Wanderings and Ponderings

My Study Abroad Adventures in England & France


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Cork

Cork

Cork

Walking around Cork made me feel like I was in some weird parallel universe. Perhaps it’s just me, but it struck me as oddly American, but from the 50’s. Or maybe it was the disconcerting prevalence of pistachio-coloured things that affected my opinion.

 

 

 

Cork hill

Cork hill

The first day we were there we hiked around the city quite a bit with no particular destination in mind. We found an extremely tall/steep hill and climbed it up to the top to look out over the city. By this point in the trip, my feet were killing me – I’d say we walked 8 – 9 miles every day but one. Despite the pain getting there, the view of the city from above was well worth it!

 

 

 

 

Cork hill view

Cork hill view

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cork hill

Cork hill

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luigi's

Luigi’s

Though Cork is slightly more populated than Killarney, shops and restaurants still close early (18:00-19:00). We’d learned our lesson by missing dinner hour in Killarney, and so made an effort to eat an early supper.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Luigi's

Luigi’s

Despite it still being relatively early, the only restaurant open was an Italian restaurant, recommended to us by a pub we planned on going to later. It was absolutely delicious and not too pricey (we stuck with “starters” instead of full entrées!) Although it was a somewhat fancier restaurant, a rather large percentage of the people there were young children, which I found strange and surprising. All of them, even those sitting clumped together in groups were remarkably well-behaved, like little adults. It was truly astonishing to see.

Larry Tomkins pub

Larry Tomkins pub

After we’d finished dinner, we returned to the aforementioned pub. It was more of a sports-oriented pub, which intrigued us as we’d never before seen a rugby or a European “football” match.

 

 

 

Larry Tompkins pub

Larry Tompkins pub

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cork city centre

Cork city centre

 

The next day, we went to Blarney. By the way, if you ever go there, set aside multiple hours to tour it – you don’t want to rush yourself. It’s absolutely beautiful and you’ll want to have time to appreciate it and see as much as possible. Anyway, we’d planned on doing a bit of shopping beforehand, but because it was early on a Sunday morning, everything was closed (are you seeing a pattern here yet?). That plan having failed, we found a bus stop downtown that would take us to Blarney. While it was quite frustrating how long we had to wait for the bus (I’m fairly sure it was at least 45 minutes – they weren’t at all on time), we met a girl from Canada who was staying at another hostel in town and IMG_2941was also going to Blarney. She was incredibly sweet, and very cool; her dad is on a teaching exchange, so she’s spending those 8 months touring Europe during her gap year. We all got along really well, and decided to hang out together for the rest of the day. That’s the sad thing about meeting people on trips like this – you meet the most wonderful people and make the most wonderful friends, and then you have to split back into different corners of the world in a matter of days or even hours. But its a very unique experience while it lasts.

Blarney

Blarney

I don’t think Ireland’s beauty will ever cease to amaze me. I went in to Blarney expecting it to be pretty, but not drop-dead gorgeous. The pictures don’t do it justice, but I did the best I could! This was the very first thing we saw upon entering Blarney.

 

 

 

IMG_4670It was bizarre to see so much greenery and flowers there – it was the middle of February, what the heck? Not that I minded! If this is what winter is though, I can’t even imagine what spring looks like. S/o to my new friend to teaching us the names of all the flowers!

 

 

Crocuses

Crocuses

Crocus

Crocus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grounds were simply incredible. I honestly expected more structure, like the groomed & pruned bushes at Versailles. But Blarney, though it did have a few sections of botanical gardens, was unchanged, natural and beautiful. While I have respect for the effort that goes into maintaining Versailles, I much preferred this.

Blarney

Blarney

A girl in our hostel described Blarney as a “playground for adults” and I think that this is a remarkably accurate description. Everywhere you turn, there’s trees to climb on and caves to go in. And of course you have to because – pictures!

 

 

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Rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous)

Rhubarb (the leaves are poisonous)

 

An intriguing part of the grounds was the “Poison Garden.” That’s right! Lily of the Valley, Nightlock, and many other dangerous plants were grown there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Steps to the Blarney Stone

Steps to the Blarney Stone

 

Obviously, no trip to Blarney would be complete without kissing the “Blarney Stone.” Legend has it that if you kiss the stone, it will give you the gift of gab. This is easier said than done for 2 reasons. 1 – you basically climb the stairway to heaven itself to get to the top (a bunch of tiny slippery steps) and 2 – you hang upside down to kiss the stone! This photo actually shows some of the larger steps – the smallest ones were half as narrow! It’s amazing to imagine servants running up and down these steps racing to fulfill their duties.

 

 

 

Kissing the Blarney Stone

Kissing the Blarney Stone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5026After we finished touring Blarney, we headed for the bus stop, pausing for some (excellent!) hot chocolate at a local chocolate shop on the way. I can now say I’ve had strawberry-flavoured marshmallows, and they’re amazing!

 

 

 

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Right outside our hostel was the most adorable little nook, with a waterfall at the far end and Christmas lights strung back and forth across above. We’d been wanting to go to one of the restaurants next to it ever since we saw it, and decided that we’d go to one for an afternoon snack.

 

 

 

 

IMG_5036I ordered a “Chocolate St. Emellion with rum soaked macaroon and cream” and I’m not exaggerating when I say that it was THE most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. Like perfect, rum soaked fudge, if you can imagine that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Irish Stew

Irish Stew

 

Afterwards, we explored Cork city centre for a good while, and then went to a pub for some dinner. Wanting to try a traditional Irish dish, I ordered the Guinness Irish Stew, and was not disappointed!

 

 

A few minutes after we’d finished our dinner, a band started playing. The combination of guitarist, saxophonist, and lead singer was quite interesting. We stayed until midnight, and then decided we should probably head back to the hostel to pack our bags for our morning flight.

I think we all ran ourselves a bit into the ground on this trip – I ended up getting really sick really fast the day we left. Luckily it didn’t interfere with any of our Ireland travels though, and I was able to rest upon reaching Kent. But was worth it, and I would never trade these experiences! The trip was incredible, and Ireland is a beautiful country – both in terms of nature and culture.

 

 

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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.