Saturday, January 28, 2012

Blarney Castle Adventures

It's been too long since I posted, but I have epic stories involving a castle to make up for it. (Well they at least involve a castle even if they aren't actually epic)Star, her roommate - Monique and I decided to plan a day trip this week because they don't have classes on Fridays and I'm job-less-and-fancy-free still. Syndey -one of the other study abroad girls joined us as well. We figured something touristy and Irish would be in order for our first attempt at this, so we settled on Blarney Castle. (The most photographed building in Ireland as the wayside signs told us to explain how popular it was.) 
You can see why it's the most photographed
We took the bus, because it was mildly cheaper and not any slower than taking the train down to Cork. It took a bit over three hours from Galway through Shannon and Limerick (where the McCormack side is from!) to Cork (which is the second largest city in Ireland). Yes - when we decide to be touristy, we read a lot. Even as the second biggest city, it is only about 200,000 population wise and 14 some square miles.

Google maps is so clever it now knows to center on Ireland.
We got up super early and took the 7:05am bus, then napped a bit on the way there. We grabbed some food/cake in Cork and caught another bus out to Blarney Castle. After we arrived and got our tickets, we snapped a couple of goofy photos then came into sight of the Blarney Castle. Despite the fact we had just traveled all morning to see said castle, and then we had just followed signs through town to find said castle, and then we had just bought tickets and gone through the gate for said castle we all literally squealed with excitement when we actually saw said castle.With a middle-school-girl-who-just-got-asked-out-by-justin-beiber-or-something-level of high-pitchedness. 
We took our time wandering through all the rooms to the tippy top to kiss the Blarney Stone. Tradition is that kissing the stone will give you the gift of blarney = clever, eloquent, flattering speech. It has been there since 1446 and a lot of people have now kissed it including Winston Churchill and Mick Jagger. So that's something. 
The Blarney Stone is way up
where the man in red is sitting  
Out under the edge the of the battlements

You sit down and lean way back to reach it and there's a old Irishman to spot you. "Let's see how she kisses in the afternoon" he said as each of us took our turn. And he was entertained that we used the term craic. It was grand.
Once we were back down out of the castle our glorious sunshine disappeared and turned to really cold windy rain. We went around to the old-stables-now-gift-shop and found a fireplace going with a real fire which was perfect. After chilling by the fire for a while the sun showed back up. (Turns out when they say 10% chance of rain in Ireland it pretty much means that it will rain, but only 10% of the time). While the sun was out again we walked over the the not-as-old-but-really-amazing Blarney House. Which in turn drew a not-quite-as-bad-but-still-incredibly-high-pitched-burst-of-excitement when we saw it. 
Not only an amazing house, but a highly photogenic one as well
We walked to a couple other points marked on the map of Blarney, only got rained on a little more, and managed not to get yelled at for climbing on anything we were pretty sure we weren't suppose to climb on. The old trees here make legends of fairies and leprechauns seem incredibly logical. They are all covered in moss and seems to be clearly hiding mystical creatures. As well as awesome amounts of fun.
This tree may have even been more exciting than the Blarney Stone.
It took multiple jumps to get up on the tree and so success was sweet
We managed to get all four of us into the tree and have a wonderful time which resulted in getting quite muddy and sitting in bird poop, but not slipping off so it's all good. After our fantastic adventures in the tree which were a little too well documented on my camera. We headed to an amazing garden area called the Rock Close.
There be fairies here
You go through a tunnel in the wall to get to the Rock Close and every part of the moss covered trees, trickling waterfalls, and stone features gives the impression that it is an enchanted place. When I traveled around Ireland with my brother after his Rome semester, Blarney was one of the places we came and so I remembered most of the castle and I knew I wanted to see the garden again and it did not disappoint. It was magical and very fun to explore. The crowning point of
If these are Ents it wouldn't surprise me either 
our epic day though was as we walked back from the Rock Close past the castle and the world's best rainbow. There was most certainly a pot of gold at the end being guarded by a magical little man in green. By the time we got a photo with us in it, the rainbow was actually starting to fade, but it still captured our extreme excitement. 
Our adventure went so smoothly that our bus arrived in Cork just in time to hop onto our bus from there to Galway. We ate the rest of the cake/lunch and chatted the whole way home hyped up on the coffee. Then I was held captive by Star and Monique until I posted my photos. And we've begun to plan our next adventure as well.
"Cause we live in Ireland"

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Carthage College Choir and George's Mom

     Last night Star, and her roommates and I went to hear choral music at St Nicolas (the really old Anglican/ Church of Ireland church, really old= hundreds and hundreds of years).  The singing was wonderful and the old stone church was built with amazing acoustics.  First a choir from Carthage College in Wisconsin performed and then the local choir from Galway sang as well. The spirituals were the highlight, although Star and I were ridiculously excited when
George's monument 
the American choir sang Oh Shenandoah as their final song. (It was our theme song at camp in 2006 and so we got really excited when we saw it in the program, like excited-to-the-point-we-kinda-scared-star’s-poor-roommate-excited.)

St Nicolas’s is full of incredibly old tombs along the walls (and in the floors as well, which makes me feel slightly odd to walk across them). My favorite of the tombs is this one on the wall memorializing young George Fredrick De Carteret who was my age, 22, when he died in 1843.
It's still a little hard to read, but this is the close up of what it says
I’m a history and literature major because I love stories. A lot. (I love people, they’ve all got stories!) The plaque has so many stories packed onto one carved stone scroll. His mother seems like the type that would be organizing MADD if she lived a century and a half later. And the verse she chose is not one of hope, or comfort, it’s just descriptive because it relates to young George’s mother as well. It also captures such a particular moment in the childless mother’s grief when the loss is overwhelming and “irreperarable”. Plus how many sentences warrant the use of a word as awesome as tempestuous?

Today I went to a coffee shop and enjoyed some tea, a chocolate muffin, and their free wifi. As well as worked on the job seeking and all. Shop street was fun since it was bustling with people and street musicians (who have an impressive balance, I’ll get a picture next time I pass them, really I will). 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Great Craic

So I've been here two weeks and it has been amazing! I feel like I'm running out of new words to say it's great, it's wonderful, it's so much fun. (which it is all of those things to a huge degree). This is ok, because I can steal their "grand" Irish phrases; my favorite of which is "great craic" It means great fun or great craziness (therefore fits this trip perfectly).
Craic apparently comes from a Gaelic word, which basically means crazy.  But now it generally means fun, a very Irish sort of fun. As well as being used for "what's the craic?" = "what's up?/what's new?/what are you up to?" and as a description for people who are craic = fun/crazy.
So the past two weeks have been really great craic. Here are the highlights:

3rd, Tues - We landed here and got here, it was jet lagged day of wonderful that I have posted a bit about already.

4th, Wed - Also a day that I have managed to post about already, with the walk home in the crazy wind and all.

5th Thurs - Star, her roommates, their fellow study abroader Sydney and I went out for our first pint of Guinness at Foxes Pub, we asked our bartender about accents on girls and he said Northern Irish and Cork are annoying, but a good British accent is grand.

6th Fri - My Irish housemates are for all intents and purposes nocturnal, espically since they had friends visiting for the week; so around 2am we all ordered from Super Macs.  Which is pretty much an Irish version of McDonalds, but it also has Papa John's Pizza and Quiznos as well - plus they deliver until 3am. Then later (once we got up), my american roomie and I unpacked, moved in and got our phones and internet and all bought/set up.

7th Sat -  I did more exploring and figuring out my way around. We all went out to a couple of pubs that we found with live music and we meet a group of Irish boys, one of who shared my last name so that was cool. They also sang Hannah Montana which was also nah not really, but it was hilarious.

8th Sun - Star and I joined Sydney for Mass at St. Patrick's (because where else do you go your first Sunday in Ireland?) Then we walked out to the coast and enjoyed the beautiful view (and a few little bits of blue sky and sunshine) we finished up by getting our first fish and chips at McDonagh's. Soooo good and perfect for warming you up after walking in the wind.

9th Mon - I cleaned up my resume/"CV" and dropped it off at places around here, finished reading Lola (Stephine Perkin's new book), and went out with my housemates and their friends (seriously these girls take hours to get ready to leave and 11pm is really early for them to be actually leaving the house. Really early. But somehow we managed to leave before 11:30)

10th Tues - I wandered more and did the whole look-for-a-job-thing and then I went to the Victoria Hotel for swing dancing! It was a fun lesson and there were tons of people there. It'll definitely the withdraw from going to swing dance with Nemo and everyone back at Mobtown.

11th Weds - My roommate Andi and I discovered that in addition to seemingly-round-the-clock-reruns-of-Friends Irish/UK TV has some amazingly grand telly. Such as "Playing it Straight" which is just like the Bachelorette, except there are a bunch of gay guys mixed in and she has to try to not end up with one of them. And one where they take people that look like snooki and make them look nice. (And they have Gordie Shore over here instead of -but just like- Jersey Shore.) After being amazing by crazy shows about guys planning a wedding without being able to ask the bride about anything and such Andi, Star and I went out and found some awesome traditional Irish music at Tig Coili.

12th Thurs -  Star and her roommates and I met up with one of the Irish friends we had made Monday and he introduced us to a bunch of his friends, it was great. They spent a good deal of time explaining Irish football vs rugby and what in the world Hurling is. (It is a Gaelic sport that looks like field-hockey-meets-soccer-meets-baseball-with-a-couple-of-basketball-rules-thrown-in-as-well.)

13th Fri - Andi, Star, and I didn't risk going out on such an unlucky day (that or we were just wanted a break from going out almost every night) so we had an epic girls night, complete with wine, icecream, chick flicks and chocolate. Star straightened my hair and it took an entire movie and a half to do (although to her hair-skills credit, it was a super cheap flat iron, not her nice one). Turns out my hair is really long.

14th Sat - Sleeping in is wonderful, as is Nutella, and the Incredibles, and the live band we found at the King's Head. So named because the man who cut off King Charles I's head lived there, at least according to legend which the stone building has plenty of since it is more than 800 years old at it's oldest parts o.0

15th Sun - Star and I went to evening Mass at the Galway Cathedral which was beautiful. There was a choir that sang Amazing Grace during the service and all and then at the end they sang Wade in the Water. (which has the same effect on my as when they play Lady Gaga at the pub, I wanna swing dance, which is a slightly more acceptable thing to do at a pub than a cathedral)

16th Mon - Star and her roommate and I went to shop street and checked out the Claddagh museum at the jewelry shop of the original makers of the Claddagh rings.  We stopped by a couple of other shops and then a wonderful book store that has shelves of used books literally spilling out the doors. On our way back we got to die for hot coco from The Chocolate Box (it has real chocolate in the bottom and both marshmallows and whip cream on top- what more could you ask for?) And despite the fact the only syrup we could find was crazy weird, we had a great dinner of french toast, sausage and what-passes-for-bacon-over-here.

So I apologize for the ridiculously long post.  I'm honestly impressed if you read this far. Good job! I hope to post more regularly so they should also be shorter and will honestly include theory. hehe.
It's been great craic ^_^

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Center / Centre

I love when you are traveling is when time is measured just as well by place as by day. For example today I finally got to showered for the first time since Maryland and it was super-duper exciting. Then I headed  to meet up with Star and her roomies at the Galway Shopping Centre.  (Why do they spell wrong over here? Regardless of the fact I basically have the spelling skills of a second grader, I do not approve of their silly-R-before-E-when-they-should-be-the-other-way-ways.)

Anyway, I didn't bring my handy map of Galway with me, which was not the most wisest of choices.  I walked in the general correct direction and only walked about a block too far before I figured I had, you know, walked too far.  (Credit to my gypsy-nose and all)  So I double backed just a bit and then figured out that I was one street over from the shopping center (see that is how that word is spell in real life).  So I was not particularly lost, just a little bit off of where I was trying to be.  So I met Star and her roomie at Penny's (which is a lot like H&M or something like that, mostly a clothes store).
Ice Cream! And new cell phones!

We checked out a couple of different cell phone plans and they got the cheapest ones we could find.  Then we got ice cream, because ice cream is awesome. (Plus they have the wonderful tiny-square-spoons-for-ice-cream like they do in Italy so that made me very happy)
Star's roommate

The stores over here are slightly different, for example the highlight of yesterday's shopping trip was was we left the store and stepped out into the pouring rain Star stopped and shouted and phrase-which-is-not-camp-appropriate -- because she had forgotten her loaf of bread... upstairs in the store... where we had just bought sheets and blankets. This does make more sense when you know that the grocery store was connected to/part of the same store as the bed-sheets and all, and the fact that bags cost money so we fit all three of our stuff into two bags and the bread didn't fit.  Regardless of the logical explanation though, it was wonderful.
You have no idea how proud we are that we
 can properly pronounce this now ^_^

It was actually sunny today!  For the first time since we got here! It was very nice and much warmer. We went back to Star's place and hung out for a bit before they went to dinner with their program.
Me and a sunset, cause it was sunny!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

May the wind be at your back

Sleep is a wonderful thing ^_^  We stayed up until about 1am (here-time) watching tv and movies and hanging out with my new roommates.  By then we had been up for a really long time.  I had napped some since the plane ride left me with a terrible headache, but it was still a really long time since Sunday night.  But thirteen hours of sleep helps a ton.
St. Brendan's Ave, from my front door
So once we actually got up, we took a taxi over to Stars and meet her roommates.  Her place is just up the road about ten mins and it is awesome looking. I meet a couple of her housemates and then Star and I and her roomie went for food and shopping.  We were mildly confused by the grocery store, but we were successful and got some goodies and necessities like blankets and all. Without spending too much (though we are all still in the habit of saying dollars-oh-wait-euros or it's five-bucks-oops-i-mean-euros)
And the cars all drive on the wrong side!! You go to cross the street and they come from the nowhere! And by nowhere I mean the right...
The radio on the bus here yesterday was talking about the "gale-force winds" (that and the GOP in Iowa which doesn't seem like it would be of too much interest over here, but is appears it is). And today I got to do quite a bit of walking around in those wonderful high winds (along with a great deal of the lovely Irish rain).  Though as star said, "a rainy day is Ireland is still better than a rainy day at home".  The wind was seriously-nearly-strong-enough-to-feel-like-it-is-honestly-going-to-knock-you-over-strong today.  Which means when you are walking with it at your back it is significantly easier than when it is hitting you in the face with rain.  So that bit in the Irish Blessing makes more sense.
I walked back from Star's tonight in the crazy wind and rain.  I only took one slight, mostly-unintended, detour and besides that I found my way just fine ^_^
Now I'm watching PS I Love You with my roomies and their friends who are visiting.  Ireland, Gerard Butler, and James Marsters in one movie, what more could you need? Plus Nutella = wonderful Ireland!

In Galway

I'm in Galway!  Actually really here! Now!
Today started yesterday and it has been quite a long day.
We were supposed to fly from BWI to Newark and from Newark to Shannon. There were high winds the adventure began!
I got to the airport was checked-in (but was not allowed to check my bags, because they would most likely not make it).  And they sent us to the AmTrak station by the airport.  And I got there and got my ticket for the train, right before it arrived.   We took the train up to Newark, which was very fun ^_^ And taking a train, meant I could still use my phone (which was fun, since I wouldn't have been able to on a plane)
We arrived in Newark and took the tram to the terminal.  Checked our bags, got a snack, and got to our gate right as they started boarding.  Our flight was short, especially because the strong winds got us here 40 mins early!
We took the bus to Galway and got to see some of the beautiful Irish country side. After resting a bit we went out and explored a bit.  Galway is so pretty! We got to see the beautiful cathedral and the university.  We got some soup for dinner at Garvey's Pub and watched some silly tv with my awesome new Irish roomies in order to stay awake for a while to help with the jet lag.  I'm very sleepy so Im hoping that this makes sense anyway.  Tomorrow will have pictures, I promise.