Program Director At Large in Galway

During our programs, one administrator (director, site director, or student assistant) stays on campus or at least in town over the free weekends in case of emergency. We rotate taking a free weekend for ourselves, and this past weekend was my turn. I decided to go to Galway and actually spend time there–cf. last year when I stopped through Galway en route to Doolin and the Aran Islands, but didn’t get to see anything except the train station and a nearby Centra. Everyone raves about Galway so I thought I’d better go see what the fuss was about.

Early Friday morning I left Waterford by train along with my colleague Jeff from ABAC. He was going to spend the day in Dublin, so we spent the first leg of my train journey drinking snack-trolley coffee and setting the world to rights. I then continued to Galway on my own. First stop was the Bus Éireann office to get a Leap Card. My B&B was about 3km outside the city centre and I did not want to wrestle with change for the bus every time–plus, it’s cheaper per ride to use a Leap Card than to pay in cash. Dublin has the Leap Visitor Card that’s good for unlimited rides in a given number of hours (24, 48, or 72) but Galway does not, so I just bought a regular one and put €15 on it. The card costs €5 and a minimum €5 top-up is required. According to what I read, that €5 deposit is refundable but I ended up not getting mine refunded because the Bus Éireann office was closed when I left town. You’re welcome, Transport for Ireland!

From the bus office I rode out to my B&B to drop off my backpack. Ordinarily I am a big corporate-chain-hotel person. Something about the mix of cleanliness and anonymity appeals to me. However, there are few large hotels in Galway at all and they were very expensive, so I branched out to my first B&B experience. It was an unqualified success! Everyone should go and stay at Moytura B&B and be hosted by Rita (the Southerner in me wants to say “Miss Rita”) and eat a delicious home-cooked breakfast in the morning and possibly have the neighbor’s cat climb through your window for a visit.

There are dozens of these little B&Bs in Galway–I assume they were private homes once upon a time–and a few in Waterford as well. This one is definitely a winner. The Marriott Courtyard just will not offer you a cup of tea and some biscuits when you come back after a windy day of sightseeing.

Yep. Hobnobs.

Friday afternoon/evening I did not have firm plans other than getting some lunch. Someone had recommended The Pie Maker, so I beelined it there and ate a delicious vegetable pie:

The pie (aubergine, kale, and goat’s cheese) was excellent but I was equally impressed by the salad. A lot of side salads are just tragic iceberg lettuce with 2 cherry tomatoes added. This one was actually good!

Well fortified, I set out to wander around Shop Street (aptly named), down to the Spanish Arch, and ultimately out to Mutton Island Causeway. Luckily the weather cooperated extremely well:

I’ve met several coastal dwellers who are amazed that I was 20 years old before I ever saw the ocean. I am doing my best to make up for that now, and I hope I never get over the amazement of seeing a stretch of water with no land visible on the other side.

Saturday was the centerpiece of my Galway visit; I took a bus tour to 3 sites in Connemara. Did not really know anything about Connemara (except for the song), so I thought I’d take the opportunity to see something new. We visited Kylemore Abbey, a 19th-century estate now owned by an order of Benedictine nuns. It is beautiful:

Kylemore has extensive walled gardens. As you will notice, the weather had changed, so I did not take extensive pictures.

Manuscript music books from the predecessors of the current Benedictine order.

Kylemore faces onto this lake, which might be prettier if not shrouded in mist, but I’m not sure.

The “Gothic chapel” built by the original owner as a memorial to his wife, who died of dysentery at age 45 after traveling to India.

We went to the village of Cong, where the movie The Quiet Man was filmed and where there is a ruin of a 16th-century (I think) church:

The old church and graveyard are right next to a modern church (slightly incongruous). A wedding was taking place.

Finally we went to Ross Errilly Friary, one of the most complete medieval abbeys still standing:

Photo stop along the way. Irish views manage to be pretty even when you can’t see them!

I may be able to do justice to the sights we saw but not to our tour guide, Mike, who was a character and definitely had the Irish gift of gab! As we drove between sites he pointed out several places where peat had been harvested and piled up to dry, and he explained about peat bogs and the phenomenon of “bog bodies.” “We are the only tour company licensed to take this route,” he said, “and on a day like today there’s virtually no one else out here. I could murder all of ye, and 500 years later the archaeologists would find you, perfectly preserved in the bog, holding a tour brochure.” Maybe I am a little morbid but I laughed at that mental image for days.

Saturday night I ate dinner at Quay Street Kitchen after a pre-dinner drink at Tigh Nora. I recommend both! Quay St. Kitchen is small (I think I counted 32 seats), so you may have to wait, but it’s worth it. Nice fresh ingredients and good service. Tigh Nora is a gin bar named for James Joyce’s wife. It’s a small offshoot of a larger pub called The Front Door; it’s very pretty inside (180+ tastefully lighted gin bottles behind the bar); and it’s a nice place for a gin enthusiast or wanna-be (I’m a wanna-be). All in all it was a great evening to cap off a great day.

I managed to sleep in a little bit on Sunday morning but, curiously, the power went out in the neighborhood around my B&B! It put Rita in a mild panic because my room has an electric shower: no electricity, no shower.* Luckily the power came back on at exactly the right moment and we could get on with the day. Having put away a square meter of breakfast (Weetabix with yogurt and fruit, toast, scrambled eggs, potatoes, and coffee) I returned downtown to stash my backpack in a luggage locker near the train station before walking out to Salt Hill, the opposite side of the bay from where I’d been on Friday:

I’m glad I went to Salt Hill first thing, because rain had started by the time I came back to Eyre Square, and things just got worse as the afternoon went on. Luckily I had booked afternoon tea at the Meyrick Hotel and then just had to get on my train back to Waterford. Going to get my backpack was a bit of a swim but I enjoyed swimming alongside people who were excited about the World Cup: saw lots of French tricolors painted on faces but lots of red-and-white Croatia jerseys too. The afternoon tea was ideal (would have been even better were it not for some uptight parents and cranky kids in the area): elegant furniture, sparkling chandeliers, and of course teatime treats, fancily presented.

(vegetarian cheating slightly with smoked salmon)

And so back to Waterford and into the final days of our program. As I write, it’s our last full day. Students are finishing exams, packing, and getting ready for a farewell celebration tonight. Buses roll tomorrow at 4:30 a.m., but let’s try not to think about that till we really have to. I’d rather think about Galway a little longer!

*The Irish approach to water-heating and showers continues to elude my understanding and probably always will.

Our LAST field trip! Dungarvan and back to Waterford

I can hardly believe that yesterday was our last field trip for 2018. We always have the final field trip day set aside for faculty to choose destinations in/around Waterford for the students to visit; this year they chose Dungarvan (a seaside town featuring a King John castle) in the morning and then back to Waterford for the Viking Experience and Reginald’s Tower in the afternoon. It was a mellow day with time for relaxation but we also got to learn a lot. Dungarvan Castle was built for King John’s (he was Prince John then–same John as the one who signed the Magna Carta) visit to the town in 1185. According to our tour guide he spent only one night there, but the castle was occupied and used until the 1980s, successively by various Irish barons and English garrisons until it was burned by the IRA in 1922, then restored as a Garda station and used as such until 1987. Where I come from, keeping a building in use for 9 centuries is not exactly the prevailing style, so although King John castles may be relatively common here, it was interesting to learn how this one had been adapted and re-adapted over the years.

The barracks built in the 18th century in the castle courtyard.

After the tour we had time to walk around Dungarvan and get lunch before heading back to Waterford. I took photos of a small street market that was selling fresh fish, cheese, Middle Eastern food, and most importantly coffee, and I walked down to the water to say hello to the boats and herons. For lunch I joined a big group of students at a great restaurant called 360 Cookhouse. Had a salad with strawberries, cantaloupe, and goat cheese, and an unexpected drink. I ordered a gin & tonic–I do not normally drink at lunch!–because I wanted to try Waterford Thin Gin. That was fine (Thin Gin turns out to be very mild; I prefer something more aromatic) but I expect a GT to be an unassuming-looking tumbler of clear liquid with one lime wedge in it. Instead, I received an oversized goblet with the gin in it and plenty of ice, along with 2 orange wedges and 3 blueberries. Tonic water came in a small glass bottle on the side. It was Instagram-worthy, at least.

Back in Waterford I was on administrator duty moving 60 students between 3 spots that were almost within sight of each other: Reginald’s Tower, the Viking Experience, and a bandstand on the quay where my colleague Jeff was doing a poetry reading. Sometimes the small moves are the most complicated: the Tower and the Viking Experience only took 10 students at a time so it was a solid 2 hours of moving people back and forth. But it was worth it! The Viking Experience was the definite highlight of the afternoon. It’s a virtual-reality immersion in Viking life, which is fitting for Waterford whose roots trace back to a 7th- or 8th-century Viking settlement (hence its name, which comes from Old Norse Vedrafjordr). I didn’t try the Viking Experience–actual reality is plenty for me!

My colleagues mostly stayed downtown at the end of the day to have dinner and relax; I missed a good dinner at the Munster Bar, but I was getting ready for an early morning. Today (Friday) I am heading to Galway to spend the weekend. Jeff (the poet) and I got the 7:10 train to Dublin this morning. He is spending the day in Dublin while I go on to Galway for some sightseeing and adventures. I’m writing from the train but will have to put the photos in later. Irish Rail wifi doesn’t allow for media uploads but hopefully I can do it from my B&B.

What’s a “Gaeltacht”?

Today turned out unexpectedly busy. I had a meeting this morning with the WIT nursing faculty member who supervises MGA’s School of Health Sciences study abroad here, then lunch and some moving-around of money, then an errand downtown, a visit to WIT’s “other” accommodations at Manor Village where the Health Sciences students stay when they are here, and to cap off the day, a lesson on traditional Irish food and drinks concluding with an Irish-coffee-making demonstration. In other words it’s 7:30 p.m., the World Cup semifinal is on, and I am tired. But triumphant!

Yesterday we visited An Rinn (Anglicized as “Ring,” which isn’t correct because rinn means “peninsula,”), which is Co. Waterford’s Gaeltacht. A Gaeltacht (pronounced roughly like “gwell-tocked”) is an Irish-speaking region. Our tour guide for the day, Liam, works for Colaiste na Rinne, the gaelscoill (Irish-language school) in An Rinn, and is an expert on local history. We were welcomed to Colaiste na Rinne for tea and scones before setting off to tour around An Rinn and Ardmore. We visited several historic sites in Ardmore relating to St. Declan. He is credited–alongside St. Patrick but less well known–with bringing Christianity to Ireland, and he founded a monastery in Ardmore. Between the St. Declan sites we visited a famine graveyard, where hundreds of famine victims were buried in unmarked pits. The memorial monuments at the site are relatively recent; Liam says that Irish people do not want to remember the famine because it was associated with poverty and insecurity. I can’t say I blame them, but being there and knowing the history is deeply moving.

To complete the day we walked up and around the Ardmore cliffs. The cliff walk is a little strenuous and covers about 3 miles, but it is worth the effort because the views are so beautiful. The run of good weather is continuing and we made the most of it again yesterday–then we all slept very well last night.

On with the photos and then on to tomorrow and our last field trip for this year!

Listening to Liam.

Perched on the seawall at Ardmore.

Walking into the famine graveyard.

The famine memorial

St. Declan’s Stone: According to legend, Declan received a golden bell from heaven while saying a Mass. He wanted to bring it to Ireland from Rome but left it behind because it was too big. When he sailed to Ireland from Wales, the bell appeared, floating on this boulder, as he entered the harbor. Pilgrims now climb through the space under the stone to receive physical healing and spiritual benefits.

At St. Declan’s Well, thought to have been a hermitage for him and now a pilgrimage site for believers.

On the Ardmore cliff walk.

One more St. Declan site: a cathedral dating to the 12th century.

Sporty Adventures in Waterford

Yesterday I had a new Waterford experience: I rented (“hired,” they say here) a bicycle and went for a ride on the Waterford Greenway. The Greenway is a 40-odd-kilometer paved pedestrian/cycleway that runs from Waterford city centre to Dungarvan. Several companies rent bicycles for the Greenway–and provide shuttle bus service if one gets to Dungarvan and doesn’t want to make the return trip! I did not even try to go all the way but did go to the halfway-ish point at Kilmacthomas, 18km from where I started at the WIT Arena. And I rode all the way back–no shuttle bus for me. The riding is pretty easy; you can set your own pace and there are lots of places to take breaks. I only wish the saddle of my bike had been a little softer, but at least the scenery was gorgeous and the weather was perfect:

The Greenway follows an old railway line.

This short-gauge railway still runs as a tourist attraction.

A coffee shop housed in a train car at Killoteran

Taking a break at Killoteran

The Waterford Walls art project is here on the Greenway too.

Countryside scenery

“Thomaisin” . . . Thomason . . .hmm

Looking back toward Kilmacthomas as I started the return trip.

My trusty steed!

Alongside the River Suir close to WIT Arena

The mini train from Killoteran in action.

Looking down toward the river from a flyover right before returning to WIT Arena.

Bike Hair, Don’t Care.

I’m kind of surprised that I managed to bike that entire distance (a little over 22 miles) withou being in agony this morning. I was tired by the end but very glad I did it. The Greenway is gorgeous and it’s been a real economic boon to the area. It’s obviously very popular: yesterday was a slow day (from what I was told, everyone was at the beach) but the coffee shops and restaurants were doing a land-office business. Maybe next year I can make it all the way to Dungarvan!

This afternoon after class we had another “sporty” experience: the students got to try out hurling and Gaelic football with 3 members of WIT’s GAA club. Inevitably they go in a little reluctant: it’s late in the program; everyone is tired and starting to get stressed out about their class assignments; the outing is scheduled after a class day when it’s normally time for some food or a nap. But inevitably they end up having a great time trying to learn the basics of these sports. There’s just something about getting to kick a ball around or try to hit one with a stick that brings out everyone’s energy.

I can’t explain hurling, of which I know very little, and I really can’t explain Gaelic football, of which I know nothing. What I can say is that Gaelic sports are incredibly beloved here in Ireland. There are local clubs for every age level; people play for and/or support the counties that they were born in forever–our colleague Paraic is a Waterford hurler and coach married to a Kilkenny girl; to his cheerful consternation, his kids play for Kilkenny because that’s where they live. Even the top-level teams that play for national championships are purely amateur: sponsors pay the team’s expenses but players don’t get paid. Seeing our students catch a little of that enthusiasm is so much fun. This outing always ends up being one of the main things they remember and talk about.

Tomorrow we go to An Rinn, which is Co. Waterford’s gaeltacht (Irish-speaking region) to visit an Irish-language school, a famine graveyard, and the Ardmore cliff walk. Stay tuned to see if I learn any new words in Irish!

The Dunbrody vs. the WIT bus

Yesterday was one of my favorite field trip days of our program: the day we spend in Co. Wexford. Wexford is the county just northeast of Waterford, is the home of our illustrious consultant Jonathan, and is the birthplace of the tastiest strawberries I’ve ever had. We made an ambitious four stops in Wexford over the course of the day, and I’m willing to acknowledge that our reach may have exceeded our grasp ever so slightly.

First up was the Irish National Heritage Park: 9000 years of Irish prehistory and early history in a 35-acre site. The park presents a walk-through tour of reconstructed settlements that begin with Mesolithic hunter-gatherer huts and end with a Viking long ship:

Our petite student at right in the aqua green shirt was, according to our tour guide, about the height of the average Mesolithic person (she is 12″/30cm shorter than me).

Neolithic thatched-roof dwellings–unlike the earlier nomads’ huts, these houses are larger and fixed in place.

Walking through time . . .

Students learning about human sacrifice in a stone circle. My “Nobody’s dying today!” approach to study abroad was tested!

The “buachaill” (lookout tower) of a ringfort. “Buachaill” is Irish for “boy”; boys would have stood guard in the lookout tower. Ringforts were in use around 600-900 CE.

An early monastery.

Listening to our tour guide by the monastery chapel.

I am just tickled that I managed to sneak this picture.

Students were enchanted by these birds. But what are they?

A crannog or artificial island used for settlement and defense from about 1000 to 400 years ago.

Our students inside a replica Viking long ship.

The park lies alongside the River Slaney.

The Heritage Park is so impressive. The tour guides really know their stuff; the exhibits are obviously very well researched; and the park brings to life and illustrates the abstract idea that humans have lived in Ireland for nine millennia! You can even spend the night in the ringfort (it’s on AirBnB) or eat a meal cooked in their fulacht fiadh–a Bronze Age way of cooking by heating water in a pit with hot stones. For all of us who have a hard time conceiving of history as being more than about 250 years old, it’s an excellent experience.

Our next stop was a quick dip into Enniscorthy for lunch. Enniscorthy is a small town anchored by a Norman castle and a cathedral; it prides itself on being “the home of Brooklyn” because the main character of the book & film sets out from there for the bright lights of NYC. We are guilty of just using it as a lunch stop, which is why I only have 2 pictures:

(Those are our students gazing up at the umbrellas. Their order of operations was 1. Notice something pretty; 2. Take selfies with it; 3. Look at it with their own eyes.)

Lunch was quick and then we were off to the 1798 Rebellion Centre for a tour. I have to confess that I am not a fan of this place even though I know it’s really good. The “interactive, hands-on” museum model just is not my jam, and I am not hugely into military history either. But it is a great place that brings history to life. I’ll be sitting in the café with the bus drivers in gladness of heart while you all enjoy it.

At this point in the day, things started to go a bit sideways. We had enough extra time before our tour and dinner at the Dunbrody Visitor Centre to make a quick photo stop at Sliabh Coillte (there are 5 ways to spell it; all of them are wrong), a 268.5-meter (881 feet) hill in Wexford from which you can see into 5 counties. Slievecoilta is a gorgeous place and I was very excited that we had a chance to go there.

A hasty snap at Slieve Coilte.

Unfortunately, no sooner had we all piled off the buses and scattered about for photos than Jonathan told me our bus had overheated. Seamus (intrepid driver, extremely determined mechanic, and my occasional Irish accent coach) was working on it but it looked like the bus might have to be towed down the hill. We hastily arranged to ferry the students down in 2 groups on the remaining, non-crippled bus while a replacement bus would be en route to meet us at the Dunbrody by the time we finished our tour and dinner there: a relatively uncomplicated solution as we were to have done the tour in 2 groups anyway. As program director (official payer-for-things) I went with the first group (so I could pay for the tour) but let them go ahead on the tour while I sat on the balcony of the visitors’ center restaurant and drank a latte. Being the official payer-for-things has its privileges. But, again, the tour is excellent and you should do it. The Dunbrody is a replica of a mid-19th-century “famine ship.” Built in 1845–the year the famine began–as a cargo ship, it was refitted to carry passengers as demand for emigration from Ireland grew. This tiny-looking ship is recorded as having carried as many as 313 passengers. No surprise that there were fatalities on these “famine ships,” especially among steerage passengers who were provided little in the way of food or sanitation, though the Dunbrody saw fewer fatalities than others. The tour lets visitors hear stories from Dunbrody passengers via live re-enactments while they sit inside the ship’s hold. It’s a particularly interesting tour for Americans because of our close historical and genealogical ties to Ireland–when famine sufferers left Ireland aboard one of these ships they were most likely coming to the U.S. Ships like the Dunbrody are literally where the Irish-American immigrant experience began.

Somewhat ironically after visiting something called a “famine ship,” we all sat down to a delicious dinner. The visitors’ center houses a restaurant that looks out over the ship and the River Burrow, and we always eat there after taking the tour–maybe to reassure ourselves that the famine is comfortably in the past.

Our replacement bus arrived during dinner, as did two students who managed to get themselves left behind on Sleevequiltcha–major shout-out to bus driver Liam who made the run down and back three times. So I can comfortably say all was well that ended well. Yet my colleague couldn’t resist observing that the Dunbrody made it across the Atlantic dozens of times intact, while 170 years later we couldn’t get a bus up a hill ONCE.

 

Even fewer pictures of Dublin

When we last left our heroine she was finishing up a field trip day with students in Dublin. The afternoon called for some administrative work and then I was invited out to Howth to a restaurant called The House.  We had to go in a taxi since Howth is outside Dublin, and the taxi ride took a while thanks to beach traffic. Howth is on the tip of a peninsula that forms the top of Dublin Bay; the scenery was beautiful so the drive was not so onerous (merely expensive!). On the way back the moon was rising over the bay and it was even prettier. But did I take any photos? No, dear reader, I did not. We had an excellent meal at The House. They are hyper-local and give source information for everything on their menus. There was delicious cheese, fish, and charcuterie; I had a very good mushroom risotto; and somehow we all squeezed in desserts as well. One member of our party was in raptures over the ice cream. Worth the side trip if you are in Dublin.

Thursday morning I did not have a field trip with students so I took myself on a field trip to the National Print Museum. Of course, I have been there before but it is always worth another visit. They currently have a special exhibition on the centenary of (the beginning of) women’s suffrage in Ireland–and the museum was pretty empty so I got some good pictures of their collection of printing presses and accoutrements.

Stereotype/electrotype cylinders of typeset pages

Irish type!

Types and typesetting tools

Composing sticks

Monotype casting machine–a forerunner to the Linotype

Duke visits the Linotype!

The Wharfdale press is literally the size of a car.

Samples of book bindings

Anti-suffrage postcards

Pro-suffrage photo cards depicting the activists as attractive conventional women rather than monstrous harridans.

Pro-suffrage postcards rhyming about women’s political ambitions

Anti-suffrage postcards comparing women to animals and alluding to other “questionable” feminine activities, such as cycling.

Pro-suffrage postcards

_The Irish Citizen_ was a pro-suffrage publication; this broadside ad was deliberately provocative.

Looking down on the NPM’s collection from the upper floor. Every time I visit, there are a few retired printers around, fortifying the ink and type metal in their blood.

From the museum and some lunch (can’t remember; might have been a triangular sandwich from EuroSpar) I had to go back to DCU and go through some email. Technology makes working remotely both incredibly easy and frustratingly difficult: 99% of the time I can dispatch routine requests with ease. The remaining 1% is spent trying to find a single document that as of this writing, continues to elude me for the 5th consecutive day. The document failing to surface, I returned to the city centre and met colleagues to make our way toward dinner. It was a gorgeous evening and I had a plate of veggie pasta in cream sauce at a “Viking pub” called The Long Stone. With the World Cup on the big screen and an overall merry atmosphere I can see why people like the place. Unfortunately we had a couple of administrative interruptions during dinner, but on a different night it would have been perfect.

And this is where I really and truly run out of pictures. Friday was the beginning of our free weekend and some solo flânerie for me. I left the “good camera” behind at DCU on purpose (traveling light) and headed to the National Gallery to visit my two favorite paintings in Dublin (Vermeer’s Woman Writing a Letter with her Maid and Charles Jervas’s portrait of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu). Let me just say again that I love going to museums that are free because you don’t feel any pressure to See Everything. You can beeline it to the things that interest you and just stop at anything else that catches your eye along the way, which is what I did.

On the way out of the museum I passed by Coffee Angel so I bought a flat white (paying rent to use their toilets, plus their coffee is really good) and carried it to Kilkenny Shops to see what they had by Orla Kiely. I’ve gotten so many compliments on the bag of hers that I bought here last year. “Thanks! Orla Kiely, Irish designer!” is what I always say. Did not buy anything but enjoyed seeing their “Celebrating Orla Kiely” promotion featuring oversized O. K. bags hanging from the ceiling. Finally I took to Grafton Street for some high-level retail therapy. Grafton is Dublin’s main shopping street (Henry Street is a close second) and is closed to car traffic, so on a good weather day it’s thronging with shoppers, buskers, and tourists in an overall convivial atmosphere. For maximum poshness, I recommend Brown Thomas, a department store that’s a smaller version of something like Galeries Lafayette. There’s also River Island (women’s clothing), Marks & Spencer (literally everything), plenty of shoe stores, cosmetics, clothing, a few jewelers, and of course Irish souvenirs. Without going into the gory details of my purchases I’ll just say I left poorer than I went in, but also better dressed and accessorized. Along the way I had an excellent lunch at Lemon & Duke, in a little pedestrian passage called Royal Hibernian Way just off Grafton. Shout out to all restaurants that give good tables and good service to solo diners and do not make us feel like outcasts.

I had to wrap up my day a little early as I’d left my backpack at DCU for the day and needed to retrieve it, then come back to the city centre to meet students who were going back on the Kavanagh bus with me. Hooray for the Leap Visitor Card and its 72 hours of unlimited rides. We added those to the program this year and they were extremely handy. With backpack retrieved and snacks purchased near the bus stop, I collected my 5 fellow travelers and we said goodbye to Dublin for this year.

It was interesting as always to see students’ reactions to Dublin. I’m a city mouse in some ways (more by inclination than experience); I love the energy of a city and the ability to be anonymous in a crowd. But for lots of people the exposure to a dense urban environment is offputting or even frightening. Modes of public transportation, especially buses, are foreign to the point of invisibility and/or aren’t considered “safe.” Hopefully this weekend gave everyone at least a bit of exposure to a different way of life. Dublin is definitely growing on me now that I’ve clocked a little more time there.

Not enough pictures of Dublin

I got back to Waterford last night (Friday) after 3.5 excellent days in the capital, where we all sweated under the unaccustomed Irish sun. That squinting modifier is deliberate because both senses of it are true: everyone is unaccustomed to so much sun, and it seems like the sun is unaccustomed to shining so much on Ireland. Thursday afternoon a temperature record of 32C (89.6F) was set at Shannon Airport. That was the hottest day; high temps are retreating to the mid-20s (25C = 77F) but even that range is unusual for this country. Everyone is sunburned–including the man I saw from a Dublin bus yesterday who was lying on a lounger in his tiny front garden, getting more sunburn on top of his existing sunburn–pubs are stuffy; buses are baking; and Dublin has banned the use of “hosepipes” (garden hoses) starting Monday. Apparently in a wet country it doesn’t take very many dry days to tip over into drought conditions.

The students were surprised at how much warmer these temperatures seem when one is out in them all day rather than just going from air-conditioned home to air-conditioned car to air-conditioned university campus. But we went out in them all day just the same, and everyone survived. Fortunately it was just hot enough to be tiring, not hot enough to make anyone ill–or at least not any Georgians ill; we did notice an above-average number of ambulances on the move during our days in Dublin.

Tuesday afternoon we kicked off our Dublin visit with a tour of Croke Park, the Gaelic sports stadium. Croke Park has a significant place in Irish culture and history: it is the home of Gaelic sports (hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football) exclusively and therefore a center of Irish national pride. There has been a sports ground at Croke Park for more than a century; the stadium in its current form seats over 82,000 and, from its roof, affords some amazing views of Dublin.

At the stadium entrance are crests of all the Gaelic sports clubs in the world, including in the U.S. and Canada.

Clubs in Canada

The crest of one of Atlanta’s clubs, Clan na Gael

The other Atlanta club is Na Fianna.

2 clubs in Québec: Montreal Shamrocks and Les Patriotes.

Waterford’s crest is at the top next to its name (Port Láirge); these are all the clubs within Co. Waterford.

Inside the players’ lounge where the winning and losing sides party together after they play, a chandelier that changes colors to match the teams playing that day. Blue and white are Waterford’s colors.

Down on the pitch. We couldn’t actually walk on the grass but for 10 euro you could buy a patch of turf in a little pot and take it home!

Views around Dublin from the top of the stadium

On a clear day like this you can see all the way out to the bay.

Looking down onto the pitch from the skywalk, which projects out over the seats.

After Croke Park we headed to our lodgings. While in Dublin we stay at Dublin City University’s Glasnevin campus. The rooms are basic, but comfortable, clean, and safe. Although it gets noisy in the evenings because a lot of student groups stay there, the staff seem to enforce quiet hours pretty assertively. As I am hearing that lodgings in Dublin are getting extremely expensive, DCU is a good option to look at if you’re on a budget. It’s away from the city centre but there is a bus stop right outside the campus with lots of buses going into town. Once we dropped off our luggage we took our own bus to O’Connell Street right in the middle of Dublin and gave the students a very short walking tour to get them oriented: Parnell’s statue, the spire, O’Conell’s statue, the river, Trinity College, and Temple Bar is [*pointing*] over there. Then we faculty and staff made ourselves invisible for a few minutes while the students dispersed, and sheered off to have dinner on our own! (Go to the Gin Palace. Order a Star 75. You can thank me later.)

Wednesday morning we had work to do. The Dublin visit was set up so that each class had one full day for field trips. Wednesday was the morning class field trip day. My job, along with our consultant Jonathan, was to take the students who didn’t have a morning class on a field trip. That means I got to choose our destinations! We walked via Trinity College (again–sensing a theme?) to Christchurch Cathedral, Marsh’s Library, and finally St. Patrick’s Cathedral, with a pause for lunch in a park. I love cathedrals, so I pity da fool who did not.

Trinity College, or as one of the students said, “This is what a university should look like.”

A quotation from Emmeline Pankhurst celebrating the centennial of women’s suffrage in Ireland.

Dublin Castle–en route between Trinity and Christchurch.

Inside Christchurch–always trying to get better at photographing stained glass.

The altar at Christchurch.

I somehow did not take any pictures outside Christchurch, maybe because they have put up these strange panels around the entrance. They’re covered with little-kid-style drawings depicting what’s offered on Christchurch’s children’s tours. That’s great, but the panels detract from the overall cathedral-ness of Christchurch for sure.

Next stop! Archbishop March’s library, the first public library in Dublin. The building, collections, and even the shelves date to the 1770s, so you can imagine I was in my element. Here’s my recommendation as an extremely amateur Dublin tour guide: do not miss Marsh’s Library. It’s nearly as thrilling for book/history/book-history nerds as the Long Room at Trinity, with 1/10th the tourists and for a lot less money. The only small bummer is that they allow only very limited photography, so you will just have to trust me when I say that their current exhibit of extremely rare early books (volumes of which Marsh’s holds either the only copy or one of fewer than 5) is absolutely worth seeing.

It took a while for Marsh’s to figure out that they couldn’t allow people to take books off the premises–they had a lot of thefts over the years. At one time, readers would be locked into one of these carrels while they were reading/studying and would have to demonstrate before they were allowed to leave for the day that they weren’t stealing any books.

A geometry textbook in Arabic on display at Marsh’s.

Most of Marsh’s holdings are pre-1800. The hardest part was not being able to touch anything.

This is a cast of the skull of Esther Johnson, Swift’s “Stella,” made when Stella’s and Swift’s bodies surfaced from their burial site due to flooding and casts were made of their skulls before they were re-interred. Note also the Lego minifigure, one of several cached around Marsh’s for visitors to find.

We took a little break at this point in the tour to sit under trees in a park and eat some sandwiches. As much as I love all the sights we saw on Wednesday, the picnic lunch may have been the best part. It’s the kind of thing one never thinks to do at home and never gets to do in Dublin. Plus I had a sandwich of brie and cranberry sauce on toasted whole wheat ciabatta and it was SO DELICIOUS.

Our final stop for the day was St. Patrick’s Cathedral, my favorite place in Dublin. Seeing Swift and Stella’s burial plaques in the floor and reading his epitaph never fails to give me a thrill. Not to mention, of course, that the cathedral is beautiful:

Swift’s epitaph, which he composed.

Swift’s pulpit-on-wheels. The “urban legend” is that he would have an assistant wheel him up next to people who were sleeping in church. I don’t believe for a moment that it’s an urban legend!

Students trying out brass rubbing.

Flags of Irish regiments who fought for Britain hang throughout the cathedral. They are never removed, simply not replaced when they decompose.

Arms of members of the Order of St. Patrick.

Still working on the stained-glass thing.

Our “morning orphans” with Jonathan.

At this point the pictures are about to run out–I took very few Thursday and none yesterday. But this entry is already over 1300 words so I will take a pause here and post more about Dublin tomorrow.

Ireland has everything

Today was our first field trip–to Woodstock Manor and Kilkenny–and along the way we discovered that Ireland has everything: sheep (SO many sheep), sourdough bread, greenery, castles, cathedrals, sweaters, ice cream, pillows . . . and that’s all in just one county!

I took a lot of pictures at our first stop (Woodstock Manor) because it’s gorgeous, a few at our second stop (St. Canice’s Cathedral), and exactly one at our final stop (Kilkenny Castle). It’s possible that I was a little tired by then. But it was an ideal first field trip: a crash introduction to Irish history in all its variety as well as a day-long parade of Irish weather. We woke up to what the Irish call a “soft day”–cool, overcast, misty–and were all a little damp by the time we were standing bravely on the Woodstock Manor grounds listening to Jonathan and hoping we didn’t look too discouraged.

Jonathan introduces us to Woodstock Manor, an 18th-century aristocratic home that was occupied by the Black & Tans during the Irish Civil War in the 1920s and then burned as soon as they withdrew.

The 18th- and 19th-century owners of Woodstock Manor–the Tighe family–were aristocrats and thus not much beloved by the townspeople who were their tenants. That their house would be first occupied by a brutal anti-independence force and then burned down to prevent such a thing from ever happening again is about as close to “Irish history in a nutshell” as it’s possible to get. At the same time, the Tighe family’s resources made it possible for them to collect plant specimens from all over the world and turn their estate grounds into a beautiful series of gardens. Although the entire property was left to decay for decades after the house was burned in 1922, it now belongs to the Kilkenny County Council which is maintaining and restoring the gardens. The eventual fate of the house is less certain. It may be beyond repair.

The so-called “Icehouse” on the property may have been an icehouse, or may have been a sort of playhouse in which the Tighes could pretend to be peasants à la Marie Antoinette’s Hameau at Versailles.

Looking backward down the yew tree walk. The style of the gardens is recognizable to anyone who’s seen a garden by Capability Brown or Le Nôtre, though Woodstock is less elaborate (at least today).

The rose garden: climbing roses on arched trellises leading to a central round garden of rosebushes.

One of my colleagues pointed out that the Tighes never got to see their trees grow to maturity. Kind of sad when you think about it that way!

I may have had too much fun taking pictures of bark. 

If today is any indication, students would benefit from taking more nature walks.

Looking back toward the garden entrance with a great view in the distance.

By the time I took this picture the weather had started to clear and I had to fake a gloomy, atmospheric look using a filter on the camera. Cheating?

“Big study abroad smiles, everybody!”

From Woodstock we went on to Kilkenny, where we parked at one end of the “Medieval Mile” (Kilkenny Castle) and walked to the other (St. Canice’s Cathedral). St. Canice’s isn’t enormous, but it is beautiful. It dates from the 13th century; the 100-foot round tower next to it is 400 years older. As a medieval city, Kilkenny isn’t unique in Ireland–there are others, including Waterford, that have been settled for many centuries–but it is special because it retains some medieval features that others no longer have. The round tower is one of those. It’s one of only 3 in Ireland that you can climb to the top of. (I did not climb it–went to eat lunch instead!)

A small shrine inside St. Canice’s

1. Poor guy. 2. Amazing that this tomb is 400+ years old and it’s just right out there where people can see and touch it. 3. Poor guy, though.

That’s my colleague in the foreground. It’s his first time out of the U.S. and he is having the BEST TIME.

I ducked out while some of the students were still waiting to climb the round tower and went to get lunch with another colleague. We walked part of the way back up the Medieval Mile and ended up at a restaurant called Marble City Bar. Apparently it is a “sleek, dimly lit saloon” (according to a review I just ran across online). We ate upstairs where it was very pleasant to be up off the street in a tranquil setting. I had a beetroot, feta, and pecan salad and stumped our waiter by asking if he knew where the pecans came from. When I explained that I was asking because we were from Georgia where lots of pecans are grown, his best guess was that maybe theirs are shipped over from us!

After lunch we just walked around window-shopping for a while before finding an ice cream shop called Murphy’s that I highly recommend. At 4.50 for a small cone they’re not giving it away–except that they are very generous with the samples. I tried 3-4 flavors (including “Dingle gin”) before setting on “Dingle sea salt” (the company is based in Dingle and obviously prides itself on a hyper-local approach) which was a milder version of a salted caramel flavor. Very delicious! Nearly all of our students ended up at Murphy’s before we left. Don’t tell anyone, but one of my favorite things about leading study abroad is that students are always eager to get ice cream.

A coffee and some chatting on a bench later, it was time to head back to our meeting point on the Kilkenny Castle grounds and get ready to get on the buses. For the second consecutive year I did not tour Kilkenny Castle. Oops. With any luck it will still be here at this time next year and so will I. (“God willin,'” as they say here)

#studyabroadsquad  [. . . yeah, that was dorky.]

Classes tomorrow and then we set out for the Ring of Kerry on Thursday. Keep your fingers crossed for good weather.

 

Calm before the storm

It’s 8 p.m. and after 2 days of calm and focused work leavened with approximately 10% chaos, all is in readiness at WIT for the students’ arrival tomorrow. I’ve been in full administrator mode: meetings, phone calls, paying for things, making spreadsheets, moving papers around, writing emails headlined “One more thing.”

View from my desk yesterday with my Bullet Journal in full effect.

But it’s not as if I haven’t seen the sun for 2 days. Yesterday started out warm and pretty, deteriorated into wind and drizzle, and got very gusty and chilly overnight. But today was bright and gorgeous!

Today I got the students’ ID cards, bus passes, and Heritage Cards. Got everything made into packets and placed into the students’ rooms. I think I got most of my steps for the day walking up and down the stairs and hallways of the dorms!

Everything in piles as delivered to me earlier today.

What was left after sorting and delivering everything–plus a celebratory pizza!

Students are arriving at the Atlanta airport as I watch the group chat to make sure everyone gets there and all is well. With any luck they’ll go through to their gate right around the time I plan to go to bed. While I’m sleeping, they’ll be flying. Tomorrow we leave on the buses by 7:00 a.m. to collect everybody from Dublin airport, and then the real fun begins!

Packing for Ireland

By popular demand (a.k.a. “2 people asked me”), I present my packing for the 2018 European Council Ireland study abroad program. I’ll be in Waterford, Ireland for 5 weeks (departing tomorrow) with day trips around the southeast of Ireland and weekend trips to Dublin and Kerry. 58 students and 7 faculty will be joining me for this fantastic learning experience. I am excited! And as many of my friends know, I am an enthusiast about travel logistics and thus pleased to have an opportunity to flex my packing skills in a specific and interesting situation.

Here are the parameters: we are based at Waterford Institute of Technology and staying in dorms there. I will have my own room and bathroom with pretty good storage for clothes but not many convenient places to put things in the bathroom. Irish summer weather ranges from warmish (mid-70s Fahrenheit/low 20s Celsius) to chilly with rain almost always possible. We will be in a tour bus about every other day and have only one occasion in five weeks that will call for a dressy outfit. WIT has laundry service (magical) for €8 per load. Ireland uses 220V electricity and the same enormous-looking plugs as the UK. I am flying Delta which allows one checked bag free of charge on international flights with a weight limit of 50 pounds, plus one carry-on and one “personal item.”

And here’s what I’m taking/how I’m arranging it. Click on the pictures to embiggen* them.

All you REALLY need on a trip: money and ID! (I am taking cards as well, obviously, just not showing them to the Internet.)

 

Carry-on toiletries. The little pink box is a contact lens case.

 

Electronics:
Tablet, camera, headphones, card reader, portable charger, watch (which I’ll wear), outlet adapters (Not pictured: my phone, because I used it to take the photos, and the chargers for the phone and watch, because I have to use them tonight).

It’s hard to photograph a fully loaded backpack! My tablet, some paperwork, one spare outfit, carry-on toiletries, passport, wallet, phone, and Duke ride in here. This backpack is my carry-on and my overnight bag for our Dublin and Kerry visits.

The backpack has a pocket for a portable charger with an integrated USB cable and port so I can place my charger inside the backpack, plug the cable in, and charge my phone with my backpack. Neat trick!

Front pocket: toothbrush, wipes, tissues, floss, deodorant, lens case, headphones, wallet, pen.

Outermost pocket: clear bag of carry-on liquids; passport

Pro tip: Don’t take your clear bag of liquids out of your carry-on unless the TSA agents are asking everyone to do so. As often as not, you won’t be asked, and that’s one less thing to fiddle with as you go through the security checkpoint.

Pro tip #2: If you travel more than a couple times a year, consider applying for TSA Pre-Check. You get to go through a dedicated security line without removing your shoes or taking your liquids and computer out of your bag.

My suitcase: 26″ x 18.5″ x 10″ (66cm x 47cm x 25cm). 5.5 lbs. (2.5kg) empty. It’s a Samsonite I got on clearance at Walmart and it has served me well.

Slippers are in my carry-on; black sneakers will be on my feet; the wingtips, running shoes, and flip-flops go in the suitcase.

I’m taking a total of 4 pants, 6 t-shirts/tank tops, 3 button-down shirts, 2 long-sleeve t-shirts.

As you can see, I have a defined color palette. I’d like to say that’s for convenience of mixing and matching clothes when traveling, but in fact I pretty much wear these colors all the time at home too.

Plus a small amount of workout clothes, 2 pullover sweaters, and my Waterford pullover.

The Waterford pullover is a souvenir from my training visit to Waterford in 2016. I have worn it a ton both here and in Ireland, where it caused me to be mistaken for an Irish person last year at the Guinness Storehouse. The only other person I’ve seen wearing one was a 12-year-old girl.

Travel yoga mat (new experiment for this year) and additional toiletries. Celestial Seasonings tin full of OTC meds, because I am my mother’s daughter.

Dr. Laura Trenchcoat rides again. Orla Kiely (Irish designer!) cross-body bag.

All in! Contact lens solution is the only full-size toiletry item I take along instead of buying on-site. Camera in its padded bag is in top middle of the suitcase.

Special thanks to Vicki for the packing cubes! Anything you don’t see in the photo is already cubed up and tucked away. A lady doesn’t show her underwear on the Internet, after all.

Pro tip #3: Tucked away on the side are two washcloths. European lodgings generally don’t provide washcloths, so bring your own.

That’s everything except a couple of small items I have to use tonight, e.g., my eyeglasses, which will go in my carry-on. Oh, and I am taking a pashmina-type shawl/scarf and a neck pillow with a Velcro strap to attach to my backpack.

Moment of truth: 35 pounds (16kg).

I usually come in under 30 lbs. on the outbound trip, so 35 pounds is making me nervous! My exercise gear accounts for the additional weight. Hoping to run in the mornings and/or do a little yoga at night. If that doesn’t happen, I’ll leave those things out next year. My favorite part of packing is that there’s always another chance to perfect my system.

Tune in later this week for updates from the Emerald Isle!

*It’s a perfectly cromulent word.