Sunday, November 7, 2010


I left for Amsterdam Thursday evening. Preparing to go to Amsterdam felt a little rushed, and it made me slightly nervous. I packed in 10 minutes on Wednesday night. I woke up Thursday at 7:30 and went through my mental check list: Passport? Check. Toothbrush? Check. Rain coat? Check. Wallet? Check. A sense of optimism? Half check. At least all the essentials were there.

My first reason for only being half enthusiastic or optimistic about the trip was because I still had two 3-hour classes to sit through before taking a taxi directly from school to the airport. My second reason was that the group I was traveling with consisted of 9 other people. That's a large group to travel with. I knew in the back of my mind that we could all split up and do our own things, but realistically, that wasn't going to happen. Everyone wanted to see the same things, so I figured there would be a lot of small bickering between people, and a lot of waiting around.

My expectations/worries were half right; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the city of Amsterdam.

Thursday night my group of 10 arrived in Amsterdam. We immediately tried to figure out how to get to our hotel. We bought train tickets, asked people which train to take, and hopped on. We then had to pick up a tram and head for our hotel. Accidently, we got on the wrong tram, go figure. Everyone remained calm and uncranky. It was an easy correction to our mistake. The tram driver told us where to get off and how to walk to our hotel from there. Again, we got lost on the way to finding our hotel, but we soon found it. My first impression of the hotel was that it was very out of the way of the city, and thought that it could be a good or bad thing. depending on transportation. The hotel lobby was set up nicely, and didn't look like a skeezy hotel that cheap college kids booked online. We went up an elevator (that degraded my view of the hotel a little bit) and headed towards our room. Immediately leaving the elevator, I could smell marijuana smoke (it is legal in Amsterdam), and I knew I was finally in Amsterdam. The room was relatively clean and the beds were comfortable (well, mine was broken, but the unbroken side was comfortable), so it was just what we needed. The group of ten split in two for the hotel rooms, and we were a floor apart. We decided to stay at the hotel, and rest for the night.

We went to the hotel bar, because it was the only thing within walking distance that was open. We went in, and there were only two other people sitting at the bar. We quickly made friends with the bartender, Yvon. She gave us advice about the city, what to do, where to go, and even how to get to the grocery store. Not everyone came to the bar, but it was a nice introduction to the city. The bartender wasn't just generous with her knowledge and friendliness, she started feeding us bar snacks and ended up giving us Coke glasses. I enjoyed two pints of Dutch beer and decided it was time to hit the hay. Despite being excited for the next day, I found it easy to fall asleep. I was exhausted.

Friday morning we all woke up early to get the day started. In the day light it was easy to find the tram station, and quickly realized it would be easy to travel in from our hotel. We took the tram into the city and got off near the Van Gogh museum. We found the museum easily. Before going into the museum, we took advantage of a park near by to take our first round of pictures. There was a giant I AMsterdam sign where we all posed. The I Amsterdam sign represented the I AMsterdam card that we wanted to purchase. This card provided us with 48 hours of public transportation, entrance to many museums, discounts on places, and free gifts. It also came with a book that had a map, and a guide of all of the places the card gave us access. Across the street from the park was an office where we could purchase these cards. The ticket counter ended up being in the Diamond Museum. This museum was on the list, and of course, I wanted to take advantage of the card right away. The group walked through the museum, and realized that we were able to get our first free gift next door. To get the gift, we had to take a tour to find out how diamonds are polished and formed into selling condition. No problem. The free gift? A small silver bead.

The next stop was the Van Gogh Museum. This was what I was most excited for. The museum didn't let me down. I loved looking at all his paintings, and was excited to see a few of his most famous works. I was particularly surprised to see his painting, "Sunflowers." I took my time wandering through the museum and poking around the gift shop for the perfect souvenir. I ended up simply getting a postcard. I still haven't decided if I will mail it to someone or simply keep it as a souvenir. I'm not very good at sending postcards. I have two written out from the beginning of October that I haven't sent yet. Oops. I'll have to work on that. The next museum was the Rijksmuseum. It is a museum of modern art and history. I wasn't overly excited about seeing this museum, like I was with Van Gogh; however, I found a room that was full with dollhouses and fell in love with them. I spent most of my time in the dollhouse room. The dollhouses were so large, that there were ladders to climb up on to look on the top floors of them. Another place that I was fascinated by was the children's exhibit that was full of the process of picture books.

As a quick lunch we grabbed hot dogs at a stand next to the Van Gogh museum. It was the first time I had seen a hot dog stand in Europe.

Our next stop was the Heineken Experience. This was not a free entry like the other museums, but we did get a discounted price because of the I AMsterdam card and let me tell you, the experience was well worth the money. The entire factory was completely interactive. It blew my mind. Everything was modern and fresh. The first craic of the factory was the opportunity for some face in hole pictures. They had set up an area with different wood sheets to use as the foreground of the picture, and a cutout of where to put your face. They were hilarious. As I continued through the museum I drooled over the amazing advertisements and admired the cleaver product placement. There was also a interactive movie stimulater. There was a short wait in line, but in the movie room was a platform for standing. The platform moved along with the movie. The movie was about turning the viewer into a beer bottle. So the platform would shake and swirl as the beer did. We were also sprayed with water, and bubbles and wind were blown. It was an exciting aspect to the trip. Following the museum was a quick lesson of Heineken at a mini bar. We were all given a glass of beer, and taught how to inspect it. Then the factory continued. There was dancing rooms and rooms dedicated to movies that were endorsed by Heineken. There was also a room with futuristic chairs that you laid in. The chairs were low to the ground and looked like a giant C. The top of the chair curled around and had a TV screen right in your face. The screen played advertisements through out the years. Then, at the end of the factory was the bar. When I got my ticket to enter the factory, I also received a green rubber bracelet that says "Heineken" on it, and had 2 buttons attached. These buttons represent the two beers I could get. At the bar, a person simply traded a button for a beer. Overall, the factory was truly impressive. It definitely blew the Guinness factory out of the water.

Across the street from the Heineken Experience we hopped on a canal tour. This was another bonus to having the I AMsterdam card. The canal tour was fun. I was a little drained and buzzed at this point, so I don't think I enjoyed the experience as much as I could have. I didn't have enough energy to laugh at the boat captain's cheesy jokes. On the canal we passed a lot of the city center. It was nighttime, so it was dark out, and it was also rainy, so I didn't get to see much of what he was pointing to. I did get to look at the houseboats as we passed, and I found those to be very cool. There were some that are rented out as hotel rooms, and are the most expensive places to stay in Amsterdam, according to the tour guide.

The boat tour ended and it was raining hard. We ran to shelter to figure out our next step. The next step, of course, needed to be dinner. We sent two people off to find a restaurant that was in our book as a discount. They came back and reported it wasn't too far, so we made a dash for it. Soaking wet, we found the place, but decided to eat across the street. My meal didn't meet my expectations, but with a picky eater, that happens a lot.

After a long dinner period, we headed back to the hotel. Again, we went to see our friend Yvon at the bar. We had a pint in silence because of our exhaustion and went to bed soon after.

Saturday morning was early again. A few of us made it over to the store Lidl before leaving for the day. We picked up some breakfast bars, a few muffins, and a large bottle of water. Then, we were off for another day of adventuring. Off the tram station was a place called Heineken City, where we could go to get a free gift. We went to this stop first, and then continued on to the Anne Frank House.

The line was wrapped around the building, and at the sight of it, we lost many of our group members. Five of us were determined to wait to get in, because it was of top priority for many of us while we visited Amsterdam. Slowly another person came back to the line. The wait ended up not being long at all, and we entered the museum. While going through the museum and Anne's house, I took my time. I read the entire booklet that was handed out, and made sure not to miss a thing. I can confidently say that I read every sign on the wall, looked at every picture, and watched every film clip that there was in the museum. I was basking in a wealth of information. I felt like I knew a lot about Anne Frank before I went to the museum, but I definitely learned a lot more. I could not believe that they had her actual diary there on display. It was fascinating to even see her hand writing, despite the fact that I cannot read the language. The museum was wonderful and enlightening, and it was my favorite activity that I did while I was in Amsterdam.

Following the Anne Frank House, a few of the guys of the group wanted to go across the canal to see a man about a bottle of Absinthe. I went in, too. The man in the store gave a speech informing the group about the myths and truths of Absinthe and the green fairy. It was interesting, I took a few photographs, and then I left to sit outside on a bench with my friend, Brittany. It was one of many times that I was left waiting for the group this weekend, but I tried not to let the waiting around get to me and put me in a bad mood.

When they were done with their ATM runs, bargining with the store clerk, and purchasing their goods, we could move on with our day. We needed to get lunch. We walked towards the tram that we needed to take to our next stop and followed it until we found something to eat. We found a bagel shop, that was relatively quick, and it was cheap (well, compared to most European places).

It was midafternoon at this point, and we had to get on a tram to be able to get to our next stop. We went to another museum, and only had a half an hour to walk through it. That was fine by me, because once I entered, I knew I wasn't going to be interested in this one. I found some quality aspects to the museum, but overall, I wasn't overly enthused.

After this, we headed back to city center to figure out what we wanted to do. We decided on the Torture Museum. It was gruesome, and I think I'm scarred for life. Enough said.

Then, it was dark out, and the group was split. We decided to walk around for a bit and just see the city by foot. We found a few souvenir shops that we poked our heads into. I bought a few things as gifts for people. In one of the gift shops was a cat. Yes, a real cat. Cait and I fell in love. At that gift shop, we spent our time petting the cat and talking to it like crazy cat ladies. Then, when we said our good bye to Mr. Kitty, he got out of his cat bed in the corner and stared at us, so of course we had to go back and play with it more.

We walked down a few streets looking in stores, and figuring out how we were going to meet up with our dysfunctional group to go to dinner. It took a while, but we found everyone, and we found a place to eat.

Following dinner we took a trip on the wild side. We bared the Red Light District. I was so focused on walking to this place, that I was not paying attention to my surroundings. Then, all of a sudden we stopped abruptly, I looked up, and there was a scantily clad woman dancing in a window. This famous place, was terrifying. I didn't know whether to laugh or cover my eyes while walking through the streets. I kept saying a common phrase for this weekend, "this is not real life." Seeing the Red Light District was definitely an experience, and a necessity to visiting Amsterdam.

After finishing walking through that, it was time to go back to the hotel to get a little sleep. I fell asleep almost immediately after hitting my head to the pillow. We had an early morning and I was determined to maximize my sleep. We were up around 430 and left to adventure to finding our way to the airport by 530. Despite a few confusions with busses and the tram schedule, we made it to the airport stress free, and on time.

A fairly smooth, 1 hour flight later, I was back in Dublin. I loved Amsterdam, and if I had time in the semester, I would go back in a heartbeat.

I didn't get to take too many pictures because most of the museums didn't allow photography. I will upload the pictures soon to the Internet to share.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

European Adventures

Yesterday, I was in a pessimistic mood kicking myself for not booking a trip for this weekend. This weekend is my October break, because Monday is a public holiday. I never ended up booking something, oops. So, I was angry with myself, thinking I had wasted my time in Europe without taking advantage of cheap flights and easy access to all these amazing places.

Then, yesterday, the ball got rolling. My roommate and I sat down and started hashing out the details for our 11 day Thanksgiving break. We booked three tickets for all under 130 USD, a great triumph if I do say so myself.

Here is how I will be spending the rest of my time in Europe:

Nov 4-7 Amsterdam, Netherlands
Nov 12-14 Glasgow, Scotland
Nov 19-24 traveling Italy
Nov 25-27 Barcelona, Spain
December 3-5 Paris, France

Then I will be home December 18!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Parents come to Ireland!

My parents jumped the pond and arrived in Dublin early Sunday morning. I picked them up at the airport and brought them to their hotel. Unfortunately, their room was not ready yet. So, I brought them back to my apartment for some relaxation. They were jetlagged, I was dying of the plague. We rested until the hotel called saying that they were able to check in at any time. And let me tell you, the wait was worth it. When we walked into their hotel room, I first thought we were in the wrong room. When the door is opened into their room it leads you into a hallway. On the right hand side are two wood french doors leading into the marble bathroom. Continue straight in the hallway, and around the corner is the bedroom. The bedroom had a large flat screen television with all the channels that I am unable to get at my apartment. Instantly, I jumped onto the plush white bed that was covered with pillows. Of course, this led into another nap.

Once we woke up for a second time, we took my dad out to birthday lunch! He arrived in Ireland for holiday and to see his daughter on his birthday. What a great gift, if I do say so myself. For his birthday we went to the most touristy place in the entire world. I led my family into Temple Bar and we ate at the Hardrock Cafe. It was an enjoyable first meal for the family, and Mr. Barrett received a free shot glass on behalf of his birthday.

After lunch I took my parents on a walking tour of the city. I showed them the Famine Memorial, O'Connell street, Dublin Convention Centre, and walked up and down the Liffey. This took up most of our time. We went out to dinner, which became our nightly routine, and then my parents walked me home.

Unfortunately, I had school all week, so I wasn't able to tour Dublin with my parents, or really show them anything. However, they did well. They walked the city and saw a lot of things. They also took a trip to the west. After school I went to their heavenly hotel for a quick rest and to decide on where to go for dinner. I didn't have a single bad meal. It was nice to explore restaurants, because I don't normally go out to eat. It's expensive and I don't have time.

I don't have class Friday, so I was finally able to travel with them. We decided to take a tour south of Dublin into the country side. I've spent the last two months in the city, and I'm at the halfway point in my semester. The city is getting to be a bit much. I've seen just about everything there is to see in the city, and things are getting old. I guess you could say the honeymoon phase is passing. So this trip was just what I needed. We went on the Wild Wicklow tour.

My parents and I met the tour bus at 9:10 and started our journey. The bus did a coastal drive past the DubLaoghaire Harbor, Dalkey and Killiney. The tour guide pointed out where the wealthy lived and said a lot of famous people reside along the coast.

We then took a break at Avoca Handweavers. It was a little shop that sold expensive clothing and coffee. My parents got hot chocolate and we sat on a bench outside to enjoy. Then it was back to the bus!

We drove through what they called the "Sally Gap Adventure." It was the Wicklow National Park. It was beautiful. The mountains were covered in heather! This is where P.S. I Love You was filmed. I absolutely love that movie, and it was on my to-do list while I've been in Ireland. I was not disappointed to say the least. I could not stop taking pictures. (As usual you can see them here). I sat next to a man on the bus who turned into my family's personal photographer, and in return, I took his picture at every location as well. On this drive we also saw the Guinness lake. They brought in sand to put on the beach at the lake, and from the top of the mountains looking down the lake looked like the beer! It was dark water, and then the sand looked like the foam. The bus driver/tour guide poured us all shots of Jameson to enjoy while overlooking the lake.

We stopped at a pub for lunch. It was a traditional Irish pub in the countryside, so it was a unique experience. The lunch was set up in a buffet style that they served. It reminded me of a lunch line. Everyone stood in line, told the people what you wanted, and it was premade and they served it to you. At the end of the line was the cash register and silverware. Lunch was delicious.

The last stop of the day was to Glendalough. There I saw a 6th century monastic settlement. I saw graves stone buildings. The graves here were much different than the ones I've seen in Dublin. In Dublin they normally outline the grass in front of the grave with stones. The graves at the settlement were much like the ones from home; however, much older.

Glendalough also had two lakes. There was the lower lake, which was a small lake surrounded by trees and had a view of the settlement. There was a path winding through the woods to lead to the upper lake. The upper lake was beautiful. It was large and clean. There wasn't trash polluting the water, and it had a wonderful view. It was in the middle of two mountains, and the valley could be seen in the background. Pictures did not do this place justice. It was stunning.

We were back to Dublin by 17:30. We went back to the hotel for a little regrouping time, then headed off to dinner.

Sadly, Saturday morning my parents had to leave. It was not a happy time, but I will see them again in two months and one day!

It was great seeing them and they came at the perfect time. I enjoyed my time with them, and I think they had a good time as well.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Northern Ireland

This past weekend, I spent two days and one night in Northern Ireland.

My trip began in Belfast, where we were immediately rushed into black taxis for a tour. The black taxi tours are well known around the world, and can be tailored to personal interests. The tour that I was taken on had a political and historical theme.

The first stop was to see the murals. The murals are on the Protestant side of the wall, and are always changing. Most of the murals represented martyrs; however, some had other significant meanings.

The next stop was at the Peace Line. This divides the Protestant and Catholic communities. The wall is huge. It is completely covered in tasteful graffiti. On top of the graffiti, people who have visited the wall have signed it, or written messages. People like Ghandi and Bill Clinton have written on the wall as well. They're a little more important so their messages have been inscribed in metal frames on the wall. My message was simply written in a red marker.

This picture captures only a small section of the Peace Line:

Here is a picture of what I wrote on the wall:

After a photo-op at the Peace Line, I hopped back into my black taxi with five classmates. The black taxi took us around to the other side of the wall. The Catholic side we visited the Clonard Martyrs Memorial Garden. The garden had a celtic cross in the center made of marble. There were paintings of people who had died from political warfare, and their names were engraved on a piece of granite mounted to the wall.

Next we were brought to see more murals in another location, but on the Catholic side this time. Many of the murals represented those who had died during hunger strikes.

The black taxis then brought us back to the center of Belfast. In Belfast I had time to go to an ATM to get pound sterling. Then we had time to walk around Victoria Square Centre. This shopping area consisted of multiple streets that reminded me of Church Street in Burlington. There were shops that I recognized, like Urban Outfitters, and others which must either be unique to the area, or to Europe. There was also a mall within this area. The mall had a looking glass on the top floor, but I didn't take the time to go up there. Instead, I found a cute coffee shop that had outdoor seating with one of my classmates. The shop was called The Cookie Box. I ordered a hot chocolate, with whipped cream and marshmallows of course. I also ordered a giant double chocolate chip cookie. The cookie had chunks of both milk chocolate and white chocolate embedded into it. My classmate and I found a seat in the sun to relax, eat our food, and people watch. It was nice talking to someone who I don't see on a daily basis to grasp their perspective on their experiences in Dublin. It's refreshing to speak with someone out of the ordinary. There are only 50 kids in the Champlain College: Dublin program, but it's easy to fall into a routine with certain people. I like taking a step back and doing things on my own, or even when someone I don't see on a day to day basis. So, my classmate and I had some good laughs and talked about our expectations for the next few months. Soon enough, it was time to meet up with the group again to hop on the bus.

The bus took us to Ballintoy. It is a small coastal town located in County Atrim. This town was even smaller than Doolin, the quaint town I stayed in when I went to the west coast of the Republic. When we arrived in Ballintoy, no one was at our hostel (Sheep Island View Hostel) to let us in. Unphased by this, we drop our bags in the common room and hit the town. And by hit the town, I mean go to one of the two pubs. The first pub my friends and I went into was already crowded by some locals, but mostly with people from our program, so we decided to hit the next place to see if we could get a seat there. We figured we had to, because how many people could be populating these two pubs at 5pm? The second place was much more relaxed, there was a family eating dinner, a local sitting at the bar, and a few classmates of mine ordering food. My friends and I found a nice seat in the bar that was raised and had couches. We ordered an appetizer and ordered a pint. We stayed until 7, and then went back to the hostel to check into our rooms. The town is so small that the hostel rooms do not have locks on their doors. This only half surprised me.

The hoppin' town can be seen below:

The people at the hostel cooked us dinner. They made pasta, buttered bread, and for desert strawberry cheese cake. After eating, everyone headed back to the pub where I had been since 5, because some of the girls in our group convinced them to let us do karaoke that night. Karaoke proved to be a success, when nearly every member of the group got up and sang. I was not one of them. However, I enjoyed the atmosphere, the beer, and the pitchers of a lime green beverage called something frog.

This little town had a nice addition that Doolin didn't. It had street lights. It was a comforting walk home being able to see in front of me. Once I got home, I slept soundly on my top bunk bed.

The next morning, the hostel staff made us breakfast. When I say breakfast, I don't mean a lame assortment of cereals and buttered toast. They made us eggs, Irish bacon, and sausage. It was the best hospitality I have experienced yet. The women continuously refused for us to help with dishes, or to serve food.

After breakfast, the group walked down to the Ballintoy Harbour. This was an opportunity to see the water, the coastal line, and it was an overall a great spot to take some photos.

A climb back up the hill and a short bus ride later, I found myself at Carrick-a-Rede, County Antrim. The attraction to this spot is the famous roped bridge. It was a short walk up and down some hills, along with rock stairs to get to the bridge. Once at the bride 8 people could cross it at one time. Of course, I got stuck behind that one person who wanted to bunny hop across the entire thing making it shake. I was a brave little girl, and it didn't phase me. On the other side of the bridge were breathtaking views of the coast. Green grass, cliffs, and a view of Scotland made the experience priceless.

We only had about an hour to spend getting to, from, and across the bridge at this spot. A quick stop for lunch was next on the agenda. It was a country home styled restaurant with large portions.

Following lunch, the bus then took us on a five minute drive to see Giant's Causeway. This spot is famous for hexagon shaped rocks that form natural stairs. It is also well known from being featured on the Led Zeppelin cover, Houses of The Holy.

At this location I spent most of the time exploring by myself. It was such a beautiful place that I didn't want to be around anyone that could possibly ruin it for me. I took pictures, climbed the rocks, and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I also met a man from Ohio who was visiting both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. He was taking a complete tour with his wife.

Spending time alone and finally feeling some sun rays on my vampire looking skin, I met back up with my roommates. Together, we walked back to the parking area and gift shop location. My roommate, Cait, bought me a cup of hot chocolate at the cafe. It was nice to sit down and relax for a little bit, because our weekend had been so rushed.

There was only one stop left after the Giant's Causeway. This stop was Dunluce Castle. The castle was beautiful. It was set directly on a coast and had the greenest grass I have seen to date in Ireland. The view was amazing. I decided to take a guided tour around the castle. I learned that the castle is still owned by the MacDonald family from Scotland. However, it is run by the government and maintained by them as well. The castle, I must mention, was simply ruins, but there were still a few towers that I was able to go up into. I spent most of my time taking pictures and trying to imagine what this medieval castle must have looked like when it was in full occupancy.

When we were done at the castle, it was time to get back on the bus and head back to Ireland. It was overall a great trip. I loved everything about it. It was historical, beautiful, and most of all a trip of enjoyment.

And as always, feel free to check out my pictures through my Picasa Web Albums.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

New Pictures

I'm still in the process of uploading pictures. It takes a long time; however, I posted pictures from my weekend in Northern Ireland. Go check them out.

To see them click here.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Funday

A typical Sunday for a college student consists of waking up past noon, making sure nothing was lost during your Saturday night drunken escapades, eating unhealthy food, and procrastinating homework.

In Dublin, it is no different.

I awoke abruptly this morning to the sun blaring in my window. I had forgotten to close the shades when I went to bed last night. My head was pounding from the combination of dancing next to a speaker all night, and the abundance of Druid's I had consumed. I quickly tried to figure out what time it was, but my mobile likes to play games with me. Apparently, it is always 12:30 am January 1, 2008. Excellent. It is always half 12 on New Years. Without luck of figuring out the time, I decided that it was time to go back to bed.

A few hours later, around noon, I woke up an finally got out of bed. I made myself a bagel while my mouth watered over the french toast my roommate's boyfriend had cooked her. I complained about not wanting to study for my upcoming science quiz, which led me to the Internet for distraction.

I dabbled on the world wide web for a few hours. You're probably thinking, what can she possibly do on the internet for a few hours? Well, let me tell you, it is very simple on a Sunday. First, I checked PostSecret and remembered the five hour time difference because this week's secrets weren't up yet. My internet journey also led me to check all three (unnecessary) of my email accounts, specifically hoping that my mom would be on Gmail to video chat. I continued on to Facebook, where I was hooked for a good portion of my time. What do I do on Facebook? I have no idea, but I was sucked in. Finally, I ventured back to PostSecret.

Then, I got down to business. With two of my classmates, I wrote a lab report. It was the first lab report of the semester, so it took a little longer than necessary. It was especially time consuming because of entering our data onto an Excel spreadsheet and making a chart from it. I took a class on Excel in high school, so I didn't think it would be too difficult; however, I was wrong. I realized quickly that I had only learned the business/accounting aspect to Excel, and I didn't know anything about making charts. A friend came up to my room and taught us how to create the table and chart. Once he explained it, it wasn't too difficult. Lab report: check. Feeling successful, what do I do? Make dinner of course.

After dinner, I wanted to sit down and get to business. My first quiz is tomorrow, and I know minimal information about the subject matter. The subject is earth science. I need to do a lot of studying. Of course, I had left my laptop open and my sister rings in on Gmail to video chat with her and her dog Toby. I take the opportunity to talk to her, especially because weekends are our only time to communicate. She lives in California, so our time difference is eight hours. The time difference makes it hard to connect during the week, so I take any opportunity I can to video chat with her.

A group of people had gathered in my apartment's living room at this point to sit down and study. I got off the computer and joined everyone with a notebook and pen in hand. I started to look through the PowerPoint presentations that we had gone over in class. I successfully wrote one page of notes, and then realized it was 8:15.

I had signed up to go to Capital Comedy Club with my school. I had to meet everyone in the lobby to walk to the show for 9. Realizing the time, I put down my pen and walked away from my notes. I got out of my PJs for the first time all day, and put on real people clothes. By the time I changed, it was time to leave.

At the comedy club I sat next to an middle aged couple from Belfast. I talked about what I am doing in Dublin, school, my major, how I like the city, and all that jazz. They were friendly and enjoying their pints of Carlsberg, blissfully laughing louder than most people around me. I didn't even realize that I didn't understand some of the comedy until the man kept leaning in and explaining them. One comedian made a joke about Connecticut. He was saying how it sounded like it was something you would feed to your cat. I laughed hysterically, not even knowing that there was a real reason for the joke. The man leaned in and asked me if we had a certain brand of cat food in the states. I forget the name of the brand, but apparently it sounds like Connecticut, and that's why the joke had been made.

The comedy show ended around midnight, and we made the walk back from Temple Bar to our apartments, a short distance away. I came home to my notebook and pen where I had left them. Again, I sat down and what did I do? I opened my laptop. I started on Facebook, went to Gmail, and then I was led to Blogger. It is now 1:10, and I do not see myself being successful in studying for my quiz tomorrow at this point. I guess I'm just going to have to made it an early morning, and study for a few hours before my class at 12:15.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Irish Craic

Today is a wonderful celebration for Guinness. It is Arthur's Day! It is a glorious day where everyone cheers at 17:59. I went to a quaint little pub around the corner from my apartment to celebrate with friends from my study abroad program.

Man, oh man, was it exciting. Upon entering the pub, there was hardly any standing room (same for every other pub in Ireland). One of the workers found me and my friends a table at the front of the building, right next to the band.

Everyone was so excited for the toast, that we had a preliminary toasting about 5 minutes too early. People were all excited, laughing with their friends. An all around jolly good time.

Then, the count down began and everyone threw their Guinness in the air to cheers anyone that was close to them. It was a thrilling moment. It truly made me happy to be in Dublin for this moment. All I could do was smile as I drank my pint of Guinness and look around at the familiar faces around the bar. It was even more exciting to see all the Irish people celebrate their favorite beverage.

There were couples dancing to the Irish music. My favorite couple that was dancing had to be around 70 years old. They were adorable.

My roommate came up with the idea to take coasters from all the pubs and clubs that we go to during our adventures. So, that's picture the coaster from the pub to add to the growing collection. This design was also used for advertisements around the city.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I began uploading my pictures to Picasa so that all my friends and relatives can look at them. My Facebook settings are too high for anyone to see them on there.

Click here to see my pictures!

Ignore the albums titled, "Blogger Pictures, Eight Days A Week, and iBlog." They were all previous blogs I had for class and are irrelevant to my Ireland experience. Also, I don't know how to get rid of them =].


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Routines and Western Ireland

I've been neglecting my blog lately. I don't really have an excuse either. I still have plenty of free time. So, this is my formal apology, and I fully intend to share my most recent experiences.

I have completed two weeks of school, and I can finally make it to school without getting lost. Walking to school may not sound like quite a challenge by reading my blog in Vermont, or even looking at how to get there on MapQuest; however, it's pretty simple to get lost. Getting to school is like a maze. I zig zag across the city for 35 minutes to eventually arrive at my school. Now that I know where I'm going, I'm not really sure how I got lost. I think it was a combination of letting my feet take me where I needed to end up while my mind was thinking about the next four months in Dublin. Either way, I now know how to get to and from school, and that's an accomplishment.

I am taking five classes and a lab here in Ireland.

I have Global Environmental Earth Science, which is taught by the director of Champlain College Dublin. He is an enthusiastic man when it comes to his passion. His passion just happens to be geology. Every trip that we have taken, he points out small geological things about the land, and has a mini lecture. It's very fascinating, and surprisingly interesting. Just this past weekend I was sitting on the beach on one of the Aran Islands. I said, "I have sand all over me! It's even in my shoe!" Stephen, my professor, was standing in front of me and quickly replied, "actually it's not sand." I, along with a group of my friends say, "huh??" He sort of laughed and replied "sorry, but let me correct you. Pick up some of it in your hand and look closely, it's actually crushed shells." He continued to talk about the crushed shells making up the beach, and how often the waves wash up the shells. I've never been one to enjoy science, but the constant stream of science facts may rub off on me by the end of the semester.

I am also taking Irish Culture Through Fine Arts. For the first two classes, we have gone to museums. The first class we went to the Natural Museum of Ireland, and the second was House Number 29, Dublin's Georgian house museum. Two classes, and two field trips. I can't complain. And yes, I am in college, and we take field trips.

Non profit and Social Marketing is my third class of the week. It is taught by a woman who is on the board of trustees for Champlain College Dublin, and she also works in the marketing field. She seems to have an abundance of knowledge that she can translate well to students. The class has been raved about from past students in the program, and that's why I took it. It doesn't look like I will be let down. I am looking forward to gaining more knowledge in the marketing aspect, and especially from a foreign land's point of view.

Another class that particularly pertains to my major is Intercultural Communications. The class seems to be fairly interesting, although it seems to be more about diversity and culture than communication, but I'm happy to learn either way. So far, it seems to be like a class I took my freshmen year in high school called AWOD (A World Of Difference). I hope to learn some new things, and reconnect with old subject matter I have learned about in the past.

My fifth class is Modern Irish Social History. It is taught by a man who has a thick Irish accent, and has a great sense of humor. My first day of class, I said my full name, and he stopped me, and said, "you're Irish." I replied with, "yes, I am." And he continued to have me tell the class about what I know about my heritage. I told him what I knew, and explained that I am eager to learn more through my trip here. He was the first of many people to say, "welcome home." Welcome home. It sounds so bizarre to think that I am being so openly welcomed to a country that I know little about, but have so much history with. It's a powerful message, and I have now heard it a number of times. It makes me feel like I actually belong here. It's nice.

I'm in a routine with my classes, which is nice, but I don't seem to have a routine for any other time. That may be a good thing, or it may be a bad thing. But I have time to figure it out. I think I'm going to join a gym for the next few months while I am here, which will put a little more routine into my schedule. It's a gorgeous gym that's relatively close to my apartment. It has a number of floors each dedicated to a different type of workout. There is a floor that has just cardio machines, another with free weights, another with weight machines, and there is even a pool! I didn't bring my bathing suit to Ireland, but I'm sure I'll find use out of every other aspect of the gym. The best part is, it's only about a 10 minute walk. It's a hefty price to join, but I think in the long run it will be worth it.

Other than my day to day life, I went on a trip this weekend. I went to western Ireland. I saw Doolin, the Cliffs of Moher, Aron Islands and Galway. I had an amazing time, but it has left me exhausted.

Doolin is this wonderful small town in western Ireland. When I say small town, I mean tiny! It was adorable. From our hostel, we walked past cow pastures to a restaurant/pub where we ate dinner. The place was full of locals to talk to, and it was very interesting. I found the walk back to be a little more interesting. After a few pints of Bulmers, I could not stop laughing about how humorous Doolin was. We were walking on a dirt road, in the middle of no where Ireland, past pastures of cows, to get back. There were no street lights, no cars, and no one else on the road. People were using their O2 mobile phones as flash lights to guide us back in the right direction. Don't get me wrong, there isn't a wrong direction, there was one road, but it was nice to see what we were walking towards every once in a while. After our dinner, we went to another pub that was lively and had loud music on. There were members of our faculty who joined us at the next pub, and what seemed to be like all 50 Champlain students. It was a great time. I talked to people in the program who I never spoke with before, and got to know others a little better. The best part, I was in bed by midnight, exhausted.

It was a good thing we went to bed so early because we had to get up at 9am for breakfast and to take the ferry to the Aron Islands. The Aron Islands were amazing, but the ferry ride was nightmare. The choppy waters left most people nauseous ready to boot at any moment, and left others actually throwing up into plastic bags. It was not an enjoyable trip over, but the island was beautiful. Once we arrived on the tiny island we had the option to simply walk around, rent a bike to ride around, or take a horse and buggy around. Originally I had planned to rent a bike and enjoy the scenery, but after (what I felt like) a near death experience in the ferry, I decided to take the horse and buggy with my friends. The man and his horse, named Captain Morgan (I have to admit, I liked the smelly horse a little better after hearing her name) showed us around the entire island. It was breath taking. I also hiked a hill to see a grave yard and also the ruins of an old castle. After walking around, I stopped in a cafe and ate lunch, then spent the rest of my time on the beach enjoying the weather and the scenery (also dreading the ferry ride back in my near future). The ride back was just as bad as going there. Luckily, I didn't toss the bucket either way, I just turned ghostly white and thought I was going to die. I think the experience on the island was worth the pain on the ferry; however, I do not see myself ever taking that ferry again.

After the Aron Islands experience, we hopped back on the bus and headed for Galway. We entered the city at about 6 at night, and were free to do whatever we liked for the night. It was a little disappointing that we didn't get to spend any time exploring the city while shops were open, but I ended up having a nice time. By the time we got to Galway, I was tired and sick. I also desperately needed to eat dinner, since the one I ordered in the Islands wasn't satisfying, go figure, picky Heather not liking her meal. Anyways, a few friends and I left our hostel in Galway and walked to the popular area called State Street, which is like a Burlington Church street on a larger scale. We aimlessly walked trying to figure out where and what we wanted for dinner. Everyone was so exhausted, we were zombies. Finally we just walked into a place and said, "that's it, we're eating here." It was a great dinner, and I actually felt much better after eating. At dinner a friend and I discussed how we wanted to buy Claddagh rings in Galway, because that's where they originated. All the shops were already closed when we arrived, so we had talked about waking up early to go to stores in the morning to look for them. As we walked back towards our hostel, we noticed that all shops on Sunday mornings don't open until 10 am, which would be after we left from our hostel anyways. We were disappointed, until we found one tiny shop with a very helpful man. The shop was open, we went in, and found the rings that both of us wanted. The man was a jolly Irishman who was in an especially good mood because he was going to go fishing in the morning. He gave us a 10% discount on the rings, and also provided us with helpful hints about taxing in Ireland, and how we can save money toward the end of our trip. My friend bought my ring for me, and I bought his for him, because it is good luck to receive Claddagh rings from someone else. So, now, we both have the luck of the Irish with us.

Following our lucky encounter at the ring store, we went to a bar called Coyote. I think they were trying to impersonate the American Coyote Ugly theme. It was crowded, filled with bachelorette parties, and had an awful live singer. I stayed just long enough to see a few of my friends ride the mechanical bull, and then I left with my roommates to go to bed for the night. I didn't think I was ever going to sleep that night. I had a pounding headache, and every time I shut my eyes I felt like I was on the boat again. We were all talking about how we still felt sea sick and were never going to fall asleep, but no less than five minutes later, we were all sound asleep.

This morning, we woke up, went downstairs for breakfast, packed up our belongings and got on the bus for our ride home. On the way we stopped at a place I can't remember the name, because I was so tired. I'll figure it out later. However, I know it was on the Shannon River, and used to be a tower with a moat, along with a grave site and a few churches. It had some pivotal meaning and speciality to early Christianity. It was pretty. I took pictures. I'll have to Google what it was later though.

Now, I am back in my apartment, which feels like I have arrived back home. It feels nice, I'm excited to sleep in my own bed tonight. I only have one short piece of homework to do. It's only 5:35, so I have time. I'm definitely going to bed early today. Overall, it was a great weekend full of great experiences.

Now, you are completely filled in to my Ireland experiences as a approach my three week mark. I'll try to keep all of you more updated, and write on my blog more often.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Settling In

I have officially been in Ireland for three full days. It seems like forever. The combination of the 5 hour time difference, and keeping myself busy, I have been so exhausted at night that as soon as my head hits the pillow I fall asleep.

My time has been divided between getting things to make my new apartment feel more like home, groceries, and trying to remember how to get to the new places I find.

I was pleasantly surprised that when I went to the grocery store for the first time, I didn't spend nearly as much money as I expected. I was expecting to pay around 100 euro, or maybe even a little more to get all the basics. To my surprise, I only spent 36 euro and purchased almost everything I need. Grocery shopping was basically an all day adventure.

Today was the first day of orientation. I learned where the college campus is. It took us 40 minutes as a group to walk there, but I'm sure it will take less time when I'm not walking with 50 other kids. At the college we had time to explore the building, and then had a meeting about everything that we need to know. Yes, it was boring. However, after the meetings and lunch we were divided into groups to do a scavenger hunt of the city. Everyone was already exhausted by the time we began the hunt, but we decided it would be best if we did participate. We figured that we have the time, it's a nice, sunny, day out and we need to get to know the area. So, me and my four group members started walking around the city. We weren't looking for things on the list as much as we were just taking in what we were seeing. It was nice to find places that I hadn't seen before. I found a clothing store called Penneys and their items are extremely cheap. I could buy a nice jacket for 15 euro. It's kind of like a Forever21. It was a new part of town that I hadn't seen before, but it's easy to get to.

Everything is very exciting and new. It's also a little intimidating, and definitely an adjustment. There are a few kids who are already thinking about going home, and for once a feel a little brave. I haven't had a huge wave of homesickness yet, and that's a good thing. I keep thinking about the semester ahead of me and getting more exciting. I am beginning to think about other places in Europe that I want to travel to when I have free time. Rome and Paris are on my list so far.

After exploring the city the group went out to dinner courtesy of Champlain College. I'm always up for a nice, free dinner.

Another long day has left me exhausted and ready for bed. (BTW my bed is a twin sized....excelllennnnnt). I will have to take a video of my apartment and post it so everyone can see!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The (un)Luck Of The Irish

I have a true talent; however, my talent is more like a misfortune. It may even be a curse. I have the worst experiences at airports. Every time I go to the airport, there is bound to be a problem. My trip to Ireland wasn't any different.

I eagerly arrived at Logan International Airport in Boston ready for my trip. It was raining, but I figured delays would be minimal. I was wrong. Of course I was wrong. I am not able to have a smooth flight..ever. I ended up boarding the plane an hour late. I thought that would be fine because my delay in Newark was scheduled for over two hours. Well, the plane was on the runway about to finally leave when an announcement comes over the loud speaker informing us that the plane was turning around. The reason? Not weather, but a mechanical error. Just my luck.

The plane ended up landing in Newark about twenty minutes before my next plane was scheduled to leave. I intensely watched the clock as people fled out off the plane. When I finally got into the airport I had 10 minutes to get to my next gate, so I just started running. I started at gate 80 and ran all the way to 128. I hadn't really trained for an airport marathon, so it took me, my heavy backpack, and my suitcase, 7 minutes to get to gate 128. As I'm approaching the gate, a woman yells to me asking if I'm going to Dublin. I yell back that I am, and she starts heading to the plane to see if I can still get on. Face flushed, stressed out, and three minutes before take off, I think I still have a chance. The woman hurries back out to the desk and tells me that I am unable to board the plane.

Now that I am a professional at airport disasters, I know exactly where to find a customer service desk and how to get my way. I furiously wait in a short line, ahead of at least four more people from my plane who also missed my flight. I was ready to put up a good fight and demand a new flight. Luckily, I didn't need to. I told the customer service representative that I needed to get to Dublin. I hand her the boarding pass to my missed flight. To my delight, there is one seat left on the next plane to Dublin. It leaves at 9:55 pm, only two hours away. I was originally supposed to have a two hour layover anyways. I happily accept the new boarding pass and wait it out.

I arrive in Dublin right on time. Going through customs was a breeze, even if the man I dealt with was a grump. It began to look like my luck was beginning to change. I enter baggage claim, and hear my name being called. I turned around out of reaction, not thinking that someone was actually talking to me. It was my friend Brittany! I had been in Ireland for 10 minutes, and I already saw a familiar face. What a relief. I get my bags and with my friend, we head to find someone waiting for us with a Champlain College sign. We didn't find him at first, but what you are told when you are 5 and lost stays true in the real world. If you're lost, stay put. That's exactly what we did and 15 minutes later I find myself in a taxi on the way to my new apartment.

So, here I am. Safe and sound in Ireland.

Here is a YouTube video that makes light of people like me, who get angry at the airport. Enjoy!