Right when I was accepted to my study abroad program, there was a flurry of Facebook statuses showing my various friends from both college and high school who had also made plans to study abroad at the same time I would be there. One of them was my dear friend Kerry, who had been my first roommate freshman year at Geneseo- she would be spending the fall semester in Galway, and as Ireland had been on the top of my travel bucket list for years, we knew we would meet up.
Ola and I arrived at the Galway train station to be greeted by the amazing Kerry who brought us back to her campus apartment and introduced us around, fed us and then took us out to explore her newfound town of Galway. We wound around cobblestone streets, in such a different city from the busy Dublin. The sixteenth-century Spanish Arch located in the center of town stands as a testament to the original city walls of Galway and her history as a trade port.
It was relaxing to wander around the River Corrib that runs through Galway, and walk along the coast, checking out the colorful apartments that lined the walkway. One of the neatest things about Galway were the bilingual signs everywhere you went- English translated into Irish Gaelic. While Gaelic is constitutionally the first official language of the Republic of Ireland, in actuality only a small, aging percentage of the population speaks Gaelic fluently. However, in recent years there has been a revival in Gaelic education throughout Ireland.
That night, Ola and I planned our next adventure- to the Cliffs of Moher! A must-see in any trip to Ireland, we researched different tour companies who would take us there and settled upon Healybus, a bus that would not only take us to the cliffs for a reasonable price, but also show us a traditional Irish sheep farm and the famous Burren region of Ireland.
Early the next morning, we headed to the bus stop- with some shenanigans with the directions of course- and headed off on our way! Our first stop was the Castle of Dunguaire, build in the 16th century. We had the opportunity to unload from the bus and explore the grounds of the historic castle.
Next we were able to visit a traditional sheep farm, where our tour guides- two brothers- had grown up, as it was their family farm. We were given very fashionable rain clothes, as it was raining steadily, and got the chance to see their sheep and cows, in addition to hiking up to the top of the famous geological Burren landform. The Burren is made up of bare limestone and is well-known among geologists.
Now, let me just say that the entire time we had been traveling in England and Ireland, two places known for their rainy weather, we had had amazingly beautiful conditions outside. Except for today. Our tour guides were worried about the weather, as a wind warning had been posted near the Cliffs of Moher, but we kept on our way and hoped that the storm would die down.
After we were served delicious pastries at the farm, we continued on our way, this time in the pouring rain. Heading to the Poulnabrone Dolmen, an ancient Celtic monument dating from 2500 BC, we were only able to run out of the bus for a few minutes in order to snap a picture so that we didn’t freeze before we even made it to the Cliffs of Moher.
Finally, we made it to the Cliffs of Moher. And we realized the reason behind posting a wind warning in this vicinity. It was wind so strong Ola and I were struggling very hard to even walk forward without being thrown on our backs.
It almost goes without saying that we didn’t get those cliche touristy pictures of us sitting on the edge of the cliff with our legs dangling over the edge and our shining hair blowing out behind us…mostly because if we had done that we would be shark food. However, we did manage to take in the incredible beauty of the Cliffs of Moher- made even more majestic by the rain and wind somehow magnifying the enormous drop to the Atlantic Ocean (390 feet, to be precise).
Now, when I say I survived…I did manage to tumble down the entire set of stairs of the Cliffs of Moher, on my back, after I got my feet knocked out from underneath me by the wind. Let’s just say we were very happy to get back to Kerry’s apartment and warm up….
The next morning, bright and early we said our goodbyes and got back on a train to Dublin, in order to catch our return flight to Birmingham, which would take us back to Montpellier. Our Toussaint vacation was over, we were still friends, and we had so many memories to look back on!
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