So I’ve been back in the States for just over a week now and I have to say that it’s been a bit more of an adjustment than I expected. From the little things like driving myself around again to the cultural differences like making eye-contact on the street, it’s been a week of ups and downs. Driving was the easy thing to get adjusted to again. Sometimes I still think having a Metro around would be prettty handy and I do miss the walking, but driving isn’t so bad. The eye-contact thing is a bit harder. I never really thought about how much people in the States, especially in tiny little Butler, make eye-contact on the street and wave at each other and such. I’d gotten so used to just looking straight ahead and ignoring everything in my periphery in France and the rest of Europe and here that’s being rude. I have to remember to smile and wave. The friendliness is a nice difference though, I really did miss walking down the street and practically always running into someone I know.
The best part of being home though has definitely been getting to see everyone again. I really missed all my friends and especially my nieces and nephew. Kallie and Dylan were so happy to see me, Kallie had been getting pretty mad that I hadn’t seen her in so long and Dylan had to tell me all about every single detail of his summer. Whitley didn’t really remember me so it took her a while to warm back up to me and baby Carissa doesn’t know the difference anyway. It’s been great to finally hold her though!
I’ve been trying to keep up with my French and use it some. Lots of times I still catch myself thinking of sentences in French before I say them in English and the kids are really enjoying the books I got them in French.
Now I’m down to just over a week left before I move into the apartment in Columbia. I’m getting really excited for that, I can just tell it’s going to be a great year! My project for the time between now and then is going to be starting on a scrapbook for this trip I think. This was just too amazing of a summer to not remember it forever!
Thanks so much to all of you who followed this blog and left your comments. I really enjoyed writing and sharing my photos and I’m so glad that so many enjoyed it as well. A blog is really only as good as its readers!
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Cong, Connemara, Galway, Harry Potter 6, Jaclyn, John Wayne, Katie, Maureen O'Hara, Sarah, The Quiet Man
Our last full day in Galway, Wednesday, was spent on another tour, this time to Connemara and Cong. This one was just as beautiful and informative as the Cliffs of Moher were.
We met up with the coach just like Tuesday morning and we set off on our journey. Connemara is even more in the Irish countryside than the Cliffs were and therefore even more beautiful. Along the way we saw many ancient buildings and stoneworks, further amazing me by capabilities of the Irish people before technology. Go them. One of the highlights of the trip was the stop in the tiny village of Cong, the location for the old movie The Quiet Man with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara. I took lots of pictures because I know just how jealous Dad will be when he reads this. I wish we’d had more time there because then I would have gone in the museum/gift shop. I never realized just how many movies are filmed in Ireland but so far we’ve seen the sites of at least 5 movies.
Practically everything in Cong is dedicated to the memory of the movie that was filmed there.
In order to see all these beautiful and picturesque little sites we had to take the most narrow, rocky country roads. Keep in mind we were in a huge passenger coach…on twisty roads…with lots of sharp turns. The skill of our driver amazed me and I swear that coach had to have had a hinge in the middle to make some of the turns we did. Strangely enough, the only things that held us up were the sheep (they liked to cross right in front of us without warning) and the cycle race that was tearing through the country. Those guys were impressive as all get out. I could never imagine riding my bike in that country, let alone as fast and agile as they were about it. I did make the other girls laugh a little though because I was climbing the rocks and scrambling about to get better pictures. I guess I just channeled my inner mountain goat.
Irish hills and lakes, I'm beginning to think there's nothing more beautiful.
The Twelve Ben Mountains with their sides covered in stone fences built during the potatoe famine.
The few post and wire fences around are meant to keep the livestock of one farmer from mixing with that of another. Most farmers don't care, they just mark their herd and sort them all out in the spring when they come off the mountain for shearing.
A bike race went through the countryside. Because the roads were so narrow we had to pull off and wait for them to go through before continuing on our way.
An old Abbey built in the side of the mountain. Just up the way was a small cathedrale built and paid for by the nuns independently of the monestary.
When we got back in town we ran to the hostel to drop off our bags and then it was to grab a quick dinner before the Harry Potter movie. We were so happy we’d already bought our tickets when we got to the theater because there were signs on the doors saying they were sold out. Because we got there early we even managed to get pretty good seats and I had a lovely conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me. He was there with his teenage children and was very interested in our travels and what we’d seen so far. I like the Irish the best of all the nationalities we’ve met because they’ve been the friendliest, most welcoming of all. I’ll be sad to say good-bye to this lovely place in the morning. Someday I’ll come back when I can spend more time here. For now though I need to go pack and get ready to fly to Paris in the morning. Hopefully this flight goes better than our last one with RyanAir…
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celtic cross, Cliffs of Moher, Irish Set Dancing, Jaclyn, Katie, rain, Sarah, sheep-cows
Amazingly enough Tuesday morning, all 4 of us girls woke up and showered and got ready with plenty of time to spare before we had to meet the bus for our tour. We found a great deal where we could book two day tours for under 40 euro and see most of the country around Galway.
Our first tour was to the Cliffs of Moher and the surrounding countryside. Most of you may know the Cliffs of Moher as the “Cliffs of Insanity” from The Princess Bride because the movie was filmed here. The tour took us through the countryside towards the cliffs and the entire morning was just spent seeing the beauty of Ireland. We stopped at a few fairy dales but didn’t see any fairies and we saw a few old cemeteries with ancient celtic crosses. Again-just beautiful!
Fishermen in the river on the edge of Galway. I don't know what they were fishing for, there were no fish in that water.
The city of Galway as seen from across the bay on our way to the Cliffs of Moher.The Irish countryside, complete with wandering horses.
It's no wonder the ancient Celts thought the land here held magic, just looking at it can put in you a trance with its beauty.
The actual cliffs were after lunch and they were just breathtaking. I really wish I could put up my pictures to show you people but that’ll come soon enough. Just imagine black, slick cliff faces more than 700 feet high with the stormy, tempest-ridden Irish sky above and the deep blue and green Atlantic Ocean below. I never really thought of Ireland having beaches or mountains but that certainly is the case. It’s the most amazing juxtaposition of the two geographies I’ve ever seen. This part of the country is also still really rural so we could see all the little field full of horses and sheep and cattle, the other girls were very amused by the cattle and had to stop to take pictures. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in the city and never see livestock up close.
Storms were rolling in all afternoon over the Ciffs of Moher.
The rolling hills around the Cliffs. You would never imagine that the Atlantic Ocean is less than 30 yards away.
The rolling barley along the Cliffs' edge.
The harsh weather made it all too obvious why so many deaths are reported each year at the Cliffs, strong winds and stormy seas claims the lives of those on dry land and on the water.
This is not a beach for sunbathing.
Our tour guide was the most adorable little old Irishman named Desmond. He’s been guiding tours for 13 years now so he really knows his stuff and makes the trip fun. He was constantly joking with us, telling everyone to watchout for Ireland’s newest and most dangerous breed of cattle: the sheep-cow. These sheep-cows were mentioned a few times during the day but it wasn’t until we were halfway home that we saw one–it was a llama. Granted they are funny looking animals but a sheep-cow? Desmond also serenaded me on the bus. There was Irish music playing all day, including “Galway Girl” and I guess I just fit the description pretty well. The “Galway Girl” has black hair and bright blue eyes and that’s what gets the singer into trouble. I’m learning here that I apparently look quite a bit Irish.
When we came back from the tour we grabbed a quick, hot dinner of soup and then went back to the hostel to try to dry off before going out. It rained off and on all day and sometimes we just couldn’t escape it so we got soaked. Now we know why Ireland is so green. Desmond had told the whole tour about a tavern in Galway that had good prices and live Irish Set Dancing on Tuesday nights so we decided to give it a try.
Sarah wasn’t feeling well so Jaclyn, Katie and I went. We ordered our drinks and were just chatting until the music and the dancing started. None of us were quite sure what Set Dancing was but we soon found out. Its kind of like square-dancing meets swing meets two-stepping all to Irish folk music. We were watching for a while and having fun when an older man (most of the dancers were older) came up and asked if I’d like to dance. I figured why not so I went out on the floor with him. That was the best decision I’ve made this entire trip! It was soo much fun! I was worried my clumsiness would make me a horrible dancer and I’d crash into everyone but I didn’t, my partner was named John Walsh and he was a great teacher/leader. I danced 5 dances with him and loved every second of it. In our little chats along the way he asked me if I had any Irish blood in me and I said yes and he said he could tell walking up to me that I did and he just knew I’d be a good Irish dancer. I don’t know if all that’s true but it was fun and I hope to do it again sometime!!
After the dancing I was exhausted and we needed to come back to check on Sarah so we headed home. Our next day in Galway should be fun because we have another tour and we’re seeing the new Harry Potter movie! Get excited people!
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