I'm back home in Michigan now after six amazing weeks abroad. This blog, however, isn't about that so much as it is about my last week in Dublin; I spent the last six or so days running around the city and surrounding towns in an effort to cram in as much as I could before I came home, and as a result, didn't exactly leave time to talk about it here. Oops!
I started out my week by visiting the Christchurch Cathedral on Monday afternoon. It's under construction currently, so a lot of it is covered in scaffolding and it's constantly humming with the activity of construction workers and heavy machinery, but it was still breathtaking. The external architecture was almost enough to satisfy me, and I would have been content to sit outside for quite a while if the day hadn't been quite so chilly and damp.
If you do visit Christchurch, though, don't get too distracted by the outside. The interior is just as gorgeous, if not more so, and unlike St. Patrick's Cathedral, there aren't nearly as many people wandering around. Every twenty minutes or so, you can take part in a guided tour of the cathedral and learn a little more about its history. If, however, that's not your cup of tea, you can find plenty of interesting artifacts to amuse you just by walking around on your own.
You can also go down into the cathedral's crypt, full of historical treasures and items from the various television shows and movies that have used the cathedral as a setting, such as The Tudors. I entered the crypt expecting old mummies and tombs; instead, I found myself face to face with the decorations from an old Alice in Wonderland production. I can't decide which one would have been more frightening!
Also within the crypt are two famous animals, mentioned in the writing of James Joyce. They are the mummified cat and mouse, found inside the pipes of the church organ. They presumably got caught in there some decades before, and couldn't get out. There they remained until they were discovered, well-preserved and still frozen in the midst of their chase. Now they're on display in the crypt, right alongside giant mushrooms and fashionable corsets.
Christchurch was enough to keep me occupied for quite a while. Afterwards, I made my way to a few bookshops to pick up a copy of each of the works we'd read in my Irish Literature course; I wanted them as my souvenirs from my time in Dublin. I then took a walk through the Arcade on George's Street and finished my day with some baking and working on papers for my classes. It was a slower start to my week, but I finished everything I wanted to, and that was enough for me!
The following day, I was a bit more adventurous. I hopped on the DART for a trip to Bray after my final class, intending to walk from there to Greystones and catch the DART back to Dublin from there for my last meeting with my RA, Myriam. I'd been told that the path was easy to spot, so long as you follow the beach until you come to some big stone steps.
The path was easy enough after the beach, as it ran alongside the train tracks of the DART. I followed them for a while, camera at the ready, enjoying the seaside air and the beautiful scenery. It was an easy enough walk along a paved street, and I was surrounded by families with small children for the first portion of my journey.
I walked pretty slowly along this route, keeping an eye out for any turns or intersections that might take me up the mountain and start my hike. With the DART on one side and the side of the mountain on the other, I was pretty sure it would be easy to find. Besides all that, there would likely be a sign telling me which way to turn if it came down to it.
Eventually, I came to an old run-down stone fort. It might have been a church at one point, or a house with a thatched roof; I couldn't tell, and there weren't any signs that told me anything. I'd seen plenty of buildings like it before, though, especially around the Aran Islands; I was a little more interested in finding my way up the mountain than in hanging around.
After looking around it for a few minutes, though, I found a flight of stone steps that led up the side of the mountain. I thought that perhaps I had finally found the beginning of the path everyone else had told me to look for, and started up the first flight prepared for another adventure.
At the top of the steps, I was met not with a larger paved or marked path, but rather with a narrow trail that wound through the undergrowth. I wasn't entirely certain that I was where I was supposed to be, but it led upwards and that was the way I wanted to go. So I started to follow it, pulling myself up the steeper portions with the help of weeds and branches hanging down the side of the mountain.
I climbed for close to two hours, most of it alarming in its vertical slant. I was nearly positive that somewhere along the way I had taken a wrong turn, and that I was not actually on the correct route to get to Greystones. Going back down, however, would have been a lot more work - and considerably more dangerous - than continuing onwards and upwards, so I continued on. Eventually, I approached the top. Despite my struggles, the view I got was an absolutely perfect reward.
Or it was, at least, until I encountered some unexpected obstacles including nettles, brambles, and mud. I slipped, slid, and shredded my way along the valley, hoping to encounter either another footpath or another human being in my wandering; it didn't seem likely, but it was the best chance I had at finding my way to Greystones and getting back to Dublin.
At one point, I did encounter another path, and walked quite happily along it until I nearly stepped on the nest of a very protective mother pheasant. She and I engaged in a long, wary staring contest as her babies shrieked and flapped their way to safety.
Don't see her? That's fine; neither did I, which is at least half of the problem. Here's another photo, where I've zoomed in and circled her. She was really quite intimidating; I'm afraid the photo doesn't do her justice.
I tried to move around her slowly, so she wouldn't feel frightened or threatened at all. It didn't exactly work; as soon as I got close, she shot up into the air and gave me a face full of feathers, at which point I promptly fell backwards onto a nettle bush. Not one to be bested by a feathered fluffball, I stood up and sprinted away as fast as I could manage. It was at this point that I found the path everyone had told me to follow.
I followed the path for a while, keeping my eye out and camera ready in case the pheasant decided she wanted revenge for my trespass on her land. It didn't happen, but I did come to a divide in the road; there were no signs or labels telling me which route to take, either, so I took a random guess and headed down the one on my left.
It was the wrong decision. The path I'd chosen quickly deteriorated, leaving me to fight my way through weeds and long grass down the side of the mountain. It wasn't all for naught, however; I found a friend along my journey, which remains the highlight of my hike through Bray's Head.
This horse was incredibly friendly, nuzzling my camera and headbutting my hand until I pet them. When I tried to walk away, they followed me; as a result, I tried to keep them company for a while until their owner came back. My resolve gave out, though, when I saw how far I still had to walk to make it to Greystones; I left the horse before their owner returned, hoping to make it to Greystones at least before the sun set.
I was successful in that endeavor, after another hour and a half. I had to climb a barbed wire fence, fight my way through some nests of bramble and nettle, and walk along a main road for quite a few kilometers to get there, but I eventually made it to Greystones and caught a late DART back to Dublin, where I walked back to my apartment for a shower and some Neosporin.
My rest was short lived; the next day at 10:30 am, I took a trip with a tour group to visit Newgrange and the Hill of Tara, two of the oldest homes for burial and pagan rituals in Ireland. They are both older than the pyramids, and still remain almost completely intact today.
The tour group took turns going inside of Newgrange to see the inner tomb, where - of course - pictures were not allowed. We learned about the possible uses for the site, including burial and prayer, and took a walk to a nearby farm for lunch. As per usual, the animals that I met on the farm all had a great time trying to eat my bag and play with the lens of my camera. One goat in particular nearly jumped out of his pen to say hello.
From there, we hopped back on our tour bus to visit the Hill of Tara and the burial site located there. We learned about the old traditions surrounding the hill, such as lighting the first fire of spring and enduring various tests to prove that a man was worthy of being the King of Ireland. The hills are similar to the Fairy Forts I saw in County Clare, if you were to remove the Hawthorne trees that held them together; the land was made of ripples and ridges, like the shockwaves of an earthquake or ripples on the surface of water.
That night was the farewell dinner for IES, and we went to the restaurant Fire to enjoy a lovely meal and say goodbye to our professors and fellow students. It was the last time that we were all going to be together; following the dinner, a lot of us still weren't ready to separate, and spent the rest of the night together. We ended it kind of early, but it was more from exhaustion than from wanting anything to end.
On Thursday, I caught the 7:00 am train out to Kilkenny, a smaller town a ways out from Dublin. My professor Regina is from Kilkenny, and I'd heard so many things about it that I was determined to see it before I left for the States. I wasn't disappointed, either; upon entering the town, the first thing I saw was the Kilkenny Castle beside the river.
Outside of the castle is a lovely rose garden. I sat there and enjoyed a breakfast I'd brought from home, waiting for the castle itself to open so that I could go inside for a self-guided tour. The entire town was quiet, and I got to observe it in relative peace for a little while before officially starting my day.
The castle didn't allow pictures inside, but if you're willing to take my word for it, the entire building was gorgeous. I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in art, history, or architecture, especially; there's plenty there to admire and study, and it's a lovely way to spend the morning.
Across the street from the castle is a little market. The market is home to galleries and metalworkers, all local professionals who sell their goods. You can go to the windows and see them at work bending silver and gold, and tucked into the back of the courtyard is an entrance to a historic manor with a large garden that you can explore free of charge.
Thursday, as it happens, is the day of Kilkenny's local market. I walked out of the craft center to find tents lining the pavement to sell their goods, from "unusual perennials" to truffles and crepes. People were slowly starting to make their way out into town as the day went on, and a few street performers sat around the market playing instruments and singing to the passersby.
After the market, I visited St. Mary's Cathedral. It towers over the surrounding buildings, and I'd seen it from every street that I had gone down. Getting there was no problem at all, and I managed to get inside just before it started to rain outside. I spent a while within the church, taking photos of the architecture and the stained glass.
When the rain cleared up, I made my way to another historical site in the town. The Rothe House, previously a home to a wealthy merchant and his large family, includes three small houses, two courtyards, and a garden that covers half an acre. I followed signs through a tour of the entire estate, which included a few small museums and artifacts that had been found during excavation of the land.
The rain came back before long, and I ended my trip to Kilkenny in a small cafe with tea and a sandwich. It's a lovely city, and I hope to be able to visit again when the weather is a little bit nicer so I can enjoy it that much more.
Friday was bound to be another long day; my roommate, Rebekah Gordon, and I got up at 7 yet again to take an early trip to Howth one last time. We hiked around and up to the Summit as the sun was rising, enjoying the quiet morning and the cool breeze off of the sea.
We made it to the summit and back by 10:30, and got back to the city with plenty of time to run last-minute errands. Although it was a quick trip, I was pleased to have taken part in it; Howth was, by far, one of my favorite places surrounding Dublin, and I was hoping I would get the chance to visit one last time. It was the perfect way to wrap up my final week.
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<p>Hi! My name is Taylor Haggerty. I'm twenty years old and currently go to school in Bloomington, Indiana, for magazine design and poetry. This summer I'll be studying English and history in Dublin, Ireland!</p>