With the end of one adventure, comes the beginning of another. My brother, Zach, and friend, Kirstin, arrived from Canada for us to set out on an epic adventure of travelling Europe as best we can. First stop: I want to show them a little bit of Ireland. So, after having shown them around Waterford for a day, we headed on a bus to Galway.
We wandered the city, exploring the various spots that I knew of but had not seen. We went inside of Galway Cathedral, marveling at its beauty and learning a little history. The cathedral was built on the grounds of the old jail, bought for a minimal amount even for that time. We also walked through the Spanish Arch and into the Galway Museum. If you don’t know already, I absolutely love museums! So I was excited to check this one out.
Walking through the museum was interesting – the beginnings of Ireland are highlighted, and there are artifacts from thousands of years ago found by archaeologists around Galway and in the River Corrib. It was really interesting to look at the artifacts and see if they had come from places I knew. One part talked about Dun Aengus, the fort that I had been to on Inis Mor of the Aran Islands. For me, though, the most interesting was the exhibit on Ireland and Galway’s part in World War I. I had not realized that they had played such a large part in it, from thousands of volunteers going to the front to their deaths, to a very brave leader who died in a gruesome battle. The exhibit was done extremely well, with stories of people on one side corresponding to an outline of events on the opposite side of the room. I really liked it. We couldn’t finish the museum though, as it closed. So we quickly took some shots out the third floor window of the River Corrib and the views beyond.
We wandered and found a small place to eat for an Irish dinner. The rest of the night was just walking around or relaxing at the hostel. I think we are all a little tired, which does not bode well for the rest of the trip. Thankfully, some nights we will hopefully sleep better than others.
On Zach’s birthday, we had booked a day at the Cliffs on a tour, even though the weather did not look too promising. We were hopeful that it might turn into a better day. The tour was different from the one I took last time – including the weather. It rained and the wind was insane! It was so foggy that we couldn’t even see the cliffs. But, despite the wind blowing us over, it did afford us a view of the cliffs for a short time.
May 28 – after a 3 hour bus ride, we arrived in Dublin. After Zach and I grabbed a quick burrito, we headed to Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced ‘jail’). There was so much history, it was really interesting! We then learned to pour our own Guinness at the Storehouse, my second time through. It was super cool to get to pour my own though, especially having lived in Ireland and drinking it on tap. 😉 We hung out at the hostel before heading to The Porterhouse, a pub I knew from St. Patrick’s Day. We enjoyed some beers and live music before turning in for the night.
The next morning, we took a walking tour of Dublin to see some of the sights. It was a ton of history packed into a short session. I had already heard a lot of it over the months, but was still overwhelmed by the enormity of everything Ireland had gone through.
After the tour, we headed to the Museum of History and Archaeology- mostly because they had the bog bodies that I had been hearing about for months. Basically, Ireland is known for its bog lands, and years ago, archaeologists began to find things in these bogs from centuries ago. With the acidity of the bogs, many things are well preserved. We got ice cream, and then wandered around St. Stephen’s Green and Dublin. We had some problems finding transport out to the hotel we were switching to for the night.
The next day, May 30, we left Ireland. It was super bittersweet for me, leaving a country that I had loved to call home for 5 months but embarking on an exciting adventure around Europe with awesome people. I took in the sights from the airplane window as we flew to Bristol. We were staying with Kirstin’s friend, Bailey. Bailey was really awesome, and we were very appreciative of her letting us stay in her tiny, British flat. It was a lot of people in a small flat, but it was so nice to be right in the city. We wandered the city that afternoon, cooked dinner together, and went out for the evening.
We ventured to take a train the following day to Cardiff. It was cool to add one more country to our list of many, and it was possible with only a day trip. Kirstin and Bailey went to the Doctor Who museum, the main reason that we had headed to Cardiff. Zach and I decided to tag along to the city, but we decided to explore instead. It was a great day!
Zach and I found Cardiff Castle and Bute Park, where we walked and sat, just chatting and enjoying our time catching up. We wandered the streets of Cardiff, down cute passageways called galleries. These galleries had really cute cafes and shops, and were all over. I absolutely loved them and took far too many pictures! We met up with the girls after, grabbed some dinner, and then headed back for a night in flat.
Our last day in Bristol was specifically for exploring the city itself. Bailey had an exam, so we ventured to explore on our own. We went to St. Nicholas’ Market, where we wandered through the little stalls and we found Zac’s Café where we had a full English breakfast – it was delicious. We tried to find some street art, but ended up in an area that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in, so we went back. Kirstin and I went into Bristol Cathedral – it was beautiful! We went to the Boston Tea Party café for some hot drinks on a cold day before meeting Bailey.
Bailey took us up a tower in Brandon Hill Park, and despite the wind being like that at the Cliffs of Moher, the views were spectacular. You could see all of Bristol, including Clifton Suspension Bridge. With the weather, we had decided not to walk all the way there. That evening, we went out for traditional fish ‘n chips, and tried to organize the next parts of our trip.
An early morning the next day had us on a bus to London. Our hostel was quite far from the main area of the city, but we made it work! We settled our stuff in and headed out, making our first stop at Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and then walking along the Thames. We took a ton of silly pictures with the lions and telephone boxes before seeing Big Ben and the London Eye.
I think the funniest part of the day was when we ended up at The Maple Leaf, a Canadian bar in Covent Garden, for dinner. It was great! We wandered Covent Market before heading back to the hostel for an earlier night.
June 3, the next day, was pretty grand. We ended up going through the British Museum after we eventually found it. I ended up seeing a lot of the same things, but museums never get old for me. I loved exploring the centuries of history stored within its walls.
My parents had arrived in London that day, so while we waited to hear from them, we wandered through the city. After getting a phone call from them, we went to Hyde Park to kill a little time. Except we couldn’t exactly find it. We ended up in a really ‘posh’ part of London, and accidentally found Churchill’s old house! We walked through Hyde Park and saw Kensington Palace from afar, before walking a long ways to see Buckingham Palace.
We had walked almost to Trafalgar Square, a long trek, before we heard from my parents. Without wifi everywhere, it is very hard when you don’t have international phone plans. We ended up meeting them near their hotel at the other end of London, and going out for a nice dinner. It was really great to see them for the first time in 5 months.
We had to check out of our hostel the next morning, so we completely packed up and brought our giant bags with us into London. We stored them for the day at the train station before heading out to meet my parents for a day around London. We sort of went separate ways for part of the day: Kirstin and I would explore while Zach went on the London Eye with mom and dad.
Kirstin and I headed across London via tube to Tower Hill. We wandered around and crossed Tower Bridge to the other side of the Thames, where we had a great view for some lunch. We walked along to the Globe Theatre, where we both decided to recite our best attempts at Shakespeare monologues. It was quite fun. We did a lot more walking when we headed down to the London Eye and made our way towards the Imperial War Museum, the meeting point with my family.
This museum was somewhere that I really wanted to go. It was actually on my bucket list to see it – and I wasn’t able to last time I was in London. I had enough time to wander through two exhibits: the First World War and the Holocaust. The exhibitions were absolutely brilliant! They had so many primary texts, quotes, footage and so much more. It was amazing. I was in museum-heaven.
We hopped on a double-decker bus into the city, and had dinner at Nando’s. I had wanted to try it, as they were everywhere in London. We then went to see the Thames and views lit up at night. It was beautiful and I seriously love London.
The next part of the trip got a little bumpy when we took our bus to Paris. It was an overnight bus and involved us taking a ferry – meaning we were woken up to provide our passports and board the ferry itself. Needless to say, we did not get a lot of sleep, and Paris started off very interesting.
But I’ll save that for another post.
With wifi being difficult sometimes, it’s hard to say how often I’ll be able to update my blog posts. However, I am posting short summaries with pictures on Instagram each day. Those are being shared on Twitter and Facebook as well.
Signing off for now,
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]