Happy New Year!
Goodbye 2016, and Hello 2017.
A brand new year – new adventures and experiences to look forward to. But first – let’s rewind a little.
Sometimes, you don’t even realize how fast life is moving. The rhythm of everyday life seems to take over, and you find yourself in a routine.
I haven’t been able to write recently because I have been stuck in the monotony of the adult routine. Since I graduated university, my life has been a series of days where I wake up, go to work, come home to relax and sleep – only to repeat the process the next day. And sure, there are weekends and evenings. But when you work a second job (as I currently do), there is not a lot of time left to go on adventures. Or even to catch up with friends.
But I have also been quite lucky.
In the brief term between my two contracts, I was able to go on one bigger adventure.
If you follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat – any of those social media sites – you probably would have seen my barrage of posts from the beautifully captivating Hawaii.
In October, for 10 days, my family went to Waikiki, Hawaii. I have traveled with my family many times throughout my life, but this trip was special. We also traveled with my aunt, my cousin and his wife, and their 2 kids – all of whom had never been before.
It was so cool to experience Hawaii again. I absolutely loved it the first time. In all honesty, I had wanted to go somewhere else this trip, like Mexico or Central America, but I’m so glad it was Hawaii. We had such an amazing time!
From relaxing at the beach, to shopping until we dropped; from luaus and the Polynesian Cultural Center, to waterfalls and hiking volcanic craters; from zip lining in the valley, to doing yoga at the beach. Every experience was made far more interesting and enticing with my awesome family.
We all had such a great time adventuring together. Levi got to do flips all over the island; Madison and I got to hang out as cousins, chilling in floaties on the ocean, shopping, and zip lining. Everyone had such a great trip (except maybe my brother who was sick with the flu for most of the time – but he still made appearances on outings).
Some highlights, you ask? Well, there were too many good adventures, but I will try to limit it to a few amazing moments.
Our day at Kualoa Ranch was definitely a highlight for everyone. Madison and I went on a zip lining adventure in the valley. We hiked, curled up like coconuts to make it down a line, bet ice cream to drop a kakui nut in a bucket, and made it across a suspension bridge with some difficulties. The rest of the family toured the ranch, seeing numerous filming locations for movies, like Pearl Harbor, Jurassic Park, King Kong, 50 First Dates, and soooo many others. It is such a cool place and I highly recommend it! On our way back, we even had time to stop at Waimea Falls for Levi to swim.
We spent an entire day at the Polynesian Cultural Center, learning about all of the Polynesian cultures, watching shows, eating amazing food, and seeing a luau. It was a long day, but fun and interesting! Other days – we hiked Diamond Head, an inactive volcanic crater that was used as a base during the wars; we shopped at Ala Moana mall, an expensive outdoor shopping mall; and we toured Pearl Harbor and hit up the flea market at the stadium.
The others went on an excursion to swim with dolphins and the turtles one day, while my family went on an amazing catamaran boat ride along the southern coast of the island another day. We all got to have our amazing adventures and experiences, enjoying the beaches, the views, and the fun.
Funny enough, we were in Hawaii during Canadian Thanksgiving. While my friends ate turkey dinners at a table with their families, my family sat down to a lovely meal at Cheeseburger in Paradise – yes, that was our Thanksgiving dinner, and it was awesome.
It was a truly awesome trip, and I will cherish the memories forever.
Of course, I tried to have other small adventures after that.
Around Halloween, I went with my brother and friends (the twins) to check out a corn maze that had craft beers! Long story short – there was a really long line-up, but the corn maze had fallen over due to a storm. Somehow, we lucked out and were given tickets to get in for free! It was a pretty fun day.
I went on a “date” with my grandpa to see Mary Poppins when my grandma was sick. Funnily enough, a friend of mine from high school was in the show! It was a fantastic show and a great night. Just before Christmas, I went out on a Friday night to stand in the snow for the CP Holiday Train. Even though I couldn’t feel my feet, and feared losing a toe to frostbite, I got to see Dallas Smith (one of my favourite country artists) live for the second time in 2016. It was a great night (I mean, once I gained feeling in my feet again, haha!).
The holidays came quickly, and for me, they were all about relaxing now that I’m working full time. But that didn’t stop me from a little adventure either.
One of my best friends, Brittany, had never been to Victoria. As it is one of my favourite cities, I decided that I wanted to show her around the amazing city!
For those not from the area, you have to take a ferry to get to Victoria, which is on Vancouver Island. As we had an interesting experience with a ferry ride in Ireland, ferries have become kind of a joke in our group of friends. Nonetheless, we had a great trip over and back, enjoying the views from the ferry.
The two days we spent on the island were perfect. I got to show my best friend all my favourite places to grab sandwiches, get a great shot of the Parliament Buildings or Empress, and my favourite pub to grab a pint to finish a great day. Not to forget walking the breakwater and checking out the little town of Sidney before heading out.
And a sort of precursor to something even bigger.
Again, if you follow me on any social media, you will see that I posted some exciting news not so long ago. Brittany and I are going to be backpacking Europe for 2 months this spring!
I couldn’t be any more excited.
Ever since I left Ireland and Europe two years ago (I still can’t believe it’s been two whole years), all I have been thinking about is going back. There are still so many places to explore, cultures to encounter, so much food to try!
As Brittany didn’t get to do the backpacking thing like I did, we are going to a couple places that I have already been to – but I’m ecstatic! The places I am repeating are some of my favourite cities. Plus, we will be going to many more countries and cities that I have never been to before.
But as I plan and prepare for this amazing trip, I have resolved not to neglect this blog again. Although I might try writing some different kinds of posts – more focused on travel itself instead of simply my travels – I want to continue to write about adventures that I take leading up to my trip and during.
Otherwise, look for me on social media, as I am ever-present in one way or another.
So here’s to the adventures that I will seek in 2017, and I hope you all live the adventure, too.
May the road rise up to meet ya.
Recently, lots of people have been posting pictures and Facebook statuses to express how they felt about this year. So, why not recap how my year has been?
It has definitely been a roller coaster of emotions – I am thankful, remorseful, saddened and happy when looking back on 2015.
The beginning of this year brought me some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. I flew to Ireland, ready for adventure and meeting new people. It’s funny – I went with Brittany, someone I had only met twice before taking a 17 hour journey with. And after that, we became best friends. I couldn’t be happier to have her in my life as my friend, former Ireland roommate, and fellow traveller and adventurer. I think the transition was much easier for both of us, experiencing those first freezing cold nights far from home and having someone – even just a little bit familiar – while meeting so many new people.
And thus began probably the best 6 months of my life. Going to school in Ireland was an adventure in itself. 100% finals, classes cancelled all the time, and having classes only the 2 first days of the week. It was an experience I’m glad to have had. The parties and get-togethers are all so memorable, each one sticking out in my mind for specific reasons – like the time I got locked outside on the roof, or the first international students party, or even the very first party we had at our place (the one that security came to).
I had the best time because of the people I met. I am so thankful to have met incredible, smart, amazing friends from around the world. And honestly, there are too many of you to name – but you guys know who you are, and the hilarious and amazing memories that we have.
Of course, it was because of a lot of these amazing friends that I had incredible adventures. Brittany and I were lucky to travel each weekend with great people – going to Kilkenny, Tramore, Dunmore East, Blarney, Cork, Dublin, Belfast, Kerry, Wexford, and so many more. As I wrote in posts earlier this year, I was lucky to travel around Ireland on one of my weeks off from school. We went to so many amazing places, including Cahir, Cashel, Limerick, Galway, Cliffs of Moher, and Inis Mor. Guys, even though we had only known each other for a couple weeks, that trip was amazing!
On my second week off, I travelled with Brittany, Bert and Carlos through 5 European cities, before going to Nice by myself. We had a couple bumps in our travels – almost missing trains, getting a little lost, and I got sick with food poisoning – but it was an incredible adventure! I think it was one of the best trips, as we all got along so well and never had disagreements.
Ireland was one of the greatest experiences of my life – I got to fulfill my dreams of travelling to Europe, living abroad, meeting new people and experiencing new cultures. But it definitely had its bumps along the way. The first few days were incredibly hard, as I had no internet and no way to contact my family. However, Brittany was amazing and the people there were super helpful. The hardest moment was when I learned that my Gramma had passed away back home. Before I left, she had been in and out of the hospital with a heart attack and health problems. I knew it was a possibility, and I was scared that it would happen – but she always pushed me to go after my dreams. I was lucky to Skype with her a few times before she passed away. It was definitely hard going through this by myself, missing the funeral and being so far away from all of my family. I tried to stay positive, and a few of my friends were incredibly supportive – I think it would have been much harder without you guys being there for me, making sure I was alright, so thank you.
After my semester ended, my brother, Zach, and my long time best friend, Kirstin, came to meet me. We would start our 6 week adventure in Ireland before travelling to 12 countries, 17 cities, and countless famous landmarks and places. This trip had a few more bumps than previous ones, and I had to learn to travel a little differently. It’s interesting how travel changes when you are travelling with people you haven’t known very long, compared to people you have known your entire life. We had so many hilarious moments and adventures, inside jokes from the trip, and we met so many cool people. I was lucky enough to meet up with many of my friends I had met in Ireland, and I got to introduce them to Zach and Kirstin. I am incredibly grateful to have had the adventure, and to have shared it with so many amazing friends, new and old.
When I got home, I was a part of my cousin’s lovely wedding. I was very lucky to be a part of a huge step into her new life with an amazing person. I am so happy for them. And then, my summer was mostly spent outdoors and with friends. I had multiple days of outdoor climbing and hiking, catching up with amazing friends, and trying to keep up with my friends in Europe and their lives.
Unfortunately, another tragedy occurred. My great aunt, the only remaining sibling from my Gramma’s family, passed away. She had been sick for some time, but it was still hard. My mom had been incredibly close to her when she had lived in Arizona, and their relationship had continued. I had been pen pals with my great aunt since I was little and had visited her in Arizona. I loved writing to her, and she was incredibly supportive and proud of everything I was doing. Her and my uncle were amazingly supportive of my travels and aspirations, and I was so thankful.
For the last few months, my life has been crazy with school and my two jobs – working at the rock climbing gym, and writing a blog about study abroad for the international office at UFV. Starting school again was a little stressful, as it was much more work than I had in Ireland. As I wrote in a previous post, I could have taken four courses and finished my degree. Being too stressed, I decided that I would take another semester. BUT – I did take one leap this semester, and wrote a few articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. It was interesting to branch out to something new, and I really enjoyed it. I hope to write more for it this coming semester!
But I still tried to have a full social life, like I had in Ireland. It definitely wasn’t the same, but I had some great adventures. Especially in the past few weeks, having gone to Stanley Park, Vancouver Christmas Market, Victoria, skating, and bowling. I have gotten to catch up with many amazing friends, and to see my family for Christmas. I have even re-connected with some friends from high school, who I hadn’t seen in years, as we all had a common connection of having studied abroad. It was cathartic and amazing to hear their stories, share experiences, and reminisce on the hilarious adventures we all had since graduating high school!
Now, with New Year’s, I am thinking of what I would like to accomplish over the next year. I am excited to spend New Year’s with my family and great friends. I will then enter my final semester of university – both exciting and terrifying. I went straight from high school to university, and have been studying for 5 years. I am excited to have some time off from school. But I am terrified because I have no idea what I want to do – do I want to travel more? Live abroad again? Find a job around Vancouver? What kind of job do I even want?
I have never been one to have a goal or anything for the New Year. I never found them helpful. So I am going to pick broad ones: in 2016, I want to be happy and to find what I want to do. Hopefully this will include some more travels, meeting new people and experiencing new things, and staying in contact with the amazing friends I have now. But for now, I’m going to have a little fun to finish off a great year.
Lastly, though, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has read this blog over the last year. I appreciate your support through my travels and with my attempt to navigate the blogosphere. I apologize that it wasn’t very interesting sometimes – my life does that once in a while – and that I wasn’t very organized with my uploads. I would love to say that 2016 will be different, but there are no guarantees in life. And no matter how hard I try, my everyday life is not always an exciting adventure. But bear with me – I will still be posting on Instagram, Twitter and occasionally Facebook, and I hope to find more opportunities to write articles and blogs online. Thanks for the support and patience, and hopefully for sticking with me in the future!
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I was also excited to try something new this past semester. I wrote two articles for my university newspaper, The Cascade. I will put links to the articles here and here, just in case you would like to peruse them. 🙂
Well, honestly not a lot has happened since I last wrote here. I will highlight a few things but try to keep this one short.
Over the past week and a bit, my friend Kirstin and I have been doing a lot of planning for our trip which will be happening very soon. If I haven’t mentioned it, or you don’t know, Kirstin and my brother will be coming to Ireland at the end of May. I will then show them some of my favourite places before we set out to travel Europe for a whole month!
It’s quite daunting, but I couldn’t be more excited. We are going to see so many amazing places and have wonderful experiences together. I know that it will be great. Taking it in steps of planning definitely makes it much easier as well. So far, we have all our places planned, and plane tickets bought to travel between quite a few countries. Then we will take trains and buses for the rest.
On Sunday May 3rd, quite a bit happened. It was my friend, Carlos’ birthday. So, the day before, I had helped a few of my friends to bake a cake for him. For his birthday, he cooked a lot of Spanish food and invited a large group of us over to his apartment. We ate and hung out for a while, and it was a lot of fun! The food he made was delicious, and the cake was a huge success.
I ended up being late to the party however, as my friend, Alexis, was coming to Waterford! After a little mix up, I found Alexis at the bus station. We walked back to my apartment catching up on everything that had gone on in the months we hadn’t seen each other. It was really nice to see a familiar face from home.
Alexis and I went to Carlos’ for a bit, before she headed back to my apartment to sleep, as jet lag sucks. I went back to the party after making sure she was settled, and hung out with everyone. Then, a few of us helped Carlos clean the apartment afterwards. It was a lot of fun!
The next morning, May 4th (or Star Wars Day), Alexis and I got up and walked to city center for an Irish breakfast along the Quay. It was delicious. We wandered down the Quay and ended up going into Reginald’s Tower. I had already been through it, but decided to go through again with Alexis. It has so much history throughout it! We walked part way to WIT before giving up – it was a long walk and she didn’t really need to see my campus.
So, we went to the bus stop to catch a bus to Tramore. Some of my friends were going to be there, so after we walked along the beach and took lots of pictures, we met up with Nathan. We ate lunch while some friends finished surfing. Yes, surfing! It was fun to watch them. (You can see pics and read about it on Brittany’s blog if you’d like.)
We came back to the apartment, and while Alexis slept and Brit studied, I did the dishes and made dinner. Later, Alexis and I met up with Anna, Eva, Nathan and Sarah to go to Katty Barry’s pub for a pint and some live Irish music. It was a lot of fun! It was my last chance to hang out with Eva before she left for Germany, so I really liked going out with them.
On Tuesday, Alexis and I ended up starting later than planned and missed the first bus to Dublin. Instead, we got a hot drink and bite to eat in city centre, before relaxing in the giant book store. Then we caught the bus and were on our way to Dublin!
We found our hostel, which had been recommended by my friend, and checked in. It was a cool hostel, and just across the river from Temple Bar and the main attractions. We decided to look for food, and ended up at a Mexican restaurant for a burrito called Pablo Picante – on Cinco de Mayo! It wasn’t even planned, but it was a really good burrito and we ate in Temple Bar.
We walked to Dublin Castle and saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and its park, before heading to the Guinness Storehouse. It was really cool! We got to learn how they make Guinness, and I got to drink a pint of Guinness while overlooking the entire city of Dublin. It was a great experience! I will probably learn to pour a pint when I go back at the end of the month.
After wandering back through the city, we tried to decide where we would go next. We finally decided to just go straight for dinner at a pub which Carlos had recommended. So, we got dinner and spent the evening at O’Neill’s. The food was delicious – I had an Irish beef and Guinness stew and it was so good! Then we grabbed some beers and relaxed watching the football (soccer) game before the live Irish band and dancers came on to perform. They were really good and it was interesting to see! (I have no photos of this because my phone had died…)
After a packed couple of days, we were both pretty tired. However, Alexis had to get up the next morning to catch a bus to her ferry for the UK. I got up to say goodbye before we parted ways. I ended up hanging out in Dublin for part of the day, shopping and wandering, before catching a bus back home. Needless to say, I was pretty tired and slept pretty well after I Skyped my family.
On Friday, I had my first exam here in Ireland. It was a very odd experience for me. Usually, anything within the academic world stresses me out a lot. But, here, with everything being so relaxed, I was not super worried at all. I studied the few days before, and felt pretty prepared. It was interesting that being an international student, I had no idea what I was doing – but the Irish didn’t seem to know much more than me either. They seemed just as lost. Luckily, the few Irish lads I know, knew exactly what to do.
Walking back from my exam, it rained ridiculously hard. By the time I reached home, I was absolutely sopping wet. My jeans were completely soaked through, and my socks were squishing in my boots. I quickly changed before walking with Bruna to meet Brittany and Evelyn at a small restaurant close by. We went to a little diner (Rockin’ Joe’s) for lunch where we ordered a ton of food! I was so full, but it was delicious and totally worth it – a burger, fries and onion rings, and a chocolate milkshake! It was fun to hang out with the girls before Evelyn was leaving to go back home.
That night, a group of us got together to hang out, play some games, and say goodbye to Evelyn. It was great fun, but really sad as it became all too real that our time here is ending. There were tears and lots of hugs. After some people left, I ended up chatting with a couple friends until really late into the night. We talked about everything: gossip, politics, our lives, reasons we studied abroad, cultural differences. It was so great! A few of us stayed up almost all night just talking about everything. It was so great to have a conversation and really connect with people who I have known for only a few months. We have so much in common, and found out that we really understood each other.
On Saturday, after getting up quite late, Brittany and I met up with Anna, Nathan, and Sarah to go to city centre. We went to Blackfriars, a coffee shop, after wandering around Penny’s, the clothing store (kinda like Forever 21). It was great to relax, drink some tea and coffee, and just chat!
Later, we all decided to pitch in and split Chinese food for dinner. Again, we had a great time just hanging out together. I feel like we all get along really well, and I sincerely hope that we can stay close and in touch over the next while – until we meet again for a reunion. 😉
Honestly, although not a lot happened this week, I feel like I learned a lot about myself and just life in general. Goodbyes are hard – but for me, not saying goodbye to these wonderful people is even harder. And if you lads are reading this, get ready for a post that will make us all tear up coming in the future.
“I am thankful for nights that turned into mornings, friends that turned into family, and dreams that turned into reality.” – Pinterest quote.
May the road rise up to meet ya
So, after two weeks of travels and adventures, I am back in my cold room in Waterford. I have experienced so many things, and I am excited to attempt to retell my stories here on my blog. For some things, though, words will not suffice to portray the reality of my feelings or experiences. But, alas, I will do my best. Prepare yourself for a long’un – I’ve tried to condense but there’s too much to say!
Just over two weeks ago, I set out to conquer 4 countries and 6 cities with some great friends. Of course these friends would include my flatmate, Brittany, our Spanish friend, Carlos, and our Dutch friend, Bert. We had all become quite good friends over the months, and were excited to set out on an adventure!
Saturday March 28, 2015
This was the beginning of our journey. Bursting with excitement, I honestly didn’t sleep very much the night before. Getting up decently early, we caught a bus to Dublin and waved goodbye to Waterford with weary limbs.
Arriving at the airport, we attempted to figure out our next step. Because Brittany and I are living here on Visas, we have to get a ‘Visa check’ each time we fly – leading to an extra line-up that we could otherwise pass if we actually lived here – which is basically just a stamp or a person writing “VISA OK” across our boarding passes. Slightly frustrating, but I guess necessary. After security and waiting around, we were on our way to London!
Now, for those of you who know me, I have always wanted to go to London. It was basically #1 on my list of places to go since forever. So, I was beyond ecstatic to be finally travelling to my dream destination. After another bus ride from the airport and our first ride on the underground, we were finally there…
Getting in later in the afternoon, we checked into our hostel and decided to wander the city at night – the perfect decision! Wandering aimlessly through the streets, and turning towards the infamous Thames, we stumbled on an amazing view across the river of the iconic London symbols. Big Ben and the London Eye loomed in front of us, and it felt like something out of a dream. At first, I didn’t even know what I was looking at, mistaking the London Eye for ‘some big red tower…’ (Embarrassing when you’ve only ever wanted to go there…).
The whole time we walked along the Thames, we were all at a loss for words, constantly looking at each other with huge grins on our faces and trying to fathom that we were actually there. We took a million pictures before walking closer and finding dinner, and quickly taking a look at Piccadilly Circus lit up at night. We could honestly not have asked for a better first night in London.
Sunday March 29, 2015
A perfect day in London. I was very excited to see all of the sights in the daytime, those structures standing out along the London skyline. We ventured another trip on the underground, and I found that I was quite good at navigating it and where we needed to go. I was quite proud of myself!
We headed to the Westminster area, and wandered around taking pictures and goofing off, surrounded once again by Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey. We took a stroll through St. James’ Park before coming to Buckingham Palace. As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards. It was pretty cool actually! We took some pictures and hung out before moving onwards.
During this day, a joke began that would run for the rest of the trip. My friend, Carlos, has a serious camera for taking pictures, a DSLR that I am super jealous of. We decided that we wanted a group photo in front of [insert name of whatever close by structure or building we would be standing in front of in each city], so Carlos would venture to ask someone to take a picture of us. Well, he ended up asking someone who turned out to be Spanish the first time – so it became a joke that he would try to find Spanish people to take our picture. In London, it worked almost every time without fail! We had a lot of laughs about that.
We found some cool monuments and the Hard Rock Café, before catching the tube to Camden Market. It was really neat! We wandered the streets looking for souvenirs for ourselves and people back home, and we even stumbled on The World’s End pub (you’ll get it if you know of the movie, but we didn’t end up going in).
That night was probably the best part of London though – we headed back to the center to go on the London Eye itself! It was so amazing. Even with the rain and some clouds, you could see the entire city as you slowly went higher into the sky. We had tons of fun taking pictures and pointing out all the different sights. It was great to see the lights come on as well.
We walked through Covent Garden before heading back to our hostel to crash. It was a great day.
Monday March 30, 2015
Our last day in London – so I skipped breakfast and caught up on some sleep! I wanted to make sure to really enjoy the day on a full 8 hours.
We headed to the British Museum to see the wonders kept inside. We had briefly wandered through the Museum of Natural History the previous day, and had been slightly underwhelmed. But the British Museum definitely did not disappoint – it was huge! There were so many different sections to look through: Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, Asia, North America, and so much more. For a history nut like me, it was Heaven. I could have wandered for a long time. But, we had split up with the guys and not having cell service, it became imperative and difficult to find them once again. And I was starving by this point, having only snacked on granola bars.
We ate lunch (thank goodness) before catching the tube to go to the other areas of London we hadn’t seen. Wandering along the other end of the Thames, we found the London Fire memorial, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the London Shard in the distance. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much history and so many iconic buildings. I was in awe.
But the best part was yet to come, as we walked along the opposite side of the river. We found a cute pub and stopped for afternoon tea – something we all wanted to partake in while there. Brittany and I shared a treacle sponge with our tea, apparently a typical English dessert served with cream. It was delicious!
Continuing on, we eventually found Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I was so excited, and could not stop looking at it, staring in awe. If I go back, it would be amazing to see a play performed there. We settled for sitting on the wall along the Thames, staring at the historic building, as I quoted my favourite quotes from various plays.
We walked across Millennium Bridge (yes, the one from Harry Potter) and saw St. Paul’s Cathedral before heading back to our hostel for dinner. It was such an amazing end to our adventures in London. I had high expectations that London definitely lived up to!
Tuesday March 31, 2015
“3:15am came incredibly early this morning… None of us could really get out of bed – but we had to catch a taxi to the bus station” to fly to Eindhoven! (quote from my journal that day).
It took us a while to figure out where to go, but we finally arrived at the airport. We waited in lots of line-ups (again having to do a Visa check before security), and then relaxed before the flight. Now, even though the flight was only 40min, and I have taken many flights before, this was actually the WORST flight of my life. Take-off was bumpy because there was some wind in London, and then it was smooth sailing the whole time we were in the air.
But the landing – Oh. My. Goodness. See, there was a storm in the Netherlands the two days we were there; the winds were incredibly strong (and cold) as our plane tried to land. Brittany and I were freaking out as the plane experienced turbulence and possibly even flew sideways for a bit. It was not enjoyable, but we had a safe landing! Bert, who had only flown a couple times before this, was eerily the epitome of calm between all of us. Thanks for lending some of your calmness, Bert! Hahaha.
Anyways, I digress. We took a bus to catch our first European train (and Brittany’s first ever train)! It was a smooth, short ride into Amsterdam. At the station, we immediately tried some Dutch food thanks to our own personal tour guide and friend, Bert. It was called frikandel. Don’t ask me exactly what it is – I’ve learned not to ask that question with some foods in Europe… Basically it was something like a hot dog or sausage (but not quite) with curry, mayonnaise and onions on it. Previously, I would never have eaten that – but it was actually really, really good!
We took a tram to the hostel, adding one more type of transportation to our day, and hung out for a little while (either taking siestas, reading or relaxing). Brittany and I decided to wander Vondelpark before accidentally stumbling on the “iamsterdam” sign. We went back with the guys to take a ton of pictures, before wandering all over the city, exploring Dam Square and seeing the many canals.
We ate some dinner, and then met up with some of Carlos’ friends from Spain. We all went out to a pub and had a round of beers. It was a lot of fun! The guys decided to stay out while Brittany and I walked back, stopping at a little bakery to grab some sweets. The city was amazing at night and felt pretty safe.
Amsterdam really surprised me. I hadn’t been as excited for it as some of the other cities, but it ended up being one of my favourite cities that we visited. The canals were beautiful and it was a great city to explore!
Wednesday April 1, 2015
After waking up way later than we had all planned, we grabbed some breakfast from the grocery store (frikandel brootje – similar to what we had the day before, but in a breakfast pastry), and headed out for the day.
We met up with Bert’s twin sister and their friend and began our explorations of the city once again. The plan was to go to the Anne Frank House, but the line-up was over 2 hours long! We decided that two hours, standing in the cold wind wasn’t worth it. So we took some pictures and headed to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum instead. It was a ton of fun!
We got food, bought souvenirs, and said goodbye to Bert’s sister and friend. That night, we went on a canal cruise of the city, being shown the beautiful canals and city sights at night. It really was an amazing experience.
Before crashing at the hostel, we found the “iamsterdam” sign at night, and with no one on it we had fun taking pictures and climbing all over (also, Brittany and I frolicked on the lawn in front of it, cause why not?).
Amsterdam was truly amazing.
This post is getting long, so I will stop there. Perhaps I will include less detail in the next post, seen as I have to fit in 4 cities. This trip was truly amazing and honestly, I’m not even including everything that happened nor all the pictures and jokes. Stay tuned for the next post, that will include Belgium and France.
“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – my motto for this trip [Pinterest, of course]
So, here it is – the post many of you have probably been waiting for…
I spent St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland.
I was definitely super excited, but had no idea what to expect of this day – other than the fact that it would be some of the biggest crowds I would ever encounter, and that it would literally be madness. And on these two points, it did not disappoint.
The day started out pretty early, with everyone catching the bus at 8:30am. It was then a two hour bus ride of pictures, excitement, and face paint.
Brittany and I had bought cute hair clips and necklaces, with shamrocks, as we had nothing green and wanted to join in the fun. On the bus ride, a friend of mine nicely painted a green, sparkly shamrock on my cheek – and it was perfect!
Getting off the bus, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then followed the hordes of people heading to the parade area on O’Connell Street (I’m not sure why I remember that detail…).
We stood around for a while, waiting for the parade to start, and basking in the fact that we were in Dublin for St. Paddy’s. It was truly amazing.
Except for the fact that the parade was one of the weirdest things I’ve seen, and I couldn’t even see half of it. The street was not the best set up, with an uphill slant. So, when the father put his daughter on his shoulders in front of me, my view was completely obstructed. The little snippets I did see included floats of insects and mad scientists, and a giant rubber duck balloon falling over. It was fun just hanging out with friends and trying to figure out what was going on.
We started walking before the parade ended, and split into two groups: one went for food and the other to walk around the city. For once, I was not in the group looking for food!
With Brittany, Sarah, Evelyn, and Virginia (who found us in Dublin), I wandered the streets of Dublin and took in some of the most famous sights. From the outside of course, because the inside costs money and I’m a poor student. 😉 We walked to Trinity College, Christ Church Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Dublin Castle. They were all amazing, and there were so many people at all of them.
We stopped for a cup of tea before meeting up with the others to head to a pub, The Market Bar. I ordered a Guinness, of course. Have to have a pint of Guinness for St. Paddy’s. Or green beer. (But that was Heineken and I’m not a huge fan…)
Trying to find some place to eat for dinner was crazy. We met Kitty, Bruna and Hubert, and waded through the masses to try to find a place we had heard of – only to be told it was full. Standing in the street, we saw a little Italian restaurant to the side, where the man offered us 10% off because he heard our friends speaking Brazilian. So, we went there! Had some good food, wine, and conversation (and 3 more of our friends met us there later).
We tried to find everyone else at a club, but when following the map, the place didn’t really exist. We ended up hula-hooping in the street (it’s a long story), before heading to The Porterhouse for about 1.5 hours before the bus left. It was a great atmosphere, and we had fun all hanging out.
The bus ride back at 1am included many sleeping people, and many others who were very drunk. But in my opinion, it was a pretty great day and a crazy experience. Definitely one to remember for a long time.
On Thursday, it was Brittany’s birthday. She wanted to keep it pretty low-key, so I helped her come up with some ideas. When the day came, I surprised her by decorating her door with birthday banners, and picking up a few small presents. We met up with some friends later, and went to Geoff’s for dinner and drinks. It was so much fun to just hang out and chat. It was a great relaxing evening!
We tried to decide if we wanted to stay out, and opted for coming back to the apartment instead. I had picked up a cake, so we ate cake and drank tea while chatting some more. These people are truly awesome. I think Brittany had a good birthday – she didn’t tell me otherwise…
Then on Saturday, there was another birthday of a friend – Evelyn! This was the 4th birthday in one week. Brittany, Bruna, Evelyn and I met to go to city center for lunch and some shopping, just a girl’s day out. It was a pretty fun day!
That evening, we ended up hanging out in our apartment first with just a few friends, drinks, and some music. Some of us agreed to go to city center where a band was playing at a bar. So, we headed to Shortt’s to listen to the Pearly Whites – and they were so good! They played new and old music with almost a swing-type feel. We danced and had a great time, staying until the bar basically closed. It was a great night!
Other than that, not much has happened the last two weeks. Mostly, I have just been preparing for my trip… as I leave in just over 2 days!!!! 2 DAYS!!!! Can you tell I’m excited?
I am going to go to 4 countries in two weeks, travelling through various cities and cultures. I am beyond ecstatic to be stepping on the continent of Europe for the first time, and I couldn’t have asked for better travel companions.
In case you are wondering, I will put my itinerary here again: start from Dublin, and travel to London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, Paris and Nice before coming back home in time for classes again. It is going to be amazing.
I will unfortunately not have a computer or very good internet for the next two weeks (although I don’t have good internet here, so there’s not much of a difference there). The inability to update my blog means that you will have to keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to receive updates and proof of me being alive and safe. Probably Twitter will be your best bet (which you can see here, on the right).
Thank you to everyone who has been supporting me back home! I love and miss you all, but am so excited for this adventure. I will try to keep you updated as best I can.
Signing off for the next two weeks…
May the road rise up to meet ya.
“collect moments, not things”
I love the fact that life here in Ireland is so different from home. Brittany and I have had multiple conversations about how odd it will be to try to get back into a regular routine again.
Last week, we went to a pub on Monday. And Tuesday. And I couldn’t help but think that I would never do something like that at home. Tuesday, we didn’t drink at all. Merely went for the company and the amazing music. Our friend found a Jazz Jam Session that occurs at a local pub every Tuesday night. I was really curious, as I had never been to anything like that before! The music was really good, and we all had fun just hanging out.
Friday night was the real “party” night. A party had been planned at a bar for the international students of WIT. Basically all the international students were going. We decided to go to check it out, even though neither of us is really into the bar or club scene. There was going to be a pre-party, so we decided we would check that out too. When the night came, we found out our friend was having a pre-pre-party. So we ended up going there first. I think, for me, that was the best part of the night. It was a smaller crowd and we knew basically everyone, so it was fun to just hang out.
We walked through the cold, dark streets to get to the actual pre-party at someone’s house. Walking through the door of the house, you were instantly hit with the smell of smoke. It was disgusting. Our friend remarked that we were literally breathing in cancer. We couldn’t even get into the room where the party was happening because it was already crammed with people. A bunch of us decided that we would just head to the club earlier than the others.
The club was exactly what I expected. Big bouncers at the door, and loud EDM (electronic dance music) playing. I’m not a huge fan of that kind of music usually. So I wasn’t overly excited. But my friend grabbed mine and Brittany’s hands and pulled us onto the light-up square dance floor (yes, it looked like it was from the seventies, and yes there was a disco ball on the ceiling. 2 actually). Dancing was so much fun. It was great to see how my new friends danced, and I think it was good for all of us to let loose a little.
Sunday was probably the best day though. Around mid-morning, Brittany and I met up with our friends, Carlos and Bert, to go to Tramore. Tramore is a city along the coast, and the beaches are supposed to be really pretty.
Man, did it exceed my standards. Even though it was misty and grey when we arrived, the sand and water were beautiful with the surrounding cliffs. It was breathtakingly beautiful, albeit quite windy and cold. But we started walking, and the cold didn’t bother us anymore.
We walked along the beach, below the cliffs, and goofed off on the rocks along the bottom. Brittany and I found the remnants of a staircase, venturing to climb up it for a better view, while the guys climbed boulders and things farther down the beach. We walked through part of town, only to find the path to the top of the cliffs. The view was even better from above. And the sun peeked out through the clouds too. The grass was so green and lush, exactly how you would picture the Irish coast.
We had lunch at a restaurant that was recommended to Brittany. I went for the typical beer-battered fish ‘n’ chips, and it was really good. After lunch, we walked along the beach again – but the opposite way this time. The tide had gone far out, and we could walk a long ways out to the water. With the sun, it was amazing. We decided that we will go back one day when the weather will be warmer, and stay to watch the sunset. I really hope we do.
We wandered through town, searching for the cathedral. We followed the steeples that reached high into the clouds. First, we found a small church. It was surrounded by a graveyard, but the stained glass was really pretty. When we found the Tramore Roman Catholic Church, the clouds had rolled in again and obstructed a view of the very top of the steeple. It gave the cathedral an eerie feel. Inside was amazing though, with more high ceilings, gothic architecture, and stained glass windows throughout.
Heading back to Waterford, we ended the day by meeting up with some friends to see The Imitation Game. It’s a movie starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Kiera Knightley about the solving of the Enigma machine, used by the Nazis in World War II. It was a little slow, but for someone who loves history and had never learned about this, I found it really interesting.
I came home to messages from my parents about various bank issues, but nothing was going to ruin the day I had.
Thankfully, most of my technology issues are dealt with now, and I am looking forward to getting a few other things done so I can relax. Hopefully, there will be more travelling soon, as we have a few trip ideas on the horizon.
May the road rise up to meet ya.
My body is rebelling against me.
At least that’s how it felt Tuesday night when we arrived in Waterford. The 48 hours of travel and the 8 hour time difference wreaks havoc on you.
But then you get 12 hours of sleep in a freezing cold apartment and the world looks slightly better.
Our journey began pretty easily. I was excited and the apprehension hadn’t set in yet as to what I was actually doing. With a simple flight to Seattle on Monday, Brittany and I were on our way.
A two hour layover in Seattle doesn’t leave much to do after going through US Customs. And that’s when my problems began…
The airline wanted us to check in for our flight. When I went to check in, I was told I would have to check my one backpack because it was too large. It was going to be $95. I was angry and upset. But then the machine didn’t work so the lady waived the fee. Good thing she did…
Our flight to London was 9 hours and 30 minutes, not including the time change. It was red eye, but flying out at 6 didn’t leave much time for sleep when you normally fall asleep at about 10 or 11pm. So, I watched a movie (The Book of Life), ate some half decent airplane food, watched some episodes of Friends, and tried to fall asleep.
Travelling is already hard when you can’t fall asleep on moving objects, but when you’re sick, I would argue it’s even harder. So I was on quite a bit of medicine to get me through these various flights. And something to help me sleep was one of them. But it didn’t work. So I actually got no sleep… just rest.
Well, then we had one more flight to catch to Ireland…if we could get to it on time. We were supposed to have a 2 hour layover, but with the UK customs and security, we made it to our gate with only 10 minutes to spare! It was a really stressful venture. We vowed that we are going to go back to London so we can see more than the miniscule sections of the airport that we saw.
Fast forward through a boring 1 hour flight to us FINALLY arriving in Dublin. Exhausted and lost, we found our way through the airport. Only to find out that the bag I had checked in Seattle had gotten left behind. The last place it had been was London. I was so tired and stressed that I almost broke down in tears. But the two guys at the airport were really nice, assuring me I would get my bag as soon as possible. [It came 2 days later…]
We found a bus to take us to Waterford. It was a 3 hour bus ride. It probably would have been amazing had we not been so tired and had it not been dark. I couldn’t see very much out the windows in between my further attempts to catch some sleep. But I did see some of the things I had been hoping for: rolling green hills, quaint little towns, Guinness signs on every pub, and so much more.
Making it to Waterford, we hopped in a cab and got to Riverwalk. By now, it was about 8 o’clock Ireland time, and about noon back at home.
Our night then consisted of many layers, as we couldn’t figure out the “foreign” heating system. The room was so cold. I wore 4 sweaters and wool socks to bed with my airplane blanket on top. But I finally got the hours of sleep that I had so needed. 12 hours of sleep was the bliss I needed after so many things happening and going on: 3 flights, time change, my lost backpack, and the apartment room being slightly disappointing.
But the morning made it all look better. On Wednesday, Brittany and I went grocery shopping for the food we needed to stock up on. We learned where things are in Waterford, too. That night our roommate arrived. His name is Vivien, and he is from Paris. He is very nice!
Thursday we went for orientation at the school. It is a pretty large school. My building on campus sticks out against the green lawns and white buildings with it’s bright red face. I also have another building across the road with the sketchy crossing.
Thursday night we had a group of our new friends over. It was so cool to get to know everyone! I have met people from Hungary, Spain, Poland, USA, Brazil, Netherlands, Germany, France, Mexico, CANADA (Newfoundland), and possibly more… it’s hard to remember when there are so many people. Friday morning we went on a bike ride with the international students. It was a tour, and the guy leading really knew his history. He took us to a lot of interesting places that I want to go back to.
We went out again last night (Saturday), to a local Irish pub with this group, after spending the day wandering two museums. We went through Bishop’s Palace, and the Medieval Museum. And I realized after that I had taken no pictures… Thankfully I have 5 more months to be able to.
I think I am going to miss this place very much when it comes time to leave. And all the people that I am getting to meet.
Tomorrow – first day of school! It feels like the first day of university all over again. A new place with new people, having no idea what is going on nor where to go. It’s overwhelming. But for some reason, the Irish mentality has taken over me and I feel no stress. Things are looking good.
May the road rise up to meet ya.
P.S. – I have finally sorted out my internet problems, so I will now be able to upload posts on approximately a weekly basis. With my technology all fixed, I will be able to update all internet mediums!