By: Adriana Avila and Shanna Nollette
Nineteen lucky Saint Mary’s Gaels landed in Dublin, Ireland Thursday morning, January 10th. Shortly after the long flight, we met Philip Smith, our amazing driver. After a quick walk to the bus, we loaded our bags and began our journey. From the moment we arrived, we were graced with knowledge of Ireland through Irish eyes. On our way to the first hotel, Philip shared facts about the highways and some of Ireland’s secrets and treasures. For example, 85% of Ireland’s goods are exported (including the famous Bailey’s Irish Cream).
After a short lesson on the highways, Philip shared advice for us ‘youngins’ traveling in a distant land. Which included “mind your guts”, “buy water at supermarkets,” and something along the lines of encouraging us to take in this experience . . . something we all plan to do. It did not take long to realize the obvious differences between Moraga and Ireland: the official currency is Euro, cars drive on the left, all signs are in both Irish and English, and, of course the rain.
Carvery to Cashel
Quick bit: Our first meal was at the Silken Thomas Lounge and Bar. A carvery stop for the hungry. There was something for everyone! This was our first introduction to Irish cuisine.They had everything from fish and chips to roast beef, various side of potato, and even cauliflower with cheese. We stuffed our faces and then ourselves into the bus.
‘Cashel’ on the Hill…cue Ed Sheeran
At the Rock of Cashel we had the pleasure of listening to our wonderful tour guide, Vanessa. Vanessa was very helpful in providing detailed facts about the historic site.
Upon first glance one may have assumed that this historical site was once where kings lived, while this is in fact true, later in history, the Rock of Cashel was gifted to the Church. Many people think of churches as a safe space, but at the Rock of Cashel, it was more of a dangerous place. In 1647 during the Irish Confederate Wars, people where forced to take cover at this cathedral when the English Protestant Parliamentarian army began to attack. Eventually the army lit the roof on fire, forcing the people to leave because of the smoke. It was said that there was not a place where a body did not lay after this attack. It was surprising and sad to hear that such an attack would happen at a cathedral. Though the end of that battle held a tragic ending, the beauty and spirit of the cathedral are treasured nowadays.
Vanessa took us inside the cathedral where we got to see this beauty up close. Although there is no longer a ceiling or roof, some walls have crumbled, and all the glass is gone, it was easy to imagine what made this building such a remarkable place. After viewing the cross-shaped cathedral, we headed inside to the warm museum where Vanessa showed us where the church’s choir stayed. Inside their living quarters hung a detailed tapestry which Vanessa described as the one thing that the choir members used to spend time observing.
The members would spend time looking for flaws in the tapestry as a form of entertainment, but also it was a way for them to remind themselves that only God is perfect.
Meet Bart, Our (Cork)y Guide
After our first sleep, we enjoyed a fine continental breakfast and then made our way onto the streets of Cork. When we walked downstairs for breakfast, we were surprised to see the wide selection of food (buttered eggs, grilled tomatoes, various sausages, cheeses, and so much more!)
Our tour was led by Bart Bambury. Bart was the ultimate tour guide. He was funny, knowledgeable, detailed, engaging, and caring. In between his fast walking (or slow running some might say), he made sure to point out and explain all the important details behind the wonderful city of Cork.
“You don’t have to go to Pisa, we have the leaning tower of Cork.” -Bart Bambury
In the first part of the tour, Bart introduced us to our own hotel, The Imperial Hotel. This was the last hotel where Irish revolutionary soldier, Michael Collins, stayed before he was tragically killed. Frederick Douglass, JFK, and Grace Kelly are some other notable people who have visited the hotel.
“You thought you had a watergate? We had a watergate.”- Bart Bambury
The tour continued outside onto the streets of Cork. Bart went into great detail about the history and special meaning behind each aspect. For example, the red and white buildings represented the limestone from northern Cork and sandstone from Southern Cork. This was reflected throughout the city, from doors to jackets.
Bars and Bands and Beers…oh my!
Quick bit: Don’t miss out on Irish pubs! The atmosphere makes for a great night out with the group! Especially when you make it back by 12:30am. #curfew
To The Coast of Cobh
In the town with three names (Cove, Queenstown, and Cobh), we learned about some important parts of Irish history, specifically, emigration and poverty of the nation. At the Cobh Heritage Center, we had the opportunity to experience some parts of history with an interactive activity. Each of us were handed a sheet of paper with a name of an Irish immigrant and the ship they sailed on. Students really enjoyed this experience because it gave us a chance to see the process of migration from a personal perspective while keeping us all engaged amidst the jet lag.
Our last stop of the day was a quick visit to the St. Colman’s Cathedral. Fun fact: This year marks the cathedral’s 100th birthday. The cathedral was paid for with the pennies of the poor in that town. Having a cathedral near the port was special to the Catholics in the community because they wanted the immigrants to have something to remember of Ireland when they left.
Sláinte to Ireland!