Well, honestly not a lot has happened since I last wrote here. I will highlight a few things but try to keep this one short.
Over the past week and a bit, my friend Kirstin and I have been doing a lot of planning for our trip which will be happening very soon. If I haven’t mentioned it, or you don’t know, Kirstin and my brother will be coming to Ireland at the end of May. I will then show them some of my favourite places before we set out to travel Europe for a whole month!
It’s quite daunting, but I couldn’t be more excited. We are going to see so many amazing places and have wonderful experiences together. I know that it will be great. Taking it in steps of planning definitely makes it much easier as well. So far, we have all our places planned, and plane tickets bought to travel between quite a few countries. Then we will take trains and buses for the rest.
On Sunday May 3rd, quite a bit happened. It was my friend, Carlos’ birthday. So, the day before, I had helped a few of my friends to bake a cake for him. For his birthday, he cooked a lot of Spanish food and invited a large group of us over to his apartment. We ate and hung out for a while, and it was a lot of fun! The food he made was delicious, and the cake was a huge success.
I ended up being late to the party however, as my friend, Alexis, was coming to Waterford! After a little mix up, I found Alexis at the bus station. We walked back to my apartment catching up on everything that had gone on in the months we hadn’t seen each other. It was really nice to see a familiar face from home.
Alexis and I went to Carlos’ for a bit, before she headed back to my apartment to sleep, as jet lag sucks. I went back to the party after making sure she was settled, and hung out with everyone. Then, a few of us helped Carlos clean the apartment afterwards. It was a lot of fun!
The next morning, May 4th (or Star Wars Day), Alexis and I got up and walked to city center for an Irish breakfast along the Quay. It was delicious. We wandered down the Quay and ended up going into Reginald’s Tower. I had already been through it, but decided to go through again with Alexis. It has so much history throughout it! We walked part way to WIT before giving up – it was a long walk and she didn’t really need to see my campus.
So, we went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Tramore. Some of my friends were going to be there, so after we walked along the beach and took lots of pictures, we met up with Nathan. We ate lunch while some friends finished surfing. Yes, surfing! It was fun to watch them. (You can see pics and read about it on Brittany’s blog if you’d like.)
We came back to the apartment, and while Alexis slept and Brit studied, I did the dishes and made dinner. Later, Alexis and I met up with Anna, Eva, Nathan and Sarah to go to Katty Barry’s pub for a pint and some live Irish music. It was a lot of fun! It was my last chance to hang out with Eva before she left for Germany, so I really liked going out with them.
On Tuesday, Alexis and I ended up starting later than planned and missed the first bus to Dublin. Instead, we got a hot drink and bite to eat in city centre, before relaxing in the giant book store. Then we caught the bus and were on our way to Dublin!
We found our hostel, which had been recommended by my friend, and checked in. It was a cool hostel, and just across the river from Temple Bar and the main attractions. We decided to look for food, and ended up at a Mexican restaurant for a burrito called Pablo Picante – on Cinco de Mayo! It wasn’t even planned, but it was a really good burrito and we ate in Temple Bar.
We walked to Dublin Castle and saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its park, before heading to the Guinness Storehouse. It was really cool! We got to learn how they make Guinness, and I got to drink a pint of Guinness while overlooking the entire city of Dublin. It was a great experience! I will probably learn to pour a pint when I go back at the end of the month.
After wandering back through the city, we tried to decide where we would go next. We finally decided to just go straight for dinner at a pub which Carlos had recommended. So, we got dinner and spent the evening at O’Neill’s. The food was delicious – I had an Irish beef and Guinness stew and it was so good! Then we grabbed some beers and relaxed watching the football (soccer) game before the live Irish band and dancers came on to perform. They were really good and it was interesting to see! (I have no photos of this because my phone had died…)
After a packed couple of days, we were both pretty tired. However, Alexis had to get up the next morning to catch a bus to her ferry for the UK. I got up to say goodbye before we parted ways. I ended up hanging out in Dublin for part of the day, shopping and wandering, before catching a bus back home. Needless to say, I was pretty tired and slept pretty well after I Skyped my family.
On Friday, I had my first exam here in Ireland. It was a very odd experience for me. Usually, anything within the academic world stresses me out a lot. But, here, with everything being so relaxed, I was not super worried at all. I studied the few days before, and felt pretty prepared. It was interesting that being an international student, I had no idea what I was doing – but the Irish didn’t seem to know much more than me either. They seemed just as lost. Luckily, the few Irish lads I know, knew exactly what to do.
Walking back from my exam, it rained ridiculously hard. By the time I reached home, I was absolutely sopping wet. My jeans were completely soaked through, and my socks were squishing in my boots. I quickly changed before walking with Bruna to meet Brittany and Evelyn at a small restaurant close by. We went to a little diner (Rockin’ Joe’s) for lunch where we ordered a ton of food! I was so full, but it was delicious and totally worth it – a burger, fries and onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake! It was fun to hang out with the girls before Evelyn was leaving to go back home.
That night, a group of us got together to hang out, play some games, and say goodbye to Evelyn. It was great fun, but really sad as it became all too real that our time here is ending. There were tears and lots of hugs. After some people left, I ended up chatting with a couple friends until really late into the night. We talked about everything: gossip, politics, our lives, reasons we studied abroad, cultural differences. It was so great! A few of us stayed up almost all night just talking about everything. It was so great to have a conversation and really connect with people who I have known for only a few months. We have so much in common, and found out that we really understood each other.
On Saturday, after getting up quite late, Brittany and I met up with Anna, Nathan, and Sarah to go to city centre. We went to Blackfriars, a coffee shop, after wandering around Penny’s, the clothing store (kinda like Forever 21). It was great to relax, drink some tea and coffee, and just chat!
Later, we all decided to pitch in and split Chinese food for dinner. Again, we had a great time just hanging out together. I feel like we all get along really well, and I sincerely hope that we can stay close and in touch over the next while – until we meet again for a reunion. 😉
Honestly, although not a lot happened this week, I feel like I learned a lot about myself and just life in general. Goodbyes are hard – but for me, not saying goodbye to these wonderful people is even harder. And if you lads are reading this, get ready for a post that will make us all tear up coming in the future.
“I am thankful for nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality.” – Pinterest quote.
May the road rise up to meet ya
I think one thing that I will miss about living in Ireland, is the fact that I am so busy and see people everywhere. It seems like we always have something happening, either here in Waterford or we are all travelling. And honestly, I love that I can be walking across campus or around town, and I see so many people I know. Not just international students either. Yes, I know some Irish. That just doesn’t happen for me at home.
This week I had a few days that I am excited to tell you about. Basically, this week there was no school as a “study break” before exams begin next week. Of course we all studied, just probably not as much as we should…
We started this event with our large group of friends where some students from the same country will host a dinner night. Before the Easter break, there were Mexican and Brazilian nights. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to either. After the break, we had an American night – complete with amazing mac ’n cheese, chicken fingers, pb&j, and homemade delicious cheesecake, with beer and games of course – and then a French dinner – with amazing food that our friend had cooked for the first time, and made into a meal of courses.
Last Friday, Brittany and I had all our friends over for Canadian ‘breakfast for dinner.’ We really wanted to serve maple syrup, and this was the best way we could think of. We made French toast instead of pancakes, so we could keep it gluten free for our friend. Then we made fruit salad, scrambled eggs, and sausages. It was a pretty big hit, I think! Brit and I were cooking basically the whole time, but everyone said that they loved the French toast – and we did get to eat some. Our friend, Nick, from Newfoundland, brought chips (fries) and made some gravy to serve a version of poutine. It was pretty good – but made me miss poutine with cheese curds! Then we made s’mores for everyone, a North American treat that they loved. It was a pretty fun night!
On Monday, our friends held a Bavarian dinner. It was delicious. We ate Breze mit Butter (pretzel with butter), and for dinner we ate Semmelknodl mit Pfeffersoβe und Schweinsbraten (please never ask me to pronounce this). I’m honestly not too sure what it was exactly – some meat, I think pork, and a ball of dough-type substance with a gravy sauce on top. For me, though, dessert was the best, and it’s a German word that I can actually say: kaisershmarn. It was delicious! Berries, powdered sugar and cinnamon with something like a pancake, but less sweet. I loved it, and I’m not going to lie, I had two servings… [The full German name is: Kaiserschmarn mit gemischten Beeren, Zimt und Puderzucker.]
With lots happening this week, and many attempts at studying, Brittany and I decided that a day off in city center might be a fun idea. So, on Wednesday, we headed downtown to go to Reginald’s Tower. It was so interesting (and only 2 euros)! Honestly, if you ever come to Waterford, it is a must see. It does a great job of outlining the rich history of Waterford, the oldest town in Ireland. There were a lot of cool Viking artifacts and the tower itself was pretty interesting – albeit built for people who were possibly a bit shorter, as Brit and I had to duck under many of the doorways and along the spiral stairs.
After the museum, we decided to go to Christ Church Cathedral. For those who don’t know, I had a pretty hard time when I learned that my Gramma had passed away at home (a week and a half ago now). It was something I was going to have to go through by myself, very far from home and family. I spent a few days just walking and exploring Waterford by myself, collecting my thoughts. The one day, I ended up in this Protestant cathedral. You would never guess that it is from the 18th century. It looks so modern inside, but is very beautiful.
Of course, being downtown, we decided to stop somewhere for a warm drink and a snack. We ended up at Blackfriars, one of the first coffee shops we entered when we got here. The owners and staff are so friendly and welcoming, and the drinks and sweets are always amazing. I love their hot chocolate!
My last bit of interesting news is what I did yesterday: my friends and I got dressed up ‘fancy’ to attend WIT’s International Student Black Tie Event, or Mayoral Reception. It had a few names. Basically, we all got to get dressed up in fancy clothes and shoes, do our hair and makeup (well, the girls), and go to City Hall. We listened to some speeches, drank some wine, ate some great food, and took a ton of pictures. It was fun! There were so many international students, and I realized that even though our group of friends is quite large, it is small compared to the number of students studying here from other countries.
After the reception, many of us went to a friend’s apartment to hang out before heading to the after party. (Yes, there was a planned after party, by the school, at a night club.) My friends and I had gone to our apartments and changed out of our heels, so we were able to dance and have a lot of fun at the club. It was great to relax, hang out with everyone, and forget the stress of exams for a little bit.
Even with the ups and downs of losing someone I was very close to, I had a busy and interesting last few weeks. With school ending, we are now gearing up for exams – my first of which is next Friday. Honestly, I feel like I should be a bit more stressed out, seen as it’s worth 100%. But, I’m not. I figure that it’ll all work itself out. I am studying and that’s all I can do. (For those who know me really well, you will understand how huge it is for me to say something like that. Apparently Ireland has changed me.)
This weekend my friend, Alexis, is coming from home. With everything that’s happened, and all of my friends having their friends and family visiting, I am beyond excited to see a familiar face from home. I can’t wait to show her around and take her to the awesome spots I have discovered here.
And on that note, I want to add something that some of my friends have done over here: a brief list of things that I miss at home.
– Obviously I miss my friends and family the most. And Finn, my puppy.
– My bed. I miss my double bed that I can roll over in, and my feather-down comforters.
– Tim Hortons. I want an Iced Capp and Timbits, please!
– Hot water. Man, I took it for granted before. Cold showers here suck. (I do have hot water most of the time, but only if it doesn’t run out or if I heat it up first.)
– Dishwashers. I am sick of handwashing all the dishes. And boiling a kettle to have hot water to do it.
– Fast internet. Seriously.
– Driving. I love driving, and it’s been weird not driving here. Although, I wouldn’t want to on the opposite side of the road…
– Stores being open really late. Everything closes so early here! The grocery store that is open the latest closes at 21:00 (9pm).
What about things that I will miss from Waterford?
– Again, obviously I am going to miss the amazing people that I have met here. It sucks that we are going to be separated by expansive oceans, expensive plane rides, and a 5-9 hour time difference. Guys, I know I’m far away, but please stay in touch!
– Walking. I honestly have begun to love walking. I walk everywhere here. And I enjoy it.
– Cafes. There are so many great cafes here.
– The pubs. Yes, I know we have pubs at home, but the atmosphere here is completely different. And I love it.
– Okay so this is more for Europe in general, but I love the fact that it is somewhat cheap and easy to get between different countries and places. It is mostly impossible at home unless you have a car or a ton of money…
– The accents. Enough said.
– The friendly people. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly! I just don’t get the same vibes at home.
I’ve probably forgotten some in my attempt to finish this post, but this is basically everything I’m missing. Mom, I didn’t put Starbucks because technically it is here in Europe. I found one in almost every city while travelling. It was just that they didn’t have my one summer drink…
To my family and friends back home: thank you for all of the kind messages. It is definitely hard being away from my family at this time, but I am doing okay. I have a few friends here who have been amazing through it. I was very lucky that I got so many years with my Gramma, and that I have a lot of great memories. Although I didn’t get to see her right before I left, I got to Skype her twice while I’ve been here. I know that she loved me and was proud of me. I loved her very much and will miss her a lot. But I know that she would want me to keep moving, continue my studies and travels, and just live life. She was a beautiful and amazing person – she will be in my heart everywhere I go, just like others I have lost.
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ros
May the road rise up to meet ya
So, here it is – the post many of you have probably been waiting for…
I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland.
I was definitely super excited, but had no idea what to expect of this day – other than the fact that it would be some of the biggest crowds I would ever encounter, and that it would literally be madness. And on these two points, it did not disappoint.
The day started out pretty early, with everyone catching the bus at 8:30am. It was then a two hour bus ride of pictures, excitement, and face paint.
Brittany and I had bought cute hair clips and necklaces, with shamrocks, as we had nothing green and wanted to join in the fun. On the bus ride, a friend of mine nicely painted a green, sparkly shamrock on my cheek – and it was perfect!
Getting off the bus, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then followed the hordes of people heading to the parade area on O’Connell Street (I’m not sure why I remember that detail…).
We stood around for a while, waiting for the parade to start, and basking in the fact that we were in Dublin for St. Paddy’s. It was truly amazing.
Except for the fact that the parade was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen, and I couldn’t even see half of it. The street was not the best set up, with an uphill slant. So, when the father put his daughter on his shoulders in front of me, my view was completely obstructed. The little snippets I did see included floats of insects and mad scientists, and a giant rubber duck balloon falling over. It was fun just hanging out with friends and trying to figure out what was going on.
We started walking before the parade ended, and split into two groups: one went for food and the other to walk around the city. For once, I was not in the group looking for food!
With Brittany, Sarah, Evelyn, and Virginia (who found us in Dublin), I wandered the streets of Dublin and took in some of the most famous sights. From the outside of course, because the inside costs money and I’m a poor student. 😉 We walked to Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Dublin Castle. They were all amazing, and there were so many people at all of them.
We stopped for a cup of tea before meeting up with the others to head to a pub, The Market Bar. I ordered a Guinness, of course. Have to have a pint of Guinness for St. Paddy’s. Or green beer. (But that was Heineken and I’m not a huge fan…)
Trying to find some place to eat for dinner was crazy. We met Kitty, Bruna and Hubert, and waded through the masses to try to find a place we had heard of – only to be told it was full. Standing in the street, we saw a little Italian restaurant to the side, where the man offered us 10% off because he heard our friends speaking Brazilian. So, we went there! Had some good food, wine, and conversation (and 3 more of our friends met us there later).
We tried to find everyone else at a club, but when following the map, the place didn’t really exist. We ended up hula-hooping in the street (it’s a long story), before heading to The Porterhouse for about 1.5 hours before the bus left. It was a great atmosphere, and we had fun all hanging out.
The bus ride back at 1am included many sleeping people, and many others who were very drunk. But in my opinion, it was a pretty great day and a crazy experience. Definitely one to remember for a long time.
On Thursday, it was Brittany’s birthday. She wanted to keep it pretty low-key, so I helped her come up with some ideas. When the day came, I surprised her by decorating her door with birthday banners, and picking up a few small presents. We met up with some friends later, and went to Geoff’s for dinner and drinks. It was so much fun to just hang out and chat. It was a great relaxing evening!
We tried to decide if we wanted to stay out, and opted for coming back to the apartment instead. I had picked up a cake, so we ate cake and drank tea while chatting some more. These people are truly awesome. I think Brittany had a good birthday – she didn’t tell me otherwise…
Then on Saturday, there was another birthday of a friend – Evelyn! This was the 4th birthday in one week. Brittany, Bruna, Evelyn and I met to go to city center for lunch and some shopping, just a girl’s day out. It was a pretty fun day!
That evening, we ended up hanging out in our apartment first with just a few friends, drinks, and some music. Some of us agreed to go to city center where a band was playing at a bar. So, we headed to Shortt’s to listen to the Pearly Whites – and they were so good! They played new and old music with almost a swing-type feel. We danced and had a great time, staying until the bar basically closed. It was a great night!
Other than that, not much has happened the last two weeks. Mostly, I have just been preparing for my trip… as I leave in just over 2 days!!!! 2 DAYS!!!! Can you tell I’m excited?
I am going to go to 4 countries in two weeks, travelling through various cities and cultures. I am beyond ecstatic to be stepping on the continent of Europe for the first time, and I couldn’t have asked for better travel companions.
In case you are wondering, I will put my itinerary here again: start from Dublin, and travel to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Paris and Nice before coming back home in time for classes again. It is going to be amazing.
I will unfortunately not have a computer or very good internet for the next two weeks (although I don’t have good internet here, so there’s not much of a difference there). The inability to update my blog means that you will have to keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to receive updates and proof of me being alive and safe. Probably Twitter will be your best bet (which you can see here, on the right).
Thank you to everyone who has been supporting me back home! I love and miss you all, but am so excited for this adventure. I will try to keep you updated as best I can.
Signing off for the next two weeks…
May the road rise up to meet ya.
“collect moments, not things”
Sitting in class, time seems to drag on as the minute hand slowly inches its way to a new hour. With a new hour, another class begins and the cycle repeats.
But outside of class, it scares me how quickly time moves. A day goes by in the whirlwind of school and going out with friends. And if you blink too long, it’s suddenly the end of the week. You do a little trip and some homework on the weekend and start again.
Nonetheless, I am making the most of all my time here, even the slow moments in class.
I am reading so many interesting books and articles! I just finished Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. An interesting read – my interest was only sparked when I started reading articles and looking at the depth of the novel in class. Last week, I began reading Great Expectations of the infamous Charles Dickens. I haven’t read Dickens before and am excited for this literary experience.
This past week involved a few nights out, with a few lazy days as well. On Tuesday night, I went with some friends to the Jazz Jam Session again. There were more of us this time, and it was a great night! I really enjoy the spontaneity and the idea of ‘jamming’ to create cool music.
On Wednesday, Brittany’s friend arrived to stay with us for a few days. Her name is Virginia and she is awesome. She is studying in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have really enjoyed chatting with her and getting to know her. It’s cool to get a perspective on study abroad from someone else who is participating, too, but in another country.
Thursday morning we wandered around city center before splitting off to go to class, do homework, or explore. That night, we wanted to take Virginia to a local bar in Waterford with live music. So, we headed to Kazbar’s after a short get together at a friend’s place. There was a big group of us, and it was a ton of fun to hang out with everyone! We all had a great time listening to the music and chatting.
After doing some homework on Friday morning, I ventured on the long walk to go climbing – as I really do miss being able to drive to the gym and climb whenever I want. That night was even more of an adventure, as Brittany and I tried to create a Spanish tortilla for Virginia. It was a little overcooked, but still great! We were quite proud of ourselves. Inviting a few of the girls over, we hunkered down for a movie night with popcorn and ice cream with Baileys. It was delicious.
The weekend was all about the day trips.
Now, most of our trips have been pretty mishap free, so I blame it on the Friday the 13th weekend. Saturday was our trip to Wexford. We planned to bus into town to catch a bus to a castle a little ways out. After some minor issues (including getting dropped off in the wrong place, and a friend hurting his ankle), we finally arrived at the castle and gardens of Johnstown Castle.
And man, was it worth it.
The gardens and grounds were beautiful. The grass was a luscious green in every direction, and the trees were a beautiful and tangled mess of branches. Honestly, the pictures don’t do it justice. I feel like in the spring, when everything is in bloom, it would be amazing.
We ate a mediocre dinner in Wexford before journeying back to Waterford, our temporary home.
This morning (Sunday), Brittany and I decided it would be fun to take Virginia to eat an Irish breakfast. We had a great brunch at Dooley’s Pub on the quay, where I finally tried Waterford Blaa (it is really just a bun/bap, but it was delicious)!!!! We then caught a bus to show Virginia the beaches and cliffs of Tramore.
I loved Tramore. And since it’s so close, I will probably visit it again before I leave beautiful Ireland. This time, it was less windy, sunny and cold; but it was a great day nonetheless! It was fun to walk along the beach and sit at the top of the cliffs and just talk with the girls. It was great craic!
Flash forward to a tired Julie, sitting in a cold room, writing this blog post.
And there is only more to come, as this coming week will be packed with amazing adventures (that I cannot wait for)! Spoiler alert: I’m in Dublin, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, so we all know that will be an experience all in itself.
I can’t believe I only have 2 months left here. I’m trying to grab hold of every opportunity and memory that I can. I don’t want to miss or forget anything from my time here. But I’m so excited for the adventures awaiting me down the road.
May the road rise up to meet ya
“die with memories, not dreams” [pinterest quote]
“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag
Day 4 – Cliffs of Moher
Having breakfast in a common hostel kitchen is definitely an experience everyone should have. You get to meet some very interesting people, who are there for all different reasons. The morning before we caught the bus, we met a guy who had just moved to Galway from England, staying in a hostel until he could find a flat. Super interesting stories and thoughts.
Through our awesome hostel, we booked a bus tour to see the Cliffs. This way, we got to have numerous stops, and someone would tell us what everything was or meant. Otherwise, I would never have noticed the ‘tombs’ since they look like mounds of earth, nor the fairy trees or groves, where there are trees in a circle and the grounds are considered sacred by some. We got to see Dunguaire Castle, hear multiple interesting stories about fairies and crazy women of the past who married 9 times to keep a house… plus lots of adorable baby lambs!
And then we reached the Cliffs of Moher.
Now, a lot of my friends were absolutely speechless. Being an English major, I was only speechless for a moment before a multitude of words came to mind – amazing, breathtaking, spectacular, brilliant, natural, beautiful! Of course, climbing also came to mind, but I tried to take in the wondrous sight instead, storing it in my memories.
We spent 1.5 hours wandering the trails along the cliffs (not going too close, mom, don’t worry), and taking great and silly pictures. It was a lot of walking and a magnificent afternoon. We could even see the Aran Islands in the distance, our next adventure.
That night was nothing exciting unfortunately. We were all pretty tired and knew that we had an early morning, so we hung out in our tiny hostel room.
Day 5 – Inis Mor (Inishmore)
We got up early to catch the bus to Ros a Mhil, where the ferry would depart, only to find the bus completely full. We were disappointed, but the bus driver let us stand for the ride so we could make the ferry. I got a seat part way through – the others, however, had to stand for the hour bus ride.
The ferry ride was a whole other story. I have been on multiple ferries, going to Vancouver Island with my family since I was quite young. I never really thought about the fact that the others may have only ridden a ferry once or twice in their lives… and this was not the best ferry to start on. A 40 minute ferry ride across the Atlantic Ocean, with rain and wind outside, meant the ride was pretty rough and choppy. The lads survived, though.
On the ferry, a very nice, older gentleman saw our group and struck up a conversation with me. He was a local of the island and ran a bus tour. He offered to give our group a discount, and he would take us around the island for the day. We all jumped at the idea, since it was still raining, and our only other option was to ride bikes. This way, we could get the full history of everything on the island, and have the chance to go to all the amazing sights and places.
Brittany and I saw a girl who we had met on our tour to the Cliffs the previous day. She was Canadian and travelling by herself. So, we talked to her the whole ferry ride, introduced ourselves (since we hadn’t exchanged names the day before – hers was Lisa), and we invited her to come along on the tour with us. She accepted, and we all had a great time.
I’m going to list some random facts we learned about the island(s) that I found interesting:
– There are 3 islands: Inismore, Iniseer, and Inisman, with Inismore being the largest.
– It has 3 churches, 3 schools, 6 pubs, 1 store, and 1 cash machine (which I used…)
– The main language is Irish, and the main industries are fishing and tourism.
– The bank on the island is open only 1 day a week, and they have a lunch break of about 2 hours.
– While other places have doctors that fly from one area to another, the islands had a priest that would fly to each island to give mass.
There you go. Random facts.
On our tour, we stopped at the infamous ruins of the Dun Aengus Fort. The walk up was gorgeous, and the views were spectacular. I think our group loved the views from the cliffs more than the ruins themselves. It was far more exposed than the Cliffs of Moher, as you could literally walk right up to the crumbling edges. We were, of course, quite careful. It was definitely worth two euros just for the views.
We went to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, saw ruins of the 7 churches and stopped in another graveyard, and bought souvenirs (I bought postcards and a ring). We wandered the main village of Kilronan before catching the ferry back. The ride back was much smoother for the latter half, and we got to ride on a double-decker bus to get back into Galway.
We were pretty tired again – the ferry rides and another long day of bus had really worn us down. We parted ways with Lisa, and decided to hang out in our hostel. Brittany, Carlos, Bert and I went to Napoli’s to order pizza, and walked along the River Corrib. It was pretty at night, and the sky was clear so you could see the stars. We took the pizza back to the hostel, and after the guys picked up some beers, we all just hung out. It was a ton of fun, and the pizza tasted delicious!
Day 6 – Final Day – Travelling ‘Home’
We had to check out in the morning, but a few of us decided to sleep in until we had to get up. Then we just grabbed hot drinks and a snack at a local café.
We wanted to take a free walking tour of Galway city, as we hadn’t seen much of it yet. We waited for 30 minutes with no guide showing up… Finally, a girl came (her name was Laura) and explained that there had been a mix-up, the other person hadn’t shown up, and she would cover. I’m glad we stayed, because she was actually amazing and knew a lot about the city.
She told us a lot about Galway’s history, and showed us the various sites around the city. I wish we would’ve had more time to have gone back and explored them fully.
– The cathedral looked really old, but was actually built in the mid-1900s. And the ceiling was apparently made of Canadian cedar – it would have been cool to go there and ‘smell home.’
– We got to see Lynch Castle, and hear the story of how a baby saved a monkey from a fire.
– We saw the Spanish Arch, where the Irish used to trade with the Spanish, and the remnants of the old wall that used to enclose the city.
– Laura explained why the post boxes in Ireland are green – they are actually left over from the British and have the Royal crest on them. After the Rebellions, it was too expensive to replace the boxes, so they used cheap green paint and painted them green!
– We learned about Brehon laws – the idea of the ‘honeymoon’ comes from Ireland. If a man was strong and rich enough, he could have 2 wives. BUT – if the first wife wasn’t happy, she had 3 days to murder the second wife before it was considered illegal. So, the honeymoon was created for the husband to protect his second wife!
– Also, Halloween was an Irish tradition – it used to be thought that the veil between the worlds of the dead and living was weakened on this night, and evil spirits could come into the world and possess or kidnap you. So people would disguise themselves by wearing the skins and heads of animals. Creepy, right!?
Perhaps the coolest thing though: Laura taught me some words in Irish. I learned ‘slainte,’ which means ‘cheers,’ ‘failte’ means ‘welcome,’ and ‘creol’ means ‘music.’ (Plus: ‘craic‘ means ‘fun.’ Don’t ask me to try to say them though, as I’m told by the other international students that we have terrible pronunciation for basically every language except English).
After that, we took a bus to Limerick. Here, we wandered the city at night along the river. We realized we hadn’t really explored the cities at night, with there either being nothing to see or us being too tired. We couldn’t decide on where to eat for dinner, and somehow Brittany and I agreed to eat kebabs. They actually were pretty good – although not what I had expected at all. I probably won’t eat another one for a while – at least, not sober.
The trip finished with a bus ride home to Waterford, with lots of jokes and laughs along the way. It’s weird to call this place home still, even though that’s what it is. It will be my home for the next 3 months even.
But it’s not just the place – these people I got to travel with and meet are a huge part of it. Thinking about the end of the semester, and not seeing all of them, makes me really sad. BUT – for now, we will plan more adventures and enjoy all the time we have left here!
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Pinterest
Well, I have now planned a trip for 8 people (with help obviously), stayed in hostels for the first time, bused along the West of Ireland, and been to some of the most amazing places. All within 6 days.
I have a lot that I want to write – I’ve experienced so much, learned a lot, met some great people, and seen some amazing things. But, for the sake of your eyes and brains, I will attempt to condense as much as I can.
Day 1 – Cahir and Cashel
(We pronounced Cahir wrong for numerous days until someone corrected us – you say it like ‘care.’)
8 of us set out at the beginning – 5 guys and 3 girls.
We had wanted to go to Cahir to see a castle we had seen on the internet, but were super disappointed when we arrived to find it under construction. So, instead, we went for a walk along the river behind the castle. Honestly, it was a great decision! The natural scenery was beautiful, and we all got some great shots. Even though we had torrential rain and sideways winds for the walk back, our wet jeans and dripping jackets were definitely worth it for the views we found.
We had lunch at a little café before taking a bus to Cashel. Cashel is home to the ruins, the Rock of Cashel. My friend Hubert and I were the only ones who saw the ruins from the bus window, our excitement growing as we would finally see something really cool!
We found our hostel (pretty good for my first hostel actually), and headed off to explore the Rock of Cashel. We might have walked along an ‘out-of-bounds’ area (we aren’t sure), but the views were amazing and worth it. Green hills surrounded, and we could see even more ruins in the distance. The ruins were really cool to explore – although dodging stepping on tombs was a little interesting and morbid…
We found a little local pub for dinner that was edible, and had a quiet night in at the hostel.
Day 2 – Limerick
To get to Limerick, we had to pass back through Cahir. So, we stopped for brunch there. I got to have pancakes with maple syrup for Pancake Tuesday! I was so excited to find food from home on a menu!
Limerick was probably one of my favourite cities that we have been to so far these 2 months. The atmosphere is really relaxed, and sometimes it definitely doesn’t feel like you are in a city. We wandered until we found King John’s Castle. We had a ton of fun exploring and taking pictures all around the castle grounds!
And then we were 7, as we said goodbye to Kitty at the bus station – she was going back home to Waterford, and we were continuing on. That night, the guys wanted kebabs and pizza for dinner, but Brittany and I decided we wanted something better. So, we asked the lady at reception, and she recommended a restaurant called Marco Polo. It was quite fancy, but pretty average prices – so we were really excited that we got to have one night out with really good food!
We met up with the guys afterwards, and headed to a local pub for a pint and to listen to live music. The band was only two guys playing guitar and using back beats and music, but they were really good! It was a great night out. And our hotel that night was amazing! The beds were incredibly soft, like sleeping on clouds. We all got a great night’s sleep with no bunk beds.
Day 3 – Galway
One more thing that made our hotel awesome – free breakfast in the morning! So we got to have a mini Irish breakfast to start off our day. We hung out in our great room for a bit before wandering the city streets of Limerick and buying food at a grocery store.
We caught a bus to Galway in the afternoon, and checked into our hostel. I cannot stress how awesome this hostel actually was! The people were great, and it actually offered a lot while being in a central location. I was so happy with it! And there was a Canadian girl working there who checked us in and gave us recommendations of where to go in the city – thanks, Rebecca!
And we became 8 again, as Carlos joined us after coming back from Spain.
We booked our tours for the next few days around Galway and the surrounding areas, and then headed to the Cellar Bar for dinner. The food was amazing, and the atmosphere was great!!! We had an awesome dinner there. After going back to the hostel and hanging out for a bit, we headed to The Crane Bar for a pint and some live, traditional Irish music. The bar was small and fun, and we all had an awesome time. It was a great way to end off the night!
So this post isn’t too long, I’m going to post part two of my travels in a day or two. That blog post will include the Cliffs of Moher, Inishmore, and a little more of Galway (and is longer). Honestly, I would recommend any of the places we went to or stayed at, as we had an amazing trip!
“We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.”