All in a Day’s worth
Since I was staying in Dublin, I booked a day excursion so that I could see Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.
Although I was in Galway, a harbor city located on Ireland’s west coast, for only an hour, I loved it. You could walk the streets where Irish folk musicians and dancers would entertain. You could explore the seemingly endless supply of traditional pubs and shops. You could observe some of the city’s maintenance of medieval city walls. On this bus tour, I even met a Study Abroad advisor Ally and a couple from Texas. It was interesting to see other Americans abroad, as for most of the semester, the amount of Americans in Clermont-Ferrand were sparse.
Cliffs of Moher
Next, I was off to the Cliffs of Moher– Ireland’s most visited attraction, and of course the site of the caves used in a scene in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. For some context, ‘Mothar’ (meaning ‘the ruin of a fort’ in old Gaelic) was a ruined fort razed during the Napoleonic Wars (in the early 1800s) to make a signal tower at Hag’s Head. Hag’s Head, located at the southern point of the Cliffs, was strategic because of its peculiar rock formation. The rock formation resembles a woman’s head looking out to sea, thus providing a useful vantage over much of the cliffs.
Walking some of the 5 miles (or 8km as the crow flies) that the Cliffs stretched upon, I could only describe seeing the Cliffs of Moher as witnessing pure beauty unfold before me.
The Cliffs of Moher’s highest point reaches 702 feet (214 m). So it was no surprise that I could see collections of islands and mountains in the distance. Though, I must caution that if you plan to visit the Cliffs, not to get too close to the edge. The Tragic Reality of Deaths at the Cliffs of Moher puts into perspective the dangers that coexist with the breathtaking nature of the Cliffs.
The Irish adore Barack Obama
On the walking tour, I learned about Irish history and their fascination with former President Barack Obama. Obama had only come to Ireland for a day, but 12 hours was all it took. Unsurprisingly, Obama’s ancestry, like most Americans, had been traced back to Ireland. So he traveled up to his distant Irish cousin to share a pint of Guinness.
But this trip would live on beyond the day Obama spent there. On the ride back to Dublin from the Moher cliffs, the day excursion I took stopped at the Barack Obama Plaza in Moneygall who dub themselves the ancestral home of Barack Obama.
The Plaza had authentic Irish food, Michelle and Barack Obama cardboard cutouts, and a museum dedicated to Obama’s visit (complete with the glass of Guinness he drank out of). Finally, my understanding of Ireland’s fascination with Obama had come full circle. Obama, like previously adored US presidents with Irish ancestral roots like JFK and Bill Clinton, were symbols of a Democratic party, strong with immigrant party ideals. But, do those other presidents have such a glorious folk song written about them by the Irish themselves: There’s No One As Irish As Barack O’Bama?
Howth was a cool opportunity to see a bustling fishing village. While there, I walked the Howth Cliff Walk Loop where I saw Howth Summit and Bailey lighthouse. Then I ended the visit with the best fish and chips I’d ever had in a nearby park where several people were doing the same. Just watch out for seabirds like this European herring gull. Albeit being a delight to see, these birds will steal your fish and chips if given the opportunity.
Getting Around All this Time
As a final word, I got the LEAP visitor card when I arrived in Dublin. The LEAP visitor card includes unlimited travel on the DART (train), Dublin Bus, Airlink (to and from the airport), Commuter Rail, Luas, and Go-Ahead Ireland routes in Dublin. The LEAP visitor card is an excellent option if you prefer not to rent a car.