The first stop of my summer study abroad trip was Ireland, home of the fifty shades of green (not to be confused with the trashy novels, Fifty Shades of Grey). Prior to my trip, I had heard many rumors about the Land of Ire, some of which included:
- It rains constantly, but it’s a different kind of rain–a magical mist of sorts that covers the Irish grounds and really makes the green countryside sparkle.
- Ireland is just swarming with gingers.
Only neither of those rumors turned out to be true–at least, not during my trip. I suppose it really does rain a lot in Ireland, as was evident in the blinding green scenery that stretched as far as the eye could see. But it certainly didn’t rain much while I was there. No complaints, though… too much rain depresses me.
Also, I do not remember seeing an overwhelming amount of gingers. Then again, I’m not very observant. For all I know, I could be a ginger and I just haven’t noticed!
The point of all this is that you often have preconceived notions of a place, but once you travel there, you find that the place is completely different from what you imagined. The same can be said, I suppose, of people… we develop these snap judgments of people, only to have those judgments proven completely wrong after taking the effort to actually get to know a person.
Ireland, as well as the United Kingdom, was nothing like I imagined… it was much better! My brain did not do it justice! Though I would not say Ireland was my favorite stop of the trip, it definitely was a great first stop. It was a pleasant introduction to Europe.
The people I was traveling with ended up being a pleasant surprise as well. Throw a group of college-aged strangers into Ireland, and what do you get? A little awkwardness at first, sure. But I was surprised how quickly I became comfortable with some of the other students in my group. And we might not have been good friends yet by the time we left Ireland, but we were definitely on our way.
“Are we friends yet…?”
In Ireland, we saw miles of green pasture that provided a home for more sheep than you could count.
This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.
We visited cliffs with breathtaking views of the ocean.
We met the Three Sisters, a triad of mountain peeks that supposedly represents three women of different ages.
Can you find the Three Sisters in this picture?
We saw castles and abbey ruins.
Some of us kissed the Blarney Stone and gained the gift of gab!
(No picture necessary or available)
And for crying out loud, we stopped in a seaside town named Dingle! The town name kind of speaks for itself.
Of course, a trip to Ireland would not have been complete without going to a pub. Since none of us drank alcohol, we did cheers with glasses of water. And pub food was definitely something to write home about (and I think I did a couple of times). Speaking of pub food, I had the opportunity in Ireland to try something new… black and white pudding. If you don’t know what’s in black and white pudding, you probably don’t want to know. I actually didn’t mind the white pudding. I would not, however, recommend the black pudding. I’m not being racist or anything; it’s just a matter of personal taste.
A traditional Irish breakfast… complete with black and white pudding!
Our last stop in Ireland was the great city of Dublin. Here I slept on the top of a bunk bed… nothing unusual, only in our particular hostel I happened to be sleeping on a bed that had no rail and was right next to a large window. If I had rolled a bit too far to my left, I surely would have plummeted to my death! Oh well… what’s life without a little risk, right?
The hostel window of death in Dublin.
I also found out here that it is often when you wander aimlessly while traveling abroad (or even stateside for that matter) that you make some of the coolest discoveries. (This would later prove valuable in enhancing my London experience). Here’s a photo of something we ran across while trying to find our hostel:
What the giant-hand statue?!
All in all, Ireland was a great experience. Looking back, it’s almost a shame that this had to be the place where we overcame our jet lag and dealt with the awkwardness of not really knowing each other. Perhaps under different circumstances I could have enjoyed Ireland even more. On the other hand, we had to start somewhere.
And I can’t think of a better place to start a six-week European adventure than in Ireland!
Next stop: Wales!