Greetings friends from the soakingly wonderful green land of Ireland! I have been looking forward to writing this post and sharing with you the first half of my two week European extravaganza extrordinare! With the semester just about finished (with the exception of my final French exam) I’ve been able to take some time to stretch out my hands and snag a brief and fleeting touch with more of Europe than just Spain. So here’s my best effort to give you a brief snapshot of my journey so far…
I must say that I experienced the most unique and culturally mixed holiday season this Christmas. My friend Rachael, who is currently studying missions in Northern Norway, was able to join me and several other friends on Christmas eve for a delicious cultural smorgasborg. Dishes ranged from spanish tortilla to almond cheesecake to a delicious Lithuanian fish and vegetable dish. The sangria was sweet, the conversation hilarious, but most of all the company was warm and hospitable. I have to admit that I never imagined I would spend Christmas Eve in a mixed group of Americans and Lithuanians in a tiny flat in Valencia, Spain. But I suppose not much of my life as of lately has been what I would consider “normal”. The next day consisted of feasting on sweet potato pancakes, opening the amazing gifts from my amazing family, and then frantically dashing through the streets of Valencia in order to just barely make our afternoon bus to Barcelona (Christmas morning. The drive was relatively uninteresting, with the occasional moderate mountain interrupting the mellow dry, cracked hills of the Spanish landscape. The Mediterannean remained a close companion to the East as it dipped in and out of sight all the way to the capital city of Catalunia. We arrived in Barcelona and met up with my friend Michael Raveling and his brother at our hostel. The next two days were a frantic dash of rapid touristic activity as we did our best to visit and experience the highlights of the city with such tight time and money restrictions. We calculated the total distance we walked to be approximately ten miles in just the first day. My feet been bitterly resentful towards me since that day (we’re in the process of working things out). Highlights of the city include seeing Gaudi’s most noteworthy works, most notable being the Sagrada Familia, visiting the towering Castle Montjuic in it’s precarious position overhanging the sea, checking out the Olympic Stadium from the 1992 summer games, and having my mind blown from the breathtaking views from the foresty area on the northern end of the city. I also rode a lion and a dragon… that may or may not have been made of iron and clay tile. On the 28th Michael, Rachael and I rudely interrupted our sleep at a quite ungodly hour to make our flight to Dublin, Ireland. There was no mistaking this awe-inspiring country as we flew over the green covered mass of land and all of it’s majestic fauna and flora. Thankfully, we found the city to be much smaller than Barcelona, allowing us to adequately explore many of the main attractions and sites on the first day. It was so refreshing to see the starkly different motifs of the Irish culture, such as the gray, stone building material in all of the towering churches, the cozy brick houses that lined the Temple Bar part of downtown Dublin, and the lush and flowering gardens. Most importantly, I believe I have discovered that Ireland is the true name of the long lost place known as “the other side”. We have always known that the grass is always greener in this mystical place called “the other side”, and now I know where that place really is. If you can conjure up every preconceived image you have of Ireland, all the pictures of gray, drizzly skies, sheep filled pastures intersected by short, stone walls, and warm, cheerful pubs overflowing with pints of Guinness, you’re pretty close to the reality. The scenery (when you can see it through the haze) is breathtakingly beautiful, the food is warm, “potatoey”, and delicious, and you’re never short a smile from the locals. After our first day in Dublin we took a bus and traveled across the country to the West Coast, where we are currently staying in a little town known as Galway. The West Coast is famous for it’s jagged cliffs and inspirational costal beauty (many an author have found inspiration in this rolling landscape). Yesterday we toured down the coastline where we beheld ancient medieval castles, countless sheep, and beautiful cliffs, the most majestic of which, unfortunately, being covered by a thick blanket of gray, wet fog.
Today is our rest day, as we are slightly exhausted from all of the excitement and adventure we have experienced over the past week. Tonight we will return to Dublin where we welcome in the New Year with a firm handshake in one hand and a pint in the other. But regardless of where you are for the festivities, may they find you already fulfilling your life’s dreams and goals, with little need for a commercialized holiday to commit to fulfilling some unattainable objective. God Bless my fellow lads and lassies!