Wednesday, January 28, 2009


This past Saturday, Erik and I realized that we have already spent nearly a month in Galway, so we decided to take a break from city life and see a smaller area of Ireland. We love taking walks, so we wanted to go somewhere that was close enough in distance to do so. Originally we thought we would go to Athenry, where the focus of the town is an old castle and other medieval buildings; it's about 14 miles from Galway. However, many parts of Ireland seem to close down during their "winter" months, and we were unable to find a place to spend the night. We settled on a closer town called Oranmore where there are ruins of a castle with origins that are unknown; this is also where the tip of Galway Bay is located. We found a bed and breakfast to stay at, the first of hopefully many, and we immediately decided to head out there; we would leave as soon as I was done volunteering at 3PM. We had recently purchased rain boots that we were in dire need of, so we were excited to get to try them out. Unfortunately, we didn't think to bring other shoes! It was only a six mile walk one way, and we left at about half four (430). The walk was very relaxing and we were able to see some of the country side, even a few thatched roofs! During the last hour of our journey it began to rain lightly, but luckily we were wearing our rain boots.

At about half six we made it to our B&B. It was a lovely home that over looked the bay, and right across the bay was a view of the Oranmore castle. We met our host, were shown to our room, and dried off a bit. After taking a short break, we headed to the town to get a bit to eat and a few pints. We ate at Keane's Restaurant where I had fresh salmon with potatoes and veggies, and Erik had curry chicken and rice. The restaurant was lovely, and our dinner was accompanied a Motown classics soundtrack! After that we headed over to a local pub for a drink. We stayed for a little while, but were quite tired and wet from our walk. As we were leaving, there was a band who was setting up, that we would later learn was my roommates band! Unfortunately, I had talked to him earlier about where his gig was at, otherwise we would have stayed and listened...especially since their specialty is Motown funk!

The next morning we woke up and had a traditional Irish breakfast (without the bloodsausage, which Erik had told me about on our walk, whew!) It consisted of tea, cereal, homemade bread and homemade jam, eggs, toast, regular suasage, and bacon. It was the first time that I have had ham in years, and it was delicious! I had forgotten how good it really is. After our hearty breakfast, we got ready for the day, and were off for a hike.

We made our way to Renville Park, and after much confusion and a bit of wandering the town we made it. In order to get to the park we passed through residential areas and then through farming lands. It was a beautiful area for walking, and there were several families taking strolls together. This led to our realization that, at home, we don't see parents out with their infants in strollers very much; it is even more rare to see a father alone out with his kids out in a stroller. It's completely common to see mothers/father/parents together with their infant(s) in strollers, whether it be morning, afternoon, or evening, seven days a week. Just a difference we realized--one that made us smile and gave us insight on family values of Ireland.... Anyways, along with them we saw many unleashed dogs (which is another common feat, in the city too, and the dogs are all so well-behaved!...imagine Summer or Nickle out in public, leashless!!), kids playing soccer, and a person flying a kite. There was also a view of an inlet with ruins of an old building across the way. Brilliant! After walking through the woods we came upon the remains of another old building, but we couln't tell what it was for, and we were unable to enter it. Before going to the park we tried to see if we could get to the Oranmore castle, but it appeared unattainable. We both had high hopes of being able to go inside a castle or ruins, so we decided to trek along the shore of the inlet and make our way to the ruins.
After following the shore, which consisted of rocks, seaweed, and purple oyster-shells, we got to the 'entrance' of the field that contained our destination. It was elevated about 3-4 feet above the shoreline with a small wire fence going around it. It was apparently a private farm and a sheep pasture; the sheep were standing off in the distance at a different ruin. We walked straight to the ruins we wanted to get close to. It kept getting bigger and bigger as we got closer and closer. While we were walking towards it two vehicles left their houses and drove down the road a little closer to the ruins...about 50 feet. They then just got out of their vehicles and watched us. This kind of freaked us out, so we quickly got to the ruins, where we unspokenly agreed to stay on the opposite side of the ruins, beyond sight of the Irish men watching us. This worked out though, as this was the sunny side, which made for much better photos. After getting close to it, we discussed and we came to the hypothesis that it was probably a priory or a monastery. It was almost definitely a religious structure, as it was topped by a cross and had those ecclesiastical looking arch-windows. It also seemed like it had a living/sleeping quarters, a little of which we explored after we realized a part of fence was down near there. We got inside and climbed down the rocks to the closer, darker basement. It had rained the night before and there were cracks in the ceiling from the floor above, so a constant drip was sounding somewhere in these big stone rooms. Being down here for only a short period of time, we thought of the guys watching us, looked around in this 14th century dengeon-looking basement, thinking only
this is how scary horror movies begin, often involving traumatizing ways of death, and quickly climbed out into the beautiful, sunny, mid-50's weather outside. Realizing our spectators weren't closing in on us, we started back to the beach. We were obviously on someone's property, they allowed us to see what we wanted to see without bothering: we didn't want to wear out our welcome. We really wanted to see the other ruins that the sheep were hanging out at; we couldn't tell what it was...but it was a big cement fence that was shaped in a square with pillars holding it up, with thatched, or grown-over, roof houses that were of differenst sizes all facing one another. It looked like a little village or something--maybe it is a little sheep village! That would be so cute!
Anyways, we didn't want to bother them, thinking that is probably what these farmer-men were most concerned about. We quickly got out of the field and walked the short walk back around the bay to the park. We arrived, sat down at a picnic table, ate an orange and some bread, had some water, stretched and headed back to the little town. We thought about old school rap songs the whole way, rapped some Coolio...then some Will Smith. Big Jiggy Style. We laughed about that little rap stint...Wild Wild West, Jim West, Deperado, No we don't want nonna this...and laughed. Fresh Prince, Will Smith, Big Willy. Ha! It was even more amusing when we would be rapping loudly, and then walk by natives, unable to contain our rapping, so just doing it under our breaths. The volume increased as the distance between us and them did...
We got to the town, bought some food and put it in our body, and decided to head back to Galway. We though of maybe taking a bus, as we had already walked somewhere around 14 or 15 miles since leaving Galway. The bus wasn't going to leave for over an hour though, so we started walking. We went back a different way...a totally different way (on accident), and spent most of the walk on the shoulder/bike lane of a highway--for about 5 of the 6 miles back in our support-less rain boots. This was a little painful and a little scary, and especially since we didn't know exactly where we were, we just kept following the Galway signs around the roundabouts. We finally did get back though, after about 2 hours. We suddenly came into town very near my house, completely clueless as to where we were until we were there. We desperately needed to take our rain-boots off. They were very beneficial for our rainy walk there and our trekking through mud and thick seaweed, but for our 6 mile walk back on asphalt, they truly sucked. Our feet, ankles, knees, and backs were all in very much pain upon our arrival to my house. We went to my house first, so I could change my shoes and grab a book for one of Erik's roommates. We went to his house, and I use some contact solution of his roommates' ; I haven't purchased any, seeing it is 17euro for a normal sized bottle at the pharmacy (the only place I could find it). He also changed his boots, and we hobbled back to my house to make a huge, delicious pasta dinner. We devoured it while watching X-3 the Last Stand with my roommate Martin, and headed to bed where we slept very soundly. Despite our bodies' soreness the first part of this week, the trip was a beautiful excursion and a nice break from the city. The weather was in our favor, we had a delicious breakfast, and we got to get up close to some real ruins. We are looking forward to many more future adventures!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

First post!

Well, this being our first post and the tenth day of our stay, there is probably too much to say...I'm sure we won't be able to cover everything so far that we have experienced, but we have to start somewhere. Reminders will probably keep popping up in our minds and we'll be able to write of things that were forgotten in this post.


We left the MSP airport on the 30th of December. The plane was an hour and a half late or so, due to a snow storm (Minnesota's final and very fitting farewell). We had a connection at JFK in NYC, and by the time we landed we had about 50 minutes to switch terminals and get on our flight to Dublin. Needless to say, that was a hastle. It didn't help matters that it was probably one of the busiest times of the day at the airport. When we switched terminals we had to go through security again, where it was packed and everyone was in a hurry. There was nobody either helpful or friendly--looks like we're not in Minnesota anymore. We hadn't eaten during this time either, so on top of tired, rushed, and flustered, we were also starving. Finally a woman brought us to the front of the line to get through and the security workers were straight-up mean. Doing your job is one thing, but this one woman in particular seemed to revel in picking on Alyssa...and then ask "What's wrong? What's the matter?" "What did I do to you?" the woman finally asked when she realized we were pissed...uh, how about just being plain mean? We were sitting next to a guy that moved from MN to NYC on the plane over there, and we were going to ask him if it was true that all New Yorkers were assholes. We didn't need to I guess, because this confirmed it. There were actually two nice men that helped us figure out where we needed to go, but we will just assume that they weren't from NYC...

We ran through the terminal to get to our gate, and got there about 20 minutes before the plane was supposed to take off (they were already boarding). The entire time we were running people would say and shout things at us asking us why it was we were running. Common sense? Running through an airport? Probably trying to get to your plane before it leaves? We got on the plane and managed to switch our seats so we were by eachother, in the back row. Alyssa took some dramamine for the motion sickness, but we still hadn't eaten... she got sick :( There was a flight attendent that was extremely kind to her because of this though, giving her whole wheat rolls (reserved for first class) and a big quilt (also reserved for first class). We managed to sleep a little bit, when we weren't being harrassed by these two little girls sitting in front of us (cute at first--quickly turned annoying).

We finally got to Dublin, and I think Alyssa should tell about this little trial...


The airport that we arrived at in Dublin was much smaller than the others that we had been to earlier in our travels. At the gate we exited we from we walked through a short hallway that led us to the customs lines where we waited with the other passengers from our flight. Erik went first and seemed to get through alright, and as I waited I watched a boy who was about our age going through a different line in front of me. This lad appered quite flustered although the customs officer he was speaking to seemed much kinder than the sterotypical bulky Irishmen, with burning blue eyes, that Erik was trying to get past. I hoped I would go through the older, genteler looking man's line. The boy stood there like a deer trapped in headlights, his face turned red and you could see he was beginning to shake. I told myself that it would be no big deal and that I just needed to be friendly and confident and I would get by alright. Unfortunately, I ended up with the angry Irishman. I walked up as I had planned and said hello and asked him how he was doing. He completely ignored my introduction and immediately began drilling me about the purpose of my travels. I explained to him that I was coming to Ireland on an Independent Study abroad program where I would be doing volunteer work that would be finalized after my arrival. He asked me for letters and paper work, which I had little of. He looked at what I had and was very displeased. He even suggested that I could have forged all of these letter (which mom and I had only forged one of!). So then I was just like that other boy standing there shaking, praying to God that it would all be over soon, and hoping that he would just let me by. He sat there staring at me for what seemed like an eternity, and finally said "If I were to go to your country and show them what you have shown me right now, they would put me on an immediate flight back what should I do with you?" I appologized and said that if it were up to me, I would let him in! Then I asked if there was anything that I could do in order to make things ok. He scoffed at me and stamped my passport and told me that I needed to get things straightened out immediately. I was so relieved! Obviously, he had a small warm place in his heart that he hid quite well. So, then we finally made it in to the country. Woofta!

We made it into Ireland, and were finally able to go to the luggage carousel to retrieve our luggage. Before we had left I made sure to pack an extra set of clothes, just in case something happened to our luggage. I suggested it to Erik and he didn't really seem fond of the idea seeing as he would have to unpack his bags to do so. But in the end he decided to bring just a few extra things that he did not intend to pack for careful measures. Luckily we did, because our luggage did not arrive with us, probably due to our quick change of planes at the Kennedy airport. Tired, sick, flustered, and hungry we headed out to the streets to hail ourselves a cab that would take us to our hotel near the Temple Bar area in Dublin, where our luggage was suppose to meet us the following morning.


We got to our hotel, which seemed like the nicest hotel we have ever been to (just an average one for Dublin, though I guess). We had a while before we could check in, so we dropped off our carry-on bags and explored a little. We walked around St. Stephen's Green (Dublin's "Central Park" so to speak). One of the biggest changes was made very clear here, for St. Stephen's Green was still very green! No snow!!! It was probably about 40 degrees and the cab driver told us it was a cold spell: ha! We can get used to this! we thought. So we walked about a little bit but Alyssa was still not feeling to great and we were both just exhausted so we went to the hotel and just hung out in the lounge for a bit until our room opened up; Alyssa slept on a little couch with the company of Aragorn and her latest companion, Flynn. I called my parents and told them we were okay, updating them on our New York experience. Our room was good to go and we went up and took a little nap to get some energy for the evening. We woke up, took showers, and headed out for a Dublin New Year's! We started by going to Juice, a vegan restaraunt, which was very good. The food was very good, at least, but it was a bit uncomfortable as the table across from us had three girls that were literally staring at us the entire time (one whose back was to us thought it okay to just turn around and stare at us the whole time). In Dublin, everyone is very Euro-trendy, in black and sleek clothes and what-not; you know, exactly opposite of the tie-dye and patchwork Alyssa and I like to sport. And we only had the clothes on our backs and what was in our carry-on. Oh yeah, Alyssa was still wearing the jeans that she vomited on. Well, not vomited on, for she vomited in a bag, which just so happened to have a hole in the corner of. So the jeans that vomit leaked on. Lovely, lovely!

Then we went to a pub/music venue in Temple Bar. There was a great band playing called Rat King who sounded alot like the Arctic Monkeys; the front man was one of the most entertaining performers I have seen in some time. He was awesome. Barefoot, coming out in the crowd and dancing, sometimes laying down and singing, and sometimes having what-seemed-like choreographed movements with the music. Two Irish dudes came up to us with a smile and said, "You're not from around here, are ye?" No we're not. "Can I get a picture with ya then?" We laughed and said yeah and his friend took a picture of him with these goofily dressed Americans. They were over and a DJ was coming up so we decided to hit up the streets for a bit, which seemed to be where the party was really at. The streets were so crowded you could hardly walk through them, everyone drunk and happy to start a new year (see pictures which will be on photobucket). There was a lot of street music going on, where people were all dancing and celebrating. This was a ton of fun. Eventually we had to go to the bathroom and get a drink, and every bar seemed packed, so we decided to go back to the place we were at earlier. It had livened up quite a bit--lots of people and a DJ who enjoyed such classics as Coolio's "Gangster's Paradise" and Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" An odd mix to say the least, but it was a lot of fun. What made it even more fun was this Dubliner John who took quite a liking to us, I think because we were as weird as his dance moves. He was hilarious, kissing us on the cheeks when the ball dropped and shouting happy new year. Soon after the ball dropped, however, Alyssa wasn't feeling well from her two-and-a-half pints of Guinness she had had. She's a heavy drinker, you see :)

We left and she felt like she was going to vomit, and she insisted to do it in a corner where there were no people (which was nearly impossible to find). We eventually did find a corner, however, and she did her deed, and very soon after we walked away from it there seemed to be random spots of puke all over the street/footpath. Obviously not everyone is so insistent on private puking! We made our way back to the hotel without a problem and just went to bed; we were still very tired from travelling and time-change and what not. But to say the least, we had a great New Year's Eve celebration.


So we woke up and it was 2009. We went downstairs in the hotel to eat our breakfast. Alyssa didn't eat much, because she still didn't feel well. We went out to the front desk and asked if our luggage had come yet. No it hadn't. Damn. This was probably about 9:30 or 10. The airport guy said it would be there by 9. If it wasn't we should call the airport and see what's up. So we struggled to do this, because you had to pay for the phone from the room, and there was a pay phone in the lobby to use, which we had to use a credit card to pay for. I was hesitant but we had to call. So I put my card in, called, no one answered, it went to an answering machine. I left a message. I checked my bank account later and it turns out that the company is some big scam thing and my 30 second local phone call cost me 12 dollars...I need a to call and get a refund.

So we didn't have our backpacks, it was after 10 and we had to check out by noon. Once we had checked out the hotel couldn't accept our backpacks anymore. We really wanted different clothes (especially vomit-y Alyssa).

We just hung out in the hotel room putting off having to check out. We wanted to take an 11:10 train but had to wait for the 2:30 train. Our phone rang at about 11:45 and our bags arrived. Thank God! We changed quick, checked out, and took a taxi to the station. The taxi driver was really funny and commented that we looked like "a couple of fohkin' geeks!" All in good fun though. He also said we needed help, because of Aragorn, Flynn, and Casey Jones all being strapped to our bags. We miss our pets! we justified.

We got to the train station and purchased tickets. I guess buses are cheaper than trains here; the tickets were 35euro each. We were also starving and got some food at Supermac's, a sort of McDonald's thing (I know gross), BUT they had veggie burgers there! So we got a veggie burger and some fries. We were in line for the train and some old women were glaring at us the whole time, whispering back and forth. We got onto the train and slept as best as we could, waiting to arrive at Galway.

Finally we did get there, after about 2 and a half hours. We walked to our hostel, which was fortunately located right across from the train station. We went to bed almost right away and had a good night sleep. Probably one of the only good night sleeps we had at the hostel.

While we stayed at the hostel we explored the city and went out a couple nights with others from the hostel. One night we partied with some Scotch boys in kilts, as well as some other Americans (from all over), a German girl, and a couple Austrian girls. It was a great place to meet people. Due to the uncomfortable beds and loud snorers, however, we were pleased to finally get out after a week.

From then until now we have done not much more than slowly get situated into Galway life. Erik has moved into his flat that interstudy provided him on Forster Ct, a few minutes walk from Eyre Square. Alyssa found a room to rent in a flat in Cill Ard, also a few minutes walk from Eyre Square. We're also a few minutes walk from eachother! Hooray!

School has started for Erik, classes are going pretty well. Very laid back. He has wanted to get started with some clubs (Animal rights club, volunteering club, Socialist party club (;P), Mountaineering club), but his email isn't working at the university so he hasn't heard back from them! He has to get on top of that!
Alyssa has begun her volunteering, starting at the Amnesty international cafe and shop. It serves all fair-trade products from around the world. Everything from baked goods, to tea, to games, to hand drums...all sorts of stuff that are made by workers who are ensured to get a fair return on it. Next week she will begin at an after-school program helping children with homework, working at a Cattery at the Galway Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (GSPCA), and another after school program. Good thing she likes kids!

Obviously there is a ton more to say, but we have just felt so overwhelmed by trying to update everything that has happened in this one post. I think now we will be able to update it much more often, detailing things maybe we missed, things that will happen, and more, all the little details we observe. Everything is so different, but not overtly different. Subtle details that remind us daily how far we are from home--a place we miss very much, but are just as excited to be having a new, temporary one here, across the pond on the coast of the Emerald Isle.