From the Classroom to the Cliffs: Celebrations of Irish Pride

In a little river by Galway Cathedral there’s a swan who has been sitting on her nest for the past few weeks or so, and her eggs are expected to hatch in a few more weeks. Here’s the odd thing about it though: the nest is in the middle of the river, and it’s close enough to the walkway that it can be easily seen, photographed, or hit by a tossed piece of garbage, much of which still litters the area. The area is so exposed that it seems like the least likely spot to build a nest. Still, that’s the spot this swan chose, and every now and then you can see a second swan near her foraging for food or additional brush for the nest.

I was really happy to see the priest bring up the swan in his homily during Easter mass last week. He reminded us that we are often stuck in an environment that might work against us or make us feel exposed, yet even in adversity we — like the swan — still have the capacity to create new life just as God gave new life to Jesus after His death. In celebrating Easter we also celebrate the opportunity to move forward from our struggles of the past and make the most of our present joys.  I hope that now that the Easter season has begun you all have been able to celebrate these joys and opportunities.

The swan and her nest (PC: Aaron Katz).

My sincerest apologies for my inactivity over the last couple months; I’ve been taking care of personal matters while also getting involved in so many activities on and off campus, and I haven’t had much of a chance to write in the meantime.  However, now that final exams season is upon us here in Galway, I have more opportunities to write during study breaks.  So, without further ado, let’s get to it!


Irish Pride in the Classroom

If you ever get the chance to study abroad in Ireland (or in any country, for that matter), I would highly recommend taking classes about local culture.  One of my classes, called Imagining Modern Ireland, goes beyond talking about the history of Ireland (from the Famine to the 1916 Rising and beyond) and opens the floor for discussion about English literature in Ireland, Irish literature, Irish film, Irish dance, and Irish music.  In other words, it really brought into perspective the definition of Irishness and how people have interpreted it and demonstrated it throughout Irish history.  I had gotten a taste of this last semester in my course on Irish theatre, but it was really interesting to see representations of Irishness across different disciplines as well.  Whatever you’re interested in – fairy folklore, political debates, rural tradition, feminist perspectives, language differences – you’ll find it in Irish writing and music!  If you’re looking for some poetry, I suggest reading some of the work of Eavan Boland; not only is she a talented writer, but she also raises questions of both national and feminine identity in Ireland and how they intersect.

I’ve also taken a Film Studies seminar, which I found pretty eye-opening.  Most of the films we watched and discussed also displayed different depictions of Irishness, especially through fondness for the West of Ireland and for “the good old days” before modernization.  The lecturer commented on one of the first films we watched, titled Flight of the Doves, as being a classic example of how filmmakers have taken some liberties in portraying true Irishness by playing with what would appeal to a foreign (mostly American) audience.  For example, many scenes in the film show Ireland as being green, historic, and even mythical, without necessarily taking into account how modern certain parts of Ireland can be and how similar Irish culture can be to our own.  There is also a scene where the main characters arrive in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day (of all days!) and find themselves swept up in a parade full of people from many nationalities, where everyone sings a song called “You Don’t Have to Be Irish to be Irish”.  If you watch the entirety of the scene, you can probably recognize how the scene appears to pander to non-Irish audiences with corny song and dance.  The lecturer made sure to emphasize this point and also noted how the scene seemed less realistic because not everyone in Dublin had a Dublin accent.  Being the only American in the class, I sheepishly admitted that the pandering worked: I liked the song quite a bit, and I never would’ve guessed the differences in Irish accents (even though there really are too many of them to count).

Needless to say, I’m quite glad that I had the opportunity to take classes on Irish culture this year, and I would definitely encourage those looking to study abroad to take classes like these to get a sense of how local culture has developed over time.


On the Field – Watching a Hurling Match

Our advisor Kathleen also took us to see a hurling match this past March, which pitted Galway’s team against a team in County Laois (pronounced “leash”).  Hurling is one of Ireland’s oldest and most popular field sports, and is played by hitting a ball (called a sliotar) with a stick (called a hurley).  You score points by hitting the sliotar either through your opponent’s goalposts or past the goalkeeper into their net, in which case you will have scored a goal.  As I watched the match I was reminded of a sort of cross between soccer, football, and baseball, and I was surprised by how intense matches can get.  We witnessed a couple injuries over the course of the match, as well as a couple of small showers that quickly drenched the field and then instantly made way for the sunshine.  We even saw a few rainbows as a result!  Unfortunately, the youth hurling teams that played a short match during halftime also got drenched in the process.  Still, it was a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and Galway won with 31 points and 3 goals!

One of a few rainbows we saw at the match!

In the Streets – St. Patrick’s Day Parade

Now I’m sure everyone reading this is simply dying to know what a typical St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland might entail.  As one might expect, I found it to be quite Irish: Shop Street was decorated with plenty of Irish flags and shamrocks.  Many businesses that didn’t sell alcohol (which included the schools) were closed that day for the holiday.  And, like on any other day in Ireland, it rained; and of course, as a nice holiday treat, it rained a torrential downpour.  As far as I can recall, there hasn’t been a single St Patrick’s Day in Irish history that hasn’t seen at least a little rainfall.  Even so, I braved the rain and wind to see one of the biggest shows of Irish pride walk down the streets of Galway: the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

It had been a good while since I had seen a parade and it was my first time seeing a St. Patrick’s Day parade.  Of course, these parades are held everywhere in Ireland every year, but it was a treat to be able to see one closer to home.  I loved seeing so many diverse community groups come together and show off their strengths and talents while friends and family – buried under their umbrellas and raincoats – cheered them on from the sidewalks.  You can see more of my favorite photos of the parade below!

St. Patrick driving the “snakes” out of Ireland, followed by the Galway Polish Scouts.
An artillery company from Massachusetts representing the US!
Galway’s Filipino-Irish Community put on an impressive display of costume and dance!
The theatre group Macnas made a second appearance after the Halloween parade, and they brought the big owl with them!


The Wild [American] Rovers

After classes ended, we had a couple weeks off for study period and for the Easter holiday.  Fortunately, my boyfriend Aaron was able to spend Easter and the week leading up to it in Ireland, and there was quite a lot I wanted to show him.

We met up in Dublin on a chilly Monday morning and we roamed its busy streets as I described some of the landmarks and sites I had seen the first time I had been in Dublin: the Spire on O’Connell Street, the Dublin Post Office, City Hall, and many more.  We even met up with one of our friends from HC who is studying abroad at Trinity College, and they got us tickets to see the Book of Kells and gave us a brief history lesson on the book and the Long Room.  By some miracle we didn’t see one drop of rain all day, so we took advantage of the sunshine and visited St. Stephen’s Green, a lovely park that is currently in full spring bloom, and Christ Church Cathedral, a gorgeous Gothic-style church with a haunting crypt underneath.  It was lovely to meet up with our friend and spend the day walking around Dublin!

This panoramic shot of St. Stephen’s Green barely covers half the park!
A statue of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square, another park in Dublin City.


Outside of Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin (PC: Aaron Katz).
Inside of Christ Church Cathedral.















One of many memorials in the crypt below Christ Church.
A “memorial” to the cat and the rat that were found in one of the organ pipes at Christ Church. In other words, a game of cat and mouse gone wrong.


The next day we took a bus to Kilkenny, where we visited Kilkenny castle and the Smithwick’s brewery and museum.  The castle was built in the early 13th century by an Anglo-Norman family after the Norman invasion in Ireland and its ownership was eventually delivered to Ireland in the mid-20th century.  Today, it remains as one of Ireland’s many iconic landmarks and the crown feature of the medieval town of Kilkenny.  Inside the large, U-shaped castle you can see many of the original rooms and halls of the castle with descriptions of their functions, as well as some pieces from the National Art Gallery.  Each room has a unique mixture of modesty, lavishness, and practicality in its design.  Aaron and I loved getting a taste of medieval Irish history, and if you’re looking for places to visit in Ireland Kilkenny should definitely be on your list.

Aaron wishing he owned this castle.
A view of the garden from the top floor of the castle.
One of the main dining rooms inside the castle.
A child’s nursery inside the castle.

Later we went on a tour of the Smithwick’s Experience, which entailed a tour of one of the oldest breweries in Ireland (by over 300 years!) and a description of how the beer is made.  Our tour guide was very easygoing and informative, and the tour also included some impressive dramatizations of the Smithwick family and monks of St. Francis’ Abbey, where the ale was first created.  Not to mention the beer-tasting after the tour was also a nice treat before we caught a bus back to Dublin.  In my personal opinion, I’d take a pint of Smithwick’s over a pint of Guinness any day!

Outside the Smithwick’s brewery (PC: Aaron Katz).


We returned to Galway the following day to rest before embarking on a two-day tour to Connemara and to the Cliffs of Moher.  We rode a coach to Connemara to see the beauty of the mountains and the historic Kylemore Abbey and gardens, and neither of us was disappointed.  Luckily the weather remained favorable, so we were able to enjoy spending time in Kylemore gardens and taking pictures of the mountains and lakes from the roadside along the way.  I think my favorite part of the day was seeing so many sheep and lambs in the field, even more than the number of sheep I had seen the last time I was in Connemara.  You could tell that some of the sheep were newborns because of how they wobbled a bit when they walked and how their wool was not yet tagged with paint like their parents’.  Ironically, that didn’t stop us from enjoying a rack of lamb for dinner at McSwiggans, one of my favorite restaurants in Galway.

One of my favorite shots of the mountains in Connemara.
Kylemore Abbey in all its glory.
So many sheep and lambs!
Just two sheep casually walking alongside the road. You can tell the lamb must have been born recently because it doesn’t have any tagging paint on it.


On Good Friday we took a bus tour to see the Cliffs of Moher and The Burren, which is a region full of rocky landscapes that are as old as the glaciers that once went through the area.  It’s certainly a unique atmosphere compared to the grassy hills and lakes we had seen in Connemara the day before.  While in the Burren we got to visit Aillwee Cave, one of the oldest caves in Ireland and a quite fascinating one at that.  Our tour guide explained all of the different rock formations – some of which were at least a thousand years old – and she showed us an area where a bear had dug himself a small nook for hibernation hundreds of years ago.  Though we could only go so far in the cave before reaching a pathway blocked by boulders, I loved seeing the small waterfalls inside and the interesting rock formations that had evolved because of them.

When we finally arrived at the Cliffs, the wind had picked up significantly.  Thankfully there was only a little rain, but Aaron and I took extra care not to walk too closely to the edge.  I’ve always found it both humbling and thrilling to stand by cliffs like these and see the neighboring cliffs and ocean below, and I’m so glad I was able to share the experience with Aaron as well.

A view of The Burren from higher ground.
This photo doesn’t do nearly enough justice to the majesty of the Cliffs of Moher.


Even so, it was just as wonderful to stay in Galway for Easter Weekend.  I got to show Aaron the highlights of the city – the Spanish Arch, Eyre Square, the cathedral, and so on – and the magic of Shop Street.  I showed him my favorite bookstore, my favorite places to grab a coffee, and a shop called Dungeons and Donuts that sells both nerdy games and accessories and nerd-themed donuts – from Game of Thrones to Pokemon and everything in between, if you want it they’ve got it (check out their website to see all of their amazing donuts)!  I also introduced him to one of my favorite lunch and tea places called Cupan Tae (Irish for “cup of tea”), where we enjoyed lunch and tea served on beautiful china plates and teacups.  I think the best part of this place is that you can order their tea online and have it shipped anywhere in the world for a fairly low price.  I would definitely recommend you check out Cupan Tae’s website and tea selection here, and perhaps order a bag or two for yourself!

A selection of donuts from Dungeons and Donuts. Note the Cookie Monster donuts on the top left and Pokeball donuts on the bottom shelf.
I had a chuckle seeing the Game of Thrones-themed donut named “The White Walker”.
Lunch at Cupan Tae: so pretty it had to be put on Snapchat (PC: Aaron Katz).


And of course, how could I forget the small petting zoo that happened to be in town that weekend?  I’m pretty sure I could hear Aaron laughing at me as I joined the small group of children trying to pet the sheep and baby goats, but with animals as cute as these, how could you not?

Apparently the mama sheep wasn’t a huge fan of people, but she let me pet her anyway.
These goats, on the other hand, loved being pet and gently nibbling on people’s fingers (mine included!).











Enjoying the sights of the city and attending Easter mass in Galway Cathedral were the perfect way to end the week of our tour around Ireland.  Even though I won’t be seeing Aaron again until we start our next semester at Holy Cross, I’m still so happy and thankful that we were able to spend time together in my home away from home.

Obligatory selfie with a Snapchat location filter (PC: Aaron Katz).


What’s Next?

Well, since I’ve been away from the blog for so long and have so much to talk about, I plan on writing more frequent entries before I return home from Ireland in May.  Within the next week I’ll be writing about all of the theatre and choral experiences I’ve had the past couple months.  In another post I’ll be writing about the theatre I’ve seen, especially since last week was Galway’s annual Theatre Festival.  All I can say about it for now is that there’s a good reason Galway’s been named the European Capital of Culture for 2020!

Until then, take care and happy Easter, everyone!




From Birthday Wishes to Blarney Stone Kisses

When I told any of my non-American friends that my 21st birthday was coming up, their first response was usually something along the lines of “Nice!  Now you can drink legally back home!  Too bad it won’t matter that much here, since everyone here drinks when they’re eighteen,” followed by a an awkward chuckle, then a casual warning to not drink too much, and then “Happy birthday.”  So no, the drinks I bought that night were not technically my first legal drinks — I’ll have to wait until May for that.  But I still got birthday messages from my parents and best friends that morning, even though it was late at night EST when they sent those messages.  I still wore a cheesy dollar-store button that said it was my 21st birthday.  My boyfriend even sent me flowers in the mail (all the way from Germany!), and my housemates gave me gifts of cupcakes and chocolate.  Legal drinking age or not, it was still a pretty great birthday.  Did I mention that I got to spend it in Ireland of all places?


Busy Birthdays

The day of my birthday actually started off as a bit of a downer: I had to wake up bright and early to make my appointment with the Garda (the Irish police) to register myself as a visiting student in the country for the year.  I was a little anxious at first, as I had no idea what to expect beforehand and really didn’t want to start my day off on the wrong foot.  The process turned out to be fairly straightforward, to my utter relief: I showed up with the necessary paperwork, paid a fee via debit/credit card, had my picture taken, then got fingerprints taken and a stamp on on passport saying I’m legally allowed to stay in Ireland through the school year.  Plus I only had to wait for five minutes to be seen.  Simple enough.

Once that was over, I really wanted a cup of coffee, and what better place to go for coffee on your birthday than Starbucks?  So what if I had to walk a half hour across town to the only Starbucks in Galway?  A free pumpkin spice latte is a free pumpkin spice latte!  I’m sure you can imagine the disappointment I felt when the barista at the counter told me that the American free birthday drink voucher wouldn’t work there.  I’m sure you can also sympathize with my buying and enjoying the coffee anyway — it was just as good as the American version.

The week of my birthday was special for a few reasons: first, not only was it my birthday, but two other girls from HC also had their birthdays that week.  The whole group decided to have one night together where we shared dinner and birthday cake — two cakes, in fact — before going out to one of the clubs.  That same week, we went as a group to see a play at the Town Hall Theatre called The Beauty Queen of Leenane by Martin McDonagh.  The show was spectacularly performed by the Druid Theatre Company, a Galway-based company that’s well-renowned both locally and abroad.  They’ve done several shows in the U.S. as well, and will be bringing this particular show to the States this December through March.  I highly encourage everyone to check out the play for themselves!  You can also read more about Druid here.



Busy Schedule

After a month of auditions, applications, waiting, and still figuring out which classes were right for me, I can finally say that my schedule for this semester is set!  As I explained in my last post, classes have been a bit tricky compared to how they would be back home, but at least I am able to take a greater variety of classes.  I am also taking two classes specifically for visiting students: one is on Irish theatre, in which we are learning about Irish history and how it has impacted theatre (and vice versa); the other is called Indigenous Arts Exploration, and it encompasses beyond what the name implies.  Part of the curriculum for this class involves attending different events sponsored by Arts in Action, a program designed to inspire and engage others through a wide variety of artistic media, from music and dance to poetry readings and dramatic performances (you can read more about the program here).  The first event showcased two Irish contemporary dancers, Magdalena Hylak and Sibéal Davitt, whose works showed powerful displays of emotion through performance, video, and extraordinary sound design.  In class we also addressed the topic of culture and language by watching a short documentary titled Yu Ming Is Ainm Dom (Irish for “My name is Yu Ming”).  In the film a man from China decides to quit his job and move to Ireland, and after finding that Gaelic is the official language of Ireland he spends months learning the language before the move.  He is shocked to find that most of the people he meets in Ireland speak English, a language we might be glad to hear in foreign countries.  I honestly found it fascinating how our treatment of different languages (especially those as old as Gaelic) can be taken for granted over time, and I can’t wait to hear and participate in more discussions about particular cultural differences like these in the future.

Speaking of hearing and participating, I am also proud to announce that I am now a member of two chamber music groups!  The first is a coed a capella group known as the Sing N’ Tonics, which reminds me very much of HC’s Fools on the Hill.  The second is a choral scholar group, which focuses not just on singing liturgical music, but also on increasing the musicianship of the performers in the group.  It’s a lot like singing with the HC Chamber Singers, but this program also offers occasional workshops, masterclasses, and musicianship classes outside of rehearsals specifically tailored to different members’ skill levels.  As much as I miss singing with the choir back on the hill, I am incredibly excited to continue singing with both groups and to build up my singing skills over the year!


Busy Day in Cork

But I’ve said more than enough about what’s happening in Galway; Ireland may be small, but it is certainly not that limited!  A group of us took a day trip to Cork to visit the Blarney Castle, which is famous for the Blarney Stone and a plethora of germs from the people who have kissed it/touched it/etc.  If you don’t know the story of the Blarney Stone, legend has it that those who kiss the stone will be given the “gift of gab,” or gain better speaking ability.  But here’s the catch: to get to the stone, you have to climb several narrow, winding stairs all the way to the top of the castle, wait in line for your turn, then have someone else bend you over backwards so you can kiss the bottom of the stone below where you just stood.  Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea.  Still, whether you decide to kiss the stone or not, Blarney Castle is a beautiful destination spot that’s well worth visiting.

I never realized just how massive this castle is!
I never realized just how massive this castle is!


Blarney Castle has lots of rooms still intact, including this narrow passageway to what was once a dungeon!
Blarney Castle has lots of rooms still intact, including this narrow passageway to what was once a dungeon!


As part of an art installation by the Cork Textiles Network, many of the trees in the castle garden were dressed with 'scarves' like this one
As part of an art installation by the Cork Textiles Network, many of the trees in the castle garden were dressed with ‘scarves’ like this one


In case you were curious as to how to kiss the Blarney Stone
In case you were curious as to how to kiss the Blarney Stone (yes, that’s me in this photo).  The sight of the ground below can be a bit intimidating! 


What’s Next

I know in my last post I said I would be writing more often, but it has been a bit difficult to do so in the last month because of birthday fun and schedule complications.  Now that all that has been settled, I do plan on blogging on a more regular basis while keeping up with all my classwork and extracurricular activities.  After all, Halloween is coming up in just a few weeks, and the Irish are no strangers to the spooky festivities that come with the fall season!  Sadly, the changing of seasons isn’t quite as apparent here as it would be back at HC: we have much more falling rain than falling leaves.  At least the grass is always green!

Well, I have an assignment for English I still need to write, so I’m signing off for now.  I hope everyone back on the hill has a restful Fall Break next week!  Take care, everyone!





From Welcome Aboard to Welcome Abroad

“Are we in heaven?”

I heard a little boy ask his mom this as we were getting ready to take off on our flight from Boston to Shannon airport.

“Not yet,” I thought.  “But soon we will be.”

From the boy’s perspective, we were in heaven for about 6 hours.  As for me, I’ve been in heaven (read: Galway) for much longer.

Hello everyone, and fáilte go Gaillimh (welcome to Galway)!


Getting Settled

When I got to Logan airport around 5:30pm I was relieved to find half of the group from Holy Cross (there are currently 12 of us here in Galway) waiting for me at the gate.  We got to know each other over sandwiches at Potbelly’s — one of my favorite places to eat at the airport — and then we got settled on the Aer Lingus plane.  About six hours (including an hour or two of turbulence) later, it was already 6:30am in Ireland.  So much for sleep!  Despite the rough flight, we found our way through customs and to the Galway bus station without too much trouble.

A street sign inside Shannon airport. As you can see, we’re quite far from home (4655km to be exact)!
Fun fact: most signs in Ireland are bilingual (English and Gaelic)


The day we arrived proved to be quite busy: we met Kathleen, the student coordinator of our group, who brought us to our residence and showed us where we could buy food and bedding for our rooms.  Needless to say, most of the day was spent stuffing groceries and other necessities into reusable shopping bags (European stores typically don’t bag groceries at the counter; you have to either bring or buy your own bags).  Thankfully the closest shopping center is only a ten minute walk away from Cúirt na Coiribe (pronounced Kurt nah Kurbah — don’t worry, it doesn’t make sense to me, either), one of NUIG’s student accommodation complexes and my home for the year.

Our apartments are fairly standard: we have a common space with couches and a TV; bathrooms with electric showers; a kitchen space with an oven, sink, fridge, freezer, microwave, plenty of cabinets, and a dining room table with chairs.  What I find particularly exciting about our kitchen is how we’ve been supplied with most of the dishware we’d need to cook, including glassware and silverware — this is a huge time and money saver.  So far I’ve spent a good deal of time in the kitchen figuring out how to upgrade my meals from grilled cheese sandwiches to baked chicken and pasta dishes, and have made considerable progress.  My favorite dish so far is baked chicken and potatoes seasoned with garlic powder and several other herbs, and it was surprisingly easy to make!  Hopefully I will be able to branch out even further with my cooking skills and test out a few Irish recipes as well (I am googling ‘recipes with potatoes’ as we speak).

Though we have a great shared kitchen, we also have our own rooms in the apartment.  I live with four other house mates/fellow NUIG students: one from HC (Emily), two from Ireland (Keri and Nikita), and one from France (Camille).  It was a little odd at first, seeing lots of doors to different rooms and having one of those rooms for my own, but all of us are getting along quite well so far!


Getting Started with Classes

International student orientation began our second morning in Ireland.  To get there, we walk alongside a busy highway and across a bridge that has a lovely view of the River Corrib.  It’s usually a very pleasant walk, but the wind can get a bit more intense when crossing the bridge.  Still, it certainly beats walking up and down several hills to get to class!

A view of the River Corrib on a slightly less cloudy day


Orientation went swimmingly: over the course of two days we learned about what classes were available to us and how to register for them, as well as what opportunities are available to us as new students at NUIG — from academic resources we can use to clubs and societies (or what we would call sports and clubs, respectively).  The number and breadth of societies is enormous: they have everything from volunteering societies to dance societies, and even societies for Harry Potter and Doctor Who!  I’ve already joined quite a few societies myself: the Drama Society (or DramSoc), the choral society, the musical society, the traditional music society (or TradSoc), and the baking society.  I’ve also auditioned for some of the plays DramSoc will be putting on this semester as well as for the musical Urinetown.

As for classes, my situation is a bit unique: even though I’m a theatre major, the exchange agreement between HC and NUIG won’t allow me to take any drama classes at this time.  While that may seem counter-intuitive, I’ve decided to make the most of the opportunity and take courses in other departments that I’m interested in: I’m currently registered for a class in the classics department about ancient texts and their adaptations, a philosophy class on aesthetics and the philosophy of art, an introductory psychology class on positive psychology, an English seminar on Victorian-era plays, and an Irish theatre course specifically for visiting students.  I’m still waiting to see if I got accepted into an Indigenous Arts course also for visiting students; hopefully I will be able to take this one as well!

One thing about classes here compared to HC is the odd flexibility with classes in the first month: students aren’t expected to be fully registered until towards the end of the month, so we’re encouraged to drop in and out of classes we may or may not be interested in until we find the ones we wish to take.  The dropping in part isn’t too difficult, considering most classes take place in large seminar rooms that are easy to hide in.  Waiting in agonizing anticipation to see whether the courses for visiting students I applied for while trying to build my schedule around having (or not having) those classes, however, was just a little bit stressful.  Thankfully I have most of my schedule solid at this point, with the exception of the Indigenous Arts class.  I’ll definitely keep you posted!


Getting a Feel for the Culture

We picked a fantastic time to be in Galway: the city was actually just named the European Capital of Culture 2020!  This means that we will be seeing the beginning of a great showcase of Galway’s rich and unique culture that will build up to and beyond the year 2020.  You can see the pride in everyone’s faces and on the bright blue flags and banners that are strewn throughout the city.  I can’t wait to see it all unfold in the coming months!

Last week NUIG offered walking tours of the city during the weekend, which were both fun and informative.  We got to see many of the major hotspots in the city, including the Galway Cathedral, the Spanish Arch, and several fun places to have a pint like The King’s Head and The Crane Bar.  We even found a place called Dungeons and Donuts: a game shop that doubles as a delicious donut shop (check out their website here, I promise you won’t be disappointed).  I’ve fallen in love with the small-town feel of Galway and how nice everyone is.  My favorite part about walking through town is that not only can we walk to the center of it from home within fifteen minutes, but no matter what time of day it is we are bound to find at least a few street musicians!

Galway can be quite busy both during the day and at night!
There are so many individuals and groups who play music every day!
A view of Eyre Square (pronounced “Air Square”) in the center of town. The flags you see here all represent the original clans and families of Galway


But the fun didn’t stop there.  After the walking tour, I sampled a couple local brews with a friend at a bar called The Salt House, then went to dinner with the HC group at a lovely Italian restaurant called Da Roberta at Salthill, which is on the sea coast of Galway.  Afterward, we walked through a good deal of rain and wind to get to the Galway Bay Hotel, where we attended a popular event known as ‘Trad on the Prom’ — a spectacular show of traditional Irish music and dance on the promenade.  We weren’t allowed to take photos or recordings, but I will never forget the beautiful and irresistible foot-tapping music (one woman in the group played at least ten instruments!) or the incredibly quick and intense Irish step dancing.  In fact, the majority of the group performing was all from one family.  I’d never seen so much talent from a family like this!

This past weekend was actually just as breathtaking: we took a day trip to the Aran Islands, which are a set of islands just west of Galway Bay.  We went to Inishmore, the largest island, and got to see more than our fair share of stone walls, old churches, Aran sweaters, and goats.  The two highlights of the trip were eating Guinness Beef Stew at a cute, family-owned cafe on the island, and walking to the top of Dun Aengus — the biggest fort on the island.  The walk wasn’t too far or too steep, but making it to the top and watching the waves crash against the massive cliffs was beyond exhilarating.  We did our best to keep our distance from the edge of the cliff, though I did see a few other travelers sitting with their feet dangling over the edge and still others trying to take selfies with their phones in slightly dangerous positions.

The roar of the waves against the cliffs was magnificent
The roar of the waves against the cliffs was magnificent
Close (but not too close!) to the edge
All of us together at the top of Dun Aengus! (Photo credit: Kathleen O’Connell)


Speaking of slightly dangerous, there is a pier in Salthill from which a few locals like to jump into the ocean on a warm sunny day.  Naturally, we just had to try it for ourselves when the usual clouds decided to stick around in another part of Ireland for the day.  It was low tide, so we could only jump from the lower part of the pier, and the water was actually quite cold compared to what I’m used to in Florida around this time of year, but the jump was absolutely worth it!


What’s Next

After experiencing such a warm welcome these past couple weeks, I can’t wait to explore more of Ireland and see what the rest of this year has in store.  My schedule is still a little confusing right now, since I’m still waiting to hear about the Indigenous Arts course while figuring out my extracurriculars.  In the meantime, I will be taking more pictures and I will attempt blogging more frequently so I don’t end up writing massive posts like these every couple of weeks.  Maybe I’ll post a little poetry or drawing.  Maybe I’ll buy that Aran sweater I’ve had my eyes on for a few days.  Maybe I’ll go grocery shopping for the second time this week.  Who knows?  Until then, take care, everyone!