Tuesday, October 25, 2011

When it Rains it Pours

It was interesting being in Dublin last night when mass amounts of rain - like they haven't seen since 1987 when a hurricane hit - flooded the city.

On my way home from class around 6:30pm the rain had been on going all day and the streets, which don't have very good drain systems, were already starting to show signs of being overloaded. There were areas in the street that looked like lakes and others you just didn't want to go down at all. 

Around 8pm back at the apartment, an alarm sounded. None of us could figure out what was going on until the warden came in and said that the outside halls were flooding and that we had to grab warm clothes and get out! We looked out into the hall and low and behold Niagara Falls came to visit all the way from Canada. Water was pouring in from the light fixtures and smoke alarms, every crevice you could imagine was leaking water from the ceiling. On our way down we met another gentlemen - the fire safety expert, who informed us that we may not be able to get back into the building that night and to go back up and quickly grab our computers, and anything else we may need. We did! I contemplated bringing my pillow in case of emergency but one of my roommates was tensely yelling for us to "GET OUT". 

Apparently our apartment building - the post grad house - was the only one taking on water. It was insanity trying to get downstairs and out of the building with all the water coming in. We were all hoarded into the reception hall where there are pol tables and couches and such and spent most of the evening chatting, some more dedicated students working. 

We thought at first that it was just a Halls situation but quickly learned that all of Dublin was flooding, the bus and Luas were both inactive due to floods and some of the kids we knew who were still at school had to walk back here - 40 minutes in the pouring rain. 
The Halls officers ordered us lots of food - three rounds - first pizza, then fried chicken and chips, then biryani! I was like - hmmm biryani - this isn't too bad!

We sat in wait for several hours, most of us wishing and praying that our rooms wouldn't be damaged. Two of the guys we knew who were sitting with us took matters into their own hands and ordered beer! We were later informed that no one would be delivering and that people with cars were going out to get us food. Not one minute later the delivery man showed up with the beer. You know what matters in an emergency situation in Ireland!

We were thankfully let back into our apartments at around 11:30pm, some apartments more wet than others - the fourth floor kitchen and living space was flooded. Our apartment, thank goodness, is fine and it is only the hallways that have suffered damage. 

An Irish experience to remember - that's for sure!

Below are video of a nearby shopping center down the street from my building that flooded like the Titanic!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Interactive video from the Cliffs of Moher

If you listen closely in the second video you can hear the flute player who was sitting on the mountain playing a tune.

Two Counties in Two Days - Galway & Clare

 Our journey began on Friday. We took the train from Dublin to Galway which with the numerous stops amounted to about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Not bad considering we were crossing the island. 

I will preface this entire recounting by saying that I am thouroughly in love with Galway. The city is small and intimate and has a distinct seaside village feel. The cobbled streets and hidden side avenues as well as the colourful seaside homes and docked boats that look as if they've been at the waters edge for years complete the picture of small town mysticism. There is something so breathtaking about this county. The water is rough and the air is cold and damp, but the nightlife is lively, the food warm and the little shops a welcome retreat from the rain - and it rains a lot in Galway. It rained pretty much the entire time we were in the town, which on Sunday meant the Aran Islands were out as a destination. The ferry would have been rough passage and once we arrived at the island it would have been difficult to get oriented and figure out where to go and what to do. I hear that it is possible to rent horses for the day to travel the island and plan to do this on my next journey west. 

When we first arrived in Galway it was after 5 so we decided to walk along the water and explore out surroundings. Our hostel - The Barnacle was right in the center of all the action on Quay street and faced out onto a little pavilion much like Dublin's Grafton street, but with a bit more of an artsy, Old Montreal feel.


The Claddagh is of course huge in Galway as the small town of Claddagh is the town that gave its name to the famous ring. When we were walking along the water I saw a boat tethered that bears the Claddagh name :) We had intended to visit the town today (Sunday) but it was pouring down rain and the weather wasn't great for exploring, so again that will be an adventure for the next time I'm in Galway. 

 Sitting by the ocean - boy was it windy!
Looking back into Galway city from the pear. 

The next day Saturday, we signed up to go on a tour that would take us to the Cliffs of Moher, the beautiful, majestic and unbelievable reality that are these views. The tour was led by probably one of the sweetest Irish men I will ever meet named Devlin Murray who carried a stuffed Leprechaun on board the coach with us for good luck. It was raining the whole day but Devlin insisted that the Leprechaun's would bring us good luck and the skies would clear by the time we reached the cliffs. Well, sure enough that is exactly what happened. After an entire morning and afternoon of heavy showers as we got on and off the bus at each stop, the sun broke through the clouds as we arrived at the cliffs and gave us a breath taking sight to last a life time. 

 Our first stop was at this medieval castle, now in ruins.

It was very rainy and wet and muddy when we stopped to take pictures and one girl on our coach actually slipped in the mud twice.

 We continued on through pastoral towns, where the cows and sheep were a plenty. It seemed so odd but quintessentially Irish to me to see cows and sheep all over the place, some in areas seemingly impossible for cows to roam or even access, like a top huge cliffs that overlooked our windy country road. Devlin explained that the cows are bigger over here, they are lovingly called "sheep cows" on account of their fluffiness. They are built for heavy winds and rain and cold wet winters. I have decided that I will one day own a sheep and cow farm of my very own! I love moo cows...we saw some goats on a wall too.

 Our next stop was at the base of a small country town where we got coffee and lined up for the washrooms. Of course the girls was 10x longer than the boys.

The pub had a copy of the London Herald published in April 1912 the day after the Titanic sank at sea.

Here's me outside the pub.

The view across from the pub - as the ferry seemed to indicate, it would have been possible to cross to the Aran Islands from this point. 

Back on the bus we continued on through the back round towns of Co. Clare until we reached Ballyalban Fairy Fort - in ruins. We were warned ahead of time not to kick the leprechauns - viscous creatures. They hide in trees and play dirty tricks on humans who dare to disturb them.

 I found one though and managed to snap a picture unscathed.

 Another few minutes drive brought us to The Burren, Irish meaning "great rock". These rock formations and landscape are made entirely of limestone and date back to the megalithic period. There are some 90 + tombs across this plain, one in particular stands in ruins.

 The Tomb


 It was magnificent to explore this landscape and imagine the thousands of ancient lives who lived and died here before me.

We stopped in Kilfenora before lunch to see the High Celtic Crosses. 

 Our lunch spot where a nice fire was going to dry some of us out. I had my first taste of Irish Stew, this one was made with beef which made it perfect for me as most are made with lamb. It was a beef and Guinness stew - and let me just say that the Guinness tastes much better in the sauce. The beef was so fresh, I swear at one point I thought I tasted the pasture in came from. Sounds gross in a way, but I swear it was amazing!

 View from outside the pub.

Onwards to the Cliffs.

My first look...speechless. There are literally no real words than can accurately describe the beauty and fantastical atmosphere of this site. The pictures don't even really do it justice, but I'll let them speak for me. 

 As you can see it was windy...

 The castle behind me is another medieval ruin.

 View from the castle. Now I will stop here to tell you all a little something. This whole area is blockaded with a large stone wall to make sure people don't get too near to the cliff edge. There have been many deaths before and a reported 12 already this year from people who have made stupid decisions and fallen over the edge. As you walk along the cliffs on the other side from where this picture was taken you can walk along a pathway, properly secured and blockaded, you will reacha point, though where there is a sign that reads "Extreme Danger". The path ends and a blockade is put up, there is however a way for people to climb over the blockade an continue on along a beaten path with no fence or stone wall in site. You are literally walking at the edge of a 1000 ft. cliff. You are warned that if you choose to continue on and walk the length of the Moher you are doing so at your own risk.

As I stood here, taking my picture, a stupid tourist determined to get a good shot of this side decided to hoist himself over the stone wall and stand on the grassy edge. I was hugely frightened for him and was shaking watching him literally risk his life to get a picture! I wanted to scream at him to come down and not to be stupid. I could see that if he took one wrong step, tripped on a branch or stone, he was likely to tumble and fall.
 The Aran Islands in the distance

 Here is where you can begin to walk up and along the cliff edge, safely and without risk.

 And see the moo cows as you go...

 This is where the secure path ends. A tribute here to those who have lost there lives at the cliffs.
While we stood here I saw several people walking along the edge, some standing to take pictures, one group of men horsing around pretending to shove one another over the edge, and a family with two young children.
I don't know if I'd ever have the courage to go over the other side. I would love to walk the length of the Moher to say that I've done it, and also to experience the once in a lifetime opportunity but I am afraid of heights and have a healthy fear of falling.
 On our way back down the cliffs.

Our last stop on the way back to Galway - Fenore.

Looking out at the view - not realizing how close I was sitting to the edge until...

I went to get up and saw the drop off.

A Canadian in Ireland - these gloves are my life now! So toasting warm :) My English roommate loves them to bits!
Back in Galway before heading home on Sunday - Me and Oscar Wilde.