28 May, 2014

Day 5

We started our day at the Manx Museum in Douglas. We learned a bit about the history of the Isle of Man, then went to the museum's heritage center. The attendant was extremely helpful and pulled out a huge sheet of paper, about 2 feet wide and 3 feet long, with our family tree dating all the way back to 1487.

We then drove to the town of Rushen to explore the Rushen Castle. It was built in 871, though substantial construction continued throughout the 16th century. It served as the home of many Kings and Lords of Man, as the royal court and treasury, and for some time as a prison. A few prison records were displayed, including the record of a prisoner named William Kewley who was imprisoned on September 4th, 1835 "for deserting his masters." The charges were brought by John Green, but he dropped them a year later and William was set free.

From Rushen, we drove to Port St. Mary's where we ate lunch, then headed south. We happened to drive through Cregneash, an idyllic folk village with thatch-roofed cottages and roosters roaming the streets. Because it's so picturesque, several scenes from Waking Ned Divine were filmed there. We, of course, had to get out and take some photos.

We then drove back down to the Calf of Man. My parents used this as an opportunity to exercise their photography passion, while Kevin and I hiked around a bit. I hiked down to a tiny rocky cove with crystal clear water and a stunning view of the cliffs across the shore. It started raining, so we headed back to Douglas. Once in town, we ate dinner, took a walk in the pouring rain, played a board game, then went to bed.

Day 6

We got up early, ate breakfast at our hotel, then drove straight to the airport. Unfortunately, our time on the Isle of Man was already over. It was a beautiful island, and I was sad to leave it. We took the half-hour flight back to Dublin. We ate lunch at a tiny cafe, then Kevin and I left our parents, who wanted to take a tour of an old jail. We, on the other hand, were ready for some down time. We wanted to explore Dublin and get an experience we would have if we lived there: hanging out in a coffee shop. So we headed to 3FE, a coffee shop Kevin's friend recommended to us. We camped out there for a couple hours, which enabled me to journal and him to read. It was nice to relax a little and do something normal instead of touring around. Afterwards, we walked around Dublin and went into a few shops. We ate a delicious (and huge) dinner at Elephant and Castle, then headed back to our hotel for a good night's sleep.

25 May, 2014

Day 4

We slept in on Sunday morning; the extra sleep was much needed. We ate breakfast in Douglas and walked around the town a little bit. The city is a lot more urban than expected, despite its meager population of 28,000. Walking around, we noticed everything was closed and only a few people were out, perhaps because it was Sunday morning.

Again, we drove north to the town of Laxey, but this time we stopped at the Laxey Wheel, the largest working waterwheel in the world. It was built in 1854 and designed to pump water out of the area's many mineshafts. It's truly an engineering feat and if I could explain its workings to you, I would. We climbed the narrow spiral staircase to the top and could see all the surrounding towns and out to the sea. We also went into one of the mineshafts. At its peak, the mine employed over 600 miners, primarily producing lead, copper, silver, and zinc. I can't begin to imagine what life would have been like for a miner working here over 150 years ago.

Next, we drove a few miles north and parked the car on the street near the trailhead for Dhoon Glen. It is the steepest glen in the Isle of Man and runs over half a mile through a wooded valley that follows a stream, along with several waterfalls, all the way to the shore. What I read about it online said the main path "meanders through a dense canopy of trees," but it turned out to be a legitimate hike with 190 stairs to the bottom (and consequently, 190 stairs back up to the top). It was a little more intense than expected, but definitely worth it! There were small waterfalls the entire way and one large one falling 130 feet, called Ineen Vooar, Manx for "Big Girl." And we chose the perfect time to visit because there was a rainbow of wildflowers blossoming all around. It was definitely one of the most beautiful hikes I've ever been on.

From there we headed to the town of Ramsey for lunch, then in to Lezayre, the parish where our ancestors are from. We have an old drawing of Kirk Christ Trinity Church where our ancestors attended church, and just happened to recognize it from the road. We got out of the car to take pictures just as the neighbors, a farmer and his wife whose fields surround the church, set out to take their dogs on a walk. We asked them about the church and they told us it closed last year because not enough people attended to keep it running. The bishop wants to have it torn down, but the farmers, named Julian and Virginia Edwards, are trying to save it and offered to care for it. They were married in the church and all of their children were baptized there. They asked if we had gone inside and when we said "no," Julian went home to get the keys for us. He let us in and showed us around. It's a simple church with skinny stained-glass windows and wooden pews. It was surreal to know that we stood in the same building where our ancestors got baptized and married, prayed, and dedicated themselves to God hundreds of years before us. Time just keeps rolling on. 

Afterward, we thanked Julian and Virginia, then looked around the church's cemetery. We found several Kewleys, but we're not sure which ones are our direct relatives. The majority of them were named William or John, so it's hard to tell who's who. There was a monument to all of the men of the parish who died in World War I, including Alfred Kewley. His tombstone revealed that he was killed at Galipoli. It's weird to think that someday I might return to that cemetery to teach my own children about their heritage.

From there, we drove to the northernmost point of the island, called the Point of Ayre. It was a large shore covered in small stones. We could see across the sea to Scotland on the other side. There were two red and white lighthouses to keep safe any ships that might pass by. 

The Isle of Man's claim to fame, besides Manx cats and being the filming location of the movie Waking Ned Divine, is the TT, the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world. We drove back to Douglas, but down the island's west coast, through several little towns, and on much of the TT course, which was most enjoyed by Kevin, who's done all of the driving on the trip. The island's climate is extremely varied with everything from mountains and forests to lush rolling hills to rugged cliffs and stony shores. I've truly never seen anything like it before and think I'm in love.

Day 3

We woke up at 5:00 am to get ready and head to the airport for our flight to the Isle of Man. It's a small island (221 square miles) in the Irish Sea, halfway between Ireland and Scotland. It's also where my ancestors and the name 'Kewley' come from. The flight from Dublin was only a half hour. It was a rare sunny, blue-skied day, enabling us to see an amazing view of the island from the air. After we landed, we picked up our rental car and headed to "Ellan Vannin Hotel," which is Manx for "Isle of Man Hotel." It's located on the promenade in the capital city of Douglas. The street runs along Douglas Bay and is lined by Victorian row houses. The streets are illuminated by seemingly endless strands of round bulb lights. In the middle of the bay is a tiny island with a perfect little castle on it, called the Tower of Refuge. It was built to aid shipwreck survivors until aid arrived. It's a beautifully picturesque city.

After checking in to our hotel, we headed north toward Laxey, but stopped along the way at a "boot sale" on the side of the road. It was sort of like a swap meet where everyone parked in rows and opened up their trunks (or "boots") and sold goods out of the back. Kevin bought a few old Manx postcards for 50p each. I didn't buy anything, but had fun looking around and seeing what locals do on their weekends.

We ate lunch in the town of Laxey and planned on taking the train from there to Snaefell, the tallest mountain on the island. Unfortunately, the train lines were down, so we drove toward the mountain and parked halfway up. We then hiked from there to the summit. It was much steeper than I expected and was extremely windy. But it was worth it. The views from the top were extraordinary. Actually, the views the entire way up we're amazing. It's said that you can see seven kingdoms from the top: Mann, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, the seas, and the heavens. I had a latte and a slice of gluten-free clementine cake at the summit restaurant before hiking back down.

From there, we drove west toward Peel. The drive was gorgeous. I heard about this little island of my ancestors my entire life and it was strange to actually be there. Regardless of hearing about it, I hadn't formed any expectations about what it would look like, so I was amazed by its beauty. It rains an average of 140 days a year, so everything is green and lush. The area we drove through is mostly farmland, covered in rolling hills of bright green grass freckled with cows, sheep, and horses. The fields are all separated by hedges, most of them bushes covered in bright yellow flowers.

When we arrived in Peel, we headed to Peel Castle, which was originally constructed by Vikings in the 11th century. It stands on St. Patrick's Isle and is fortified by a large wall all the way around. The isle is attached to the town by a small causeway with a little beach on one side and the harbor on the other. We walked all the way around on a small path that runs between the wall and the grassy cliffs that head into the sea. Green moss covered the rocks and tiny pink and white windflowers sprung up through the grass. After walking around the castle, we went into town for some necessary ice cream. 

We then drove south to the Calf Sound, a small straight and the bottom of the island. On the other side is a tiny island, not even one square mile, called the Calf of Man. It's covered in fields of wild bluebells. The Calf is a bird sanctuary and we read that puffins live there, although I didn't see any. If I ever make it back here, I'd love to take a boat over to the Calf and explore.

21 May, 2014

Days 1 & 2

My parents and I left our house at 9:00 am on Thursday morning and flew from San Diego to Philadelphia, where we had a two-hour layover and an additional hour-and-a-half flight delay. From there, we flew to Dublin, Ireland. By the time we landed, it was 10:00 am on Friday morning. Once we arrived, we hit the ground running. My brother Kevin flew in one day earlier, so we met up with him and headed to the Temple Bar area to find some lunch. We took the Luas, which is Dublin's light-rail system.

After lunch, we headed to Trinity College to see The Book of Kells, an Irish medieval manuscript containing the four gospels in Latin along with beautiful, intricate illustrations. It is believed to have been produced by monks sometime around 800AD on the island of Iona. It was amazing to see something so old and so beautiful, but what I enjoyed even more was the old library above. The collection was founded in 1592 and the old library, which was celebrating its 300th birthday, holds over 200,000 of the collection's oldest books. It houses two stories of symmetrical floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and a beautiful vaulted ceiling. I would love to spend some time browsing the books in the old library, but unfortunately, they're off limits to tourists.

Next, we walked to St. Patrick's Cathedral. A church has stood on the site since the fourth century, and the one there now was built in the thirteenth century. It was absolutely gorgeous and reminded me a bit of Westminster Abbey, with its luminous stained glass windows and tributes to the great saints who lived before us. We then walked through the city and past Christchurch Cathedral on our way back to the hotel. 

We called a taxi to bring us out for dinner. All of our taxi drivers have been remarkably talkative and friendly, but the one on this occasion is by far my favorite driver. Ireland has their elections coming up soon and a few key figures have recently resigned, so we discussed this with him. He told us, "politicians are a bit like putting on a fresh pair of trousers; after you've got them for six months, you realize they're full of shit." There's never a dull moment when talking to an Irish taxi driver!

We ate dinner at a traditional Irish pub in Temple Bar. After dinner and dessert, we took the Luas back to the hotel and went to bed. By that time, I had been awake for over 32 hours, so bedtime was definitely welcomed!

14 May, 2014

I originally started this blog in 2009 to keep people updated on my travels during my semester abroad.  Since I will be travelling for about six weeks this summer, I figure it’s about time to revive my blog. 

It’s been over a year since my last post and, understandably, a lot has changed in my life since then.  So here’s a really quick timeline of what’s been going on…

2013 was a beautiful year.  I went to San Francisco as a leader for the high school group at my church.  I visited my brother in Carpinteria in March and again in May.  I worked at Starbucks from November 2012 until August.  I started graduate school and am pursing a dual Master’s of Social Work and Master’s of Public Health at San Diego State University.  I visited New Jersey in September for my aunt’s surprise 60th birthday party.  I turned 25 in October.  And over Christmas break, I went on the most beautiful road trip with my Nessy (Katy) from Portland all the way down the coast to San Diego.

2014 has been just as wonderful so far.  We took a family trip to Catalina for Kevin’s birthday.  I went skydiving and to Santa Barbara over spring break.  A few weeks ago, I went to Atlanta to celebrate the wedding of my dear friends, Katherine and Adam.  And today, finished up my first year of grad school. 

Tomorrow morning, my family and I are leaving for a three-week trip to Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.  My ancestors come from all three of these places, and I am eager to see them all!  We may not have much internet access, but I’ll try to update as often as possible, so stay tuned!