Connemara

Our second excursion out into Ireland took us to Connemara. Connemara is a district in west Ireland that has amazing landscapes and landmarks.

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The beginning of our journey took us to a few roadside stops and a look at the fjord. The fjord was an amazing view with the mountains being broken apart by the water.

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When we first pulled over to take photos of the fjord, the weather was overcast but not raining. I decided not to wear my jacket as it had been warm in the bus. As we got closer to the water, the wind started to pick up and i began to regret my no jacket decision. My view of the water was quickly obstructed by my hair blowing crazily in the wind and the rain that soon followed. Within a matter of minutes heavy drops began to fall.

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One of the greatest things about bing in Ireland is how care free I feel. As the rain fell I didn’t care that I was getting wet or that I would surely be cold soon. I didn’t care that I had left my jacket in the bus because I was surrounded by such an amazing place with awesome people having the best time. I also knew there was a fire waiting for me in the pub we were going to, so that helped too.

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I came into the pub and was greeted by friendly faces and that warm fire. Gaynor’s Bar has a tradition where if you come into the bar wearing a hat, you have to leave it. The woman said she has over a thousand hats. Many of them were hanging on the ceiling and told the story of the many travelers who have made a pit stop in the same place as us. A Giants fan, representatives from states all across America, and a variety of colors were all present.

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On our way to the Kylemore Abbey, we stopped by a fairy tree on the side of the road. Our bus driver explained that if you leave something on the tree and make a wish then it will be granted by the little fairy people. Unfortunately, I didn’t have anything I felt I could part with, but it was fun to see other people make their wishes!

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We then made our way to the Kylemore Abbey. The abby is incredibly grand and surrounded by grounds to explore. We spent the next two hours being taken back in time to when the abby was filled with nuns.

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We walked through the gardens that were so beautifully manicured with blue accent doors and bridges that it felt peaceful and serene. After lunch in the restaurant, we went to explore the church that was built on the grounds. This was one of the most beautiful parts of our tour. I am not a very religious person, but there was a sort of energy when we walked into the church. It was so beautifully built and preserved that you couldn’t help but to be quiet.

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The church was built by a man in memorial after his wife, Margaret’s death. It was amazing to see the love someone had for another through such a grand and withstanding gesture.

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As we continue to explore more of Ireland, I love learning about the history and developing a deeper connection to the place I am calling home for the next four months!

Check out this video of our trip to Connemara!

The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren

Prior to studying abroad, whenever I thought of Ireland I thought of the Cliffs of Moher. So obviously it had to be our first stop!

We decided to take a tour to the cliffs and got even more than we thought we would. The tour not only took us to the cliffs, but also the Burren. The Burren a vast landscape in County Clare. As we drove up to the Ailwee Caves in the Burren, there was green as far as the eye could see. The bright green farm land is separated by stone walls that makes the Irish landscape unique.

Before heading up to the caves we stopped by Dunguaire Castle. It was so picturesque with the water glistening as the sun beat down on us through the crisp air. We wandered around the castle and explored the surroundings.

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We weren’t expecting to go to the Ailwee caves, but once we got there, it was an experience I was glad we got to have. Walking into the dark depths of the caves brought us into another world. We ducked our way through the cave and crossed bridges while learning about the history of the environment surrounding us.

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Once we were out of the cave it was time to move on to our next destination, the Cliffs!

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My excitement grew as we got closer to the Cliffs. As soon as we got off the bus the wind was blowing our hair like crazy. Wind is all part of the experience. As the cliffs came into view I was in awe of the vastness of the well-known landmark.

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We went to the left and started walking toward a castle that stood facing the cliffs. We were lucky enough to go on a nice day and got clear skies making the cliffs even more beautiful. After taking picture after picture, we decided to go to the other side and explore.

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The paved path eventually ended and we were met with mud and puddles. Luckily I had worn my waterproof boots, but the puddles were so deep we decided to try and go around them. After climbing over the edge, we found ourselves in a mud pit.

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We continued to waddle our way through the mud, determined to get on top of the cliffs. Each step I took was deliberate in an attempt to not sink deeper than my boots until I took one wrong step and slid down a tiny mud bank. With my side covered in mud, all bets were off. I was determined to get there.

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Once reaching our final destination, we took in our surroundings. One way laid the ocean and the other way was filled with green grass as far as the eye could see.

After a delicious lunch of seafood chowder, we were on our way back to Galway.

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On our way we stopped at the “mini cliffs”. This was one of my favorite parts of the tour because it was something I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. We pulled off to the side of the road and got out to explore. We were able to get even closer to the edge here and the landscape was different than that of the Cliffs of Moher, it was rockier.

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Overall, we had a great first excursion out in Ireland!

Check out this video of our adventure:

Galway Week 1

We have officially been in Ireland for a week! It has been a crazy, fun-filled week with a lot of adjustments.

After 24 hours of travel, we were exhausted by the time we got here. We arrived at our accommodations (apartment) and were ready to get settled. When we walked into our apartment, we were greeted with a large spiral staircase and several closed doors. We were surprised by how closed off the apartment was, but we soon figured out why that might be. Heating is incredibly expensive here and we think there are so many doors to keep the heat in.

The first night here was overwhelming and I felt like a freshman again because I had no idea where anything was. It was dark and raining and while that isn’t all that different from home, I could feel the distance between Oregon and Galway.

While there are many similarities to the Pacific Northwest, there are some differences:

  1. Cashiers at grocery stores sit down when they are checking you out. I’m not sure why I find this so interesting, but I do.
  2. Almost all signs are in both English and Gaelic. I love that even though I am studying abroad in an English speaking country, there is still another language very prevalent in the culture.
  3. The paper is longer. This threw me off at first, but it is actually pretty handy when taking notes in class.

These may seem like small things, but they definitely stand out!

Our first day in Galway consisted of orientation and a tour of the University. As soon as orientation started, I began to feel like Galway could feel like home for the next five months. While I had heard that the people of Galway were of the nicest you’ll meet, they are also incredibly funny.

After orientation, we went back to the apartment and napped before our tour of the school. The tour was nice and we met some other international students on it. NUI Galway is a beautiful campus with the original building looking like a castle.

NUI Galway
NUI Galway

After the tour, we decided to explore town and went to our first pub. It was a little weird getting carded for the first time even though I’m not 21 yet. After enjoying some Irish coffees and eating some delicious pasta, we were ready to head to bed.

After another day of orientation, we decided to go out. The nightlife in Galway is crazy fun and every time you go out is an adventure. The streets are lit up with string lights and there is music coming out of all the pubs. It’s unlike anything i’ve seen in Oregon, especially in McMinnville.

Downtown Galway at night
Downtown Galway at night

We took a tour of the city on Sunday, which consisted of our tour guide telling us all about the death that has plagued the city for hundreds of years all with a smile on his face and a spring in his step.

It was awesome to hear about the history behind the cobblestone streets we were walking and the buildings we were passing by. Galway is a city with so much history, I’m hoping to take in as much as possible.

The next couple of days were spent trying out classes, which are not too exciting. It is strange being in large lecture halls and having professors with accents, but I am getting used to it.

The view on the way to school!
The view on the way to school!

There is still so much more to see of Ireland and I can’t wait to travel for the next five months!