Western Ireland – Galway

29 Sep

This past weekend, the NUin group packed up in Dublin and left for Galway. As I’d only been there a week, this trip was my first outside of the city I’ve come to know. Looking back, I was extremely unprepared and uninformed about what to expect in the West. But now, I’m happy to say the trip was a pleasant surprise! I at first had a very simplistic idea of what the West would look like, with just a lot of green space and little urbanization. There was a lot of green space, but a lot else about our trip to Galway surprised me…

We took a long bus ride from Blackhall Place to the small city of Galway, during which I took the time to listen to music and enjoy the beautiful scenery. Never before have I seen so many green fields and grazing cows and horses out in the open! The first stop on our trip to was Snoozles, my first stay at a Hostel. Sleeping in a bunkbed with 5 other people was not something I expected, but it proved to be no problem since we were rarely in the rooms. It was a nice change of pace from my single room in my apartment, and got me to meet other people I wouldn’t normally have run into. We soon left the hostel and headed out for a gourmet (and free) dinner. This was a real highlight of my trip, as it was probably one of my first home cooked meals of my stay in Ireland! After dinner, we started exploring the small city and comparing it to Dublin. We found a bunch of small pubs with great live Irish music and had an awesome time!

The second day of our trip was spent first at the Ailwee Caves in County Clare. Walking into a small gift shop, I was at first confused at what we would be doing for the day. However to my surprise, the gift shop was built right into the mountain and the cave tours left right from there! Walking into the caves, I was extremely claustrophobic and terrified the walls of the cave would come crashing down on top of me. Some of the sights were actually amazing and made me wonder about how the cave was formed so perfectly. The next part of the trip was spent at the Cliffs of Moher, Galway’s most famous attraction. The cliffs have been in plenty of movies, including Harry Potter and The Princess Bride. I now clearly understand why, as the sight was truly unreal. Getting close to the edge scared the life out of me, but I was determined to get a cliche picture of my feet hanging out over the edge. Looking back, this was most likely the best part of the West trip, as I got some of the best scenery pictures I’ve ever taken.

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Our next day was spent going to the small islands off the West Coast, called the Aran Islands. We took a long and choppy ferry ride onto the main island, which came as a big culture shock to us!  We were greeted to horse drawn carriages and bike/bus tours. I found out that tourism was really the island’s only real market nowadays. The bus driver told us that only 750 people still live on the islands, and that number is decreasing since the young high school graduates no longer stay to raise families on the island. Finding only 1 supermarket made me feel like society had gone back 50-75 years there. The scenery on the Aran Islands was amazing, with over 7,000 miles of stone wall separating the different plots of land, which hosted mainly grazing cows. Traveling to the highest part of the island and seeing the atlantic ocean was an amazing experience and one I’ll never forget.

Overall, this trip to the West of Ireland proved to be a great way to assimilate myself into Irish culture. I learned a lot about the differences between Dublin and the other cities, and even learned how to speak a bit of Irish.  The time I spent there was amazing, and I’ll definitely be returning, maybe sometime soon!!

-Patrick Nanna

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