MVRHS students discover Ireland, each other
Photo courtesy of Elaine Weintraub
On February 23, 25 members of the Irish History class at Martha's Vineyard Regional High School and six chaperones left for a great adventure in Ireland. We flew from Logan airport in Boston at 7 pm to arrive bright and early at 5 am in Dublin.
Right away we were off to explore the capital city, starting with a traditional Irish breakfast in the second oldest pub in Ireland. We toured all over Dublin seeing historical sites and learning a lot about Irish culture.
After a short break at the hotel, we went to a play at the Abbey Theater. We saw an abstract piece named "Raoul." Most of the audience enjoyed the play but a few of us did not understand it and had a hard time staying awake!
The next day we got an early start and headed to the Rock of Cashel. 0nce again it was a beautiful day. We climbed the steep rock up to the 1,000-year-old ruins of a chapel. The chapel was gorgeous, and we all loved the view from up there of the never-ending fields of green and the bright sun shining on them. Then we headed to a hotel in Killarney that was one of the favorites of the group because we were right in town.
That night we walked in to town and saw many other teenagers but not many police. In Ireland they trust the teenagers more and the teenagers respect that. We on the Vineyard could learn from what we saw in Ireland. Respect is the key: In Ireland the authorities respect the kids so the kids respect them.
Walking through town, many of us noticed the difference in culture. The style of clothing, the art, and the music were all different than ours.
Adopting donkeys was the next thing on our agenda. Every year someone from the Irish History class adopts a donkey for friends, family, or themselves. Our group adopted one named Lorcan. Two years ago Anna Hayes adopted a donkey for her sister Samantha Cassidy and last year her whole family went to visit her donkey, Timmy. The sanctuary named one of their new foals Cassidy after Samantha.
Once we were done at the donkey sanctuary we headed over to Blarney Castle. We walked towards the castle through wonderful gardens. It was a long hike to the top of castle, but when we finally got to the top we all took turns kissing the Blarney Stone, so now we all have the gift of eloquence!
Many of us were nervous about kissing the stone because of stories we had heard about people fouling it, but once we saw the stone we knew the stories were not true because of how protected it was.
We traveled back to Killarny for another fun night.
The next day we traveled on a ferry for the favorite part of the trip, visiting the Cliffs of Moher. Everyone found the cliffs beautiful, and was shocked by how high they were. It was nice to hike as a group to the top and see across the ocean.
They now have a virtual tour of the cliffs where you dive beneath the ocean and follow a seagull. No one really enjoyed that. It could not compare with the real thing.
Then we were off to the Gaelic football county game, Mayo versus Galway. All games are played on Sundays and we were the only tourists there.
We did not understand what was going on but Tom, one of the chaperones, persuaded a local man to explain the game to us — if Tom rooted for Galway. Mayo won!
The next morning we headed out of Galway to the Connemara Marble Factory where they make beautiful jewelry from natural local marble. Many of us bought things for our families there.
Next, on to one of my favorites, the seaweed baths at a relaxing and traditional Irish spa. Before going into the baths, Tom, Jordan, and I took a dip in the ice cold waters of the Atlantic. In the baths everyone relaxed in a steam box and then in a tub filled with hot water and real seaweed.
Frank, our tour guide, became part of our group over the week. He did a great job teaching us all about Ireland now and in the past, and still making sure we had lots of fun. Frank was very kind, thoughtful, and always made sure we had time to explore and enjoy the culture.
Everywhere we went was fabulous! All of the places we went were so educational and exciting, and even though we were strangers we were treated like family.
Our hotels were gorgeous and comfortable. We were pampered with comfortable beds, wonderful food, and comforting spas. As a group we came to the conclusion that the Dunboyne Castle was the best. It had the nicest rooms, best food, and a huge pool and spa area. We stayed there on the last night.
It was there that many of us realized that even though we were not friends at the start of the trip, by the end we were family, and we still are. I feel so privileged to have been able to go on the trip to Ireland.
Mary Vogel, a senior at MVRHS, is a member of the Irish History Class.