We have finally arrived in Ireland! We landed in Dublin around 8 AM local time, which enabled us to have a full day of activities. We left the airport and started driving to the coastal town of Galway. On our way, we stopped at a monastery called Clonmacnoise. It overlooked the largest river in Ireland (the Shannon River). Adding to the picturesque view of the crumbling stone monuments and river was picture-perfect weather (a little chilly but sunny). We got a tour of the monastery from a native Irish man and learned more about the history and architecture of the place. We hung out and explored for a little bit before heading to a delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant. Then we drove another two hours to Galway, where we were given a tour of the city which is awesome! It's such a great walking town with lots of places to go and see. After being awake for 24 hours, we are delirious and trying to keep ourselves awake. We are eating dinner with both teams at the hotel tonight and gearing up for another great day tomorrow!
- Morgan Donovan (Class of 2015)
Day two in Ireland started off with an early breakfast at the Forster Court Hotel where we are staying before our guides, Fiona and Kenny, picked us up for a full day of touring. Our first stop was at the Connemara Marble Industries Limited, where we learned about the famous green Connemara marble that can only be found in the Connemara mountains in western Ireland. Our guide showed us the five different colors of marble that they produce and explained where we could find Connemara marble all over the world. It was fun hearing of famous buildings in the U.S. that have this famous marble, like the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. We learned about the process of cutting the marble and saw how it was polished. Many of us bought key chains and jewelry at their gift store.
Next, we drove to the Kylemore Abbey where we ate lunch and had time to explore this site on our own. This gorgeous castle was built by Mitchell Henry in the late 1800s and was converted into a monastery by a group of nuns who fled Belgium after World War I. The grounds around the castle though were almost more impressive as it is located on a small lake surrounded by mountains. We had the option of taking a 10-minute bus ride down the road to see the Victorian Walled Gardens, and many of the team took advantage of this. Our stop at the Kylemore Abbey in my opinion was the most interesting and beautiful stop we have made in Ireland.
On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at Dan O'Hara's Farmhouse. We all jumped in a bus and a tractor pulled us up to the top of one of the mountains. The view of western Ireland was incredible and we learned about the making of turf blocks, a six-week process of cutting sections of land and letting it sit to dry in order to be used as fuel. Our guide was a lively old man who sang us old Irish songs and showed us a typical day in the life of Dan O'Hara and how his farm worked.
After our long day of touring, we were able to have some free time to go to dinner or just relax and enjoy Galway before heading to Killarney in two days.
Love from Ireland!
- Hannah Ballard (Class of 2015)