We arrived in Ireland on our last class day which was Wednesday July 9th. They had warned us that as we docked there would no longer be any internet or intranet on the ship. They weren't joking. Since we have been here we can't even email our students through the ship based system. Ireland doesn't allow it…or something. Normally this wouldn't be that big of a deal right…just walk into the city and find a Starbucks (which is where I am now). This particular port is about a 48 minute walk to the city center. Not only that, but it is through a dark shipping port…not safe. So the ship offers buses in from 9am-10pm but at night when we usually post we couldn't get back and forth from the ship. 1st world problems (I know I shouldn't complain).
Our first day in Dublin we did a little sight seeing but we needed to get back by 2:30pm because my Musical Theatre History class had it's field lab. Geno and I took the students on a backstage tour of The Abbey Theater (the national theatre), took a driving tour to see several of the theaters in Dublin, had a wonderful dinner on a boat and then went to the Bord Gáis Theatre to see the tour of Dirty Dancing. We had a wonderful night and I think the students really enjoyed it.
Our second day we did a tour on our own with two other faculty members, Amber Johnson and Mark Peters. For you San Diego friends that are reading, Mark was one of Colleen Kollar Smith's professors during her Masters program. We left the ship at 6am and caught a cab which took us to the bus meeting spot. The tour took us to Northern Ireland to Belfast. There we learned about the Battle of the Boyne between King James (Catholic) and King William Orange (Protestant). When we arrived in Belfast we took the Black Taxi Political Tour which showed us all the sites that have played key roles in the city's political history. Our guide took 5 of us in a cab and talked us through the highs and lows of Belfast's civil unrest. We visited and signed the "peace wall" that Clinton had signed along with many other famous figures. The peace wall divides that Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods and the gates shut every night at 10pm to minimize the violence between these two groups. We also saw historical murals, which were a tribute to the Catholics that had died in this conflict. It was such a moving experience to know that the conflict is still going strong today and that there is so much hatred between the two groups. We didn't know it at the time we booked the tour but we were there on July 11th which is the eve of Bonfire Day or Orange Day when the protestants build bonfires of tires and wooden palates that are over 4 stories high. On top of the bonfires they have places effigies of the Pope and Mary which they burn. It is so disturbing and eye opening to be right in the middle of this much unrest.
We left Belfast and headed to Dunluce Castle and then the UNESCO World Heritage sight Giants Causeway. It was created 60 million years ago after a series of volcanic eruptions. The Causeway is best known for its distinctive rock formations that span nearly 18 miles of coastline. We did about a 45 minute loop hike here. We saw the most amazing rock formations that look like they were man made pillars of rock. It is hard to explain. You will have to look at the pictures when I can post them.
After Giants Causeway we went to Carrick a Rede rope bridge. This is a cliff top experience with a rope bridge over a 30 meter deep cavern which was built by salmon fishermen. Crazy! The views were spectacular.
That concluded our long travel day and we napped all the way back to the ship. We got back about 9pm and we were exhausted! I will tell you about our other two days in Dublin when we get more internet!