Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Arrival in Ireland

My sister Jennifer decided to broaden her horizons for her junior year of college by studying abroad in Ireland. I was lucky enough to go visit her in early March.

My first photo of Ireland was rather blurry. Initially I wasn't sure if this was due to the major sleep deprivation after a half day at work and 12 hrs of flying, but decided it was probably due to the difficulty shooting through the tinted, non-opening windows of a moving bus.

I was at least relieved that I seemed to have arrived in the correct location. I flew into Dublin via Amsterdam, and was headed literally across the country to Galway.

Dublin had some pretty cool bridges.

At first I was completely disgusted with this photo since anything moving was completely blurry. After looking at it some more, though, I thought it actually depicts the bustle of the city quite well.

What would a trip to Ireland be without seeing something Guiness related. Unfortunately, I did not have time for a tour of the plant. Jenn said it was a nice tour though, so maybe next time.

As the bus continued on, the city soon gave way to the Irish countryside.

An Irish farm?

Here was my first glimpse of some of the many sheep that roam the country. This was my last shot before it got too dark to have any halfway decent photos while riding on a bus. I arrived in Galway late in the evening and was greeted by Jenn and my brother Andy, who had arrived a few hours earlier. I was sooooo tired by the end of the day and happy to see a bed!


The next day we dragged ourselves out of bed what seemed like very early in the morning and headed to the bus station to set off on a tour of the area known as Connemara.

The road signs were pretty demanding.

The first stop was just west of Galway, in an area known as Salt Hill. This little roadside park offered views of Galway Bay with the Aran Islands in the distance.

Sibling photo op!

I thought it was pretty funny that they had chess boards carved into concrete table tops. Considering the view, it would seem like a waste to instead be concentrating on a chess game.

As we continued west, the city gave way to the Irish countryside. I had been envisioning a mass of green. However, I was told the green doesn't come to Ireland until two months later in May. The ads lied!

This was one of the fancier homes we saw.

Galway Bay and the Aran Islands again.

This old church was neat, although we didn't stop to allow me to get a non-thru-the-bus-window shot.

We saw a few buildings, including this bar and some other homes, with thatched roofs. The guide mentioned the insurance companies don't seem to be too thrilled about a roof that can catch fire so easily, so not many buildings have thatched roofs anymore.

The tour dropped us off for a bit in the quentissential Irish town of Spiddal. Extra efforts are made to keep the area from becoming developed. Irish is supposedly still the first language here. Like much of Ireland, however, there was no lack of rock walls!

I cannot imagine building all these walls.

A Spiddal home. All the homes, no matter what size, had some sort of entry wall/gate.

The cows seemed pretty happy. Maybe happy cows come from Ireland and not California.....

I asked Andy to hold the camera for 2 seconds while I put away a filter, and this is what I get. Go figure. Goofballs.

I was really wondering how I could be related to these two! And yes, that car in the background is the size of a Smart Car. Not a car any of the three of us could fit in separately, let alone together. I suppose that deters theft.

This house had chickens running around the yard.

Some homes in Ireland are still heated using peat 'bricks' excavated from nearby swamps. We were able to see the excavation areas later in the tour.

Rock, rock, everywhere.

This home was also in Spiddal. It was pretty funny to see palm trees growing since I don't usually equate Ireland with the tropics. It is apparently temperate enough near the coast to support palm trees, though.

Some of the house paint colors were quite bright.

Rock anyone?

We continued on, and were able to get glimpses of some mountains along the way.

I thought this little building was cute. My mom also thought it was cute when she went on the tour later in the spring, and had a similar photo. Good taste, I guess!

We stopped at a waterfall to stretch our legs. While I was setting up for a group photo, I caught Andy & Jen having a nice little conversation and laughing. Now that I think about it, I wonder if they were laughing at me....

Even though it was overcast, the waterfall was still pretty neat.

One last look at the little building before continuing on.

This was my civil engineer shot for the day!

We had another stop on the edge of a bay and had to take advantage of another photo op.

I thought this was kind of a neat shot of Jenn.

Here is an example of one of the excavations for the peat 'bricks' used to heat people's homes that was mentioned earlier.

Surprisingly, the Connemara Mountains are tall enough to be partially snow-capped.

After weaving through a little more of the countryside, we came upon our next stop: Kylemore Abbey. Kylemore Abbey was built as a castle by Mitchell Henry in 1867 for his wife, Margaret. The Henry's had honeymooned in Connemara. Upon receiving a sizeable inheritance, Mitchell had told Margaret they could move anywhere she liked and he would build her a castle. Margaret said she wanted to move to Connemara. Unfortunately, she did not get to live long there. During a vacation to Egypt, she caught some sort of disease and died. Mitchell lived in the castle for another 29 years before selling it to the Duke and Duchess of Manchester. The Duke and Duchess 'remodeled' the castle, and subsequently failed to adequately maintain the castle, which removed a significant portion of its original splendor. In 1920 the Irish Benedictine Nuns purchased the castle and converted it to an abbey. Since then, the nuns worked to restore the castle and now of course allow visitors.

The three of us infronto of the castle on the edge of Lough (Lake) Pollacappul.

When we had pulled into the complex, the tour guide had said something about what I had interpreted as a 'garriage.' It took me a while to figure out he was actually saying 'garage.'

Yeah, Andy being a dork ;-)

The castle has some pretty fancy masonry work and a huge front door!

The foyer.

I thought the wallpaper was pretty neat. Not that I would put that in my house.

All the fireplaces were made of carved marble.

I'm not sure if that is what they called it, but this room was like a parlor.

The wood floors were beautiful.

Dining room. There were stairs leading up to the dining room, which was an interesting orientation.

Even though it is totally impractical, this is a cool chair.

The skylight really brightened the room.

More red-velvet upholstered furniture.

Along with the castle, Mitchell Henry also constructed a 'modest' chapel for his wife.

The mountains provide a perfect backdrop for the chapel.
The interior of the chapel was gorgeous.

This is a prayer room off to the side of the altar. The stained glass was beautiful.

Andy and Jenn posing infront of the back door of the chapel.

The graveyard next to the chapel.

Down the trail from the chapel is the mausoleum where Mrs. Henry is buried.

The railing around the mausoleum had some ornate details.

The path along the lake infront of the castle.

We also went and took a look at the estate's gardens.

Apparently the gardens are full of blooming plants at other times of the year. Since it was March, there were no plants blooming. This wasn't so bad, though, because we were able to see the plant bed patterns. The grass was actually pretty green, too.

After visiting the Kylemore Abbey, we continued on along the Irish countryside. We saw another peat excavation. The tour guide said he though the peat was about 8 feet thick there, but that is gets even thicker in other areas. It seems much of Ireland must be a peat bog sitting on rock!

The roadway through this area was surprisingly smooth, though. They must have dug out all the peat or use BX1500 geogrid! They obviously do not konw how to paint traffic lines correctly though. Then again, what do you expect from a country that drives on the wrong side of the road.

The next stop was the Killary Fjord, which is one of three glacial created fjord in Ireland. Since fjord sounds cool, we had to have a photo infront of it ;-)

The fjord is apparently the place for mussel farming.

The mussel farmers string out these 'rafts' for the mussels to attach to.

On the way back towards Galway, we spotted a Connemara pony. Luckily, the tour guide stopped so we could get some photos.

The Connemara pony is supposedly the inspiration for the mythical unicorn.

This is one of my favorite pics of Jenn from the trip.

One last view of the snow on the mountains before continuing back towards Galway.

We were lucky to have little glimpses of sunshine, which brightened the golden hills.

We saw quite a few sheep the entire trip, but many of them were far away from the road. These sheep were pretty close to the road, so the tour guide pulled over for a photo op. The sheep farmers keep track of their sheep by spray painting a color on their back. We saw blue, red, and green painted sheep along the trip.

The sheep were pretty funny because they looked like cotton balls with legs.

The last stop before Galway was in the village of Maam Cross at a replica of the cottage used in the movie 'The Quiet Man' which was filmed in Connemara in the 1950s and starred John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara.

A pic of the cute cart next to the cottage was the last of the day.