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Visiting Kilkee

Time February 16th, 2016 in 2016 Spring, College Study Abroad, Ireland | No Comments by

My second weekend in Ireland, a group of American students, including myself, set off for Kilkee. I honestly had no idea why we were going or what of interest we were supposed to find there, but with a name like “Kilkee,” the town had potential from the get-go. Five hours of bus later, we arrived in the emptiest town I have ever seen. It was a Friday evening, and the streets and buildings were dark and desolate. We dropped our bags at the adorable bed and breakfast and walked down to the beach, listening to but not seeing the waves crash on the bay.

In the morning, we went over our plans for the day at breakfast. I have fallen in love with breakfast in Ireland, where cheese, soda bread, scrambled eggs, and smoked salmon have been the norm in many places I’ve visited. Once we were all very full, we set out to the cliffs.

Kilkee is shaped a bit like a horseshoe, with ocean in the middle and cliffs branching off on either side. Every set of cliffs we approached, we stopped to take pictures; each set was more grand than the last. Torrential rain and biting wind whipped around us, and we grasped the handrail to avoid being blown over the edge. The steep drop-offs were slate grey and shear, with dark turquoise waves beating against their bases as if to tear them down. Our group was spread thin across the cliffs, everyone pausing in their own time to take in the enormity of what lay before them.

By the end, I felt very very small. I knew that moments like these were what people were talking about when they say studying abroad is a life-changing experience.

We walked down the middle of a country road back into town, running into no one and gazing upon rows and rows of stone walls and grass so green it looked fake. My walking partner and I decided Kilkee was an entirely different planet on its own.

Back in town, we found a spa that did seaweed therapy, a popular type of treatment in Kilkee. I would’ve never thought a seaweed bath would be so refreshing. We returned to the B&B afterward, sat by the fireplace, and rested and talked. Dinner was fish and chips and seafood chowder and lamb stew (which seem to be on the menu nearly everywhere), and drinks were at the Greyhound, one of very few pubs open during the winter in Kilkee. The locals there told us about 900 people lived there, meaning our small group of 10 increased the town’s population by about 1% for the time of our visit. They further shared that the summers in Kilkee are crazy busy, with about 20,000 tourists coming to swim and gaze upon the cliffs and go to the seaweed spas. They were excited to hear that we were American (another common theme I’ve found in Ireland), and welcomed us eagerly to their lovely town.

Another day of cliffs and hearty food and soul searching followed, along with another five hours of bus back to Cork. Kilkee is a place I will absolutely visit again in my life, during the frigid winter, with its whistling winds and weird seaweed baths and lonely beaches and friendly people.


West Coast Field Trip

Time October 22nd, 2013 in College Study Abroad | No Comments by

Hi All!

This weekend I took my first field trip with the UCD Geology department. As part of the Basin Analysis course I’m taking in the geology department we traveled to look at a sedimentary basin fill sequence on the west coast of Ireland near the town of Kilkee. We stayed in Kilkee and drove about twenty minutes south to begin our trace of the northward dipping stratigraphy toward Kilkee and just north to a town called Listoonvarna. Apparently Listoonvarna is somewhat well known for it being featured in a song, but I’ve never heard the song.

The field trip was quite a bit of fun we woke up every morning, got on our reflective vests, hard hats, rain gear, and headed for the coast. Unlike in Pennsylvania where I’m used to looking at regional stratigraphy via road cuts for the highway, a fair portion of the rocks to be seen are along the coast in the forms of cliffs. Much of the department’s focus is on the geology of industry so much of the focus of this class is on studying basin formation and fill for how it relates to the petroleum industry. In fact, two gentlemen from an Irish company were accompanying our class on the trip and we’ve been told many other schools and companies travel to this area for similar purposes. The weather was very nice the entire weekend compared to the forecast, it was supposed to rain day and night for the duration of the trip. There were showers scattered throughout each day, but only one or two lasted more than 30 minutes. For the most part, it was fairly warm (for the time of year) and sunny, the best weather for looking at rocks. The basin stratigraphy starts with a quiet deposition with the Clare Shale and finished with delta build-out in a series of cyclothems a difference in sea level of hundreds of meters. We followed channel scours, channel fills, fan build-outs, and mouth bars all the way up to the atmosphere interface. It was a great sequence to hike along from day to day. Apparently, this class has experienced a number of accidents while on their field trips from breakdowns to broken legs. This time an “accident” manifested in one of the two vans getting stuck in a ditch on the side of a dirt farm-road. Luckily within about an hour we’d found a nearby farm with a tractor and a few gentlemen willing to drive out to pull our van out of the ditch. We’d tried ourselves to push the van out, rock it back onto the road, and shove rocks under the tires for traction. Luckily these farmers were friendly enough to lend their tractor because none of our efforts had yielded the slightest result. Sunday evening we made the trek back to Dublin via Galway meaning we had to pass through another area of geological interest in Ireland: The Burren. The Burren is a succession of hills made up of reef limestones that had build up in the geologic past leaving behind large grey, mostly bare, hills that provide a spectacular sight. It was a pleasant drive especially in the evening sun. Unfortunately, our class won’t be taking any more field trips this semester.