Donegal Bay!

Donegal Bay

We left Sligo yesterday and headed to Donegal. On the way we stopped at a couple places but the one that really stuck out to me was the holywell. I was picturing an actual well like in the movie the ring. Instead it was this beautiful alter outside were people can go pray. It was made for when there were problems with the Irish and they weren’t allowed to be catholic. This was made so they could still pray and practice their religion. To this day people still go there to pray and there is even a monumental tree where people have hung ribbons and rosaries up after they are done praying. It really is a beautiful site to go see.

On Thursday we had the chance to hike and see Queen Maeve’s Tomb. It was about a 45-minute walk up the mountain, and was really worth the sore calves that we all complained about. What you are supposed to do is pick up a rock before the hike. Once you get to the top you see a huge pile of rocks. You are supposed to walk 3 times around the pile than walk to the top of the pile and put your rock on and take someone else’s off and bring it to the bottom of the mountain. Of course I forgot to grab a rock at the beginning so I wasn’t able to participate in this but I did walk to the top of the rock pile to see the view. It ended up raining the whole time for us so the view was a bit foggy but it was still beautiful. At the top you can see everything and when driving in Sligo you always see the mountain where Queen Maeve is buried and she is always watching over. They say that Queen Maeve was actually buried standing up so that she can always look out. It was cool to read all about her during the semester and be able to actual go where she is buried.

It has been pretty interesting talking to the locals in any city that we visit. Everyone seems to know a lot about the states and they all definitely have their own opinions. The cool thing for me is that I am from a very small town in New York so when I talk to people they usually assume that I am from the city. Whenever I say I’m from upstate no one ever knows where I’m talking about. The other day when we were climbing Croagh Patrick I met a man that has visited my town before! It was a shock to me and made me realize just how small this world actually is.

Are first night in Donegal was really good. A couple of us went to Dom’s Pier 1, which is a restaurant that looks over the lake and is beautiful inside. They also had really good prices for the amount of food and the quality of food that we got. Today there is a rugby and soccer (futbol) game on so we are all going to watch it in town to get the feeling of the locals and sporting events. GO CHEALSEA!

Cliffs of Moher!!!

On our way to Galway we stopped at the Cliffs of Moher. It was one of the most beautiful things we have all ever experienced. The whole cliff is blocked off by a rock wall for safety reasons, but looking over the cliff even behind the rock wall gave me butterflies in my stomach. It was cold and raining when we went but it was raining off and on so we were still able to see the view. The wind was so strong that it was pulling some of us around while we were trying to walk. That was a funny sight to see. On the cliffs we didn’t have a tour guide or anything we just went off on our own and we were able to explore what we wanted to. There is a castle type building at the top of one of the cliffs that you can pay 2 euros to go to the top to take pictures. We all decided to save our money for food so none of us went up there to check it out.
Once we got to Galway we were able to go shopping a little and a lot of the girls went straight for the original claddagh ring shop. Even through I already own two of these I just had to get one from the original store in Ireland! I ended up getting just the plain sterling silver one but I love it! Galway is smaller than Dublin but still has a city feeling to it. Comparing it to Dublin I do prefer the shops at Galway better than I did at Dublin for buying gifts for the parents and sister. I have enjoyed my time here but I am really excited about going to Sligo. We head for a hike tomorrow at 9 am with the whole group so that should be fun!

Ring of Kerry

Quick stop on the way to the Ring of Kerry

We made it to Killarney! Dublin was great but any city to me can get old really fast (I’m a country girl). Killarney is exactly like I pictured all of Ireland to be. The grass is so green with animals grazing all over the country. The sights are beautiful. Today we took a tour around the Ring of Kerry. I recommend this to anyone that comes to Ireland. It was a sight like no other. After looking back at all of my pictures the background doesn’t even look real because it is so perfect. The ocean with the mountains and all the land around it is just a sight that has to be seen in person to understand the true beauty of Ireland. At one of the stops we met a man that had baby lamb and sheep with him, which he allowed some of our group to feed and then hold and take pictures. Overall it was a great day until the motion sickness kicked in on the way back. The roads are very tiny and very windy, but I would do it all again to see those sites.

I got the chance yesterday to see some of the family, which was great! My uncle and I share a birthday and he happened to be here and I was able to go out to dinner with him and twelve of the cousins. It was nice to hear things from their point of view instead of listening to the tour guides and others who tell us what we want to hear or what they are supposed to say. They made me feel at home and it was great to get out and be able to have a fancy meal with some family on my birthday.

Tomorrow we leave for Galway with many stops on the way to all different kinds of places so it should be fun and interesting.

 

Welcome to Killarney

As sad as it was to leave Dublin this morning, we all packed up and started the long journey for Killarney this morning. We made two stops along the way- Clonmacnoise and Clarney castle. These were both two beautiful, scenic places of Ireland to visit. Clonmacnoise is located along the Shannon River in Galway. It’s an old beautiful monastery that was built for religious worship. It’s tall, cylinder shaped domes are indicators for monasteries. Although this place is gorgeous and was built in a desolate area in Ireland, it was often pillaged by vikings in the past. The beautiful mountains and green lands surrounding this place allows you to feel how it probably was back when monks were using the place. Clonmacnoise was built in its current location due to the scenery around it, and it was very beautiful. The weather was warmer today than it has been. One thing we haven’t mentioned is that it is COLD here. We often are bundled in three layers of clothing and are still cold. Today, however, had a nice ray of sun continuously shining, making this the perfect day for sight seeing.

The Clarney castle was also a beautiful place to visit, however I cannot agree that it was as beautiful as Clonmacnoise. The castle was under construction, therefore certain parts were cut off of the tour. But Ireland’s beauty around the hill of the castle was breath taking, with mountains and green lands in every direction.

Tomorrow we will be taking a scenic route on foot around mountains and get a first hand glance at Ireland’s beauty by becoming a part of it for a day. I cannot wait.

Clonmacnoise

Dublin

Dublin has been great so far. As a group we have taken two tours around Dublin. One was walking and the other was a hop on hop off tour bus. We have also been to trinity college, was able to see the book of Kells and the library, we also took a tour of Christ church, and went to the national museum of ireland where we were able to see preserved bodies along with many other wonderful exhibits (200 to be exact). It’s great to actually see all of the things that we have learned about in class. The library in Trinity College was an amazing site. I literally had to sit down to take in the site and wonderful smell of the old books!!!!

The walking tour that we took today was led by a sweet woman named Caroline. She knew everything possible about the buildings of Ireland and all of the historical sites. She even showed us the uglyist building in Ireland which to me wasn’t the uglyist I have ever

Students with tour guide Caroline in front of the National Museum of Ireland

seen but she really seemed to hate it. The most touching part of this tour was when we saw the Great Famine memorial. It consisted of a family surviving the famine. The two that really hit one for me was the dog and the father carrying a child on his back. I reccommend this as a must see to anyone that travels to Ireland. It is very heart warming and really shows how much Ireland was affected by the great potatoe famine.

The group has become so close so fast. It makes the trip much easier when you are with a great and fun group of people. Its crazy to think that I probably would have never met/talked to these people if it wasn’t for Jbip. I’m so excited for the rest of our time here in Dublin but I’m also excited to see what the other cities in Dublin have in store!

First Day in Dublin= Sleep Deprived.

On the bus tour

After a total of about 13 hours traveling we made it to Dublin! The local time here when we arrived was approximately 9am while back at home it was 3am. Needless to say, by the time we got off of the plane, we were all exhausted. However, too much to see in such a short time so we jumped right into our city tour, leaving most of the group with less than 2-3 hours of sleep to run on. Wooo. Coffee was my first mandatory stop. Just to warn y’all, I got about 2 hours and am writing this particular blog on sleep deprivation so please bear with me.

From what we’ve seen of Dublin though, it is gorgeous here! One thing that makes this place so unique is how the city almost crams a lot of activity into small areas. It doesn’t sound so nice when you hear it like that,

but when you walk into coffee shops and local stores, it just makes the place super homey. The numerous coffee shops here also have some of the best lattes and espresso drinks on this earth!

One thing I also love about Dublin is the lively activity within the city. I always believed Ireland to be a very laid back place, so to see how the streets are packed and all the people walking around and riding their bikes was pretty surprising to see.
Well, I’m going to go get some sleep before dinner tonight. As our main tour for the day, we rode on these two story buses called “hop on, hop offs” that were touristy buses that took you to the main areas of the city like the Guinness factory, Jameston factory, and the Trinity college. Considering our sleep deprivation though, we are going to save those spots for tomorrow. We just rode on the tops of the buses where the roof was cut, giving us a pretty cool experience of just seeing the place. We did go visit the Church of Christ Cathedral today though! It was probably the most beautiful church I have ever seen.

It was very large with carved stone walls and inside there was a man playing the organ. A crypt also laid below the church which we were able to tour- kinda creepy but also pretty neat.

Ireland JBIP 2012: Legend… wait for it… daary!

So right now the Ireland JBIP trip of 2012 is chilling in the Charlotte-Douglas airport waiting on our flight to NY, and then to Dublin, Ireland. Thankfully, unlike other groups such as South Africa and Vietnam, our flight time will total to about 8 hours- including the flight to NY. As one of the lightest packers of this group, I managed to pack everything I need into a small carry on size suitcase, weighing at about 33 lbs. (And that was one of the smaller sized bags). Lets just say that packing for traveling to a foreign Country is not as easy as it sounds.

As one of the smaller JBIP groups of 17 people, our group has grown pretty close in the short semester of the class. In my opinion, probably the biggest benefit of the JBIP class is that it not only gives you a basic background understanding of your Country, it also gives you the opportunity to bond with everyone going on your trip. At the beginning of the semester, I only personally knew two people in my group. At this point I am friends with everyone on my trip, making it more comfortable seeing that it doesn’t feel like I’m traveling with strangers.

Well time to go now, seeing that there’s not much more time until we start boarding. Safe Travels JBIP!

Students bid farewell to the Emerald Isle

So … tomorrow we leave Ireland for home. While at first the time seemed to linger on, the last few days have sped up and soon the Emerald Isle will only be remembered in photographs – literal and mental.

The last two days have been full of history and museums as students explored St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church, the National Museum and Kilmainham Gaol. Of these, the latter certainly made an impression as our spirited tour guide filled our time there with vivid details and short stories about the people who had been housed and executed within those walls.

Many students also did their own exploration of Dublin during their free time and besides meticulously picking out the best souvenirs and other trinkets, some visited the Irish Museum of Modern Art and the Writers Museum. A couple of eager theatre-goers were wowed by the production of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons at the Gate Theatre.

It is clear by reading the student journals that everyone had a really good time on this study tour. Some embraced every moment, others adjusted to travelling with a group, and others rose to the occasion of being away from everything familiar. What can be said for sure is that we were all determined to enjoy ourselves … and we did!

Dublin: Europe’s Las Vegas

We arrived in Dublin in the warmest weather we have seen the whole trip. This made for a great walking tour of the city, where students got the chance to become acclamated to the layout: O’Connell Street, the River Liffy, Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green and of course, Grafton Street. We had one major stop at the General Post Office – best known as the site of the Easter Rising of 1916. The students will have a couple of free afternoons before we leave on Thursday when they can explore some of the many well known sites in this bustling city.

Students at Trinity College in Dublin

Students at Trinity College in Dublin

While some students were relieved to be back in a major city, full of people and traffic – even for a Sunday – others were noticeably stunned, given the vast contrast to the realtively sleepy towns we had been in recently. But this morning they were all ready to go. First stop – Trinity College library, which houses the Book of Kells and the Long Room. Many students loved the smell of the old books and were amazed by the display of such ancient writings.

Then it was off to the National gallery just down the street, where we viewed works by not only Irish artists such as Jack Yeats, but also saw pieces by other renowned European artists including Renoir and Kahlo. The Harry Clarke exhibit of illustrations for Hans Christian Andersen was as delightful as the design of the stained glass windows we had seen in Dingle.

This afternoon many students took off to tour the Guinness and Jamieson factories. After all, how could one come to Dublin and not do that?

Glendalough provides peaceful respite

We set out on Sunday morning from Kilkenny – bound for Dublin – the most anticipated stop on the study tour. But there was one special stop along the way – Glendalough. Those of us who had been there before hoped for great weather, which provides the best backdrop for the monastic site and natural environment at this special location in the the heart of the Wicklow mountains.

Although a little fatigued, students were blown away by this place. Sure, they had seen ruins of castles and monasteries throughout the trip, but the imposing round tower at this site made it different. The nature buffs in the group were wowed by the long walking trail under the trees, which provided some shade from the sun. While there were many other visitors to Glendalough that day, student sat in small groups along the edge of the lake to enjoy their picnic lunch.