Hello again! I know some people are surprised that I’m still blogging, more than a month after returning home, but I’m determined to finish up the rest of these posts! After this, I still have at least four more planned!
Early Sunday morning, we flew from Edinburgh to Dublin, Ireland. Cassie and I were two of the last people off the plane and into the airport. One of the airport workers asked which flight we were coming in on and it took me a second to remember which city we were just in. The customs line was really long and Rachel, Caroline, and Blair were ahead of us. They called me over in a panic because they thought that we were over our 90 days, and I had the privilege of delivering the exciting news – Ireland is not in the Schengen Area, so the 90 day rule does not apply.
We took the Airlink bus into the city and dropped off our stuff at Jacob’s Inn, where we met up with our friend Kyle from CIMBA. He spent the night in the lobby since he couldn’t find a place with any vacancies. Kyle led us to our lunch spot, Eddie Rocket’s Diner. After lunch, I was going to do a walking tour. It took me about 25 minutes to walk to the meeting point, only to find out that the English speaking tour guide was sick. ^the Spire
I walked down the street to Costa Coffee, which seems to be the European equivalent of Starbucks – although there are plenty of Starbucks locations here, too. I bought hot chocolate and a scone (scones are on my list of favorite foods, slightly below Belgian waffles) and used the free wi-fi to figure out what my next move was. I decided to walk to the National Gallery. It was under renovation, so there was less to look at, which was actually kind of nice.
I really liked the first set of galleries, called “Governors, Guardians, Artists.” The art was easy to understand and enjoy, and you were allowed to take pictures of some of the art. I like to take pictures of my favorites, since I’ve visited so many museums that it’s hard to remember what I saw and where I saw it! There was a landscape by Paul Henry that I really liked, as well as a painting of a convent garden in Brittany, France. I thought the greens of the garden were really vibrant and vivid, so I bought a magnet of it.
Then I checked out the Masterpieces collection, which I didn’t like as much. There was a painting of Piazza Navona in Rome with a lot of extra structures between the permanent fountains. It was cool to see a painting of a historic place I’d visited and to know what didn’t belong.
^Fete in the Piazza Navona, Rome, to celebrate the birth of a Dauphin in France – Giovanni Paulo Panini
^Lady on the Terrace – Paul Signac
Lastly, I went into an exhibit called “From the Archives: The Story of the National Gallery of Ireland.” There were letters, photos, minutes from meetings, etc. all concerning the development and evolution of the National Gallery. My two favorite things in this exhibit were a funny and warm letter from contributor Sir Alfred Chester Beatty to curator Thomas MacGreevy. I also loved an article about the retirement of a porter. He lived and worked in the museum for 38 years. Two of his children were born there. He started in 1948, when he was 25. He was married and had a six-month old baby. When he retired in 1986, he had raised seven children in the Gallery. He didn’t consider himself educated in art, but he was passionate about it, and some of the paintings really moved him. One of the famous artists told him that if it moved him, that was enough, and he had already taken something away from it.
On Monday, we woke up really early so we could be across the river at the Discover Ireland center at 6:50 am. We booked a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher. Our bus guide, Paddy, was an older Irish man. He was very knowledgeable, but a bit hard to understand at times. Our first stop was Galway. We got off the bus and had a walking tour of the city from a guy named Paul Norman. The French Normans founded Galway a long time ago (in the 1100s. We learned about the Galway Hooker – fishing boats with red sails. The most experienced sailor had a white sail, and his was always the last boat to come in. When people saw the white sail, they would be relieved because it meant everyone was home safely.
Galway is also where the Claddagh ring originated (the one with two hands clasping a heart with a crown over it). If you wear it on your right ring finger with the heart pointing away from you, it means you’re single and looking for love. Heart pointing in means you’ve met someone. Left hand, pointing in means you’re extremely in love. Pointing out means you’re heartbroken. We saw a really old tower that used to be part of a castle – now it houses Costa Coffee. We saw St. Nicholas’ Medieval Church, which was built in the 1300s. Columbus sat in it when it was about 150 years old. Charlotte Bronte also sat in it. There was a plaque to Jane Eyre from before the time the book was written, so I guess she was a real person.
The St. Nicholas clock tower was cool because it was missing a clock face on one side. The people near the church were feuding with people who could see the clock face, and they took the face down to signify that they wouldn’t even give them the time of day. So, that phrase originated in Galway!
After the walking tour in Galway, we got back on the bus. Paul Norton saw me eating some candy I bought the night before and told me about a really good chocolate shop near the pub we were going to for lunch. We drove through some Irish countryside and saw stone walls built to corral the animals. There were also fields of rocks with cleavage from the rain.
We passed a castle where a red-haired lady named Mary lived. She had three husbands. Her first, Connor O’Brien, was injured in battle. They tried to bring him in the house and she said “don’t bring a dead man in here.” Despite that, she was buried next to him when she died.
^Mary’s castle (I clumsily took this from the moving bus)
We got lunch at O’Connor’s Pub. Lots of tour groups were eating there, so we had to split our group of 7 up in order to find a table. I got a tuna sandwich and fresh apple crumble. I also went next door, to the Doolin Chocolate Shop and bought some delicious fudge – a flavor called Malteser (Maltesers are malted milk balls, just like Whoppers) and peanut butter and milk chocolate fudge.
Then we went to the Cliffs of Moher. Paddy said that this was the best weather he’d seen all year. We really lucked out – it was a beautiful day. The sky was blue and the air was comfortably warm. We had an hour and a half to explore, most of which we spent taking pictures. Caroline, Blair, and Cassie recorded a video for their sorority sisters, and watching them decide what to say was hilarious.
We got back on the bus and stopped at Dunguaire Castle. We had a few minutes to walk around the outside of it. We drove back to Galway. Paddy said he had a good day with us. I was going to thank him since he did a good job telling us facts all day but when I came back from the bathroom, we had a different driver. There were some more people on the ride back to Dublin. I sat next to a girl who left Dublin yesterday and spent the night in Galway. She told me she was getting her master’s in England but that she did her undergrad at UConn! I said “that’s where I go!” She played soccer at UConn and had a scholarship to play in England at Durham University but tore her ACL and was assistant coach instead. Her friend, a few seats behind us, went to UConn as well. She played field hockey. We chatted a bit – what a small world!
^view from the castle
Got back to Dublin around 9:30 pm. Rachel and I got sandwiches and everyone else got food at McDonald’s. What a dinner for Kyle’s last night in Europe…We went back to the hostel and said goodbye to Kyle since he had to leave for the US early in the morning.
On Tuesday morning, I did my walking tour while the girls went to Trinity College and did the Guinness tour. It was a nice day and there were a lot of people on the tour. My guide’s name was James. He was born and bred in Ireland. We started at Dublin Castle, where James gave us an overview of the history of Ireland and Dublin. He also told us three “you know you’re Irish if…” jokes and made us get our “trumpets” out and do the noise Ryan Air flights make before he said them. (Ryan Air puts an applause track over the speakers after a successful, on-time landing.) The castle isn’t all old – there’s one old tower and I think the rest has been rebuilt. We learned some Irish: “cead mile failte” which means “a hundred thousand welcomes.” James said it’s plastered all over the airport and you’ll hear people say “you’re very welcome” all the time. There was a cool garden behind the castle, which used to be a black pool Dublin got it’s name from “dubh” (black) and “linn” (pool).
^where the black pools were
We went into a smaller garden and learned about a journalist named Veronica Guerin, who wrote reports on the huge crime problem in Dublin in the 90s. She was threatened and attacked a few times and died after being shot by a hit man.
One of the buildings in the castle complex is used for state events. James told us about two important recent visits. Barack Obama visited because has Irish ancestors. But it was a much more historic and important affair when Queen Elizabeth visited. It was the first official visit by a British monarch since Ireland became its own country. James mentioned three great things she did during her visit: she stepped off the plane wearing green, she started her speech by saying “President and friends” in Irish (shocking even the President), and she visited the rebellion memorials. I watched the beginning of the speech on YouTube, and the reaction of the President when the Queen speaks in Irish is awesome. She’s visibly surprised and impressed and the audience breaks into applause.
Then we walked through a staircase that was in the movie PS I Love You and saw the building where Jonathan Swift was born. James explained that the character in the movie runs out of a bar and onto the steps, even though the bar she’s in and the staircase she goes to are very far apart. This was just like a movie my tour guide in Prague told me about – a character goes from one landmark to another in an unrealistically short amount of time.
^PS I Love You stairs – how exciting
We saw Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Dublin. There is a mummified cat and rat inside – Dublin’s own Tom and Jerry. Gross. We saw where Handel’s Messiah was performed for the first time. We walked through the “cultural” area of Temple Bar and saw where U2 formed. Now Bono owns a bunch of buildings on that street. Apparently he’s signed autographs for the pub crawl tour groups before since they start out of one of his bars. I was pleased to see that Bad Bob’s, where we ate dinner on Sunday night, was located in James’ approved section of Temple Bar. We took a break in this area and I got falafel for lunch.
^Christ Church Cathedral
^fun Guinness ad
We crossed the Ha’penny foot bridge and walked along the boardwalk. We saw a fake plaque on the O’Connell Bridge. Two guys put it up to commemorate a fake priest’s death. People left flowers and wanted it left up after they found out it was fake because, according to James, the Irish “never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
^walking along the river
^plaque to a fake man
^The Spire – very expensive and very pointless (HAHA) – nicknames include “Stiffy by the Liffey,” “Stiletto in the Ghetto,” and “Erection in the Intersection”
Next, we went into Trinity College. It’s a historic college in Dublin. It was cool because it was graduation for the post grads. My cousin, Meghan, later told me that they wear their gowns open, which is different from what we do in the US. The campus was really beautiful.
Lastly, we ended at St. Stephen’s Green. We saw a statue of Wolfe Tone, leader of the 1798 rebellion, and a memorial to the Great Famine – three sickly figures and a dog. After the tour was over, I walked through St. Stephen’s Green a little bit. It was beautiful and full of fountains and flowers. It was a really nice day to be outside. Every bench was full and people were strolling along the paths.
^St. Stephen’s Green
I walked around the shops by Grafton Street. I bought a t-shirt that I had my eye on. It has two sheep on it, and one is knitting a sweater with wool from the other sheep. I thought it was so funny. Then I went to Queen of Tarts, a bakery that Meghan recommended to me. I ordered a warm piece of chocolate fudge cake and a glass of milk. It was delicious. I also bought a blueberry scone to go (aka takeaway) for the next morning. After that, I went into the Gutter Bookshop. I felt right at home! I wrote down almost all of the staff recommendations to look up later.
I walked back to the hostel to meet the girls but they were at Guinness longer than expected, so we ended up meeting at a place called Against the Grain for our last dinner together. It was nice to sit and chat and take in our last moments abroad together.
We took taxis back to the hostel. We bought our bus tickets for the next morning for five euro each. Cassie bought hers with five euro worth of coins. Carla and I were helping her count it out and it definitely came down to pennies. We went upstairs to pack and it was definitely the most fun I’ve ever had packing – Rachel had the music blaring, and we were giggling and reminiscing.
^not messy at all
We said goodbye to Carla around 6:30 am and the rest of us headed out a little after 8:30. We all wore our Ireland clothing and took a picture together under the Departures sign. I said goodbye to Rachel and Blair, who were flying to Chicago together, then Cassie, and then Caroline. It took a while for me to find a friend group but once I did, I really found some keepers!
I ate my scone and bought some stamps to mail some postcards (90 cents in Ireland rather than the outrageous 2 euro in Italy!!) and then waited for Meghan to pick me up!
In the fall, I was considering studying abroad in Dublin, but I ended up choosing Italy because the program sounded really fun, I liked the idea of having American classes (because it’s hard to get used to the European syllabus), and I wanted to be on the continent. Dublin wasn’t one of my favorite cities, but I wonder how I would’ve felt about it after a whole semester. I’m sure I would’ve had some favorite spots. Overall, it was a nice “last hurrah” with my girls and a great end to the first leg of my post-exam travels! In my next post, I’ll write about the wonderful week I spent with my cousin, Meghan!