It’s been a while since I’ve been able to share much of what I’ve been doing, but that certainly isn’t because of a lack of material. Over the last three weeks, I’ve taken weekend trips to Galway and Killarney with a home stay weekend packed in between, and all have been great experiences!
Galway is a quaint little city on the western coast of Ireland and is well known for a visit from Christopher Columbus in 1477 while he was supposedly en route to Iceland or the Faroe Islands. Lots of little shops and restaurants line the streets, and there is a beautiful promenade that goes along the beach and out towards a lighthouse just off the beach. Before we went, we were told that McDonagh’s had some of the best fish and chips in Ireland, so of course we went there after a long day of exploring the shops, the farmer’s market and the Salthill part of town down by the promenade. We didn’t do too much planning before just hopping on the bus and going, so we arrived without a place to stay. Luckily enough, there was room at Snoozles, the number 2 rated group hostel in the world! We were able to get a big family sized room with enough space to fit almost everyone we brought, so we lucked out, but we will probably think about booking a room in advance next time. All in all, Galway was a fun place to visit for a weekend. Definitely worth a visit!
The following weekend it was off to County Cork and the town of Carrigaline for a homestay. A fellow American student (my flatmate, actually) and I were assigned to stay the weekend with a sweetheart of an old woman named Maureen. Maureen has been a widow for somewhere close to twenty years, and she lives at home with one of her sons in the same house that she raised her family. Ever since her husband died, she has been taking in study abroad students like myself because she thinks they are good company and because she really enjoys having somebody to talk to. And talk is exactly what we did. For most of the weekend, in fact. Maureen was the definition of a homebody, and she certainly wanted to make us feel at home, too. She told us not to get up before noon on Saturday, so away we slept. When we awoke on Saturday, obviously we had to eat breakfast and have a few cups of tea, so we sat around the kitchen table for a couple of hours and ate, drank and talked about our lives at home, Maureen’s life in Ireland, and some of the current events of Ireland (such as how there have been traces of horse meat in the ground beef recently, and the protests that are happening up in Belfast) just to name a few things.
Eventually, we had to get out of the house and do something, so Maureen took us out for a drive to see the town before it was time to go to mass. We didn’t get too far because we had to be back in time for our second big feeding before mass. After mass, Maureen dropped us off at the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) building where we met up with most of the rest of our Arcadia group and learned some traditional Irish dancing! We were a bit skeptical at first because everyone in the building had been doing this for years, but we found an instructor to help us out and before we knew it, we looked like we knew what we were doing (except not at all). Regardless, everyone had a great time dancing late into the night, and it was probably the highlight of the weekend for me. Here is a link to a YouTube video of one of the dances we watched while we took a break for tea and scones, as well as a couple pictures from the weekend:
Now to my most recent adventures. This past weekend Arcadia hosted a trip to Killarney that was highlighted by tours of the Gap of Dunloe and the Muckross House. The Muckross House is a mansion within Killarney National Park, and it is most famous for hosting Queen Victoria in the 1800′s during one of her few visits to Ireland. We got to take a tour of the estate, but unfortunately we were not allowed to take any photos of the inside of the building. A couple pictures of the outside of the mansion will have to suffice…
Saturday was spent taking a horse drawn carriage ride through the Gap of Dunloe and a boat ride through Lough Leane (from the Irish for “Lake of Learning”). Despite the cold, wind and rain, everyone had an awesome time taking in the beautiful sights. There’s not much I can say to do it justice, so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.