Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The end of the road

Well, this is it: My final Ireland blog!

A horse resting at the Irish National Stud.
Touring the Irish National Stud and Japanese Gardens was a great way to end our tour, as we were scheduled to depart this beautiful country on Friday, September 24. We learned about current trends in horse breeding in Ireland and saw some of the most magnificent horses in the country. The Japanese Gardens were established in 1908, and represent "Life of Man" from cradle to grave in the traditional Japanese style of gardening.

The Old Jameson Distillery.
We also had one final hurrah - our shindig! We toured the Old Jameson Distillery to learn about whiskey-making, then enjoyed a nice dinner that was followed by a show with traditional and contemporary songs and the famous Irish step dancing.

Dana Gould and Susan Gould '62 enjoy the final dinner at the Old Jameson Distillery.
On Friday, we departed this beautiful country. Though I enjoyed the city of Dublin, my personal favorite spots were Killarney and the villages with the best views of the countryside.

So long, Ireland - we all enjoyed the trip and are looking forward to the next Alumni Travel Program adventure (which has yet to be determined!).

I want to extend a special thanks to Connor, our tour guide, who made the trip even more special!

Slan Agus Beannacht to Ireland!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Enjoying a day in Dublin

The tour of Dublin turned out to be fascinating! It was pouring when we left, but by the time we got off the bus, the rain had stopped, and the sun eventually came out - it was a gorgeous afternoon once again!
The statue of Molly Malone in Dublin.
Our tour guide, Claire, showed us around the prominent historic buildings and monuments of Dublin. The city is an ancient settlement founded by the Vikings in the 9th century. We passed the National Gallery, where a long-lost Caravaggio painting lives. The piece was listed as "High" on the list of wanted paintings before its rediscovery. There are also paintings by John Yeats. The current exhibit is Gabriel Metsu.

On the tour, we also passed the Duke of Wellington's home and the Merrion hotel, a famous and popular restaurant. 

The 18th century gracious squares were developed in Dublin, such as Fitzwilliam and Merrion squares, and Stephens Green. Some of the most expensive houses are in this area - it was charming! And the famous Dawson Street is full of restaurants and shops.

Our Centenary group at Trinity College.
Finally, we arrived at Trinity College, which is on 43 acres of land, and learned about the Book of Kells from the 8th century. The book is an illuminated manuscript of the gospel. The Long Room in the library was filled with a huge collection of books that were gathered from generations of Irish.

The Guinness Storehouse.

Our next visit was to the Guinness Storehouse, to see exhibits on how this world-famous stout was first created. There was a rooftop bar with spectacular views, and two of our alumni received certificates for pouring a beer into a mug from a tap! Also, Guinness' anniversary was today - Arthur's Day! It is 251 years after the lease was signed in 1759, and the storehouse sits on a whole 60 acres.

We enjoyed a special Centenary College dinner at the Fire Restaurant!
Last night, a Centenary College dinner was held at the Fire Restaurant, an old mansion. It was a lovely time and a great way to commemorate the first Alumni Travel Program trip!

Today is our last day, sadly. We are headed to Kildare, which is in the heart of Ireland's horse country. At the Irish National Stud, we will learn the history and current trends of horse breeding in Ireland. With Centenary's outstanding Equine Studies program, I'm sure this will prove fascinating! Later, we will head to the Old Jameson Distillery in the heart of the city, where we'll tour the Distillery and then enjoy a "shindig" and our last evening together. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting the gift of gab

Sorry I didn't have the chance to blog yesterday! As you can see, I've been taking the time to enjoy the tour myself!
Showing my Centenary pride at Cashel.
Yesterday, we headed to Blarney Castle, and just about all of us on the trip kissed the legendary Blarney Stone. We walked up over 100 narrow and windy steps to get to it - what a great experience!
Now we all have the gift of gab and good luck!

Blarney Castle, home of the famed Blarney Stone.
After that adventure, we headed to the Woollen Mills, where we picked up souvenirs and gifts for ourselves and loved ones back home. There are three floors to the store, and most of us got our retail fix there.
Then it was off to Dublin we went. On our drive, we passed through Cork and Tipperary, and saw the slopes of the Galtee Mountains and the majestic Rock of Cashel. We topped all of that off with a delicious lunch at Finnegan's Pub!

At the end of a long day, we arrived in Dublin and checked in at the Davenport Hotel, where we rested up for a bit before dinner.

Today, we will tour the city of Dublin with a local guide, who will show us around and tell us about the prominent historic buildings and monuments. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 20, 2010

What an Experience!

What a wonderful day we had on Sunday!

We started off with a nice breakfast, then made our way through the Ring of Kerry, which was absolutely beautiful. It was a 100-mile scenic route! During this tour, we crossed a bridge to Valencia Island to visit the Skellig Experience. The history behind this is astonishing. I learned a lot about the Skellig Experience on this island. It was a way of life for early Christian monks, who built their monastery on one of these offshore islands so they could be closer to God. If I remember correctly, they built more than 1,000 steps to the top!

Not too many boats go over to the island due to the rough seas, so I didn't have the chance to see the actual island where they lived. Maybe next time! So many different birds nestle in the Skelligs as well... It gives me something to look forward to on a future Alumni Travel Program trip. 

The Vista Bar & Seafood Restaurant, where we ate lunch.
After the Experience, Connor, our tour guide, took us to a special place for lunch - the Vista Bar & Seafood Restaurant, which has some of the best views of Ireland. After lunch, we headed back to Killarney and stopped at this adorable village called Sneem, passing more spectacular views of the Lakes of Killarney. We were able to stop and take pictures from a spot called the "Ladies View."

Ireland's best known view, according to the Vista
We arrived back at the hotel around 5 p.m., with just enough time to freshen up for dinner. 

Today, Monday, September 20, has been beautiful thus far - a gorgeous 65 degrees!

Monday began with a horse jaunting car.
It was the first day we had some free time, too. The day started with an old-fashioned horse jaunting car, which took us through Killarney National Park and on to our tour of Muckross House. This manor is from the 19th century and sits beside the tranquil Muckross Lakes. We all enjoyed seeing the beautiful furnishings in the manor and the well-kept gardens. Ireland now owns and maintains this wonderful piece of history.

The gardens at Muckross House.
Well, we are off to tonight's dinner soon! It's 5:30 p.m. as I write this, and I am already looking forward to tomorrow's early start to Blarney Castle and on to Dublin. I can't wait to kiss the famous "Stone of Eloquence" - and when I do, that means you'll be hearing even more from me!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To the Cliffs and beyond

Three days of touring Ireland has been fascinating.

Centenary alumni and friends at the Cliffs of Moher.
On Saturday morning, we departed Galway early to make our way across the beautiful countryside of Ireland to see the Cliffs of Moher. I have never seen so many cows and so much green - Ireland is so much more beautiful than I ever expected! Despite the rain and wind, the Cliffs of Moher were absolutely beautiful. Watching the waves hit the walls of the Cliffs was quite amazing.

The Cliffs of Moher.
After this sight, we crossed the River Shannon on a ferry - bus and all - to make our way across the countryside to Kerry. We then made our way to Killarney. We all arrived at the Killarney Plaza Hotel, had a wonderful dinner, then walked around this charming area.

The highlight was going to a piano bar to listen to music!

Our tour guide, Connor, was quite a hit. So was the piano bar in Killarney!
Besides all the wonderful sights, I have the pleasure of getting to know some wonderful Centenary College alumni and friends. In addition, our tour guide, Connor, has been a big hit - we are lucky to have him be a part of our trip.

Our next sights are the Ring of Kerry and the Skellig Experience. Stay tuned!