Slán: The Final Day

In the span of a breath, I found myself waking up to the bright sunshine of my last day in Ireland. People warned me I’d be homesick. It would be difficult to get used to a normal routine in Ireland. I would feel foreign, out of place. Eventually I would warm up to the country and feel comfortable. I was anticipating some homesickness. It never really happened. From the moment I walked off the plane, I felt comfortable. It was easy to form routines and feel like I belonged. And as the final day arrived, I struggled to hold back tears as I rolled out of bed. I wished I had been able to stay and study in Ireland for a year. Even though I had already done and seen so much during my five weeks, there was still so much I wanted to experience.

Over the last weeks I spent so much time heading out of the city, doing classwork, and heading to museums and all-day events. For my last day, I wanted to head to one last museum exhibit and walk along the Liffey on a photo-walk. Before I boarded the plane, I wanted to soak up every last moment of my last day to imprint this beautiful and welcoming city into my bones.

My first spot of the day was the General Post Office, the scene of the historic 1916 Easter Rising. It’s a beautiful building with six large columns on O’Connell Street. O’Connell is the main street of Dublin, named after Daniel O’Connell, known as “The Liberator”.  His statue sits in the middle stretch of the road.

It’s beautiful inside of the GPO and I enjoyed snapping a few shots inside, but my interests that day were visiting the memorial to the 1916 Rising. I took a few shots on my cellphone of the exhibit. It featured artifacts, touch screen interactive videos and quizzes, dress sets and uniforms as they would have appeared, but my favorite part was a long video giving a timeline of the events as seen through the eyes of the participants in the Rising, as well as bystanders/civilians, and the British. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this museum exhibit. It’s a must-see.

I have a fondness for old photographs of women, especially if they come from a. time when women were expected to neither be seen nor heard. 

I spent a considerable amount of time walking through the exhibit and once I finished, I headed back out to O’Connell Street to take pictures of the statues and monuments on the street. I headed into a few local shops, checking out a bookstore and Pennys, a local clothing store, which had fantastic Dublin Pride shirts in their window.

The back of O'Connell's statue

The front of O'Connell's statue

Taken from inside the bookstore. 

With some shopping bags in hand, I headed to the closest Luas Stop and took the tram a handful of streets over. Back when we had toured Dublin with the program’s directors, we passed a beautiful bridge in the shape of a harp lying on its side. I’d wanted to photograph it since I first saw it and today presented the best (and last) opportunity to do so.

When I hopped off the tram, something caught my eye before I got to the bridge. Children and teens in wetsuits were jumping into a large pool of water. I thought it was funny to see them playing in a not-swimming pool and making do in the heat. As I approached the bridge, not far from the first batch of kids, I saw more wetsuit clad teens backflipping off the stone walls around the harp bridge and into the Liffey below. I was momentarily distracted from my original desire to shoot the harp bridge and hung around for about forty minutes watching them leap and flip into the river like acrobats. A small crowd of people gathered around them, watching them and filming them on their phones.

Eventually, the crowd dispersed, and I did too. I photographed the bridge on both sides of the river. On the other side, I saw more kids swimming and diving into the river. I really don’t blame them. The temperature was nearly unbearable. The sky remained cloudless all day, the sun beating down its full fury. To escape it myself, I headed to the sidewalk on the other side of the street, sticking to the shadows to shield me from the worst of the day.

I continued down the street photographing until I got to the beautiful Custom House.

Seán O'Casey Bridge

The Custom House

I proceeded down the street stopping for anything that caught my eye, which a lot of the time was street art.

The theatre where I saw Ulysses. 

Irish history is everywhere even outside of pubs. 

The rest of my day consisted of a bar crawl, drinking, laughing, and having fun with other travelers and locals. I walked the streets, my eyes scanning madly around trying to set every image into stone in my mind. I didn’t want to forget a single moment.

Days flipped through my mind, all the moments I will cherish for the rest of my life. These moments I would try to explain to all of my loved ones. I would try to explain the briny air of Howth the moment you step off the train or the way the air fills your lungs with its freshness on the hiking path. Would my pictures be able to convey the feelings I felt staring into the horizon on top of the Cliffs of Moher, the waves meeting the rocks below? When I talked about the art on the streets, hanging in museums, in the music, would they be able to imagine it, see the power of those images, in those songs?

I won’t forget all of the amazing people who treated me with kindness, shared a pint with me, or made me laugh as I navigated life in Ireland. It was so easy for it to become my routine, my comfortable. Now I was faced with the uncomfortable, saying goodbye, leaving Ireland for the States.

I finished my day watching the sunset around the Ha'penny Bridge. And just like the sun, my time in Dublin was setting too.

For all those I met in Dublin and all those who helped make this study abroad trip the most incredible experience, thank you. For those who helped me in preparation for Dublin, to the scholarship committee of the nationality rooms, thank you. I had the time of my life.

And I leave Ireland, with a lifetime of memories.

Slán, Ireland! I promise I’ll be back.

The Hodgepodge Blog

These are all the photos that I couldn’t neatly add to any particular blog. The photos range from random street shots, photos from a Gaelic Football match, one of my favorite home cooked meals I made, and the student apartment kitty, Sebastian. The captions under the photos will explain anything that isn’t clear!

I loved cooking in my student dorm. Lots of fresh salmon dinners!

Poor quality phone pictures but I wanted to introduce this little fellow. He was there for about a week into our trip. He was the apartment cat in the reception that was so friendly. His name is Sebastian. I was planning on making a whole blog post about him but he disappeared after a week. 

Besties

Fun Fact: This Oscar Wilde statue in Merrion Square faces his boyhood home. Our literature class came to Merrion Square to read Wilde's short story, "The Selfish Giant". 

Statue in Merrion Square

Another statue in Merrion Square

As part of our literature class, we went to the theatre! We read part of Ulysses in class. I loved being able to see it in person. 

The stage!

More drinks at Jameson. 

Dublin

The bartender was a hoot. He helped arrange drinks so I could get a cool photo. 

Pitt students went to a local chocolate factory, Butlers Chocolates. 

The cooling machine. 

Last day of classes celebration

Outside of Croke Park!

Pitt students had tickets to a Gaelic Football match. It reminded me of football/soccer/basketball/volleyball all in one. 

I unintenionally wore Dublin's colors for the match. 

Fans leaving the match.

A pint after the game at The Brew Dock. 

Sláinte! A blurry photo from our goodbye dinner. 

Cheers to our Summer 2018 program!

Temple Bar

It’s touristy. That’s what I heard before and during my study abroad experience. Go to Temple Bar but explore other areas, because it feels touristy, the drinks are expensive, and it’s crowded. That’s all mostly true. I travelled around Dublin in kind of a backwards style. I left the “touristy” stuff for the end of my trip rather than the beginning. Temple Bar is a lot of fun and it’s a good location in part of the city I hadn’t spent much time. That was one of the reasons I decided that my final hostel would be in Temple Bar. Yes, it is crowded, drinks can be expensive, but I loved the energetic vibe in the area. Countless restaurants and pubs offer daily live Irish dancing or songs. Their music pours out from open doors and windows on to the street, mixed with the sound of people clapping their hands to the beat. Laughter rings like a bell and there’s so much to see and do. It’s a very fun place.

Temple Bar is both the name of a specific bar and the area of Dublin, where the bar resides. The Temple Bar is named after Sir William Temple whose face rests on a plaque on the outside of the building. This specific bar is actually quite large and always packed with people. I never did grab a pint there, but I did take loads of pictures and honestly it is known to be overpriced. I went to more “old man bars” as our program director described them, and I enjoyed them a lot.

I loved the music, laughter, and art that makes up the heart of Temple Bar. This post contains pictures that really can speak for themselves as Temple Bar has countless murals and works of art. As someone who loves art, this felt like home to me.

Enjoy the photos below and make sure you scroll to the bottom to listen to some Irish pub music.

I did drop in to the area a handful of times throughout the program, finding a side street to examine here and there. So, this post is not all from one day or outing, but from a handful. You can see the time change in a photo of a mural I took as two weeks after I initially photographed it, someone tagged it.

I took this photo a few weeks after the one above it. 

Temple Bar

Since June is Pride month and Dublin’s pride parade was on June 30th, the streets were decorated with more and more rainbows as time went on. Sadly, I would not be in Dublin for pride but it’s on my bucket list to come back and see the parade in the future.

It was also during one of those random walkthroughs on an afternoon after classes let out that I photographed the outside of a bar. A man was leaning against the door of the bar and welcomed me and Will, another Pitt student, inside. It was only about three in the afternoon and the bar had just opened but we decided that we would just wing it and go inside. A man sat in the corner, acoustic guitar in his hands. The bartender, who invited us in, explained that we were photographing outside. The man with the guitar said it was much nicer inside, because you can have a pint. Fair enough. We bought a pint and what happened next is one of my favorite memories in Dublin.

The bar was empty, just us for at least forty minutes. We drank some Guinness and talked with the man holding the guitar. He and I shared the same sense of humor and bantered back and forth. He liked that I actually knew Irish history and I seemed to get a pass in his book. When the bartender wrangled more people in, he made witty jokes, often at their expense but in all good fun (Irish humor is very funny). Once the bar filled up, he sipped his beer and began to sing. We sat in the bar listening to song after song. At some point another American joined our table, he was just in Dublin for a little bit and we gave him some suggestions and shared a pint with him. The hours flew by.

Cork

Back in Cork, I had no real plan other than to get to the English Market. I love the movie, Young Offenders, which takes place in Cork and was partially filmed in the English Market. I spent the rest of the afternoon, exploring the streets, stumbling into Holy Trinity Church, grabbing gelato, and visiting the market.

This blog post won’t have too much text as it’s a rather hodgepodge adventure. Enjoy!

Holy Trinity Church in Cork

The English Market is reminiscent of Pike Place Market in Seattle. I arrived with barely enough time before it closed so it was not busy which was nice, but I missed seeing it during its daily primetime.

And after a very long and hot day, I boarded the train back to Dublin

Blarney Castle

I heart public transportation. Throughout my stay in Dublin and throughout the country I’ve taken the tram, buses, DART, and ferries. I planned one trip to a city far outside of Dublin which would require a long-distance train ride. I wanted to kiss the Blarney Stone and visit Cork. When I googled to figure out their locations, I discovered that the Blarney Stone and castle were a thirty-minute bus ride from Cork. Two birds with one stone and all that. So, I planned an entire day to head out to Cork with a stop at Blarney castle.

I woke up early at my hostel and took the tram down to Hueston station. I was so excited to get on a train! The trains to Cork depart hourly and I almost missed the one I was aiming for which would have put me back an entire hour. I just barely boarded the train and sat down in the dining car before I felt the pull of it moving forward. It was a lovely train ride that gave me a chance to sit and watch the countryside pass me by. I ate my breakfast while watching fields flick by and yes, cows, grazing.

Train selfie!

Once at the Cork train station, I headed to the main part of town to grab a bus. After about twenty minutes waiting I hopped on the bus and headed to the town of Blarney. The bus was insufferably hot, the heat boxing us in and the sun searing through the windows. It had hardly rained during the entire five weeks I was in Ireland. Ireland experienced a drought this summer and a heatwave at the end of June which was hard to deal with as no buildings have air conditioning. I sat on the hot bus, fanning myself as the heat built up in the bus.

Despite the oppressive heat, the ride went quickly, and I hopped off and headed to the entrance of the park and gardens where the castle stood. I headed quickly up the path and saw the castle rising to the sky. As I approached the castle, the sound of a bagpipe grew louder. At the base of a castle a man played the bagpipe to eager listeners. At some point later in the day while I was in the castle, he must have gone home because the music stopped.

I just love the color of the bagpipes!

Before getting in line to climb the stairs to kiss the stone, I entered through a doorway at the base to go into the dungeons. The coolness under the stone and the shade away from the heat was a major relief. A couple walked out from its depths and I started to make my way through the cramped quarters. I maneuvered myself partially through and decided that I was not up to squatting and practically crawling to go deeper. I took some pictures and left, heading up the hill to find the line for getting inside.

It was over an hour wait to get to the stone and part of it was standing in the direct sunlight. I glanced up the walls of the castle to the roof where I could see the protective rods underneath the Blarney stone and tourists getting their kiss. They seemed to cycle through people quickly but the line barely inched. I was so thankful when the line did start to move and I was finally able to go inside. It was a tough day to be in the heat.

The castle is set up with a staircase leading up to the top. On the way up, you pass and can actually walk inside rooms like the kitchen or the daughter of the kings’ room. The stairs are narrow, and you sometimes only have a rope to hold yourself going up the uneven and slick stone slabs. There is a warning not too far into the climb that states it is the last point you can ditch the climb, otherwise you have to go all the way up.

It was very close quarters and I walked behind an older couple. They were making jokes about how small the space was. Winston Churchill had climbed the castle, and this became the running joke between us as we climbed. Well, if Churchill can squeeze through here, I can too. If Churchill could climb this castle, I can too. I made several jokes about my fear of heights and slight claustrophobia which amused the couple a lot. The husband shared my weariness with heights and once we did make it to the top of the castle, he abstained from pulling himself down for a kiss.

After climbing the narrow staircase, it was a relief to be in the open and the views were beautiful.

Once I kissed the Blarney Stone (and in doing so was granted the gift of gab), I headed down the exit stairs, stopping to take photos of some rooms not accessible on the way up.

Finally, outside of the castle, I headed for a quick stop at the poison garden. The garden is aptly named, filled with trees, flowers, and other plants that cause serious harm or death.

While in the garden I noticed a structure that looked like a piece of equipment from a jungle gym. I headed over to get a look, initially thinking it was a play thing for kids. In hindsight that was a pretty stupid idea considering Ricin, Mandrake, and Wolfsbane were scattered all around. As soon as my eyes met the sign outside the structure I burst into a bout of laughter. I’m sure I looked goofy to the family walking near me. The entire garden was filled with poisonous plants that you theoretically could (you shouldn’t) touch and the only plant that had any barrier to it was the cannabis plant.

Still chuckling to myself, I left the gardens and snapped a handful of shots of various interesting sights on the top of the hill. Then I headed back down to catch a bus back to Cork for some city sightseeing.