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My CEA Excursion to Galway, Ireland

Instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with cards, candies, and flowers, CEA Dublin celebrated with the Cliffs of Moher, live music, and drives through the Irish countryside.

On February 14, my fellow classmates and I boarded two Galway bound vans driven by members of the CEA staff and set out on our mini road trip. The distance between Dublin and Galway, roughly 2.5 hours, demonstrates Ireland’s small size and illustrates individuals’ easy accessibility to the country’s various cities. Fun Fact: After doing some intense research (cough I used Google cough), I discovered that Ireland could fit into my home state of Pennsylvania!


Anyways, my motion sickness prone self was thankful to learn that it only took 2.5 hours to travel from coast to coast and before I knew it, we arrived in Galway.

After settling into the hostel, we headed out to a group dinner and then spent the night listening to live music at local pubs and restaurants. The amount of live music in Ireland, whether just mere street performers or a four man band in the pub, enhances the cultural experience and pushes you to embrace the cliché phrase, “Dance like nobody is watching.” I often wind up dancing and although I know people are watching, I also know they probably wish they were not around to witness my lack of coordination and rhythm.

 

 

The following morning we headed out for a drive through Connemara. Connemara, a beautiful and unspoiled environment to the west of Galway, offers stunning views and supports Ireland’s stereotype for possessing rolling hills and fields full of grazing sheep. After driving on the winding and narrow country roads for an hour or so, we reached the picturesque Kylemore Abbey.

 Drive through Connemara
 
 CEA Dublin with Connemara in the background

The Abbey, originally built as Kylemore Castle by Mitchell Henry for his wife and then later turned into a Benedictine Abbey for refugee nuns during World War I, is surrounded by the beauty of Connemara and resembles a residence described within the pages of a fairytale. As the group walked along the path to the Abbey, a rainbow appeared, which further added to the splendor of the location. Benedictine nuns still reside within the Abbey, attend mass at the historic Gothic Church on the grounds, and maintain a prosperous vegetable and flower garden.

Visiting the Abbey allowed me to witness history first hand and experience a site untouched by the effects of contemporary society. After leaving Kylemore Abbey and returning to Galway, I spent my evening exploring the city’s famous Shop St. before grabbing a quick dinner and returning to the hostel since the group had an early wake up call on Sunday for our adventure to the Cliffs of Moher.
 Rainbow over Kylemore Abbey
 
 CEA Dublin at Kylemore Abbey

The Cliffs of Moher stretch along Ireland’s coast for five miles and are a frightening seven hundred feet high. While walking alongside the Cliffs, a battered stone wall separates visitors from the unprotected drop offs. However, visitors may climb over the wall at their own risk in order to further experience the vastness and magnificence of the Cliffs. For a brief period I sat on the unprotected side of the wall and looked out onto the ocean. Those moments on the other side of the wall reminded me of nature’s power, longevity, and beauty. I know it sounds like I am describing a cheesy movie where someone is reflecting and then runs off to go change the world, but the experience truly left me in awe and pushed my imagination to wander.  
Cliffs of Moher
 
 Looking out on the Cliffs of Moher

My weekend in Galway provided me the taste of Ireland that I left the States yearning to experience.  The lack of rain, extremely hospitable CEA staff, breath taking sites, and my fun loving classmates made the weekend unforgettable and I look forward to my future excursions throughout the country.
 
Abigail Marchione is the Spring 2014 CEA MOJO in Dublin, Ireland. She is currently a junior at DePaul University.


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