IRELAND (for real this time)

Part II of the thrilling saga:

On to Ireland.
On the grounds of Kylemore Abby
Beautiful lovely Ireland. Being surrounded by hills and fields and forest and nature was exactly what I needed. It was a little cold but anything compared to Poland this time of year feels like spring. We were lucky to have 6 days of almost perfect sunshine/clouds mix and mild temperatures. There might have been one or two afternoons when it was rainy or misty, but we were never outside when it rained.
First day/night: Dublin. Dublin its self isn’t too interesting. It’s just another big city, thousands of people on the road or in the street going about their business.  Besides witnessing what I’m sure was a leprechaun ducking into a 7-11 for a hot dog around 9am in the morning, I didn’t see anything too unusual worth note. I think I was really just craving nature. Maybe if I went back after a summer in the country it would hold more appeal.
Hillary along the water’s edge.
Second day/night: Went to Galway.  We spent most of the afternoon strolling alongside the coast, soaking up sun, looking at shells. 
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Then we went to a tea parlor and drank some very delicious tea out of very pretty china and read our books. 

Guinness, Galway, and entertainment
That night we checked out the pubs. We settled in first at the pub: Garavans Ltd. Despite the chilliness of the evening, we opted to sit outside to enjoy the musical styling of this street performer. He had a big, belting voice and sang for at least a couple hours without stopping.  He had the right kind of rough voice for a rousing rendition of “Zombie.” Then he requested that Hillary and I buy him a drink as payment for our hour or so of listening, so we did. By this time we had made a couple more Irish friends, Paddy and Porich, who took us on a mini tour of other good pubs in Galway. Apparently this was the RAG week, the last week before exams for university students and the biggest party week for the whole year in Galway. Good timing as always.
Third day/night: We took a bus tour of the Cliffs of Moher. Tourists were everywhere, but it was easy to lose the crowded feeling once you staked out a spot alongside the cliffs, gazed out at the waves crashing in against them, and beheld the immensity of the place. Miles of verdant green grass juxtaposed against the slate blue of the ocean and so much sky…the jagged cliffs are the perfect border between three worlds. So amazing. 
Fourth day/night:  We took a bus tour of Kylemore Abby and Conemarra.  Gorgeous, empty terrain, filled with spindly legged sheep. 
Fifth day/night: We took a bus tour of Glendalough and KilKenny. Glendalough was my favorite destination. A beautiful, moss grown forest, shaking off the morning chill, erupting in birdsong, everything dappled in morning sunlight.  In celebration I even hugged a tree. There’s a picture of this but you don’t get to see it. I then proceeded to frolic in the woods. There is a video of this but you don’t get to see it either.
That night we went out in Dublin. We stuck to the touristy Temple Bar district and settled in at the Aulde Dubliner to  listen to another very cute male Irish singer, though with a different, sweeter voice and calmer song delivery. 
Sixth day: We ate lunch and did some shopping in Ireland. Happily we found the Irish music CDs we had been searching for our dear old Da. 
Driving across Ireland. Getting to see all of that countryside was amazing, comforting, and awe-inspiring all at once. 
Meeting Yolanda, a Polish woman on our bus trip to Connemara. She speaks about as much English as I speak Polish (which isn’t a whole lot).  Luckily having just been in Poland, I could say about 5 words/2 embarrassingly pronounced phrases, such as: Yes, No, Hi, Please, Thank you, You’re welcome, Cheers!, My name is….

She was really quite fun. She sort of adopted Hillary and me for the day and we had some semblances of conversation.  I think having a conversation with someone when you can’t automatically speak English is one of the most gratifying experiences. It means that you both have to be really invested in the conversation and laugh at the mishaps. I was able to glean that her daughter is studying in Dublin and Yolanda is visiting her before taking a larger tour of Ireland. She knows Russian, German, and Polish and a little bit of Latin for medical reasons (perhaps she is a nurse?). She doesn’t think me knowing French is very impressive. 

Apparently that’s not a language she holds favor with. One of the mishaps we had? The bus driver kept referring to her as “Poland” and me and Hil as “Washington.” This was a bus full of 20 plus people.  When I tried to explain this to Yoland, she mistook that she was supposed to introduce herself. “YOLANDA!” She excitedly interrupted the tour guide. Crickets..
All of the Irish accents! Along with the nice Irish people! They were really all so nice and charming.  My favorite thing they said was “sorry,” as they squeezed by you on the street or in a store. They say it in such a gentle, endearing way they might as well be asking you to marry them (my answer is yes!). I also like how they say “sound” where I would say “cool.” And yes my Scottish roommate Gregory says “sound” and I heard it all throughout Scotland, but it just never stuck in my head until one of the Irish tour guides said it to me. Sound.

Getting my nerd on and striking up a conversation about Irish Gaelic with our newfound Galway friends in the midst of a pub crawl. Hillary was embarrassed but I was living out a dream. Real live speakers!

I drank some very delicious beer (Guinness and a Kilkenny) and ate some hardy meals, including the best fried fish I’ve ever had (in Galway) and potato and leek soup (from Kilkenny).
Leaving too soon! It hurt in my chest when we got on the shuttle to the airport.
No working debit card.
The realization that creepy old men exist in Ireland too. 
I think Hillary had enough of grubby hostels. 
(corresponds to that mystery picture of the first blog of IRELAND series.) It’s a Fairy Circle!
Hillary and I were supposed to spend a couple days in Paris, but after one bad credit card situation after another, we just decided to call the whole thing off and return to Nantes early. We arrived in the Charles de Gaulle airport quite late and the next train wasn’t until 6 am in the morning. We resigned ourselves to having to sleep in the airport and/or train station again, until Keri Ann, wonderful roommate that she is, called up her friend living in Paris. This amazingly nice girl let Hillary and I, two complete strangers, crash on her floor. She even made up beds for us. It wasn’t until we got back to Nantes that we learned it had been her birthday the day before. She was really so generous and hospitable! 
We ended Hillary’s vacation with a couple extra days in Nantes. The weather was perfect. We went to a park one day with my roommates Keri Ann and Gregory. The next day we took a brief tour around the town itself.  
The Cathedral on a resplendent March day.

Speculoos gelatto in the shape of a rose, charming!
We ended her trip by spending the night at the Nantes airport (because we love airports so much). Then I waved goodbye to my big sister and went home to my nice own comfy bed for some sleep. 
It was a great adventure for me and Hil.  We got to spend a lot of time together, catching up and getting reacquainted (we both might admit we spent a little too much time together). I love my sister! Thanks for coming with me Hil!

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