Home for the Holidays!

SO great to be back in the states!!! It’s been less than a week, but I’m on my way to adjusting to life here again =) Spending time with my family has been absolutely awesome!!, I met my new baby cousin, and even though he’s not doing too well, visiting JoJo has been a favorite highlight for sure.

Shan, Mom, and I spent Christmas Eve baking cookies and shouting along to Christmas music. I finally witnessed my first Jets game of the season, and though they lost, I had yummy cookies to heal the pain.

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That night was spent with Dad, Shan, JoJo, and Auntie Betty and was a lot of fun =)

This morning we woke up to no power!!! Mom lit a fire so we could open presents without freezing to death! More time was spent with Dad, Auntie Betty, and JoJo eating a delicious meal and playing some games before venturing off to see more of Dad’s family! Then, Shan and I were off driving again to see Mom’s side! Holidays are always full of travel time for my sister and me, but this weekend was especially worth it. I was happy to see all my family happily surrounded by great gifts, food, and company!

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Happy Holidays!!

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One-way Ticket!!

This incredible semester abroad in Ireland, I’ve traveled to amazing places and countries with awesome friends and met tons of different people, and each of these trips have been planned a particular way.  Using a similar formula, every trip had its own unique scheming session; but though very different from each other, all of my getaways had something in common: they always had an ending in Ireland, and more specifically, in Limerick guaranteed.  Tomorrow, I’ll break from my semester routine of buying round-trip to Limerick, and I will buy one of my first one-way bus tickets… to Shannon Airport.  For the past week, I’ve tried to envision the weight of my unwieldy, bulging suitcases digging into my hip just before letting them tumble into the storage compartment of the bus, giving my beloved campus a “look-back” like scene from a movie as a chill breeze drags me out of my reverie.  Memories float before my eyes and ghosts of chattering friends walk by while I gaze out the bus window, remembering all the nights of laughter and early mornings of traveling.

From meeting my closest friends in the first couple days of the semester, to first exhilarating experiences of traveling, eyebrow stitches on Arthur’s Day, experiencing an Irish wedding and having Nana and Papa visit, meeting the awesome family I’d only ever heard of, Thanksgiving away from family, not liking school for the first time in my life, spending a week traveling with only a backpack, and having my best friend visit, are some of my fondest big memories from this trip and each of them are worth the periodic pangs of homesickness and knowledge that I’ll be the Print Shop’s slave next semester to work  it all back.  I can’t wait to get home to see my family and friends, make more memories in America, and plan more trips =)

Luton, London and Dublin!

The time Erin and I recently spent in Luton was awesome to say the least!!  We were spoiled incessantly with food, fun, and drinks by our hosts Aunt Pat and Uncle Donal and the other family we met.  I enjoyed meeting and getting to know cousins that hadn’t made it to Kathleen’s wedding.  After arriving early Tuesday, we took a nap and later had dinner with all the family of their kids and grandkids!  Wednesday, we went into London with Tim and used a bus tour to get to Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Big Ben and Parliament, and rode the London Eye at sunset!! Last time in London, I’d seen the bird’s-eye view during the day, and it was awesome to go up at night, even though it was sprinkling a bit.

Erin's iPhone picture from the top of the London Eye!

It was a fun day walking around and we had a nice dinner that evening also.  We thought Wednesday was our last day with my family, but 5AM Thursday morning after groggily rolling out of bed at 4, a quick breakfast, and being dropped off at the airport, we realized our tickets were actually for the next day.  Whoops!!  After freaking out momentarily, then regaining my seasoned traveler experience composure, I phoned Uncle Donal to turn around and recollect us.  Being the insanely generous great-uncle that he is, we were on our way back to his house in no time, only to be spoiled for a whole extra day.  Another day in London was an unplanned surprise, and Erin and I made the most of our day mastering the tube, crossing Tower Bridge, visiting Christmas markets, boat tours on the river, etc.!  Another fantastic meal and time with family topped off our (real) last night in England.  We didn’t get out of the country as easily as anticipated, because a half-inch of snow put the runways at a stand still.  For over an hour, we napped on the Ryan Air plane until they defrosted the runway!

We arrived in Dublin at the awesome hostel I’d researched just in time to catch the walking tour!  I’d already done it another time I’d been there, but a different energetic guide made adding to my Irish history knowledge worth braving the cold.  We then made Uncle Donal proud by taking a tour of the Guinness brewery and pouring our own pints!

Perfect pours! Cheers!

That night Erin experienced her first guided pub crawl (run by the same company as our walking tour), and needless to say it was a fun success!  We were up early to visit Croke Park, where soccer and rugby, but most importantly where the Irish national sports Gaelic football and hurling are played.  We got to walk through the locker room, players lounge, corporate boxes, and on the field level!  It was an awesome tour, and I’d love to go back there for a game!  We also visited Kilmainham Gaol, famous for its inhumane treatment of prisoners, and where the famous rebels from the 1916 Easter Monday Rising were executed (creepy, but interesting).  A walk through the Christmas lights and festivities on Grafton Street ended Erin’s first and sadly my last weekend in Dublin for the semester before we headed back to Limerick.  So great to have another great friend to travel with, seeing as Amanda and many of my friends have flown home already =(

Erin Arrives and a Bunch of Blarney!

Pictures of Barcelona, Paris, and Rome are still in the vault, waiting to be uploaded, but more importantly, Erin May has arrived safely in Ireland =)  Such a strange feeling to have a fellow Seymour/Springfield friend in Europe with me!  Since meeting her at the Limerick bus station early Saturday morning, we’ve done a good bunch of traveling, and she’s been catching me on my adopted Irish phrases, interestingly enough.  Saturday, I let her adjust to the time difference with a nap, exposed her to some Limerick food, drink, and nightlife.  Early Sunday, we got Bus Eireann to Cork where we met the Paddywagon tour group.  It was fantastic, well worth the money and information they gave us as we ventured to Cobh, Blarney, and Kinsale was so much fun!  Cobh was a cute little town with a cool church and beautiful views of the water.  It was here that the Titanic docked in April 1912.  From there, we toured Blarney Castle which was absolutely awesome!!  We conquered the narrow, winding spiral staircases and walked through rooms once inhabited a long time ago.  Once at the top, with the help of a guy posted there, we laid on our backs, tipped our heads back until we were essentially upside down, and smooched the stone (I licked my lips after, relishing the taste of rock and spittle from the 100 other people who had kissed it that day).  The guy said on a busy summer day, as many as 2,000 people per day have been known to kiss the stone to get the gift of gab!  We saw the Poison Gardens, which were also pretty neat.  At the Blarney Woolen Mills, I finally found the Irish sweater of my dreams (and on sale!), one purchase my mom especially will approve of, because we can match now =)  Our last stop was in the nice town of Kinsale filled with little shops and boats on the water.  The Paddywagon tour, in my experience, is highly recommended, and if I had more time left, I’d definitely do another!

Monday was filled with errands and later that night (technically today (Tuesday)), we boarded a bus to Dublin Airport at 1am!  We flew Ryan Air to London Luton, and are now staying with my Aunt Pat and Uncle Donal, being spoiled as they usual treat me!  Saw my first snow of the year today, but just a few flurries.  Hopefully, we’ll tour London tomorrow!  Cheers :)