Ireland 2019: Dublin visit

Our program’s visit to Dublin each year is definitely a highlight. It’s fantastic to have a program that’s not based in a major city; being in Waterford is much less costly and affords us more flexibility to travel around the country. But Dublin is the capital, it’s an amazing city, and it is not to be missed. Interestingly, the students don’t always love it. Many of them are attracted to this program because of its more rural setting. The sudden plunge into an urban environment at the height of tourist season is challenging. They learn plenty about Irish history and culture in Dublin but they learn at least as much about forward planning, problem-solving, and using public transit. And Gaelic sports! Our first stop is Croke Park, the national home of Gaelic sports–hurling, camogie, Gaelic football, and women’s Gaelic football. It has an important place in the history of Irish independence as the site of the 1920 “Bloody Sunday” attack. The stadium in its current form (there has been a GAA venue on the site since 1913) seats about 82,000 people.

In the dressing room listening to our tour guide.

Looking up the stands to where trophies are presented.

On the pitch, or at least next to it–we were not allowed to walk on the grass!

The best part of the Croke Park tour is the “skywalk” around the top of the stadium. Great views of Dublin!

On the “cantilever” section of the skywalk that extends over the pitch. I love it up there!

From Croke Park we stop at our lodgings on Dublin City University’s Glasnevin campus (check out DCU Rooms if you need inexpensive, no-frills accommodation in Dublin in the summer) to drop off luggage, then head into the center of the city for a short walking tour down O’Connell Street to Trinity College. The Liffey River divides Dublin into north and south sides and makes it pretty easy to navigate. Starting from Charles Stuart Parnell’s statue on upper O’Connell, you head down toward the river via the General Post Office (important 1916 Rising site) and the Millennium Spire to Daniel O’Connell’s statue. Cross the river and bear right and you’re at the front gate of Trinity College. It’s taken me a few visits to get the hang of all this but I’m finally getting the rest of my Dublin points of interest oriented around those basic landmarks.

Parnell’s statue at the top of O’Connell

Looking down O’Connell toward the Spire.

The Spire + the GPO + a Dublin Bus is Dublin in one photograph.

At the base of O’Connell’s statue, Jonathan fills us in on some history.

Crossing the river

Trinity College

From here we dismissed the students to get dinner on their own and we faculty decamped to an undisclosed location for our dinner (Pro[gram director] tip: keep a good restaurant/bar/pub in your back pocket and do not share it with students. Everyone needs their own space). On Wednesday the faculty had field trips with their classes but I did not have to attend anyone’s field trip, so I was at large in Dublin:

This is my favorite spot on a Dublin Bus (top deck, front seat) right up until the bus lurches to a stop 1.5″ from the back of another bus.

I went back to the Book of Kells and Old Library at Trinity. No photography in the Book of Kells room but they did have this great exhibit of the materials used to make colored inks for manuscripts.

Some friends I saw in the Old Library . . .

The beloved second husband of my research subject Mary Delany.

Shakespeare, of course!

The “Brian Boru harp,” a Renaissance-era harp traditionally associated with the legendary medieval musician Brian Boru and now used as a national symbol of Ireland.

They call it the Old Library but it never gets old.

Love this quotation on a window at Trinity.


Thursday I went with one of the professors and his class on his field trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral (my favorite place in Dublin) and then to Glasnevin Cemetery, Ireland’s national cemetery. There are three times more people buried in Glasnevin than there are living in Dublin today! I somehow barely took any pictures at St. Patrick’s

Queen Anne’s patent granting Jonathan Swift the freedom of the city of Dublin.

Stained glass in St. Patrick’s

Saw lots of unusual and beautiful monuments at Glasnevin:

Daniel O’Connell’s grave

Friday was the beginning of our free weekend and of my weekend off. I kept it mellow in Dublin and finally made it to visit the Chester Beatty Library, a fantastic museum of manuscripts (and some early print materials) from around the world. Couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibits but the building and grounds are really cool too.

Making friends in St. Stephen’s Green.

Approaching the Chester Beatty.

Inside the roof garden.

Looking out from the roof garden.

Back at ground level. That’s Dublin Castle across the lawn.

My favorite part of the weekend was Saturday (yesterday) when I went to Dublin Pride. I hadn’t been to a Pride parade since about 2004 and I regretted not going to last year’s Dublin Pride, so I decided to make up for it this year. It was so much fun. Just a friendly and happy atmosphere with smiles on everyone’s faces and, of course, rainbows everywhere:

The GPO decked out for the occasion.

Dublin Bus goes all-out for Pride every year.


Everyone was in the parade. Not just LGBT+ organizations but political parties, unions, government bureaux, corporations (lots of tech companies have headquarters in Dublin): everyone!

The Gardaí brought their band, a bunch of officers in dress uniform, and another bunch of “supporters” in matching t-shirts.

Some awesome wings.


I’m thinking these folks are SCA?

Dropbox’s float

My colleague Dr. Stewart will want to add this suit to his collection.

See, everyone was in the parade!

I went to the after party in Merrion Square for a few minutes but before I knew it it was time to go back to DCU and collect my backpack, then head to the train station and back to Waterford. The week and weekend were packed and seemed to go by so fast; I know my pictures and paragraphs do not do justice. I did not take pictures of:

  • Breakfast at DCU
  • Riding the #13 bus a million times
  • Hodges Figgis
  • Walking 10 miles a day, mostly on O’Connell St.
  • Two different picnic lunches in parks
  • Coffee Angel, Costa, Caffe Nero, another Costa . . .
  • An amazing dinner at Marco Pierre White
  • A pint of Guinness, a pint of Bulmer’s, maybe another pint of Bulmer’s in there somewhere
  • Everything I didn’t buy in Grafton Street

Dublin is pretty cool, folks. I recommend it.

Ireland 2019: First week

It’s Thursday Friday and this week we’ve been through 2 class days and 2 field trip days, 6 doctor visits (!), 4 breakfasts, 2 lunches, at least 2 counties, one cathedral, two castles, and an undefined but large quantity of ice cream. Students and most of the faculty are off on their first free weekend and I am holding the fort here and getting some work done (read “watching Netflix”) while it’s quiet.

It feels like the days and weeks go faster every year that I’m here, maybe because there is an element of routine that is created. It’s nice to feel a sense of routine in a faraway place–one of the advantages of returning to a destination multiple times. A few things change (the cafeteria has been remodeled, the bus routes have been renumbered) but many more stay the same. All of a sudden lots of people here at WIT know me, and I know them. “Welcome back” is a sweet thing to hear!

Classes have been going smoothly and although we did have an unusual number of minor illnesses this past week, I think we are over that particular hump. The physical and mental stress of travel will do a number on one’s immune system, so it’s not that surprising that we had a few casualties. What is surprising is that this group of students has been fantastic about showing up on time for everything. It sounds like a small matter but in a group situation, getting everyone from place to place in a timely manner is a challenge. The challenge is compounded if people are a little lackadaisical about the schedule. We impressed this concern on the students at orientation and they have really come through. Every time we get on the bus, we count off to make sure we’re all aboard, and every time, they’re all in place.  It’s dazzling!

So here were our field trip destinations for this week: Tuesday we started at Woodstock House, a former eighteenth-century stately home that is now a ruin and unlikely to be restored (for a mixture of political and economic reasons), but that is surrounded by extensive and very beautiful gardens that are under restoration by Kilkenny County Council.

Thomas Francis Meagher Bridge, the longest single bridge span in the Republic and surely the prettiest.

Woodstock House–likely to stay a ruin as it would cost a fortune to restore and not everyone appreciates a monument to British aristocracy.

Flowers at Woodstock House

The view from the front garden of Woodstock House.

From there we went to Kilkenny town to visit St. Canice’s Cathedral, second oldest in Ireland after St. Patrick’s in Dublin, and Kilkenny Castle. They are separated by the “Medieval Mile,” a narrow street of shops and restaurants that reminds you how old the city is. It’s a fantastic place.

The medieval round tower at St. Canice’s–one of only a few in which you can climb to the top.

Stained glass is hard to photograph but sometimes I get lucky.

Stained glass at St. Canice’s

The Butlers of Ormonde ruled the Kilkenny area starting in the 1300s and owned Kilkenny Castle until 1967.

An epitaph that both ticked me off and touched my heart

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Every young teen in France was at Kilkenny Castle on Tuesday.

Thursday we went to Dungarvan in Co. Waterford to visit a 12th-century castle situated there and spend the afternoon in town. Between Kilkenny, which is a great but busy and full day, and our odyssey to Dublin next week, Dungarvan is a great chance for everyone to take a breath.

Looking in through the gate of Dungarvan Castle.

Dungarvan Castle’s tower

The white building is an 18th-century military barracks.

A small street market in Dungarvan

My favorite!

Cutest little wi-fi sign I have ever seen.

The pace of life really is different here. It has taken me this long to even begin to get used to it, and I am still overclocked compared to the Irish people I work with. Don’t get me wrong: they have plenty of hustle. Plenty. But they don’t do performative busyness like Americans do, and they take more advantage than we do of social connections when doing business. I’ve never been invited to a “meeting” here, though I’ve had plenty of them. It’s just that around here a meeting is called “We’ll have a coffee.”

I’ve been here 10 days and have had approximately 600 flat whites.

Ireland 2019 arrival weekend

Finally bobbing to the surface after the open-water swim of arrival weekend! It is so exciting to welcome students here every year, but inevitably it’s a bit hectic even when everything goes as well as it can. In this case everything really did go as well as it could. The flight was on time, everyone got their luggage, and by the end of the day (Friday) we had the group successfully housed, fed, and oriented. Saturday we toured Waterford and Tramore in much better weather than the students had arrived in, thank goodness!

Reginald’s Tower in Waterford city centre near the river

Students learning about the Charter Roll in the Medieval Museum

The Medieval Museum holds the only set of pre-Reformation cloth of gold vestments in Europe.

Some of these vestments weigh so much that putting them on takes two helpers.

Students listening to Jack Burchell’s tour outside Waterford Crystal

Inside Christchurch Cathedral

Acting out the marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, which took place in Waterford in 1170 and began the long history of Anglo-Irish relations.

Students at Tramore. It was a tad windy!

By the end of Saturday we were all ready for a rest. The dorms were quiet until early afternoon Sunday, especially because it poured rain intermittently through the day! Today, classes started and we are all getting into the groove. Fingers crossed that the sunshine sticks around for our visit to Kilkenny tomorrow.


Ireland, I am in you.

The thing about going from Macon, Georgia to Waterford, Ireland is that even when everything goes perfectly, it just takes a while. I left home at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time yesterday (Monday) and got to Waterford at 4:00 p.m. Irish time today (Tuesday). That’s about 20 hours door to door if my math is right. Groome shuttle to the Atlanta airport, Delta flight from Atlanta to Dublin, bus from Dublin airport to Heuston train station, train from Dublin to Waterford, taxi to Waterford Institute of Technology. Planes, trains, and  automobiles, check check check.

So it’s been a long odyssey but it all went very smoothly with minimal stress. Now I am in my room at WIT having made it to within 20 minutes of my “first night in Europe” assigned bedtime. (The rule is: NO NAPS.) I’m going to sleep very well tonight.

Just a few pictures from my journey. You will notice that I’m not actually in any of them, because “transatlantic flight” and “photo ready” are mutually exclusive.

Lucky shot on my way to my gate last night.

My ride to Dublin: Boeing 767-400.

Crossing Dublin on a gorgeous day.

Countryside scenery from the train.

Hello again, WIT!

Dorm Sweet Dorm

More and better blog content when students arrive Friday, if not sooner.

Ireland 2019: Packing time!

I’ll be traveling to Ireland tomorrow night to kick off this year’s European Council study abroad program there–students arrive June 14–so today is packing day! This year is my third on the program so I almost have the packing down to a routine, but of course every year is a little different. Signficant example: last summer was unusually warm (highs in the low 80s Fahrenheit) whereas temperatures this coming week are much more typically Irish (highs in the 60s). It looks like my program director persona “Dr. Laura Trenchcoat” will be at large in the Republic once again. I’m also taking along a few more books than usual since I have to write some syllabi this summer. No worries about coming in under the limit (50 pounds) but this year may not see a personal record for packing light. Here’s what I’ve got:

Suitcase and carry-on. Suitcase is 26″ x 19″ x 8″ and weighs about 6 lbs. empty. Backpack is . . . the size of a backpack?

Cross-body bag for daily carry once I get there.

Pants, long-sleeve shirts, and sweaters. I may have a little problem with stripes.

T-shirts, my WIT Vikings pullover, and the pencil skirt and leggings I plan to wear on the plane.

Exercise clothes and my travel yoga mat, which successfully passed the “But will I use it?” test last year.


Important odds and ends: washcloths (never provided in Europe), plug adapters (can’t have too many), mini tripod (handy), luggage scale and corkscrew (ways to make myself indispensable)

Carry-on toiletries–trying to keep it minimal but I’ll probably stick a mascara and lip gloss in there in the morning.

Electronics–this time it’s my phone that isn’t pictured because I was using it to take the pictures!

All you REALLY need is your passport and credit card. And BuJo. And €13 in change. And Duke.

Copies of my passport and credit cards ride in the suitcase to make replacement easier if anything gets lost.

Everything in except toiletries and my trench coat. As always, socks, underwear, and PJs are not pictured.

The research questions embedded in this year’s packing are:

  • I’m adding a Bluetooth speaker this year because I wish I had one every year. Will it pass the “But will I use it?” test?
  • I am not taking my “real” camera because I suspect it’s starting to die. Can I take 5 weeks’ worth of attractive and interesting pictures with an iPhone 6S? Here’s hoping.
  • Have I brought enough warm clothes? Probably.
  • And will I regret taking only sneakers? Proximate cause to buy shoes in Ireland, so no.

Shuttle to the airport at 5:00 tomorrow afternoon. Flight at 9:45, arriving in Dublin at 10:35 Tuesday morning. I’m excited!