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

 

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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!