After spending 10 days in Belfast with SCL and 2 days in Drogheda for our first preseason tournament with my National League team, Fabplus Northwest (we went 4-1!!), I finally arrived at my new home in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal. I am the only Victory Scholar out here, but I do have some fellow American housemates and ballers who are all so great! We all clicked right away and get along really well. I’ll do some quick introductions since I am sure their names will come up in future blogs!
Fun Fact: She likes American football just as much as I do. Unfortunately, she’s a Patriots fan BUT we are still good friends and have remained civil!! (Fly Eagles Fly)
Fun Fact: He has his own non-profit organization called SunnySide to help the youth in his community overcome challenges, which is pretty amazing if you ask me! (and sounds a bit like Sport Changes Life!)
Fun Fact: He is basically a fishing champion – he once caught a shark that weighed between 150-200 pounds!!
I also have three other awesome housemates: Léonie and Coralie are both from France and Tanja is from Germany. I’ve had to play a lot of charades in order to communicate to the French girls at first, but we are definitely starting to break through that language barrier!
Now that I’ve briefly introduced the Shalom household, I can start to talk about all of the amazing experiences we’ve had in Donegal in just the short amount of time we’ve been here.
Throughout the first few days in Letterkenny, we definitely found all the fun spots including an activity center that had bowling, an arcade, laser tag, and pool tables. The guys would tell you differently, but Kaylee and I definitely showed them up! We also have done plenty of shopping, we cook together, and we saw a few movies. So, we pretty much know Letterkenny like the back of our hands now!
We also had time to do a little sight-seeing around Donegal. I must say…National Geographic didn’t name Donegal the “coolest place on the planet” for nothing! It is absolutely STUNNING here. Every time we get in the car to drive somewhere, my eyes are glued to the window. I wish I could capture every beautiful scene I see!
Our first little trip was to Rathmullan beach. Our landlord, Ed Cassidy (such a legend!!) took us along with his son Luke and his dog Buster to the beach so we could play fetch with Buster in the ocean. It was a little too cold and windy to go for a swim, but the views were more than enough!
Our next adventure was definitely my favorite one so far: Horseback riding in Bundoran. If you are ever in Donegal, this is something you MUST do, even if you have never ridden a horse before. Each of us mounted our “Irish Cob” horses, which were trained specifically to take inexperienced riders (like us) on tours, and we rode off with our tour guide through some of the most picturesque trails I’ve ever seen. We rode along the Tullagh Bay beach and through some of the largest sand dunes in Europe! It was truly an amazing experience and I can’t wait to go again someday.
We also took a trip with our French housemates to the Fanad peninsula, which was actually a pretty quick drive from Letterkenny! It was a beautiful day and of course, the views were simply amazing. The Fanad Head Lighthouse was used to guard the entrance to Lough Swilly (the sea inlet) during WWI, which became the main Atlantic base for the Allied fleet – pretty cool!
My most recent adventure was to Glenveagh National Park. I definitely recommend wearing proper sneakers whenever you come here – we walked over 2 HOURS along just one of the various paths that go through the park! Thankfully, we got back to the life-saving shuttle bus just in time to take us back to the parking lot instead of having to walk the whole way. Nevertheless, the views were just incredible. Walking along the path and taking in all the fresh air and nature was so nice. And everything is so clean and unpolluted here, it really is a breath of fresh air! (No pun intended). As we walked along the path, we came upon the Glenveagh Castle, which basically just shows up out of nowhere! It had a beautiful garden and greenhouse with some really cool views. It was built way back in 1873 and was owned by three different owners throughout time until it was sold to the Office of Public Works in 1975. The last private owner was actually from Philadelphia, which is basically my home city!
These first few weeks in Ireland have been full of adventure to say the least! I can’t wait to continue gaining new experiences and making unforgettable memories.
Traveler Tip #6:
It is perfectly normal to see open grass fields dotted with sheep and/or cows (and if you’re lucky, you might even see an alpaca). But, don’t be alarmed (like I was) if you see sheep with pink or blue patches of hair – they are not magical or diseased. Farmers will actually paint their sheep so they can identify which ones belong to them!
Well, my next adventure awaits!
P.S. “Eachtraí” means “Adventures” in Irish.