Monday, October 6, 2008

May the road always rise up to meet you...

We made it home safe and sound from our trip across the country! Even though we only spent two full days on Ireland's west coast, I feel like we saw SO much! Friday afternoon, after spending a solid three hours in Art class, we all grabbed our bags and hopped in taxis over to the train station.

All aboard!

When we finally arrived in Galway three hours later we trudged around the block a few times until we got a decent set of directions and found our hostel.

As sketchy as 'Sleepzone Hostel' sounds it was actually a very nice place to stay! Megan and I ended up staying in a little bungalow suite across the street from the main part of the hostel, but it was really cozy and quiet so we didn't mind too much. Once we got our things settled into our rooms we trekked across town to find our meeting place for dinner. I sampled some garlic mushrooms and drank a Smithwicks before my main course of fish and chips (with loads of vinegar and salt, of course!). And just to be responsible I ordered a glass of still water (because you have to specify still or sparkling here if you don't want a surprise). Turns out my bottle of still water cost over 2 euro! In the future I will know to order TAP water!

Saturday morning we met our bus outside the hostel and ventured north a bit out of Galway into the Connemara. We stopped at a hotel with a convenience shop inside to stretch our legs and grab some drinks. I opted for a canned diet coke since cappuccinos come in cups the size of thimbles and cost 2 euro - what a rip!

In the next town we stopped for lunch and a wander through some shops. The country towns in Ireland are so adorable! The really striking thing about the countryside in western Ireland is all of the stone walls all over the place. Our driver explained to us the two purposes of these walls. The first reason is obviously to separate plots of land and the second is so that the sheep and cows to have protection against the wind in bad weather. He also explained that the stones are not cemented together so that little crevices are purposely left for the wind to blow through thus making the walls less likely to topple over. While walking along one of these walls I stopped to have a gander at a cow. The cow thought to stop and have a gander back. We had a staring contest.

Since our Director, Stephen, is a geologist we pulled over at a coral beach to have a look!

Our original plan for our day in the Connemara was to go on a hike, but we weren't fortunate enough to have cooperating weather. However, since we're all a bunch of loose screws, we had our driver pull over and we decided to have a go at a hike anyway! Needless to say, it was incredibly short-lived due to the intense wind and sideways rain and we were soaked to the bone after fifteen minutes.

All was not lost. Soggy socks and dripping bangs can always be cured by eerie Irish mists rolling over a beautiful castle!

Alright fine... it was still super windy, but the pictures are SO worth it!

To reward ourselves after a long day of being drenched we went out for some pizza, ice cream and smoothies! mmmMMmmm!

Yesterday the weather was MUCH more cooperative. While Megan and I walked to breakfast before meeting the bus we thanked God for blue skies and then giggled at the prospect of gorgeous pictures if the weather would actually hold. And boy were we lucky! Although there was a brisk feel in the air the skies remained clear and it just felt like the most perfect autumn day imaginable. First stop? Another castle... Ireland is amazing!

When we stopped for coffee a little while later I couldn't help but recognize what an incredible photo opportunity I had been given. The Burren House was located just off the coast with a lush green lawn and an incredibly serene vibe. I only hoped I could capture it.

A bit later we traveled through some terrain surrounded with limestone. Stephen took the time to give us a lecture on limestone which was incredibly interesting. I learned that the straight lines we saw were carved by glacial movement and that some extremely rare vegetation grows in the crevices.

Unfortunately I don't remember the technical term for the crevices... but hey, I have a career in law and not science for a reason right? Upon further exploration we found limestone monuments, but it was too hard to tell which ones were legitimate and which ones had been stacked by other tourists.

Next up: A church

Ancient Irish structures make me feel tall!

And last but certainly NOT least - The Cliffs of Moher (not less)

Obviously we are all illiterate...

The whole gang! All nine of us students with Stephen and Lilly:

And to finish it off, I will leave you with some images of the rolling green countryside in the west of Ireland: