Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
I am college football fan and especially love the UCLA Bruins. One of our planned activities on our trip to Ireland was to attend the college football game of Notre Dame University playing the Naval Academy at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Because of my love of college football and also basketball, I was interested to find out what role sports played in the lives of the Irish.
On our bus trip to Galway, our tour guide told us about Gaelic football and that they were now in the playoff games. Each county in Ireland had a football team and the people of the county showed their support. Galway’s team was in the playoffs and there was a big banner in the middle of Quay Street (where shops and restaurants are) encouraging their team to win. The All Ireland Senior Football Final would be held on the 3rd Sunday in September. I am guessing that this is akin to our Super Bowl (I’m sure not televised all over the world but probably just as important to the Irish!).
The other sport I learned about was hurling. According to the GAA.ie website, “hurling is believed to be the world’s oldest field game.” The stick used in hurling is called a “hurley” and is curved outwards. The ball (which is called a sliotar) is about the size of a hockey ball. I don’t understand all the rules but there are goalposts involved and the scoring values are similar to those used in Gaelic football.
As I mentioned before, I did have the opportunity to attend the “Emerald Isle Classic” American college football game between Notre Dame and Navy. The Aviva Stadium is only 2 ½ years old and is very futuristic looking. It was fun being in a smaller stadium (seating 40,000 compared to 100,000). While Notre Dame wasn't designated as the home team, they did wear Adidas shoes that were the colors of the Irish flag. The Fighting Irish did win the game and began their undefeated season.
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
When we were done in Islandeady, we drove to the city of Westport, which is on Clew Bay. I figured anything after our trip to Islandeady would be “frosting on the cake. I had seen the hometown of my great grandma, which had never been part of our plan for this trip. Yeah, I am big on planning but do enjoy the “pleasant surprise”.
Westport is a darling little town! There are lots of flower baskets on the bridges over the Carrowbeg River that runs through town. We ate lunch at Chilli Coffee Shop. After lunch, Ginya and I went shopping at Foxford Woolen Mill. This was a treat since the only other shopping I had done was at the gift shop at the Cliffs of Moher. There is a statue of St. Patrick at the Octagon.
The way back to Galway from Westport was absolutely beautiful. Because we had to get our rental car back by 6pm, we did have time constraints and couldn't spend a great deal of time discovering all its natural beauty but we did see some beautiful sites. I am putting Westport, Connemara and all points in between on “my bucket list”.
We visited Aasleagh Falls, which is where the Erriff River cascades through the valley between mountains. Of course, we needed lots of photos of that area too! We then drove back to Galway, passing the town of Recess – of course, we all wanted to get out and have “recess” but we had time constraints. We made it back to Galway just in time to return our rental car. While my husband was putting gas in the rental car, I found a cemetery in Galway – imagine that! I took some photos from across the street – we were in a big hurry! I absolutely love the huge headstones!
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Saturday, January 12, 2013
After leaving Castlebar in County Mayo (yeah, I know it has been a few months since my last post – I just hate it when life gets in the way of my genealogy research! ), I convinced my fellow travelers that perhaps we could look for the small town of Islandeady, where my great grandma Bridget was born and raised. We saw a sign saying Islandeady and thought perhaps we had missed it but then we saw another sign for a turnoff that read, “Bilberry Lake and Islandeady Cemetery”. Wow, I think we found the pot of gold! I had heard that the place was a “wild rural area” but was delighted in what I saw.
We drove down this narrow country road – only room for one car’s width -– for about a mile and then saw this lovely, peaceful lake surrounded by green hills with green trees and green grass. It was Bilberry Lake. Across the lake we could see a cemetery on the hillside. The four of us got out of the car and took some photos. It looked like there was a huge cow on the top of the hill (at the top of the cemetery). My brother told me that it was a statue. I told him I saw the cow move its tail. He told me that was another animal behind it.
Although it looked like the cemetery was across the lake, the country road actually led us directly to the cemetery. Never did I imagine discovering my great grandmother’s hometown would look like this! The Islandeady Cemetery is on the side of a hill. Of course, we need to explore it. I love all the large monumental headstones! Some were very old and extremely hard to read. After we visited the cemetery (we found several graves of Chambers but no immediate ancestors) and saw that the cow on the top of the hill was REAL, we went to explore the ruins of the church next to the cemetery.
St. Eiden’s Church was built in the early 13th century. The East window is Gothic. It has been in ruins since penal times and is surrounded by massive famine graves. The church was restored in the 1990’s. Near the church is an oak tree that was planted to commemorate the famine victims in unmarked graves.
From the church and cemetery you can see Crough Patrick, which is a mountain and means St. Patrick’s stack. Reportedly, St. Patrick fasted on this summit for 40 days during the 5th century and built a church there. The legend is that this is where St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland. I absolutely love that this story of St. Patrick takes place almost in my great grandmother’s “backyard”!