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Posts Tagged ‘Ireland’

2015: A Year in Review

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).

Exploring Waterford - JulieHuff.com

Brittany and I wandering Waterford

Standing on the edge of the Cliffs with my amazing friends - too many incredible memories!

Standing on the edge of the Cliffs with my amazing friends – too many incredible memories!

At The Dome! Awesome live music and people. (photo cred: Bert)

At The Dome! Awesome live music and people. (photo cred: Bert)

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

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.

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous - & provided great entertainment!

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous – & provided great entertainment!

Our adventure group for the trip to Montserrat. It was so much fun hanging out with all these guys!

Our adventure group for the trip to Montserrat. It was so much fun hanging out with all these guys!

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Chilling on the palace wall with an amazing view of Budapest.

Our new friends in Prague! Had so much fun hanging out those days with you guys. Great to meet you!

Our new friends in Prague! Had so much fun hanging out those days with you guys. Great to meet you!

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!

Annual Grey Cup party with the Waterbabies! (Or #WaterBaybees). Missing a few, but an awesome time.

Annual Grey Cup party with the Waterbabies! (Or #WaterBaybees). Missing a few, but an awesome time.

Vancouver Christmas Market with Brit!

Vancouver Christmas Market with Brit!

Stanley Park Bright Nights was amazing. Excited to go back for the Christmas train!

Stanley Park Bright Nights was amazing. Excited to go back for the Christmas train!

The beautiful Christmas lights in Stanley Park. An amazing night.

The beautiful Christmas lights in Stanley Park. An amazing night.

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.

On the ferry to Victoria, we had a nice get away as a family just before Christmas.

On the ferry to Victoria, we had a nice get away as a family just before Christmas.

Braving the cold on the ferry for some fun with my dad!

Braving the cold on the ferry for some fun with my dad!

The Parliament buildings lit up - probably one of my favourite things about Victoria.

The Parliament buildings lit up – probably one of my favourite things about Victoria.

I went skating for the first time in 4 years! Definitely had a great time, and almost got knocked over.

I went skating for the first time in 4 years! Definitely had a great time, and almost got knocked over. Loved skating with my goddaughter!

It's always a great night with these guys! Evidence that siblings can all get along - and that we all kinda suck at bowling.

It’s always a great night with these guys! Evidence that siblings can all get along – and that we all kinda suck at bowling.

Love my goofy family. Would've made a great Christmas card. ;)

Love my goofy family. Would’ve made a great Christmas card. 😉

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.

From

JH

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. 🙂

Epic EuroTrip: The Isles

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.

When these two arrived in Waterford, lost and tired!

When these two arrived in Waterford, lost and tired!

 
 
I went for one last walk to Kilbarry, showing Kirstin one of my favourite spots in Waterford.

I went for one last walk to Kilbarry, showing Kirstin one of my favourite spots in Waterford.

 
In Galway, at the River Corrib

In Galway, at the River Corrib

The Galway Cathedral across the River Corrib. Actually got to go inside this time!

The Galway Cathedral across the River Corrib. Actually got to go inside this time!

 

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.

 
 
Galway Girls - the beautiful River Corrib!

Galway Girls – the beautiful River Corrib!

Cool tomb in Co. Clare. Saw it both times I went to the cliffs.

Cool tomb in Co. Clare. Saw it both times I went to the cliffs.

 
The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous - & provided great entertainment!

The wind at the Cliffs of Moher was ridiculous – & provided great entertainment!

 
At the Cliffs of Moher!

At the Cliffs of Moher!

 

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.

 
Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin - so full of history!

Kilmainham Gaol (jail) in Dublin – so full of history!

 
"It's a lovely day for a Guinness!" Got to pull our own pints.

“It’s a lovely day for a Guinness!” Got to pull our own pints.

 
 
These are what the bog bodies look like (Ireland).

These are what the bog bodies look like (Ireland).

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.

 
 
On the train to Cardiff with Bailey! This was Kirstin's first ever train - cool experience!

On the train to Cardiff with Bailey! This was Kirstin’s first ever train – cool experience!

Some random stonehenge in Bute Park, Cardiff.

Some random stonehenge in Bute Park, Cardiff.

 
I loved the little arcades down the streets of Cardiff, with cute stores and cafes lining them.

I loved the little arcades down the streets of Cardiff, with cute stores and cafes lining them.

 

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.

 
 
Climbed a tower in Bristol for some amazing views & crazy wind! We brought the Irish weather with us...

Climbed a tower in Bristol for some amazing views & crazy wind! We brought the Irish weather with us…

View from the top of the tower in Bristol.

View from the top of the tower in Bristol.

 

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.

 
London was calling - & we answered!

London was calling – & we answered!

 
 
Canadian pub in London! (yes, we ate here)

Canadian pub in London! (yes, we ate here)

Beautiful walk in Hyde Park of London

Beautiful walk in Hyde Park of London

 
No, we didn't climb onto the lions. But I love this picture.

No, we didn’t climb onto the lions. But I love this picture.

 

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.

 
 
One of my loves: Big Ben

One of my loves: Big Ben

The London Eye. No caption needed.

The London Eye. No caption needed.

 
After 5 months, it was nice to reunite the family - although on another continent, halfway from home!

After 5 months, it was nice to reunite the family – although on another continent, halfway from home!

 

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,

From

JH

Irish Goodbyes

Goodbyes are always hard. But a place is only as good as the people in it.

Well, my time in Waterford has come to an end. I won’t be living in Ireland anymore, within walking distance of all my friends and everything else. No more Irish wind or crazy Irish weather. (Except for when it follows me to other cities and countries.)

These months have flown by, but I think that’s a good thing. Talking to some friends, we agreed that we were busy and (almost) always having a great time. I had so many amazing experiences and I now have memories to last me a lifetime. Not only have I lived halfway across the world from my home, but I have travelled a country as best I could and have even ventured into Europe for my first time.

I have seen castles, cliffs, ancient forts, big and small cities, towns, national parks, amazing coastlines, and famous views and areas. I experienced Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, and the sea of green which consumes it in madness. I’ve tried typical Irish food and have now come to love beer. I spent my birthday away from home for the first time, surrounded by new friends. I travelled to cities in Ireland with people I had known for merely a few weeks.

 
Waiting for the parade in Dublin the girls.

Waiting for the parade in Dublin with the girls.

 
ERASMUS students!

ERASMUS students!
Photo cred: Brownes Photography.

 
Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

I experienced the actual European continent for the first time with great friends. I couldn’t have asked for better trip mates or a better trip. We have so many great laughs and memories from that trip, even with the ups and downs of travelling. But, in my opinion, we really grew closer from that adventure and the experiences. I hope to stay in contact and see all of you again very soon.

Of course, my roommate and friend from home definitely helped make things smoother and easier. I can’t imagine how either of us would have survived without the other. There’s always that worry when you are going to be living or travelling with someone you don’t know very well – but we clicked right from the beginning. And I’m so grateful for all of our laughs and talks and walks and trips and 1am too-tired-to-think-so-it-just-becomes-laughing nights. I’m excited for more trips and memories.

Already, I happily look back through my journal and pictures to see the many memories and friends I have made. I am the luckiest person to have met these wonderful people, and to have had such amazing experiences. I cannot even begin to describe in words the positive effects this has had on my life. I learned to live on my own, and deal with whatever comes. It was definitely a learning and growing experience not having any kind of safety net nearby. I was able to discover who I truly am and who I want to be. It was a necessary step towards figuring out what I truly want from life – happiness.

On the bus to Kilkenny - JulieHuff.com

On the bus to Kilkenny, with Brit, Sarah, Hubert, Carlos, and Bert (and Bruna and Evelyn behind)

 
Selfie on the London Eye!

Selfie on the London Eye!

 
Selfie at the Giant's Causeway cliffs.

Selfie at the Giant’s Causeway cliffs.

 

I know it might sound odd to some people, but these past 5 months were truly some of the happiest and most memorable of my life. I was able to gain so much from the experience. I was surrounded by different people and cultures who truly affected me, and people who inspired me to examine myself and my life. I had some serious conversations with some people, sharing life stories in a non-judgmental atmosphere, while the majority of time was just experiencing life, new things, and having fun.

So many people asked me “Why Ireland?” and I never had an easy answer. I think after this experience, I can easily say the cheesiest thing that comes to mind: Ireland actually picked me. Ireland and its quirky ways seemed to be exactly what I needed in my life. I didn’t feel stressed at school, I was going out and doing new things constantly – it was a contrast from my life at home. And I loved it. I really hope I don’t lose any of the things Ireland gave me, but I guess it’s an excuse to visit Ireland frequently to maintain them.

To all my fellow international/ERASMUS students from Waterford, it was a pleasure getting to know you and living this adventure with you! I am thankful for the laughs, the parties, the crazy adventures, and the amazing friendships which have formed from this experience. I wish all of you luck in your futures, and cannot wait to see you again – weather it’s in Canada or your home countries, or maybe even Ireland again!

I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

 
 
The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

 
Inch Beach - far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

Inch Beach – far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

 
I got to fulfill my bucket list - walking through a random field in Ireland. I'm pretty sure it wasn't trespassing.

I got to fulfill my bucket list – walking through a random field in Ireland. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t trespassing.

I honestly don’t think there is anything else I can say, but a certain quote comes to mind that completely sums up my mindset at the close of this adventure:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

P.S. – sorry for the very late posts – wifi while travelling Europe can be a tricky situation sometimes.

The Last of Irish Travels

Okay, so I’ve been pretty busy again. Let me mention some noteworthy things that happened a little bit ago, and then I’ll move on to my trips the past week.

– First, I started climbing at a new, local gym a couple months ago, and got to know the people working there. It was small and a fun atmosphere. On May 11, they were having a fundraiser for Nepal. The goal was to climb 8848 meters, the height of Everest – except with everyone donating and contributing laps on the wall. So, I made my donation and for my day of climbing, I did 50 laps to help Nepal (I climbed 350m total). All proceeds went to the Himalayan Stove Project, and the fundraiser was a great success! (The gym is Activate Waterford.)

 
Selfie at Activate Waterford for the Everest Challenge for Nepal!

Selfie at Activate Waterford for the Everest Challenge for Nepal!

 
 
Watched the sunset at Kilbarry before my last exam. Great night!

Watched the sunset at Kilbarry before my last exam. Great night!

– Technically, I was still finishing up school. I had my last exam on Wednesday the 13th. It felt great to get it over with, as that was the final I was most stressed about. It feels weird, however, that my semester is officially over.

– That afternoon, to celebrate, Brit and I went to city centre for some fun, before we met some of the others to do a mini pub crawl. We went to some of our favourite pubs, and tried a few new ones. It was great craic! Later we met up with ‘everyone’ as a sort of goodbye party. There have been a lot of goodbyes the past week, and they have been really hard for everyone. Who knew that you could grow so close in just a few months!?

Alright, now you’re caught up.

On May 15th, Brittany and I set out on a mini-trip to check out another area of Ireland we wanted to see. So, we left the Republic and headed to Northern Ireland to spend 2 days in Belfast. It still amazes me that we can take 2 buses, travelling for 4 hours, and cross an entire country, into another. As we all know, 4 hours would not even get you out of British Columbia…

We took a tour with a black taxi cab. It’s a historical and political tour of the city, and although it is a whirlwind of information, it is fascinating! The history is so tumultuous, from the conflicts and divisions, to the acts of violence which were common until merely 7 years ago. You can still feel the instability in some parts of the city. We went around the city seeing murals, memorials, Catholic & Protestant neighbourhoods, and the peace wall. It was truly interesting, and made me curious to know more about Irish history.

 
On the bus to Belfast!

On the bus to Belfast!

 
 
Quote in the hostel in Belfast. Loved it - even if there were spelling errors.

Quote in the hostel in Belfast. Loved it – even if there were spelling errors.

Queen's University in Belfast.

Queen’s University in Belfast.

 

Our driver dropped us off at a great place for dinner, and after eating, we wandered the city a little. We found Queen’s University, which we agreed looked like something from Harry Potter, and we quickly walked through the Botanic gardens before they closed.

The next day was the one we most looked forward to – a tour to Giant’s Causeway! Not only did we get to see the natural phenomenon, we also went to Bushmills Distillery for a pit stop, and saw Dunluce Castle from afar. The winds that day were insane, but we were pretty lucky weather-wise. Giant’s Causeway was not what we had expected, but amazing nonetheless. It is seriously busy with tours and tourists, but we had fun walking around and taking pictures, even hiking a trail to get a view from the cliffs above.

 
Dunluce Castle from a distance, on the Antrim Coast. It was crazy windy!

Dunluce Castle from a distance, on the Antrim Coast. It was crazy windy!

 
 
Post-wind selfie back on the bus. Love this girl - we can make crazy faces together and laugh!

Post-wind selfie back on the bus. Love this girl – we can make crazy faces together and laugh!

 
I am on top of the world at Giant's Causeway! (So many tourists though...)

I am on top of the world at Giant’s Causeway! (So many tourists though…)

Before the tour ended, we stopped at Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, where you can cross to a tiny island that used to be used for fishing. Apparently, the fishermen didn’t have to pay taxes on what they caught there – but they had to lug the fish out of the water and across the bridge. To finish off our trip, we went to the infamous Crown Bar for a pint. Belfast was super interesting and I’m glad that we had the opportunity to see it, even for a couple days.

 
 
Giant's Causeway - a beautiful natural phenomenon! The rocks are so cool.

Giant’s Causeway – a beautiful natural phenomenon! The rocks are so cool.

Selfie at the Giant's Causeway cliffs.

Selfie at the Giant’s Causeway cliffs.

 
The Antrim Coast - view from the cliffs at Giant's Causeway.

The Antrim Coast – view from the cliffs at Giant’s Causeway.

 
 
The famous Crown Bar in Belfast. It was so cool! Enjoyed a pint there our last night.

The famous Crown Bar in Belfast. It was so cool! Enjoyed a pint there our last night.

Coming back to Waterford, there were more goodbyes and parties. Again, it was really hard to say goodbye to people we had grown close to over the past few months.

Lastly, was the trip I just came back from – Brittany and I went to Killarney for a few days. It was more bus rides, and 4 hours (again) to get there, but it brought us to the southwest of Ireland, a part we had yet to see. The bus ride into the city was beautiful, and the town of Killarney itself was cute – like a mix between Waterford and the town of Kilkenny. We took a short walk through Killarney National Park, as it began to pour rain on us, and looked around town before heading to the hostel to make dinner. We ended up sharing a room with 2 girls from Alberta – a whole room of Canadians, eh?

On Tuesday, we got up for what we had been looking forward to – a tour. We found out we would be touring the Dingle Peninsula that day, the Ring of Kerry the next. Weather-wise, we had wanted it the other way around, but it actually worked quite well! It didn’t rain on us either day and we were afforded spectacular views (of course).

 
 
Inch Beach - a beautiful place on an amazing day.

Inch Beach – a beautiful place on an amazing day.

Inch Beach - far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

Inch Beach – far longer than an inch, stretching far into the distance. The tide was out and it was amazing.

 
Beautiful Dingle Peninsula

Beautiful Dingle Peninsula

 
Probably the smallest church in Ireland. In the Dingle Peninsula.

Probably the smallest church in Ireland. In the Dingle Peninsula.

 

The Dingle Peninsula Tour took us to so many amazing places. First stop: Inch Beach. The sun was shining and the views were spectacular as you looked down the far-stretching beach. The tide was out, so you could walk pretty far too. It was a great first stop. We made multiple other stops along the way at viewpoints overlooking beautiful beaches, the ocean, castle ruins, hillsides, the Blasket Islands, and we walked to the smallest church in Ireland. It was so adorably small!

Part way through the day, we stopped at the town of Dingle. It was a place I had really wanted to go, and I was ecstatic to have some time to spend there! We wandered through shops and along the harbor, taking pictures. We got ice cream from Murphy’s, an amazing place! I had Irish coffee ice cream (yes, it had Jameson whiskey in it), and chocolate. We continued our walk and took pictures with the statue of the famous dolphin – Fungie!

 
I was so excited to finally visit Dingle!

I was so excited to finally visit Dingle!

 
The Dingle Harbour was so cute!

The Dingle Harbour was so cute!

 
 
Yummy ice cream made in Dingle - Irish Coffee & chocolate.

Yummy ice cream made in Dingle – Irish Coffee & chocolate.

 
Fungie the dolphin statue! Famous in Dingle.

Fungie the dolphin statue! Famous in Dingle.

Back in Killarney, we went for a walk to Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, as the sun was still shining and it was a gorgeous day out. To finish off the night, we had a quick pint at a little pub, where I got to try a beer brewed locally in Dingle. I’m loving trying new beers now, trying to find new ones I like, and trying local ones whenever I can. Thanks to the guys for making me try new beers all the time – now I find them on my own!

 
Killarney National Park - we went walking because it was a beautiful day.

Killarney National Park – we went walking because it was a beautiful day.

 
Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. It was pretty cool!

Ross Castle in Killarney National Park. It was pretty cool!

 

Wednesday led us to our tour of the Ring of Kerry. Now, to be honest, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to see on this tour other than the landscapes of Ireland from a bus. I actually had no idea what the Ring of Kerry was. Anyways, the tour started off slow and was sort of a letdown in the beginning after we had just experienced the stunning Dingle Peninsula. The first stop was just a viewpoint of the peninsula from the opposite side of the valley, and the second stop was a tourist trap – pay to watch a mini show. We opted out and had lunch instead. Only to find that the next stop was at a single place for lunch. We walked a little to get a better view of castle ruins far down in the valley – apparently a filming site for a movie I love, Leap Year!

 
Views of the Ring of Kerry

Views of the Ring of Kerry

 
A beach at the Ring of Kerry.

A beach at the Ring of Kerry.

 
The beautiful hillsides.

The beautiful hillsides.

 

Then it only got better. The sights became even prettier as we ventured further into the valley and weaved through the mountains. We made multiple stops at viewpoints, including Ladies’ View, where the Queen (I don’t remember which one) saw the mountains and lakes of Killarney. It was beautiful.

After the tour, we decided to wander Killarney National Park since it had become such an amazing day. We ended up finding an open field and taking tons of pictures of the amazing views: fields, mountains, lakes, and just nature. And deer. Weirdly, I became obsessed with the fact that there was technically no proper fence up, and there was a massive herd of deer in the center of the area we were walking. And I became fascinated watching them as they attempted to ‘escape’ their enclosure – literally just stepping over the fallen fence. But one deer left and multiple others followed. And I got to fulfill a wish of mine for Ireland: walking through a wide open field. It probably wasn’t illegally trespassing, as I’m pretty sure it was somehow part of the park…

 
Lady's View in the Ring of Kerry!

Lady’s View in the Ring of Kerry!

 
Slightly obsessed afterwards, we found a Murphy's in Killarney, too.

Slightly obsessed afterwards, we found a Murphy’s in Killarney, too.

 
I got to fulfill my bucket list - walking through a random field in Ireland. I'm pretty sure it wasn't trespassing.

I got to fulfill my bucket list – walking through a random field in Ireland. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t trespassing.

 

To end off a great day, we had dinner at a restaurant called Failte, the Irish word for ‘welcome.’ It was great! But the best was yet to come – we walked around the corner to The Shire, a Lord of the Rings themed pub. Yes, it was amazing! We walked into Mordor, and I ordered a tankard of Gandalf’s Ale. We met some Americans, listened to live music, and had a great night!

I’m so glad that we got to have these last trips to explore the other areas of Ireland. It’s such a beautiful country, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to travel around it in my time here. I cannot wait to come back to explore some more.

 
We found the Shire in Killarney - cool Lord of the Rings themed pub!

We found the Shire in Killarney – cool Lord of the Rings themed pub!

 
 
Loved this sign in the Shire!

Loved this sign in the Shire!

This weekend, I get to see some familiar faces – my brother, and friend Kirstin are coming to Ireland so we can begin our epic European adventure. The 3 of us, one month, 11 countries, 17 cities, friends along the way, and multiple stories. It’s going to be legen- wait for it -dary. Legendary. 😉

Now, I had to say some more goodbyes the other day, and many more are coming. I am going to save these for one post – when I leave Ireland. So get ready guys, it’ll be a sad one.

“Travelling tends to magnify all human emotions.” – Peter Hoeg

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

P.S. – Sorry for the lack of pictures of Belfast… I actually lost all of the pictures from that trip from my camera. And my videos. I’m super bummed about it. But at least I had pictures from my phone and the memories!

Hellos & Goodbyes

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.

 
 
Hubert, Brittany, Carlos and I at Carlos' birthday. So glad to have met these guys!

Hubert, Brittany, Carlos and I at Carlos’ birthday. So glad to have met these guys!

 
Looking at Waterford Crystal! (Photo cred: Alexis)

Looking at Waterford Crystal! (Photo cred: Alexis)

We're so cool...

We’re so cool…

 

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.

 
Selfies in Tramore to send home to Canada!

Selfies in Tramore to send home to Canada!

 
A&J conquer Ireland. #CanadaTakesIreland (or at least Tramore...)

A&J conquer Ireland. #CanadaTakesIreland (or at least Tramore…)

 
It was quite nice in Tramore that day!

It was quite nice in Tramore that day!

 
Visiting Tramore with Alexis!

Visiting Tramore with Alexis!

 

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.

 
Group pic in front of Katy Barry's (except Alexis), with the Germans & Americans.

Group pic in front of Katy Barry’s (except Alexis), with the Germans & Americans.

 
Selfie in front of the pub. Germans, Americans and Canadians unite.

Selfie in front of the pub. Germans, Americans and Canadians unite.

 

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.

 
On the bus, on our way to Dublin!

On the bus, on our way to Dublin!

 
 
The hostel in Dublin had really interesting sayings and lyrics on the walls.

The hostel in Dublin had really interesting sayings and lyrics on the walls.

This time, we found the actual part of Dublin Castle that looks like a castle!

This time, we found the actual part of Dublin Castle that looks like a castle!

 
St. Patrick's Cathedral looked beautiful from the park with all of the flowers blooming!

St. Patrick’s Cathedral looked beautiful from the park with all of the flowers blooming!

 

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…)

 
Walking through Temple Bar, you find the most Irish things.

Walking through Temple Bar, you find the most Irish things.

 
The Guinness Storehouse was a little hard to find, but really interesting!

The Guinness Storehouse was a little hard to find, but really interesting!

 
 
My Guinness at the Storehouse. So good, so Irish.

My Guinness at the Storehouse. So good, so Irish.

Drinking a Guinness, overlooking all of Dublin city.

Drinking a Guinness, overlooking all of Dublin city.

 

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.

Apple Oatie and tea at Blackfriars was delicious.

Apple Oatie and tea at Blackfriars was delicious.

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

From

JH

International in Waterford

I think one thing that I will miss about living in Ireland, is the fact that I am so busy and see people everywhere. It seems like we always have something happening, either here in Waterford or we are all travelling. And honestly, I love that I can be walking across campus or around town, and I see so many people I know. Not just international students either. Yes, I know some Irish. That just doesn’t happen for me at home.

This week I had a few days that I am excited to tell you about. Basically, this week there was no school as a “study break” before exams begin next week. Of course we all studied, just probably not as much as we should…

We started this event with our large group of friends where some students from the same country will host a dinner night. Before the Easter break, there were Mexican and Brazilian nights. Unfortunately I couldn’t go to either. After the break, we had an American night – complete with amazing mac ’n cheese, chicken fingers, pb&j, and homemade delicious cheesecake, with beer and games of course – and then a French dinner – with amazing food that our friend had cooked for the first time, and made into a meal of courses.

 
 
Lovely ladies at the American dinner!

Lovely ladies at the American dinner!

Great friends (and food) at Canadian night ;)

Great friends (and food) at Canadian night 😉

 
Had so much fun with Canadian night, playing cards and hanging out!

Had so much fun with Canadian night, playing cards and hanging out!

 

Last Friday, Brittany and I had all our friends over for Canadian ‘breakfast for dinner.’ We really wanted to serve maple syrup, and this was the best way we could think of. We made French toast instead of pancakes, so we could keep it gluten free for our friend. Then we made fruit salad, scrambled eggs, and sausages. It was a pretty big hit, I think! Brit and I were cooking basically the whole time, but everyone said that they loved the French toast – and we did get to eat some. Our friend, Nick, from Newfoundland, brought chips (fries) and made some gravy to serve a version of poutine. It was pretty good – but made me miss poutine with cheese curds! Then we made s’mores for everyone, a North American treat that they loved. It was a pretty fun night!

On Monday, our friends held a Bavarian dinner. It was delicious. We ate Breze mit Butter (pretzel with butter), and for dinner we ate Semmelknodl mit Pfeffersoβe und Schweinsbraten (please never ask me to pronounce this). I’m honestly not too sure what it was exactly – some meat, I think pork, and a ball of dough-type substance with a gravy sauce on top. For me, though, dessert was the best, and it’s a German word that I can actually say: kaisershmarn. It was delicious! Berries, powdered sugar and cinnamon with something like a pancake, but less sweet. I loved it, and I’m not going to lie, I had two servings… [The full German name is: Kaiserschmarn mit gemischten Beeren, Zimt und Puderzucker.]

 
 
Chilling at the Bavarian dinner.

Chilling at the Bavarian dinner.

This is kaiserschmarn, the dessert from Bavarian night

This is kaiserschmarn, the dessert from Bavarian night <3

 
 
Lovely ladies at Bavarian night!

Lovely ladies at Bavarian night!

With lots happening this week, and many attempts at studying, Brittany and I decided that a day off in city center might be a fun idea. So, on Wednesday, we headed downtown to go to Reginald’s Tower. It was so interesting (and only 2 euros)! Honestly, if you ever come to Waterford, it is a must see. It does a great job of outlining the rich history of Waterford, the oldest town in Ireland. There were a lot of cool Viking artifacts and the tower itself was pretty interesting – albeit built for people who were possibly a bit shorter, as Brit and I had to duck under many of the doorways and along the spiral stairs.

After the museum, we decided to go to Christ Church Cathedral. For those who don’t know, I had a pretty hard time when I learned that my Gramma had passed away at home (a week and a half ago now). It was something I was going to have to go through by myself, very far from home and family. I spent a few days just walking and exploring Waterford by myself, collecting my thoughts. The one day, I ended up in this Protestant cathedral. You would never guess that it is from the 18th century. It looks so modern inside, but is very beautiful.

 
 
Reginald's Tower and Viking boat!

Reginald’s Tower and Viking boat!

View of the Quay from Reginald's Tower.

View of the Quay from Reginald’s Tower.

 
Drinks and sweets at Blackfriars cafe.

Drinks and sweets at Blackfriars cafe.

 
Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford.

Christ Church Cathedral in Waterford.

 

Of course, being downtown, we decided to stop somewhere for a warm drink and a snack. We ended up at Blackfriars, one of the first coffee shops we entered when we got here. The owners and staff are so friendly and welcoming, and the drinks and sweets are always amazing. I love their hot chocolate!

My last bit of interesting news is what I did yesterday: my friends and I got dressed up ‘fancy’ to attend WIT’s International Student Black Tie Event, or Mayoral Reception. It had a few names. Basically, we all got to get dressed up in fancy clothes and shoes, do our hair and makeup (well, the girls), and go to City Hall. We listened to some speeches, drank some wine, ate some great food, and took a ton of pictures. It was fun! There were so many international students, and I realized that even though our group of friends is quite large, it is small compared to the number of students studying here from other countries.

After the reception, many of us went to a friend’s apartment to hang out before heading to the after party. (Yes, there was a planned after party, by the school, at a night club.) My friends and I had gone to our apartments and changed out of our heels, so we were able to dance and have a lot of fun at the club. It was great to relax, hang out with everyone, and forget the stress of exams for a little bit.

 
 
Dressed up for the black tie event!

Dressed up for the black tie event!

International black tie event!

International black tie event!

 
ERASMUS students!

ERASMUS students!
Photo cred: Brownes Photography.

 
You ladies looked beautiful! Photo cred: Bruna

You ladies looked beautiful! Photo cred: Bruna.

 

Even with the ups and downs of losing someone I was very close to, I had a busy and interesting last few weeks. With school ending, we are now gearing up for exams – my first of which is next Friday. Honestly, I feel like I should be a bit more stressed out, seen as it’s worth 100%. But, I’m not. I figure that it’ll all work itself out. I am studying and that’s all I can do. (For those who know me really well, you will understand how huge it is for me to say something like that. Apparently Ireland has changed me.)

This weekend my friend, Alexis, is coming from home. With everything that’s happened, and all of my friends having their friends and family visiting, I am beyond excited to see a familiar face from home. I can’t wait to show her around and take her to the awesome spots I have discovered here.

And on that note, I want to add something that some of my friends have done over here: a brief list of things that I miss at home.

– Obviously I miss my friends and family the most. And Finn, my puppy.

– My bed. I miss my double bed that I can roll over in, and my feather-down comforters.

– Tim Hortons. I want an Iced Capp and Timbits, please!

– Hot water. Man, I took it for granted before. Cold showers here suck. (I do have hot water most of the time, but only if it doesn’t run out or if I heat it up first.)

– Dishwashers. I am sick of handwashing all the dishes. And boiling a kettle to have hot water to do it.

– Fast internet. Seriously.

– Driving. I love driving, and it’s been weird not driving here. Although, I wouldn’t want to on the opposite side of the road…

– Stores being open really late. Everything closes so early here! The grocery store that is open the latest closes at 21:00 (9pm).

– Mountains.

What about things that I will miss from Waterford?

– Again, obviously I am going to miss the amazing people that I have met here. It sucks that we are going to be separated by expansive oceans, expensive plane rides, and a 5-9 hour time difference. Guys, I know I’m far away, but please stay in touch!

– Walking. I honestly have begun to love walking. I walk everywhere here. And I enjoy it.

– Cafes. There are so many great cafes here.

– The pubs. Yes, I know we have pubs at home, but the atmosphere here is completely different. And I love it.

– Okay so this is more for Europe in general, but I love the fact that it is somewhat cheap and easy to get between different countries and places. It is mostly impossible at home unless you have a car or a ton of money…

– The accents. Enough said.

– The friendly people. Everyone here is so welcoming and friendly! I just don’t get the same vibes at home.

I’ve probably forgotten some in my attempt to finish this post, but this is basically everything I’m missing. Mom, I didn’t put Starbucks because technically it is here in Europe. I found one in almost every city while travelling. It was just that they didn’t have my one summer drink…

 
 
This was a pretty sight I saw walking.

This was a pretty sight I saw walking.

 
I walked across this little bridge on my day exploring Waterford.

I walked across this little bridge on my day exploring Waterford.

To my family and friends back home: thank you for all of the kind messages. It is definitely hard being away from my family at this time, but I am doing okay. I have a few friends here who have been amazing through it. I was very lucky that I got so many years with my Gramma, and that I have a lot of great memories. Although I didn’t get to see her right before I left, I got to Skype her twice while I’ve been here. I know that she loved me and was proud of me. I loved her very much and will miss her a lot. But I know that she would want me to keep moving, continue my studies and travels, and just live life. She was a beautiful and amazing person – she will be in my heart everywhere I go, just like others I have lost.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elizabeth Kubler Ros

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

EuroTrip Pt. 2

Let’s just pick up where we left off, shall we? (Warning: this is a long’un, but there are lots of pictures!)

Thursday April 2, 2015

Amsterdam had been an amazing city, but it was time to move on. After attempting to wake up early (which didn’t necessarily happen), we caught a tram and metro to arrive to catch our bus.

We arrived to our next stop, Brussels, Belgium with excitement for another country – only to be slightly disappointed by the huge modern buildings we found surrounding us! We had been looking forward to the old, the history. We walked to our hostel (which turned out to be really cool actually) before wandering the city.

And that’s when it got much, much better. We had Belgian waffles with chocolate sauce, and stopped to get “frites” or ‘fries.’ Fries are actually not French, for those who do not know – they were invented in Belgium, and are probably the best fries I have ever had in my life!

 
 
Delicious Belgian waffle with chocolate in Brussels!

Delicious Belgian waffle with chocolate in Brussels!

 
Mannekin Pis in Brussels is a lot smaller than you would think. And he's the 3rd famous statue in the world...

Mannekin Pis in Brussels is a lot smaller than you would think. And he’s the 3rd famous statue in the world…

Grand Place, Brussels. That building isn't symmetrical, but if you don't know that then it's beautiful.

Grand Place, Brussels. That building isn’t symmetrical, but if you don’t know that then it’s beautiful.

 

We went on a walking tour around the city with SANDEMANs New European Tours (I’d recommend). Our tour guide turned out to be Irish – what are the odds!? We leave Ireland to find an Irishman. We had a good laugh with him over that one. Walking around the city, we saw amazing sights and learned so much history. The history of Belgium is actually quite interesting, and I can’t wait to look into it some more. We saw Mannekin Pis, Grand Place, Royal Park, cathedrals and more! I drank a Belgian beer, and we met some people on the tour from other places – I ended up talking to a guy from Melbourne, Australia, and another from Galway, Ireland. They were really cool!

After the tour, we wandered some more, bought some Belgian chocolate (of course), and then tried to find some late dinner. We ended up eating Italian (a recurring theme on this trip), and talked for a long time. It was a lot of fun! But we ran out of time to go and see Atomium, a giant metal atom structure close to Brussels. So we explored the city at night and went to the Statue of the Unknown Soldier, a sight I had wanted to see. It was very cool to see at night, and especially interesting to see for me, the history student.

 
 
Grand Place, Brussels lit up at night.

Grand Place, Brussels lit up at night.

Buying some Belgian chocolate in Brussels!

Buying some Belgian chocolate in Brussels!

 

The Statue of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels. With anniversaries of the wars, there was a torch lit.

The Statue of the Unknown Soldier in Brussels. With anniversaries of the wars, there was a torch lit.

 

Friday April 3, 2015

Again, we got up late and ended up taking a later train than planned. But, we were on our way to our next city – Bruges! (or Brugge in Dutch)

The city didn’t look too exciting when we arrived, but we took a bus farther in and found it had a lot to offer. “The buildings were old, streets narrow, and it seemed to be older Brussels on a smaller scale” (journal entry). One difference – it had little canals, similar to those of Amsterdam. Talking about it after, I decided that the city, to me, was exactly that: a mixture between Amsterdam and Brussels.

We explored the city for a while, eating more waffles and fries (we all really like food, okay?). We found some windmills, walked through the streets, and took a lot of pictures. I even stole Carlos’ camera for a bit and had some fun taking artsy photos. Brittany bought some new shoes, as hers were literally falling apart. We went back to our hostel (which was literally a part of a bar) to go on a walking tour through the city at night.

 
 
We finally saw some windmills when we got to Bruges!

We finally saw some windmills when we got to Bruges!

My attempt at artsy photography on Carlos' camera - a pathway in Bruges.

My attempt at artsy photography on Carlos’ camera – a pathway in Bruges.

 

More artsy shots - a dog in the streets of Bruges. Which then barked viciously as we walked by...

More artsy shots – a dog in the streets of Bruges. Which then barked viciously as we walked by…

 

Now, we had taken the amazing free tour the day before, and we had gone on a free walking tour previously in Galway as well. This tour, however, was nothing like we could have imagined… but not in a good way. This tour included a tour guide with some of the crudest and inappropriate jokes I have ever heard, and facts that we later found out were from a movie. Yes, we got to see the city, the sights, the beauty of it at night – but we all agreed that it would have been best to simply wander by ourselves. I think the tour put a tinged feeling on the whole city for us.

We wandered the streets a bit more after the tour, trying to get a better feel for the city. We found a little bridge that the guide had mentioned: when you crossed the bridge, the next person you made eye contact with would be the one you married. We had a lot of fun and jokes with that one! From Brittany and I finding no one on the other side, to us joking about the guys crossing the bridge together.

 
Group selfie wandering Bruges!

Group selfie wandering Bruges!

 

The canals in Bruges. Apparently this is the most photographed spot!

The canals in Bruges. Apparently this is the most photographed spot!

 

We found dinner, and went back to our hostel, ready to move onto Paris. It was interesting: everyone had told us that Bruges was amazing while Brussels was boring. Our experience, however, was the complete opposite.

Saturday April 4, 2015

Our last day of travel as a group. We headed to the train station for a complicated day of switching trains, and long travel time. After a few hours, we arrived in Paris.

Our view of Paris was immediately skewed when some man tried to basically con us in the metro station. He claimed that he worked there and would help us buy tickets. The whole situation seemed sketchy, and we agreed that it wasn’t right – so we lied and told him we had changed our minds, we’d buy tickets the next day. After he walked off somewhat miffed, we headed to the tourist office, bought our tickets, and were on our way to our amazing hostel in the Montmartre district (Le Montclair Hostel, I would recommend it).

We got in sort of late, so by the time we were settled, it was already dark. We knew that one sight was close to our hostel, so we headed there. The beautiful church and basilica, Sacre Coeur, is really a sight to see at night. Lit up with all the lights of Paris below it, there is a magnificence. Especially if you can get past all the people trying to sell you trinkets on the street and walkways in front.

Sacre Coeur on our first night in Paris.

Sacre Coeur on our first night in Paris.

We ventured inside the church to find ourselves in the midst of a service. In all our travelling, we had temporarily forgotten that it was Good Friday, with Easter Sunday just around the corner. It was amazing to see the service for a few moments.

We went around the corner, possibly to an area we weren’t supposed to be in, and found an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower from very, very far away. We took many pictures of it lit up at night, we waited for it to sparkle, and then we headed back to our hostel to crash after a long day.

Sunday April 5, 2015

We woke up and had breakfast at the hostel, hoping that our second day in Paris would be much better. The first impression of Paris had left us a little weary, but we were ready to give it another chance!

We took the metro into Paris, getting off somewhere in the center. We walked along the streets, marveling at the different architecture. Walking along, we found the Louvre. (I think the guys knew where we were, but for me, it was even sweeter coming up to the building not knowing what it was.)

 
The Louvre in Paris was amazing - and we got nice weather for lining up!

The Louvre in Paris was amazing – and we got nice weather for lining up!

 

 
Waiting in line for the Louvre on a beautiful day!

Waiting in line for the Louvre on a beautiful day!

Apparently, on the first Sunday of the month, the Louvre is supposed to be free. Now, for students of the European Union, it is technically free the majority of the time. We didn’t want to take a chance for Brittany and I though, so we decided to go on the Sunday – and got in no problem!

The Louvre is amazing. If you have never been, you need to go there. Even if you don’t like art. The ceilings and rooms are masterpieces themselves. I found myself continually looking up at the beautiful ceilings, only to remember I was supposed to be looking at the art on the walls. We wandered for probably two hours. We found the Mona Lisa, a lot of Biblical paintings, and the enormous Egyptian section. I also took one selfie that I am particularly proud of in the area for art from Holland and Flanders.

 
Selfie wandering the Louvre!

Selfie wandering the Louvre!

 

 
This is the one I am proud of - my amazing Louvre selfie! :)

This is the one I am proud of – my amazing Louvre selfie! 🙂

 
Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Group selfie with the Mona Lisa!!!

Upon leaving the Louvre, we ventured to walk some more. We crossed the love lock bridge, marveling at the sheer number of locks along the way, and wondering how many of these couples were still together. We continued on to encounter Notre Dame. It loomed over that part of the city. All I could think of was the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame – and yes, I sang some of the songs in my head. We waited in a decently short line and entered the cathedral. It was beautiful. The stained glass alone had me awed, but the number of people and candles, and the structure – it was amazing.

We wandered the streets along the Seine after, trying to find something to eat. We found a place that sold crepes, so we stopped. It was delicious, but just as good as the crepes my flatmate has made! Carlos was upset when he found out that his coffee cost him 4 euros. It became a sore spot but also a great joke.

 
 
The love lock bridge

The love lock bridge

Selfie in front of Notre Dame

Selfie in front of Notre Dame

 

 
Notre Dame from across the Seine.

Notre Dame from across the Seine.

The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night.

The beautiful Eiffel Tower at night.

 

Later, we met up with our friend, Hubert. He was visiting Paris with his girlfriend, so we all went out for dinner together. Following a pretty great dinner, we hopped on the metro to stroll underneath the Eiffel Tower at night and walk the Champs Elysees. The Eiffel Tower up close at night is beautiful. I couldn’t stop taking pictures – which may have annoyed some of the others…

After a lot of walking and a great day, we all headed back to our accommodations with tired limbs, saying goodbye until we were once again in Waterford.

Monday April 6, 2015

We got up, ate breakfast, and headed to Sacre Coeur, so we could see it in the daytime. There was a group performing there that were amazing, and we stopped to listen for a while (the guys even bought cds). We wandered through souvenir stores and around a painter’s market, where beautiful paintings and drawings were being sold by local artists. We grabbed some baguettes for lunch and relaxed in the shade.

Catching the metro, we headed to the center of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. This was our first instance of seeing the Eiffel Tower up close in daylight. It was really exciting. We spent a couple hours relaxing on the grass, taking silly pictures, and just basking in the sight.

 
We wandered to see the Moulin Rouge theatre!

We wandered to see the Moulin Rouge theatre!

 

It's so cool to just walk around it, dwarfed in size.

It’s so cool to just walk around it, dwarfed in size.

 

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

Lovin the Eiffel Tower

 

We took a “stroll along the Seine” (yes, that is a Disney reference), and ended up in a Spring Market – so Brittany and I bought macarons, while the guys went for crepes and cotton candy. We walked through the grounds of the Army museum before finding somewhere to eat.

For our last night, we went to the 56th floor of Montparnasse, a very tall building. Unfortunately, tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower had been sold out, so we went here instead. It was great! We went close to dusk so that we got to see all the lights of the city come on, including the sparkling Eiffel Tower. We went back to the hostel after to relax and hang out for our last night together on the trip.

 
Eiffel Tower, Paris. It was a beautiful day! (Thanks for the pic, Carlos)

Eiffel Tower, Paris. It was a beautiful day! (Thanks for the pic, Carlos)

 

Parisian macarons under the Eiffel Tower - that's where it's at!

Parisian macarons under the Eiffel Tower – that’s where it’s at!

 

Paris at night from the top of Montparnasse.

Paris at night from the top of Montparnasse.

 

Thursday April 9, 2015

Now, you may wonder why I skipped a few days here. Let me briefly explain.

Basically, on our last night in Paris, I somehow got food poisoning. It was not pretty. I was up most of the night. In the morning, I said goodbye to the others, waving them out the door. I felt super ill, and ended up missing my train to Nice. Commence some problems, but I got it figured out – stayed an extra night in the hostel, and had a ticket bought for me for a train the next day (thanks Carlos!). I still wanted to go to Nice, and that’s where I was flying home from. So, after a 5.5 hour train ride, and some issues trying to find my hostel in the dark, I was finally settled in. And this is the day I walked Nice.

Nice was beautiful.

I ended up exploring with a girl from my hostel room. Her name was Kate and she was from Melbourne, Australia. We had a great day just wandering the city, and getting lost. We found a harbor and the coastline which was beautiful. There was a lot of stairs in a cliff that we decided to climb. We ended up in Chateau de Nice Ville, affording an amazing panoramic view of all of the city below.

 
The harbour in Nice was so quaint, and the boats were so colourful!

The harbour in Nice was so quaint, and the boats were so colourful!

 

The city of Nice from Chateau de Nice Ville. The stairs were worth the view!

The city of Nice from Chateau de Nice Ville. The stairs were worth the view!

 

Beautiful waterfall at Chateau de Nice Ville.

Beautiful waterfall at Chateau de Nice Ville.

 

We stopped for a bite to eat before walking the boardwalk and eating gelato by a fountain. It felt sort of Italian to me, but it is very close to the border. Then we got lost trying to find our way back.

Even though I only had one day in Nice (and didn’t get to go to Monaco), it was a great experience. I learned that I am not particularly a fan of travelling by myself, that I can get myself through bad situations travelling, and that no matter what happens you just have to roll with it. Plus, I discovered that after you have been to the sandy beaches of Hawaii and Mexico, the rocky beaches of Nice are nice, but definitely not for laying on a beach.

 
 
Gelato and fountains in Nice - felt like Italy!?

Gelato and fountains in Nice – felt like Italy!?

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

The beach in Nice! I put my hand in the Mediterranean

 

 
The view of Nice from the airplane was beautiful!

The view of Nice from the airplane was beautiful!

That evening I had some stress with my flight possibly being cancelled due to a flight strike. But it wasn’t, thankfully. The next day I spent in the airport, just in case. France was not very good to me. And yet I plan to go back! I also found it interesting how excited I was flying into Ireland. The trip had been amazing, and it was exciting to see mountains in France and Nice, but the green of Ireland was a beautiful sight. It felt like coming home. I’m going to miss this place a lot.

Well, there you have it. My entire two week trip condensed into two blog posts. Obviously a lot more than this happened, and there are tons of pictures. I am trying to upload some to Facebook, but with internet here, it may take a while.

For those wondering, I am fine now and I thoroughly enjoyed this trip. I am so lucky to have met these amazing people that I can travel with for two weeks and we all don’t want to kill each other by the end of it. Actually, I missed them after they left. I don’t even want to think about the end of the semester…

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

St Paddy's & Birthdays

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!

 
My sparkly, green shamrock for St. Paddy's day in Dublin!

My sparkly, green shamrock for St. Paddy’s day in Dublin!


 
Waiting for the parade in Dublin the girls.

Waiting for the parade in Dublin the girls.


 
All the craziness of St. Paddy's :)

All the craziness of St. Paddy’s 🙂


 
 
Everywhere was a sea of green.

Everywhere was a sea of green.

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.

 
The city was so pretty. I can't wait to go back!

The city was so pretty. I can’t wait to go back!


 
The infamous Temple Bar of Dublin on St. Paddy's.

The infamous Temple Bar of Dublin on St. Paddy’s.


 
 
We found St. Patrick's Cathedral in our wanderings. Cool to visit the church on the "saint's day"

We found St. Patrick’s Cathedral in our wanderings. Cool to visit the church on the “saint’s day”

 
I drank a pint o' Guinness for the celebrations. When in Ireland... (sorry for the cheesy pose with booze...)

I drank a pint o’ Guinness for the celebrations. When in Ireland… (sorry for the cheesy pose with booze, and bad quality…)

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…

 
I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.

I went for another walk in Kilbarry, and figured out the timer on my phone.


 
 
The skies were amazing on my walk!

The skies were amazing on my walk!

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.

From

JH

“collect moments, not things”

Waterford Wanderings & Excited Ramblings

So this post is a little late. A lot happened over the last week, so I will try to fill you in with a minimal amount of writing.

Last Saturday (February 28), a few friends and I decided that we would go to city center. Bruna, Carlos, Brittany and I set out to tour Waterford Crystal and Reginald’s Tower. Having been here for over 2 months, we decided it was time to do more of the tourist-y things in Waterford.

Waterford Crystal was really interesting! We learned about the processes used to make the crystal, we saw vases being made, and we viewed the amazing artistry of the sculptors. The pieces were beautiful. It was cool to see how it was all made, and why exactly it is so expensive (other than the fact that it’s crystal).

 
 
Entrance to Waterford Crystal.

Entrance to Waterford Crystal.

Carving the lines into the crystal with precision.

Carving the lines into the crystal with precision.

 

 
Amazing pieces by the sculptors of Waterford Crystal.

Amazing pieces by the sculptors of Waterford Crystal.

 
Wandering the streets and narrow-ways of Waterford city.

Wandering the streets and narrow-ways of Waterford city.

We wandered around city center and explored areas we didn’t know after we found out Reginald’s Tower was closed for the day. We stopped for hot chocolate before heading back. We decided to meet up later and have a potluck dinner and movie night. Some of the others were going to make food from their homes – we were really excited!

The dinner was fun – just a bunch of us hanging out, eating Spanish tortilla, pizza, salad, and a Polish dish (although he wasn’t sure if it was exactly Polish, it was really good). A bunch of our friends stopped by and ended up staying, so we all hung out instead of watching a movie. It was fun!

Early in the week, Brittany and I met up with our friends Carlos and Bert in the evenings to plan out our trip for the two-week Easter break. We had it all planned and booked in two night! It is going to be amazing. We will travel from Dublin to London, and on to Amsterdam, Brussels, Bruges, and finally Paris. We are all super excited! It was relatively easy to book, and we all get along great, so I am definitely looking forward to this trip.

On Wednesday, there was a party planned by the International student society for Brazilian Carnival. Brittany and I decided we would go after mulling it over a bit. It was going to be a costume party, and neither of us really enjoy completely dressing up. So we headed to city center and tried to find something simple, settling on an ‘80s punk vibe. We looked great! We went to the pre-party here and had a blast with our friends, before heading to The Reg bar in city center. Our night had some hiccups, but it was great to dance with our friends in a fun atmosphere!

 
Brit and I at The Reg in our 'costumes.'

Brit and I at The Reg in our ‘costumes.’

 

Not the best picture of all of us (and includes some random guy in a wig), but it's a great memory! (Photo cred: Bert)

Not the best picture of all of us (and includes some random guy in a wig), but it’s a great memory! (Photo cred: Bert)

 

Skip ahead to Friday – probably the day I am most excited to tell you about. If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might already know some of the details.

So, for the trip that we booked, there was one hitch: the other three were planning to leave Paris the Tuesday of the second week to come back to Ireland. All of their parents are coming here to visit them. While I’m super happy for them, I didn’t exactly want to come back to Waterford and sit around for a few days. Instead, I began to look up places I could go for a few days! I wanted to go to Spain, but it was proving too expensive, and I didn’t have many choices of reachable and affordable places. Oddly enough, the best place seemed to be Nice in the French Riviera. Friday morning, I booked everything – I will be spending a few days in Nice, and doing day trips to other cities. I am super excited!

The afternoon only got better. While searching Facebook one day, I saw a random advertisement about a climbing area that had just opened in a rec center. Curious, I clicked it to find out that it is in Waterford!!! I was super excited and immediately contacted the gym to find out when I could go. Friday afternoon, I set out on a long walk (40 minutes of uphill to be exact), and reached my destination. It’s a small area of two rooms: one for rope and one for boulder. But there are a few autobelays and the staff are super friendly! I did an induction and can now climb whenever I want! I probably won’t go often, because it’s so far, but it’s great to know it’s there. I can work on keeping up my strength and the roughness of my calluses for when I go home.

 
The top rope climbing section is on the left - including three autobelays- with bouldering in the back @ Activate Waterford.

The top rope climbing section is on the left – including three autobelays- with bouldering in the back @ Activate Waterford.

 

 
The bouldering section of the climbing area! All new holds was heaven...but hell for my hands.

The bouldering section of the climbing area! All new holds was heaven…but hell for my hands.

Friday night Brittany and I met up with a few of the girls to go to a football match (every time I write ‘football,’ think soccer. I’m trying hard to adopt their words here). It was Waterford United FC vs. Athlone United. I was super excited to get to watch a football match that I didn’t have to pay a lot for. It definitely wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, but it was a fun outing and experience! I’m not even sure what the score was, although I believe it was a tie due to Waterford’s last minute goal.

This weekend has been pretty relaxed. Yesterday we went shopping and then had a cooking night with Kitty and Carlos. Brittany, Kitty, and I learned how to make a Spanish tortilla and fajitas. They were honestly delicious and I regret not taking a picture of any of it. And then we watched Shaun of the Dead, which I know some of my friends (and my brother) will be very happy about.

A walk in Kilbarry Park.

A walk in Kilbarry Park.

For this week – lots of school work and possibly some nights out.

It seems that my life has fallen into a routine here, and I love it. The routine is oddly never the same. Although it includes school, friends, nights out, and lazy days, there are always factors that are changing and keeping things interesting.

I’m still loving it here, and I’m glad that I’m not homesick (sorry mom and dad). Of course I miss people and things from home, but I am determined to enjoy every minute of my time here as it shortens. I can’t wait for the next adventures around the corner.

“Trust that an ending is followed by a beginning.” (Pinterest quote)

From

JH

Ireland Trip Pt. 2

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” – Susan Sontag

Day 4 – Cliffs of Moher

Having breakfast in a common hostel kitchen is definitely an experience everyone should have. You get to meet some very interesting people, who are there for all different reasons. The morning before we caught the bus, we met a guy who had just moved to Galway from England, staying in a hostel until he could find a flat. Super interesting stories and thoughts.

Through our awesome hostel, we booked a bus tour to see the Cliffs. This way, we got to have numerous stops, and someone would tell us what everything was or meant. Otherwise, I would never have noticed the ‘tombs’ since they look like mounds of earth, nor the fairy trees or groves, where there are trees in a circle and the grounds are considered sacred by some. We got to see Dunguaire Castle, hear multiple interesting stories about fairies and crazy women of the past who married 9 times to keep a house… plus lots of adorable baby lambs!

 
 
Our first stop: Dunguaire Castle, Co. Claire.

Our first stop: Dunguaire Castle, Co. Claire.

Do you believe in fairies? This is a circle of trees where the ground is thought to be basically sacred, and fairies are there.

Do you believe in fairies? This is a circle of trees where the ground is thought to be basically sacred, and fairies are there.



 
 
If I remember correctly, this was a stone tomb. It was pretty cool - and the rocks throughout the Burren were fantastic! All over the ground, there were lines, like fissures, carved out from glaciers and water.

If I remember correctly, this was a stone tomb. It was pretty cool – and the rocks throughout the Burren were fantastic!

And then we reached the Cliffs of Moher.

Now, a lot of my friends were absolutely speechless. Being an English major, I was only speechless for a moment before a multitude of words came to mind – amazing, breathtaking, spectacular, brilliant, natural, beautiful! Of course, climbing also came to mind, but I tried to take in the wondrous sight instead, storing it in my memories.

We spent 1.5 hours wandering the trails along the cliffs (not going too close, mom, don’t worry), and taking great and silly pictures. It was a lot of walking and a magnificent afternoon. We could even see the Aran Islands in the distance, our next adventure.

 
We had a gorgeous day on the Cliffs.

We had a gorgeous day on the Cliffs.



 
 
"And now I'm closer to the edge..."

“And now I’m closer to the edge…”

Standing at the railing of the Cliffs of Moher.

Standing at the railing of the Cliffs of Moher.



 

That night was nothing exciting unfortunately. We were all pretty tired and knew that we had an early morning, so we hung out in our tiny hostel room.

Day 5 – Inis Mor (Inishmore)

We got up early to catch the bus to Ros a Mhil, where the ferry would depart, only to find the bus completely full. We were disappointed, but the bus driver let us stand for the ride so we could make the ferry. I got a seat part way through – the others, however, had to stand for the hour bus ride.

The ferry ride was a whole other story. I have been on multiple ferries, going to Vancouver Island with my family since I was quite young. I never really thought about the fact that the others may have only ridden a ferry once or twice in their lives… and this was not the best ferry to start on. A 40 minute ferry ride across the Atlantic Ocean, with rain and wind outside, meant the ride was pretty rough and choppy. The lads survived, though.

On the ferry, a very nice, older gentleman saw our group and struck up a conversation with me. He was a local of the island and ran a bus tour. He offered to give our group a discount, and he would take us around the island for the day. We all jumped at the idea, since it was still raining, and our only other option was to ride bikes. This way, we could get the full history of everything on the island, and have the chance to go to all the amazing sights and places.

Brittany and I saw a girl who we had met on our tour to the Cliffs the previous day. She was Canadian and travelling by herself. So, we talked to her the whole ferry ride, introduced ourselves (since we hadn’t exchanged names the day before – hers was Lisa), and we invited her to come along on the tour with us. She accepted, and we all had a great time.

I’m going to list some random facts we learned about the island(s) that I found interesting:

– There are 3 islands: Inismore, Iniseer, and Inisman, with Inismore being the largest.

– It has 3 churches, 3 schools, 6 pubs, 1 store, and 1 cash machine (which I used…)

– The main language is Irish, and the main industries are fishing and tourism.

– The bank on the island is open only 1 day a week, and they have a lunch break of about 2 hours.

– While other places have doctors that fly from one area to another, the islands had a priest that would fly to each island to give mass.

There you go. Random facts.

 
 
This began our walk to Dun Aengus fort on Inis Mor.

This began our walk to Dun Aengus fort on Inis Mor.

Inis Mor was beautiful! Amazing view on our walk to Dun Aengus - we even saw a rainbow.

Inis Mor was beautiful! Amazing view on our walk to Dun Aengus – we even saw a rainbow.



 
 
Dun Aengus looked really cool at the top of the hill, situated right on the cliffs.

Dun Aengus looked really cool at the top of the hill, situated right on the cliffs.

On our tour, we stopped at the infamous ruins of the Dun Aengus Fort. The walk up was gorgeous, and the views were spectacular. I think our group loved the views from the cliffs more than the ruins themselves. It was far more exposed than the Cliffs of Moher, as you could literally walk right up to the crumbling edges. We were, of course, quite careful. It was definitely worth two euros just for the views.

We went to the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, saw ruins of the 7 churches and stopped in another graveyard, and bought souvenirs (I bought postcards and a ring). We wandered the main village of Kilronan before catching the ferry back. The ride back was much smoother for the latter half, and we got to ride on a double-decker bus to get back into Galway.

 
 
The cliffs and views along Dun Aengus were amazing! Unlike the Cliffs of Moher, you could walk right up to the edge.

The cliffs and views along Dun Aengus were amazing! Unlike the Cliffs of Moher, you could walk right up to the edge.

 
I don't want to ever forget this place. Standing on the cliffs at the ruins of Dun Aengus, Inis Mor Aran Islands.

I don’t want to ever forget this place. Standing on the cliffs at the ruins of Dun Aengus, Inis Mor, channeling my inner Judd Nelson.

 
From the cliffs, you could see almost the whole island around you.

From the cliffs, you could see almost the whole island around you.

We reached the farthest point of the west of the island, stopping at the Atlantic Ocean. Canada was only an ocean away!

We reached the farthest point of the west of the island, stopping at the Atlantic Ocean. Canada was only an ocean away!



 

We were pretty tired again – the ferry rides and another long day of bus had really worn us down. We parted ways with Lisa, and decided to hang out in our hostel. Brittany, Carlos, Bert and I went to Napoli’s to order pizza, and walked along the River Corrib. It was pretty at night, and the sky was clear so you could see the stars. We took the pizza back to the hostel, and after the guys picked up some beers, we all just hung out. It was a ton of fun, and the pizza tasted delicious!

Day 6 – Final Day – Travelling ‘Home’

We had to check out in the morning, but a few of us decided to sleep in until we had to get up. Then we just grabbed hot drinks and a snack at a local café.

We wanted to take a free walking tour of Galway city, as we hadn’t seen much of it yet. We waited for 30 minutes with no guide showing up… Finally, a girl came (her name was Laura) and explained that there had been a mix-up, the other person hadn’t shown up, and she would cover. I’m glad we stayed, because she was actually amazing and knew a lot about the city.

She told us a lot about Galway’s history, and showed us the various sites around the city. I wish we would’ve had more time to have gone back and explored them fully.

– The cathedral looked really old, but was actually built in the mid-1900s. And the ceiling was apparently made of Canadian cedar – it would have been cool to go there and ‘smell home.’

– We got to see Lynch Castle, and hear the story of how a baby saved a monkey from a fire.

– We saw the Spanish Arch, where the Irish used to trade with the Spanish, and the remnants of the old wall that used to enclose the city.

– Laura explained why the post boxes in Ireland are green – they are actually left over from the British and have the Royal crest on them. After the Rebellions, it was too expensive to replace the boxes, so they used cheap green paint and painted them green!

 
 
Eyre Square in Galway. Where we began our tour.

Eyre Square in Galway. Where we began our tour.

 
We walked along the River Corrib on our walking tour - it is one of the fastest, smallest rivers (I think in Europe...), and so pretty.

We walked along the River Corrib on our walking tour – it is one of the fastest, smallest rivers (I think in Europe…), and so pretty.

– We learned about Brehon laws – the idea of the ‘honeymoon’ comes from Ireland. If a man was strong and rich enough, he could have 2 wives. BUT – if the first wife wasn’t happy, she had 3 days to murder the second wife before it was considered illegal. So, the honeymoon was created for the husband to protect his second wife!

– Also, Halloween was an Irish tradition – it used to be thought that the veil between the worlds of the dead and living was weakened on this night, and evil spirits could come into the world and possess or kidnap you. So people would disguise themselves by wearing the skins and heads of animals. Creepy, right!?

Perhaps the coolest thing though: Laura taught me some words in Irish. I learned ‘slainte,’ which means ‘cheers,’ ‘failte’ means ‘welcome,’ and ‘creol’ means ‘music.’ (Plus: ‘craic‘ means ‘fun.’ Don’t ask me to try to say them though, as I’m told by the other international students that we have terrible pronunciation for basically every language except English).

After that, we took a bus to Limerick. Here, we wandered the city at night along the river. We realized we hadn’t really explored the cities at night, with there either being nothing to see or us being too tired. We couldn’t decide on where to eat for dinner, and somehow Brittany and I agreed to eat kebabs. They actually were pretty good – although not what I had expected at all. I probably won’t eat another one for a while – at least, not sober.

 
 
To get some people in this post, Carlos, Brit and I when we wandered Limerick at night.

To get some people in this post, Carlos, Brit and I when we wandered Limerick at night.

 
Limerick at night. King John's Castle just across the river. The city lights were amazing on the water at night!

Limerick at night. King John’s Castle just across the river. The city lights were amazing on the water at night!

The trip finished with a bus ride home to Waterford, with lots of jokes and laughs along the way. It’s weird to call this place home still, even though that’s what it is. It will be my home for the next 3 months even.

But it’s not just the place – these people I got to travel with and meet are a huge part of it. Thinking about the end of the semester, and not seeing all of them, makes me really sad. BUT – for now, we will plan more adventures and enjoy all the time we have left here!

“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.” – Pinterest

From

JH