Day 1: April 4, 2012
The other 16 students and I arrived to school with our luggage ready to head to JFK, but not before reluctantly attending the first two classes of the day while the pricipal inspected our bags. Our advisors- both french teachers and our irish literature teacher- were just as excited as us. Finally when we loaded the bus for NYC, we were waved goodbye by all of the parents and some of the school faculty members. The 2 hour bus ride wasn't so bad, we kept ourselves amused. We thought things would become more interesting when we arrived at the airport- they didn't. Our flight was delayed 3 hours! But we all became quite aquainted with that wing of JFK. Finally- on the plane- prepared for a 6 hour flight which was surprisingly luxerious- not like the rest of the school trips we have ever taken- and absolutley anxious for Europe. The fact that the airline attendants of Aer Lingus have Irish accents didn't lessen the anxiety.
Six hours and a not so good night's rest later we arrived in Shannon.
Day 2: April 5
Despite jumping ahead in time by 5 hours, we were still running late. We planned on dropping our luggage off at the West Coast Lodge, perhaps grabbing something to eat, and then attending surf lessons. Yeah- it didn't work that way. We left the airport, got on a bus, got off the bus, and got into wet suits- that were already wet. The very first thing we did was freeze our toes off in the Northern Atlantic. All but 3 or 4 of us went surfing that day. Surprisingly, we all got the hang of it pretty well. We were given lessons by Ben's Surf Co., a group of instructors full of enthusiasm and themselves encompass the Irish hospitality we had all heard about.
We finally were humbly welcomed by our lodge- and surprise! all the girls had to share one bathroom. Not the ideal situation. But, it didn't matter at that point because we literally threw our bags on the beds and got back on the bus- Cliffs of Moher here we come!! This was the part we were really waiting for- only because we heard beautiful as well as horror stories of the Cliffs. A six mile stretch- no- hike- literally on the coast of the Green Isle. And boy was it green. The picture I included does not do it justice. There was a certain crisp scent, cool refreshing feel, and a sight that conveyed vertigo. We were so high above the ocean- which wasn't the deep blue I have known, but a glazed, multi-hued blue-green- it seemed we must've reached heaven. The hike lasted three hours but none of us would've minded if it had lasted three more.
Day 3: April 6
The Aran Islands- just off the coast of the Cliffs. There are three- Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer. We vistited Inisheer, the smallest and closest to the mainland. Again- we were overwhelmed by the hospitality of the people. They welcome visitors, but not outsiders who wish to stay. We circumnavigated the entire island in only a few hours while making stops at various interesting sights along the way, such as O'Brien's castle.
Day 4: April 7
This was the day I was the tour guide for. We, the students, we divided into groups and assigned a day in each country to choose what we wanted to do. This day was the day for Galway- a city that looks like it's still in the 12th century but has the bustle of a modern city. There were various street bands, plenty of pubs, a sufficient amount of stores, and a massive food festival which I was eager to take full advantage of- I shared a bucket of various meats with some friends; to say it was delicious would be an understatement. At this point, the teachers allowed us to split into small groups because it was impossible to keep track of 17 kids in that mass of people. Each of us had something we loved about Galway, including the teachers who found a cup of good coffee for a euro.
Day 5: April 8
We visited Bunratty castle on our way to the other side of the country. It is comparable to Plymouth Plantation in Massachusettes. My friends and I were lucky enough to have visited the Tea House right as they were making fresh biscuts- sorry Pillsbury, you ain't got nothin on those gals.
As much as I loved the open countryside of Shannon, I fell madly in love with Dublin- the Irish capitol. We knew we would be staying in a youth hostel but severly misjudged it. the building seemed tucked away amongst the other grey buildings, but I swear it was an optical issusion because it was huge on the inside. The lobby was a typical uninteresting lobby, but once we entered the stairwell- a backpacker's world. The walls were covered in grafitti murals of famous icons such as Marilyn Monroe and colorful rainbows and random quotes that generated a refueling vibe, which we all needed at this point. Especially after walking the whole city in search of one factory that one would think wouldn't be a big challenge- the Guniess factory. Part factory, part museum, part restaruant, part skybar. Of course none of us but the teachers were allowed to drink, but one does not need alcohol to have a good time there. It was a great way to spend our final day in Ireland.
Day 6: April 9
France!! This what my territory, only because I was the best french speaking student, hence I traveled with the non-french-speaking teacher. I was even communicating with the taxi driver from the airport to the house boat. Yeah- not a hotel or a freezing hostel like we were used to- but a very quaint and sizable houe boat on the Seine river right below La Tour Eiffel. After my friend Colleen and I made paninis for everyone we hit up the Champs Elysee at night when it was all lit up- a good start to the city. We even had enough inspiration to climb L'Arc de Triomphe and stand on the top of it for about half an hour… in the freezing rain… in suspense of the La Tour Eiffel at 10:00pm. Each hour on the hour after 9pm the tour not only lights up its usual heavenly gold, but it actually sparkles a radiant blue. I have seen amazing, impressive, victorian, and modern, but never have I considered a structure to be elegant. I felt beautiful just in it's presence.
Day 7: April10
This day we actaully went up La Tour. The climb itself took less time than the wait… mostly because we were waiting in the wrong line. Again, it was windy and raining and cold. But no one cared. We were determined to get the fullest European experience if killed us. The view from the sommet of the tower is fantastic by the way. Once we regathered as a group we headed for Notre Dame. Again with the long waiting lines- but again, worth it. I was in absolute awe at the detail that went into creating this cathedral. Each sculpture is different, and there are hundreds just around the door way!! Just as I was about to say, "You don't see that kind of talent in art this century" I encountered some french art students inside who were just sitting there drawing what they saw, and so easily I might add. As a future architect major, I was overwhelmed by the talented that was surrounding me
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