Today, for our last day in Dublin, Gerilyn and I were going to go into the city to buy souvenirs for our friends and family. Around ten- two hours before we were going to go- the skies opened up and it started to pour. At first I was really disappointed that it was raining on our last day here. As I looked outside at the rain I thought to myself, “It’ll stop in twenty minutes.” Sure enough it had stopped raining about twenty minutes later. Although it remained overcast, we didn’t get rain for the rest of the day. Looking back on it, I am very pleased with myself for making that assessment of the weather. I feel as though it shows that I’ve really adapted to the environment here. I feel like I know Dublin and am familiar with it now. I’m excited to go home and see my family but I feel like I have a really strong connection to Dublin. Hopefully I can return soon.
Today I visited the Cliffs of Moher. I was really looking forward to the visit. With less than a week left of our trip, I was starting to feel as though I hadn’t seen enough of the “big attractions” that everyone who’s been to Ireland says you have to see. I’m glad that I picked the cliffs for today because it was one of the most beautiful days of the trip so far. Today was really nice because we got to take our time admiring the glorious cliffs and not get soaking wet and freezing cold. After we got back on the bus after being at the cliffs for an hour and a half, our bus driver made a joke about Americans. He said, “Us tour guides always bet that if there are American women on the trip, they’ll take pictures of the cows. Well ladies?” I thought it was a funny joke because of how truthful it actually was. As I took a few pictures of the cows I noticed other American women doing the same. I think the humor behind his joke is that it’s not as though I’ve never seen a cow before. Perhaps some of the other American women were from city areas and this is the first time they’ve seen them. I can drive less than ten minutes from my house though and see cows so what made these ones so cute and special? I feel like it might simply be the quantity of them. There are cows everywhere in Ireland, even at the tops of the Cliffs of Moher apparently.
This week we took a trip up to Northern Ireland to visit the Ulster American Folk Park. It was a really interesting experience. Going into it I expected to experience something similar to Plymouth Plantation. I thought that there would be a lot of period actors and animals roaming around but it was kind of different. There were a lot of signs at the beginning that gave you the background of Irish immigration. Not every house had somewhere there to talk to you either, you were free to roam. After we left and got lunch, Professor Silverman asked me if the park was more American or Irish. I felt like it was kind of geared towards the Irish visitors than the Americans. As we journeyed through the boat and transitioned from Irish portion of the park to the American, it felt like they were proud of their ancestors. The whole thing seemed like it was saying “We had to leave Ireland in order to live and thrive but look at how well we did and how in touch we stayed with our roots.” As an American with Irish ancestors though, I really did appreciate the journey that they took and that we kind of got to experience that on a deeper level today.
I have always loved sunsets. I think that all of the colors blending together in the sky is really beautiful. Sometimes though I feel like I don’t get to appreciate a good sunset because I live on the east coast. They’re nice back home, but eventually the trees block out the nice view. So last night you can imagine my excitement when our flight home from London was taking place as the sun was setting. As we flew back to Dublin I could see the most amazing colors and was thrilled that I had a window seat. I wanted to take a picture of it. I felt like it would be a good wrap up to all the pictures I had taken in London. However, I worried about what the strangers next to me would think. Would they think I had never flown in a plane before? Would they think that I was just some lousy tourist? I realized that worrying about what they thought meant that in a way I’m still uncomfortable with sticking out as a tourist- even though I’ve accepted that I am one.
Today when we stopped by the canal I had the same worry- that I would stand out as a tourist if I took a picture. I didn’t have any of these worries when I was taking millions of pictures of Big Ben and the London Eye though. I think that when I’m in a place that’s full of tourists, like the London Eye, I feel more comfortable because everyone is doing it. In a small, intimate place like a plane however, I feel more awkward and am reluctant to stand out. However, I did take a picture of the sunset and the canal anyway so I suppose I am getting over my fears and caring less about what people think. Besides, the people next to me on the plane seemed British so if they were going to Dublin they were tourists too.
Today we traveled to Sandycove to visit the James Joyce Tower. It was a very scenic train ride to the tower and the walk there was lovely too. While we walked along the coast, we even saw two seals! I’ve only ever seen seals at an aquarium before so it was really cool to see them swimming around in the harbor. It was very cool to have an experience like that here in Ireland. I know that I could see some seals swimming along the Massachusetts coast one day but to experience that for the first time while I’m also experiencing this country for the first time makes it feel more special.
The tower was really cool, too. I particularly enjoyed all of the first editions of Joyce’s work that they had on display. It was interesting to see how the printing styles have changed since the original publication. The views from the top of the tower were amazing too. Getting back down from the roof was a bit harder than climbing up though. However, it was a fun adventure. The narrow, winding stone steps were something that I pictured when I pictured Ireland so to experience that at least once was satisfying.
Today began with Professors Silverman and Hinds sending us on a mission. They told us to find The Secret Book Store. We were pointed towards the street that the store was off of and then they left us. At first I thought that it would take us awhile to find it. However, I kept my eyes peeled and we found it rather quickly. It was an interesting task to be assigned. So far during this trip we’ve been led through the city by our professors. We haven’t had to find something completely on our own. Doing this was interesting because it made me think a lot about what it would be like to be a tourist here instead of a student.
Later as we walked around the city, we found St. Audoen’s Church. It is the oldest church in Dublin and was built somewhere between 1181 and 1212. It was free to go inside so we decided that it would be cool to look around. As we were looking at the old stone walls and crypts, Professor Silverman commented on how interesting it was that we were in such an old historic place after being in a “hipster café” for lunch only a few hours earlier. I felt grateful that we’ve come so far that we can enjoy the modern amenities like cafés but still have such wonderfully preserved places that can allow us to look back and see how far we’ve come.
After we returned to our rooms on Thursday, I posted this picture that I had taken while we were in the city on Instagram.
I really liked the picture but as I was about to post it I realized that it’s hard to immediately tell that it’s in Dublin. So as a caption I wrote “Ireland is pretty cool.” A little while later, one of my friends wrote a comment on the image that said, “Totally thought this was Boston at first.” I agreed with her that my picture wasn’t really uniquely Dublin. So when we went to class Friday and today, I tried to notice differences between my home and this place that is my temporary home for the next three weeks.
It is surprising to me that a city that is so far away can feel so familiar. However, I think that I finally got enough sleep to be able to absorb the differences. For instance, yesterday we went to Professor Hinds’ house for dinner. On the way there I got a feel for what a rural Irish neighborhood was like. Their neighborhoods were set up a bit differently from ours. We also saw James Joyce’s house on our way there.
Today we went and watched a cricket game at Phoenix Park. Cricket was weird and hard to follow but there were quite a few spectators there who seemed to be enjoying the sport despite the cold weather. Although the sport was strange, that kind of atmosphere was familiar. I think that there are definitely going to be much more unique experiences as we continue to explore Dublin. It felt nice though to arrive in a foreign place and feel almost at home.