Photoblog: Exploring the Emerald Isle

This semester is flying by — it’s already been three weeks since I posted my last blog. I doubt anyone wants to hear about what an expert I’ve become at navigating Dublin’s nightlife scene in the past month, so instead I’ll talk about everything else this country has to offer. Lately I’ve had the pleasure of getting out of the city and seeing the Ireland I had always pictured: rolling, green landscapes; foggy coastlines; quaint towns and inviting pubs.

One day trip included hiking in Glendalough, which just goes to show that a view of “Upper Lake” doesn’t mean you have to hike “up” anything. This realized when you find yourself halfway to the top of a mountain.

We skipped the guided monastery tour (seen in the background) to explore the nature of Glendalough.
We skipped the guided monastery tour (seen in the background) to explore the nature of Glendalough.
Woods hiking through Glendalough.
Woods hiking through Glendalough.
We assumed "Upper Lake" meant having to climb up the mountain. Then we couldn't resist going until the top.
We assumed “Upper Lake” meant having to climb up the mountain. Then when we realized this was wrong, we still couldn’t resist the urge to reach the top.
But we got too excited and then had to sprint back to catch our bus on time.
But we got too excited, went too far, and then had to sprint back down to catch our bus on time.

Then there was a quick stop in the Wicklow Mountains; which almost doesn’t warrant mentioning because we were pelted with sideways rain and regretted leaving the bus.

A short and rainy stopover in the Wicklow Mountains.
A short and wet stopover in the Wicklow Mountains.

But a trip to the town of Kilkenny later that day was bright and sunny — oh, Irish weather.

A sandwich shop in Kilkenny.
A sandwich shop in Kilkenny.
Street art in Kilkenny.
Street art in Kilkenny.

A short train ride to the southern port of Dún Laoghaire, with its sea of sailboats, was a gorgeous change of scenery from bustling Dublin.

The port of Dun Laoghaire was a peaceful change of pace from Dublin.
The port of Dún Laoghaire was a peaceful change of pace from Dublin.
A local newsstand was kind of proud of it's name.
A local newsstand was kind of proud of it’s name.
View from the Dún Laoghaire peninsula.

My favorite day trip thus far was Howth, a suburb on a peninsula just north of Dublin, which feels like another country yet entirely Irish at the same time. On a sunny day, walking around its cliffs that hug the coast, you almost feel like you’re in Spain. Seafood cafes line the coast where you can see fishermen bringing in their catch. And it is also home to one of the coolest museums I have ever visited: Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio. Housed in a small, historic tower overlooking Howth, it is an enclave of old radios, gramophones, Irish memorabilia and other vintage communication knick knacks.

Ireland has been enjoying a rare summer filled with sunshine. As September winds down, a couple enjoys the a sunny afternoon in Howth.
Dublin has been enjoying a rare summer filled with sunshine. As September winds down, a couple enjoys the a sunny afternoon in Howth.
Seagulls flock to a fishing boat as a fisherman cleans the deck in Howth.
Seagulls flock to a fishing boat as a fisherman cleans the deck in Howth.
View of the lighthouse and harbor in Howth.
View of the lighthouse and harbor in Howth.
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Cliffs and green hills hug the coast of the Howth peninsula.
The Hurdy Gurdy Vintage Radio Museum is a treasure trove of vintage forms of mass communication,
The Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio is a treasure trove of vintage forms of mass communication.
Old televisions at the quaint Museum of Vintage Radio in Howth.
Old televisions at the quaint Museum of Vintage Radio in Howth.

On the opposite side of Ireland lies the western city of Galway, a tiny college town. With a single road housing all the nightlife, a pub-crawl was definitely in order. From live Irish music and crazy cover bands to potato challenges and zombies walking the street, it was definitely an experience.

Teenagers skateboard in Galway's main meeting point, Eyre Square.
Teenagers skateboard in Galway’s main meeting point, Eyre Square.
Men fly fishing in Galway.
Men fly fishing in Galway.

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Sun shines through a back alley during a stroll through Galway town.
Sun shines through a back alley during a stroll through Galway town.
We found ourselves in the middle of the annual zombie walk. They were pretty into their characters.
We found ourselves in the middle of the annual zombie walk. They were pretty into their characters.

Although the strangest part of the trip was stopping in the tiny town (pop. 300) of Moneygall, which now prides itself on being the home of Obama’s ancestors.

A house painted with the American flag in Moneygall.
A house painted with the American flag in Moneygall.
Obama's face adorned the walls of the local pub that he visited as well as the Obama Cafe.
Obama’s face adorned the walls of the local pub that he visited as well as the Obama Cafe.

The stunning and ever-popular Cliffs of Moher (which are supposed to look like this) were unfortunately nowhere to be seen the day we went. At least we could hear the ocean through the abyss of fog.

Leaning over the foggy cliffs was surreal. It's almost as if you'd fall into a weird limbo.
Leaning over the foggy Cliffs of Moher was like looking out into limbo.
Irish weather is unpredictable. Unfortunately, this is what we saw of the cliffs on our visit.
Irish weather is unpredictable. Unfortunately, these are the cliffs that chose to show up on our visit.

Limerick was rather uneventful on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, but we found some unique spots.

Intricate street art in Limerick.
Intricate street art in Limerick.
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Hills and a castle make for a nice backdrop in Limerick.
An Irish flag waves atop Bunratty Castle, a stopover between Limerick and Galway.
An Irish flag waves atop Bunratty Castle, an attraction between Limerick and Galway.

Biking around the Aran Islands lead us to a shipwreck site, a lighthouse and a maze of stonewalls among other things. Although, the boat ride to get there was its own adventure.

It was a rough 45-minute ride to the Aran Islands.
It was a rough 45-minute ride to the Aran Islands.
We arrived on the smallest of the three Aran Island, Inis Oírr.
We arrived on the smallest of the three Aran Island, Inis Oírr.

A shipwreck site on the Aran Islands.
The path to a lighthouse on Inis Oírr.
The path to a lighthouse on Inis Oírr.
A maze of stonewalls made our bike path interesting.
A maze of stonewalls made our bike path interesting.
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