At this very moment, the view outside my window is positively Lilliputian. Many men and women are hammering away creating an experience that will be enjoyed by many over the next month. But what is far more important is that the vision that is taking shape is one that will be the boon this city and county needs in the run up to the most important time of the year for local businesses.
From tomorrow evening, once again Galway will welcome tens of thousands of visitors to the Continental Christmas Market. Whatever the initial misgivings that were expressed about its impact on trade further down town, there is now no doubt that the decision to bring the market to Galway was an inspired one. With just five weeks to go until Christmas, there is no other town in the country that will look, smell, or sound as seasonal as Galway. Shoppers will come from across the country just to experience the Galway seasonal ambience. And it is one that has been created over just a couple of seasons.
At times like this, when all local businesses need every help they can get, it is a sensational attraction such as the Continental Market that will give Galway businesses the manna from heaven that is a massive footfall. The market has become an essential part of the Galway Christmas experience — and while it may not be the base where you complete your Christmas shopping, it is the major catalyst in creating that atmosphere that makes the city a visitor attraction at a time of the year when all visitors are most welcome.
Visually, the market looks very different this year with wonderful continental structures giving the market an even more Bavarian feel.
Heck, it even has the cold blast of the Bavarian winter to accompany it. Don’t you notice that the temperatures plummet by about ten degrees when the market comes to town. All of which helps too in enjoying the hot chocolates and the mulled wines and the kangaroo burgers.
However, the market is but the gateway to the wondrous experience that is Galway at Christmas time. When you come to town to sample the market, take the opportunity to wander through the city streets and see what is on offer in the hundreds of shops and businesses which have similarly made an effort to attract you in. Visitors should make sure they sample the wares in the permanent city markets. The stallholders in those markets have a bigger stake in the success of their own ventures and to this end they have always shown versatility and innovation in creating their own market experience. For this they deserve the support of the buying public.
There is also an onus on the city businesses to ensure that customers get good service, good value, and get to share in a festive experience when they come calling.
Enjoy the overall Galway experience this festive season. Enjoy all the markets, the shops, the streets, the smells, the sounds. Savour it. It has become a winter fixture and one that we should embrace.