So, I fell off the face of the Earth for a bit.

Alright…I haven’t exactly been neglecting my blog.  I mean, I have, but for good reason.  Since the last time I posted I think I’ve lived enough adventure for a lifetime.  I have to get out there and do things so I have something to entertain you all with, right?  So now that I’ve justified my two month hiatus, let’s get back to it.

I think I left off with RAG Week.  I eventually recovered from that week of insanity and moved onto St. Patrick’s day.   I’ve learned that no special occasion in Ireland is limited to just one day;  St. Patrick’s day warrants another several days of celebration.  Two friends from Marist were in Cork for the week and staying with Marlene so we made sure that they got the full Cork experience, complete with live traditional music, the Brog, and of course, a rowdy St. Patrick’s day.  I didn’t know exactly what to expect from St. Patrick’s day here but I was pretty excited for the parade.  The parades I’ve grown up watching in Albany have always  been pretty cool and I was excited to see how it compared to the one in Cork.  I was pretty surprised; to be completely honest, I think the Albany St. Patrick’s Day Parade actually blows Cork’s out of the water.  It was actually kind of lame.  But to be fair, St. Patrick’s Day the way we know it is a very American thing.  The parade was mostly groups of people walking in costumes with signs depicting their nationalities…Polish, Chinese, Serbian…it was more of a diversity parade than a celebration of Irish heritage.  It was also pretty easy to spot the Americans in the crowd…they were the ones wearing Irish flags as capes, shamrocks painted on their faces, and wearing green head to toe.  The actual parade was lame but the rest of the day was pretty great; lots of places had live music and fun celebrations going all day long.  St. Patrick’s day is a bank holiday in Ireland so the streets were flooded with people all day long.  I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen that many people in Cork.  It was ridiculous.

The day after St. Patrick’s day Marlene and the visiting Marist girls jetted off to London and I was left alone with my intimidating pile of papers and studying.  I spent the next few days not sleeping, chugging coffee, writing thousands of words on Irish culture, and owning my finals.  When it was all over I celebrated my 21st birthday!  A lot of people have asked me if I would have rather spent my 21st in America, where it “means something” and my answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT.  Let’s be serious…Poughkeepsie or Cork?  Yeah, thought so.

My roommate Colleen and I both had birthdays in the same week so our friends threw a little party for us.  They got us a cake and some celebratory wine and I received a “kiss me, its my birthday” pin and a shot glass necklace….all necessary 21st birthday items.  It turned out to be a great night; I may have not been able to celebrate with all of my friends and roommates from home but putting all of that aside, it was an absolutely great birthday.  What made it even better was that my mom arrived in Cork the very next day, just in time for my actual birthday!  She arrived in Cork on Friday morning and I showed her around the city.  She constantly freaked about crossing the streets and thought everything about Cork was absolutely precious (she’s right).  After a complete tour of the city we decided to find a restaurant for dinner.  I did the stupidest thing possible and brought her to Captain America’s, a place where she can get a real Irish culinary experience…not.

The next day was my actual birthday!  We headed to Blarney Castle, which was still a lot of fun even though I’d been there before.  It was a lot warmer this time and there were some flowers in bloom.  We took tons of silly pictures, as my mom and I usually do, and walked around the grounds and castle.  She didn’t even scream when she kissed the stone! Very proud.  Afterward we wandered around the town a little before heading back to Cork.  We decided to go out to dinner for my birthday at a cute little Italian restaurant (I’m really great at choosing anything but Irish restaurants).  Turns out every other person in Cork celebrating their birthday also chose to eat there.  The piano player played/sang ‘happy birthday’ SIX TIMES that night.  Every time he played the opening notes the entire restaurant started laughing.  We ended up talking to the family at the table next to us for a while and made friends with one of the waiters who had just come back from New York (and talked our ears off about it).  The food was delicious, the wine was great, the people were awesome, and I loved having my mom in Cork for my birthday.  Next stop: London!

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Ireland likes to drink.

It is no secret that many American college students binge drink.  Since the drinking age is 21 in the U.S. kids tend to go a little crazy when they’re on their own for the first time and take it too far.  I’d always heard that Europeans were much calmer when it came to alcohol because they’re allowed to drink at a younger age and its just not a big deal for them. Whoever said that had obviously never been to Ireland.

A few weeks ago there was what is known as “R&G” week, or RAG week.  It stands for Raise and Give; the university puts on a bunch of events to raise money for charities but it has somehow turned into a week long booze fest.  Its something like spring weekend at UConn but to the tenth power.  It was literally the most insane thing I’ve ever seen.  There were just drunk people EVERYWHERE.  All the time.  One night when I was walking in the opposite direction of the bars (because I am a good girl and would never go to a bar, mom) and I was  swimming against a current of stumbling, screaming, rowdy drunk kids.  I passed a man standing on a barrier-type thing in his front yard wearing only a bathrobe, holding a pint, and conducting a chorus of strangers in an Irish song on a SUNDAY night.  Out of control.

There was a lot of build up around RAG week so we were all pretty excited.  We geared up with a selection of the classiest of 4 euro wines that Cork has to offer and prepared for mayhem.  On Monday Marlene and her roommates threw a Valentine’s day party complete with some wholesome fuzzy red handcuffs.  I ended up handcuffed to her roommate Edel and we walked around Cork for a while as a pair until they eventually broke and became fuzzy red bracelets.  Tuesday I went to a party where I’m pretty sure I was the only American (always a good conversation starter) and didn’t really know anyone.  Still had a grand time, though.  I became a grandma after that and stayed in my room for the next two days, but it was still a lot of fun.  I tried to make it to some of the on-campus events but they were just too crowded.  In one of the on-campus bars they were doing a UCC version of Take Me Out (my aforementioned FAVORITE Irish show) but the line snaked down the stairs and outside so that got squashed.  Instead, Chrissy, Julia, and I decided to splurge and try fish & chips.  It was actually pretty good!  I absolutely HATE seafood but I tried it anyway and was pleasantly surprised.  I decided I’m not going to let my picky tastebuds hold me back from cultural experiences…except for the whole black and white pudding nonsense, I’m fine with watching other people eat that.  Actually no, I’m not.  That’s just gross.  Anyway, back to RAG week.  It was a lot of fun, I met a lot of new people, did fun stuff, went new places.  I’m glad its not every week, though.  It was a little intense for me but I’m glad we all got to experience it.

Apologies to my family reading this because there is a lot of mention of alochol, but I haven’t really mentioned it and its definitely a part of the culture here.  And since the drinking age is 18 in Ireland its perfectly legal!  Plus I’m uber responsible, so no worries, ‘rents.  But while I’m on the topic I’ll tell ye about the Jameson Distillery.

The Jameson Distllery is in Middleton, not too far from Cork.  I know zilch about inner workings of whiskey making but I’m always up for learning about things that will get you far in life.  The tour of the distillery was pretty cool.  Our tour guide was French which I thought was a little odd and took away from the Irishness of it all but whatever, she knew her stuff.  We learned all about the differences between Jameson and other types of whiskey and the aging process of whiskey and tons of other stuff.  It was actually really interesting.  There are so many things that go into making the flavor of the whiskey perfect.  The type of wood they use for the barrels its stored in, how long its in the barrel for (I think its a minimum of three years), how many times its distilled, and a bunch of other stuff.  In the U.S. there is a law that whiskey has to be stored in brand new barrels (of course..Americans pshh) but the Irish re-use barrels to give the whiskey more flavor..no wait, flavour.  And Jameson whiskey is distilled three times whereas scotch whiskey or Jack Daniels is only distilled once or twice.  At the end of the tour our tour guide asked for volunteers to taste different types of whiskey and compare them.  Chrissy, Marlene, and I all got picked and Julia took pictures.  We got to try a little less than a shot’s worth of Jack Daniels, Johnny Walker Black Label, and of course, Jameson and compare the flavors.  As we were tasting them she was explaining all the details about the way they were made and I could actually taste the difference.  I like Jameson the best, not only because they were giving me free whiskey, but it really was the best.  After that they give everyone a free drink of Jameson.  I was a badass and drank it straight.

I would add cool pictures to illustrate my exotic life but my computer is on the fritz and freaks out every time I plug in my camera or external hard drive, where all of my pictures are saved.  Maybe later.  Just creep my Facebook for now.

Too many lenguas, hombre. Je suis jaloux.

I know I haven’t updated in a while, so let’s see what I can remember…I think I left off on my weekend in Galway.

After a few weekends in a row of going on trips I took it easy for a weekend.  It was the first weekend that I’d spent entirely in Cork, which was a little weird considering I’d already been here for so long.  Of course it rained so I spent a lot of time inside but it was nice to finally just relax and just do nothing for once.  The nothingness didn’t last forever, though.  That Sunday was the Superbowl, and even though I am not a huge football person I always watch the Superbowl.  I went to a pub to watch it but the pub CLOSED after the first quarter.  That would NOT happen in the good old U S of A, but here in Ireland there is a law stating that pubs have to close by a certain time on Sunday, even during the most holy Superbowl.  Kickoff wasn’t until 11:30PM here, so I guess it was slightly reasonable that they closed.  I came back to my apartment building and went to a party that my neighbors were having which ended up not being so much football-watching and a lot more attempting to explain what was going on to the Irish guys that were there (and eating the delicious guacamole that my neighbors made).  The Irish guys were pretty entertaining and had no idea what was going on; it actually turned out to be the most fun I’ve ever had at a Superbowl party, including last year when I learned that you can make someone’s drink overflow from a glass bottle by hitting the top of it with another…and that was fun.

That week my friend Bettina, who is from Austria, had a bunch of friends from home visit and they were loads of fun.  They all spoke great English even though its not their first language.  Everyone I’ve met here (besides us unintelligent Americans) is fluent in at least two languages, if not more.  It makes me insanely jealous and completely amazes me.  At any given time at a party or on a bus I’ll hear conversations flowing in four different languages but then everyone suddenly starts speaking in English.  A lot of people from other countries are taking Irish, which I’m taking as well, but I don’t know if I could learn a foreign language from someone who is speaking yet another foreign language.  Sometimes I really just think Americans are dumb.  I mean, after 14 years of Spanish classes I can definitely hold my own in a conversation, but I’m definitely in the minority, and I still don’t have the same language capabilities as the people I’ve met here.  Basically I’m just jealous of these European brains and their linguistic abilities.  Sorry for that tangent.

In other news I finally made some Irish friends!  I met a guy who plays ultimate frisbee at UCC and I mistakenly blurted out something along the lines of “I play frisbee!” even though I really don’t.  I have played frisbee, not well I may add.  Actually, the most accurate thing I could have said was “my friends play frisbee.”  There.  Once upon a time when I had free time I went to frisbee intramurals and played with my friends, but I was much better at bringing them orange slices and watching their tournaments than actually playing.  Anyway where this is going is that I went to a practice here and met some of the people that play, and they’re all really nice!  They didn’t even mind that I can’t really throw a frisbee.  I’ve made pretty much 0 Irish friends since I’ve been here (I seem to only attract Americans and the occasional person from a random country) but my luck finally changed.  I ended up meeting them out a few times and even got to experience an Irish 21st, which I have to say, is much better than an American 21st.  Classier.  I’ll leave it at that.  Great craic!

Since I haven’t updated in so long there is much more to share, but I’ll do it in bits.  Stay tuned!

More Moher, Please!

It is impossible for me to stay in Cork on the weekends.  I love Cork, but I do enough exploring during the week.  I’m proud to say I haven’t wasted a single weekend lounging around since I’ve been here.  By the way, today marks my first full month in Ireland!  After being antsy during the week last week, a few of us took a trip to Galway for the weekend.  I initially planned on studying abroad in Galway so I was super excited to finally travel there.  It did not disappoint in the least 🙂

We took a bus on Friday around noon (toting many peanut butter sandwiches and apples as per usual) and got to Galway around 4ish.  Again, I slept most of the ride so I can’t tell you if it was a pretty drive or not.  Sorry.  But I woke up once we got there and that’s all that really matters.  Marlene and I know a girl who lived on our floor freshman year who is studying in Galway so we met up with her and she let us cook dinner at her house (we saved tonsss of money by doing this instead of dining out for every meal).  We watched our favorite Irish dating show (Take Me Out…look it up, you won’t regret it) and headed back to hostel to get ready.  It turns out that Miz (our friend) lives way further from the city center than we realized.  It took around 30 minutes to walk back to our hostel.  I guess that was alright since we’d just had sumo wrestler portions of pasta, though.  We ended up wandering to two bars that night, both of which had live bands, which I’ve discovered I LOVE.  I’ve only been to one place in Cork with a live band but it was more of a sit down and watch kind of place (and everyone was at least 20 years older than me) but in these places people were dancing and being social and whatnot.  It was grand as the Irish would say.

Saturday was our big day out.  We found a pretty cheap tour that covered everywhere we wanted to go and it ended up being great.  First we stopped at the Aillwee Caves, but we didn’t actually go in.  Well, most of the people on our tour did, but we didn’t realize it would cost an extra 5

Poulnabrone

euro, so we opted for the free “Woodland Walk.”  Who wants to see some lame caves anyway?  The Aillwee caves are in a region called The Burren, where the mountains are covered in rocks.  After our woodland adventure we walked a little way up the mountain and it was just rock after rock after rock, not all of them stable.  It was cool to move up the mountain and be able to see the landscape, though.  We also stopped at a thing called Poulnabrone, or Portal Tomb.  Poulnabrone means “the hole of sorrows.”  The tomb was used around 3,000 BC and when it was excavated there were remains from over 20 adults and children, plus other artifacts, found inside.  It kind of reminds me of Stonehenge.  Sorry for getting nerdy there but I thought it was really interesting 🙂

After those little stops we moved onto the main event- the Cliffs of Moher!  I’d heard amazing things about the Cliffs and was excited to take beautiful pictures and just marvel at them.  Since its not at the height of tourist season (nowhere near it), we didn’t have to wait in any sort of lines or navigate around groups to take pictures and whatnot.  The Cliffs are absolutely gorgeous.  If I could post every single picture on here, I would.   The sad part is that none of my pictures actually capture how beautiful they were; no picture could.  We broke a few rules and climbed up onto a high bank of grass and ended up getting some amazing shots (sorry mom).

The Cliffs were used in the 6th Harry Potter movie and Inception, so now of course I’m going to watch those movies again until I find the scenes with the Cliffs.  The waves below the Cliffs are great for surfing (not that I would know, but bus driver Billy said so), and surfing movies or videos, or whatever surfer people watch, have been shot there as well.  Our bus driver (who was just a wealth of information and corny jokes) also told us that people have died at the Cliffs (duh) but very recently there was an abandoned car found in the parking lot and the owner was nowhere to be found.  Later on, the body of a German tourist was found on the shore, and he was found to be the owner of the car.  There is no way to be sure, but it was thought to be an accident.  So, if you travel to the Cliffs, wear good sneakers and be careful!

After the Cliffs of Moher we stopped at a smaller set of sea cliffs in a town called Ballyreen.  These were nowhere near as high as the Cliffs of Moher

sea cliffs in Ballyreen

but they were just as beautiful.  Plus, the sun was setting while we were there and made it even more amazing.  We walked right to the edge of the cliffs and looked into the water.  These are just on the side of a road in a small town.  I can’t imagine living so close to something so gorgeous.

A lot of the time its easy to forget that I’m in another country.  I haven’t experienced any type of culture shock or anything and I’ve gotten used to hearing the accent, so most of the time I just bop along on my way and then I remember I’m in Ireland when I hear people say funny phrases that I don’t understand.  On our way back to Galway something odd happened that reminded me I was certainly not in Kansas anymore (well New York..you get it).  Our bus driver slowed down so that we could look at yet another farm then started to drive off.  Then, he threw the bus in reverse and started staring intently at a cow that was lying down.  He explained that it is not normal for cows to be lying down like this.  Then, after staring at her for a few more seconds, nonchalantly said, “yeah…I don’t think she’s breathing.  I think she’s dead. [pause] Yup, she’s not breathing.  She probably died in childbirth.  We should tell the farmer.”  From here he stopped at two houses and a shop attempting to find the farmer.  The farmer wasn’t home so he left a message with the owner of the shop across the street.  Only in Ireland would you go on a wild farmer chase to deliver news about a cow.  But, something else that reminded me that I was not home was how natural it seemed for the bus driver to go out of his way while he was working to tell the farmer about his cow.  People here are so much more considerate of others.  Its not a cold “every man for himself” type of vibe that I get at home; people truly care about others and will go out of their way to help them.  America, take note.

We ended up seeing one of the bands from Friday again on Saturday night but we stayed for more than a few songs this time.  They were AWESOME.  They only played covers, which I liked, because then you don’t stand there awkwardly bopping around to a song you don’t know, and they did rock versions of “Telephone” by Lady GaGa and “Lose Yourself” by Eminem.  I approve.  We also splurged and each got a Baby Guinness, which are apparently popular everywhere in Ireland except for Cork (Cork loves its Beamish).  It was ridiculous to pay 5 euro for a shot, but we’d been frugal the whole weekend, so why not?  I just looked it up to see what is actually in a Baby Guinness, and there is no Guinness (which must be why it tastes so good); its just coffee liqueur and Baileys.  Yum yum.

Sunday we wandered around the city before anything was open (literally everything is closed until at least 11:00 am) and just enjoyed the sights without crowds of people.  We trekked over to Salthill, an area right outside of Galway that has a gorgeous bay and shoreline.  It kind of reminded me of Cape Cod.  We also made our way to the Galway Cathedral and the Spanish Arch.  After treating ourselves to a real meal (with 20% discount coupons, of course) we walked around Shop Street and went in some touristy shops.  I bought myself a pair of fleece-lined hand made wool socks which I’m actually wearing right now…best investment I’ve made thus far.

Well, if you’ve made it to this point, congratulations and thank you for reading all of that.  Who knows where this weekend will take me.  I’ll be sure to update 🙂  Slán!

If I Could Rhyme Something With ‘Dublin’ Then This Post Would Have A Cooler Name

To celebrate our friend Kate’s birthday, I tagged along with a group of eight other girls to Dublin two weeks ago.  I’m awful at updating this..my apologies.  It was still dark when I walked to the bus station at 7:30 AM, but I’m slowly learning to never be shocked at the lack of sunlight here.  After a nice (chilly) bus ride through the countryside, we got into Dublin at about 12:30 and walked to our hostel.  I was kind of surprised at what we found.  I expected the hostel to be more…well, hostile.  You’ve seen that crazy Quentin Tarantino movie, right?  Well, thankfully, this was nothing like that.  The woman at the front desk was adorable and managed to get eight of us in the same room (one girl ended up in a different room down the hall).  We went down to our room and met a Mexican girl who was already in there.  She was on her way out and told us we could use her laptop if we wanted to.  She left the room and left her laptop on a chair.  Just like that.  People here are so trusting.  We didn’t really look like hardened criminals (we were sitting in a circle eating peanut butter sandwiches and apples while giggling and taking pictures), but even still, I don’t know if I would have done the same thing.  After we were (sort of) full from our super hearty sandwiches we headed off to the Guinness Factory!

Outside of the Guinness Factory!

The Guinness Factory was about a 40 minute walk from our hostel but we hadn’t seen any of the city yet, so that was perfect.  After nearly being blown away by the wind (I did not realize that Dublin was now the windy city), we made it to the factory and proceeded to take a million pictures of everything that said Guinness on it.  Why?  Because we could.  I didn’t know what to expect at the Guinness factory; I’d heard mixed reviews, but it ended up being pretty cool.  We walked our way through the four ingredients of beer (which I now know are wheat, barley, hops, and water), learned about the Guinness Master Brewers, saw old Guinness advertisements, displays of Guinness around the world, and anything else related to that bitter dark liquid that you could possibly imagine.  It was set up like a museum, and since I’m a dork and love museums, it was right up my alley.  I also got really excited because my last name was everywhere so I felt kind of like I belonged…I mean, at one point in time my family had to have brewed beer, right?

Hey, that's me!

 

At the top of the factory there is the Gravity Bar, a circular bar with glass walls and plenty of beer.  From there you have a 360 degree view of Dublin to enjoy while sipping your complimentary pint.  And that is just what I did.  Sipped it.  I got nowhere near finishing the thing, which was a little embarrassing when I was standing next to my Austrian friend who finished in under ten minutes (she says its just because she’s Austrian..its also because I’m a wimp).   What a champ.  Its just not for me, though.  Sorry, Arthur Guinness.

My first Guinness!

 

Even though Guinness is heavy enough to be considered a meal, we wanted some real food after an arduous day of enjoying a foreign city (poor us, right?).  We found a cute little restaurant and waited what felt like an eternity for our food.  I’m sure it took a normal amount of time but our growling stomachs were much louder than a voice of reason at that point.  One thing I’ve noticed about restaurants here is that the service is very different.  At home I’m used to constantly being annoyed by the server.  They always manage to walk up to you table and ask how the food is just as you’ve stuffed your mouth full of something and can’t answer them.  Here, they take your order, bring you your food and never come back.  Literally.  Our first night in Cork we were waiting for our check but couldn’t find our waiter.  We asked someone to find and they said he’d gone home.  This happened AGAIN at this restaurant.  Either we dine at really awkward shift-changing times, or they just don’t have the same annoying approach to serving customers as Americans.  Either way, we ate and left.  Next order of business: a night out on the town.

When we headed back to the hostel to get ready we met our other roommates.  We ended up with four guys; one from Sweden, two from Germany, and one from…I have no idea.  They were really friendly and two of them ended up coming out with us.  We decided to head to Temple Bar, which is a huge area of bars as well as the name of an actual bar itself.  We went to the actual Temple Bar first but it was claustrophobia central.  Waaay to many people and no possible way to move/breathe/sit down.  After ten minutes of awkwardly standing in the middle of a crowd we headed out to find a new place.  There are always people on the street promoting bars and nightclubs and they usually give you little coupons for drinks or whatever so we decided to take a man up on his lovely advertisement for a nightclub.  I think we managed to find the absolute lamest bar in all of Dublin.  Possibly in all the world.  I’m not exaggerating.  As we headed down the cheesy carpeted steps we realized this is NOT what we thought.  There was a weird unidentifiable smell emanating from every object in the room.  One drunk lonely man danced by himself while an older couple sat a table sipping cocktails.  About 30 disco balls lined the ceiling.  Videos of 80s hits were being projected on the walls.  I felt like I walked into..well, a Madonna video circa 1987.  At least the bar was aptly names…perhaps the one thing they did well.   It was just bad.  We made a few more attempts to find a place to go but ended up splurging on 99 cent chocolate cookies and eating them on the floor of the hostel.  Just as fun.  Maybe next time, Dublin.

Trinity Castle...I mean, College.

After waking up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of the hostels free breakfast, we did some sight seeing.  We went to Trinity College, which was gorgeous, St. Stephen’s Green (again, beautiful), Grafton Street, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral (well, we saw the outside), and wandered around to random places.  Trinity College looks nothing like a college.  It looks more like a fort or a castle.  The ground is cobblestone and all of the buildings are amazing.  I thought UCC looked like a castle until I saw this place. Trinity College is a touristy thing to see in Dublin, but I think I would feel weird if people were always walking around taking pictures of my school.  People do that at Marist but they’re mostly biddies and they’re all holding red solo cups and wearing bikinis on the library lawn, but a few are classy like myself and take pictures of the river sans drinking memorabilia.  But, I digress..

Part of Dublin Castle

We moved onto St. Stephen’s green to get a taste of mother nature.  St. Stephen’s green is a huge park with gardens and a pond (and a ton of cute little kids) in the middle of Dublin.  We walked around and took a tonnn of pictures and just enjoyed the fresh air and came up with schemes to coerce people into letting us borrow their adorable children for the afternoon.  Kids are just so much cuter when they gurgle with an Irish accent. From there we went to Grafton Street.  It was…well I don’t really know.  Busy.  And not really anything too exciting.  Besides the fact that its quoted in the song “Before the Worst” by The Script, I don’t really get the draw of it.  A few of us headed over the Dublin Castle which in my opinion was less of a castle than Trinity, but it was still neat.  We didn’t take a tour of the inside because we were running low on time (and money) so we wandered over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  We learned that you had to pay to see the inside so we decided that the outside was beautiful enough.  We still had time to kill before our bus so we sat on a bench by the River Liffey and just people watched for a little.  We got some lunch and ran into quite a few of Dublin’s resident crazies (a woman wandering the street with a half empty bottle of vodka, a toothless man carrying a boombox and dancing on the sidewalk, and a man who pulled out a diamond ring and proposed to Chrissy through a cafe window) then headed to the train station.  A few magazines and another peanut butter sandwich later we were finally back in Cork.

I enjoyed Dublin a lot but it made me really happy that I’m staying in Cork.  I’m not much of a city person to begin with, but I’ve somehow managed to fall in love with Cork already.  Dublin was a little too much for me; very cool to visit but I don’t think I could live there.  Too much of a big city for me.  Home sweet Cork 🙂

Well, in an hour I’m heading to Galway for the weekend.  Maybe you’ll read about it in two weeks 😉

Our group at St. Stephen's Green

 

A Bunch of Blarney

Sorry about taking so long to update! I have to take the time to make sure my posts are witty and fun so I don’t bore everyone.  Now that I’ve said that, I hope everyone actually thinks my posts are witty and fun or I’ll just sound like an idiot.  Anywho, from where I left off..

Last Saturday I went to Blarney Castle with a group of people.  I’ve gotten to know other international students (a lot of them from the Midwest…I might start calling soda “pop” if I’m not careful) so we’ve been sticking together on our nights out and day trips and such.  Anyway, Blarney Castle is actually really close to Cork, only about a 30 minute bus ride.  (Oh yes-the bus.  We missed it at first.  Oops…at least we know how the bus station operates now.)  We got lucky with sunny weather, although there was plenty of mud.  We went straight to the castle once we got onto the grounds.  It isn’t a lavish royal building that many of you are picturing…it’s a big rock with a staircase and rooms carved out.

Blarney Castle

I’m sure there was some rockin’ decor back in the day (hah..get it?) but that’s long gone.  It was a lot smaller than I expected.  And by small I mean you probably need to be around 4 feet tall to feel comfortable in there.  The staircases were narrow and steep (not to mention circular and wet with only a trusty rope to hold onto that has been there for longer than I care to know).  Some of the stairs were barely wider than my foot.  I hope that the people who lived there were sure footed (or didn’t mind breaking a lot of bones from falling).

The view at the top of the castle is actually beautiful.  The top of the castle is open, and you can see all around the grounds and beyond.  And, because of the small window of precipitation-less weather, we were able to enjoy it and take far too many pictures.  But of course, the main event at the top of Blarney Castle is to kiss the Blarney Stone.  This was not at all what I pictured.  You do not, as I thought, walk up to a stone and simply kiss it.  No, no…something that is such a famous tradition needs to be much more of a production.  I didn’t realize the stone was over a ledge about 100 feet from the ground.  To take part in the ever-popular kissing of the stone you have to lie on your back while an old man holds your hips (he didn’t seem that creepy) and slither backward and down toward the stone.  The whole thing takes about ten seconds, but it was still pretty cool.  It was actually a little scary because when you kiss the stone you’re looking at the ground that is way too far below you and trusting this little old man not to drop you.  I mean, yeah, you get to hold onto two bars and there is a sort of grate below you to make sure you don’t fall, but it was still scary.  First thing crossed off my European Bucket List!

Kissing the Blarney Stone!

Kissing the Blarney Stone is supposed to give you “bua na cainte”  (“the gift of gab”).  Winston Churchill kissed the Blarney Stone and he was one of the greatest orators of his time.  Coincidence?  No sir.  Other famous people that have kissed the stone are the guys from American Choppers, Bill Clinton, and Mick Jagger.  So I’ve basically kissed a few celebrities.  Kind of.  Plus millions of other people who are probably nowhere near as cool.  After telling that to one of my friends he said, “do you realize that it only takes one case of the herps to start a Blarney Stone epidemic?” Direct quote.  Thanks for that.

After kissing the stone we wandered around the grounds a little more.  Unfortunately Blarney House was closed, but still pretty to look at.  Next we came across Rock Close, a sort of garden on the grounds.  There were big boulders and plants around part of the river and a little waterfall.  The site is actually a bunch of Druid relics, including a “witch’s kitchen,” a sacrificial altar, a set of wishing steps, and a Druid cave and rock circle.  Of course, my camera died before we got to this point so I will have to steal pictures from friends (thanks, Facebook).  After this we’d seen most of the grounds, minus the part of the gardens where all of the flowers have signs with skulls and crossbones, so we decided to get some food.  We went to a cute little pub with a fire and traditional Irish food to get a cultural experience (scrambled eggs are soo cultural).  The bartender knew where Poughkeepsie was.  Small world.

“‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses
He never misses to grow eloquent;
‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber,
Or become a member of Parliament.
“A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or
An out and outer to be let alone;
Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him,
For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.”

-The Groves of Blarney

First Week in Cork

I’ve been in Ireland for almost a week now, so its probably time to let everyone know I’m alive.  Obviously I am, but there’s much more to tell.

We arrived in Cork on Sunday around 5:00 when our bus from Dublin dropped us off in the middle of Cork.  Literally in the middle of Cork.  Thank God Marlene (one of the girls that also came from Marist) had a map and is way more direction savvy than I am, or I would probably still be sleeping on a bench somewhere. After dragging my metric ton of luggage (okay, I’m exaggerating a tiny bit) through random city streets and little alleyways we found the building that we had been staring at on Google Maps for the past few months, except this time it was real.  Our building is close to the River Lee and only about a 5 minute walk from the city center.  After we unpacked a little bit we met up with the other girls from Marist and headed out on a mission to find food.  After almost a full day of traveling we’re ready to start gnawing at our own hands but I’m sure Cork has food that tastes better.  We ended up finding a pub that was televising a professional darts competition on tv on several huge screens (some screens were even in 3D) that served its Guinness with a side of food, so we figured that would be a good place to go.  Sadly, no one had Guinness at our first meal, but a lot of the tables actually had taps in the middle of them.  Throughout the entire meal we watched the darts competition and tried to understand it.  Everyone else understood and was cheering, but we just pretended.

The main quad at UCC.

The next day we explored the city and our campus to try to get a feel for things.  I was not aware that I was going to school at Hogwarts.  Seriously.  The school is beautiful.  I mean, Marist is gorgeous, but some buildings at UCC look like castles.  Some of the buildings are very modern but some others are quite a few years older.  On my tour I learned that one of the buildings used to be used a site for public hangings, but they eventually had to be outlawed because too many students were skipping class to watch.  I’m going to guess that this building is probably haunted.

 

Our first day walking around the city had me totally confused and convinced that I would never be able to find my way around alone. The city is beautiful.  Its exactly what I picture when I think of a typical Irish city.  A lot of winding little alleys, colored houses, pubs, churches, and of course, a little bit of rain.  The rain actually isn’t that bad; aside from today it has barely rained at all.  Although my apartment is 25 minutes from the campus, it only takes around 5 minutes to walk to the city center and I’ve already taken complete advantage of that.  I’ve gone off on side streets to find little shops and restaurants and I feel like I’ve never passed the same places twice.  I could probably walk around forever and keep finding new places.

The River Lee

Although I’m still carrying my trusty map from the tourist center that highlights every McDonald’s in Cork (I’m not sure if I should be offended by this), I’m starting to learn my way around a little better.  Today I even went to the grocery store by myself (gasp!) although I had to make a few loops around a section of the city to find it.  One thing that I’ve noticed, and that I really enjoy, is that people here are so much more friendly.  At first I was a little creeped out by strangers striking up conversations with me, but now I realize that people here are just genuinely friendly, and that not everyone you meet is trying to steal your purse/wallet/iPod/cellphone, as I suspect with all suspiciously friendly New Yorkers.

Classes here are very interesting as well.  I’ve only had one so far, but we have one paper and a final exam.  Most classes have one paper and a final or just a final.  I’m so used to Marist, where every class has several papers and projects on top of a few tests.  I feel like I’m going to have so much free time.  But hey, I’m not complaining.

Well, that’s all for now.  Hopefully I’ll do some sightseeing this weekend and have some interesting things to share.  For now, I’m going to be super American and catch up on Jersey Shore while eating some ramen-esque soup.  Enjoy the weekend, everyone!