Inis Mór

After our brief stop at the Cliffs of Moher, we headed to our Galway hostel for the weekend. We had the rest of the night after a group dinner to explore Galway and the rest of the next night as well. The morning following our first night in Galway we hopped back on the bus to take us to a ferry which would bring us over to the Aran Islands

I have never taken a ferry before and was anxious yet excited to see what it was like. We were warned by our program directors that the ride over could be rough for some of us. It didn’t help that the weather was poor and sea was choppy. So, for the forty-five minute or so ride over, we were told to sit outside or in the back of the ferry if we tended to experience motion sickness. Our group of forty-some students and program directors boarded the ferry almost last, leading to few seats left for our large group. I hurried in and found a seat upfront, not wanting to sit outside in the frigid air. Some in our program found seating inside, but many had to sit outside and ended up soaking wet once we arrived.

The ferry that took us over

The ferry ride over for me, luckily, was without any stomach upset and was actually fun. I loved the bouncing of the ferry and the splashing of the waves against the side. Not even halfway through our journey though, scores of people were hunched over trashcans scattered along the floor in various stages of motion sickness. There was a group of girls traveling together that quickly morphed from laughing at every jump in the boat and taking selfies to crying. I felt bad in my seat watching the lone girl without problems checking on her friends and grabbing them plastic bags and water.

Once the ferry reached the port, we grouped up, half soaking wet and frowning, and the other half ready to get started. The island offered three ways of reaching our ultimate target of Dún Aonghasa (Dun Aengus) and a tour of the island. You can tour and explore the island by way of biking through bike rentals, a bus tour, or a horse carriage. I decided on the bus tour. When we arrived, it was pretty cold with strong wind and I wanted to be out of the elements, hoping it would warm up.

The Aran Islands are three separate islands. Inis Mór (Inishmore), which means the big island, is known for hosting past Red Bull cliff diving competitions and also was a filming location for the 2010 movie, Leap Year. Inis Meáin (Inishmaan), meaning the middle island, features the John Millington Synge cottage. The smallest island, Inis Oírr (Inisheer), the east island, is known for its lighthouse and the shipwreck, Plassey. All the islands offer stunning views of the sea, interesting terrain, and a fun biking and walking atmosphere. We spent our time on Inis Mór.

I shared a bus with one other Pitt student, six other students in our program from other schools, and an older couple. Our bus driver drove us up the one main road on the island to the village at the top. Pictured below are my shots from inside the bus, so you may see some window glare. The bus moved surprisingly fast up the hill with bikers, walkers, and cars moving in either direction. Sometimes a lost cow had to be corralled back to its field by an irritated farmer. That, by the way, was hilarious. Cows take their good old time moving. We did not mind.

Many of my pictures are from this viewpoint. I sat in the front of the bus, taking pictures out of the many windows.

The bank on the island 

St. Brigid's cross on the front of a home

We shared the road with bikers, walkers, other cars, and the ocassional loose animal. 

Right before the village our bus and a few other cars had to stop as three donkeys had gotten loose from their enclosure and were taking up most of the road. We passed them on their side and continued and heading up to the village.  Our driver let us know how long we would have up here before he would drive us back down to the main part of town. As we walked down the road, away from the ice cream shop and knit shops, the donkeys came barreling through, passing right next to us. It was awesome.

After the exhilaration of watching wild and rowdy donkeys doing whatever they pleased, we continued to the final rest area before the trail heading up to the ancient site. After the eventual hike up to the site, I would come back to eat lunch and shop in the knitting and jewelry store.

Finally, with my ticket bought, I started the hike up the trails, walking behind and passing various travelers on the way up. We hadn’t been told too much about Dún Aonghasa other than that it was a prehistoric stone fort built on the island. I was not prepared for the views and experience at the ancient site. Before that sight, came the walk on the craggy ground flanked by the stone walls. The land on the islands are rocky and not the best for farming. In many of my pictures, you can see the rocks and stone breaking out from the ground.

Our tour guide had told us earlier on the way up that these walls were not held together. They were loose stones piled on top of each other. While walking the trail, I rested against the wall up the winding path to adjust camera settings and the rocks started to shift. It was so weird to see these walls all over the island, knowing they were freestanding.

No building material keep these rocks "glued" together. They are simply stacked on each other. 

Aran Islands

It was, uh, a tad bit windy as you can see. Had to take a snapchat!

The path steadily took a steeper turn with more rocks and stones slicing through the ground.

At last I made it through the main hike into the mostly flat open field, to see the exposed cliff side at Dún Aonghasa. The views were breathtaking, the height, terrifying. I stayed here for a while, inching myself to the cliffs edge and securing myself for some shots of the cliff faces. After enough time and a substantial increase in my heartrate, I headed the final distance to inside of the fort’s half circle structure.

The stone walls on the right are the walls of the fort. 

A heart on the footpath

I don’t need to say much as the views truly do that for me. I photographed the stone walls, the cliffs, and the people exploring the grounds around me before heading back down to the village to take some pictures of the town at the top before the tour back down.

Inside Dún Aonghasa

The final stretch back to the town at the top

After some time, our tour guide collected us in the square and loaded us back up for a trip down to the harbor. Before the harbor though, he took us to one of the old church sites and current cemetery on the island.

We thanked our bus driver as he concluded the tour and for his many jokes and good humor in taking us around. He stopped a few times on the road when he saw me trying to take pictures of cows and horses, so my shots were better.

A very happy cow

While in town before heading out on the ferry, I indulged in my own planned splurge and bought a famous Aran Island sweater, soft as a cloud and so comfortable.

I bought a sweater from this shop!

It was another fantastic day in Ireland.

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.

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.