All Good Craic Must Come to an End

As the saying goes- “all good things must come to an end,” but in Ireland it is the craic that must end when I return to the states. (Reminder: craic = fun, not hard drugs). It has been a week of “lasts.” Last hike here, last exhausted walk to the bus station, last cider and last fish and chips. As a thank you for reading my blog, I have incorporated some of my favorite pictures over the semester with a special message🙂 I also have incorporated simple pictures from Galway that tell of my daily life. What I walk by every day, what my campus looks like, what my favorite cafe looks life, etc. I realized I haven’t really done that yet!


My first “last” of the week was one last hike. A few girls and I went to Killarney for 2 days this past weekend and hiked on Saturday in Killarney National Park. We stayed at a cute Bed & Breakfast near the entrance of the park and spent Sunday traipsing around Killarney town in the rain. It is another adorable little Irish town. Little shops and pubs everywhere.

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One last hiking selfie in Ireland

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The view of Killarney National Park from our B&B

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The cozy fireplace I cuddled up next to on Saturday night with my complimentary hot chocolate

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The past few days I have simply been enjoying my time in Galway. I visited all my favorite shops, cafes and pubs to take pictures of the shop fronts. Today, I walked down to the claddagh and ate fish and chips by the sea. It was a perfect day.

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Poppyseed cafe- the best place to study, have lunch or a cup of coffee in Galway. And yes, there is a casino above it.

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One of the buskers (aka street performers) that I pass every single day

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My favorite pub- The King’s Head, the oldest pub in Galway. 800 years old.

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My favorite candy shop- the Irish sweet shop

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The 12 flags representing the 12 tribes of Ireland


As I reflect on this semester I have some amazing memories in a lot of different cities all over Europe. I have learned to adapt to new situations and remember not to panic when alone in the Florence train station with no idea where anything is. My favorite memories come from two things: people and nature. The people I have met here are among the friendliest in the world. They welcomed me into their country with open arms and of course, promptly ushered me into a pub. As for nature, my favorite things I have experienced in Ireland and the rest of Europe were always outdoors. I hiked numerous hills, mountains and cliffs. I biked coastline after coastline and I even fed a donkey. I am sure people will ask when I get home- “How was your trip?” And the answer is it was not a trip, it was a once-in-a-lifetime EXPERIENCE. I didn’t go on a vacation. I was a citizen of Galway for 4.5 months. I will always have a home here and it has become a part of who I am.

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Loch Ness, Scotland: T

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Scottish Highlands: H

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Belfast, Northern Ireland: A

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Brugge, Belgium: N

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Connemara, Ireland: K

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Cliffs of Moher, Ireland: Y

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Blarney Castle, Ireland: O

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Croagh Patrick, Ireland: U


The things I miss about the States are numerous: Chipotle, GOOD burgers, pickles, Gustavus, my family and friends, excellent service at restaurants, professors that know me and care about me, normal outlets and degrees Fahrenheit.

The things I will miss about Ireland: the live music every night, cider, the accents, the greenery, Irish hospitality, the fresh seafood, the ocean, relaxed lifestyle and no sense of worry.  I will miss learning something new every single day and being pushed out of my comfort zone.


I have visited: Dublin, Ireland; Wicklow National Park, Ireland; Galway, Ireland; Castlebar, Ireland; Cliffs of Moher, Ireland; Connemara, Ireland; Connemara National Park, Ireland; The Scottish Highlands; Glasgow, Scotland; Florence, Italy; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Ghent, Belgium; Bruges, Belgium; Brussels, Belgium; Cork, Ireland; Blarney, Ireland; Clifden, Ireland; Inis More, Aran Islands; Croagh Patrick, Ireland; Paris, France; Versailles, France; London, England; Bath, England; Stone Henge, England; Killarney National Park and Killarney, Ireland. That’s a lot of bus tickets if you were counting. Over 26 places and cities in 6 countries. Pretty cool.


If you have never been to Ireland: GO. It is a magical land full of good people and really good music. I will never forget my experience here or take it for granted. A huge THANK YOU (if you didn’t catch those nifty pictures above- they spell out thank you) to all of you who have kept up with my blog. It means a lot to me and I can’t wait to come back to the States to see everyone. And even BIGGER Thank You to my parents who have given me this opportunity. I couldn’t have done it without their constant support. They have truly given me the world.

Sending love from Galway, (Oops I get on a bus in less than 4 hours)

Sarah

Sunshine and Shenanigans with the Schuetz’

Another MAMMOTH blog post coming at you!! It covers over two weeks, the bulk of which includes my parents visit and our trip to Paris and London!! It was a once-in-a-lifetime fairytale trip and I couldn’t be more grateful to them for it! After a description of my latest mountain climb, I break down the post by the country we were in once my parents got here! Ireland is first, France and then England! (Harry Potter Tour spoilers at the bottom just a warning)!!!

My adventure (well, I guess this whole semester has been an adventure so my LATEST adventure) started out on Saturday April 11th with the climbing of Croagh Patrick, Ireland’s Holy Mountain. While my parents were on a trans-Atlantic flight on their way to see me I was hiking through all 4 seasons of weather. It is 764 meters (2,605 feet) tall and is found in County Mayo, Ireland. Croagh Patrick has been a site of pilgrimage since 3000 BC (pagan and Christian) because St. Patrick fasted for 40 days at the summit in 500 AD. Today there is a chapel at the top which holds service twice a year- Easter Sunday and Reek Sunday. Reek Sunday is the most popular day for thousands of people make the climb to cleanse their sins, and many of them do it barefoot!!

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VERY steep incline to the top- and the rocks don’t provide the best grip! (Still can’t imagine doing it barefoot!)

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My “WHY IS IT HAILING” face

The climb was much tougher than I expected- and I did it in sturdy hiking boots! The terrain is mostly rock and the last 1/3 of the climb is extremely steep. Surprisingly enough, the way back down was the scariest part because the rocks slipped underneath us! The view from the summit was breathtaking and the skies were sunny and clear! On the way up and down the mountain though, the rain and hail struck. Irish weather never knows what it wants.

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The sky was so perfect at the top!!

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I MADE IT

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Selfie or it didn’t happen

Post-climb I hopped in the shower and walked to my parents’ hotel to sit and wait! I greeted them with gigantic hugs and a huge smile when they finally walked through that door! After my long day of hiking and their long day of travel we decided to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant and of course my dad needed to have a Guinness!



IRELAND

Galway- I really wanted to showcase what I have been up to in Ireland for my parents so I showed them my resident favorite things- my Sunday market donut man, full Irish breakfasts, the Salthill Promenade, and of course all the best pubs for live music! My Mom and I also got our Claddagh rings which I have been waiting for all semester.

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“This scarf makes me look European, right?”

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I showed them around my campus as well- this picture is of the Old Quad. It used to house the entire college but now is an administrative and banquet building.

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We enjoyed some street performers (aka “buskers”) on Shop Street in Galway in the sunshine

The story of the Claddagh (pronounced CLA- DAW) is a unique one to Galway- The Claddagh Ring is believed to have originated in the fishing village situated near the “shore” or “Claddagh” of Galway Bay. The hands are for friendship, the heart is for love and the crown is for loyalty. The tradition of how to wear this ring is very distinctive. If the owner of the ring wears it with the crown pointing towards the finger nail, his or her heart is taken. To wear the ring with heart pointing to the finger nail, he or she is said to be unattached to anyone and the heart is available! Young men in Galway are known for flipping young girls’ rings to take their hearts! (Don’t worry Zach).

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The “Claddagh” is where the ships and boats come in to Galway Bay and it is one of my favorite places to take myself on a lunch date!

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We love our Claddagh rings!

Mama Schuetz wanted to try her hand on cooking in an Irish kitchen so one night we even made dinner for a few of my study abroad friends- a much appreciated meal for broke study abroaders!

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Mama Schuetz made her famous alfredo for Bridget, Breigh, Megan and I!

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We love the King’s Head Pub! (And cider)

Cliffs of Moher (yes, again)- The weather was a bit better than the last time I went (sorry about the fog Zach). My parents got a great view of the Cliffs, many selfies were taken and they saw a few castles, ruins of churches, and lots of sheep of course!!

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Artsy pic in a fairy fort

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Taking in the beauty that is the cliffs

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I call this one “Girl on some rocks”

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Mid-day stop at a pub for some Guinness stew and seafood chowder!

We had (okay, devourered) some fish and chips for dinner and then went to another pub called An Pucan for live music! A Pucan is a type of fishing boat common to the Galway area so of course Papa Schuetz was right at home with anything to do with water and/or boats.

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Aran Islands: Inis Mor- Tuesday had a little rain and clouds in store for us but we didn’t let that bring us down! We took a bus tour of Inis Mor (The largest of The Aran Islands) with a wonderful guide named Patrick. He called himself Saint Patrick and had one of the THICKEST Irish accents I have ever heard in my life. Although I maintain that biking is the best way to see the island, the bus tour made much more sense with the weather and I actually learned a lot from Pat. One of the most interesting things I learned was that the police officers on the island are changed out yearly so they don’t start to make favorites as the island is so small!

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Pat offered to take overhead pictures of the Worm Hole for us and they turned out AWESOME

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“Adventure is out there”

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Gander mountain rain jackets: CHECK.

Dublin- After a lovely train ride we arrived in Dublin and took a double-decker bus hop on, hop off bus tour. We did the hop on part really well but didn’t really nail the hop off part! We actually enjoyed just hanging out on the bus for the 2-hour loop and learning all the history behind Dublin. Despite my urgings, my lovely parents didn’t want to do the Guinness or Jameson tours (I think they were tired from all the pubs in Galway!!) After our tour we took a recommendation from the driver for a delicious restaurant and we went back to the hotel to crash. Study abroad DOES include studying though- after they went to sleep I worked on two final essays to be submitted later in the week!

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Hakefish with asparagus was the special of the day- spectacular. One thing I have learned: Always order the special or the catch of the day. I have never been disappointed!



PARIS- The day I had been waiting for since 7th grade.  My mom promised she would take me to Paris when I first started taking French in middle school if I would finish French all the way through high school. I completed my end of the bargain and now we have reached our dream destination together! Dinner was our first stop and French cuisine did not disappoint. Next we took a stroll around the neighborhood we were staying in and found the Eiffel tower was only a 10 minute walk away! At 9 pm the tower lit up and sparkled continuously. People were strewn about the lawn enjoying wine and cheese picnics. Surreal. It was magical!

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Cheers to our first night in Paris!

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And adorable fruit and flower market right around the corner from our hotel

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Our typical hotel breakfast- croissant, baguette, nutella, jam, salami and cheese🙂

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Best thing I ate in Paris- scallop risotto- God bless.

Notre Dame Cathedral–  Notre Dame was more beautiful that I imagined, and we were lucky to beat the crowds early in the morning! The stained glass windows, the gorgeous architecture and the rich history surrounding the cathedral were humbling. The name means “Our Lady” in French and it is one of the finest examples of French gothic architecture. During the French Revolution, parts of the cathedral and many religious relics were destroyed but restoration and maintenance has occurred to revive its former glory.

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“Guess who I am??”…. “THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME!” – Jeff Schuetz

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All black outfit because I tried to fit in with the Parisians

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Seine River walk guided tour- We were lucky to have a private walking tour of Paris along the Seine! Our guide was originally from Dublin so we all bonded immediately over our love of Ireland. He expertly weaved French history and historic sites through a mix of storytelling and drama. The tour included the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore which has been there for centuries, the “Love Lock” bridge, Place de la Concorde, the Champs- Elysees, the Musee D’Orsay and ended with a “highlights” guided tour of the Louvre. Perks of pre-booking through a travel agent include a skip-the-line tour so we felt like royalty walking past the hordes of people waiting in line!

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The lovely Seine

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Shakespeare and Company bookstore and blooming cherry blossoms

Louvre- The Louvre exhibits nearly 35,000 artifacts from pre-history to the 21st century and is the world’s most visited museum. The Louvre palace actually began as a fortress in the 12th Century by Phillip II and remnants from this original building are still visible below the museum. Our highlights tour included Egyptian relics like the Large Sphinx, Greek and Roman sculptures like Venus de Milo and Winged Victory, and of course the famous Mona Lisa. Having a personal guide made the experience much more intimate and it was easier to ignore the crowds. Having historical context made it more enjoyable and I was able to fully grasp the depth of the work because it made the giant building much less intimidating. I maintain we would have been lost physically and emotionally in the Louvre without our guide! Later in the week we went back to the Louvre simply to see it lit up at night which we definitely DID NOT regret.

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Tourist or nah? (ps it took us about 5 tries to get this right)

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The Eqyptian Sphinx

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Nike the Goddess of Victory

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Hangin with Mona

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Arc de Triomphe- We decided to get 3 day metro passes which proved to be one of our best choices in Paris! The system is extremely easy to use and we mastered it within a few trips. Our proudest moment was when we ventured out to see the Arc de Triomphe.  We planned our route and executed it perfectly. I will never forget popping up our of the underground metro station to see the Arc de Triomphe 20 feet from me! Luckily we also realized that you must go underground again to climb it and actually stand by it so we didn’t have to risk our lives in the crazy traffic circle surrounding the magnificent Arch. My parents decided to stay on the ground while I ventured to the top and 264 steps later I saw one of my favorite views in Paris. A perfectly clear day provided an extraordinary panoramic view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower.

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Traffic around the Arc is so bad that its impossible to be insured for an accident that occurs around it. The parties just split it 50/50. My parents even witnessed an accident during the 20 minutes I was climbing and were surprised when both drivers jumped out of their cars. STILL ON THE ROAD, and started screaming in French at each other!

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We even tried escargot that night- taste was delicious because of garlic and butter, texture was a little iffy.

Versailles tour- Oh, Versailles. The biggest thing I got from the palace was that- NO WONDER THE FRENCH REVOLUTION HAPPENED!!?? The Palace was were the royal family lived from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. It was formerly a hunting lodge to Louis’ father. Louis XIV is also known as “the sun king” so sun motifs are used throughout the palace as well as LOTS of paintings of Louis and company. And lots of gold. LOTTA gold. It is the most ridiculous, opulent and extravagant place I have ever seen. Definitely worth a visit. The gardens are on another level too. Vast expanses of perfectly manicured green grass, with shrubs and flowers and fountains.

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Hall of Mirrors

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GORGEOUS ceilings

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Check out my awesome audio guide necklace

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Daddio and I standing in the Versailles gardens by one of the many grand fountains

Top of the Eiffel Tower-  On Sunday morning we braved the crowds and got in line for the elevator to the top of the big one herself- the Eiffel Tower. We all agreed that it isn’t overhyped and it is a must-do in Paris. LOVED the whole experience. One of my favorite things was actually a wrap-around banner on the top floor that points in the direction of the world’s major cities from the tower. I found Dublin of course!

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Marche D’Aligre and lovely nap- On our last day in Paris we went to an open-air market and bought some goodies for a picnic. We plopped down in the Parisian sun, ate our baguettes, cheese, and strawberries and each enjoyed a cat nap in the park. It was the perfect way to spend our last afternoon, and how fitting that we end our trip stuffing ourselves silly on bread and cheese because we basically ate our way through Paris! Paris was the highlight of my trip and I will hopefully be going back someday!

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Our friendly neighborhood grocery stopped at almost daily for bread, cheese and wine.

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The open market called “Marche D’Aligre”

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Enjoying an orange from the market on the grass in the park

Musee D’Orsay- The impressionist museum built inside a former train station. Monet, Degas and Van Gogh, oh my! I felt so cultured and artsy.

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Self portrait of Van Gogh

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LONDON

After a wonderful 4 days in Paris with the relaxed nature of Parisians and the easy lifestyle of picnics in the park, London felt like a huge metropolis but the vibe was energetic in a good way. We took the train from Paris to London, which goes under the English Channel for part of the journey. We were lucky enough to be bumped up to first class and were suprised when we were served full meals and wine! Once again, I felt like a peasant out of place in my jeans and converse but YOLO.

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WINE AND LAMB ON THE TRAIN

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Our cute little Union Jack mugs at our hotel!

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Once again we mastered the underground- “The Tube” and my Dad was obsessed with the saying “Mind the Gap” that comes over the loud speakers at each stop to remind you to be careful.

Les Miserables- As a seamless transition from Paris to London, my wonderful mama and I got tickets to see Les Mis at the Queens theatre. Dad passed because when we saw the movie in theaters as a family both him and Bre fell asleep. At Les Mis. Heartless and soulless. Alas, my mom and I had the perfect girls evening getting dressed up and had GREAT seats. We laughed, cried, and felt empowered. The show was fantastic: the set, the costumes, the music, everything. Highly recommend it!! One of the coolest things about the show was the rotating circular stage. It made the small, intimate theatre stage feel much larger and allowed much more action to take place. We were amazed at the possibilities created by their creativity.

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St. Pauls Cathedral- Another city, another gorgeous cathedral. Just another reminder that our churches pale in comparison in the states. It sits atop the highest point in the city of London and is an Anglican church. One of the coolest things we learned was that as WWII was winding down, the British people and army wanted to do something to honor the fallen American men. The American Memorial Chapel was paid for and sponsored by the British people and is dedicated to the Americans that lost their lives in WWII. There is a book containing the names of the fallen located in the special American wing, and the page is turned once a day by a man wearing white gloves. Although photography isn’t permitted inside the cathedral, I have provided several photos via google below to showcase the beauty.

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Changing of the Guard- We were able to catch the iconic ceremony of the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. The guards are all active soldiers and we were informed that they much prefer live combat to being gawked at by thousands of tourists daily🙂

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Tower of London- The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie., the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. It was really fun to walk around and talk to a real live beef-eater: the nick name for the guards!

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Me with a “beef-eater”

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He’s so still he looks fake!

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Lots of scary armor

London Eye- I have to admit the London Eye was a really great view and very fun experience but a bit overpriced. The ride is largely like a ferris wheel, with you and about 10-15 others encapsulated in a slow-moving glass bean. One revolution takes about 30 minutes and the views of London were unrivaled by anything else.

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We ended with a twist on fish and chips- fried cod fingers, scampi, prawns, and calamari!

Stonehenge- Another mind boggling historic site, Stonehenge is in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds and archaeologists believe it was built anywhere from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Amazingly, each summer solstice the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone and the rising sun to the northeast. The sun rises right over Stonehenge, perfectly aligned.

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Bath and the Roman Baths- The Roman baths are a well-preserved site for Roman public bathing. The water bubbles up from the ground at  temperature over 100 degrees F. Folklore presents us with a story of a Celtic King who was cured of leprosy in the spring waters. The town of Bath sprung up as a spa town and became most popular during the Roman occupation of England. The water itself is green because exposure to air causes algae growth, but in Roman times the baths were covered by a ceiling. In the pump room, there is safe, fresh spring water to try and taste (it is weirdly hot). The actual “bath” water is no longer safe to bathe in though because it is pumped through lead pipes!! (yikes).

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A woman dressed in period clothing and makeup answers questions for visitors. She explains people swam in the bath until the 1970’s when we all realized lead wasn’t that great…

The city of Bath is absolutely adorable and worth visiting by itself as well! The street performers are wonderful, there is some great ice cream and the bath pasty- a wonderful croissant like roll filled with a sort of pot-roast stew. Hearty and delicious.

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GOOD LORD THE BATH PASTY IS SO DELICIOUS

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Enjoying our bath pasties in a park in Bath

Windsor Castle- In Jeff Schuetz’ words: “I’ve seen enough castles.” Yes, it is true we did see A LOT of castles, and nothing really can compare to the Palace of Versailles but Windsor was worth a visit. The best thing is that it is actually INHABITED- imagine that! A flag flying over the castle tells the public whether the Queen is in or not. The Union Jack flag signifies she is out on business while the Queen’s flag flies when Liz is in! My favorite was Queen Mary’s doll house- it has working lights, monogrammed linens and a garage full of cars with working engines Equal parts ridiuclous and wonderful it really makes the Barbie dream house look like a ramble shack.

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Taken from google as photography was prohibited- It is exquisite.

Harry Potter Tour- The moment you have all been waiting for. It was glorious. The real sets, costumes, wigs, makeup, everything. It’s all there. I was surprised to see how small some of the sets were, and seeing the process behind the movies was really awesome.  Getting to the Warner Bros Studio though was a production- first an underground train, then overground and then a bus but I made it!! For any Potter fan it is an absolutely must-do. Fun fact: the actor that plays Hagrid is really only 6’2”. There is a body double for him for full-body scenes, shoes with lifts are used and furniture tricks are used to make him appear taller and bigger. The rest of the cast would be shot with large furniture to appear small while Hagrid would be shot with small furniture to appear, well, gigantic. He also had an animatronic head that was full-giant sized when it was needed. I geeked out for a few 4 hours, sue me.

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Mirror of Erised

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The Great Hall with the costumes of McGonagall, Dumbledore, and Snape

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The entrance to Dumbledore’s office- the crew made 2 entrances: one that moved and one that was stationary.

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One of the most interesting things was seeing the Hogwarts Castle- it is essentially a model that they would shoot from for all panoramic shots of the castle in the movies. Close-ups were done on location at various real castles in the UK.

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The Weasley’s famous flying Ford Anglia

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Hogwarts Express

Harrods- My mom and I desperately wanted to visit the luxury department store in London and we were awestruck by the massive production it is! It is the largest department store in Europe and boasts luxury men’s & women’s departments including luxury accessories and shoes, as well as wine, spirits, cigars, a “fine watch room”, cosmetics, an entire top-end food hall, homeware, a toy kingdom, technology room, and even a Harrod’s Gift shop…. for a department store.

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!,000 GBP cake- over $1,500

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Liz and I having a chat

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Friday was my return to Galway. I jumped on a flight back to Shannon, Ireland while my parents took a flight back to MSP. It was hard to say good bye yet again, but I’m on the home stretch! I can’t believe I only have 16 days left. My guess is I will write 1 more post here and maybe another post after I get back and re-experience culture shock! Right now I am studying for my three finals on May 7th and 8th and then I might go on one last hike somewhere in Ireland before I head home on the 14th! Thankfully I have an interview lined up the week I get back because my bank account is very sad after all my travels despite me being extremely happy about all the travels!

Sending love from a windy day in Ireland that is forcing me to study,

Sarah

Zach Really Likes Black Pudding

It has been 2 weeks since my last blog post– I think that is the longest I have gone all semester without updating you all on my every move!! Week one was pretty uneventful, I mostly just studied for my Irish final- TOTALLY ROCKED IT!! I also spent the week cleaning, doing laundry and getting ready for Zach to arrive!

Week 2 was full of a lot of bus rides, hiking and biking, a little rain, a little sunshine, lots of laughs, a few tears and a pretty memorable week. For this blog post, I will re-cap each day, itinerary-style, but will still bold the main events for the lazy ones out there that are just fishing for the interesting stuff. (HINT: It’s ALL interesting this week, Zach and I are AWESOME!) This is a super-long post but I have a lot to cover!


SUNDAY- I got on an early bus again (5:15 AM) to meet Zach in Dublin. His flight got there a little early, so I woke up from my nap on the bus to texts like “I’m alone and scared”….. “JK.”  Thankfully I scooped him up at the airport, or rather, he scooped me up. It felt so wonderful to hug him after months away! We hopped onto a bus toward the city center, and Zach promptly fell asleep.

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The bus dropped us off away from our hotel so we had to walk a few blocks with his bulky luggage. Zach got his wish while we waited for our room to be ready- a full Irish breakfast! He actually really liked the black and white pudding (Is anyone surprised??? No.) Promptly after breakfast Zach ascended to our room to nap. Unfortunately the super-mean girlfriend that might know a thing or two about jet lag (AHEM) didn’t let him sleep for more than an hour and a half and she carted him off to the Guinness Storehouse.

We thoroughly enjoyed the Guinness Storehouse and learned a lot about the brewing process. Interestingly enough, the land that the Storehouse is found on is leased out for 9,000 years! The main ingredients of Guinness are Barley, Hops, Yeast, and Water- each of which they take very seriously. For example, the water used for brewing at St. James gate in the Storehouse comes from the Wicklow Mountains just outside of Dublin. Another interesting fact is that some of the yeast from each brew is added to the next to ensure consistency. Inside the storehouse there are 7 floors. The entire building is constructed to look like a pint glass. The first few floors are about the history of the Storehouse and the brewing process. Up one more floor shows old media campaigns for Guinness, like posters and tin signs. There is a Guinness tasting floor which was really fun as well. In one room there are 4 barrels, all expelling different scented smokes, to give the sniffer a smell of each Guinness component.

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Both Zach and my favorite part was the “perfect pint” floor. You learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness from a pouring expert, and at the end you become certified in pint pouring (as well as getting a drink). We learned it is a very delicate process. First you must make sure the glass is clean. Second, you put the harp of the Guinness label against the spout and pull all the way down. The glass must be at a 45 degree angle. Once the “head” or the white stuff reaches the harp you stop pouring and let the Guinness “settle.” After about a 2 minute wait, you top off the pint by pushing the spout handle the opposite way, releasing a much smaller quantity of Guinness with much more precision. The head should be just above the rim of the glass, but never spilling over. We both passed with flying colors and went to the top floor to the “Gravity Bar” for a wonderful view of Dublin city and a pint. (Okay I admit it I only drank half a pint so Zach “took one for the team” and finished mine off as well as his own). Right after the Guinness Storehouse we found a nearby restaurant for Guinness stew- it only seemed fitting!

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Our “perfect pints”

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Extreme concentration


MONDAY- We checked out of our hotel and got brunch at a pub close by. We both got a panini and chips. Getting fries when I ordered chips blew Zach’s mind!

We went to the Jameson Distillery next- I enjoyed it even though it was my second time. The film shown at the beginning of the tour was actually different from when I had visited a few months ago. A full detailed description of the Jameson Distillery can be found in one of my earliest blog posts. The tasting portion was still the most fun and the cocktail was just as delicious at the end. Zach is an American boy through and through- he said he prefers the “American Whiskey”- Jack Daniels- to the Irish whiskey, but we just kept that one to ourselves😉 Overall, now that I have done both tours I think it really comes down to which drink you prefer but if you can’t choose then I would pick the Guinness tour because it is slightly more interactive and a larger building.

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We’re cute

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Slainte- Cheers!

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The coolest label ever!

We caught an early afternoon bus back to Galway and went out to dinner on our walk back to my apartment. I ordered a delicious fish dish and Zach had garlic shrimp pasta. The seafood is always a good choice in Galway!


TUESDAY- I spent Tuesday showing Zach around Galway, my apartment complex, Shop Street, I pointed out my favorite pubs, cafes, and restaurants, we walked to the top floor of the Galway museum for the best view of the Claddagh where the boats come in, and I even took him to tea. That evening, we went to the weekly traditional ceili dance at Monroe’s with Breigh and Bridget, which I haven’t been back to since my first week in Galway. I stuck to my favorite cider but Zach tried out a few funky craft beers. I was even brave enough this time to try my hand at traditional Irish set dancing! Zach supported from the crowd of course!

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More cider for me, more beer for Zach


WEDNESDAY- the day of many selfies- Only my third time doing the Cliffs of Moher bus tour! Once again, the Dungaire castle, the high crosses, the stop at the seaside pub for lunch, the Burren and finally the Cliffs. It was such an overcast day to begin with but it got worse once we arrived at the Cliffs. The fog was so thick I couldn’t see 10 meters in front of me let alone the beautiful cliffs. Zach was such a good sport about it though, we looked through the visitor center and gift shop. I showed him what the Cliffs WOULD look like if he could see them. Overall, he still said the tour was worth it because he saw so much of Ireland along the way. I was a bit bummed but he didn’t show it one bit🙂 I made buffalo bleu cheese chicken sandwiches for dinner and we went to the King’s Head for drinks, live music and great craic!

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Selfie with the Dungaire Castle

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Selfie with the…. cliffs…? Lack of cliffs?

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Selfie with our Irish newsboy hats because we are still trying to have fun

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We clean up good for a night on the town


THURSDAY- We hopped on a bus to Clifden, Ireland in the morning. The bus took us through the gorgeous scenery of Connemara and dropped us off in the adorable town of Clifden. Along the way, we met an older Frenchmen that has been living in Ireland for 20 years. His accent was… unique… but as Zach pointed out if there is anyone that can understand him it should be me! He gave us directions to our castle hotel and some suggestions for dinner as well as things to do around the area.

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Things Zach does on the bus…. at least he isn’t sleeping!

Upon arrival at Abbeyglen Castle Hotel, we were greeted with complimentary tea, coffee, and scones. The decor was lavish yet still had a quaint, homey, feel. The views from our room were spectacular and I was blown away by the friendly service. The whole experience was castle-like, complete with oversize silver keys to get into the room.

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Abbeyglen Castle Hotel

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Tea, coffee, and scones upon arrival- we’re so posh

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The view from our room- the Connemara landscape

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This place is way too classy for us

We took a taxi to Kylemore Abbey where we spent the afternoon exploring the grounds and gardens. Unfortunately the weather once again didn’t cooperate but at least we could SEE this time. The Kylemore Abbey story is a beautiful one. The castle was built by Mitchell and Margaret Henry from 1867-1871. They had fallen in love with the Connemara Landscape while on a honeymoon in 1849. Some years later he inherited a fortune from his father, bought 15,000 acres and created Kylemore Abbey as a gift for his wife. *SIGH*. Tragedy struck with the death of Margaret, Mitchell’s wife in 1874. In her memory he constructed a beautiful memorial church about a mile from the Castle on the lake, where she was laid to rest.

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Kylemore even looks spectacular on another crappy day

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“A castle built out of love for a woman”

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The lavish dining room

The castle and grounds were kept by various owners for many years until The Irish Benedictine Nuns bought the castle in 1920 and converted it into an Abbey. The nuns opened up an International boarding school and ran a day school for girls. The school attracted many foreign students, many of whom came to study English. The majority of students came from Galway and neighboring counties. The foreign students came mostly from Europe with some coming from India, Japan, Mexico and America. The school closed in 2010 because of reduced societal demands.

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The memorial church for Margaret

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Intricate stained glass inside the church. The walls are all made of Connemara marble!

The Estate also includes large Victorian walled gardens. The gardens were restored by the Benedictine community to resemble their original appearance from the Victorian Era.

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I can’t even imagine what it would look like in full bloom!

After the Castle, Abbey and Gardens, we took our taxi back into Clifden for a lovely dinner at Mannion’s. Zach had Connemara smoked salmon and spinach in linguine while I had roasted herb-stuffed chicken and vegetables. We enjoyed a drink after dinner while listening to live music.

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Connemara smoked salmon

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Of course it came on a bed of potatoes!


The hardest facetime call I have ever completed- After dinner, we went back to the hotel where I was able to FaceTime my sister Bre and my beloved dog Sammie one last time before she was put to sleep that night. The past few weeks have been tough as we knew it would be soon and plans were made. It absolutely killed me not to be there with my family and my baby girl. I think it is extremely important to share the struggles of studying abroad and the realities of life that happen while you are away. I am so grateful to Zach as he was by my side to hold my hand as I said goodbye to my best friend of over 14 years.

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I spent the evening telling him my favorite Sammie stories and laughing about all of her shenanigans. In her life she ate A LOT of things she shouldn’t have. Namely: a tin can, a baseball, a chicken carcass, rat poison, a still unidentified to this day object/ animal from the Mississippi river, and cat poop. She tipped over hundreds of trash cans resulting in our bin being moved around the house bi-weekly to confuse Sammie on its whereabouts. She jumped off/ out of a lot of boats, both moving and stationary. My favorite is the story of Nick fishing off the dock in Detroit Lakes and Sammie getting “caught” on his line. The jig was stuck right through the center part of her nose. Everyone agreed that a trip to the vet would be pointless (call us heartless), so Uncle Russ grabbed the fish-hook and pulled, HARD. My mom quickly poured some hydrogen peroxide over the small wound and Sammie just looked up at us, sneezed, and went about running around the yard.

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I could tell stories of Sammie being naughty all day because those are the funniest ones, but she truly was a great dog. She raised 3 children and saw us all go off to college. She was the one you could count on greeting you in the driveway after your walk home from the bus stop. She was the best swimming buddy and was always ready for a car ride. Best of all, she knew when she was needed. Anytime I was sick, hurt, or just a little upset Sam would trot on over and snuggle up next to me. For 3 days with my wisdom teeth out she laid on the floor, just an arm’s length away. I know that she is once again jumping off docks in heaven and boxing with some cats without any sore muscles or joints. I’m sure her appetite is back again and she is just as tubby as ever. Give your pets an extra snuggle tonight, they touch our lives in the most inexplicable ways.

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Sam in her favorite spot- on the bow of our boat, riding the waves of Big Detroit with family.


FRIDAY- God sent some beautiful weather to cheer me up so Zach and I rented electric bikes to bike around Connemara on. We spent a little extra for the electric bikes- or as Zach called them “bikes with extra weight” so we didn’t sound so lazy- but we both agreed they were WELL worth it. The country and coastal paths we followed were extremely hilly and we had a blast!! We saw SO. MANY. SHEEP. Lots of cows and horses and chickens and Zach even saw a turkey- he got so excited for turkey season! Most of the path was along the gorgeous coastline and the Connemara mountainside was exquisite. My favorite part of the day was driving down to a small beach area. It looked like the Caribbean but we were still looking at the coast of Ireland. I couldn’t stop taking pictures- it was like we were in a dream! We biked a route called the Skyroad loop- it took us about 3 hours and we covered around 10 miles.

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The coastal view from the road most of the day

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I was TOTALLY ahead the ENTIRE day!

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Connemara ponies grazing right near the road

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We took a pit stop at a beach- Are we in the Caribbean?

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Coats and beaches… thats how Ireland does it!

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We returned our bikes and took an afternoon bus back to Galway. We were starving when we arrived and were craving some fish and chips. With it being Good Friday, fish and chips probably wasn’t the smartest idea and McDonough’s was CRAZY packed. I didn’t remember to take a picture of our food or the restaurant because I was so hungry- oops! Definitely the best fish and chips I’ve ever had though. HIGHLY recommend McDonough’s for anyone traveling to Galway. We poured on that salt and vinegar and both cleared our plates.


SATURDAY- With the best weather I have experienced in Ireland to date, we decided to head to the Aran Islands. They are a group of 3 islands off the mouth of Galway Bay, on the West Coast of Ireland. Inishmore (Árainn Mhór/Inis Mór—the largest; Inishmaan (Inis Meáin/Inis Meadhóin—the second-largest; and Inisheer (Inis Thiar/Inis Oírr/Inis Oirthir— the smallest. Zach and I chose to go to Inis Mor, the largest of the islands and the one with the most to do/see. There is a bus company that runs from Galway city center to the port city about an hour away. The bus ride was beautiful and the ferry ride was magical. Another hour later and we arrived on the island. As if our butts weren’t sore enough from our bike ride the day before, we rented them once again to explore the island. This time, the trek was much flatter so we just rented normal bikes. I would highly recommend exploring the Islands via bike- it is the best form of transportation and you can see the most!

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Our ferry boat awaits!

We first biked to Dun Aengus– the most famous of several prehistoric forts on the Aran Islands. It is at the edge of a 100 meter high cliff. The first construction goes back to 1100 BCE, when the first enclosure was erected by piling rubble against large upright stones. Around 500 BCE, the triple wall defenses were probably built along the western side of fort. The fort consists of a series of four concentric walls of dry stone construction. The fort was interesting but the Cliff face was the most terrifying and exhilarating part of the experience.

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Two of the multiple concentric stone fort rings

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Selfie cause we can

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Not even scared

After a short lunch break at a small cafe near Dun Aengus we set out to look for the “Worm Hole” which was our main goal of the day. It is largely inaccessible by bike so we biked as close as we could and then set out on foot. We followed cryptic red arrows, painted with spray paint onto rocks. It is a natural rectangular shaped pool into which the sea ebbs and flow at the bottom of the cliffs south of Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór. It is the most beautiful and awe-inspiring thing I have ever seen in my life. We kept wondering if it was man-made, because it really looks like a perfectly-cut pool, but it is 100% natural. The entire surrounding area is gorgeous and we were largely on our own as it is off-the-beaten-track. Only a few others were brave enough to make their way past the vast expanse of rocky terrain and slippery sea rocks to reach the Worm Hole. It can really only be summed up by the many panoramic photos we took- and even those don’t do it justice. It was such a beautiful day that I even got sun burned- what a concept!

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One of the many signs we followed to find the worm hole. After this one, the signs were just red arrows and it became a competition to see who could spot the next red arrow first!

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The waves crashed PRETTY hard against the coast

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This is the actual worm hole- not man made!!!

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Right around the corner from the worm hole we found this picturesque spot

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I feel pretty insignificant and it is awesome

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I wasn’t even THAT close to the edge Mom…

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Zach is feelin’ good

We spent the bulk of the afternoon at the worm hole, gawking at its beauty and watching the waves crash up over the coast line, and spray up in a giant, misty, spectacle. Begrudgingly we returned our bikes to the rental shop but hit up the Aran Sweater Market before boarding our ferry back to Galway. Zach found a very handsome sweater that is 100% wool and I carefully avoided looking at the woolen goodness with my bank account in mind!


SUNDAY- For our Easter Sunday celebration, we looked into churches in the Galway area and didn’t find a single Lutheran church. I guess we should have expected that when celebrating in an extremely Catholic country. Instead, we looked up Lutheran Easter hymns and sang “Jesus Christ is Risen Today” in the kitchen and counted our Easter Blessings. Thankfully no one else could hear us sing- it was a bit rough- but it’s the thought that counts right?

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Check out his new sweater- courtesy of the Aran Islands🙂 100% wool!

We prepared a wonderful Easter feast of BBQ ribs, shrimp tempura, crackers and brie cheese with salmon spread, caesar salad, potato wedges, deviled eggs and Easter M&Ms sent from the U.S.A. by Mama Schuetz!

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Our Easter feast- note the deviled eggs arranged like a flower- I am a creative genius.

After our meal(s) we took a lovely evening walk around Galway to work off some of those calories!!! It was the perfect ending to a wonderful week together.

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Zach was so excited because an Irishmen asked him about his sweatshirt and if it was from Minnesota. His life is now complete that a random Irish dude knows about UST. [I still like GAC better].

MONDAY- Zach packed up his things and we took turns dragging (yes, dragging) his suitcase down the street because the handle broke. We stopped at the Galway Bakery Company (GBC) for breakfast and Zach got the full Irish to cap off his week in Ireland. I dropped him off at the bus stop and said good-bye for now! It is only a little over 5 weeks until I am back in the good ol’ MN!

Until then, I will be a busy girl. This week I have to write a paper despite the GORGEOUS weather, on Saturday I am climbing Croagh Patrick- another mountain- and then two more of my favorite people arrive!! My parents get to Galway on Saturday night and we will spend 4 days in Ireland, 4 in Paris and 4 in London! After they leave I have 3 final exams to complete and then I will be homeward bound!

Sending love from a very sunny Galway,

Sarah

A weekend in CARK {Cork, Ireland}

On Friday Salena, Amara, Bridget, Megan and I all headed to Cork, Ireland. Our bus was at a reasonable time for once and we got to Cork around midday. First we found our hostel and dropped off our bags. The hostel was was nice- it was funny having Salena here this week and showing her the “ropes of study abroad.” She provided hilarious remarks reminding us that we are slightly crazy and also immune to weird European things now.

“Wait, why are the light switches on the outside of the rooms?”…”Wait, why do I need to turn the hot water switch on 45 minutes before I shower?” …. “Wait, HOW long will I have hot water for?”… “Wait, why does your microwave look like that?”… “Wait, what is craic?” And my favorite… on the last day she said “I am exhausted. I don’t know how you guys travel every weekend.” The busses, planes, trains, taxis, and walking as well as managing hostels does get exhausting but now she knows it is worth it! It was her first time in a hostel and I am so happy it was a nice one! Free coffee, tea and toast in the morning, ensuite bathrooms and decent wifi make for happy campers!

The people in Cork have a very distinct accent which makes their city sound like CARK instead of Cork. After getting used to the Galway accent for a few months, I found the Cork accent extremely difficult to understand. We spent the first afternoon exploring the city.

English Market- Our first stop was the indoor English market in Cork. The Market was created in 1788 by the Protestant or “English” corporation that controlled the city until 1841. This was a new flagship municipal market located at the heart of the new commercial city centre.  When local government was reformed in 1840, and the representatives of the city’s Catholic, “Irish” majority took over, they established another covered food market, St. Peter’s. St. Peter’s became known as the “Irish Market” to distinguish it from its older counterpart, which remained associated with its English creators. The market is mostly centered around those trading food goods- all extremely fresh.. maybe too fresh? Check out the fish with faces. There are a couple side boutiques and chocolate shops of course! Overall, the market was a great stop.

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But why do the fish have heads still

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A small antique shop inside the market

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The entrance to the market: Cork- FOOD capital of Ireland

University College Cork- We visited the University College Cork campus which was stunning! The grounds were in full bloom and the buildings had great character. The campus was even more beautiful than my campus in Galway which I didn’t think was possible. AT UCC we also visited some Ogham stones which are the oldest surviving recordings of primitive Irish.The stones have inscriptions dating back to the 5th and 6th centuries and a good portion of the stones were gifted to the campus.

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The indentations on the sides are inscriptions- most likely names of the people who carved the stones.

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The quad on the UCC campus

St. Finn Barr’s Cathedral- We also visited St. Finn Barr’s Cathedral which was gorgeous. I just walked the outside of the castle and sun bathed for a while because the sun was out, birds were chirping, and the grass was green. I couldn’t bring myself to pay money to go inside a cathedral when I could soak up the sun. (Poor college student alert- but I have no regrets, the sun was luscious).

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St. Finn Barr’s Cathedral

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Spring has finally sprung! (Sorry about the snow in MN guys)

Fish, Chips, Beer- Friday night we got fish and chips (read: fries) at Jackie Lennox’s because a local recommended it. I had the fried haddock and chips- delicious and greasy. This time I was brave and got salt and vinegar on my chips which was tasty!! After fish and chips we went to the Franciscan Well Brewery- another local recommended this spot. We had a blast and I tried the “Rebel Red,” one of their craft beers.

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Jackie Lennox’s Famous Chip Shop

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Out on the town at the Franciscan Well Brewery

Full Irish Breafast- Saturday morning we got an early start and got a “Full Irish” breakfast. Salena was apprehensive, but ultimately got the Full Irish. I …..think?! she liked it, except the black pudding. She was also very confused on why they call sausage pudding. Us too Salena, us too.

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The “Full Irish” aftermath

Blarney Woolen Mill- The highlight of Cork was actually the small town of Blarney! Blarney is only a 20 minute bus ride outside the Cork city center. We first went to the Blarney Woolen Mill and I fell in love. 3 floors of woolen happiness. Blankets, scarves, socks, sweaters… everything cozy you could ever want in your life. It was all there. I almost had some heart palpitations trying to decide what to buy on a budget- SURPRISE I bought a scarf. The blankets were calling my name, but the 150 euro price tag was saying “stay far away.”

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SO. MANY. BLANKETS.

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“We can’t afford these blankets”

Blarney Castle– After leaving behind my woolen dreams, we walked onto the Blarney Castle grounds. There is the castle obviously, but also beautiful gardens, a lake, and many acres of greenery. Once again, it was a beautiful day and the perfect day to walk around. Our first step was the castle itself. I have to say, the castle was pretty dang awesome. Definitely lives up to the hype. The version of the castle standing today was built over 600 years ago, but the first edition of the castle dates back to the tenth century. There is also the Blarney house on the grounds that the family still lives in.

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Totally candid gate picture outside one of the many gardens

IMG_1207The Blarney Stone- This is the main attraction- and to get there is no small feat. I didn’t realize the passageway would be so steep and confined. Not for the claustrophobic or those with a  fear of heights. Walking up the many stairs, we passed the former kitchen, several bedrooms and the great banquet hall. At the very top, there is a great view of the grounds and you make your way over the THE stone. You must kiss the stone upside down, holding on to railings for support with an old Irish man sitting there to hold you. Originally, you were held by the ankles upside down but today, you just lean backward.

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I did it! I have the gift of gab! (I think I already had it though to be honest….)

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The name comes from Cormac Teige MacCarthy, Lord of Blarney in 1602. Queen Elizabeth wanted him to swear his allegiance to her and hand over his land because he was suspected of plotting against the Queen. Cormac sent several letters full of “fair words and soft speech” assuring her he would but no action was being taken. The Queen was fed up and after receiving another letter she exclaimed “This is all Blarney; what he says he never means!” The word stuck!

The stone’s orgin is unknown but there are several theories as to how it got the castle. My favorite is that it is the stone that gushed water when struck by Moses. Although the origin is a mystery- the powers of the stone are vey well known. One who kisses the stone is given the gift of eloquence, or the “gift of gab.”

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Selfie with the castle obviously

After the Blarney stone, our weekend wrapped up pretty quick. We grabbed a quick dinner and took a bus back to Galway. Salena boarded her bus to Dublin at 3:45 AM and took her flight back to MN- she was greeted by snow😦



IRISH SLANG DICTIONARY 

To amuse you all, I have collected some of the Irish phrases and slang I have picked up this semester so far. Having Salena was fun because she would notice someone saying one of these things and we wouldn’t even realize because we are so used to it.

Craic– This means fun. As in “We had the craic”– We had fun, we joked around, bantered. Also can be used in “What’s the craic?” which means “What’s up or what is going on?”

What’s on tonight?– European way of saying “What is happening tonight?”

How are ye getting on? – How are you guys enjoying yourselves?

Ye Plural of “you”. Always ye. Never you guys or y’all.

Have you a fright– A scare

That’s class That’s awesome or that is cool.

Shifting Kissing

“Are you alright?” This is how a store clerk will greet you. Only once though, cause customer service isn’t really Ireland’s thing.

Gobshite Idiot

Slagging Making fun of someone

Sweets Candy

Cheeky Sassy

Fag Cigarette

It’ll be grand It’s good. Everything is ALWAYS grand in Ireland.

Jelly For the Irish, jelly is like jello. Some sort of gelatin product. Jam is what we call jelly/jam.


They pronounce herbs like “erbs” and pronouce Oreggano like “OR-EE-GONE-OH.” Hilarity ensues.

* They always say “toilet”. Never restroom, bathroom, or ladies room. Always toilet.

* They do not like peanut butter even remotely as much as we do. They think peanut butter on apples is super duper weird. But they are OBSESSED with Nutella (aren’t we all?)

* The Irish are very confused on several things about the US. They don’t understand why we put our flag up everywhere, why our money is all the same color for different values, and why our nickel is bigger than our dime.

* Also they do not drink water as much as we do. We are OBSESSED with water. Walking around with a reusable water bottle is an immediate give-away that I am American. There are no drinking fountains here either, so I am constantly on the hunt for faucets.


As for the language of Irish, I have been learning those too🙂

Dia Dhuit- Hello (Dia Hut)

Slainte- Cheers (Slawn- cha)

Is mise Sarah- My name is Sarah (Iss misha Sarah)

Is as Minnesota Verica me- I am from Minnesota in America (Iss as Minnesota verica may)


I actually take 2 of my finals this week- one of which is my Irish final! Yikes!

Sending love from underneath a pile of books and notes,

Sarah

Pots of Tea, Ponies, Pubs, and Paddy’s

This blog post is ALL IRELAND THEMED including my weekend in Galway with some old friends and St. Paddy’s festivities! It is a long post so bear with me– I have a lot to say!

Galway Weekend- I got to be a tourist again this past weekend when my friends Ellie and Jenny came to visit! I picked them up at the bus station late Thursday night and we went right to bed. Friday morning, I showed them my favorite things to do and places to see in Galway. We began the day walking down Shop Street, the main street with all the cute restaurants, stores and pubs on it. Of course I took them to Cupan Tae, my favorite tea place! The favorite tea was the lemony lemon drop ordered by Ellie! After hitting up some souvenir shops for token Guinness mugs we stopped by Thomas Dillon, the original store to sell the Claddaugh Ring so they could each buy one. The little lady behind the counter was so adorable, they got a taste of Irish kindness and willingness to converse…. for obscene amounts of time. FINALLY, she let us walk out the door and we went to Taaffes, one of my favorite pubs for a quick lunch.

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Cupan Tae

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Thomas Dillon’s, the home of the original claddagh ring.

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Horseback Riding After lunch we called a taxi to go out to the Connemara Mountains for the horseback riding we booked. Amara tagged along with Jenny, Ellie, and I to make 4. Our taxi driver was great and gave us a tour of the area along the way. When he dropped us off he asked how we were getting back, to which we replied we were going to get another taxi. Instead, he said he would wait for us and took a walk around the mountains while we rode. Our taxi fare for a 45 minute cab ride each way could have been extremely expensive, but of course he gave us a great deal because he said he liked us🙂

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Everyone posing with Jim❤

Upon arriving at the stables, we each chose our horse and were able to ride around inside the area for a bit to acclimate. We learned how to go faster, slower, and most importantly, stop. I hadn’t been on a horse since I was a little kid but all was well once I got back in the saddle (pun intended). My horse, Jim and I became fast friends. He kept making this noise like he was sneezing and the stable owner told me that means he is relaxed, so Jim and I got along very well.

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Jim loves me🙂

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I mean, look at those eyes.

Once everyone was ready to go out on trail, the horses knew just what to do. They each popped into a line, one by one. Jim liked to be up at the front (I told you we got a long well) so I was right next to our guide and her horse. The sun was shining and it was such a beautiful day. We passed a large lake, TONS of sheep and the scenery of the Connemara mountains. At one point, we even passed our guide’s house and her sheep that she owns! I got to ask all the questions I wanted since I was up at the front. Of course I asked all about the horses and their breeds. 3 of the horses on the trail were Connemara ponies, normally white/ cream colored and are unique to the area. The “ponies” looked huge so I thought they were horses, but alas, I learned that ponies are generally smaller but that the differences between horses and ponies are all just up to the breeder. Ponies mate with other ponies, horses with other horses. Also the gestation period of a pony/ horse is 11 months! Twins are possible, but not very common. On larger farms, they will scan the belly and if they see twins, they might clip one off to make room for the more viable twin. But sometimes, they don’t scan at all and two twins come out perfectly healthy!! Imagine a horse belly with 2 babies inside!??!

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The sheep ready for his close-up.

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The beautiful Connemara countryside

We tried trotting as a group, which was scary at first because it is so bouncy, but eventually I got the hang of it. By the end I felt like a pro! At one point, we actually scaled part of the mountain on horseback which was terrifying but exhilarating. I was assured that horses know how to walk better than humans and we should trust in our horse. Jim pulled through, and I was safely back on the trail within a few minutes. Ellie didn’t fare so well. Her horse bucked because it was spooked by another horse! Thankfully it was only momentarily and we all returned back to the stables safely after our 90-minute trek.

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Our wonderful driver took us back to Galway, and didn’t even put the meter on. He stopped by the University so I could show Ellie and Jenny the campus– free of charge! We got dropped off right in the city center again, with several restaurant recommendations from the driver. It was a much needed hearty meal after a long day. That night we went to the pubs of course, and I have turned my friends into pub fiends! Ellie loves her Guinness, Jenny stuck with the cider.

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Spent our last night in Galway getting pie on pi day- 3.14.15! Although in Europe the date is written 14.3.15 so I guess pi day isn’t an international holiday?

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Lovin’ on the pub life🙂

Cliffs of Moher- I made it back to the Cliffs again, this time with much better weather. It was so fun to show them around and take in the sights again. The bus tour is an all-day affair which includes the Dungaire castle, a fairy fort, a seaside lunch stop, the Cliffs and the Burren. We took WAY too many pictures, and all of them turned out amazing thanks to Ellie’s nice camera.

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Good Bye and Hello- On Sunday after breakfast, I dropped Jenny and Ellie off at the bus station and picked up my other good friend Salena! I waved good bye to my busy weekend and welcomed another busy week of showing another friend around the city I love! Salena and I have a week together, so I wrote this in between classes at school while she was on the Cliffs tour solo! Even though I am studying abroad that does include STUDYING so I told her I needed to go to class but she has plenty to do while I learn!

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First stop- donuts from my favorite donut man at the Galway weekend market!

On Sunday and Monday we explored the town once again, and I was craving some Lemony Lemon Drop tea so I took her there! She got a Claddagh ring as well, and we went shopping in the small Galway mall. I also took Salena down by the water to the Claddagh where the ships come in. It was a beautiful view and we had a blast sitting by the water. Salena had the wonderful idea to walk to the lighthouse in the distance, which was a lovely but disappointing walk. We walked all the way there but realized you can’t actually walk up next to the lighthouse, but it was a nice way to get some fresh air.

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Salena loves Penny’s- the cheap, cute, shop similar to Forever 21 at home but even cheaper and even cuter!!

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Casual totally candid shot down by the claddagh.

Salena also wanted to go to church so we visited the Galway cathedral to check out the times of services. The cathedral is STUNNING and I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t been yet this semester. I was so nervous to go to Catholic mass by myself these past 2 months, but with Salena by my side she could show me what to do. We went to the 6 pm service and some things were similar to Lutheran services at home, but I had no idea what I was saying at some points of the service. It was a great experience, and now I think I will have the courage to make it there on my own!

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GORGEOUS intricate stained glass windows inside the Galway Cathedral.

Our last stop of the day was my University. I showed her around campus and pointed out the most beautiful buildings. We cooked dinner at home to save on money before the St. Paddy’s festivities!

St. Paddy’s- St. Patrick is the patron Saint of Ireland, but contrary to popular belief St. Patrick was born in Wales or Scotland, not Ireland. In Irish, his name is Padraig, and that is why the Irish spell it St. Paddy’s Day instead of St. Patty’s Day like in the States. At 14 years old he was captured and spent 6 years herding sheep in Ireland. In his 30’s, he returned as a Christian missionary for the pagan peoples. He is credited with banishing the snakes in Ireland, although there most likely never were any snakes- shhhh. He wasn’t the first to bring Christianity to Ireland, but is definitely the most known to do so. He used the Shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagans and that is why the shamrock is the national flower of Ireland. The shamrock is 3 leaves while the 4-leaf clover is a completely different plant not associated with Ireland at all. That can make for some very frustrating tweets and texts because the only emoji available is the four-leaf clover. Apple really needs to work on that because it is making the Irish very angry. March 17th is the day of his death, so every year people toast to St. Padraig on  St. Paddy’s Day!

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“Can we take a picture with you… we like your beards.”

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So proud of myself with snapchat!

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Was it a holiday if you didn’t take a selfie? The answer is no.

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As for the celebration in Galway- it was busier than I expected! There was a parade in town which was lovely. It was nothing like American holiday parades, not candy or beads thrown out into the crowd. It was more of a celebration of Galway, and I got to see the little children that I tutor every week perform in the parade! After the parade, the pubs were absolutely packed!! Thankfully we knew where to go off the beaten path to get a pint. The afternoon was spent basking in the sun with a drink because the weather turned out so nice! The pubs that night were also crazy busy, but overall we had a great day! I think the Irish just use it as an excuse to drink as it is National Bank holiday. We didn’t have school which was a weird change from home! The next day, I was in my 9 am class with about 14 other people instead of the usual 80 students. Mom you would be so proud.

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St. Padraig himself in the parade

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My kiddos that I tutor in homework club were marching and playing in the parade!

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The last couple days we have spent listening to live music at night and having afternoon lunches in Galway by the docks. It is a welcome change from the fast-paced weekends I have experienced. Tomorrow, myself, Salena and some of my other American friends from NUIG are all heading to Cork to kiss the Blarney Stone! My next blog post will be all about Cork, the Blarney Stone and I have stored up all of the Irish slang I have picked up on the semester so watch out for another all-Irish post!!

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The semester is flying by, I have started receiving final essay prompts and final exam guidelines!!

Sending lots of love from a post-Paddy’s Galway,

Sarah

We really should have learned Dutch

Once again I took a bus to Dublin at 2:15 AM Friday morning and boarded a RyanAir flight at 6:30 AM to Brussels! Amara, Breigh and I were all groggy but happy to be in Belgium for another weekend adventure! We met up with Breigh’s friend Katie at the airport and we bought train tickets to Ghent for our first day! We stayed in a B&B in Ghent, took the train to Bruge for 2 days and then popped back to Brussels for our last day before our flight home. The train was an interesting and challenging experience– Evidently the 3 official languages are Dutch, French and German with Dutch and French being predominant. The train schedules and instructions over the load speakers were all in Dutch and then in some areas a little French, which was cool because of my French language background from high school (Thanks Madame Hubbard)!! We only missed one train connection the entire weekend which I consider a major victory!!

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3 cities- Bruge, Gent, Brussels. All spelled differently depending on who you ask and in what part of the country you ask them! You are very welcome for this map giving you geographical context (THIS IS FOR YOU MOM).

Ghent- Ghent was a cute little town with great architecture, a pretty river, lots of chocolate and beer. We just spent that first day walking around the city and exploring. We had no agenda for the weekend which was extremely refreshing. We walked around and ate basically (NO REGRETS).

We stayed in an Air B&B in Ghent which is a website of homeowners that have spare rooms/ spare apartments to rent out for weekend travelers. They are usually good prices and great locations so we decided to give it a try. Don’t worry Mom, it was completely safe. All the “hosts” are verified by the website, submit background checks and you can read all the reviews of others that have stayed with them! We had such a great experience with our host, Sofia. The apartment was adorable, right in the heart of the city, and she provided us with some maps/ guides of the city upon arrival as well as unlimited coffee and tea all weekend. Score for avoiding a hostel for 1 night! Highly recommend the website for anyone traveling- there are places in cities all over the world! You can even sign up to rent out your own place and make a little extra money!

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Our spare bedroom had space for 4 of us, a small kitchen and bathroom attached! It was perfect!

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Casual bridge picture, my modeling career is really taking off.

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LOVED all the buildings in Belgium!

The Megawurst- A glorified giant corn dog. But so much better- and the name? I mean, come on. Also Belgium perfected the French fry. Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. Happy Sarah.

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Served with mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup– THE MEGAWURST. DUN DUN DUN.

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Most fries were served in a cone shape like the one on this window! Also enjoy the Dutch phrase on the window below because I have NO IDEA what it means.

Chocolate Stop #1– I got a truffle assortment. I loved them all, but my favorite ended up being the plain milk chocolate. Does that make me boring or just classic?

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TRUFFLES ARE ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

Croissants- Such a classic European food. I have a weakness for chocolate croissants. They are available in every European country I have been to, including Ireland. Why can America not adopt this amazing staple into our diet??

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CROSSIANTS ARE ALSO ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

Bruge- My favorite city in Belgium BY FAR, I could have spent an entire week here! There were horse-drawn carriages everywhere clopping along the cobble stone streets. It was like stepping back in time and jumping into the pages of a fairy tale. Once again, we focused on the food but managed to fit a few tourist activities in there😉 We stayed in a hostel called Charlie Rockets, which was actually surprisingly a great place! Once again, good location and friendly people. There was a bar attached in the basement which was really convenient. We had a blast without having to leave the vicinity and tried some funky beers!

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Nice and welcoming bar atmosphere in the hostel

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I the city square center!

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We found a fountain- let’s take a picture!

Croque-Monsieur– These were on every menu. Literally translates to “Crunchy Mister.” Essentially a grilled ham and cheese and a classic French sandwich. The Croque-Madame is the same sandwich with a fried egg on top! I ordered each once because they were so good!

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The Croque- Madame!

Waffles- They were EVERYWHERE! You could get them on the street, from a food truck, in a restaurant, even out of a random window. My favorite waffle all weekend was the classic strawberry and whipped cream combo. Sinful but worth it.

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SO. HAPPY.

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They are crispy on the outside and so satisfying!

Chocolate Place #2– We tried chocolate liquer and it was AMAZING!! Also there was speculoos (the national cookie of Belgium) cookie spread and I couldn’t buy it because I didn’t check a bag on the plane!

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We got to try chocolate liquer- so good and so dangerous!

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Beer- It was cheaper than water. No, really. It wasn’t possible to get tap water in Belgium (every college student’s on a budget worst nightmare) so you could order bottled water for around 3 Euro or get beer for 2.50. What was a college girl supposed to do? I’ll let you figure that one out. My favorite beer was a cherry beer!

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Selfie with my cherry beer!

Chocostory– We toured this chocolate museum which was a great deal! The tour starts with you receiving a chocolate ticket and several samples of dark, white, and milk chocolate. You proceed to walk through the process of making chocolate, starting with historical context of the cacao bean used by the Ancient Mayans, all the way up through modern chocolate makers. One of my favorite parts was a pie chart outlining the ingredient differences used in milk, white and dark chocolate. The amount of sugar in milk chocolate is scary.

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My chocolate “ticket” and I pose at the beginning!

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Cacao beans or Turds??– you decide.

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Dark Chocolate doesn’t include the powdered milk.

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White Chocolate doesn’t include the cocoa paste.

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Milk chocolate includes all 4 main ingredients.

The tour ends with a chocolate demonstration on how to make pralines. The guy spoke in Dutch and English, which was fun to listen to. At the end we had a chance to try the hazelnut flavored pralines and they were phenomenal!

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Canal Boat Ride- We were told that the horse-drawn carriage rides were not worth it and you can see all the same things by walking so we decided to skip the carriage tour. Also I am apprehensive of horse-carriages after going to Nicaragua this summer and learning that most of the horses are not treated properly, so I don’t like to support their misreatment. Instead, we decided to do a boat tour on the canal. Our guide mostly spoke in French the whole time so I was able to catch bits and pieces of the commentary, but the sights spoke for themselves. It was refreshing to be in a boat again, cruising along the river. The beauty was difficult to catch on camera as we were moving the entire time, but I tried my best. There were swans and ducks everywhere! I kept pointing out the mallards because I just love their green heads!!

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Brussels- On our last day we headed to the capital city for more food. More waffles, more chocolate, more beer. It was a classic capital city- hustling and bustling, but of course there was still the European feel. There was a much heavier French influence in Brussels than the 2 other cities, so all the signage was in French and I was able to pronounce everything in French off of the menus! I felt so posh.

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Free Chocolate- The BEST part of Brussels was going to Galler, a chocolate shop that was recommended to me by a fellow Gustie. We walked in and could tell right away that it was fancy chocolate. The man in front of us had a HUGE bag of chocolates that he was buying and the clerk was filling boxes and boxes for him. We were starting to get impatient but then as he was walking out he handed us a box! He said, “This is for the long wait time and also for International Women’s Day!” We thanked him profusely and proceeded to feel terrible about ourselves for becoming impatient when he was buying US chocolate! Awko taco.

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The dark chocolate sea salt ones were my favorite! And the curry ones were surprisingly delicious!

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PREACH IT BELGIUM

Delirium Cafe- Another spot that was recommended to me by ANOTHER Gustie, this cafe had thousands of different types of beer! It was insane, there was a huge stockroom in the basement! They won the Guinness World Record a coupe years ago for the most types of beer commercially available. I ordered my cherry beer again cause I couldn’t get enough, but we each tried a sip of each other’s so I also tried: Cookie Beer, Raspberry Beer, Troll Beer and the house Ale. All were quite good except the troll beer– that one was ordered just to say she could.

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Totally candid and totally not edited at all.

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Mannekin- Pis- We visited this statue of a little boy peeing into a fountain. It was not that interesting, but I hear it is sort of famous? So, naturally we took selfies.

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Mussels- Mussels are the National dish of Belgium so naturally we couldn’t leave without trying them! It was my first time and I loved them. We got 1 pot of Garlic mussels and 1 pot of white-cream sauce mussels. Between the 2 pots we had about 100!! It was crazy but delicious! They come with fries of course too!

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Our garlic mussels🙂

After a wonderful weekend in Belgium I am excited to spend the next few weekends in Ireland. St. Paddy’s is next week- look forward to an all-Irish themed blog post!

Also it is weird that I actually call Galway home in normal conversation now. I’ll say to someone, oh I am just going back home to pick up my wallet before grocery shopping! It’s funny that I have a home in Eagan, at Gustavus and now in Galway!

Sending love from Galway (my temporary– don’t worry— home),

Sarah

“WE GET TO STAY IN A HOTEL?!?!?!?” {Weekend in Belfast}

My excitement for this past weekend was all centered around the fact that I would get to sleep in a hotel bed, with warm hotel towels, tiny little shampoos,  and a warm shower. (Did I mention the large comfy bed??) I got all that I asked for and more– I even went to the Titanic museum and Giant’s Causeway! What a steal!

On Friday morning, many students from my particular program provider, Arcadia, all got on a bus headed for Belfast. It was a 4 hour drive from Galway with a nice lunch break in Dublin. On the way there we were given some interesting background on where we were headed. Bear with me on the historical stuff. There are ships and stories about giants!!! Actually when I think about it the whole weekend was kinda history….

HISTORICAL CONTEXT: 

In 1998 after a very bloody civil war, the Belfast Agreement was created. This essentially permanently split Northern and Southern Ireland into Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent country. There was a division before this date, but the actual agreement didn’t happen until ’98. I am studying in Galway, which is in the Republic of Ireland.

There is no real “border” crossing between the two, so no need to show a passport to move from one to the other. Northern Ireland uses the British pound as currency while the Republic of Ireland uses the Euro.

The “troubles”- as they are called – are not over and there is still much political unrest in Northern Ireland. There are still Nationalist and Unionist parties and things can get pretty dicey. There are also still Protestant and Catholic divisions visible in the country.

As a physical representations of the division, there are still “Peace Walls” all over the city literally splitting the two communities. Many locals still believe these walls are necessary to keep the peace, although much debate is occurring around the issue.

The entire history is actually quite bloody and riveting and here is a good link to check out if you are particularly inclined: http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/othelem/incorepaper09.htm. It gives the main political parties and many more details than I can explain including information about the hunger strikes, car bombings and the ongoing peace process.

TITANIC BELFAST:

The museum itself is built to look like the bows of the 3 sister ships: the Titanic, Olympic and Brittanic. It is also split into floors that you traverse, just like the floors of the ship. The first floor was mostly about the shipping industry in Belfast and how the luxury ship liners came about. The White Star line quickly became a household name and all of her ships are identified by their ending in “ic”. Titanic itself was made in Belfast, a port city. Belfast is very proud of it’s shipping industry history because it was very important to the success and boom of the city. The industry created much needed jobs in a desolate community and gave hope of the New World to people not only of Ireland, but all over Europe as well. Learning about how the advancements in technology like the telegraph and radio waves made such an impact on every industry was really interesting.

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The 3 bows of the sister ships- Titanic, Olympic and Britannic of the White Star Line

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“The Pride of Belfast”– 100,000 people saw Titanic launch from Belfast.

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Cunard Line- White Star Line’s main competitor at the time

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White Star Line– maker of the Titanic

The second floor focused on how the actual ship was made. The museum obviously focuses on the Titanic, there are supplementary photographs of the other ships produced at the time. One of my favorite parts of the tour was the unexpected ride through the shipping yard. It is a sort of amusement park ride, and you get in a small compartment that is lifted into the air. You are transported physically through the aspects of ship making. The boilers, the stock yard, the men on scaffolding. It was an unexpected twist inside a museum– the coolest part was when riding past the red-hot boilers, there was an actual heat source so you got very warm yourself!

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1- Laying the keel- the backbone of a ship. Titanic’s keel was six feet high and ran the entire length of the ship. It carried the frames for the steel hull plates.

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2- Framing- Erection of steel rib-like structures that forced the skeleton of the ship. These gave the hull it’s shape.

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3- Plating and Riveting- Once framing was complete, the ship was fitted with steel plates that formed the watertight skin. These were held in place with iron and steel rivets.

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4- Bulkheads and Decking- There were 15 watertight bulkheads that ran across Titanic in the lower decks. These divided the ship’s hull into 16 watertight compartments.

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5- Fitting the Rudder- The rudder was made in 6 pieces and then bolted together. The bolts were covered in cement to protect from the corroding effects of sea water. The rudder was over 78 feet high and weighed over 100 TONS.

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This was taken on the “ride through the shipyard” -It was quite eerie!

The third floor was all about the luxury and accommodation set-up. The first-class, second-class and third-class divisions were interesting to read about in every aspect. They were separate and decorated very differently. Interestingly enough, the White Star Line focused on having decent rooms for all passengers. Although the movie makes it seem that the third-class passengers are truly in steerage, that was not the case. Third-class dining saloon was divided into two- one section for single women and married couples and another section for single men. There were 6 pianos on the Titanic- 3 in first-class, 2 in second-class and 1 in third-class.

Most smart business men actually travelled in second class, because it was moderate accommodation but much cheaper than first-class! Another highlight was the virtual tour of the titanic–almost a 360 degree view starting from the depths of the boiler rooms passing through each class, viewing the first-class luxurious dining room and ending at the captains wheel.

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White Star Line fine china

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This was what a first-class suite would have looked like- quite lavish!

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This was taken on another ship (The Medic) but is what the crew cabins most likely looked like on Titanic.

The fourth floor was all about the journey. The departure, the ports of call, the send-off and eventually, the sinking (SPOILER ALERT). The top floor allows you to look out on where the ship was actually made which is a really nice visualization.

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This view also is meant to feel like the bow of a ship- and it looks out onto where the Titanic was actually made. Those poles give the dimensions of the ships built there!

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The floor of the fourth floor looks like a swift moving ocean– I dig it.

The messages of distress to nearby ships and their conversations were printed eerily on the walls. “We have struck and ice berg” “Sinking head down, come soon as possible” “Cannot last much longer” The last message sent was “CQ” which is part of the phrase “CQD”- essentially SOS. Only 2 of the letters made it, and then there was silence.

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……. silence.

There was a lot of information on the burials, funerals and overall aftermath which I did not know. All of the stories were heart-wrenching. Most of the accounts we have are from the upperclass because they were A) able to make it onto a lifeboat and B) the press hounded them for the stories because they were famous people.

The clean-up and burial crews actually ran out of supplies (like caskets and embalming fluid) so they had to bury many bodies at sea. There were twice as many bodies as caskets and the bodies of only 1/5 victims were ever found.

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The very last part of the museum is about the Hollywood dramatization and the dives that have gone down to explore the wreckage. There is a short film with footage from beneath the sea at Titanic’s final resting place.

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This is one of the high-powered submarine cameras that can capture footage beneath the sea!

Overall- WONDERFUL experience. Very unique, interactive museum that is great for all ages. Especially if you have an interest in the story– not just the movie (sorry Leo DeCaprio fans). Phew, okay. Done geeking out over Titanic. Now onto geeking out over nature!!!

GIANT’S CAUSEWAY-

The Causeway is described as the “jewel in the crown of the fabulous coast of Antrim”- Antrim being the county that Belfast is located in. It holds the high title of a World Heritage site, ranking it alongside places like Mount Everest and the Giant Redwoods of California. The Causeway’s history is still up for debate- the mythological stories surrounding the causeway are delightfully intriguing. The story features Finn McCool, the anglicized version of the Irish name Fionn mac Cumhaill.

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Bear with me– I took WAY too many pictures but it was SO beautiful and mystifying!

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Mythology- 

Finn was 54 feet tall and lived happily on the Antrim coast with his wife Oonaugh until he realized that he had a rival giant in Scotland named Benandonner. The two taunted each other from afar, and one day Finn was fed up so he scooped up some of the earth and threw it at Benandonner in Scotland. He missed Scotland, but the earth fell into the ocean and formed the Isle of Man today, in the Irish sea. The depression that formed when he scooped up the earth is Lough Neagh.

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This formation is known as Finn’s organ that he plays every Sunday. If you use your imagination the vertical columns look just like a giant-sized organ!

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Finn built the Causeway when he challenged Benandonner to a proper fight. The Causeway was a series of stepping stones to Scotland because “everyone knows giants don’t like getting their feet wet.” When he walked across he caught sight of his rival he saw that Benandonner was a much larger giant than he was and he fled home! Benandonner was hot on Finn’s trail, and Finn lost one of his boots a long the way!

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Finn’s wife Oonaugh, being the smart Irish woman she was, came up with a plan to hide her husband. She disguised Finn as a baby and put him in a very large cradle. Benandonner came a knockin’ at the door and when he saw the size of the sleeping “baby” he assumed that Finn must be GIGANTIC. Benandonner fled all the way back to Scotland and ripped up the Causeway a long the way in case he was followed. This is why the Causeway stones exist in Northern Antrim and similar stone columns exist just across the sea at Fingal’s Cave on the Scottish Island Staffa.

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Humphrey, Finn’s camel! Squint reallllllllly hard🙂

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An outline of Humphrey if you really can’t find him in the rock!

At the Causeway you can see Finn’s house, his Granny, and his lost boot along with Humphrey and Finn’s organ!

Geology-

For another explanation of the Causeway, those without any imagination turn to geology. Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity. Molten lava and rock were forced up through fissures to create a lava plateau. That plateau forms the Causeway coastline. 3 different periods of lava flow created the upper, middle and lower basalts. The middle basalt rocks form the actual causeway- the basalt columns. The lava cooled at different rates, creating the famous column structures present today. Most of the columns are hexagonal, but a few have up to eight sides. There are 40,000 black massive basalt columns sticking up out of the sea and it is one of the coolest things I have ever seen.

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Seaside city of Portrush-

After our wonderful morning tour of the Causeway, we stopped at the sleepy little town of Portrush for lunch. We wandered around until something struck our fancy and found a man walking around that told us we NEEDED to go to the Wine Bar and that we should ask for Maeve because she would take care of us, and oh we “NEEDED to get dessert!” I was sold. We walked in and ordered straight away. Being so close to the sea I really wanted to get fish so I blindly ordered the “Thermidor”, which someone told me was good and had fish! SO. DELICIOUS.

It was this piping hot skillet pan, similar to a what you are served fajitas in, but it was square. The dish had 4 different types of fish (that I can remember): salmon, cod, prawns, and hag fish. The fish was cooked perfectly and surrounded by peppers, a delicious cheesy cream sauce and what else?!? Potatoes of course!!! I burned my mouth trying to eat it while it was still scalding but I couldn’t stop eating!

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“The Thermidor” it sounded like a superhero and lived up to its name!

After lunch we took that man’s advice and got dessert– what a great choice! The selection was incredible. Gourmet, beautiful desserts all set out buffet style. I decided on a brownie cheesecake with homemade honeycomb crumbled on the top!

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Chocolate brownie cheese cake with honey comb topping!

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Belfast Political Mural Tour and Talk

Our last morning we hopped on a bus for a Belfast city mural tour. A graduate student studying at the nearby University was well-versed in the history of the city as relating to the murals so she gave us the context as we were driving. We saw the murals all over the city, from both Loyalists and Republicans. We also got to pass through some of the Peace Walls- you can imagine they don’t feel very peaceful. Many of the walls still close each night around 6 pm and don’t open again until around 7 in the morning, it felt so archaic. I couldn’t believe it– we are in the 21st Century, let’s figure this out. But as I mentioned earlier, many locals still believe the walls are necessary for safety and peace and they like the walls.

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This is part of the International wall- the wall is used as a Peace Wall but various people paint it with protests of World events.

After the bus tour we stopped at a local hotel where mural expert Bill Rolston gave a presentation on the history of the murals and showed us his collection of mural photographs. He has been photographing murals in Northern Ireland since 1981 and now has around 2,000 images- the largest collection of mural photographs in the world! Bill has published 4 books with the pictures and histories as well. http://billrolston.weebly.com/the-history-of-murals-in-the-north-of-ireland.html is his website.

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More of the International Wall

The Loyalists have been painting murals since 1908 and the Republicans since 1981. They have spanned many historical events and frequently draw on the past for modern murals. The troubles, car bombings, hunger strikes, the famine, etc. are all common themes. There is even one “international wall” that includes murals painted about events happening all over the world. Bush and Obama both have received murals for various reasons, but troubles in Palestine and Gaza have been recurring topics over the last few years.

The weekend was the perfect balance of history and nature. Staying in a hotel was such a wonderful treat as well– I took as many warm showers as possible and rolled around in my warm fluffy bed with an abundance of pillows.

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Forever a sailor’s daughter- I too, love the sea.

This weekend I am heading to Belgium- my last international trip until my parents come! It is crazy how the time is flying. I have officially been living in Ireland for 2 months!! All of my weekends are booked until I take finals— then I return home to all of you wonderful people!

Sending love from my cozy but sooooo not a hotel bed,

Sarah