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July 17, 2015

Galway Week 2

July 6 - July 12

Our second week in beautiful Galway started with an extremely soggy field trip.  On Monday we traveled by bus to the beautiful Connemara, a large area of rolling hills and emerald mountains outside of Galway.  We knew that there was rain in the forecast, but we had no idea how drenched we would really be.

We started off on a hike up a mountain pass to a place called Saint Patrick's Bed. Most of the path we used seemed to be a rocky creek bed, and at some point we were basically trudging through miniature rivers. We eventually got up to our destination, which was a little church perched up on the mountainside, with a statue of Saint Patrick and a covered shrine nearby.  The place we had hiked along was an ancient pilgrimage path that people have been hiking along for centuries.  Our destination was supposedly a place where St. Patrick had slept overnight at some point during his life.  While we were soaking wet and the rain was pouring down, there was still an incredible beauty that the place we were standing held.  The clouds floated low over the mountaintops and the greenery of the mountains surrounding us was astounding

We eventually made our way back down from the sacred site to the bus awaiting us.  By the time we got back to our ride, every part of our body was soaking wet, and most of us had nothing to dry off with on the bus.  Our program directors didn't really prepare us well for how wet we would be the whole day.  Luckily our next stop was lunch, and we got a chance to dry off while scarfing down some warm food.

The last stop we made for the day was another very historical spot.  We parked near an unassuming bed and breakfast and started up a hill towards a rocky path along a lake.  We hiked over and around lots of rocks, sheep poop, and puddles.  After walking for awhile our tour guide stopped us and gave us some historical background on where we were.  The path we had been walking was a road carved out of the hillside during the Great Famine.  The government of Ireland during this terrible time realized that even though there were no jobs for anyone, they needed to create some because giving these people a job gave them more will to keep fighting.  They commissioned Irish men to create this long road through the countryside to give them something to work on even though there was no need for such road. 

It was really an interesting experience on this day, hiking over paths that have been traveled for hundreds, even thousands of years.  We were complaining the whole time about the weather, how wet we were, and how we just wanted to go back to our houses.  The people who traveled these paths many years ago didn't have the luxury of waterproof jackets and warm homes to return to, though.

The rest of the week was spent mainly in class and doing home work.  Tuesday night we went to this fun thing called the Silent Disco.  You walk into the bar and they hand you headphones, and everyone's set is tuned to the same station. So you're dancing with people who are all listening to the same music, but to onlookers it appears as though you are dancing in silence.

Thursday night for our history class we had a walking tour of Galway city. We visited the Galway Cathedral, St. Nicholas' Cathedral, the Spanish Arch down by the river, and then up in the city we looked at a few other spots.  Similar to most days in Ireland, it was raining the majority of the time.  Everyone headed back after the tour except for Erin and me.  We decided to go to a cozy little restaurant called the Pie Maker, and ended up having a wonderful night.  They serve savory dinner pies, such as chicken and mushroom and a beef and Galway stout pie.  We both got our own pies and then shared an apple pie for dessert. It was by far one of the best meals I've had in this beautiful town.

Saturday we went on another field trip for our history class.  We went to the Burren National Park and did a little hike, and checked out a few other monuments around Galway. This day was just as rainy as the last field trip though, which was pretty unfortunate.  Luckily our teacher cut the day short and brought us to a delicious place for lunch and then we headed back to our homes.

Sunday Erin and I decided to go to a Catholic mass in the Cathedral here in Galway. It is a beautiful church, and we were lucky to have experienced our first mass here. We went with two of our friends who are both Catholic and they showed us the ropes.  While it was a very different experience than what I am used to at my home church, it was really fascinating to see how people worship differently and to be apart of that.
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