Sunday, 29 March 2015

I left off last on Sunday of my spring break. On a side note, they do not call it 'spring break,' and actually no student I ask knows exactly what to  call it...I've heard it referred to as 'midterm' more than once, so that's something.

So on Monday (9 March), knowing then that I would be too busy during the rest of the midterm, I stayed on campus to write the essay for my Equine Nutrition course due the Monday we went back to school. 

Tuesday, my roommate Darielle had arranged for me to stay with her family in County Tipperary for a few days. I took a train to meet Darielle in Thurles, and we went straight to see the Rock of Cashel, getting there just in time for a tour to begin.  Parts of this midieval castle and cathedral date to the 12th century, and the "rock" upon which it is built is known in folklore involving St. Patrick.

The view of the castle from the motorway
The round tower is 28 metres (90 feet) tall
Also, the tower is the oldest structure of castle and is composed solely of stone - there is no plaster seal between the rocks

Crest of the archbishop who lived in the castle
Defense hole in the wall, taking my picture through it was Darielle's idea
The original paintings were Romanesque and done in a style painted on wet plaster, but they were covered with limestone during the Reformation and what is left is what remained when the stone was chipped away. The picture is a representation of what the wall may have looked like.

The stone on the ground is the upper corner of the square tower that used to be part of the castle, but was destroyed by strong winds after hundreds of years. Other remnants of the castle were taken to America and used in the construction of another cathedral (still researching to recall the name of the American and the building...)
This headstone was broken by the same windstorm that also destroyed part of the castle.

This cute little one was in the field just outside the castle
The town of Cashel
Next, Darielle took me to Rockwell College, which is a private secondary school that was established in 1864. She attended summer camps here when she was younger, so we took a walk around the pond and grounds.

Next was the village Cahir, where she showed me Cahir Castle, although it is closed to visitors currently.

We went to a pub, well-known by the people from the area, called "Malone's" so that I could see the "Jockey's Legs," and here they are

Next stop: Darielle's house.

View of the Galtee Mountains

They have five horses, also ducks, chickens, three dogs, and a cat
Darielle's ten-year-old enthusiastic brother, David
They were cute and curious
The next morning, 11 March, I got a homecooked Irish breakfast by Darielle's amazing mother, Jackie. She absolutely spoiled me for the few days I spent with them.

Afterward, Darielle took me to Mitchelstown Cave. We were the only ones there, so we got our own private tour. The cave was discovered in 1833 by accident when a worker quarrying limestone dropped his crowbar into a crevice. The first of its explorers were lost and became stuck inside for six hours after their candles went out as they were making their way back to the surface. It descends 60 meters (about 200 feet) underground and consists of twelve caverns, three of which are available to the public. There has been no discovery of other entries into the cave, and our guide said that there is an underwater lake in the last cavern, which she and other employees were lucky enough to explore last year. The wealthy Mulcahy family purchased the land and it has remained privately owned and run by the family since.

The entry is a staircase with a steep 30 meter descent

"Pig's Ears"

Cavern ceiling

Darielle and myself
Another view of the Galtees
Next Darielle took me to the Championship field hockey game which her secondary school was competing in. She was part of the team the last time they had played Limerick for the championship title two years previously.

We followed the took us down a real country a dead end where they cut it off to build a main road.

It was my first time seeing field hockey. Unfortunately, the team we were rooting for lost

We passed through Limerick City on our way back and I caught one picture as we crossed the River Shannon

Darielle brought her brother David and me to the Glen of Aherlow Nature Park to see the Christ the King statue and for a few minutes of trail walking through the Galtees.

In the evening, Darielle had practice for her club Gaelic football team. She has been playing GAA club sports for many years.

Team portraits
There's Darielle!
Dinner in the evening consisted of: lamb, duck, roasted potatoes, cooked carrots, and combinations of mashed parsnips, mashed turnips, and mashed carrots. I had previously only ever eaten lamb in a gyro, and had never tried duck either. Parsnips and turnips were both new to me, and Jackie's roasted potatoes were delicious.

She spoiled me with mince pie (which I must get a recipe for) and ice cream for dessert...

...And wine

On Thursday morning, Darielle and I went just a minute down the road to see St. Peacaun's well, which is located nearby the skeletal remains of what used to be a very small Catholic church. Darielle said as kids, they used to drink from the well.

I definitely have a new appreciation for my study abroad advisor (ahem, Kara...) suggesting that I try going to visit with an Irish family if the opportunity presented itself. Their hospitality and generosity was insurmountable, and I got to see and experience so many parts of Ireland that I would have otherwise never even heard of. Additionally, coming from a big family myself, there is nothing better than sitting around a big table with great people for a home cooked meal.
After those few wonderful days spent with the Ronans, however, it was time for me to get back to Dublin, since on Friday, David was due to arrive!