Dana Visits: Aran Islands, Sligo and more

I am in Florence, Italy at the moment, visiting Dawn and Dana. But before I get to Italy, I’ll fill you all in on Dana’s visit to Galway!!

Dana is a bit of a good luck charm, as we knew the chair of our English department was going to be in town, but had no way to contact him. Sure enough, on our way to dinner, we ran into him on shop street. There was a lot of screaming and confused high schoolers. We met later and chatted with him and his son about studying abroad.

Not one, but two familiar faces in one day!

We went to the Silent Disco that night. It was a new experience for Dana and she loved it! She even went up to the DJ and requested an Arctic Monkeys song and he played it because we’d ‘been here since the beginning.’ They also played “Let it Go” from Frozen, and it was ridiculously silly, but everyone sang along.

The next day, I went to class at 9am and when I came back we went to breakfast at Cupan Tae. Dana and I both got Irish breakfasts and Galway Cream tea, which she loved! Then I gave her a very short tour of the city, because it’s a very tiny city.

Thursday, I had classes all day and Dana visited the Cliffs with her friends.

Then on Friday it got really exciting: we went to the Aran Islands. I was really hoping the weather would be nice enough for bike riding up the island, but it was cold and rainy. Nevertheless our tour driver was really nice and we learned a lot from him.

Honestly, I liked the Aran Islands so much more than the Cliffs of Moher. The islands have cliffs, too, and they are so much closer.

Here are some photos before we got to the fort.

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The little house next to the big house is a Leprechaun house! There were a lot on the island.  The one lady in the van with us refused to buy into the lore, she insisted that the little houses were for dogs. At one point everyone in the van shouted ‘They’re for Leprechauns!’ but I don’t think she was convinced.

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The family in the van with us took our picture for us! We then stopped for two hours to get food at a cottage and walk up to the fort. We really needed the two hours, too.

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The fort! There was a decent walk up to it, but what we saw next was so worth it.

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Here is a view from the edge of the cliff. Living life on the edge!

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It’s pretty easy to see how much I loved this place. It was kind of cold and windy but the view was amazing.

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Me sitting as close to the edge as I was willing to get!

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This was the view on the way down from the fort. Water everywhere! (Obviously, it’s an island). It was pretty incredible. Dana couldn’t believe how many rocks were in Ireland. All of those squared off parts of land are short rock walls. Our driver told us that they were made into walls mostly to get the rocks out of the way for the animals.

Speaking of..

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There were cows close to the path while we were walking down from the fort! But they weren’t people-c0ws, they really liked being on their side of the wall. They seemed pretty happy, as far as cows go.

WARNING WARNING PRO TIP: DO NOT ASK THE LOCALS IF THEY KNOW WHAT A PAY PHONE IS. JUST DON’T DO IT. IT’S RUDE AND INSULTING AND WOW JUST DON’T DO IT.

The lady who refused to buy into the leprechaun houses also managed to make many insulting comments to our driver, who was really a sweet man.

Such comments included asking if the cows were used for ‘slaughter,’ (it’s Ireland, this is what cows are for), could not believe that with 800 people on the island that everyone buried their own people and that funerals were very personal, (as in there wasn’t a funeral home really), asked if he knew what a pay phone was (he did and unsurprisingly, he also had a smart phone).

Just don’t underestimate the locals of a small community, be thankful that they are willing to show you their home.

We learned a lot from this guy! He was pretty well travelled and gave us a bunch of examples of Gaelic words that were very similar to Italian words. We learned a lot about his life, and his love for his cat which probably had her kittens by now!

The next place he took us to was the oldest cemetery on the island.

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The last picture is a tombstone, I thought it was really nice to see the celtic knots on it.

The very last place he took us was the edge of the island and let me tell you, the water was amazing. They have one sand beach on the island and the rest of the beaches are rocky. It made this amazing sound when the water came over the rocks and pulled some of them down closer to the water each time. It was really calming.

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It was really wonderful.

So that was Friday, and on Saturday we went on a mission, completely planned out by Dana’s mom (she may have superpowers, she got this all figured out so fast).

Dana and I went on a search for her great-grandmother’s home in Sligo. So we got on a bus from Galway to Sligo and a man named Leo picked us up and drove us out to the area. Leo was involved in the historical society in Sligo and he often gave tours similar to the one he gave us. He knew everyone in the area who knew Dana’s ancestors, and it turned out to be a very interesting trip.

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Here’s Dana at her great-grandmother’s house!

Before we got to the house, Leo had a veterinarian stop by his farm to check on a sick calf (I really hope it recovered). The momma cow had twins! This is a picture of the healthy calf:

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This is Leo’s smelly dog, Rory. We were best friends the entire time I was visiting.

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We also met the aggressive geese and lurking cats all around his farm.

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It was a really cool experience to see an Irish farm. SO MANY COWS. I didn’t know cows could be threatening until you’re looking at about 100 of them and you think ‘Wow they could trample me if they wanted to,’ and quickly walk to a safer area.

So we went to about four houses which had people who knew Dana’s relatives. Everyone was so nice, and offered us tea, and Leo described it later as ‘She’s got tea coming out her eyeballs.’ I was so impressed at how much hospitality there was for two college girls they had never seen before. Sure enough, Dana learned a lot about her distant family members. Everyone in the town was related and knew everyone else around, it was pretty incredible.

I’m really glad I got to see this side of Ireland. I don’t know any of my distant Irish relatives, so it was great to experience it through Dana.

The next day Dana went home to Florence, and in a matter of four days I was visiting her and Dawn in Florence.

I’m currently in their school’s computer lab right now, and Florence is amazing. I’ll have more than just one post about it, for sure.

Stay tuned!

-Dara

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