People always ask the hypothetical question: if you were stuck on a desert island and you could only have three items, what would they be? Well, change “desert” to “Galway” and I can answer that question quite confidently. With this past weekend’s experience still evident in the form of mud and rain-water clinging to my boots and coat, those three measly items would without a doubt be hiking boots, a raincoat with a hood, and lastly, but probably most importantly, a strong sense of humor.
Our “Western Ireland” study trip began on Friday morning, with everyone grumbling out of bed to meet the bus bright and early. Or at least we thought it was everyone. Turns out we had accidentally left behind Maeve, one of our RAs, who ironically enough had not been at the bus because she was knocking on everyone’s door to make sure they wouldn’t get left behind. But like I said, a sense of humor was important this weekend and that incident was only the beginning of many. It took us about two and a half hours to drive from Dublin to Galway, which meant that there was only about two hours to kill before we had to be at dinner. That being said, we ended up exploring the city center, wandering through the streets, popping in and out of stores, and purchasing our first souvenirs of the semester. Like most American girls visiting Galway I bought a Claddagh Ring from the namesake section of the city, and while I was reluctant at first (I’m not really a “ring” person) I’m so happy I did. The following morning we awoke at 8:45 to yet again board the bus and drive an hour to a ferry that would take us, after another half-hour, to the biggest of the Aran Islands off the mainland’s western coast. Fortunately, the views from Inishmore (which means “Big Island” in Gaelic) and its cliffs were absolutely spectacular, especially with the morning light, making the lack of sleep completely worth it. After we descended the cliffs we were taken on a tour of the rest of the island by car. Now remember, I said this was the largest of the three islands, so it was a tad surprising when our guide informed us that the total population was a wee 800 people. My high school graduating class in itself was 445, so you can imagine how hard it was for me to wrap my head around the fact that my high school had more people than this entire island. The fact that the island also has more than 1,000 miles of rock walls didn’t help boost the reality of the population size either, but if it ever needs a slogan I can’t think of anything more appropriate than “Inishmore: where we have more rocks and dogs than people”. Seeing as we had another early wake-up call on Sunday, our final morning was no less sleep deprived than the two prior. The hour and half ride to The Cliffs of Moher was well spent half-sleeping and violently jerking awake as the bus bumped along the country roads. Once we reached the coast, we hiked up the cliffs against what I can only assume were 50mph plus wind. Despite the fact that there was no part of my body not soaked or covered in mud, I’m glad we roughed through it and hiked to one of the farthest reachable points. After a few dozen photos were taken and one very memorable “Princess Bride” scene reenacted (the Cliffs of Insanity from the movie are in fact the Cliffs of Moher) we made the slippery and steep trek back to bottom.