Dingle-A Breath of Fresh Air

It has been some time since I last connected with my fellow
Badgers and I have to admit it was not because I was off on endless adventures
in the South of France or trying delicious cuisine in Rome, but because I was
suffering from the February blues in Galway.
Every
year, I find myself in this unfortunate disposition—anxious about mounting
schoolwork, tired of the grey skies and cold weather and longing for something
new, fresh and exciting that only spring can bring after the long winter.
Luckily
this past weekend, I got the perfect breath of fresh air to raise my spirits—a
trip to the southern peninsula of Dingle.  Yes, there is a real place in Ireland called, “Dingle” and in fact, it
also has a real dolphin and a wealth of real beauty.  I traveled with the International Students Society at our
school to stay for three days in holiday home cottages right along the bay.

View from the harbor
View from the harbor

After
briefly dropping our bags off in our respective cottages (which I should add
were fully heated and furnished with a kitchen and all), the group of 40 or so
students headed to the docks to take the “Fungie Boat Tour.”  Fungie, a 30+ year old dolphin who
swims along the Dingle harbor was abandoned by his family in the early ‘80s and
has since become a staple of the town.  Tourists from Ireland and abroad come every year just to see Fungie ride
along the boats and jump and play.  There is such a sureness about sighting Fungie in fact, that we were
told our boat tour would be fully refunded if we did not catch a glimpse of the
playful little guy.
Sure
enough, within fifteen minutes of leaving the docks Fungie was weaving in and
out of the boats.   I was brought back to my childhood trips
to Sea World, except this time we were in the real ocean (oh how amazing the
world seems when traveling from the Midwest).

Fungie swimming in the bay
Fungie swimming in the bay

I
should mention that all dolphins aside—the views from the boat were just
incredible.  I felt like I was in
an alter-universe the way the sun shown down on the water and in the backdrop I
could see the picturesque little village nestled in the cliffs.  One thing that’s not in short supply in
Ireland are cliffs—along with the famous Cliffs of Moher where scenes from
Harry Potter were filmed, every coastal village and inlet has its own rocky
drops into the ocean.  I am
continually blown away by these monolithic features and also now understand how
Ireland hasn’t been washed over by the Atlantic.

Cliffs surrounding the harbor
Cliffs surrounding the harbor
The sunset as we pulled into the shore
The sunset as we pulled into the shore

The
next day of our trip, Saturday, we road along the Slea Head Drive, which
reaches out to the westernmost point of Europe.  The drive is a famous one which circles around a region
known as “The Ring of Kerry,” a common day trip for the Irish seeking some
warmer weather and beautiful views.  And were the views beautiful or what!  I had thought that my little boat ride in Dingle the night
before was grand, but the views from Slea Head seemed right out of a National
Geographic.  Which, I would later
learn, actually were.  A few years
ago, National Geographic magazine rated Dingle and the Slea Head drive as the
most beautiful place in the world.

Walk around Slea Head
Walk around
Slea Head
The end of our Slea Head Drive walk
The end of our Slea Head Drive walk

Unlike
much of Europe and the modernized world, the Irish coastline remains for the
most part preserved in its natural state.  There are no high rises or big cities or even really people for that
matter populating it.  So as I walked
along the cliffs, all was silent save for the distant waves crashing.  It was one of the most serene moments
in my trip abroad overall—I just wanted to stand still and take in the views
for hours.   I also have
decided that if I were asked, “Jane, if you could read a book anywhere in the
world, where would it be?” I’d say Slea Head.  And the same goes for picnicking, napping and just about
anything relaxing.
The
rest of my weekend in Dingle was filled with walking around the town, stopping
in shops for ice cream or to look at knick-knacks and mingling with other
international students.  When I
turned in the keys to our holiday home on Sunday morning and boarded the bus to
say goodbye I was left with the bittersweet longing to stay, but excitement to
return to Galway refreshed and ready to get back to school.

Walking around the town of Dingle
Walking around the town of Dingle
My roommates and I outside of our holiday home
My roommates and I outside of our holiday home

Best,

Jane Chapman