Day Fifteen: January 19, 2016

Today we woke up early (no surprise there) and headed straight for the national park Glendalough. I tried to sleep on the bus, but couldn’t take my eyes off the countryside, for I knew it would be one of my last glimpses of Ireland’s green plains for awhile.

The park itself was lovely, and had some truly beautiful craftsmanship put into it. I was honestly surprised that we skipped over such a magical place in our studies. I don’t recall Bartlett mentioning a Saint Kevin or any National Parks. Adam and I walked around the site, I really wanted to go to the lake, but was feeling pretty weak and lightheaded. So while everyone else ventured off hiking, Adam and I went inside and got some hot soup. It was difficult to tear my eyes away from the misty mountains, and the intricate rock work on the ground. Hopefully, I will be able to return to that park someday and explore more.

As soon as everyone concluded their hiking and had grabbed some lunch, we loaded back on the bus and left for Dublin. I was excited to return to the capital, and see if it looked the same to my Ireland-adjusted eyes as it had to my jet-lagged ones. Of course, it did. The city was just as beautiful as I remembered it.

Laure gave us the night off, but most the group already had plans to go to the Oscar Wilde production at the Gate Theatre. Tonya, Lydia, Adam and I stayed at the Belvedere hotel for a while and relaxed, then we walked to a nice burger joint for dinner before the play. I tried falafel for the first time, and it was delicious.

Attending a local performance of The Importance of Being Earnest was absolutely one of my favorite things that we have done so far. It was very well done, and highly entertaining. I love going to plays, but rarely get the chance, and I cannot remember ever seeing a performance of such high quality. 

Now I’m just back in my room, brainstorming ideas about what to do to make my last day in Ireland special, and writing in my journal. I’ve come to the conclusion that I never want to leave this magical fairyland.

Day Two: January 6, 2016

We landed in Ireland at the break of dawn, it was beautiful, but the plane ride was terrible. Tonya (one of my classmates) and I spent most of the flight getting to know each other, because neither of us could get comfortable enough to sleep. It felt like the flight attendants were waking everyone up every ten minutes anyways; to hand out everything from drinks and food to hot towels and sleeping masks. On top of all of that, they kept the cabin lights on most of the night, and the guy in front of me leaned his seat all the way back, until he was – quite literally – in my lap. That alone made it a very long and difficult ride. Tonya, being a rather tiny human being, was kind enough to curl up in a ball and offer me some of her leg room.

After landing, everyone wanted nothing more than to head to the hotel, shower, put on some fresh clothes, and pass out, but Laure (our professor)  and Tom (our tour guide) made sure that we stuck to the schedule and began touring instead. At that point, Adam and I had only slept about five hours since Sunday evening, and it was now Wednesday. You can do the math on that one.

Tired and cranky, Tom took us to the Kilmainham Gaol prison, a place where both de Valera and Charles Stewart Parnell both did time, it was also the location of the outrageous 1916 Easter Rising rebel executions. I walked through the prison, haunted and excited; pausing occasionally to wonder how many great men had stood where I was standing. The size and complexity of the prison amazed me, along with the logic behind the design of it all. It was genius yet disturbing how they planned the place out; making sure that nothing anyone or anything did went unseen by the guards.

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After the tour of the prison, we drove around Dublin and grabbed lunch at Temple Bar (the happening, pub-filled, area of town). Once we ate, we walked over to Trinity College and visited the Book of Kells. The book itself is strikingly beautiful, but I was much more interested in the grand library upstairs, that’s filled with antique books and artifacts.

Saint Patrick’s Cathedral was our next stop. A very beautiful and holy ground, I am not religious, and certainly not Catholic, but I loved looking at the architecture, sculptures, and stained-glass windows that adorned the place. Catholics really don’t spare any expense when it comes to their house of worship. Sadly, I spent a large deal of our time there waiting in line for the bathroom, which was impressively small by the way.

Following the Cathedral tour, we finally went to the hotel; at that point, everyone was walking around like zombies, except instead of brains we really just wanted to sleep in peace. Of course, we had to check in and eat dinner first though. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious the dinner the hotel prepared for us was. Not only did they work around everyone’s allergies, but they also prepared an excellent vegetarian meal for me (traditional pasta, vegetable spring rolls, and cheesecake).

Finally, after eating, we were dismissed to go to our rooms, take hot showers, and sleep in actual beds. It was a fantastic first day in Dublin, but I wish I would have been less tires and more alert to enjoy it.

Day One: January 5, 2016

After months of waiting, our journey has finally begun. Now the entire class is jet-lagged, exhausted, and stuck in yet another airport (JFK to be exact). But, I guess that’s just how travelling goes. I cannot even imagine how good it is going to feel to get off of the next plane, and walk out onto foreign soil for the first time. Several of the other students in this class have already travelled the world, but this is a first for me. I am excited, to say the least. Also, I thoroughly regret not getting more than an hour of sleep last night, but in the end, it was probably worth it.

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As usual, the airports have been awful: crowded, noisy, boring, and they all have the same over-priced, mediocre food. I have flown many times in the past, but never for more than ten or twelve hours at a time. This twenty-four plus hour thing is a little much for me. I’m sure it will be worth it in the long-run though. It better be. I am honestly terrified that I put hundreds of hours of work and god knows how much money into a trip I might be miserable on. That’s ridiculous though. I have Adam (my wonderful boyfriend) to keep me company, and am beginning to get to know some of the others in the class, and I am sure that after the first few days I will be more comfortable with everybody. The fact that I was not actually in the fall-semester history class with everyone else (I had to take an independent study instead, due to a schedule conflict), makes me feel outside of the rest of the group, but that will certainly change soon. Either way, I am thrilled to go on this amazing adventure, and see/learn all that I am able to, in such a short amount of time.