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Archive for the category “Ireland”

To go where the tourists go? Cliffs of Moher or Loop Head?

These photos of me were taken in Ireland, on the same day, in two different places. The photo on the left was taken at one of the most touristy places in Ireland, the Cliffs of Moher. The photo on the right was taken at a place called Loop Head, which was pretty empty when I was there. Why?


Basically, from what I can tell, the Cliffs of Moher were discovered by foreigners earlier, and they’ve become famous. They really are as beautiful as people say they are. My little friends Loki and Tofu San agreed.

Unfortunately, the Cliffs of Moher has been very built up, so there are lots of walls, stairs, and even stores. I’m sure people in wheelchairs appreciate the ramps, but it sort of takes away from the natural beauty.

The designers clearly tried to make it seem “natural…”


The cliffs stretch for 5 miles, so once you walk past the warning signs, the views are pretty remarkable.


And there’s no guard rail!Path

Path 2

I was glad to see the Cliffs of Moher, but in many ways, I preferred Loop Head, which looks very similar, but there aren’t mobs of tour buses stopping there every day. This undiscovered gem is a truly stunning place. And no guard rails anywhere! See for yourself:

I know the guard rails are there to keep people safe, and I do appreciate that. In fact, there was a whole campaign at the Cliffs of Moher to keep people from committing suicide by jumping off the cliffs! There were a lot of signs for hotlines to call if you need help, and even a meditation space to sit next to a peaceful fountain.

My verdict? I think it’s worth going to places that tourists have discovered, but I also think it’s important to go to places that are a little off the beaten track. For my next trip, I decided to plan for a mix! I’ll be taking a 3 week trip this July with my friend Erica. Some of the places we’ll be visiting are extremely well known around the world. Others you might never have heard of. File_000 (3)

Do you recognize any of the cities pictured above? We’ll be visiting all of these places, and more! I’m pretty sure that the number of tourists in each location will not determine how much we like our experience there. But I’ll keep you posted…

For now, see if you can use these clues to figure out our itinerary!

Murals and Public Art, from the USA to Ireland

I didn’t go to any art museums in Ireland, but I was lucky to see lots of public art on the street. I was very impressed. First, in Cork:






In our tomorrowCreativity and Change

This one was HUGE, and super inspiring. In order to see this one properly, I had to capture it on video:


Next, in Galway:

Like snow that doesn't belong to the earth or the air

I happened to be there when the musician Prince died, and that night I wandered down a street and in front of me was this mural:

Close up 1

Above this scene, the mural shows artists who have passed away:Close up 2

So the whole mural is quite impressive:

Sally Long's

I ended my trip in Dublin, where I found this sculpture at Trinity College:

Since coming home to Massachusetts, I’ve started noticing more murals. I saw these ones in Cambridge today, and at least one of them is clearly freshly painted: PrinceGarage MuralFearless Belonging

I know Ms. Shaby wrote about beautiful graffiti in Lisbon, Portugal, but where else around the world have you seen public art as interesting as this?  I’ll add those cities to my list of places I want to visit!

Irish Culture Part Four: Getting Deeper with Friends

TimeWhen you visit a country, most tourists don’t get the real scoop. There are certain questions that you can’t ask a stranger.

That’s why I was lucky to hang out with Victor and several of his friends in Ireland. One of his pals, Audrey, is an American woman who has been living in Ireland for over a decade, because she married Tom, a local Irish man. Victor and I got to spend an evening with Audrey and Tom, and they answered loads of my students’ questions. It was a blast, and we got to go deeper than just the surface level topics. I could even ask them about Irish stereotypes:

Some of the students asked really fascinating questions about gender, sexual orientation, and fair treatment. These led to really interesting discussions:

Marriage Equality

Other questions got at how Irish people show respect to each other, which is not something most tourists get to see (definitely “invisible culture” or something below the water on the iceberg):

Some questions were just plain fun. Have you ever heard of hurling or Gaelic football?

Trinity Rugby.pngIf you can believe it, there’s even more I could share from Audrey and Tom, and I’ll try to get some more video edited soon. Here’s to making new friends when you travel!


Irish Culture Part Three: Approaching Strangers

I absolutely LOVED getting answers to student questions. Irish DanceIt didn’t feel like work on my vacation. It gave me a chance to talk to locals, and most people I met were super friendly and excited to chat about their culture.

Sometimes, it was a little awkward. I had a great conversation with a guy on the bus from Cork to Dublin, but when I asked him about being on video, he clearly got uncomfortable. I also had a great chat with a taxi driver on the way to the airport, but didn’t get any of that on film. I needed to be careful to make sure people felt comfortable, but overall, people were very receptive to my requests.

One of my favorites is below, when I wandered up to two locals selling their artisan products at a kind of small farmer’s market / craft fair in the famous town of Limerick:

In Dublin, I ran into a huge group of vegan activists on the street, and approached them to ask them some questions. Meat is a huge part of the Irish diet, as you can see looking at these photos of classic Irish breakfasts:

One item you might not recognize in there is the black and white pudding, which look like round paddies. They are actually a kind of meat sausage, and the black one has more animal blood in it! Oh, and the slices of ham are what they call “bacon” or “rashers.”

I thought the vegans would do a good job talking about Irish crops, and I was right!

And yes, as you can see, they talked about potatoes! I ate lots of potatoes while in Ireland.

However, in the big cities, like Dublin, it’s possible to get most kinds of food, from Japanese to Falafel. They even have American chains:Fridays

I thought this sign, at a BBQ place, was particularly funny:


Finally, on my last night in Dublin, I knew I needed to find an answer to Lincoln’s question about dance. So, I was excited when I saw this sign, advertising free admission to an Irish dancing show that night:


DanceO’Sullivan’s Pub had fabulous music! I was so glad that I went. People at pubs in Ireland are very friendly, and I loved watching the show. In particular, the dancers were fabulous performers. Not only did they do amazing things with their feet, but they added lots of little things to make the show funny and quirky, like competing with each other and bringing in volunteer dancers from the audience. It was a blast!

If you ever get a chance to travel to a new country, I highly recommend speaking up and talking to locals. You’ll be glad you did!

100 Years Ago Today: The Easter Rising

This beautiful place isn’t the Lexington Green, where the first shots of the American Revolution were fired. It is Saint Stephen’s Green in Dublin, and it’s an important place in Irish history.

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 11.32.57 PMI know I’m a history teacher, but I have to admit that history can be boring sometimes. Before this trip, I didn’t know a lot about Irish history, nor was I particularly interested. Talking to people who experienced big changes, and being in places where major changes happened, I became fascinated. That’s a big part of why I love to travel. I gain so much perspective and feel so much more connected to people who come from different backgrounds than me.


Easter RisingI happened to leave Ireland on a very special day, like America’s fourth of July, but much bigger. Today is the 100 year anniversary of the Easter Rising, the revolution which led to Ireland’s independence from Britain. In fact, the streets were all closed around my hotel because of the celebrations, and I was lucky to find a taxi to the airport! The taxi driver also taught me a lot this morning, answering many of my questions!

Old RuinsOn this day, 100 years ago, Irish citizens organized themselves to fight for independence from the British crown. Ireland’s history is surprisingly similar to America’s in some ways. Around the same time British settlers were coming to Plimoth, they were also moving into their neighbor, Ireland. There are many old buildings from the time of British rule in Ireland, and even from before that.

Across from Trinity

It took the Irish longer to get to the point of revolution. But just like the Patriots in the colonies, many Irish Catholic people no longer wanted to be controlled by Britain, who had taken over their land. Catholics were experiencing a lot of discrimination, while the Protestant British citizens had most of the power. The Catholic rebels planned to seize control of Dublin by force.Castle

On this day, 100 years ago, the rebels attempted to take control of key areas, first the heart of the British government in Ireland, the Castle and City Hall.

Over the next 5 days, the rebellion played out throughout the city, with the rebels headquartered in the General Post Office (where there was a big celebration today)!

Crowds at Post Office

They worked to take over other important parts of the city, like the famous Trinity College, which is still around today (Tofu San visited yesterday, as you can see).

As you can probably guess, the Irish succeeded! Ireland gained its independence, but during negotiations with Britain, they gave up Northern Ireland, which is still part of the United Kingdom today.Ireland UK

This flag is up EVERYWHERE in Ireland, and I think the proclamation in the middle must be sort of like their Declaration of Independence. Flag

Today, the Irish celebrate 100 years of independence! Americans earned our independence more than 230 years ago, so nobody is alive in the US who fought in that war. In Ireland, there are many people around whose parents, cousins, grandparents, or other family members were part of this rebellion. I met one at an Easter Rising Centennial event at City Hall:

Now a days, Catholic and Protestant people live side by side in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, but there are more Catholic people in the south and more Protestant people in the north. Many Irish people wish that Northern Ireland were part of their country, but they accept that it probably won’t happen in their life times. I did see a small parade by a group called the IRA (Irish Republican Army), who want to use violence to take over Northern Ireland. Several locals told me that these people are “bad guys;” most Irish people do not want more blood shed.

IRA March

Not many people came to the IRA march. The bigger parade in Dublin was just celebrating 100 years of Ireland being independent! And even though I missed a lot of the main celebrations today, I’m glad I got a taste yesterday:

Congratulations Ireland! I’m very glad that I have begun getting to know you.

Even though I’m home now, there’s still a lot more that I have to share. More Ireland entries will be coming soon, once I have more time to sort through my photos and videos.



Irish Culture Part Two: Taking it to the Streets of Galway

There are a lot of chances to learn about culture when walking around on the streets of Galway, one of Ireland’s biggest cities in the west.

Of course, there are shamrocks, sheep, and many touristy images, but most people can tell what is just for fun and what is real.

I’ve been finding lots of items with Irish names, many of which I recognize from Irish Catholic people who live in Massachusetts.Names

The street performers here are a lot of fun, and certainly I’ve heard a lot more music than when I last wrote.

I’ve also gotten chances to ask some shopkeepers to answer student questions.

Kids Chores

Some places feel familiar, like any shopping area in the States.

Shopping Centre of Galway

When I look closely, I see little differences. These toy machines contain silver gum balls and coil hair ties like those that I bought several years ago in China.


I’m trying to keep my eyes open for other interesting new sights! As we know, culture is not so easy to see from a tourist perspective.

What is Irish? Can you guess?

I took all of the photographs below, but half of them were taken today on the west coast of Ireland, and half were taken on other travels. Can you guess which one is Irish for each pair of photos?

Category #1: Cliffs ~ Which of these photos was taken near Kilkee on the southwest coast of Ireland? The other is from Uluwatu, Bali in Indonesia.


Cliff Photo A

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 12.17.09 AM

Cliff Photo B

Category #2: Horses ~ Which of these photos shows an Irish horse? The other one shows a scene of horsing around in Iceland.

Two Horses

Horse Photo A


Horse Photo B

Category #3: Beach ~ Which of these photos was taken today on Fanore Beach? The other one is a beach on the north coast of the Dominican Republic.


Beach Photo A

Beach 2.png

Beach Photo B

Category #4: Rocks ~ Which of these photos was taken today in the rocky area of Ireland known as the Burren? The other one is from the Matopos Hills of Zimbabwe.

Rocks Balanced

Rocks Photo A


Rocks Photo B

Category #5: Houses ~ Which of these photos was taken today while visiting a friend of Victor’s in a residential neighborhood near Galway? The other one is a photo taken in my home state of Massachusetts.


Houses Photo A


Houses Photo B

Category #6: Flowers ~ Which of these photos was taken today at Loop Head on the coast of Ireland? The other one was taken in Hokkaido, Japan.


Flowers Photo A


Flowers Photo B

How did you do? Scroll down to find out the answers!




  1. Cliffs: A was taken in Indonesia. B was taken in Ireland.
  2. Horses: A was taken in Ireland. B was taken in Iceland.
  3. Beach:A was taken in Ireland. B was taken in the Dominican Republic.
  4. Rocks: A was taken in Zimbabwe. B was taken in Ireland.
  5. Houses: A was taken in Ireland. B was taken in Massachusetts.
  6. Flowers: A was taken in Japan. B was taken in Ireland.


Country and Cliff Roads of Southwest Ireland

The past few days, we’ve gotten out of the city! The towns are certainly cute, but it’s clear that the beauty of Ireland is in the countryside.

As it turns out, leprechauns are a tourist thing that has nothing to do with the true Ireland. The true Ireland is all about driving round-abouts.

Once out of town, the mountain roads are pretty unique. Yesterday, we headed from Youghal, on the south coast, to Kenmare, on a bay on the west coast. A few photos of the journey:

There were many sheep to say hello to us! Many were marked with colored dye, presumably so that farmers know which are theirs.

We spent the night with some friends of Victor’s in the countryside. They answered LOTS of student questions, but I will post more on that later.

Country House

Today, we headed first to Killarney National Park, where we took a lovely walk to the lakes.

Back in the car, the roads were windy and we went slow, even though the speed limits were posted as 100 km per hour (about 60 miles per hour)!100 KM

Finally, we arrived at the Dingle Peninsula, which was my favorite spot in Ireland so far!Seagull

The roads were coastal and curvy, at the top of cliffs overlooking the water.Cliff Road

Oftentimes, there was only space for one car, not two.Narrow Roads

The views were spectacular!Me Dingle

By the end of the day, we could see both the moon rising and the sun setting.

MoonBeach Sunset 2

If you ever have a chance to drive these roads, I’d highly recommend it! For the full experience, here are some video clips of the Dingle Peninsula. Enjoy!

Local food + Sun + Balloons = Packed Irish Festival

Today, we spent the day at the West Waterford Food Festival in Dungarvan. We were there from 10 am to 6 pm — a very long day! There were many local and international foods, and there were MANY balloons. I didn’t take many photos, but here are some highlights:

1. It was a sunny day (not very common in Ireland), so the festival was packed!

Gaelic2. I got to see a young girl singing in Gaelic, which is a funny sounding language. Most people in Ireland speak English, but there are small pockets where they speak Gaelic. People want to preserve this language, so they print modern books in Gaelic, have a Gaelic radio station, and teach it in schools. I find it fun to listen to the way it sounds!

3. I got to watch Victor balloon twisting in action. He works full time as a balloon artist and entertainer, and I can see why he is so successful. I learn so much from watching him!VictorBalloon Twisting at Food Festival

4. So much local food! My favorite was this apple juice that tasted different than any I’ve ever had. It was so fresh, like drinking an apple. They have different varieties made from different types of apples. Some are more sweet and some are more sour. All were delicious.

Apple Juice

5. Random bonus — I have no idea why, there was a man at the festival with an owl on his shoulder. I loved checking it out up close. What a cutie!

There are more stories to tell, such as when I bled all over a balloon shark, making it look VERY authentic. If you know me, you’ll have to hear that one in person, because right now I am exhausted and ready for bed. (But don’t worry — it wasn’t a true shark attack, and anyway, I survived!)

Irish Culture Part One: Wanderings in Cork

Popular BandBack at school, my students got a chance to ask questions for me to bring to Ireland. Some asked me to film them asking their question, while others decided to write it up on paper. popular songsToday, I had some time to wander around the city of Cork and find some answers. First, I found my way into a cute little record shop where there was a mini-concert going on! Another customer in the store was able to provide a first answer.


Records and Relics

Next, I headed towards a big market selling all sorts of local produce. On the way, I passed a table of volunteers who were offering to teach people about their religion, Islam.DiscoverIslam Table

I stopped and chatted with them, of course! They were very friendly and offered me free books and pamphlets to bring home to the classroom. One of the guys agreed to answer one of the student questions, but because he was not born in Ireland, he gave multiple answers:

Finally, I went into a cafe to get a hot chocolate. It was a special kind, where I got to melt the chocolate into a glass of warm milk. Yum! While there, I met a new young friend who helped with a last question of the day.

It was a lot of fun to get some of these questions answered! Tomorrow will be a packed day of balloon twisting at a festival, but I have lots more research to do in the coming days.

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