After Paris, we all needed to be home in green Ireland. I spent the following week or so enjoying the sunny days and taking bike rides to the beach to watch the tide come in and read. I enjoyed this, as well as catching up on the gym and some swimming a little bit. It was time to work off all the baguettes and crepes! School was starting up again, and the Ethics class I am completing this part of the term is going well.
The last group trip we would be taking together as to the western county of Ireland. This area is said to be one of the most beautiful places in Ireland. After one weekend, I can assure everyone that it is the truth! On the way there, we stopped at the Rock of Cashel. The ruins of the cathedral were amazing, and stood as a part of history. We stayed in a little town called Lisdoonvarna. The funny little town is known for its “matchmaking” festival in September and claims to be the biggest singles event in Europe! It seemed pretty cheesy, but we all got a good laugh out of it. We were warned before arriving that it was basically a town the size of a street, and in fact it was, but we traveled to the other sights during the day, so it didn’t make much difference. It was our first experience at a hostel instead of a hotel, however it wasn’t much different, other than the idea of little heat, simple decorations, no television or radio, and self serve breakfast in the morning. Luckily, I was paired with all of my roommates anyway, so we didn’t quite get the hostel feel. We opened our windows of our room to see a herd of cows grazing about 15 feet away. Yes, it was clear we would be seeing many stone walls, and many cows. The first afternoon we basically had to wait for the adventures to start the following day, so my roommates and i occupied our time by teaching each other how to french braid our hair! It is funny how when forced into a little town, you resort back to childhood games that keep your attention. That night the group of us went into town for a bit to hear the live traditional Irish music at The Roadside Tavern. It was a nice little pub with decorations of pictures, and an old school feel to it. I liked it a lot there.
The next day we gathered on the bus to tour the Burren. Basically is is land that is made up of limestone. It was amazing to drive into the rocky terrain after passing so many green fields with sheep and cows. Apparently the grass is good for the animals and plant life because the water stays on the top and doesn’t seep through as quickly as it does with shale or other grounds. At the cliffs of the Burren, we all took a long five minute stop, which turned into about a half hour since we were all so fascinated with the cliffs, animals and tiny flowers that popped out of the rocks. Our tour guide, Brian, told us that scientists say it is one of the places on Earth, most similar tot he grounds of the moon. The little blue flowers were surrounded by colorful striped snails and popped sporadically out of the ground. We drove along the coast, seeing the ocean and green grass mixed with the flat limestone rock, until we hit our lunch spot , a nice little cafe located on the bay. It was Dr. Reed’s 50th birthday, so we surprised him by arranging a cake at the cafe, and cards and singing! He was completely surprised, and we kept up with the surprises, candles. cake and singing at every stop we made. In the bus, I was amazed at the way we took on the hills. In fact, we turned it into our own little Irish roller coaster (with our arms up) as we sped down the hills onto the next sight. We learned about st. Brigid’s well and about the landowners of the past. We also got to hear stories such as the lady named Maura with Red flaming hair. We saw the site of her castle remains and Brian told us the story. It is funny to hear the stories and decipher between Irish legend, and reality. One real historic place that was impressive to see was the Portal Tomb. This tomb has been there since B.C. although parts of it looked cracked and worn away, most of it still was in tact. I was so impressed that it was still standing.
We moved on until we came to our final destination- The Cliffs of Mohor. This was the most impressive sights. Although it was pretty foggy that day, you could still get the feeling of the sheer size of the cliffs, and the drop under you into the Ocean if we were to trip. I was shocked after wakjing along the path, to see that everyone went past the parked walking area. In the United States, there is no way they would allow people to go bast the paved, fenced in area. However, in Ireland, there were no guards or fences to hold ou bac from exploring further. It made me feel a little scared to look at the small amount of land between us and the seagulls flying over the ocean beneath us. Instead of walking to the edge, I scooted and crawled to look over the edge and snap a picture. Army crawling to peek over the edge, we all laughed at the sight of us. Some more daring visitors pretended to hang over the edge, lay down backward over the edge, and other antics. I was perfectly happy crawling to peer over. Luckily the wind was blowing away from the direction of the edge, but after a while the wind picked up and it as time to head back. It was an adrenaline rush to be there, and a memory I will always remember.
The next day was a trip to the Aran Islands. These little islands off the coast of Ireland are more secluded and known for their beautiful views, natural feel, and lush grass, stone walls and beauty. There are barely any cars, and the islands are the closest thing you can find to older Ireland. The homes are smaller; some with thatch roofing. There were three options for traveling across the small island- bike, horse buggy, and bus. Our little group of friends opted for the bike rental, however, we didn’t anticipate the sometimes steep hills, or work it took to travel to the different tourist sights. We were determined to get to the highest cliffs on the island because we were told it was the best view. Sure enough, it was. After a long, hard bike ride up hill, we were amazed. The winds blew hard up on the edge. We only had so much time on the Island before we had to take the ferry back to the mainland. Since we decided to take the bikes, we hopped back on to assure we would get back in time. Along the way we enjoyed the sights of the little cottages, and many pastures of horses, ponies, cows and even alpacas. We took a different way back along the coast and got a nice surprise when we spotted a wild seal playing in the water. When we walked closer, instead of swimming away, he seemed to enjoy watching us as he swam. Cai named him Sammy, and Liz called him Salvador. We stayed as long as we could watching him and the birds, until we almost ran out of time to get back. Suddenly, the bike ride started to seem a bit longer than it took on the way there. We started to think that we would be back in time, when again we were stopped, but this time by a confused cow in the road. Somehow he got out of his gate, and as his friends moo’d at him to get back in, he trotted along with us a bit confused. We waited until he moved over a little, and peddled as fast as we could to get past him before he started looking agitated and grunting. Luckily no one was hurt in the passing of the lost cow, however our legs were very tired by the end of the trip. Finally back in town I stopped to buy a few presents for family back home at the well known sweater shop. The day had been simple, but filled with so much beauty of Ireland that we didn’t want to leave. It was a very unique place and could easily be enjoyed by anyone willing to enjoy the sights of a different way of life.