Sarah, London

Sarah is a junior majoring in journalism and art history in Meadows School of the Arts. During summer 2011, she is participating in SMU-in-London.

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Ireland

I apologize for not having a blog post sooner, but I have been swamped with school work (only two more days!).

While I did not meet my future husband in Ireland, I did fall in love. With the country that is!

Although my mother has sworn I would meet my husband in the land of my ancestors, I just do not think I had enough time to find him. Three days went by way too quickly! I guess a return trip is essential for my future?

Our trip started off on the wrong foot. After being delayed, oh I’d say roughly two hours due to WIND, we finally boarded the plane…and waited another 30 minutes before finally taking off. When we reached Ireland we had to wait behind approximately 30 children in the customs line. And by children, I mean seven or eight year olds running around speaking in a foreign accent (I can’t even guess what language they were actually speaking. Maybe Norwegian?). No me gusta. Yes, I know that is Spanish. And no, that was definitely not the language they were speaking.

Then, to make matters worse, when we checked into our hotel, the oh so nice and personable concierge prohibited us from having three to a room. So, we had to buy a second room. What a waste of money (sorry parents) because we slept three to a king bed anyway.

But, the next morning our frowns turned upside down. I knew I was in my homeland. It just felt right. My face was radiating, my eyes were glowing. Friday was dedicated to good food and good sight-seeing. During the day we hit some great hot-spots: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Temple Bar area and St. Stephen’s Green. And of course, great shopping.

Who knew all these cities in Europe had great shopping? Clearly, not me. AND, on top of that, I met a real leprechaun!!! Well, maybe he wasn’t real, he was about 5 feet tall…

Leprechaun

Although it was rainy, I thoroughly enjoyed my day. After walking in circles (none of us were too good at reading a map) we eventually figured out the city. St. Patrick’s Cathedral was breath-taking. A beautiful Irish-Gothic cathedral with amazing stain glass windows.

As an art lover I especially enjoyed St. Stephen’s Green. After walking around the whole park -not on purpose might I add – I enjoyed a range of original art from local artists. There were beautiful canvases of the Irish countryside, abstract paintings and detailed organic still life paintings.

If you ever want to furnish your home, beach house, lake house or European flat, I recommend taking a side trip to Ireland and emerging yourself in its local art.

After talking to one artist, I learned that the art market in Ireland, specifically Dublin, has declined dramatically. Thus, original one-of-a-kind paintings are selling as inexpensive as 80 pounds. For beautiful art work, that is a steal!

After an exhausting six-hour walk around Dublin, which seems to be the size of Memphis (although I am AWFUL at estimating…I told our cab driver that Dallas had 10 million inhabitants, whoops), we walked into one of the best pubs in Dublin. From the outside, all you see is a wooden flight of stairs. Upon reaching the top, there is a reasonably sized wooden bar to the left and a stage for live music to the right. It was here I enjoyed Irish potato wedges and Irish stew! We knew the potato wedges would be delicious, but I was hesitant about the stew. On the menu it described it as an Irish classic with sausage, onions, mashed potatoes, lamb, carrots and celery.

Then, when the waiter set my traditional dish in front of me, my mouth began to water. I think the only words I spoke while eating were, “Y’all this is so good, you need to try it.” Or, “This might be the best meal I have ever had,” and “I always knew I was Irish.” Lets just say, I might have eaten the whole thing…

A view of Dublin from the rolling hills.

I requested “Galway Girl” at the second pub we came across. Bad choice. Though my dream came true hearing my favorite Irish song in an Irish pub, the band made me sing out loud. For those of you who have had the privilege of hearing me sing, it’s not a pretty sight. I’m surprised the pub didn’t clear.  If you would ever like to listen to me sing “Galway Girl,” I have a beautiful recording of it.

The real adventure began the next morning as Liz, Rachael and I set out on the P.S. I love you tour. They should reconsider the name since we only went to one spot-but it was sooo worth it. On our tour we visited Wicklow National Park, the Sally Gap, Glendalough, Blessington lakes and waterfalls, Glencree and some other small towns.

I won’t bore you with what I learned, but I soaked in Irish history. A few things I learned:

  • Dublin got its name from the Vikings who referred to it as “Duvlin,” which meant black water
  • Dublin’s water is a dark color (though safe to drink) due to the large of amounts of iron in the water
  • Dublin’s lakes, waterfalls and streams look like Guinness
  • Many refer to whiskey as the water of life
  • There are 59 cemeteries throughout Ireland for those who died in WWI and WWII
  • There are more sheep in Ireland than people
  • Bono has a house on the Irish coast
  • Enya lives in a castle down the road from Bono

While I loved almost being blown away by the wind as I overlooked Lough (which means lake) Tay and other loughs, the best part hands down was standing on the bridge where Holly meets Gerry for the first time in P.S. I love you.

The bridge in Wicklow National Park where Holly met Gerry in P.S. I love you.

If you have seen the movie, remember the part where Holly, whose dressed in an assortment of colors, is standing over looking the rolling hills of Ireland and the first thing she says to Gerry is, “I’m lost?”

Well, I’ve stood there. Yeah, you heard me. I stood on the same bridge and looked out over those same rolling hills. To my disappointment, no Gerry rounded the corner.

I think the 13 other people on our tour thought Liz, Rachael and I were freaks. We literally ran out of the van, heading to the bridge. Actually, Rachael skipped with a huge ear-to-ear smile across her face.

Because Ireland faced an abnormally cold winter, the purple flowers that coat the hills in the movie were not quite in bloom yet. Occasionally we could spot a flower here and there though.

Another fun place we went was to an old monastery. It had a beautiful old cemetery with hundreds of greek-cross headstones. It was rather relaxing to walk through.

From the monastery we took a hike around two lakes. During the hike we saw sheep and cows, rivers, mountains and lakes. The last lake we went to was the set of another hit movie, Leap Year. I need to re-watch the movie, but apparently there is a scene filmed on the same lake Liz, Rachael and I took a breather.

A photo of the Irish coastland.

So, as an overview: I walked across the bridge Holly and Gerry walked across, sat on the shore where Leap Year was filmed and drove past a meadow where Braveheart was filmed. Way to kill three movies with one tour!

What struck me most was how vastly different the Irish countryside was from the coast. While driving through Wicklow National Park and Glendalough, I really felt like I was in Ireland. But once we reached the coast, I felt like I was in the States. It had a modern and upbeat feeling to it. People were walking around in swim suits while others enjoyed the beautiful weather in their Mercedes convertibles. Wish that had been me…

The one thing the countryside and the coast had in common was that neither looked real. I literally felt like I was looking at a backdrop to a movie (HA, ironically I kind of was) the whole time. The grass was so green and the water so blue. Ireland has the best of both worlds. Oh, the luck of the Irish!

Our weekend trip ended with a relaxing night listening to live music at a variety of pubs in the Temple Bar district. It was the perfect way to end our trip!

When we got home Sunday afternoon, Rachael and I headed to the Rod Stewart concert! Expect another blog post about that soon! Although I had a ton of work to do, it was totally worth it.

I know my posts are long, but hopefully you are enjoying them!

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