I am currently running on zero sleep and no coffee, so sorry if this post is a bit off, but I really wanted to write down everything before I forget!
On Friday a group of us took a bus to Dublin airport (3-4 hours away) and then got on a plane to Brussels, Belgium (1 hour 20 minutes) on RyanAir. It was my first RyanAir flight and I understand why they are so cheap. The seat backs were a neon yellow, there was limited leg room and no free drinks.
Something people don’t realize about traveling in Europe is that it takes longer than you think to get from place to place. Once we landed we had to take a bus to the Brussels central station and then a taxi to our hostel. That is 4 different modes of transportation just to get to another country. (Spoiler alert: this seems to be a running pattern)
Anyways enough about my complaints and onto what made all of this worth the trip. We started the night in Brussels. Our hostel had a bar at the lobby with some Belgian beers on sale. I tried my first Hoegaarden here (the raspberry one because I am a bit basic) and it was AMAZING! The beer there is cheaper than water bottles and it all tastes so good.
We arrived really late so we ended up going to bed early after the bar. This was my first hostel experience. We were in 6 person co-ed rooms and the hostel messed up big time. They separated us 5 girls into 2 and 3. Also the hostel did not give us room keys, we had to go down and ask them to open the door each time. One of the beds in my room was too close for comfort to one of an already sleeping, snoring, mostly naked man. I went to go stay in the boys hostel for the night just to make sure no girl had to sleep next to anyone creepy. (By this I mean we were strictly on top bunks of the bunk beds)
The next morning we ventured into Brussels. We walked to the city center filled with gorgeous gold buildings and cobble stone streets. We stopped for some coffee at a place where the workers barely knew English. (It was finally time to put that French minor to good use) Then we went to get some authentic Belgian waffles! I got mine with belgian chocolate sauce and ice cream. (A nutritious start to the day) It was AMAZING!
Then we headed onwards to see the Manneken Pis (or that statue of a peeing boy). The boy is always dressed up for an occasion. When we went he happened to be dressed for Carnival, wearing a cape and mask. When we went back on Monday he was dressed as a cowboy. (No idea on the cowboy celebration)
Then we got some street waffles! They were only 1 euro for the waffle (of course the toppings really added to your price). Again these waffles were to die for. (Again, I am a very healthy eater). Then we walked to the Grand Palace and the surrounding park. The buildings were gorgeous!
Soon it was time to grab the bus to Amsterdam for the night. We had to walk for 30 minutes back to the hostel and then 30 more minutes to the bus station to grab our bus. (What did I say about traveling taking extremely long?) Once at the bus station we waited a bit and I was sad to realize that all the bathrooms cost 50 cents (I have a human right to pee I thought, but whatever). The bus was also a bit of a disappointment. It was about 3 hours long and the promised free wifi did not work at all.
We finally stopped in Amsterdam, of course way off from the city center. I was quite proud of us girls for looking at the Amsterdam metro map and figuring our how to get to our hostel. The metro was normal from the outside, but some the trains were quite crazy and filled with cartoons. We arrived at our hostel which was centrally located right on a beautiful canal. This time we were in a 20 person co-ed room filled with bunk beds. At least this time we all stayed together in a corner of the room and locked up our bags during the day in provided lockers.
The next morning we woke up and went straight to the Anne Frank’s house. Sadly there are no photos allowed inside so it will be hard to share the experience. The tour was actually quite short and the house is missing much of the furniture. Although blank, it was powerful. It was incredible to see the annex and step around in it as you read the quotes from Anne Frank’s diary around the room. This house served as a bright reminder of the struggles she and her family went through. Anne always wanted to be a famous writer and change the world. Little did she know that her writings and world views would inspire so many people.
Then we went for a stroll on the canals down to a local cafe. I decided to be risky and order something that was in Dutch with no explanation of what was inside. What appeared on my plate looked like an oversized mozzarella stick on white bread served with pickles. The dish was called Kroketten and consisted of creamy potato and minced chicken in a fried roll. (YUM!) We also order an appetizer of gouda and spicy mustard. Let’s just say that did not last long either!
After we headed to the Amsterdam Cheese Museum (best day ever)! The top floor is filled with Dutch cheese and free samples of any cheese you like. I happily skipped through, toothpick in hand. At the bottom floor there was some history on the making of cheese, specifically Dutch cheeses. Also there is a photo op with dress up clothes.
Then we headed towards the famous museum and I Amsterdam sign. On the way we explored the shops. As many people know, pot is legal there. They sell it in “coffee shops,” which are almost on every block. (Coffee shops sometimes don’t even sell coffee here) Coming from a country that jails people for even the possession of the drug, it was crazy to watch as anyone over 18 could buy drugs and smoke them on the streets. It is just part of the culture here. People will go into the coffee shops, get some stuff to smoke and eat and stay for hours talking and laughing.
After some souvenir shops we finally reached the sign. It was a free for all as tourist from all over climbed the various letters and posed for their perfect photo. (It was some hardcore parkour) Luckily we were able to get a group photo with the GoPro so we could fit in most of the letters.
Next we headed back to get changed and go to a pub crawl on the Red Light District. (The pub crawl gave me a free T-shirt, so basically my night was already made) We went into various bars and took in the insane night life scene. The streets actually have red lights and the whole section gives off a red tint. Prostitutes are standing in lingerie looking out onto the streets as if they were barbie dolls on display. (Still not sure how I feel about the whole situation)
Then after some 4am cheeseburgers we went to bed for 2 short hours and woke up promptly for the bus back to Brussels. The bus this time took 5 hours because we did not realize paying less for a bus, meant more stops and even less reliable wifi. We drealy walked 30 minutes back to the city center and straight away got some more street waffles. (This time I got Nutella) Then we sat down and order food from a local restaurant. The people spoke no English (again, French minor status came into play). I got a brie sandwich that pretty good.
Now we were off for a full day of travels. We walked 30 minutes to the bus station. We then took an hour bus ride (again no wifi) to the airport terminal. Then we waited four hours in the terminal and finally boarded our plane around 8:00 at night. Then once we landed it was about 11:00pm, but the bus to Limerick did not arrive until 12:30am. So we waited and waited. The bus back to Limerick took four hours, and in case you are not following the pattern, it had no wifi. I cuddled up against my backpack and listening to music. The bus let us off on campus around 4:30am. I waited for the hot water to come on as I unpacked and did not even shower till 5am. Just to make matters worse I had a 9am class and when i got there, the teacher never showed.
Do not let my complaints fool you though, all of it was worth it for the beautiful sights and of course the food!
This weekend I am heading to Dublin, so more info to come as the week goes on!
Hey everyone, if you cannot already tell by my Facebook album, I went caving yesterday. (More pictures to come) When I say caving, I mean legit, wet suit, helmet with a flashlight, crawling through caves caving.
The Outdoor Pursuits Club offers caving trips most Wednesday nights and it was great craic! (again using the lingo) Another word to call something fun or good is “class.” (For example in a sentence: “That caving trip was class”)
For a small fee of 5 euro, we were bused out to unspecified location in The Burren, part of County Clare, Ireland. This included all the equipment necessary (helmet with light, wet suit, belt and knee pads. The first adventure was getting to the cave entrance. A small group of about 7 of us, all suited up headed out into the vast dark wilderness. Of course it was raining sideways with chilling winds.
We walked down a tiny road and then turned into the woods. We continued down a muddy path in the grass, over rocks and streams. At this point it felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic movie. The land was deserted and the only thing we could see was the beam of our headlights.
After brief safety instructions, we headed out into the cave. The entrance was a tiny hole in the ground and without the light, you might have passed by it. We slid down the rocks, through a tiny waterfall and into the cave. We began walking through the caverns, which were gorgeous! Tiny passage ways lined the cave and we followed the line leader (Almost like Kindergarden).
The most challenging part was the darkness challenge. We all were told to turn our lights off and follow the cave on instinct. It was a lot harder, especially since the cave walls were so narrow and twisted. After some mild hyperventilating, we made it through a couple minutes of pure darkness in the cave.
After some more casual walks, we finally got to the hardest part. We reached an opening and looked around to see the only way out was a tiny window of rock. I was down on my hands and knees crawling through the rock window. I could barely lift my neck up to see what was ahead. At one point the space was so tight that we were on our bellies, using only our arms to push our bodies through.
After hours inside trekking, we made it out of the cave. Everyone in our group was so nice and helpful. Then on the ride back at midnight I ate my PB&J sandwich. (Shout out to my awesome room mate Lizzy for making and packing them while I was in class) You are awesome! Also I packed some Reeses cups. I let some of the Irish students try them because they don’t sell them here. Turns out they find them disgusting and almost could not swallow them. (Guess Americans love artificial peanut butter too much)
Anyways, I had my GoPro strapped to my chest for majority of the caving trip, but sadly because of battery life, I could not keep it on for the entire thing. Also with little light and lot of mud, the shots are the best, but I tried to show as much as I could. The last clip is of me laying on belly. Before that shot I was on my belly sliding myself for 10m straight, so narrow that you could not lift your neck to see ahead. Anyways… ENJOY!
Updates to come after my weekend in Brussels and Amsterdam 🙂
Hey guys I am sorry that it has taken so long to post again, but there has been so many things going on (not to mention the spotty wifi signal I get everywhere)
Ill start with the beginning of the week…
Tuesday: It was international food night at Stables. People from different countries bought home made dishes and then for the small price of 2 euro you could try some of the them. i tried a cheese thing from France, a crepe (I was told to put the Nutella down because apparently as much as you want does not equal half the can…I still used the half the can), an African meat pie and some kind of chicken curry. It was all delicious!
Wednesday: This was the OPC night out, or a night out with the Outdoor Pursuits Club. We started at the clubs meeting and we were all given vouchers for one free drink at Scholars (one of the pubs on campus). Then we were bused for free to the city center for a pub crawl with the club members. We started at The Red Hen and then continued onto Costello’s. Below is a photo of me and my room mate at the Red Hen. We ended up staying out till 3 am and the everyone in the club was great craic (look at me using the Irish lingo)
Thursday: I went to my first music tutorial for the Bodhran (an traditional Irish drum). I thought since I play the drums that I was going to be ant aural, but turns out this a completely new way of drumming. The way you hold the stick and the beats are entirely different than rock music on a set. (Below is a selfie I snuck in during class time since I have not bought a Bodhran of my own yet).
I was going to stay in until a little someone surprised me in my house. I was watching a movie in my room and when I turned around, there was Dillon! (so I had to show him a good time in Limerick) We ended up going out to a bar and club called The Library.
Friday: Now that Dillon was here I had to take him around Limerick and show him how awesome it is! We headed down town to one of my favorite pubs, The Red Hen and got food. Then we went to the cheese shop I am always raving about and got coffee and a hot cheese plate. It was complete with bread, melted cheeses, olives and sausage for only 4 euros! (Our entire day in the city was based on food course).
Then we headed to International night for the Carnival theme!
Saturday: We woke up bright and early to go on a all day tour of Killarney and Dingle. The first stop was Killarney, but we did not stay too long. We just got some coffee and walked around for an hour. Below is a photo of the church in town that was gorgeous. (Have you ever seen a church in Europe that wasn’t?)
Then we headed to the Dingle Peninsula and stopped at a bunch of places along the way. The first stop was at Inch Beach. A gorgeous beach off the peninsula with multiple rocks to climb and take in the view.
After some time strolling the beach we headed back to the bus for a scenic drive. The bus (more of a van) took us on a loop of the dingle peninsula on a path towards Slea Head. We stopped at multiple points to walk around and take photos. I bought the GoPro out to get some gorgeous views. It was incredible!!! There were various bright green cliffs and peaks scattered amongst the beautiful pale blue water. (Hard to believe it is the same ocean as the Jersey shore) The photos can not even give this place the justice it deserves.
As we were driving we noticed the myriad of sheep roaming the cliffs. We also noticed that certain sheep had spots of color (even hot pink). Our tour guide told us that each framer uses a different dye to identify their sheep. This way they can let the sheep roam free over the peninsula, but still find them once they are needed. (The sheep were adorable by the way, so of course I took way too many photos)
After this we headed to the small fishing town of Dingle. The town was by far the cutest town in Ireland. We stopped at a local cafe for fish and chips and burgers. Of course, everything tasted amazing!
Then we headed back for a romantic Valentines Day evening with Mexican takeout and Netflix.
Sunday: The next morning we had a tour of places around Limerick. The first stop was Askeaton. It is a medieval Abbey with some of the most complete ruins of any other Abbey of its time. Our tour guide, Anthony Sheehy has spent the last 30 years showing visitors around his home town. He gives tours of the historic Abbey for free to anyone who is interested. He was so knowledgeable and his love for his hometown was incredible! He also told us of his trip to America, where of course he was taken back by the portion size at Cheesecake Factory. (Also the term doggy bag is strange to anyone who isn’t from America)
Then we headed to St. Johns Castle. It is a medieval castle located in the heart of Limerick city. The tour was amazing, including a cannonball firing game, medieval dress up clothes and of course a breathtaking view of Limerick from the top of the castle.
Tomorrow Dillon and I plan on exploring the local area to find some castle ruins to climb. (Also a great opportunity to wear the head strap for the GoPro) Then I might head to a meeting to learn about caving. The OPC offers caving trips and lessons and how awesome would it be to propel down caves in Ireland??
As many of you know…I freaking love cheese. So of course I headed out on Friday morning to the milk market in order to pick up some local favorites. By the time I got there the market was already closing down so I ducked into a local cheese shop to get my fix. (Kinda sounds like a drug addiction…I’m sorry)
The shop was adorable the owner was very helpful. I was indecisive as usual and I got coffee as I made up my mind. A middle-aged man came up to me and my two friends and asked where we were from. After some small talk, he invited us to come sit with his group. Every Friday this guy, Joe, and his friends meet up for cheese, coffee and practicing the Gaelic language.
Joe was extremely nice. He told us about traditional Irish greetings and also about places in Ireland that we needed to visit. Then the owner of the cheese shop came over with a little plate. It was filled with a myriad of cheese slices and fresh olives. She told me to try all of them and then decide what to get. (I am not kidding…a free plate of cheese and olives). Then Joe and his friends gave us a free packet with a couple Gaelic phrases to learn. Here are a few of my favorites:
Dia Duit! – Hello!
Cupan Tae – A cup of tea
Bainne – Milk
Pratai – Potatoes
Then after another night at Stables (the pub on campus) for International night, we were off bright and early to Galway. We started off the day with scones and tea on Salthill Beach in Galway. (Pics below)
After many photo ops at the beach we headed down to Galway for a short guided tour and then some free time to walk around. The tour started at The Galway Cathedral. The outside and inside were beautiful if you cannot tell by the photos below.
Then we headed down the scenic River Corrib and into the city. The streets were lined with beautiful colored buildings, castles and churches. (Not to mention all the old Irish pubs) We headed through a local arts festival and then onto another gorgeous church. Once the tour was over we headed to an old Irish pub called “The Kings Head.” The Kings Head dates back over 800 years with research showing the building in existence since the 13th century. (Sadly I have no food porn pics this time because I ate the food so fast) I got a tomato and basil soup with side dipping bread.
Then after going into the many shops, I finally decided on the perfect thing to buy. Galway is known for bringing in wool from the Aran Islands. I found a green (green because when in Ireland) wool hat. I am wearing it in the last photo above.
I hope to return to the Milk Market to that cheese shop for another Friday session soon. Also, I should maybe memorize some Gaelic before going back. Until then, keep being awesome!
I didn’t think I would experience culture shock until it happened. Turns out I have no hot water, a microwave, toaster oven or coffee maker. (I know what you are thinking…first world problems)
If any of you know me that well, you know that I cannot cook. My skills included placing things in the microwave and then taking them out. I am the girl that fucks up pasta. NOT ANYMORE! These past weeks have taught me a lot about fending for myself when it comes to food. I found myself cooking chicken, pasta and rice with ease. Soon I was adding vegetables (if you consider potatoes a healthily option).
If you really know me well, then you know my obsession and addiction to coffee. I am used to my personal Keurig, but I found myself heating up water in a tea kettle and pouring it over some instant coffee. At first I was pretty repulsed by the taste, but caffeine is caffeine I guess.
Also I have been pretty sick over the past days. This is when that tea kettle came in handy (to be honest I really might buy one here, they heat up the water in seconds and it stays hot for hours). I ended up going down town to try and get medicine. We walk into a “pharmacy,” only to find out that a “pharmacy” in Ireland does not sell meds. Instead it sells cosmetic and cleaning products. In Ireland they call “pharmacists” “chemists.” So I took a trip to the “chemist” and got some sedated. I am still not 100%, but I am doing a lot better.
On the bright side though, I bought a warmer coat, extra towels and an extra blanket to keep warm. Also I started to plan some side trips. The first one coming up is a day trip to Galway this Saturday. (There will be pics and blog post, don’t worry!) Next I will going to Belgium and Amsterdam in late February then over my Spring Break I will visiting Prague, Budapest and Croatia.
This week starts my first full week of classes and we have sign ups for clubs/societies tomorrow night. So much to do!
Sorry it’s been such a long time, but here are the updates!
This past Sunday I had time to walk around the city of Limerick. A bus from campus takes you straight there. I had one of the best meals of life (posted below). It was a beef and Guinness stew! On the side is a “toasties,” or as us Americans might say, “grilled cheese.” The dessert was not too bad either. A sticky toffee pudding with hazelnut gelato.
After the amazing lunch we went into a Sweet Store. Thinking they would have some Irish candies we went inside. Turns out it was full of American junk food. Yes, I am talking Pop Tarts, Cheese-Its and Hershey’s. (I guess the stereotypes of fat Americans are true).
We then went over to the local museum (The Hunt Museum) which is the picture of the two horses. It was small and very nice. Then we walked around the Shannon River where you get an amazing view of St. Johns Castle. (Also pictured below) We are touring St. John’s Castle in February so more to come on that!
I officially started classes on Monday. For the moment I will be taking Irish Folklore, Irish Traditional Music and Dance, Film Studies and Early Modern Ireland History. For the music class we have a choice between signing, dancing, the Bodhrán (Irish tradition drum) or the tin whistle. The choice is hard because I play the drums, but I really want to learn the penny whistle solo of My Heart Will Go On to whip out at parties. (I know my life is so rough)
Also it is strange how different everything is in terms of social life. Many Irish students go home for the weekends and instead go out to the bars and clubs Monday – Thursday. Most clubs in Limerick have all their specials on these nights. For example if you wear a hat to the bar on campus on Monday you get a 3 euro pint.
The biggest problem is feeling like a freshman all over again. I was the dork holding up the campus map, frantically searching for classes while holding my Limerick Orientation bag. Someone could tell I was an international student just by the panic in my eyes. Although scary, I did find all my classes and the main buildings.
Later in the weeks we get to sign up for clubs and societies here at UL. I already signed up for the International Society and the Outdoor Pursuits. The outdoor one allows you to use the indoor rock wall and go on outdoor trips such as climbs and hikes with friends. Tonight I think I might join the kayaking club. Other ones that peaked my interest were the Comedy Society and Tea Appreciation. (For obvious reasons)
This weekend I hope to go back to the Milk Market and explore Limerick. Who knows, maybe I’ll check out those Thursday deals at the clubs.
So just to update everyone we spent 3 days and 2 nights in London and arrived in Limerick, Ireland safely two days ago. We arrived at the London airport bright and early not knowing a sole trying to find our way through. Once the driver dropped us off at the hotel we wandered around a bit. Everyone arrived at different times so it was hard to coordinate. We all went to a place called the Streaky Gin for dinner and drinks. The night ended super early due to jet lag.
The next day we did a bus tour of London. Not one of those double deckers with the top open though. The bus dropped us off at certain locations while our tour guide told us the history. We went everywhere from Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament and Hyde Park.
We then had free time where we rode the London Eye. I finally got to use the suction cup on my GoPro. I placed it on the glass and part of the video is on the link below. The view was unbelievable and hard to even show on a camera.
We then went to some pubs and bars that night since we only had one night in London until we flew to Shannon. Something we learned quickly was how expensive London can be. Incase you go just know how much money you will need to spend just on food and transportation.
Finally we landed in Shannon! We live in an off campus housing called Plassey Village. I think it looks like a Keebler Village (you can determine that from the photo below).
It feels like I time traveled back to the olden days. We have to turn on the immersion heater 30 minutes prior to a shower in order to get hot water and then turn it off immediately after. Same goes for the heaters. You manually have to turn a knob to turn it on and off. Just to show you the frustration this creates you can enjoy the link below that Limerick sent us about it.
The campus is amazing as well. As anyone would think, the entire campus is green and covered in shrubs with vines overgrowing the buildings. The crazy part is that there are two bars on campus. At any point of the day you can go to the pub and grab some beer. We went a couple times and the atmosphere is awesome, not to mention walking distance to everything. (Don’t worry classes don’t start till Monday)
Also hear are some fun new Irish words:
“Craic” – Not the drug! It means fun or good time. For example, in a sentence…Where is the craic tonight? (I know it sounds a bit suggestive)
“Cat” – Not just your furry friend! It actually means bad or something that you don’t like. (Might explain why I hate cats so much)
Hopefully I can post more soon!
Thanks for following my blog while I am abroad. I just got a GoPro and the straps, so basically I will be that person as I walk around Europe. The good news is that you guys can see what I am seeing without having to walk with me and be embarrassed by the GoPro strapped to my head. I leave on the 17th for London and after three days I will be in Limerick, Ireland. Keep checking for updates and awesome pictures and videos. Marianne get the camera!