About Me

Dublin / Galway, Ireland
As many of you know, I am spending 7 weeks of this summer in Ireland, studying abroad with USAC. This blog is for me to share my travels, feelings and experiences with everyone. Hope you enjoy :)

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Winding Down...

Well my time with USAC is coming to an end and it's bitter sweet. We have one week left and most of that will be consumed with writing papers and finals. I'm really going to miss all of the great people I have met here, and I really hope we stay in contact. However, on a happy note, I'm so excited for Mom and Kyla to come over so I can experience Ireland in a completely different perspective!

The past week has been pretty low key and mellow. On Sunday we hung around downtown and watched a parade for the arts festival. The group I was with got there early enough to have front row seats for the parade. It was very cool and different from American Parades. The floats were all man powered, and the parade told a story and was more of a performance than American Parades. There is a picture of it to the right. The parade followed a boy through his dreams which were both nightmares and good dreams. The parade somewhat reminded me of circ de soleil.

On Monday we had a field trip for our History class. We went to the Burren again but we got to see some different things. We started the day at another monastery and we actually got to go inside one of the old buildings and toured around the grounds a bit. A picture of the grounds is shown to the left. After the monastery we headed back to the tomb that I showed you guys in my last blog and looked at it for a bit.

After that we went to the best part of the day! We went to a holy healing well and a cave where a saint lived for 7 years! It was so amazing and beautiful. I have a picture of the well to the right, and below it to the left is a picture me tying a string on the wishing tree. The point of this is you dip the string in water and rub it on your body somewhere then tie it to the tree. Once you do this, the well is supposed to help heal disease or wounds on your body. The cave was just up the mountain from the wishing tree and it was pretty tiny. I don't think I could have stayed there for 7 years, but I guess that's the difference between me and a Saint. Haha.

The rest of the week was spent around Galway, going to class doing homework and wondering around downtown! I can't believe we only have this last week left with the group and then I only have one more week left. This time has flown by, and as much as I miss home, I'm really, really going to miss this place! Thanks for reading and I will be posting soon!

<3 Ashley

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Aran Islands and more!

Another great week in Ireland, but then again how can it not be, I am in Ireland after all :)

The week started with a trip to the Aran Islands with our group. The Aran Islands are just off the west coast of Ireland, and was about a 40 minute ferry ride from Galway. It is still a Gaeltacht, which is an Irish speaking region and is quite rare to find these days. It was really neat because I was able to practice some of the Irish that I have learned in class. The picture to the right shows a majority of the Island from the highest peak.

We had a tour guide who took us to the coast that had cliffs and other really neat natural landforms. We hiked all over the countryside and saw very interesting landscape, and there is over 400 miles of rock fence on the tiny Island. A picture of the cliffs is shown on the left. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable on the topics and is an archeologist so he told us many stories and took us to places that very very few people get to see, and the cliffs are one of them!

Our last stop of the day was at a fort from 800 BC! It was so amazing how intact it still was. It was right on the edge of the cliffs so it was impossible to attack the fort from the sea, and it was situated on the top of the hill from the highest point on the Island, so they could see an attack coming from anywhere and ready their troops to fight the threat off. A picture of this is to the right, and keep in mind that there was absolutely NO cement or mortar used, it's simply just stacked rocks.

The rest of the week was pretty typical, class and exploring new aspects of Galway. I had a 4 page paper that was due this week, so a lot of time was spent on that. We also spent a lot of time trying to organize a trip to Belfast to see some of Northern Ireland, but plans fell through so we weren't able to go :(

On Friday, after I got out of class we headed to the Irish Countryside to ride some horses! It was so fun and it was my first time actually riding in an English Saddle (I much prefer western). My horse was an Irish Plow Horse and she was pretty big and beefy, her name was Sheebra and she was the sweetest horse I have ever met. One of the girls in our group got bucked off because she had a high strung horse. She was ok, and now she can tell everyone how badass she is for getting bucked off in Ireland! haha.

Today we slept in for the first time in a couple weeks, then headed downtown. The town in packed with tourists so it was impossible to get around. Tomorrow we are going to go to the beach, and then to a parade that goes through downtown. It's supposed to be amazing so I'm excited!

Thanks for reading, and I can't wait to see everyone soon!

<3 Ashley

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Weekend Happenings...

Well, as another weekend draws to an end in beautiful Ireland, I find myself excited to share my experiences with everyone! It was a really great weekend and I can't believe I'm already half way through my Ireland trip! Time really flies! Well anyways... this is how my weekend went!

On Friday, I had class in the morning and then I did some grocery shopping and meandered downtown for a couple hours. After we came home from being downtown we went to the theater to watch a movie that was part of Galway's Film Fleadh (festival in Gaelic). The movie was very interesting but we wanted to see it because it was one of the few Irish written and directed movies in the festival. After the film we went and ate at the Spudhouse which is a great restaurant featuring large portions, low prices, and delicious baked potatoes (prime for college students!) Afterwards we all headed out for a night on the town ;)

Saturday morning we woke up early to go to another movie playing at the festival, but this one was a documentary. The film was about a pipe that Shell is trying to put in over some of Ireland's most beautiful landscape, which would include going through some people's back yards and workplaces. It was a very inspirational and fair documentary, and the director and producer were both there to introduce the film and answer any questions. The Irish community in the area has really stood up against Shell, causing many of whom to go to jail, and it's moving to see the cause they are fighting for. The film will be coming out in the states and I'm definitely going to watch it again to see the difference in reactions of different cultures.

After the movie, a group of us ate lunch at a delicious cafe and then headed to the farmers market again to get some fresh fruits and veggies for the week. I got grapefruit, mandarin oranges, and some pears; all of which are delicious. And then after the farmers market we headed to the Gaelic Football game between Galway and Wexford. A picture of the sport is shown to the right. The sport was so interesting! It was literally a combination of a lot of sports. It had some basketball because they had to bounce the ball every couple steps, they passed it like a volley ball, they punted it like a football, and had goalies and kicked it like soccer. It was a really fun match, and it was amazing to see all of the people get so into the game! Unfortunately Galway lost to Wexford what was supposed to be a really big upset.

And then there was Sunday. Today a group of people on the trip went to The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher. It was amazing! Our tour guide was a little bit cookey, but was entertaining to say the least. We headed to the Burren first, which is an area of land similar to Connamara but with different vegetation and rock formations. Our first stop was at a fort that fairies and leprechaun are supposed to live according to myths. It is called the Ballyalban Fairy Fort. But really, it was a fort where people lived during the viking invasions and they built high walls in a circle around the small area with a moat on the outside to keep enemies out! A picture of the forts is shown to the left.

The next stop along the tour was Poulnabrone Dolmen, which is a tomb. The tomb was the sight of the burial of 23 unidentified people from ancient times. The sight is marked with 4 rocks in a formation. A picture of the structure is shown to the right. It was constructed by Neolithic farmers and is approximately 5800 years old (which makes it older than the Egyptian Pyramids!). It was really impressive to see that stones that large were moved and arranged by ancient people to make the burial ground of the 23 men women and children who had lost there lives. Unfortunately, it is unknown how the people lost their lives or why they were all buried there. The landscape there was amazing! It was a limestone layer, but somehow vegetation has found it's way through the cracks, which you can kind of see in the picture posted.

Then we went to the big event for the day, The Cliffs of Moher! The cliffs are up to 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, and are 8 kilometers long! It was seriously the most amazing place I have ever seen in my life! I was really scared to go near the edge at first and then gained enough courage to! Boy was it amazing! I really want to see the cliffs from a boat at the bottom because I bet they would be even more impressive. I have 2 pictures of the cliffs for you to see because I cannot even describe the beauty that I witnessed. There will be many more on my facebook when I can get them to upload.

Well that wraps up this weekend! I have a field trip to the Aran Islands tomorrow so I will post about that really soon! :) Thanks for reading...

<3 Ashley

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

4th of July and Connemara

Well, since the last post we had our first weekend in Galway! It was a really fun and eventful weekend. I spent Saturday exploring more of Galway, Sunday was the 4th of July and we BBQ'd, and on Monday we explored more of Ireland and went to Connemara! Sorry it has been so long! And I promise to get better about posting more regularly to keep everyone informed! :)

I went downtown on Sunday with one of my friends just expecting a nice quiet day walking along shop street. To the left is a photo of shop street in Galway. It was crowded! There were so many people, and a lot of younger Spanish students were having a scavenger hunt so they were running everywhere! Then as we were walking we came across a farmers market. They had really great food, jewelry and other Irish items. We spent quite a bit of time just roaming through looking at everything! They had fresh fish, fresh herbs, amazing cheeses, hummus, breads, fruits and veggies! We found out that it was every Saturday and will most definitely be going back!

And then there was the 4th of July! Everyone in our group dressed up in Red, White and Blue and we had a BBQ at the apartments we are staying at. To the right is a picture of a majority of the group. I helped BBQ and everything was soo good! We had chicken and burgers and fruit salad. Pretty american, eh? After we finished w/ the BBQ and cleaned up we headed downtown to get free drinks (yes a pub was offering free drinks) because we were Americans! It was a really fun day, and it was honestly one of the best 4th of July's I've had and I wasn't even in the states, which is slightly ironic.

Yesterday I spent in Connemara. Connemara is a beautiful area in Ireland known for it's breathtaking landscape. It was so beautiful that words can't describe it, and the pictures don't even do it justice. The picture to the left is a picture of our first stop which was some really majestic mountains. Most of the bus ride featured mountainous landscapes similar to those until we got to the Atlantic Ocean.

While we were on our way to the ocean we stopped at Kylemore Abbey, which was a house for a rich man when it was first built. He sold it to nuns before his death and it was then used as a girls boarding school but has since been renovated and is now a tourist destination and has tours. A picture of this is shown to the right. It is a Gothic style architecture and was really beautiful. Unfortunately we were unable to go in it but we were able to stop and take pictures from across the lake.

Once we got to the Ocean we stopped in a really small fishing community where there was a fjord (kind of like a natural deep water port that isn't used as a port).When we were at the ocean, we walked along a famine relief road. The road was built during the famine by starving peasants and anyone needing extra money for food. The road goes from nowhere to nowhere and was a pointless road. We listened to our tour guide talk about the famine and the struggles since. It was a very interesting story and it made me thing how good we have it now days. Over 1 million people died just over 150 million years ago, and here I am spending money to study in another country. I'm so lucky to live the life I do. There is a photo to the left showing the view was we were walking famine road.

On the way home we encountered more amazing landscape and stopped and looked at another monastery in the town of Cong. Cong reminded me so much of Etna, it was a quiet little town, and while I was there I saw 2 tractors drive through town, it made me smile and feel a little more at home. As the week continues I have just had class and done a little grocery shopping. I'm really looking forward to the weekend, it's going to be jam packed, and I can't wait to share my adventures with everyone. On that note I'm going to leave with a couple pictures that I have taken that I'd really like to share. The one with the boat was taken at the lake in front of Kylemore Abbey, and the fisherman one was taken in the small fishing town. Thanks for reading :)

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

School... I guess that is why I came here...

So this week I've been pretty busy but not of the exciting kind. School started this week so I'm going to combine the past few days into one big unexciting blog. Hopefully I can keep it a little interesting :)

Well Monday we finally got to sleep in (a first since we got here). It was so nice sleeping in then I just lounged around until we had our orientation. The orientation was pretty typical, these are classes, this is your schedule, these are the rules... you get the picture (I'll spare you the details).

After orientation we headed to the book store to get some books and binders, and I got a NUIG (National University of Ireland, Galway) sweatshirt as well. We then found a little cafe that had Afterwards we went shopping at a grocery store, and I made my first alcohol purchase in a store (rebel, I know)! We then took a taxi back from the grocery store, finished unpacking, and got our drink on. We went downtown to a pub called the King's Head and they were playing live music which was really fun, of course the place wasn't very happening (it was a Monday night), so we called it good early to get some sleep for classes the next morning.

I had 2 classes on Tuesday, my Gaelic Language class and my Irish History class. Both were very interesting, and I'm really looking forward to learning more for the duration of the classes. However, it seems like a lot to do in only 5 weeks. After class 5 of us went downtown to do some shopping and to dinner, then we dropped by a pub for an Irish coffee and then called it a day. Pretty uneventful, as I warned.

And on to today. I had only one class today and was done by 11:30, which was really nice! One of the other girls and I went into town to do some shopping and to get a little more acquainted with the area. We walked around different souvenir shops and a couple clothing stores (don't worry mom, I refrained from the clothes) and I got a couple really great things for friends and family. Then we went out to lunch at this place that was a little busy so we thought it'd be good... boy were we wrong! Everything was so greasy that we got instant stomach aches! We ate as much as we could then headed for home (Corrib Village) on the bus. Luckily we took the bus because it started raining!

Since then I've been working on homework, catching up on my journal, and my blog. So not too exciting. The first week in Galway will be pretty boring and I don't have any pictures yet. However, we start field trips and tours this weekend, so my life in Ireland is bound to get more exciting! Thanks for reading, and more (and better) stories are to come! :)

On The Road Again

Today we began our excursion toward Galway. We packed our bags and headed out of Dublin across Ireland. It was a little rough for some people because they had too much fun the night before, but not me of course ;). We headed out on a tour bus at around 11:00 with hopes of getting to Galway around 4:30 or so.

The trip is only a 2 and a half hour trip if you go straight through but we made a detour and stopped in Strokestown. Strokestown had a mansion, gardens and a famine museum. A picture of the gardens is shown to the right. The stop was interesting, but mainly what we learned about was how the rich people who lived in the mansion suffered during the famine, but what I was really curious about was how it affected the common public. I mean one million Irishmen and Women were killed during the famine and another 2 million migrated from Ireland, so it would have been nice to know a little more about that.

After we left there we headed straight for Galway. The scenery was breathtaking, and unfortunately I didn't get any good snapshots of it but I hope to be traveling back through there so I will get some pictures then!

When we arrived in Galway it was pouring rain! It was the first time it's rained since we've been on the trip so no one was really prepared. We were assigned to rooms and got about an hour or so to settle in. We then took a tour around the National University of Ireland, Galway (my school!) campus and walked around town a bit. We ate at a fabulous Italian place (I know, I know)and then I went back to the room, unpacked and settled in for the night. It was a fairly uneventful day... but the days to come surely will be!

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Change of Pace

Today was AMAZING! By far the best day yet! We went on a bus tour through County Wicklow, making various stops along the way. It was so nice to get out of the city and explore the country, and boy is Ireland countryside more amazing than anything I could have ever imagined! When we first got on the bus we drove through the city along the River Liffy out to the port to view it, then from there we headed inland to County Wicklow!

The bus ride was equipped with a driver who talked over the PA system as our tour guide also. His name was Shaelyn and he was really funny! He pointed out some really neat areas and told us the names to all of the rivers and churches and towns we passed through. After about an hour of driving through amazing countryside landscapes, we stopped at our first destination, the Powerscourt House and Gardens.

The Powerscourt House is an amazing house built in the 1700’s with a garden that is almost 50 acres! The gardens were absolutely breathtaking, and to the left is a picture of the gardens from the back of the house! There are a lot more pictures of the gardens posted on my facebook if you’d like to see more. The beauty of the gardens is extremely hard to put into words. The weather was sunny and about 70 or so degrees so it was a perfect day for us to explore the stunning gardens!

The next stop was the Glendalough, which means the valley of the two lakes in Gaelic. Glendalough is higher in the mountains than Dublin, so the scenery was quite different. It was very green and had a lot of timber, which kind of reminded me of home and of Oregon. Glendalough is home to an Early Medieval monastic settlement that was founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century. It was amazing to see such old structures that are still sturdy and standing today! There is a round Tower that is 30 meters tall! To the right is a photo of the tower and the cathedral from a distance. After the monastery was no longer in use, it became a cemetery; so many people are buried there, with the oldest tombstone dating back to the 1640’s. It is believed that Glendalough is the site where the Book of Kells was transcribed, as well as some other ancient manuscripts of the gospel.

After lunch at Glendalough, we headed out to take a scenic tour on our way back to Dublin. We stopped at the top of the mountain looking down to Glendalough valley to look back onto it. The scenery looked extremely familiar to me, but not in the since I stated earlier. Just then the bus driver told us that this was the filming location for parts of P.S. I Love You and Braveheart! I knew that I had known the area from somewhere! To the left is a picture of the most beautiful place I have witnessed since being in Ireland, which also happens to be the filming location. Haha. After stopping there, we headed further north to Wicklow Gap where we were able to take more pictures in the beautiful country.

Now we are back in Dublin and it is time for a night on the town! I mean it is our last night in Dublin after all! Until next time…

<3 Ashley