The First Excursion

29 Sep

When I first heard about a weekend excursion to Galway, I was overjoyed; I loved Dublin, but I wanted to experience a different culture immersed in an Irish setting. Urban life was new to me, so going by vast fields of green and brown while heading west made me feel like I was back at home, in a more suburban setting. The bus ride, fortunately, was a great foreshadowing of what I found once I settled down at Galway; other than the beautiful little city itself, I went on mini-trips to the Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher. These two areas were overwhelmingly beautiful, to say the least.

On the first day of the excursion, my group took a boat ride to the largest island that comprises the Aran Islands, Inis Mor. The area was so foreign to me, I couldn’t believe my eyes; nothing there registered with my memory of other places that I’ve been to. The ground was dense, making the island look like a giant boulder from a distance; however, walking on the civilized area of the island revealed a quaint little village of 900 residents. It consisted of farmland, a few markets, and some shops that sold hand-woven wool clothing. The Aran wool clothing is unique in that intricate patterns are woven into each specific piece; historically, a person that washed up onto the shore could be identified by the family pattern on his or her sweater.

After roaming the center of the village for a few minutes, my group took advantage of the clear, sunny weather and went on a tour around the island; many stops were made, including one to an ancient religious ruin called Na Seacht Teampaill, or the Seven Temples. The ruins were so condensed with religiously-influenced history that I was awed at its existence; a cemetery surrounds the ruins, with meaningful Celtic crosses sprouting from every square foot of the place. The next stop was to an ancient fort among the Aran cliffs, Dun Aonghasa. The view was spectacular, noting the fact that I was literally living life on the edge and dangling my feet above the surreal cliffs. I’ve never experienced something that jaw-dropping in my life.

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On the second day, my group embarked on a very similar tour, but on the main island instead. The first stop was to a cave carved out of limestone by water and millions of years; such an experience inside a cave is borderline indescribable. The next stop was to the famous Cliffs of Moher, but we paused our route there to see an ancient religious tomb called a dolmen. Looking as if it was placed in the middle of nowhere, the dolmen symbolized the many layers of culture and civilization on this island; it made me realize that people were here a long time before I was. Finally, our group arrived at the Cliffs; unlike the trip to the Aran cliffs, the trip to the Cliffs of Moher was accompanied by a blinding wall of fog. This fog was a detriment in the fact that I couldn’t see the overwhelming dimensions of a 950 foot drop, but it was also a benefit for the same reason. Dangling my legs off the Cliffs or looking at the perched castle from a distance was especially eerie with the fog covering my eyes. Overall, the Cliffs accentuated by the fog left a lasting impression on my mind that will not easily escape my memory.

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Still organizing all of my condensed set of memories from Western Ireland, the trip home was filled with as more culture than the way there; people were singing folk songs, gazing at the peat bogs, and practicing their Irish as we headed back to Dublin. If this one excursion filled my mind with so many experiences and memories, I simply cannot wait to see what the other excursions around the island has in store for me.

– John Miranda

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