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Santa Clara Sister Cities Association’s Youth Commissioners Remember Their Adventures in Ireland

If anyone thinks it has been cold in Santa Clara lately, imagine visiting a city around 33 degrees Fahrenheit. Such was the experience of four students from the Santa Clara Sister Cities Association’s Youth Commission, who participated in the organization’s inaugural trip to Limerick, Ireland during the week of Thanksgiving in 2018. Limerick is one of Santa Clara’s Sister Cities. Thanks to the organization’s fundraisers, such as the Feb. 9 Sister Cities Tea, the Youth Commissioners can go on such trips to learn about new cultures.

“We arrived in Dublin and visited that city for a day,” said Ria Grewal, 17. “We went to Trinity College. It’s a big university in Dublin. It’s beautiful there. The architecture here is amazing. The library was old and rustic. But we spent most of the time in Limerick.”

Grewal noted the memorable architecture in Limerick and the history behind these structures.

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“We went to a famous cathedral named St. Mary’s Cathedral,” Grewal said. “Most of the people in Ireland were once Catholic. We were able to walk around the cathedral and learn about Limerick’s views on Catholicism. I learned that that Catholicism was once heavily present in Limerick. People took church very seriously. As new religions have been introduced, the religious culture of Limerick is more diverse now.

“We also went to King John’s Castle,” Grewal continued. “It is a very big and old castle. We were able to walk up the stairs and get a good view of the city of Limerick. We saw a lot of houses, the river and people walking to work. The castles were used to protect the city. It was surrounded by the water so people in the castle were able to see if an invader was coming. We learned more about the rooms of a castle, such as the bedrooms, the kitchen and the weapons building room. In the weapons building room, weapons were being built in case an invasion happened.”

Francesca Penabella, 17, accompanied Grewal on the Limerick trip. She recalls her visit to the Blarney Stone, where she was able to see the entire height of the castle.

“My favorite excursion was kissing the Blarney Stone — it’s in the Blarney Village,” Penabella said. “You go up the Blarney Castle — a tall castle — and there’s a stone on top. You would have to lie down and bend backwards to kiss the Blarney Stone. They say that after you kiss the Blarney Stone you won’t be able to stop talking. You’ll become super chatty. I am afraid of heights, but I did this because it’s a once in a lifetime experience.

“My group mostly ate chicken and mashed potatoes, the food that is common here and was served with every meal,” Penabella continued. “The Irish language is Gaelic. Not many people speak this anymore but in Ireland, the language is taught there. People speak mostly English in Ireland. In Limerick, they have stone sidewalks. You can see the history there. It’s very Victorian. Here in Santa Clara, the sidewalks are flat.”

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