Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Patrick's Day in Ireland

Ireland is absolutely, breathtakingly, indescribably beautiful.

The most magical moment of the trip was seeing a rainbow on one of the trains.  It was such a blessing to be in Ireland, and be reminded of God’s promise and the beauty of small miracles.

We stayed in a lovely little hostel (pictured below) off on a country road (pictured to the right) right outside a tiny town that was about an hour bus ride from Galway on the west coast of Ireland.  It was a lovely change of pace, difficult for transportation, but completely worth it.  One of the highlights of the weekend was going out and about in that small town, meeting some of the locals and talking with them.  The Irish folk are so friendly, loud, welcoming, fun, and love their Guinness in their pubs.  It was a fun culture to witness and be welcomed into for the weekend.

Molly and I spent a lovely day in Dublin wandering the streets and experiencing Irish city life.

We went to the exhibit to see the Book of Kells (basically an incredibly old, treasured manuscript of the gospels that survived all these years) and a beautiful old library in Trinity College full of ancient books.  Here’s an expert from my journal about that experience:

“The library was beautiful and it’s so neat that it can actually be used and people check out the books to actually read them!  (under strict supervision)… seeing the imagery and symbolism of the drawings in the book of Kells [was my favorite part].  I wish we still put that much thought and value into our copies of the gospels.  It’s so beautiful how much work was put into literally spreading God’s word back then.”

I really cannot explain all the images and imagery and how powerful it was to witness art that reflects different aspects of God in a super old copy of Jesus’s life story, but all I can say is that it was an incredible experience and everyone should go see it for themselves.

We saw the outside of the famous Guinness factory…but as I think I say pretty decently in my journal, “Guinness Store House: Walked in.  Molly and I decided we didn’t care enough.  Walked out.”

We enjoyed delicious apples at a little market we randomly came across in some back streets for local farmers full of cute old Irish folk.

We enjoyed the beauty of St. Patrick’s Cathedral where we made some friends from Singapore and walked around the park outside, taking in the beauty and weather and atmosphere of the lovely place of God.

We stopped briefly at the most adorable mall I have ever been in called “Stephan Green’s” and looked around a little, before having a delicious lunch at a huge Irish cafĂ©, which included a mint which mocha, one of the most delicious coffees I have had.

We concluded our day in Dublin with some time at a piano music store, where Molly played and I sat and enjoyed listening.  It was a wonderfully peaceful and completely random.

Dublin was lovely and a ton of fun, but the highlight of the trip was probably our day spent on a bus
tour of Irish countryside to see the Cliffs of Mohar.  Here’s an expert from my journal about the day:

“Taking the bus through such beauty in and of itself was completely…. Breathtaking.  Made me want to spend time just walking around the beauty of Ireland and exploring the small mountain towns and beaches.  It was surreal…

I was reading Leviticus, and seeing beautiful lambs as I was reading about how they had to be slain for a sacrifice really put the weight of sin and the destruction it causes into perspective."

We stopped at a small farm, which was absolutely splendid because we got to walk through the beautiful land and climb a little stony mountain for an amazing view and learn about typical life in the countryside of Ireland, right in the middle of the authentic Irish world: we were right outside a village with a grand total of two stores and nine pubs!

The Cliffs of Mohar were breathtaking.  The water was sparkling, beautiful, and tempting.  The cliffs were far more amazing and huge than they look in any picture.  Everyone needs to see these for themselves.  The waves crashing against the rocks far below you and the wonder and awe of how this kind of land structure happens is an unreal experience.  It was an amazing sight.  I really can’t explain it, and the pictures do not do it justice.
We made a few other stops on our tour, including a tiny adorable, typical Irish countryside town for lunch (where I had an amazing chocolate dessert bar thing); a beautiful, old castle (which we drove by many of, they are literally scattered all around Ireland randomly); and the rocky shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean.

“It was neat to see the Atlantic Ocean and know that at the other end of the vastness lies my home.  This is the same ocean that I’ve swam in from Florida before.”

Our trip ended on St. Patrick’ Day, which we spent in Dublin.  On train on the way there that morning, Molly and I sat by two 16 year old girls who live in the countryside of Ireland.  We spent a good hour and a half talking with them and learning all about growing up in the Irish countryside!  It was such a good way to get to understand the culture and lifestyle, and it was fun to get to know the girls.

Our time in Dublin was all about watching the parade, and watching the people who were watching the parade.  Boy, was it insane.  The streets were completely filled with people, Irish and tourists alike, mostly drinking, but plenty not, and everyone excited.  The parade was huge.  There were a ton of American college and high school marching bands, which I
first thought was weird, but then I remembered that every single little town, city, or tiny neighborhood in the countryside in Ireland has their own parade today, so all of Ireland’s marching bands are spread out across the country preforming, so they must need people from outside Ireland to have in the huge main Dublin parade.  My favorite part was the random floats with beautiful, extravagant costumes and dancers all around.  Molly, Ellen, and I took turns climbing up onto a poll in the ground to see the parade over the crowds because it was impossible otherwise.

It started raining as soon as the parade ended, which was perfect for the parade, but not perfect for our walk back to the train station to get to the airport to head back to Maastricht.  Long story short, after a late flight forcing us to miss the last train back to Maastricht, Molly and I had to spend the night in the Brussels Airport, which was definitely an experience that could have been a lot worse because we had access to a nice, clean, free bathroom and we were in a heated, safe place.  We made it home early Monday morning.

Despite a less than pleasant ending, the trip was amazing.  I absolutely love Ireland and am so glad I got to spend St. Patrick’s Day there!

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