Okay, okay… I know. I did it again. Sorry I haven’t posted forever. Things have been crazy here. I’ve written five papers in the last five weeks, which didn’t leave much time for blog writing, but fortunately, I’m finally done with all of my papers, so hopefully I’ll be able to keep you updated on my last 4 weeks over here. First though, we have a bit of catching up to do:
The weekend after Belfast I went on an outdoor pursuits club trip to Donegal and Derry. As is typical for the OPC, they chose the highest point around for our hike, which in this case happened to be Mt. Errigal (749 m). There was no class on Monday, as it was a bank holiday, so we left bright and early Saturday morning and spent the majority of the day making the long 6 hour drive to the North West corner of Ireland. After a brief stop by the tallest ocean cliffs in Europe…
…we continued on to our hostel, right at the base of Mt. Errigal. The OPC’s famous for its parties, and we spent the night living it up in the hostel we had taken over and in the pub up the road.
Staying up late didn’t stop us from waking up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to begin our hike up the mountain. Our fearless leaders decided that hiking trails were boring, so we just set our sights on the top and blazed a trail straight up the side. After trekking through bogs and crawling up vertical slopes clinging to shrubs for dear life, we made it to the top, and the view was more than worth the effort.
Caesar, the dog from the hostel is quite the little mountaineer! We were a bit worried about him when he first started following us from the hostel, but he was a trooper and got up the mountain with more energy than any of us did!
After another fun night in the hostel, we left for Derry on Monday. We visited a museum and took a couple of walking tours, learning all about the city’s rich political history. Being in Northern Ireland, Derry has been the site of many recent and violent conflicts, and having our museum tour given by a man whose brother was shot and killed on the street right outside was one of the most powerful experiences of my life.
Like Belfast, Derry has many murals documenting its history.
On to Halloween…
Halloween weekend I stayed around campus, got caught up on some schoolwork, and went to a couple costume parties. On Saturday, Arcadia took us on a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher and Bunratty Castle. Ireland has sea cliffs everywhere, but the Cliffs of Moher are the most famous, and the view certainly was spectacular:
Bunratty Castle dates back to 1425, and in 1954 it was restored and furnished with authentic 15th and 16th century pieces. Surrounding the castle they built a “folk park” designed to simulate life in 19th century Ireland.
The Earl's Throne
Traditional home in the folk park
The second week of November my dad came to visit!
On Saturday we went to Cork, making a quick stop at Blarney Castle to kiss the famous Blarney stone on the way.
My Dad in front of Blarney Castle
Sunday we toured Lough Gur, a lake near Limerick surrounded by ruins ranging from 3000 BC tombs to a 15th century castle.
Ancient Stone Circle
On Monday I brought him to the horse barn with me for class so that he could meet my teacher and see me jump.
Tuesday I had a busy day of classes, so he traveled around on his own, but Wednesday we met up again to go to a medieval banquet at Bunratty Castle! The atmosphere was wonderful, the feast was delicious, and all the other guests at our table were very friendly. Before and after the feast, we were entertained by the castle’s talented musicians and singers, and the whole experience really did feel like we traveled back in time.
Thursday was our last day together, and we celebrated that evening by going to our favorite pub in Limerick: Dolans. Between being right up the street from Dad’s hotel, having traditional Irish music every night, and serving delicious food, Dolans had quickly become our favorite, and we felt it was appropriate to finish up the week there, as we’d frequented it at least half of our nights together.
England: November 12-14
Friday morning my friend Arianna and I woke up REALLY early, and my dad came to pick us up at 4:30 am to take us to the airport where we caught our 6:30 flight to London. When we arrived, we had to catch a bus into the city itself, as the airport we flew into was about an hour and a half outside the city. We spent most of the day walking around London, taking in the sites like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben. We also stopped at the National Gallery for a while to admire their collection of paintings.
After figuring out the London transportation system (underground and trains), we stopped by our hotel, quickly got changed, and returned to the heart of the city to watch Phantom of the Opera in Her Majesty’s Theatre. The show was absolutely incredible. It’s truly magical what they can do with a stage.
Saturday I was supposed to go to Stonehenge in the afternoon, but that time slot got cancelled, so my tour was rescheduled for 8:30, which meant waking up at the crack of dawn to catch the train into London in time to make my tour bus to Stonehenge. Even though I was exhausted from all of the traveling, it was more than worth getting up for. So much mystery surrounds that place… How did they build it? Why did they build it? Despite no one having the answers, it’s easy to content yourself with wondering as you stand back and take in the magnificence of the site.
When I returned to the city, I went to Kensington Gardens, which was beautiful! It’s amazing how you can go from being on a busy city street one moment into a completely peaceful, natural park setting the next. If I lived in London, I would probably visit the park every day.
Peter Pan Statue in Kensington Gardens
After the gardens, I met up with Arianna again, and we found a spot by the river to watch a fireworks show. Apparently we chose the perfect weekend to go to London, as the new Lord Mayor had just been elected and there was a festival to celebrate!
That night we went to a couple pubs and made friends with some of the locals. Sunday, we stopped by the British Museum before catching our plane back to Limerick.
Last week was pretty laid back, and this past weekend I stayed around campus, relaxed, and celebrated finally being done with all of my papers. Really, it was the first truly relaxing weekend that I’ve had since August, so it was quite nice to just spend some time lazing around the house. I did get out on Sunday for a bit though and went to a Christmas market in Limerick city with my friend Conrad, and then since it was a beautiful sunny day we walked back to campus along the river (about an hour or so walk).
Finally caught up!
Well, now you know what I’ve been up to for the last month. This week is the last week of classes, which is crazy! The semester went by so fast! The week’s going very well so far. All of my assignments are done and handed in, so I finally feel caught up. Monday I rode at the barn for class for the last time, and despite falling off, I had a great ride. Yesterday, one of my best friends from home arrived, and she’s staying until Sunday. To welcome her to Ireland I took her to Dolans, the pub that my dad and I discovered, and we had some great craic, listening to some traditional music and chatting with a few of my friends that I brought along. Tonight I have an end-of-semester performance for the dance class that I took, and I get to watch performances for all of the other music and dance groups in the class. Should be fun!