Monday, 8 December 2014
Hello, all! My name is Sydney Rae Davis, and I am a member of the Harlaxton College class of Fall 2014. After spending a semester here at Harlaxton and traveling around Europe, I've learned a few things about how to make travel as easy, safe, and fun as possible. And I'm going to share them with you in the hope of making your semester abroad as awesome as possible.
1. Pick your top 3-5 places you want to visit.
Do this before you begin your travels, and then talk to people to find out who else wants to go there. Make plans, and go. It's easy, and picking you top 3-5 can prevent you from being upset at the end of the semester because you didn't get to go to that one place you've wanted to see your whole life.
2. Know how many weekends you have to travel
Mark them down in your calendar. Also, be aware of the fact that you won't be able to travel every weekend (well at least not somewhere far every weekend). Look at the Harlaxton calendar to see which weeks you have class on Friday, and when your British Studies field trips are.
3. Pay for a trip 4-6 weeks in advance if possible
This is when plane & train tickets are usually the cheapest. Also, you'll be sure to get a hostel if you plan far enough in advance. You don't want to wait, because plane tickets that were £30 become up to £120 the week of your planned travel. Also, hostel availability can run out.
4. If you're going to a non-English speaking country, learn the basics:
"Hello, yes, no, thank you, & bathroom." In the Netherlands and France, most of the people I encountered spoke English (Amsterdam more so than Paris), but there is the occasional person who will have no idea what you're asking if you say "bathroom?"
5. Get to the airport 3 hours early for an international flight
You won't always need 3 hours to get through security and such, but sometimes there are security lines (or queues, rather) literally a mile long.
6. Put all your toiletries in a plastic bag before you get to the airport
When going through security, all liquids/creams/gels have to be 100 ml or under, and they all have to fit into ONE small plastic baggy. Taking care of this before you get to the airport eliminates the stress of fumbling with your coat, laptop, backpack, and travel documents all while not trying to hold the line up. Don't be that person. Come prepared.
7. Get a portable phone charger
This is one of the two things I really wish I had while I was over here. The other is a self-filtering water bottle.
8. Check the app store before you go
A lot of big European cities have phone app maps that work without Wi-Fi, which you will not have during 75% of your weekend travels. These are great.
9. Don't pack shoes for the weekend
Unless you’re going somewhere nice and absolutely must have a pair of heels or ballet flats, just wear the shoes on your feet for the weekend.
10.Don't rush through a city
You'll get exhausted, you won't enjoy it as much, and your feet will hurt. None of these makes for a fun weekend.
11.Never leave your bag unattended
Because pickpockets. If you have to sleep in a public area like an airport or a ferry, make sure your arm is through at least one of the loops of your bag. And make sure your passport is in a carrier around your neck.
12.Carry cash & a credit/debit card
A lot of places like markets and stands accept cash only, while some places only accept cards with a minimum purchase of about £5. Also, using cash helps you better gauge how much you're spending. But if you lose your cash for whatever reason, you still have your card(s). Get money out of the Harlaxton ATM before you go. You'll still be able to use ATMs in the places you're going, but they'll charge you a fee.
13.Scarves become pillows on public transportation
Need to keep warm and sleep well? Check.
Sunglasses are the one thing that I forgot on every single trip and almost always wished I'd had. Even though it's not summer, the sun can still be pretty intense, which can get annoying if you're walking around outside all day. Also, they protect your eyes. That's cool too.
15.If you're lost, ask a police man/woman
If you don't know where you're supposed to be going, you can ask a police man or woman, and 99% of the time, he or she will be able to point you in the right direction if not give you detailed steps of how to get there. Be sure to say thank you!
16.Have a folder for travel documents
Print all documents needed for your trip (boarding passes, bus tickets, etc.) and put them in your bag two days in advance.
17.Do not fill out surveys
In a lot of touristy places, there are people who will first ask you, "Do you speak English?" and then proceed to ask you to fill out a survey. Don’t. A lot of these people are pickpockets who double-team tourists, and have their friend take your cell phone or your passport out of your bag while you're busy filling out their survey. It sounds crazy, but it happens. So, if someone holding a clipboard near the Eifel Tower asks you if you speak English, it is best to say no (No is the same in many languages) or just don't respond at all and keep moving.
Well, thank you for reading, and I hope this list will help you in your travel endeavors. I wish you all well!
Monday, 24 November 2014
While it's been outrageously fun to travel Europe like a poor college kid for the past three months, one of my favorite experiences from Harlaxton has been the Meet-a-Family Experience. It was nice to still have a sense of home, even when separated from family by thousands of miles. To my Meet-a-Family—Maureen, Keith, and Callum—thank you all so much for graciously having us over and feeding us almost weekly. And thank you for not only hosting Katy and I, whom you had planned on, but also adopting Cody and Raquel.
Every family in the Meet-a-Family Experience program functions a bit differently. As far as my family, though, we gathered almost each Wednesday for dinner. It was so good to have a home cooked meal to look forward to each week after a ton of Refectory food. (No offense, Refectory food.) We really got to know the family as well and developed a better understanding of current British culture. For example, I first learned that the UK referred to bathrooms as toilets at my family's house. And if you ever want to visit one, knowing that they are called toilets in the UK is pretty important. Ever asked a British person for the nearest bathroom? You get a look of confusion and a "Sorry?" I also learned the term for zucchini at their house: courgette. Still waiting for that one to come in handy…
To current students, I'm sorry if you all did not get to participate in the Meet-a-Family Experience. To future students, I would definitely recommend it. It's a great way to get to know some local people and really develop an understanding and appreciation for Grantham, and England, and the United Kingdom as a whole.
Here is my Meet a Family group minus Raquel, who was taking the photo.
-Sydney Rae Davis
Tuesday, 18 November 2014
To be bluntly honest with everyone, I didn't have a strong reason for going to Denmark, or any reason for that matter. I just knew I wanted to visit another European country (besides the UK) where English was widely spoken and I could get a round trip ticket on the cheap. Denmark met all of the criteria. Feeling the heavy, anxiety inducing end-of-the-semester pressure to get out there and be some sort of champion adventurer of global citizenry, I had booked a hostel room, train ticket, and an easyJet flight before I actually grasped what I was doing. I'm not a spontaneous man, and for once I think I was too surprised with myself to second-guess my decision or feel anxious about this solo undertaking.
So in a couple weeks, I was off. Due to my overcautious planning and the superiority of British public transportation I arrived at London Gatwick around 9PM…….for my 7AM flight. I don't think you need to be much of a traveller to appreciate how long of a layover ten hours is. I think I'm actually entitled to some sort of squatter's rights for the bench outside the Costa in the South Terminal, but I digress. By the time I boarded my flight I would have flown to Kabul if it meant seeing something other than the inside of Gatwick airport.
My flight was comfortable and the time passed quickly, but that's probably because I fell asleep immediately after take off and woke up ten minutes before touch down. Right away, passport control made me realize just how different of a cultural and political setting I was in. I don't think the officer so much as gave me a second look before stamping my passport and sending me on my way. I was on the metro into the city when I met my first crisis.
I was still getting used to the way British public transport worked, and it was no easier in Denmark despite all the instructions being in English as well as Danish. I'm sure you've heard of someone riding a train in circles, but I may be the first person you've heard of getting stuck on a train going in a straight line. The frustrating, sinking feeling when the train started heading in reverse back towards the airport pushed me to do something I was hoping to avoid, asking a local for help, as a foreigner. Now I had done my research, I knew that a lot of Danes could speak English well, but I would be doing the same thing I found annoying about foreigners, just go somewhere and speak your native tongue and hope they understand you? It seemed so rude. But I had no other option and asked a metro attendant, and they responded, politely enough, in perfect English. It was a strange feeling and I know why, it was the first time in my life when I had truly been a foreigner. Can't say I cared for it very much.
There wasn't too much of the day left by the time I checked into my hostel, I walked around some downtown and wondered if I got lost how would I ask for directions. Attempting to either spell or pronounce Danish street names seemed equally impossible. So I limited myself to a set square area around my hostel where it would just be a matter of a right turn to get myself back. Not the most adventurous day, I'll admit.
By the time it was dark, or as it is known in Denmark during winter, "most of the time", I was inside the hostel lobby. As far as I could tell, staying outside after dark in November was not something the Danes enjoyed, and I can tell you it is certainly not something a Bahamian does. So there I was, inside and warm drinking coffee and a few pints of Carlsberg while reading a book I had bought at the airport. It was a good feeling; cozy, content, secure. The Danes have a word for this sort of thing, "hygge". While I'm sure there are more conservative elements who would argue that my simple reading and beer drinking was not real Danish hygge, I couldn't help but feel I was participating in my own way in something from an entirely different culture I had just been exposed to for the first time. Anyone can be cozy, but this was my hygge, it had to be.
My next day came and went very quickly, mostly because I accidentally slept in until 4 PM. I didn't have time to wallow in self-pity about wasted daylight, and threw myself back onto the streets to experience something. Honestly my only real plan had been a free walking tour that morning and it should go without saying that I wasn't able to participate. So I just sort of wandered. The bright neon of Friday night soon took over the grey November day and spilt bright blue and red artificial light onto Stroget, the main shopping street of Copenhagen. I think just about anything a man could want was on that street, but to a college student with less than 1000 kroner (about 100 pounds) in his pocket it was a brightly lit, dazzling tease beckoning you to leave just a bit of your money inside one of its stores. I tried not to spend too much time there. From there, I could see Tivoli, rides flying and zipping around the park like colorful airplanes way too low to the ground. I walked over and peered through the iron gates. A far cry from the grey, metal behemoths like Universal Studios or Disney World, Tivoli seemed to be made up of rides inside an actual park, the greenery of ideal picnic grass sitting at the feet of illuminated roller coasters. Walking more in my self-established "safe zone" I stood outside monuments and massive museums. A shame I hadn't been up in time to actually go inside them, but at least they were nice on the outside too.
Eventually I came upon Southern Cross Pub, an Australian style establishment. An Australian style pub in downtown Copenhagen? I could not resist the exquisite cultural clash, and my sore feet and need for warmth pushed me through the door. Everything felt very familiar, low ceiling, dim light, copies of The Sun and The Daily Mail at the bar, Liverpool Football Club paraphernalia, I guess it made sense considering I had been essentially living in England for over three months. As I sat down and ordered a pint of Carlsberg, I felt like I was being observed by a familiar face. Which made sense as I immediately afterward noticed the face side of a Bahamian one dollar bill smack right in front me. I needed a picture. The bartender noticed me taking pictures of his money wall and I explained I was Bahamian, and never expected to see a dollar here of all places. He was Australian, not much older than myself, and accompanied by a Danish man of similar age. I explained to the Dane about what and where the Bahamas was. It was so refreshing to explain my nationality to someone so far removed that they accepted everything at face value. Usually explaining my Bahamian citizenry to an American or a British person meant a song and dance about my ethnicity and how I was not actually a missionaries' child or some sort of criminal evading paying taxes to the IRS. I actually managed to strike up friendly conversations, something that I found hard to do in English pubs. I feel like I learned more about Danish culture in the two hours I was in that pub than I had in all previous thirty-six hours or so of my visit. I got ear fulls about how I should come back for pickled herring for Danish Christmas Lunch (I will happily pass on that one), about rivalries with Swedish brothers-in-law (a common rivalry, apparently), how everyone had to learn English in school (watching Friends was a homework assignment!), and most entertaining, learning to play a Scandinavian version of Liar's Dice with some of the bartenders (it so happens I’m not very good at it).
The first minutes of the next day arrived, and I politely said farewell to my new mates and headed back to grab a few hours rest before my flight in the morning. As I boarded the plane I couldn't help but think that explaining my time in Copenhagen may sound incredibly boring if I listed what I actually did. But even though I may have slept too much and not done what most would consider the must see's and must do's of Copenhagen, I couldn't help but feel some pride and fulfillment in what I had managed to do. One of the Danes I talked to said "it's brave what you're doing, anytime you go anywhere, you are an ambassador for your country whether you want to be or not". Something about that stuck with me, and I hope maybe in the back of a few Danes' minds whenever they hear Bahamas, they'll think of that Bahamian from nowhere at the end of the pub.
P.S. Ms. Olk asked me if I would include a few pictures and I apologize. My photography is as much representational art in the same way a five year old's fingerpaints are Van Gogh masterpieces. Google images will serve you far better if you want to find out what Copenhagen really looks like.
Monday, 10 November 2014
Hey readers! My name is Jessie. I'm a nursing major at the University of Evansville and scheduled to graduate in May 2016. I've loved all of my time at UE so far, but nothing compares to this amazing semester abroad. Being at Harlaxton is like living in a fairy tale. Trips to foreign countries on the weekends and coming home to an amazing countryside manor make for a wonderful life. Recently, the school sponsored a trip to the Lake District, which is considered to be one of the UK's most beautiful areas – and for good reason. It's got hills, lakes, rivers, and plenty to do. Our hostel (pictured below) was on the shores of the lake in Ambleside, which meant stunning views every time I stepped outside. While there, I did both "excursions" sponsored by the school: canoeing and ghyll scrambling.
Canoeing was interesting. In true UK fashion, it rained off and on throughout our time on the lake. But, a little rain never killed anybody, and the clouds just added to the beauty of the area. Our guides were funny locals that encouraged us to make the trip fun. We paddled across the lake and up a little stream where most of us got stuck before the group was forced to turn around. The water was down in the stream, so our canoes wound up tangled in branches of trees and weeds or dragging the bottom. At one point, we went under a bridge (below) not much taller than our boats.
Ghyll scrambling was one of the best experiences I've had in the UK. I don't know about you, but before this trip I had never heard the word ghyll, and I'd certainly never heard of people scrambling one. Ghyll scrambling is essentially climbing/wading up a waterfall/stream. The ghyll we "scrambled" was called Stickle Ghyll. Although I couldn't take pictures during the activity (I didn't fancy a soaking wet phone), I do have a picture of where we climbed. Sometimes we found ourselves wading against the current, occasionally as deep as my ribs. We climbed up rocks, which was fun but challenging. When someone was too short to reach where they needed to be, or just needed a hand, everyone was more than happy to help out. At one point, our guides challenged us to climb across a fallen tree and scale the rocks on the opposite side (all while crossing chest deep water). This was probably my favorite part of the trip.
My friends and I started our weekend with a "Treetop Trek" adventure Friday morning. It was a high ropes course that took about an hour and a half to finish. It had swinging bridges, zip lines, and tight ropes, among other obstacles. Although there wasn't a view of the lake from the area, we did get to start our trip with great views of the trees and hills. The course started simple and close to the ground, but quickly advanced to higher and bigger obstacles (34 of them to be exact). We had lunch at the cafe at the top of the hill and walked back into town with just enough time for a rest before a hike.
During free time, most of us went for a hike (or two, or three). It was a great time, and a great chance for some beautiful pictures. My friends and I went for a more mild option and hiked around a waterfall. Unlike the scrambling, I stayed nice and dry this time. The streams around the park were crystal clear and surrounded by beautiful woods. There wasn't much climbing to be done, but we did venture down some rocks to the side of a stream for pictures (and to test the water's temperature…which was freezing cold).
We also used our free time to walk around in Ambleside, the adorable town we were staying in. It had plenty of shops and restaurants within walking distance. It was hilly with beautiful stone buildings and winding streets. Walking around felt like being on a movie set. Although it was mostly cloudy, when the sun came out it was beautiful.
The weekend was a huge hit. It gave me, and my classmates, a chance to get outside and be active for a couple of days: something I sorely miss from home.
Thanks for reading!
Monday, 3 November 2014
For knowing nearly nothing about it until we got there, Cardiff was a great time. A couple of the cool things about it are that it's relatively cheap and almost everything is within walking distance. Now, I wouldn't recommend spending your long weekend there. But if you're looking to go to Wales on a weekend, Cardiff is perfect for a short break.
Where we stayed
The hostel we stayed at--Riverhouse Backpackers--is by far the best one I've stayed at in Europe so far. We stayed in a 6 person mixed dorm that was not only spacious but contained lockers in which every traveler could put his or her possessions. The hostel also offered free WiFi and breakfast, which was an array of toast and jams, cereals, yogurts, pastries, and more. Not to mention, the hosts were very sweet and accommodating. I give it a ten out of ten.
What we did
The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner
Another advantage of the hostel is that it is very centrally located. It actually turned to be about a two-minute walk from a movie theatre, which came in handy since it was raining pretty heavily when we arrived. We couldn't really do anything else in the rain and we weren't hungry yet, so we saw The Maze Runner (great movie, by the way). The theatre, Vue, was also pretty cheaply priced at £6.65 per student ticket.
After the movie we were pretty hungry, so we walked to this pub close to both the movie theatre and our hostel called O'Neill's. I got mac and cheese with grilled chicken in it that was absolutely delicious. Again, it was pretty cheap at just £6 for absolutely delicious food.
Arcades in Wales are not what the typical American pictures at the mention of the word. Rather than areas that house tons of games and sugar-crazed children, Arcades in Wales are beautiful indoor/outdoor shopping centers that are all somewhat close together. They house coffee shops and tearooms, your typical stores like H&M, high end stores, and some quirky ones as well. It's definitely worth at least a walk through a few of them. The ones we went to are the Morgan Arcade and the Queen's Arcade.
If you're looking for a nice place to relax after some shopping or just to have coffee and enjoy nature, Bute Park is a great place to do so. It's not as stunning as Amsterdam's Vondelpark or expansive as London's Hyde Park, but it's still a very relaxing and beautiful environment. We saw lots of families talking walks, people biking and running, having picnics, and just hanging out.
It's difficult to say how I feel about this market, since I'm kind of in love with London's sprawling and delicious Borough market. The Cardiff Market was still good, though, and again cheap. I got a full breakfast for just £3.50, and it was pretty good. Instead of food, though, the market primarily sells goods, which surprised me. Still, I would say it's worth a visit. Also, I'm still trying to figure out what a dish of faggots and peas is...
National Museum Cardiff
I'm not a big fan of museums, but this one was free and we were close to it, so we ended up checking it out. There are two sections to the museum: natural history and art. We spent the majority of our time there in the natural history section, which admittedly was pretty cool. The art section... Well, this was one of the exhibits:
If you're unsure of what you're looking at, that's ok. I was very unsure after watching it circle around the metal track for a full minute. Maybe I just don't get visual art…? But then again, maybe mechanical goats are the very highest form of art in Wales. Who knows?
The rest of our time in Cardiff we mainly spent walking around and stopping at little street markets. Again, I wouldn't recommend a long weekend there, but if you're looking to spend a little time in Wales, Cardiff is a good destination.
Sydney Rae Davis
Wednesday, 15 October 2014
It's Erika again, and this time I'm talking about North Wales!
Everyone said Wales was a beautiful and relaxing weekend, and believe me when I say that is the best summary of Wales ever. Every view of Wales was beautiful, from the quaint coastal towns to the mines we visited. The entire visit was filled with wonderful side trips that kept everyone engaged and entertained.
Our first stop Friday morning was Chester, a really cool, little town that had way more than I was expecting. It's technically still in England, right on the border of Wales. The city looks so perfectly old fashioned yet modern and the blend makes you stop to stare at buildings. Plenty of the shops were located in buildings that had iron gargoyles surrounding the door frames or little touches that proved its true age. It was so cool to see Chester take advantage of their history and incorporate it into the modern world. Chester has the second most photographed clock in England, the Eastgate Clock. You can even walk right up to the top and get a great view of the city.
The clock was impressive, but there was just too much to see in a short period of time to pick one particular thing. Chester is one of those touristy towns that inspire street performers to entertain passersby. My group of friends was particularly entertained by a bird tamer who had massive owls that people could pet. I'm not afraid of owls or anything but the wing span of these birds had me keeping a wide perimeter. It was a totally random experience that just added to the charm of the trip. After the quick visit in Chester, we continued on to Llandudno (pronounced Lan-Did-No) and really got to see what Wales truly looks like.
That image above is the view from our hotel. Beachfront view 24/7, and it was even more beautiful in person. It was a really nice hotel, even if the carpet was ridiculously outdated. It had a grandparent's spare bedroom feeling and that was pretty cute to be honest. Llandudno was such a relaxed town. You could walk up and down the main city center pretty quickly and everyone was very easygoing and friendly. Something we weren't expecting was how quickly everything shut down. Most shops closed at 5:30 PM, which for Americans was crazy early for a Friday and Saturday night. It was pretty humorous to see everyone scramble to find dinner that first Friday night because everything closed as we realized we needed to eat. My roommate and I had an early night and watched bad reality TV shows before going to bed. This was a good choice since the next day was all about exploring a castle and the extra rest was well needed.
Saturday morning had us travelling to Caernarfon Castle. The castle was a cool visit because so much of it was up to individual exploration. We got to walk up the interior walls, and you could reach the top of the castle to see the town. The interior walls were not clearly marked so it was easy to walk right into one without realizing it. There was also an amazing little museum on the history of the Welsh military. I hadn't really thought about how the United Kingdom's military is separated, and it was a nice lesson in the sacrifices and accomplishments the Welsh military have made throughout history.
The castle is an important part of modern history because it is the castle that Prince Charles' investiture was held at. I suppose it was only fitting for the Prince of Wales to have the ceremony in Wales - I actually assumed it was held at Buckingham Palace. The town was also very lovely, and there were plenty of small little stores with engaging shop owners. I ended up wandering through a tiny basement bookstore that only sold books on hiking but the top level of the store sold antique jewelry. This combination made no sense to me but it was fun to explore it!
After our castle visit we continued on to Llanberis. This town was most known for being a slate mine before it closed in the 1930s. Now the area is a big tourist destination. The mountains look perfect for hiking, just filled with so much potential for adventure in them. I spent a great deal of time in the National Slate Museum. At first, it sounded like one of the worst museums I'd ever have to suffer through, but it turned out to be really interesting. The museum starts with a short film on the history of mining so you understand why it was so important, and from there you can look through various exhibitions and demonstrations. One of the most entertaining aspects of the visit was a live demonstration on splitting slate. Apparently no machine ever perfectly split slabs of slate as well as a human could, so humans were never outsourced in this aspect of mining. The professional that demonstrated how to split the slate was such an entertainer - he had everyone laughing while also being really impressed with his skill.
After we left Llanberis we returned to Llandudno. The ocean was just as beautiful the second night, and this night everyone was prepared to hunt down food before closing hours. I managed to get a little bit of shopping in (books of course, I can’t help myself!) before having dinner on the beach with friends. It was such a great time, even if those sea gulls were more intense than I was expecting. Plenty of people were very nearly attacked by those massive birds, but we didn't let them kill the fun. And lucky for us, people brought some dogs to the beach later and the birds suddenly had better places to be.
The next day we went to Swallow Falls, which is a massive waterfall that took my breath away. It's amazing how truly gorgeous nature can be sometimes. Everyone took a million pictures and tried to get every view possible. I spent an unreasonable amount of time taking the same pictures over and over again but changing the settings on my camera so it would be in black and white or sepia. I needed this magic in different styles apparently, but I don't even regret it. We then went into the town that is right next to Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed. That was a fun little venture mainly because all my group did was find food, and then ice cream (even though it was chilly outside!) and then went to the park. There was a guy with this contraption blowing huge amounts of bubbles all over the park. Mainly for some little kids but he gladly let us college students run around and pop them too. It was just a silly but cute way to end the trip. We all boarded the bus happy and relaxed but glad to get back to Harlaxton. North Wales was just amazing. It was nothing but beautiful sights and wonderful people. I can't wait to go back!
Until next time,
Thursday, 9 October 2014
Hey, Hey, Hey- I'm back keeping you in the loop about Harlaxton Happenings!
After all of us Harlaxton kids endured the Great Unpleasantness of the first British Studies exam, we called upon King Charles II's power of party and celebrated by jet setting across Europe. From Portugal to Greece to Germany, Harlaxton was everywhere this past weekend. However, I, like many of my other fellow students, hopped on some form of transportation and headed to England's neighbor- Ireland.
Spending the weekend in Ireland was a dream come true for me. Since I was a tiny tot in the second grade, Ireland has been my '#1 Bucket List Country' to visit, so it was crazy surreal to finally be experiencing this beautiful country. My friends (Shelby & Savannah) and I arrived in Dublin on Thursday afternoon, since we chose to travel independently. We made it to our hostel, Abraham's House (totally recommend!) and after a great lunch and a quick nap, we took off exploring the city of Dublin.
The city of Dublin was absolutely gorgeous. I'm not exactly sure how, but Dublin gives off the big city vibe, without the hustle and bustle of a typical big city. I felt like I could actually breathe, which was really nice after a long day of travel, and everybody was so kind. All of the landmarks and historical sites were incredibly close to one another, which allowed you to see a ton of the city in one short night. My friends and I followed the walking tour provided to us by Dr. Green and we had a blast. We saw the Bank of Ireland, the Famine Memorial, the governmental buildings, as well as several cathedrals. But our favorite site was Trinity College. We basically wanted to drop out of school and attend this college because it was so incredibly beautiful. The architecture was gorgeous and there was green space everywhere. My words can't do Trinity justice, so here are some pictures:
After becoming #OBSESSED with Trinity College, we met up with some of our friends on the school trip for a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. It was a very good meal, despite the fact the waiter had no idea what alfredo sauce was. All of us spent the night completing the walking tour and ended the night at the Ha'Penny Bridge. This particular bridge was stunning- it was my second favorite site after Trinity College, which is weird because I am terrified of walking bridges at night. The light from the bridge was reflecting perfectly off the water, which meant for really great photo opportunities.
On Friday morning, Shelby, Savannah, and I hopped on our bright green, free Wi-Fi equipped PaddyWagon to begin our 3-day tour of the Irish countryside. I cannot emphasize how amazing this particular tour was- it was worth every single pound, euro, and dollar spent. We saw so much of Ireland that we normally would not have been able to see on our own due to transportation limitations. Plus, our driver Tony (or as TripAdvisor reviews say, 'Jesus') was the cherry-on-top of our experience. He knew Ireland's history like the back of his hand, sang and played for us traditional Irish music, and stopped in the most random, beautiful places that truly showcased Ireland's beauty.
Our first stop was the village of Cong, which was where the John Wayne film, The Quiet Man, was filmed. I had no idea that we were stopping here, so it was a pleasant surprise when I hopped off the PW and saw an incredibly beautiful, quaint village. There was a peaceful stream running through the village, as well as gorgeous monastery ruins. Plus, we had an incredible day for exploring, as there was nothing but bright blue skies.
A short distance from the village of Cong, Tony stopped to show us an incredible view of Clew Bay, which is home to 365 islands. I legitimately lost my breath when Tony stopped the PW. The view was so awe-inspiring. The area that we stopped at is also home to a farmer that owns several Connemara ponies, and one of them just trotted right up to us, which was incredibly awesome. After the Clew Bay and Connemara ponies, we stopped at the base of the Twelve Bens, a small mountain chain in western Ireland. Once again, I was just amazed at the diversity of the Irish Countryside. As our last stop of the day, we visited the Quiet Man Bridge, which was a bridge used in the movie I mentioned earlier. There wasn't much to it, but once again, a very pretty view of the Irish countryside. After everyone got their pictures, we all hopped on to the PW and headed into Galway City for the night.
Our night in Galway was filled with a lot of night beach exploring, which was great. We went the long way around to the beach and a kind cop pointed us in the right direction on how to get back because he saw us standing on a street corner and staring at a map. But either way, we made it back and had a wonderful night! We woke up the next morning and made our way to the Cliffs of Moher, which was the highlight of the day. But along the way, we stopped at Dunguaire Castle, which overlooked a gorgeous bay area. So much wow. Tony then took us to some remnants of a church (again, so pretty against at bright blue sky) and we stopped at the "Baby Cliffs of Moher." The Baby Cliffs were just incredible. I was actually able to climb down into a ledge that overlooked the waves, and although I thought I was going to fall to my death any second, I am so glad that I did it because the view of the waves crashing against the rocks was amazing.
I guess that Tony heard our stomachs growling, and we stopped to have lunch about ten minutes away from the Cliffs of Moher. Being cheap, I only had a (delicious) sandwich and some amazing Roast Beef and Irish Stout chips. (Who would have thought that combination would have been good? I’m not sure but I am glad that they did.) Anyway, we headed along to the Cliffs of Moher and I was basically jumping up and down in my seat from excitement. I have been looking forward to seeing the Cliffs of Moher for so long and it was finally happening.
It's so so so hard to describe the Cliffs of Moher because their beauty is basically indescribable. I certainly didn't have any words besides "Wow" when I was there. Just incredible. Shelby, Savannah, and I hiked the right side of the Cliffs because Tony said that is where we would get the best view and he wasn’t lying. The water was a gorgeous blue and the way it was crashing against the gray and green rocks was unbelievable. I walked away incredibly impressed with the Cliffs. Again, I was sure that I was going to fall to my death, but I managed to take a quick peek over the edge and it was well worth the fright. Like before, words will never be able to give the Cliffs of Moher justice so here are some of the pictures I managed to snag:
As with all good things, the Cliffs of Moher had to come to an end, even though I could have spent an entire day there. We jumped onto our PW and headed to Killarney, our resting stop for the night. But before we reached our destination, Tony stopped at a random village along the way to show us some sights. Even though we had to trek through a small field of donkey poo, we got a great view of the town and it was so worth it. Plus, it was a nice spot to get some fresh air and move our legs because we still had quite a ride to Killarney.
Sunday was mainly a travel day to get us back to Dublin, but along the way we made two castle stops. The first was Blarney Castle, so of course the three of us climbed to the top of the castle to kiss the stone. The weather while we were there was less than delightful, so we got soaked waiting to kiss the stone, but had a great time nonetheless. After the stone, we wandered around the grounds and then stopped for lunch where an Indiana woman next to us recognized our Kentucky accents. Although I didn't know this woman personally, it was nice to have a little piece of home with us for a few minutes.
It was an incredibly long drive, but we eventually made it back to Dublin to catch our flight and we said our goodbyes to Tony, Jason from Shangai, and Ebony and Sallie from Australia, all of whom were excellent travelling companions. Our flight ended up getting delayed, so we were stuck in the airport for about six hours. We didn't make it back to the manor until 2:30 am and I didn't get into bed until after 3 am, so British Studies at 8:30 am was basically awful, but the exhaustion I felt was totally worth the weekend. I had one of the best weekends of my life and made amazing memories with even more amazing people. I am so incredibly and continually blessed by my experience here at Harlaxton!
Until next time,