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Ireland 2014 - Day 1

About half of us met on campus and took the shuttle to the airport.  We then met up with our traveler friends and set out for our flight to Shannon.  Arrival at 6:00am (but really midnight) was tough on our systems but we began with a stop for full Irish breakfast - yum.

We met our tour director/driver Frank and the Harlows caught up to us (they flew in a day early!).  We then headed north to see the Cliffs of Moher.  We learned that Shannon airport was the first to offer duty free - and if you know some of us travelers, we are grateful :)

Frank also shared some basics - pedestrians may or not have the right of way, Ireland (including Northern Ireland) has a population of about 6 million.  Dairy and livestock are top industries.  We heard a bit about the great famine and about the Celtic Tiger (more to follow).

If you've been to the Cliffs of Moher or seen the pictures, there is a brick structure out on the end - this is O'Brien's Tower.  Erected and named after a local who conceptualized the area as a tourist destination (we thank you Sir O'Brien too!).

We then heeded further north to Galway and drove through the burren along the scenic coastline.  We even passed through a difficult golf course.

Professor Finnegan took the microphone for part of this drive and elaborated on the Celtic Tiger mentioned by Frank.  In fact, there were three Celtic Tigers.  The first in the 1960s was a push back against the regulations of the preceding decades.  The second was a period of economic growth like almost no other in the world which saw a return of citizens to the country and thriving industries like software development and Parma.  The third was fueled by the abundance of construction but muted by a decline in manufacturing.  The banks were pretty shady (paraphrasing here) and Ireland became the first country to receive a bailout from the European Union - which they just settled last year by selling their debt as bonds.  Clearly, this is just a hint at what Professor Finnegan shared with us.  It was very interesting and complimented the info provided by Frank.

Upon arrival in Galway, we met local guide Brian who has a wealth of enthusiasm for his city and lots of stories and anecdotes.  The best was his telling of Eugene Daley (young man on the Titanic who actually survived and was rescued).  While telling his tale, a woman passed by and interrupted.  Turns our she knew Eugene and he actually housed her family after disaster left them homeless.  Yes, she is still in touch with his daughter Priscilla.  And yes, she then shared some 'crazy' talk about a pope and the freemasons.

We then checked into the hotel Ardilaun and enjoyed a group welcome dinner.


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