Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Belfast & the North

I did not really know what to expect upon leaving UCD with the ESN (Erasmus Student Network) club for a weekend trip up to Northern Ireland to kick off October.  There is a well known history of conflict between nationalist (mostly Catholic) and unionist (mostly Protestant) groups in the North, particularly in Belfast, and I was unsure as to the extent of the tension today.  I am happy to say that I really enjoyed my visit, and it was a trip where I felt quite comfortably safe.  I would actually very much recommend visiting Belfast and taking one of the famous Black Taxi Tours, as they provide an interesting and insightful view into the history of the area's past conflicts.  

An additional, very cool fact regarding Belfast's history is that it is the city where the Titanic was built.  There is a great museum that details the history of the ship from conception to sinking and I am happy to say I managed to fit it into my trip as well. Northern Ireland as a whole also has a few fantastic natural attractions.  Our group stopped at Giant's Causeway, as well as the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, both of which were awesome visits (I will say, the good weather absolutely helped us out though).  I took a lot of pictures on this trip - some of my favorite ones since arriving here are below!

The Crown
A beautiful day for fishing

 Views from the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge:

Giants Causeway:
Maybe my favorite picture of the entire trip thus far...simply amazing

Black Taxi Tour:

Titanic Museum:
One of my favorite items in the museum (see below)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Wrapping Up Month One

It is hard to believe I am already well into October.  Time is really flying by and the realization of how hard it will be to fit everything in that I hope to do here is hitting me.  I have definitely made the most of my time so far though! A few noteworthy activities in the closing days of September included learning how to windsurf, a night at the Merry Ploughboy Pub, my first stop at the Boston College Dublin office, and an awesome visit to the Google Dublin office.

I joined the windsurfing club here at UCD - because why not! I've never windsurfed before in my life and it looked like a ton of fun so I figured I would give it a go.  So far so good, I've only had a few rounds of practice, but I'll take being able to stay up on the board by my second time around.

The Merry Ploughboy is a traditional pub owned and managed by Irish musicians and it is known as one of the best venues in Dublin to experience Irish music and dancing. The live show is very entertaining and the performers are All Ireland champion musicians and dancers. As well as the music and dancing there were humorous explanations of the instruments along with stories about Ireland. The live show is widely regarded as the best traditional music show in Dublin.
Amazing uilleann pipes playing, very difficult

After a few classes at the BC Dublin office thus far, I suppose I am used to it by now.  Nonetheless it is in an amazing location on St. Stephen's Green in Dublin and is a very cool old building.  The hardwood floors and Waterford Crystal chandeliers make it one of my favorite buildings I have been in since arriving here.  It is BC's only office outside of Boston, so we are pretty lucky to have access to it.

Finally, by the end of the month, I was able to accomplish a goal I had set out in coming here - to visit the Google Dublin office - that's number 6!  As expected, the office was fun and Googley, and I really enjoyed speaking with a few Googlers while there.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wicklow Day Trip

I managed to fit in quite a few more Irish experiences before September came to a close.  The weekend following the trek to Galway, I joined a UCD day trip to Glendalough, a neat glacial valley in County Wicklow less than an hour away from campus.  We also made a stop at the impressive Powerscourt Estate. 

While in Glendalough we went on a guided hike of the well-known medieval monastery as well as part of the Wicklow Mountains National Park.  The early Christian monastic settlement, dating back to the 6th century, had several interesting buildings and graves still standing, the most famous being the round tower about 98 feet high.

After making our way through the monastic remains we continued on to a hiking trail through the Wicklow Mountains.  It was great weather, considering our tour guide said it rains about 270 days out of the year - we got lucky.  Glendalough essentially means 'the valley of the two lakes' and it was a very enjoyable hike in which we walked past the upper lake in the valley. 

We spent the second half of the day visiting the Powerscourt Estate & Gardens, which was voted the number 3 garden in the world this year by National Geographic.  As you can see below, the 47 acres of formal walled gardens and shaded ponds were definitely impressive, and the estate itself was no slouch either.
There was even a pet cemetery
Delicious apple pie