Tag Archives: When In Ireland

When in Ireland, hurl yourself into experiences.

21 Jul

Today I went to Dublin with my study abroad group, and it was a blast. Even though my favorite thing we visited today was definitely the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the highlight of my day was sitting with my study abroad program director, Finn, after visiting the Book of Kells and just talking.

I told Finn about my writing, my home, and just gave her a bit of a look into who I really am. She has been a wonderful person to be able to count on while I’ve been in Ireland, and I know that I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself as much if it wasn’t for how comfortable she’s made me feel and how accomadating she’s been. Anyway, during our conversation she said, “A few days ago Kevin [her husband] and I were talking, and we both mentioned how we hope that one day our kids can grow up to be just like you. You are a true inspiration.”

Cue tears. No really. It made me feel so so amazing, and I’m still in shock. I’ve heard numerous people tell me over the past few months and years and practically my whole life how much of an inspiration I am…not just to kids with disabilities, but people in all walks of life. No amount of words can express how touched those compliments make me feel. Most of all, however, it’s hard to know how to react since in my mind, I’m just being myself.

Finn went on to say this: “Amelia, not everyone in your situation would go out and take life by the balls. I know people who would just sit inside all day and list all the ways that they are limited. But Amelia, in my eyes, you’re not limited. You’re doing this…full force and without hesitation. You’ve broken down those limits a while ago.”

Though I understand what Finn is trying to say, I know deep down that I still have limits. However, even though I am limited, I still go out and do as much as I can for as long as I can….here in Ireland and in life in general. However, in terms of Ireland itself, there hasn’t been a choice. Sitting around and missing out on things isn’t even an option. I don’t know when I’ll get this opportunity again, so I’ve got to take it while I’ve got it. So I’m going out and doing as much as I can so that I can get the full feel of this experience. Opportunities like this don’t come around every day. And even though I know that one day I’ll be coming back to Ireland, I’ve got to experience as much as I can now. Right now, I want to completely hurl myself into these experiences. It’s what I’ve done so far, and it’s been absolutely amazing.

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When in Ireland, visit the Aran Islands.

15 Jul

I just got back from a lovely day at Inis Mor, the largest of the three Aran Islands. “Inis Mor” actually translates to “big island.” Even though I didn’t get to see the popular fort that many people visit when going to Inis Mor because the trek was quite steep and had lots of rocks, but it was still a great day exploring a cute little island. Since I had some time to myself while the rest of my group headed up to the fort, I snapped away with my camera (and got some great shots) and did some pleasure reading. And of course, my day was complete when I ended my time on the island with a double scoop of chocolate ice cream. No harm in that, right?

When in Ireland, don’t bash all cover bands.

14 Jul

Before last night, I wasn’t a fan of listening to a cover band perform instead of listening to traditional Irish music. However, after hearing an Ireland rock cover band called The Antics perform at The Spanish Arch last night, I was reminded how much I miss rock music. Plus, two of the musicians weren’t bad to look at, so that definitely helps, right?

When Alex and I first got to The Spanish Arch, the pub was packed with people and there was hardly any place to sit. However, I soon realized that once we got our drinks and just meandered, eventually a table would free up. Last night we got extremely lucky and snagged a table that was pretty much right in front of the stage.

I told myself before we went out last night that I’d stick to buying one drink of Bulmer’s and then just see where things went. I’m glad that I stuck to this strategy. On the second song that The Antics played, two guys (both in suits. Why are guys in suits so much more attractive?) came out in front of the band and started dancing. There was another guy with them as well, but he seemed content to just watch the two other guys make fools of themselves. They were completely hilarious though. I couldn’t seem to stop laughing. At one point, one of the guys (the drunker of the two) asked Alex to dance. At first she declined, but then when he got happily down on his knees and begged she gave in and danced with him. It was so funny to watch. You could tell that all of the guys were enjoying themselves. After Alex danced with the drunkest guy, he came back a few minutes later and apologized profusely. Maybe he had realized then how drunk he was. Either way, at that point Alex and I came to the conclusion that the two guys who had started dancing in the first place were really gay (or just so drunk that it seemed like they were gay)…which was fine, but it was also very unfortunate since one of the guys (not the one that danced with Alex but the other one) was pretty cute. Anyway, since the guy of the group who was the most drunk reached the point of trying to get one of the security guards to dance with him, he was told to leave the pub, so the two guys he was with followed him. Since they had to leave in order to accompany their super drunk friend, they asked Alex and I if we wanted the rest of their Bulmer’s, and we happily took the cider off of their hands. Getting free drinks two nights in a row? I could get used to this.

The night got even better when the band played “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. I got so excited when the band was about to play it that I screamed really loud, and the lead singer responded: “Holy shit.” In my head I was thinking: “Hey, I’m just being the music lover/music supporter that I am. There’s nothing wrong with enthusiasm for a band, especially if I’m at a pub in Ireland. Sheesh, dude.” Anyway, the band members were surprised when a few people in the pub knew all the words to “Wagon Wheel.” I didn’t make a motion to say that I was originally from North Carolina. I was satisfied to just lose myself in the fact that I was hearing one of my favorite songs in a pub in Ireland. So, so cool. The unfortunate part of hearing “Wagon Wheel” was the fact that it made me pretty homesick for a few songs afterwards. However, once The Antics started playing songs by Blink 182 and The Red Hot Chili Peppers, the homesickness had passed.

It was a really fun night, especially because we stayed the entire time that the band played. However, that meant not leaving The Spanish Arch until about 2am. Though that was fine with Alex, I had hit my limit at about 1am. At that point, I began to find all the super drunk people really annoying, especially because by that point 2 people had almost spilled their drinks all over me. Thankfully, I didn’t end up getting beer spilled on me, but I wouldn’t have been happy if an entire drink would have landed in my lap. Though I was pretty much “done” with the whole scene by 1am, I knew that I didn’t want to walk all the way back home by myself. Plus, since it was Friday night, I knew there would be more people on the streets, and the mantra “There’s safety in numbers” wouldn’t leave my head (plus the fact that I knew that Alex carried pepper spray with her at all times). So, even though we didn’t get home until about 2:30am and my back pain was insane by that point (which I’m guessing was because we had gone out the night before last too), it was a really fun night. However, going out 2 nights in a row is as much as I can do at this point, so tonight will be spending reading and resting up, especially since we leave early tomorrow morning for our day trip to the Aran Islands.

When in Ireland, don’t miss Shop Street in Galway City.

13 Jul

My roommate, Alex, and I have come to love Shop Street, which is right off of the main square in Galway City. As well as Shop Street having shops ranging from tourist stores, jewelers, and my favorite bookshop here, Charlie Byrnes Bookshop, there are also some great pubs that always have live music.

In terms of pubs along Shop Street, so far we have been to The King’s Head, The Quays Bar, and The Spanish Arch. The King’s Head was the first pub we went to along Shop Street, and it was a great pub to start with, mainly because it was really big and had loads of seating (as opposed to the pubs we went to in Dingle last weekend that were pretty small). Alex and I enjoyed the live music we heard at The King’s Head on Tuesday, but since it was a cover band playing American songs, it wasn’t music that we wanted to hear night after night. We can hear American music when we’re home. We wanted traditional Irish music like we had heard the first night that we were in Dingle last weekend.

Last night Alex and I went to The Quays Bar as well as The Spanish Arch. We saw a sign outside The Quays Bar that the live music was supposed to start at 10pm. Lesson number one in terms of Ireland pubs: don’t believe everything you see/read. We went into The Quays Bar, and despite it being absolutely huge, there was already anywhere to sit. Go figure, right? Eventually though, we did find 2 seats, so then we got drinks and waited for the music to start. I settled on pear-flavored Bulmer’s, or Irish hard cider, which is normally my drink of choice. It felt like we waited forever for the music to start, and in all actuality, we did. Despite seeing the sign outside that said live music at 10pm, the musicians didn’t even start warming up until 10:55pm. This morning the woman we’re staying with told us that that tactic is often used in Ireland so that people will drink more before the music starts. We laughed because the tactic had definitely worked. Sadly, when the music actually did start, it wasn’t the traditional music that we were looking for, so we left in search of better music.

The better music was found right across from The Quay’s Bar at The Spanish Arch. We knew as we went through the doorway that we had come to the right place because number one: they weren’t playing American songs (what a relief!) and number two: they were playing the type of songs that are normally associated with traditional Irish music: jigs and reels. Even though the musicians didn’t have all of the instruments that I have come to associate with traditional Irish music (acoustic guitar, accordion, and fiddle), the simple fact that they were actually playing Irish music (except for one slip of Free Fallin’ by John Mayer) made me happy. As well as coming to the simple realization that my favorite thing about Ireland has been having the chance to listen to live music every night for free (minus the Euros that I normally spend on cider), my favorite instrument is definitely the fiddle. Granted, I’ve loved the fiddle before I came to Ireland. It’s such an amazing instrument, and I knew there had to be a concrete reason as to why I love Alison Krauss so much (not counting the fact that I just love bluegrass music in general).

Last night was also the first night that I experienced having someone buy me a drink (and buy the end of the night 2 people had bought us drinks at 2 different pubs). It was a very strange feeling. Since I’m not of legal drinking age in the states, it wasn’t something I was used to. So when a guy brought me another Pear Bulmer’s when Alex and I were at The Quay’s Bar, I was very hesitant. Thankfully, Alex could tell that I was really nervous, so she talked to the guy who had bought us drinks so that I didn’t have to say anything. It was in that moment that I realized what a great friend I have in Alex, and after talking to the guy who bought us drinks, we realized that he was harmless (plus the fact that Alex said she would kick the crap out of him if he did anything that made me feel even the slightest bit weird, which was a definite relief). I think it was just weird for me because since I don’t go to bars in the states, I’m not used to the normality of just having someone buy me a drink. However, Alex pointed out to me that it’s a pretty normal thing. However, to be as safe as possible, we created a believable back story. We were sisters, Alex and Annie, from Oregon, who had spent the past week traveling around Ireland and were heading back to the States in three days. Honestly, it was pretty exciting and fun, and I’m truthfully glad that Alex had thought of the idea before I introduced myself. I don’t think I would’ve thought to lie. However, Alex told me later that she did it because it’s fun and because she knew how nervous I was so she wanted to reassure me that nothing bad would happen. Thankfully, it helped a lot. As well as liking the idea of introducing ourselves as sisters from Oregon, last night will definitely be one that I won’t forget. It’s pretty cool to say that the first time someone bought me a drink I was at a pub in Ireland.

The night ended with Alex and I ordering pizza and cheesy bread from Papa John’s, which we completely dominated in about 20 minutes. I knew that I would need something to soak up all the cider I had enjoyed (plus the fact that the walk home consisted of me saying ‘I’m SO hungry’ every few minutes), so why not make it a food that’s super greasy, super delicious and cheesy and wonderful, and super American? Yummy Papa John’s + watching about half an hour of the third Harry Potter movie before going to sleep was the perfect way to end such a fun night. I really think it was one of the best decisions I’ve made in quite a while.

Last night’s live music hunt was a definite success, and in a little while Alex and I are heading back to Shop Street so that I can begin getting gifts for friends and family. When I realized yesterday that I only had 2 weeks left in Ireland, I realized that I better start looking for gifts. As well as needing to head to Shop Street in search of presents today, we’ll also be back there later tonight in search of some more music. The great thing about Shop Street though is that it’s packed with pubs, so I’m pretty sure that we could go to a different pub every night from now until we leave and still not be able to say that we’ve been to all the pubs on Shop Street. We’ve got to at least try though. How else are we going to spend our nights in Ireland? In all reality, spending them hunting for the best live music and enjoying cider is the only way to go.

When in Ireland, burst into poetry.

9 Jul

This past weekend when I visited the Dingle Peninsula with all of the Irish studies summer students, we went to the Blasket Islands Interpretive Centre (which had the stained glass wall installation that I posted a picture of in my last post). Anyway, while there, I saw such a great quote that mentioned “bursting into poetry.” I thought I’d share.

When in Ireland, explore the Dingle Peninsula.

8 Jul

I just got back from a trip to the Dingle Peninsula with the students of the Irish Studies Summer School at NUIG. I thought I’d share some photos. 🙂

Bunratty Castle. My roommate, Alex, and I climbed to the top of it.

Window from inside Bunratty Castle.

At the Blasket Islands Observatory.

Wall installation made of stained glass and metal at the Blasket Islands Observatory.

When in Ireland, go see the NUI Galway campus.

4 Jul

I can’t remember if I’ve shared this photo with all of you already, but here’s a picture of the quad of my campus. It’s so gorgeous, and I absolutely love the ivy everywhere. When I first came on campus, my first response, “I’m taking summer classes in a castle!” Well, it’s not quite a castle, but I love the stone and the castle-y look that the buildings have.

Pretty, right? I love it!