Highs and Lows

I have been in Ireland for 25 days now.  In some ways it feels like i have just gotten used to the country and now I am getting ready to leave. Perhaps the anticpation of my looming departure makes the remaining days here feel more cherished then those first ones nearly four weeks ago when a month seemed so long.  But I have done and seen so much since I have been here and everything looks different from this side.

I have successfully covered a big part of the country and have had some life-changing moments of solitude and some life-giving conversations with people…but it’s too soon to think about what I have done because my trip isn’t over yet.   That blog will come later.

For now I’ll tell you some highlights–and some lowlights for that matter–of the past couple of weeks.

I have been so incredibly blessed in Kilkenny where my host, Ann, took me to see everything from Monastic ruins, cathedrals and castles to a famine workhouse, and an emigrant ship museum.  We even had lunch in the small town of Inistioge where the movie Circle of Friends was filmed. There is nothing like site-seeing with locals to really get to see an area. But perhaps some of the best moments have been conversations over dinner and wine with Ann and Nial in the evenings.

After about a week at Great Oak I went west and spent a few days in the town of Lahinche where I saw the Cliffs of Mohr and took a ferry out to the Aran Islands.  It was one of my favorite days on the trip (minus the queasy ferry ride) and if I were to do it again I would spend a night on the island. They are beautiful and still hold an old Irish culture tha thas been lost in most of central Ireland.

I have also successfully driven on the left without drifting into oncoming traffic! I consider this to be among my great accomplishments. Navigating the narrow Irish roads, however, was not one of my favorite moments. I rented a car in Limerick and explored for a few days, but my first day (in Galway) ended with me being lost for about 5 hours.  By the time i finally found the place where i was going in the city i was far too frustrated and tired to see anything.  The next day i got early and headed to the Dingle peninsula (side note: very amazing. If you are in Ireland it’s worth seeing) and then on to the town of Killarney.  Everything was going much better then the day before and just as i was reflecting on this and feeling quite confident in my new driving abilities, I got a flat tire.  There i was stranded on a back road and couldn’t get my cell phone to work.  The thing about Ireland is that their regional and country roads have no shoulder and the speed limit is often 100. It’s quite terrifying actually. So i pulled over as best i could (into the bushes) and started walking down the highway to the nearest house. Thankfully the owners were there gardening and took pity on me. I used their phone and then sat and had coffee with them as I waited for road side assistance. As it turns out they were quite a lovely couple who had decided to retire in Ireland after living in England most of their lives.  They were so kind that I decided to return after my tire was changed in order to give them a thank-you present. Once again they welcomed me in and what I had meant to be only a quick stop turned into one of my favorite nights! Bernard and Birdie told me story after story about their neighbours, their family, their lives, and culture in Ireland.  One story would not be finished before another began, and before i knew it i had been there for hours drinking tea and enjoying their company. Bernard, a very well-read man, had lots to share once he found out about my MA topic and even sent me home with three books!  Before i left we exchanged addresses and they sent me off with a big hug. It was the the best flat tire i have ever had!  It’s funny how sometimes the set backs end up becoming golden opportunities. I think what I have been learning the most during my time here in Ireland is that it is only in letting go of expectations that you can really embrace what Life is offering.

The next day I left Killarney for Cork to visit a museum in Cobh which was the port where many immigrant ships left for Canada, US, and Australia (including the Titanic). After a week of travel on my own i decided to head back “home” to Kilkenny and spent another few days at Great Oak. I went back to St. Canice’s cathedral in the city in order to climb up a 108 ft tower. The view was great, but sadly as I was climbing down my camera fell out of my bag and down the tower!  Needless to say, the camera is toast.

And now I am in the great city of Belfast which has been nothing but fun! i have been relaxing after a long few weeks of site seeing and enjoying the company of some great people here. After my time in Belfast I head back to Dublin where i will visit a few more sites before leaving Ireland altogether.

You can check out www.ssu.ca/traveltheworld in order see more about what I have been up to here in Ireland. But for those of you who are wondering, i have tried some authentic Irish food (not just beer) while i’ve been here including Black Pudding (made from pigs’ blood).  To my total surprise, black pudding isn’t actually pudding at all but comes in a roll which you slice and fry. It’s part of the traditional Irish breakfast.

And that’s my brief update. Hopefully i will find time to share some of the things i have been thinking about during my time here but first I need to process that myself.

Until then…

The Cliffs of Mohr

The Cliffs of Mohr


5 Responses to “Highs and Lows”

  1. 1 becks August 3, 2009 at 1:00 am

    This is all so exciting! I’m so glad your trip is turning out to be wonderful, Shell! It sounds like you’re getting lots of research to take back with you! Continue to have a fantastic time making life-lasting memories.


  2. 2 Matt August 3, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Love the Aran Islands. Deanna and I spent a night there and rented bicycles to ride around. The view from the stone fort is just wild. And you are kidding about the terror Irish high-speed and no-shoulder roads. An adventure in themselves.

  3. 3 Krystal March 16, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    Shelley. You have been stuck on day 25 of your ireland trip for far tooo long. Please don’t keep us in anticipation of future writing any longer! Write sooooon!!

    love love

  4. 4 sweetlybroken June 28, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    From a humble beginning a wee lass left. Heart heavy, brain weary and hopeful trpidation followed. Whilst away life began, life grew and flourished for the wee lass who became you. Travel back safely Shelley covered in prayers and love.

  5. 5 A-Dog September 29, 2010 at 1:18 pm

    What happened?.. Did she ever make it back from that trip? It has been a year. 0.o

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