Two years ago, I was lucky enough to spend the summer living and interning in Dublin, Ireland. It was an unforgettable few months and I miss the city every day! If I could live there again, I’d do it in a heartbeat. Being surrounded by the beautiful green countryside, friendly people with great accents, and a city full of life was incredible – I felt so alive in Ireland. But anyways, enough of me professing my love for the country.
After my program ended, Ben came to visit me for a week and we took trip allllll the way around the coast of Ireland, stopping each night at a B&B in a different town. It was magical. And what made it even more magical was that he proposed to me right in the middle of the trip, on August 6th, at the Cliffs of Moher! It was a complete surprise and he even hired a photographer to capture the moment. (another anniversary in August!)
I loved having those photos of us, and I took photos with my DSLR the whole trip as well – it’s so nice to have those to look back on, and to have prints of them around the house. Like all millennials, we have lots of phone pictures too, but the quality of those just can’t compare. On top of all of those photos, that took me so long to go through, it turns out that we have even more Ireland photos – from Ben’s camera!
Classic Margaret, it has been almost two full months since I last posted. Last time I wrote a blog post, I had just about finished up my internship, and my boyfriend Ben was coming to visit me in Ireland for a week of traveling and adventures.
That week resulted in this:
Credit to http://michellebgphotography.com/
We’re engaged!!! And we couldn’t be more happy 🙂 it was a wonderful surprise and he proposed in such a beautiful place. Wedding planning has been taking the back burner to school/work for us, and we’re not sure of the date yet, but it has been heartwarming to hear/see the reaction of all of our family and friends. We have such a supportive, loving network of people that we are so grateful for.
Now back to the purpose of this blog post… DECISIONS!
One place we went while traveling around Ireland in our tiny, but speedy, rental car was the Brú na Bóinne, a World Heritage Site in County Meath. This area has been inhabited for over 6,000 years, and is the site of some pretty dang awesome prehistoric stone tombs and other old things. We only had time to visit one of these sites – Newgrange.
Some of the ancient art – you can’t take photos inside!
Outside of Newgrange
Newgrange is estimated to have been built around 3200 BC, so well before the Egyptian pyramids or Stonehenge. No one really knows who built it, or what the exact purpose of it was, but it turns out that it’s aligned with the rising sun during the winter solstice. As they demonstrated (with electric lights) when we got the chance to go inside the stone structure, the light floods the passage in and makes it all the way in to the center of the chamber – which is even more impressive when you realize that the entrance passage is curved and the light enters from a roof box above the entrance stone. Inside the chamber, there’s all kinds of amazing carvings and Neolithic rock art as well.
An illustration of how the sunlight shines into the chamber during the Winter Solstice
An image from the 2004 Winter Solstice – http://www.knowth.com/winter-solstice_2004.htm
To be able to experience the Winter Solstice here, you have to enter a lottery at the visitor center, where they choose 50 winners at the end of September. Each chosen person can bring someone else, and they get assigned a day to come over the 5 days that the sun is scheduled to shine through – weather permitting. Ben and I thought it would be fun to enter, so we sat at the visitor center for a good fifteen minutes filling out a bunch of applications, smiling and joking that it was a waste of time since we would never get picked. I think we may have put in ten each!
As time went by and the excitement of the engagement overwhelmed us, we totally forgot that we entered – fast forward to Tuesday, September 30th, at around 9:20 am, when I was checking my email while heading to class. Ben had forwarded me an email that said…
I am writing to you from Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre to let you know that your application form to attend the Winter Solstice at Newgrange, Co Meath, Ireland was one of those picked out by local school children on September 26th 2014. There were 30,532 applications altogether. Many congratulations!
I called him immediately and we started freaking out about how amazing this opportunity would be. Ever since I left Ireland, I’ve wanted to go back. I miss being there so much, and being able to attend the Winter Solstice at Newgrange together would truly be a once in a lifetime opportunity. The chances of us getting chosen were so slim, and we never expected it!
Now comes the decision part… Flying to Ireland, finding a place to stay, getting a rental car, and generally traveling are all so expensive. We just got back from the expensive trip to Ireland in August and hadn’t really budgeted for paying for a second one in December. Our parents have graciously given us engagement presents which would help pay for the trip, and we could dip into our savings to finance the rest of it. We have the time to go, but spending the money isn’t necessarily the most financially responsible thing to do right now.
But… it would be a dream come true to be able to travel together and see something that so very few people get to experience. We will always have a special place in our hearts for Ireland, especially since we got engaged there and have an insane number of happy memories from that week long trip. I’m sure this trip would be something we would never forget.
I hate hard decisions!
So here’s where you (the reader? Do you actually exist? Or am I just pretending that people actually read my blog…) come in. Help us decide what to do!
Some noteworthy that have happened since my last blog post:
Day trip to Connemara and Galway with friends
This included a lot of sitting on a very bouncy bus, with stops at a peat bog, Kylemore Abbey (so beautiful it looks fake), an hour long cruise from Killary Harbor around Ireland’s only fjord, a tiny little town where I got a handmade leather wallet, and an hour in Galway city (where we could’ve spent a lot more time!). Overall, it was a good trip! (PS – I haven’t edited all any of the photos from my nice camera, so a lot of these are just quick phone snapshots!)
Lots of legroom on the bumpy bus!
Selfie in a peat bog
Selfie with the Kylemore Abbey
Spent time drinking delicious tea and reading
Some days after work, I spent some time sitting in Bewley’s Cafe or in the friendly, hip Accents Coffee & Tea Lounge, sipping on tea and reading. While I’ve been here, I finished Looking for Alaska by John Green. It was a quick read and was well written for a young adult novel (his debut novel as well!), but I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I didn’t really like any of them, and felt annoyed with the narrator (a 16/17 year old boy) most of the time. The ending of the book was the kind that gave me goosebumps because it closed out the story so well, and the story itself was pretty gripping, but I just didn’t come away from the book with a great overall feeling. John Green gets a lot of praise for being a great YA lit author (and a lot of hate/criticism, some of which I really agree with), but this book just didn’t live up to the hype for me. It’ll be interesting to see the movie version of it! I am now reading It’s Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice. It’s already incredibly moving and powerful!
At Accents with a vanilla chai latte – I sat here for a good three hours, just reading!
Tea time at Bewley’s
Went to Longitude Festival with my friend Sara
My boss was kind enough to let me take a half day on a Friday to go to the Longitude Festival out in Marlay Park! My friend Sara and I had looked at tickets for it earlier in the summer, since we both love Bastille and they were playing on the main stage, but had decided back then that the tickets were too pricey. One week before the festival, we impulsively decided to go! Bastille doesn’t tour around the US very often, so this was a great opportunity to see them. We left Dublin via coach bus around 2pm, and spent the day watching new (to us) bands perform and getting excited about Bastille. The set-up for the festival at the sprawling Marlay Park was awesome – there were different stages tucked in random wooded fields and there were tons of delicious food stands. It was forecasted to rain that day, but it was barely even cloudy – we lucked out! Bastille was excellent (aside from the tall annoying man standing in front of me) and they’re even better live than they are on their album. I also discovered Hudson Taylor, a brother duo from Dublin who perform folksy-indie original songs that make me very happy to listen to! It was a long day, and we got back to Dublin around 11:30pm after a lot of walking, but it was definitely time and money well spent!
Ever since I started thinking about what I was going to do this summer, I knew that wherever I ended up, I wanted to do a little solo traveling for the first time. I’ve traveled by plane on my own to and from college, but I’ve never traveled on my own to a place where I don’t know anyone. I’ve always had someone waiting for me at the end of the trip. I wanted to experience more independence than ever this summer by traveling to a place where I have no connections.
I didn’t end up with the time (or money, really) to spend a whole weekend away, or even one night in a different city, so I chose to go on a day trip within County Dublin. The actual city centre that I’ve been spending most of my time in is pretty tiny compared to the rest of the county! There’s a lot to see, and it’s not too difficult to get around the area. So I planned to take the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) on Saturday morning out to Bray (and maybe Dun Laoghaire and maybe wherever else looked interesting from the train) for the day!
On Saturday morning I woke up a little later than I planned, which is probably just what my body really needed. I took my time, since I had no one to meet, ate a good breakfast, packed up my purse and made sure my camera was charged up, and headed on my way to the nearest DART station. It was unfortunately a very overcast day that looked as if it could turn to rain at any second, so I made sure to bring a raincoat and a plastic bag to cover my semi-waterproof camera bag if needed. The Lansdowne Road station was about a 15-20 minute walk away from my apartment, and is right next to the stunning, glass-covered Aviva Stadium, where they play rugby. Apparently, it’s shaped like a giant rugby ball! (Is that the right term? Can you tell I know nothing about rugby?)
Selfie before heading out
I topped up my newly purchased LEAP card (like a SmarTrip card in DC or a Charlie Card in Boston) at the station, and went through the (open, but I paid) faregates. The station was pretty empty when I got there! That always makes me a little bit nervous, but it was an open air station, and soon a few families came onto the platform as well. I had no idea what side of the tracks to stand on because the signage was a little confusing, so I ended up standing on the wrong side of the tracks, and watched the train I had aimed to take pass me by! The next train wasn’t coming for another 25 minutes – that reminded me a little of being at home on the DC Metro!
After I awkwardly made my way over to the right side of the tracks, I waited another 20 minutes or so, and finally the right train came by. Getting on was a little confusing, because you have to press a button on the door to open it once the train is fully stopped. I kind of stood there expecting the doors to open automatically, until I looked at the other people around me easily getting on the train, and I followed suit. The DART trains look a little old from the outside, but on the inside, they are clean, spacious, and have very comfortable seats. Remembering a recommendation from my boss to sit on the left side of the train for the best views, I found a seat, and the train started to move.
The sun started to shine and the clouds parted the minute the train pulled out of the station – no exaggeration! I took that as a good sign for the rest of the day. I definitely didn’t mind the view from the train. We passed gorgeous beaches, green grassy fields, and even went through tunnels in the hills. I felt like such a silly tourist taking photos out the window with my phone through the entire ride, but I couldn’t resist! I wanted to get off at every stop and explore, but knew I wouldn’t have the time for that. I had read about the Bray Cliff Walk from a guide book, and settled on taking the train to its second to last stop to check it out. At 11:39 on the dot, I stepped off the train in Bray, found a tourist map to get my bearings, and started exploring!
What would a blog post be without a ton of photos?
I’ve been taking quick snapshots almost every day I’ve been here – of things that catch my eye in the city, of cafes I’m starting to love, of my lunch, a latte, or just anything I think would be worth sharing with those I love back home. I have been uploading them in big chunks to Facebook, but am realizing that there’s a lot of my time here in Dublin that hasn’t yet been recorded on my blog! Instead of slowly back-tracking and writing blog posts on things that happened two weeks ago, I’m just going to do a serious photo-dump, complete with lots of captions. Be warned, the photos were all taken with my iPhone, so they’re not great quality. Hopefully it will give you (whoever you are) a bit of an idea of what my month in Dublin has been like so far!
One thing that I had been really looking forward to trying out was the Dublin Unitarian Church. Here are some pictures from my first visit:
At the Dublin Unitarian Church on a Sunday morning
This is read aloud by the whole congregation during each service
Such a beautiful church
They have the same hymn books as we do at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington!
Following the Sunday morning church visit, I did a little tourist-ing at the Old Jameson Distillery, and ate lunch in St. Stephen’s Green.
There are two things I can be a little slow at: editing photos, and writing blog posts. Sorry for the long gap!
As a part of the Global Experiences program fee, a few weekday outings and weekend trips were planned for all of the interns. So far, these have included a Viking Splash tour of Dublin, a very nice dinner, and a traditional music pub crawl. They’ve all been tons of fun and are a great way for the group to get back together and reconnect. We had our first weekend day trip on June 22, when we went via tour bus (with a chatty tour guide) to Glendalough and Kilkenny.
I was surprised at how close they both were to Dublin, with Glendalough barely an hour’s drive away, but how different it felt from the city. Glendalough (pronounced glen-duh-lock) is more beautiful than words can describe, with its clear lakes, incredibly green landscape, and old monastic ruins. Our tour guide patiently waited for our slow group that couldn’t stop taking photos of the beauty around us, and gave us a great tour of the area. I am so impressed by the memory that tour guides have for history and facts!
I started my internship this Tuesday, and finished up my first week this evening! It’s been a whirlwind of a week, with a lot of learning about how the organization is run and meeting tons of new people (many of whom are named Siobhan), but I’m really enjoying the experience so far!
I’m interning at the Dublin Well Woman Centre, which provides reproductive health services at three clinics across Dublin. The services can range from simple pap smears to more serious things like crisis pregnancy counseling, all of which are incredibly important. I will be doing work with Well Woman’s website content, social media platforms (just Facebook right now – maybe a blog soon!) and governance/best practice. I still have a TON to learn and spent most of this week doing research to see how other organizations are run and present themselves, which is really interesting to see. I think Well Woman has room to improve, and I feel so lucky that they’re willing to let me try to help!
It has been quite a whirlwind of a trip so far, even though it’s just been a few days since I nervously boarded that flight to Dublin!
So close, yet so far from business class…
Celebratory Jameson&ginger (with the hopes that it would help me sleep)
After a long, semi-sleepless flight, I arrived at the Dublin airport on Saturday morning, and got through customs with no problems and got my checked bag right away. There was another girl from Global Experiences on my flight, which was awesome. I would have been stressed if I had to get to the apartments alone! A few other girls from GE met up with us at the airport, and we excitedly found ourselves taxis to take us to our home for the next 8 weeks! It was nice to have lots of people from Global Experiences at the Lad Lane Apartments to greet us and help with our luggage. Luckily, there’s a small elevator in the building, so it wasn’t too much of a struggle to get up to the top floor, where I met my roommate and began to get settled in, one jet lagged step at a time.
Our location coordinator, Peter, invited the few of us that had arrived on a walk in the area by our apartment. We’re in a nice area with a few other residential buildings, a lot of small offices, and plenty of places to eat and go grocery shopping. It was nice to move around after sitting for such a long time! Our weary group went out for lunch, and all headed back to the apartments to either nap or just relax and decompress.