Magnificent Ireland A Journey from Hawaii to Ireland & Back

Hi, I'm Ethan

This Guy! UH Hilo Represent

A video game nerd turned Physics Major turned English Major, who has no plans to become a teacher. Even if god knows America needs them right now.

I am here to tell you my story the story of May 17th to June 5th 2018, the two most enlightening weeks of my life.

I'm supposed to chronicle my adventure to the far off mystical land of Ireland. But I am a writer and as a writer I prefer to tell you a story. But they take too long to write so I give you a look at my journal instead. It will still definitely be longer then it needs to be, hopefully you find it interesting enough to get make it to the end. There are going to be a lot of pictures because my prose cannot possibly descried the magnificence of this country. Alternatively if you are some kind of "hamster" (Inside joke, maybe I will share it with you, maybe.) feel free to skip to the end for a nifty summary and a few bulleted "Top 5" lists.

So where to begin? Let's cheat and start at the beginning with my trip over.

For monetary and sanity reasons I chose to arrive in Ireland early. It gave me time to relax so I wasn't rushing around and I had time to adjust to my new time zone. Which was surprisingly easy because the time difference is about 11 hours ahead of Ireland.

Hilo Bay May 17th 2018

5 Hours from Hilo to LA

May 18th 2018

13 Hour Layover in Los Angeles

Visited "LACMA" and "The Broad" Art Museums to kill time.

May 19th 2018

12 Hour Flight from LA to Reykjavik, Iceland

Tip: get up and walk around whenever you get the chance especially if your in an inside seat.

May 19th 2018

3 Hour Flight from Reykjavik to Stratford, London

Note: I only got an hour in Iceland and it was raining. Like Hilo except it was walk in freezer cold

May 19th 2018

1 hour flight from Stratford to Dublin, Ireland

The busiest airport with the biggest airport mall that I have ever been in.

Dublin International Airport

Legroom. My kingdom for legroom.

I spent my first night abroad in a Hostel. This trip was the first time I had ever heard of the concept, it was an experience. The only thing I can compare it too is dorming, with 9 to 11 other people to a room. I won't lie to you, if it wasn't for the fact that I have experience dorming at UH Hilo during the semester, this would have freaked me out. But I have become used to the idea. The only thing that gave me pause was that my stuff might get stolen. My fears turned out to be unfounded and I learned that this whole hostel thing is a big thing in Europe. Young people backpacking across the country staying in these very cheap dorms all the time.

Dublin International Youth Hostel

Pre Program Fun: May 20th 2018

Went for a fun walking tour of Dublin at 8 AM before the city woke up while on my way to meet up with the rest of my group. The program actually starts on the 22nd but I came in two days early. It was either come in super early of rush like a mad man day of. I elected to do the former.

I don't know if you can tell this from the pictures but Dublin is a beautiful city. It's just packed full of these towering 5 story stone or brick buildings. As someone who comes form Hawai`i I don't have the opportunity to see a lot of 18th Century architecture. Now I know what your thinking, "Iolani palace on Oahu was built in 1879 and has a European aesthetic". To that I say; 1. I have not lived on Oahu since 2008 and 2. I am a local, why would I go to a tourist spot? Hmm? Although Iolani palace is a gorgeously designed building it's something else to see blocks after block of the same style of architecture.

after meeting up with the rest of my group we then visited Dublin Castle had lunch at a pub called O'Donoghue's and then finished the day at the National Museum of Ireland: Archeology.

What was most surprising to me was the level of craftsman ship and metal working skill displayed by the early Celtic people. This cloak clasp for instance is a beautiful example of their skills.

DAY 1: May 21st 2018

Starting the Day with a classic "Full Irish Breakfast": Canadian Bacon, Hash Browns, Baked Beans, Over Easy eggs, Black Pudding, White Pudding, and a Grilled Tomato.

Dublin - Loughcrew Cairns, Boyne Valley

The thing that hit me first was the weather, both literally and figuratively. It was what one might assume to be classic almost clique Irish weather. over cast gray heavy skies looming over vibrant lush green rolling hills. Dotted with clusters of shingled roofs and white sheep herds or tree that simply appear in the landscape. It is especially magnificent standing at the top of a hill with the whole of the country rolling out from under your feet to the edge of the horizon.
In Loughcrew we visited a few "cairns", which are ancient passage tombs. The most interesting part of these cairns besides being massive mounds of stone 1000's of years old where that their entrances were made to catch the light of the summer and winter solstice. We were given the opportunity to poke our heads inside one. It is small and cramped but as this weight and presence to it which is ruined by seeing someone's name scrolled into the roof.
Some of the stones in and around the cairns were intricately carved. The most common symbol being an interlinked triple spiral. Our archeological guide, Niamh (pronounced Neave). Informed us that scientists have no idea what they mean if they mean anything. The carvings reminded me of Hawaiian petroglyphs. Which we also don't know the meaning of. They just bare a more striking to things we know. Like animals and fisherman etc.

Day 2: May 22nd 2018

First good look at Donegal and it is a beautiful quiet costal town. We stayed at the Atlantic Apartotel (Apartment Hotel) which is on the main strip of town and not joking a 3 minute walk away from the beach. Again the mountain ranges remind me of Hawaii. Which shouldn't surprise me because Ireland is also a volcanic island.

This is the beach that is 3 minutes from where we were staying. Niamh told us that Donegal is apparently a big summer spot especially for surfers. There is also a small carnival kind of like Pier 39 in San Francisco just to the left of where this picture was taken. We were 1 week early for the carnival, it wasn't open while we were there. That or it opened the night we left.

Every morning we would meet at the dinning room of the Atlantic and would have "class". Our guide Niamh (standing at the front) would give us a little bit of context and history for the places we were going to see.

Side Note:

Niamh is an amazing individual, period. She has the most sarcastic, blunt and sardonic personality. She has the most sarcastic sense of humor I have ever seen and the single greatest individual I have ever had the privilege to spend time with.

These are the amazing folks from Wisconsin who were here on a business program. They were fantastic and I would totally visit Wisconsin just to hang out with them. I also offered them my couch if they ever decide to visit Hawai`i and the offer still stands.

The big site we visited was Cavan Burran. Which is a Neolithic preservation site. Here there are preserved early Celtic settlement and farm sites.

Here we also get our first look at glacial erratic's. Which are huge sandstone boulders that were deposited in the last Ice Age.

Doesn't that just look magical?

Fairy Portals. Which are not just man made tunnels but any kind of depression or hole that reaches into the ground. Which are horrifying. Fairy can pull you into them and you are never seen again … I think.

The floor of the forest was littered with patches of clovers. I was never able to find a 4 leaf one no matter how hard I looked and believe me I did.

This is a great example of a stacked stone wall. Neolithic peoples used them as paddocks for cattle and sheep. Along with leaving a place to plant crops.

This site is interesting because the Irish government actually planted trees here meant to be harvested and turned into lumber for commercial use. But then it was turned into a historical site and now it's just there. But still a fun story.

We then finished the day with a trip to the Fairy Bridge back in Donegal and the most breath taking sunset that I have ever seen. Which lasted a really long time. Which was a first for me living in the tropics where sunsets last like maybe half an hour.

For me Cavan Burren was the most memorable of all the places we visited during the whole trip. Of all the places it captured my imagination as a writer. Maybe someday I will put it to paper and you can read it.

I'm going to speed this up because if I take my time going day by day this thing will be as long as Beowulf.

Day 3: May 23rd 2018

We visited the Assaroc Abby to see a memorial to St. Patrick. The greatest marketer in history, a man who successfully converted the Irish to Catholicism. St. Patrick like the missionaries that came to Hawaii who first converted the Ali`i and once it was adopted by the ruling class the religion trickled down to the commoner and then the society as a whole.

So the moral of this story is to always convince people form the top down for maximum effect and minimal blood shed and revolt.

Another one of those great top off the world moments. From high up we had the opportunity to look out and really see the layout of the country. This whole area is the view from just below Queen Maeve's Cairn.

To the left is another of those pine forest planted by the government for the lumber industry.

Notice also the extensive matrix of stone walls that zig zag across the land scape. It is something you see all over Ireland. Apparently the reason that they cover the entire country was the result of an old English work program. During the famine in order to get food you had to build bridges to no where.

Queen Maeve's Cairn

Legends say that she is buried Standing up instead of lying down. This of course can't be confirmed because it would require digging up the site. Personally I find it more romantic if she is the warrior princess described in myth and legend.

Day 4 May 24th 2018

Devenish Island in Enniskillen and down the Lower Lough Erne. Here there is a site of a large monetary or self sufficient community of monks. Those missionaries that came to convert the Celts congregated in communities like this all over Ireland. Can you imagine how long this site must have taken to be built. Especially since this is an Island and all of these buildings are predominantly made of stone.

As a group we often did this. Sometimes it was planned sometimes it wasn't but picnicking like this for lunch was always a joy. The best part was that behind our hotel was a grocery store so we could buy fresh fruits, vegies, cheese's, bread, and meats for our afternoon lunch.

Also apparently in Europe they require that the produce be labeled with it's country of origin so we always knew where our food was coming from. Grapes from Spain, locally made goat cheese it was glorious. If only it was that easy to picnic in Hilo.

Day 5 May 25th 2018

An ancient castle precariously placed on the edge of a crumbling cliff over a tumultuous sea.

According to Niamh this was also a big tourist spot for young English people on holiday. Dunluce castle was a major stop on the "Western Way". The "Western Way" is a trail following the western part of the country beginning in Oughterard, County Galway and then ending in Ballycastle, County Mayo. It is supposed to take about 7 days to hike it.

We picnicked here again. It was especially nice since the sun had been out for a few days in a row and the grass was dry so you could sprawl out on it.

The castle itself is also really interesting because all of the outer walls are made of stone and are still standing so you can see how the building was laid out. There is also a mix of roughly stacked stones and smooth formed window, archways, and stairs.

Giant's Causeway

Because of Irelands origin as a volcanic island it has a lot of interesting geological anomalies and one of them is a major tourist spot. It was explained that the natural hexagonal shape of the rock was formed by a rapidly cooled lava lake. What's even crazier is that this hexagonal rock formation is all over the area. Even the cliffs behind where this picture was taken. Should you decide to visit this area take a close look at the cliffs you will actually see hexagonal columns that run put the side of it or run across it.

Day 6 May 26th 2018

Saturday was a relaxing "cheat" day. It was supper chill, we didn't go on any crazy hikes. We spent the day riding horses, building peat teepee's and surfing.

By the way this is Sunny, my new best friend. We went for a morning horse back riding in the dunes outside of Donegal. Also horse riding boots are not meant for those with wide feet like me. And yes I used a step stool to climb onto Sunny he's as tall as I am at the shoulder.

Peat Bog

Locals actually till the bog and use the peat as a fuel source during the winter. We helped out a local famer stack the peat he had tilled. We arrange them churned "bog logs" into teepee's so they could dry. we were also again reminded that sunny days like the ones we experienced are few and far between. It was basically a miracle that we got 10 days in a row of sun shine.

We also meat the happiest dog know to man kind. This little guy was so happy bounding around getting anyone and everyone to give him a good scratch.

Day 7 May 27th 2018

Glean Cholm Cille

Also in Glean Cholm Cille was a small folk village with a couple of recreated historically accurate Irish buildings like this pub. That is also a 100% authentic thatched roof like it was originally done. There was also a school and fishermen's hut along with a typical house. All of the building are also completely furnished with period accurate furniture, utensils, clothing etc.

They also have a really great local craft store here as well it's where I bought most if not all of the souvenirs that I brought back. some really nice woolen ware.

This would also be a really great idea here in Hawaii. Someone should really try creating something like this here.

Sliabh Liag Cliffs

I don't know what to tell you the view is absolutely breath taking. It is stark and beautiful at the same time. There us also a great ice cream truck that parks up here. I suggest the honey comb flavor it is mind blowing and even has an actual honey comb in it.

Day 8 May 28th 2018

St. Columba's Church

In Drumcliffe at St. Columba's Church is the grave of William Butler Yeats. As an English Major and as a writer this is the kind of stuff that interests me. Seminal dead authors.

I am not going to lie to you. I don't actually know that much about William Butler Yeats or his work. I know that he is one of Irelands most celebrated authors right up there with Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. I may not know much but after this trip I intend to dive into his work along with the work of his contemporaries. So if I ever come again I can make a proper pilgrimage to Yeats grave.

Castle Parke

One of the big experiences for me on this trip has been going into authentic European castles. As a young boy I grew up on fantasy stories and movies with castles and knight in shining armor. Let me tell you that real life is a little disappointing. I don't know if it's the style of castle in Ireland but they are on the small side. The foot thick stone walls really cut into the interior space it's actually really cozy on the inside.

This is just a cool little model of the castle as it was being restored. Unfortunately they were renovating/ repairing the inner courtyard so we could only tour the main building by the entrance.

They also hire local artisans that are familiar/ trained in the classic fields they need to restore these castles. So like people that can traditionally thatch a roof or construct/ repair stone walls etc.

This is simply here for how cool it looks. Lough Gill was so still that it reflected the landscape like a mirror.

Day 9 May 29th 2018

We went up and visited Northern Ireland specifically Derry which was the heart of the civil rights movement in Ireland during "The Troubles". What was fascinating to me was that here the civil rights movement wasn't specifically about race but religion. It was for equality between the Catholics and the Protestants.

A few of us meet two gentleman, traveling musicians, in the Pub of the Atlantic one night. The two of them were very young during the troubles and they shared a bit of their experiences. It was really impactful hearing from two random people it really drove the sentiment of it. This scary time that didn't make any sense. Where people would just up and disappear for no good reason.

In there their are a bunch of these huge murals painted on the sides of buildings in Derry. This one here is the most recent. They were done by three local guys who where never trained artists they just didn't out of the kindness of their own heart. There is actually a book about the murals if your interested. All the proceeds go to the artists that painted these murals. I highly suggest you pick up a copy.

Day 10 May 30th 2018

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum is exactly what it sounds like. It chronical everywhere the Irish emigrated to and what there contributions to history were. Believe me there where a lot. Also the single greatest museum that I have ever been to. All the exhibits have these cool interactable digital displays that with blow your mind. 10/10 visit it if you get the chance.

Day 11 May 31st 2018

Four of us decided to stay an extra 4 days in Ireland. Valentine, Rosannah, Alana and myself. We are on our way to the fairy that will take us to Inismore one of the Aran Islands.

Dun Duchathair (Black Fort)

Dun Duchathair is a pre historic ring fort. You can kind of see it in this picture but the fort is built on the edge of a cliff along the sea. This huge outer wall is like 4 or more feet wide and like 10 feet tall in some places. On top of that it's all just stacked stone. There is no mortar or glue holding this mammoth thing together. There is also a good amount of space behind it enough for a few families to comfortably live in.

This was a beautiful spot I think if we knew what we were getting into we might have ate dinner and camped out there.

Day 12 June 1st 2018

This was a random monument that we stumbled on biking around the Island. It was erected in the memory of Liam O'Flaherty 1896-1984. He was an Irish Novelist. There was even a quote from him that I really liked. "I was born on a storm-swept rock and hate the soft growth of sun-baked lands where there is no frost in men's bones. swift thoughts, and the swift flight of ravenous birds, and the squeal of terror of hunted animals are to me reality".

It's a super dark quote but I like how vivid and dramatic it is. My hope is that one day I can pen something as vivid and dramatic.

Dun Aengus

Is believed to be a religious ring fort. Due to the huge stone platform in the middle of the fort. This was also the most touristy spot we visited in Inismore. But we got lucky we arrived in between tours so we had a few minutes where it was basically just us in the fort.

Alana sitting on the huge stone platform in the middle of the fort wistfully looking out into the abyss hoping it looks back. She also about a foot from a hundred foot drop to the rocky ocean.

I could not come close to doing this, I have a fear of heights and that platform goes right up to the edge.

Na Seacht Teampall (Seven Temples)

So named because on this site there are, in various states of ruin and size, seven temples. It was a surprisingly happy little graveyard. You could see that many of the graves are regularly tended to which is always good to see god knows I don't visit my dead relatives as often as I should. We also had a fun time trying to see which graves was the oldest. I can't remember the exact date but I think it was in the late 1800's.

Finished the day off with a dip in the bay. It had thankfully been sunny all day so the water was above freezing enough where we could swim a little.

Also there seems to be a lot of dead and decomposing crustaceans under the sand 1. because we found a lot of shells and 2. because when ever we would take a step weed sink 6 inches and warm bubbles would come up out of the sand.

A strange yet exciting experience none the less.

I think this is the Island mascot/ town dog cus he didn't have a collar everyone played with him and he seemed to be just wandering around.

Day 13 June 2nd 2018

Teampall Bheanian

The worlds smallest church. It's like 4ft by 6ft on the inside. You can maybe fit 5 people in there comfortably. Any more that that and whoever is in the front will be face to face with the priest.

It may be the smallest church but hey it has one hell of a view of the bay.

Day 14 June 3rd 2018

Galway University

Every student experience something like this during their academic career. Be that good or bad.

This university has class in a castle that looks like Hogwarts. I mean look at it.

I also have this weird habit when taking selfies. I give the camera this weird inquisitive look with one raised eyebrow which something I only just noticed after going through all these pictures.

Goodbye Dublin. I have Returned Hawaii

I am not sure how to end this. Probably with something that sounds kind of profound or mindful.

I am not sure what I was expecting from this trip. Actually thinking on it I don't think I was expecting anything. I wasn't hoping for some kind of transformative experience. I wasn't looking to have my horizons widened of my mind expanded. If anything I believe that most of my assumptions about life and the world were confirmed. That people are just people no matter where you go. That everyone out there is looking to make it through the day and have a good time. That most people you are going to meet are genuinely nice. People who are more than happy to point you in the right direction or make small talk in line at the checkout counter.

For me I think what I wanted and what I got out of this trip was a break from my 21st Century grind. I was offered an opportunity to step outside of my monotonous everyday life. To get away form the cycle of work, school and repeat. I mean I live in what most people consider to be paradise. Lush green mountains, vibrant sunsets and sunrises, sparkling blue water and white sand beaches. But I had become numb to it all, the beautiful world around me had become this surreal matte paining a two dimensional backdrop to mundane life. What I got out of this trip was the opportunity to see the world new again. The chance to wake up in the morning excited about what I was going to do and where I was going. I was reminded what life can and should be like every day.

It should be fun

Created By
Ethan Paguirigan


Ethan Paguirigan

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