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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