Sunday, May 29, 2011

ireland - little island of fairies, friends, and the absolute craic.

just to preface this post, i’d like share a comparison with you that i made the other night while describing my trip to ireland. if countries were animals, france would be a sophisticated but rather unpersonable black cat – sleek, aloof, sometimes holier-than-thou, but charming if you can get on its good side. ireland, on the other hand, is like an 8 week old floppy chocolate lab puppy – never-ending energy, undying devotion and love, ALWAYS down for some fun, and selfless joy. i hope that sheds some light on why i love the irish so much.

monday, 16 may 2011

my journey began on monday, when i left my dorm around 11:30am to catch the bus to the train station, to catch a train to nantes, to catch a shuttle to the airport, to catch a plane to ireland, to catch a bus limerick, to catch a bus to dublin to meet my friends!! all that to say, i had a long day of traveling. a couple of my friends came to see me off at the train station, including one friend who i won’t see again for a long time! ariel, i miss you already!! my shuttle driver in nantes was irish, which i took to be a sign. also, my friends keith and paddy (both irish) were on the same flight as me! so that was super fun – we played crosswords and joked around for the hour and forty minute long flight. once we arrived, keith left to go meet his brother and paddy and i took the bus to limerick. he was meeting friends there for the night, and i had to catch a bus to dublin! he made sure i knew where the bus left from, and then went on his way.

while i was waiting for the bus, an old man came up to the stop and asked a worker if it was the stop for dublin – the worker said yes, and the old man came over to where i was standing. i asked him if he was going all the way to dublin, and he said “no, no, just halfway along the same route – here, sit down, talk to me!” so i did, and we ended up sitting next to each other on the bus as well. his name is donnchadh o’riordan. we talked for nearly two hours, about everything from his childhood in southern ireland, his early days of schooling when he had only thirty minutes of english lessons a day (everything else was in irish), where he’s traveled in the states, and what my travel plans were. we also talked about the irish language for a long time – he explained what his name meant (brown warrior), how to pronounce the letters, what some useful phrases are, and the differences between dialects. it was probably one of the best conversations ever. he was SO nice and cheerful and just lovely. as if this wasn’t already an awesome story, about 5 minutes before he got off the bus, he pulled out his wallet, took out 10 euro, and said “when you’re on o’connell street in dublin tomorrow, buy yourself a coffee” and GAVE ME 10 EURO. what?! i gave him my email, and i’m sincerely hoping he will email me so we can be pen pals. i actually teared up a bit when he got off the bus.. nicest man ever, and he was the first person i properly met in ireland. wow.

the bus arrived in dublin around 11:30 pm, and my friends came to pick me up. it was shane, jessie, and andrea and shane’s friend rowan, whose house we were crashing for the two day visit. it was SO good to see shane and jessie, who i hadn’t see since before i left for spain in april! we all piled into the car and headed back to rowan’s place, where there was curry waiting for dinner, bless them. we talked well into the night and fell asleep around 4am, the 4 of us in rowan’s double bed. it was great.

tuesday, 17 may 2011

at some point in the night, i had to leave the 4-person-to-a-bed situation.. it was just excessive. i made up a little pallet on the floor and cuddled up for the last few hours of sleep.. we woke up around 10am, worked out the kinks in our necks and backs from such tight sleeping quarters, and headed downstairs.. to find zero food. soo we got dressed and headed out in search of nourishment before our day of sights! luckily, there was a little supermarket just across the way, so i had a muffin and some fruit. yum. :) the goal for tuesday was to visit the kilmainham prison – one of the most historical places in dublin. the student entrance fee was less than 2 euro, and we had an EXCELLENT tour guide. his name was ruiari (pronounced rory) and he was SUPER knowledgeable, engaging, and aware. the tour was filled with historical background information, stories, and trivia about the inmates. almost every irish revolutionary was held in the prison at one point, and many of them were executed there as well. i left the jail feeling like i’d learned a year’s worth of irish history in about an hour and a half! it was awesome.

after the jail tour, we walked to the IMMA – irish museum of modern art – to check out a frida kahlo exhibit before walking into dublin proper. on our way in, we passed the guinness storehouse and brewery and even happened to be on the quay as the queen’s motorcade drove by! so i saw the queen of england. no big deal. actually, it was a HUGE deal  that she was visiting at all. it was the first time that a british monarch had set foot on independant irish soil – the last monarch was george, who visited in 1911 before ireland was a republic of its own. there was a fair bit of tension in the air, with people worrying that there would be conflicts instigated by anti-royalists. thankfully, everything went smoothly and the state visit was a huge success!
after our history-packed tour and queen sighting, we got some lunch at a pub in temple bar (irish red wine and guinness soaked beef stew with mashed potatoes.. MMM) and did a little walking tour of the downtown area. we went through trinity college, which was gorgeous, all the way down grafton street and into st. stephen’s green shopping centre. on the way home, we got some groceries for dinner (pasta – surprise!) and took the tram back to rowan’s house. we had intended to go back out after dinner, but we ended up staying in and spending time together, goofing around on the internet and listening to music. rowan left to go stay at his girlfriend’s place, and after he was gone, we all sat down at the table to make birthday cards for him! his birthday is the 18th. it was actually really awesome, because he was in angers the morning of my birthday, april 18th,and i got to be in dublin for his birthday a month later! our cards were all really great – very individual and unique. we spent a long time making them and then finally got to sleep around 3am. i didn’t even try to sleep in the bed – i’m fairly sure the floor was much more comfortable. :)

wednesday, 18 may 2011

rowan’s birthday!! :) and also our last day in dublin. since we went to bed late, it was up to me as the morning person to rustle the others into action at a decent hour. they were less than pleased when i woke them up around 11.. oh well. i had intended to go into dublin myself a little earlier to see some sights that we’d missed, but i ended up changing my mind and waiting for rowan to come back – i wanted to see the reaction to his cards! he showed up around noon and was so excited about all the cards – he really loved them, and it was an awesome personal touch. :) we were all basically ready to go, so we just motivated rowan to get dressed and then we headed into town. since we were leaving from the bus station around 6pm, we took all of our stuff with us from rowan’s. i only had a backpack, but jessie had a suitcase and no one really wanted to be lugging anything around for the day, so we went to an internet cafe place downtown that had a luggage-leaving service. convenient! once we were free of baggage, i split off from the group to go see two of the landmarks on my list – christ church cathedral and st. patrick’s cathedral. since they were far-ish away, the others stayed and walked around the neighborhood while i double-timed it across town. on my way, the queen’s motorcade passed by again! so i got to see her twice! as it turns out, rowan was exaggerating how far away the churches were.. it was really just like an 8 minute walk. but it was nice to have some alone time to walk through the cathedral and contemplate the history. there has been a cathedral on the site since 1030AD.. which means they’ll celebrate 1,000 years just 19 years from now. WOW. i explored the main nave and also the crypts below, which were really cool. after christ church, i walked down the street to st. patrick’s. it was a bit more expensive, so i just viewed it from the outside – still amazing!

the best part of that whole property is for SURE the archbishop’s personal library, which is in a little building out behind the church. i was walking along the wall when i noticed a little archway door with a sign that said “marsh’s library – opening hours...” nothing else. no explanation, nothing. but, being the massive library nerd that i am, i decided to have a little looksie. i walked into the house, which really was just a house from the 1700’s, and up the stairs to find myself on a landing with several closed doors. one door had a bell next to it that said “ring for attention”. so, i rang it. and a middle-aged man opened the double-door and asked “would you like to visit the library?” .. “yes?” i replied. and when he opened the doors all the way, i actually gasped. i had stumbled across an authentically-preserved, still active library – that was over 300 years old. it had been archbishop marsh’s private collection at first, and each subsequent archbishop had added to it.. there were over 25,000 volumes of the oldest, most beautiful books.. all leather-bound, sitting on gorgeously carved dark-wood shelves. and that amazing old-book perfume wafted through the air.. it was heaven. the guard told me a bit of the history, showed me a 600 year old book in the case, and then left me to marvel in peace. there are two rooms at the library – the main gallery and the back gallery. in the back gallery, there are cages where the librarians used to ahve to lock people in with the books so they wouldn’t run off! each year, the librarians organize a display of a few select books pertaining to a theme – this year was medical. i saw a book of medicine written and illustrated by rene descartes himself! too cool. i chatted with all of the employees, who were all so nice and so informative. one woman had worked there for 18 years.. dream job, much? once i was officially late for my rendez-vous with my friends, i signed the guest registry and tore myself away. incredible place, and an amazingly fortuitous find!

on my way back, i walked through st. stephen’s green, which is dublin’s mini central park. it was beautiful! and i walked along grafton street again, heading towards the pub where my friends were grabbing lunch. i dropped my stuff with them before running down the street to trinity college, to see the reading room. a few years ago, i found this website that had the 100 most beautiful libraries in the world.. ever since then, i’ve wanted to visit all those places – i’ve gotten to probably 5 of them at this point, so i have a long way to go! but the “long room” at trinity college is definitely on the list. it is AMAZING. plus, since i got there just about 12 minutes before closing, they let me in for free just to have a peek!! so, 8 euro saved there. i even got to take a few illegal pictures. on display in the library, they have the book of kells, which is a 1000 year old, flawless illuminated manuscript, the harp on which the national emblem of ireland is based, the skeleton of a 7 foot tall, 400 pound irish giant, and a medical book with the signature of obama’s irish ancenstor, michael cearney! it was a very, VERY cool 12 minutes.

once they kicked me out, i went back to the pub to gather my friends. we stopped by the internet cafe to grab our bags and then headed down to the bus depot. the ride back to the west wasn’t bad at all – we had snacks, and comfy seats, so it passed quickly. our next sleeping place was shane’s house, which i was so excited to see!! mostly, i was excited to play with his dog. his dad picked us up at the bus stop and drove us back to the house.. through some seriously beautiful fairytale landscape. we finally arrived, met his mom and sister, and went to set our stuff down. it was a little surreal, being in shane’s real house. we’ve all been friends for a while now, and talked about our “real” lives so much, and it was really cool/weird to actually experience that. i’m sure it was weirder for shane, having us in his house. we ate dinner really late, and stayed up talking even later. we all crammed into shane’s little room and had a wonderful slumber party!

thursday, 19 may 2011

thursday was our day to explore shane’s home turf. i didn’t want to sleep the day away, so i woke up around 9:30 with the intention to take lady, shane’s dog, on a walk. except there was such a lovely bathtub calling my name... so i took a bath instead. it was awesome. i went back to lie down for a bit afterwards (baths always make me sleepy) and then we all woke up again around 11.. except jessie. she slept for ages! but she hadn’t been feeling well lately, so she needed it. shane, andrea, and i went downstairs to eat and hang out and then jessie finally appeared a while later. i played outside with lady while they got dressed, and then we all went on a magical romp through the fields. it was lots of fun! we got to really see “the land” that shane loves so much, talk to some cows, do some cartwheels and handstands, take lots of silly pictures, and just spend time together. plus, the weather even held out for us! when we came back, the other three stayed outside and played while i got to indulge my inner domestic goddess and bake. i miss having an oven SO MUCH. so they climbed a tree while i baked some chocolate chip cookies.. my goodness, i sound like a mother. but it was awesome. jessie told me later that she had expressed concern to the others about my being by myself inside while they all played, and andrea just told her – “she is content. she is happy in there.” and i totally was. they came inside just as i was finishing up the cookie dough. jessie helped me by chopping up the chocolate, and then they all got a spoonful of dough. i popped the sheets in the oven, and in 12 minutes – cookies!!! except i had tried to squeeze too many onto the tins, so they were a little squished. but they tasted great. and i felt wonderful. for dinner, we made a chicken stir fry, which was delish! after dinner, we watched ‘clueless’, which i’m not sure i’d seen fully before.. maybe just the end. but it was really good! we had an early morning coming our way, so we tried (and slightly failed) to go to bed at a reasonable hour..

friday, 20 may 2011

our early morning came early for the goobers who stayed up all night.. we had to wake up around 8am to be ready to leave by 8:45. shane’s dad kindly offered to drive us down to doolin, on the west coast of county clare, so that we could catch the ferry to inis oírr, which means ‘small island’ in irish. it’s part of the aran islands, called inis man, inis mor, and inis oirr – big island, middle island, small island. creative, eh? we were joined by our friend danjoe, who met us in doolin. the ferry ride actually almost killed me though.. the sea was CHOPPY and the ride was about 40 minutes.. ugh. shane got a picture of me at one point, which i didn’t see until much later, and i literally looked like a corpse. i do not exaggerate – ghostly pale greenish white, blue lips, eyes closed with a blank expression.... death incarnate. it was frightening. BUT once we got off the boat onto sweet land, i got to feeling much better. we stayed in a hostel, where the 5 of us got our own room, which was fun! once we dropped our stuff off, we went right out and had a LONG walk around the island.. climbing over rocks, checking out tide pools, walking along the beaches.. we even got to pet some nice farm animals and see an old shipwrecked boat! the weather was lovely, too, which was a bonus. we came back and made a late lunch before lying down for a bit of a nap. 

around 6pm, we got back up and did some more exploring. unfortunately, jessie had been feeling pretty atrocious since we arrived on the island.. but being the absolute superhero that she is, she powered through the whole afternoon of exploration. by the time 7pm rolled around, she was not doing so well. we ended up going to the island doctor to get her some medicine, and then stopped in one of the island’s three pubs for dinner. i had some awesome vegetable soup and also had my first taste of guinness in ireland! i just had a few sips of andrea’s, but still. it had begun. we stayed around for a while after dinner, because there were three older men playing music in the pub and it was lovely. i even beat danjoe at pool. we left around midnight to put jessie in bed, and then the 4 of us went back to the pub and continued our night.. played some more pool, listened to music, talked. i ordered my own pint, but didn’t finish it.. around 2am, we left and walked along the beaches for a while until i decided to go in to sleep. the other 3 stayed out for a while – they walked up to the old church ruins and played on a playground until nearly 4am, the crazies. but they came back eventually, and we all slept soundly. the duvet on my bed was amazing.

saturday, 21 may 2011

saturday was a little rough, mostly because we weren’t sure if we would be able to get off the island at all due to weather. so we woke up around 10am because we were supposed to “check out” at 10:30.. except that was a very loose time. we were actually downstairs with all of our stuff around 11:30am, but the weather was so bad that we just sat in the dining room and played games. at one point, we did go out to the store to get some milk to make hot chocolate.. yum. :) around 1:30, we moved over to the pub next door to spend our last few hours on the island next to fire, playing cards and drying our socks and shoes. at 4:30, we got on the one and only ferry back to the mainland. i was verrry apprehensive about the ride, but it ended up being completely fine! who knew. we arrived back to a down called rossaveel, and then took a bus back into galway city. there was a big to-do about trying to surprise our friend trish at work, and also meet up with emma, but my phone ran out of credit and the others’ phones were dead.. it was a big fail all around. we did end up seeing trish for about five minutes, but emma never got to meet up with us. at 8pm, we took a bus back to shane’s neck of the woods. we had a nice dinner – roast chicken, veggies, bread – and then talked until bed.

sunday, 22 may 2011

after finally getting a good night’s sleep, we woke up and did our usual morning routine – breakfast, tea, goof off, get dressed. in the early afternoon, shane’s mom drove us to the coast again to see the cliffs of moher, which were absolutely astounding. the weather was bad for a spell, but it cleared up after a while and we had an awesome afternoon! i had one of the most surreally surprising “small world” moments of my life on the cliffs – we asked a man to take a picture of us, which he did gladly, and then we offered to take a picture of him and his family. after a few sentences exchanged, we figured out that they are friends with my boyfriend’s family in huntsville, alabama!!! their son, stahler, was friends with drew in middle and high school. CRAZY. i got a picture with them. my brain was exploding. after that, we drove down the road a bit to lehench for a snack of chicken and vegetable soup and then continued home. on the way, we stopped for groceries and also at our friend niamh’s house to say hello/goodbye! i had actually never met niamh, but jessie and andrea both had. when we arrived, niamh and her younger siblings had made everyone cards – including me!! the irish are the nicest people EVER. the cards were adorable. we visited for a while and then headed home to cook a fabulous asian noodle stir fry dinner.. yummm. about halfway through the meal, though, andrea commented that it was our last meal together, at which point the food started tasting like ash. the rest of the night was us trying to be happy but actually being sad. we even hugged each other before bed. sigh.

monday, 23 may 2011

after very small amounts of sleep (are you sensing the trend yet?), we woke up and packed our stuff.. we left to drop andrea off at the airport, which was heartbreaking, and then jessie and i took a bus up to dunmore to go to emma’s house! she met us at the stop and it was GREAT to see her. we went to the store to pick up things for dinner and then came back to watch president obama’s address. it was AWESOME. great man. anyway, after all that inspiration, we made spaghetti bolognaise for dinner and then talked for quite a long time. we watched breakfast at tiffany’s before bed. emma’s mom had gone to stay at her parents’ place across town so that jessie and i could sleep in her bed (bless her!) – it was the single most comfortable bed i have ever slept on in my life. margie cheevers, you are a goddess.

tuesday, 24 may 2011

our happy, quiet little day around dunmore. we woke up and ate a little breakfast, hung out around the house for a while, and then got dressed to leave. we bought food for a picnic and then passed by the school to embarrass emma’s brother dan. he ignored us. we walked a few kilometers out of town to eat at the castle! there is a great old ruin just outside of town. after lunch, we took the epic “bog walk” of emma’s youth – a really nice walk through the fields surrounding the village. after the walk, we came back and talked with dan and his friend james for a while. i went upstairs for a little nap before dinner, and then we all ate pizza together. yum. :) after dinner, we did a “pub crawl” of dunmore – and by that, i mean we went to two different pubs and hung out. at the first pub, i FINALLY finished my own pint of guinness – life accomplishment! at the second pub, emma got another bulmer’s and we sat and talked for a while. we came back around midnight and went to bed at a fairly decent hour – i couldn’t wait to get in that amazing bed again!

wednesday, 25 may 2011

my last full day in ireland. :( we woke up early and were all ready get on the bus at 10:55.. only to find out that we had mixed up the timetables, and the bus had actually come at 10:45 – dang. so, we spent a few more hours in dunmore before catching the next bus at 1:55. we got to galway around 2:45 and met up with shane – yay! the 4 of us walked down to my friend hannah’s apartment, where we were staying for the night. i met hannah through one of my best friends from high school, cat. they go to vandy together. hannah is WONDERFUL. she let me bring five of my friends to crash her apartment, and had cookies baking when we arrived. seriously.. amazing human being. we sat and talked at her place for a while before walking into town to do some exploring. we met up with our friends niamh and danjoe in town. i finally got to buy a claddagh ring, which is a traditional irish design – two hands holding a heart with a crown on top. hands for friendship, heart for love, crown for fidelity. it’s beautiful! we went and looked around NUIG, my friends’ university – we played hide and seek in an empty lecture hall, and i kicked butt. around 8pm, we went back to the apartment to regroup before heading out for the night. it was international fish and chips day, so naturally we went out for fish and chips. except i had chicken, because i actually don’t like fish that much. it was great though! we kept meeting up with more and more people, since emma and shane are so popular, so at one point in the night we had a pretty big group. we left the restaurant and went to a pub called ‘the quays’, which was SO fun! the décor was like the inside of a pirate ship, which was awesome, and there was a live band. we played games with the coasters and took pictures and joked around.. it was probably the best time i’ve had in a while. i just love those people so much. after the quays, we went to emma’s natural habitat – a hipster haunt called ‘the roisin’ (pronounced row-sheen). i hadn’t been in such a hipstery place since i left cafe coco. it was fun, though, they had dancing and an outdoor area and a great bar. we stayed there until nearly 2am before getting a cab back. on the way home, we got some milk and stuff for breakfast. shane also got some spring rolls and a bowl of indian food. weird. we got back and cooked the food before making up our beds and hitting the hay.

thursday, 26 may 2011

the day i had been dreading for weeks. we got up and got packed quickly, scarfed some food down, and headed to the bus station so jessie, niamh, and danjoe could make their bus to donegal. after that, i had to wait for 30 minutes before my bus to the airport came at 11:05.. hannah came with us to say bye, and then left to meet her friends. so it was just me, shane, and emma. i gave them each a little bar of chocolate with a note that i’d already written, just so i wouldn’t have to actually say anything meaningful through the inevitable tears. i hugged them each about 5 times and tried to hold myself together.. but at 11:04, i made myself get on the bus. i waved at them and smiled through my tears until the bus pulled away, at which point i absolutely lost it and cried for about 30 minutes. pitiful. shane and emma, i love you two so much and i am literally hurting without you. <3

the rest of the day was a blur of bus ride, airport, shuttle, train, bus, home. it was hard to come back to my dorm knowing that my three main peoples on the floor were gone. but i got to skype drew for a while, which was nice, and then my mom too.


as always, for pictures of this trip, check out my facebook album. my trip to ireland was 10 of the greatest days ever.. i miss it, but mostly my friends, so much, and i cannot wait to go back. gráím thú, eire. x

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