Monday, February 15, 2010

The South

This was the third weekend in a row that I've lived out of my backpack, not giving a second thought to wrinkled shirts, ice cold showers or neck pains from sleeping on the bus. We traveled to the south of Ireland and celebrated our one month anniversary of arriving in this beautiful country. At dinner one night, as we passed our plates and ate bits of each other's dinner, it hit me that we had become one cohesive unit, a kind of family. We do everything together and are sharing these amazing experiences with each other, it's crazy to think that I've only known these people for one month.

But enough with the reflection, look at all the good craic I had!

We started out on Friday by going to Glendalough, an old monastic site. The lakes and mountains were beautiful.

After exploring, we hopped back on the bus for a several hour ride to Dingle in the southwest. The people who live in Dingle are a part of the 2.7% of Ireland that speaks Irish fluently and regularly. Signs were in Irish and did not include English like the rest of the country. We arrived at night, dropped off our bags and headed out to the pubs, which would have been quite empty without us. We talked to some locals, who all happened to be about 17 years old, and they taught us a few phrases in Irish.

Hello--Dia duit. (gee ah gwitch)
How are you--Conas atá tú? (Connis ah taw too)
You are hot--Atá tú te. (Ah taw too teh)

When we arrived back at the hostel that night, I was about to go inside when I glanced up at the sky and saw by far, the most stars I have ever seen in my entire life. The sky was just full, I can't even describe it. I laid down on the porch and just stared. I've never been so far away from cities and bright lights in my life, so being there surrounded by farmland, with the sky crystal clear, was one of the most beautiful sights I've ever experienced.

The next morning, we hopped on a boat to search for Fungie, the dolphin who appeared in Dingle about 10 years ago. The Gulf Stream goes right through Ireland, which accounts for the palm trees and moderate climate. Fungie came alone, but he hangs out in the bay and people like us pay to hop on a boat and search for him for a while. We were having no luck, but the scenery was well worth the trip.

I must say I'm getting quite used to seeing stone ruins in my day-to-day life. Boston should look into acquiring some.

Here's the other boat of us, actively searching for the Irish dolphin.

Aha! We found him! Once we spotted his fin a few times, we chased him down and he swam in the wake of our boat for a while. We were so close to him and he was hamming it up, jumping in and out of the water and loving the attention.

So we got back on the bus and headed to a beach for entire afternoon to eat lunch, play capture the flag and climb rocks.

We have had the best luck with weather. Not once has any trip been ruined by rain or clouds. The sun seems to follow us wherever we go.

If you look closely, you can see Casey and I after we climbed up the cliff. I'm kind of turning into an outdoorsy person and it's really fun.

Now what you don't see in these pictures is that Casey and I were the only two to keep our shoes and socks on. We didn't have any desire to stick our feet in the freezing Atlantic Ocean, get them all sandy, then sit on the bus for another few hours. So, we climbed rocks. As we were mid-photo shoot on a rock near the water, an enormous wave came and completely soaked our feet and pants. So we were not only wet and sandy like the rest of our class, we now had soaking wet clothes and shoes. A quick change of clothes on the bus fixed everything, but we definitely felt the Murphy's Law on that one.

We stopped a few more times on the way to Killarney, seeing some of the amazing coastline. Ireland is shaped like a saucer, with mountains and cliffs around the outside and the lowlands in the middle, so it lends itself to beautiful scenery.

We went out to dinner in Killarney and had the after dinner treat of a table full of Irish Car Bombs. I don't like Guinness or Bailey's, but that was mighty tasty. Then we went to a pub with live music, where we saw the guitar player from a pub in Dingle. He was finishing his set when we arrived, but then a band with a female singer came on to play covers. They were SO much fun! They played songs that everyone knew the words to and could belt out. We were all crammed up by the stage, singing and dancing, completely catching the band off guard. They were shocked at how much enthusiasm and excitement we had. When they were done playing after a few hours, I took the set list off the stage as a souvenir.

On Sunday, we spent most of the day sitting on the bus, but we made the necessary stop at Blarney Castle to kiss the Blarney Stone. There I am, making my gift of gab official, because let's be honest, I don't really need any help in that department.

There was the most amazing gift shop for all things Irish at the Blarney Castle since it's such a tourist spot, so I shopped for the first time since coming here and picked up quite a few gifts for family and friends.

This was our last weekend with our history teacher Caroline as our tour guide of Ireland, and we will all miss her trips. They are exhausting, but so much fun. I've now been to each of the four provinces in Ireland: Leinster in the east, Connaght in the west, Ulster in the north and now Munster in the south. There has been no down time and I love it, we're taking every chance we get to explore and see more of the country.

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