The Aran Islands and the Cliffs of Moher

WOOOOO HI EVERYONE! Settle in with a mug of tea (no milk, we are not milky-tea people) and let me tell you about my trip last weekend to the famed Aran Islands and the rock formations adored by geologists everywhere: the Cliffs of Moher. We took the Paddy Wagon again this trip because it’s much easier than planning everything ourselves, and why do anything yourself if someone else can do it for you? But seriously, the Paddy Wagon staff are friendly and knowledgeable (except the guy who works in their Washington Street office—we figure he was once a Vic Lodge reception member). We piled onto the bus around 1pm on Friday, where I met 2 girls I’d gone sailing with the weekend before. Sean, our tour guide, played some Irish music and some American Top 40, the two varieties one  can find on a given Irish radio station. It was a few hours to get to Galway, where we were staying for the next two nights. Norah, Alison and I found a Mexican restaurant to our great delight, and then we sat in a pub to listen to some Irish music. We were back at the hostel and in bed by 10:30.

The next day we were up early to visit the Aran Islands. We drove through Connemara, which is the raw, rugged terrain some people might associate rural Ireland with. When we got to the ferry terminal, Sean realized that he wanted to write down everyone’s descriptions, so that if someone got lost on the island he could ask around for them. So he took the next 10 minutes writing down the following descriptions:

Alicia: Belgium, brown hair

Jackie: U.S., brown hair

Norah: U.S., brown hair

John: U.S., short hair

and so on for each person on the bus. As it turns out, 90% of the people on the bus had either brown hair or short hair, or both. When he was almost done, one girl asked, “couldn’t we just take  a group picture?”

Sean thought this was a marvelous idea, so he took out his phone and took a group picture of us. But it was on his phone and he didn’t come with us on the ferry, so somewhere in his camera roll he has all of us brown-haired Paddy Wagon tourists in case he ever needs to find us.

The ferry ride to the island was really nice, but the island itself was the coldest I’ve been here. But that didn’t stop us. We tromped all over the island, running on the beach, checking out the Wollen Mills and climbing over surprisingly sturdy rock walls (we may have been trespassing–oops. But to our credit there was no civilization where we were so we weren’t bothering anyone or blatantly hiking through people’s yards while making steady and unnerving eye contact). On the way to a crumbly temple on the top of a hill, we stopped and patted some friendly donkeys, and tried less successfully to make friends with some fuzzy cows. I tripped while approaching one, startling it, and Alison threw some grass at another in an attempt to feed it (apparently she’s never tried to feed an animal) and also startled it. So we left the cows alone after that.

The best part of the trip was the stop at the Cliffs of Moher, which we drove through the little town of Doolin to see (although unfortunately we didn’t stop there Mr. and Mrs. Doolen). The cliffs were overwhelming, and my fear of heights kicked in (“ALISON STEP AWAY FROM THE EDGE” “NORAH AT LEAST 3 LIMBS ON THE EARTH AT ALL TIMES” “MORE PEOPLE DIE FROM SELFIES THAN SHARK ATTACKS” “SOMEDAY WE WILL DIE BUT LET IT NOT BE THIS DAY”, etc.) But the cliffs were gorgeous, and we were blessed with dry weather the whole weekend. This week I also had 2 midterms and I think they went well, so it was nice getting those over with. Tomorrow morning I am off to London, so I will be sure to take notes of all the weird stuff the Brits do so I can shamelessly make fun of it here.  Also, in order to blend in, I will strut about and say in a spot-on British accent, “quite right,” “jolly-o” “I DO say” and “capital!” as one does in England.

Have a good rest of the week everyone!

❤ Jackie

cliffs of moher

Jackie Goes Sailing: A Misadventure (also Jackie visits an abandoned insane asylum)

Alrighty! It has been far too long since I have written a post. My apologies!  I guess I have been too busy studying and bettering my education (I am an angel). Anyhoo, 2 weekends ago I went to Cobh and Midleton, both of which are cute towns not too far from Cork by train, but both are small enough that they didn’t need more than a day of exploring. Last weekend Alison, Norah and I hiked up to St. Kevin’s Asylum, which I can see from my bedroom window and stands on a hill overlooking Cork, looking like the beginning of a horror film. Black birds circle it in a sinister sky almost 100% of the time. So naturally we decided to do what anyone in an actual horror film would do: hike to it! (But unlike horror film characters we did this in the daylight). Here’s some background: http://www.abandonedireland.com/skv.html. To our great outward disappointment and inward relief, the building is no longer accessible since huge metal sheets block every door and first-level window.  But we got to wander around the asylum and look into upper-level windows as best we could, which still had tattered curtains in them. We were also able to get into a tunnel which was used to transport the crazies to the chapel and to the regular hospital, which is the longest building in Ireland ans half of which is cushy apartments while the other half is still derelict and undergoing construction. It was a fabulous time.

This weekend I noticed that the UCC sailing club was having a beginner’s day, so I thought I would go. I set my alarm for 6am, and when it went off the next morning I decided that I would rather sleep. But then I stared at the wall for twenty minutes wondering if I had made the right decision, and since by this point I was fairly awake I decided to go after all. The facebook page said to bring warm clothes and water. Then I walked to the city center to catch a bus to Kinsale, which is where we’d be sailing. Here’s a fun Ireland fact: nothing is awake before 9am, especially on a Saturday morning. This might be in part because it doesn’t get light until almost 8am this time of year, but is probably more because everyone was drinking the night before (Except me Grandma Sal) so I had the whole city to myself. When I got to Kinsale at 9 (it takes about an hour to walk to the bus station and another hour to get to Kinsale) there was hardly anybody there, because “The lads were running late” so the growing group of beginners such as myself continued to play horrible icebreaker games until the lads finally showed up around 10. Ireland is fairly laid back about punctuality. When they asked where our life jackets were, they were shocked to find that none of us (we were mainly exchange students) had thought to pack life jackets when we were packing our semesters into one suitcase. It ended up being fine as we just switched off life jackets with whoever happened to be in a boat. After the “the lads” (the experienced people) got the sails up and the boats down to the water, half of us went on a big boat to get into the little sail boats and the rest of us, myself included, went on the dock to watch. They had told us to bring warm clothes, but I foolishly brought only a hoodie and sweatpants. It was freezing. Luckily some of the lads had brought extra jackets and lent me one, which was a huge blessing. While on the dock I met a girl from Belgium and a couple from North Carolina, so that was cool. When it was my turn to be shipped out to the middle of the bay to transfer into one of the sailboats, I got in with a lad who was at the helm (all of the beginners were paired with experienced people who worked the rudder or “roadher” in an Irish accent, and they called us the crew  which I thought was funny since these were two-man boats). Anyway as soon as I got in the boy started naming a thousand boat-terms, and I nodded along, muttering the occasional “mmhmm.” Midway through this lecture he asked, “so, do you speak English?” which was just a tad embarrassing since English is indeed my native tongue and chosen major. So I said something like “Yes sorry I do, I just don’t know these particular boat words” and he said “okay, I’m Jack.” “Jackie,” I said, introducing myself. “No, Jack.” he said. So basically that’s how that went.

Anyway, sailing was really fun despite the cold and horrible awkwardness with which I conversed. My job was simply to pull different ropes and switch sides of the boat when I was told. It was a little exhausting anyway though, and I went to  bed almost as soon as I got home (around 5pm) and got up around 10. So now It’s 11:45 and my sleep schedule is a little funky, but I think I can get back to  sleep. Also, I don’t have any photos of me sailing which is a bummer, but I didn’t want my phone to get wet. Also there really wasnt a time to take a sailing selfie. So I’ve put up pictures of the insane asylum instead. Oh well. next weekend we’re going to the Cliffs of Moher and the Aran Islands, so expect another blog post then!

xox Jackie