Final Thoughts on Galway

What an eventful final week! One 4000 word essay, hours of cleaning and throwing things away, a few nights out, and a day of packing later, I guess I can say I’m ready to head back to the States. But honestly, I’ll never be ready. Galway has become my home.

Wednesday night, my friends and I went to our last silent disco of the year, and to my huge surprise, we ran into my friends from William and Mary! It was so fun to see them and hangout, and we made sure to make a trip to Charcoal Grill at the end of the night. It was such a great way to end the year and transition by seeing a few friends from home. Also, I never realized how much I appreciate khakis and Sperrys. Seriously, Irish lads, it would be really beneficial to take a fashion lesson from America (Hollister tees and sweatpants are not turn-ons, sorry I’m not sorry).

Thursday was our last API dinner, and we got a complimentary three course dinner at the Galway Bay Hotel. The food was pretty good, and the wine was great! Afterward, I went to the Roisin Dubh to watch a few friends’ band’s gig, which was amazing. Overall, it was a pretty bittersweet night, and a lot of us got emotional, but it was so great to hang out with all of my Irish and American friends for one last night.

Flash back four and a half months ago, I remember being thrown into a foreign country with a group of twenty-four other students led by an extremely charismatic and chatty Irish woman. A number of overwhelming thoughts were flying through my mind, one of them being, Well, I guess these are my new friends for the semester. In a way, I was right, but in another, I was completely wrong. These people became my family. I’ve never known a more accepting, down-to-earth, fun group before. These people not only put up with me in spite of my flaws, they love me for them. I’ve learned that it is not necessarily a certain place, but certain people, that truly change your life. My API family has stood with me through the laughs, the tears, the stressful times traveling, late nights, and early mornings. I’ve grown to love these people that I’ve only known for a few months, but I’ve also been through so much with them, and my life has been changed forever.

We came to Ireland for adventure. But Ireland also came to us. It challenged us with rainy weather, a country in recession, a new way of living, and an ocean in between us and our loved ones. We rose to and met the challenge, and we succeeded, if I do say so myself. We adapted. We accepted that this was our new life now. The fifteen minute trek to campus, 2-euro cab rides into town, Ryanair flights, drives on the left side of the road, Bulmers, Tayto crisps (gotta be Cheese and Onion), tea and biscuits, very friendly and very drunk people that could talk your ear off at any time of the day, Dunnes runs, and so much more, became second nature to us. Our roots were ripped out of our American soil that was the only life we knew, and we were planted in this wonderful country. Now, the reverse process is about to happen. We all are going to have to readjust to the life we were used to, but as completely different people. Our cohesive group is about to be scattered all across the United States again, but we’ll be stronger now, as a family, instead of strangers that just stepped off a plane at the Shannon airport almost five months ago.

To my API family, I know everyone of us will go great places in life, and I can’t wait to stay in touch with everyone to hear about your future adventures.

To Ireland and the Irish people, never change! You gave me so much more in this experience than I could have ever hoped for. I’ll be back, and soon.

And finally, to my parents, all I can say is thank you for giving me the world and expecting nothing in return except to hang out with me for a few days when you came to visit. You guys are the best and I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated getting the privilege of this opportunity.

This is not a goodbye, but a see you later, to all of the people and places that I’ll be leaving.

A few last key phrases:

“Ah, fer fuck’s sake!”

“All right, so.”

“He’s a sound lad.”

“Cheers.”

“I’m just here for the craic, like.”

We’ll Always Have Galway

Well, it’s official: I’ve pretty much only got a week left here. Sorry I’ve been so bad about blogging the past few weeks, I’ve gone through a few papers, an exam, and a bout of unproductive behavior.

But I’ve got to catch you guys up on my few days in Florence and all the shenanigans I’ve been up to in the past weeks. So, Sunday morning of my week of Eurotripping, I boarded a train headed to Florence from Paris. I was delayed a bit because there was a casual marathon going on right down the street from my hotel, which was stressful since I was forced to cross the throng of runners in order to get to the metro. But I was able to make it to my train and spent the day glued to the window taking in views of the French countryside and the Alps; it was definitely a lot more worth it than taking a flight. I arrived in Florence around 9 pm and met up with Rose, a good friend of mine in my Theta pledge class, to go back to her apartment, where I would be staying for the next few nights. Her apartment was gigantic and only about 50 yards away from the Duomo.

The next day, I met up with Katie and Shelby to tour the Duomo, see the Ponte Vecchio, and walk around the city. It kind of surprised me to see how small the city was, especially with the crazy amount of tourists that are there. In all honesty, it was a little bit underwhelming considering the other cities I’d been to, but beautiful nonetheless, plus the weather was beautiful. Later Monday night, I met up with my friend Matt, a fellow William and Mary student, for dinner at a pretty authentic Italian restaurant that had to-die-for gnocchi with truffle oil. After dinner, I went out with Laura, a friend of mine from camp, to a pub called the Lion’s Fountain, where I ran into Shelby and another William and Mary student named Hannah.

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The next few days in Florence were filled with eating way too much food and walking around the city taking in the sights. My last night there, Rose and I went out to a Spanish themed bar called Salamanca and had a great time! Then, Rose and her housemate Sabrina came back to Galway with me for a few days. I showed them around the city center and my campus, took them out to Carbon, the Front Door, and the Roisin Dubh, as well as the Cellar Bar for dinner one night. Overall it was a great week spent with great friends!

The past couple of weeks have been spent taking advantage of my time left in Galway, hanging out with, and sadly saying goodbye to, some really awesome people, and thinking about how my abroad experience has affected and changed me as a person. I’ve started making friends with the staff of the Roisin Dubh, my all-time favorite bar with a really cool indie scene, hanging out at gigs with DJ’s and band members, and getting to know the locals in new environments. I feel like I’m really getting acclimated to this part of Galway culture, but it sucks because it’s happening so late in the semester with so little time left. I’ve met some really cool and inspiring people that I hope to keep up with on my return to the States.

This city has become my second home. The people, the atmosphere, and yes, even the weather, have earned extremely special places in my heart. It really saddens me that in my heart of hearts I know I probably won’t ever see a lot of these people again, but my outlook on life, ideas of culture, and own personality have been irrevocably altered in some really awesome ways. While I am really excited to be reunited with my friends from home and at school, some part of me has turned into a Galway girl. And though I’ve got to leave this place in a matter of days, I know I’ll always have Galway.

La Belle Paris

All I have to say: what a city! As soon as I got off the metro and into the city itself, I fell in love, totally and irrevocably. I didn’t realize that the city was actually as beautiful as everyone said, but it’s true! No wonder it has been (and will continue to be) the subject of so much art.

After a few minutes figuring out our bearings, Katie and I found our hotel. Let me tell y’all, it was a huge step up from the one we had in London. It had lovely traditional French floral wallpaper, and, the kicker, a bathroom attached to our bedroom with a shower that had non-stop hot water. Seriously, it was heaven. After dropping our bags off in the room, Katie and I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood to see what all was there. We then went to dinner at Les Portes, where we had some great ravioli. I was soon noticing how completely necessary my 5 years of French was in getting around the city; the French people treat you with a lot more respect if you can speak their language. Since Katie doesn’t speak French, I had to order all of her food for her, but it worked pretty well because we usually got the same thing to eat. After dinner, we wandered around this cobblestone street right next to our hotel to a couple of bars and found ourselves at this weird bar/club thing that played the best of early 2000s American rap: I was loving it. The bartender also did these crazy tricks with bottles and glasses as he was pouring drinks which was super impressive and entertaining. 

The next day, we ventured over to Notre Dame, had lunch at a cafe nearby – I got an absolutely delicious croque monsieur… the cheese! – then walked our way down the Seine to the Eiffel Tower (a distance of at least two miles, but the scenery was so pretty that it was totally worth it), shared an apple tart at a cafe right next to the monument, and finally made it to the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees. Just a forewarning to future Parisian travelers: the traffic here is terrible, and the chances of you being hit by a car are pretty high. We saw this girl try to cross a street when the pedestrian light was red and came within a foot of being hit by a car (a flabbergasted French man next to me captured my sentiments exactly with an “Oh la la!”); thankfully she was unharmed.

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For dinner, we went to the Bistrot de Peintre and both got roast chicken and wine (don’t get me started on how good the wine is here or how often the French drink it… good God), then went out later to this bar/club called SANZ where we met some really hilarious people and danced awkwardly next to a middle aged French woman who was clearly on the prowl. 

The next day, we went to the Louvre! And yes, we saw the great lady herself, the Mona Lisa:

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It was surprisingly less of a madhouse than I expected (which was great because I absolutely hate tourists… especially when I realize that I’m one of them), but the place is seriously so huge! Katie and I got kind of lost in an ancient Egyptian exhibit for what seemed like ages. We decided to walk back to our hotel from the museum (another long-ish trek, but again the views were gorgeous), and we stopped by a little boulangerie to get some sweets! I got some pistachio and vanilla macaroons, yum. I then took a Kat nap but was ready for dinner at 9 where Katie and I met up with fellow Hutchison alums Mary and Kate (and Kate’s friend Will)! It was so great to see a couple of familiar faces and talk about how crazy Parisian culture is with them. They definitely seem to be enjoying studying here! We went to a place called Cafe de Commerce, and I got this really tasty penne pasta with chicken. 

Today, Katie and I got some croissants for lunch, and then I ventured to Versailles, where I was reminded of how much I hate tourists, but the palace itself was beautiful! I have to admit I pretended to be Marie Antoinette when I was walking around… she’s my girl. Definitely glad I went to see it, probably won’t go there again just because it was so crowded. Later, I got some Asian takeout for dinner then had some tea at a cafe called Chez Celeste where there was some great live music playing.

Overall, I’m obsessed with Paris. I’m actually really sad to leave. The people can at first seem off-putting, but if you speak French to them they’re more than welcome to start up a conversation with you. I haven’t taken French in a year now, but it’s great to see how much of the language comes back even after that much time has past. This experience has definitely inspired me to keep up with the language, because, who knows, I might just come back here sooner than I think! For this city, the people, the sights, the food, and the language are all beautiful… I hate to sound cheesy but it really is no wonder Paris is the city of love! Tomorrow, it’s off to Florence for me, and with a new city, I’m sure there will be new adventures :)

 

London, Baby!

Well, Saturday morning dawned and Katie and I left our little apartment in Gort to head to the real world: LONDON. Getting there was uneventful, but once we arrived, we were a bit overwhelmed. Without knowing where we were, Katie and I decided, why not get a cab to our hotel? It couldn’t be too costly, right? Wrong. 103 pounds and about an hour’s worth of driving later, we were finally dropped off at the hotel which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. The exterior was a bit dingy, and that didn’t change when we went inside. The elevator took forever to move, and as the guy showed us our floor, we realized we only had one working bathroom on the entire floor (which would be fine for a hostel, but a hotel? Come on), and this bathroom didn’t have a shower inside…. So that was interesting. The room had broken curtains and a dirty carpet, so at this point Katie and I were kind of freaking out and thinking that we should maybe go somewhere else. But we decided we should at least wait it out until daytime to see if the place was as really scary as it seemed. So, we trekked on over to the nearest grocery store, bought a pizza, locked the door to our room, and huddled under the blankets until morning.

So Easter Sunday came around, and, maybe it was the magic of God, but when Katie and I went downstairs for breakfast, the place seemed legit. They had a modern lounge for everyone to hang out in, and the other guests seemed very nice and polite. So we breathed a sigh of relief and decided to get going for the day. We had our first encounter with the London overground and underground, and after getting acquainted with the system, we felt like we were pros. We met up with Katie’s friend Michelle (the one who visited us a couple of months ago) at Camden Market, the center of London hipsterdom. The entire area was filled with extremely eclectic shops and every type of ethnic food imaginable, but the three of us decided to go to a pub called the Elephant’s Head for a bite to eat. I got a bacon, egg, and tomato sandwich with an Irish coffee (I can’t escape the Irish culture), and it was all delicious! We then walked around some more and tried to check out the shops at Oxford Circus (think Topshop, H&M, United Colors of Benetton, etc.) but they were all closed for Easter so Katie and I just went back to the hotel and took a nice nap before grabbing dinner. Then, we got ready to meet up with Michelle and hit the town. We went to Piccadilly, and, let me tell you, it was a bit overwhelming (think Times Square), and we ended up at a couple of kRaZy ClUbZ which were super fun :)

The next day, Katie and I ventured over to the London Eye, which was breathtaking! Afterward we walked over to Big Ben and Parliament, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, then went back to the hotel to get dinner and chill. Tuesday, we went back to Oxford Circus to take a look at the famous Harrod’s store (where I bought some mascara, mostly just to say that I bought something from Harrod’s), then we met up with Michelle to tour the Tower of London! It was so cool to see the crown jewels as well. We then made dinner at Michelle’s and hung out there for a while.

Overall, I was really surprised with how huge the city is! It really is the New York of Europe. It is also the most multicultural city I’ve ever been in (we don’t get much diversity in Ireland)… I felt so… white. It was great. But also just very overwhelming. Today, Katie and I made it to Paris!! But that will be described in another blog post, so for now, cheerio!

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Me basically having tea with the Queen.

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A bit of Big Ben, a bit of Westminster Abbey.

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Last Week of Classes!

It’s official: I’m finished with classes for the week!! Now to pick up where I left off…

Last Thursday night was Orla’s birthday party, so Katie and I went out with all of her friends! Orla’s real birthday isn’t until Saturday, but she wanted to have her party a week early while everyone was still in town, since a lot of people have already left for Easter weekend.  The whole lot of us pregamed at the apartment (if you’ve been keeping count, that makes for four parties thrown at our place for the week), and Katie and I were the only Americans there, which was really fun… although there was a bit of trouble when one of Orla’s friends broke our couch, oops. We then went out to Carbon and had a great night.

I had a very chill day and night on Friday, and on Saturday morning the API group embarked on our final excursion to Dublin! We first checked out the Book of Kells that was on display at Trinity College; it was so cool! Especially for a history nerd like myself. Then, some of the group took a bus tour through a lot of the city. There wasn’t any room on the lower level, so we all had to sit on the top of the bus, which was only partly covered and therefore ABSOLUTELY FREEZING. After about an hour of being driven around, our group got off right outside of the old Jameson distillery! All of the tours were booked for the next hour, so we all bought our tickets and had a drink (or two) at the front bar. I got this almond flavored whiskey sour and it was so delicious. The tour itself was great; quite possibly my favorite of all of the breweries/distilleries that I’ve been on so far. After that, we all went back to the hotel, where Katie, Amanda, and I had dinner. I got this really good tomato and coriander soup with duck spring rolls, and a Bailey’s coffee for dessert. I passed out around 10 pm and was ready for the next day! 

Sunday, we had a girls day full of SHOPPING and good food. Corinne, Alexis, Evita, Liz, Kyle, Katie, and I all went to Topshop (where I bought yet another article of clothing, a gorgeous tie dye maxi dress). We walked down Grafton Street and saw this really cool band called Key West playing live for a big group of people. We stayed and watched them for a bit, then went on to our next destination: the cosmetics store Lush, aka my new obsession. The company makes all totally natural products that are tested on human volunteers instead of animals. Although the products were a bit pricey, I ended up buying a facial cleanser, moisturizers for the face and body, and dry shampoo (and, after nearly a week of use, it’s safe to say that my skin absolutely loves me… I cannot recommend this brand enough, everyone go out and buy their products! There’s a product for everyone). After all our shopping, we had definitely worked up a good appetite and found a Lebanese restaurant to eat at. It had a great ambiance and really reminded me of my favorite restaurant back in Memphis called Casablanca. I got stuffed grape leaves for an appetizer, and chicken shawerma as my entree. I totally loved this meal, and it made me realize how much I love Mediterranean-style food. After lunch and a drink at the pub called the Bleeding Horse, we all met back at the hotel to wait for the bus back to Galway. Overall, the trip to Dublin was one of the most fun and relaxed excursions thus far!

The beginning of this week was full of finishing up assignments and essays for my classes (why does it always seem like professors assign the most work right at the end of the semester? That’s what exams are for). So on Wednesday, the last day of classes, I was all finished up and ready to celebrate. It was Amanda’s 21st birthday, so our API group went out to celebrate. Alysse’s family was in town to visit, so they had all of us over to their hotel that had this great rooftop view of Galway; it was a really classy affair. We then went out to Hole in the Wall, McSwiggans, and the Skeff. Definitely such a fun night.

Thursday night, Katie and I went out with Alexis, Evita, Peter, and Ryan (and Ryan’s dad!) to McSwiggans, Taaffe’s, and the Quays for a couple of drinks. Katie and I ended up at McDonalds (where I got my typical double cheeseburger… oops) then went back home! Today, I’ve been getting ready for Katie’s and my Eurotrip this week! So get ready for that blog post :) 

Image Ready for my trip, 2005 style.

 

Shenanigans.

Literally…. this week has been way too insane. It started out with me losing my iPhone at the silent disco last Tuesday, which was a traumatic experience in itself. Wednesday, I went out with Alexis, Evita, Katie, Alysse, Kyle, and Kyle’s sister and brother-in-law to the Skeff and Karma and took it easy for the night. It was super fun to dance with my girlfriends, although I had to elbow multiple aggressive boys in the chest for trying to bump into us. On Thursday, Katie and I went out to our Irish friend’s birthday party, then went out with a bunch of other Irish friends to Karma (again), but this time–apparently someone thought this was a great idea–there were people shooting green slime from giant squirt guns onto people dancing in the crowd. Katie and I tried to wash all of it off in the bathroom of the club, but to no avail. This slime nearly ruined a brand new Topshop dress, and I had to go home early to shower; I’m not sure the last time I felt so disgusting.

I stayed in on Friday to get ready for my parents to come in the next morning, which coincidentally was my 21st birthday! It was so great to see them after two and a half months. I met them at their hotel and napped in a big, fluffy hotel bed–a huge step up from the single bed in my apartment. I then met up with my friend Margaret, who is currently spending a semester in Glasgow and decided to spend the weekend with me. All four of us went out to dinner at Martine’s Wine Bar, where I got delicious chicken and mashed potatoes. I also bought a replacement phone to tide me over for the rest of the semester… a pink plastic brick phone that looks like it’s come straight out of 2004. It’s actually grown on me, but I’m pretty sad I no longer have a camera to document my time here. Ah well. Later Saturday night, I had a party at the apartment and invited both American and Irish friends; it was really funny to watch the Irish girls beat a couple of Americans at beer pong… I was pretty proud. We then went out to Carbon (FINALLY!), and I got a free bottle of champagne since it was my birthday. Overall it was such a fun night! A very successful 21st.

The next day was quite possibly one of the biggest days of the year… St. Patrick’s Day! Margaret, my parents, and I made it over downtown to get lunch at the Skeff, and I got a chicken quesadilla, tea, and soup. We watched some of the parade, which was full of Irish dancers, brightly dressed groups of people, and cars moving slowly to loud music. We tried to get inside a few pubs, but everywhere was so crowded that we gave up after a while and took a bit of a siesta before getting dinner. We all met back up at my parents’ hotel and got drinks and dinner there, and then Margaret went back to my apartment, where my housemates were throwing a St. Paddy’s day party. Margaret decided to go to bed early since she had to get up at 3 am for a bus, so I stuck with Orla for most of the night, ending up at the Front Door for ages and staying out super late.

The next day I accidentally slept in super late but met up with my parents for dinner at the Spanish Arch, which was delicious. I took the parents to a couple of pubs that played traditional Irish music and they loved it! I then went back home and hung out with Katie and her friends who had visited for the weekend for a long time; it was such a great, chill night. Tuesday I had to get back in the swing of things with classes (a rough transition after such a busy weekend), and last night my API friends and I went out to the Roisin Dubh for the silent disco, yet again. Tonight I get to celebrate two more friends’ birthdays…. My life is so busy. Thankfully I only have one more week of classes before Easter Break, and I’m looking forward to my Eurotrip with Katie, which is fast approaching. Hopefully you guys could follow all of the crazy events of the week, cheerio for now! xx

Another Week, Another Blog Post

Time is flying by over here! It’s almost halfway through March, and halfway through my semester here. Unbelievable.

This week has been relatively low key and normal, complete with attending classes, going to the gym, and cups on top of cups of tea. After receiving a generous grant of birthday money from my grandmother, I bought a few (more) clothes, although my fingers are crossed that this will be the last shopping binge of the semester, otherwise I will have absolutely no room left in my suitcases. I’m very excited for the package to come in the mail; I’ve hit up all the new spring trends that are all the rage in Europe!

Tuesday night, my API friends and I went to the weekly silent disco that goes on at a bar called the Roisin Dubh. Every person that attends is given a pair of headphones with a choice between two different DJ stations. The two Djs at the front of the dance floor played a variety of music that ranged from songs like “American Pie” by Don Mclein to “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent. We all stayed and danced like no one was watching and stayed until after 2 am before walking home; it was so much fun. Thursday night, our friends Matt and Anthony had a bunch of people over for an American-style pregame, and I played a round of Kings and flip cup (still a beast at that game). We then made our way over to the Skeff, which was classy as always, before trying our luck to get into Carbon. After waiting in line for at least 10 minutes, the bouncers closed the queue, saying the club was full. Ever since the first week of school, it has been Katie’s and my dream to go to Carbon, but somehow all of our attempts have been foiled. At this point we’re pretty sure we’ll never make it before the semester is over :( ah well….

All day Friday I bummed around the house, and Saturday morning I made an early walk to Salthill to take in the views and snapped some lovely pictures. I had the apartment all to myself this weekend, so I’ve taken advantage of my alone time by doing the dishes, washing clothes, and catching up on some TV shows. So, like I said, a very low key week, which has been great. This coming weekend, I’ve got a lot to look forward to, including my parents coming to visit, my birthday, and St. Patrick’s Day! I’m so excited for all of it, so get ready for next week’s post! I’ll leave y’all with a couple of pictures from Salthill :)

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