Excursion to Connemara!

Hi again! This past week has been pretty uneventful, since my wallet (and body) have been in recovery from Rag week! Lots of going to class, getting work done, and going to the gym. I’ve been focusing on ab work for the week due to my sprained ankle (although it’s very well on the mend). I’ve determined to come back to the States totally toned and ready for summer, so we’ll see how well the exercise and eating healthy will go ūüôā … I went big for food this weekend, but I¬†did take a trip to Connemara–described in detail later–so I decided, why not treat myself?

Thursday night was Will’s 20th birthday, so our API group had yet another surprise birthday party! The get together was held right next door to our own apartment, so Katie and I flitted back and forth to hang out with both our American and Irish friends for a while. We ended up going out with the Americans to the Skeff, which was chill. Since the party had started pretty early (around 8 pm) a few of us girls were ready to dance, so we went over to Karma… right as it was opening for the night. We pretty much had the whole club to ourselves, so we danced like maniacs on the dance floor, taking up most of the space. It was hilarious. Katie and I decided to head over to more pubs once the awkwardness of the fact that we were all literally alone in the club started to hit, and we ran into our friend Anthony on the way to the King’s Head and joined him for a while then went home. Overall it was a really fun night!

The next night for dinner, Katie, Orla and I went to Scotty’s Steakhouse for dinner. I got my first fillet mignon in AGES.. and although it was terribly overpriced, I definitely needed it. Although not the best steak of my life, it definitely hit the spot! Plus, the restaurant is a convenient two minute walk from my apartment, so there’s that.

Today, our API Galway group was joined by our Dublin counterparts as we travelled to Connemara for the day. Apparently it said on the itinerary that we were joining forces, but I was taken by complete surprise and was unprepared to hang out with people I didn’t know, so that kind of put me in a bad mood for the day. I had to sit across the aisle from a girl with the most annoying laugh in the world (putting in my earphones and turning my music on high barely helped), and she seriously laughed the entire trip. I don’t know what could be so funny to laugh THAT much. But whatever. Anyways, we stopped at a local market to take in the sights of normal Irish people selling produce, livestock, and other goods. They all kind of gawked at our big group of Americans, a bit unsure of what to make of us. Back on the bus, I got some absolutely gorgeous pictures of the scenery (it was unbelievable, very Middle Earth-esque), and we then stopped for an hour or two at Kylemore Abbey, a large manor house with a Gothic church and gardens, which were all very picturesque. We all took a nice walk through the grounds before meeting back on the bus. Katie and I also stopped for a quick bite to eat at the restaurant, and I got some tasty tomato basil soup with a savory scone. So good.

Image¬†Image¬†We then headed back towards Galway, but stopped at a place called Brigit’s Garden, which was a kind of modern homage to the ancient Saint Brigit and even older Celtic version of Brigit. The gardens were separated into four seasons and had both sculptures as well as trees and shaped earth to represent what the traditions of each season mean to Irish society. I stupidly left my camera in the bus since my battery was dying; I would have loved to take pictures. The place was a great blend of ancient and modern, otherworldly and natural, full of easy aesthetic. I’d love to visit the garden again when the flowers have bloomed so I can see it in it’s brightest stage. Even though I was super tired and reluctant to leave the bus when we stopped, I’m so glad I took advantage of the opportunity.

Once we got to Galway, we went to dinner on API. We each got to have a two course meal for free, which was great. I got penne pasta with tomato and basil sauce (tomato and basil was a theme of the day) and apple pie for dessert! After that, some of our Galway group went over to McSwiggin’s pub for a drink before heading home. That’s pretty much it for the week! I’ve got a crazy 8 page paper due on Monday that’s been causing me some stress, so I should probably get back to cranking that out. Until next time, xxx

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Edinburgh and RAG week

Man, oh man, what a week! It’s been a bit insane. Let me update y’all on what’s been happening. Warning: it’s going to be a super long post, so you might want to curl up with a cup of tea to read this one.

Friday morning, our API group embarked to the Shannon airport to fly to Edinburgh for the weekend! The trip over there was pretty uneventful, and we made it to our hotel, the Premier Inn, around 6 pm. Katie and I were roommates for the weekend, so we were excited that we didn’t have to adjust living with someone new. The room only had one giant double bed and an awkwardly small single bed, so we decided to switch off who got the double each night. We only had a few minutes to drop our stuff off before we had to meet Kevin in the lobby, but Katie and I managed to buy a little cup of Ben & Jerry’s Apple Pie flavored ice cream from our hotel vending machine… it was so good. We then left to grab a quick bite to eat before our nighttime tour of the Royal Mile, or the heart of the ancient city of Edinburgh. Here, modern met medieval, where department stores, tourist shops, restaurants, and pubs all took shelter underneath old stone facades that dated back as early as the 1300s. It was really cool to see the union of the times in the city and how Edinburgh still keeps its¬†architectural integrity. Anyway, our tour guide was this really funny Scottish lady who took us around and told us the grisly stories behind every building which were all very interesting. After walking around the city for a few hours, most of us were famished, so we stopped at a pub where I got NACHOS. So tasty. Katie and I then headed back to the hotel to catch some z’s.

The next morning, we toured around Mary King’s Close, one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. It’s basically an area of city remnants from the 1600s underneath the City Chambers. Going through it was like a labyrinth of whitewashed rooms, one after another, with low ceilings that arched. Our tour guide was dressed in traditional 1600s garb (really reminding me of Colonial Williamsburg re-enactors) and showed us through the close, which was complete with statues of people depicting scenes from the plagues. Overall, it was really cool to see the place I’d seen on TV during ghost hunting shows (don’t hate, those shows were intense) and I admit I did try to see if I could feel any spirits around, but there was no such luck.

Our group then had a chance to look around the National Gallery which had a lot of really cool paintings and works of art. After that, we toured Edinburgh castle, a formidable fortress on a hill overlooking the entire city below. It was so¬†old and such a beautiful building, offering great views of the city as well. We had no other scheduled tours for the rest of the day or night, so the group was left to its own devices. A bunch of us went to the Scotch Whiskey Experience, and, like the Heineken museum, we were taken through an amusement-park-esque ride that depicted the production and distillation of Scotch Whiskey. Let me tell you, it’s a complicated system at best, so I stopped really paying attention to the process and just took in the experience as a whole. They gave us a free taste of whiskey at the end of the tour, but it was a bit hard to stomach without any water or Coke to mix it with, so my throat burned a little (erm, or a lot). I took advantage of the gift shop and got some cool stuff for the folks back home (and me as well). Then a few of us walked over to the Elephant Cafe, where J.K. Rowling wrote the beginnings of the Harry Potter series. The absolute best part of the Cafe were the bathrooms. People had written various messages to Rowling thanking her for putting magic in their life as well as a lot Harry Potter themed graffiti (including a large “Entrance to the Ministry of Magic” above the toilet and “Entrance to the Chamber of Secrets” above the sink). If you’re a Potter fan, definitely go there, it’s so cool.

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IMG_0485 At the castle!

We went out to a couple of pubs later that night, which were very similar to the ones in Ireland, but Alysse and I bonded with a friendly blond bartender with dreadlocks who talked to us a lot about Scotland. Overall it was a really random, strange, but awesome night! We sipped some lovely 30-year-old whiskey in plush, red leather chairs, just living the dream. I felt kind of like an old man, but I loved it.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and went to tour the Royal Yacht Britannia. Mom, you would have loved it! It was huge, but very awesome to see where the Queen and royal family spent their time aboard the ship. I felt so close to royalty. Before I disembarked, I ordered a vanilla latte with brown bread and butter in the Royal Deck Tea Room. I sat next to large windows overlooking the wide river that hugged Edinburgh, sipping my coffee and feeling super classy. The ship was attached to a shopping mall (casual) so I did a bit of shopping at H&M (my clothing addiction has not slowed down since my Topshop spree) and waited to get back on the bus. Our next stop was at a little coastal town suburb where the first steel bridge was built. I snapped some nice pictures and got a late lunch/early dinner at an Italian restaurant; the food was superb. We then headed back to Galway to face the beginning of Rag week!

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Okay, as a whole, Rag Week was not nearly as crazy as I’d expected it to be. Our apartment complex had implemented really stringent security measures to cut down on the partying, and downtown just had a lot more people out than usual, so the lines for the pubs and clubs were really long. People also went out every night (myself included) which is a bit of a change from the normal weeks. My Irish friends did a fair amount of daydrinking, but since I didn’t have the stamina or the money to do that, I just made it out at night. Overall, it was a very fun week! I did twist my ankle pretty badly on Monday night, but after a visit to the doctor and a bunch of aspirin, I was able to rally (although I sadly couldn’t wear heels). And I finally had great nights out at the clubs! We went to the Bentley on Monday and Karma on Wednesday and had an absolute great time dancing with my API friends. See, my purpose for going out is dancing, not just sitting around, so it finally felt like a really successful time, since most of the other times I’ve gone to clubs here I don’t end up on the dance floor that much in order to avoid aggressive boys. But with the security of a big group, it was fine.

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A classy first night out for Rag Week!

¬†I do have to say, though, I’m looking forward to a calm week where I can actually save my money. I’m planning on laying very low this weekend and getting caught up on schoolwork (don’t worry, I was still able to turn in my assignments last week). So, on that final note, Ireland still continues to be amazing, and I am falling more and more in love with the country as my time here increases. I can’t believe it’s already been nearly two months since I started my journey… the time is going by so fast! I definitely want to come back to Europe again at some point in life (and I’m seriously considering living here still) and am looking forward to the adventures that will unfold for me while I’m still here! Thanks so much for holding out and reading this ridiculously long post, but it’s been quite the eventful week. Toodles!

Happy Thursday!

And a wonderful Valentine’s day to everyone! I hope everyone’s day has been filled with love, and that my fellow single ladies out there didn’t feel too bitter or miserable all day and drown their sorrows in chocolates… because that’s a bit pathetic. There are so many other things to celebrate about life!

Anywho, this week has been pretty fantastic. I’ve gone to the gym a few times (and FINALLY got to use the leg press, that thing is never free), so I guess a lot of the good vibes are coming from my endorphins. Tuesday was pancake day here in Ireland, but I actually never ended up celebrating it by eating pancakes… instead Katie and I went out with some friends to go do karaoke at a pub called Fibber Mcgee’s! They apparently have karaoke Monday through Thursday nights as well as 1.50 drink deals on Mondays, soo I know where my new favorite hangout spot is going to be. Our group listened to a few other ear-drum-shattering numbers (Katie and I literally were cringing at one song), until after a little bit of liquid courage, I decided to go up and sing a song. After looking through the songbook, I chose “C’est La Vie” by BWitched (an old favorite of mine), and let me tell y’all it was a crowd pleaser. People were singing and dancing along with the song, so I felt pretty proud of myself. The rest of the night was filled with chilling and talking with friends, and I feel like I got to know a few people in our API group that I hadn’t really talked to all that much before, so all in all it was a great night.

Since Lent started on Wednesday, I’ve decided to give up chai tea. Although it’s usually only 2 euro or less on campus, when you really think about it, those daily lattes can add up. And after my pretty expensive weekend in Amsterdam, my wallet is feeling the strain of being abroad. But so far I’ve made it two days without my chai tea fix, so I feel pretty successful! Hopefully I can keep it up until at least Easter.

Today has been an absolutely gorgeous day! No rain for once. I took advantage of the Art Society’s casual Thursdays where the studio is open to anyone from 1-5 in the afternoon, which is pretty cool. There weren’t that many people there but I started work on a drawing of Pounce (da chillest cat ever) for about an hour. Then later tonight I went over to Corinne’s apartment with Katie and a few other API friends for delicious Valentine’s Day baked goods (red velvet and cheesecake cake, slutty brownies, eclairs, and chocolate candies) so it’s safe to say I’m pretty stuffed.

Tomorrow morning our group embarks on a trip to Edinburgh for the weekend! I’m so excited to travel to yet another awesome city. I’ve found myself actually missing Amsterdam a bit; I feel like I didn’t get to spend enough time there and wish I could go again soon. Next week is Rag Week for NUIG students… for my William and Mary friends, think of Blowout, Homecoming, and Campus Golf all rolled in to one insanely raucous and drunken week. I’ve heard so many crazy stories from my housemates and their friends (people climbing on top of cars and telephone poles, running naked through the streets, having riots at Supermacs, etc.), so while I’m excited I’m also a bit terrified of what will go down. Basically, get excited for next week’s post… if I survive.

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about how Ireland is really becoming my home. When I was on the bus back from Dublin to Galway last weekend after my trip to Amsterdam, I couldn’t help but think about how familiar and comforting being around Irish accents was again. I’m starting to feel like I stick out a little bit less like a sore thumb and am getting more into the groove of being a native. After my shopping spree at Topshop, I at least look the part more than I did last month. In addition to walking the walk, I’ve started to talk the talk as well, throwing in an occasional “oh that’s grand” and “great craic” into my conversations. I’m sure when I get back to the states my friends will be so weirded out. I’ve already started to feel like my time here is flying by; it’s unbelievable to think that I’ve been here a month and a half already. I’ve even started to give some thought to the possibility of coming back here after college, but that’s a ways off so we’ll see. The country and the people here are so awesome and fantastic; I’m definitely embracing everything about the Irish spirit.. maybe that’s also why I’ve been so incredibly happy this whole week. I can’t wait to see what the next week has in store for me as well, so until next time, xxxx

I Amsterdam (and a few other things)

Okay guys, this is going to be a super long post: I’ve got over a week of stuff to go over plus a crazy weekend excursion so please bear with me.

Last Sunday morning, our API group held a potluck brunch at Will and Max’s apartment. I was planning on making some nice, southern-style cheese grits, but when I went to the grocery store, I was disappointed to find that they did not have any grits or its substitutes (dried polenta apparently works as a good one). So instead I copped out and brought nutella and baguettes. The brunch itself was full of homemade french toast, cinnamon rolls, blueberry coffee cake with lemon frosting, brie and cranberry dip with crackers (a personal favorite), donuts, a fruit platter, apple pancakes, bacon and eggs, and Baileys with coffee. Needless to say, I ate extremely well. Afterwards, I went home and drifted into a nice food-coma induced nap, only to wake up in time for my dinner of Ramen noodles. Katie’s friend Michelle was in town, so we all were hanging out in our living room when, all of a sudden, we heard this bus drive through our street playing really loud ice-cream-truck-style music. All three of us looked at each other and said, “Can this be?? An ice cream truck in our apartment complex?” So we ran to the window, waved the truck down, got some cash, and met the ice cream truck driver. He only had vanilla soft serve, so I got a bowl of it and ate it happily. Our housemate Orla came out as well, and one of us asked her if this was a normal occurrence in Ireland. “No, this never happens!” she replied excitedly, so we were all convinced that this experience could not have been real. The magic was gone, however, when our other housemate Amy said that the truck was actually a cover for a drug dealer. No wonder he only had one flavor of ice cream….

Katie, Michelle, and I decided not to let that youth-crushing and disillusioning experience get our spirits down, so we went over to our friends Amanda and Trace’s apartment for a superbowl party at 11. This was another opportunity for people to bring copious amounts of food, and this time there was an array of buffalo chicken dip, guacamole, queso, oreo balls, brownies, and some crazy delicious dessert concoction that Jessica made. So I ate myself into a food coma once more. I only stayed late enough to watch Beyonce and Destiny’s Child conquer the world at the half time show (by then it was about 1:30 am) then went home to sleep.

Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday I went back to the grind of school. I had a presentation to do in my Aristocratic Women in the Medieval Era class, so I got very little sleep Monday night (being the master procrastinator that I am), but it went very well, and my professor was impressed.

Wednesday night, Alysse, Alexis, Evita, Kyle, and I went downtown for an attempt to have Thai food for dinner (we were all missing some pad thai… Irish cuisine is a bit homogenous). However, the restaurant was closed, so we went for the next best thing: fish and chips! Since I’m not the biggest fan of fish, I opted for chicken instead, and the meal was quite delicious. I also ordered some wine and was a bit giggly after dinner when the group decided to go to the Quays for a drink of Baileys and coffee. After hanging out there for a little while, we went back to Gort where I pitifully attempted to get some reading done at Alexis and Evita’s apartment. Katie came over later to celebrate her turning 21 at midnight, so we played some card games and entertained her for a bit since nobody in our group was really going out. It was a very fun and chill night; a great alternative to the pubs.

Thursday night, Kay held a birthday party at her apartment for her boyfriend, Max, and since it was also Katie’s 21st, we had a joint celebration. Again, there was a bunch of food available (pizza, calzones, cake, cookies, chips) so I got a free dinner! A bunch of people were going out after, but since I was going to Amsterdam the next morning, I had to leave the party early to go back home and pack.

I had to wake up at 3 am on Friday to get ready for our bus to Dublin at 3:45. Ryan, Trace, and I grabbed a cab to the bus station and slept most of the way to Dublin. We then flew from Dublin to Maastricht in the Netherlands, had to take a bus from the airport to the train station, then hopped on the train to Amsterdam. We then found ourselves in the center of Amsterdam with people speaking at least 5 different languages around us; all of the signs were written in Dutch; and people of all nationalities, races, and cultures were milling about in this giant building. The only thing I could think was,¬†Well I’m sure as hell not in Ireland anymore.¬†Ryan, Trace, and I navigated our way out of the station and looked for a good place to grab lunch. We ended up at an Italian place and got some pizza then took a walk around the city center. Right across from the restaurant was a “smart shop” that had a mannequin dressed up in full rave attire (neon wig, tutu, feather boa, etc.) in the window. We walked in, and the first thing that greeted us in the store was a glass display of all of the strains of weed for sale in the shop. Other things for sale were two- and three-foot bongs, grinders, pieces and bubblers, magic mushrooms, and other forms of stoner paraphernalia (keychains, sweatshirts, rasta beanies, etc., all¬†stereotypically geared for tourists looking to hit up what Amsterdam is famous for). A little bit overwhelmed, we stepped out of the store and were soon hit with that pungent smell of pot all through the street. We looked up and down it and found a number of those same tourist shops that we had just left, as well as a few coffee shops. The three of us looked at each other and kind of raised our eyebrows. We hadn’t been in the city for an hour, and we already were getting a feel for how ridiculous the sights and smells were going to be for the weekend.

Since we still had all of our bags with us, we decided to walk towards our hotel and see the city for what it was. We kept a slow pace and took a lot of pictures of the sun setting over the canals as well as the awesome¬†architecture of the row houses that lined them. I hadn’t realized how canal-centered the city was; it really is the Venice of northern Europe. Houseboats lined both sides of the canals, and a bunch of people were riding bikes around as well.

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We walked around for about an hour and had a bit of trouble finding the bed and breakfast (it was almost impossible to find) but we finally did make it and checked in. We had our own little one bedroom apartment which was recently renovated (with heated tiles and a towel heater in the bathroom AND a dishwasher – a huge step up from our Irish apartments), so Trace and I took the double bed in the bedroom and Ryan had the little single bed in the main living area. After relaxing a bit, we went to a nearby grocery store to cook some dinner and grab some wine and beer. Ryan made us burgers and we started to pregame before going out to meet Trace’s friend who is studying abroad in London and was also in town for the weekend.

We took a cab to Trace’s friend’s hotel called the Winston (right next to the red light district) and hung out there for a while at the hotel bar on the first floor. After that, Trace’s friend insisted on showing us around the red light district to see what all of the fuss was about. Let me tell you it was one of the strangest experiences of my life, walking through the streets and making eye contact with women dressed in lingerie and posing in windows. I definitely felt uncomfortable, to say the least. We emerged from the red-lit streets to go to another couple of bars, but I got very tired early (considering I’d been up since 3 am) so we all went home before 1.

The next morning, we got up early to get a good start on the day. We cooked some breakfast at home then we out to rent some bikes. At first, I was down to go bike riding (it is Amsterdam after all, and there are more bikes than people in the city), but then I realized (and, pardon my French):¬†HOLY SHIT, I haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years.¬†You know that saying, “Oh, it’s like riding a bike, you’ll never forget how.” Yeah, well. I had forgotten how. To say the least, being thrown back into riding a bike after 10 years of inactivity in a metropolitan area where people have been riding bikes since¬†infancy is not an ideal situation. I was close to tears multiple times when I almost swerved into cars and when it started¬†snowing¬†(imagine flakes of snow in your eyes when you are trying to navigate your way through an unfamiliar city ON A BIKE). At least two or three times, I tried convincing Trace and Ryan to let me tie up my bike, let them go ahead, and walk by myself to meet up with them. But that didn’t work so I was forced to face my fears. Let me just say that after this weekend I never want to ride a god damned bike ever again. Sorry Amsterdam, but I trust my feet way more than narrow bike wheels.

Our first stop for the day was the Heineken museum. It was way more than a museum though; it was a full experience. We were taken through what was basically an amusement park ride that illustrated the beer-making process, and went through rooms that were reminiscent of raves and crazy parties with lazer neon lights and blacklights. At the end of the tour we got our own free tastes of beer and were coached on how to drink beer the right way. Apparently I’ve been doing it wrong the whole time – you’re supposed to leave some foam at the top and take gulps of it as opposed to sips (although, of course for the sake of this blog I neither admit to nor condone the consumption of alcohol before the legal age in your country of residence). But whatever, I’m still not a big beer fan. After the Heineken tour, we went to this famous pancake house for lunch, where I ordered pancakes with bacon, cheese, and tomato on top, mixed with some syrup for an awesome sweet/savory mix. The pancakes were¬†huge¬†(like at least a foot across in diameter) but soo delicious. After that, we made our way to the Anne Frank house, but the line was really long, so we decided to buy some time by going on a canal tour which gave us more gorgeous views of the city. However, by the time we made it back to the Anne Frank house, the line was even longer. Trace and Ryan were fine with waiting around in the snow, but I was not going to have it so I made my way over to a little pub/cafe for a glass of wine. I was joined by a cat named Timba, who sat next to me and let me pet him for a little while. I talked to the bartender about it, and he said it was a good sign, since Timba is very choosy about who he hangs out with in the cafe. So I felt pretty special. I waited around for about an hour or so before Trace and Ryan joined me. We then journeyed back to our bed and breakfast (on our bikes, IN THE DARK), and on the way, Ryan ran into a group of friends he knew from UMass who were headed back to their hotel as well, so we all decided to meet up later that night.

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Back at the hotel, I fixed some pasta for everyone, and we pregamed a little before meeting up with Ryan’s friends. They had yet to see the red light district so we brought them to that area of the city and toured them through. We made it to a less savory section of the district (who thought it was possible??) and were chased down the street by a Hispanic prostitute who yelled at one of Ryan’s friends for having her camera out and taking pictures. I was pretty sure the hooker was going to sic some sort of big scary mob friends on us and shank us in the streets, but thank god we survived. We then ran into¬†more¬†of Ryan’s UMass friends outside of a donut shop, so we decided to try and join forces (mind you that makes a group of about 15 people), but the group was just too big to make a good decision on which bars to go to, so eventually, Ryan, Trace, and I split and went to a sports bar, where an American basketball game was going on on one of the big flatscreens, much to Ryan’s delight. We made it home eventually and overslept a bit the next day, but we successfully made it back to the homeland without any trouble. Although my jar of Nutella was confiscated at the airport.

As a whole, Amsterdam was a ridiculous city. I was surprised at how up front the people are about marijuana…it’s legal to light up a joint right there on the street (as long as no children are around), but illegal to have an open drink on the street. I expected the coffee shops to be a little more surreptitious, but they’re all over the main streets with obvious names (Cheech and Chong’s, for example) and giant pot leaves just painted on their windows. I’m definitely glad I left what’s become my little Irish home to go on an excursion, ¬†but going to a place like Amsterdam definitely made me glad that I chose Galway to study. I would never be able to handle more than a week or so in Amsterdam with all of it’s bikes (curse them), pot culture, and prostitutes. Of course, these are the aspects of the city that attract tourists, but there are many other things to do in Amsterdam besides these. But Amsterdam is now simply known for its most sensationalist parts which are intriguing but also very empty. So, for those of you interested in visiting the city, by all means go and see those sights, but I encourage you to walk around (or bike, if that’s your cup of tea) and take in the city as a whole, take note of the normal people there, and absorb the culture outside of what the city is notorious for. It’s a really cool, beautiful, clean city with interesting history and people. The people I came into contact with seemed a little bit off-putting at first, but if you approach them to ask a question, they are very friendly and helpful. I would love to visit the city again just to get more of a feel for it outside of the normal tourist traps.

Anywho, that’s it for now! Sorry for the long post again, but it was an eventful week ūüôā

IT’S BEEN ONE MONTH!

I seriously can’t believe it, guys. Sometimes it still hasn’t hit me that I’m really here. I’ve gotten into the routine of going to classes, the gym (I hit my quota of going three times last week, I’m so proud), and the pubs/clubs from time to time, so life just seems very¬†normal now. It all feels so natural just to go about my business, run errands to Dunnes, and even order Chinese food and pizza occasionally. While a lot of aspects of life are pretty different over here, it’s surprising to think how similar my life still is sometimes. I’m still little ol’ me, a college student, still relatively lost in the world, but I just happen to be thrown into a completely new environment. I guess most of the initial culture shock and adjustment periods have finally settled down so that my life can reach a level of normalcy once more. I definitely do not feel nearly as overwhelmed as I did that first week, and I’ve been able to get a good feel of the city and campus. My classes are much more enjoyable than at William and Mary; I think it’s because I’m finally not in a bunch of GER or International Relations classes that I despise. I’m totally geeking out in my medieval history classes (I can’t believe it took me so long to realize how perfect History is as a major for me). So it’s not really a problem making it to classes, even though most of them are lectures that don’t even take roll. I actually¬†want¬†to go to them… a very different attitude that I’m not really used to having in regards to classes.¬†

This week started out pretty slow, with the usual classes/gym/reading routine happening Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Wednesday night I went out to the pubs with some API friends. I had a group over to pregame at the apartment, and we went to the Skeff, which I had yet to venture to, and that was great craic. It was a pretty classy establishment with friendly people and tasty beverages. I had done a little bit of clothes shopping at Dunnes the weekend before, so I was able to wear my new blue and black leopard print pants and studded black boot/heels (each for only a cool 10 euros). After the Skeff, we split into two groups, one going to Karma and the other to the Quays. I naturally avoided the nightclub and went to the Quays with Corinne, Trace, Ryan, and our Irish friend Peter. We stayed until the pub nearly closed, and at Trace’s suggestion, we journeyed to Charcoal Grill and got some great late night food. After that we were thoroughly stuffed and made our way back home.

Thursday, I slept until 1 pm (thankfully I didn’t have class until 4). That night, the API group got together again and went out to the clubs (Karma and Coyote’s again… I really can’t seem to escape them, or the many Hollister- and Aeropostale-clad drunk Irish boys that lurk there). I finally broke free and went to the Front Door to meet up with fellow API student Ryan and some Irish friends. We stayed there for a while and then left to get late night Supermac’s (which is Ireland’s version of McDonalds). Friday, I slept till 4 pm and celebrated the fact that I didn’t have class by being totally lazy and doing nothing. Katie’s friend Michelle, who is currently studying abroad in London, came to visit, so we got to entertain her and take her out that night. We started out at an ABC (Anything But Clothes) party, but none of us dressed the theme. I finally figured out how to do a sock bun, so I wore my hair up all fancy, despite the fact that there was a sock holding it up.

IMG_0366 Photographic bun evidence.

After that, a group of us went to the Quays, where there was an older clientele (since it was Friday, most of the Irish students had gone home for the weekend), so we left after a couple of minutes and went to the Front Door (soon becoming my favorite hangout spot). After an incident where an extremely intoxicated Irish man spilled his drink all over my hair/face/outfit, we all decided to make moves elsewhere. The majority of the group was pushing for Karma, and since that club kind of rubs me the wrong way, I ventured on my own across the street to meet up with a couple of my Irish friends at Buskers for a bit. Once we got a bit tired of being there, we went to McDonalds for (more) late night grub. I really need to stop going to these places after a night out… not so great for my diet or my bank account. Today has consisted of lazing about, and tonight will be a continuation of that… no more ridiculous spending for a while, considering I also got some great pieces from Topshop with my leftover book money. The package should come in the next few days; I’m so excited to start getting into the European fashion world.

P.S. for those of y’all that are interesting in all things fashion, definitely take a gander at http://www.lookbook.nu/, there are a lot of great looks uploaded by real people for fashion inspiration.

I also bought tickets for my big Eurotrip come April: I’ll be going to London, Paris, Florence, and Prague! And my friends Trace and Ryan and I decided, a little bit on a whim, to go to Amsterdam next weekend, so I’m really excited for my first semi-independent excursion, to a beautiful city nonetheless! This week has been a bit big for spending, but I am in Europe, so I do need to live it up while I’m here, I suppose……

Oh What a Week….

Okay, picking up where I left off…

Saturday morning everyone in our group woke up bright and early for our trip to County Clare, the Burren, and the Cliffs of Moher. Finn and her husband Kevin brought along their three children (all under the age of four) to join us on our journey. The drive itself was beautiful as we traveled across the quaint countryside outside Galway city. The roads were very narrow and bumpy, and my stomach was not too happy with the bus or the driver after a while. My eyes, however, were glued to the windows as we passed little white farmhouses with tons of sheep, horses, and cattle all calmly grazing on the land.

Our first stop was at Kinvara to see the medieval castle of Dunguaire. We were able to get off the bus and walk around the grounds (although the castle itself was closed for the day), but the lake surrounding it as well as the little fishing town next to it were very picturesque. Next we came to the Portal Dolmen of Poulnabrone, a five thousand year old burial site in the middle of the Burren (pronounced like burn). The Burren itself is a group of large hills that throughout centuries of use and erosion gave way to the limestone underneath its soil, so nowadays all of these hills are covered simply in rocks and stone. It was really interesting to drive through such an area, because I’d never seen any place like it. The landscape looked kind of lunar in a way, with no ability to really sustain life there.

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Above: Castle Dunguaire, Below: Poulnabrone

After we passed through the Burren, we were on our way to the coastal town of Doolin. It used to be widely known for its fishing, but more recently it’s become quite the surfing hotspot. We grabbed lunch at a local pub, and I got my first meat-and-potatoes meal since I’ve been here! Let me tell y’all it was scrumptious. We also got complimentary soup through API which was delicious as well. So at that point I was thoroughly full and ready to hike around the Cliffs of Moher.

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Finally, we reached the mythic cliffs. We were blessed with great weather, and I snapped a ridiculous amount of pictures to try and capture the place’s beauty. Sadly, the pictures can’t even do it justice. Just being there, standing on the precipice of 700 ft. cliffs with the waves crashing below and salt in the air had such a majestic feel to it indescribable to simple photography. We thankfully had an hour to hike around, and my wellies came in handy since part of the walk was extremely muddy and covered with water. With each cliff edge I walked, the more beautiful the view got. And (parents, don’t listen to this) although there were barriers around to keep people from falling off the cliff face, they were easy to step over and my friends and I were able to get breathtakingly close to the edge. It was just amazing to feel so high up and so small in such a place of natural beauty and wonder; if you are ever in Ireland, you must go to this spot.

Image¬†ImageImage¬†That first step’s a doozy.

Finally, both exhausted physically and photographically, we all made it back to the bus for the trip home. Before we reached Galway, however, we stopped at the Aillwee caves and did a half hour tour around in them. The cave system was pretty cool, but for my camp girls out there, they were nothing like Cumberland Caverns. There were paved pathways throughout the whole tour, and no climbing, helmets, or flashlights were involved so I kind of laughed the whole way. But it was a pretty cool excursion.

We got back to Galway at around 6 pm, and I’m pretty sure I fell asleep around 10. The next day, I mostly did readings for school and bummed around. Monday I went to class, and the gym (!!), and then I went home and did more work until I went to go see¬†Django Unchained¬†with some of my housemate’s friends. For those of you who have yet to see it: GO. It’s so good and totally badass.

Tuesday and Wednesday I did pretty much the same thing, but Wednesday night I went out with some of my housemates for their friend’s birthday party. There were seriously so many people at the apartment; it was ridiculous. After a few hours of predrinking, we grabbed a cab and headed to the club Karma. As soon as we got there though, I lost all of the girls (seriously all twenty of them… how it happened I have no idea), and was pretty much stranded by myself. I then decided just to go to the Front Door and meet up with a couple of friends, so that was much more fun.

Thursday night Katie and I held a “gathering” at our apartment…. which turned into a rager. At one point I’m pretty sure there were at least thirty people in our living room, and a bunch of them were random Irish lads I’d never seen before in my life (I blame you, Ryan). After a few instances of broken glass and having to calm Katie down a bit, I decided to go upstairs and change into more comfortable shoes. As soon as I came back downstairs, everyone had deserted me to go to the clubs, and I was left alone with Corinne, another API student, who was so nicely cleaning up after the party. I helped her out and hung out with her a bit, decided to make some pasta, and realized that I really didn’t want to join the rest of the crew downtown by riding in a cab all by myself and trying to meet up with everyone, so I just went to sleep.

Today, Katie and I have just been bumming around, cleaning up some more after last night, and, as usual, talking about food and how hungry we are all the time. I’m crossing my fingers that tomorrow I’ll actually make it to the gym and finally get around to doing my laundry (GTL anyone? Too bad it’s Ireland and nobody tans here), but I’m not gonna push the envelope too far. It will be a Saturday after all.

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Good Craic.

A quick lesson on more Irish lingo:

shifting = making out

craic (pronounced like crack) = fun/a good time

Not to actually be confused with the drug (unless that’s your idea of having a good time, and if that’s the case, I hope you’d seriously reevaluate your life and decisions… because we all know crack is wack), having great or fine craic pretty much just means an experience that usually involves friends and laughs. So, to put the two words together: Suzy had a great craic shifting with a certain lad on the dance floor last night. No, Suzy was not smoking crack with a shifty guy; she was just making out with him in da club. But, Suzy, beware! He probably tastes like an ash tray due to the copious amount of hand-rolled cigarettes he’s been puffing all night. But at this point Suzy is probably too drunk to notice. So goes a typical night out in Ireland. Not that I personally have ever had this experience, dear parents, it’s all metaphorical.

Anywho, this past week started out uneventfully, with me dutifully going to class and doing readings, etc. Monday and Tuesday nights I just stayed in and did some schoolwork and got my sleep on. Wednesday, however, I was ready to go out, so Katie and I went to a pregame with our fellow API students, which was really fun. We played a round of Kings, and everyone had to put their phones in the middle of the table so as not to be too distracted to talk to people in the group. The first person to pick up their phone in the stack would have to buy everyone a round of drinks later that night; everyone was too cheap/poor to take that risk, so we all just had fun with each other! We then made our way to Kelly’s pub, where a social event for the International Students Society was underway. Our group got there kind of late, so we didn’t really do much socializing outside our circle. After that, we went to the Front Door, which was more fun and crowded and hung out there until 1 then made our way back home.

The next day I was feeling¬†rough… it was a miracle that I made it to class and survived the walk home. I took a bit of a frat nap after that, woke up at 9 pm, and was ready to go. This time I went out with my housemate, Orla, and her friends, again to the Front Door. It was really interesting to go out with a different group of people and see how they all went about things even if it was at the same pub. The Front Door was even more crowded that night, but the people were friendly and we all had a great time. Today, since I didn’t have class, I slept in super late and have vegged out literally all day, a great way to recoup from the past two nights. This weekend, most of my housemates will be staying in town so hopefully we’ll have some chill movie nights or something. Tomorrow, our study abroad group will take a day trip to County Clare and see the cliffs of Moher. I’m sure there will be a ton of great pictures, so I’ll definitely post a few after I get back! Goodbye for now ūüôā