Monday, June 13, 2011

Irish Adventure

My 10 day excursion to Ireland mostly kept me on the eastern side of the country. It was am experience I will never forget, and it has really awakened the wanderlust in me.

It was the first time I had ever been on a plane, and only the 2nd foreign country I had been to (Mexico was my first, Cozumel to be specific). After the 8 hour plane ride, I arrived at Dublin Airport, where I met up with Riley, who had studied abroad in Ireland this past semester. We had 10 days to explore and enjoy being in Ireland.

We took a train back to Maynooth, the town in which Riley had been staying, from Connolly Station. Once I got my luggage taken care of, I was treated to my first Irish breakfast, and it was extremely delicious. The food in Ireland is great. I hardly found anything to be overly processed and everything was so fresh.

My accommodations were located on the South Campus of NUI Maynooth, in a beautiful historic building. It was a very lovely room, as well as the whole building, and I enjoyed staying there.

First couple of days were spent exploring Dublin, since it was only 30 minutes away by train. First place we went to was Phoenix Park, and since it was inside the large reserve, the Dublin Zoo. We also visited Trinity College, where we got to view the Book of Kells, something I've wanted to see for a long time. We went to many shops, and enjoyed walking around the city, and stopped by Dublin Castle and went into the National Gallery of Ireland, where I was able to experience my first Caravaggio painting in person.

During his semester there, Riley's favorite place he visited was Howth, a fishing town north of Dublin. There are nature walks that wrap around the peninsula where Howth is located, and ever since he explored the trails, he had been eager for me to arrive so that I may explore with him.

We he took me there, we arrived in the late morning, and walked through the little town in order to reach where the nature trails began. Right away, we were looking out from sheer cliffs over the Irish Sea. The weather was patchy, as per usual in Ireland. We took a route off of the beaten path and had lunch atop a small rocky mountain.

Walking along the edge of the steep cliff side, we began occasionally, and carefully, venturing down among the rocks to explore. After some time, I noticed an extremely large tidepool, and given my love and enthusiasm for marine life, the notion of trying to climb down to it was too enticing. Riley and I tried to evaluate how treacherous of a climb down we had before us, much less the climb back up. However, we decided to take the risk.

Once we cautiously climbed down, I was able to investigate the beautiful tide pool that I had seen from a distance. Since we climbed all the way down, we figured we would explore among the rocks at the water's level. I climbed around to discover a sea cave, and it sure was a breathtaking discovery. We made our way over to it. It was shallow, but still nonetheless interesting. We explored the trail until it began to get late, and planned to return later in the week to investigate another area.

Riley made several friends during the semester, and one of them, Cathal, invited us to stay at his house in Kilkenny. We took the bus to Kilkenny, which took almost 5 hours with all of the stops, and Cathal met up with us. Since he lives in Kilkenny, he was able to show us around. First, he took us to Kilkenny Castle, where we had a self-guided tour. There was an art gallery in the castle, and the current show was quite interesting and we spent a fair bit of time in there looking at everything. The exhibition was by Vera Klute (I wasn't allowed to take pictures, but I found a Facebook gallery page from a reception here), and it was called Blindganger. The show mostly focused on the human body, representing the mechanical aspects of the body as metaphors for social activity. The works were all different media, yet cohesive, and I enjoyed being able to experience it.

The next day in Kilkenny, we visited the 100 foot Round Tower, the only Viking-age watchtower still open to the public in Ireland. The steep climp up wooden ladders was rewarded with a beautiful view of Kilkenny and the surrounding area. We also toured a few other historic buildings and I was also able to visit a couple of pottery shops and ceramic studios.

We departed that afternoon to head back to Maynooth, and made plans to revisit Howth on our last full day in Ireland. First thing in the morning, however, we visited Maynooth castle, which was built around 1200 AD. Upon arriving back in Howth, we explored part of the the trail we did not cover the first time we were there. The particular trail we wanted to finish is the home of a stone-age monolithic structure called Aideen's Grave, a portal tomb. Visiting something so ancient was unforgettable.

We wrapped up our last day in Howth and went back to Maynooth to prepare for our early flight back home the next morning.

Ireland is such a beautiful country. Even thing was lush and green, and the vast fields all smelled of sweet clover. This journey was captivating and makes me long to travel more, and I absolutely want to return to Ireland when I can.

To see more pictures from my journey, you can view my Ireland 2011 set on Flickr.

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