Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Last Days in Dublin and Wales

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday were our last days in Dublin.  Thursday, some of my roommates and I went into town and had high tea complete with cucumber sandwiches, scones, and bite sized cakes.  After tea I wandered around the Temple Bar area and finally started to get oriented to the area.

Christ Church Cathedral

Friday after class I went into Dublin and visited Christ Church Cathedral.  Christ Church was founded in 1030 and is Dublin's oldest building.  The church was originally Roman Catholic, but is now Church of Ireland.  In churches I usually spend most of my time looking up, but I found myself staring at the floor tiles.  The floors were the covered with 63 different patterns of tile.  Some of the tiles are geometric and others have animals or symbols.  Probably because I was so busy staring at the floor it took me a while to notice that one of the walls of the church is leaning out by 18 inches.  It is hard to tell in the photo, but the top half of the right wall is leaning out.

Christ Church has the largest crypt in either Britain or Ireland.  The crypt is more like a storage place for random artifacts than a place to go to see the dead.  In one corner, there are statutes to Charles I and Charles II along with the royal arms.  These items came from the facade of the old city hall and have been stored here since the building was demolished in 1806.  There are also monuments from 1870 that were chopped down to fit in the crypt.  The most famous inhabitants of the crypt are a mummified cat and mouse who died after being trapped in the church's pipe organ.

Irish Museum of Modern Art 

After Christ Church I went to the Irish Museum of Modern Art.  The museum is housed in a former hospital that was designed after Invalides in Paris.  I was more impressed by the building and the grounds than the art.  One installation was light and sound that was just placed on top of a permanent exhibit.  I was very confused as I was reading about an artist from the early 20th century, but being bombarded by base sounds and neon lights.  The icing on the cake was the room that had a looping distorted video of Bjork explaining how televisions works.  In another hall there was an installation of stacks of hardened cow pies.  It was interesting to look at, but not exactly my cup of tea.

Irish Museum of Modern Art

After leaving the museum I happened to walk over to one side of the building and discovered a traditional garden.  The garden was very peaceful and had some beautiful, fragrant pink and white roses growing up one of the walls.  The garden was one of the only places I experienced in Dublin that really felt off the tourist track.  After walking around the gardens I went to dinner with some of my roommates at the Brazen which is the oldest pub in Ireland.

Temple Bar

After dinner I walked around the Temple Bar area to try to meet up with some friends on a pub crawl.  I didn't know what bars they were going to be at and had no way to contact them, but luckily I ran into them in street about the time I was going to give up.  It was an interesting pub crawl and I ended up talking in Spanish with one of the guides who was from Buenos Aires.

Kilmainham Jail

Saturday I spent some time at a pub watching a rugby match before walking over to the Old Jameson Distillery.  I went on a tour with some guys from the group and learned about the distillation process and got to enjoy a free tasting of some whiskey.  After the tour we walked down Mary's Lane to get a bite to eat at Slattery's Bar.  The walk to Slattery's bar was interesting as the area looked to be a little run down and some buildings were abandoned.  This was surprising to me as it was only a few blocks from the heavily trafficked river front.  Slattery's has a whole wall dedicated to the leaders of the 1916 uprising.  There are original uniforms, photos, medals, and guns on display.  After lunch we took a taxi up to Kilmainham Jail, but it was booked up for the day, so I will have to try to go back with Kyle.

Lighthouse outside of Holyhead

Sunday we had a very early morning in order to catch the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, Wales.  We had pretty good weather and the ride was smooth.  After the ferry we took a bus to Conwy where we got to see the impressive Conwy Castle.  The castle and city walls were built in the late 1200s by Edward I and it bankrupted him.  Edward I apparently really liked his castles and had another six in the surrounding area.  The castle is really well preserved and visitors are allowed to climb up most of the towers. 

Conwy Castle

After we left the castle we drove through Snowdonia, which is a national park in Wales.  The countryside is green like Ireland, but the mountains are much more rocky and steep.  We had a long day of travel and everyone was pretty tired when we finally reached Bangor.  Bangor is bigger than Dingle, but is pretty dead as all the students are gone for the summer.  We are taking classes in one of the old buildings which quite impressive and has a large garden in the center courtyard.  I have class tomorrow morning, but afternoon off, so I may try to get out of Bangor and go back to Snowdonia or to the nearby town of Beaumaris to see another castle.


Kyle arrives Wednesday to help me celebrate by 25th birthday.  Thursday and Friday I have finals and then the program ends and Kyle and I will begin our two weeks of travel.  Kyle and I will be going back to Ireland for a few days, then flying to Scotland, and finally taking the train down to London.  I may not have much time or internet to update while Kyle and I are traveling, but I will try to post once we make it to London.  It's hard to believe I've almost been here a month.  I'm glad I have another two weeks to do some exploring before returning to reality.  Hope everyone is well!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Dublin and Cliffs of Moher

Saturday I got my first chance to really go into Dublin.  One of my roommates and I took the double-decker blue and yellow bus into St. Stephen's Green.  It was a warm day so we walked around the duck pond and then walked to Merrion Square.  Merrion Square is a park surrounded by Georgian red brick town homes.  The park is full of sculptures and interesting old lamp posts from Dublin.  The main attraction is a sculpture of Oscar Wilde reclining on a rock.  Oscar Wilde lived at No. 1 Merrion Square until he was about 21 years old.  His childhood home has been restored, but unfortunately it is not open to the public (at least so far as I could tell).

Oscar Wilde Statue 

We then left Merrion square and walked Northwest along Clare street to the nearby National Gallery.  The National Gallery is one of several museums in a compound near Merrion Square.  The National Gallery looks a lot bigger than it actually is, which was fine because I was able to see everything without getting museum fatigue.  The National Gallery has a collection of Irish painters, including Jack Butler Yeats.  I really liked the sunlight in "A Convent Garden, Brittany" by William John Leech.  In the European hall there was a small, but good collection of European art including the earliest known painting by Velazquez, an actress painted by Goya, and a Vermeer.  The collection was basically a snapshot of European art with one painting by each of the painters I just listed, plus Caravaggio, Rembrandt, Picasso, and Monet.  The museum is free and worth the 45 minutes.

Trinity College

After the National Gallery we had lunch at an Italian place called Dunn & Crescenzi.  We just happened to run into it and I remembered that one our professors had suggested it earlier.  We sat outside and enjoyed one of the rare warm days of the trip.  After lunch we went to Trinity College which was just right across the street from where we ate.  Trinity College was founded in 1592 and is home to the Book of Kells and a library that contains a copy of every book published in Ireland.  The Book of Kells was written around 800 A.D. and contains the four gospels written in Latin.  The Book of Kells is highly decorated and full of illuminated text, which is probably why it took the skin of around 180 calves to produce enough vellum for the book.  The pages currently on display are a portrait of St. John and the beginning of Jesus' genealogy.  

 Long Room

After looking at the pages we headed upstairs to walk through the "Long Room" which is the old library.  The room is full of old books, busts of great thinkers, and the oldest harp in Ireland.  The Brian Boru harp was built in the 15th Century and is the national symbol of Ireland.

The Cliffs of Moher

On Sunday I made a last minute decision to join a group of UMKC students who drove across Ireland with poor directions and basic maps to see the Cliffs of Moher.  Somehow we managed to navigate through rain and a narrow coastal road used by tour buses and make it to The Cliffs of Moher.  The Cliffs of Moher have been the site of various films including The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  We arrived in the pouring rain, but after it let up we had beautiful views for about an hour until it started misting again.

The Burren

After the Cliffs we drove back along the coast for a little while to look at the Burren.  The Burren is an area along the coast covered with flat limestone rocks.  The rocks are like stepping stones with gaps between them of anywhere from a few inches to a foot or more.  We drove another half hour up to Galways for dinner.  After dinner we drove back to Dublin on a big, main highway and got in around midnight.  Thankfully we didn't have class until Monday afternoon so I was able to take it easy Monday morning.


Yesterday we had class and then some of my roommates and I got dinner at a traditional Irish pub.  Today we sat in on trials at the criminal court in Dublin and then had class in the afternoon.  It has been a long day and I am looking forward to taking it easy tonight.  Friday after class and Saturday I have planned to go into the city and check a few more things of my list including the Jameson Distillery and Kilmainham Jail where leaders of Irish rebellions in 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867, and 1913 were detained.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Dingle, Killarney, and Glendalough

Last Friday a group of us from UMKC went to Killarney. Killarney was about two hours by bus from Dingle. After we dropped off our bags we walked down High Street. High Street is the main street in town and there are tons of shops, bars, and restaurants. We all got a Guinness and then had dinner at an Irish restaurant called Bricin. We all had “boxty” which is a potato pancake which can have different savory fillings.

Ross Castle

Saturday we went on a tour of Ross Castle. Ross is a tour house castle and was built in the 15th Century by the O’Donoghues. As a result of conflict between Irish Catholics and English Protestants the castle has passed through a number of hands over the centuries. The castle's roof was burnt off by one of its last owners in order to avoid having to pay taxes on the property. After years of being exposed to the elements the interior of the castle collapsed. The outer walls and spiral staircase remained intact and the castle has been restored using traditional building techniques.

Muckross House

After the castle we went to Muckross House. In 1932 the last owners, American aristocrats, donated the house and its 11,000 acres to the Irish government. The land formed the first national park in Ireland. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the House in 1861. The house reminded me of Downton Abbey. There is a huge staircase in the center of the house and there are over 20 different bells that ring down to the servants’ hall. After the tour, we returned to Dingle and I helped to fry up some fish that students from the group caught in the Dingle Bay.

view from T.P.'s

On Sunday and Monday I did some shopping in Dingle and studied for our tests. I also got local ice cream at a place called Murphy’s. They had a gin flavor made from local gin. On Tuesday we took a test and then learned traditional Irish dancing. On Wednesday we took another test, cleaned up our cottages, went down to the beach, and then went to T.P.’s bar where we showed off our dancing skills. My partner and I won the runner-up prize.

Yesterday we took the bus from Dingle to Dublin. Last night some of the UMKC ladies and I went into the city to eat at a nice Italian place. Today we went to Glendalough, which is a glacial valley that contains the ruins of an Early Medieval monastery. Saint Kevin established the monastery in the 600s. The round tower and Saint Kevin’s Church are in great shape and have only had minimal work done to them.

St. Kevin's Church

We walked around the valley and had beautiful views of the lakes and the mountains. We have 2-day passes to do a hop on hop off tour of Dublin, so I will probably be doing that this weekend. We also now have regular internet access, so hopefully I will be able to post more regularly.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

First Days in Dingle

We arrived in Dingle Sunday afternoon.  It was warm and sunny so we all walked down to the marina to look at Dingle Bay.  The bay was very blue and is circled by green hills and mountains.  There were some small boats docked at the marina, but most of them looked like recreational sailboats and not fishing boats.  Dingle used to have a huge fishing industry, but since Ireland’s entry into the EU, Dingle lost a lot of its fishing rights to France and Spain.

That evening we made a spaghetti dinner together and ate outside at picnic tables.  It was a nice end to the day.  After dinner I was pretty tired and was in bed by 8:30p.m.

Diseart Institute

On Monday we had our first day of class.  The classes were on the history of the EU and international criminal tribunals.  Classes are held at a former convent turned cultural center.  My roommates and I ate a well-priced lunch at a little café across the street.  I didn’t really know my roommates prior to the trip, but I have enjoyed getting to know them.  In the afternoon we had a talk by a local man about the general history of Ireland and the area.  We learned about the Irish sports of Gaelic football and hurling.  We also learned a little bit about the Irish language.  The Dingle area is a stronghold of the Irish language.  Many children here learn to speak Irish and English at home.  In other areas of Ireland children only learn Irish at school and never really speak it like a native.  The man who gave the talk had even been recorded for the Rosetta stone for Irish. 

After class my roommates and I walked around the town for a bit and we ran into many more tourists than Irish people.  Dingle’s economy is highly dependent on tourism.  The shops are not tacky, but are clearly geared to tourists.  Being in Dingle has been a sort of quasi-abroad experience for me.  In some ways I barely feel like I’m abroad.  This probably has to do with the fact that I am traveling with a group of Americans in a country where everyone speaks English.  Everything here feels very familiar and tidy compared to my other international experiences.  I am enjoying the natural beauty of the area, hearing Irish, and learning about the area, but I hope I can get away from some of the touristy parts of the area.

On Tuesday we had classes in the morning and then had a bus tour of the area with an older local man named T.P..  T.P. seems to know just about everything and everyone in the area.  He pointed out the ruins or ring forts, told stories about movies shot in the area, and let us know that there are a lot of vacant houses for rent.  Ireland has a big bust in the late 2000s.  In Dingle the real estate bubble burst and property that had sold for $8 million dropped to $1 million.

Blasket Islands

Our first stop was a lookout to see the Blasket Islands.  The Blasket Islands are off the west coast of Ireland.  Fishers inhabited the islands until 1953 when they were forced to abandon it.  The islands are important to the Irish because their inhabitants were key to the revitalization of the Irish language.  Many of the islanders wrote or told stories in Irish.  These writings were then used to promote the language through out the country. 

Coum Dhíneol

Next we walked down the cliffs to a beach called Coum Dhíneol.  We were lucky and had a very nice day for the tour.  It was warm enough that we all took off our shoes and went walking in the sand.  The water was cold, but the sun made it nice. 

 Old Church

Then we stopped off at a cultural center to learn about the Blaskets.  We finished the tour by walking in the rain to see a 1,300 year old church.  It is a small stone structure made with no mortar and 3-4ft. wide stones.  It is the only one of its kind in the area to still have its stone roof intact. 

Wednesday I went to see the new Wes Anderson movie and got my first Irish Guinness and fish and chips.  The group went out later that evening and got to hear some live Irish music.

Today we climbed up a mountain.  I will be very sore.

view of Dingle from the mountain 

Friday we have the afternoon I am going to Killarney with some girls from the group.  Saturday we will come back and may join the group in a fish fry.  Sunday I may rent bicycles or get a boat ride over to the Blaskets.

We don’t have Internet at the cottages, so I likely won’t be able to update again for a few days.  Hope everyone is doing well.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Arrival in Shannon

We arrived in Shannon at 7:00am local time and 1:00am home time.  It is raining and about 50 degrees here.  From what I could see from the plane, it is very green.  I don't think I have ever seen land so green.  I also already saw some sheep.  So, basically Ireland from the window of plane is exactly what you would expect.

There were several UMKC students on the flight with me so now we are all together in the airport waiting to meet up with the rest of the program.  We will travel by bus to Dingle where we will be staying for ten days.  We will be staying in cottages where we get our own rooms, but share common spaces.  We have kitchens, so if the TSA hasn't taken my spices, I will be doing some cooking.

Classes start tomorrow, so hopefully I will be over the jet lag by then.

I don't know if I will have wifi at the cottages.  If I do I will try to post again once I'm settled.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Summer in Ireland and the U.K.

This summer I am traveling with UMKC School of Law Ireland Summer Abroad Program. The program is from May 17-June 14. I will be taking classes on the law of the European Union, International Criminal Tribunals, and Comparative Advocacy in Ireland. I will be studying at the Diseart Cultural Center in Dingle, University College Dublin in Dublin, and Bangor Management Center in Bangor Wales.

The program starts in Dingle, Ireland where we will be from May 17-May 28. Then we travel to Dublin where we will be May 29-June 7. And finally the program will take a ferry to Wales and be in Bangor June 8-June 14. After the program ends, Kyle and I travel for two weeks to Ireland, Scotland, and England. We will be in Dublin and then fly to Glasgow and then travel on to Edinburgh.  After Scotland we will head south to Norwich and on to our last stop, London.

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