This past weekend, we took a trip to Galway, a small city in the west of Ireland. I didn’t know much about the city of Galway before the trip, the only thing I knew for sure was that it took 3 hours to get there from Dublin, which amazed me. Where I live, it takes 3 hours to get from one side of Long Island to the other. It made me remember how small the country of Ireland is. We spent two full days in Galway and our days were packed with excursions such as visiting the Ailwee Caves, walking along the Cliffs of Moher, and visiting the Aran Islands. My favorite excursion by far was visiting the Cliffs of Moher.
While on our outing to the Cliffs of Moher, I was blown away by the beautiful landscape and breathtaking views. I had one of those humbling moments. You know those moments when you’re dangling your feet over 400 foot cliffs and you realize how small you are to the world in comparison. The natural cliffs blew me away, and no picture that I took could ever capture the actual beauty I witnessed on Saturday.
I asked an employee at the gift shop if there was a set date to how old the cliffs were and she told me they date back to 320 million years ago. I was dumbfounded, it amazed me that this magnificent landscape was here millions of years ago, and here I am walking on them in this moment. It reminds you how strong nature is, and how it can’t just be knocked down or transformed easily like the buildings I see in the city every day.
Overall, visiting the Cliffs of Moher was an unforgettable experience. It was by far my favorite excursion I’ve gone on since I’ve gotten to Ireland, and I cant see what other wonders Ireland has to offer.
This past weekend, we took our study tour to the west of Ireland. Staying in the hostel in Galway was lovely; the city was smaller than Dublin, and had a friendly, quaint feeling about it. The part of the trip that stayed with me the most, however, was when we were ferried out to the largest of the Arann Islands: Inis Mór. We arrived on the dock of a seemingly dreary town. The sky was grey and the wind made it that much colder. After about thirty minutes of wandering around, browsing the sweater shop, we were loaded into vans for a tour of the island. On my bus, we were dropped off with no instruction other than “be back here in two hours.” My friends and I were confused because this town didn’t really seem to have that much to offer, other than a restaurant with what I thought was the best tomato soup I’d ever had. After scarfing down the lunch that we had been waiting so long to have, we drifted in and out of tiny tourist shops. They had virtually the same items in each store, so we began wondering what we were actually meant to be doing here. We passed two of our ISAs and asked just that. Apparently, our bus tour guide was supposed to have given us tickets to go hike up to a fort (Dún Aonghasa). Looking at my watch, we only had an hour and half left, so we booked it in the direction of the fort. We passed other friends who raved about the view and that only made us hike in double time (though it was hard not to stop and take photos). When we finally reached the top, we were speechless. The fort was simply a circular stone wall, with another wall within it. The wall ended, however, at the cliff so the whole left side of the fort was open to the sea. I assume there must have been a wall there at some point, but today it is nothing but horizon. I had never seen so much ocean at once. I laid down on my stomach and let my head hang over the edge of the cliff, looking down at the crashing waves on the rocks. I say “hang” when really there was just a wall of wind, blowing straight up from the face of the cliff. My hair was standing straight up! It made for some interesting photos. Standing on the edge of the cliff, looking down, I have never felt more alive. It was an terrifying and exhilarating experience, and not one I will soon forget.
Last saturday we took a trip to Causey Farm, which was a great taste of Ireland’s rural beauty that I had not yet experienced. We baked bread, learned to play hurling, milked cows, and got to appreciate many aspects of an Irish farm. One of the most interesting things we did on this trip was the visit to the bog, which is an area of peatland that forms in areas of high rainfall.
The bog itself has an interesting consistency. It’s almost similar to quicksand in a way. It reminds me a lot of the mud in the marshes on the Georgia coastline. Just like the bog, if you jump into it, it’s going to take some effort do get yourself out. Although I neglected to bring spare clothes and did not actually jump into the bog, it looked like a really fun time.
Something very interesting to me was that the bog preserves things that are buried under it. This has been true for many ancient artifacts, including human bodies. Even in the Causey farm bogland there as been human body discoveries, and the bodies remain preserved like a mummy. The oldest bog body ever found in Ireland dated back to 5000 BC, with its clothes still intact. Knowing this, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that there is a lot to be learned about the past from the bogs of Ireland.
Before arriving in Dublin, I initially imagined Ireland to be a very green, natural country. I’ve seen countless photographs of hillsides and mountains and beautiful trails. However, when I first arrived, Dublin seemed more familiar than I thought. I’m used to Philadelphia and the city life, so Dublin was not too much of a surprise for me. After two weeks had passed, I became a bit discouraged by the lack of scenery in Dublin. Don’t get me wrong – I love Dublin, and I love how much it reminds me of home, with few small differences. It has been almost four weeks now and I think it’s safe to say I find Dublin to be a second home for me. However, to be honest, it wasn’t what I was looking for.
Two weeks after our arrival, my friends invited me to a little weekend excursion to County Kerry. After finding out the entire trip would only cost me about 50 euros, I immediately agreed. Twenty-four hours later, we’re in the Killarney National Park.
After settling into our hostel and walking around the town, we took a long (very long) walk through the Killarney National Park. Everything was absolutely, breathtakingly beautiful. The weather was perfect, the people were friendly, the grass was the greenest I’ve ever seen, and the view was just incredible. I had never been to such a pretty place before in my life. After a long day at the Killarney National Park, we went back to our surprisingly nice hostel, went out for the night, then woke up to take the Dingle bus tour. The bus tour was just as amazing as the day before. I spent the weekend in awe of the town.
I feel as though Ireland is a country that not enough people think to visit. Before learning of the Freshman Frontiers program, I never saw myself coming to Ireland to visit or study. However, I’m extremely glad I did. I get to live in Dublin – a city similar to home – and travel around the country to see places I’ll never find back in Pennsylvania.
My thoughts on Ireland have changed quite a few times. Before I knew I was studying in Dublin, they were virtually nonexistent, being completely honest I never thought about traveling to Ireland, let alone studying here. Once I was given the opportunity to study here, naturally I jumped, and my mind was racing about everything, but as time passed I realized that I’d be isolated 3100 miles away from home so I started to research life in Ireland, particularly life in Dublin. Everyone that I talked to about coming here seemed to have the same opinion on Ireland. They said it was like no place else. Well, it’s been three weeks and I have to agree.
The Ireland that I have seen so far has been nothing but beautiful, friendly, and fun. From the urban jungle of Dublin in the east, to the wilderness of Kilarney in the southwest, to the breathtaking Wild Atlantic Way on the Dingle Peninsula there is so much more to Ireland than meets the eye. It is not hard to find, events like the recent Culture Night, it offered a tantalizing insight on Irish life and its culture for free. Exploring the city on Culture Night gave me a unique window into the Irish culture through an incredible opportunity to tour the Áras an Uachtaráin. On the tour we were pleasantly surprised when the president, Michael D. Higgins, interrupted our tour and briefly spoke to us, then disappeared. He was just as friendly and welcoming as any Irishmen I’ve met so far.
As I sit here at the corner of Dame and George’s St. I find my self often gazing into the streets. Watching the hustle and bustle of this great international city go by, it’s quite easy to lose track of time and its safe to say, I’m falling in love with this place.
A couple weeks ago a few friends and I decided to be spontaneous and take a trip to Killarney in co. Kerry. Let’s just start out by saying it was a wonderful experience that I will not soon forget. Coming from the hustle and bustle of Dublin, being in Killarney was like a breath of fresh air. It was kind of a hike to get to, a little of 3 hours by train, but completely worth it. We ended up in Killarney, a decent sized yet quaint town. It had cute little hometown vibes all over, like flags for sports matches and tons of local events being advertised.
We started out our first day there by meandering through the Killarney National Park lakeside trail. It was quite a long trip but the view was excellent. Being surrounded by all of these rolling hills and a picturesque lake was amazing. There were tons of people, tourists or not, walking the trail that day as well because of the great, out of character weather. We ended that day with some dinner and an experience in what seemed to be a very traditional Irish pub with everyone of all ages singing and dancing. Killarney seemed like it had more participation and interaction from people of all age groups, while in Dublin it just seems like a younger, college oriented scene in a lot of the places that I have been. I really liked the change of pace and it was more fun to see nightlife here.
My little group and I ended our trip the next day with a tour of the Dingle Peninsula. We were told to do this tour over the Ring of Kerry, and I am quite confident we made the right decision. It was truly amazing. Driving along the cliffs and seeing the ancient history sights was all too real. It looked like what you picture Ireland to be from books or movies. Overall I am so glad we made time for this weekend excursion and I would recommend it to anyone!
I had the opportunity to visit Croke Park. As a super fan of Manchester United and the sport of football, I have been to my fair share of sport stadiums. With that, I didn’t expect to see/feel anything different compared to what I have seen in the past. I knew nothing about the sport of hurling, so going in, I was excited to learn about the sport that everyone in Ireland can’t stop loving.
As soon as you walk through the gates to the stadium, you can already see a sense of pride. Outside the door to the reception hall, they have plaques of all the teams/clubs in the hurling league. Croke Park is the “main” park for all of the hurling teams. They don’t cater to one specific team. You feel a sense of pride for all of the teams by looking at the wall outside, as well as the locker room holding all of the hurling jerseys. Croke Park may not be the nicest looking stadium on the inside, but they like to use the money they earn to focus more on the experience of the game for the players and fans than on appearance.
Walking out onto the field, with the recording of the screaming fans, made me feel like an actual player. We were told that the hurling players do not get paid to play in the league. They generally play for the love of the sport. Now of days, most people do not peruse what they love in life if there is no money involved. The players work other jobs in order to support their family, but have the opportunity to continue a hobby they love.
Croke Park felt different than any other stadium I have visited in the past. I felt a sense of pride and spirit through out the entire tour. Whether it was seeing different team pictures, or hearing of the history of the sport and park, the stadium is so popular due to the fact that it is loved by all of Ireland. Ireland’s love and support of the sport of hurling and the GAA is what makes this park so special, unique, and fun!
–Grace Mellor (Blog post #1)