Tuesday, September 10, 2013

the luck of the irish

holy moly, you guys.

this first week back in europe has been so unbelievably wonderful; i am certain this blog will not come close to doing it justice. i’ve already gotten to see so much, and i’ve only been here for 6 days… yikes. in an effort to keep this blog from becoming a sort of daily log of actions, i’ll just focus on the particularly awesome bits of this last week!

my first day was absolute madness – i didn’t really sleep on the plane, so i arrived in dublin at 5:15am local time feeling very loopy. i knew that i needed to stay awake for the whole day in order to beat the jet lag, so i had a loooong day stretched out before me. meeting shane at the airport was surreal - it all kind of felt like a dream, especially with the soft morning light of the sunrise in conjunction with the after-effects of the sleeping pill! that first day was so full – we walked around the city for a long time and haunted trinity college for a few hours in the afternoon, where i finally got to spend some time looking at the book of kells exhibit. that evening, we went out to a port town called dĂșn laoghaire (pronounced ‘dunleary’) and watched the sunset over the harbor. it was a wonderful day, and wildly successful in keeping me engaged and awake until bedtime!

the next day was a similar walking tour kind of day, except i was on my own.. shane had to work from 12-8pm, so i spent most of the afternoon wandering around to various public buildings. i admired the national library (it’s gorgeous), the exterior of dublin castle and the gardens, and st. stephen’s green (kind of like central park, but way smaller) until it was time to go meet shane. we grabbed some snacks and hopped on a bus back home to county clare, in the west! we arrived in limerick around 11pm, where shane’s dad was there to pick us up and bring us home to drimeen.

being home in clare is lovely – every direction you look, it’s beautiful, green rolling hills and farmland. and it’s always nice to be in a home while you’re away traveling, as opposed to just finding a place to sleep. homes are so cozy. we took two long walks on friday: one a few kilometers down the road to the local graveyard, which was perched on top of a hill and absolutely stunning, and another to the top of the foothill behind shane’s house, just in time to lay in a big field and watch the sun slip behind the mountains. there is nothing more peaceful and refreshing, i swear. all in all, it was so nice to spend time with the family and the animals and recharge!

saturday felt kind of like christmas eve, as the entire country prepared for the all-ireland hurling final on sunday. shane’s home county (clare) was playing cork in the championship match, so everywhere we looked, there was yellow and blue bunting and signs saying “up the banner!” and “up clare!” – the atmosphere was positively contagious. everyone was coming up to dublin for the game, so our drive on the motorway was peppered with honks and waves, as fellow clare supporters drove by in their decorated cars. several friends came to stay with us in dublin and we all stayed up late, catching up and just generally goofing off until the wee hours of the morning.

sunday was all-ireland day, and consequently one of the coolest days i can remember. the all-ireland match is the championship for the national hurling competition. here, counties have amateur teams (organized by parish, and consisting of regular people. not paid, not professional.) and they compete against each other throughout the year, in an effort to make it to this final match and win the cup. the sport itself is unbelievably difficult and entertaining – so fast-paced and physical, with ridiculously challenging skills involved. but the best part about the all-ireland is the build-up and the atmosphere. imagine the most passionate college football game you can, and now quadruple the lifetime devotion and sense of pride felt by the supporters… it’s absolutely electric. and, because this country is the freaking greatest, my wonderful friends found me a ticket. so, i pretty much got to attend the most important event of the year in irish sports, and also the coolest sporting event i’ve ever seen, hands down. if you want to know how the match went, read this article. fantastic day.

yesterday was a slow day, since we were all so tired from the festivities of the day before. i spent the morning lounging, and then finally made my way to the glasnevin cemetery for a walk around. the cemetery itself was beautiful, in a sort of haunting way (pun intended). the highlight of my day for sure was getting to rendez-vous with the "old man irish friend" i made during my first visit to ireland, donnchadh o’riordan. he came all the way into dublin to have afternoon tea with me at the gresham hotel. we sat and talked for over two hours, and it was so lovely. he is such a kind spirit. shane came to meet him as well, so they got to chat for a while about folklore and the ireland of old. when he caught the tram back to the train station, shane and i walked around for a bit before grabbing dinner and heading home.

today has consisted almost entirely of preparing for my trip to scotland, which begins tomorrow!!! i’ll be flying to edinburgh tomorrow evening, where i will kick off my two-week exploration. i’ve been looking forward to visiting scotland for ages and ages – feels like a dream come true! but honestly, being here has been wonderful enough. i just love this place, and i truly could stay here. might have to start looking for a way to come here once i'm through in france! who knows.. :)

(if you’d like to see pictures from this first week in ireland, check out my facebook album here.)

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