Visiting Ireland with my Mum was a dream come true. During most of our vacation, I was in total disbelief that we were even there. I had to pinch myself to recall that the trip wasn’t just a dream anymore, but an incredible reality.
Even before planning this trip, there was no doubt in our minds that we would make it to the homeland of our ancestors someday. We just weren’t sure when we would make the trek or who we would go with. Mum thought she may end up there with other family members. I thought I might go with study abroad friends. In the end, however, we were both extremely happy that we made our first trip to Ireland together.
Our first destination was Dublin and I loved the energy there. On our first night, we had dinner and drinks at a pub just below our hotel. What we thought would be a casual dinner turned into the perfect introduction to Irish pub life. Our waitress embodied the friendly attitude of the Irish and my Steak & Guinness pie did not disappoint.
The place quickly filled up with football fans as a match between Manchester City and Paris St. Germain unfolded on the television screens. Then a local band started playing traditional Irish tunes. Pretty soon the volume of the TVs and the sound of the music were duking it out for domination of the pub. It was pretty comical. Mum and I could only turn to each other and say, “Well, this certainly feels very Irish!”
The next day included a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Guinness Storehouse. Church and beer just go hand-in-hand don’t you think? We felt the same. Then we got a lovely tour of Trinity College from one of my best friends studying there. We were so grateful to her for showing us around Dublin (and for getting us into the Book of Kells and Trinity College Library for free) that we had to take her out to a wonderful meal in the city.
It was so good to see a fellow Friar thriving in her city of choice for study abroad. It reminded me how proud I am of my friends for taking a leap of faith and making themselves at home in unfamiliar but awesome places.
Then we were off to Galway which was my favorite city of the three we visited. It was a beautiful harbor city with colorful pubs and quaint homes. I really enjoyed roaming around there as it made for some really unique experiences.
Oddly enough, one of the first things we stumbled upon was a Dominican Catholic church which of course reminded me of PC right away. We wandered through Galway University where I ran into another fellow Friar on the street. The world felt so small in that moment and I found myself smiling the rest of the afternoon while thinking about how awesome the PC network is.
Then we checked out a local book shop hosting a launch for a local author. She was 16-years-old and publishing her first young adult novel! I was truly impressed by her ambition and decided to buy her book and have it signed with hope that she becomes famous. Staying for the launch and talking with the author Elis Barrett made me feel more connected to the community as opposed to just a tourist. She also inspired me to get on with my writing. She is 16 after all and I already 21?!?!
Our next destination was the Cliffs of Moher which were absolutely breathtaking. Even while looking out on the fascinating rock formations and crystal blue waters, I could not believe that I was actually there. I had seen so many pictures of the site before, but photography doesn’t even do the landscape justice. You have to see the cliffs in person, but I recommend gazing at the from a distance.
Mum and I were horrified by all of the tourists taking extreme measures just to get that “perfect” picture. There were people running, jumping, and simply getting way too close to the edge of the cliffs. Mum and I took our time touring the coast and didn’t feel like risking our lives for pictures. Besides, I think we still got some pretty great shots. I have included them below and you can be the judge of whether or not dangling off the cliffs is really necessary.
I should also mention the spectacular drive we took from our hotel in Galway to the Cliffs. For the entire week, we rented a car and Mum bravely drove on the opposite side of the road. She did a marvelous job by the way. I really am proud of her. Driving around was pretty great because we got a taste of life outside of the major cities. There were lots of cows, sheep, and so much green. I miss the fields a lot already. I could go back tomorrow!
From the Cliffs of Moher, we made our way to Cork where the weather gods turned against us. We were pretty luck all week, but our first full day in Cork was a wash-out. It down-poured literally all day. We only ventured from the hotel once and that excursion was just long enough to buy some more wool wear and have a rather strong Irish coffee. Then we retreated to the comfort of our hotel. (We highly recommend The Kingsley in Cork after spending so much time there).
Because the skies had gotten every drop of water out the day before, the next day was gorgeous and the PERFECT day to see Blarney Castle and its magnificent gardens. Again, I still cannot believe that I saw the Castle and kissed the Blarney Stone. I have wanted to go there ever since my grandparents went years ago!
After kissing the Stone, I supposedly have the “gift of the gab” which simply means that I am now an eloquent speaker. In all seriousness though, it is crazy to think I kissed the same stone that Winston Churchill did many moons ago. Legend says that the Blarney Stone is responsible for his famous speeches.
After roaming the massive property Blarney Castle sits on, we hit the road to head back toward Dublin which was rainy. The weather gods had officially abandoned us. So, we spent the last night packing up our stuff and getting ready for our flights the next day. This is where the story gets sad.
I was so happy to see my Mum but am disappointed that our time together went by so fast. It was hard to say goodbye to her three months ago at Logan Airport, but even harder to say goodbye a second time.
After looking forward to her visit to London and planning our trip to Ireland for so long, it was difficult to accept that all of the excitement had suddenly come to an end. Even though we were constantly on the move from one city to the next, being with my Mum made me feel right at home in each place.
Homesickness set in the moment we parted ways and is desperately trying to get the best of me while I’m in my most vulnerable state. Upon returning to London, I had to face reality: four major assignments due at the beginning of May that determine my final grades this semester. With so much on my plate, I have been stressed, anxious, and longing for my big comfy couch at home.
I quickly realized that I do not need the comfort of home to get me through the stress of the next couple weeks though. I simply need to find comfort in the new home I have made for myself here in London. So each day I am hoping to do something that allows me to escape from all of the work.
My break the other day consisted of lunch at the Sky Garden in London with friends, a really cool getaway in a high-rise building at 20 Fenchurch Street. The skyscraper is actually one of the most distinctive in the city because it looks like a giant walkie-talkie. On the 35th floor of the building, there is a glass dome with indoor gardens and outdoor terraces where you experience beautiful views of the city. Because visiting the Sky Garden had been on my London bucket list for a while, I was so glad to take a breather there.
Since then, I’ve been doing little things here and there to help me through finals: brunch dates, running to Buckingham Palace and back, grabbing coffee at a different shop. These things keep me excited and energized in spite of the mental exhaustion that comes with writing essays. They also make me even more eager to explore the city around me which is all I will be doing after these assignments are turned in on May 3. Well, I’ll also be exploring some other cities too. You’ll have to wait to hear about those though.
I’m warning you now that you probably won’t hear from me again until after May 3. Until then, I will be hanging out in my favorite coffee shops and the library typing away all of the work that I have due!