Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Parting Blessing

I can't believe today's our last day in Ireland. It's all gone by so fast! I could stay for another two weeks.

We started off in the morning with a trip to Adare, "the prettiest little village in Ireland." There was a nice park, and the thatched roof was interesting, but besides that I wasn't sure what everyone was excited about.

Next we went to the Cliffs of Moher, which I've been waiting for this entire trip. I was not disappointed. They were absolutely stunning. Its amazing what beauty nature can create on its own. I could have spent all afternoon there, with the blue skies and the sun shining. It was unbelievable.

Our final scheduled activity for the trip was our medieval dinner at Bunratty Castle. It was so much fun! The food was great, and the entertainment was fabulous. I really enjoyed the traditional music and the setting of a real castle. It was a wonderful way to end a wonderful trip.

But no Irish parting is complete without a parting blessing:

"May the road rise to meet you,

May the wind be always at your back,

May the sun shine warm upon your face.

May the rain fall soft upon your fields,

And until we meet again

May God hold you in the palm of His hand."

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Here Comes the Sun!"

Our free day in Killarney today was pretty nice. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so we got to do a lot of things that we wouldn't have been able to enjoy.

We walked up and down the streets in Killarney and poked our head into all of the little shops. The girls and I found a few cute little things, which was nice. It was also really great to just be able to take our time and relax.

For lunch, we grabbed some paninis from a little cafe and took them to the park to eat. Between the weather, amount of free time and number of photography students with us, this inevitably turned into a photo shoot. It was a lot of fun, and we got not only some great shots but also some pretty funny ones as well.

Our final lecture of the trip was also this afternoon. We got the chance to talk with Declan Malone, group editor for both the Kerryman and Corkman, which are regional newspapers. We discussed the papers' political positioning, advertising and web influence. We also heard some stories involving libel laws, which were actually really interesting since the laws are so much more strict here.

Well, a bunch of us are off to get our last dinner of choice on the Emerald Isle. I'm hoping to find some fish and chips - my favorite local meal!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

"A Light Irish Rain"

A soft mist in Ireland is called "a light Irish rain." However, when it mists all day long, you can get pretty wet.

That's how our day went today. We checked out of the hotel in Cobh, began our touring, and it misted all day long.

We started off at the Kerry Bog Museum, which gave us a glimpse into bog life. It was a reproduction of a small village along a bog from the 1800s.

Our next stop was the sheep dog demonstration, which I really enjoyed. We learned about the different kinds of sheep in Ireland, and were shown the different ways the dogs respond to commands and herd the sheep. It was a good thing that we could stand under a pavilion, though, because it was pretty wet.

After a quick lunch at the Quarry Restaurant, we began our drive along the Ring of Kerry, a road along the coast of Ireland. There are a lot of picturesque beaches, lakes and mountains, but it's mildly difficult to take photographs in the rain.

Tonight we're having a group dinner in Killarney, with live Irish music. I've really enjoyed the local music that I've heard so far, so I can't wait!

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Kiss for Eloquence

Today was a really amazing day. We started off with a visit to RedFM, a radio station in Cork. I wasn't overly looking forward to it, but it was actually really cool. It's a great station, and they do a lot of really awesome promotions. It got me excited about listening to the radio, and it sounds like a really great place to work.

Our next stop was to Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. The grounds were absolutely beautiful; there were a lot of trees, beautiful flowers and a little stream flowing through the estate. The castle was beautiful too, and it was more like what you would normally think of when you picture an old castle. It was partly falling down, and it wasn't furnished, but really spectacular.

The stone is at the top of the castle, and it can only be reached by climbing a tall, narrow spiral staircase. The view at the top was amazing, but kind of scary for someone who's afraid of heights like me. To kiss the stone, you had to lay down on a mat, grab some bars that ran along the wall, and arch your back down a hole in the side. Although it wasn't difficult and I was perfectly safe, the drop was a little scary. It was really fun though, and I'm glad I did it.

We also had the chance to shop at Blarney Woolen Mills, a store near the castle that is filled with every kind of Irish product you could image. China, crystal, wool, souvenirs - this place had everything! It ws really great.

Tommorow we're off to Killarney and the Ring of Kerry, which is supposed to have some nice scenery. I can't wait to take more pictures!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Journey to County Cork

After checking out of the hotel early this morning, we travelled through the Wicklow Mountains on our way to our next destination, the seaside town of Cobh (pronounced "Cove").

While we were travelling, we stopped at Glendalough to see St. Kevin's Monastery. Glendalough is Gaelic for "two lakes," and we were right above the lower one. The monastery was absolutely beautiful, right in the middle of the mountains. It was also a graveyard, which was really cool since I love old cemeteries.

After the monastery and lunch, we continued driving to our final destination of the day, Cobh. It was unbelievably beautiful! The epitome of a small European harbor town. I wish we could stay here for another week.

As an introduction to Cobh, we went on the Titanic Walking Tour, which included historical information on the harbor and how it came to be one of the most popular ports in the Atlantic. We got to see the shipping line's office that the Titanic sailed from, and the memorial that was established in memory of those who died. It was really impressive.

Overall, today was pretty great. I can't wait for tomorrow, when I'll finally get to kiss the Blarney Stone!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our Final Day in Dublin

Today was our last day in Dublin. I'm sad to leave it, but I'm also looking forward to visiting the countryside next week.

Since it was a free day, I slept in a bit and then decided to visit some of the museums in the city. I went to the National Museum first, which was a lot cooler than I thought it would be. It had a really cool exhibit on medieval life, and also a series of bodies removed from peat bogs. They were around 1800 years old, and some still had hair and discernable faces! It was mildly gross, but really interesting.

Next I briefly stopped in at the National Library to see the exhibit on Yeats. I'm not more than casually interested in his work, so I didn't stay long, but it was a nice exhibit.

I also went to the National Gallery of Art. It was mostly oil paintings and prints instead of the wider variety that some museums have, but it was still nice. I got to see a Picasso and Monet, so that was cool.

For lunch I grabbed a sandwich at a local cafe chain and ate it on a park bench in Saint Stephen's Green. It was absolutely gorgeous today, so the park was filled with people picnicking and enjoying themselves in general. It was really relaxing.

After lunch I walked over to the Abbey Theatre. Although they don't give tours on weekends, I was able to see some of the photos from its current production of Macbeth, which looked really amazing.

On my back to the hotel for a brief rest, I stopped and got some ice cream and then walked along the River Liffey. It was so nice to enjoy the sunshine!

Tonight we're going to the one-night-only engagement of The Last Waltz, a live reproduction of the Martin Scorsese film. I can't wait! It sounds like it'll be a really nice performance.

Friday, May 14, 2010


Today was unbelievable. We caught the first high-speed train to Belfast and spent the day touring the city.

I can't described how overwhelmed I felt. Although the guide repeated several times that the violent activity was now less than 10% of what it used to be, you could still feel the "stain" of the conflict. There were radical murals on every block, sometimes covering every building. There's still a wall between the Protestant and Catholic sections of the city. It felt so surreal.

On the tourist-y side, my favorite stop of the day was our first, Stormont Castle. This is where the legislative meetings for Northern Ireland are held, and where the peace talks were during the conflict. We also visited Belfast Castle, Freedom Corner, the shipyard where the Titanic was built, Shankill Road and Falls Road.

On the educational side, we had a lecture from Jerry Patterson at the Belfast Telegraph. Although the information he gave us was interesting, I was most impressed by his personal transparency. He was very honest with us about circulation, competition, office politics and even his previous experience with the conflict.

Although it was a very long day, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I really enjoyed Belfast, and would highly recommend it to anyone coming to Ireland.