Sunday, April 25, 2010

Two Words: Silent Disco

By far one of the best nights spent in Galway. It wasn't at a pub, talking with old Irish men listening to traditional music, although I do love doing that, nor was it spent having a party in Niland House with all my friends. It was spent at Silent Disco.

You walk into the bar, pay 5euro and get your hand stamped, go through the curtains, onto the dance floor. Don't forget to pick up your headset! Put the headphones on, turn to the station all your friends are on, and dance the night away.

There are two regular djs, playing indie dance music along with all your classic American tunes like Twist and Shout on two different channels on your headset. When you don't like the song, simply switch over to the other station. Three solid hours of dancing like crazy. Its just like the iPod commercials. Jamming to your own tunes, but everyone is doing the same thing all around you.

By far, the best parts of the Silent Disco are 1. Trying to figure out which channel people are listening to. Either by their horrible off-key singing or great dance moves to the beat, it was so fun trying to match up to them 2. Taking off your headsets for a minute while the song is playing to just hear everyone singing but no actual music. It was the weirdest feeling, seeing everyone dancing yet the room is pretty much silent, except for a little singing and some side conversations.

Never have I heard of any Silent Discos back home, but if Milwaukee starts to be cool enough for one, I will be first in line to get my headset.

Another two words: Aran Islands.
The other highlight of the week, a much needed break after my first final, Tierney, Kelsey and I went off to the Aran Islands. After a bus and a ferry ride, we arrived to the Irish speaking island of Ireland. You hop off the ferry and automatically are bombarded by men trying to get you to come on tours in their buses and horse drawn carriages. We opted to rent bikes!
I'd compare the Aran Islands to an Irish Capri in Italy. The crystal blue water, a little touristy, but still one of the prettiest, most relaxing places you could ever imagine. We pedaled all throughout the island, stopping to see the seal colony, the watch tower, the white sandy beach for lunch and the famous Dun Aengus rock fort. The rock fort was by far the best part, more specifically the cliff edge. No railing, straight down 400 feet. It's like you are on the edge of the world. So cool, but the whole time my legs wouldn't stop shaking. I was happy to go back to regular ground.

Final #2 coming up Tuesday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dearest Iceland:

Please cool your jets. My friends are stuck throughout Europe: Greece, Italy, France, Sweden. With no way easy alternative way to come home, being as Ireland is an island, I feel like they might be there forever. I realize Europe loves us visiting, but I'm getting a little worried I might never see them again. Or that I might never get back home to America. Or my family and other visitors may not be able to come. Not that I'm complaining too much. Ireland isn't the worst place in the world to be stuck, but knowing I might have to stay here forever is affecting my finals studying. You know I always put the studies first.

Not to mention Iceland, I'm supposed to come visit you! I was excited, but now that pretty much everyone hates you right now, its not as appealing. Oh and the threat of you erupting again, maybe while my sister and I are there- not fun. So stop. Please.


The girl stuck in Ireland

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Holiday in Europe

And I’m back.

I've been on Spring Break 2010, stopping in Italy, Prague and Budapest. My friends and I packed all our things in backpacks and hopped on the plane, ready for a wonderful trip. We worked on our tans in Italy, ate good food for every meal, had treats galore, and saw every site we could ever want to. Some highlights for you.

  1. Eating gelato twice a day in Italy. If I had studied abroad there, I would probably only eat gelato. I think I got my fill for the week I was in Italy. In a cone, with two flavors, the combos are endless. We even splurged on Easter Saturday and got the 4euro cone at Old Bridge, right outside the Vatican. I never thought ice cream could be so good. Nothing beats licking a cone of strawberry, banana, and chocolate gelato next to the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
  2. Being literally feet away from the Pope. Even now, with all the scandal of the Catholic Church, seeing the Pope is pretty cool. On Friday in Rome, the Pope did the Stations of the Cross right outside the Colosseum. Thousands of people stood outside with candles, listening to the Pope say the stations in different languages. We were farther away, on top of this hill, but it paid off. As it was nearing the end, police starting putting up barricades on the street so we rushed over to see why. We were the first ones over there, and it turned out the Pope would be leaving on that street. He drove by us with his entourage, (not in the Pope mobile though) waving and smiling at everyone. We could practically touch him, and it was amazing.
  3. Seeing all the famous sites. You see pictures of all these places, but nothing compares to actually seeing it in person. One day I'm hanging out in Ireland, the next I'm seeing world famous tourist attractions. I loved every one.
  4. Florence
    Parliament in Budapest

  5. Going up to the cupola of the Duomo in Florence. We waited in line for an hour, not realizing how cool it really was. First, we see the inside. Huge paintings of biblical stories as you walk around the balcony. Then, you walk up stairs and stairs to the top; spiral stairs, short stairs, big stairs, stairs that basically go straight up, and finally a ladder. Once you get to the top, you forget about all of them. A view of the entire city, from the center of the city. Buildings with the same red oofs, the market, the river, churches, and people. I wanted to take pictures and stand up there for the entire day. We eventually left but later on climbed more stairs to a Piazza that overlooked the city again. I will never get tired of those views.

  6. The gorgeous sun, clear blue water, fresh squeezed lemonade, and iced coffees aka Capri. The journey to Capri had some glitches but eventually we got there. Our train from Rome either hit a person and someone died or just the train broke down, things got a little confusing with the translations. All the Americans, however, grouped together and we eventually made it to Naples, then a ferry to Capri. I drank freshly squeezed lemonade with vodka at a little bar on the water with the sun shining. We took naps on the rocky beaches working on our BTs. We took a boat ride around the island, touring the rocky shoreline, huge houses, and the clearest blue water I have ever seen.

  7. 8. Prague has Pilsner beer. We enjoyed our fair share of Czech beer the nights we were there. I must admit, I still was craving a Guinness the whole night, but it was pretty good. We went out to The Pub, where you sit in booths with taps so you pour your own beer. All the tables race against each other, with a big screen showing the standings. We never even came close to the top, unfortunately. I was, however, really good at pouring the beer. Some might even say a career in bartending could be in my future. Right now that sounds like a pretty tempting career path.
  8. Markets. Each place we went had huge food markets full of vegetables, meat, cheeses, and breads. I wanted to buy everything I saw to make amazing dishes, but with no kitchen I unfortunately couldn’t. I made up for it in the markets that sold everything non-food. Italian leather, scarves, dishes, postcards, lace, dolls, everything you could ever want. These leave American farmers markets in the dust. Nothing can compare to the hugeness of these markets, filled with tourists browsing, and people who actually live there buying their food for the day.
  9. Goulash from the market in Budapest
  10. Eating standing up and outside for every meal in Prague. Apparently the restaurants are overpriced and not that good, so seeing we were on a budget, we ate at the markets in the big squares. Who needs to sit down to have a nice meal? Two out of our three meals a day consisted of some sort of meat in a bun, potato soup, and dessert. For breakfast we ate pastries from the bakery next to our hostel. So good.

  11. Eating sausages and drinking beer in Prague
  12. Caving. We took a bus out to some type of National Park in Budapest, on the Buda side, to crawl through caves. We had to dress in full body suits and hardhats with lights on top, and suddenly my 3euro Keds shoes didn’t quite seem adequate. None of us knew what we were getting into. Our group of nine and a guide headed into the side of the mountain and climbed down a huge ladder, like the biggest ladder I’ve ever seen, straight down, and that was the easy part. With the three of us girls leading the pack, we climbed through holes the size our heads practically, on our stomachs. Wiggling through The Worm, doing the Superman move so our bodies fit through the opening. We would come to a big open room, where it seemed there would be no way out, but our guide would inevitably find a tiny tiny whole we would have to fit though. It was probably the coolest thing I have done in a long time, although I was sore beyond belief the next day.
  13. People knowing English and wanting to help us. We must have looked pretty confused and lost at times. Four Americans with huge backpacks just staring at the train ticket machine or Metro map wondering how we are going to figure this out. Fortunately, there are nice people in Italy, Czech Republic, and Hungary that know English. So thanks to the man in Prague that told us how to get to our hostel at midnight in the rain, the main in the train station who told us how to get to the airport, the woman on the train in Italy who helped us when the train stopped running, and the hotel receptionists who helped us find places to stay when we were homeless in Italy. It makes me want to learn a second language.

After the train broke down. Tierney wasn't happy but at least someone helped us out.

While the trip was amazing, everything must have a few negatives.

  1. Cobblestones. They look pretty, its cool they’ve been there so long, but they hurt my feet. It seems every European loves cobblestone streets. Walking for miles on cobblestones day after day leaves my whole body a little bit more sore than usual. I’m recovering though; don’t worry.
  2. I only know one language. It wasn’t too difficult to figure out signs, menus, or directions. Most people in other countries know English so it was never too big a deal but that was the problem. Everyone knows English, so they know what you’re talking about. They, however, know a language we can’t understand at all. Every time people would start talking I automatically thought they saying top-secret things, something really interesting, or talking about us. Probably talking about us. I didn’t like it.
  3. Having smelly clothes. A small backpack for two weeks full of clothes you’ve worn twice is not fun. That problem has been easily fixed though. I’m staring at clean clothes drying in the Irish sun smelling good.

My first exam is on Monday so studying starts now I guess. My Niland House friends start leaving in a month. I will be back in Milwaukee in two months from yesterday. More Ireland traveling is in the works and I’m trying to fit in as much Guinness as I can.