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Epic EuroTrip: Ciao Italy

After saying goodbye to a great friend and an amazing city, we moved on to our next adventure in another country: Italy!

Our first stop after a flight was the city of Pisa. We knew that there wasn’t a ton to do in Pisa, other than take tourist photos with the tower. Basically, it was just going to be a stopover for us to get to Cinque Terre the next day. However, Pisa turned out to be pretty fun – if only for an evening.

After we checked into our hostel, we headed out into the streets of Pisa. Wandering was pretty cool actually – we found street vendors with very unique items for sale, and we even ran into a street procession with a band and everything. It was a ton of fun! And of course, we got gelato for our first evening in Italy.

We headed straight for the Piazza dei Miercoli to see the church and the torre, or ‘leaning tower.’ Many people had told us not to take the ‘typical leaning poses,’ so we went for other poses instead… and making subtle fun of some other people taking the photos as well. We had a lot of laughs and fun. Then we went for pizza at a local restaurant after – and it was probably one of the best pizzas I have ever had before. It was massive and delicious.

 
The iconic tower of Pisa!

The iconic tower of Pisa!

 
Pisa Torre. So cool.

Pisa Torre. So cool.

 
 
Our first gelato in Italy, in Pisa!

Our first gelato in Italy, in Pisa!

 
Kirstin tried to push the tower onto us... it was quite terrifying...

Kirstin tried to push the tower onto us… it was quite terrifying…

The next morning, we hopped on a train to La Spezia, where we transferred to another train to get to the town we would stay in Cinque Terre, Corniglia. The weather looked gross, as we knew a storm was blowing in. We had actually seen rain and lightning on our train ride to La Spezia. But we crossed our fingers for better weather.

Which didn’t happen. We got to Corniglia and had to wait to check in. We went to a little restaurant for a great lunch and coffee (yes, I have taken to drinking espresso for some reason. This was the first of a few through Eastern Europe), and the woman told us to move inside because the sky looked so dark. Well, that’s what we got from the broken English and hand gestures as we all tried to communicate. But it was a good thing that we did move – as soon as we got inside, it started to absolutely pour buckets down. Needless to say, we took our time eating lunch.

That afternoon, it cleared up, so we decided that we would take the shorter hike along the hills to one of the other towns. So, we took a train one town over, to Manarola, and we hiked to Riomaggiore. Matt, a guy staying in the same room as Zach, had done the hikes earlier that day. But, being that he had just met us and we all got along well, he decided to come to do the hike with us! We all had a great time, even with the hike being almost an eighty degree angle for the whole hour and a half. And the towns and views were so amazing!!! Of course, we got some gelato again, because Italy. We went back to shower and hang out for a bit, before we all went out for dinner together in Corniglia. It was a great day and start to our time in Cinque Terre.

 
All of the buildings in Cinque Terre were beautiful colours!

All of the buildings in Cinque Terre were beautiful colours!

 
Hiking in Cinque Terre with Kirstin, Zach and Matt!

Hiking in Cinque Terre with Kirstin, Zach and Matt!

 
I loved the colourful houses of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

I loved the colourful houses of Manarola in Cinque Terre.

 
 
Beautiful views along our hike.

Beautiful views along our hike.

The next day was the serious hiking day! We were going to do the coastal hikes from our town, Corniglia, to Vernazza and then Monterosso. It was going to take basically the whole day, a good chunk of hours. And it was definitely hot out. Matt accompanied us on the first leg, to Vernazza, and then we went our separate ways. It was tough going at a few points – there are a lot of stairs, ups and downs, and the heat is impeccable – but the views were amazing and the towns were worth it alone. Vernazza was so pretty, with the harbor and the boats. I think I enjoyed Vernazza and Manarola the most. We hung out in Monterosso before heading back to Corniglia.

After taking the wrong train (we somehow ended up on an express that went straight to La Spezia), and showering, we met up with Matt to head out for a night of dinner. We met a few other girls staying in our room, and invited them along. Annie was from the US, while Megan was from Australia. They were really nice, and again, everyone got along great! We took the train to Monterosso, had a great dinner (after we finally found a place to eat), and then ate gelato by the beach. It was an amazing evening with some great people.

 
The beautiful town of Vernazza on our hike through Cinque Terre.

The beautiful town of Vernazza on our hike through Cinque Terre.

 
 
Hiking through the towns, on our way to Vernazza!

Hiking through the towns, on our way to Vernazza!

 
The beautiful town of Vernazza.

The beautiful town of Vernazza.

The beaches of Monterosso were really nice - loved the colourful umbrellas!

The beaches of Monterosso were really nice – loved the colourful umbrellas!

 

We had another panicky night when we found out that the next morning, there was going to be a rail strike in the area. No one could tell us if it would merely be a regional strike or a country-wide one. We wouldn’t find out until morning. So, we had to attempt to get out of Cinque Terre at least before the strike began at 9. Flash forward to a 5:30am morning, catching a train, and then paying a lot to be able to take 2 trains to Venice.

Once in Venice, we were utterly exhausted. We found our bus to the area we would be staying – a campground outside of the city where we were staying in a cabin. We got on the bus, got to the cabin, were slightly disappointed, ate pizza, and then just hung out in the cabin before crashing. It was an odd day. We didn’t even want to attempt to explore the city yet.

The next day, June 17, was our day to explore the entirety of Venice. And it was our only day. So, we planned to make the best of it! We planned to head out early – but ended up running late and almost missing our bus. This somehow turned into a regular thing for buses, which became sort of annoying…

None of us really knew any of the places that we were supposed to visit in Venice, and maps cost money, so we just set out exploring on foot and following signs. We made our way to Piazza San Marco, the one place Kirstin had knew of. It was cool, but there was scaffolding and tons of pigeons! It was also very crowded, which made it difficult to maneuver and slightly claustrophobic. BUT – it was pretty and super Italian. We wandered along and went to the Grand Canal, a place that we definitely had heard of. The water was gorgeous and there were boats everywhere!

 
 
The gondolas in Venice, along the canals.

The gondolas in Venice, along the canals.

Piazza San Marco in Venice. Super crowded, but quite beautiful.

Piazza San Marco in Venice. Super crowded, but quite beautiful.

 
Selfie in Piazza San Marco with the scaffolding...

Selfie in Piazza San Marco with the scaffolding…

 
 
The gondolas along the Grand Canal of Venice.

The gondolas along the Grand Canal of Venice.

We walked a lot, found some gelato, got into some arguments about what we wanted to do, and decided that it would be best to split up. Kirstin wanted to go and explore more of Venice. Zach and I really wanted to ride a boat. We didn’t want to pay the insane amount of money to ride a gondola, so we decided to catch a vaporetto, a ferry-type boat, to the other island of Murano.

Murano is the glass-blowing island, so there were multiple shops with beautiful glass-blown artwork. The island itself, or at least the area we ended up in, was quiet and quaint. It was a nice break from the crowded and busy streets of Venice. There was room to breathe and relax, with walking space. So we tried to spend a little extra time there. We stopped at a little café to grab a drink. I tried an Aperol Spritzer – basically sparkling water mixed with an alcohol called Aperol. We believe that you can only get it in Europe. It was pretty good! We caught the boat back to Venice, and ended up getting very lost trying to find Kirstin again. I definitely suggest getting a map on your phone or buying one if you can. Venice is quite confusing.

 
Riding the vaporetto to the island of Murano.

Riding the vaporetto to the island of Murano.

 
The beautiful and quaint island of Murano.

The beautiful and quaint island of Murano.

 
Standing on a pier in Murano.

Standing on a pier in Murano.

 

We got some dinner at a little restaurant along one of the main streets. The waiters were hilarious, offering pizza to random people walking by or asking them to pay someone’s bill. We had some good laughs with them. We wandered a little more to see the canal at night, and grabbed some dessert. I had a great chocolate mousse! We caught the bus back to our accommodations.

The next day would be a travel day to yet another city and country – Budapest, Hungary. I was very excited to see my friend, Kitty. I hadn’t seen her in quite some time. But that’s for the next post.

Bye for now

From

JH

P.S. – sorry I am a little behind on the blog posts. I actually just wrote and uploaded this post from Prague, basically a week after I had left Italy. However, I am trying to keep everyone updated through my other social media when I have wifi, with pictures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

EuroTrip Pt. 1

So, after two weeks of travels and adventures, I am back in my cold room in Waterford. I have experienced so many things, and I am excited to attempt to retell my stories here on my blog. For some things, though, words will not suffice to portray the reality of my feelings or experiences. But, alas, I will do my best. Prepare yourself for a long’un – I’ve tried to condense but there’s too much to say!

Just over two weeks ago, I set out to conquer 4 countries and 6 cities with some great friends. Of course these friends would include my flatmate, Brittany, our Spanish friend, Carlos, and our Dutch friend, Bert. We had all become quite good friends over the months, and were excited to set out on an adventure!

Saturday March 28, 2015

This was the beginning of our journey. Bursting with excitement, I honestly didn’t sleep very much the night before. Getting up decently early, we caught a bus to Dublin and waved goodbye to Waterford with weary limbs.

Arriving at the airport, we attempted to figure out our next step. Because Brittany and I are living here on Visas, we have to get a ‘Visa check’ each time we fly – leading to an extra line-up that we could otherwise pass if we actually lived here – which is basically just a stamp or a person writing “VISA OK” across our boarding passes. Slightly frustrating, but I guess necessary. After security and waiting around, we were on our way to London!

Now, for those of you who know me, I have always wanted to go to London. It was basically #1 on my list of places to go since forever. So, I was beyond ecstatic to be finally travelling to my dream destination. After another bus ride from the airport and our first ride on the underground, we were finally there…

Getting in later in the afternoon, we checked into our hostel and decided to wander the city at night – the perfect decision! Wandering aimlessly through the streets, and turning towards the infamous Thames, we stumbled on an amazing view across the river of the iconic London symbols. Big Ben and the London Eye loomed in front of us, and it felt like something out of a dream. At first, I didn’t even know what I was looking at, mistaking the London Eye for ‘some big red tower…’ (Embarrassing when you’ve only ever wanted to go there…).

 
Our first night, stumbling upon this view, took our words and breath away.

Our first night, stumbling upon this view, took our words and breath away.

 
Typical tourist photo with the infamous telephone box.

Typical tourist photo with the infamous telephone box.

 
Piccadilly Circus and a station to the underground.

Piccadilly Circus and a station to the underground.

The whole time we walked along the Thames, we were all at a loss for words, constantly looking at each other with huge grins on our faces and trying to fathom that we were actually there. We took a million pictures before walking closer and finding dinner, and quickly taking a look at Piccadilly Circus lit up at night. We could honestly not have asked for a better first night in London.

Sunday March 29, 2015

A perfect day in London. I was very excited to see all of the sights in the daytime, those structures standing out along the London skyline. We ventured another trip on the underground, and I found that I was quite good at navigating it and where we needed to go. I was quite proud of myself!

We headed to the Westminster area, and wandered around taking pictures and goofing off, surrounded once again by Big Ben, the London Eye, and Westminster Abbey. We took a stroll through St. James’ Park before coming to Buckingham Palace. As luck would have it, we arrived just in time to see the changing of the guards. It was pretty cool actually! We took some pictures and hung out before moving onwards.

 
 
You can't really see Westminster Abbey, but it's a great pic of us our first full day in London.

You can’t really see Westminster Abbey, but it’s a great pic of us our first full day in London.

 
London was amazing.

London was amazing.

We found a piece of home at Canada Gate near Buckingham Palace! Had to get a picture.

We found a piece of home at Canada Gate near Buckingham Palace! Had to get a picture.

 

During this day, a joke began that would run for the rest of the trip. My friend, Carlos, has a serious camera for taking pictures, a DSLR that I am super jealous of. We decided that we wanted a group photo in front of [insert name of whatever close by structure or building we would be standing in front of in each city], so Carlos would venture to ask someone to take a picture of us. Well, he ended up asking someone who turned out to be Spanish the first time – so it became a joke that he would try to find Spanish people to take our picture. In London, it worked almost every time without fail! We had a lot of laughs about that.

We found some cool monuments and the Hard Rock Café, before catching the tube to Camden Market. It was really neat! We wandered the streets looking for souvenirs for ourselves and people back home, and we even stumbled on The World’s End pub (you’ll get it if you know of the movie, but we didn’t end up going in).

That night was probably the best part of London though – we headed back to the center to go on the London Eye itself! It was so amazing. Even with the rain and some clouds, you could see the entire city as you slowly went higher into the sky. We had tons of fun taking pictures and pointing out all the different sights. It was great to see the lights come on as well.

 
 
Selfie on the London Eye!

Selfie on the London Eye!

 
The London Eye lit up on a rainy evening.

The London Eye lit up on a rainy evening.

View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

View of Big Ben while on the London Eye. Despite the clouds and sprinkling of rain, it was amazing.

We walked through Covent Garden before heading back to our hostel to crash. It was a great day.

Monday March 30, 2015

Our last day in London – so I skipped breakfast and caught up on some sleep! I wanted to make sure to really enjoy the day on a full 8 hours.

We headed to the British Museum to see the wonders kept inside. We had briefly wandered through the Museum of Natural History the previous day, and had been slightly underwhelmed. But the British Museum definitely did not disappoint – it was huge! There were so many different sections to look through: Ancient Egypt, Greece & Rome, Medieval Europe, Asia, North America, and so much more. For a history nut like me, it was Heaven. I could have wandered for a long time. But, we had split up with the guys and not having cell service, it became imperative and difficult to find them once again. And I was starving by this point, having only snacked on granola bars.

 
Outside the Tower of London. (Yes, we took an 'us-ie' at a place where someone was beheaded)

Outside the Tower of London. (Yes, we took an ‘us-ie’ at a place where someone was beheaded)

 

 
Tower Bridge, London. We walked across afterwards, to explore the other side of the Thames.

Tower Bridge, London. We walked across afterwards, to explore the other side of the Thames.

We ate lunch (thank goodness) before catching the tube to go to the other areas of London we hadn’t seen. Wandering along the other end of the Thames, we found the London Fire memorial, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, and the London Shard in the distance. It was amazing to be surrounded by so much history and so many iconic buildings. I was in awe.

But the best part was yet to come, as we walked along the opposite side of the river. We found a cute pub and stopped for afternoon tea – something we all wanted to partake in while there. Brittany and I shared a treacle sponge with our tea, apparently a typical English dessert served with cream. It was delicious!

Continuing on, we eventually found Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I was so excited, and could not stop looking at it, staring in awe. If I go back, it would be amazing to see a play performed there. We settled for sitting on the wall along the Thames, staring at the historic building, as I quoted my favourite quotes from various plays.

 
Cuppa afternoon tea and some treacle sponge for the sweet tooth.

Cuppa afternoon tea and some treacle sponge for the sweet tooth.

 

Shakespeare's one and only Globe Theatre! (This picture was actually hard to get...)

Shakespeare’s one and only Globe Theatre! (This picture was actually hard to get…)

 

 
Here, we are on Millennium Bridge, and you can see St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance behind us.

Here, we are on Millennium Bridge, and you can see St. Paul’s Cathedral in the distance behind us.

We walked across Millennium Bridge (yes, the one from Harry Potter) and saw St. Paul’s Cathedral before heading back to our hostel for dinner. It was such an amazing end to our adventures in London. I had high expectations that London definitely lived up to!

Tuesday March 31, 2015

“3:15am came incredibly early this morning… None of us could really get out of bed – but we had to catch a taxi to the bus station” to fly to Eindhoven! (quote from my journal that day).

It took us a while to figure out where to go, but we finally arrived at the airport. We waited in lots of line-ups (again having to do a Visa check before security), and then relaxed before the flight. Now, even though the flight was only 40min, and I have taken many flights before, this was actually the WORST flight of my life. Take-off was bumpy because there was some wind in London, and then it was smooth sailing the whole time we were in the air.

But the landing – Oh. My. Goodness. See, there was a storm in the Netherlands the two days we were there; the winds were incredibly strong (and cold) as our plane tried to land. Brittany and I were freaking out as the plane experienced turbulence and possibly even flew sideways for a bit. It was not enjoyable, but we had a safe landing! Bert, who had only flown a couple times before this, was eerily the epitome of calm between all of us. Thanks for lending some of your calmness, Bert! Hahaha.

Anyways, I digress. We took a bus to catch our first European train (and Brittany’s first ever train)! It was a smooth, short ride into Amsterdam. At the station, we immediately tried some Dutch food thanks to our own personal tour guide and friend, Bert. It was called frikandel. Don’t ask me exactly what it is – I’ve learned not to ask that question with some foods in Europe… Basically it was something like a hot dog or sausage (but not quite) with curry, mayonnaise and onions on it. Previously, I would never have eaten that – but it was actually really, really good!

 
Vondelpark, Amsterdam - the famous, huge park. There were so many people! (Not sarcasm, I swear there were...)

Vondelpark, Amsterdam – the famous, huge park. There were so many people! (Not sarcasm, I swear there were…)

 

Standing in front of the iconic sign.

Standing in front of the iconic sign.

 

 
The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.

The canals of Amsterdam are beautiful.

 
The canals were lit up very pretty at night. The bikes did not glow, though - random cool effect from my camera.

The canals were lit up very pretty at night. The bikes did not glow, though – random cool effect from my camera.

We took a tram to the hostel, adding one more type of transportation to our day, and hung out for a little while (either taking siestas, reading or relaxing). Brittany and I decided to wander Vondelpark before accidentally stumbling on the “iamsterdam” sign. We went back with the guys to take a ton of pictures, before wandering all over the city, exploring Dam Square and seeing the many canals.

We ate some dinner, and then met up with some of Carlos’ friends from Spain. We all went out to a pub and had a round of beers. It was a lot of fun! The guys decided to stay out while Brittany and I walked back, stopping at a little bakery to grab some sweets. The city was amazing at night and felt pretty safe.

Amsterdam really surprised me. I hadn’t been as excited for it as some of the other cities, but it ended up being one of my favourite cities that we visited. The canals were beautiful and it was a great city to explore!

Wednesday April 1, 2015

After waking up way later than we had all planned, we grabbed some breakfast from the grocery store (frikandel brootje – similar to what we had the day before, but in a breakfast pastry), and headed out for the day.

We met up with Bert’s twin sister and their friend and began our explorations of the city once again. The plan was to go to the Anne Frank House, but the line-up was over 2 hours long! We decided that two hours, standing in the cold wind wasn’t worth it. So we took some pictures and headed to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum instead. It was a ton of fun!

 
Trying to escape Madame Tussaud's to take E.T. home...

Trying to escape Madame Tussaud’s to take E.T. home…

 

Dam Square, the large main square of the city of Amsterdam. (View from Madame Tussauds)

Dam Square, the large main square of the city of Amsterdam. (View from Madame Tussauds)

 

 
There weren't a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can't get more Dutch than that...

There weren’t a lot of flowers at the Tulip Market yet, but there was a wall of wooden shoes! Can’t get more Dutch than that…

We got food, bought souvenirs, and said goodbye to Bert’s sister and friend. That night, we went on a canal cruise of the city, being shown the beautiful canals and city sights at night. It really was an amazing experience.

Before crashing at the hostel, we found the “iamsterdam” sign at night, and with no one on it we had fun taking pictures and climbing all over (also, Brittany and I frolicked on the lawn in front of it, cause why not?).

Amsterdam was truly amazing.

——

This post is getting long, so I will stop there. Perhaps I will include less detail in the next post, seen as I have to fit in 4 cities. This trip was truly amazing and honestly, I’m not even including everything that happened nor all the pictures and jokes. Stay tuned for the next post, that will include Belgium and France.

“Fill your life with experiences, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show.” – my motto for this trip [Pinterest, of course]

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”

Memories & Time

I went for a walk in Kilbarry Park, mostly because we had a gorgeous day of sunshine.

I went for a walk in Kilbarry Park, mostly because we had a gorgeous day of sunshine.

Sitting in class, time seems to drag on as the minute hand slowly inches its way to a new hour. With a new hour, another class begins and the cycle repeats.

But outside of class, it scares me how quickly time moves. A day goes by in the whirlwind of school and going out with friends. And if you blink too long, it’s suddenly the end of the week. You do a little trip and some homework on the weekend and start again.

Nonetheless, I am making the most of all my time here, even the slow moments in class.

I am reading so many interesting books and articles! I just finished Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. An interesting read – my interest was only sparked when I started reading articles and looking at the depth of the novel in class. Last week, I began reading Great Expectations of the infamous Charles Dickens. I haven’t read Dickens before and am excited for this literary experience.

This past week involved a few nights out, with a few lazy days as well. On Tuesday night, I went with some friends to the Jazz Jam Session again. There were more of us this time, and it was a great night! I really enjoy the spontaneity and the idea of ‘jamming’ to create cool music.

Love these girls! Had such a fun night at Kazbars, even if there was some weird guy awkwardly dancing at our table...

Love these girls! Had such a fun night at Kazbars, even if there was some weird guy awkwardly and drunkenly dancing at our table…!

On Wednesday, Brittany’s friend arrived to stay with us for a few days. Her name is Virginia and she is awesome. She is studying in Edinburgh, Scotland. I have really enjoyed chatting with her and getting to know her. It’s cool to get a perspective on study abroad from someone else who is participating, too, but in another country.

Thursday morning we wandered around city center before splitting off to go to class, do homework, or explore. That night, we wanted to take Virginia to a local bar in Waterford with live music. So, we headed to Kazbar’s after a short get together at a friend’s place. There was a big group of us, and it was a ton of fun to hang out with everyone! We all had a great time listening to the music and chatting.

After doing some homework on Friday morning, I ventured on the long walk to go climbing – as I really do miss being able to drive to the gym and climb whenever I want. That night was even more of an adventure, as Brittany and I tried to create a Spanish tortilla for Virginia. It was a little overcooked, but still great! We were quite proud of ourselves. Inviting a few of the girls over, we hunkered down for a movie night with popcorn and ice cream with Baileys. It was delicious.

The weekend was all about the day trips.

Now, most of our trips have been pretty mishap free, so I blame it on the Friday the 13th weekend. Saturday was our trip to Wexford. We planned to bus into town to catch a bus to a castle a little ways out. After some minor issues (including getting dropped off in the wrong place, and a friend hurting his ankle), we finally arrived at the castle and gardens of Johnstown Castle.

And man, was it worth it.

 
Johnstown Castle, Wexford.

Johnstown Castle, Wexford.


 
The back of Johnstown Castle was just as pretty.

The back of Johnstown Castle was just as pretty.


 
 
Posing like the statues in the statue garden. My bagel helped out.

Posing like the statues in the statue garden. My bagel helped out.

Walking around this garden at the castle, I imagined Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy taking a stroll.

Walking around this garden at the castle, I imagined Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy taking a stroll.


 

The gardens and grounds were beautiful. The grass was a luscious green in every direction, and the trees were a beautiful and tangled mess of branches. Honestly, the pictures don’t do it justice. I feel like in the spring, when everything is in bloom, it would be amazing.

We ate a mediocre dinner in Wexford before journeying back to Waterford, our temporary home.

This morning (Sunday), Brittany and I decided it would be fun to take Virginia to eat an Irish breakfast. We had a great brunch at Dooley’s Pub on the quay, where I finally tried Waterford Blaa (it is really just a bun/bap, but it was delicious)!!!! We then caught a bus to show Virginia the beaches and cliffs of Tramore.

I loved Tramore. And since it’s so close, I will probably visit it again before I leave beautiful Ireland. This time, it was less windy, sunny and cold; but it was a great day nonetheless! It was fun to walk along the beach and sit at the top of the cliffs and just talk with the girls. It was great craic!

 
Once again on the beaches of Tramore.

Once again on the beaches of Tramore.


 
Sitting on a wall, enjoying the view of the ocean. And the moment.

Sitting on a wall, enjoying the view of the ocean. And the moment.


 
Sitting on another wall, we had a great chat while enjoying the sights and sea breeze.

Sitting on another wall, we had a great chat while enjoying the sights and sea breeze.


 
 
These boots have taken me on adventures in Canada and now all over Ireland. Next: Europe.

These boots have taken me on adventures in Canada and now all over Ireland. Next: Europe. (My attempt at an ‘artsy’ shot)

Flash forward to a tired Julie, sitting in a cold room, writing this blog post.

And there is only more to come, as this coming week will be packed with amazing adventures (that I cannot wait for)! Spoiler alert: I’m in Dublin, Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, so we all know that will be an experience all in itself.

I can’t believe I only have 2 months left here. I’m trying to grab hold of every opportunity and memory that I can. I don’t want to miss or forget anything from my time here. But I’m so excited for the adventures awaiting me down the road.

May the road rise up to meet ya

From

JH

die with memories, not dreams” [pinterest quote]

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