Wanderings and Ponderings

My Study Abroad Adventures in England & France


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Killarney (Cill Airne)

Ever since I first heard the song “Christmas in Killarney” (the most cheerful Christmas song I know), I’ve wanted to go to the town. It was well worth the journey! Lauren and I are both glad that we cancelled our trip to another town and got to spend a day extra there.

Killarney by night

Killarney by night

Much like Canterbury, the town was fairly small and quaint. It was slightly shocking coming from Dublin – definitely one of the cities that never sleeps. By contrast, shops in Killarney close at around 6:00, and the same goes for restaurants. The first night we were there, Lauren and I began looking for something to eat at around 7 or 8 I’d guess. Only find one restaurant in the whole town that was open as far as we could tell. We’d hoped for some traditional Irish food, but fish & chips was a good enough substitute.

Killarney by night

Killarney by night

 

To emphasize the warmness of the Irish people, I’ll tell this story – my friend thought she’d left her glove in a little convenience store we’d visited earlier. Despite the fact that they were officially closed, the man working opened the doors and let us look around for it for a minute. That would *never* happen in the States – they would just shake their head at you through the window signaling you to go away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ring of Kerry tour

Ring of Kerry tour

The next day we got up and took a tour around the Ring of Kerry. The tour was 7 hours long, but I honestly could have stayed there the rest of my life. I’ve never before felt so at peace as I did then.

 

Killorglin / goat statue

Killorglin / goat statue

Notice the goat statue on the RH side of this picture – every year in the town of Killorglin, a wild mountain goat is crowned king, reigning for three days. Where else but in Ireland!?

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3070It was frequently incredibly windy – the more the elevation increased, the more the wind speeds increased and temperatures dropped.

 

 

 

 

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A beautiful beach location where we got out of the bus to take pictures.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_3197At first we were disappointed because it was supposed to rain fairly heavily that day. However, it ended up not being too bad after all, and I lost track of how many rainbows I saw on that day ^_^ You can faintly see one in the background here, ending behind the house.

 

 

 

IMG_3303The location where we broke for lunch. A cold but beautiful beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_3386One of our stops was right next to a sheep field. Lauren and I really wanted to get close to them, so we trekked through the fields after them. This is as close we got, because they’re fast little buggers.

 

 

 

 

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IMG_3679Winding roads through the rugged countryside

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This reminds me a lot of where Buckbeak’s flight scene was filmed (Loch Shiel, Scotland).

 

 

 

 

IMG_4162This location, Torc Waterfall, was by far my favorite part of the tour. Most of the trees were completely covered in a furry carpet of moss – the “greenness” of Ireland definitely isn’t exaggerated!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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IMG_4191bThat night we chilled in our hostel for a couple hours or so, recouping and deleting pictures to make room for new ones. While we were hanging out in the main room, we met a couple of extremely nice Aussie girls. They were backpacking around Europe for 2 months, essentially living from hostel to hostel. We sat there for quite a good hour or two and listened to their incredible & hilarious adventures thus far.

Afterwards, we ate dinner. Not a single thing was open, so we grabbed some ham & cheese from a convenience store nearby. You do whatcha gotta do. After finishing our sophisticated meal, we joined the Australians at a pub with live music. It was definitely fun to get to hang out with them a bit longer.

IMG_4217On our last morning in Killarney, we’d planned on biking around part of the national park. But truthfully, I’m sort of glad it fell through. It gave us a chance to walk around Killarney and explore some in the daylight without any pressing time commitments.

 

 

 

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Killarney - horse-drawn carriage ride

Killarney – horse-drawn carriage ride

 

 

During our last day in Killarney, Lauren and I took a “jaunting tour” – aka horse-drawn carriage ride around the Killarney national park. Since no motor vehicles are allowed on the pathways, it was a very efficient way to see the sites.

 

 

Horse-drawn carriage ride

Horse-drawn carriage ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Horse-drawn carriage ride

Horse-drawn carriage ride

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ross Castle, Killarne national park

Ross Castle, Killarney national park

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Killarney was absolutely fantastic. It was wonderful to see the Irish countryside that I’ve heard about all my life. No matter how many times I thought that the scenery couldn’t get any more incredible, it always grew in beauty.

I’ve added a ton of photos to the gallery to avoid completely filling up the page itself. There are a good many there, but at least it’s a step down from what I started out with! (5,000. yep…)

 

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The Rocky Road to Dub-i-lin, “whack follol de rah!”

This past week, Katie and a new friend of mine, Lauren I took a fairly lengthy trip to Ireland. While it was exhausting, it was oh, so worth it.

Stansted Lodge, London

Stansted Lodge, London

We first spent the night in London to catch a cheap/early (£16!) Ryanair flight to Dublin.

Getting up at 3.45 was difficult, but we were grateful for the wink of sleep we caught.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stansted Lodge, London

Stansted Lodge, London

 

Bus to Dublin

Bus to Dublin

The bus ride was a bit too early for some of us XD

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin Airport

Dublin Airport

I was feeling fairly drained until I walked through the airport. At that moment, I noticed that the signs were written in both Gaelic and English. The linguist in me (literally) did a happy dance and I felt much better.

 

 

 

O'Connell Bridge, Dublin

O’Connell Bridge, Dublin

 

Dublin is a city like none other I’ve even been too before. As soon as we stepped foot in it, we felt the Irish spirit thick in the air. Flags, shops, everything else is green, and the people are exceptionally friendly and cheerful. Really, it’s amazing how friendly everyone is! And despite the chronic unpleasant weather (far more cold/windy/rainy than England)! We went up to multiple people asking for directions, and they were all beyond helpful and seemed happy to give us pointers.

O'Connell Bridge, Dublin

O’Connell Bridge, Dublin

As soon as we arrived at our hostel and checked in, we joined a walking tour offered by the hostel. It lasted from 10:15-2:30, so we were able to see and learn much about the city. It was frigid, but fascinating to hear about Ireland/Dublin’s rich history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Mercantile, Dublin

The Mercantile, Dublin

A pub that gave us free croissants and coffee on the tour. Delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral

Apparently during the Irish Rebellion of 1798, the Irish Rebels attempted to excite a herd of cattle an cause a stampede. While this was mildly successful, it was not nearly enough to outweigh the casualties they sustained later.

 

 

 

 

 

Old Storehouse pub

Old Storehouse pub

We stopped for lunch at a pub called the Old Storehouse. It’s fairly sports-oriented, but it has a warm atmosphere and a good vibe. The bangers and mash there were delicious! Also (long story short) I don’t drink alcohol, but I tasted a drop (literally) of Katie’s Irish coffee there (whiskey in coffee). It was decent enough I suppose, but the whiskey flavour was fairly potent.

 

 

Book of Kells - contains the four gospels in Latin with Gaelic decorations

Book of Kells – contains the four gospels in Latin with Gaelic decorations

After we finished the tour, we went to see the Book of Kells. While it’s very expensive to simply pay and go in, if you find a Trinity College Student, they can get 3 people in per day for free. We found one guy who was exceptionally nice and took us all in to look around.

 

 

 

 

Trinity College Library

Trinity College Library

We were also able to take a look around the Trinity College Library, which was simply incredibly. If it hadn’t been so cold in there, I could have happily remained there for life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artemis Fowl

Artemis Fowl

 

Seeing Artemis Fowl there (set in Ireland) made my day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isaac's Hostel, Dublin

Isaac’s Hostel, Dublin

Our lack of sleep was really beginning to wear on us, so after visiting the library, we decided to return to our hostel, take a brief nap, and go out again later in the evening.

 

 

 

 

 

Ha'Penny Bridge

Ha’Penny Bridge

 

After an all-too-short nap, we drowsily pulled ourselves together to go make the most of our time in the city. We first crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge (it used to cost 1/2 penny to cross) and went to a pub called the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn.

 

 

 

Ha'Penny Bridge Inn

Ha’Penny Bridge Inn

 

The hot chocolate/beer we got there was delicious and helped to warm our spirits. I also tasted a drop of Katie’s Guinness there. I don’t know if all beer is that terrible or what, but I agree with my friend Ralph’s (Katie’s flatmate) description of it as “liquid sadness.” It was quite foul. The pub as whole was quite nice though.

 

 

Merchant's Arch

Merchant’s Arch

We’d heard live music coming from the pub next door, so after we finished our beer/hot chocolate we decided to explore – I’m so glad we went! This was by far my favorite part of Dublin, and one of my favorite parts of the whole trip! If you ever get the chance, definitely try out a pub with live music. It’s wonderful to relax and listen to well-performed songs, and you get the greatest sense of unity from the others in the pub who are clapping/dancing along with the music.

If you’re interested in listening to what the music was like there, check out these links:

I’m Gonna be (500 Miles) http://youtu.be/AF71h2jA1Vg << My favorite!

Friends Theme: http://youtu.be/F9DKK8NJds0

The Cave: http://youtu.be/krDJ6ngYNjQ

Viva la Vida: http://youtu.be/LWaYaLvDLwo

Someone Like You: http://youtu.be/fosmKf6z6Tk

Irish Folk Music: http://youtu.be/2Ee8t8f78WE

 

Merchant's Arch

Merchant’s Arch

I tasted a drop of beer while we were there (I guess I hate beer in general – it tasted pretty terrible as well) and rum, which was not so bad.

During our last hour or so at this pub (we stayed there until about 01:00 am) a group of 3 french guys came over and joined us. It was quite fun for me, since I speak French and could serve as an interpreter. We all hit it off really well, and wanted to hang out a bit longer – The pub we were at was closing, so they invited us to join them and go somewhere else.

 

 

 

Temple Bar Restaurant, Temple Bar, Dublin

Temple Bar Restaurant, Temple Bar, Dublin

Luckily it was a pub (a public space) – otherwise I would *not* have gone. The pub was really cool though, one of the more popular ones in the Temple Bar area. The French guys were quite an interesting group. They got us all drinks, which was nice, and we sat and chatted for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temple Bar Restaurant, Temple Bar, Dublin

Temple Bar Restaurant, Temple Bar, Dublin

Within a few minutes, we discovered that the group at the table next to us was also comprised of French people. We excitedly joined forces, making for one heck of a group (10 of us total)! They all got really excited at one point and started singing the Marseillaise (the French National Anthem). The dynamic was absolutely fantastic and it made me incredibly glad I’d learned French (it was useful a number of times in Ireland).

Video of them singing la Marseillaise: http://youtu.be/5ZRseX97aY4

We ended up staying out until 2 or 3 in the morning, but turned in asap to enjoy the following day.

Shopping District, Dublin

Shopping District, Dublin

The next day was Ash Wednesday. Lauren wanted to go to Mass, and it sounds like she had a fantastic time. Katie and I decided to skip and explore the city a bit more.

 

 

 

 

 

Full Irish Breakfast

Full Irish Breakfast

When it began raining, we ducked into an M&S to grab some breakfast. We both enjoyed a full Irish breakfast. Black pudding’s actually ok, but I still hate mushrooms! When the rain slacked a bit we ventured outside again to wander around a plethora of new shops.

 

 

 

Shipping District, Dublin

Shipping District, Dublin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hermès

Hermès

Obligatory selfie with stuff that’s way too expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leprechaun Museum

Leprechaun Museum

We then took a wonderful tour of the leprechaun museum. One very cool part was the Giant’s room – it made you feel itty-bitty yourself! I’ve always adored miniatures, so it was extremely cool to be one myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giant chair

Giant chair

It was also very cool to learn about the history of leprechauns and fairies. Apparently, in the olden days, people would go around from house to house each autumn collecting food that they then dumped down wells to appease the fairies. And so began trick-or-treating.

 

 

 

Pub crawl

Pub crawl

That night we did a pub crawl with a group of people predominately from our hostel. It’s a great way to see several pubs if you’re short on time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pub Crawl

Pub Crawl

One of my favorite places that we went was called Whelan’s. It had a silent disco – essentially you can listen to music through headphones if you wish (it’s like a giant joint iPod experience), but if you want to remove them and have a conversation, that’s totally feasible as well. Practically, it makes huge amounts of sense. However, it is very funny to take your own headphones off and watch people dancing to essentially nothing.

The next day we sadly had to say farewell Katie since she had to return for a class. She returned home safely though, and Lauren and I took a train to another part of Ireland.

Overall, Dublin was fantastic. The pubs had the best atmospheres and were, without a doubt, my favorite part. However, there’s much more to Ireland than Dublin! Killarney and Cork gave us the chance to look at Ireland’s beautiful nature and smaller towns.


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Woke up in London Yesterday…

This past weekend a group of my friends and I went to London. Since it was our first big trip, most of us were relatively new to the lifestyle we led while we were there (aka backpacking, hostels, etc.) However, as we were with two Londoner friends (Lee’s flatmate Jess, and her friend Ling Ling), we were in safe hands. I’m now excited to go explore some more of the world ASAP!

We took an early morning National Express Coach from Uni Kent directly to London. Having only packed the bare necessities in backpacks, we hopped off the bus and started exploring immediately.

The first site we visited was the Victoria & Albert Museum.

"Every Great Dream Begins with a Dreamer"

“Every Great Dream Begins with a Dreamer”

Sieu and I went on a search for the Constable paintings, but ended up wandering instead as we passed through intriguing exhibits. I would have pulled out my map to head for a specific exhibit, but we both agreed that wandering was much more fun. I’ve never taken this approach to a museum before, but it was definitely worth it!

Sculpture gallery @ V&A

Sculpture gallery @ V&A

Posing with paintings

Posing with paintings

In our wanderings, we found an entire room dedicated to stained glass! Pictures don’t do it justice – it was beautiful to see in person with the light streaming through them. It created quite the atmosphere of ethereality.

Stained glass @ V&A

Stained glass @ V&A

Stained glass @ V&A

Stained glass @ V&A

We also stumbled upon a room full of tapestries (probably my favorite part of the museum). I was beyond elated to see the unicorn tapestry at the end, as I thought it might be related to the Lady and the Unicorn series. It turns out it  is not part of that series (I don’t even think it’s part of “The Hunt of the Unicorn”) but  I still think it is really very lovely!

Unicorn Millefleurs tapestry @ V&A

Unicorn Millefleurs tapestry @ V&A

At last, we found the Constable paintings (what we had half been searching for the whole time) and were not disappointed.

Constable painting @ V&A

Constable painting @ V&A

Constable painting @ V&A

Constable painting @ V&A

As much as I loved the Constables, I found this Thomas Gainsborough paintings to be particularly intriguing. The oil-on-glass combination gives it the luminescent appearance.

V&A painting

Gainsborough painting @ V&A

“Daydream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (the woman is Jane Morris, wife of the famous William Morris).

"Daydream" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Daydream” by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

After touring the Victoria & Albert museum, we continued on to the science museum. We spent most of our time on the medical floor – our friend found this fascinating since he wants to be a doctor. Hands-on activities geared toward younger children were prevalent in many of the other areas, so we were glad we had spent our time where we did.

I found the cuneiform tablets extremely cool to look at (linguistics!)

Cuneiform tablets @ Science museum

Cuneiform tablets @ Science museum

I’m glad modern dentistry, among other things, has improved since then…

Medical @ Science museum

Medical @ Science museum

The Pilot ACE – the sign said it “embodied Alan Turing’s idea of a universal machine that could perform any logical task. Turing wrote the specification for the ACE computer in 1945 and a prototype, the Pilot ACE, was built many years later at the National Physical Laboratory. In 1951 it went into service performing calculations for the government and scientists.”

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The Pilot ACE Machine

I still don’t know why these people were dressed up as giant bugs but I thought it was amusing :D

People in costumes

People in costumes

Lastly, we visited the Natural History Museum. The line to get inside (stretching for 1/2 a block) made us a little nervous, but we only had to wait 15 minutes or so – it was well worth the wait.

Pano of the main hall (Hintze)

Pano of the main hall (Hintze)

Main hall, National History Museum

Main hall, National History Museum

Me with a diplodocus skeleton

Me with a diplodocus skeleton

The skeletons aren’t bad, but the animatronic ones brought forth memories of the little killer dudes in Jurassic Park and were actually a bit freaky. Luckily the big guy up above is an herbivore.

Dino Exhibit - Mus. Nat. Hist.

Dino Exhibit – Mus. Nat. Hist.

What really happened to the dinosaurs??

Dino theories

Dino theories

Perspective

Perspective

The architecture there is extremely opulent. In the gallery I included more pictures – sometimes there are even carvings of animals in the molding.

The architecture is beautiful

Nat. Hist. Mus.

People were queued up to see the dodos like they’d, well, gone extinct.

Dodos!

Dodos!

By this point we’d toured 3 museums in one day and couldn’t take it any longer. Touring around for that long and actively trying not to get separated makes for a tiring day. In fact, we didn’t really look around the Earth’s core exhibit…but the escalator had been calling us to at least go up to it :P

Earth's Core Escalator

Earth’s Core Escalator

Outside the Volcanoes & Earthquakes Exhibit

Outside the Volcanoes & Earthquakes Exhibit

Outside the Volcanoes and Earthquakes exhibit

Outside the Volcanoes and Earthquakes exhibit

After a multiple failed attempts to find a pub, we ended up going to an Indian restaurant. I should have taken a picture of my meal at this restaurant. I ordered fish which “may contain bones” – I figured that meant a bone was *possible* and they were just telling you to avoid being sued or something. Apparently “may” means “will” though. When my fish came out, eyeballs and everything, I felt slightly like the mom on “A Christmas Story” when she sees that the Christmas duck still has its head. I’ve never eaten a fish while simultaneously trying to dodge bones, but it was good in the end, and most definitely an interesting experience.

Dinner afterwards

Dinner afterwards

We stayed at a hostel called the Pride of Paddington, which was really quite nice. The stairs were crazy though, so I’m glad we just had backpacks and not suitcases. It has a pub downstairs, where breakfast is included in the morning.

Pride of Paddington Pub

Pride of Paddington Pub

Pride of Paddington - stairs to our room

Pride of Paddington – stairs to our room

Some of us tried a dish called “Black Pudding,” which is made from pig’s blood and other things mixed in like oatmeal. The texture was weird, but it tasted, for the most part, like sausage.

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That night we went to a store called Boots (like a giant Walgreens) go get some medicine for my friend who was sick. I got this while I was there – it’s by far my new favorite candy. Milk chocolate with pop rocks and gummy bits mixed in, it’s like a firework in your mouth ^_^

Cadbury Jelly Popping Candy

Cadbury Jelly Popping Candy

The next day we got up and went to a place called “Borough Market” that Jess had highly recommended. Being relatively early on a Sunday, the market was closed, but the area itself was really, really cool. There were countless little shops and restaurants and it was right on the Thames, so we got a great view of it and the London skyline.

On the underground

On the underground

Borough Market

Borough Market

Borough Market

Borough Market

Thames & London Skyline

Thames & London Skyline

Pano of London skyline

Pano of London skyline

 

Near London Eye & Big Ben

Near London Eye & Big Ben

Buskers – an unexpected but pleasant surprise

Buskers

Buskers

The green colour of Westminster bridge matches the seats in the House of Commons, while the red colour of Lambeth bridge matches the seats in the House of Lords.

I worked really hard to get a red bus passing in front of the House of Commons – I thought one would never come!!

Big Ben & Westminster Bridge

Big Ben & Westminster Bridge

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Opposite Big Ben

Opposite Big Ben

Big Ben & Red London Bus

Big Ben & London Bus

Big Ben & London Bus

Big Ben & London Bus

Telephone booth & Big Ben

Telephone booth & Big Ben

Our last stop was Buckingham Palace.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

@ Buckingham Palace

@ Buckingham Palace

After Buckingham Palace we trudged reluctantly toward Victoria Coach Station to get ready to catch our bus. Lacking the energy to do anything else, we ordered hot chocolate in a shop called Caffé Nero’s to warm up and rest for a while.

It was a very busy, but wonderful weekend! I’m looking forward to going back in a few weeks and exploring some more.

 


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“Sweet” Doesn’t Mean “Good”

One of the first things I noticed since arriving here is the difference in food. Yes, the Brits have their own type and brands of food like Cadbury, but it goes deeper than just brand names.

Over the past few months, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading labels to see what exactly I consume. I quickly noticed a magic ingredient over here that doesn’t crop up often in the US: SUGAR.

That’s right. No ridiculous high-fructose corn syrup. It’s got to be better for you, and in my opinion it tastes a million times better.

What really surprised me, however, is seeing the same basic products with different ingredients. For instance, today I bought a bottle of Lipton Peach Ice Tea and it tasted COMPLETELY different than I’m used to…and yet much better.

For those who are interested, I thought I’d do a brief comparison of what’s stood out to me the most so far.

Here’s the nutrition facts labels for Lipton Peach Ice Tea – US vs. UK:

US Nutrition facts

US Nutrition facts (11 ingredients)

UK nutrition facts

UK nutrition facts (9 ingredients)

Also notice that while the US version has a vague “natural flavor” ingredient (which doesn’t really taste like true peach!), the UK version tells you that it includes Peach juice from concentrate. That really hit me. If something is supposed to be fruit flavoured, it will actually taste like peaches, or strawberries, or whatever it says on the label, because real fruit juice is in the ingredients. I think all my US friends will agree that that’s not the case in the States. I much prefer the “real” tasting items over here.

One of the few British foods the US did have, Hershey chose to screw up. The dairy bar’s 1st ingredient was originally milk…aka…dairy… Not in the US. Dump extra sugar in (and some sketchy ingredients at the end) and you’re good. Here’s Cadbury Dairy Bar, US vs. UK:

Cadbury Dairy Bar US (Hershey's)

Cadbury Dairy Bar US (Hershey’s); 8 ingredients

Cadbury Dairy Bar UK

Cadbury Dairy Bar UK; 7 ingredients