Day 8: Dublin

Monday, October 15th

We began today with a stop to Trinity College, Dublin. The Book of Kells is on permanent display, but no photography is allowed inside the exhibit. The college’s library, with its huge shelves and vaulted ceilings, is both iconic and legendary.

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Our next stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Originally Catholic, the church was converted to Protestantism during the British occupation of Ireland. The church’s interior is literally covered with historical artifacts, including crypts, statues, and flags that hearken back to pre-liberated Ireland.

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 The gift shop is right in the naive, an interesting place indeed.

The gift shop is right in the naive, an interesting place indeed.

 one of the many tombs in the church

one of the many tombs in the church

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 one of the old organ consoles

one of the old organ consoles

 the current organ console is tucked way up in the balcony.

the current organ console is tucked way up in the balcony.

 perhaps we should do this at St. Ben’s!

perhaps we should do this at St. Ben’s!

Our next stop was Phoenix Park, and the site of the Papal Cross. The cross was originally constructed for Pope John Paul II’s visit in the 1970’s and was used again recently by Pope Francis. Both popes celebrated Mass in this field.

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Everyone was given the afternoon to explore Dublin on their own.

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We regrouped and headed to The Merry Ploughboy for our farewell dinner. The Ploughboy is Ireland’s only such establishment to be owned and operated by traditional musicians. We enjoyed music by the house band as well as traditional dancing after dinner. What a wonderful way to end our journey!

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Day 7: Blarney

Sunday, October 14th

We began today with some shopping at Blarney Wollen Mills, known as the “largest Irish shop in the world”.

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Then it was off to Church of the Immaculate Conception, just a few steps away, for Mass. The choir loft was very tight, even for our small group, but it featured a beautiful rose window of St. Cecilia and an interesting little organ. Mass was well attended and everyone was very welcoming. One lady did complain that I” played the organ too loud” at the end of Mass. I guess they aren’t used to bombastic postludes!

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After Mass we headed to Blarney Castle, home of the famous Blarney Stone. It is said that those who kiss the stone will have 7 years of the gift of gab, that is, being able to speak well and convincingly. We’re not sure that the choir needs much help in this department, but we kissed the stone nonetheless.

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 The view from atop blarney castle

The view from atop blarney castle

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 castle interior

castle interior

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 In order to kiss the stone, pilgrims must lay on their back and lean off the edge of a 130 foot wall. Not for the faint of heart!

In order to kiss the stone, pilgrims must lay on their back and lean off the edge of a 130 foot wall. Not for the faint of heart!

 APPARENTLY a necessary room in a castle.

APPARENTLY a necessary room in a castle.

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 The grounds of blarney castle were simply gorgeous.

The grounds of blarney castle were simply gorgeous.

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After we explored Blarney, we headed to Dublin, where we checked into our hotel and had dinner. After dinner, we decided to get a taste of Dublin nightlife.

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 APPARENTLY it is tradition at this bar to write your name on a dollar bill and then tape it to th wall?

APPARENTLY it is tradition at this bar to write your name on a dollar bill and then tape it to th wall?

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After a fun evening, we retired to our hotel to recharge for the day ahead. Good night, Dublin!

Day 6: Ring of Kerry, Muckross House, Killarney

Saturday, October 13th

We began today with Irish breakfast, then headed around the ring of Kerry.

Our first stop was at a village that simulated life in the 1800s.

 Mary gets to know an Irish one of the wolf hounds. These dogs are huge!

Mary gets to know an Irish one of the wolf hounds. These dogs are huge!

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 we enjoyed some Irish coffee to warm us up for the long journey ahead.

we enjoyed some Irish coffee to warm us up for the long journey ahead.

We then continued our journey around County Kerry, stopping for lunch at a seaside village.

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The scenery along the route was breathtaking and included sheep, goats, and of course lots of cows.

 Catie makes friends with the locals

Catie makes friends with the locals

 the view from the roadside

the view from the roadside

We made a stop in the Village of Sheem. Every corner of Ireland seems to be steeped in history and beauty.

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We then continued to Muckross house. This historic manor hosted Queen Victoria in 1861. Though she only stayed for two days, the owners went bankrupt preparing the house for her visit! No pictures were allowed inside.

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We arrived in Killarney at St. Mary’s Cathedral to prepare for Mass. This gigantic Gothic structure is truly breathtaking! Mass was followed by a short organ concert by our director, Jeremy Kiolbassa.

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At the end of the day, we retired to our hotel in Killarney. Some of the group opted to try a sampling of the local whiskey…

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Day 5: Dingle Peninsula

Friday, October 12th

We began today with Irish breakfast, then hit the road.  

 Cow delay

Cow delay

We soon arrived at St. Mary’s in Listowel. The choir got set up in the loft as the rest of the group explored the grounds. 

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 The tiny pipe organ

The tiny pipe organ

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 the choir sang for a nice crowd at the morning Mass.

the choir sang for a nice crowd at the morning Mass.

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After Mass, the people of the parish invited us to tea and scones in the parish center. 

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 Jeremy spent some time chatting and exchanging music tips with Sister Consolata, the music director at St. Mary’s.

Jeremy spent some time chatting and exchanging music tips with Sister Consolata, the music director at St. Mary’s.

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 Holy Water on tap

Holy Water on tap

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We then stopped in the town of Dingle for lunch. Traditional Irish pub fare with chips and a Guinness!

 Dingle Town

Dingle Town

 Beef pie with chips at Benny’s Pub, Dingle.

Beef pie with chips at Benny’s Pub, Dingle.

 Learning all about “Fungie”, the dolphin that lives in the bay.

Learning all about “Fungie”, the dolphin that lives in the bay.

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Then it was back to the bus for a long drive through the countryside around the Dingle Peninsula. We drove (literaly) along a cliff on the western seaboard. 

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 Along the road we learned about traditional thatched-roof house building. Above is an example of a modern house with a TRADITIONAL roof.

Along the road we learned about traditional thatched-roof house building. Above is an example of a modern house with a TRADITIONAL roof.

Our next stop was the Gallarus Oratory. Historians believe this was a church built by early Irish Christians over 1200 years ago. 

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After another long and scenic bus ride through the country, we checked into our hotel and had dinner. 

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Mary, our friend and former choir member, moved back to Ireland a few months ago. She made the 3hr journey to join us at Killarney. We celebrated our reunion at the pub, and presented her with an award for her ministry in choir. 

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 it’s good to see you Mary!

it’s good to see you Mary!

Day 4: The Cathedral, Cliffs, and a Castle

 Thursday, October 11th

We started today with some light shopping in Galway city center.  

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The choir sssembled at Galway Cathedral for the 11am Mass. What a magnificent and stunning space! 

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 Jeremy REALLY likes the organ...

Jeremy REALLY likes the organ...

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 An essential stop at the cathedral gift shop.

An essential stop at the cathedral gift shop.

After Mass we drove through the scenic countryside to our next stop, taking a photo opp or two along the way. 

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We spent the afternoon at the Cliffs of Moher. Photos and words cannot even begin to capture the amazing beauty of this place! The highest point is over 700 feet above sea level.  

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We had some extra time, so we stopped by the seaside and touched the Atlantic waves.

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Then it was back on the bus to Knappogue Castle. 

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 Cows rule the grassy fields of Ireland.

Cows rule the grassy fields of Ireland.

We arrived at Knappogue early and were able to explore the medieval wallled garden.  

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We settled in for dinner and medieval entertainment. The lords and ladies of the choir were guests of honor at the banquet. 

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Katie and Matt were crowned king and queen of Knappogue castle, with all the rights and honors that come with such a noble and illustrious title. There was much rejoicing by all. 

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 the king and queen held court with their esteemed princesses, Catie and Libby.

the king and queen held court with their esteemed princesses, Catie and Libby.

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 the jolly minstrels played traditional Celtic tunes, making for a merry evening.

the jolly minstrels played traditional Celtic tunes, making for a merry evening.

 the king and queen bid their subjects farewell.

the king and queen bid their subjects farewell.

After a merry feast, we retired to our hotel in Limerick. Today was a long but fulfilling day that will surely be remembered for years to come.

Day 3: Kylemore, Connemara, & Knock

 Wednesday, October 10th

We started today with Irish breakfast. Then we boarded our motor coach for our journey to Kylemore Abbey. Along the way we drove through scenic Mayo county and miles of breathtaking countryside.

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We made a stop at Connemara and visited some sheep by the roadside. They weren’t too keen on us trying to befriend them. 

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We then continued to Kylemore Abbey. The manor is absolutely stunning, inside and out. 

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 St benedict, pray for us! 

St benedict, pray for us! 

We spent some time exploring the Victorian gardens after the manor.  

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On the grounds of Kylemore is a tiny church, often described as a “cathedral in miniature”,  built by the Mitchel Henry, the wealthy former owner of the property. The estate was later converted to an Abbey by the Benedictine Sisters. 

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 the Henry family mausoleum 

the Henry family mausoleum 

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We then made our way to Knock to sing for a Solemn Mass and annointing of the sick. The church was filled with pilgrims from all over the world! Though there were hundreds of people, there we still a lot of empty seats, but I guess that’s not too bad considering the Basilica seats over 10,000! 

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 the Basilica of Knock 

the Basilica of Knock 

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 we only had a few minutes to rehearse before Mass began. 

we only had a few minutes to rehearse before Mass began. 

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 getting ready for Mass

getting ready for Mass

 St. Benedict Choir

St. Benedict Choir

 the Eucharistic chapel in the Basilica 

the Eucharistic chapel in the Basilica 

 our view as we said goodbye to the Basilica

our view as we said goodbye to the Basilica

We returned to our hotel for dinner. 

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 a toast to end a great day! 

a toast to end a great day! 

After a full and wonderful day, it’s time to retire. We can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings! 

Day 2: Arrival

Tuesday, October 9th

 Our flight to Dublin arrived over 30 minutes early! We started our descent just as the sun began to rise.

Our flight to Dublin arrived over 30 minutes early! We started our descent just as the sun began to rise.

 Then it’s onto the bus, our noble chariot for the week.

Then it’s onto the bus, our noble chariot for the week.

 We drove through the countryside to the town of Galway.

We drove through the countryside to the town of Galway.

 Since it was too early to check into the hotel, we took a cruise on the Corrib River. Galway Cathedral is the backdrop to our departure. We’ll sing Mass there in a couple days.

Since it was too early to check into the hotel, we took a cruise on the Corrib River. Galway Cathedral is the backdrop to our departure. We’ll sing Mass there in a couple days.

 Scones and Irish coffee for all!

Scones and Irish coffee for all!

 On the River Corrib we come across many ancient landmarks, including castles!

On the River Corrib we come across many ancient landmarks, including castles!

 Despite traveling for almost 24hrs, the group is in good spirits.

Despite traveling for almost 24hrs, the group is in good spirits.

 Our boat cruise concluded with a demonstration on traditional Irish dance.

Our boat cruise concluded with a demonstration on traditional Irish dance.

 We ended the day with dinner at the Clayton hotel. After dinner we serenaded patrons with an impromptu rehearsal in the lobby.

We ended the day with dinner at the Clayton hotel. After dinner we serenaded patrons with an impromptu rehearsal in the lobby.

Now it’s time to retire, refresh, and get ready for tomorrow! 

Itinerary

Here is our itinerary for the next 9 days. I will be posting updates and pictures all throughout the week. A special thank you to Peters Way Tours, and specifically our travel coordinator, Kaitlyn Stankunis, for putting this together!


Day 1: Depart for Ireland 

Depart Chicago O’Hare International Airport for our flight to Dublin. 


Day 2: Arrive Dublin, Corrib River Cruise, Galway 

Morning arrival at Dublin Airport. Proceed through Passport Control, claim our luggage, and our Peter’s Way tour manager/guide, Seamus, will meet us as we exit from Customs. Board our comfortable touring bus, and we will be on our way to Galway, the capital of the west. An independent stop will be made for tea, coffee and scones. As our Galway hotel rooms are unlikely to be ready upon arrival in Galway, we will enjoy a Corrib Cruise. This journey provides visitors with wonderful views of the historic monuments and natural amenities that make this one of the most spectacular waterways in Ireland. Then, we will continue to Galway for our hotel check-in. Dinner and overnight at the Clayton Hotel Ballybrit in Galway.


Day 3: Connemara, Kylemore Abbey, Knock, Sung Mass in Knock 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. This morning, we’ll travel through the Connemara Region en route to Kylemore Abbey. This is the country of The Quiet Man and The Purple Taxi – two famous films made in this region. It is an area full of contrast - granite mountains (populated only by sheep), hundreds of lakes forming a fisherman’s paradise, and a seacoast with many sandy beaches. Its stone walls, small farms, thatched cottages in isolated splendor, and heather covered hills create an unforgettable scene for all its visitors. A tour takes us from Galway to the lake-dotted center of Connemara at Maam Cross. Visit Kylemore Abbey, a Gothic-style castle built in the 19th century by Mr. Heny, a rich Liverpool merchant, which today belongs to the Benedictine Nuns. Impressive, hidden between mountains and a lake and surrounded by rhododendrons, the Abbey is situated in a romantic place of great beauty. The entrance hall and three other rooms are open to the public. Restored by the nuns in a major restoration project, it can be described as a ‘cathedral in miniature’ and is very faithful to the so-called decorated style Church. 

Independent lunch. 

Continue to Knock. This little town is an important pilgrimage center and has been famous for over a century as the site of visions, apparitions, and miraculous cures. Knock Shrine contains a number of churches and shrines, including the modern Basilica and the Church of the Assumption. In 1879, an apparition of St. Mary, St. Joseph and St. John the Evangelist was recorded, later recognized as authentic. Since then, the place has attracted millions of pilgrims each year who gather in front of the Church’s wall. The special message of Knock is the need for Penance. There are religious goods shops to be visited, and pilgrims from all over the world to be met! At 3:00 pm attend the Solemn Mass and blessing of the sick, sung by Saint Benedict Parish Choir at the Basilica of Knock. (view program)

Return to Galway. 

Dinner and overnight at the Clayton Hotel Ballybrit in Galway.


Day 4: Burren Region, Cliffs of Moher, Medieval Castle Dinner 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. 

This morning, we will be transferred to the magnificent Galway Cathedral for the 11:00 am scheduled Mass Sung by the Saint Benedict Parish Choir (view program). After Mass, drive through the most spectacular Burren Region. ‘Boirean’ is the Irish for ‘Rocky.’ It received its name from its polished limestone landscape. The whole area, with its rich flora and fauna, is heaven for geologists and botanists. It also has over 2,500 historical sites to keep you busy. Next, we will stop at the Cliffs of Moher. The most majestic cliffs in Ireland rise from the Atlantic Ocean at 215 meters and extend for over seven kilometers. From this height, you can admire the Aran Islands and the Connemara Mountains, and listen to the many sea birds that colonize this place from springtime on. 

Independent lunch. 

Continue to Limerick for hotel check-in. 

Enjoy a Medieval Banquet at Knappogue Castle Banquet. The world famous medieval banquet is a testament to the cultural and social life of its former inhabitants. The ladies of the castle, aided an abetted by the Earl’s butler, ensure an evening of entertainment, which follows in the best tradition of Irish hospitality. The wine flows as the entertainers recreate the magical atmosphere of the Earl’s banquet through drama, music and song. 

Overnight at the George Hotel in Limerick. 


Day 5: Dingle Peninsula 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. 

This morning, head south through the Dingle Peninsula, one of Ireland’s most popular coastal scenery drives. Dingle is the most northern of the Kerry peninsulas. This peninsula is famous for its Celtic, pre-Christian monuments and Christian churches. It is also a ‘Gaeltacht' (Irish-speaking) area, where the Irish language and traditional ways of life are preserved. Dingle town itself is a thriving fishing town and offers plenty of opportunity for shopping or simply savoring the atmosphere of a typical country Irish town with its plentiful pubs, narrow streets and busy harbor. Attend the 10:30am Mass at St. Mary’s Church in Listowel sung by the St. Benedict Parish Choir (view program). Tea and light refreshments provided by the people of St. Mary’s.. 

Continue on the road around the Dingle Peninsula and pass through a chain of Mountains, called Slieve Mish. From Inch, a long beach bordered by dunes and made famous by David Lean’s movie Ryan’s Daughter, admire the Iveragh Peninsula and Rossbeigh Beach. Drive around the coast to Slea Head. Here, the blue of the marine landscape surrounds the Blasket Islands, deserted since 1953. In the distance are the two rocky Skellig islands, where the ruins of an early Christian Monastery can be found. We will visit Gallarus Oratory - the most impressive early Christian monument on the Dingle peninsula. It has withstood the passage of time for over 1200 years. Built in the shape of an upturned boat, the oratory formed part of a larger monastic site and was used as a place of prayer and reflection. 

Dinner and overnight at the Killarney Court Hotel in Killarney.


Day 6: Ring of Kerry, Muckross Estate, Evening Sung Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. 

Today, we will tour of the Ring of Kerry - the most famous and panoramic route in Ireland. The astonishing beauty of this large peninsula, Iveragh, comes from the great diversity of its scenery, which offers incessant contrasts. En route around the Ring, take in spectacular scenery—mountains, peat bogs, lakes and magnificent views of the Atlantic Ocean, as we travel along the coast road. Leaving Killarney, pass through Killorglin, famous for its Puck Fair, then to Glenbeigh, where the cliff road affords panoramic views of the Dingle 

Peninsula and Dingle Bay. Continuing to Cahirciveen, we’ll pass the birthplace of Ireland’s National Hero, Daniel O’Connell. Next, continue on through peat bogs to the town of Waterville. See Sneem Village, famous for its brightly colored houses. The road, then, continues through the mountains to Moll’s Gap and Ladies View, with superb views of the famous lakes of Killarney. 

Independent lunch. 

This afternoon, we will visit Muckross House and Gardens. Built in Elizabethan style in 1843 by the Herbert family, this house is one of the most sumptuous residences in Ireland. Surrounded by beautiful gardens—particularly famous for its rhododendrons—Muckross House is in the heart of the Killarney National Park, the first such park opened in Ireland. Continue to St. Mary’s Cathedral for rehearsal. Attend the 6:15 pm Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral, sung by Saint Benedict Parish Choir (view program).

Mass will be followed by a 30-minute organ concert presented by Jeremy Kiolbassa (view program). 

Dinner and overnight at the Killarney Court Hotel in Killarney.


Day 7: Blarney Castle, Noon Sung Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Dublin 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. 

This morning, we will depart for County Cork to visit Blarney Castle, where you will feel compelled to kiss the Blarney Stone and gain the gift of eloquence or as an 18th century French consul put it, “gain the privilege of telling lies for seven years”. Built nearly six hundred years ago by one of Ireland's greatest chieftans, Cormac MacCarthy, the castle has been attracting attention ever since. Over the last few hundred years, millions have flocked to Blarney making it a world landmark and one of Ireland's greatest treasures. The castle itself, a tower house, dates from 1446 and is built on solid limestone. Stop for shopping at Blarney Woollen Mills, which sells high quality Irish crafts. 

At 12:00pm. Celebrate Mass at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Blarney, sung by the Saint Benedict Parish Choir (view program)

Independent lunch. 

Check-in at our hotel in Dublin. 

Dinner and overnight at the Academy Plaza Hotel in Dublin.


Day 8: Dublin, Highlights of Dublin & Farewell Dinner 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. 

This morning we will have an orientation tour of Dublin. This tour will allow you to take in all the sights, including the famous ‘Doors of Dublin,’ the elegant Georgian squares, and Phoenix Park. Highlights of the tour will be a visit to Trinity College, to view the 8th century illustrated manuscript, The Book of Kells, followed by a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, made famous by its former dean, Jonathan Swift (Dean of St. Patrick's 1713-1745), author of Gulliver’s Travels. The cathedral, built in 1213, is the largest in Ireland. This Gothic Cathedral, with a splendid interior, is adorned with funeral monuments, such as the Boyle Family Memorial and the grave of Dean Jonathan Swift. The Chancel has ornate stained-glass windows, some by Harry Clarke, which are magnificent features. 

Independent lunch and afternoon at leisure. 

Perhaps we would like to visit the Guinness Storehouse to see how this famous brewery was established and how the popular black brew is created. Enjoy a sampling. We recommend a stroll down Grafton Street, where you can enjoy the best in street entertainment. The shopping is also great in this area of the city! This evening, enjoy dinner and entertainment at The Merry Ploughboy Pub. Enjoy fine food and a lively show featuring contemporary Irish dancing and well-known guest artists. At The Merry Ploughboy Pub, youthful vibrancy has successfully combined with traditional craftsmanship to provide an excellent evening entertainment. 

Overnight at the Academy Plaza Hotel in Dublin.


Day 9: Return from Dublin 

Irish breakfast at the hotel. Late morning transfer by coach to Dublin Airport for our flight home.

Prelude

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow we will embark on our pilgrimage to Ireland! I will document our 9-day adventure in this blog, wifi permitting! The choir has been rehearsing for many weeks, and we are excited to sing some of our favorite music in beautiful churches throughout Ireland. We are also excited to experience the many sights, sounds, and tastes of this great country.

Please keep us in your prayers this week, and we will keep the people of the parish in ours.

St. Patrick, St. Benedict, and St. Cecilia, pray for us.

Jeremy Kiolbassa

Director of Music & Liturgy