Ireland (with students)

I fulfilled a long-term wish of mine this past week and got to go back to Ireland. Traveling with students is always different from traveling on your own, though, and I don’t really feel like I got my fill, so I would really like to go back sometime in the not too distant future with my family.

Part of why I was so drawn to chaperoning this trip was that my colleague was taking us to Northern Ireland, where I had never been. In 2007 when I toured Ireland, Belfast wasn’t on my radar, but I heard good things about it. Since then I’ve started teaching about it to my tourism students so I’ve been dying to go.

I have to say it was pretty shocking. It’s probably naive, but what with the Good Friday Agreement and growing tourism in Northern Ireland, I just sort of figured things were sorting themselves out. We had a really excellent tour guide who took us out of the city center (where this stuff isn’t obvious) and into the segregated outskirts and basically explained that, no, things are NOT sorting themselves out, and in his opinion, won’t anytime soon. I am really glad I went and visited these places since I now feel much less ignorant on the matter, but it is a shame that they still exist.


One of the murals seen through the bus window


The gates that still close at night


The peace wall, which keeps getting higher and higher


Tourists write messages of peace all over it


Our message



In the Protestant area—imagine growing up with these images

We also spent an afternoon in Derry visiting the Bloody Sunday Museum, or, as it’s actually named, the Free Derry Museum, which was fascinating (one of our tour guides was the grandson of one of the men killed) and also made it clear that the wounds are still fresh.


A mural near the Bloody Sunday Museum


The iconic sign in Catholic Derry, which has been used to represent other civil rights movements (notably anti-apartheid, for example). This graffiti dated from the day before. Apparently the sign is often written on.

The Free Derry Museum is very moving, and it’s also growing and will be even more complete in the coming year.

We had some time for more un-controversial sightseeing too, including the Giant’s Causeway, and “down south” (as northerners seem to say), Glendalough.



We ended the trip with a stop at the Dunbrody Project, which is a reconstruction of one of the “coffin ships” that took the Irish away from Ireland during the Potato Famine. This was especially touching for me since I know certain of my ancestors left Ireland at this time. The visit only takes about 45 minutes, but it gives a good idea of the desperate conditions on the ships and the extreme luck of those who survived to lead successful lives in the United States.


Down below, in steerage (but the ships were so small, even first class was right nearby, and depressing)


Hard to get the whole ship in one shot

It was a fascinating trip, full of new sights for me and a lot of insight into the current situation and the history of Ulster and Northern Ireland. But if I get the chance to go back anytime soon with J and Littlest, I’ll return to the southwest where I found Ireland to be at its most stunning and charming when I visited in 2007.



Off to Ireland!

Despite being so attached to my Irish roots that I basically named my firstborn for them, I have only been to Ireland once. It was a fantastic trip and I’ve wanted to go back ever since, of course, but we have so many travel goals that with one thing or another, I haven’t made it back.

Back in 2008 when I went to Ireland, I didn’t make it up to Northern Ireland, and since then, I’ve started teaching a unit on it in my post-bac classes. Teaching about Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway has of course only increased my wanderlust.

I wasn’t supposed to take a school trip this year. But when my colleague started telling me about his trip with the 11th graders, and I told J that it was basically the trip of my dreams, J told me to go for it.

So tomorrow I’ll be leaving my little Paddy to go see lots of other paddies, helping my colleagues take 50 students across the water and to Belfast, the Antrim Coast, Derry, Dublin, and Wexford.

I am so excited, and I hope my little sweetie won’t forget me by the time I get back, with maybe some Irishness rubbed off on me.

Possibly the last post from the road

but I might get bored tomorrow and stop into an internet cafe. It’s a habit I’m prone to. I’m leaving tomorrow back to Reims, but not till evening so I’m thinking of training my way up to a castle north of here. Not a lot is coming to mind to report right this instant… I’ll be staying with the Y’s in Paris tomorrow night because apparently the Thursday night commute to Reims is not incredibly popular. Am looking forward to doing laundry and having more than six shirts to choose from. But otherwise this trip has been pretty far up there in the ratings (you didn’t know there was a standardized ratings system did you?) and in general I think I won’t hesitate to travel alone again.

Not sure how I feel about Dublin though. There are lots of people. I thought I’d been in cities with lots of people (you know, places like Paris) but this place feels much more crowded. I think I’m getting overstimulated. If I ever moved to Ireland I think it would be somewhere smallish. Hooookay. Signing off now.

Wasting time in Cork

Am spending some time in an internet cafe waiting for my bus so perhaps I will retitle all these posts today.

I’m in Cork, have been for two days, and have had a fab time, though have not seen that much of the city. My host met me Friday night and fed me and then we went out to a pub where I had Beamish for the first time. It wasn’t bad. Then yesterday we walked around town a bit and saw some very tempting clothing that I did not buy, and drank some excellent hot chocolate. The place had these huge, huge bars of chocolate and I thought about buying one for my brother but they were seriously heavy (an inch and a half thick and bigger across than a sheet of paper) and I see him so rarely that it wouldn’t really have made sense. My host has been terrific though and I’ve had a lot of fun putzing around.

Later I’m leaving for Dublin where I’ll have three and a half days before flying out Thursday night. I’m considering a day trip to the Wicklow mountaints but I think I’ll hold out on that decision till I get some advice from people who live in Dublin.

What's happened in Killarney

Maybe these aren’t the best post titles ever.

Anyway I’m still in Killarney. I’m leaving at 3:30 for Cork where my host will come meet me at the bus station.

Another American girl arrived in my hostel room last night and we went out. It was pretty fun. First we went to a bar where they had lots of different beers. Okay that’s not true. First we went to a bar/restaurant that had live music but seemed to be full of geriatrics. We left after a bit and went to the second bar, where I had a Newcastle, which reminded me of college. I don’t remember why we drank Newcastle in college. Anyway the bar closed at midnight (lame) but they sent us to a club around the corner with these pathetic free passes to get in. They were outdated, but the bartender turned the 11 into a 17 and the woman taking the passes at the entrance didn’t care at all. There was a pretty good band playing when we went in, covering lots of indie songs and then some heavy metal. But someone drenched my bag in beer when I wasn’t watching so I had to chuck it this morning. It’s okay, it was pretty old anyway and really starting to show its age. So I bought a cheap one. Oh, and apparently when drunk I pick up the accents of people around me. It was completely unintentional but ridiculous. I’m surprised no one made fun of me.

I’m kind of amazed by how much I like Ireland. I always thought I would like it but honestly kind of figured my expectations were a little high. They weren’t. And so many tourists are French here that I’m wondering if I could get a seasonal (summer) job in tourism somewhere. I think it would be the most fun ever.

Speaking of fun I walked up to some gardens this morning and twice passed a woman walking a 3-month-old Westie. I know he was 3 months because I asked her. He was the cutest thing ever (I’m very prone to hyperbole in this post). I’m dying to get one. I think I also want a kitten and I want to name him Patton because it would be funny and because of this song Mala sent me on a mix CD.

So, here’s my current dream life:
1) live somewhere in North America teaching French during the year
2) have Westieand cat
3) go to Ireland for summers to speak French at people (Westie should be small enough to take on planes with me, but not sure if I could manage to take both animals, hrm)

Can it be done? Will do research when I get back from this trip.

Also, want to pester les filles into going to Costa Rica at some point next year. American girl from last night (whom I gave my e-mail address, so maybe we can meet up again in Dublin) says it’s supposed to be really cheap. And our ex-Spanish assistant friend who came with us to Spain lives there.

In Ireland

So I’m in Ireland! It’s great. It’s everything I hoped it would be, which is a bit surreal. You know how you have preconceived notions of some place and then once you’re actually going there you expect it won’t really be like that? Maybe other people don’t do that. Anyway, Ireland is exactly as I hoped. They really do have lots of shop signs in that calligraphy font. And those dry walls really do divide up all the fields. It reminds me of that Andy Goldsworthy (correct name?) video.

I got on a bus to Galway at the Dublin airport (after successfully manipulating my last public transport in Poland–which did involve a conversation with me saying things like “airport” and “yes” and the other person saying lots of things I didn’t understand at all) and the bus driver had an excellent Irish accent, and spent the entire trip talking to the older woman seated behind him. It was fun to listen to. When I got off he said “Welcome home” and I’m not really sure what that was about, but then he asked me where I was from. I’m pretty sure the American accent gives me away immediately.

I got to Killarney tonight after two fab nights in Galway. I loved the city and my hosts. There were lots of Americans walking around town. Yesterday I went on a tour to the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren and took too many pictures so rest assured, will post too many of those later. The weather was perfect, which the guide kept reminding us, because apparently it can get really windy and rainy up there.

I went out with the hosts last night to a pub in Galway which was lots of fun, and talked to lots of foreigners, and got to speak a little French.

My bus stopped over for an hour in Limerick. I toyed with the idea of stopping for longer and waiting for the next one but in the end I decided there wasn’t enough to do there. Apparently someone now does an Angela’s Ashes tour which I might have been interested in but I arrived after it normally starts. Limerick from the bus station looked a bit run down. But it’s supposed to be on the rise so maybe I just saw the wrong bit of it. The accent (well the accent at the bus station anyway) was almost incomprehensible. And an annoying girl begged two euros off of me. I was pretty irritated and mostly gave it to her so she would leave me alone. I’m not exactly piling up money right now. (There is a real expression that I could use here to say that but I can’t seem to think of it.) So, that is the end of my disproportionately long paragraph on Limerick. I was perhaps disproportionately interested (but not enough to stay more than an hour) because part of my family is from there.

I obviously just arrived in Killarney but so far 90% of the tourists seem to be French.

Trying to think if I have anything to add right now. I love Ireland so far. I’ve never felt so comfortable traveling. The Irish are so friendly. It’s good for me to be reminded that there are great places that aren’t France.

A Big Traveling Post

So I just spent a lot of money. On airline tickets! Yeah I kinda jumped the gun but I hate waiting and everything’s cheaper now. SO. Here’s what the month of April looks like for me:

Sunday April 6: Fly Transavia to Krakow
April 6-13 make my way up to Gdansk (am hoping to stop in Warsaw and also see Sopot)
Sunday April 13: Fly Centralwings from Gdansk to Dublin
April 13-24: wander around Ireland
Thursday April 24: Fly Air Lingus from Dublin to Paris
It arrives at 9 pm so I might ask the Y’s if I can spend another night with them.

I also joined CouchSurfing. So if no one wants to go to Poland with me (not really holding my breath on that one, but it’s possible) I’ll do some couchsurfing so I don’t have to hang out completely alone. And I planned the Ireland dates so that I can choose among a few tours if no one wants to come drive around randomly with me. Okay well that’s not really accurate. People who’ve traveled with me know that actually I’m maybe too organized. But I like the idea of rambling around Ireland in a left-side stick-shift (woo!) on the wrong side of the road. Doesn’t it sound like fun? Come with me!

Soooo. I can stop panicking about traveling now. I was pondering this February break (honestly it’s not all I think about, I swear) and the fact that it’s only a week long so really I don’t have to feel obliged to go a million miles away. If I went skiing with Laura (which would require a couple nights in Nancy I imagine) and to Paris with D and L for a day or two I think I would be satisfied. There are some things I want to do in Paris (Centre Pompidou, Jewish Museum, NOT buying shoes, any other uncommon suggestions?). And if JS comes through on the Bordeaux invitation all the better, I could spend two or three days down there. Or maybe someone will want to go to Lyon. I’m just gonna sort of wing this one.

Just to make this post comprehensive, the rest of the year looks like this:

May 14-28ish: Possible visit from and wandering with Laurel
Jun 10-12: Possible visit to see parents in the Spanish Pyrenees, but am not entirely sure it’s worth it for just two days, maybe my June 9 class will be canceled
June 13-15: Weekend at the Ys in Paris with Mom and Dad
June 30-July 7: St. Malo with Mom and Dad (although they will have Important Scientific Meetings to go to)
some time in July: a week in Morocco with Malavika and her friend Kim!

And after that it’s all up in the air, depending on where I get into grad school. But I’m paid here through August.