With the end of one adventure, comes the beginning of another. My brother, Zach, and friend, Kirstin, arrived from Canada for us to set out on an epic adventure of travelling Europe as best we can. First stop: I want to show them a little bit of Ireland. So, after having shown them around Waterford for a day, we headed on a bus to Galway.
We wandered the city, exploring the various spots that I knew of but had not seen. We went inside of Galway Cathedral, marveling at its beauty and learning a little history. The cathedral was built on the grounds of the old jail, bought for a minimal amount even for that time. We also walked through the Spanish Arch and into the Galway Museum. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love museums! So I was excited to check this one out.
Walking through the museum was interesting – the beginnings of Ireland are highlighted, and there are artifacts from thousands of years ago found by archaeologists around Galway and in the River Corrib. It was really interesting to look at the artifacts and see if they had come from places I knew. One part talked about Dun Aengus, the fort that I had been to on Inis Mor of the Aran Islands. For me, though, the most interesting was the exhibit on Ireland and Galway’s part in World War I. I had not realized that they had played such a large part in it, from thousands of volunteers going to the front to their deaths, to a very brave leader who died in a gruesome battle. The exhibit was done extremely well, with stories of people on one side corresponding to an outline of events on the opposite side of the room. I really liked it. We couldn’t finish the museum though, as it closed. So we quickly took some shots out the third floor window of the River Corrib and the views beyond.
We wandered and found a small place to eat for an Irish dinner. The rest of the night was just walking around or relaxing at the hostel. I think we are all a little tired, which does not bode well for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, some nights we will hopefully sleep better than others.
On Zach’s birthday, we had booked a day at the Cliffs on a tour, even though the weather did not look too promising. We were hopeful that it might turn into a better day. The tour was different from the one I took last time – including the weather. It rained and the wind was insane! It was so foggy that we couldn’t even see the cliffs. But, despite the wind blowing us over, it did afford us a view of the cliffs for a short time.
May 28 – after a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived in Dublin. After Zach and I grabbed a quick burrito, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’). There was so much history, it was really interesting! We then learned to pour our own Guinness at the Storehouse, my second time through. It was super cool to get to pour my own though, especially having lived in Ireland and drinking it on tap. 😉 We hung out at the hostel before heading to The Porterhouse, a pub I knew from St. Patrick’s Day. We enjoyed some beers and live music before turning in for the night.
The next morning, we took a walking tour of Dublin to see some of the sights. It was a ton of history packed into a short session. I had already heard a lot of it over the months, but was still overwhelmed by the enormity of everything Ireland had gone through.
After the tour, we headed to the Museum of History and Archaeology- mostly because they had the bog bodies that I had been hearing about for months. Basically, Ireland is known for its bog lands, and years ago, archaeologists began to find things in these bogs from centuries ago. With the acidity of the bogs, many things are well preserved. We got ice cream, and then wandered around St. Stephen’s Green and Dublin. We had some problems finding transport out to the hotel we were switching to for the night.
The next day, May 30, we left Ireland. It was super bittersweet for me, leaving a country that I had loved to call home for 5 months but embarking on an exciting adventure around Europe with awesome people. I took in the sights from the airplane window as we flew to Bristol. We were staying with Kirstin’s friend, Bailey. Bailey was really awesome, and we were very appreciative of her letting us stay in her tiny, British flat. It was a lot of people in a small flat, but it was so nice to be right in the city. We wandered the city that afternoon, cooked dinner together, and went out for the evening.
We ventured to take a train the following day to Cardiff. It was cool to add one more country to our list of many, and it was possible with only a day trip. Kirstin and Bailey went to the Doctor Who museum, the main reason that we had headed to Cardiff. Zach and I decided to tag along to the city, but we decided to explore instead. It was a great day!
Zach and I found Cardiff Castle and Bute Park, where we walked and sat, just chatting and enjoying our time catching up. We wandered the streets of Cardiff, down cute passageways called galleries. These galleries had really cute cafes and shops, and were all over. I absolutely loved them and took far too many pictures! We met up with the girls after, grabbed some dinner, and then headed back for a night in flat.
Our last day in Bristol was specifically for exploring the city itself. Bailey had an exam, so we ventured to explore on our own. We went to St. Nicholas’ Market, where we wandered through the little stalls and we found Zac’s Café where we had a full English breakfast – it was delicious. We tried to find some street art, but ended up in an area that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in, so we went back. Kirstin and I went into Bristol Cathedral – it was beautiful! We went to the Boston Tea Party café for some hot drinks on a cold day before meeting Bailey.
Bailey took us up a tower in Brandon Hill Park, and despite the wind being like that at the Cliffs of Moher, the views were spectacular. You could see all of Bristol, including Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the weather, we had decided not to walk all the way there. That evening, we went out for traditional fish ‘n chips, and tried to organize the next parts of our trip.
An early morning the next day had us on a bus to London. Our hostel was quite far from the main area of the city, but we made it work! We settled our stuff in and headed out, making our first stop at Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and then walking along the Thames. We took a ton of silly pictures with the lions and telephone boxes before seeing Big Ben and the London Eye.
I think the funniest part of the day was when we ended up at The Maple Leaf, a Canadian bar in Covent Garden, for dinner. It was great! We wandered Covent Market before heading back to the hostel for an earlier night.
June 3, the next day, was pretty grand. We ended up going through the British Museum after we eventually found it. I ended up seeing a lot of the same things, but museums never get old for me. I loved exploring the centuries of history stored within its walls.
My parents had arrived in London that day, so while we waited to hear from them, we wandered through the city. After getting a phone call from them, we went to Hyde Park to kill a little time. Except we couldn’t exactly find it. We ended up in a really ‘posh’ part of London, and accidentally found Churchill’s old house! We walked through Hyde Park and saw Kensington Palace from afar, before walking a long ways to see Buckingham Palace.
We had walked almost to Trafalgar Square, a long trek, before we heard from my parents. Without wifi everywhere, it is very hard when you don’t have international phone plans. We ended up meeting them near their hotel at the other end of London, and going out for a nice dinner. It was really great to see them for the first time in 5 months.
We had to check out of our hostel the next morning, so we completely packed up and brought our giant bags with us into London. We stored them for the day at the train station before heading out to meet my parents for a day around London. We sort of went separate ways for part of the day: Kirstin and I would explore while Zach went on the London Eye with mom and dad.
Kirstin and I headed across London via tube to Tower Hill. We wandered around and crossed Tower Bridge to the other side of the Thames, where we had a great view for some lunch. We walked along to the Globe Theatre, where we both decided to recite our best attempts at Shakespeare monologues. It was quite fun. We did a lot more walking when we headed down to the London Eye and made our way towards the Imperial War Museum, the meeting point with my family.
This museum was somewhere that I really wanted to go. It was actually on my bucket list to see it – and I wasn’t able to last time I was in London. I had enough time to wander through two exhibits: the First World War and the Holocaust. The exhibitions were absolutely brilliant! They had so many primary texts, quotes, footage and so much more. It was amazing. I was in museum-heaven.
We hopped on a double-decker bus into the city, and had dinner at Nando’s. I had wanted to try it, as they were everywhere in London. We then went to see the Thames and views lit up at night. It was beautiful and I seriously love London.
The next part of the trip got a little bumpy when we took our bus to Paris. It was an overnight bus and involved us taking a ferry – meaning we were woken up to provide our passports and board the ferry itself. Needless to say, we did not get a lot of sleep, and Paris started off very interesting.
But I’ll save that for another post.
With wifi being difficult sometimes, it’s hard to say how often I’ll be able to update my blog posts. However, I am posting short summaries with pictures on Instagram each day. Those are being shared on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Signing off for now,
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
Day 4 – Cliffs of Moher
Having breakfast in a common hostel kitchen is definitely an experience everyone should have. You get to meet some very interesting people, who are there for all different reasons. The morning before we caught the bus, we met a guy who had just moved to Galway from England, staying in a hostel until he could find a flat. Super interesting stories and thoughts.
Through our awesome hostel, we booked a bus tour to see the Cliffs. This way, we got to have numerous stops, and someone would tell us what everything was or meant. Otherwise, I would never have noticed the ‘tombs’ since they look like mounds of earth, nor the fairy trees or groves, where there are trees in a circle and the grounds are considered sacred by some. We got to see Dunguaire Castle, hear multiple interesting stories about fairies and crazy women of the past who married 9 times to keep a house… plus lots of adorable baby lambs!
And then we reached the Cliffs of Moher.
Now, a lot of my friends were absolutely speechless. Being an English major, I was only speechless for a moment before a multitude of words came to mind – amazing, breathtaking, spectacular, brilliant, natural, beautiful! Of course, climbing also came to mind, but I tried to take in the wondrous sight instead, storing it in my memories.
We spent 1.5 hours wandering the trails along the cliffs (not going too close, mom, don’t worry), and taking great and silly pictures. It was a lot of walking and a magnificent afternoon. We could even see the Aran Islands in the distance, our next adventure.
That night was nothing exciting unfortunately. We were all pretty tired and knew that we had an early morning, so we hung out in our tiny hostel room.
Day 5 – Inis Mor (Inishmore)
We got up early to catch the bus to Ros a Mhil, where the ferry would depart, only to find the bus completely full. We were disappointed, but the bus driver let us stand for the ride so we could make the ferry. I got a seat part way through – the others, however, had to stand for the hour bus ride.
The ferry ride was a whole other story. I have been on multiple ferries, going to Vancouver Island with my family since I was quite young. I never really thought about the fact that the others may have only ridden a ferry once or twice in their lives… and this was not the best ferry to start on. A 40 minute ferry ride across the Atlantic Ocean, with rain and wind outside, meant the ride was pretty rough and choppy. The lads survived, though.
On the ferry, a very nice, older gentleman saw our group and struck up a conversation with me. He was a local of the island and ran a bus tour. He offered to give our group a discount, and he would take us around the island for the day. We all jumped at the idea, since it was still raining, and our only other option was to ride bikes. This way, we could get the full history of everything on the island, and have the chance to go to all the amazing sights and places.
Brittany and I saw a girl who we had met on our tour to the Cliffs the previous day. She was Canadian and travelling by herself. So, we talked to her the whole ferry ride, introduced ourselves (since we hadn’t exchanged names the day before – hers was Lisa), and we invited her to come along on the tour with us. She accepted, and we all had a great time.
I’m going to list some random facts we learned about the island(s) that I found interesting:
– There are 3 islands: Inismore, Iniseer, and Inisman, with Inismore being the largest.
– It has 3 churches, 3 schools, 6 pubs, 1 store, and 1 cash machine (which I used…)
– The main language is Irish, and the main industries are fishing and tourism.
– The bank on the island is open only 1 day a week, and they have a lunch break of about 2 hours.
– While other places have doctors that fly from one area to another, the islands had a priest that would fly to each island to give mass.
There you go. Random facts.
On our tour, we stopped at the infamous ruins of the Dun Aengus Fort. The walk up was gorgeous, and the views were spectacular. I think our group loved the views from the cliffs more than the ruins themselves. It was far more exposed than the Cliffs of Moher, as you could literally walk right up to the crumbling edges. We were, of course, quite careful. It was definitely worth two euros just for the views.
We went to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, saw ruins of the 7 churches and stopped in another graveyard, and bought souvenirs (I bought postcards and a ring). We wandered the main village of Kilronan before catching the ferry back. The ride back was much smoother for the latter half, and we got to ride on a double-decker bus to get back into Galway.
We were pretty tired again – the ferry rides and another long day of bus had really worn us down. We parted ways with Lisa, and decided to hang out in our hostel. Brittany, Carlos, Bert and I went to Napoli’s to order pizza, and walked along the River Corrib. It was pretty at night, and the sky was clear so you could see the stars. We took the pizza back to the hostel, and after the guys picked up some beers, we all just hung out. It was a ton of fun, and the pizza tasted delicious!
Day 6 – Final Day – Travelling ‘Home’
We had to check out in the morning, but a few of us decided to sleep in until we had to get up. Then we just grabbed hot drinks and a snack at a local café.
We wanted to take a free walking tour of Galway city, as we hadn’t seen much of it yet. We waited for 30 minutes with no guide showing up… Finally, a girl came (her name was Laura) and explained that there had been a mix-up, the other person hadn’t shown up, and she would cover. I’m glad we stayed, because she was actually amazing and knew a lot about the city.
She told us a lot about Galway’s history, and showed us the various sites around the city. I wish we would’ve had more time to have gone back and explored them fully.
– The cathedral looked really old, but was actually built in the mid-1900s. And the ceiling was apparently made of Canadian cedar – it would have been cool to go there and ‘smell home.’
– We got to see Lynch Castle, and hear the story of how a baby saved a monkey from a fire.
– We saw the Spanish Arch, where the Irish used to trade with the Spanish, and the remnants of the old wall that used to enclose the city.
– Laura explained why the post boxes in Ireland are green – they are actually left over from the British and have the Royal crest on them. After the Rebellions, it was too expensive to replace the boxes, so they used cheap green paint and painted them green!
– We learned about Brehon laws – the idea of the ‘honeymoon’ comes from Ireland. If a man was strong and rich enough, he could have 2 wives. BUT – if the first wife wasn’t happy, she had 3 days to murder the second wife before it was considered illegal. So, the honeymoon was created for the husband to protect his second wife!
– Also, Halloween was an Irish tradition – it used to be thought that the veil between the worlds of the dead and living was weakened on this night, and evil spirits could come into the world and possess or kidnap you. So people would disguise themselves by wearing the skins and heads of animals. Creepy, right!?
Perhaps the coolest thing though: Laura taught me some words in Irish. I learned ‘slainte,’ which means ‘cheers,’ ‘failte’ means ‘welcome,’ and ‘creol’ means ‘music.’ (Plus: ‘craic‘ means ‘fun.’ Don’t ask me to try to say them though, as I’m told by the other international students that we have terrible pronunciation for basically every language except English).
After that, we took a bus to Limerick. Here, we wandered the city at night along the river. We realized we hadn’t really explored the cities at night, with there either being nothing to see or us being too tired. We couldn’t decide on where to eat for dinner, and somehow Brittany and I agreed to eat kebabs. They actually were pretty good – although not what I had expected at all. I probably won’t eat another one for a while – at least, not sober.
The trip finished with a bus ride home to Waterford, with lots of jokes and laughs along the way. It’s weird to call this place home still, even though that’s what it is. It will be my home for the next 3 months even.
But it’s not just the place – these people I got to travel with and meet are a huge part of it. Thinking about the end of the semester, and not seeing all of them, makes me really sad. BUT – for now, we will plan more adventures and enjoy all the time we have left here!
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Pinterest
Well, I have now planned a trip for 8 people (with help obviously), stayed in hostels for the first time, bused along the West of Ireland, and been to some of the most amazing places. All within 6 days.
I have a lot that I want to write – I’ve experienced so much, learned a lot, met some great people, and seen some amazing things. But, for the sake of your eyes and brains, I will attempt to condense as much as I can.
Day 1 – Cahir and Cashel
(We pronounced Cahir wrong for numerous days until someone corrected us – you say it like ‘care.’)
8 of us set out at the beginning – 5 guys and 3 girls.
We had wanted to go to Cahir to see a castle we had seen on the internet, but were super disappointed when we arrived to find it under construction. So, instead, we went for a walk along the river behind the castle. Honestly, it was a great decision! The natural scenery was beautiful, and we all got some great shots. Even though we had torrential rain and sideways winds for the walk back, our wet jeans and dripping jackets were definitely worth it for the views we found.
We had lunch at a little café before taking a bus to Cashel. Cashel is home to the ruins, the Rock of Cashel. My friend Hubert and I were the only ones who saw the ruins from the bus window, our excitement growing as we would finally see something really cool!
We found our hostel (pretty good for my first hostel actually), and headed off to explore the Rock of Cashel. We might have walked along an ‘out-of-bounds’ area (we aren’t sure), but the views were amazing and worth it. Green hills surrounded, and we could see even more ruins in the distance. The ruins were really cool to explore – although dodging stepping on tombs was a little interesting and morbid…
We found a little local pub for dinner that was edible, and had a quiet night in at the hostel.
Day 2 – Limerick
To get to Limerick, we had to pass back through Cahir. So, we stopped for brunch there. I got to have pancakes with maple syrup for Pancake Tuesday! I was so excited to find food from home on a menu!
Limerick was probably one of my favourite cities that we have been to so far these 2 months. The atmosphere is really relaxed, and sometimes it definitely doesn’t feel like you are in a city. We wandered until we found King John’s Castle. We had a ton of fun exploring and taking pictures all around the castle grounds!
And then we were 7, as we said goodbye to Kitty at the bus station – she was going back home to Waterford, and we were continuing on. That night, the guys wanted kebabs and pizza for dinner, but Brittany and I decided we wanted something better. So, we asked the lady at reception, and she recommended a restaurant called Marco Polo. It was quite fancy, but pretty average prices – so we were really excited that we got to have one night out with really good food!
We met up with the guys afterwards, and headed to a local pub for a pint and to listen to live music. The band was only two guys playing guitar and using back beats and music, but they were really good! It was a great night out. And our hotel that night was amazing! The beds were incredibly soft, like sleeping on clouds. We all got a great night’s sleep with no bunk beds.
Day 3 – Galway
One more thing that made our hotel awesome – free breakfast in the morning! So we got to have a mini Irish breakfast to start off our day. We hung out in our great room for a bit before wandering the city streets of Limerick and buying food at a grocery store.
We caught a bus to Galway in the afternoon, and checked into our hostel. I cannot stress how awesome this hostel actually was! The people were great, and it actually offered a lot while being in a central location. I was so happy with it! And there was a Canadian girl working there who checked us in and gave us recommendations of where to go in the city – thanks, Rebecca!
And we became 8 again, as Carlos joined us after coming back from Spain.
We booked our tours for the next few days around Galway and the surrounding areas, and then headed to the Cellar Bar for dinner. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was great!!! We had an awesome dinner there. After going back to the hostel and hanging out for a bit, we headed to The Crane Bar for a pint and some live, traditional Irish music. The bar was small and fun, and we all had an awesome time. It was a great way to end off the night!
So this post isn’t too long, I’m going to post part two of my travels in a day or two. That blog post will include the Cliffs of Moher, Inishmore, and a little more of Galway (and is longer). Honestly, I would recommend any of the places we went to or stayed at, as we had an amazing trip!
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”