Thursday, I had the opportunity to attend the Ploughing Championship in Laois County Ireland. This event was spread over 700 acres of farmland, held for 3 days, and had an attendance of 280,000 people. It had over 1000 exhibits ranging from local honey tasting/sales, to handmade jewelry and art, to award winning cattle. (It was Ireland's version of a state fair!) I was like a little kid in a candy store! I left with way too many pictures of cute, cuddly sheep, an overfull stomach from all the free samples, and a better insight into Irish agriculture. There is such a passion for efficient and sustainable farming here, and throughout Europe, that is unparalleled by the US. I learned so much and gained another awesome experience on my study abroad. My night even ended with seeing a shooting star, and if that doesn't mean it was a great day, I don't know what would!
Yesterday, I started off by reading at a small cafe near the Christ Church Cathedral for a couple of hours. I started Ronda Rousey's book, My Fight/Your Fight on Monday and finished yesterday morning. Every spare minute I had this week, I would pick up the book. She is an inspiring woman and has an amazing perspective on life after all she has been through. (I recommend it!) I got to reunite with an ISV friend from my Africa trip while I was camped out at the cafe. It is mind boggling to be sitting in a cafe in Ireland, with a friend from California, who I met on our way to Africa. I met up with Conner in between his class for lunch at a neat Mexican restaurant where I'm pretty sure I had the best burrito in my life (in Ireland, what're the odds?). I then got to spend the afternoon with Morgan and Jena exploring any nook and cranny we could find throughout the city in the free time we had. (How lucky is it that no one in our apartment has class on Fridays?) After a fun-filled day of sight-seeing and coffee drinking, a group of us friends got together and spent the evening discovering some pubs and trying out different Irish beers while swapping stories and sharing laughs. (My favorite kind of night.)
Today, Conner and I found a cozy cafe to have some breakfast at before heading to UCD. Tried black pudding from Conner's full Irish breakfast and won't be making that mistake ever again! But, other than that, the Goose on the Loose cafe made a come back with the delicious banana cinnamon crepe I had accompanied by a soul-warming espresso. After we got back to UCD, Jena, Morgan, Conner, and I departed to head off on an adventure for the books! We walked to the DART, which is just a train that goes down the coast to different towns. Ending up in Dalkey, we first found a new cafe to try out (which marks number 16 on the list of cafes I've tried since arriving), then made our way toward Dalkey Island. A man named Ken transports people from shore to this Island on his little fishing boat, so of course we hopped on to explore it more. This Island hosts a fort and church from the 1800s that were built in preparation for a war, that would never occur, in the time of Napolean Bonaparte.
We spent hours walking all over the Island taking in the ruins, the beautiful view of the coast and ocean, and trying to befriend the wild goats we happened upon. It was such a sight and was an unplanned part of our day. Some of the best times are the excursions you don't plan on taking and embracing any opportunity to partake in something new and unknown. The island is beautiful and the green grass full of daisies was enough to make me never want to leave.
After Ken took us back to shore, we found ourselves at The Club, a pub in Dalkey, where I had the most spectacular meal of fresh hake, vegetable stir fry, and this odd, but delicious, potato dish. Always a good way to end a day is by spoiling yourself with a nice meal.
Writing out and sharing all of my experiences with you make me realize how much I have gotten to do here. I can't put into words the gratitude I have for my ability to have these adventures. I'm growing with each new place I see and I know I won't be the same person I am even now by the end of my study abroad.