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Thanksgiving festivities

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Well ladies and gentlemen, this is it.

After traversing all across seas and continents, meeting people of all creeds, ideologies, and religions, and having fun to a degree some might call unhealthy, I am about to make my return voyage in less than a week. My time spent in Ireland has been another great chapter to add to my life story filled with a few homework assignments, several new friends, many wonderfully conversations with the Irish, and countless pints of Guinness. From Galway to Dublin and Cobh to Bushmills I have had the time of my life touring, climbing, swimming, heel clicking, and (most importantly) learning with, what I will be so bold as to say, the greatest group that could ever have come to Spiddal. I personally loved getting to know everyone on the trip to a higher extent. The group definitely made the trip here worthwhile and after watching many hours of “The Walking Dead” and so many miles of walking back and forth from Spiddal, I feel that if the group were to change by one person. I would not have had the same experience I did here. Thanks super group! Also I personally want to thank the Foyle’s who run the Park Lodge Hotel for putting up with our crazy antics, all of their hard work done for us throughout the term, and their wonderful personalities. I do not believe I will ever meet a family so enthralling and interactive with students as much as they were. With that, I end my Ireland blog with the pictures of me heel clicking across Ireland and the wise words of the literary genius George Bernard Shaw:

“What you are to do without me I cannot imagine.” 

― George Bernard ShawPygmalion 

See you all soon

Peace & Slainte,

Mark

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MORE HEEL CLICKING!

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Heel Clicking Across Ireland

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The post that I know everyone has been yearning for the past three weeks is now here and in full account! At least as full of an account as I can make it. Shenanigans upon shenanigans have been then main focus of the past fortnight and one half. ( Side note: I’ve noticed that people like to say fortnight instead of 2 weeks here) After Michael, Connor, and I ascended the tippy top of Croagh Patrick, I had two things (one positive, one negative) to look forward to on arriving back to the cottage in Spiddal: The glorious reunion of all my cottage mates, the Pridelands, from their travels across Europe and the piles of homework we would be receiving Monday morning. I’ll let you figure out which one is positive and which is negative…Needless to say it was a joyful reunification of the cottage and I was glad that everybody made it back in good spirits and had many stories to tell. The next week included lots of catch up with everybody…including our professors. Papers about the Irish famine, land wars, primary source Irish depositions, Patrick Kavanagh, and the old Irish Catholic church composed my nights.

Halloween came and went with a bang and just about as fast as it had come, October was over. That’s when I started to realize my days in Ireland now are numbered. November began tremendously as well. The first weekend our group made an excursion out to the north in the beautiful Connemara district of Ireland to visit Kylemore Abbey. I’ve been having trouble deciding which is more beautiful the Connemara bogs and forests to the north or the mountainous region of County Kerry to the south to which I traveled to on the first excursion. Kylemore is a Benedictine abbey (but really is a castle) run by the nuns who live there now. It has a expansive grounds filled with forested trails, walking paths, and only about 6 acres of gardens. The garden was huge; filled with plants ranging from banana trees in the green houses to spearmint bushes (with which I tried to freshen up my breath) and everything in between. It was awesome, even though it rained for the time we were there. We also got the privilege to attend a private Mass with the sisters there. It was a good experience there, but after being thoroughly soaked that day, what could be better than to get pumped up and go watch some rugby live?!? On arriving back in Galway we went straight to the Galway Sportsground see the Connacht Rugby Club destroy the visiting Italian team, Benetton Traviso. Throughout the game it poured rain, but luckily we got there early enough to get spots under the overhang of the “Clann” stand. We yelled and screamed, “Com’on Connacht!!” while waving our free Connacht rugby flags and watching the Irishmen score two try’s and a penalty kick while the Italians only scored one penalty kick. I am now convince that rugby is one of the coolest sports ever.

Then next week continued with the homework and papers, while I waited eagerly for the last excursion our group was to go on. This past weekend (including Thursday and Friday) I went and saw the towns of Kilkenny, Cobh, Waterford, and Cork. On this journey I encountered many historical and interesting places. We started off by going to see the Rock of Cashel (The seat of the Muster kings was there), and arriving in Kilkenny where we stayed that night. The next morning we went around to Waterford to tour the Waterford Crystal headquarters where I got to see the place where the BCS trophy, NBA finals trophy, Justin Timberlake’s golf tournament trophy, and many other expensive and exclusive pieces of crystal have been made. We went back to Kilkenny to check out Kilkenny Castle after that which was quite expansive and interesting.The next day we went farther south to the beautiful town of Cobh (pronounced “cove”) which right above Cork, was the last port of call for the Titanic, and has an amazing climate. I saw palm trees…thriving….in November….mind blown. We then finally made it to Cork and got to see the picturesque University College Cork that many of my friends back home will be attending this upcoming semester (Good Luck guys!) We spent the rest of the day shopping and exploring Patrick street and the the English market in Cork. The next and final day of the final excursion was, if I may say, “the bomb-diggity”. We left Cork for Blarney, where I smooched the stone at the top of Blarney castle, which supposedly now gives me the gift of gab, (if I start rambling stop me, if you can). I also explored the beautiful grounds the castle is located on. As the french say, it was “C’est magnifique”. On our way home from there we stopped by Blackwater Castle, where we learned about one of the coolest castles I’ve been to due to it’s Cromwellian history and awesome look out spots. We also got to zip line across the ravine nearby the castle which added to the awesome factor that final day.

Now we are all back and getting ready for the last stretch of the journey, one filled with more papers, but unfortunately no more excursions until the final excursion homeward bound. There will be at least one more post before the end of my journey so stick around!!!!

Peace and Slainte,

Mark

“COM’ON CONNACHT!!!!!”

-Me

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Hello again loyal readers!!!

Well, I have three words to sum up my last few weeks here on the wonderfully chilly emerald isle: Relaxation, Parents, Mountain. All of these things combined to make my fall break a great success. First of all relaxation. While most of our group left to go visit places in Europe such as Paris, Vienna, Prague, Amsterdam, and Salzburg I stayed behind to take in the silence that the group had left behind. I was able to sleep in, chill out, and just relax while everybody was away for a bit. But soon enough my lovely parents came to liven up my rather quiet cottage and visit me before my time in Ireland expired. It was great having them here and getting to explore more of Ireland with them. While here we visited, thanks to the expert driving skills of my father who is probably now more terrified than ever for Emilie to start driving in a few years, the Marian Shrine at Knock, the Cong Abbey (absolutely stunning), Lough Corrib (also beautiful), the bridge from the John Wayne film “The Quiet Man”, The Burren, The Cliffs of Moher, and Temple Cronan. Needless to say, there was a lot of family car ride time during which we almost got run over by a tractor only once. Mom and Dad took me out to eat a couple of times at some delicious restaurants and also made a home made meal for me in my cottage (aka The Pridelands). Thanks so much for coming Mom and Dad!!!

After my Mom and Pops headed out I had a day to sit back relax, watch my TV show ‘Game of Thrones”, and make sure all was ready for the next day when I would do a small bit of traveling myself. I was off to Westport, County Mayo the following morning to meet up with Connor and Michael, some of my cottage-mates, to accomplish my goal set way back when I was still in the US: to climb Croagh Patrick. Croagh Patrick is a mountain which stands at an elevation just about 2,500ft, is literally filled with gold, and is supposedly the place where St. Patrick banish all of the snakes from Ireland. I met up with my cohorts at our B&B which I had booked previously and was one of the many awesome parts of my journey. Bertra House B&B is situated right at the base of Croagh Patrick and a short walk from the Westport Bay and is run by one of kindest women that I have met in Ireland. Margaret was our host and made the most delicious full Irish Breakfast that I’ve ever had. She also gave us snacks for our journey up the mountain, drove us to the trailhead, and found storage so we didn’t have to carry all of our equipment up the mountain. Margaret was truly a blessing sent by St. Patrick. Finally, the mountain climb was wonderful except for the huge clouds of mist surrounding the summit and a significant part of the mountain. The only clear pictures we were able to take were from about 500-750ft up. But we were there and climbed all the way to to top (while humming along to Lord of the Rings music) of the misty mountain and I can now say that I am not only an international library card holder, but a an international mountain climber as well. I’ll post some of the pictures so see some of our journey. We returned safely home and now everybody is back and classes have started again. That’s all for now (I’ve got homework to catch up on….)

Until the next post…

Peace and Slainte,

Mark

"Doubly happy, however, is the man to whom lofty mountain tops are within reach."

-John Muir

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Dublin

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The capitol city of the proud country of Ireland. The city where James Joyce wrote many of his works. The city where Guinness was born behind St. James Gate. The city of the Gaelic Athletic Association and home to Croke Park. The city that our latest excursion lead us to. Dublin, what a city. My first impression when originally arriving to Ireland fresh off the boat from Holyhead, England was not fantastic (taking into consideration it was 5 O’clock in the morning , I was there for 2 hours, and was incredibly hungry). This unimpressed mindset of my mine changed completely after spending half a week in the city that has the oldest maternity ward in the world.

We left our nice and cozy cottages at 8:30 (yes, that is early for me here) and arrived in Dublin around noon where we went directly to the oldest maternity ward (closing in on 300 years old) in the world still in operation: The Rotunda Hospital. It is truly a place of miracles; that morning 47 babies had already been born. 47!!! That’s almost 2/3’s of my high school graduating class. Anyways, the hospital greeted us with the utmost hospitality giving us sandwiches for lunch including a huge platter of chocolates that you might have though had come directly from Willy Wonka’s factory. We had short tour of the hospital and the chapel in the center of it. It was a grand tour and we were lucky enough to also make history that day. We were the very first group of students to tour the hospital in all of the 275+ years it has been around. They took our picture and everything. After our wonderful experience at the Rotunda Hospital we had the rest of the day to ourselves and what was the one thing that our school planned itinerary did not include that every person that comes to Dublin must see? That’s right, The Guinness factory. A few friends and myself spent the rest of the day touring the Guinness Storehouse seeing the original lease for the factory, the brewing process, and visiting the gravity bar at the top of the factory while being able to enjoy 2 of the closest-to-the-source pints of Guinness I will ever have. The gravity bar was amazing; it was a circular room with glass walls so that a 360 degree view of Dublin could be soaked in while enjoying a brew (or in my case two).

The next day started bright and early as we began our day with Brother Colman, who was our walking tour guide of all that we would see that day. It was chocked full of Dublin sights: Trinity College and the Book of Kells (kinda like an old St. John’s Bible), The National Museum of Ireland with a lot of old viking antiquities, jewelry of gold and precious stones, and most importantly preserved BOG BODIES, and Dublin Castle where the British used to rule over Ireland from. It was a really long day of walking and touring, so immediately after seeing Dublin Castle I went straight to The Stag’s Head, which was a great place to sit, talk and relax. After having dinner at the delicious Boojum Burrito’s and cleaning up at our hostel we walked to The Porterhouse Bar, a nice 3 block walk from the hostel, where the list of beers is incredible. I decided to try a a delicious ginger beer while listening to some music on the elbow pipes before heading home for the night.
Saturday morning began traveling to the Hill of Tara where the old Gaelic kings would meet. I enjoyed the walk up the hill and the view it provided despite the dog crap all over the place…not very many people were too excited about it. Our next destination was Knowth, a megalithic tomb right over near the more prominent and well known tomb of Newgrange. These tombs were pretty much hobbit houses with small passageways in them. Neat right? (the correct answer is Heck Yes!) Our day itinerary finished there so I wandered in around the city of Dublin for awhile before heading back to the Porterhouse to try another one of the many beers before heading home. I decided to go with a Belgian Geueze Mariage Parfait Lambic beer. I had no clue what a lambic beer was before I had it and since it was so delicious I knew that I had to research it. I came up with the wikipedia definition which says, “Lambic is a very distinctive type of beer brewed traditionally in the Padjottenland region of Belgium (southwest of Brussels) and in Brussels itself at theCantillon Breweryand museum. Lambic is now mainly consumed after refermentation.” It has been my favorite beer thus far on the trip.

We left the great city of Dublin the next morning early so that we could go horseback riding, and watch horse race jumpers do their thing at Annadarvy farm. I got got to ride a horse named Warpaint, so naturally I felt pretty B.A. trotting along my war path.

I’m now back at the cottage and just about to start our fall break going until the 21st of October. Many people are traveling else where in Europe to visit friends and family. My Mom and Dad are coming to visit me for the first part of my break and hopefully have already landed safe and sound on the Emerald Isle. I’ll also be going with a few friends who are returning early and traveling up to Westport, County Mayo where I will climb to the top of Croagh Patrick, a mountain pilgrimage site. It’s going to be sick…So until the next post, filled with exciting and daring mountain adventures: eat well, drink moderately, and live fully!

Slainte,

Mark

“Though their life was modest, they believed in eating well.”

-James Joyce, “Dubliners”