You Can Still Go on Holiday while Studying Abroad

Gaelen McCartney Glasgow School of Art, Scotland


November 19, 2015

I’ve been a wee bit busy traveling (and now getting back into school work), so I apologize for the delay in a post! I will try to sum up as much as possible about my travels throughout Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Paris.

First I would like to thank all members of my family that came over to visit Scotland and more. I will never be able to thank you enough for the visit; it was at the perfect time and just what I needed! I really enjoyed showing you all Glasgow, from the Cathedral to Kelvingrove to the River Clyde. It’s a place that has become my home and I was glad to share it with you. From Glasgow, we traveled to Northern Ireland and stayed in Belfast for a few days. The Titanic Museum was absolutely incredible. It really gave you the history of Belfast and how the shipyard was the major aspect of the city in providing jobs to its citizens. I was really glad we went. The next day we took the car and drove up the coastal causeway route. Remember that we are driving on the left side of the road. So major props to my dad for driving the whole trip. It was an absolutely beautiful trip. It’s a different experience when you drive through a country. We went to two castle ruins, stopped quickly at Bushmills Distillery, had fresh fish & chips, and then went to Giant’s Causeway. If there’s a place where giants seem most real, this is the place. It’s absolutely incredible the way these rocks form in the hexagonal shape. I went off the trail a wee bit too, and the views, sunshine, green grass, it was amazing. From Giant’s Causeway we tried to go to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Unfortunately they had already closed the bridge, but the scenery was amazing and it was a beautiful place to watch the sunset.

The next day was a really cool day. From Belfast we drove to Ballymena because this is where my grandfather’s side of the family is from. We went to their old church and were able to look at old church documents. It was so cool because we were able to go back another generation with our family. The secretary and priest at the church were really nice and it was a great experience. We had a quick drive to the cemetery of the church where we went searching for our relatives’ graves that were supposedly in this cemetery. We didn’t have any luck finding anything, but there was a lovely couple that gave us some tea, which really added to the loving hospitality I’ve found here in Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. From Ballymena we drove to Carlingford and were officially in the Republic of Ireland. Here we spent the night at an amazing bed and breakfast. The woman who ran it served us the best traditional Irish breakfast I’ve ever had.

Irish Breakfast

Today was a special day, because I was finally able to meet our Irish relatives! We drove from Carlingford to a small town outside of Dublin where Stella and Frank live. It was so cool to finally put a face to a name that I’ve heard so much before. We drove to a cemetery nearby (you would think this whole cemetery stuff is our new thing) to see the grave of Stella’s great grandma (I believe)... Basically, Stella is my third cousin once removed. The rest of the day was absolutely marvelous. We were able to meet cousins and relatives from all the Irish sides. It’s just so amazing to feel so close to people that you’ve never met before. There’s an underlying sense of connection that you can feel, and it was too cool to describe. The whole night made me even more excited to come back to Ireland to see them again.

The following day, dad, Liam, Kiersten, and I went to Powerscourt Waterfall and Glendalough National Park. The scenery was stunning, and it was such a different part of Ireland than you typically think about. Plus, nothing beats traveling with your siblings and dad in a foreign country! That night, we had one last big family dinner with everyone who came over from America at Dublin’s oldest pub & restaurant, The Brazen Head. It was a great way to end their trip. It was just dad and I touring around Dublin the next day, and I have to say my favorite part was our tour of Kilmainham Gaol; one of Dublin’s oldest prisons. It was so interesting, and the building was beautiful. There is something very beautiful about a place of such sorrow and pain, it’s very hard to describe. For dinner Frank and Stella brought us to a really cool restaurant that had over 3,000 baseball caps hanging from the ceiling from all over the world. I tried to find as many Yankee hats as I could, and one Ohio State for Kiersten. And that officially ended my week that I took off of school (don’t worry, my next post will be all about school).

So I decided to start reading week (basically a fall break) by continuing to travel throughout Ireland. My flat-mate Ellie met me in Dublin, and we took to bus out to Galway to spend two and a half days. When we got there, we grabbed a quick bite to eat at a bakery and then walked to the Galway Cathedral. The cathedral was finished being built in the mid 1900’s so it was absolutely beautiful, especially in the immense detail in the stained glass and the stonework of the building. Afterwards, we walked down to Claddagh Park down at the Galway Bay. It was incredible because we were able to watch the sunset over the bay. And if you know anything about Scotland and Ireland, you have to take advantage of anytime you can see the sunset. Throughout our time, we hit up a good number of the pubs in Galway and Ireland, and it’s safe to say that anything with live music is the place to be. We definitely enjoyed ourselves at the pubs.

Over the next two days, we did two one-day bus tours to Connemara & Kylemore Abbey and The Burren & Cliffs of Moher, with our other flat-mate Bridgit joining us for the latter. These tours were so beautiful. And I know I’ve been using that word over and over again, but everything is just so beautiful. Connemara has such a unique landscape to Ireland. Kylemore Abbey was built in the mid-1800’s by a man as a gift to his wife. It was amazing the way it was just tucked away in this beautiful scenery with a lake right in front. A humbling sight to see was all of the rock walls throughout western Ireland; the majority of them were created during the famine. And last but not least, nothing beats the amazing views of the Cliffs of Moher. It’s incredible to stand very close to the edge of something so powerful and breathtaking as the cliffs.

After two lovely days in Galway, we headed back to the Dublin Airport very very late Wednesday night as we headed to Paris! We met our friend Colten, who’s studying at the University of Glasgow, at the airport. Now, for those of you that have been to Paris before, I truly hope you can relate to what I’m about to say. Paris is magical. There’s nothing truer than that. We arrived mid-morning on Thursday checked into our Airbnb, which was only about a block away from the Eiffel Tower, no big deal. So the first thing we did was go see the Eiffel Tower. We decided to grab some baguette sandwiches from a pastry shop and soak is all in. None of it seemed real. We all felt as if we were on a movie set, with this huge screen of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. After relaxing after our very long day, we decided to go see the Catacombs of Paris. For those that don’t know, this is a large cemetery underground, supposedly being home to around six million bodies. It was a very humbling place to be; a little sad, a little peaceful, and truthfully a little scary. It affected me in some way, shape, or form. We sat down at a great restaurant for dinner, grabbed a few bottles of wine, and enjoyed each others company for the rest of the night. The following two days we went to the Louvre (AMAZING), Notre Dame (AMAZING), Luxembourg Gardens (BEAUTIFUL), Champs-Elysees (AHHHH), Lock Bridge (<3). Just everything was exactly what I had imagined and everything in between. The whole city is magical. On our last night, Colten and I realized that the apartment we were renting belonged to someone who we think is going be a future French Pop star, so everyone please follow this link and listen to this song.

Paris was the one city I wanted to visit outside of the UK and Ireland. We planned the trip almost last minute but I am so glad that we did. I believe that it is a city that everyone should experience at some point in their life. I do want to thank those of you that reached out to myself and/or my parents after the horrifying terrorist attacks in Paris just last weekend. It was very scary to be close-by but also to know that exactly one week before I had been walking on those very same streets. I do want to thank Arcadia and Temple for reaching out very promptly to ensure our safety and for constantly keeping us up to date with information from the University and the U.S. State Department. With that, I am glad to be safe in Glasgow and soon to be safe back home! It’s crazy to think that I only have four weeks left here in Glasgow and ten days in Iceland until I’m back home!

Cheers for now!


Scotland Travel