On the Trail We Blaze

If you have ever seen the animated movie “Road to El Dorado,” you might recognize those lyrics from a song that Elton John wrote and performed for the soundtrack. The song to me summarizes what life is like as a Study Abroad student exploring the country you are in. The first line goes “Lookout new world here we come brave, intrepid and then some,” and to me, when I went exploring and on adventures this week for my final full week in Ireland, I felt like an adventurer.

During my last week in Ireland, restrictions were lifted, allowing us movement throughout the Republic of Ireland. This led me to go on a new adventure almost every day… weather pending.

Monday – Cork, Ireland – May 10, 2021

Mural of bird catching fish painted on side of building

The first day that museums were allowed to reopen and restrictions went down, I was on a bus to Cork. I had heard a lot about visiting, and took a 2 hr bus ride there and spent 3 hours there. My first stop was the Butter Museum where I learned about Ireland’s export of butter and the history behind it in Ireland. I thought this was pretty neat and it was interesting to hear about the agricultural side of Ireland. Also, most of their cows are grass-fed, free-roaming, and not caged in a plant. After this, I stopped by a street shop, bought some custom cards, and then continued exploring the streets. I stopped to take photos of some of the famous cathedrals when I could because nature was working against me this day. It was constant showers, so I took cover with locals when I could under some awnings or inside a business.

Photo of crepe

Now, if you remember my first article, I mentioned my love for crepes. Well, I stopped by a Crepe Shop and got the White Ferrari, which had white chocolate and strawberries in it, topped with whipped cream. Yummy. After that, I used the hour I had left and wandered the streets, stopping every now and then when the winds got harsh.

Tuesday – May 11, 2021

This was a rest day and the rain was nonstop, so it made it difficult to leave or want to plan much.

Wednesday – May 12, 2021 – Limerick, Ireland

Room at People's Museum of Limerick

I went to explore Limerick once more, to look at museums. I found one that was opened, and it was the People’s Museum of Limerick, where the majority of their artifacts are all donated by locals to help preserve the city’s history. I went on about an hour and a half detailed tour there, where they explained the history of the city I had been staying in the past few months. I thought it was pretty amazing to learn more about how King Henry VIII’s separation from Roman Catholicism when he made the Church of England affected Ireland and led to a rise in conflict for people with religious beliefs and allegiance to the church. I got to hear about how Limerick was divided into three fractions, also known as ‘The Three Cities’, my tour guide told me there was a book on it and I’m interested in reading more about it.

After that, I left and went to grab a crepe for what I thought was my last time at Wildberry Cafe. Then, went to Papaz Bistro for lunch and took it all back to my apartment to relax for the evening and pack for the next big adventure the next day.

Thursday – May 13, 2021 – Killarney, Ireland

This was by far the longest trip I took on my study abroad trip. This trip consisted of my roommate Sidonie, our French friends Maya, Af, and Tiffanie, and then Irish local Jordan.

We all got up early and took the 7am train to head to Killarney with stops in Limerick Junction and Mallow. We arrived in Killarney around 10:20am. Due to preplanning and booking a slot, we went to Dungeon’s Bookstore which is about a 5 minute walk from the train station to purchase postcards and look around their second floor filled with second hand books. We each walked away with a book and a stack of postcards. Next, we took a quick break for the bathroom and planning our next steps.

We decided we were going to walk to Muckross House, which was about an hour and a half walk, which turned into a little over two hours with all of us stopping to collect photos of the views around us. After we arrived at the house, we had a picnic in the gardens. This is when Tiffanie and Jordan joined us, as they traveled in at a later time. After the picnic, we wandered the grounds for half an hour, then headed to our main destination on this trip, the Torc Waterfall, approximately a 30-minute walk from the Muckross House. I couldn’t begin to describe the beauty of this hike, it was absolutely amazing.

As we walked the path to the waterfall, the song “The Trail We Blaze” was playing in my head and finally I pulled out my phone and began playing it, and as we walked I realized how I could feel and understand some of the lyrics. “We shall surely gaze on the sweet unfolding of an antique mystery. All will be revealed on the trail we blaze.” This trip and allowing yourself to be drenched in Ireland’s nature and its beautiful greenery was amazing.

Torc Waterfall, Killarney, Ireland

When we got to the waterfall, words could not describe the beauty and the transcendence you got hit with. I climbed down and sat on a rock and just let the feelings of letting things go was over me. I came here to get away from some tough situations and as I sat there, I could feel myself relaxing and understanding that when I return home, some of those may still be there but I can face it. I sat there knowing that no matter what tomorrow holds, I will enjoy this moment for a lifetime and that I am so thankful for the people I met on this trip. I sat there thanking God for this opportunity.

We stayed for almost an hour, and then Jordan, Tiffanie and I walked back to the Muckross House, and took a taxi back into the city. They went to get postcards while I stopped for a drink and fries to get something on my stomach after a light lunch. We boarded the late 5 o’clock train and arrived back in Limerick a little after 8, then got home around 9. The girls got back home close to midnight taking a later trip.

Friday – May 14, 2021 – Limerick & Rest

I rested most of Friday but went into the city to meet up with my ISA coordinator and counselor over here. We stopped by Wildberry Cafe for a bite and took it to the Shannon River to sit nearby and eat. It was nice reflecting on my semester and discussing what I enjoyed. We both came to terms that Covid really did me a solid – without it, I would have traveled all over Europe and not really gotten to know Ireland or the city I was in. This pushed me to really get out of my comfort zone and get to know the people I am living with. In addition, it also let me strategize coming home to a state that does not require masks and to a country that does not require me to quarantine. We decided it would be best for me to quarantine and get tested especially since I have a 7-hour layover in an international airport on the way back home.

Saturday, May 15, 2021 – Galway, Ireland

Galway was amazing. We took a 2-hour bus to get there and stayed for about 4-5 hours. We stopped to get lunch to have it next to the water. Then, we decided to be tourists and walk around to get some photos of the beautiful city. We tried the local ice cream and enjoyed the company of strangers by the water. All in all, it was a wonderful trip that I am sad I don’t have more details to expand on, it was one of those trips where you just had to be there.

One of the things that I loved most about Ireland during my time here is the inexpensive cost of traveling on public transportation. It cost around $15-30 roundtrip for most tickets to the cities in Ireland by bus or train. The buses we took from our student accommodations to the city were about $3 or 2.40 in euros one way. You can get a student leap card and pay less, we just didn’t have time to do that due to Covid.

The amount that transportation cost was really shocking to me; especially since it made me want to travel more after I returned home, but I saw roundtrip train tickets are about $200+ just to get to the nearest city. I could use my new degrees in Psychology and Sociology to explain how I view this as unfair for lower and working class citizens, and how America should invest in Universal Healthcare and Public Transportation. That’s right! Your girl graduated this spring from McKendree University with honors. I’m so thankful for this experience. I’m thankful for ISA, the people who backed me up with scholarships and financial aid, my family, my friends, and everyone else who I may or may not know. Thank you. This experience has changed me for the best.

Who knows – maybe the next trail I blaze will be in France?

Thank you for following me along in this journey.

Emily Barylske is a student at Mckendree University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in Limerick, Ireland.

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