Sunday, October 7, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day 7 - Richard's Last Bus Lecture


We made our final photo stop along the ocean side of Burren where many folks ventured out onto the limestone covering the earth to the edge of the cliff overlooking the ocean.


All day it was interesting to see the different kinds of plants growing in the nooks of the limestone landscape as many in the group noted.


For our return to the Galway hotel Richard pulled up the "jump seat" once last time and discussed the role of women in Ireland and how it has evolved over the years. Just as we pulled in front of the hotel he was concluding his comments about the current role women play in Irish government (currently the second female President is serving her second term).

We'll meet up for dinner tonight in the hotel and Doris has secured wake up calls for us all at 6:15AM.

Ireland 2007: Day 7 - Cliffs part two

To the right side of the area, we walked up to a tower and enjoyed some more views - including looking back to the left "dangerous" side.
Of course, it wouldn't be a suitable photo stop without a gift shop, and this area also had a few extra shops to browse in. Several enjoyed an ice cream!

We boarded the bus and Johnny headed us to the ocean side of the Burren for a reverse view. Per typical, Doris was very alert and pointed things out along the way - this time she noticed the llamas!


Ireland 2007: Day 7 - Cliffs of Moher


The Cliffs of Moher are nothing less than spectacular! According to Doris, they say on an especially clear day you could see across to America!

To the left many dared to go beyond the "do not pass this point" sign and walk along the edge of the cliffs. The vantage point was incredible - look out into the Atlantic, across to the right side and the tower or down into the crashing waves.

Ireland 2007: Day 7 - bus rides


We departed Kilfenora and its self-supported Burren Centre and completed our tour of the Burren on our way to the Cliffs of Moher.

We have spent a lot of time together on the motor coach throughout the trip and have made the best of the long stretches of time. Each morning we have quizzes (with some fantastic prizes) and get our sports updates from those up early enough to log onto a computer. As you've read, Richard has certainly made the long stretches pass quickly by sharing his knowledge of Ireland and answering our questions (no matter how odd).

On the ride today I shut my eyes (hoping to sneek a few minutes of sleep) and could hear the sounds of friendship and comraderie. Many pairs were chatting about life back home with the folks near them on the bus, laughter erupted sporadically as folks shared stories from previous days and others were conversing about the landscapes we were driving through or some of the knowledge we have gained along the way. A very nice moment which captured our group of travelers and how well we all get along.


Ireland 2007: Day 7 - The Burren


We boarded the bus this morning and headed out to see the "limestone desert" the Burren. We drove through a few towns and Doris told us about the Oyster Festival in one.

We stopped at a burial temple for our first photo stop of the day. It was amazing to walk on the ground virtually covered in limestone. We had a group photo for our last full day together (uncomfortable for those sitting on the stone wall!).


Off to Kilfenora Village where many attended the 11:00am Mass in the Parish of St. Fachanan. Mass was very nice, very quick and we heard about the financial struggles of the parish.

Others roamed the litle village and everyone enjoyed lunch.




Saturday, October 6, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day 6 - Hotel


Alright, we've had some great times, activities, laughs and comforts - but the hotel in Galway is absolutely beautiful! The only drawback is that we are out of the city.... but we made the best of it by chatting in the hotel bar. All of us are looking forward to a great night's sleep in the VERY comfy beds.

But not so soon.... we had group dinner in the hotel. Preceded by an impromptu cocktail hour, we had dinner and were joined by some guests again. Six students currently studying in Galway took a cab out to see us and share their stories and Colleen Neeley '03 and her husband made the 3.5 hour drive from Cork. (Their months-old baby boy was upstairs in the hotel room with his aunt while they joined us.) Another good time had by all - many thanks to the students and alumni for joining us along the way!

We are all having a hard time believing we have just one more full day left. But it is sure to be memorable! Several of the students took a day trip to see the Burren today and think we'll love it tomorrow!

By the way, the fog lifted and we hit 20 degrees again today!

An overdue footnote: Katie and Kathy have had several close calls with motor vehicles and crossing streets but have certainly kept their senses of humor about it!

Ireland 2007: Day 6 - Richard


We boarded the bus from the ruins to make the final leg of the journey to Galway. Richard hosted his daily bus lecture - this time an overview of Irish Literature.

A few suggested readings are "Ballroom of Desire," "Amongst Women," of any of the Rodney Doyle books. He began his chat by surveying the group - what category of sang terms used by young people does Doris fall into... the reply: Phashi.

On the drive we passed through Balliansloe - which happened to be hosting a horse fair. In addition to the hundreds of horses for sale (accompanied by the many buyers and sellers) there were a few scary amusement rides!

We reached Galway and enjoyed some lunch and shopping (surprise! - I'm sure all our readers are anxiously awaiting all these great gifts!). Several of us joined Richard and walked through University of Galway to the Irish Studies Centre where we were treated to a guest lecture by noted poet Dr. Louis de Paor, Director of the Centre for Irish Studies. By the way - a very nice campus that many Stonehill students experience each semester.

Our lecture began with information about the history of the Irish Language and specifically, Irish writing. Some general information about the most recent Irish census provided a backdrop for the lecture. The Dr. then read a few poems from influencial Irish poets Mac Piarais, Sean O'Riordain and Nuala Ni Dhomhnaill. He also explained the significance of their importance to this genre.

After answering questions, he concluded the session by reading one of his own poems. Again, a brilliant session. Many thanks to Richard for coordinating it!

We walked back to our home away from home and many stopped in the Cathedral - which was most impressive with its domed roof, interior columns and marble stations of the cross.


Ireland 2007: Day 6 - The Ruins


We had 9:00am departure from the Dublin hotel and many were tired as their rooms were on the floor right above the hotel dance club - which attracted parties for much of the night. But we had our hot water showers and breakfast and off we went.

On our way across country to Galway we passed turf areas in the center of the country and made at stop at the Clonmacnoise Ruins. This historic site allowed us to visit the ruins of a monastic village dating back 2000 years. Although before we met up with our tour guide, Una, the ladies had a long wait for the toilets... and others enjoyed the quaint coffee shop. (By the way there is a gift shop here too!)

Words can't really describe this incredibly historic site - and it was our coolest morning yet in Ireland with the fog still rolling in - making the ruins and cemetery even more impressive.

Ireland 2007: Day 5 - Johnny Fox's


Tonight we broke with tradition and had dinner away from our hotel. We headed up into the mountains outisde the city to Johnny Fox's for Whooly Night. After holding our breath as Johnny navigated through the narrowest of streets, which were also winding up the hills, we reached our destination.

We were sheparded into a music-hall like room with long tables and low, small stools. We were amazed that the waitresses could manage to make it through the aisles to take orders and serve. Food was plentiful and delicious - many of us enjoyed the lamb dish.

We were entertained by a band with a female vocalsit who was outstanding. It was great fun and interactive (Katie ended up clapping with the band). The showed then turned to Irish dancing. While overall very entertaining we noticed some flaws: the safety pins holding the pants on, the tall, mean-looking man hitting his head on the ceiling while jumping on a stool, the felt-like costumes and the lack of child-labor laws as the (very cute and talented) nine year old performed at 10:45pm.

Tonight was even more special because we were joined by some alumni who reside in Ireland as well as two current students interning in Dublin. Fr. Bart Salters, CSC '67, Mike Shea '85, Annelle '71 and Stephen '70 Rowen and Megan Fench '02 (who brought us a canister of chocolates to enjoy on our next day's bus ride - THANKS Megan!). Kathleen Comber '08 and Alison Glavin '09 were a delight to meet.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day 5 - Guinness


Just in case any of us hadn't tried a pint of Ireland's finest, we headed over to St. James' Gate for a tour of the Guinness property. The self-guided tour was fairly impressive, explaining how the drink is made (ask us what the 4 ingredients are) and its history.

We had a sample brew and then heaed to the top level for a complmentary pint in the Gravity bar - which was round and surrounded by glass panes - providing remarkable views of the entire city from nearly every vantage point.
While several of us were in the Gift Shop line, we encountered Megan McAlaugh '07 who had won a contest through a Boston radion station and was in Ireland collecting her prize. What a small world!

We then returned to the hotel (where we now have hot water) to rest up before heading a bit our of the city for dinner and entertainment at Johnny Fox's.


Ireland 2007: Day 5 - Book of Kells


We departed UCD and headed back to downtown Dublin. Along the way Doris offered history on some of the buildings and sites we passed. She also pointed out some good "shopping zones".

We made our way to Trinity College and went in to see the book of Kells. Kept under glass (and lock and key with major security) this relic is truly a work of art! We then headed upstairs to the library which was longer than the entire first floor of Donahue Hall and lined with floor to ceiling (at least 20 feet high) book shelves, holding an imprssive collection of books and manuscripts.

We then had lunch on our own and spent free time in the city. The city itself is hustling and bustling - with just as many commuting issues as Boston. But it certainly is not as pretty as the parts of the country we toured through on the first leg of our journey.

Ireland 2007: Day 5 - Guest Speaker


This morning we experienced our first minor catostrophe - the hotel had NO hot water. Which meant 90% of us were treated to "an exhilerating" wake up this morning, to quote Lisa. But we took it in stride, as this was one of our only glitches on the trip and the weather - for the 5th consecutive day was near 20 degrees (Celsius) - I'll let the readers do the math!

We headed out to Univeristy College - Dublin for our first guest lecture. Prof Finnegan had used his connections to get John Coakley, a VERY prominent political scientist and head of the Institute for Irish British Studies.

John began by providing a brief overview of the Irish Historical Revolution - beginning with 1169 and the Norman Settlement, through the Gaelic Revival of the 14th century and the English and Scottish settlements of the late 16th century. To illustrate his points he showed slides depicting various flags: The Cross of St. George and the Cross of St. Andrew (English and Scottish respectively) which blended into the flag of Great Britain in 1707. In 1801 it merged with the Cross of St. Patrick (Irish) - which became the Union Jack. This illustration captured his earlier remarks and illustrated them beautifully.

He also spoke a great deal about Irish Politics and a bit about the constitution adopted in 1937. The government roles created in the document are: Pesident (replacing the British king/queen), the Dail (replacing the House of Commons), the Senate (replacing the House of Lords) and the Taoseach (replacing the Prime Minister). A most unique point is that the Taoseach is responsible to the Dail - so the head of state can be dismissed by the parliament.

The Irish Party system inlcudes Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and Labour as the 3 leading parties with some others on the outside (an example provided was Green Party). He covered some older isues in Irish politics and then focus on some of the current political issues: coping with Economic Growth (commuting and a health infrastructure), Immigration and Environment and Energy.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day 4 - Random

Many of you reading this know just a few of our travelers and the updates thus far have skipped much of our routine, so let me catch you up...

As you know, this is the inaugural Alumni Travel Program. We have 48 travelers. Our alumni range in class year from 1954 to 2005. We have alums who majored in business, in science, in healthcare and in english (to name just a few). Joining the alumni are spouses and significant others, as well as mothers, cousins, dads, friends and College employees.

We are a very ecclectic group and one thing that stands out is how well everyone is bonding. We have become our own little family here in Ireland. Just tonight I witnessed a few alumni waiting in the lobby because they wanted to be sure that a few of the single travelers had companionship for a night on the town.

Each morning we have a group breakfast and each evening we have a group dinner. Most of us have shared meals with completely different people each meal. In between meals we ride a motor coach bus and since day one, we have rotated seats so that we can enjoy getting to know others better. We have helped each other with photos and shopping bags and we have treated each other to a pint of Guiness. Just halfway complete and already folks are asking about keeping in touch, sharing photos and future trips together!

Ireland 2007: Day 4 - Cashell


Doris chatted with us about the country's National Sport: Hurling (sounds a lot like Quiddich to many of us!) and how it dates back as far as Celtic times.

We then reached Cashell and stopped for lunch and took some time to see the very famous Rock of Cashell.

We reboarded the bus and began our 2.5 hour drive to Dublin, which was lengthened by a serious accident on the road leading to the highway. Johnny took control (and followed police orders) and got us through the detour and back on track. While waiting in the traffic, Richard answered some questions and discussed the Irish Rebellion.

On the tail end of our long drive we drove through Killdare and learned about St. Brigid and the story of her meadows. February 1st is her feast day and many of us decidedto take the day off this year in celebration!!!

We pulled into Dublin and enjoyed a group dinner once again. Most of us headed into the city (we're staying in a section known as Temple Bar) to check out the sights and sounds.

Ireland 2007: Day 4 - Lecture on the Bus


Upon leaving Cobh we had an hour drive to Cashell and Prof Finnegan graced us with more of his knowledge.

He began by revisiting a few questions from yesterday about the Irish educational system, specifically the power the church exuded/exudes over it. He then turned his discussion to contemporary Ireland. Three components he cited as hugely impacting the growth of the country are Television, Travel and Tourism. All three brought new ideas to the Irish people, showing them a different way of life.

He also focused on some of the "hot button" issues to highlight political differences, including abortion and divorce. He wrapped up by commenting on the women's movement in Ireland and showing similarities between it and the civil rights movement in the States.

Again - many thanks to Richard!

Ireland 2007: Day 4, Early Risers


This morning we had a group wake up call at 6:30AM to get an early start to a full day. Everyone enjoyed breakfast while the porters and Johnny loaded our luggage onto the motor coach. Those who went to see the Liam O'Connor show returned with rave reviews -- and agree.... he probably does have the fastest fingers in the world!

We began our drive with a few stories from Doris including the Salmon of Knowledge Legend while we drove through the town of Macroom.

We drove for about 90 minutes until we reached the town of Cobh (pronounced Cove). This little port has served as the epicenter of Irish emmigration for hunderds of years. They have converted an old railway station into a very moving immigration museum. Several in our group have relatives from Ireland and most likely, this is the last place those relatives were before heading to the states.

The town also houses St. Colman Cathedral and many visited here while others enjoyed - you guessed it - a few gift shops! This cathedral boasts 47 bells which ranks it among the most in all of Europe.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day 3 - Conclusion


We conlcuded our tour of the Ring of Kerry by driving by the Black Valley (named because it was one of the last regions to get electricity). We also passed the Gap of Dunlough and Ireland Lake.

We entered the National Park of Killarney - and witnessed the overgrowth of rhodadendron throughout much of the park (reminds many of the road on Stonehill's campus).

We stopped for a final photo shoot at Ladies View (named because Queen Victoria visited the spot with her ladies in waiting and admired it so much.

We swung around into downtown Killarney and several took horse and carriage rides throughout the National Park. Apparently Evie had a great bonding experience with a horse!!!! The ride was a bit cold but everyone enjoyed hearing the stories from the drivers (one of whom has been driving the carriages in the park for 45 years!).

Others skipped the carriage ride and stopped in St. Mary's Church or enjoyed some time downtown during the day.

After dinner a few folks headed back to town to enjoy a performance by "Liam" who claims to have the fastest fingers in the world - according to Guiness Book of World Records. Can't wait til they return and I hear how the show was!

Happy Anniversary to our companion Kathy and her husband (back home). Best Wishes from all your fellow travelers!!!

Ireland 2007: Day 3 - Prof Finnegan


We reboarded the bus in Sneem and Richard took the microphone once again. Today he spoke about clans (over 600 of them throughout the country when they existed). He focused on the clan names and their origins. He also shared the explanations of "lace curtains" and "Two Toilet" Irish.

He then spoke at length about the educational system in Ireland. Set up in 1853 by the English, Ireland's ed. system is one of the earliest in the world. He also shared how the system has changed (and grown so remarkably) over the years. He fielded questions from the travelers - several regarding higher education in the country. Once again - very enlightening comments!

A message home from a guest journalist: Peter '70 writes, "A special HI to Jocelyn's mom and dad, Dan, Pam, Don and Mark. We're having a terrific time. The sights are beautiful!! Love, Peter and Jocelyn." While he was the only official entry - I know everyone shares his sentiments and send their best to loved ones at home (and can't wait to them you what a great time we're having!!!!).

Ireland 2007: Day 3 - Part II


We left Waterville and drove up into the mountains to see spectacular views! It was clear enough that we were able to see the Skellig Islands.

We stopped for more photos at Cooma Cista to look out on Skellig's Bay - more glorious views! Actually the entire day was filled with sight after sight of tremendous scenery. Extra fun was had when Johnny began dancing with Pam and Joanne to the music of an accordian player! They were pretty good, too.

A visit to the town of Sneem showed off a lively main street with all the store fronts painted in bright colors. Many enjoyed homemade ice cream - others enjoyed shopping! The church in Sneem has a fish atop its steeple - in memory of the Irish famine, as the waterfront town was able to sustain its population by living off the water.

Ireland 2007: Day 3 - Part I

Good evening everyone at home!

We woke up to (or went to bed at - depending on time of arrival back from the pubs) our first taste of Irish rain. We ate our breakfast and boarded the bus to some rain and barely a patch of blue in the sky. Although Doris had mentioned that if we could see a patch of blue big enough to make a pair of pants - we had a chance at good weather. And sure enough, it ended up being a beautiful day (windy and cooler than our first 2 days) but we were thrilled the clouds parted.

We headed out to tour the Ring of Kerry. We went through the town of Killorglan and heard about the Puck Fair held each August and the billy goat king. And as a special treat we drove right by the hotel run by Dorothy's cousin! Then we stopped at the Red Fox and many enjoyed an Irish Coffee (ask them what time it was!). Upon return to the bus we sang along to "Molly Malone". Doris also recommends a book, "Jack's World" by Sean Sheehan - which is newly published.

We had a photo stop along the road and could see across the water to Inch Beach and the Dingle Penninsula where we had been just yesterday. We then drove through the Birthplace of Daniel O'Connor and stopped to shoot more photos at the ruins of the home he was born in. We then headed to Waterville for lunch and enjoyed photos with Charlie Chaplin and more walks along the Irish beach.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day 2 - maybe 3 now

Alright, it is 0:40AM and we know this is the post you've been waiting for!

I just arrived back at the hotel from the pubs (yes, plural) and I am NOT the last to arrive back! I know several travelers have found "late night" spots to enjoy. Many of us found our way to the main section of Killarney and enjoyed a variety of local musical entertainment. It was great fun! (By the way, I've promised not to post any photos from the pub scene as many have mentioned the addage: What happens in Ireland, stays in Ireland.)

Great story though... Jen has been researching (mostly her grandfather has been researching) family history. In one of the pubs tonight, she mentioned this to a man who happened to be in the Irish military. He is familiar with the story she knows a part of and offered to research for her. So he accepted her email address and recorded the info she knows - promises to get back to her within 2 weeks. How great!?!? Even better... she offered to buy him a "pint" for his help. He would not accept - saying that it is bad luck to accept a drink from a lady without first buying her one. So he bought her a drink - and then he bought the rest of us one as well!

The group from Class of '05 just returned and say hello to everyone. But they are not the last to return to the hotel tonight.....

Ireland 2007: Day 2, the Beach


Yes, we went to the BEACH! We stopped at Inch Beach (also used in the film Ryan's Daughter). A few of us scaled (literally) the rocks to make it to the sandy beaches. Others enjoyed the beautful vistas. Tom even went in the water!!!!

On our trip home we heard some old wives tales including this gem from our driver Johnny: "If you are going fishing and you come upon a red haired woman. And she is whistling. Turn back home. You won't be catching anything today."

I invited my fellow travelers to share their thoughts for the journal - but had no takers yet.... All of us enjoyed another great meal to wrap up a terrific day of sightseeing and comraderie.

Everyone says hello to their loved ones at home and a few ask that the respective caretakers remember to feed the pets left behind!

Off to the singing pubs of Killarney......

Ireland 2007: Day 2, First Lecture

After lunch, Professor Finnegan treated us by explaining the historical relationship between the East and West parts of the country.

In the 1500s (by the way I'm paraphrasing) the English came for the third time and enacted the Penal Laws - which deprived the native Celtic people of property, land, service in govt., etc. Unless the natives converted to Protestantism, they lost everything. 90% of the land prior to the "invasion" was owned by Celts and by the time the famine came along 90% was owned by Church of England Protestants.

Post-famine, the natives sought out their own identity and they used the following to build a story of Irish history and an Irish Nationalism: Celtic heritage, Roman Catholicism and the Irish Language (Gaelic). Ultimately in 1922 the country achieved autonomy from Britain. Although a vast majority of the emigrees during the famine were from the west (which is the part of the country still speaking Gaelic), which explains why the native language is no longer predominant. We also heard about the role that monasteries played in Irish history. (Again I paraphrase and do not do Richard justice!) His comments were very enlightening and he entertained questions from his audience.

Ireland 2007: Day 2, Dingle


On our way to the town of Dingle we were informed that many feature films were made in this area (including Ryan's Daughter and Far and Away). We pulled off the road for a few photo ops - including a stop at the famous beehive huts and a pleasant visit with Maura (who had a cameo in Far and Away!).

Continuing on, our next stop was to photo the "Three Sisters" and Mount Brandon (made famous by our very own Chet Raymo).

We enjoyed lunch and a few hours of leisure in Dingle. (Much shopping was done!) We also enjoyed a cathedral, the fishing docks and stories of hot whiskey.

On a side note: Ask some of us about our samples of ice cream - Peter and Jocelyn split the five-flavor special!

Ireland 2007: Day 2, Tralee


Greetings Readers!

After a lovely dinner at the hotel last night several of us ventured out to explore the pubs of Killarney.... we then met up for breakfast before our full day touring the Dingle Penninsula.

First we drove through the town of Tralee and heard from Doris about the Rose of Tralee - the contest which was most recently won by the New York Rose. She then treated us to the song! We also heard the story of St. Brendan and got a post-trip reading list addition: The Brendan Voyage.

We also were filled in on some of the history of whiskey in Ireland: first produced by Irish monks. And the line, "Irish invented whiskey.... the Scotch are still practicing!"

We then de-boarded our home away from home for our first group photo in front of the "Valley of the Mad Men".


Monday, October 1, 2007

Ireland 2007: Day One - Adare and Killarney

We then headed to the small town of Adare. With thatched roofs on cottages and rows of shops, most of us enjoyed lunch in one of the local establishments. By the way, there was more shopping - and perhaps another Guiness.

We then boarded our home away from home (luxury motor coach) and drove about 90 minutes to Killarney. Folks are now checking into their rooms (ask us about the lights and how many Stonehill alums it takes to find the solution!) and resting before our first communal dinner.

From there some will retire for the evening (we're running on fumes) and others will take a short walk into the heart of Killarney to sample the singing pubs that the area is known for.

The weather today has been PERFECT. After hearing about the summer-long rains, we had not one drop, with very few clouds. The blue sky over the horizon of green pastures and fields made the time in our motor coach fly by.

Everyone sends their love to family back home. A few messages: Do your homework (you know who you are), Pick up your room (you too!), and watch all the Sox and Pats games for us!!

Ireland 2007: Day One, Bunratty


After fueling up in Limerick we headed to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. We got our workouts in by climbing the stairs of this impressive castle and enjoyed the interesting homes and cottages in the Folk Park.

Some found their way to the shops while others decided to have a real "Irish Breakfast" and greeted the bartender at Durty Nellie's when he opened up shop at 10:30!

By now we are all familiar with our guide, Doris, and driver, Johnny (who entertained us all with a song). Doris and Johnny are shown in the photo.


Ireland 2007: Day One Arrival


Greetings to everyone back home! All 48 travelers arrived in at Shannon Airport this AM (6:10am to be precise) and had our first day of sightseeing. Although one bag decided to go directly to Dublin and we are awaiting its return to our group.

Special thanks to Alumni Chaplain Fr. Genaro who greeted about 30 of us as we departed from Stonehill's campus on a courtesy shuttle to the airport. He offered a special blessing and provided us each with a St. Patrick prayer card.

Check in for our Aer Lingus flight went smoothly and our flight left Logan at 7:25pm. The overnight flight left a number of us weary so we made an extra stop in Limerick to grab some breakfast (and caffeine). Although we were most of the folks up and about at 8:00am in the town as the photos will show .