Author Archives: clarson1
It’s hard to believe that my time is coming to an end after 4 months on the Emerald Isle. I just finished up with my finals on Monday. I had four of them unfortunately, but I’m thinking I passed all of them. That is not the attitude I would normally have when it comes to school. But the grading system is so weird here; a 75% or above is considered an A, that means my effort also dropped by a quarter. The important thing is I am done with all things University of Limerick related. Now, I get to look forward to packing and cleaning my room. Hopefully I have enough room in my carry-ons because my big suitcase is already filled to the max and is just below the 50lb mark. Fortunately, I invested in a luggage scale before I left so I could weigh my luggage on all of my trips. It is helpful since RyanAir is very strict about their weight limit. It has also been helpful for other people on my trip; it is being passed around as everyone is starting to pack. Which is why I recommend that you purchase one if you want to do traveling. Also invest in a travel sheet and travel towel. The sheet is like a sleeping bag but just a sheet. This way, if you stay in a shady hostel you can wrap up in the cocoon while still using their blankets. The towel is a microfiber towel that folds up really small and is light. On that note, also bring shower shoes with you. You never know when they will come in handy.
I also get to look forward to one last trip! My boyfriend, Anthony, is coming in just two days:) We will be going to Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. We choose to go to Brussels because there is a Chocolate Museum there. Yes please! Then, we are spending 3 days in Paris and seeing everything we possibly can. I should brush up on my French these next few days. I am so excited!
(This post is shorter than others because I wrote it once and then deleted it all by accident haha)
After we hit up Madrid, we flew right to Marrakech in Morocco. If you are wondering why we chose to go to Morocco for our week off, I can’t really answer that. We were randomly looking up flights and saw that a round trip plane ticket was only 25 euro and hotels were only 11 euro for a night. I’m a cheap, I mean frugal, person so it sounded great to me. The plane ride was two hours but Marrakech is an hour behind from Madrid. On the plane, I made a conversion cheat sheet from dirhams to the euro. Let’s say I was pretty much able to live like a queen for 3 days, well kind of. When we were close to Marrakech, I looked outside and the difference from Ireland was crazy. There were mountains in the background and all of the colors were brown, which is a nice break from seeing green everywhere. Once we landed, we found an ATM or money machine and took out 1,000 Dh each. Since we were at the airport, I decided to buy a water just in case. This is also where I learned that French is a main language; good thing I had taken it throughout high school so I knew the basics. I had printed out directions that the hotel sent us so we knew how to get there. Well, we easily found the right bus line and got off at the right stop. After that, we had a couple of issues. The first one is that we were bombarded with people asking us questions and trying to get us to buy stuff from them. But once we found a clearing, we looked at our map and then a guy told us to go through the square, find France cafe, and then take a right. Sweet, thanks for the help. Oh wait, you don’t know how to say take the first right or second. We found the cafe and we took a right. Nothing was looking like a hotel and conveniently, street signs are not popular. Also not popular, accurate maps. There were so many smaller streets that they weren’t on the map which is not helpful when we officially became lost. I tried to ask women for directions to get there and that only confused us more. Finally, we found a guy to that knew English very well and he led us to the hotel. Of course he wanted money, but I was so thankful to finally get in our room that I gladly paid him. It was already dark out and there was no way that we would have ever found the place without assistance. The hotel we stayed at was technically a riad. It was a house that had an open courtyard in the middle of it so there wasn’t a ceiling and was open to the outside. We got a private room that had our own bathroom. After we hung out for a bit, I wanted to get some food so we stayed close to our hotel since we had no idea where we were. We found a cute restaurant where other tourists were eating so we thought it was a good idea to follow their lead. The restaurant was super neat. There were beautiful rugs everywhere and traditional Moroccan musicians serenading us throughout our meal. They served us olives and bread and I ordered chicken cous cous. I pretty much either got cous cous or skewers for every meal haha! The meal was delicious and only 8 euro. Back at our room, we got ready for bed and then made a bucket list for Mal. Being two very petite girls, and me with bright blonde hair, we thought it was safer for us to stay in at night.
In the morning, I tried to take a shower but the water was freezing cold. Not today I said. We got breakfast from the hotel which was bread and you spread a cheese and honey on it and then tea. Moroccan tea is the best tea I have ever had. It’s sweeter than the normal green tea that I have had. So good. With my map in hand, we asked the guy at reception how we get back to the main square. He said take a right and a left. I then clarified if it was first right, first left. He said yes, so we went on our way. And he was actually right. We were literally 100 feet from the main square and when we first got directions it was the second right after the cafe, not the first. That made me a little frustrated but oh well. We wandered through the square where we saw a lot of monkeys in pants and snake charmers, and then we went to a park called Cyber Parc. They had computers throughout the park where anyone could use them. Kinda sweet. There were tons of benches in the park so we claimed one and then soaked up the sun. It was in the 70s the entire time we were there. But since it is an Islamic culture, I wore jeans and long sleeves so I was sweating like crazy. I wasn’t complaining because I don’t the sun a whole lot here in Ireland. After basking in the sun for awhile, we went back to the square and that’s when we got a henna tattoo. This was also the start of my haggling skills. I learned from the best, my dad. We didn’t want to risk them getting smudged so we went back to the hotel to let them dry. For supper we went to a cafe in the square where I ordered 2 meals because it was so cheap. I got two full meals for only 7 euro. Delicious! Once it started to get dark, we headed home. I braved up and took a shower in the cold water. It was a very quick shower but as long as I was clean that’s all that matters. Since it was only 7 o’clock and we had no electronics of any sort, we played the alphabet game with movies, artists, food, etc. It was a lot of letters.
On our last day, we got up and ate the hotel’s breakfast again. We then went out to do some sightseeing. The first place on the list was a palace. We followed the map and then the signs but we couldn’t find it because there were walls blocking everything. We did end up in a really pretty garden where there were a lot of cats. There are so many wild cats in Marrakech that just wander the streets. Mal wouldn’t let me pet any;( On our way back, we got lucky. I put the map away and we happened to stumble across the tombeaux saadiens, the 100,00 Spices Square and the mansour mosque. All of these place we couldn’t find using the map but we managed to wander to them. At the Spice Square, we took a break and ordered a Fanta and people watched. People watching is not something you really want to do because if you make eye contact they will all try to talk to you. As we were sitting there, it was so easy to spot other tourists with their maps, turned around backpacks, socks and sneakers, and the confused look on their faces. Then I realized that was me minus the socks and sneakers. Good thing I like to be a tourist. After our soda break, I put on my shopping face and we hit the streets. There are hundreds on vendors on dozens of side streets that pretty much sell the same things to you. Since eat shop sells similar things, they try and get you to go in their stores. And they think calling me nicknames is the way to go. Here is a list of the names I was called:
- Lady Gaga
- Big ass
- Nice ass
- My precious
- Hannah Montana
- Fish and chips
- Spice Girls
As you can read, I am pretty amazing according to the list lol! If they didn’t call me an obnoxious name like Lady Gaga, I would go in their shop. Then they would tell me that I can look for free. Why yes, I can thank you. If something interested me, I would ask for a price; since I’m a tourist they would give me an obnoxious price. This is where I would either laugh at them or ask if that is the price for one. Haggling is something you do in Morocco and I was so ready. My best work was with a jewelry box. The gentleman told me the price of 450 Dh for one. Then I proceeded to bargain with him until I got it down to 70Dh. Keith would be so proud of me. Mal was so impressed that I had to assist her when she wanted to buy scarves. Her issue was that she would ask for a price and then walk away without bargaining. Rookie mistake. Simply laugh and them and they’ll lower the price. Once I exhausted myself shopping, it was time for dinner. We found a restaurant that had three stories and overlooked the Djemaa El Fna. That is the main area for shopping and street performers. It was a pretty view; we were there as the sun was setting and could see the entire square. So pretty. Since that was our last meal of the trip, I got Moroccan pastries for dessert with some tea. So good. We headed back and packed up all of our clothes and souvenirs. Luckily, I brought my luggage scale or I would have had to rush to throw things away at the airport.
Again, our thinking is not always the best. Originally, we thought it was a good idea to get up early so we could be at the airport early. Yeah, we were there 4 hours early and the airport is smaller than Hector International, so there wasn’t much to do besides sit there and stare at people after we got breakfast of course. Unlike Hector, this airport smelled terrible because there was a smoking section but it wasn’t a room, just a corner of the terminal so it stunk up my clothes. When 3 hours had finally passed, we went and checked in and went through security. They had separate metal detectors for men and women and they didn’t make us take out our liquids was weird. We found a spot to sit and wait. Somehow between the time we went through security and sitting down, Mal lost her boarding pass. She had to go get help and get a duplicate, luckily she had enough time and didn’t have to pay extra. We boarded the plane and said goodbye to Africa. Again we thought we had a great idea at the time, but the execution made us realize it was a terrible decision. Instead of getting a room by the airport to sleep in, we stayed the night in the airport. It wasn’t too terrible. We slept on conveyor belts and chairs. I did learn something about myself though, I am a modern day MacGyver. I somehow managed to drop my iPod in between the two conveyor belts I was sleeping on. With 2 hair ties, a toothbrush, 2 pens, and gum, I was able to poke the iPod and bring it back up through the crack. Only I would do something like that. At least it was funny since we were so sleep deprived. I was glad when we finally made it back to Limerick after 18 hours at the airport, 4 hours on a plane, and 4 hours in a bus. Ireland was even kind of enough to greet us with rain:)
You would think I would have learned by now, but nope. I still think it’s a good idea to do my packing a mere hour before I am supposed to leave. Not smart, but I got it done which is the main point. At the University of Limerick, our classes finish after week 12. Then, they give us an entire week for “study week” before the two weeks of finals we have. Or in my case, they gave me an entire week to travel, so thanks UL. The first stop of the week was to Madrid. Mal and I took a cab to the bus station at 2:30am. When we were booking flights, we thought a morning flight would be great cuz then we would have the whole day to sightsee. We didn’t think about the part where we would have to take the bus in the middle of the night to make it to the airport with enough time to catch our plane. I should have been able to sleep the entire bus ride and then the entire plane ride so I would be refreshed and ready to hit the streets of Madrid. Well, the bus didn’t have heat so I was shivering the entire time. And then the plane was too uncomfortable to sleep in. The plane ride from Dublin to Madrid was 2 hours but Madrid is an hour ahead so we landed at noon. Fortunately, Mal knows someone who lives in Madrid (Laura pronounced Lawda) so she was able to pick us up at the airport. As we were walking to the subway, Mal saw a sign for Dunkin Donuts so we had to make a detour to get food. This is where I attempted my Spanish skills. Let’s just say they need work. Laura did the ordering and talking for us the rest of the trip! After donuts, Laura lead us through the subway and bus systems. We were also lucky enough to stay in the same building as Laura. She lives with nuns. Yes, I did say nuns. A group of nuns run the building. It was 27 euro a night but I got my own room with my own bathroom and the nuns provided all 3 meals of the day. So it was quite the steal. By the time we checked in, I was exhausted. I had been up for about 28 hours without sleep. But Spaniards don’t eat at the same time as I’m used to. Lunch is at 2:30 and dinner is at 9:30. I’m not one to skip a meal, so we went down to lunch where they served us potato and bean soup, chicken, and chilies. Delicious! I also got to meet some of Laura’s friends. With introductions in Spain, you give the person a kiss on each cheek because handshakes are for meeting the parents. After lunch, Mal and I went to our rooms and then took a nap. It ended up being a little longer than needed but it was refreshing. We got ready and then headed out to do some shopping and sightseeing. We went to the Plaza de Espana where the Don Quixote statue was. The main shopping district was nearby and since we are 3 girls, of course we went shopping. Madrid has a lot of stores where they sell really affordable clothing. I felt underdressed in my leggings and sweatshirt since every girl was wearing boots, dresses, scarves, sweaters, etc. They were all very fashion forward compared to me. We went into an H & M store that used to be a movie theater. There were chandeliers hanging everywhere and the store had 3 floors in it. It was heaven on earth to me. I ended up buying a coat for the rare days that I actually dress up and it was only 30 euro! Mal and Laura were talking about going out clubbing later that night so we went and grabbed some Burger King since we missed dinner. If you haven’t noticed, in almost every city that I go to, I somehow end up at a Burger King to either get food or use their bathroom. Once we gobbled up our food, we went back to our place so the girls could get ready. I had a headache from lack of sleep, so I stayed back. And I’m glad I did. They didn’t leave until 12:30 and they didn’t get home until 4:30am. Oofda:)
In the morning, we all slept in and then got some toast, milk, and cookies from the nuns for breakfast. Eating cookies for breakfast in Spain is perfectly acceptable and actually encouraged. Uh, yes please! Once I ate enough cookies, we got ready and went out to do some more shopping and then sightseeing. After window shopping at a mall, we got lunch which consisted of mini sandwiches. I had a ham and cheese (the Spain are known for their ham), a chicken and pineapple, and then an omelet one which was just potato and cheese. After lunch, we walked to the Royal Palace and the Sabatini Gardens that surrounded it. We also saw the Plaza de Oriente and the Plaza de la Armeria. There were a ton of street performers in the squares. The coolest one was two marionette dolls that were dancing and singing. We then went to an indoor market that was jam packed full of people. People were standing everywhere eating and drinking but no one was bothered by the lack of personal space besides me. Only one thing could distract me from having no bubble and that is food. I got churros and hot chocolate. You dip the churro in the hot chocolate and after I gobbled up the churros, I was able to drink the rest of the good stuff. I was a little depressed it didn’t have mini marshmallows though. After our snacks, we walked to another square which had the biggest lit tree I have ever seen. Not a typical Christmas tree, but it was solely made out of lights. I also stood on the exact center of Spain where all roads lead from. There was also this statue of a bear clawing at a tree which is supposed to have some significance, but none of us knew what it was. Our last stop of the day was to see the Bank of Spain, the Metropolis building, and the main post office building which does not look like any types of post office I have ever seen. It looks like a cathedral. I was most excited to see the Metropolis building because I have been watching the show Smallville lately and Metropolis is actually a city in that show. It also made me think of my older brother because he just got new glasses and he is styling his hair a different way so it makes him look like Clark Kent haha! After we took pictures, we hopped on the subway and went home. We just hung out with Laura and chatted until we all got tired. In the morning, Mal and I packed up our stuff and somehow managed to follow Laura’s directions to the airport without getting lost once. I pat myself on the back for that one.
I definitely like Madrid, but if I was to ever go back to Spain, I would go to Barcelona so I could lay on the beach and burn to a crisp:)
Greatest weekend of the semester! Great food, great company, and of course, great sightseeing. On Thursday morning, a whole group of us left Limerick and headed to the Dublin airport. Courtnee, Brittney, Mal, Rebecca, Tera, Maddy, Lauren, and I signed up for a program called Weekend Study Abroad. We pay a fee to the program and they cover our hostel, food, entrance fees, and provide us with a tour guide for the weekend. We took another 3.5 hour bus ride to get to the Dublin airport. Our flight was at 4 so we had to wait around for 3 hours but I would rather be there early than miss my plane. We flew with RyanAir, which is my first time flying with them. The interesting thing about them is that you don’t get an assigned seat. So when they call us to board the plane, it’s a mad rush to get in line and then to get your seat on the plane. When they called us, Mal snuck her way up to the front and got us seats towards the front of the plane. Of course, without fail, a mother and child goes and sits behind us. The small child sitting behind me just ready to kick my seat. The kicking didn’t last long because the kid fell asleep which meant I could. The flight was 3 hours long, but Italy is a time zone ahead, so we landed at 8pm and took a shuttle to Termini by our hostel. The first thing we all wanted to do was eat. We dropped our stuff off in our really nice hostel and stopped by the first Pasta restaurant. Let me just say, you haven’t eaten Italian food until you eat in Italy. I was full the entire weekend.
On Friday morning, someone’s alarm went off at 8am since we were supposed to meet Marti at 9:30 to start our tour. The alarm went off but no one really got up until Lauren came into the room and told us we had 20 mins to get ready. Apparently, whoever set the alarm did not realize that the time zone changed. Whoops! I now know that it is possible for 8 girls to get ready in under 20 mins. It was a scramble to find enough sinks and mirrors, but we did it. Then it turns out that Marti was late so we could of had an extra 15 mins. No one in Italy is on time, ever. Our first stop on the tour was the Colosseum. I was so excited to see it that I watched Gladiator in preparation. Love that movie. The Colosseum is amazing. I knew how big it would be, but I didn’t comprehend it until I was standing inside. We walked around the entire inside and outside and then decided that there were other stops that we needed to get to. Next stop was the Roman Forum. The Forum is under construction and is mostly in ruins so there wasn’t specific buildings we could walk in. But it’s crazy to think that it was were the politicians made all of their decisions. After the Forum, we walked to a panini shop when I ate a salami panini. So delicious. After lunch, we had the rest of the day for free time. So we split up into smaller groups and I went to the Pantheon. I don’t know if anyone has read or seen Angels and Demons, but now when I read it I can say that I’ve been to all of these places. Kinda cool. Once we wandered the Pantheon, it was that time. Gelato time. Throughout the weekend, I tried 12 different kinds of gelato:
- Creme caramel
- Variegato nocciola
- Triple chocolate
- Vanilla and cookies
- Dark chocolate gianduia
- (I can’t remember the last one, but it was delicious)
We sat on the steps in front of a fountain, people watched, and ate our gelato. Then we just meandered through the streets. The map we had wasn’t as useful since it didn’t contain the smaller streets, which is the only place we really were. The main streets somehow evaded us. Oh well. We managed to make it back to our hostel where we chilled and put on warmer clothing for dinner that night. Apparently, the temperature in Italy dropped by 30 degrees right before we got there. It has been the coldest fall in the past 50 years. Awesome. Marti picked us up from the hostel and we walked to the Trastevere area, aka the hip part of town. The restaurant we ate at was cheap and delicious. I got a pizza that had mozzarella cheese, ham, artichokes, olives, and a hard boiled egg. You’re thinking that’s pretty disgusting right? Wrong. The egg was different but I ate the entire pizza. Of course we had wine with it. When in Rome. I still prefer white over red. When I had sufficiently stuffed myself, the group thought it would be a great idea to get gelato. Sounds good to me. Round 2 of gelato was just as good as the first time. After I really could not eat another crumb, we took the bus home. I showered and went to bed. Being a tourist is really exhausting. Plus we ate at 8 so it was late enough for me to actually go to bed.
In the morning, we successfully set the alarm correctly so we could make it to the Underground on time. We took it to Vatican City, which in fact is a country. We had to go through security like at the airport. The Pope is kinda a big deal. Our guide took us through the Vatican Museum, and I have never seen so many statues in my life. The museum was massive; we could have spent all day in there but I really wanted to get to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to talk or take pictures so I have evidence I was actually there. But it was the most amazing painting I have ever seen. It’s crazy to think it only took Michelangelo 4 years to paint it. The history and meaning of the Sistine Chapel is remarkable. I wish I had pictures, but definitely look it up. Once we left the Chapel, we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica. Again, I had no idea how massive it actually was. The detail in the ceiling and altar was so ornate. I became obsessed with ceilings. All of the churches had amazing painting on their ceilings. Seriously breathtaking. After getting elbowed and pushed for the last 3 hours, we decided that we needed a little fresh air, plus we had more free time. First on the agenda, food. We grabbed a pizza sandwich from a cart and sat by the river and watched street performers. Let me also add that the sun was shining the entire weekend. I slightly burned my face since I was outside all day for 3 days. Magical. After getting attacked by pigeons, we decided it was time to get walking again. We walked around the St. Angelo’s Castle. This castle is not even close to the ones in Ireland. Ireland kicks Rome’s castles butt any day. We are really good at wandering and finding interesting things to see. But not this afternoon. Marti pointed us in the direction of good shopping. I don’t know what kind of shopping she does, but we were in the ghetto. Time to walk faster and to the Spanish steps. On our way, we walked through the Piazza del Popolo. And we saw Michael Jackson. Or an impersonator. Either way, it was entertaining; everybody can groove to MJ. We made it to the Spanish Steps earlier than we were supposed to meet the rest of the group, so we “shopped” down the main street. This is the richest part of Rome where there are store like Gucci, Prada, etc. I did not fit in. I don’t think I could afford to buy a pair of socks from those stores. Luckily, there were smaller streets with more reasonably priced shops, including more gelato and a pasta store. It took every ounce of my being to not buy the pasta that was shaped like space ships or the pasta that was neon pink and teal. Once we met back up with our group, we went to the Trevi fountain. Legend has it if you throw in one coin you’ll come back to Rome, two coins you’ll meet an Italian boy/girl, and three coins for a divorce. I didn’t understand that last one either. So I threw one coin in:) Next it was dinner time, the most important time of the day. We got a 3 course meal with unlimited table wine. Umm, could my night get any better. Appetizers were a salad and toasted bread with prosciutto, tomatoes, and olive oil. The main course was a traditional Roman pasta, not sure what was in it, but I cleaned my plate. And then for dessert it was a wafer ice cream sandwich and sexy wine. Also known as dessert wine, but they call it sexy wine here. So good! Also, I ordered a limoncello with a couple of the girls. It is supposed to taste like a lemonhead which is delicious and it did at first, but then you realize that it is 35% alcohol and it isn’t mixed with anything. Kinda strong. After I stuffed my face yet again, the group walked over to the Piazza Navona. Again, it reminds me of Angels and Demons. But at this point, I was getting sleepy, so we took the bus home and I showered and passed out in my bed.
Sunday morning arrived, the day I had been dreading. I did not want to leave Rome but our flight was at 8pm and we knew we had to be there early. So in the morning we went to one last spot, St. Giovanni in Laterano Basilica. The cool thing about this Basilica, besides the gorgeous ceilings is that they have sculptures of the 12 Apostles around the church. Plus morning mass was going on. I am not Catholic or do I speak Italian, but it was still very interesting to see. On our way back to Termini, we walked by the Colosseum once more and then got more pizza. I belong in Rome: pizza, pasta, and ice cream everyday. My three favorite food groups. On Sunday, it was Brittney’s 21st Birthday so we tried to find her a birthday outfit when she went out that night, but we got distracted and got gelato instead lol! We meandered back to the hostel to grab our bags and then we took the shuttle to the airport. I was depressed to be leaving Rome, it was one of the greatest weekends I’ve had. The time came to board the plane and surprisingly no child sat behind me or around me. Shocker. The flight was only 2.5 hours this time, but we had to wait until 12:30 to catch the next bus so we got food at the airport. Yeah, I went from traditional Italian dishes to McDonald’s. What!? And tonight I’m probably going to make some Mac & Cheese. We didn’t get home until 4am, so I immediately passed out when I got home and I might not have gone to my morning classes today. Oops. Rome is an absolutely amazingly beautiful city. Everyone, go there (and take me with)!
I have just had my last adventure in Ireland. No, I am not done traveling, but I am done traveling throughout Ireland. I have been to Galway, Cork, the Cliffs of Moher, Killarney, Belfast, and of course Limerick. The one last place I needed to go is the capital of Dublin. Fortunately, the International Office gave us FlexiPacks that included a bus ticket, a meal voucher, and entrance to a few museums. Plus AIFS will reimburse us 50 euro for lodging; which means we were able to stay in a hotel instead of a hostel. Yay! Courtnee, Britney, Mal, and I left on Friday morning at 7am. We completely bypassed the city bus and called a taxi because we knew that the bus would not come on time. I have learned my lesson. The bus ride was 3 hours long and I slept the majority of the time, unless I was woken up by our driver who love to apply his brake like he was stomping on a bug. Very jerky. But we made it to Dublin at 11 where it was raining. According to Mal and the Weather Channel, it was going to be a nice day. According to me who happened to look at a legitimate, reputable weather website, there was a chance of rain all day. And it rained all day. We got off of the bus and were immediately wet. Or the other girls were. Thanks to Nicky who came to Ireland in the summer, I never leave the house without my raincoat or umbrella. And I brought both to Dublin so I was dry. We had the entire weekend planned out and we were on our way to our first destination when we decided to throw out our itinerary because no one wanted to be walking around with heavy backpacks getting drenched. So what do we do instead? We decide to eat at the BK Lounge and then hang out there for about an hour and a half, because it was not sprinkling but it was raining and windy. Not a good combo when you are sight-seeing outside. When the rain died down enough to walk outside and it was close enough to our check-in time at the hotel, we ventured outside and started walking to the hotel. On the way, we passed by a Disney store so of course we went inside which easily made my day. They had an entire room dedicated to the princesses. Uh, yes please! By this time, we were all tired and a little crabby (some more than others). The hotel was much nicer than any hostel I have stayed in. Mal and I shared a room that had a double bed and our own shower. Hallelujah! I didn’t need my shower shoes. We dumped our stuff on the floor and turned on the TV and took naps. When we all had awoken from our slumber, we were hungry again so we venture outside and tried to find a place to eat. Our hotel was on the southern outskirts of Dublin, so we had to walk a half mile to the nearest restaurant. And guess what we found? TGIFriday’s. An American restaurant. Of course we ate there. And it was delicious. I got wings, steak, and a brownie with ice cream. Let’s just say I had a food baby the rest of the night. But it was well worth it. After we wiped the crumbs from our shirts, we went back to the hotel and just hung out the rest of the night. It seems that wherever we stay, hostel or hotel, there is always a pub or nightclub by us. So we heard dance music and shouting until the bars closed. I was too tired to care though. In the morning, I slept in until 9 and then went downstairs for the free continental breakfast. Again, we ditched our itinerary and just went wherever we felt. First on our agenda was to take the Vikings Tour. The Vikings Tour is a duck tour so it goes on land and water. Plus we got to wear Vikings hats so the tour was awesome and our guide was hilarious. He taught us how to yell like a Viking. First, put both of your fists in the air, then make an ugly face, and finally, roar as loud as you can. We did this throughout the tour to random people on the street or as we called them, Celts. After the roaring, we went to Trinity College and saw the Book of Kells. It is a 1,200 year old book. Not exactly exciting to see, but at least I can say that I saw it. Then we found the pub where our meal voucher was, so we went and ate at O’Neils, and it was delicious. I got the ham and turkey with mashed potatoes and gravy, carrots, broccoli, and chocolate cake for dessert. Yum. One thing was missing, a delicious beverage. So we went to the Jameson Distillery. The tour was really informative and we got a drink at the end so it was worth the money. After the tour we meandered towards our hotel and stopped along the way to a few different stores to get our shop on. When we got back to our hotel, we ordered pizza and played some card games where Britney and I dominated thanks to Beyonce;) After we pwned, I showered and hit the hay. In the morning, we ate our breakfast and decided where we wanted to go for the day. All our our backpacks had gotten much heavier so the thought of walking around with them all day was not appealing. Luckily, the front desk lady was nice enough to let us leave them behind the desk with her. So Courtnee, Britney, and I went to the Guinness Storehouse and the Kilmainham Jail. Mal wanted to go to the zoo. The rest of us not so much; if you’ve seen one, you’ve kind of seen them all. We didn’t tour the Storehouse since we didn’t have enough time but the jail was really interesting. But I gotta say, I was very sick of walking. My feet hurt and I was getting sleepy. So we met up with Mal and went to the Temple Bar and then ate before we had to walk back to collect our backpacks. I got the Beef and Guinness Pie and it was delicious. If you haven’t caught on by now, food is the most important thing when I travel haha! Which is why I am ecstatic to be going to Italy on Thursday. But after the meal, we gathered our bags and headed to the bus station. The bus ride home was miserable. I swear the driver was trying to sweat us out. The heat was on the entire time and it was blowing out hot air. A bus full of people and heat do not mix. The smell was not pleasant. Not to mention, there were 3 children on the bus. I was thankful to get home and out in the fresh air.
Lesson learned: stop trusting the bus system. Courtnee, Britney, and I had planned a trip to Belfast in Northern Ireland. It takes 6 hours in a bus to get from Limerick to Dublin to Belfast, so we wanted to leave as early as we could, which meant taking the 7:35am bus to Dublin on Friday morning. The city bus should have come and picked us up at exactly 7:00am and taken us to the bus station. At 7:10, we realized that there was no way we would make the Dublin bus even if the city bus came. Therefore, we had to call a cab which came quickly and brought us to the bus station with 10 minutes to spare. The bus stations in Ireland do not like me. The ticket machine refuses to accept my credit card. Knowing this, I brought 50 euro with me so I could buy a ticket. Well, one machine was out of order and the other did not accept 50 euro bills. Really? So I had to go to the ATM to withdraw 2 euro so I could buy a ticket. I managed to do this all in less than 10 minutes. It was a hassle but at least I got my ticket, unlike Britney. She bought a ticket, but she forgot to grab the ticket so she made someone’s day by buying them a round trip ticket to Dublin. Once we all had our tickets, we finally boarded the bus and headed off to Dublin. The ride is about 3 hours, but when the heat wasn’t on, it felt like a lot longer. Once at the Dublin bus station, we bought our second round of tickets to get to Belfast. This bus was slightly uncomfortable. There wasn’t a single open seat and I ended up sitting next to a middle aged man who listened to scream-o music at top volume. Not what I was expecting. The second leg of the journey wasn’t too bad except for the fact that my butt was starting to go numb from sitting on it all day. When we finally made it to Dublin after another 3 hour bus ride, it was definitely worth it. The sun was shining and it felt mild out, which is a nice change from the cold, rainy weather at school. Being the adventurous girls that we are, we didn’t book a hostel because we expected there would be plenty of room. But we were wrong. The first item on our agenda was to find a hostel and book Friday and Saturday night so we could spend the weekend in Belfast. Little did we know that the MTV European Music Awards were being held in Belfast the same weekend we were there. I was breathing the same air as Beyonce and Selena Gomez, get jealous! Luckily, we were able to reserve a room for Friday night, but Saturday was booked everywhere. Change of plans. But for the night, we had a bed to sleep in. After checking in, we dropped off our stuff and wandered the streets of the city center. I gotta say, the city center of Limerick sucks compared to every other city in Ireland. It’s nice to be able to go into more than Penney’s for clothes shopping. We even found an H & M so of course we went shopping there. We saw a couple of cathedrals, City Hall, and what we like to call Little Big Ben. Since Northern Ireland is affiliated with the UK, we had to exchange our money to pounds which is a hassle. After seeing the sights, we found a cute diner to eat in that had delicious hot chocolate. Hot chocolate has become my obsession since I don’t like coffee and they don’t serve apple cider. After dinner, we slowly wandered back to the hostel and chatted for a few hours.
We had a room with 2 bunk beds in it and since there were 3 of us, we weren’t expecting there to be a 4th person joining us. I woke up the next morning and was super confused. There was a person sleeping on the top bunk of the other bed. Kinda creepy if you ask me. She didn’t say a word, but got up when we did and got her things and left. Weird. This hostel was much nicer than the one I stayed at last weekend. Not saying it was nice by any means, but it was nicer haha! They actually had sheets for us to use and the showers were hot. I would still prefer to stay in a hotel, but if I did that I wouldn’t be experiencing traveling like I should. For the day, we bought tickets to a tour around Northern Ireland, so we got breakfast and boarded the bus. I was expecting it to be a crappy day when I had my spot on the bus and a lady comes in the bus with a baby and of course sits in the seat behind me, where on cue the baby starts to cry. Super, it’s going to be one of those days. Fortunately, the baby passed out soon enough and I could enjoy the trip. The drive that we went on is number five on the top 5 most beautiful drives in the world, and it really was. I ended up falling asleep for the first bit of the tour while we got out of Belfast. But we had one of the funniest tour guides I have had so I didn’t stay awake for long. Although he did make fun of our accents and the fact that we didn’t know our 7th president. On the tour we stopped at another castle. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I am over castles. They are all the same. Still interesting but I would be okay not to visit another one. We stopped at a few towns and then made it to the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge. This is a walking bridge that goes to a small island where fisherman would go to catch salmon. The bridge used to be two pieces of rope, one for you hands and the other for your feet and you would shimmy across. It has gotten more sophisticated since then. We walked 20 minutes to get to the bridge and then we were able to cross it. Super scary! The bridge wobbles and when you look down you see the Atlantic Ocean with giant rocks sticking out. Not how I want to die. But we made it across safely:) After the bridge, we got on the bus and headed towards my number 2 thing to see in Ireland: Giant’s Causeway. According to our guide, it was either formed from a volcano or a giant trying to get to Scotland. I’m thinking it’s the giant. At one point, Scotland was only 11 miles away so I got to see the coastline from afar. The one place I want to see is always the last stop on the journey but we finally made it there. There was a 20 minute hike to get to the bottom of the hill, but I finally made it to Giant’s Causeway. This is definitely one of my favorite places to be. There are thousands of rocks that stick up and they are all hexagonal with flat surfaces so they are really fun to climb on. We also happened to be there when the sun was setting so the view was spectacular. I didn’t want to leave but the bus did. Our very last stop on the ride was to the Old Buschmills Distillery. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to tour it but we got to walk around the outside of it. Another interesting stop was another castle; but this was had partly fallen into the sea and the sun was setting behind it so it was beautiful. But by now, I was just ready to be done with the tour. Being a tourist is exhausting. Plus we hadn’t eaten a real meal, so I was ready to sit down at a restaurant and get some grub. Once we made it back to Belfast, we found the first restaurant and went inside to eat. Since there was no room in any inn, we hopped on the next bus to Dublin. We found out later that night that Snow Patrol performed an impromptu performance outside of City Hall. Kind of a bummer but there was nothing we could do about it. Fortunately, the buses on the way home were practically empty so we each got our own row so we could spread out. We made it home at 2, where I immediately passed out. I am a big fan of Belfast though!
You never really appreciate it until you can’t have it. This is what I am learning being 4,000 miles away from home. Of course I miss my family and friends, but I am missing a lot of the American food that I have grown up with. Don’t get me wrong, I like the food here but sometimes I just want to buy a bag of chips or a gallon of ice cream (don’t judge). Bulk food items don’t exist in Ireland. They don’t sell 12 packs of pop or 1 lb bags of lunch meat or even a gallon of milk. Everything is in single serving portions which is quite the change from family servings I am used to buying. I was fortunate to find Double Stuff Oreos at a gas station, but it came in a single sleeve instead of the 3 rows that I expect. But this will hopefully be a good change for me. It will help stop me from eating too much. Or so I thought. Thanks to my awesome boyfriend, I got a package in the mail today that contained a bunch of snacks that I miss from the U.S. He sent Twizzlers, Swedish Fish, Goldfish, Mac & Cheese (the shapes kind), Ritz crackers, Chex Mix, and my favorite, mini marshmallows! Hopefully this should hold me over until I get home:) With that being said I have a list of the places I want to eat and the snacks I want when I get back. The first stop will be Buffalo Wild Wings followed by homemade malts from papa bear.
I should also mentioned that the first meal when I get back happens on Christmas Eve Day, which means I will be getting the good home-cooked food like cheesy potatoes, green bean casserole, ham, glazed carrots, and Christmas cookies. I am drooling just thinking about it. Let’s just say I love food a little too much haha:)
Apparently I was destined to not use my credit card this weekend and only cash. At 7:30 on Saturday morning, Mal and I waited patiently at the bus stop. Buses are supposed to come every 15 minutes according to the schedule. But I have learned that the Irish don’t exactly follow them very well. At 7:55 the bus came and we were on our merry way, only to realize that we were on the cheap bus which is beneficial in the sense that is costs 40 cents cheaper, but detrimental to traveling plans because it takes a much longer route. Our bus left at 8:35 and we still needed to purchase our tickets. We finally got dropped off a few blocks away from the station and then we power walked to make it. Let’s just say the entire weekend we were the prime examples of tourists with our maps, tennis shoes, and backpacks:) As I attempted to purchase our tickets, the machine decided that it didn’t want to read my card; luckily I withdrew cash the night before in case anything like this were to happen. Finally, we had a 3 hour bus ride to catch up on sleep, or gossip in our case. The day started off raining, of course, but as we were driving the sun started to shine, we even saw a rainbow which I thought was going to bring us good luck. My premonition might have been a tish inaccurate. There was a changeover in Tralee but we made it to Killarney before noon. Our first mission was to find the bike shop so we could rent bikes and soar our way through the National Park. Apparently we walked right by on our way to find it. Don’t know how we missed it, but I’m not surprised. We got our bikes and bells and headed for the park, only to be walking after 3 minutes. Uphill is not my strong suit when it comes to biking. But we got better as the day went on. We biked through the east and southern parts of the park. We biked to Ross Castle, Knockreer House, Muckross House and Gardens, and then the Torc Waterfall. The waterfall was by far my favorite destination, but the entire park was beautiful with it’s autumn colors, lakes, and mountains in the background. But the afternoon would not go completely unscathed. On our way back to the bike shop, it started to rain. I was in my own little world focusing on not falling over and trying to dodge the raindrops, which didn’t work, when I looked back and Mal is not there anymore. So I stop and look down the road and see her walking her bike towards me. At first I thought she was tired but then she is walking with a limp. Uh oh. Apparently the guy that moved out of the way for me decided to not move for Mal, so she ended up falling off of her bike and cutting her knee and hip. This ended our biking adventures for the day. We slowly made our way into town and returned the bikes, thank goodness. My butt could not handle one more minute on that bike seat. We found a cozy restaurant and ordered our food and just sat there. Not a whole lot of talking happened since we were both exhausted. After some grub, we found our hostel. This was my first hostel stay of the trip. And let’s just say I don’t want to do it again. We check in and the guy is very welcoming. I reserved a 4 bedroom room so there was a chance that there would be 2 other randoms sleeping in our room that night. Well, we found our room: 2 bunkbeds, a mirror, and a folding chair. My bed had a comforter, no sheets, and the pillow was practically nonexistent. The heat didn’t work and the curtains wouldn’t close all the way. We were in for a long night lol! On a positive note, the showers were really hot. Mal and I showered up and we were sleeping by 9. It may sound pathetic but it was a long day. I ended up stealing the comforter from the other bed because I was so cold. I slept in sweatpants, a t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, and a sweatshirt. Let’s say it was a long night. Plus it was daylight savings times so we gained an hour of sleep which meant I had to lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for another hour. Breakfast consisted of make it yourself toast which was then followed by do you own dishes. I wanted to check out as soon as possible so we ended up finding a SPAR and then sitting on a bench for an hour while we waited for the Ring of Kerry tour to leave. I had to find an ATM because the tour company didn’t accept cards. For the day, we did the Ring of Kerry tour so we went through Glenbeigh, Waterville, and Sneem and the national park again. When we stopped for lunch, I got the Irish stew which was delicious because it was misting and foggy all day. But yet again, I needed to find an ATM since the pub didn’t accept cards. Now I know to bring more cash with me to start off with. The tour lasted until 5 where we waited for our 6 o’clock bus to take us back home. The ride was 2.5 hours longs and I didn’t sleep a wink. But I finally made it home and I never thought that I would excited to sleep in my own bed. I can literally feel every spring in the mattress and that is an improvement from the mattress in the hostel.
Now it’s Halloween, raining of course, but it’s going to be a fun night:)
I bet you are wondering what rugsocrossolfey is. Well I went to my first hurling game this afternoon and could not figure out what to relate it to. I asked if it was like soccer? No. Lacrosse? No. Rugby? No. Hockey? No. Because that is what it looked like to me. The game has elements of almost every sport, even baseball with the type of ball they use. They have sticks like hockey, nets like soccer, goals like rugby, driving like golf. I know how to play every one of those sports, but I had no idea what was happening on that field today. All I know is that our team won and we looked the best in our jerseys. The best part was definitely watching a fight that happened which cleared the benches. But it made me miss my hockey team back home:( Good luck to the Fighting Sioux this weekend!
After 4 weeks, it had to be done. Laundry. I’ve done laundry once before but I have been dreading doing it again because it costs 6.50 euro to do one load of laundry. Six fifty euro is equal to ten dolla which means I could do 6 loads of laundry at home compared to here. That is outrageous if you ask me. Plus the washers and dryers are so old that I think they were one of the first ever invented. But I have decided that is why a lot of people smell so bad here. Laundry and personal hygiene products are so expensive so people don’t use deodorant, or shower, or do laundry because it cost $20 to do 2 loads. And these are not 2 normal loads of laundry. The washer is tiny. It is half of the size of the average washer back home. Which means the 2 loads laundry that I did would be equal to 1 normal load of laundry at school. Ugh! But now I have clean sheets, towels, and most importantly, underwear! As much as I hated spending that much money, I learned something about myself: I can be easily entertained if people don’t mind listening to Mal and I sing the Lion King (very poorly I might add) while we watched our clothes tumble lol! Instead of forking over that much money, I’m going to kick it old school and hand wash bigger items like my jeans and sweaters. All I got to say is that I will be doing a lot of laundry when I get home:)