Wednesday, October 9, 2013

I ♥ Ireland

Through GIF’s Travel Learning Program, I was able to go to Dublin, Ireland! The program included accommodation at All Hallows College, a half-day guided tour of Dublin, and a full-day tour to Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.

After arriving in Dublin, all 12 of the students on the trip met up at All Hallows. We quickly checked in and decided to go out as a group for pints and pizza, since we were eating dinner pretty late at night we didn’t have very many options.

Myself, Nicole, Patron, Shannon, and Zach

Friday we woke up and hopped on the Pattywagon (our main mode of transportation for the weekend) to go explore the City Center. During our bus tour we stopped off at St. Audoen’s Church. The church is located just south of the River Liffey and is bordered at one end by the original city wall. Once inside the church, I was able to give the legendary Lucky Stone a quick slap and a rub in hopes luck would come my way.


A slap for good luck!

We made our way to Marsh’s library, the oldest library in Ireland. I love libraries and I love visiting libraries from all over the world. Dorky…I know, but it’s true. The library holds over 25,000 books from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, in addition to around 300 manuscripts, and about 80 books from before 1501. Today, the library is still serving its original purpose, with students from all over the world coming to study from its original texts.

Fun Fact: During the Age of Enlightenment, libraries were encouraged to provide educational resources to anyone who pursued such knowledge, in hopes that these students would become the next generation of great thinkers. This idea, although admirable, was flawed. Since books were accessible by the public, it was no surprise that many began to go missing. To alleviate the disappearance of books, Marsh’s library installed cages. If an individual wanted to study from one of the books, the keeper or librarian would lock you in a cage, give you the book, and would not release you until after the book was returned. I found this quite funny!

Ireland's Best Kept Secret: Marsh's Library

We visited some of the squares that were scattered around the city—I even found Oscar Wilde in one!

Also, we were able to see many of the places surrounding the renowned author, James Joyce, who is known best for his books, UlyssesDubliners, and Finnegans Wake.

After we were able to go to Phoenix Park, which happens to be one of the largest walled city parks in Europe. Both the home of the President of Ireland and the U.S. Ambassador reside there, as well as one of the world’s oldest zoos, multiple sports fields, and many monuments.  

Where the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, lives

In 1979, Pope John Paul II came to Ireland. In preparation for his visit the Papal Cross was erected as his stage where the Pope would address crowds of people. We were able to get out and walk around a little bit here and enjoy the sunshine, blue skies, and cool breeze. 

Lauren and I

After the tour and becoming more familiar with Dublin, the 12 of us went to The Brazen Head, Ireland’s oldest pub for lunch. I enjoyed one of the best salads I’ve had since arriving in Europe—it was divine.

Once we had a little food on our stomachs, some of us went to the Guinness Factory to learn a little more about this popular Irish dry stout. Arthur Guinness founded Guinness Brewery in 1759, meaning his brewery is older than the United States (although, most things are).

We learned about the harvesting, brewing, and tasting process, all which were very interesting. However, my favorite part of the tour was learning to pour the perfect pint. There is a science to it. Promise.

We can official pour a perfect pint of Guinness!

Once we had poured our perfect pints we were able to go enjoy them upstairs to the Gravity Bar, where are some of the most picturesque views of Dublin.

360° View of Dublin City Center at the Gravity Bar

Having some time left in the day, we walked around the city center where we saw Trinity College and visited the main shopping street, Grafton Street. After we headed back for a group dinner.

Saturday we went to go visit the Cliffs of Moher. On our way there we stopped in Galway for lunch. Galway is known for its beautiful crystal, but also the claddagh ring. The ring itself is made up if a heart held by two hands and topped with a crown, symbolizing love, friendship, and loyalty.

Blue skies in Galway

I couldn't resist not getting one!

The Cliffs of Moher were unreal! The pictures do not do them justice. The cliffs are located on Ireland’s western coast and rise anywhere from 390-702 feet above the Atlantic Ocean.

The cliffs have become even more popular over the years thanks to pop culture. They have appeared in films such as The Princess BrideHarry Potter and the Half-Blooded Prince, and P.S. I Love You. We could not have asked for a better day to visit, the weather was absolutely perfect, which only aided in the natural beauty of the Cliffs of Moher.

Cutest Couple Ever

On our way home we stopped by Bunratty Castle.

Mattie and I

Sean, Grace, Lauren, and I ended our weekend in Ireland at The Temple Bar where we watched a live band play some traditional Irish tunes, and watched as some locals danced.

Ireland has to be one of the friendliest places I have ever been to. I cannot wait till I am able to go back! 

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