Author Archives: paulachmar

Clongowes Wood

Today was another day filled with new sites and old faces. I headed in to the Jesuit school Clongowes Wood, in Co. Kildare.

I primarily came to catch up with an old colleague and friend of mine who worked at my school in Sydney for 12 months back in ’07-’08. His name is Tom:

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But I also came to see the school. I’ve got to say, I fell in love with the place instantly. I see myself working here in a few years’ time…

The entrance to the school puts you on a road that is a Roman mile long, at the end of which the main building could be spotted. And what a building!

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Upon arriving I had to wait around for 15 minutes as I had no way to contact Tom and let him know I had arrived early. I found myself in the People’s Chapel which, I discovered later on, holds much historic value.

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James Joyce attended Clongowes and parts of his experiences here are described in his book, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Tom showed parts of the school relevant to the text.

Clongowes also has another stunning Chapel which Tom opened up to let me see:

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As I was taken through the buildings and shown the classrooms and dorms, my desire to work here intensified. For years I’ve wanted to work in Ireland, and Clongowes always seemed like the ideal place, even though I had never been to see it. But today just solidified the notion in my mind that this is the next school for me. We will see in time.

So,  earlier in the day I was brought to a little cottage a couple of hundred metres from the main building, my accommodation for the evening. It’s isolated and a little creepy, but also pretty cosy.

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I’m here now writing this entry on my phone at close to 11pm, and the sun has only recently gone down. I’m still struggling with these long daylight hours…….

But I want to backtrack a tiny bit. Besides seeing all the awesome history and physical make up of the college, the most awesome part of today was being taken to a real “old world” pub.

Tom took me to lunch which was really nice, and then drove me around Clane. The most depressing sites awaited me – the property crash here has resulted in a crumbling economy in Ireland and this is most visible in the many abandoned and unfinished homes around.

Some absolutely stunning real estate built in the last 5 years just sitting there with no one looking after them, and stories of people being locked into a mortgage for a house worth less than half of what they had originally paid. And, of course, the banks get the big bail outs while the people they seduced are stuck with the debt.

But anyway, Tom continued the tour and took me to an amazing little pub (Connolly’s) that’s been around for over 200 years and which is still owned & run by the same family! I stepped into the pub and just felt 200 years of history in the air – it was absolutely surreal!

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Tom explained this pub was great for winding down during term time, sitting at the fireplace with the rain pelting down outside, talking and relaxing. The place was unbelievably cosy and I could visualise the atmosphere in the colder months.

So yeah, a great day catching up with an old friend and a growing desire to live and work here. Amazing that Clongowes is less than 15km away from Maynooth, in the same County, and when I was here in 2003 I had no idea the place existed.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Dublin for a couple of days. Not much really planned there, so I may not update til I go to Germany on Wednesday.

But, who knows what I’ll get up to before then…

Maynooth: part 2

So, after my last entry I got to spend some quality time with Yalda, add well as Nicola. We went walking around South Campus again and came across a couple of nooks and crannies I didn’t notice the day before.

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Ten years on

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Inside the amazing Maynooth cathedral.

After that, Yalda and I walked on while Nicola went to Mass. We found a really nice garden filled with flower beds…

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…and then to The Roost Bar where we later consumed some Guinness, after a nice sit down dinner in a fancy restaurant (by Irish standards).

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It was a lovely night. This morning, after breakfast, I left the girls at Maynooth and caught a cab to Clongowes Wood. I will write another entry about this awesome place a little later tonight.

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Waiting for the taxi in the cold and windy summer weather.

More to come…

Ten years later, Maynooth

Yesterday’s long journey from Galway to Maynooth was tiring and just s little stressful. A full coach and delay in departure, we were probably going to miss the train from Dublin.

But we made it and, on the 50 minute train ride in, it all started coming back to me. In September 2003 I caught the train to Maynooth by myself, having a chat to a friendly Irish guy and carrying too much luggage. It is one of my strongest memories from my travels back then.

Back to the present year, when we arrived at Maynooth station I had the biggest grin on my face. Very little has changed.

We crossed over the same little bridge and I remembered where to find the police station I had to go to in 2003 for my visa. And then I saw the famous Roost bar on the intersection, our local ten years ago. .

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The Roost Bar, our local

As we walked along that path so many memories came back to me. I felt a swell of emotions attached to these memories – linked to experiences, human relationships, inner growth,  all at the tender age of 20-21.

Upon arriving we made our way to the reception. In typical Irish style, we ended up somewhere different to where we had booked, a place with a broken shower and another random guy renting a room for the night. We managed to get another flat close by, but it too wasn’t without its “charm”.

After we dropped our stuff off we decided to do the walk around campus, starting be crossing to the South Campus and visiting the old Pope John Paul II statue:
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We tried to get in to the Cathedral with no luck, but it still looks stunning from the outside:

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Maynooth Cathedral

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Grotto near the cathedral

And then the Kitchenette called. We wanted to get in to the building where we all met all those years ago. Each of us spent time in these accommodations for a short while as we awaited apartments on the Noryh Campus.

Nicola and I knew that we wouldn’t be able to get in as we were not guests in that particular building.

BUT, as fate would have it, a couple of people were walking out and held the door for us to enter. And so we did. And we climbed the 100+ steps to see the familiar green doors.

By this stage I was really feeling those emotions that come with nostalgia.

We walked in to the hallway that looked exactly the same:

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As it happened,  the core meeting place that spawned so many friendships also was unlocked, despite needing a key to get in.

The Kitchenette was the meeting place for all of us in the earliest days of our time here in Ireland ten years ago. We would microwave our dinners and watch The Simpsons on the tiny tv in the tiny room. Not one thing had changed:
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So, this is probably the most boring and insignificant of places in Ireland, but so unbelievably special to those of us who met there ten years ago. And, just to have the universe get us in there at that moment was a surreal experience.

Anyway, we ventured on out of that magnificent building.

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A couple more things to see on the South Campus:

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Priests’ Cemetery

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Walkway to and from the cemetery under some beautiful natural shelter.

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The old Maynooth Castle ruins that meet those entering the South Campus

And so, the rest of the day involved us walking up Main Street to Tesco, a walk I’d done hundreds of times when living here Trevor years ago. Tesco had changed, grown, but many of the other shops remained the same, from the post office and barber to the sandwich shop and pubs along the way.

Yalda joined us last night at close to 1am and it was so great to see her too.

At the moment I’m resting alone in the apartment as Nicola and Yalda take a walk to another cemetery close to Kilcock. Later we will be giving dinner and a drink or two at The Roost.

The nostalgia is really hitting me, especially in the cold, windy, wet weather today:

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Until my next entry!

The Steely Men and Cutest Kids of Galway

After a pretty disputed sleep last night we went for a nice walk this morning to see a couple more “attractions” – seriously, there’s not much to see here but the atmosphere is really nice.

Best thing I saw today, however, was not on any tourist map or planned tourism event. No, we happened to stumble upon a little ceremony taking place at a primary school in which the Lord Mayor was presenting the new school flag…

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And to celebrate, the awesome little kids were singing “It’s a Small World” in their Irish accents – hilarity equalled only by cuteness.

Sooooo anyway, we ventured to the Galway Museum which really was not that exciting and then I decided to go and watch a movie. Yes, completely un-Irish, but how can I pass up the opportunity to see Man of Steel before all my nerd friends at home?

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Early Bi -heehee

Movie was really good! Was thoroughly engaged and loved the characterisation, visual effects, cinematography… Not a perfect film but amazing job done with a difficult character to write.

The bus ride back to town was great. Felt like being in Ireland ten years ago, travelling alone in the cold, grey and wet weather that is this Summer’s day. Perfect for a cup of coffee…

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Well, time to go grab dinner and attend a trad session with drinks!

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Enter Galway

Smooth ride in to Galway this morning was followed by a loooong walk throughout this beautiful city’s centre.

We found a 500+ year old cemetery, the stunning cathedral, the pedestrian zoned centre and had a couple of lovely meals.

The path to the cathedral was awesome, running along a stream with bright coloured plants and aesthetic old buildings in the background.

Anyway,  some images:

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At the cemetery, being respectful as always…

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Just some shoreline

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Along the path to the cathedral

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Inside the cathedral

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And some dinner and a Bulmers cider.

Time for bed.  It’s nearly 10pm and still light outside. Freaking me out.

A Day in Dublin

Had a great day in Dublin yesterday, especially relative to my first day here on which I was completely exhausted from my flights over.

Watched Behind the Candelabra which was surprisingly great, we visited the wax museum which was incredibly average,  and had dinner at the Film Institute. Best part of the day,  however,  was walking aimlessly through the Garden of Remembrance,  and sitting by the pond,  watching the ducks, and catching up on ten years of life gone by with Nicola.

I also did get to meet a few famous people…

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Oscar Wilde…

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Saint Patrick…

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Homer & Marge Simpson…

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Michelangelo…

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And one of my best students,  Harry Potter.

All in all, a pleasant day. Today we’re off to Galway and I’m looking forward to seeing the ocean again.

More to come!

31 hours and a fight with the shower

So here I am, finally, in Dublin. I arrived to be met by my German friend Nicola who is spending the next 10 days in Ireland with me.

In true Irish style,  the buses were not running on time and we had to wait another half an hour before making our way to the hostel.

While Nicola went out to grab a bite I tried my luck at the shower,  only to find it had one setting only: shoot jets of hot water. Before I knew it I got soap in my eye and stupidly tried to rinse it out with the shower. My eye is now bloodshot and hurts.

But here I am now,  enjoying a cup of tea in Temple Bar.

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Will keep you updated.

It’s been 20 hours

Here I am sitting at Dubai Airport, waiting to board the plane to Dublin…. I should have had a sleep before I left Sydney.

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On the plane to Dubai I had a nice man with his 12 year old son sitting next to me, on their way to Copenhagen to visit family.

Also in my cabin a bunch of boisterous Lebs who, if it wasn’t for the fact that most of the flight was during the nighttime, would’ve made my eardrums burst.

I’m currently incoherent and rambling. In a few short hours I’ll be in Ireland 🙂 And in a few hours after that I’ll be downing a Guinness.