A Third Trip to Ireland

Two days ago we got back from my third trip to Ireland. We spent the week with my parents and my brother and his family. It’s hard to sum up so much feeling in one post, since there was so much that was satisfying about this trip. I love Ireland and continuously ponder my roots there. I’d been dreaming of going there with J and Littlest since my last trip there with students. It was also incredibly gratifying to see Littlest bond so quickly with his American cousin, Tiniest, who is pretty much the same size as him now.

We were based in County Galway and did a few day trips. First, to Connemara National Park where J and Littlest and I hiked all the way up Diamond Hill (everyone else came too but turned back at different points before the top).

We took the ferry to the largest Aran Island, Inis Mor, where we took a mini-bus tour that both two-year-olds amazingly enjoyed.

View of the island from Dun Aonghasa (ancient ring fort)
Fertile Aran Island land
My boys in the mist at the fort

We also went to the Cliffs of Moher, which I saw as part of a group tour in 2008. We parked in Doolin this time and walked for about an hour to get to a look-out point.

Walking and “walking”

We also did lots of walking on the beaches.

A beach on the Salthill Promenade

Otherwise we just spent time watching the boys giggle together.

Exhibit A: Playdough

Littlest is extremely into all types of vehicles right now, so this trip was rich for him. He was finally aware of airplanes and was very excited to see them all at the airport and enjoyed being on one. With the Galway area being such a tourist region he also got to see lots of tour buses and even double-decker buses which he pronounces adorably “a-bit-a-bit-a-bit-a bus” (or some variation). He even got to take a ferry out to Inis Mor and loved the mini-buses on the island. As for the time difference, he overly adjusted very quickly and so now we are just trying to get him back on some sort of normal schedule, but the whole summer has more or less been like that.

Anyway, for trips with toddlers, western Ireland was fabulous. We flew Aer Lingus from Nantes to Dublin and then rented a car (so J got to drive on the left again). My dad found a rental west of Galway that fit us all easily. We packed our raincoats with us everyday and they as well as Littlest’s red pants were vital though we really had good weather for Ireland—we didn’t even go to the swimming pool and only did one indoor activity, the last day (the Galway Aquarium).

It’s a bit sad to be home to be honest. Even with all the communication and logistics that traveling in a big group requires, it was a trip that really allowed me to get my head out of the everyday drudges and dream about other things (more on that to come, maybe).

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.