The Magic of Sparching in Galway, Ireland

Sparch (v): to sit by the Spanish Arch in Galway on a sunny day, sometimes illegally drinking wine or beer, and enjoying the warmth.

Apparently, day drinking is an international language. Throughout my first few days in Galway, the sun shone brightly, warming the whole city and awakening it from its slumber. Like birds migrating back north, warm weather draws throngs of people to the Spanish Arch, to sparch. After a meal with a friend, not yet ready to part ways, we meander to the River Corrib, watching the people sit in the grass and live.

We sit by the Spanish Arch, moving past groups of people to perch by the edge of the jutting peninsula of grass that parallels the street with the wall. The sun sets late in the north— 8:50pm. It’s golden hour. My friend’s face glows, illuminated. Light brown eyes, seemingly lit from the inside, turn into pools of melted amber. The whole city is tinged pale pink, a rose gold that softens the edges of buildings, shimmering softly. The river blends into the sky, with soft ripples mirroring the wispy clouds above the “long walk,” the grey, blue, pink houses and one small red house waving hello. It’s like the small and stout white houses that extend past the arch were in school during the day, then shed their uniforms when they got home, revealing their internal colors. Each house could be the same, yet variations on a common theme, like Lego pieces—they’re each different colors and different heights, but they fit together to make the little street that we watch light up in the sun. We can just barely see the reflection of the houses on the water, as the color of the sky shifts from fully blue to a watercolor pink.

When we arrived the grassy area was full. Yet in our hour-long conversation, throngs of more people fit into the cracks, the way honey fills in the spaces between the comb. The once-rigid circles of friends merge as the wine and beer flow. We don’t drink, but we observe. The groups that merge a little bit as a Czech woman asks a German man for a light. The techno music from the circle of backpackers on our left forms a skewed mash-up with the drum and bass pulsating from the Irish schoolboy’s speakers. The DJ’s splice is just a few seconds off, but the rest of the sound somehow still works. The music sets the backdrop for the conversations that I can’t understand, multiple languages bouncing around us.

When sparching, societal laws briefly recede. Jovial drunk men relieve themselves into the river, laughing, their public actions somehow accepted. There’s an unwritten sense of community here. Legally, no one is allowed to consume alcohol outside. But if hundreds of people do, they can’t possibly be all arrested, so goes the thought process. The slightest touch of naughtiness colors every interaction. Everyone’s in on the secret. Should we all be doing something more productive? Perhaps. But the idyllic scene sprawls. Laughter. People embracing the warmth, embracing freedom from school, from work, embracing the outdoors and human company. Rose gold sun melts had shells and everyone’s joy pools together. I never want the conversation or the moment to end. The magic of the sparch cast me under its spell.