It’s funny. When you’re young, you don’t realize how quickly things in your life can change. Opinions, situations, events, even people are all subject to the ultimatum of change.
Coming home, I had thought I knew what to expect. After all my time away, I was definitely excited to be stationary again, see all of my friends and family who I had missed for six and a half months. I was interested in sharing my adventures and stories, and many people wanted to hear them. And so, after all my time away, I am safely at home.
I am so lucky to have experienced and seen so many amazing things. I lived in another country, on another continent. I travelled through 12 countries, multiple cities, and have seen many famous sites. I am even more grateful that I met and experienced all of these things with such amazing people.
I already wrote about everyone that I met in Ireland. I am thankful to now have these amazing people in my life, and hopefully we will stay in touch (sorry, it’s a fear of mine). But I know that I will see them again. And then there was my trip with my brother and Kirstin. Of course we had our ups and downs, but we had such a great time. We have so many hilarious stories and memories from the great places we travelled to and the wonderful people we met!
But to be honest, being home is quite different from what I expected.
Everyone has been very kind, asking me questions about my trips and experiences. It has been fun telling my stories and adventures. I think people don’t realize sometimes though, that it is hard to explain exactly how study abroad can change your life when you haven’t experienced it. Sometimes, it feels like people expect me to be the same person, other times they tell me how much they see that I’ve changed. It’s interesting to see different reactions.
And again, being honest, it is hard to come home to the exact same situation you left when you are no longer the same. How could I be the same person after these amazing experiences?
Since being home, I have tried to stay busy. Staying home gives you far too much time to think.
Upon arriving home, my cousin was going to be married – and I was a bridesmaid in the wedding! It was a very nice wedding, and I had a lot of fun. Riding in a limo with my cousins and their friends, taking a million pictures in the ridiculous heat, dancing to great and terrible songs with friends and family, and just having a pretty fun night! It was nice to see two people I have known for so long, completely happy and ready to spend the rest of their lives together. Congrats Brent and Vee, I wish you tons of happiness in your new life and home!
Last week, I tried to spend some time in the beautiful outdoors of my home province! I met up with Brit for a day of hiking in Cypress Provincial Park. We had a great time hiking, catching up. Even though the view was completely covered by clouds and fog, it was a really fun hike! We got to catch a great view on the way down the mountain as well. We went into Vancouver to have dinner and walk along the inlet. It was such a great day!
With one day in between, I went hiking again! This time, I went hiking closer to my home, in Golden Ears Provincial Park. I went with my friend, Christy, who I have been friends with for basically my entire life. It was great to be able to spend so much time outdoors these past two weeks, as I had definitely missed my mountains in the time I was gone.
We had an amazing time catching up, and hiking through our beautiful rain forests and mountains. And the rain forest was in full swing that day, as it was absolutely pouring rain while we hiked. By the end of the day, we were completely soaked through! Of course, this meant a stop at probably one of our favourite food enterprises, the classic Canadian Tim Hortons! I was glad to go back to my Timmies hot chocolate – typically Canadian, right!?
Two other exciting things that have happened: I spent a day outdoor climbing with Christy in Squamish’s Smoke Bluffs, and I went to the Imagine Dragons concert. The climbing day was perfect, as my first outdoor day of the season. We got in some great climbs, new ones to both of us, and I scraped up my knuckles like a true climber. (The photos are Christy’s.) The concert was absolutely amazing! Definitely one of the top concerts that I have been to (which are few in numbers…). Christy, Zach and I had a great time, rocking out to the songs and yelling along at the top of our lungs. If you’re a fan of the band, definitely see them in concert!
Work and plans have thankfully kept me busy, and the wonderful technology of today’s century has allowed me to keep in touch with my amazing friends who are now so far away. With one semester left to go in my degree, I know that I will stay quite busy for the upcoming months. After that, who knows! I am constantly asked what I plan to do with my degree and future, but I am still kind of unsure. I have a lot to think about and plan.
Over the next little while, I will stay put in my hometown, working and finishing my degree. Once I’m done, who knows where I’ll be! I definitely hope to have more amazing adventures and travels to be able to write about, hopefully sooner than later. For now, there’s no place like home!
“Actually, the best thing you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures…” – Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
After a bus for a few hours, we arrived in Prague. Budapest and Vienna had both surprised us, and Prague was destined to do the same. We all knew very little about Prague. I had learned a little through a class about dictatorships, reading a biography in class that had an impact on me. (If you’re into history, it is called Under a Cruel Star by Heda Margolius Kovaly. Her story is extremely moving.)
Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect from Prague. It surprised me and quickly topped my list of favourite cities.
The first day, we got in to Prague in the afternoon. We checked into our amazing hostel. It was a 17th century palace that had been converted into a hostel, and is a UNESCO protected site. It was great – the bathroom was huge, and the room was comfortable! Zach wanted to rest, but Kirstin and I decided to explore.
We walked down close to the river and found the Lennon Wall. It was really interesting to see the artwork and graffiti that covers the wall, with most of it relating to the Beatles. There are quotes, song lyrics, drawings and more. It was fun to take pictures in front of! We then stopped at a little market area for some amazing local food. It was a fun area to wander!
After dropping off some food for Zach, we ventured up the large hill to get amazing views of the city. We then tried to find the castle – only to find a lot of construction across the entire front of it. We wandered the grounds, and got to see the outside of the beautiful cathedral. And of course, the views of Prague below were spectacular. We knew that this would be yet another city that we would love.
The next day, we got up to go on a walking tour of the city. We overheard some other people in our hostel discussing how they were all going on the tour as well. We all started talking and went to the tour together. Hector and Sofia were cousins from Mexico, and Denise was studying abroad from Hong Kong.
The walking tour was great – we saw so many different parts of the city! The astronomical clock, the Jewish museum and cemetery, the castle (from afar), statues and buildings. There is so much history within the city. It was made even better by our hilarious Czech guide. We also made another friend on the tour – Jamie from England. We now had a large group of us, and we all decided to hang out after the tour as well.
We all went to the Jewish museum and cemetery. It was extremely interesting. Within one of the buildings, there are all of the names of the Jews who were persecuted in the Holocaust, including their homes, families, and any dates known. Like the multitude of tombstones within the enormous cemetery, it was overwhelming, yet moving. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to walk through and take in all of it.
Being hungry, we ended up at the market that Kirstin and I had eaten at the previous night. We all grabbed various foods, before walking to a park around the corner. We sat in the grass, relaxing and chatting. It was great fun to just hang out with new people, getting to know each other. We decided to keep hanging out.
We found a restaurant to eat at after a lot of indecision. The food was delicious, and the company was great. We had fun hanging out and chatting. After dinner, we decided to venture into a well-known club in Prague – Karlovy Lazne Club. Basically, it is a five-story club with each level being a different kind of music. It was definitely an adventure! We all had a great night, dancing and shouting out old and new songs at the top of our lungs.
We had a little bit of a late start the next morning. We all ended up meeting again to explore more of Prague together. Our first stop was the castle, to see the grounds and the amazing views. We took a ton of pictures and marvelled at the amazing cathedral. Kirstin and I led the others to the Lennon Wall, where we took some amazing pictures and goofed off for a while. We then crossed the river for gelato and exploration of the city. We found a cool candy shop, and stopped in multiple souvenir stores. We just had fun exploring.
Another site we found was the metronome on the edge of the river. It is a massive metronome. I’m not sure if there is really a point to it. But, from the top of the hill it stands on, there is also an amazing view of the city. We had so many great views and pictures in one day, so many memories and moments captured. It was such a great day.
After splitting up for a bit, we reconnected to find the “dancing building” that Kirstin had wanted to see. It is an abstract building that is supposed to look like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dancing. I think we saw it? I’m not too great with the abstract – haha! It started to rain on us, so we decided to take the metro a little more than before. We were going to go out for dinner, but decided instead to make dinner at the hostel. It was fun to relax and hang out before saying goodbye to some great new friends.
The following day, we boarded a train to Berlin. I was very excited for Berlin! There are so many sights to see for someone who loves history. But, our very first day we arrived late. After checking into our hostel and having a short siesta, we had to do some laundry – last laundry stop for the final stretch home! We then turned in early that night.
For our first day in Berlin, I was somehow given the task of picking which sights would be our first stops in Berlin. I was so excited. I decided that we should head to the main area of history. So, we took the S-Bahn train to Brandenburg Gate, where we saw the gate and the Reichstag itself. I wish we could have gone into the Reichstag! But it was great to see it from the outside even, as I was able to see something I had studied and heard about for so long. If you do not know, the top of the Reichstag is a glass dome, symbolizing the openness of the past and current government – that there are no secrets, everything is out in the open. It basically represents the opposite of the past regimes of Germany.
Our next stop was the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. Personally, pictures had never done this monument justice, and I do not believe they can. The feeling of standing within these variously sized cement blocks is indescribable – to go from blocks that look like benches to being dwarfed by the height of your surroundings, feeling trapped. It is truly amazing and humbling.
We also found the memorial to the murdered homosexuals and gypsies. It is so important to remember that Jews were not the only people persecuted in the Holocaust, there were so many others who were singled out because of one aspect of who they were. We walked to the site of the Fuhrerbunker, and wandered Tiergarten to find the monument to the Russian soldiers. We found a mall and ended up in a square where a small section of the wall remains as a memory.
I then was able to visit the Topography of Terror, an outdoor museum that I had heard of from a history professor. Along a piece of the wall and remains of buildings used by the Gestapo and SS (secret police forces), history, pictures, and propaganda are displayed for people to learn the truth of the events which occurred with the city of Berlin and all of Germany itself. We also saw Checkpoint Charlie, one of the remaining checkpoints for crossing between East and West Berlin. Before turning in, after a long day of exploring, we stopped for “currywurst” and walked to the TV Tower.
For our second day in Berlin, we ended up splitting up. Zach and I headed out of the center of Berlin to a surrounding area while Kirstin stayed in the city. Zach and I wanted to have the full history experience, so we left the main city center to visit the concentration camp of Sachsenhausen. It was a moving experience that I am grateful for. We saw the barracks where the people were held, the memorial to those who died, the remains of the buildings, and the pit where many were executed. This camp was also used during the Communist regime, as a ‘special camp’ for prisoners of the SS. It was an incredible experience for someone who has studied these events and places for so long.
For our final day, we walked the entirety of the East Side Gallery – the longest section of the Berlin Wall that remains. The artwork was amazing. I wondered how old some of it was, and I was sad to see that others had put graffiti overtop of it. The history was amazing. We also wandered across a bridge to see the Molecule Man. I’m still not entirely sure what it is or what the point was, but apparently it was on a list of things we should see in Berlin.
We basically just wandered the city after that before doing a little shopping and meeting some friends for drinks. We had made some friends in Prague – two French girls and Josue from the USA. We had a night out at the Hard Rock Cafe, after finding it in so many cities for Zach to collect souvenirs. We had a great night!
The next morning was the start of a long day. I think I will leave that for the next post though, as it will probably be a long story.
Ich ben ein Berliner! 😉
So, with one last flight for a little while, we left the beautiful land of Italy and headed to Budapest, Hungary! We were all super excited to begin our explorations of some of the countries that we didn’t know as much about. And as I mentioned in my last post, I was extremely excited to meet my friend Kitty!
We caught a bus and then a metro into the city from the airport, and I was overwhelmed with excitement when I got off the metro and spotted Kitty! It was great to see her again after a month. She came with us to check into our hostel, we all settled our stuff in, and then we set out to explore with our very own Hungarian guide.
First stop: a tradition of the youth of Budapest – to drink in the park at Daag Square! We grabbed some beers and champagne, and found a spot on the grass. It was crazy to be drinking in public, but it is legal there. It was kind of fun to have that experience, as the only other place I had done that was in Belgium. We walked through the city to the beautiful Danube River, or Duma in Hungarian. It was beautiful, and it was just turning to dusk, so the sun was low on the horizon and the sky looked amazing.
We walked across Chain Bridge – the English translation of a Hungarian name that I cannot spell or pronounce – and headed up a very large hill to the palace grounds above. From there, we had an amazing view of the Danube and the city of Budapest beyond. I was overwhelmed and fell in love with the city immediately. It quickly continued to climb the charts as one of my favourite cities that we visited!
Continuing along, Kitty led us to a beautiful church on the hill, and the famous Fisherman’s Tower that also overlooked the city. We went onto the walls connecting to the tower, and got to see the city come to life at night. It was stunning. Budapest lit up at night would rival Paris in my books, as the bridges along the Danube are lit up and look amazing!
After walking back down the hill, Kitty had to catch a train home – but not before she dropped us off at an amazing restaurant! We got to have a great, traditional Hungarian meal for our first night in Budapest. The food was delicious and we all got to try something different. I ate a bean soup, some salad and a pork dish before having a coffee.
The next day, June 20th, we took Kitty’s advice and checked out some places in Budapest that had to do with Hungarian history. I was quite interested, as I honestly did not know a lot about Budapest’s history. Our education started the previous night, with Kitty showing us around and explaining some of the history of the kings and important people. It continued when we visited the House of Terror. The museum explained Hungarian history in reference to the Communist influence. Terrible events happened within Budapest, specifically within the building of the museum. It was humbling to read through the various tragedies that had taken place, learning how greatly Hungary had been affected by the atrocities as well.
Our next step was to visit Heroes Square, where countless statues had been erected to commemorate various kings and leaders in Hungary. We honestly didn’t know who any of them were, and so we decided to have a little fun by posing like some of the statues. Later, Kitty told us who they were and why they were important to the Hungarian people. It was very interesting! We wandered a park, and even found a castle.
We went back to our hostel to relax for a little bit before catching a train out to one of the islands of Budapest. In short, Kitty’s dad owns a restaurant, and we were invited to go there for dinner. It was amazing! We got to experience true Hungarian culture through traditional music, folk dancing, and a traditional 3-course meal. And we got to experience it all with Kitty and her boyfriend, Attila. It was a lot of fun, and we all had a great time. The food was amazing and the show was brilliant! Thank you to the Ronyais for the amazing experience – we are very grateful and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, learning more about your culture!
The following day, we decided to first explore a market that was very close to our hostel. We had been to markets in a few other cities, but this one was very different. It was indoors, two floors, and was massive. We couldn’t believe how much was inside this building, and we took our time looking through and buying a few souvenirs. The food was delicious as well, whether dessert or savory.
We walked along the Danube, as it was a beautiful day. The views across the river were stunning, and we were slightly jealous of the many people on boats. We decided to walk down to the Parliament buildings, and stumbled on the memorial for Jews along the river. On the edge of the river, there are various sculpted shoes which are a reminder and memorial to the Jews who were shot into the Danube during the Holocaust. It was humbling to see, specifically the little baby shoes. There is something unsettling about abandoned shoes sometimes, especially in this scenario.
We made it to the Parliament buildings and took pictures of them in the daylight. They were quite beautiful. We hopped on a random tram to take us into the city, and got off at a random stop. We found a street food which Kitty had stressed that we must try – called Kurtoskalacs. There are many accents that are supposed to be on that word, and I would never attempt to try to say it, but the food itself was delicious! Basically, it is a spiral breaded dessert covered in cinnamon or other things.
That night we were meeting up with Kitty and Attila one last time, to go out for another Hungarian dinner. Unfortunately, the place that we had wanted to go to was full, so we found another place called the Trofea Grill. It is a genius place – you pay the equivalent of 20 euros (except in the Hungarian currency of Forent) and you can eat and drink as much as you like! We got to have traditional Hungarian foods again, plus we could pick and choose other things as well. We had a lot of fun, all getting to talk and know each other better. It was a great night – and I was super sad to say goodbye to Kitty at the end. Thank you so much for everything! You were an amazing tour guide, and we thoroughly enjoyed spending time with you and Attila. Again, thank you!
Our last day in Budapest turned a little odd. Zach really wasn’t feeling well, so he decided to stay in for the day. We had planned to go to an exit game, what we call an escape room at home. They are extremely popular in Hungary (correct me if I’m wrong, but I think they originated there?). But, with him not feeling well, we didn’t want to chance it. Kirstin met some people in the hostel that she wanted to hang out with, while I wanted to explore a little on my own.
I went to Margaret Island, looking at the park and walking along the Danube from a different angle. It was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed the walk! I met up with Kirstin after, and we decided to walk around the city for a while. We went to the basilica and the Jewish synagogue. The basilica was beautiful both inside and out, but we didn’t want to pay to go inside the synagogue. It has been very interesting to me, travelling through Europe, that to enter some churches you must pay.
We went back to the hostel and made an odd dinner for ourselves. Somehow we were able to cook a breakfast-for-dinner with merely a pot and microwave. So, we had eggs, beans, and toast. And palinka – an alcohol made only in Hungary. It was definitely not a good combination, but it was our last night and we were not going to leave Hungary without trying it.
The next day, we rushed to the bus to get to Vienna, scared that we were about to miss it. It was extremely hard to find where we were meant to catch it. After finally finding the area, we were told that our bus had broken down before it got to us, and we wouldn’t be leaving until 3pm. So, left with an extra 4 hours in Budapest, we shed our heavy backpacks and headed back into the city.
We ended up wandering a mall for a while, and then going back to the market because we had enjoyed it so much. We bought some last minute souvenirs for ourselves and friends before catching our bus. The bus was honestly the nicest one I have ever been on in my life – there were tv screens in the seats which let you watch movies, and free tea and coffee were offered…! The time passed quickly with me finishing two movies. Honestly, that night we didn’t really do anything.
We got up the next morning ready to explore Vienna. We headed out and ended up at some church simply because we had seen a dome rising above the other buildings. We were pointed to the concert hall and Opera buildings. Vienna is a center in Europe for classical music, so it was very interesting seeing all the buildings and areas that incorporated it.
We got lost a few times in Vienna, even though we had maps. Streets were just difficult to find or were not on our map and it got frustrating at times – but never as bad as Venice! Cafes of Vienna are famous and a large part of the culture. Certain cafes even have history. We eventually found Café Central, reported to have been visited by Lenin and Trotsky. We couldn’t even get in the door because it was so crowded and packed with tourists.
Kirstin wanted to go to a museum, so we split up. Zach and I went exploring through the city, shopping and looking at various things. We also found Café Hawelka, a place my friend had recommended. It was rumoured to have been visited by Hitler himself. We didn’t actually venture inside, as we didn’t have time, but it was interesting to see. That night we all met up and had dinner close to our hostel, in the Nasch Markt. It wasn’t typical Viennese food, but it was delicious!
Our last day in Vienna, June 24th, was probably my favourite day. We met up with a friend of Zach’s, Johanna, and her roommate, Claudia. They both live just outside of Vienna and were nice enough to come into the city to show us around! The first place we went to was the Haus of Meeres – it was an aquarium! It was so cool, with it being 11 stories! I had never been in an aquarium like that before. We saw so many different kinds of fish, monkeys and birds, and had a great time. It was nice to do something that was just fun! And we got a great view of Vienna from the top of the building.
We stopped for lunch in Nasch Markt, and Zach and I got to try bratwurst. The girls said it wasn’t the best, but we enjoyed it, not really knowing different! We bought a few things in the market, and then hopped on the metro to head out of the city.
Just outside of the city is the amazing Schloss Shoenbrunn, a beautiful palace. We arrived and I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the grounds and building. The inside was just as grand. We wandered around inside using an audio guide to tell us the history. It was a lot at once and honestly I don’t remember most of it. There were very rich and important people who lived there, and the rooms had names that told you exactly how they looked: the mirror room, the red room, etc.
Back in the heart of Vienna, we went shopping! My shoes had broken in the back, and I was in a lot of pain wearing them. So, long story short, I ended up buying a new pair of shoes. We spent some time trying to find a souvenir shop, and then couldn’t find somewhere to eat. We ended up finding a good place for traditional food, getting to try schnitzel and a drink called hugo. It was all delicious!
We said goodbye to Johanna and Claudia, and headed back to our hostel, as we had an early train the next morning. Thank you so much girls for coming to meet us and showing us around the city. We had such a great time and are very thankful for the experience!
Thank you to everyone who has met us on our travels! You made our experiences so much better.
Next stop: Prague! But this post is long now, so I’ll save some stories for later.
Bye for now
With the end of one adventure, comes the beginning of another. My brother, Zach, and friend, Kirstin, arrived from Canada for us to set out on an epic adventure of travelling Europe as best we can. First stop: I want to show them a little bit of Ireland. So, after having shown them around Waterford for a day, we headed on a bus to Galway.
We wandered the city, exploring the various spots that I knew of but had not seen. We went inside of Galway Cathedral, marveling at its beauty and learning a little history. The cathedral was built on the grounds of the old jail, bought for a minimal amount even for that time. We also walked through the Spanish Arch and into the Galway Museum. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love museums! So I was excited to check this one out.
Walking through the museum was interesting – the beginnings of Ireland are highlighted, and there are artifacts from thousands of years ago found by archaeologists around Galway and in the River Corrib. It was really interesting to look at the artifacts and see if they had come from places I knew. One part talked about Dun Aengus, the fort that I had been to on Inis Mor of the Aran Islands. For me, though, the most interesting was the exhibit on Ireland and Galway’s part in World War I. I had not realized that they had played such a large part in it, from thousands of volunteers going to the front to their deaths, to a very brave leader who died in a gruesome battle. The exhibit was done extremely well, with stories of people on one side corresponding to an outline of events on the opposite side of the room. I really liked it. We couldn’t finish the museum though, as it closed. So we quickly took some shots out the third floor window of the River Corrib and the views beyond.
We wandered and found a small place to eat for an Irish dinner. The rest of the night was just walking around or relaxing at the hostel. I think we are all a little tired, which does not bode well for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, some nights we will hopefully sleep better than others.
On Zach’s birthday, we had booked a day at the Cliffs on a tour, even though the weather did not look too promising. We were hopeful that it might turn into a better day. The tour was different from the one I took last time – including the weather. It rained and the wind was insane! It was so foggy that we couldn’t even see the cliffs. But, despite the wind blowing us over, it did afford us a view of the cliffs for a short time.
May 28 – after a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived in Dublin. After Zach and I grabbed a quick burrito, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’). There was so much history, it was really interesting! We then learned to pour our own Guinness at the Storehouse, my second time through. It was super cool to get to pour my own though, especially having lived in Ireland and drinking it on tap. 😉 We hung out at the hostel before heading to The Porterhouse, a pub I knew from St. Patrick’s Day. We enjoyed some beers and live music before turning in for the night.
The next morning, we took a walking tour of Dublin to see some of the sights. It was a ton of history packed into a short session. I had already heard a lot of it over the months, but was still overwhelmed by the enormity of everything Ireland had gone through.
After the tour, we headed to the Museum of History and Archaeology- mostly because they had the bog bodies that I had been hearing about for months. Basically, Ireland is known for its bog lands, and years ago, archaeologists began to find things in these bogs from centuries ago. With the acidity of the bogs, many things are well preserved. We got ice cream, and then wandered around St. Stephen’s Green and Dublin. We had some problems finding transport out to the hotel we were switching to for the night.
The next day, May 30, we left Ireland. It was super bittersweet for me, leaving a country that I had loved to call home for 5 months but embarking on an exciting adventure around Europe with awesome people. I took in the sights from the airplane window as we flew to Bristol. We were staying with Kirstin’s friend, Bailey. Bailey was really awesome, and we were very appreciative of her letting us stay in her tiny, British flat. It was a lot of people in a small flat, but it was so nice to be right in the city. We wandered the city that afternoon, cooked dinner together, and went out for the evening.
We ventured to take a train the following day to Cardiff. It was cool to add one more country to our list of many, and it was possible with only a day trip. Kirstin and Bailey went to the Doctor Who museum, the main reason that we had headed to Cardiff. Zach and I decided to tag along to the city, but we decided to explore instead. It was a great day!
Zach and I found Cardiff Castle and Bute Park, where we walked and sat, just chatting and enjoying our time catching up. We wandered the streets of Cardiff, down cute passageways called galleries. These galleries had really cute cafes and shops, and were all over. I absolutely loved them and took far too many pictures! We met up with the girls after, grabbed some dinner, and then headed back for a night in flat.
Our last day in Bristol was specifically for exploring the city itself. Bailey had an exam, so we ventured to explore on our own. We went to St. Nicholas’ Market, where we wandered through the little stalls and we found Zac’s Café where we had a full English breakfast – it was delicious. We tried to find some street art, but ended up in an area that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in, so we went back. Kirstin and I went into Bristol Cathedral – it was beautiful! We went to the Boston Tea Party café for some hot drinks on a cold day before meeting Bailey.
Bailey took us up a tower in Brandon Hill Park, and despite the wind being like that at the Cliffs of Moher, the views were spectacular. You could see all of Bristol, including Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the weather, we had decided not to walk all the way there. That evening, we went out for traditional fish ‘n chips, and tried to organize the next parts of our trip.
An early morning the next day had us on a bus to London. Our hostel was quite far from the main area of the city, but we made it work! We settled our stuff in and headed out, making our first stop at Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and then walking along the Thames. We took a ton of silly pictures with the lions and telephone boxes before seeing Big Ben and the London Eye.
I think the funniest part of the day was when we ended up at The Maple Leaf, a Canadian bar in Covent Garden, for dinner. It was great! We wandered Covent Market before heading back to the hostel for an earlier night.
June 3, the next day, was pretty grand. We ended up going through the British Museum after we eventually found it. I ended up seeing a lot of the same things, but museums never get old for me. I loved exploring the centuries of history stored within its walls.
My parents had arrived in London that day, so while we waited to hear from them, we wandered through the city. After getting a phone call from them, we went to Hyde Park to kill a little time. Except we couldn’t exactly find it. We ended up in a really ‘posh’ part of London, and accidentally found Churchill’s old house! We walked through Hyde Park and saw Kensington Palace from afar, before walking a long ways to see Buckingham Palace.
We had walked almost to Trafalgar Square, a long trek, before we heard from my parents. Without wifi everywhere, it is very hard when you don’t have international phone plans. We ended up meeting them near their hotel at the other end of London, and going out for a nice dinner. It was really great to see them for the first time in 5 months.
We had to check out of our hostel the next morning, so we completely packed up and brought our giant bags with us into London. We stored them for the day at the train station before heading out to meet my parents for a day around London. We sort of went separate ways for part of the day: Kirstin and I would explore while Zach went on the London Eye with mom and dad.
Kirstin and I headed across London via tube to Tower Hill. We wandered around and crossed Tower Bridge to the other side of the Thames, where we had a great view for some lunch. We walked along to the Globe Theatre, where we both decided to recite our best attempts at Shakespeare monologues. It was quite fun. We did a lot more walking when we headed down to the London Eye and made our way towards the Imperial War Museum, the meeting point with my family.
This museum was somewhere that I really wanted to go. It was actually on my bucket list to see it – and I wasn’t able to last time I was in London. I had enough time to wander through two exhibits: the First World War and the Holocaust. The exhibitions were absolutely brilliant! They had so many primary texts, quotes, footage and so much more. It was amazing. I was in museum-heaven.
We hopped on a double-decker bus into the city, and had dinner at Nando’s. I had wanted to try it, as they were everywhere in London. We then went to see the Thames and views lit up at night. It was beautiful and I seriously love London.
The next part of the trip got a little bumpy when we took our bus to Paris. It was an overnight bus and involved us taking a ferry – meaning we were woken up to provide our passports and board the ferry itself. Needless to say, we did not get a lot of sleep, and Paris started off very interesting.
But I’ll save that for another post.
With wifi being difficult sometimes, it’s hard to say how often I’ll be able to update my blog posts. However, I am posting short summaries with pictures on Instagram each day. Those are being shared on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Signing off for now,
Goodbyes are always hard. But a place is only as good as the people in it.
Well, my time in Waterford has come to an end. I won’t be living in Ireland anymore, within walking distance of all my friends and everything else. No more Irish wind or crazy Irish weather. (Except for when it follows me to other cities and countries.)
These months have flown by, but I think that’s a good thing. Talking to some friends, we agreed that we were busy and (almost) always having a great time. I had so many amazing experiences and I now have memories to last me a lifetime. Not only have I lived halfway across the world from my home, but I have travelled a country as best I could and have even ventured into Europe for my first time.
I have seen castles, cliffs, ancient forts, big and small cities, towns, national parks, amazing coastlines, and famous views and areas. I experienced Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, and the sea of green which consumes it in madness. I’ve tried typical Irish food and have now come to love beer. I spent my birthday away from home for the first time, surrounded by new friends. I travelled to cities in Ireland with people I had known for merely a few weeks.
I experienced the actual European continent for the first time with great friends. I couldn’t have asked for better trip mates or a better trip. We have so many great laughs and memories from that trip, even with the ups and downs of travelling. But, in my opinion, we really grew closer from that adventure and the experiences. I hope to stay in contact and see all of you again very soon.
Of course, my roommate and friend from home definitely helped make things smoother and easier. I can’t imagine how either of us would have survived without the other. There’s always that worry when you are going to be living or travelling with someone you don’t know very well – but we clicked right from the beginning. And I’m so grateful for all of our laughs and talks and walks and trips and 1am too-tired-to-think-so-it-just-becomes-laughing nights. I’m excited for more trips and memories.
Already, I happily look back through my journal and pictures to see the many memories and friends I have made. I am the luckiest person to have met these wonderful people, and to have had such amazing experiences. I cannot even begin to describe in words the positive effects this has had on my life. I learned to live on my own, and deal with whatever comes. It was definitely a learning and growing experience not having any kind of safety net nearby. I was able to discover who I truly am and who I want to be. It was a necessary step towards figuring out what I truly want from life – happiness.
I know it might sound odd to some people, but these past 5 months were truly some of the happiest and most memorable of my life. I was able to gain so much from the experience. I was surrounded by different people and cultures who truly affected me, and people who inspired me to examine myself and my life. I had some serious conversations with some people, sharing life stories in a non-judgmental atmosphere, while the majority of time was just experiencing life, new things, and having fun.
So many people asked me “Why Ireland?” and I never had an easy answer. I think after this experience, I can easily say the cheesiest thing that comes to mind: Ireland actually picked me. Ireland and its quirky ways seemed to be exactly what I needed in my life. I didn’t feel stressed at school, I was going out and doing new things constantly – it was a contrast from my life at home. And I loved it. I really hope I don’t lose any of the things Ireland gave me, but I guess it’s an excuse to visit Ireland frequently to maintain them.
To all my fellow international/ERASMUS students from Waterford, it was a pleasure getting to know you and living this adventure with you! I am thankful for the laughs, the parties, the crazy adventures, and the amazing friendships which have formed from this experience. I wish all of you luck in your futures, and cannot wait to see you again – weather it’s in Canada or your home countries, or maybe even Ireland again!
I honestly don’t think there is anything else I can say, but a certain quote comes to mind that completely sums up my mindset at the close of this adventure:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
May the road rise up to meet ya
P.S. – sorry for the very late posts – wifi while travelling Europe can be a tricky situation sometimes.
Okay, so I’ve been pretty busy again. Let me mention some noteworthy things that happened a little bit ago, and then I’ll move on to my trips the past week.
– First, I started climbing at a new, local gym a couple months ago, and got to know the people working there. It was small and a fun atmosphere. On May 11, they were having a fundraiser for Nepal. The goal was to climb 8848 meters, the height of Everest – except with everyone donating and contributing laps on the wall. So, I made my donation and for my day of climbing, I did 50 laps to help Nepal (I climbed 350m total). All proceeds went to the Himalayan Stove Project, and the fundraiser was a great success! (The gym is Activate Waterford.)
– Technically, I was still finishing up school. I had my last exam on Wednesday the 13th. It felt great to get it over with, as that was the final I was most stressed about. It feels weird, however, that my semester is officially over.
– That afternoon, to celebrate, Brit and I went to city centre for some fun, before we met some of the others to do a mini pub crawl. We went to some of our favourite pubs, and tried a few new ones. It was great craic! Later we met up with ‘everyone’ as a sort of goodbye party. There have been a lot of goodbyes the past week, and they have been really hard for everyone. Who knew that you could grow so close in just a few months!?
Alright, now you’re caught up.
On May 15th, Brittany and I set out on a mini-trip to check out another area of Ireland we wanted to see. So, we left the Republic and headed to Northern Ireland to spend 2 days in Belfast. It still amazes me that we can take 2 buses, travelling for 4 hours, and cross an entire country, into another. As we all know, 4 hours would not even get you out of British Columbia…
We took a tour with a black taxi cab. It’s a historical and political tour of the city, and although it is a whirlwind of information, it is fascinating! The history is so tumultuous, from the conflicts and divisions, to the acts of violence which were common until merely 7 years ago. You can still feel the instability in some parts of the city. We went around the city seeing murals, memorials, Catholic & Protestant neighbourhoods, and the peace wall. It was truly interesting, and made me curious to know more about Irish history.
Our driver dropped us off at a great place for dinner, and after eating, we wandered the city a little. We found Queen’s University, which we agreed looked like something from Harry Potter, and we quickly walked through the Botanic gardens before they closed.
The next day was the one we most looked forward to – a tour to Giant’s Causeway! Not only did we get to see the natural phenomenon, we also went to Bushmills Distillery for a pit stop, and saw Dunluce Castle from afar. The winds that day were insane, but we were pretty lucky weather-wise. Giant’s Causeway was not what we had expected, but amazing nonetheless. It is seriously busy with tours and tourists, but we had fun walking around and taking pictures, even hiking a trail to get a view from the cliffs above.
Before the tour ended, we stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, where you can cross to a tiny island that used to be used for fishing. Apparently, the fishermen didn’t have to pay taxes on what they caught there – but they had to lug the fish out of the water and across the bridge. To finish off our trip, we went to the infamous Crown Bar for a pint. Belfast was super interesting and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to see it, even for a couple days.
Coming back to Waterford, there were more goodbyes and parties. Again, it was really hard to say goodbye to people we had grown close to over the past few months.
Lastly, was the trip I just came back from – Brittany and I went to Killarney for a few days. It was more bus rides, and 4 hours (again) to get there, but it brought us to the southwest of Ireland, a part we had yet to see. The bus ride into the city was beautiful, and the town of Killarney itself was cute – like a mix between Waterford and the town of Kilkenny. We took a short walk through Killarney National Park, as it began to pour rain on us, and looked around town before heading to the hostel to make dinner. We ended up sharing a room with 2 girls from Alberta – a whole room of Canadians, eh?
On Tuesday, we got up for what we had been looking forward to – a tour. We found out we would be touring the Dingle Peninsula that day, the Ring of Kerry the next. Weather-wise, we had wanted it the other way around, but it actually worked quite well! It didn’t rain on us either day and we were afforded spectacular views (of course).
The Dingle Peninsula Tour took us to so many amazing places. First stop: Inch Beach. The sun was shining and the views were spectacular as you looked down the far-stretching beach. The tide was out, so you could walk pretty far too. It was a great first stop. We made multiple other stops along the way at viewpoints overlooking beautiful beaches, the ocean, castle ruins, hillsides, the Blasket Islands, and we walked to the smallest church in Ireland. It was so adorably small!
Part way through the day, we stopped at the town of Dingle. It was a place I had really wanted to go, and I was ecstatic to have some time to spend there! We wandered through shops and along the harbor, taking pictures. We got ice cream from Murphy’s, an amazing place! I had Irish coffee ice cream (yes, it had Jameson whiskey in it), and chocolate. We continued our walk and took pictures with the statue of the famous dolphin – Fungie!
Back in Killarney, we went for a walk to Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, as the sun was still shining and it was a gorgeous day out. To finish off the night, we had a quick pint at a little pub, where I got to try a beer brewed locally in Dingle. I’m loving trying new beers now, trying to find new ones I like, and trying local ones whenever I can. Thanks to the guys for making me try new beers all the time – now I find them on my own!
Wednesday led us to our tour of the Ring of Kerry. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to see on this tour other than the landscapes of Ireland from a bus. I actually had no idea what the Ring of Kerry was. Anyways, the tour started off slow and was sort of a letdown in the beginning after we had just experienced the stunning Dingle Peninsula. The first stop was just a viewpoint of the peninsula from the opposite side of the valley, and the second stop was a tourist trap – pay to watch a mini show. We opted out and had lunch instead. Only to find that the next stop was at a single place for lunch. We walked a little to get a better view of castle ruins far down in the valley – apparently a filming site for a movie I love, Leap Year!
Then it only got better. The sights became even prettier as we ventured further into the valley and weaved through the mountains. We made multiple stops at viewpoints, including Ladies’ View, where the Queen (I don’t remember which one) saw the mountains and lakes of Killarney. It was beautiful.
After the tour, we decided to wander Killarney National Park since it had become such an amazing day. We ended up finding an open field and taking tons of pictures of the amazing views: fields, mountains, lakes, and just nature. And deer. Weirdly, I became obsessed with the fact that there was technically no proper fence up, and there was a massive herd of deer in the center of the area we were walking. And I became fascinated watching them as they attempted to ‘escape’ their enclosure – literally just stepping over the fallen fence. But one deer left and multiple others followed. And I got to fulfill a wish of mine for Ireland: walking through a wide open field. It probably wasn’t illegally trespassing, as I’m pretty sure it was somehow part of the park…
To end off a great day, we had dinner at a restaurant called Failte, the Irish word for ‘welcome.’ It was great! But the best was yet to come – we walked around the corner to The Shire, a Lord of the Rings themed pub. Yes, it was amazing! We walked into Mordor, and I ordered a tankard of Gandalf’s Ale. We met some Americans, listened to live music, and had a great night!
I’m so glad that we got to have these last trips to explore the other areas of Ireland. It’s such a beautiful country, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to travel around it in my time here. I cannot wait to come back to explore some more.
This weekend, I get to see some familiar faces – my brother, and friend Kirstin are coming to Ireland so we can begin our epic European adventure. The 3 of us, one month, 11 countries, 17 cities, friends along the way, and multiple stories. It’s going to be legen- wait for it -dary. Legendary. 😉
Now, I had to say some more goodbyes the other day, and many more are coming. I am going to save these for one post – when I leave Ireland. So get ready guys, it’ll be a sad one.
“Travelling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Hoeg
May the road rise up to meet ya
P.S. – Sorry for the lack of pictures of Belfast… I actually lost all of the pictures from that trip from my camera. And my videos. I’m super bummed about it. But at least I had pictures from my phone and the memories!