Friday, September 24, 2010

Day 6

Our last day in Ireland was somewhat bitter sweet. Even though we knew we would be leaving behind the “land of green,” most everyone was anxious to get home to share their Ireland experience (and photos) with family and friends.

We began the day by passing through the spectacular Dublin and Wicklow mountains to Glendalough. Glendalough is where a settlement was established by St. Kevin in the 6th century. This highly atmospheric monastic site was once a major learning center in Europe until it was destroyed in 1398 by British troops. St. Kevin rejected his life of privilege and went on to create this settlement that became a center of learning devoted to the care of the sick and the copying and illumination of manuscripts. The churches, buildings, and decorated Celtic crosses that have survived are a glimpse into the past, particularly the medieval Round Tower, one of the finest of its kind in the country.

Glendalough Round Tower

 Coleen Wood at Glendalough Church

Celtic crosses in the cemetery

 Jeanne and our fabulous tour/coach driver Michael Nolan

After touring Glendalough, we found ourselves traveling through the Vale of Avoca. In the hamlet of Avoca we visited the oldest hand-weaving mill in Ireland and met the craftspeople who weave the colorful tweeds and scarves for which Ireland is famous. I think most of us left with at least one bag full of treasures. For me it was the scarves.

 Craftsman hand weaving in Avoca

We ended our last day in Ireland with a celebratory Irish dinner at The Blarney Inn. We found ourselves reminiscing about our trip, discussing our travel schedule heading home, and talked about ways to stay connected after returning to our busy lives. Thank you Alumni Relations for the opportunity to meet new friends and tour a country with scenery and friendliness second to none.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Day 5

With just a few days left of our trip, all of us stayed in Dublin with the exception of Sister Mary O.  She was the only Saint to hop the tour bus for Belfast. 

Belfast is located on the Irish Sea, and is Northern Ireland’s capital with a population of 500,000.  It’s an exciting mix of new and old, marked by Victorian and Edwardian architecture. 

In Belfast Sister Mary O. toured the remnants of Europe’s largest ship building yards including the still working Harland & Wolff shipyard, where the infamous Titanic was built.  She also spent free time strolling down the famous shopping street, Royal Avenue, dotted with department stores, bustling city squares, friendly pubs, and notable museums. 

The rest of us enjoyed the day of sightseeing and shopping in Dublin.  Our hotel is located in a wonderful part of town close to the Cathedral District, two public parks (Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green), Trinity College, the Viking/Medieval Area, as well as various museums and art galleries and a fantastic shopping area up and down Grafton Street leading up to Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre which is home to the largest indoor clock in Europe. 
Beautiful fresh flowers are for sale throughout Dublin
Beautiful architectural buildings are everywhere in Dublin

Building with the domed top is a fantastic shopping mall that many of us visited :-)
While touring Trinity College again today, I noticed a bunch of student organizations promoting their clubs to all students in a courtyard area.  This is very similar to our CSS Student Activities Fair which was just held on campus last week. 

Students promoting their clubs and organizations at Trinity College
Most of us met in the hotel pub at 5:30 in order to for a much anticipated and advertised Worldwide Guiness Toast to Arthur at 5:59 p.m.  Sister arrived a little later than that from Belfast - so of course we all had to toast again!

Promotion for Worldwide Guiness Toast to Arthur
Us toasting Arthur at 5:59 p.m. - from left to right Mary Schwanke, me, Judy Bonovetz, Greg Bonovetz, Coleen Wood, Penny Hatcher, Larry Schwanke.

Tomorrow, our last day of touring, we will travel through the spectacular Dublin and Wicklow mountains to Glendalough, the “glen of the two lakes.” This verdant valley, surrounded by mountain vistas, is considered one of the most picturesque in Ireland.  I’m sure many photos will be taken and shared.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day 4

Today was our transfer day from Killarney to Dublin, and what a difference in scenery.  We went from rolling quilt patterned hills and mountains to a lot of farm land.  Still beautiful though.

Once in Dublin we toured Trinity College, which houses the Book of Kells.  The Book of Kells contains lavishly decorated copy, in Latin, of the four gospels and was most likely produced early in the 9th century by the monks of Iona (county Meath), off the west coast of Scotland.  The Book of Kells was sent to Dublin around 1653 for reasons of security.  It came to Trinity College through the agency of Henry Jones, after he became bishop of Meath in 1661.

The rest of our afternoon was spent touring Dublin, including the residence of the US ambassador.  Many wonderful Cathedrals, museums, and shops await all alums tomorrow.

Residence of the President of Ireland

Jeanne, Greg, Judy, and Sister Mary O.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day 3

Today was the first day all 11 of us signed up for the daily tour . . which was to Bantry Bay and Garinish Island.

We traveled South to Kenmare, a quaint town renowned for its traditional lace, located in one of the most natural unspoiled environments in Europe.  We enjoyed breathtaking views of Bantry Bay as we traveled over the Caha Pass to the resort village of Glengarriff, where we boarded a ferry for a short journey to the tropical island of Garinish.  This small island was transformed into an exotic garden in 1920 by Harold Peto, and is known to horticulturists and lovers of trees and shrubs all around the world as an island garden or rare beauty.  On our way back to Killarney we took the scenic route through Killarney National Park.
Sister Mary O. looking at a flower.
Waiting for the ferry back to Glengarriff from Garinish Island.
Group in Killarney Plaza Hotel lobby.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Day 2

Today we traveled to County Cork, the largest county in Ireland, and visited Kinsale, one of Ireland's oldest and prettiest towns.  Then we continued to Blarney, where we visited historic Blarney Castle.  4 of us ascended the ancient steps - about 125 of them to get to the top to kiss the blarney stone.  If legend rings true, we will be bestowed with the gift of eloquence.  We are now calling ourselves the BSK's - a special elite group (Blarney Stone Kissers) :-) 

Blarney Castle
Near the Blarney Castle sign are from left to right:  Front row - Greg, Judy, Coleen and Marian Lucas, Back row - Larry, Mary, Leigh Lucas and Pat Chenal.
Leigh, Pat and Marian
Kissing the Blarney Stone

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Day 1

Our flights and everything were great - although I had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. Friday morning, and didn't sleep again until last night 9:00 p.m. Ireland time - or 3:00 p.m. Central time.  36 hours is a long time to go without sleep :-) .
The group at Newark Airport as we waited 5 hours to catch our flight to Shannon (9/18/2010).

Everyone is really enjoying themselves.  Today we went to Dingle Peninsula and it was the most amazingly beautiful area I have ever seen.  
Penny and Mary in front of a scenic hillside.

Coleen Wood in front of one of the bee hive huts, that date back to the 5th and 6th century.

Our group with our driver Michal and an Irish woman whose property the bee hive huts reside on.
The Bonovetz's in front of the Dingle Peninsula sign.

We were asked as a group to attend Riverdance tonight - its in town (Killarney) for two nights.  Most alums are going and I will be going as well.

Jeanne Thompson