This is my last blog post for the Umass Lowell study abroad program. We leave Dublin in the morning on Thursday. As much as I love Ireland I am excited to go home and see the familiarities of my hometown, family, and of course my cat. I spent my last free weekend in Europe traveling to Spain. Two of us from this program flew into Madrid and stayed the weekend. We explored the city as tourists, drank sangria and ate tapas. Madrid is an incredible city, but I think I prefer the streets of Dublin. I strongly suggest to anyone considering doing a study abroad program in Europe to take advantage of opportunities to travel between countries. It is affordable and you won’t regret it.
Today we went to visit the book the Book of Kells which is an illustrated book of the four gospels of the New Testament. It is believed to have been made around 800a.d. This was my second time visiting this attraction. This book is just as impressive the second time around. We spoke a lot about how the book was made, which is very interesting. The book’s pages are made of calf skin and the ink for the colorful illustrations are made with different minerals or berries. Coming from an Irish Catholic family I am happy to be able to say I have seen this book twice.
Yesterday was one of the most interesting days we have had here. We visited the National Museum of Ireland and saw the “bog bodies” exhibit. The bog bodies are actual people that were buried and preserved in the bogs of Ireland. These types of corpses have been found in other bogs around Europe as well, however the three bodies we examined were found in Northern Ireland. This exhibit was so fascinating because of the state these people were found in. The bogs preserved them so well that not only did some have a full head of red hair but one also had a beard. Their skin looked leathery but easily identifiable. This has been my favorite museum experience so far. We also went to Ireland’s Museum of Modern Art. This trip was not as interesting as bog bodies but I enjoyed some of the paintings and the conversation we has about them. After dinner there was a rival soccer game Bohemians vs Shamrocks the shouting of insults and hustle and bustle of it all was very exciting. Unfortunately I left this game at half time and do not know how it ended.
Today we are headed to Northern Ireland as a class. The only thing I am not looking forward to about this trip is the currency exchange. I have had enough of the pound sterling and how it drains my wallet. I am looking forward to a change of scenery from the city, no offense to Dublin, but it looks a lot like Boston. The professors wanted us to pay special attention to when we cross the boarder from Ireland to the UK, having taken a day trip to Northern Ireland last week I know the boarder is nearly invisible. There is no one there to check your passport, or to ask why your coming to the north. There is a sign, much like a “Welcome to Massachusetts!” sign. Crossing the boarder from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland is no different then going from state to state in the United States, which is odd because technically crossing the boarder means crossing into another country.
I am writing this post on the plane back to Dublin from England. Three of us from the Dublin study abroad program spent the past two days we had off from class in London. The first day, Saturday, we took an extremely early flight into Gatwick, England. Once we landed we checked into our guesthouse and took a train from the town we stayed in, Horely, into London. In London we did everything any other tourist group would do. We got off the train, wondered around a bit, and hit all the major attractions. Our first stop was the London Eye, but on our way there we saw West Minster Abbey and Big Ben. For those of you who do not know the London Eye is a giant ferris wheel that provides you with a grand view of London’s city landscape. Once we got our pictures we hopped off and headed to Buckingham Palace. The next day, unwilling to spend the money to go back into London we spent the day in a neighboring city, close to the guest house we stayed in the night before. Tired of being tourists we had a normal day of eating Burritos and catching a movie at the cinema. All and all our trip to London was fun, I really enjoyed it.
I have always said that I want to visit all of the places I read about. Today that happened! Professor Hinds and Professor Silverman took us on a walking tour of the neighborhood James Joyce writes about in Dubliners, specifically the second story of his childhood “Araby.” We walked down North Richmond Street which is mentioned in the very first line of the story. The first sentence in “Araby” is “North Richmond Street, being blind, was a quiet street except at the hour when the Christian Brothers’ School set the boys free.” While we stood on North Richmond Street it was quiet, then a few minutes later the school across the street was let out. The boys filled the streets and it was quite the coincidence that we experienced the same thing Joyce wrote about in 1905.
Today I took an all day tour of Northern Ireland with Emily, Mikayla and Connor. We left Dublin at 6:30am, the bus took us to the tip of Northern Ireland to tour the “Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge.” Before arriving at the rope bridge, we stopped at a small gas station for coffee and snacks. This gas station was only a few steps away from the boarder from the south to north part of the country and already things had changed. After paying for my hot chocolate with euro, the change given back to me was pound sterling. It felt strange to have changed currency, it was an eye-opening experience. Before this I never gave much thought to the fact that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, are two very separate and different territories.
After our visit to the rope bridge the weather got pretty ominous. The bus took us to Giants Causeway were we hiked around the cliffs and walked on the basalt columns. Although this trip was extremely windy and rainy I enjoyed the hike. My better pictures are from the rope bridge which is what is shown above.
The moment we stepped off the plane we could all notice the difference between home and our temporary home, Dublin. Starting in the airport even the signs were different. Signs for things like “meeting point” also read “Ionad Coinni.” Most signals, street signs, traffic signs, license plates, were all translated into Gaelic. This seems like it would be a normal occurrence, signs being advertised in the native language, but it seemed that the predominant language was English. It seemed odd to me that people come to Dublin for a traditional Irish experience and although their signs are traditional the atmosphere is very much similar to our very own Boston, MA. This observation is specific to the Library we ate lunch in today, which Professor Silverman pointed out is an American-ish idea, to have a cafeteria in a Library. All and all I am excited for our future experience in Dublin and to explore all parts of the city.