Galway, I love you.

In case you were wondering, yes, it was a great weekend. Galway, I leave a bit of my heart with you. You have become one of my favorite cities. And I am genuinely upset that I won't be frequenting a couple of your super cool pubs any time in the near future. xo


Last weekend I was sitting in a pub in Galway with one of my closest friends, giggling at the strangeness of enjoying a pint together several thousand miles away from our homes and histories.

Lynn, my college housemate, was just starting out on a ten-week tour of Ireland, Scotland and England and we decided to meet up in Galway for St Patrick’s Day weekend.

Galway is an amazing city. When I arrived, I stepped out from the bus station into Eyre Square. The beautiful city park is surrounded by pubs and elegant hotels and filled with Galwegians and tourists strolling through the rare, early spring sunshine. I got a kick out of the Occupy Galway camp at the end of the park, having visited Zuccotti Park many times while living in New York last fall, and entered the pedestrian streets that make up the city centre.

One of the things that really impresses me about Galway is the way it embraces its history and still feels very modern. On either side of the wide cobblestone streets you see charming pubs and storefronts with names written in Irish. None of the buildings are more than three or four stories high, and as a result you can see the steeple of the St Nicholas church from almost anywhere. However, once I stepped through the facades I found myself in some of the coolest pubs, most innovative restaurants, and trendiest shops.

Galway is also home to a variety of artistic and theatrical companies. This was very apparent during their St Patrick’s Day parade, which was filled with elaborate costumes, musical performances, jugglers, and animated floats. It was quite the spectacle, and I was both surprised and pleased to see a multitude of cultural groups celebrating their native countries in the procession. It validated my initial instinct that Galwegians respect and embrace people from all the cultures that make their home here, in addition to being extremely proud of their Irish heritage.

The National University of Ireland has a campus in Galway, and partly because of that the city has a very youthful, intellectual vibe. It’s also a popular destination for tourists, and Lynn and I saw lots of young people like ourselves with back packs, sturdy looking boots, and wide eyes. It was very easy for us to make new friends, and after a while we stopped being surprised when someone told us they were from France, or Australia, or Dubai. We shared memories of past adventures, and exchanged tips of what to see, what to miss, and where to stay.

My story is a little different than most of those I’ve encountered. I’m not really travelling in the way that Lynn or my new friends are; I’m living and working in one place. I don’t get lost when I walk into town anymore. There are a few cafés, pubs, and restaurants that I prefer from personal experience, and one or two I don’t. I’ve even been taking a weekly pilates class. After just two months, tiny buds of familiarity and routine have started to blossom.

I’ve still managed to meet people from all over the world, which, for all of its melting pot history, isn’t often my experience at home. Sharing a few pints with young men and women from Switzerland, Canada, and Spain has me dreaming up new adventures.

One unifying topic of conversation that came up over the course of the weekend was Irish ancestry. Many people proudly claimed that they were various fractional amounts of Irish. On these occasions I proudly declared that I am Irish on my mother’s father’s side.

They say everyone’s Irish on St Patrick’s Day, and as I look around at my life and experiences in this country, I can’t help but think, who could blame them?


Achill Island.

The mysteriously beautiful Achill Island. White-knuckle roads, the stunningly beautiful Keem Beach, an abandoned village from the last famine, and lots and lots of sheep and fog.


So I'm a Journalist, Kinda.

I've loved to write since I was young, but four years of college essays sometimes make you forget important things like that. Posting to this blog, regardless of whether anyone actually reads it, has let me stretch my dormant writing muscles and it has felt so good. Like a great pilates class good. For my fingers and my brain.

And now, because of it, there's been a fairly exciting recent development.

If you live in Calaveras County, you may have noticed that my name's been cropping up a bit in the Calaveras Enterprise. I'll be writing a column for the newspaper describing my adventures in Ireland at least through the end of April. I'll be in the Tuesday edition every week til then, so don't forget to pick up your copy!

A big Thank You to everyone at the Enterprise, especially Buzz, for welcoming me onto the team. And thanks to the readers of this blog, whether you exist or not, for being the intimidating and critical audience I needed you to be.

P.S. If you missed my last couple of articles, you can read them here.

The Climb.

If you’ve ever celebrated St Patrick’s Day, doubtless you know the story of St Patrick famously banishing all the snakes from Ireland. Every time I heard this myth when I was younger, I always pictured an old man in a long robe (á la Friar Tuck) brandishing a hefty staff, marching across Ireland while herding all the snakes into the sea as one would a flock of sheep.

Although I suspected this was probably not how this event came to pass, when I came to Ireland I learned that St Patrick was very efficient with his snake banishing and did it all in one go from the top of Croagh Patrick, a mountain in County Mayo, after a forty day fast. It has been a pilgrimage site ever since, although archaeological evidence shows that it has been a place of worship since 3,000 BCE. Thousands of people come every year from all over the world to hike to the summit for both religious reasons and to enjoy the incredible view of Clew Bay and the west coast.

My friends Noémie, a French au pair, and Alex, a Killala native, didn’t take much convincing, and last Saturday we found ourselves standing, full of expectation, at the bottom of the mountain.

We began our ascent up the steep and rocky path, armed with sturdy walking sticks we had rented from a booth at the mouth of the trail. It was relatively warm and bright on the bottom third of the mountain, and we stopped frequently to take in the view and catch our breath. We noticed that clouds had begun to gather at the peak, and we hoped they would dissipate by the time we completed the two-hour hike.

There weren’t very many people on Croagh Patrick that day, at least compared to the 15,000 pilgrims that ascend it on the holy day, Reek Sunday, in July. We only encountered a few hundred people as we climbed, and as a result they stood out as individuals and groups. My friends and I began to recognize them, gauge our progress next to theirs, and were encouraged by those on their way back down. We fell into step with other young hikers, groups of friends, older men and women who had a vitality I hope I possess at their age, languages I could identify and some I couldn’t, and even some sturdy and brave children being guided by family members. I’m always pleasantly surprised and thrilled at the variety of people that are drawn together by the love of the beauty of nature and the physical challenge it can present.

By the time we got half way up the mountain, the clouds had settled in and were soaking everything in a delicate mist. The apex was obscured from view, but we refused to let it dampen our drive as we assessed the final leg of our journey up a nearly vertical and extremely rocky piece of trail.

We slogged on, and I began to feel like I was in a scene from Lord of the Rings. One does not simply climb Croagh Patrick, I said to myself while my lungs ached. Every person returning told us, “Just five more minutes.” Yeah, right, I thought.
And then we were there. A white church rose suddenly into view, and we were hit by a gust of wind as it blew over the mountain. Everywhere people were high-fiving each other, taking pictures, and praying. One group even popped a bottle of champagne.

There was no view due to the low clouds, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment I hardly cared. I looked at my new friends, neither of which I had known before I came here, both with such different histories, and marvelled at what we had just accomplished together. I felt a sense of camaraderie with the other hikers who had made the journey with me that day, and the millions who had scaled it before me, reaching back into human history.