A List of Things I Will Miss About Dublin..

12 Dec

As my time left in Dublin continues to dwindle, I have decided to come up with a list of things about Ireland that I will miss.  I am sure I will forget to include tons of things – but here goes..

Things I will miss about Dublin:

1. The accents – I have come to love the Irish accent.  I can proudly say that I can now decipher the difference between an Irish accent and an English accent in a matter of minutes.

2. Roaming the streets of Dublin.  Oddly enough, this has become one of my favorite things to do.  Even though there are a lot of weird smells in Dublin, I could walk around for hours.  Really, though – there is a distinct smell that we always smell around Blackhall Place.  We say it smells like “wet dog food.”  Regardless, I love walking around Dublin, even when I am by myself.  I will miss the 25-30 minute walk to class / everywhere.  Sometimes as I am walking home from class, I catch myself smiling at nothing.  Just smiling to be walking around and taking in the sites of city life.  (Yes, I am aware of how lame that is and how weird I must look as I creepily smile to myself – I’m past it).  The other day I smiled to myself as I was walking around and saw a Garda (Police) car stop in the middle of the street. The two Garda in the car ran out of the car and proceeded to chase a man down a small alleyway.  Yet I kept walking and smiling..

3. The pubs.  This is obviously a big one.  I knew “pub life” would be a big thing here but I had no idea how much it really is part of their everyday culture and lifestyle.  And guess what… I love it.  I love that I can simply walk into any pub I see (there are actually thousands to choose from – no, really thousands and thousands) and just order a drink whenever I feel like it. The pub will always have a decent amount of people in it too.. no matter what time of the day or night it is. I cannot say I am thrilled to head back to the three bar options at Elon.  I just do not think it will be the same anymore. I will really miss the whole pub atmosphere – from the traditional Irish music, to the pubs that play Shania Twain to watching a rugby match to listening to live music.  All of it. I could go on and on about the pubs for days.  In fact, just yesterday Meghan, Jordan and I wandered into a pub called the Hairy Lemon.  We each got a drink, sat in a little both and remained there from 3 pm until 8:30 pm.  I am not joking.  We each had a couple drinks and then before we knew it – more than two hours had passed.  Then, a seemingly pretty drunk man asked to sit down with us as he waited for his friend to come out of the bathroom.  They were from Norway and ended up being two of the most hilarious individuals I have ever come into contact with.  The five of us just sat there and talked and laughed for hours.  It was one of the best days of my life.  It is definitely one of my fondest memories from being on this trip.  They were just visiting Dublin for a few days and kept buying us rounds of Guinness.  Yes, yesterday I had my first pint of guinness.  I have been here for more than three months. And guess what, I didn’t really hate it.. Anyway words cannot really describe the crazy conversations we had with these two guys.  I also learned a lot though about Norway.  They are training to become officers in the military in Norway.  I could talk about yesterday for hours but I don’t even know how to begin to describe it.

Jordan and our new Norwegian Friend

4.  Baby Guinness Shots.  I love these things.  Truly, madly, deeply love them.  They are a perfect blend of Kaluha and Bailey’s and taste like a slice of cake.  I love Bailey’s – it is wonderful.

Cheers to Baby Guinness!

5. The way Dublin does Christmastime.  The is really no good way to explain this.  I know I won’t do it justice.  But every single inch of this city is decorated for the Holidays.  The streets, restaurants, pubs, shops, school, pharmacies, grocery stores, McDonalds, everything.  You name it and it’s decked out in Christmas trimmings.  It has gotten me in the holiday spirit so much earlier than usual.  I have watched the Holiday twice while being here.. twice.  (Jude Law may be another reason for that though).  Words cannot even describe how decorated the Jervis center mall is for Christmas.  There is not a single space that is not completely decorated.  There are even electronic santa’s hanging from the ceiling that slide up and down a pole.. I am not kidding.

6. Banoffee Pie.  Okay, so this is actually an English pastry dish but it has become one of my new favorite desserts.  Drew and I formed a friendship based on this little piece of heaven.  It has a crumbly, biscuit crust and is made of bananas, cream and toffee.  It is unreal.  And yes, I know that I can probably just as easily order this dessert in the US but I will miss eating it HERE.

Banoffee Pie from Drew and my Sushi dinner

7. The look of a freshly poured pint of Guinness.  Just the look – not the taste.. And all the old men that sit at the bar nursing back their Guinnesses (plural?)

8. Hearing the phrase “I’ll fecking show ya” – in an Irish accent of course – almost everywhere I go.

9. International People.  I will SINCERELY miss socializing with all of the international people here – both in the city and living in Blackhall place.  For instance, just tonight I attempted to explain to one of the German students what the phrase, “beat around the bush.”  It got interesting.  I will miss that..

10. Being able to go out on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday night and having tons of other people be out.  If I were to stroll into West End on a Monday night – they bartenders would look at me as if I were an alcoholic.

11. The food.  If you haven’t guessed that already.. I don’t know WHERE all those people that told me I wouldn’t like the food in Ireland went to eat but it definitely wasn’t anywhere I have been eating.  The food has been spectacular – Dad, it’s finally over – you don’t have to read about all the wonderful food I have enjoyed anymore.  I know you will secretly miss it – stop lying to yourself.  But side note – one thing I have learned about myself is that I am NOT picky.  I used to think I was picky before I came to Elon.  Then I met Lina Patton.  She introduced me to foods I had never tried before (like cucumbers.. yes, I am serious – I grew up in a house with a Dad and brother that only eat cheeseburgers and chicken fingers). She opened my world.  Now, I realize that I really haven’t found a single food that I do not like.  Except maybe pickles.  But wait I haven’t actually tried them.  (Yep, Lina thats right I just think they look disgusting and are super slimy).  But that was my thing – I never used to try ANYTHING. Now I try everything and guess what – I like it all.  Case in point, tonight I tried a jalapeno for the first time.  Meghan Delaney likes jalapenos more than I’ve ever seen anyone like them.  And guess what, I didn’t hate it.  Dad, I know your convinced that after reading my blog I should become a food critic.  But that can’t happen.. because I like ALL FOOD.

12. The craic.  I know I’ve written about it on here before, but just for a refresher.. craic in Irish = fun.  But it is pronounced like “crack”.  The irish say it all the time. “That was some good craic last night.”

13. Needing to look both ways when crossing the street.  When I come to a crosswalk at Elon, I hardly even look around me.  I just walk.  I figure cars will always stop for me, and only a few people have been hit by cars at Elon so my odds tell me I should be fine.  Not the case in Dublin.  Cars don’t stop.  Ever.  They just keep on going.  Cars driving on the other side of the road complicates this process even further.  I never know which way I am supposed to be looking – even after 3 + some months.

14. Howth.  I have talked about Howth on here a million and one times – but I love that little seaside town.  It is so quaint and just perfect.  Tons of good restaurants, an amazing Sunday market, breath-taking views, the beach, the Irish Sea – it has it all.

15. Saying, “First time on the Laus” every single time we ride the Laus.

16. Mean Irish children on Blackhall Street.  I have yet to discuss this, but there is a group of boys (probably around the age of ten that frequently roam the streets of Blackhall.  These are not your typical ten your old boys.  They have a soul composed of coal.  They are terrors.  Every time we have an encounter with them, they curse at all, calls us terrible things, and throw snowballs at us, or sometimes just throw balls of ice.  We literally walk down the street scared of seeing them.  (You would think we would be instead scared of the prostitutes, drug addicts and drunks that roam Blackhall.. but no a group of ten year old boys).

17. The soups.  All the soups that I have had in Ireland (and I’ve had my fair share of soups here) have been pureed soups.  And I mean completely pureed.  I have not tried a single soup that I didn’t love (shocking, I know).

18. Bewley’s Cafe’s Feta Cheese Salad.  Best salad I’ve ever experienced.  And I don’t know if you understand the significance of that statement. I love salads and have had tons – no salad can even hold a torch to this one.  I would pay big euro to have them ship it to me in America. As a matter of fact, I just might look into that.

19. Restaurants and Pubs serving breakfast every day until 12.  Everywhere in the world should be like this.. I love breakfast and an Irish breakfast never disappoints.  Except for black pudding – I will never be trying that. Ever.

20. Watching Rugby matches in pubs.  Even though, to this day, I still don’t understand how rugby works..

21. Blackhall place.  Yep, I said it.  I will even miss our gross, tiny, smelly, dirty apartments.

22. Hurling.  I am still obsessed with this sport.  I am bummed that we came at the end of hurling season.  Watching the hurling championship was such a blast.  I want hurling to come to the states.  Speaking of hurling.. we had a mobile seminar this week at the GAA.  First of all, the GAA stands for the Gaelic Athletic Association and is an amateur Irish and international cultural and sporting organization that promotes Gaelic sports such as hurling, Gaelic football, handball, etc.  The two big sports that it is in charge of though is Gaelic football and hurling.  They also promote traditional Irish music, dance and the Irish language.  Anyway, at this mobile seminar, we did some basic hurling and gaelic football drills with a gaelic football player.  It was obvious he got a kick out of watching us attempting to try these two sports.  It was not easy.  I don’t know how people can be so good at hurling.. it’s impressive.

23.  Hearing “Galway Girl” in pubs.  I will always love this song.

24. Hearing old men and women swear.  Literally, I have never heard as many bad words as I have heard these last three months.  Everyone swears.  And I mean everyone.  I’m talking teenagers, kids, 80 year old men and sweet looking old women.  Everyone. Nobody has any shame about it either.  They swear loudly.

25. Trying to understand what people are saying to me through an Irish accent and pounding music at a club.  I have said, “What did you say?” more than I have have in my life over the course of these few months.

26. Constantly getting asked, “Where are you from.”

27. Then subsequently having to explain where North Carolina is.. (usually in relation to New York and Florida).

28. “I will even miss this chair!”  Last night, during the pregame – Jordan and I went into a rant about everything we will miss about being here.  We ended up saying, “I will even miss this chair” in our apartment.  Then, I made her take a picture with said chair. We will miss you.

"I'm going to miss that chair!"

29. The Liffey.  Yep, your gross and you smell bad.  But, I will miss you.

30.  Going to the easiest school in the world where teachers hardly expect anything from you.  Have I mentioned my school is an affiliate to Kaplan University.  I wish I were joking.. In each of my classes this week, I was thanked by the professors for our “good attendance”  We have missed so many classes due to traveling.

31. Restaurants calling take-out “take away.”

32. Watching hours and hours of tv on my computer.  Over the course of these three months I have watched all of True Blood, all of Modern Family, all of Entourage, countless movies, and all my favorite weekly shows.. while lying in my bed.

33. Early bird and Christmas menus.  Literally every restaurant in Ireland has some type of Early Bird menu.  Take last night for example.  The early bird menu at Mexico to Rome was 13.95 euro and includes a starter and main course.  Some early bird menus are three courses while most are two.  I have yet to go to a restaurant here that does not have some form of an early bird or set menu option.

34. Eddie Rockets.  I have yet to eat in one – but I will miss passing all of them.  It is Dublin’s take on typical American food. Each restaurant is supposed to look like an American diner from the 1950s.  Each Eddie Rockets have a light up sign on the window saying “GET IN HERE.” and “EAT” – they make me laugh every time.

35. The fashion.  People just don’t dress well in America.  Well, women at least.  I could do without the clothes the guys wear here – who told them Hollister was acceptable? But other than that – Europeans do it right.  I’ve seen little girls dressed way better and look much more put together than I am.

36. Markets.  Have I mentioned how much I love them?

37. The way Irish guys all look a like.

38.  The ridiculous two-piece sweatsuits that Irish guys wear in public.

39. Hearing the name Niall.  I think that literally every other man in Ireland’s name is Niall.

40. Jordan yelling, “It’s open!” every time someone knocks on our door even though its never actually open.  This is actually very annoying when you are the one knocking on the door.  I don’t know how, but after all this time I still try to open it when she says that.

41. Running across the street to the Spar.  There is a Spar or Centra on every corner in Dublin.  Think of it as a tiny CVS.  They are literally everywhere you look.  Sometimes, I just go to the Spar when I’m bored and wander the three isles.  Case in point – right now.  I am SO BORED.  Possibly the bordest I have been while being here so I am going with Jordan to the Spar after she showers.  She needs alcohol and I don’t need anything.  I just need something to do.

42.  The way the Irish freak out about snow.  I’ve said it countless times – it never snows here.  There are no snow plows.  Literally – none.  They can’t afford them.  The sidewalks are still covered in ice from last weeks “blizzard.”  I have fallen several times.  I thought people freaked out about snow in North Carolina?  It’s nothing compared to here.  They have no idea how to handle it / what to do when it snows.  The whole city shuts down. It’s wild.

43. Taking the bus to the airport.  Oh the Dublin airport.  I will actually miss you and my friends at security.  I may even miss Ryanair and how they annoyingly try to sell you perfume, drinks and food throughout the entire flight.

44. Being a gross human being.  Blackhall is gross.  Our apartment is gross.  Therefore, I feel gross.  I am literally going to take 5 showers the first night I come home.  But I sometimes might actually miss being a little bit gross.  (Just a little little little bit).

45. Watching American football at the Woolshed.  We are about to do this for the last time in about an hour.  It is always packed there and they always show American football games on their HUGE tv screens.  It is always packed with guys.  Always.

I could go on and on for days – but I can’t really think right now.. and have been taking forever on this post.  I am so wordy – I’m aware.  But I can’t say enough how amazing this experience has been.  Ireland has become a huge part of my life now and I have had some amazing memories and so much fun along the way.  I feel so lucky to have been able to come her, travel around Europe, make amazing friends, and go to school some.  It’s so corny but I have learned a lot about myself along the way and wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.

Things I will not miss about Dublin:

1. Ireland’s economy

2. The Euro

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The Whole Fam Damnily

29 Nov

This is going to be an extra wordy one.  I don’t even know where to start.  First of all, I should be writing my Culture, Gender and Sexuality paper write now … but I am holding off on that one.  Well my family arrived in Dublin on Friday November 19th.  They left Raleigh the day before, on Thursday afternoon and had a layover in Atlanta.  Then, they flew all through the night on Thursday and got to Dublin around 7 am Friday morning.  We were exploring all different areas of Ireland all week and really only had that first day / night in Dublin so there was a lot I wanted to show them.  I didn’t really leave any time for them to be jet-lagged.  Sort of forgot to factor that into the equation.  Anyway, I met up with them on O’Connell street around 9:30ish or so Friday morning.  They had gotten a rental car from the airport that morning so we could use it to explore the rest of Ireland.  But – driving in Dublin proved to be a bit difficult.  Luckily, my Dad and I could bbm so I attempted to tell them where to go to find parking – but ovbiously I didn’t know much about driving around the city or getting to and from the airport by car.  Long story short – figuring out where to met and how to tell them to get there was no easy task.  Turned out to be a lot more complicated than any of us expected it to be.  Nonetheless, we all found each other at a reasonable time and still had plenty of time to explore Dublin.  It was amazing to see them again.  Once we were all together it felt like no time had gone by at all since I saw them last.  We easily caught up right back to where we left off.

After we met on O’Connell street, we walked into town center and went to breakfast at a cute cafe called the Queen of Tarts.  My Dad and Billy did not see anything they liked on the menu (shocker) but my Mom and I each ordered a scone.  My first scone ever – it was successfully delicious.  I ordered blueberry while my mom had a raspberry scone.  I thought mine was much better.  It was at breakfast that I realized how tired everyone was.  They had all hardly slept on the plane and were not used to traveling for that long at all – especially Billy.  But, I tried my hardest to convince them that taking a nap would be the wrong decision, especially since they had so little time in Dublin.

Billy and I at Queen of Tarts

After breakfast, I took them into city center again and showed them Trinity College campus.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  A little cold for my liking – but the sun was out the entire day.  We got really lucky.  Anyway, we walked around campus some and then headed to the book of Kells which is right on campus.  I hadn’t been yet and figured I would wait for my Mom to go.  Billy and my Dad opted out of the tour and sat on the bench outside while my Mom and I ventured inside.  It was pretty neat – I had no idea how beautiful all the pages were and everything.

Oh, I forgot – before going into the Book of Kells I ran into none other than the family that sat behind me on the plane from Florence.  I couldn’t believe it.  My Mom and I couldn’t help ourselves and decided to take a casual picture of me and the two seemingly innocent boys that made my plane ride and absolute terror.

Me and the two terrors

My Mom and I at the Arch at Trinity

Anyway, the Book of Kells was pretty neat.  History tid-bit for you – the Book of Kells was written by monks around the year 800 and they are illuminated texts that contain the four gospels of the New Testament.  After the Book of Kells exhibit – you walk around the old library on the second floor.  It was an absolutely beautiful room, but we weren’t aloud to take any pictures.

When we walked outside of the building, my Dad and Billy were still sitting right where we left them on the bench.  However, Billy was passed-out asleep.  My Mom literally spent the next minute trying to get him to move / wake-up.  There may or may not have been drool involved.  Trinity students sitting close to us got a good laugh in at my brother’s expense.

Billy asleep outside of the Book of Kells exhibit

After he finally agreed to move, we headed up to Graton Street – one of the pedestrian only streets in Dublin.  On our way there, we stopped at a cute market happening outside of Trinity College.  My Mom and I couldn’t turn down a piece of real Irish Aran Islands homemade chocolate.  The stands were much like the market in Howth and the cupcakes were just as adorable and delicious looking.

Cupcakes at Trinity College market

A visit to Ireland wouldn’t be complete with a run-in / picture with the leprechaun that roams Grafton Street all year long.

My Mom and I with the Grafton Street leprechaun

At the top of Grafton Street, we then went into St. Stephen’s Green where we walked around the park for a little bit.  Then, I showed them Dublin Business school and where I go for most of my classes.  My parents couldn’t believe how spread out it was.  Embarrassingly enough, my Mom made me take a solo shot standing in front of a sign for Dublin Business School.

At this point, Billy kept whining (I mean complaining) about how he was sick of walking / how tired he was.  As if we weren’t already made aware of this after he fell asleep in public.  So, we figured it would be a good time to find someplace to sit down and have some lunch.  We wandered into temple bar area – which my Mom loved because of the cobblestone streets (I love them too but those streets and I have a love-hate relationship – they are INCREDIBLY difficult to walk on late at night with heels).

We decided to go to a place for lunch recommended by my Mom’s handy-dandy Ireland travel book.  This book did not leave her side the entire week.  We all sat down at a nice table at a restaurant / pub called Gallagher’s Boxty House.  They serve mostly Irish food so I was already interested to see what my Dad and brother would order.  Of course I can’t remember now (but it was probably a cheeseburger) while my Mom and I each had a bowl of their soup of the day along with a glass of white wine.

At lunch, we started to talk to a young couple sitting next to us when we noticed they were also American.  They were really nice and from a town close to where we once lived in Connecticut.  She worked in public relations while he is a journalism / web design teacher at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.  We talked to them for a while.  They were just in Ireland for five days and were spending three nights in Galway and one in Galway.  We all talked for a good thirty minutes or so.

Mom and I outside of Gallagher's

After we finished eating lunch, we said goodbye to our new friends and headed across the street to a famous temple bar pub called Oliver St. John Gogarty where live traditional Irish music is played every single day from 2 pm until 2 am.  There was some sort of huge 30th birthday party going on there that day so the entire pub was packed and filled with drunk men wearing “Dan’s (forget the actual name) 30th birthday” t-shirts.  The atmosphere was perfect though and it provided my family with the perfect glimpse of a traditional / crazy Irish pub filled with crazy Irish people.  The live music was great also – I was very impressed.  We each ordered a drink and my Dad had his first Guinness on Irish soil.

My Mom, Dad and I at Oliver St. John Gogarty's

After enjoying a drink, we decided to make our way back to O’Connell street to get the car and drive to my apartment.  Billy was staying at my apartment Friday night while my parents stayed in a hotel directly across the street from the old Kilmainham Goal jail.  We headed to the parking garage to get the car and drove to my apartment so that Billy could drop off his suitcase.  Then, we loaded back into the car and drove to the hotel.  We weren’t really sure exactly how to get there, but we guestimated and finally made our way there despite the terrible Dublin traffic.  Once my parents checked in and everything, they showered and we got ready to head to dinner.  I had to persuade them from all passing-out (I was not about to miss a “free” dinner at Bewley’s cafe due to tiredness / jet-lag).  So, we all got back into the car and made our way back to the parking garage on O’Connell Street.  If I had known how torturous the drive was going to be from the hotel back into the city, I might have actually passed up my favorite feta cheese salad.  My Dad fell asleep at the wheel (in bumper to bumper traffic) at least a handful of times.  This lead to a very interesting / life threatening family car ride.  Once we finally arrived at the parking garage in one piece, we walked the remaining ten or so minutes back up to Grafton Street to Bewley’s cafe.  Dinner did not disappoint, of course.  I had the feta cheese salad (per usual), while my Dad and brother each had a cheese pizza (per usual) while my Mom ordered the salad of the day.

Also – casually ran into the family from my plane ride to Florence again on Grafton Street.  God, that family made my flight absolute hell.

After dinner, my parents dropped Billy and I back off at my apartment while they made their way back to the hotel for the night.  After dinner, Billy all of a sudden had a “second wind” so we decided to watch Forgetting Sarah Marshall (classic) on his laptop.  Strangely enough, I ended up falling asleep during the movie while he stayed awake the entire time.

The next morning, Billy and I made our way over to my parents hotel to enjoy their complementary Irish breakfast.  One of the many delicious breakfasts of the trip.  A very good break from my usual breakfast of Bland cereal (literally it’s called Brand – and for a reason I might add) or nutrigrain bars.  Which reminds me, my Mom wonderfully packed me two bags of Special K Chocolately delight (that I thoroughly enjoyed this morning – perfect hangover cure) almonds, salad dressing, and two bags of wheat thins (I have already almost plowed my way through an entire bag of wheat thins – today alone) and cliff bars.

After breakfast, my Mom and I took the laus (Dublin’s tram that runs along the same side of the liffey as my apartment) into city center to go to the temple bar market that takes place every Saturday.   My Dad and brother ventured over to tour the Guinness factory in the meantime.  First, my Mom stopped off at Jervis shopping center and went to pick out a GPS for our trip at Argo’s (like a Sears).  We decided on the cheapest one – 51 euros – and headed to the market.  The market ended up being many of the same vendors as the day before.  But we still enjoyed all the free samples nonetheless.  After walking around the market some, we walked to Avoca cafe – which may or may not be my new favorite store / obsession (refer to earlier post).  They literally have the cutest things – I want to decorate our beautiful apartment at Elon with all of their things / buy all of there adorable clothes / eat all of the delicious food that they sell in the cafe and restaurant.

After some more wandering around Dublin we headed back to the hotel where we met up with my Dad and Billy and checked out of the hotel.  Our next stop on our Irish tour: a small Dublin city suburb called Malahide (located 20 minutes or so from Howth).  Oh, I also forgot to mention that Dublin is FULLY decked out for Christmas.  Decorations are on almost every street, there are christmas trees everywhere and most stores are all set up and ready for the holidays.  I am absolutely loving it.  It has gotten me in the Christmas spirit even earlier than usual.

My Mom with our new GPS purchase

The car ride to Malahide was another interesting adventure.  Thankfully, we had the GPS but getting out of the city was a huge pain with all the traffic.  I didn’t really put it together to much later but the traffic in the city was even worse than usual because there was a huge Rugby match – part of the Guinness series – Ireland vs. New Zealand.  I had been looking forward to taking my family to a pub to watch the game that night, but never really thought about all the traffic that would come along with the match.  We ended up getting to the bed and breakfast in Malahide (called Evergreen – really cute B&B just five minutes from the town of Malahide) at a decent hour and checked in and then headed into Malahide to one of the towns 2 pubs to watch the match.  The match started at five and we got to the pub a little before then – it was pretty packed but we managed to find a seat in the more restaurant area of the pub.

The town of Malahide was adorable – definitely surpassed my expectations.  We enjoyed a nice dinner at Gibney’s Pub (my Mom and I split a delicious tuna fish sandwich) and watching the rugby match was a lot of fun – even though none of us were really clear on the rules at all..

Billy, Mom and I outside of Gibney's Pub

Once the match was over (Ireland pretty much killed by New Zealand), we walked around the small town of Malahide for a bit.  Conveniently enough, Gibeny’s also had an off-license store next door to the pub so my Mom and I bought ourselves a nice bottle of Pinot Grigio to bring back with us to the bed and breakfast.  After walking around the town (took a good whole five minutes) we headed back to our gracious host Olive at the Evergreen B&B where we played apples to apples and drank wine.

Mom and I Saturday night at Evergreen B&B

The next morning, we woke up and enjoyed another delicious breakfast.  I tried oatmeal porridge for the first time and absolutely loved it.  Tara – I sincerely apologize for always giving you such a hard time about your love for oatmeal – I was pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely love oatmeal and therefore can no longer give you a hard time about it..

Billy and my Dad ordered a traditional Irish breakfast but they both steered clear from the black and white pudding.  After breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Olive (what a sweet little landy) and headed back into Malahide for Sunday morning mass.

Billy and I at the Evergreen B&B

The Evergreen B&B in Malahide

We went to mass at a gorgeous church in Malahide called St. Sylvestor’s.  We went to the 10 am mass – which ended up being the children’s mass – it was packed.  We ended up standing in the back.  It was nice though.  After church, we headed into Howth.  I wanted my family to see the little town before we made our way to Western Ireland.  I showed them the tons of sea lions (I think they are sea lions? I always get confused).  Then we went to the Howth market (again many of the same vendors as the past two days) and my Dad, Mom and brother did a few minutes of the cliff walk.  I chose to stay behind in the car because it was absolutely freezing outside – so windy!  But it was another gorgeous day – the sun was out for the most part which was nice.

Billy, my Dad and I in Howth

After exploring Howth some, we all went back to the car and headed to Galway city on the Western coast of Ireland.  I was really excited to go back to Galway – I loved it there and was excited for my family to see it all.  The car ride to Galway wasn’t too bad.  My Dad was getting a hang of the whole driving on the left thing (for the most part).  It was about a three hour drive but it didn’t seem too bad at all.  The only bad part about the trip – the GPS failed on us.  It completely stopped working once we got close to Galway.  This left us in quite the predicament.  I had no idea that one city could have so many roundabouts.  We got lost for a good bit there outside of Galway city while trying to find out hotel.  My Dad had to stop and ask for directions but finally we found the hotel.  We were spending two nights in Galway at the Salthill Hotel – it was absolutely beautiful.  I can’t even begin to explain how gorgeous the hotel was – it was right on the Salthill – which is the long stretch of road in Galway that is along the Sea.  The view from our hotel room was absolutely stunning and we got there just in time to see the sun set along the bay of the Atlantic ocean.

Sunset from our hotel room

After we settled into the hotel we decided to split up for dinner.  We all got in the car and headed to Galway city but my Mom and I headed to a Spanish tapas restaurant called Cava while my Dad and Billy got pizza (just cheese of course) from a restaurant called Fat Freddy’s.  Dad and Billy – I love you both very much, but it was very nice to ditch the picky eaters for one meal.  I had been SO looking forward to a nice glass of sangria at the Spanish restaurant.  While I was planning my parents trip I spent hours (literally hours) looking up restaurants all over Ireland on tripadvisor.  That website is a blessing.  Anyway, I found Cava because it was the #2 restaurant on Trip Advisor for Galway city so I figured my Mom and I should definitely check it out.  It was a really cute place and my Mom and I sat in a romantic table for two near the front window of the restaurant.  Sadly, the waiter informed me they were out of sangria but he instantly noticed the sadness on my face and promised he would whip up the next best thing.  He did not disappoint. And either did dinner.  It was amazing.

My Mom and I decided to order three tapas for us to share.  After much debate we ordered a dish of white beans and wild fresh mushrooms in a sherry vinegar sauce, sweet potato and goat’s cheese croquettes and chickpeas and spinach in tomato sauce.  It was to die for.  We were still talking about how delicious it was hours after the meal was over.

Solo shot at Cava

Solo shot outside of Cava

After our delicious meal, my Mom and I met back up with my Dad and Billy at Taaffes pub in Galway.  I had gone here on the last visit to listen to traditional music and had a great time so I figured it would be a great place to go back to.  We sat at a table front row and center and were right next to the band (consisting of two old men) as they played traditional Irish music.  Oddly enough, we ended up running into the couple we had met the first day in Dublin.  They joined us for a couple of drinks and we all talked for about an hour or so.  Once we started getting tired (or really Billy started getting tired) we decided it was time to call it a night and head back to the hotel.  Of course we had trouble navigating our way back to where we parked the car – but eventually we made it back to Salthill and called it a night.

The next day we woke up pretty early and headed down to the hotel restaurant for yet another scrumptious breakfast.  I think this morning (Monday morning) I had scrambled eggs – but who knows, the days are all blurring together.  After breakfast we had to find an Argo’s to exchange the GPS.  The people ended up being incredibly nice / helpful so we were able to get a new GPS and then made our way to Connemara and Kylemore Abbey.  I had already been through a lot of Connemara and had toured the abbey on my last trip to the West but we were lucky enough on Monday to have absolutely phenomenal weather.  Literally I kept reminding my family how lucky they were to be experiencing the weather we had – so not usual Irish winter weather.  It was definitely chilly but it was so sunny.  We got so lucky.

The abbey and connemara were absolutely beautiful.  I am glad that my family ended up really enjoying it.

View from Kylemore Abbey

Connemara

So typical

My Mom and I at Kylemore Abbey

My Mom and Dad at Kylemore Abbey

After exploring the abbey, the gardens and the cathedral at Kylemore, the four of us made our way back to Galway.  My Dad dropped my Mom and I off at the Christmas market in Galway city while my Dad and brother went back to the hotel to swim in the hotel pool.  I had been looking forward to the Galway Christmas market for weeks – as lame as that sounds.  I love Christmas and I love markets so I assumed it would be perfect.  Assumption was wrong.  It was lame and consisted of mostly German stalls?  Overall, it was a bit of a let down.  My Mom and I explored the strange Christmas market some but then headed back to the hotel (about a 35 – 40 minute walk) where we caught up with my Dad and Billy back at the hotel.  The Salthill Hotel, strangely enough, does not let you swim in the pool without goggles and a swim cap.  The thought of my father in a swim cap made my Mom and I laugh most of the walk home.  They resorted to only using the hot tub instead to avoid having to purchase and wear swim caps.  After their “swim” in the hot tub, we all headed back out for dinner.  After  a car ride full of trip advisor research, I found a pub / restaurant that was walking distance from our hotel called Lohan’s.  We walked the 15 or 20 minutes to Lohan’s and enjoyed another nice meal.  I had the soup of the day and a side salad (wild, I know) and my Mom and I split a bottle of pinot grigio.  We did get to enjoy another beautiful sunset along the Galway bay on our walk there.

Galway Bay at Salthill

Parents at Lohan's Pub and Restaurant

After dinner we headed back to the hotel.  For some reason (personally it was to avoid spending more time than I had to out in the cold air) my Mom, brother and I decided to run back to our hotel while my Dad lagged behind.  Once we got back to the hotel, we decided to go down to the hotel bar for a drink / to play cards.  We ended up playing cards for a good hour at least.  My Mom was obsessed with the bar at the hotel – she loved to mention (throughout our entire time in Galway) how beautiful the bar was and how she could spend hours there.  It really was a beautiful bar and the four of us had a great time playing Kings in the corner, 21, and 3-33.  I was on a hot streak and ended up winning most of the time (I kept trying to make them bet me euro’s in hopes to win some much needed money.. no chance).  My Mom and I also enjoyed our own delicious baileys over ice.  I could drink Bailey’s forever and be very content.

Billy, my Dad and I at the hotel bar

After dinner, we all headed upstairs to go to bed.  Billy and I ended up catching the end of the Diary of Bridget Jones – which made me want to re-watch the movie again soon.  I can’t imagine being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to gain weight for a movie. Must be nice.

The next morning we enjoyed (surprise, surprise) another nice breakfast at the hotel.  After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel (although I think my Mom was secretly trying to ditch us and move into the Salthill Hotel). After dragging her away, we loaded up back into the car and traveled to the Cliffs of Mohr.  Once again, we got so lucky with the weather – it actually wasn’t even that cold out at all either and there was hardly any wind.

Before heading to the cliffs, we drove a bit in the opposite direction to attempt to find Donnelly’s Pub.  I had passed it during my last trip in Galway and somehow managed to get us back there that morning so my family could see it.  Of course a photo shoot took place.

My Mom and me outside of Donnelly's Pub

Side note: I just now realized that I have been using “I” incorrectly when I should have been using “me”.  Mom – I know you are disappointed in me – but at least I am noticing it now..

Also on the way to the cliffs, we stopped at a cute store along the way where Billy and my Dad bought Irish caps and I bought a cute Ireland long sleeve t-shirt (finally found one that didn’t scream, “I’m a tourist”).

My Dad and Billy outside the shop with their new purchases

The Cliffs of Mohr were so amazing.  I had never seen anything like it in my life.  It was absolutely gorgeous – pictures do not do it justice at all.  Side note, though – 8 people have died falling off the Cliff of Mohr this year alone..

The Cliffs of Mohr

We ended up running into a family from America that we had seen the day before at Kylemore Abbey.  We talked to them for a few minutes – one of the girls was studying abroad in Galway (went to Virginia Tech) and her boyfriend along with her sister and parents were visiting for Thanksgiving.

The Cliffs of Mohr

Cliffs of Mohr

The four of us on the Cliffs

Plaque dedicated to all those that have died on the Cliffs of Moher

Also – my bad again.. I just realized it is the Cliffs of Moher not Mohr.  Opps, I must still be hungover from last night?

Before leaving the Cliffs we got to see a BEAUTIFUL sunset.  It was seriously breathtaking.

Beautiful Sun Set at the Cliffs of Moher

As we were leaving the Cliffs of Moher, we noticed an area that was very foggy in a town down below.  Low and behold, it was exactly where we were heading next.  Our next stop on our journey:  County Claire – a little town called Miltown Malbury at the Berry Lodge Cookery School and Bed and Breakfast.  The owner of the adorable B&B was a sweet, old Irish woman named Rita.  She was adorable / the hunchback of Notre Dame in old lady form.  When we arrived (through a heavy cloud of fog) she had scones, brownies and chocolate covered marshmallows along with tea and coffee waiting for us. She sat and talked with us for a long time.  Cutest little thing.

Dad, Billy and me in the family room at the Berry Lodge

My room at the Berry Lodge

Parent's room at the Berry Lodge

Goodies waiting for us at the Berry Lodge

After talking to Rita for a bit, she suggested that we stay in town for dinner as opposed to driving a couple towns over because of the fog.  So, we took her advice and headed to a pub in Miltown Malbury called Cogan’s.  It was empty except for two men drinking guinness at the bar.  We took a table near a big fireplace and the four of us enjoyed another delicious dinner.  I had an Irish warm goat’s cheese salad that was to die for.  Billy went a little out of the box and tried beer battered chicken nuggets, my Mom ordered the seafood chowder and my Dad had an Irish beef burger.  Perfect meal.  Soon after we got there, the two men and the bar headed home – which left just the four of us and the owner.  One of the old men at the bar worked at the hardware store in town and my Dad had stopped and asked him for directions to the B&B that afternoon.  So, my Dad bought him a beer before the old man left the pub.  He was cute.  We talked to the owner, Tony, for a while about Ireland’s terrible economy, schooling in Ireland, and all sorts of other things for a good 15 minutes or so.  At one point, he answered a phone call from his wife wondering where he was.  Apparently we were the only thing keeping him open.  Not much nightlife in Miltown Malbury (it wasn’t even after 9 pm).

Billy, my Dad and me outside of Cogan's Pub in Miltown Malbury

After dinner, we walked around the small town some and went to the local SPAR (small grocery store on pretty much every corner in Ireland) and picked up a bottle of wine and some beer to take back to the bed and breakfast.  As we passed Cogan’s on our way back to the B&B, the lights were already off and Tony had already left for the night – we had literally left five minutes before he closed shop.

On day six, we woke up at the Berry Lodge to an amazing breakfast.  My Mom and brother had french toast, while I ordered porridge (miss it) and my Dad had another traditional Irish breakfast.  Rita also runs a cookery school from her house so breakfast definitely did not disappoint at all.

Delicious breakfast courtesy of Rita

After breakfast, and some more chatting with Rita – it was time to say our goodbyes and head to County Kerry.  Of course we couldn’t leave without making Rita take a picture with us..

We miss you Rita!

The four of us got back into the car once again and made our way towards County Kerry – where we would be spending the next two nights (Wednesday and Thursday night).  We decided to take the Shannon ferry from County Clare into Kerry.  Wednesday was absolutely gorgeous out – once again we got SO lucky.

The Shannon Ferry into County Kerry

Billy and me on the Ferry to County Kerry

Once the ferry ride was over, we continued our drive to the Brook Manor Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Tralee, County Kerry.  The bed and breakfast was absolutely beautiful.  Definitely one of our favorite places that we stayed during our trip.  The owner of the B&B’s name was Sandra.  She was really nice but a little bit “off her rocker”.  Still very sweet though – just had an annoying habit of saying “Ohhh yeah” every 2 seconds or so.  Before checking into the B&B we explored the city of Tralee some.  It was a lot bigger than I had expected.  Definitely different from the tiny towns we had stayed in before – but still a really neat area.

My Dad, Billy and me in Tralee, County Kerry

The Brooke Manor Lodge in Tralee, County Kerry

View from Billy and My room at the Brook Manor Lodge

After we got situated at the B&B, we loaded back into the car to drive along the Dingle Peninsula to the seaside town of Dingle through the scenic Connor’s Pass.  Never have I seen anything so beautiful as Connor’s Pass.  The roads were terrible but the views were more than worth the tough driving conditions.  It was a great deal of time in the car but we didn’t mind at all.  It was so scenic that we spent the entire car ride just saying, “Look at that!” It was unbelievable.  We pulled over a handful of times to take pictures / admire the amazing scenery.

One of the many beautiful views on Connor's Pass

Billy, my Mom and me on Connor's Pass

At one point, there was an area where you could park and do a ten minute hike to what is said to be one of the highest points in all of Ireland.  The hike felt a little longer than ten minutes on the way up – definitely a tough hike but well worth it at the top.  We got there at the perfect time – right before a huge cloud came and covered the mountain.  The view from the top was insane.  We did have a minor mishap on the mountain, however.  First of all, it had definitely rained there some earlier that day because the mountain was incredibly muddy and gross.  At one point, Billy sunk into the mud at the top of the mountain and got his shoes and jeans incredibly dirty.  We all laughed at him but then minutes later my Dad thought it would be an okay decision to jump with two feet from a ledge on the top of the mountain to where we were standing a good two feet below.  This resulted in his feet flying out from under him and his backside smacking against the hard mountain ground.  My Mom started freaking out as my Dad attempted to get up.  He couldn’t breathe, the wind knocked it right out from him – which made my Mom freak out even more.  It was scary to say the least – but once he took a few deep breaths and walked it off some, my Mom literally could not stop laughing.  For the remainder of the trip, anytime she started laughing crazily to herself we all knew she was thinking of my Dad falling on top of that mountain at Connors Pass.  The good thing about my Dad’s spill – there is finally a good reason to burn that stupid, ugly, bright yellow coat.

Dad takes a tumble

Clouds moving into the mountain

Once we finally got to the small town of Dingle, we had about an hour until it was going to get dark.  My Dad was in desperate need of a beer so we stopped off at a Pub along the water in Dingle where my Mom and I each enjoyed a delicious decaf coffee with Bailey’s.  Oh Bailey’s..

After we finished our drinks, we left the boys at the pub and headed out to explore Dingle.  The town was adorable.  It was supposedly where the majority of the movie Leap Year took place.  (The main guy ran his own pub, bed and breakfast and restaurant in Dingle).  The town was so cute – just what I had been expecting.  Unfortunately for us, most of the shops and restaurants were closed for the winter months.  We had been planning on enjoying a nice seafood dinner in Dingle but no such luck!  Still, we enjoyed exploring the small town.  I definitely want to go back when more things are open during the tourist seasons.

Dingle, County Kerry

Beautiful Sunset in Dingle

Billy, my Mom and I in Dingle

After spending a couple hours in Dingle, we decided to drive back to Tralee for dinner.  We were all pretty hungry at this point and still had a long drive back to Tralee ahead of us.  After much more research on my blackberry / trip advisor, we decided to try a new restaurant in the city called Dante’s Gastro Pub and Restaurant.  It was number four on trip advisor after only being open a couple on months so we figured it was worth a shot.  I decided on smoked Irish salmon over brown bread while my Dad and Billy both ordered burgers and my Mom had the soup of the day with a sandwich.  My salmon is delicious.  I am beginning to crave some smoked salmon right now actually..

Mom, Billy and Me at Dante's Gastro Pub & Restaurant

After dinner, we wandered across the street to a pub called Sean Og’s for a drink by a wonderful large fire place.  I could have sat there for hours and hours on end. It was definitely a local’s only kind of place but it was perfect.  The four of us sat there for a bit before deciding to make our way back to our bed and breakfast.

Mom and me by the fire at Sean Og's Pub

Billy, my Mom and I outside of Sean Og's Pub

Back at the bed and breakfast, Sandra had a wonderful collection of DVD’s that we were able to choose from.  I decided to make the four of us watch a movie called The Matchmaker.  I had never heard of it before but the woman in it is the girl from Cats & Dogs (Janeane Garofalo) and it takes place in none other but Ireland so I figured it was fitting! It ended up being a pretty good movie.  We all definitely appreciated it much more after being in Ireland though.  Some of it took place in the Aran islands but most of the movie took place in the village of Ballinagra but it was filmed in Connemara in Galway County.  Definitely worth seeing after being to Ireland and experiencing Irish culture.  The movie definitely had Irish culture down pat (with the majority of the time spent in pubs and with old men and women swearing every other word).  Watching the movie made me realize all the little things I will miss so much about Ireland.  I can’t believe how fast this is all going by.  I will really miss so much about this country.

The next morning we were greeted with an amazing breakfast spread full of cereal, all sorts of bread, tons of fruit, different cheeses and crackers, scones, etc.  We also each ordered our own hot breakfast.  I opted for the oatmeal – but this time the oatmeal came with a shot of Bailey’s.  I loved the Bailey’s of course, but this time the oatmeal was a bit of the let down – it was a little too creamy for my liking but all the fruit and everything was delicious.  The room we ate breakfast in was also beautiful with spectacular views of the mountains behind the B&B.

Breakfast Thanksgiving morning at the Brook Manor Lodge

Dad, Billy and Me at Breakfast

After we enjoyed our breakfast we headed into Tralee to go to 10 am mass for Thanksgiving.  However, we were running ten minutes behind schedule and got to the church around 10:10 am.  Even though we were only ten minutes late, mass was already minutes away from communion.  Literally the quickest mass I have ever witnessed in my 20 years of living.

After mass, we got into the car and headed toward the famous Ring of Kerry.  We started the journey by heading to Kilgorin (spelling?) and ended in the really adorable town of Kenmare.   The Ring of Kerry was just as beautiful, if not more, than everyone says it is.  I was blown away.  We stopped at many points (once again) throughout the drive to attempt to capture some of the gorgeous scenery.  The Ring of Kerry is by far one of my favorite things I have seen in Ireland.

Billy, my Mom and Me along the Ring of Kerry

Billy and I

Parents

Dad and me along the Ring of Kerry

Dad, Billy and Me

The Ring of Kerry

Beautiful Ring of Kerry

While simultaneously enjoying the gorgeous views during the car ride I was also able to catch up on the latest European gossip while reading Hello! Magazine.  I caught up on all things Kate and Prince William – it was quite refreshing after spending the last two months in the dark.  I knew I needed to do some brushing up when sweet, old Rita knew more about the Kate and William romance saga than I did..

After many hours of driving, we entered the adorable town of Kenmare.  We spent some time walking along the streets and going into shops (where I purchased a wool hat made in the Aran Islands).  After walking around some, we attempted to find one of my Dad’s relatives (Mary – my Grandma Donnelly’s cousin).  We knew her street address but she did not have a phone number so my Dad knocked on about six doors until we finally found her.  She was an adorable, tiny woman (and I mean tiny).

Dad, Billy and Me with our long lost Irish relative, Mary

After saying our goodbyes to Mary, the four of us got back in the trusty old red Kia and made our way to the village of Killarney.  We stopped off at a lake just outside Killarney – there was a huge abbey and beautiful estate.  But it was getting dark and VERY cold so we only spent a few minutes wandering the grounds and about 30 minutes inside at the gift shop (where my Dad bought possibly the worst CD I have ever listened to in my entire life.  I love Irish music just as much as the next person but this CD was absolutely dreadful).

The Estate at the Lake

After we walked around the estate grounds for a few minutes we headed off to find someplace to enjoy our “thanksgiving” dinner.  Trip Advisor came in handy, yet again, and we went to a pub called Murphy’s in Killarney for dinner.  The village of Killarney was really pretty – and like everywhere else, completely decked out for Christmas.  Murphy’s proved to be a perfect place for our Thanksgiving dinner because they were one of three pubs in the area where you could watch American football.  We were able to enjoy most of the Patriot game while eating dinner.  I had another smoked salmon salad, my Mom enjoyed the soup and Billy and my Dad both had lasagna.

Dad and Me on Thanksgiving

Dad, Billy and me outside of Murphy's

Once we were done eating dinner, it was time to make our way back to Tralee.  Once back in Tralee, we dropped Billy off at the B&B while my Mom, Dad and me went back to Sean Og’s to hear some traditional Irish music.  We sat by a different fireplace this time – it was perfect.  But, it ended up being incredibly crowded and we could barely hear or see the people playing.  There was some sort of rugby team or something all there together – we were trying to figure it out.  There were about 25 guys all in their early 20s and they were all definitely visiting.  We literally spent hours trying to figure out what kind of team they might be.  It was fun though, but after a while everyone was getting tired so we headed back to the B&B.  I ended up watching an Officer and a Gentleman before finally falling asleep.

Day Eight:  We all went down for breakfast pretty early and this time I switched it up a bit and ordered pancakes.  They were delicious and so was all the fruit that came with it!

Billy and Me with our breakfast at the Manor Lodge B&B

The four of us at breakfast in Tralee

After breakfast we said our goodbyes to Sandra and then we were off again!  This time we were heading to Cork City in county Cork – so we had about a three hour drive ahead of us. Before leaving Tralee, my Mom and I stopped at a bakery to purchase a block of carrot cake.  We had been talking about finding carrot cake the entire trip and our time was winding down so we figured why not?

Once we got into County Cork, we first found our B&B (The Ashlee Lodge outside of the village of Blarney) and we checked in and dropped off all of our bags.  The B&B was alright but they kept the place absolutely FREEZING. After we dropped off all of our many bags, we headed into Cork City.  It was a lot like Dublin and much bigger than I had been expecting.  The traffic was a pain getting into the city – but after what felt like hours we finally found a spot in a parking garage and explored the city some.  Mom and I were excited to check out Cork’s English Market.  The English Market happens every day in the city (except for Sundays).  They sold all sorts of food like meat, fish, fruits and vegetables, chocolates, bread and cheeses, etc.  It was pretty neat – the guide book also told recommended a good place to eat lunch on the second floor of the market.  The restaurant was called the Farmgate restaurant and it uses all of the fresh foods from the market.  My Mom and I each got a bowl of their soup of the day while Billy had a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (which he devoured) and my Dad had a bowl of their seafood chowder (which was delicious).

Solo shot at the Farmgate Restaurant

Cork City was a really pretty city and was fully decorated for Christmas.  It really did remind me of a smaller version of Dublin.  After our late lunch, we walked around the city some and wandered into a few shops here and there.  But, we only had about an hour until it was going to get dark and we had been told to visit the seaside town of Kinsale in Cork City.  So after walking around some, we headed back to the parking garage and made our way to the village of Kinsale.

Cork City during Christmas time

I have decided that if I were to ever move to Ireland, I think I would move to the village of Kinsale.  I don’t really know why I loved it so much more than all the other places we have gone but it was just such an adorable seaside town.  The shops and restaurants were all SO cute and the streets were so pretty, especially along the water.  It was hard to get a good feel for the town because it was dark by the time we got there but nonetheless I fell in love with the charm of the small seaside village.  We were told, by numerous guidebooks and people, that the best restaurant in all of Ireland was in Kinsale and called the Fishy Fishy cafe.  Even though we had a late lunch and weren’t very hungry at all, we figured we had to at least check it out.

So, after walking around the city some we finally found the Fishy Fishy cafe.  Asking for directions was rather embarrassing – it feels weird saying Fishy Fishy cafe out loud.  The restaurant was beautiful and fancier than we had expected – but SO worth it.  Literally everything sounded so good (at least to my Mom and I) and I want to go back and try everything on the menu (if I had all the money in the world).  The guidebooks and all the people were so right about the Fishy Fishy cafe.  If you ever go to Ireland – you MUST stop there.  Since we weren’t all that hungry (Billy had just eaten a bagel with creme cheese) we split a big bowl of their famous seafood chowder and also ordered the pan seared yellow fin tuna.  One of the most delicious things I have ever eaten in my life.

Dinner at the Fishy Fishy Cafe

Mom and Me outside of the famous Fishy Fishy Cafe

After enjoying our amazing dinner, we walked around the little town some more.  I really would love to go back to Kinsale – it was a beautiful village.  But, it was starting to get late and we still had about a hour drive back to our B&B in Blarney.  We had a long day ahead of us the next day so once we got back into Blarney we all got into our pajamas and played cards in the living room by the fire.  My Mom and I enjoyed some wine and finally had some of the delicious carrot cake before calling it a night.  I also got to catch up on my reading – they had European Cosmopolitan at the B&B – oh how I have missed reading Cosmo.

Delicious Carrot Cake

The next morning we woke up early to have breakfast at the B&B.  This time we only had a continental breakfast – bummer, no more oatmeal for me.  After breakfast we check out of the hotel and it was time to make our way back to Dublin.  Before heading out we decided to check out the village of Blarney.  We were told to avoid the Blarney stone because it was a huge tourist trap.  Apparently all the locals like to pee on the Blarney stone – not kissing that thing … and I am incredibly superstitious. The town of Blarney though was really pretty.  We stopped at this HUGE gift shop called the Blarney Woolen Mills.  It was literally three stories and possibly the biggest store I have ever been in.  We spent quite a bit of money and time inside that store.  They were getting ready for a huge Christmas celebration in the village – Santa was going to be flown into Blarney via helicopter.. we figured we had better get out of there before that happened.  As we were leaving the store, it started to snow!  It RARELY snows in Ireland.  You would think it would snow a lot since its as high up as Canada but it usually only rains in the winter time.  But they are saying that this winter is supposed to be even colder than it usually is.

The four of us at breakfast at the Ashlee Lodge - Blarney, County Cork

The Blarney Woolen Mills

As we made our way back to Dublin, we noticed that the closer we were getting to the capital city, the more snow there was on the ground.  Apparently it had snowed pretty hard in Dublin the night before.  It literally never snows in Ireland.  Never.  I couldn’t believe the amount of snow on the ground!  We were pretty nervous to get back into the city because first of all, Irish are not used to driving in the snow and second of all, there was a huge march or protest in the city center of Dublin that day (Saturday).  It was apparently the biggest protest or demonstration in Ireland’s history.  People came from all over to “march” to the old post office in city center as a protest to Ireland’s failing economy.  I know I’ve mentioned about a million times how expensive it is here but it really is true.  Dublin is the second most expensive city in the world to live!  And all of Ireland seemed to be just as expensive as Dublin.  After talking to many different Irish people this past week, it became even more clear how bad their economy is.  Now their banks have collapsed and they are in the process of negotiating a multibillion euro budget plan with the IMF, EU and European Central Bank.  (Worldly tid-bit).  The march took place in hopes that the government would default for the nation’s debts, spark an election and reverse plans for budget cuts.  Basically, the Irish are PISSED. The budget plan that the government released on Friday included lowering minimum wage, cutting public-sector jobs, reducing social welfare, and increasing tax to an eventual 23% in 2014.  The Irish are angry. Apparently around 45,000 people showed up for the march.

Anyway, we were worried that this would make driving into the city incredibly wild.  By the time we approached Dublin we decided that it would be best to check into the hotel first and then head to my apartment.  Of course, about 50 miles from Dublin our GPS failed us once again.  We had to stop several times to ask for directions – both to the hotel and then from the hotel to my apartment.  But, good news was – we were able to return the GPS and get our money back.  It ended up working pretty perfectly.

Once my family checked into their hotel (about five minutes from the airport) we made our way over to my apartment to pack the rest of the bags.  They had left one bag at my apartment for the week because we couldn’t fit it all in the car.  Mom overpacked BIG TIME. (Sorry Mum – you know it’s true).  I also decided to send them home with one of my suitcases – so I packed up a bunch of my things as well.  Hopefully that will make getting to the airport MUCH easier.

After all the fun packing was done, we headed back to Argo’s to return the GPS.  Then we were meeting up with Jordan, Steph, Dawn and Emily for dinner at a pub / restaurant called Davy Byrnes.  It had been mentioned in Mom’s trusty Ireland guide book so we decided to check it out.  We ordered a couple of bottles of wine for the table and all enjoyed our dinners.  Mine ended up being a little bit weird.  It was a vegetarian salad but ended up consisting of about five pieces of lettuce and was mostly just slices of cheddar cheese and hard-boiled egg.  It was weird.

Billy and my Mom at Davy Byrnes

After dinner we all headed back to the apartments to say our goodbyes.  I couldn’t believe their trip was already over.  It went by SO fast.  I had such a great time with them though.  It was so great to spend time with them again – I had missed them very much.  I didn’t want my time with them to end but knowing that I will be seeing them again in 18 days definitely helped.  Speaking of, I CANNOT believe I only have 18 days left here in Dublin.  I feel like there is so much left that I still want / need to do.  Jordan, Steph and I decided we are making a “bucket list” tonight.  This has all been so amazing but now it is just starting to fly by.  I know these last 18 days will go by just as fast, too.  It’s so bittersweet.

The four of us right before my family left

Saturday night I went out with everybody.  It felt like I hadn’t been out in Dublin in forever so I was so excited to go out (even though it was literally freezing outside).  We all went to this pub called Coppers and ended up staying there until 3:30 am.  I didn’t even realize it was that late at all – it honestly felt like 12:30.  Emily and I left Coppers and were greeted with even more snow outside!  It had snowed the entire time we were inside and now the whole city was just covered in white.  I have never witnessed anything like it before – the streets were mobbed with people walking home.  It was actually IMPOSSIBLE to get a taxi – usually they are everywhere you look but no one was braving the snow.  The only taxi’s on the road were for people that had called ahead of time. (We, however, were not that smart and did not think ahead).  Coppers is a good 45 minute walk from our apartments.  I can’t even begin to explain how miserable / weird that walk got.  It was as if the world was ending – people were walking everywhere, snowballs were being thrown in every direction, and drunk people were singing christmas carols.  Things got really weird. Once we finally got home a little after 4 am, I instantly turned on my heater and hopped into bed.

Which is pretty much where I stayed all of Sunday..

Emily on the most epic walk home ever

Now today is Monday.  It has literally taken me 5 hours to write all this.  I am aware that probably only my Mom will be reading this one.  Dad – I know you are just skimming the pictures.  Its fine, I don’t blame you guys.  This actually took me longer to write than my Culture, Gender and Sexuality paper that I turned in today (which tells you how terrible that paper probably is).  Thank GOD my professor pushed back the due date for our web design project (all the French people were so confused so she gave us an extra week and a half).  Now I have nothing to do, once again.

It is still FREEZING outside.  It was snowing on our walk home from class today and is supposed to continue to snow this week.  Wild.  We are thinking about braving the cold to listen to the Monday night band at the Porterhouse.  We keep freaking out that we have less than three weeks left and we don’t want to take it for granted.  There are so many things I am going to miss about Dublin.  Well, all for now..

“I’M OUTTA HERE!” Florence Travels!

16 Nov

Just got home a little bit ago from Florence.  What an incredible city.  I definitely think that it has been my favorite city that I have visited so far.  It was so beautiful but so livable at the same time.  Obviously the overabundance of delicious italian food and wine does not hurt either..

I cannot believe how fast the trip went by.  I had been looking forward to it for a long time and it flew by.  I know I say this every time I blog – but I am having the hardest time believing it is already November 16th.  I leave Dublin and head home in exactly a month and two days.  How crazy is that?  Its hard because it is so bittersweet.  In so many ways I am so excited and anxious to come home but at the same time this entire experience has just been so unreal.  It has really helped me in not taking things for granted and just being able to enjoy myself.  But enough corniness for now..

Last week was a pretty normal week here in Dublin.  Rained a lot – per usual.  Also… it all of a sudden got FREEZING cold.  I have a very low tolerance for the cold to begin with – but this is bad.  It is absolutely freezing and I lost my gloves in Paris 😦

On Monday and Wednesday nights this week a few of us went out for drinks at this pub called Captain America’s.  I stumbled across the website while I was not paying attention during my Web Design & Media class and saw that they offered delicious sounding 3 euro cocktails for all students.  We couldn’t resist.  Monday night just Steph, Jordan and I went and we ended up sitting at the bar for hours.  It was so much fun and the cocktails were superb.

Then Wednesday night the three of us headed back to Captain America’s again.  If you can’t already tell from the name it is supposed to be an “american” bar – with American bar food such as mozzarella sticks, burgers, wings, etc.  We discovered on Wednesday night (karaoke night – things got interesting) that they had ranch.  Katie proceeded to take some in a cup to go.  The waitress thought we were very strange.

Katie and Jordan at Captain America's

Everyone else left for the Northern Ireland trip that Thursday night but I stayed behind so that I could leave for Florence on Satruday.  I attempted to spend Thursday night and Friday working on my assignments.  Almost have one paper completed – three more and a website to go..

Saturday morning I had to wake up at 5:30 to catch the 6:45 bus to the airport.  My flight was at 9:30 and I didn’t want to risk being rushed (like my flight to Paris) so I figured the earlier the better.  I’m not going to lie – it was very sketchy walking to the O’Connell bus stop at 6:00 am Saturday morning.  This is when all the “real” drunks and alcoholics tend to “roam” the streets of Dublin.  But – I managed to made it to the bus stop in one piece.

The trip to the airport was a piece of cake.  This time – no traffic .. thank God.  Managed to get to the airport with a good two hours to spar before my flight.  So crazy, this feels like a week ago – I can hardly remember that morning at all.  The flight to Pisa was pretty smooth (from what I can remember).  I drifted in and out of sleep but of course those annoying Ryan Air people love bugging you throughout the entire flight.

When we landed, I had to take a bus to the Pisa train station and then take the train for an hour to Florence.  I was a little nervous (especially because I know zero italian) but it ended up being just fine.  When I got off the bus at the Pisa train station, I struck up a friendship with two girls from New York studying in Florence.  Together, the three of us were able to navigate our way to the correct train (after getting on the wrong train at first and then proceeding to wait at the wrong platform for a good ten minutes).

Finding Sian at the Florence train station was very easy.  I wasted my time worrying for nothing (weird right?).  It was so good to see her – it felt like I had just seen her in Barcelona but we still had so much to catch up on and did not have a dull moment the entire weekend.  By the time I met up with Sian it was close to 2pm ish or so?  From what I can remember at least…

Oh God the weather was amazing.  Saturday was so nice outside and the temperature was absolutely perfect.  So good to escape the freezingness that is Dublin.  We spent Saturday afternoon just walking around the city.  Sian loved pointing out all the statues to me (there are statues every where in Florence – literally everywhere).

We stopped at a food and wine market at one point and went around to all the different booths that had free samples of bread and olive oil and delicious cheeses.  Also, I tried limoncello for the first time.  It’s an Italian liquor that is traditionally served after dinner as a digestive.  You are supposed to have about a shot’s portion and it is supposed to be sipped slowly.  It was weird but very delicious.

Cheese vendor at the speciality food market

At the market I ended up running into Caroline Plyler’s old roommate Natalie.  She is studying abroad in Florence (which I had completely forgotten) and transfered from Elon last fall.  It was so crazy / good to run into her.  I was completely caught off guard.

After touring the city some and consuming vast quantities of olive oil and bread – we headed to Sian’s local supermarket for some wine, crackers, cheese and grapes.  We decided we were having our own “picnic” on the steps of the Piazzale Michelangelo.   It was absolutely beautiful – the Piazzale Michelangelo is a famous tourist stop because it has a panoramic view of all of Florence city.  We sat on the steps and enjoyed some delicious grapes, a bottle of red wine, cheese and crackers and just caught up for a while.  Sian has about 1,000 grapes growing inside of her because she swallowed every single seed in the grapes.

View from Piazale Michelangelo

Piazzale Michelangelo

Our "Picnic"

Once it started to get dark, we headed back to Sian’s apartment to shower and get ready for dinner.  Sian’s roommates had some friends visiting for Barcelona so we were all going to a big dinner at one of their favorite restaurants.  Dinner was a lot of fun and included more wine, delicious bread, a house salad and I ordered a wild mushroom pasta.  It tasted amazing.

Mushroom Pasta

Wooo I love mushrooms.  Lina – sorry you will no longer get to steal my mushrooms off of my plate of flower chicken at red bowl.

After dinner, we headed to a shot bar called Shot Cafe.  It was a lot like the shots bar in Barcelona and was really cool.  Sian and I split a huge drink of Sex on the Beach.  It was delicious – I enjoyed it too much … we also had another shot that lit on fire.

Deliciousness

Needless to say – these drinks did us in (or did me in rather) and we ended up not making it to the club and went home instead.  Made us rather slow on Sunday morning.

But – no better way to cure a hangover then ordering AMAZING banana pancakes.  Sian took me to a popular breakfast destination called the diner – American style breakfast.  I ordered banana pancakes and they definitely hit the spot.  Sian ordered some sort of egg thing with spinach.  It was good but mine was better 🙂

Amazing banana pancakes.

Also – people in Florence LOVE dogs.  I couldn’t believe how many dogs we saw walking around the city with people.  And – they can go in restaurants.  Dad – you would absolutely HATE that … I know how much you hate dogs being around the table when people are eating.  Sitting at brunch, there was casually a dog underneath the table next to us.  So bizarre.

Hard to see - but dog at the table next to us

After breakfast we headed outside to tour Florence some more.  We ended up running into some other Elon students studying in Paris.  It was so good to see them – running into people constantly made Florence seem like such a small city.  I also got to run into Jenn Cox at the supermarket on Saturday.  So good to see her!

Sunday was unfortunately rainy and wet all day.  But I didn’t mind at all.  The temperature was still so perfect and we just spent the day walking around Florence and checking out all the cool markets.  Naturally, we went back to the food speciality market for some more free samples.  We also went to the market with tons of leather, scarves and souvenir vendors.  Made some very great purchases that I was very happy with.  I also fell in love with a pair of rain boots.  I didn’t even bring rain boots to Ireland (sounds crazy I know) because they took up a  lot of room and I had heard that the Irish make fun of them and call them “wellies” but these rain boots were an exception.  They are stylish and adorable and I love them.  Very happy with that purchase as well.

Solo pic in front of statue #93020

Touring Florence

Of course a statue..

beautiful city of Florence

It is not fair how cheap everything is in Florence.  In Dublin it is literally IMPOSSIBLE to find any sort of meal under 5 euros and in Florence everything was so cheap.  So depressing and unfair.

Around 2 or so we decided it was an appropriate time to stop off and have a drink at a trendy bar near where we had eaten dinner the night before.  Strangely enough, I had been craving a margarita.. I know I’m weird.  The waiter actually laughed in my face when I ordered it.  I was also dumb and was expecting a frozen margarita and was given pretty much straight tequila.  Not my brightest move..

Bad decisions

After sitting in the bar for a while, Sian took me one of her favorite Gelato places.  It tasted so amazing.  I ordered a scoop of pistachio and then a scoop of caramel.  Absolutely amazing and only 1.80 Euro’s.  Definitely money well spent..

Oh how I miss you..

Yes – I am aware that more than half of the pictures I took are of food and drinks.  It’s fine, don’t worry about it.

We enjoyed our wonderful gelato on the walk back to Sian’s apartment.  Once we returned and our gelato had sadly disappeared, we started getting ready for dinner / the night.  Sian was taking me to her favorite pizza place in the city.  Sian, Emma and I headed to dinner around 6:30 or so but unfortunately the restaurant didn’t open until 7 so we killed some time by doing some more walking and site seeing.

After what felt like an eternity (somehow after all I had eaten I was still ravenous for some delicious pizza) it was 7 pm and we barged into the small pizzeria.  It was so cute inside – just some little tables and a huge brick oven.  They don’ wait on people there so we just went up to the register and ordered.  We settled on a bottle of their house white wine, a margarita pizza and a spicy salami pizza.  Definitely some of the best tasting pizza I had ever had.  And yet again – so cheap.  The entire meal cost us about 7 euro a piece – wine included.

Spicy Salami Pizza

Margarita Pizza

After our delicious meal, Sian and I headed to an American bar to watch some good old American football.  We had SO much fun and met some new friends from Merist College in New York.  The guys we ended up sitting with were huge Jets fans so it was a lot of fun watching the Jets win in the last few seconds of overtime.  Perfect night of pizza, wine, beer and American football.  Couldn’t have asked for a better night.

Once the game was over, we headed back to the apartment to turn in for the night.  We were exhausted and had no trouble falling asleep.  BUT – what do you know.. insomnia strikes yet again.  I really think coffee is the reason for this.  I had never even had so much as a sip of coffee before coming to Europe in September.  I only have the SUPER occasional coffee here.  And usually it is a bailey’s coffee.  But each time I do, the insomnia happens.  I don’t drink soda or any sort of caffeine – I only get my caffeine from chocolate so I definitely think coffee is the reason.  I had a coffee Sunday morning at breakfast.  About as smart as my margarita decision.

But anyway – I woke up at 4 am wide awake.  Laid in bed for about an hour before finally getting up and just doing some heavy facebook stalking / e-mailing until Sian finally woke up circa 11 am.  Needless to say, by the time she finally woke up I was STARVING for breakfast.  So – when she woke up I pretty much rushed her out the door for breakfast.   She had warned me she was taking me to an american bagel place Monday morning so I had been thinking / fantasizing about my bagel since 4 am that morning.  This was my first bagel since being in Europe – even though there are tons in Dublin.  I love bagels.

I decided to be adventures and tried veggie creme cheese.  I made Sian try a couple bites of mine too.  So good so of course a photoshoot took place..

Standard Solo food shot

Note: new scarf. One of my many purchases..

After breakfast, we made our way to the Boboli Gardens at the Pitti Palace.  The Boboli gardens are home to a huge collection of statues (shocker), fountains, flowers, etc.  It dates back from the 16th century and the Palace had been home to one of the wealthiest / most powerful families in ancient Florence.  It was beautiful.

Part of the Palace

Back of the Palace

Back of the Palace

Solo shot in the Boboli Gardens

Sian and the view of Florence from the Gardens

Sian and I at the Gardens

After walking around the Gardens for a while, we headed back to the apartment to relax a little.  We ended up watching The Proposal – hey hey Will and his guy crush on Ryan Reynolds.

After lounging around some, we ventured out to find a good last meal.  We were planning on having a long and relaxing dinner because I had to head to the airport at 2:50 am.  Rough – especially since I was on no sleep at all.

Anyway, we ended up deciding to go to this restaurant called Dante.  I had heard about it while I was in Paris – they give free wine to all students.  How amazing is that.  Free house wine to all students!  We couldn’t have picked a better place.  The food was amazing and as was the wine.  We started with a caprese salad and then I decided on a salmon and asparagus pasta in a pink sauce.  I’m not lying when I say it was one of the best meals I’ve had in Europe.  Sian’s was delicious as well – she got some sort of red pepper bowtie pasta.  We sat there for a couple hours enjoying our delicious meal and the wonderful wine.

Caprese Salad

Most delicious pasta ever.

After a while, we had to tear ourselves away from the free wine / free re-fills of wine.  The parting was hard.  But gelato eased the pain.  This gelato was even more delicious than the last.  I had a scoop of creme gelato and then another scoop of nutella and creme.  The nutella and creme was to die for.

Solo pic with gelato!

Once we got back to the apartment we watched Wedding Date (a favorite of mine) and slept for an hour before my alarm went off at 2:40.  So rough.  Sian and I dragged ourselves out of bed and walked to get my taxi.  Half asleep, I took the taxi to the Florence train station where I caught the 3:35 am bus to the Pisa airport.  I ended up meeting a girl from Boston who is studying abroad in Galway.  We sat next to each other on the bus and talked the entire time.  It was definitely helpful having her there and going through the airport with her.  We sat next to each other on the plane too.

Oh, the plane ride.  I have never experienced anything like it in my 20 years of living.  We took off at 7 am and OF COURSE a family with a infant and a 4 year old sit behind us.  The infant screamed / cried throughout the entire 2 and a half hour flight.  Also – his brother felt the need to play with my seat the entire way.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that two minutes did not go by where he did not kick my seat.  It was non-stop and his parents did nothing – even despite the continual dirty looks me and my new friend from Galway through their way.  They didn’t speak any english.  I have never wanted to drop-kick a child so badly.  I did not sleep a wink.  Just sat there seething.

When we finally landed in Dublin, we couldn’t get away from them any faster.  I was SO anxious to get home and nap!  It had been like 36 hours since I had actually slept – maybe more?  Too lazy to actually calculate it and figure it out.

I said goodbye to my new Galway friend and I took the bus to Blackhall Place.  I felt so corny on the bus – I couldn’t stop smiling at all the familiar Dublin sights and accents.  I had SUCH an amazing time in Florence – the food was amazing, the company was great – I had missed Sian so much and the wine was delicious and the city was beautiful.  I definitely think it was my favorite city so far.  But – I was still so glad to be back in Dublin.  I can’t believe I only have a month left.  So wild.

My family comes in 2 days!! Words cannot explain how excited I am to show them around Ireland for 10 days.  But – before I can do that I DESPERATELY need to get my work done.  I need to finish all my assignments before they get here because they are due the day after they leave.

I was supposed to get my television theory paper done today.. BUT a nap was MUCH needed and I really wanted to blog while I still remembered everything.. / I am putting it off.

I actually kind of need insomnia to occur tonight – so I just went out and grabbed some coffee across the street.  I have to stay up for a skype interview thing tonight and need to try to get some work done tonight before bed.  First I need to stop watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills though..

Alright well all for now!  Can’t wait to share the details from the ten-day trip with my family.  Wahooo – can’t wait for an Irish Thanksgiving.

“Bonjour, Bonjour – Oh My God”

7 Nov
Ah Pari!  Another weekend has come and gone already.  My trip to Paris went by SO fast.  I feel like I was barely there – but it was an amazing trip.  I left for Paris after class on Thursday – around 4:40 I headed to the train station to catch the bus for the Dublin Airport.  My flight was not until 7:30 so I figured I was giving myself plenty of time to get to the airport.  Wrong.  I got on the bus to head to the airport at 5 and did not arrive at Dublin Airport until 6:30.  I was getting INCREDIBLY anxious on the bus.  Their was an INSANE amount of traffic and construction on the way to the airport – would have been nice to know!  I was about to pee my pants on the bus out of frustration and stress.  Literally, I could not sit still for two seconds.  I kept getting weird looks from the man sitting to my right.

When the bus finally pulled up to the airport, I ran to the Ryan Air ticket counter and thank God there was no line.  But then the lady pointed me the the wrong security entrance and I had to run to the other side of the terminal.  I quickly went through security – already had my jacket, scarf and boots off before getting to security.  Then I quickly passed by people and headed to the terminal.  Luckily, I found it without any problems.  I also wanted to stop at a gift shop and buy something for Caroline’s host family for having me stay there Thursday night – I quickly picked up a box of Bailey’s Chocolates and a bag of gummy bars (to ease my anxiety) and headed to the register.  The lady in front of me could not have moved ANY SLOWER.  The lady at the register was also in no hurry and the lady in front of me kept asking her for advice as to what type of chocolate she should get for her children.  I actually at one point said, “I’m sorry I am in a big hurry” – which is quite out of character for me.  Both the lady in front of me in line and the lady at the register just said, “Sorry love” and continued to take their sweet time.

Finally, I arrived at my gate.  People had already formed a line – I hate Ryan Air.  Apparently if they over book the flight, they will just tell you “too bad” if you were too far in the back of the line.  Stupid.  Also, they seriously treated everyone as if we were boarding a steerage train or were heading to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. The quickly pushed us out of the terminal – where we ended up waiting in a room that was half outdoors until we finally boarded the plane.  Good thing I am not claustrophobic.

Luckily, the flight was incredibly short.  It was only an hour and it went by very fast.  The lady sitting next to me spoke english and was heading to the same shuttle I was when we boarded so I literally just followed her every move (she was easy to spot – she had mulit-colored  cornrows – dead giveaway that she was not Parisian.  She informed me she was staying with one of her “roller derby girlfriends.”)

Anyway – as soon as I got off my plane I followed her to buy my 15 euro bus ticket into the city.  The bus ride was another hour – so by the time I finally got into Paris it was close to 11:30 pm or so.  Caroline and her host Mom picked me up from the bus stop (after some difficultly).  Her host Mom was adorable.  She spoke about as much english as I spoke French so we only communicated through Caroline.  Her host Mom looked exactly how I pictured her to look.  It was so sweet of her to pick me up and let me stay with them on Thursday night.  Their house was so adorable and I was insanely jealous by the size of Caroline’s room and her bed.  Hated her a little bit for it.

Caroline and I stayed up talking and catching up until close to 3 am until we finally fell asleep.  Then, the next morning we took our time getting ready and had some breakfast upstairs before heading out to the city for the rest of the weekend!   Before we left, her host Mom attempted to tell me to “have a good day” but she got her words all mixed up.  It was really cute.

Caroline in her massive room.

Caroline's house in the suburbs of Paris

The rest of the weekend (Friday and Saturday night) we were staying in a hostel in the city.  Caroline’s friend from home – Christie (goes to Wake and is studying abroad in London) was meeting us in the city Friday night to stay with us too.  After breakfast Friday morning (oh my god do they have delicious cereal’s in France – they have about 20 different renditions of special k chocolately delight. Unfortunately, Caroline’s host family was out of milk Friday morning so I was not able to try any of this delicious cereal.  Needless to say – I was bummed.  A bannana just didn’t do it for me) we headed into the city.  Whenever Caroline goes into the city from her house – she has to take a train and then at least one metro.  I was SO confused.  Made me realize how simple of a city Dublin is.  Too small to even have a metro, let alone a million different lines like Paris.  Too much for me to handle.

Our first stop in the city – Notre Dame.  My knowledge of Notre Dame was pretty limited (I knew that it was a Catholic Cathedral and I had seen the hunchback of Notre Dame).  I learned that “Notre Dame” means “Our Lady” in French and it was one of the first gothic cathedrals of its kind.  Construction on the cathedral began in 1163 .  According to wikipedia – there are five bells in Notre Dame and the Great Bourdon Bell, Emmanuel, is located in the south tower and weighs about 13 tons.  Quasimodo anyone?

Caroline and I in front of Notre Dame

inside Notre Dame

The cathedral was so beautiful.  The pictures do not do it much justice.  After walking around Notre Dame some, we headed to a gorgeous park behind the cathedral and sat for a while.  We couldn’t check into the hostel until 4 pm, so we were lugging around our huge back packs and our shoulders were KILLING us.  The park was absolutely breathtaking – especially with the beautiful leaves around.

Park behind Notre Dame

Paris in the fall

After sitting in the park some, we decided to check out an ice cream place Caroline had heard great things about.  The weather, by the way, was absolutely perfect.  We were warm in our jackets – it was in the low 60s and sunny and just beautiful.  I couldn’t have asked for better weather.  So – we figured ice cream would be just the thing.  The ice cream shop was more of a vendor and didn’t have too many flavors to choose from so I actually ended up settling on vanilla.  But it was DELICIOUS.

Caroline and her pear flavored ice cream

After we had killed enough time – we headed to the hostel to check-in.  Luckily, it was relatively easy to get to and it wasn’t too far of a walk once we got off the metro.  It was definitely the smallest hostel room I have stayed in so far – but at least it was just the three of us in the room and we weren’t staying with any randoms!

After we finally dropped our back packs off at the hostel, we headed out to meet up with some of Caroline’s friends for drinks.  We ended up meeting them at an American / Irish pub near their school.  I felt like I was back in Dublin for a little bit.  I decided to be brave and tried the 5 euro cocktail of the day – spicy strawberry – it was delicious.  I had a hard time drinking it casually.  Also, it came with a gummy so I was LOVING that.  Almost ordered another one just for the gummy..

After we each had a drink, we went our separate ways.  They were each heading back to their houses and we were planning on meeting up with a few of them later that night to go out.  Caroline and I said our goodbyes and headed to another wine bar nearby to wait for Christie to arrive.  We decided to split a bottle of red wine – Caroline’s new obsession – and talked until Christie came around 8 pm.  I loved the atmosphere of the wine bar – so many of the restaurants reminded me of Barcelona because most of the seating was outside.  I was loving it.

Once we met up with Christie, we headed out for dinner at a nearby restaurant.  I was a little tipsy already and decided to order a omelet?  Not really sure what I was thinking with that exactly.. but it was pretty good.  Also – the bread in Paris was so delicious.  I definitely ate more bread this weekend than I have my whole study abroad so far.. I am sure that will only continue this coming weekend in Florence.

My Random Omelette Dinner

After we each finished dinner (our food came out in record speed), we headed back to the hostel to drink and get ready to go out for the night.  A few of Caroline’s friends were coming over to the hostel before we headed out.

Caroline and Christie in our beautiful hostel

Once we were all ready, we headed out into the Parisian night!  The temperature was still perfect and I loved being able to see parts of Paris at night.  The city really is so beautiful.  We actually ended up wandering into the Moulin Rouge district and weren’t really sure where to go so the group ended up splitting up and we just found a cool bar to sit and grab a drink at until it closed.

Moulin Rouge

Seeing Paris’ red light district at night was definitely very interesting.  Not much like it in Dublin.. Fun fact – this is where the idea of a “strip-tease” was said to have originated.  Saturday night, Christie actually ran into one of her friends from Wake Forest who is taking the semester off to travel around Europe.  Fun fact: he is a sigma nu at wake (our brother fraternity – woo) but anyway, he told us that he went to Moulin Rouge on Friday night and paid a 60 euro entrance cover.  Pricey.

After the bar closed, we were all tired so we headed back to the hostel.  Matt, one of Caroline’s friends (also goes to Elon) came back with us and we all passed out before he actually left the hostel so we were a bit confused when we woke up this morning and he was nowhere to be found.  None of us knew when we actually ended up falling asleep – but apparently it did not take long at all.

The next morning, after we all got ready to escape from the hostel for the day – our first stop was an adorable brunch place that Caroline had raved about.  They literally had SO much on the menu, I had no idea what to order.  It all sounded delicious.  I decided to be adventures and try a poached egg (first poached egg experience) it ended up coming inside of a pastry / bread type of roll.  It was obviously delicious.

My Poached Egg

Also – Christie ordered French toast and it ended up being the weirdest French toast any of us had ever seen.  Don’t get me wrong – it was delicious.. but it didn’t taste like French toast at all and had some sort of applesauce on top.  It was very interesting.

Christie's "French Toast"

Bakery downstairs

After we finished up with brunch, we headed to our next destination: the Basilique de Sacre-Coeur.  This roman Catholic church was built in 1876 (took 40 years to complete its construction) and sits on top of the Montmarte Hill, the highest point in all of Paris – where Saint Denis (the first Bishop of Paris) was decapitated for his faith. Obviously the view of the city was beautiful.  Unfortunately, Saturday was not nearly as nice as Friday was.  It was very rainy and chilly.  But still – the view was amazing and the church it self was so gorgeous.  It was definitely a must-see.  We were not supposed to take any pictures inside, however, it was so beautiful that I had to sneak a few pictures on my phone.

Sacre-Coeur Church

view of Paris from the basilique

Christie, Caroline and I on top of the Montemartre

Caroline and I overlooking Paris

Inside the Basilica

Christie and I on the steps leading up to the Basilica

After exploring the Basilica – we were off to the Champs-elysees and the l’arc de triomphe!  The Champs-elysees is the most prestigious street in Paris and full of designer shops, pricey restaurants and hotels, and tons of movie theaters. Apparently rent along the Champs-elysees usually goes for around 1.5 million euros per 1,100 square feet.  The avenue stretches over 2 miles long and is the second most expensive street in terms of real estate in the world.  Caroline had heard about a delicious macaroons and pastry shop along the Champs-elysees that is famous for their delicious deserts.  The shop’s name is Laduree and has been open on the Champs-elysees since 1862.  I had never had a macaroon prior to yesterday and I don’t think I will ever have another one like it.  I ordered one caramel macaroon and one pistachio macaroon.  They were so delicious. We also weren’t supposed to take pictures inside the shop either – but I managed to sneak a few with my camera and my phone.

Caroline and I by the Arc de Triomphe

The Laduree

Swanky Bar inside the Laduree

Our delicious macaroons

After we enjoyed our wonderful macaroons, we were off to the Eiffel Tower.  By this point we were pretty exhausted and it was raining very hard so our spirits had weakened a little and we were really looking forward to a tall glass of wine!  But, we knew we had to check out the Eiffel Tower first.  Fun fact: the Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid monument in the world and the tower was originally built in 1889 as an entrance arch to the 1889 World Fair.

Caroline and I in front of the Eiffel Tower

Once we had seen the Eiffel Tower – it was finally wine and cheese time!  Caroline and a couple of her friends had gone found this neat wine bar on the outskirts of Paris (apparently it was filmed in Gossip Girl?).  But anyway, I immediately fell in love with this place.  It was a real “Mom and Pop” type of wine bar and there were tons of locals crowding around in hopes to spot an open table.  Fortunately, we got there at the right time and spotted a table right after we ordered.  The only things on the menu: wine and cheese -and lots of it.  I was in heaven.  Christie and I split a bottle of the house white wine (Caroline of course stuck with her red wine) and the three of us ordered the bread and cheese platter.  This may or may not have been one of the highlights of the trip.  The cheese was to die for.

Wonderful Wine Bar

Heaven on Earth

More of Caroline’s friends from Paris meet up with us at this adorable wine bar.  After we all sat around talking for a bit, we decided to head to dinner at a pizza favorite of the group called the Pink Flamingo.  I immediately fell in love with this place as soon as we walked into the door.  It smelled absolutely amazing.  The only downside was that the menu was completely in French so Caroline had to explain each pizza to Christie and I.  Apparently, I was still feeling very adventurous because I ordered the strangest pizza I have ever ordered in my life.  Lina – get ready for this.. I am about to blow you away.  I ordered a pizza called La Gandhi – which had Sag Paneer (spinach and mustard base) with Baba Ghanoush (arab dish with eggplant mashed with sesame and citron seasoning) sprinkled with melted mozzarella.  So adventurous and so delicious.  I really liked the pizza Caroline and Christie ordered though – I think it was my favorite.  It had shrimp, chicken and tons of delicious cheeses on it.

My pizza Ghandi

Christie and Caroline's pizza

And after..

After our delicious dinner, we made our way back to the hostel.  My flight left at 9:30 Sunday morning so Caroline and I had to get up at 5:30 to make it to the airport shuttle by 6:20 am.  Yuck, I know.  That being said – we decided it would be best to call it an early night.  On our way back to the hostel, Caroline and Christie stopped for Nutella and Banana crepes.  I was too full from dinner but I did have my first bite of a crepe!  Amazing.

Once we got back to the hostel – we were exhausted and it was not even 10 pm.  We stayed up and talked for a bit, but eventually we all passed out.  Unfortunately, I woke up around 1 am this morning and was not able to fall back to sleep.  I just tossed and turned until my alarm went off at 5:20 am.  Very frustrating.  I slept for a little bit on the plane but of course the Ryan Air flight attendants kept waking me up with all the crazy stuff they sell during the flight.

Getting to the bus stop this morning was very interesting.  First of all, the sun wasn’t even up yet and I would have been SO lost if Caroline hadn’t come with me.  One of the metro’s we needed to get to the bus stop wasn’t running so we ended up taking a bus for part of it.  I would have gotten SO lost.  But – we got there just in time and I was able to catch the bus before it left for the airport.

I was back in my apartment by 11 am this morning – which was nice.  But I am SO exhausted.  Jordan and everyone are not back from Amsterdam yet and Steph has been out with her aunt (visiting) all day.  It has been lonely around the apartment!  But it has forced me to blog and help get things planned for when my family comes to visit.  I know I say this every time I update this thing, but I can’t believe how fast this is going by.  November is going to be such a busy month and I feel like December is going to be here before I even know it.  Everyone in my program is going on our second included trip to Northern Ireland on Thursday morning – but I am leaving on Saturday morning for Florence so I missing the trip 😦 I am SO excited to visit Sian in Florence though (and to have more delicious pizza and bread).  Just five more days until I am hoping on a plane to Florence and then only 11 more days until the Donnelly family does Dublin.  I am beyond excited for my family to get here and for us to explore all around Ireland.   I literally cannot wait.

Alright well I am thinking I will probably go to bed within the next couple of hours (hopefully).  This week is actually pretty busy.  I need to get most of my assignments for my classes done (work for the first time this semester..?) so that I can enjoy my trips to Florence and my time with my family without stressing about doing projects when I get back.  Time is just flying by.  Cannot wait for the next couple of weeks! Au revoir!

Alpha Xi Delta Does Dublin

1 Nov

So, for some reason my body decided to wake up at 6 am today.  I am wide awake and it is not even 8.  I don’t understand.

Well this past weekend was Halloweekend and fun fact – Halloween originated in Ireland.  Who woulda thunk it? According to a little research I have done on the subject matter, Halloween started in Ireland around 100 AD and it was first celebrated by the Celts of Ireland.  They called it “Samhain” originally – which is the Irish word meaning the ‘end of summer’.  The celts believed that on the eve of Halloween, the dead spirits revisited the mortal world.  They would light huge bonfires around the country in order to ward off the evil spirits.

Apparently, there was an old Irish Halloween tale that said if you drop a strand of your hair into the flames of the bonfire and dream of who you wish you future husband or wife will be – you’re dream will come true.  Oh, the Irish and their tales / superstitions.

There is your little lesson of the day.  Also – Dublin does Halloween up big.  Since we have returned from Barcelona, all of the restaurants, pubs, shops (even the 2 euro store) were decorated for Halloween.  I had never seen anything like it before.  Literally, everywhere we went – there were Halloween decorations.  Makes me very curious / excited to see how Dublin decorates for Christmas.

This week went by so fast (of course).  I am having a very hard time wrapping my head around the fact that today is November 1st.  It doesn’t seem real.  We had off from class on Monday (bank holiday) so we only had class on Wednesday and Thursday this past week.  Tough life, right?

Monday night Jordan, Steph, Katie, Meghan, Maggie and I decided to find a fun pub to go to.  We ended up in Temple Bar area and sat at a table in this one really crowded pub.  We just sat, talked, drank and listened to some live music.  The band was amazing; we couldn’t see them from where we were sitting so we thought they were going to be two good looking young guys (they sounded that way).  Ended up being two large / oversized old men.  We decided it was better that we couldn’t see them from where we were sitting.

My nights are blurring together and I can’t remember if I went out on Thursday night.. pretty sad.

On Friday, Aly Hignight, Emily Giegerich and Alex Lannigan came to Dublin for the weekend!  They are just starting their two week holiday.  We were all so excited to see them / spend halloweekened with them.  We were such girls when we all first spotted each other outside the train station.  We immediately screamed and all ran to each other and embraced for a good couple of minutes.

After our embrace ended, we walked the girls back to our apartments to drop off their bags. At this point it was already close to 8 and they were all starving so we headed out for some dinner.  We were planning on eating at the Porterhouse – but it ended up being packed so we took them to Citi Bar for Irish tapas.  Dawn’s parents had taken a group of us there earlier in the week – it was delicious.

I had already had dinner at home.  Steph, Jordan and I spent Friday venturing out in the pouring rain to go grocery shopping at Tesco.  But everyone loved their dinners (and their bulmers).  Another fun fact: I have not had a single Irish waitress since I’ve been here.  They have all been foreign.  It’s very strange.

After dinner, we headed back to the Porterhouse.  We were lucky enough to find a big table on the third floor and had the perfect spot to listen to the live music.  Spent too many euro’s on drinks – but it was worth it.  It was so nice catching up with Aly, Alex and Emily / hearing stories about Denmark.  They made me feel so much better about how expensive Dublin is.  Apparently Copenhagen is one of the most expensive cities in the world.  They are on the Danish Krone – which they said was killer.  Even more so than the euro.. wild.

We ended up staying at the porterhouse until 1:30 ish.

Emily, Emily, Monica and Alex at the Porterhouse

On Saturday we all met up at 11 to give the Copenhagen girls a little tour of the city.  The first stop on the agenda:  The Queen of Tarts.  I hadn’t been yet – but the other girls had and all raved about it.  If you have time / are bored – google it.  It is an adorable little brunch / lunch and bakery hidden in Temple Bar area.  It seemed absolutely delicious inside and I immediately regretted bringing a nutri-grain bar for breakfast (in hopes to save money after spending so much the night before).  Everyone’s food looked SO good.  I was especially “eyeing” Alex’s Banana and Chocolate Chip muffin.  I am sure it put my apple nutri-grain bar to shame.

cakes and pies at Queen of Tarts

Definitely a good place to take the family when they get here.

After brunch / lunch we walked around Temple Bar area.  There was an adorable market – similar to the Howth market – in a square in Temple Bar.  They had tons of free samples of cheese, crackers and dips and other delicious things.  One stand was selling amazing looking sushi rolls for 5 euro.

After pulling ourselves away from the free samples at the market, we headed to Trinity College.  The weather, by the way, on Saturday was absolutely perfect.

Trinity College

Then we made our way to Grafton Street and St. Stephen’s Green.  St. Stephen’s Green was SO beautiful.  I hadn’t walked around the park there in about a month and the trees and leaves were gorgeous.

I probably took 1,000 pictures in St. Stephen’s Green.

Casual run-in with a leprechaun

St. Stephen's Green

Bridge from Leap Year

AXiD girls in Dublin

After exploring the park some more, we were off to St. Stephen’s Green Mall to look for some last minute Halloween costumes.  I ended up deciding on 4.50 euro cat ears (tail and collar included).  Real original – I know.  I am poor and fresh out of ideas.

After stalling for a couple of hours before our dinner reservations – it was finally time to take the girls to Bewley’s.  Ovbiously I had been thinking about this all day and was SO hungry because I was living on a nutri-grain bar.  All I could think about was that Feta Cheese salad.  Love Bewley’s – so glad we took them there.  Everyone loved their food and we had so much fun sitting there.  I actually managed to force myself to save half for dinner on Sunday night.  Best decision ever.

After dinner we headed home to get ready for the Halloween festivities.  We had all the girls over at our apartment to pre-game before hand.

Jen as Snookie and we decided I was Snookie's Cat

We went to Turks Head –  a really cool pub in Temple Bar area.  It was packed.  People were everywhere – and it was raining.  There were definitely some strange costumes.  I still can’t get this mouse / man image out of my head.  It really freaks me out / makes me uncomfortable.

Oh also, on Halloween my voice decided to disappear.  I literally had to whisper.  This made talking at the pub / club impossible.  It actually just made talking impossible.  It was terribly frustrating.

On Sunday I woke up not feeling too great.  I didn’t sleep well and my voice was still struggling and I had a stomach ache 😦 I stayed in while the girls went to a Halloween festival at the Docklands and did the Guinness Tour.  Double frustrating.  But – after resting and some major laziness, I started to feel much better.

I felt 150% as I ate my left over feta cheese salad while watching Eat. Pray. Love.  Loved it – don’t know how I feel about the ending though.  I want to read the book.  Anyway, I am a fast eater.  I love food and I am the worst at trying to eat slow.  Not the case last night.  I made my meal (the small amount that was left of it) last a full 30 minutes.  I have never eaten so slow in my entire life.  I sucked in every ounce of flavor I possibly could.

When the girls came back from the Guinness factory I headed downstairs and hung out as they made tacos.  Smelled delicious.  Then we decided on taking it easy and just going to a pub across the street called the Glimmerman.  This was the pub we went our first night in Dublin.  The one that played Shania Twain.  There were four huge old men sitting at the bar and the bartenders.  Standard.  We made the Copenhagen girls try their first shot of baby guinness – of course they all loved it.  Standard again.  Then we all grabbed a pint and exchanged scary stories.  Some got weird.

Baby Guinness Cheers!

Well – I had to take a little break while writing.. for a little thing called class?  It was boring.  Then I had to meet with Genevieve (one of the people in charge of our study abroad group) to catch up on how things are going since we reached the half-way point.  We went to a neat place for coffee and tea on our side of the Liffey.  Conveniently located next to what is supposed to be known as the best burrito in Dublin.  I will have to wander back that way soon..

Afterwards I decided to wander up the street that our apartment is on.  Like I’ve said before – our apartment is not in a nice area at all.  So, I had never walked more than four blocks passed our apartment – the furthest we had made it was the Centra for our lazy wine runs.  Bad news – the street gets even weirder a few blocks up.  I kinda enjoyed just wandering around / exploring by myself for a bit though.  Glad I did it.  I also learned there are 4 euro bottle of wine in that direction.  I’d put my life on the line for a euro..

Well now it is approaching 6 and it looks like it is 9 pm outside.  Oh fun fact: Europe daylight savings time is a week before the United States.  According to my Lily calender (jealous Lina and Brittney?) daylight savings was next weekend.  Wrong – it happened yesterday.  I found out that I had gained an hour to my day circa 9 pm last night.  Who knew?

Alright well dinner time!  I am starving.  Missing all you Copenhagen girls – It was SO great having you hear and I am very glad you kicked off your European tour with Dublin.

Sí se puede!

24 Oct

I don’t even know where to begin talking about our trip to Barcelona.  Well we left Dublin Tuesday evening.  We were on the same flight as Sian and her roommates from Florence since they had been in Belfast visiting Sian’s Granny.  It was so good seeing Sian again.  I hadn’t seen her since July and forgot how much I missed her talking at the speed of light and her bad jokes. 😉 But really – it was so good to see her again and meet all her roommates from Florence.  Before boarding, I made Sian try her first coffee and bailey’s in the airport.  She loved it – and this coffee and baileys ended up being a real life-saver (I’ll explain in further detail).  Sian and I talked and caught up the entire plane ride so the two hour trip flew by.  Before we knew it, we were in Barcelona, Spain!  It was a little colder than we thought but we figured it was just because it was pretty late at night – it was a little after 1:30 am by the time we got off the plane.  Ryan Air really is a pain in the butt – the flight was delayed and they acted as though they were in no rush to get to Barcelona.

All of us were staying in the same hostel in Barcelona but Jordan, Steph and I thought it would be a good idea to not book a hostel for Tuesday night since we were getting in so late.  BAD CALL.  We had been planning on going to the apartment of one of our guy friends from Elon and leaving our stuff there and then going out for the night but we figured that would be too much – especially since we didn’t know our way around the city at all.  SO, the three of us ended up staying at the airport until the first bus left at 6 am.  Seriously, that coffee and bailey’s saved my life.  The three of us just sat around a table and talked from 2 am until 6 am.  Needless to say, by 6 am we were all pretty delirious.

At 6 am, we boarded the bus and headed to the hostel.  When we were paying for the hostel online, we signed up for a 6 am check-in.  We figured this meant that we could check-in, get our key and pass out for a few hours before exploring the city. WRONG.  Come to find out that check-in really isn’t until 12 or 1 pm.  Luckily, there was a really nice common room with couches and a tv so we were able to sleep on the couches until check-in time.  But, the common room ended up being extremely loud come 7 am – between the cleaning ladys talking away in spanish and men walking past me in their tighty whiteys to go to the shower – I only slept 45 minutes.  I was incredibly jealous of Steph and Jordan because they passed out and didn’t wake up until 10:30 or after.  I ended up sitting there reading Chelsea Handler’s new book until Sian came to the common room around 11.

This should have been an indication of a very eventful week.  Once everyone woke up, we decided to venture to la Sagrada Familia.  The Sagrada Familia is a Catholic Church that has apparently been under construction since 1882 and is not supposed to be complete until 2026.  Crazy.  It was designed by Antoni Gaudi but he died before he was able to finish.  It was so beautiful inside.  We paid 10 euro’s to go in – which I thought was a little pricey but it really was beautiful.  I would love to go back and see it once all the construction is actually done.  Apparently Pope Benedict XVI is going to Barcelona on November 7 to officially consecrate and proclaim la Sagrada Familia as a Basilica.

Sian, Lina and I outside La Sagrada Familia

After walking around the city for a bit, we all decided to head back to the hostel and get ready to go to a futbol game.  We heard it wasn’t too hard to get tickets so we figured we might as well check it out while we were there.  We ran into the supermercado across from the hostel where I was very pleasantly surprised to find incredibly cheap alcohol.  They had tons of wine for 2 euro and most of the liquor was only 10 euro!  In Dublin you can’t find a bottle of wine cheaper than 5 euro.  Most are usually 6 euro’s or more.  And vodka in Dublin is even more ridiculous – 20 Euro’s for a fifth.  This is something I will not miss about Dublin.  I miss cheap Harris Teeter wine.

Anyway, we each grabbed a bottle of wine and headed back to the hostel to get ready for the game.  The weather by the way, was absolutely perfect.  The temperature was amazing and it was such a nice change from the gloomy / freezing Dublin weather.  I was in heaven.  We all sat on the balcony of the hostel and drank wine and talked.  The hostel by the way was so nice.  It was incredibly clean.  It was a youth hostel so it was people all around our age (except for the most part – Amanda Johnson had the creepiest older man in her room – I don’t understand what kind of 35 year old man would think it was okay to stay in a youth hostel).

After we each polished off a good bit of our wine, we headed to the stadium.  It was gigantic.  And the amount of people flooding the streets heading to the game was so overwhelming.  People aren’t lying when they say Europeans love their futbol games.  I couldn’t believe how many fans from the away team there were.   Barcelona was playing liverpool and the liverpool fans were literally everywhere.  They were actually pretty loud and obnoxious and were signing and screaming in the streets.

Once we found the ticket office, we were informed that the cheapest tickets together (as a group of three) was 55 euro.  We wanted to go see a futbol game but Sian, Lina and I decided that it wasn’t quite worth 55 euro.  So, the three of us left and headed out to a pub close to the stadium and had a beer.  We decided that the best choice would be for us to take the 55 euro we would have spent on the game and eat a delicious dinner down by the beach.  What a great decision.

One of my best friends from Connecticut, had studied in Barcelona last spring.  She had sent me a list of places to go – including touristy places, good places to eat and fun places to go out at night.  The three of us decided to take her advice and head to this restaurant right by the beach called Aerrozia.  Thank God for international bbm.  Aishleen sent me perfect directions and we found this gem of a restaurant without any problems.

We were pleasantly surprised when they brought us free appetizers – hamburger meat with onions on a small piece of bread.  Delicious and I don’t even usually like onions much.  We immediately ordered a pitcher of sangria – first white wine sangria – we had been craving it since the minute we stepped off the plane.

first pitcher of sangria in Barcelona!

We quickly made friends with our waiter (who looked like a child by the way – he couldn’t have been older than 16 or 15).  He brought us out more free appetizers since we raved about it so much and brought us each a free glass of Champagne!  We were in heaven.  It was so nice to sit there and catch up over drinks.  The three of us hadn’t been together in so long and it made me so excited to be back at Elon.

Aishleen had raved about the paella at this restaurant so the three of us all ordered the seafood paella.  Words can’t explain how delicious this was – so I’ll just let the pictures do the talking.

so delicious.

seafood paella

After the three of us polished off the liter of white wine sangria, we decided to order a liter of the red wine sangria to enjoy while taking our seafood paella to the face.  Red wine sangria was the right choice.  I can still taste it.  Why does Guinness have to be the Irish drink of choice?  Why can’t it be sangria 😦

red wine sangria

After we managed to pull ourselves away from our delicious paella and before we could allow ourselves to order another pitcher of sangria, we headed back to the hostel to get ready to go out.  As much as I absolutely LOVED Barcelona, I really don’t know if I am cut out to be able to stay for an entire semester.  Because of their siesta, they don’t usually sit down for dinner until at least 8:30.  I can’t tell you how many times Lina and I would grab dinner at 5:00 last year.  I am an 80 year old woman and love eating dinner early.  Also, they usually don’t head out to the bars and clubs until 2 am and usually don’t leave to go home until 5 am!  We decided we are either all just lame or people in Spain are crazy.  I think it might be a little bit of both.  But needless to say, I was pretty exhausted after dinner.  I was only on 45 minutes of sleep and was expected to stay out until 5 am!  I don’t know how I managed to do it.

Once we all met back up at the hostel, we got ready for our first big night out on the town.  Our first stop of the night: The Chupito Bar.  For those of you who do not know, Chipitos is shots in spanish and this bar is famous in Barcelona for having any type of shot you could possibly imagine.  The first night we all decided to try the Harry Potter shot, which they light on fire before you drink it.

Harry potter shot!

just some of the shots they offer at the shots bar

Since it was still too early to leave the bar and head to the club, we decided to get a couple of small drinks to share…

just a small drink for two..

After polishing off these huge drinks, the group (9 of us total) headed to the club where we were meeting up with other Elon kids.  I had never been in a club like this one before.  It was incredibly swanky and had a huge VIP section – which is where we were for the majority of the night.  Also, I guess I thought it was a good idea to repeatedly yell Sí se puede! to the taxi driver as he was taking us to the club (Disney channel original movie anyone?).  It definitely was weird being in a country that spoke another language.  I couldn’t believe, however, how many people also spoke English – I wasn’t expecting that.

Once 5 am rolled around, we decided it was a good time to head back to the hostel to sleep.  I had no trouble falling asleep once we finally got back – it had almost been a full 48 hours since I had slept last.  I don’t think my body was too happy with me.  (Hey Mom!).

Waking up the next morning was pretty rough.  We were all feeling the after effects of Chiputos.  We were pretty slow to get going – but eventually we made our way to Parc Guell.  Sian is always the navigator of the group.  Without her, I’m not sure any of us really would have made it around the city.  But – she failed us as we walked to Parc Guell.  We got off the metro and saw some cool buildings in the distance that we figured must be Parc Guell (we really knew nothing about Parc Guell).  Turns out, we ended up walking up the largest incline I have ever walked up in my life.  Hills and hangovers do not mix very well.  Finally we decided a taxi was the way to go.  Once we all finally hailed taxi’s, the driver turned around and headed in the complete opposite direction of the way we were walking.  Fail.

Parc Guell was really beautiful. It was also designed by Antoni Gaudi.  He built it from 1900 to 1914.  The architecture and the detail was so incredible. According to my good friend Wikipedia, “The focal point of the park is the main terrace, surrounded by a long bench in the form of a sea serpent.  To design the curvature of the bench surfaces, Gaudi used the shape of buttocks left by a naked woman sitting in wet clay.”  Hmm interesting.

Gaudi's Parc Guell

Parc Guell

the group on the terrace of Parc Guell

The terrace was full of people singing and playing instruments.  It was really neat and a lot different than what I had been expecting.  After venturing around the terrace some, we headed up through some of the trails of the parc.  We walked for a while up the hill to find a small stone hill with a large cross.  The view of the city from this point of the Parc was absolutely amazing.

view of Barcelona from Parc Guell

Sian and I at Parc Guell

After we kept walking some, we found the Colonnaded Pathway.  This was actually used as the runway in the season finale of cycle 7 of america’s next top model. Woo CariDee.  Fun fact.

After we explored enough, we decided it was a good time to head home and have our own siesta.  We were all pretty exhausted and wanted to relax some before we went out for dinner / went out for our second night on the town.  I forgot to mention, but Steph, Jordan and I were in a room with 7 other people (all American’s studying abroad in Rome) and Steph Costas, Lina, Sian, Emma, and Alice were all in a room with a wonderful / adorable man by the name of Pedro.  Pedro was from Brazil but was on a long vacation across Europe.  He was so adorable and we all were obsessed with him. He is heading to London next week where he might meet up with Lina, Steph and Amanda.  So jealous.

After we all recuperated, we started getting ready for dinner.  We decided to check out this tapas restaurant that some of the girls studying abroad in Barcelona told us about.  We also figured that since we were having dinner so late (our reservation was for 9) that we would just take our time at dinner and go to a couple bars before heading out to the clubs at 2.  Dinner was so much fun.  We all sat and drank and talked for hours.  And surprise, surprise – my meal was absolutely delicious.  We each ordered sangria of course and then we all ordered three tapas each.  I decided on the wild mushrooms, a spinach and chickpeas dish and then Sian convinced me to order a famous spanish tapas called tortilla de sobrassada.  It was pretty much a spanish omelet with sausage and other goodies.  This was one of my favorite meals I have had so far in Europe – and you all know I have loved most of my meals here.

wild mushroom and spinach and chickpeas tapas

I am now also obsessed with chickpeas.  They are delicious.

tortilla de sobrassada

Also, the restaurant had an obsession with Scarlett Johansson – she had apparently eaten there while visiting Barcelona and the restaurant had about a million pictures and a shrine to prove it.  Anyway, a few pitchers of sangria, and a couple bottles of wine later we decided to head back to Chupitos.

This time at Chupitos our first shot was called The Boy Scout Shot.  Essentially, what you do is you are given a marshmellow to roast on a long stick – then you stick the marshmellow in the shot and eat the marshmellow and then take the shot.  It was delicious.

Next, we tried the Pop Rocks Shot.  For this one, we were each given pop rocks and we were supposed to eat the pop rocks and then take a shot and swish it all around in our mouth.  Also delicious, but my favorite by far was the boy scout shot.

pop rocks shot

As we were standing by the bar, we met a group of Irish men (small world).  They were hysterical and a lot of fun.   Their accents made me miss Ireland!  After we had enough at the shots bar, we ventured out to a club called Opium.  This club was even swankier than the first night.  It was right on the beach and was absolutely amazing inside.  There was a huge outside terrace with tables and couches and then on the inside there were about 6 bars, a huge dance floor, even swankier VIP section, and two girls standing on columns dancing with only a bra and tiny underwear on.  I was not in Dublin anymore.

We ended up running into some friends of Sian’s from home (also studying abroad with them in Florence) and they got us into the VIP section.  We all had so much fun hanging out and dancing that the club was closing before I even knew it.

Amanda, Lina, Sian and Jordan outside of Opium

We also were able to meet up with a few other people from Elon – which was fun.  The only downside of the night was that Jordan got her purse (pictured above) stolen while she was on the beach.  We had been warned about the crazy amount of stealing in Barcelona but we had no idea how often it actually happened.  Her wallet, credit cards, camera and phone were all inside her purse and whoever stole it just ripped the entire bag part off from the chain.  Thank God her passport was not in her purse too!  For the rest of the trip, we were all extremely careful about holding onto our purses and wallets.

inside club opium

After hanging out in the VIP section for hours and hours (we thought we were pretty cool) we piled up in a taxi and headed to the hostel.  Waking up on Thursday morning was even harder than Wednesday.  Jordan and Steph left pretty early Thursday morning to head to the police station to file a police report and try to figure everything out.  The rest of us were very slow moving.  We decided to check out Las Ramblas – the central street in Barcelona and a popular tourist spot.  For such a huge city, we kept running into people we knew all around Barcelona.  On Wednesday night, Sian, Lina and I ran into a couple of guys from Elon studying in Barcelona and then on Thursday while walking down Las Ramblas we ran into another group from Elon.  As we headed home from Las Ramblas, we later ran into Dawn (studying in Dublin with me but was vacationing in Barcelona with her parents).  I couldn’t believe how many people we were running into.

Las Ramblas was definitely an interesting street.  There were street performers and people in crazy crazy crazy costumes.  There is some of that in Dublin and other big cities – but I had never seen costumes like the ones on Las Ramblas.  Here are just some of the few..

crazy people on Las Ramblas

One man somehow was “floating” in the air.  We all stood watching him for a good ten minutes trying to figure out how he was doing it.  None of us were even close to figuring it out.

the mystery of the floating man

As we walked down Las Ramblas, we passed tons of delicious looking gelato stands, large stands selling souvenirs and even pet venders (this was weird).  We also found a huge indoor market with tons of candy, seafood, meat, fruits, veggies and more.  We decided that in order to save money, we would hit up the market again on our way home and cook a delicious meal at the hostel that night.

what I envision heaven to look like

Sian, Lina and I on the streets of Barcelona

After leaving Las Ramblas – we ventured off to find the beach.  The water was absolutely breathtaking.  It was my first time seeing the Mediterranean Sea – I was pretty excited.  The water was so blue and beautiful – pictures do not do it justice.

muy bonito

favorite picture of the trip

After walking for a while, we decided it was time for more sangria.  Sian, Lina, Amanda and I ventured down to the beach (close to where we ate for dinner the first night) and thoroughly enjoyed a few 1.5 liter pitches of sangria right on the beach.  I don’t know if I have ever felt so relaxed.  It was absolutely perfect.  We also ended up ordering some nachos to share / enjoy with our delicious sangria.

We literally did not move from this table for hours.  We even stayed long enough to see a nude man walking along the beach and another guy running up and down the beach with his pants down.  Was not the prettiest sight.

Beaches of Barcelona!

After a lot of sitting, we decided it was time to head back to the market on Las Ramblas and pick up the food to make dinner.  We decided to make chicken and pasta with vegetables and salad.  We bought a chicken breast, fettucini, feta cheese, broccoli, tomatoes, onions, peppers, and lettuce.  The kitchen in the hostel was perfect and we were all able to help contribute to our delicious family dinner.  The hostel even had a huge dining room where we could sit an enjoy our wonderful meal.

Family dinner

the group enjoying our dinner

Since our hostel was a youth hostel – the people that worked there took a big group (whoever wanted to come from the hostel) out every night.  First they would take everyone to a bar around 12 or so and then head to a club around 2 am.  We went out on our own the first two nights but we figured it would be fun to go out as a huge group with the hostel on our last night.  It ended up being so much fun.  We met people staying in the hostel from all over the place.  There was a really nice guy from Australia, a lot of other American study abroad students, some Brazilians, a few people from London, and all sorts of other people.  The bar we went to was really neat – it reminded me of a typical pub in Ireland.  After staying there for a while, we headed out to the club – which was on the beach again and close to where we had gone out the night before.  This club was just as cool.  You needed a code word to get into the club – the word that night was Jose – which I thought was pretty funny.  Dawn was able to meet us out at the club too which was fun.

At one point, me and a friend I had met from our hostel (an american from Oregon studying abroad in Florence) decided we needed to go out on the beach and stick our feet in the Mediterranean.  So glad we did because I hadn’t actually walked on the beach when we went that day.  It was so beautiful at night – it’s hard to tell in the picture but it was amazing.

Beach in Barcelona circa 3 am

Sian ended up getting her purse stolen on Friday night.  Luckily, they ran after the two guys and the police were able to catch them.  Her wallet was returned to her – she ended up losing only 10 euro which was good.  But she filed a police report anyway and the two guys that attempted to take her purse are now being deported back to Pakistan.  Don’t mess with Sian Rucker.

Once we had enough dancing for one night – we returned to the hostel for our last night of sleep.  Check-out was at 11:30 the next morning so we were able to get a few hours of sleep in before we had to wake up and pack up our things.  Jordan, Steph, Amanda and I were all leaving on Saturday – but the rest of the group was staying until Sunday morning.

Saturday morning Steph, Jordan and I woke up at a reasonable hour and started packing up our stuff.  As much as we didn’t want to leave Barcelona, we were excited to get back to Dublin and recuperate.  Our bodies definitely needed a break.  “Some people just can’t handle Barcelona.” one of our many quotes from the trip and so true.  My body is not liking me right now.

After we checked out of the hostel, we left our bags in the common room and walked around a bit on Las Ramblas.  Steph and Jordan took me to an amazing gelato place that they had gone to the day before.  I had my first gelato since being in Europe and it was to die for.  So much better than the gelato place I’ve been to in Raleigh.  There is not even a comparison.  I ordered one scoop of snickers and one scoop of pistachio.

delicious gelato

After walking around a bit more and finding another really neat market (this one had tons of free samples of wine and bread – right up my alley), we headed back to the hostel to grab our bags and say our goodbyes.  Heading back to the airport was pretty easy.  We managed to get off at the wrong terminal and had to take a shuttle to our terminal but other than that it went fine.  Ryan Air is seriously annoying though and our flight ended up leaving at least an hour after it was supposed to.  It made us so antsy to finally get back to Dublin.

Once we finally landed in Dublin, we were deliriously tired and greeted with TERRIBLY COLD WEATHER.  We could see our breath – it was that cold.  We were so upset.  Getting from the airport to our apartment was a struggle – we were so out of it and not making any sense.  My body was begging me for sleep.  After what felt like an eternity, we finally made it back to Blackhall Place.

Today all I have been doing is laying in bed.  I finished season two of entourage and have only left my bed to eat.  Tomorrow is Monday and is actually a bank holiday here in Dublin so we do not have any classes until Wednesday.  Thank God for that because I need this time to recover!

This upcoming weekend is Halloween and I am so excited.. except I still have to figure out my costume.  Tricky.  But, a few AXiD’s that are studying abroad in Denmark are coming for the weekend and I am so excited to see them.  Then, next week I am headed to Paris to see Caroline!  Ah cannot wait!

I can’t believe this is the last week of October.  This is all going by so fast.  As of tomorrow, we are halfway done with studying abroad.  So bittersweet because I am having such an amazing time here but am also really excited to come home and see everyone / have it be Christmas.

Sian and everyone in Florence goes home in three weeks, which is so crazy to me.  This is flying by.  Well, I should probably go to bed – I slept until 12:30 today – which for those of you who know me is a clear indication that I had much sleep to catch up on (normally my body clock likes to wake me up around 7 or 8).  Well, all for now – time for another entourage episode before going to sleep.

Slancha!

10 Oct

Fun fact: Slancha is the Gaelic or Irish term for cheers.

Well, another weekend has already come and gone.  I was hoping this weekend wouldn’t go by as fast as the others – but it went by even faster.  Will came to Dublin on Thursday.  His plane landed early Thursday morning and I met him at the Hueston station bus stop around 10:30.  It was so great to see him after five weeks apart.  We spent most of the day on Thursday just walking around Dublin.  We had a delicious breakfast at a small cafe on the way back from Dublin Business School.  I, for the first time, tried my first “over-easy egg.” Prior to this experience, I had only had tried scrambled eggs – boring I know.  I now have learned that I really love all different kinds of eggs.  Although, I probably will still refuse to try hard boiled eggs.  Those just smell too gross..

Will love’s his whiskey so we also took a tour of the Jameson distillery.  I was a vet on the tour so I was among one of the first girls to raise their hands to be a volunteer taste-tester.  Will was more of a newbie and unfortunately did not raise his hand fast enough.

During the taste testing, you get your complimentary Jameson drink (along with everyone else) but then you also have three mini-shots to try.  One is of course Jameson, another was Jack Daniels, and then the third was a Scottish whiskey.  (At least I think it was Scottish?) After trying all three, the taste-testers announce their favorite to the rest of the group.  The Jack Daniels honestly tasted like cough medicine – it was awful.  (Mom and Dad – you know how much I LOVED taking cough medicine when I was little – bad memories of Mom pouring it down my throat after I would refuse to take it). The Scottish whisky was super smokey and no good either.  But the Jameson is actually pretty smooth and quite good.

After the tour, Will and I hit up Bewley’s (an obvious favorite of mine) for dinner.  I got the same salad that I got when I went with Caroline and Lina.. I couldn’t pass it up.  Will got some sort of pasta and salmon dish.  I am very much looking forward to eating both of our leftovers for dinner in about an hour and a half..

After dinner, we went to Colin and Drew’s to hang out for a bit with everyone.  I wanted Will to be able to meet people before we headed away for the weekend.  We had been planning on going out with everyone Thursday night but Will was exhausted from jet-lag and I was pretty tired myself so we ended up not even going out.

Friday morning we packed up our suitcases and headed to Howth for the weekend!  We stayed in a hotel on a golf course in Howth – it ended up being really beautiful.  Walking to the Dart station / the hotel from the Dart station in Howth was definitely an experience with our bags.  Will had a huge bag (he graciously checked a bag so he could bring a bunch of stuff from home for me – including three boxes of special k chocolately delight, approximately a million cliff bars, an extra duvet to put on top of my mattress to make it more comfortable, m&m’s, ghiradelli chocolate chips, and about a million and one other things).  It literally felt like Christmas morning when he took all the stuff out from his bag.

Anyway, the walk to the hotel was actually really beautiful.  On the way there, we passed an the Howth Castle.  The castle was so so beautiful.  It had been around before the Norman invasion (a VERY long time ago) and is now a private residence of the Gaisford St. Lawrence family, the heirs of the castle’s original owner – the Earl of Howth).  Part of the Castle has also been turned into a Culinary school where you can sign up for private classes.  I would LOVE to go back and take a class there.

The Howth Castle

After we settled into the hotel – I showed Will around the small town of Howth.  We were pretty hungry and every restaurant we passed looked and smelled delicious.  It was too early for dinner though so we decided to go to this small restaurant called The Oar House to have a couple classes of wine and an appetizer.  We settled on some Pinot Grigio and a DELICIOUS steamed mussels appetizer in a white wine, garlic and creme sauce.

Dad – the majority of this post will probably be about food.  Will and I ate some great meals this weekend so you might just want to not read on since you apparently don’t like how much I talk about food on my blog.  You don’t like to hear about food because you do not appreciate good food and do not have a very diverse pallet.  There – I said it.  Try more food.

Will in Howth

After walking around a bit more and checking out some of the different shops in Howth (all three of them) we decided it was approaching a reasonable time to have dinner.  We had both read about a popular restaurant called The Bloody Stream, and decided to check it out.  The atmosphere in this restaurant was probably one of my favorites since I’ve been in Ireland.  It felt like such a traditional Irish pub.  We sat next to a huge stone fireplace that had a wonderful fire going.  It was perfect.  Will decided to try Ireland’s traditional fish and chips while I settled on the Wild Mushroom Risotto.  Yet again, another wonderful meal.  I will be eating those leftovers tomorrow night…

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mom – you would have loved this meal.

Some of the Howth scenary

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to officially “toast” our weekend.  We spotted an area on the roof of the restaurant in the hotel with steps that let us walk up to the roof.  There we kicked off the weekend by popping a bottle of champagne!  The view was unbelievable.  It is a little hard to see in the pictures, but the view was of the city of Dublin.

View of Dublin

Will and I then headed back town to the main area of Howth to check out the Howth night life.  We first stopped back in at the Bloody Stream and had a beer while catching the end of a Ireland soccer (sorry, futbol) game.  Ireland ended up losing but it was cool to watch, especially because all the Irish around us were so into it.

Once the game ended, we wandered down to another pub with live music.  We sat at a table (literally right next to the band) and did not move for the next four hours.  I was loving the live music.  The band was five men in their late 50s or early 60s and they played all sorts of different stuff – anywhere from Snow Patrol to Billy Joel.  I was loving it.

On Saturday, we took the Dart back to Dublin to check out Dublin’s very own Oktoberfest.  Everyone was planning on meeting there around 12ish but they all kind of got a late start so Will and I were there pretty early.  We walked around for a bit – Will was loving all the German people and his German sausage and sauerkraut.  I, on the other hand, was loving my 8 euro worth bag of delicious candy.

delicious candy stall

Dublin Does Oktoberfest

We ended up not staying long at all – we walked around the Dublin Dockland’s some and then headed back to Oktoberfest for a few minutes to say hi to everyone before heading back to Howth.

Last night, we went to dinner at a cute little restaurant called The Brass Monkey.  It was a fun little place.  I ordered a beetroot and feta salad (it was pretty decent) and Will ordered Handmade Butternut Squash Tortellini.  After dinner, we went back to the bar at the hotel for some delicious desert (chocolate cake) and coffee with bailey’s.   It was a perfect ending to an amazing weekend.

Will had to leave early this morning.  Today has definitely been pretty difficult.  I miss him already very much and I can’t believe it will be another 9 weeks before we see each other again.  I am so grateful that he was able to come see me in Dublin – even if it was a short visit.  It was so great to see him and I can’t wait to see him when I return to Raleigh. I’ve been trying to keep busy today – and I am definitely looking forward to eating my leftovers (and m&m’s).

Overall – another great weekend in Dublin and Howth!  This coming Saturday, Sian is coming to Dublin.  I haven’t seen her since Will and I went up to Boston in the beginning of August so I cannot wait to be reunited with her this week.  Also – a week from Tuesday, Jordan, Steph and I are meeting up with Sian and her roommates and Lina in Barcelona!  I have always wanted to go to Spain and am literally so excited for next Tuesday.  It will also be the first time Lina, Sian and I have all been together since we left Elon in May.  Can’t wait for us to all finally be reunited.

Well – all for now.  I am thinking a movie in bed sounds pretty good right about now.