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Thursday
Jun052008

A small country town in Ireland

I caught the train into Maynooth, a half hour trip from Dublin, and promptly lost the map I had printed up. On my search for my hotel I wandered completely across town and back, which being Maynooth only took about 15 minutes.

The National University of Ireland is by far the most imposing institution in Maynooth. It was founded as St Patrick's College in 1795 by King George III in order to prevent Catholic priests from having to train in France where they might pick up revolutionary ideas. Secular students were only allowed to enrol in 1968, but they soon outnumbered the dwindling priests. The college formally split in 1997 into the National University of Ireland (for humanities and sciences) and St Patrick's College (for theology). Catholicism is hardly a growth industry in Ireland after decades of heavy-handed rule and child abuse, so NUI is easily bigger than St Pat's (NUI has more than 8000 students enrolled, while last year a total of 2 priests were ordained - and this is Ireland's only seminary).

The South Campus is St Pat's, the humanities and mathematics section of NUI, and the admin area, and is simply the most beautiful campus I have ever seen. It had the remains of Maynooth Castle at the entrance, and staggering buildings built around a stunning courtyard. The North Campus is a little ratty, except the brand new Institute of Immunology and Institute of Electrical Engineering (sharing a common building).

After arriving I checked out the main street, which takes about five minutes to walk along before it becomes a long straight walking track down a tree-lined avenue leading to nowhere. I tried out the Indian restaurant last night (which was actually not bad), and then this morning I wandered through the beautiful NUI campus before my interview.

After a surprisingly short interview (their odd legal policies prevent the applicants and the department from actually meeting each other) I had the afternoon free. Due to the trend of Euros to disappear while travelling, I had a cheap lunch at "Supermacs Family Restaurant" which looked just like McDonalds but actually served food (and even better, their pizza was actually good). I had some house keeping time on the computer, but even so I was able to check out the rest of the town by walking down to the Royal Canal (a 170km narrow and shallow canal built in 1790 from Dublin into the countryside, just as canals were being replaced by train lines) to see where the residential area starts. Checking in at a real estate agent, the price of houses in this small country town is horrific (average 450 000 Euro for ordinary houses).

My travel buddies have unfortunately been hijacked by RyanAir, but hopefully will make it here for our road trip to begin.



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