Ireland: the Retreat

A few years ago I kept a blog when I studied abroad in Spain; keeping an online journal of all my adventures abroad. I really enjoyed it; this whole "writing down memories" thing. Unfortunately, when I came back to America and was back in school, life became much less interesting and too stressful for me to even think about a blog. Times have changed since I graduated (3 years ago... ha ha ha...) and I am back to having more fun and adventures, pursuing my dreams: acting and seeing the world.

Just a week ago, I landed back in America after 10 glorious days spent in the gorgeous country of Ireland. So I figured it was time to get back into this blogging thing.

I found out about this trip to Ireland about two weeks before it was going to happen. Just after I finished running the LA Marathon (for the second time), I got the news that there was an opening in a week-long acting workshop with Benjamin Mathes (LA acting coach/ teacher/ life guru) and Helena Walsh (Irish voice instructor/ goddess/ angel) that would be held in Ireland. I grabbed that spot with about 5 minutes of rational thought and decided to go with the impulse.

OKAY fast forward two weeks: the trip begins. My lovely mother drove me to pick up my two best friends, Brittany and Madison (the women I can thank for getting me into this workshop), and we headed to the airport. With time to spare we had a couple of beers, gabbed about our excitement for what was to come and then boarded the plane. About 10 hours later and no sleep (for me) we were in Ireland. We grabbed our bus tickets, had 30 minutes to kill and decided it was time for our first true Guinness. Then came a 3 hour bus ride, with again, no sleep for me.

*Hint: I didn't sleep for the next 10 days*

As we arrived in Cork, we waited for Helena to pick us up and we scrambled with our luggage and stumbled into our first Irish pub, Larry Tompkins; and then had to quickly down another round of drinks to meet Helena driving around in the pouring rain trying to find us. We went straight from there to another pub in Clonakilty, where we would be spending the next week for the workshop. The last to arrive, we met everyone waiting for us, both American and Irish, drinks in hand. I'm struggling to remember the name of that pub, but it was everything I would have dreamed a pub in Ireland would look like. Every second since stepping off the plane had felt almost like a dream. Probably the jet lag, but still... pretty amazing.

* Warning: this will be excessively long. Not sorry. Just read on.

DAY 1:

Bright and early, we awoke and headed to the beach for our first surfing lesson.

Oh. Right. Surfing. Forgot to mention that...

It was optional, but definitely part of the workshop (which I may be referring to now as the "retreat").

So yeah, I went surfing. ME. Girl who is terrified of the ocean. Went. Surfing.

Conquering fears is a pretty incredible experience... don't know how else to describe it.

We then went to lunch and began the first day of the workshop/retreat. I'm not going to write much about the workshop because, honestly, it's pretty difficult to put into words how powerful this experience was for me. Every day taught us something new and brought up different experiences and breakthroughs for every single person involved. It's hard to explain and I really don't think anyone would understand unless they experienced it themselves. Everyone's life changed over this week, maybe in different ways depending on the person; but guaranteed, this retreat changed everyone's life.

It was magic. I will leave it that.

At night we all went to a pub and if I am remembering correctly, this was the first night we went to Shanley's, the pub of all pubs. We met our girl, Phil, who, bless her heart, welcomed us with open arms almost every night that week and poured us beer after beer until closing time (or you know, a little after closing time). The responsible half of the group went home to get some sleep. The other half (thankfully the half that I was sharing a house with) decided the night was not over. The next few hours included bargaining with a bartender at a different pub to sell a bottle of gin (shoutout to the firecracker, Naoimh for making that possible), figuring out how the taxi system (or lack thereof) works, and dancing and playing games until the wee hours of the morning.

DAY 2:

We were dubbed "Party House."

Not all of us went surfing that morning, but we all managed to show up to class ready to work and be inspired. That was also the morning we discovered Sticky Bun and developed our obsession with fruit scones and jam.

After class we went for a walk along the beach during sunset. I will NEVER forget that sunset. Never.

The tide eventually pushed us away and we repeated another night at Shanley's and drinking at home.

DAY 3:

No surfing (for me). Sticky Bun, scones and coffee. Class.


Another jaw-dropping sunset. But this time on a cliff walk. Just when I thought nothing was going to beat the beach sunset the day before... this cliff sunset destroyed it. It was so incredibly breathtaking, I cried a little.

Afterwards we stopped at a pub nearby for some dinner and drinks, cuddled up by a cozy fireplace, and just enjoyed each other's company for a few hours of the night. Then everyone kept it responsible and took some time to get some rest after a long day of awesomeness.

DAY 4:

I went surfing again! I was absolutely determined to be able to stand up on the board. The first time, the furthest I got was balancing on my knees. And guess what! I DID IT. I know they aren't the same thing and maybe most people wouldn't compare them, but to me it felt as good as finishing a marathon. Both are daunting and take a lot of determination. But when you actually accomplish it... man, oh man. Now I'm convinced I can do anything.

After reveling in my own glory, we went to Sticky Bun, class, and then Shanley's for an Irish trad session. A fiddler from New York was in town and just happened to be joining the trad band at our favorite pub that night. If I had ever had a dream about what it would be like to spend a night in an Irish pub, this had to have been it. Naoimh, Lenn, Caroline, and even myself and Julia (two very American women) got up and and sang with the Irish band. It was terrifying and felt a little foolish, like a had no right being up there. But if I could go back in time, I would still choose to get back up there and do it again, no questions asked. Watching the band perform was one of the most fascinating things to see. Not only because they are phenomenal musicians, but also because the whole pub gets quiet and diverts their attention to the music. That's not really something you see a whole lot of in the states. I will cherish that experience forever.

DAY 5:

Even thinking about this day makes me sad. It may not seem like it, but this week felt like a lifetime. I fell in love with every single person that was a part of this workshop. Whether I got to know them on a deep personal level or not, I still got to know who they were. I fell in love with everyone's soul, and knowing that this was our last day together made it a tough one to get through. Needless to say, there was an immense amount of tears in class, after class, and the next morning. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...

Sticky Bun.

A tearful class.

And then...

After class we treated ourselves to a gorgeous dinner at an oceanside restaurant. There were 18 of us in total so we were forced to sit at two separate tables. My table, full of gorgeous ladies, shared a couple bottles of wine and got emotional over our overwhelmingly large meals (that we of course finished in their entirety). I ate every last bite of my 12 oz. steak and I'm pretty damn proud. When dinner was all wrapped up, we decided one last night in Shanley's was the way to go. It was a relatively calm night, but we did have a few newcomers to party house that night. Unfortunately for them, the party house they entered was much sleepier than normal.

DAY 6:

We went to breakfast in the morning before everyone had to leave, went back home to pack and clean the house, and we were on our way. The only two souvenirs I managed to get were a glass from Shanley's (given to me from Phil, the angel of Ireland, herself) and a jar of blackberry jam that my scene partner/self-proclaimed Diva, Christina, so graciously gave me as a parting gift. There were lots of hugs and more and more tears and emotional goodbyes and we were on our way back to Cork, where Madison, Brittany, and I would be picking up a rental car and begin the second leg of our journey.

*Spoiler Alert: all of those goodbyes were unnecessary, as we would see most of those people again in Dublin. But we'll save that for another post.

To Be Continued...