square where I settled down in front of the TV to catch the latest episode of Les Miserables on the BBC. (Yes, I know I was in Ireland but the hotels usually have the main UK TV channels).

It had been a long day so it was time to turn in for the night. Another busy day to look forward to on Monday.

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Huis Marseille

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There are two photography museums in central Amsterdam – Huis Marseille and Foam – both on the Keizersgracht. Huis Mareille is the longest established and is located in a couple of adjacent 17th Century canal houses. During our day in Amsterdam at the end of December we decided we’d visit to see the current exhibition of work by African photographers and also to have a look at the buildings. I’d have liked to have visited Foam as well, but time was limited. I’ll have to save that for another time.

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Amsterdam’s first photography museum was opened in 1999 in the old canal house, Huis Marseille, at Keizersgracht 401. The house, which was
built around 1665, was originally owned by a French merchant called Isaac Focquier, who named the house after the French port he must have known. In September 2013, the exhibition space was was extended by incorporating the house next door, at Keizersgracht 399. Although adapted as modern exhibition spaces, both houses still include original features, such as the ceiling stuccowork in the entrance hall and a painting on the ceiling of the Garden Room.

There’s a garden at the back of the house with an 18th Century “garden house” which has been renovated and also used as an exhibition space.

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The exhibition, Recent Histories, features images by African photographers from the museum’s own collection and also works from the Walther Collection (New York/Neu-Ulm).

The museum website tells us that

Until the last decade of the 20th century African photography was generally seen in the context of travel and ethnological photography, and usually done by Westerners.

but this exhibition reveals different aspects and interpretations of the continent by 15 African photographers, particularly

the influences that social, economic, and political developments are having on landscape, public space, architecture, and daily life, and what these developments mean for their own identity.

I didn’t have time to make any detailed notes or to take too many snaps of the images (always seems odd, photographing photographs!) However, my favourites were probably the photographs of buildings by Mame-Diarra Niang , who, although she was born in Lyon, and lives in Paris, was raised between Ivory Coast, Senegal and France.  The photos were from her series Metropolis, shot in Johannesburg and At the Wall, taken during taxi journeys in Dakar. I really liked the way that some of the photos looked more like abstract paintings than images of real buildings.

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Haarlem’s hidden gardens

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Walking from the train station towards the Grote Markt in Haarlem, on the right on the Kruisstraat  at the beginning of the busy shopping centre, it’s hard to miss, visible through a monumental wrought-iron gate, a pleasant green courtyard surrounded on three sides by houses. This is the Hofje van Oorschot . Hofjes were groups of alms houses founded to provide homes for elderly women.

As the wealthy merchants during the Dutch Golden Age were pious Calvinists who eschewed showing off their wealth (in principle, at least), who wanted to guarantee their place in paradise by performing a charitable act and show to the world just how godly they were (and also, no doubt as a way of showing of their wealth and leaving their mark on posterity) many of them would found Hofjes which would usually be named after them. Hofjes have continued to be built over the years. In the 18th century they were founded for commercial purposes with the inhabitants paying rent. The most recent one in Haarlem was built as recent as 2007.

The occupants were women only. Elderly men were considered incapable of looking after themselves. Instead, they were admitted to “old people’s homes” where they had a room in a communal building. One example is today occupied by the Frans Hals Museum which we visited back in February last year. The design of the home – surrounding a courtyard garden, – is essentially the same as that of the Hofjes.

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There are Hofjes in a number of towns in the Netherlands, but Haarlem is particularly noted for them with more than 21 scattered around the old town centre. Not that they are all as immediately obvious as the Hofje van Oorschot – most of them are hidden away behind walls in the old lanes and streets.

We picked up a copy of the leaflet from the Tourist Information Office in the Town Hall on the Grote Markt which showed the location of many of the Hofjes and gives a suggested walking route around them.

The Hofjes are usually built in a U-shape with a yard or garden in the middle, and a gate as entrance. There’s often a community kitchen garden with a water pump. The houses are still occupied and the although many of the courtyards can be viewed, there are restrictions on visiting hours – they are closed during weekends and public holidays so were not accessible for most of the time we were in Haarlem. But we managed to see several of them, mainly on our last day in the town (our flight home was at 9:15 in the evening). It was a cold day, though, so we didn’t complete the route. But I expect we’ll be back in Haarlem before too long so we’ll have chance to see the rest at some stage!

Two of the Hofjes – the oldest and the newest – were between the canal and the Wijde Appelaarsteeg, only a short walk from the Dutch house we were staying in.

Hidden behind a gate on the Bakenessergracht

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was an alley (or ginnel as we would say in Northern England)

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which led to the Hofje van Bakenes the oldest in the Netherlands, founded in 1395.

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Another ginnel connect this, the oldest Hofje, with the newest – the Johan Enschedé Hof.

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Here’s a few more photos I took during our tour on our last day. Not all of the courtyards were accessible and I could only photograph the doorways, but we certainly got a good feel of what they were about. You had to seek them out – the entrances weren’t always obvious – but it was worth the effort. As it was a cold, grey, winter’s day, my photos don’t do justice to the Hofjes – the gardens were relatively bare and the light wasn’t great for showing off the buildings. It would be good to revisit during the Spring or Summer when there would be more colour.

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