Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cork: One of Lonely Planet's Top 10 Cities in the World

Carrot and parsnip soup with brown bread. My new favorite.

Me in Cobh

Our first real Ireland overnight adventure. We went to Cork. We stayed in a hostel. There were 16 of us, ready to partake in an adventure exploring Ireland and it's beautiful cities. It started with a bus ride to get there, passing farms full of sheep and cows. Every now and then we'd pass a castle, just hanging out in the distance. The little towns we drove through were perfect, full of shops, churches, and little houses. Just the ride down to Cork was worth it. Once we got to Cork, Ireland's second largest city, we went straight to Blarney Castle where I kissed the Blarney Stone. What people don't tell you is how scary it is. First you have to climb tons of tiny twisting, slippery stairs to get to the top of the castle. To kiss the stone, you must trust your life with a man that holds on to you as you lean over backwards to kiss it. After walking around the grounds for a bit, we took a bus back to Cork City and walked around, exploring the shops, cafes, and beautiful views.

After a free breakfast of toast and tea from our hostel, we ventured out into the city again the next day. This time spending most of the morning at the famous English Market. The market had so many things I wanted to eat: cheese, bread, meat, pasta, olives, fruit, vegetables, chocolates, so many good things. I could have bought everything there. It was like heaven. Once we got our fill of good food, we took a train to Cobh, the last stop the Titanic made before it left for America. That's pretty much all Cobh has to offer, except for its pretty views and the steepest street in Ireland, which we walked up.(picture above) It seemed steeper when we were walking than what the picture shows.
Cork City

We had a quick train ride back to the city, running from the station to the market to hopefully get more treats, ended with only a few plums instead of the bread and cakes we wanted. But still, a perfect ending to a wonderful afternoon. That night, we went to pub to experience Cork night life, and decided we missed Galway just a little.
The view from the top of Blarney Castle

Another quick bus ride the next morning and we were home again. Each picture I took was of things more beautiful than the last. I can only imagine what the end of my trip has in store for me. Traveling, though, makes me appreciate where I live. Galway is growing on me. As the bus pulled up to the station I was happy to get back to my apartment, Shop Street and school. It feels so good to come back to a place I now call home.
Me getting the Gift of Gab
Another view from the top

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Galway Tour Company: Professionally Guided Sightseeing Day Tours

Our first guided tour. We decided to go to The Burren and the Cliffs of Moher, along with a few other stops along the way. The tour bus picked us up at our own front door, what great service. We drove along the countryside, seeing the walls built during the famine, farm after farm, thatched roof after thatched roof. It probably would have been a little better in the Spring when its green and flowery but it was still enjoyable. Our first stop was Dunguaire Castle, which was once home to King Guaire.
Next stop: Ballyalban Fairy Fort. A pre-historic ring fort once surrounded by water is now said to be inhabited by little men with orange beards and green hats. I did not see any of these things, but it doesn't mean they aren't there. We walked the fort, like little soldiers in a line.

A pretty typical picture, I'm sure just about every tourist has this exact same one, but it seemed necessary. Poulnabrone Dolmen is the Burren's (unique limestone landscape) most iconic landmark.

Another great picture.
Even in Ireland, people love Milwaukee!!! Feels just like home...
Finally we reached the Cliffs. These pictures can't capture how pretty it really was. We had about 10 minutes of gorgeous sunshine, then the clouds came in and dumped rain and so much wind. But we did manage to get a couple good pictures. The waves crashed up against the Cliffs, spraying us with salt water from the ocean. The wind was so strong, you felt like you weren't even moving.

The castle/lookout point at the very top. And you can see the iron door I ran into just after this picture was taken. The wind disoriented me and now I have a bruise on my face that brings back great memories....
Our last stop, we just pulled over on the side of the road to this great lookout point. It probably was the best stop of the day. The rocks were so cut up from the wind and water, the waves were giant, and ledge was scary, the ocean sprayed us even more, but as the sun was setting, you couldn't have seen anything prettier.
The perfect ending to a great day....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Resort town of Galway City: Many attractions, longest promenade in all of Ireland, fancy hotels, discos and pubs rule the night. It sounds fabulous, but really this is basically just a suburb of Galway city, about a 20 minute walk from my front door. (Okay really more like 30 but I had to tell me friends 20 so they would go with me.)
It probably was some of the windiest weather I have encountered yet. Not rainy or cold really, just windy. So windy I felt like I was going to blow away. But so worth it. It was slightly cloudy, definitely dark, but looking out on to the ocean, walking on the rocks, seeing swans right next to you, and enjoying a nice cup of hot chocolate to warm up in Mocha Bean.
The beaches we were pretty, but I can't wait until the weather actually gets nice. I have decided it gets nice around February 25, around their Memorial Day. So any visitors, I recommend coming after then.

The view of Salthill from the beach, basically the same picture as from above except without my friends in it.

(I had a video of this but it just wouldn't post. I'll try later)
The birds kept flying and flying but the wind was too strong! Just like a treadmill, except a little more depressing because they actually wanted to go somewhere.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slurp it down.

Apparently oysters are a pretty big deal here due to the perfect combination of salt and fresh water. So obviously I had to try them. Let me say, the oysters I've had at home during Christmas time are nothing compared to these. These oysters are bigger, slimier, and a little more unappetizing than at home, but I managed to slurp down two!
My friend Pat, however, just barely managed the two and we almost saw it come back up, not that it would have looked much different.
Before I tried it, I was excited.
How appetizing.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Do a Little Irish Jig

I've been to Irish Fest, I've seen the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Milwaukee, I've seen the Irish dancers with crazy girl hair but this Irish dancing was a first for me. Tuesday nights are Irish dancing nights at Monroe's and I can tell you now that we will be regulars there. At 10 o'clock the band started and about 8 older couples started their dancing. They stomped and twirled, spun and moved their hips. It was awesome. I could have watched forever except that I wanted to learn how to do it. They didn't offer to teach us but my friend Emily and I did meet an older man who happened to own an Irish Dance Studio down the road. He offered us lessons that hopefully we will take advantage of.

Since we couldn't dance ourselves, we moved on to the Crane Bar down the street that had more Irish music. We enjoyed the music there with Marquette students and NUIG students we had met the night before. They played the fiddle. We're going to become little Irish band groupies. Oh man.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Watch Out! It's Slippy!

It is slippy here. No salt, no sand, no nothing, which is why I almost fell twice on my way to the first day of class at NUIG. After going to numerous amounts of first days of class I have found they are all the same. Even in another country. No one knows where they are going, you get a syllabus in class, and hopefully get to sit by someone you know. The only difference I have found so far is Irish kids don't really like to participate in class and will definitely just leave in the middle of class if they want.

In my second class, after a short break my class of probably about 50 people was supposed to come back to do a review worksheet. Needless to say my 3 American friends, 4 French kids and I were the only ones to stay, but boy did we win some points with the teacher. Other than that it was relatively uneventful a typical first day of school, I think mainly because I started the day off with a wonderful warm scone with jam from the bakery. I'm definitely adjusting.
All of the Irish Universities have the same exact bell tower entrance thing. I've also heard if they were to all be put together in some way it would make a giant castle, which is even cooler if its true.
This is where I went to mass on Sunday, where everyone responded too quickly and literally ran to communion.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tesco and Quiches

Today's adventures included going to mass which is exactly the same except for quick quick responses and a mad rush to Communion. It probably one of the most unorganized things I have seen here and let me tell you- efficiency and organization are not their thing.

On the way home we stopped at my new favorite store- The Gourmet Tart Co.
I had a fabulous salmon and dill quiche. And Carrot Cake.

Then we went off to Tesco (grocery store) where I could have spent hours looking at all the different food. I managed to just spent 20 euro. Then got a chocolate meringue which was one of the few let downs of the trip so far. I should have known.

I just love the colorful doors and houses.

These pictures are part of yesterday's adventures from around the bay aka my backyard.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Long Walk.

The Spanish Arch
The coldest winter pretty much ever. Ice is everywhere, apparently because of the salt in the air at least that was what I was told.
Boats at low tide.
The most classic picture of Galway and it is on my camera. My wonderful photography skills put to the test. With a scene like this though, its hard to mess it up. I still can't believe I am here, able to take this picture. My days are still filled with exploration. Figuring out my new school, new city, new apartment, new American friends, and sometimes a few new Irish friends as well.

The thing I have been most surprised about? How much Irish people like Americans. Whether is be at a bar, a store, or on the street, they actually seem to like us which makes me feel like this place is more my home. If this is how its starting, I can only imagine how great its going to get.

Today's Agenda- Historical Tour/Talk of Galway
Tomorrow- Aldi's and Tesco

Slán jen

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dia Dhuit

I made it here. I am officially a Galway Girl now. After a long day of traveling from Quincy to Chicago, Chicago to Dublin, a bus from Dublin to Galway, and finally a taxi from the bus station to Niland House, I made it to my new home.

Highlights of my trip so far-
1. I get to eat pastries and cheese daily.
2. Irish music.
3. Smithwicks, Bulmers, and Guinness
4. Niland House
5. Irish Pubs
6. Cobblestone streets
7. Irish love Americans

Things that will hopefully get better
1. No hot showers
2. Coldest winter EVER with not enough winter clothes

It's a good thing my good list is longer than the bad list. I guess I'm off to a good start.