Not-so-culture Homework

This week, along with taking my Irish Folklore exam and writing two papers, I also had some other homework to get prepared on!

For this upcoming “reading” week seven-day European city expedition, I did some investigating on the 3 country’s cultures I’ll be experiencing.  Obviously, besides Googling this information, the easiest and most entertaining way to learn about the places I’ll be visiting is by watching movies set in the cities themselves! Here’s some clues:

Okay, stop #1 didn’t have a ton of movies, but for another hint, read my previous post!:

  • Cheetah Girls 2

Stop #2 has definitely been in plenty of films!:

  • Madeline
  • The Pink Panther
  • Ratatouille
  • Taken

The final stop #3:

  • Angels and Demons
  • Eat Pray Love
  • The Lizzie McGuire Movie

Hopefully you’ve been able to deduce that I’m re-visiting Barcelona, then hopping to Paris, and then to Rome!!!  Hope my very Disney-girl theme of movies didn’t throw too many of you off the trail!!

Barcelona, Baby!

I’m very sorry for the delay on this post, however I had turkey to eat along with an awful essay to finish.  But, the good new is that today was our last day of classes!!!!!!  This means that I’m completely finished with two of my courses, and have an essay and an exam left on December 6th, then I’ll be completely done with all responsibilities for the last two weeks of my time in Ireland.  And, believe me, I can’t wait til the school part of this semester is over with– I  HATED the large lectures and the lack of learning that takes place there.  But I don’t want to rant, I want to talk about beautiful Barcelona =)

Last Friday after an extremely short 3 hours of sleep, my friend Kim and I groggily boarded the bus to Dublin Airport.  After arriving smoothly in Barcelona via Ryan Air and getting some more stamps in our passports, we began to make our way to our hostel.  Unfortunately, we ran into some unhelpful people, and missed our stop on the train.  Not to worry, we made it eventually and settled in!  After doing some quick planning on the computers, we headed out to explore!  After seeing some of the city, getting our bearings, and metro tickets, we decided it was time for dinner.  Off a recommendation from Kim’s friend, we ate at a restaurant called Taller de Tapas.  Tapas are pretty popular I guess, it’s basically getting small portions of a couple things you want, and it was delicious!  It’s an ideal meal to me, because I love having a little bit of everything rather than one huge thing.

Saturday morning, I experimented with some Spanish as we grabbed some pastries from a little cafe.  To be honest, we encountered a lot less English than I’d been expecting, simply based on my trip to Prague, but I ended up loving diving deep into my high school Spanish years and finding I was able to remember and communicate fairly well!  Kim and I jumped on a free “RunnerBean” tour of some Gaudi buildings in the city, and I absolutely fell in love with his architecture!!  Not only are many of his buildings absolutely gorgeous with amazing colors and details, but they’re crazy practical too!  My favorite by far was Casa Batllo with its colorful mosaic pieces on the outside, and rainbow roof tiles.

  Inside, Gaudi formed door handles, railings, and other furnishings by molding them first in clay to fit his hands, then casting/carving them in the metal or wood material required.  This way, we learned, all of his furnishings fit perfectly, comfortably, and anatomically correct in your hand every time some grasps them.  I’m not gonna lie, it’s a really smart idea, and all the handles felt so comfortable to maneuver!  (Sounds super corny, but don’t knock it til you try it)  He also invented one of the early efficient ways to control individual room temperatures through slanted wooden slats that could be angled to move hot or cool air from one room to another.  While the luxurious practicalities (somewhat of an oxymoron, I suppose) were definitely a highlight of this huge house, the creative design placed into every room was amazing!  It is speculated that this house has an underwater theme, and ceilings are created to look like the bottom of the ocean floor.  Did I mention that there are no right angles in this entire house?!  Stop and think about that for a second: every single window, door, wall, etc. are all curved and flow into one another, just like waves of the ocean!

We also got to see the incredible, larger-than-life Sagrada Familia!!  I’m trying not to overwhelm my posts with too many pictures, so I really do encourage a glance through my albums pages, if you’re interested!  That night we went to a flamenco show which was really cool, and enjoyed more tapas and Sangria with newly made friends :)  It was a fun night with its own stories!

After Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo, we still hadn’t gotten our fill of Gaudi, so we ventured on to another one of his famous locations: Park Guell.  It was beautiful and overlooking the city!  It was so gorgeous out on Sunday: sunny and super warm and I enjoyed it soooo much after all the rain we get here in Ireland!  That night we ate dinner on Las Ramblas a main popular street, checked out a craft fair and splurged on some yummy gelato!  Our hostel was pretty nice and we had no problems with in-city transportation or Ryan Air.  Got back to Limerick Monday afternoon after a great weekend =)

Happy Thanksgiving!

So, I haven’t yet published my account of Barcelona from last weekend, because the broken internet in my room has been a hinderance in the uploading of pictures, but I figured I’d get a bit sappy and write about Thanksgiving, as a break from my academic writing!

It’s business as usual today in damp, verdant Ireland, while all of America has skidded to a stop from its normal, bustling routine to wine and dine with loved ones.  Thanksgiving is a time to pause (in between spoonfuls of buttery mountains of mashed potatoes) to reflect on all in life we have to be thankful for.  I am still able to take some time and remember all I am lucky to have, though I’m not physically able to be surrounded by my family on this traditional American holiday (we normally put the table leafs in to make room for everyone, but not even IKEA has a table big enough to stretch across the salty, oceanic pond that separates us).

Above all else to be thankful for, I have a network of family, friends, and teachers who advocated my semester-long leap to Ireland, and know that they support me traveling and learning in my time here.  Though I miss my family and friends every single day, I can never thank them enough for always encouraging me to be curious about the world around me.  This instilled curiosity has lead to a growing love of learning that makes me appreciate every new day (even the windy, rainy Irish days).  The kind and supportive people I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by has enabled me to see the world through the eyes of others and to not back down from challenges.  It might seem that this distance and time apart from the most important people in my life would create gaps in our relationships, but I have grown to love and appreciate them even more.  I think you all at home will find my international experience of total independence, and self and world discovery has made me a better person than when I left New England in August.  The drives to chase my dreams, embrace experiences for what they are, and accept people for who they are, are stronger than ever.

I’m still the Fred (the bear under my chin)-loving little girl from this picture Nana sent me, but my time living and traveling abroad has exposed me to an array of beautiful places and people, countries and cultures that I never dreamed possible.  One of the most significant things I’ve learned is to simply appreciate all that I am given and to make the most of opportunities I am granted.  It’s not most important to have a perfect life, but appreciating life’s imperfections can make it look just as beautiful.  I’m not sure it was necessary to leave home to learn this lesson, but regardless of where I learned it, I can now take this experience with me wherever I go.  This year, I sadly don’t have the opportunity to binge on delicious home-made macaroni and the coveted Very Berry Pie with my dad’s side of our family, or devour more than my share of amazing dessert and meet my new baby cousin with my mom’s side of our family, but I’ll fly home in less than a month and Christmas with them all will be here soon enough!

Wishing from Limerick, Ireland that all my family, friends, and teachers who have knowingly, or unknowingly had an influence in my life enjoy a warm, Happy, carbo-loaded Thanksgiving!  See you all soon!!  XO

Czech This Out: I Went to Prague ;)

(Sorry, I  couldn’t resist making the corny “Czech” joke!)

To start off being really cliché and general, last weekend going to Prague in the Czech Republic was such an amazing trip!!!  It all began in Dublin Friday night, where we stayed at the Abbey Court hostel; it was really cool: they had a room simply to chill in hammocks! We met and spent our night out with two Australian sisters that had been backpacking Europe for 3 months together and had plans to go to Canada and America then finally go home in March. Seeing two sisters having the time of their lives traveling and having fun together made me miss my Shanny even more! We splurged on drinks called the Purple People Eater and they were deliciousssss (especially because they were purple)!

Australian friends!

After spending the gorgeous, sunny morning people-watching in St. Stephen’s Green, Amanda and I flew to Prague, arriving at our hostel around 8:30PM (1hr time change). A tourist office in the airport helped by giving us maps and public transportation tickets. We took the bus and the metro, and, after a short walk, we arrived at St. Christopher’s Mosaic House which was a really nice place! After a huge, cheap (characteristic of Prague) meal, we decided to go on a pub crawl run by the hostel as a good, safe way to make some friends in the foreign country. Using some of my Irish luck (Mom and I both have a strange gift for winning raffles), I drew lucky #5 for the winning ticket for two free drinks! Then, as a huge group, they took us to 3 different underground (literally) pubs and ended at an amazing 5 story club called Karlovy Lázně that had a different theme for each floor including: the “chill out” on the top floor, where there’s a bunch of tables and chairs; oldies (my personal favorite); the basement was R&B and had games tables set up; dance music; and radio hits. The whole place is set up with things like fog machines, changing colored floor tiles, strobe lights, lasers, etc., it was an awesome place! The only downside was that it was like a casino in the sense that while you’re inside, you have no sense of passing time. We all ended up leaving REALLY late (or early?), but Amanda and I were up at 8:30 like troopers ready to tackle the city (by day this time)!

At breakfast, Amanda and I met up with our friend Alicia from UL, who was staying in the same hostel. She’d been in Prague since Friday, so she was able to tour us around and show us the Old Market Square where the famous astronomical clock tower is located. We got some amazing waffles and enjoyed the crisp, morning sun!After walking through the food market, we ventured on to King Charles Bridge which is a very old and iconic landmark of Prague. Amanda and I spent most of Sunday touring the famous castle, which we found simply breathtaking. The sheer size of it was incredible! The most impressive part of the city, castle, and buildings was definitely the old-styled architecture with the most intricate detail imaginable carved into every inch. I could put up here the thousand pictures I took over the weekend, but I’ll just give you a couple (the rest will be in my Photo Links tab at the top).

Gorgeous mosaics in St. Vitus's Cathedral

Hogwarts possibly?!

View of Prague from the castle

Most of our day was spent touring the enormous castle, because they had ton of buildings to walk through and interesting exhibits to see, and we ended with a really good Czech-styled lunch on the walk back to our hostel. I was a bit nervous about the language barrier this weekend, but, for the most part, everybody we met spoke English really well, especially the younger generations. Later that evening we took a boat cruise/tour and also stopped at the Lennon wall!

 

When it was dark, we made our way back to the outdoor market and got some snacks =) Let your drooling begin!

Monday, we attempted to tour the chocolate museum, but after some confusing and false information from our hostel, we ended up just walking around and getting breakfast at a local café on the outskirts of Prague. It was really neat to get out of the tourist-y part of the city. We had some difficulty communicating with the waitress, but ended up getting some great crepes! After making our way back to the airport, an incredibly dense fog moved in around 3:30 and delayed our plane. Then, to our surprise, AerLingus decided that each person could only bring on board one piece of baggage, when Amanda and I both had a purse and a backpack. After 5 minutes of commotion, we finally stretched our busting backpack zippers and broke our backs stuffing all of our stuff into our backpacks. It was hilarious putting sweaters and gloves into the sleeves of my jacket, just so we wouldn’t have to check our bags! I apologize for this being a very abbreviated post, but as the final weeks of classes are counting down, tons of papers and studying have to be done. Don’t worry, this hasn’t stopped me with continuing my world traveling plans– I’m off to Barcelona early tomorrow morning!!