Sunday, February 19, 2017

Long Overdue Final Post - Ireland 2011

This is, largely, an unnecessary post.  I've clearly made it home from my trip and if you've spoken with me, then you know that it was an amazing trip.  However...I've found my journal and went through my photos from the last excursion of the trip and felt that I still needed to make a final post.  One, because I should have finished this so I might as well do so now.  Two, because the hiking in Connemara was, arguably, the most beautiful day in such a wonderful nation.  So, here we go with a very picture heavy post!

Connemara Hike: July 9, 2011
Cloon & Laghtanabba Bog, Galway

There were no classes today and, having finished Tim Robinson prose from Connemara, we hopped a bus for a day of  hiking and moderated adventure.  We set off on a narrow road towards the mountains that were, as you can see, covered in vibrant vegetation and cloaked in clouds.

The class met up with an archeologist named Michael Gibbons and the day really began.  Where did it began?  Why, in bogs, of course.  There are still people who extract peat from the bogs to use as a source of fuel/heat.  In the picture to the right you can see mounds of peat formed into brick shapes, piled intentionally and left to dry in the sun.  While standing on the bogs we also received a lesson on the incredibly vast amount of things, from trees to humans, that have been uncovered in similar bogs elsewhere.  We were asked whether we noticed how springy and moist the ground was and, when some of the gathered students began to bounce a bit to either illustrate or notice those features, were cautioned against doing so. 
After all, how do you think people ended up in those bogs?  Fair point, and I recall being amused at how quickly others around me stilled and looked down at their feet.  We were then directed to take a closer look at the ground on which we stood and were told that the color of the moss indicated how much moisture the vegetation has absorbed (and, related, how likely it is to suck up your foot).  Unfortunate for me and any reader who is interested or intends to go traipsing about a bog...I didn't write down any helpful information.  The greener?  The brighter?  The more vibrantly yellow?  Was the moss I pictured myself standing on a clue?  Is this picture a particularly spongy and potentially dangerous spot on which to stand?  Or did I take a picture to show safety?  We'll never know.  (I suppose one could google it, but I won't be doing that.)  Having instilled a sense of respect and, possibly, fear in some of my fellow students, we moved on.

We began our trek up the mountains.  There is some stumbling among the rocks, but all goes well and no one in the class slips and falls (well, at least not too far down so as to be worrisome or embarrassing).  As we walk we, of course, encounter some sheep (there is a speck of one in the above picture that is looking down on our group as we trudge, judging and showing off an admirable prowess while jumping about from rock to rock).  

To the left is a picture looking down before we reach the halfway point, to attempt to give some perspective to the hike.  It may make it look like we traveled farther up than we actually did...but since that only serve to make the day seem even cooler than it was I'll go with it.  Look at how high up!  That vehicle is so small!

Even if it wasn't that high of a climb, the view was amazing from all directions and we all took some moments of well deserved rest.

Renvyle Castle

We continued our day by taking a short ride to Renvyle Castle.

Then we spent a while along the coast.

We also saw a few horses.

The cutest of which was this young fella, who was just tuckered out.

He did perk up to say hello briefly.

 We held a short lesson on some rocks in the water.  As usual, the lesson was well thought out and informative.  Unfortunately for the professor, he was a bit overshadowed by the impromptu addition to our class......this wonderfully attentive (and wonderful in general) Newfoundland.  He just couldn't get enough of contemporary Irish literature.


Connemara National Park and Kylemore Abbey

We ended our day long trip with some more hiking, this time in Connemara National Park.  There were even more sheep.

 We ended at Kylemore Abbey.  Short history lesson:  Kylemore Abbey is a Benedictine monastery founded in 1920 on the grounds of Kylemore Castle, in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. The abbey was founded for Benedictine Nuns who fled Belgium in World War I.  It is very grand and a wonderful way to end the day.


One unfortunate outcome of this day was that the black leather boots bought during my accidental trip to Dun Laoghaire did not make it through the day.  Too much damage, too much debris.  So, when I got home on July 11th (I'm not copping out, on the 10th we just had a final class day and a concluding meal, nothing to write home about), the boots were no longer wearable.  I say this five and a half years later:  Those boots were the most comfortable flat boots that I've ever owned.  I bought them and broke them in while hiking abroad.  Cities, farms, bogs and mountains...those boots were a great, pain free, investment.  I still miss them.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

So, I Suck at Blogging

I kind of expected this to happen, this lagging of posts at the end and doing a final post after I was already back. Didn't anticipate that it would take about a month and a half for me to write the last post though.

Don't worry about the validity of my statements though, I'm not just going to be writing what I remember and my feelings looking back a month after the fact. This will mostly be just what I wrote in my actual journal each day. The recount of Inishmore and Connemara are also going to be incredibly picture heavy, because I'm not sure I can quite convey how absolutely gorgeous both of these locations were with words alone.

Thursday July 7th
The Aran Islands, Inishmore.
It started off as an incredibly gray day, with a light rain drizzling down from the moment we left to get on the bus. After about an hour of a bus ride we arrived at the ferry which we then boarded and made our way over to Inishmore, the largest of the three Aran Islands. The ferry ride was actually more intense than I anticipated, it was windy and Galway Bay had bigger waves than I thought it would. I probably should have expected the ride to include such waves, what with it being on the Atlantic ocean and all.
It was still raining when we arrived on the island, and Bethany and I (as well as a good number of people from the ferry) decided to go to the B&B restaurant on the island to get some lunch, and to warm up. So a group of us got a table by the window, looking out at the predominately gray landscape.While we were eating the rain basically stopped, but our group still opted for a bus tour rather than renting bikes to ride around. The bus dropped us off at the bottom of a hill, by small shops and where you purchase tickets to go up to the Iron Age fort.
The friendliest of the many cows came up to say hello to us.
The stone wall the cows were behind was just one of the many stone walls that mapped out the entire island's landscape. It was actually very interesting, that very rarely I saw any actual walls or fences. (Or what I think of an actual fence anyway.) Instead of bricks or stones with cement holding them together, chain link, or wooden fences there were just these walls with stones of all shapes and sizes piled atop each other. Or just hedges. On the island though it was the stones piled up, making the landscape seem incredibly gray. These karst limestone walls blended with the gray clouds, which all reflected off the water, making it seem gray as well. The path up the hill to the walled fort of Dun Aengus was also made of the karst limestone. This limestone is really the defining feature of the island, and I suppose that all the gray should make it seem at least vaguely depressing...but I don't think it did. The entire island was incredibly beautiful, and looked very a way I don't think I can actually put into words. There was also a lot of green everywhere, with some red plants and light purple flowers. Perhaps a bit less of the unbelievably vibrant green that marks much of Ireland, but still pretty vivid.
After we walked up the slick, uneven rock "steps" of the path and go into the lower level of the fort Dun Aengus you're at the cliff edges. Let's take a look over the edge!
No nets or any safety measures at all are used on the cliffs at Inishmore, unlike some of the more popular areas of the Cliffs of Moher (which I unfortunately did not get a chance to visit). What a great place to sit! And it really was a a great place. It had stopped raining, the limestone dries quickly, and the view out into the Atlantic was...much like I imagine the view looking out at an ocean is anywhere, but absolutely amazing nonetheless. Probably so amazing since Missouri is landlocked.
We also visited the area called The Seven Churches, which is monastic ruins of the two churches that are left. Ruins that I climbed on, because climbing up on anything that does not explicitly tell me not to (or that does not look as though it will break) is my thing right now.
Before the end of the bus tour we were also able to see a few of the seals in the seal colony that frequents the island.
Afterwards we just wandered about in the area with shops, and the whole time I debated getting one of the awesome Aran wool sweaters...but they were all incredibly expensive. Understandably so, since it is entirely handmade and looked like it was such high quality. But I still opted for being cheap.
All in all I really loved being on this island. Irish is still primarily used here, so I heard it spoken constantly. Our bus driver told us there is about a population of 300 or so that actually resides on the island year round. It's all very much rural, and a lot of the poetry we read by O'Malley detailed the dangers of fishing in the Atlantic on these islands (and from seeing the water, the rocks, and the cliffs I can understand that). In order to farm seaweed is mixed with sand to plant in. I wish we could have spent more than just a day was a good change to go to one of the more remote, isolated and very much old-fashioned areas of Ireland.
Friday July 8
Was spent walking along the pathways by the coast, and exploring Galway city a bit more. Five of us also went to the Galways film festival where we saw The Pier, a movie about a man that left for New York and comes back when his father calls to say that he is dieing. It takes place in rural southern Ireland, and was actually very good. I don't know how you would be able to get hold of the movie, but if you can manage it I do recommend seeing it.

And now I only have two more days to cover. I will be making another post shortly to cover Connemara and our final day in Ireland.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

You went to Scotland for your Long Weekend? Well I? I went to Cork.

Friday July 1
Did you know that I have never been on a legitimate train before? One that is used for actual, long distance travel and not just to get around a zoo or amusement park of some sort. (Or, if I ever was, I was far too little to actually remember anything of it. So I'm going to say that I've never traveled on a train.)
After a 3 and a half hour bus ride from Derry to Dublin, I boarded a train to Cork. Here is the train station. In the distance, down the little walkway on the right, is where my toe was broken. I'll just explain this. So, I've never been on a train. I got in the door and went "Wow. Where do I put my luggage." So I asked some kindly looking lady, who told me to follow her and she exited the door I came through to go through the far door of the carriage. So I backed up out of the door, but on my way down I bumped into someone. Lost hold of my luggage, which I was pulling out of the train and the step was two feet up. So the luggage, all 40 or so pounds of it, came falling those two feet to land on my pinky toe. Not only did the luggage land on my toe, but the wheel is what smashed that toe. Then there was pain. And I made a horrible face, the lady leading me was a bit freaked out and I limped behind her. Thanked her for showing me where big luggage goes, got to my seat, and sat. I could feel my foot swelling inside of my slightly restrictive boots, but then it went numb. Which was appreciated. By the end of the 2.5 hour train ride it wasn't numb anymore. Got a taxi, went to the Gresham, checked in, called people, then took about a two hour bubble bath. It was great.
Saturday July 2
I slept in! Got up at 11am, decided it would be a good day to spend at Cobh. Took a train from Cork to Cobh, walked along the beach while eating an ice cream, saw the monuments to the Titanic and Lusitania, and walked past a booth for a ferry ride to tour Spike Island. It was leaving in 6 minutes, and I decided, "Why not?" I bought a ticket and went over to the island.
There's an image of the island where I spent much of my day, but the image is of when I was leaving it. Spike Island is really very interesting, and has a great history in religion, naval, and detainment. Plus the star shaped fort on it is pretty cool. However, I don't feel like waxing poetic about this historical place (The Hill of Tara post was enough waxing poetics for a bit) so you could always look it up if you want to.
Ate dinner at a small restaurant right on the coast. I got a bit sun burnt and realized that walking tours are not the friend of your broken toe. Oh well.
Sunday July 3
Despite what the cab driver told me, I did go to Blarney estate. I'm a tourist. I had to go to Blarney. Went there and explored the castle, and kissed the Blarney stone. The kind old man I asked to take a photo for me was a bit late getting it done (but the people running the kissing thing are very rushed people, you have barely any time anyway) but here is a photo of me as I got back up from leaning back to kiss the stone.
I do have many other pictures of the castle and estate, but I don't feel like uploading them all.
After the castle I walked the grounds, including the Poison Garden. I noticed, belatedly, one of the plants they had fenced in was poison ivy. I was not amused.
Most of the other plants were all poisonous or used before in potions and have theoretical magical properties, which were all listed.
I closed my eyes and walked up then back down the wishing steps while thinking only of a wish I would like to come true in the next year. Then, today (the 7th of July) I realized I did it in the wrong order. The plaque had said to walk down then up the steps. I hope that doesn't adversely affect my wish.
Then I ended my trip to Blarney by chilling out in the Druid's Cave.
Also? It was now Sunday night at midnight and my toe was still swollen to twice the usual size and the bruises were a nice black color.
Monday, July 4
Happy Birthday to America!
I spent the birthday traveling. Got to Galway, met up at an American 50s Styled diner. Walked around the city.
Tuesday, July 5
Um. In class we met with Mary O'Malley. That was neat. Walked around the city some more.
Wednesday, July 6
Met with Thomas Conway, the literary manager of the Druid Theater Company. That was great, and he had some very interesting insights into Synge. The rest of the day I finished my final paper. Go me.
It's strange, since it seems like I've done so much less here than in the other places, but Galway is my favorite place out of everywhere we stayed, even despite the prison-esque lodging. (Really. Ask me about it later. I'll tell you all about them.)
Today: Thursday, July 7
We went to Inishmor, one of the Aran Islands. Expect a much more detailed post about this tomorrow, because today was awesome, but it's 11:45pm and I have class at 8:30am so need to do more productive things. I'll leave you with these photos:

Farewell to Northern Ireland

Monday June 27
Today we took a tour of the city walls. Which means, we walked along the wall that circles the walled portion of Derry. From a Royal Charter in 1613 the name was officially changed to Londonderry, and it remains the legal name of the city. However, nowhere in the Republic of Ireland is that used, and all the street signs I saw leading up to Derry had the "London" scratched off, painted over, or otherwise removed. This was even the case in about half of the street signs in Derry (and all of them on the Bogside, or Catholic side, really). Recently there has even been an in-city change to using only Derry, where people on the city council are slowly moving the "London" away. There was actually talk of writing and petitioning England to legally drop the "London" from the name. The walls only took about 6 years to finish, from the first to the last stones laid, built between 1613 and 1619. Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and I believe one of the only walled cities in Europe whose walls have never been breached. And it's not as if the walls of Derry weren't ever tested, there was a 105 day siege in 1689 but still the walls were not breached.This fact is a reason behind the nickname "The Maiden City"...referring to the fact that they are in essence "virgin" walls so the city is still a maiden.
From the wall we also saw some of the murals that Derry is famous for, although we did not take a tour of the murals. Which I found strange. Not so strange that I went and did it in my free time however. Seeing the murals from the wall where the Bloody Sunday (1972) events occurred was enough for me.
The picture above left is looking onto the gate where King James II, after being removed from his throne by William of Orange, came to expecting to gather support and forces in Londonderry. One guard tried to let him in, but was stopped and James was refused entrance, and was soon after thoroughly defeated at the Battle of the Boyne. (I was there earlier too! Look at me, doing history backwards.)
Tuesday June 28
Today we took a bus ride out to Belfast, and after we were there we took a "Black Taxi Tour" of the murals in Belfast. The murals in Derry, compared to those in Belfast, are entirely sedate. Perhaps the most famous mural is that of the gunman, a statement of protection for Protestant Belfast. The gunman is painted so that no matter where you are standing, he is aiming at you. What? You don't believe me?
While standing elevated and to the left? Yep. Looking and aiming at me.
But what if I move off to the center and then...Oh. Look at that. Still aiming at me.
Right then. I'll just move off to the right and...Oh. Hello again Mr. Gunman.
Fine! I'll show you! I'll just stand a foot away from the building so you can't possible be.... Hmn. Touche Mr. UFF Gunman, touche.
All the murals here are very interesting because none have graffiti on them. This is because the UDA (formerly UFF) has so much power in the area. Really, they have power in everything that goes on, and if they don't want the murals to be ruined? They won't be.
After our tour we had a two hour break, in which Claire, Rebecca and I found a lovely pub, and then we met the group again to go see a play. We went to the Lyric Theater to see the play Dockers by Martin Lynch. This takes place on the docks of Belfast, and is about the workers of the docks. The focus of this play is that there is a separate Catholic and Protestant union, so they're competing against each other which defies the point of a union. The main character gets election to being a union council member (or something) and he wants to get everyone united into one union, and to get everyone excited about what the union used to be and should be. His actions are not welcomed by the union leaders and big-shots, or by the older members (so there's a lot of faith and hope in the younger generation), and the ending is bittersweet, ambiguous, and...unfulfilling. But so wonderful. You should all watch it as well as Translations.
Wednesday June 29 and Thursday June 30
On Wednesday, other than class and homework, I didn't really do that much. We did celebrate Lara's 21st birthday, and that was fun. Thursday was our last day of classes before the long weekend, and we got out of class early. However, with the bus schedule I stayed in Derry all of Thursday. On Thursday Claire, Olivia and I did go out to walk around since we were all still in Derry and we went to an adorable cafe for some tea and pastries. It's name? The Boston Tea Party. This tea basically marked the end of my stay in Northern Ireland.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A(n) Historic Event

Remember how I said my blog won't let me edit posts once I've posted them? Yeah. Well. I forgot to put in something that really should have been mentioned earlier.
On Saturday June 25 we arrived in Derry for a historic event. A pedestrian bridge called The Peace Bridge opened just half an hour before we arrived that connects the Catholic and Protestant sides of Derry. There was live music, food and game booths, hundreds of people out crossing the bridge, important community figures, goodwill gestures, and fireworks at sundown.
I apparently missed getting a picture of the symbolically colored fireworks: Green and Orange going off simultaneously and creating a wonderful picture. But I did get a few nice firework photos. Enjoy this one:

There Appears to be a Path, That Must Mean We're Allowed There.

June 26
After class was over today we took a bus ride to Grianan Aileach and to the Inishowen Peninsula.
Grianan Aileach is a series of monuments in county Donegal, but we only went to one fort. Spent about half an hour goofing off, climbing precarious stairs, messing about on the ridge of the fort. It sat atop a hill an provided magnificent views of the countryside and of the bay. Look at me, sitting on the edge. We were going to play around with a picture looking like we were balancing and about to fall, but I decided that would be unwise.
...Shhhh. Souvenirs. Didn't really intend for it to happen, but when I was running my hand over the wall this small piece came off. I rather spend my time climbing about on forts/mounds and traipsing through stone pathways. Though for this particular place I don't have all that much to say, nothing compared to my talk about Tara (mostly because I didn't even read the placard outside of this fort).
After this we got back on the bus and went to the Inishowen Peninsula, though our hour or two hike was scrapped because of possible inclement weather. I don't know if it's that visible to all of you, but there's a tiny bridge to the little island in the picture there. I decided that's where I wanted to go to, even though everyone in the group turned to go up the mountain rather than go near to coastline.
That's as far as I got though. Apparently it was decided it was unsafe for people to go to the mini-island, I suppose partially because of the little fort thing on the island that people could lock people into. They've no trust in the tourists.
They really shouldn't give such an obvious pathway if they don't want people to go down there..... There is a path. I guarantee you that.
And it really was much clearer than this picture makes it seem.
There were even metal rods alongside of part of it, and a bit of a fence left.
There were also rather a lot of what you see to the right. If you cannot tell, those are some viciously thorned plants. They aren't even flowers, or a part of a whole. They are independent, thorned stems...and that's it.
Still, they weren't much of a deterrent now were they?
The answer is no. No, they were not. Because I still walked as far as I could and contemplated going down the steps to the little island anyway. I only didn't because the professor called for us to get back on the bus to go through some entirely terrifying, narrow, steep, rocky mountain paths on which the bus temporarily stalled to get to the....Famine Village.
To the left is literally the only picture you will get of the Famine Village. I honestly don't know what I think about it, not the picture--I find the picture quite quaint and cute. But that is misleading. The entire tour of the village was...super depressing. Now, I know, I know. It is a famine village. I did expect at the very least a somber experience. But this? There were signs all throughout it that were a huge guilt trip (We spend $$______ on our pets/weapons/Mars Bars each year while millions starve to death! And many, many others) and the entire time our tour guide kept detailing how a large percentage of the world is just as bad or worse off as the Irish were during the potato famine. He also kept asserting that Ireland is this close to falling into such a terrible position once more. And that was a huge downer of a way to end the day.

You Got Kicked Out of Where?

Friday the 24 of June was our last day in Dublin, and after class we had the entire day free. Dina and I went to take a tour of Trinity College since we hadn't done so yet (and the rest of the group had). The main attraction to this tour was to go see The Book of Kells, but really for the Long Room. Stepping into the Long Room was like stepping into the library from Beauty and the Beast (only a bit less magical and with a distinct lack of cursed princes). Pictures, of course, were not allowed. Google has a lovely selection of images though.
That night we had another pub crawl, but this one was a musical pub crawl...and we got the teacher to use some of the discretionary money from the program to pay for it, because we had a Dublin music paper to do. So it was educational. Or, helpful, I suppose. At O'Neils we watched and listened to the Galway Girls performing, though I already had my paper done before the pub crawl so I didn't really pay much scholarly attention. The one thing that is most interesting about this night, however, is that I now get to say the first time I've been kicked out of a bar was in Dublin. Sure, it was one person from our group that resulted in everyone being told to leave. But still. I don't really feel like getting into the entire story at the moment, so I'll just summarize it with the statement "Don't mess with the bouncers." Which is something I thought everyone just knew and understood, but apparently not. And they understand it all less as the night goes on. For a bit I felt kind of like a baby-sitter, so that was fun.
June 25
Travel day. 3 hour bus ride up to Derry-Londonderry. Arrived at Saddlers House and said hello to the resident welcoming committee. His name is Bertie. That's about all I have to say for today.