I’m writing my second post from my final stop in Ireland, Belfast. I’m here until Saturday and then fly back to London for move-in to my student housing on Sunday. I thought I’d update you all on my first few days in Europe!
I started out with two days in Dublin, then had two days in Galway, and now I’m finishing up in Belfast. When I travel, I like to spend one day in town and another day seeing the landscape, and that’s what I tried to do. I’ve had some great food (and Guinness, of course), while here, and according to my phone have been walking 12-15 miles per day – probably due to my admittedly excessive opposition to taking tour buses.
In Dublin I spent my first day walking around the city. I saw an interesting exhibit at the National Museum of Ireland. As it’s the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, there was a large exhibit on the event. During the rising advocates for Irish independence revolted against the British during WWI. The rising was suppressed and many of its leaders executed, but the high number of civilian casualties as well as what was perceived as a harsh British reaction led to increased support in Ireland for independence – achieved later, in April, 1949. After the museum I walked through some parks and happened upon a league polo match, which was really great to see (in part because it highlighted how terrible I was at polo when I played for a short time at Michigan). I had also planned to stop by the Guinness distillery and the Kilmainham Gaol, but I decided instead to go hiking at the Wicklow Mountains, outside of Dublin.
At Wicklow I hiked around Glendalough, a collection of two lakes surrounded by mountains and the site of a monastic settlement dating to the 6th century. I took a hiking path up behind the larger lake that traced in a u-shape on top of the mountains back to the other side of the lake. There was no fence on top of the mountain, and besides having to sit next to the path a couple of times when it got too windy it was probably the best hike of my life! The weather was a perfect mid-60’s with clouds and a bit of wind, and the view from the mountains was spectacular.
In Galway, apart from walking around the town, I walked out to a lighthouse along a causeway outside the city. I saw some black birds (I later found out they’re rooks) pick up snail shells from the beach, then fly over the sidewalk and drop them on the pavement to break the shells open and get to the snails inside. Apparently it’s a form of adaptive bird behavior, where the birds learned to use manmade objects (here the sidewalk) while foraging and then passed down the skill to subsequent populations. Maybe it’s a common sight, but I’d never seen it before, and I thought it was interesting. Herring gulls in Jamestown, VA have adapted the same skill, as reported in the LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2001/apr/22/news/mn-53979
On the same causeway I got a really pretty view of the sun setting over the ocean, behind the Galway skyline, included below.
The next day I took a bus tour to Inisheer, the smallest of the Aran Islands. I saw the wreck of a ship that washed ashore in 1960, played fetch with some local dogs on the beach, and had some Baileys-flavored fudge (intimidating yet beautiful, a bit of fun, and delicious, respectively). Then I took a ferry back to Doolin, on the mainland, and a bus up to the top of the Cliffs of Moher. I’ve attached some pictures of the cliffs, but it was probably one of the first places I’ve been to where no photo has lived up to the actual sight.
Today in Belfast I walked to the castle in Cavehill Country Park and then walked up the mountain a bit to see what’s left of an old fort and a small, manmade cave in the side of the rock (I didn’t realize that Belfast Castle was 6 miles from downtown, so I did a bit more walking than expected!). I also finally gave in today and had my first non-Irish meal while in Ireland after I stopped for a heaping plate of pasta on my way home from Cavehill. It was great, though my favorite food while here remains the lamb stew I had in Dublin.
Tomorrow marks my last full day in Ireland and LSE orientation begins next week, so I should know my course schedule by my next post.
P.S. here’s a picture of the aptly named “big fish” statue and a picture of the cutest dentist’s office I’ve ever seen, courtesy of Belfast: