Hello all! I am in China, slowly melting in the sweltering city heat but having a lot of fun already. We traveled to southern China this weekend for a work trip and packed a lot into just a couple of days. It was exhausting and hot as you know what but an interesting experience. I will be updating in a couple of days, but for now let’s return to Ireland! Oh Ireland… so cool and green…
Shamrocker Irish Adventures- Giant’s Rocker 5 Day Tour
After an exciting first day in Dublin, we were excited to begin our tour of Ireland! At 8am sharp, we grabbed our enormous backpacks and dragged ourselves out of our hostel in search of the tour office. We quickly found the Shamrocker Irish Adventures office around the corner and hustled down the street in search of breakfast. I needed something more than the sad, dry toast available in the hostel kitchen. No thank you. Breakfast sandwich in hand, we walked back to the office to check in. Nervous and slightly sleep deprived, I fumbled with my passport and money, too anxious to grasp things properly with my fingers. It was going to be an interesting morning.
Sitting on a curb outside, we waited for the other tour members to show up while slyly checking them out. To our dismay, we saw that we were the youngest people there by far. Oh no, would this be a boring bus ride from sight to sight while being herded by loudmouthed guide waving a flag with tourists in short shorts and fanny packs (aka China)? We sure hoped not. But we feared the worst.
Once everybody arrived, our guide locked up the office and lead us all to the bus. To our relief we noticed a few pairs of people our age walking with the group. Ok, maybe this was going to be fun after all! After a few hiccups in departure, including me running to the bathroom at the last minute and sitting in the hottest and most uncomfortable seat, we were on our way! We would be spending out morning driving west across Ireland from Dublin to County Clare on other coast.
As the bus left the city center, our tour guide Dave introduced himself and began talking about the history of Dublin as a Viking town. Soon the buildings began to thin out until we were on the open road, surrounded by rolling green hills. And it is true, Ireland is just so GREEN. Like greener than green, if that makes sense. Although it was easy to be mesmerized by the overabundance of GREEN, I dozed off until Dave’s voice jolted me out of my slumber.
We were at a small stone church at the peak of a hill in a sea of green as far as the eye could see. Stepping into the cool air, we walked up the steep steps to this stark structure, reduced to mere walls over time.
Dave solemnly told us about the Great Famine and the devastating effects this time period had on the entire population. He explained that there are hundreds of bodies buried around the church because there were too many at that time for proper burials. The good news from this terrible time is that about 1 million people emigrated from Ireland which is why people with Irish heritage are so prevalent around the world. My own family most likely emigrated from Ireland to New York City either before or during the famine. Hearing about the famine in Ireland was a sobering and deeply personal moment, one that I will never forget.
Dave also pointed out a few features that make this church unique including a double cross on the main wall. Local folklore says that this cross signifies a location of a piece of the cross from the crucifixion of Jesus. It is hard to say whether or not this is true. There are also pagan female and male figures on the walls with their…. bits on display. The myth is that if you are able to jump up and touch the figurines, you will become fertile. However the male figure’s member was missing which is probably not a good sign.
After leaving the church, we continued our drive through County Clare towards the Cliffs of Moher, stopping for lunch in a small town on the way. Somehow Carina and I became the unofficial leaders of our little group of the quiet but cool Americans. How does this always happen to us? All I know is that people definitely congregate according to their nationality which is interesting but not surprising as I travel the world. People long for the familiar in an unfamiliar place. Plus, Americans are just awesome (but I may be biased).
Before reaching the Cliffs, we visited a small and sacred well dedicated to St. Bridget, one of the patron saints of Ireland. We walked through a small stone corridor covered in memorabilia and photos of dead loved ones to a pool of fresh water bubbling up from the bottom of a stone basin. The water is said to have special healing properties so I made sure to say a prayer and dab some water on my face just in case. After spending time at the well, we each made a wish and tied a ribbon around the branches of a bush growing along the water. It is said that when the ribbon falls off, your wish will come true.
Once we were sufficiently healed, we boarded the bus to continue through the beautiful landscape of County Clare. Next stop… the Cliffs of Moher!
The tour was about to get good. Really good. Shamrockers know how to have fun.
** A big thank you to my travel partner in crime, Carina, for her wonderful company and for her amazing photos which will be gracing this blog to help round out the stories! Thank you :-)