Monday, April 30, 2012

Brief Thoughts and Feelings

This photo, taken on our first morning in Rome, accurately describes both the constant excitement I felt throughout my Easter break trip and also sadness I feel for having only 2 weeks left in Ireland. 

I haven't been up on blogging lately but soon I'll have LOTS of stories and photos of all the latest travels. 
A few things to highlight until then...
~The Easter trip was a blast! We definitely made a few rookie travel mistakes and had a few bumps in the road... a missed flight and a lost camera. Though it doesn't outshine the places we saw, people we met, and countless things we laughed about. 
~The day after getting back from the Easter trip I left for a weekend in London. SO WONDERFUL. Of everywhere I've had the opportunity to travel to this semester London is without a doubt my favorite. 
~Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland is pretty darn impressive. 
~ I only have two weeks left here in Ireland. WHERE DID THE SEMESTER GO?! 
I'm very excited to go home and see my family and friends but am also not ready to say bye to the wonderful people I've grown close to. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Around a Tiny Bit of the World in 12 Days.

Tomorrow morning Bridie, Paige, and I will be leaving for our Easter vacation trip. In the next 12 days we will be visiting Brussels, Rome, Venice, Paris, and Barcelona!
The girls and I have been planning our trip for over a month now, constantly babbling with excitement about all things we plan to do. We've filled a notebook with page after page of famous places we've dreamed of seeing ... and also the foods we plan to eat in each location. 
(We don't mess around when it comes to case you haven't already noticed from previous posts.)
Though despite my overwhelming excitement I will admit that I've been pretty nervous as well these last few days. The idea of  traveling around in unfamiliar cities with language barriers makes me a bit uneasy at time. 
By thus far being out of my comfort zone this semester has led me to some wonderful experiences. 
So with the help of many maps and a few language guides, I have faith that we will have safe travels and amazing adventures.
(Photo cred.  Pinterest)
I can't wait to soak up the sights, sounds, and history of all these amazing cities.  
Many stories, pictures, and videos to come soon.
Bon Voyage! 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Happy Spring.

This week spring hit Dublin with full force and it's wonderful:) 
I couldn't think of a better way to spend my Tuesday afternoon.
Happy Spring!

I Love You, Cork

On Saturday morning Bridie, Paige, and I set out for an overnight trip to Cork. It was a weekend filled with fantastic friends, food, jacket-free weather, and many sight-seeing adventures. This weekend in Cork gave Howth a run for its money and now dominates the title of being my favorite place in Ireland. 
Bridie and Paige both said that Cork reminded them a lot of San Francisco due to the similar hills and building styles. I've never been there but I'll take their word for it.  

We took a stroll through an indoor market that has been going on in Cork for just over 400 years. Everywhere we looked there were fresh meats, breads, pastries, fruits, and so much more. The girls and I salivated over pretty much everything and wished the market was located closer to us in Dublin. 
Check it out here

After walking around Cork all afternoon we stopped at a pub for dinner and a pint. The pub didn't actually serve food but instead worked with the pizzeria down the street to get half off deals on all pizza delivered to the pub. Half price pizza?! Yes please! 
Maybe just maybe we ordered the largest size...and maybe just maybe we ate the whole thing.
(And maybe just maybe we splurged on some ice cream later that night as well.)

On Sunday morning we set out early for Blarney. I loved arriving in this sleeping little town as the sun was first popping up and morning fog was still thick in the air. 

Walking through the gardens was stunning and I was in awe as soon as the castle came into sight. 

Blarney Castle is located about 8km (just under 5 miles) from Cork City. It is best known for the Blarney Stone located at the top of the castle. This was the first castle I'd gotten to walk through so it was a fairly momentous occasion. 

The Blarney Stone is a block of bluestone built into the battlements of Blarney Castle. The word Blarney was introduced to the English language by Queen Elizabeth I and is described as pleasant talk. According to legend, whoever kisses the Blarney Stone is gifted with eloquence and persuasiveness, aka the gift of gab. In order to reach the stone for a smooch, you have to lay on your back, grasp the iron railing, and lean backwards.     

It's a long way to the bottom...
(Seeing how high up we were gave Bridie a brief anxiety attack...but she tends to get spouts of hypochondria about everything so Paige and I just laugh, roll our eyes, and move on..) 

 but that didn't stop any of us from kissing the stone! 

The girls and I finished up our sightseeing in Blarney then caught a 25 minute train to Cobh. This little ocean side town gets its claim to fame by being the last port stop of the Titanic. 

The weather was fantastic so we ate lunch at a restaurant with a deck overlooking the ocean. Later we explored a bit of the town, hung out in an ocean side park, and chatted about our upcoming Easter holiday trip throughout Europe.   

I love everyone in my study abroad family but Bridie, Paige, and I have become rather inseparable. The three of us can be talking about something serious one minute and practically rolling on the floor with laughter the next. It's crazy how close I've become with these girls in such a short period of time. 

On the bus ride back to Dublin I viewed my first sunset in Ireland. Watching the glow of the setting sun was incredibly peaceful and what I considered to be the cherry on top of a perfect weekend. I thanked God for this amazing opportunity to study abroad and for the wonderful people in my life (especially my parents) who have encouraged and supported me every step of the way. 
Just when I think I can't love my time abroad anymore something new happens that proves me very wrong. 
I am more grateful than words can really express. 

As stated on a sign at Blarney Castle..."We was a jolly good time."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

St. Paddy's Day!

Last year as I tried to decide if I wanted to go to Ireland in the fall or spring semester one of my final reasons for choosing to study abroad in the spring was St. Patrick's Day. I was quite excited about the possibility of being in Ireland on March 17th to experience a true Irish St. Paddy's Day. In many ways the day was exactly what I had expected and in other ways the festivities took me a bit by surprise. I loved that St. Patrick's Day in Ireland is more of a weekend long event rather than just one day to drink and wear green like it would be in any other country. The Erasmus group and I spent much of our week, leading up to the big day, planning out the events we wanted to attend and purchasing outfits full of green and shamrocks. 
We all looked quite stylish Saturday morning!

Though I wondered if most Irish citizens bother with getting all dressed up as well or if it's just a bigger deal for kids and tourists... Either way we still seemed to blend in with the sea of green in the city.  

The city was packed with both tourists and locals but we were still able to find a good parade watching spot.

A few random tourist saw us all taking pictures and asked if they could join in

The parade was great but different from what I had expected. I had assumed that the parade was going to include many of the St. Patrick's Day stereotypes I'd grown up with such as leprechauns, shamrocks, pots of gold, step dancers, and traditional Irish music. Though is parade was nothing like that. It had a dream like theme with floats that looked like they came straight from a Tim Burton film.

Lukas (Austria) and Romain (Belgium) 
Paige (Colorado)

Manu and Kati (Austria)
After finishing up with the parade we migrated down to a pub for a pint and some lunch. I found it interesting that the American St. Patrick's Day tradition of dying beer green is not a tradition carried out in Ireland. But the again, who wants to go through the extra work just to have a gross looking drink?!

The American Girls! 
After getting lunch and walking through the Temple Bar area many of us decided to retreat back to Drumcondra, near the campus, in hopes that it might be a bit less swamped with people. Though despite the large flock of people flowing in the streets and trying to get places at a sloth-like pace there was no denying everyone's enthusiasm for the holiday. It was a blast to watch complete strangers laugh, sing, carry on, and take pictures with each other in the streets of Dublin. All in all, it was another day was full of fantastic craic!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weekend Adventures

I haven't been up on my posting lately but there are still so many exciting things happening that are worth sharing with you all...

A Visit from Tori
Two weekends ago was exceptionally exciting because Tori came to visit! Tori is my friend and roommate from UNC who is currently studying in Malaga, Spain. For around two years Tori and I have talked to each other non-stop about our study abroad plans. For so long our plans felt like distant dreams that were never actually going to arrive so it was pretty amazing when it all became a reality. Throughout the entire weekend we'd turn to each other occasionally and utter, "I still can't believe this is actually happening!" I loved getting to share my experiences, friends, and life in Dublin with someone from home. 
On Friday we took a bus tour of Dublin and went to the Leprechaun museum. 
After the tour we started out the evening with a big bag of chips from my favorite place in Dublin. 
best. chips. ever.  

On Saturday I took Tori to Howth which is still one of my favorite spot in Ireland. The weather wasn't as spectacular as my last trip out but we still had a great day walking the cliffs, going to the beach, and eating Nutella ice cream. The weekend went by far too quickly but I loved every minute of my weekend with Tori! 
Check out her adventures in Malaga here.

Sports I Don't Understand
On Sunday the study abroad gang and I headed down to Croke Park Stadium (about a 15 minute walk from campus) to watch both a Hurling and Gaelic Football match. These are the two most popular spectator sports in Ireland so we all felt it was necessary to experience a match for ourselves. 

At first watching the games was slightly comical because I had no idea what was going on. Both sports looked like a bizarre combination of soccer and american football with a splash of hockey and a dash of basketball. Not kidding. Though by the end of the matches I felt like I had a good base knowledge of the games. I definitely enjoyed the Gaelic Football match more but the whole day was good craic! (Irish slang for fun!)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

International Family

I live with a pretty fantastic group of people here in Ireland. These are the people I laugh with, lean on, and learn from everyday. Despite being from different places around the world we've found so many common bonds with each other. We've only known each other for a short period of time but in that time we've created a family. 
Birthday celebrations! 

At the President's Reception 

Our first weekend in Dublin. 

Left: Morgan and Sarah who are both from Colorado. I'm so glad to still have them around when we go back home.
Right: Reetta from Finland. LOVE this girl so much! She makes every situation entertaining and fun. Plus, she has some of the best dance moves I've ever seen!

This is Agata from Lithuania. She one of the best accents I've ever heard! I love listening to her talk.

 Paige from Colorado! We're often referred to as 'The Paiges' or 'Paige Squared' by the group for obvious reasons. I love this girl as well and we pretty much do everything together. We make a pretty great team! 
SO happy to have her around as well when we go home. 

Another beautiful day of sunshine on our trip through the Wicklow Mountains! I feel the need to point out anytime there's sun since those days come so far and few between. 

Wiktoria from Lithuania and Bridie from Boston! 
Just like Agata, Wiktoria has an awesome accent and a very theatrical personality. It's so fun listening to her tell stories about her day.  
Bridie makes me laugh all the time! We constantly talk about our future plans to visit each other in the states. Bridie, along with Paige, will be my travel buddies throughout Easter vacation. 

This was taken our dinner with the President of the college. That was probably the one and only time that the entire group will be in same place at the same time. Please take note that in our group of 30 international students there are only 3 boys. Those poor guys...

I could go on about my international friends for days and will probably continue to talk about them individually in other posts. I feel so blessed to have met this group of people and have no doubt that even after we leave (the bitter subject no one talks about) we'll all remain in touch for a very long time.