Glendalough & Bray

My first week of classes passed in a blink of an eye. Well, the trip is passing me by in the blink of an eye. It’s hard to believe all the time that has flown by and what feels like the little time I have left. I’m trying to savor every moment and experience. I’m not ready to leave! I love you Pitt, but I’ve fallen in love with someone else. Leaving Ireland is going to be difficult in a few weeks. Please have tissues ready at Pittsburgh International Airport for me.

Anyway, our first excursion was the Saturday after the first week. The bus met all the Pitt students at our dorms early in the morning and bussed us and other international students studying in our program to Glendalough.

 I didn’t sleep well the night before and fell asleep for half of the drive. I woke up surrounded by the greenest greens and pastures of various livestock. One of my favorite things that people do when driving through country land is they tend to point excitedly out the window like they’re kids again to announce “COW!” or “SHEEP!” and then everyone turns and does the exact same thing just naming the animal in an excited tone. No matter what your age or where you come from, this is a universal experience. This went on for like ten minutes straight and I’m proud to say I contributed. I love cows a lot so I was excited to see them in their pastures, splotches of blacks and whites and browns. My camera was stowed away for the bus ride, but I have a few cell-phone pictures of my views.

 COWS!

COWS!

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We filed off the bus and into the visitor’s center for a film. We were at the Glendalough Monastic Site. The film explained the history of the region we were currently visiting and also Ireland’s history with monastic societies and their settlements. The particular settlement at Glendalough was said to be founded by Saint Kevin in the 6th century. From his initial settlement, the area grew. It is marked by the large circular tower, which acted as a bell tower and a marker for travelers heading to the monastic site. The area is surrounded by ancient church structures, many missing roofs, and a large cemetery.

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Our group gathered outside to learn more of the history before we entered the grounds. 

The monastic city was one of the most popular sites in its time and did grow in size from its inception with St. Kevin. It survived attacks from Vikings who swept through Ireland between the 10-12th centuries. Its importance continued as a central point until the monastery was destroyed in the early 13th century by the Normans. Many of the structures or parts of the structures on the grounds remain.

 This is the sanctuary mark right beyond the archway leading to the old monastic city. Once a traveler passed this stone, they were under the protection of the city.  

This is the sanctuary mark right beyond the archway leading to the old monastic city. Once a traveler passed this stone, they were under the protection of the city.  

Our group moved through the grounds, exploring some of the main structures.

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 The tower would be a useful guide for those traveling into the city as a way to position themselves to find it easier.

The tower would be a useful guide for those traveling into the city as a way to position themselves to find it easier.

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 St. Kevin's Kitchen 

St. Kevin's Kitchen 

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 I love taking pictures of people taking pictures of us in a group. Two of our program leaders/ teachers while we are here. 

I love taking pictures of people taking pictures of us in a group. Two of our program leaders/ teachers while we are here. 

 Some of the graves that rest inside the old church structure were moved for protection of the headstones. It's not clear which ones were moved or which ones were originally there.

Some of the graves that rest inside the old church structure were moved for protection of the headstones. It's not clear which ones were moved or which ones were originally there.

 The roof of many buildings like this was not maintained. You can see the headstones leaning up against the walls and restign on the ground. 

The roof of many buildings like this was not maintained. You can see the headstones leaning up against the walls and restign on the ground. 

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 The Priest House

The Priest House

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 St. Kevin's Kitchen

St. Kevin's Kitchen

After exploring the Monastic Site, we moved into the trails in Wicklow Mountains National Park. We ate our lunch at the lake.

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 Almost everyone walked barefoot to the stones to get their picture taken. 

Almost everyone walked barefoot to the stones to get their picture taken. 

 The water was cold but refreshing!

The water was cold but refreshing!

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 Before we left, we took more pictures at the lake. And Anya posed for a quick shot!

Before we left, we took more pictures at the lake. And Anya posed for a quick shot!

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 Kerry cheesing at the lake. 

Kerry cheesing at the lake. 

After lunch we had a hike planned for us. Now, I love hikes and I was excited for this hike. We made our way to the trail and our first sight was steps leading up. Oh man. We were enticed by our program leads that there was a pretty waterfall up the way. We hiked up steps that felt like an eternity, our group stopping in chunks to take videos, pictures, and selfies at the little waterfall. This was not the end of the hike. With aching calf muscles (thank God I was wearing my workout shoes this day), we continued up the steep incline and gathered the troops at a flat area. The hike to the top was steep and we were now being enticed by the promise of fantastic views. That path we were on would cut into the woods and 180 some steps later we would be at the top of this particular mountain. We set off.

 The waterfall on our way up!

The waterfall on our way up!

The Howth hike was extremely difficult yet endlessly rewarding. I am very much photography minded (if you couldn’t tell already) and was going to do everything in my power to get to the top, no matter how tired I felt before the hell that was those 180 some steps. I had to be careful, the steep incline here was hard on my lungs. I took some puffs of my inhaler and carried on, being mindful of every breath and ache. Howth was long and difficult and got steep in some parts, especially at the end. The Glendalough hike was like walking up a 90-degree angle for an hour.

Once we hit the steps, our group had to slow down and eventually had to split up. The steps were long and narrow, with metal sticking out to help your grip. There was only one set of stairs for both going up and going down. Our group had to go single file. I knew that a stop for more of my inhaler and catching my breath would be necessary, so I hung back. Steep inclines are hard on my breathing. I kept telling myself I could do it, but I needed to be smart about it. One of our program directors, Darragh, as well as three other Pitt students made up our own group that “took in the view” here and there and made up the rear of the group. I would say “breaks” but we were really just taking in the view… that’s all. I dubbed us the real A-Team about halfway up between a ragged breath and a swig of water. We had this.

The steps were hell. They climbed into what looked like infinity and were dizzying. A handful of stairs started under the canopy of the forest and then broke through into a clearing, giving us a sad view of trees that were cut down and put us back into the open.

 The steps go so far back you can't really see where we had started. 

The steps go so far back you can't really see where we had started. 

 It was sad to see so many trees cleared. 

It was sad to see so many trees cleared. 

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I don’t think I could have accurately taken a picture to encompass how daunting this climb was. I had to put my camera away and focus on walking. It was far too steep, and I was far too tired to keep myself upright and hold a camera. Little by little we made our way up. As a side note, the path had only a few handrails, which was tough to manage on the way up, but on our way down it was terrifying!

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Finally we made it to the top! A couple times up the path I wondered if I could do it. I never want to chance my lungs. Asthma is a physical disease but there is a major mental component of it as well. Negative thoughts and panic can induce breathing difficulties and make situations go downhill, for lack of a better word, quickly. Since I was young, I’ve somewhat mastered calming my mind, it’s kind of like meditating without sitting down. When I’m doing a hard activity like hiking, I wash negative thoughts away, focus on my breathing and the positive. If I feel negative physical symptoms, I have to back out, but I strive to keep my thoughts positive. It’s the Little Engine That Could approach. We passed hikers encouraging us to see the view and those who couldn’t keep going. I tried to push positivity into my thoughts and that helped me immensely in tackling the mountain path.

Standing at the top, feeling like an asthmatic Rocky Balboa, I was victorious. I took my camera out and snapped some pictures as I caught my breath.

 #worthit

#worthit

 Sarah!

Sarah!

 Will!

Will!

 Resting before we went back down

Resting before we went back down

The hike up proved a challenge of physical and mental strength. The hike down was a different kind of torture. My legs felt like jelly and walking down the steps, they jerked and wobbled like I couldn’t control them. It felt like at any moment I could just fall and tumble down the mountainside. Each step required concentration and deliberation, but my legs moved like cooked spaghetti.

Our group met at the halfway point, collecting our breath and nerves. The hike down was hard for everyone. If I stood still my legs shook outside of my control. It actually felt better to keep walking rather than stand still. I kept the break short and continued down, practically running down at some points because I lacked control of my leg muscles and the path was steep.

We made it back to the lake and waited for our group. I took a couple more pictures there and then we headed on the bus to go to Bray for about an hour and a half. Bray was thirty minutes or so from Glendalough and the way there was just as pretty.

 I walked in the back of our group to the bus. Whenever a car came behind us I shouted, "CAR!" which is less exciting to shout than "COWS!". 

I walked in the back of our group to the bus. Whenever a car came behind us I shouted, "CAR!" which is less exciting to shout than "COWS!". 

 Our potential album cover

Our potential album cover

 Daria smiling! 

Daria smiling! 

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 Tiffani and Caroline

Tiffani and Caroline

 I think Tiffani had enough of this walking business.

I think Tiffani had enough of this walking business.

 We had fun walking back.

We had fun walking back.

 Maybe this one is our album cover

Maybe this one is our album cover

 Back on the bus!

Back on the bus!

 Let me state the obvious: Ireland is very green. 

Let me state the obvious: Ireland is very green. 

Bray is similar to Howth, a coastal town with great gelato (it’s a crime to not get gelato in a coastal town) and pretty views. Bray also had a hike which I hope to do before my time ends here but I was far too tired that day to do it. I don’t have many pictures from Bray. A group of Pitt students and I found a restaurant and decided to eat. By the time our meal finished, we were running to the bus to take us back. Bray is on the list of places I want to explore more closely!

 I want to hike up that mountain!

I want to hike up that mountain!

 This puppy just finished eating someone's lunch. 

This puppy just finished eating someone's lunch. 

 Tiffani wandering around. 

Tiffani wandering around. 

 Can't have lunch in Ireland without Guinness. 

Can't have lunch in Ireland without Guinness. 

Glendalough was stunning and a peaceful place. I enjoyed my time there immensely.

Howth Part II

The day after we moved into the student dorms, I decided to go back to Howth. With travelling, I always struggle with wanting to see every corner of the spots I explore but also not missing new opportunities if I linger or return to a place I have already visited. The hike in Howth was exhilarating, but I did miss exploring much of the town and Howth Castle. Will and I loved Howth so much that with a handful of other students newly arrived, we went together as a group.

Everyone in Ireland remarks on the weather. We must enjoy every blue sky and the visible sun while it’s here because rain is surely around the corner. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I have experienced very few rainy days and a handful of overcast, which I appreciate since there is no air conditioning in any of the buildings. The lack of AC remains the hardest adjustment. In general, the weather has been beautiful, I’ve seen vibrant sapphire skies with comforting breezes accompanying it and slightly cloudy days that keep the temperatures low and enjoyable. That day in Howth was a bright, sapphire sky kinda day. It was much sunnier than when we took our hike, so it felt perfect to explore the shops and see the castle.

Will and I helped other students get their transit cards and we took the same route we did before. The train into Howth was packed with teens and pre-teens who exited one stop before ours in Sutton for swimming. Just writing that makes me want to go swimming now. I definitely plan on a bracing swim in the ocean while I’m here but that’s for another day.

We exited the train greeted by the same smell of brine and the call of the seagulls. Our first stop was to the castle, so we went in the opposite direction of town. It was a ten-minute walk from the station and up a hill to the castle grounds. The castle is still a family home, but they do offer tours of some of the buildings. Unfortunately, the day we went there were no tours happening, so we wandered around as much of the grounds as we were allowed to.

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 This tank sat outside the National Transportation Museum which was closed at the time of our visit. 

This tank sat outside the National Transportation Museum which was closed at the time of our visit. 

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After the castle we trekked back to the town and explored some of the shops. Our Pitt group broke off here and Will and I explored the other side of the pier up to Howth Lighthouse we hadn’t walked yet. Howth was packed with locals and tourists basking in the sunny rays and breeze off the sea. My heart felt light walking among so many people having a good time. I really love Howth.

 Mads Mikkelsen's face is on so many billboards for this beer (which by the way is very good). 

Mads Mikkelsen's face is on so many billboards for this beer (which by the way is very good). 

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We passed families and couples along the path to the lighthouse. It was in this area where one of my favorite moments and encounters of the trip happened. I spied an older man walking his two dogs along the bottom part of the pier. Will and I were walking along the top. The dogs trotted around the man, eagerly waiting for him to toss a tennis ball into the bay and listening to his whistle for commands. I couldn’t help but get excited to see the dogs, not just because dogs are my favorite creation in the universe, but because they were the breed of my childhood dog and best friend. The day after Christmas in 2016, my 14-year-old English Springer Spaniel, Sam, had to be put down. He meant everything to me and I loved our time together dearly. I still struggle with his passing and miss my furry friend.

 A cell phone picture I took of Sam the day I left for college in 2013. He was a goofy boy. 

A cell phone picture I took of Sam the day I left for college in 2013. He was a goofy boy. 

I followed the man along the upper path as he played fetch with his two Springers. I stayed on the higher path for a while, taking pictures of them jumping down into the bay and running back up the steps, soaking and panting hard. While they continued their walk, I hurried to a set of stairs just ahead of me so that I could come down to the lower level, closer to the man and his dogs.

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 On my way to the steps, I took tons of pictures of the ships scattered around. 

On my way to the steps, I took tons of pictures of the ships scattered around. 

 It was a great day for sailing. At least I think so, I've never sailed before so don't take my word on it. 

It was a great day for sailing. At least I think so, I've never sailed before so don't take my word on it. 

 And the water was so many shades of blue!

And the water was so many shades of blue!

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I crept along, taking pictures as I moved closer. I sat down with my camera around my neck on a docking post watching them. I was fairly close to the trio as they played. After one toss of the ball into the bay, the smaller springer bounded down the stairs and leapt into the open water, swimming out to get the bobbing yellow ball. The pup swam back to the steps and ran up them, straight to me. She dropped the wet and drool covered ball at my feet and took a position down on all fours, giving control of the tennis ball to me. I looked to her owner, not wanting to interrupt their time or any rules between them. We started talking and he was more than happy to let me play with his pups. I grabbed the tennis ball and bounced it a handful of times on the cement, the springer sprung up to grab it and brought it back multiple times, impatient for a longer throw. I grabbed the ball again, absolutely drenched in doggy spit, and lobbed it into the bay. The dog took off in a blur.

 I walked up to that white block to get a closer look at the dogs. You can see the other people standing around and watching them too!

I walked up to that white block to get a closer look at the dogs. You can see the other people standing around and watching them too!

 As soon as the man turned around, she would climb off and slowly walk toward him. 

As soon as the man turned around, she would climb off and slowly walk toward him. 

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 This is what the one dog did when I walked close to them. She dropped the ball at my feet and waited for me to throw it for her. 

This is what the one dog did when I walked close to them. She dropped the ball at my feet and waited for me to throw it for her. 

I spoke with the man about his dogs and their breed. I told him about my own Sam and how much I love the breed and miss them. He expressed genuine sadness at my loss. His own dog, Gerald, was 10 years old and slowing down. He was getting more confused but still loved being outside so much. The other dog, the one I had been playing with for the most part was the younger female. He told me Gerald was perfectly trained (I can attest to this! He was a very good boy) and would never run after a ball unless he heard the whistle which signaled that it was ok. The girl was a little rascal and didn’t like the rules as much. She didn’t wait for the whistle and had so much energy compared to her older doggy friend. He often would tell her to sit on the bench following the lower pier and she would sit, but as soon as he turned to pay attention to Gerald and the attention was off of her, she would creep paw by paw along the sunbaked cement to get closer to the water and the treasured tennis balls.

 They waited for his command. 

They waited for his command. 

I wasn’t the only one so enchanted by the man and his dogs. Countless people stopped to take pictures or show their children to the cute dogs as they ran around and splashed in the water below us. They brought smiles to everyone who came across their path on that pier. I played with them for a while, stroking both of their slimy, slicked back fur from the bay. I thanked the man for allowing me to play with his dogs and he was incredibly gracious and went along his way. It seems he had stopped along this point in the path, so I could play with them for a while. After I was ready to move on so was he.

When I walked past them and continued to the lighthouse, I admit, I was a little teary-eyed. I was so grateful to have time to play with the dogs and get to know them. They reminded me of Sam when he was still a young and energetic pup.

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Feeling a lightness in my chest, I continued down the pier, continuing to take pictures and watch the people around me. People watching is one of my favorite things to do. It’s fun to sit back and watch everyone existing within their own bubble out in the world. I watched multi-generational families head out to the farthest point of the pier and watch the sailboats around the piers and the larger ships on the horizon zipping through the water.

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After the pier, we went back into town and got gelato. It was hot outside and we’d been in the sun for a handful of hours. We were eating in the park when I looked up past the modern buildings and saw an old stone structure, half obscured by surrounding buildings. I wasn’t exactly sure what it was or how to get to it. After we ate, I decided that I wanted to figure it out. I headed past the shops and turned up the nearest street, hoping I could figure it out. I stopped halfway up a hill, unsure of where the entrance was. It looked like it was in the middle of buildings.

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I figured I would take random streets and alleys to find it and if I didn’t I’d still be around interesting buildings and maybe I could just stop for a pint at one of the local pubs around the street. I saw a sign for a pub that led to stone steps, curving up and away from view. I walked up them because they were in the direction of the structure. The steps plopped me out onto a roadway with a pretty white and blue building to our right and directly a head of us was exactly what I had been looking for.

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I stood on the road which overlooked an old church and cemetery. It was located up on the hill stuck between the main road, Harbour Road, and the road I was standing on, Church Street. I walked down the stone steps into the secluded privacy of the cemetery. The church no longer in use was open to the elements, missing a roof and other structural elements. Graves surrounded it on the outside and some were locked up inside. At the end of the cemetery, against a stone wall, the main road of Howth can be seen as well as the ships in the bay.

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I walked along quietly, contemplating as I followed the path. Despite its location in the middle of a bustling area, the cemetery was surprisingly quiet. The church was very old, the original church was built in the 1000's and was rebuilt in the 14th century!

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I left just as more visitors descended the steps to the old church. After the unexpected discovery, I headed back into town.

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I met up again with the rest of the Pitt group and ran to catch the train home. I left Howth fulfilled, exhausted, and sunburnt. I have since learned and bought sunscreen (silly me thought I was immune from sunburns here??). I also cherished my time with the two Springers and their kind owner who humored me.

            I love Ireland.

Student Dorms

On Monday May 28th it was time for me to move from my hostel to the student apartments. The rest of the Pitt in Dublin students would be arriving. I left my hostel in Smithfield Square and crossed the Liffey, the river that splits Dublin. For the remainder of the program, before I undertake more independent travel and hostel living, I will be living in a student housing complex. The apartments are great! The rooms and living area are spacious. The students who occupy the blocks surrounding us are all students from different parts of the world. It is like living in the hostel but with much more space and a private bedroom.

The pictures below are from around the apartment complex.

 I must admit I still haven't fully unpacked.

I must admit I still haven't fully unpacked.

 Private bathroom!

Private bathroom!

 Common area including a kitchen! 

Common area including a kitchen! 

 The laundry and hang out area. 

The laundry and hang out area. 

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 The apartments are on the bottom of a big hill. This is what I walk up every morning to get to class. 

The apartments are on the bottom of a big hill. This is what I walk up every morning to get to class. 

 Halfway up!

Halfway up!

 There are tons of bike racks around. 

There are tons of bike racks around. 

 The top of the hill. 

The top of the hill. 

 That blue box is actually a really good coffee place. 

That blue box is actually a really good coffee place. 

 These stairs are at the top of the hill across from the colorful picnic tables. I like the architecture a lot. 

These stairs are at the top of the hill across from the colorful picnic tables. I like the architecture a lot. 

Sláinte! Jameson Distillery

The day after the Howth hike I was sore and looking for something not too strenuous. I let myself sleep in (I needed it!) and ate a late breakfast. It was raining and gray out in the early afternoon hours. After a cappuccino at Third Space and some soup which was perfect for the weather, I headed back to my hostel to plan the day. The answer came next door, a perfect activity for the day. Right next to my hostel was the Jameson Distillery.

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I am not a drinker back in the states. I rarely drink and if I do it’s usually a glass of wine with dinner. I knew nothing about whiskey and never really drank it. I popped out of the hostel and made the one-minute walk to the distillery. The inside was buzzing with people. The first sight I saw were two rows of bars with patrons sitting up on the barstools ordering from their menu.

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Just like my hostel, the ceiling was decorated with Jameson bottle chandeliers.

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I wandered around the back, taking in the sight of the walls decorated with barrels of Jameson and old whiskey bottles.

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I followed a steady stream of people to find the ticketing counter and paid for the tour, excited for the experience. I wasn’t exactly sure what that entailed but the scenery and vibe inside the distillery was fun, so I knew the tour had to be good!

 Loved this!

Loved this!

 My tour met up right next to this before we headed upstairs. 

My tour met up right next to this before we headed upstairs. 

The tour consisted of the history of the distillery, how whiskey is made, and a sampling of Jameson, Jack Daniels, and Jim Beam. The tour guide explained the difference between the three. We learned which one was smokier or had a sweeter finish. It gave me an appreciation for whiskey! I found that I quite liked Jameson! I also loved the history lessons. Here’s one of my favorite tidbits: the men who worked in the distillery were given free whiskey throughout the day and those who had dirtier, more unpleasant jobs were given extra, which lead many men to purposefully dirty their uniform in order to get more than their normal allotment.

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 We got to see the difference in Whiskey and smell the difference bwteen Bourbon and Sherry. 

We got to see the difference in Whiskey and smell the difference bwteen Bourbon and Sherry. 

 The whiskey taste testing!

The whiskey taste testing!

After the tour we were lead through the gift store and given a voucher for a free drink. I chose the Jameson Ginger and Lime and loved it. I may be wearing a shirt that says Rosé The Day Away, but I was definitely appreciating some fine Irish whiskey! I had a great time and highly recommend the tour!

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I will end this blog post with what my tour guide taught us. Sláinte! It means good health and is said when cheering a drink. 

The Howth Hike and Sharing a Pint

On Saturday May 26th I wanted to get out of Dublin and find a scenic destination that would provide some natural beauty. I also have been wanting to photograph a castle. Howth offered up the best of both worlds. A little bit about the area.  Howth is a village east of Dublin on the peninsula, surrounded by high reaching cliffs, docks and the bracing salty air. The town sits right up against the coast, with fishing boats darting out from the harbor and families walking hand-in-hand along the shops and restaurants. The town is a half hour or so DART ride from Connolly station out to Howth station. DART stands for Dublin Area Rapid Transit. The train services Dublin’s city center and the outlying areas like Howth. It’s an extremely comfortable and reliable system that even includes free WiFi! The seats on the train are comfy and spacious.

 My original plan for my day trip to Howth was to head up to the castle and roam the grounds. I had also heard about the trails around the peninsula that offered great views. Once the train pulled into the station and throngs of people poured out into the streets I was a little stunned by how cute the town was. Soft blue, bright yellow, and red houses and businesses line the main street and wind up to the cliffs toward the trails. Along the pier leading to the Howth lighthouse, seafood restaurants taut their fresh fish. Dogs run around on the open grass while their owners sit in the shade reading or eating take-away from fish shops. I lost count of the number of dogs leashed at outside tables with their family or scampering around on the sidewalk. It was at this point that I immediately knew I would like this town.

 I was visiting Howth with fellow Pitt student Will, who is also in early for the program. We decided that our big adventure that day would be exploring Howth and a walk along its cliffs as well as the castle that stood outside the main town center. We had been recommended the town and the walk especially. I’ve been stacking my days with several museums visits and lots of city walking and sightseeing. Howth seemed a perfect opportunity for a full day of dedication. One of my favorite things to do (with camera in hand, naturally) is going on hikes along scenic routes. Last summer, I went on a hike with my fiancé and his family along a glacier in Juneau, Alaska. It was an exhilarating and beautiful path; our tour guide led us along the forest to the peak where we overlooked a breathtaking, but sadly receding glacier. I was hoping for a nice walk/hike like that.

As someone with asthma, I am extremely aware of my physical health. I am attuned to how my lungs are working and never leave the house without multiple inhalers in my bags. Hiking alone for my own personal health rules would be a big no! And taking in the views of Howth with a hiking buddy and companion is the best way to do it. But before I get to the hike I want to start at the very beginning of the day!

Will and I met up for breakfast at Third Space in Smithfield Square which is right across from where my hostel is. I had seen a sign the previous day that they had a full Irish breakfast and I was excited to try that. Plus, their coffee is delicious! I’ve enjoyed both their mochas and their cappuccinos, and they taste as good as they look!

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The tram station which would take us to the DART station was just outside the square. So, after eating, we grabbed water bottles and headed to the stop. I had purchased my LEAP card the day before which can be used on Dublin’s trams, trains, and buses. We waited about ten minutes before one showed up absolutely packed with people. We almost missed it as we both were uncomfortable in what felt like pushing to get on. We watched how others were managing getting on when no space seemed available. Somehow, they just stepped on and wigged through the small spaces in the wall of people. We did the same, pressed up against many others holding onto rails and handholds.

The tram is frequent, comfortable, and relatively fast. The normally half hour walk only took ten minutes. People exited and entered the tram on the several stops along the way. A main shopping district saw a mass exodus of people and for the remainder of the trip we had a seat. Once we pulled into the last stop, we headed out with the rest of the tram riders and up the steps of Connolly station.

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Connolly Station is named after James Connolly, an Irish Revolutionary and one of the leaders of the Easter Rising. The rebellion was launched by Irish Republicans who wanted an Ireland free from British rule and to create an Irish Republic. The armed uprising lasted six days and resulted in Connolly’s, as well as his fellow leaders, execution. The 1916 rebellion is incredibly important in Irish history. Countless streets and buildings bear the name of the leaders of the rebellion such as James Connolly and Patrick Pearse. The day before Howth, when I had gone to Dublin Castle, I had been in the room where an injured Connolly had lain before being taken away to Kilmainham Jail and executed.

 This was a picture I took in Dublin Castle of the Proclamation. 

This was a picture I took in Dublin Castle of the Proclamation. 

I highly suggest learning more about the Easter Rising and the events that followed in Irish history. That’s one of my many history plugs! Ireland has fascinating history and you can interact with it everywhere. Simply walking down the street, there are monuments or street names that harken back to the Easter Rising or another moment in Irish history. Before I began taking classes at Pitt, I had loved Ireland but lacked much knowledge on its history. I feel like that’s true for most Americans. Many come from Irish descent or love images of the rolling green hills and Saint Patrick’s Day without knowing much more about the country. I imagine as I continue to post, I’ll sprinkle more history as I encounter it. After all, there are echoes of the history everywhere.

Anyway, back to the station. We headed up from the lower platform and entered into the train station. A digital screen displayed locations and the platform from which they would depart. We found the train to Howth and headed back. After thirty minutes the train pulled up and, minding the gap, we entered. Unlike the tram, our train was pretty empty, just a handful of people spreading out in the open space. The train ride was exciting as we pulled out from the station and zoomed down the tracks, train car swaying as we went. We watched the city buildings flash by, replaced by beach and water.

We exited the train at the last stop, a thirty-minute ride from Connolly station. Howth greeted us first with its smells. Once the doors opened and we stepped out, the briny sea air whooshed in. Once we exited the station we saw the unfolding town center speckled with colorful shops and restaurants tempting hungry bellies with freshly caught fish and a nice pint.

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 Apartments stacked above the businesses. 

Apartments stacked above the businesses. 

 Will being a trooper in the direct sun. 

Will being a trooper in the direct sun. 

 Howth Lighthouse

Howth Lighthouse

 Boats sitting in the harbor

Boats sitting in the harbor

 So many seagulls in town!

So many seagulls in town!

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Initially, I wanted to visit the castle just outside the town, but the charm of the town drew us in and we began to walk along the pier. Families sat outside restaurant fronts with their dogs and children. It was busy but not crowded in the town. It made sense considering that it was a Saturday and the sun and air felt therapeutic here. In addition to the harbor, there were large swatches of green space for picnickers, sunbathers, and again, dogs to play in (I really enjoyed the dogs).

 A dog sitting beside its family at a restuarant. 

A dog sitting beside its family at a restuarant. 

 A memorial that sits right in the park. 

A memorial that sits right in the park. 

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 Just as I went to snap this picture, this seagull swooped down and landed on it!

Just as I went to snap this picture, this seagull swooped down and landed on it!

After we walked along the pier, we headed back to the main town stretch walking past several bars and gelato stands. Once we reached the end of the businesses, the rest of the sea greeted us and, in the distance, we saw striking cliffs. Thoughts of the castle faded away and we decided to head up the road to the cliffs, a long but enjoyable walk up a steep road.

 The view at the end of the road right before we headed up to that cliff in the distance. 

The view at the end of the road right before we headed up to that cliff in the distance. 

 A few people were walking among the rocks here. 

A few people were walking among the rocks here. 

 Graffiti on our way up. 

Graffiti on our way up. 

 The road up

The road up

 You can see the lighthouse in the corner where we initially started. 

You can see the lighthouse in the corner where we initially started. 

Right before the trails started there was a map, explaining the area and the four different paths you could take. Exhilarated from our walk up to this point, we decided on the longest and hardest trail, but at the beginning all the trails went the same way. We’d walk as far as we wanted. If something interested us we would keep going. If we were bored or started tiring, we would head back. We had enough water and were dressed appropriately. It was cool, the perfect weather for a hike.

 We would end up following the majority of the purple trail. 

We would end up following the majority of the purple trail. 

After the day had ended and we retraced our hike it was incredible to us how far we had gone. At this point standing right before the dirt trail, we were buzzing with excitement. The cliffs are huge and filled with rocks at the bottom where land meets sea. Several signs dart along the path reminding walkers how dangerous the area can be if you aren’t careful. Will and I watched hikers move to places that terrified us because of how close they were to the edge. Even with taking pictures, it was a challenge to depict just how large the cliffs were and how far the drop was.

 People for size. 

People for size. 

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 Flowers on the edge

Flowers on the edge

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 Lots of people at this point on the path. 

Lots of people at this point on the path. 

We spent a lot of time at the biggest cliff head. Tons of other tourists and hikers were around taking pictures and resting against boulders as benches, taking it all in. Periodically, and this was true for further along the hike as well, locals walked with dogs of all sizes and breeds without leashes on the path. This amazed and terrified both Will and me considering dogs could not read the signs warning against the cliffs.

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After a certain point, the trail diverged in two places. The purple path was the hardest and continued down the dirt path toward a light house. The other three which would eventually split elsewhere, ended up past another cliff and circled back closer to the center of the peninsula and back to town. Each of those paths were rated with much less difficulty and time commitment. Will and I were enjoying the views of the coast and cliffs and decided at the divergence point to continue down the hardest path. We were still so full of energy.

 Before we took the hardest path, we had been traveling around a ton of people, large groups traveling in a pack. Slowly as we made our way further out the numbers dwindled and about an hour into the purple path, we were almost entirely alone. This was fine by us! We enjoyed the solitude and the concentration on the footpath. It was not an even surface but often rocky and sometimes featured large stairs carved from the earth that took considerable time walking up and down. The path we were on would be around seven some miles.

 Dogs often went without leashes. 

Dogs often went without leashes. 

The hike gave me ample opportunity to shoot the nature surrounding us. Toward the end it began to sprinkle, and I decided to put the camera away, not wanting to deal with rain on my gear. Plus, I’d been shooting for hours at this point. The path had gone from following the coast to cutting up sharply into a grassy field and up more man-made steps. Our thighs were burning, and our shoes were soiled with dirt. The path was not a straight one, it often took sharp turns and had us walking back and forth up hills. We had to pay close attention as well because the markers were small and sometimes hard to find. Sometimes they were built into the surrounding space and you had to be vigilant to keep up with them. It could be challenging to juggle keeping up on the right path and watching your footing on the uneven and rocky ground.

 Our path often looked like this. 

Our path often looked like this. 

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 And sometimes our path looked like this. 

And sometimes our path looked like this. 

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We followed our path and finally found ourselves at a road. We listened to and watched cars flash by as we sipped water and caught our breath. I checked my phone and my signal was wavering a little. On certain parts for brief periods of time, the service would cut off as we were far from civilization. After the break we continued across. The path crossed the road and went up another steep hill. We crossed the street and began the climb stopping forty seconds or so up. We could finish the route, but the sky was clouding, and rain sprinkled for brief moments here and there. It wouldn’t get dark still for quite a few hours. It had been over three and a half hours since we had been at the biggest part of the cliff surrounded by all the people. We talked back and forth for a little and then decided we should take the road. Tiredness had crept up on us. Over the last hour, most of the walk had been steep inclines.

 Steps along the path

Steps along the path

Back on the road I checked my phone, only to discover the signal had disappeared, even though it had been there a moment before. I was able to pull up google maps finally and if we followed the road it would be about forty minutes to walk to Sutton, which had its own railway, and a little longer to get back to Howth. We started walking along the sidewalk. Cars and bikers occasionally passed us as did runners and walkers. We moved slowly, our muscles cramping up a little and feet sore. The hardest part of the last leg of the hike was the rocky surfaces on our feet and the abrupt incline. We had only walked about five minutes when just ahead of us, a woman stood with her personal shopping cart at a bus stop. Will and I exchanged looks and headed up to her.

We knew we could make it back on our own. Walking back to town would probably take more time than finishing the hike but would be a little easier on us. But at this point we were dog tired. I struck up a conversation with the woman and asked her about the bus. She was cheerful and explained this bus would take us into Howth, right back to the harbor. It was due, which was good as another one would not be for a while. We chatted about the hike for a little, a beautiful hike yes, but the weather soured slightly.

The bus showed up and we boarded, practically collapsing into seats. We got off back at the harbor. We stopped at a gelato shop and shared a cup, eating it in the shade before heading to the rail station. Luckily the train was due, and we were able to board immediately. Just like we came, we took the local transit back to Smithfield square. Will and I both showered and took naps, meeting up for dinner at the Generator. We didn’t realize that a huge football match was going on that day. The common area of generator was packed with football fans watching Real Madrid play against Liverpool. The hostel was full of Liverpool fans.

We grabbed dinner and drinks and settled into the basement where there were open tables and a smaller television and watched the game. Not long after we sat down and began eating, a guy asked me if the tables next to us were free. I said they were and after a bit he and his friends sat down. Issh/Ish/Eish (not sure how his name is spelled!) and I started talking. He is a die-hard Real Madrid fan and had a bet that they would beat Liverpool 3 to 1. He introduced me to his friend Dom, a German who had been living in Dublin for a year, and who I found out later that night was leaving to go back soon. During the match we continued talking and joking. A girl at my hostel left her bag and phone with Ish and disappeared up to her room for a few hours. They were leaving once the match was finished, so naturally he wanted to give it back.

We watched the game and Madrid did in fact win 3 to 1. Ish was ecstatic. While we watched he explained certain players and team histories and the significance of this or that. He was so excited to talk about his team who he loved since childhood. Once the game ended and the hostel started clearing up, the group of guys were heading to a local dive bar. They offered an invitation to both of us. Even though we tired from the day, it was a quick decision to say yes to head out to a non-touristy spot just a five-minute walk from the hostel.

The outside was overflowing with people and it was crowded inside too. Apparently, that was unusual, but we managed to squeeze our way to the back. Ish who, I had only known for two hours before this, ordered Will and me a pint of Guinness. In the back he explained that this was a farewell to Dom, who would be leaving soon. We chatted in the back, talking about where I worked back in the US and about business in Europe. I worked at a job involving tech which Dom was interested in. We spent a while talking about Germany as I studied the language and culture while at Pitt.

 One of their mutual friends joined us. He happened to be a bartender at Generator and we talked about his job and various stories he had about guests that stayed there. They introduced us to their friends who came into the bar and hugged us as if we had known each other for years. I felt so incredibly welcomed. Will and I stayed chatting for a while, but it was almost midnight and the day was wearing us down considerably. We thanked them and exchanged business cards. I had my photography business card on me and Ish had the card for the restaurant he was in the process of opening in Dublin (I wish it had his name on it though!). We parted ways with strong hugs all around like good friends and I made my way back to the hostel, ready for the sweet embrace of a bed after a long but thoroughly enjoyable day.

Galleries, Exhibits, and my Hostel!

Hello and welcome back to my travel blog! I made my first post May 24th, the day after I arrived in Dublin. A lot has happened in the three days since my last posting, both in my life and in the country. May 25th Ireland held their referendum to decide whether to keep or repeal their 8th amendment which involved abortion. Ireland’s abortion previous law was considered one of the strictest laws on abortion.

Over the weekend, the results came back with overwhelming support to repeal the amendment. At my hostel, a group of yes supporters that night celebrated with a pint and a round of pool to celebrate, the yes stickers and pins resting on the tops of their shirts and jackets. I have seen countless pins, buttons, stickers for a “yes” vote, while I’ve seen one “no” sticker. Overall, the mood here in Dublin has been one of excitement over the vote.

The day of the vote was my second day out and about in Dublin. The previous day I trekked to a museum and then headed to Dublin Castle. My first time around I was unable to visit the gardens and the exhibit currently showing behind the castle and wanted to catch up on it. The 25th I trekked back to the castle and headed around back to the garden.

Countless families and business people were enjoying the warm and sunny day with lunches and drinks. I walked along the circular path and headed into the museum. There was a stark difference between the sunny, cherry atmosphere outside and the subdued atmosphere of the museum exhibit which involved art centering around An Gorta Mór—The Great Famine. This was one of the eras I’ve studied in Irish History at Pitt. It’s a difficult and somber subject. The suffering that Ireland endured during the Famine and the years after it ended are hard to put into words. The exhibit left me feeling heavy and contemplative. I thought it did a great job educating regarding this time in Irish History.

 The visiting exhibit is on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Over 1 million lost their lives as a result of the Famine and government policies. A further 2 million Irish emigrated to the United States, Canada, England, etc. One of the major points the exhibit made was regarding the effect the Famine had on the country, physically and spiritually. 

The visiting exhibit is on loan from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum at Quinnipiac University, Connecticut. Over 1 million lost their lives as a result of the Famine and government policies. A further 2 million Irish emigrated to the United States, Canada, England, etc. One of the major points the exhibit made was regarding the effect the Famine had on the country, physically and spiritually. 

The museum featured art created in the years during and after the famine as well as modern depictions. In the center of the main hall a television played a recorded history lesson explaining the situation which tied back to the art surrounding us. The images, the diary readings, the heartbreak was hard to sit through just as it had been in the lecture hall when I first heard it. As I watched the images flash by the screen and listened to the recorded woman’s voice, I couldn’t shake the thought of my location, my presence inside the country so affected by the tragedy. The recorded voice reminded us watching and listening that the effects of the Famine are still here in Ireland, all these years later. 

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 The artwork featured on the banner outside. This painting was the most haunting in person to me. The anguish and exhaustion on the faces are both distrurbing and saddening. 

The artwork featured on the banner outside. This painting was the most haunting in person to me. The anguish and exhaustion on the faces are both distrurbing and saddening. 

After the exhibit, I sat outside on a bench watching pigeons and seagulls flutter around the garden, looking for scraps from local lunchers. I wanted to absorb everything I’d just seen and heard. While sitting there, I noticed a building to my left, a library, the Chester Beatty Library. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. I picked up my camera bag and headed over. Immediately walking through the doors into the open space I was hit by the aromatic smells from the café, the Silk Road Café. I rented out a locker, depositing my Euro, as bags were not allowed upstairs. I ascended the steps to an art exhibit I had not realized was there. I spent an hour going through the collection, which once belonged to Chester Beatty, the namesake of the library. The exhibit was free to the public and filled with beautiful artifacts from around the world. The exhibit was filled with pages and books from ancient Egypt, Calligraphy and illustrations in Qur’ans and other religious texts, as well as art and scrolls from Japan and China. There were books and illuminated manuscripts from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Pages embroidered with golds and other bright colors outlined these ancient texts. It was breathtaking.  
The library’s collection prohibited photography so both my phone and camera stayed behind. I didn’t mind at all considering the age of the tests and artifacts. It gave me a chance to be present in the moment and soak up the information and spend time letting my eyes wander across the illustrations and pieces in the exhibit. 
 

 A few pieces sat outside the exhibit which they allowed visitors to photograph. 

A few pieces sat outside the exhibit which they allowed visitors to photograph. 

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 This was one of the temporary exhibits I also viewed in addition to the permanent exhibit. 

This was one of the temporary exhibits I also viewed in addition to the permanent exhibit. 

After the library, I headed to pick up my transit card at a local shop and then back to the hostel. I’d been walking for hours and was feeling pretty tired. Once back in the hostel, I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. The food and atmosphere within the hostel itself are very fun. There are people studying and holidaying within the hostel from countless countries. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am inside the hostel that I am in Ireland. I hear so much German and French spoken! Within the hostel, besides locals who come for a pint or to listen to live bands and DJs, I hear and see German travelers the most. I earned my German minor and have studied the language and culture since I was 12, so when I find myself within the presence of groups of German speakers, my brain switches over to the language. I’ve caught myself from responding to people in German like saying thank you and excuse me especially.

I wanted to end this blog post with pictures from my hostel! It has a cool, urban feel and lots of community space to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of locals and foreigners as well. I’ve felt nothing but at home within the hostel. The workers foster an environment of community here. I have stories about the openness and kindness I’ve seen, but that’s for another blog post! Here are some pictures!

 A view of the street on my way back. 

A view of the street on my way back. 

Once back in the hostel, I took a nap and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. The food and atmosphere within the hostel itself are very fun. There are people studying and holidaying within the hostel from countless countries. Sometimes I have to remind myself when I am inside the hostel that I am in Ireland. I hear so much German and French spoken! Within the hostel, besides locals who come for a pint or to listen to live bands and DJs, I hear and see German travelers the most. I earned my German minor and have studied the language and culture since I was 12, so when I find myself within the presence of groups of German speakers, my brain switches over to the language. I’ve caught myself from responding to people in German like saying thank you and excuse me especially.

I wanted to end this blog post with pictures from my hostel! It has a cool, urban feel and lots of community space to eat, drink, and enjoy the company of locals and foreigners as well. I’ve felt nothing but at home within the hostel. The workers foster an environment of community here. I have stories about the openness and kindness I’ve seen, but that’s for another blog post! Here are some pictures!

 The lobby of Generator Hostel located in Smithfield Square in Dublin. 

The lobby of Generator Hostel located in Smithfield Square in Dublin. 

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 My bed is the messy one! I share the room with five other people. It's one of the mixed gender rooms of the hostel. The six of us share a bathroom. Under the bottom bunk are two compartments labeled for each bed for storage of luggage. The basement also has a storage room for further luggage. 

My bed is the messy one! I share the room with five other people. It's one of the mixed gender rooms of the hostel. The six of us share a bathroom. Under the bottom bunk are two compartments labeled for each bed for storage of luggage. The basement also has a storage room for further luggage. 

 The Hostel features a Jameson chandelier. How cool is that!

The Hostel features a Jameson chandelier. How cool is that!

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 Jameson barrels also decorate the main gathering area. The Jameson Distillery is right next door to the hostel. 

Jameson barrels also decorate the main gathering area. The Jameson Distillery is right next door to the hostel. 

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That's all for now! My next blog posts will detail my hike and exploration of Howth, my Jameson tour, and my night with the locals!

Céad Míle Fáilte: Welcome to My Blog!

Today is my second day in Ireland. It was a busy day. Before I dive into the details, I want to describe my first day in the Emerald Isle. 

Day one started early. On May 23rd, I flew from Pittsburgh to New York. After a layover, I had a seven hour flight over night to Dublin. I was tired from three days in a row of little sleep as I squeezed in last minute doctor's appointments I'd been neglecting over the semester, packing, and final days at work. I assumed that I would be able to sleep on the plane, but try as I might I could barely sleep for more than twenty minutes. Early in the morning, around 5:35 Dublin time, the pilot announced that we would be landing. I opened up the window covering, hoping to catch a sight of the green expanses, but it was a mostly cloudy, overcast morning with thick gray clouds hanging low. Finally, as we approached the runaway, I saw patchwork spaces of greens. It almost felt like a dream as the wheels touched down on the runway. I felt exhausted from the previous days but I couldn't help but feel my bubbling excitement. 

After we landed, the passengers filed our way into the airport, a handful of cranky babies cried (bless their parents) and sleepily we made our way to the immigration section of the airport. After I made it through the checkpoint, I arrived at the luggage carousel, hoping for a quick turn around. I sat on the floor for an hour, trying not to nod off. I had thoughts of hot showers and fresh bed sheets dancing in my mind. I watched a cute toddler run between her parents with her jelly legs wobbling at the effort. Her smile stretched across her face and her curls bounced as her father scooped her up in his arms. I smiled watching them; it helped the time pass and it was nice to see someone appreciating the early hour. 

After about an hour the luggage began pouring out, black, floral, animal print, all kinds of bags tumbled out. I grabbed my bags (I packed a lot because what if I need those extra thirty pairs of socks?!). I am a planner, someone who likes schedules and order in my life. My packing backs this up. Anyway, after grabbing my bags I pushed the luggage cart out to the buses lined up outside. I bought my ticket which would take me closest to the hostel.

I want to take a moment to say how much I appreciate public transportation. The bus was filled with fellow travelers from my flight who were heading to their hostels and hotels. Most of us were searching maps, reading emails, checking text messages and google maps for where exactly we were supposed to be dropped off. The bus driver took a minute before we took of to explain how buses work and payment works in Ireland. We clamored on with bulky suitcases and bags and stuffed them on the bus luggage rack and sat down. She called out each stop and helped travelers figure out the best stops for them. When I got off my stop, the next to last, I pulled out my phone hoping to figure out which direction I needed to go. Before she left, the bus driver asked the group of us who just stepped off if we knew which way to go. I told her the name of my hostel and she spent a quick minute detailing the directions I would need to take. She gave me a smile and continued her directions even as the doors closed. This was my first of so far many encounters of Dubliners being so helpful and kind to me as a traveler. I'm used to Americans being categorized as friendly, but this felt like a personal and individualized encounter. I take the bus daily in Pittsburgh and am confident in navigating the sometimes tricky world of public transport. Despite this, it was still nerve-wracking to be so tired in a country I was unfamiliar with to try and navigate the streets and bus routes. The bus driver left when I thanked her and heading in the direction she described. 

With slow and heavy steps, I made my way to the hostel. I scoured the internet to try and find an affordable and nice hostel. I was most nervous about this. I value sleep and privacy. I would be spending the duration of my stay in a six person room in a bunkbed with a shared bathroom and shower. I wouldn't know who I was rooming with until they showed up to claim their bunk. It would be a while until I met them. I hobbled my way to the hostel, my energy dissipating with each step and finally arrived. I had four hours before my check in. Luckily, my hostel has a spacious common area on the ground floor with tables and chairs, couches, a bar, and even a pool table. I slumped into the couch and slept for four hours in a disjointed mess of limbs and uncombed hair. 

When check in came, I raced up to my room and took a swift shower, washing travel away. I then proceeded to sleep for the majority of the day. Throughout the day various hostel-mates trickled in but I barely registered the door swinging open. I did force myself to eat late at night before the hostel dinning hours closed, not having eaten since breakfast on the plane at 4 a.m. The food in this hostel is amazing. Let me explain with a picture of my dinner from the first night. A picture says a thousand words after all. 

 The Avo Burger at Generator Hostel in Dublin

The Avo Burger at Generator Hostel in Dublin

After dinner, I walked about fifteen minutes to where I would be staying once classes begin next week. I circled back toward my hostel and explored the area close by, calling it a night not long after. This photo is the only one I managed to take my first day in Dublin. Since I spent the majority of my day sleeping. 

As far as my hostel-mates, everyone is great and super conscientious of noise and space. Only one hostel-mate and I have not said hello because either one of us have been asleep while the other is awake.  Of the five in the room, two are Germans, one is Canadian, and two are American. The five of us had a laugh this morning, discovering that the small and so far inaccessible balcony attached to our room has a discarded pair of boxers shorts resting there from a previous tenant.

Day two proved to be more enriching and tiring in its own way. I have yet to purchase a bus pass and have been waking to all my destinations, which I love! This gives me a chance to pull out my camera and document street life. I am obsessed with museums of all kinds. I had a quick breakfast in the hostel and drowned myself in sweet, sweet life giving coffee and headed out to my first stop of my busy day. There are numerous museums in Dublin and since I was still recovering from the exhaustion of travel, I wanted to head to a close one. The nearest one was around ten minutes away called the National Museum of Ireland. I headed that way with my camera in tow excited to begin photographing my adventure. To my delight, the museum had free admission. I was behind a group of Irish school students on a field trip and began to make my way though the museum. As I pulled out my camera, I realized my batteries had been left in another bag back at the hostel. Not wanting to delay, I took my phone and headed into the display rooms. 

I didn't look up what the museum offered before arriving. I wanted to be surprised, plus it was so close. The museum detailed a lot of the political and military history of Ireland with some interactive displays. This was incredibly exciting to me as this was one of my focuses in studying Irish History. 

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 This figure depicts a prisoner captured in 1798 after the United Irishmen Rebellion. The plaque next to him posed two options for his fate, either execution or because of his age, he would be sent as a prisoner to Australia. 

This figure depicts a prisoner captured in 1798 after the United Irishmen Rebellion. The plaque next to him posed two options for his fate, either execution or because of his age, he would be sent as a prisoner to Australia. 

 One of my favorite parts of the museum was the interactive display of old guns. After you picked one up, the screen displayed the proper way they were used and handled. Next to the guns was a wooden block depicting the result of the bullet on contact with a human. 

One of my favorite parts of the museum was the interactive display of old guns. After you picked one up, the screen displayed the proper way they were used and handled. Next to the guns was a wooden block depicting the result of the bullet on contact with a human. 

 Later in the museum I had fun with another display. One of the museum workers saluted me when he saw me and told me I was a soldier now. 

Later in the museum I had fun with another display. One of the museum workers saluted me when he saw me and told me I was a soldier now. 

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 The remains of a B-17 engine that crashed in 1943. 

The remains of a B-17 engine that crashed in 1943. 

After the museum, I headed back to the hostel to pick up my batteries. The next stop was Dublin Castle for a guided tour. On the way I took some pictures on the street. For a background, right now Ireland is buzzing with news of the upcoming referendum on the 8th Amendment. I've been reading a lot about this topic in the recent weeks as a multitude of news agencies are covering it. I was not prepared for the amount of signage regarding the amendment on the street. It was as if every post had at least one poster either for or against repealing it, sometimes there were multiple signs stacked on top of each other. Here are a few pictures I took while heading to the castle. 

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 You can see in this picture the posts down from the one upfront have similar signs all the way down. 

You can see in this picture the posts down from the one upfront have similar signs all the way down. 

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May 25th (tomorrow) is the referendum. 

Here are a few other sights on the way to the castle. 

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 The signs feature both Gaelic and English!

The signs feature both Gaelic and English!

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 A statue dedicated to children born after/of the Millennium. 

A statue dedicated to children born after/of the Millennium. 

It began to rain just as I made it to the castle. 

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 Our tour guide James took us down into the underground of what was once the wall surrounding Dublin Castle. Where we stood would be where the moat once ran. The rocks here are the side of the wall and James is standing in front of the steps that lead to the entrance. 

Our tour guide James took us down into the underground of what was once the wall surrounding Dublin Castle. Where we stood would be where the moat once ran. The rocks here are the side of the wall and James is standing in front of the steps that lead to the entrance. 

 The steps were purposefully made uneven to hinder the advance of enemies should they try to climb. 

The steps were purposefully made uneven to hinder the advance of enemies should they try to climb. 

 This building is the private chapel on the grounds, originally made to be an Anglican church. 

This building is the private chapel on the grounds, originally made to be an Anglican church. 

 Cromwell, who is not a happy historical memory for most Irish people, is listed here. 

Cromwell, who is not a happy historical memory for most Irish people, is listed here. 

 The chapel has the names of British leaders sent to manage Ireland from Dublin Castle. 

The chapel has the names of British leaders sent to manage Ireland from Dublin Castle. 

 Apparently, Bram Stoker worked in this building! It's now a government building. 

Apparently, Bram Stoker worked in this building! It's now a government building. 

 Fun Story! The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the national color is blue not green! When the Republic of Ireland went to make the harp the symbol they discovered that Guinness had copyrighted that symbol over a hundred years earlier. So to satisfy this situation, Dublin's Government flipped the harp. If you look up Guinness, the harp faces the other way!

Fun Story! The harp is the national symbol of Ireland and the national color is blue not green! When the Republic of Ireland went to make the harp the symbol they discovered that Guinness had copyrighted that symbol over a hundred years earlier. So to satisfy this situation, Dublin's Government flipped the harp. If you look up Guinness, the harp faces the other way!

 The interior had so much gold!

The interior had so much gold!

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 Gold on Gold on Gold on Gold!

Gold on Gold on Gold on Gold!

 In addition to the gold, each room had beautiful and unique chandeliers. This was one of my favorites. 

In addition to the gold, each room had beautiful and unique chandeliers. This was one of my favorites. 

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One of the most interesting parts of the castle was the room that featured those executed in the 1916 Uprising. It was such a stark change from royal opulance to plain portraits hanging on a wall of men who were executed. 

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I enjoyed Dublin Castle and plan to head back to explore the gardens and the art gallery on loan from Connecticut which features art depicting the Irish Famine. 

After my outings I came back to enjoy my first pint of Guinness and Fish and chips in my hostel and to listen to live music from a local band. 

 I will admit I am not usually a huge fan of Guinness. It's my Irish sin, I know. I LOVED this pint. It tasted great paired with dinner. 

I will admit I am not usually a huge fan of Guinness. It's my Irish sin, I know. I LOVED this pint. It tasted great paired with dinner. 

 I could not finish this all! I did give it my college best. 

I could not finish this all! I did give it my college best. 

 While eating and enjoying my pint I listened to Fenton Blue, an Irish Alt-Rock band. 

While eating and enjoying my pint I listened to Fenton Blue, an Irish Alt-Rock band. 

It's been an eventful day and I'm tired! I can't wait to post more from my adventures. Stay tuned as I update my blog. Also watch out for the gallery of all the extra pictures that didn't make this post! And I also want to take a moment to thank all those who helped make the beginning of this adventure great (thank you bus driver and hostel-mates), my University's study abroad program, and the Nationality Room Committee/Irish Room scholarship. I cannot express my gratitude for this opportunity enough.