Monday, September 29, 2014

Westward to Galway

I am a bit overdue in writing this post, as I spent the weekend beginning Friday September 12th on a great International Student Society trip out to Galway with several friends.  No need to worry though, I've got plenty of pictures to remind me of everything.

Our first stop on our way out west was at the Kilbeggan whiskey distillery.  Established in 1757, it is the oldest distillery in Ireland (which is saying something, because everything over here is extremely old compared to back home in the states).  It was an interesting tour regarding the history of the distillery, and at the end we were given a small glass of the famous brew to taste.  Let's just say it's not for all - but hey, a free souvenir glass was more than worth it.

The water wheel is still in use today

Later that day we arrived in Galway City and checked into our hostel (this was my first time staying in a hostel; I can see why so many travelers around Europe take advantage of them!) before grabbing a bite to eat.  We managed to navigate our way to McDonagh's, a famous local fish & chips bar where I got, you guessed it, fried cod and chips. We finished up just in time for a walking tour of the city with our guide Hubert, a very Irish looking fellow with an impressive red beard.
Well known Claddagh rings
One of the oldest streets in Galway.  City keepers used to meet in the building at the end.
One of four Spanish Arches built in 1584 along the coast
JFK visited the Cathedral of Our Lady Assume into Heaven and St Nicholas (yes that's really its name)
in 1963; here is a mosaic of him on one of the walls.
Original mailbox from the time of England's rule - green is painted over the original red

After a busy first day in Galway City, we traveled out to Connemara, one of only a few traditionally Irish language speaking areas.  It was a very scenic drive, and our bus driver Lee made many stops along the way. 

One of the main stops along the route was Kylemore Abbey, which was originally built as a private home in 1871. It had an interesting history and was eventually turned into a girls boarding school which closed down recently in 2010.  The castle, along with it's fantastic walled, Victorian gardens have both been largely restored.

Sunday morning came rather quickly, but I would be lying if I said it wasn't a bit easier to get up with the thought of finally paying a visit to the Cliffs of Moher! They did not disappoint, but again, we made a few cool stops along the way.
After Dunguaire Castle, Lee pulled over for us to get several photos of the Burren, a very unique landscape in in County Clare.  It is a karstic area, rocky with little to no soil, consisting of miles of rough limestone.

Eventually we made it to the very crowded Cliffs of Moher - and here is where I took enough pictures for five people, but hey, who wouldn't right? 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

An Introduction to Dublin & UCD

Italy, Germany, Denmark, Malaysia, Belgium, India, Singapore, Czech Republic, France, Finland, Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, China, Switzerland, Taiwan, Canada, Chile, of course Ireland, and even Luxembourg and Malta (with a combined total area of a just 1,000 sq. miles). Amongst a menagerie of orientation week meals, events, and trips, I have amazingly met fellow students from each of these countries here at UCD. The school has five thousand international students, more than the population of my small home town (according to Wikipedia), and I am really excited by the diversity of people I have befriended here in just a few days.

I have to say UCD has done a great job of making sure there is always something to do, it's just a matter of being aware and taking the initiative to take advantage of it. There have been plenty of avenues to settle in to the new campus/area, including free events like trips to Ikea, tours of campus/Dublin, buses to shopping areas, gym tours, movie screenings, and receptions. Other subsidized events I took full advantage of included dinners and visits to the Guinness Factory, Croke Park (Ireland's largest stadium), the National Botanic Gardens, Howth, and Malahide Castle. The castle was particularly amazing in it's age and grandeur - let's just say there were even two trees right outside that were older than the U.S. Constitution. With classes starting this week I'll certainly be continuing to keep busy, please see some photos from orientation week below!

Roebuck Castle Dorm
President's Welcome
Irish Chocolate
Hurling Finals, and what a match it was between Kilkenny & Tipperary
Croke Park
Waterford Crystal, insured for $2.3M

Original Guinness Contract
National Botanic Gardens

Malahide Castle - 14th Century
One of the rarest, original pieces
Players Lockers
About 375 years old!