Monday, December 20, 2010

Part III: The Nostos

Keeping with the James Joyce tradition here the Nostos as the final chapter in my journey seems to be the most logical title. Let me explain. The first part of Ulysses, the Telemachiad, is where Leopold Bloom begins his journey throughout Dublin. Evidently, the final chapter of both Bloom’s, and my, adventure will be the Nostos. As the Greek word for ‘homecoming,’ the Nostos is the part of both of our journeys where we will return home.

Also, just a side note, if it has I have no idea why the font changed. It’s completely beyond me.

But first, I must catch you all up on the events of the past weekend. Following my kleptomania episode on Friday, left from Insomnia and headed over to the Pearse DART Station to meet Mark. We caught the train over to Sandymount and then walked up the road to the Royal Dublin Society... sounds fancy. Well the RDS is really just a convention centre complete with concert halls and conference rooms... and an ice rink. When we got to the 7up Christmas on Ice venue (it’s really called that), no one else was there. So we waited. And waited. Then we called Kev to make sure we weren’t there for the wrong time. But then we waited some more. After about forty minutes in the cold, all of a sudden everyone showed up. So we picked up our tickets and they gave us these green wristbands, I’m still wearing mine, and we headed out to the ice. Now I haven’t skated in a really long time. So I was quite nervous that I’d be falling all over the ice. Much to my surprise though, and Max’s disappointment, no one in our group fell at all! That’s not to say, however, that we didn’t see some nasty falls. There was one kid who was on the ground half the time. And there were plenty of times when you’d see two people go down together and they’d end up all tangled on the ice. But all in all, good times indeed. Also just one riddle that came about from the night: two sisters were born on the same day, same time, same biological parents, but they are not twins. How?

From the rink we headed up and down the streets of Sandymount trying to find some place to eat, under the impression that there was Gourmet Burger Kitchen somewhere nearby. But we were wrong, and settled for Italian. Dinner was quite uneventful. It was great and all but nothing noteworthy really happened. Jokes were told, fun times were had, but no stand out moments. Although there was a clear division between the north and south of the Liffey, it was not really acknowledged by the south side. Following dinner, we walked further down the street to begin the ‘pub crawl.’ This crawl consisted of two pubs. And we didn’t even crawl... we took the DART between pubs. Not very impressive. But it was the same story at both of the pubs, no real stand out moments. Just good times and good craic. When we were leaving the Porterhouse, the second and final pub of the night, I had to say goodbye to a bunch of people. It’s not fun at all. At a stroke of chance we also ran into Ross Condy while leaving. Ross was one of the three instructors that came over with Max that first summer, but he wanted to fly planes, not sail ships, so he left after one year to go to train to be a pilot. So we got the DART back with him and the topic of the weather came up. Thinking he was being all witty Ross says ‘yeah Harry don’t you wish you moved to California?’ My response... ‘well I kinda did Ross.’ Few too many pints Ross? Perhaps?

Saturday morning I ran into town to finish a bit more Christmas shopping. Think I’ve covered everyone. Yeah I did. But when I got back to Howth, Max and I got in the car and we drove down to Wexford for Amy’s Bantermas. After a not so long two hour drive, we arrived at the party. Shockingly, we were the first there. But as the night continued on, more people filtered in and it just became an amazing night as your traditional house party. Again there really were no stand out moments, except for one. You know how if you’re holding a bottle of beer, and someone taps their beer on top of yours, and then, well, you gotta chug? That happened quite a few times throughout the whole night. Until close to the end of the night. Someone tapped my beer, it slipped right through my fingers, and then plummeted to the kitchen floor. Not good. But, we cleaned it up and the night went on. From that night alone, I have learned so many new drinking games. The following morning, as we loaded up our car to head back up north, I had to say goodbye to more people. Again, not fun. Thankfully, we got back home before MORE SNOW CAME!! The roads were fine until we got of the M-50 and then when we realized that we usually should be able to see Howth Hill, we concluded that a storm was coming. And it was coming fast.

Last night was a relaxing night. We stayed home. We recovered. And we prepped for tonight. It’s my final night in Dublin and I know it is going to be a crazy night.

So this is the part of my entry that sounds like an Oscar acceptance speech. Firstly, above all, I cannot thank Max and the Van de Poll’s enough. They brought me in for the semester and I legitimately felt like a part of their family. It is going to be really hard to leave all of them because I’ve had such good times with them throughout the entire semester. Also a huge thanks to all of the friends I made here in Ireland. You guys really made this semester what it was and it wouldn’t be the same without any of you. I will be back, not sure when, but it will happen. Finally, I have to thank my family. This would have been impossible without my Dad and I am so thankful for being able to go on this adventure.

I was talking to Pam the other day and we were discussing the strange situation I’m in. This summer, as you know, was probably the hardest summer I will ever experience in my life. I hope. But then it has been contrasted with this amazing semester that I will never forget. I’m not saying that it’s a funny juxtaposition or anything of the sort; we just thought that it’s interesting how the world works. As hard as the summer was, I knew that this was something that I had to continue on with in her memory. She was so excited for me to come to Dublin and, as Kerry said, I’ve been living this experience for two people. With that being said, this blog and semester-long adventure is completely dedicated to Hilary M. Shontz. I know she would love every story that I have to tell from it. Now as hard as it is for me to leave, I must get going to finish packing everything up. Thank you all so much for following me while I was abroad and I will see you all soon!!

I love you Mom, and I always will.
For Mama Shontz

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kleptomania, Pt. 2

Mission Accomplished.



Once again, I'm in Insomnia. And, once again, I'm eating a Lemon White Chocolate Muffin. But thats not what todays entry is about. As I sit here in the cafe, pondering my getaway plan with my super awesome Insomnia mug, I still can't get over the fact that I'm actually done. I wrote a total of 19000 words this semester, and 14000 of them were written in the last week. So now, I really don't know what to do with myself. Apparently the obvious answer is go get coffee. But now what do I do?

Before I continue on with being all reflective...allow me to discuss the events of the past few days. I wrote papers. And, I wrote papers. There were some classes involved there too.

Ok moving right along, I only have four more days left in Ireland. Its so hard to wrap your head around something like that. I've been here for more than three months now and I've gotten used to the culture, made tons of new friends and have had an amazing time. But it's just going to end on Tuesday. Well enough of me being melodramatic. Let me move on to what I think is going to happen over the next few days. Whether or not they actually do, and the crazy stories that come from them, will come later. I will also just take this time to give the heads up that my entries will now shift to the "yesterday format". This is primarily because I will not be in any state at all to write a blog entry each night after the events that this weekend is set to hold. That being said, I may attempt to do so. But that will be followed by a sober translation the following morning.

Tonight is badminton on ice. Its not an actual show, and we're not playing badminton on ice. But that would be pretty cool to watch, not play. So the badminton team is going ice skating. Obviously, we're going out after. I've heard talk of the Pav or the Porterhouse. Because there's no entry fee. That's what usually governs where people go out here. How much does it cost to get in. The worst I've seen is ten euro to get in...but those are usually worth it. Usually. Tomorrow night is sleepover time. We're all headed down to Amy's house in Wexford (I think?) for her annual Bantermas party. Should be a good time. But its a ways away so people aren't going to even bother finding a way home. Perfect. As for my last two nights in Ireland, stay tuned. I probably won't even know what's happening until after it actually happens.

I'm gonna sign off for now, gotta start thinking about how I'm getting all my stuff back home to the states. Thats going to be an interesting process. But for now, I will see you all very soon and in the words of the Irish... Sláinte!!


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Snow Days

So once again I have neglected my blog. I have good reason for it though. I still have 9000 words to write before Thursday. But I just wanted to give a quick update on all things Irish. The day my Dad left, it snowed. And it snowed. And then it snowed some more. Of course, we made a snowman. I thought all was good for the next week, and thats the way things started. But then, it snowed again. And again. So much (it wasn't that much) that school was canceled on Thursday and Friday. In all honesty I think we got about eight inches. No reason to cancel school. I'm happy that lectures were canceled and all, but when the Irish see snowflakes, they go crazy. And the country shuts down.

That weekend people from Cork came up to Dublin so that was a great time showing them around and all. We ventured around the city centre and they even got out to Howth! So that was quite exciting. This past week was all about the essays. As this next week will be as well. One term paper down, three more to go. Welcome to hell week.

Last night, however, I did take a break from all my researching and theorizing and procrastinating to go on the Twelve Pubs of Christmas Pub Crawl. I would call it a pretty successful night, except Max and I were late into town so we only got to ten of the twelve... Oh well. But it was a really great night out with the badminton team. I think I came away from the night with two more pint glasses, and a bunch of beer mats. Win?

So I must be getting back to the papers. And because of the workload, I probably won't get on to posting an entry until after everything is all turned in. But, in all honesty, that will not make a difference considering my track record in the past month!! It is getting down to the wire now but I'll see you all very soon!!


Thursday, December 2, 2010


So things have been really crazy the past few weeks, then I just realized that its been about two weeks since I posted. Oops... Oh well, I will attempt to sum up the whirlwind of events that have blown by in that time period.

Previously on An American Ulysses, I was in a coffee shop. The next day, I found myself on a bus down to Cork to see the Harry Potter showing. I was meeting friends down there, well actually seeing friends, but it was going to be a party. So Thursday night we went out to the Franciscan Well, a really cool in Cork. They brew all their own beer and its some pretty good stuff. I attempted to teach the group the game 21s, but was a bit unsuccessful. Friday night was, obviously, Harry Potter night. Friday day, however, we all made some pretty epic Dumbledore's Army t-shirts. We were the only ones who were dressed up. Super cool guys. In all honesty, I was pretty pleased with the movie. They left some key stuff out, but all in all it was pretty good. Saturday was an interesting day. It was my last day in Cork so I got breakfast with Jessie and Kelsie, but the bus was quite an interesting ride. About a half hour into the ride I realized that the girl sitting next to me basically had a candy shop and liquor cabinet in her bag. Soon after that I realized that her, her friends, and the guy across from her, were all from New York. The bus then became the party bus. Six New Yorkers on a bus and a fair amount of alcohol. Enough said.

Saturday night was a night out at Copper Face Jacks. Always a good night at Coppers. The place is always packed and the music is always good. But, its always frickin' expensive. Its ten euro... just to get in. But as always, good night at Coppers. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were all pretty dull days for me. I needed to get stuff done.

On Wednesday morning, Papa Shontz arrived. Max and I were out the door before 8am to pick him up from Dublin airport. Not too bad at all. We got there and forked over four euro to park... only to see him waiting for us right outside. But we drove into the city centre and Max dropped us off at my Dad's hotel. I had already planned on bailing out on developmental psych that day. So we got breakfast at a pub. Awesome. Perfect way to adjust to Irish culture. After breakfast I brought him to the Book of Kells and then he passed out in the hotel room as I went off to the rest of my classes. The next day was Thanksgiving. I was extremely excited. After classes (on Thanksgiving?) we got the DART back out to Howth and proceeded to prepare the epic meal. Everyone arrived and it all went smoothly... thankfully. As the American, Pam asked me to put together a few words on the story of Thanksgiving. So I wrote notes down on my place card. Easy cheat sheet.

Friday and Saturday were tourist days. On Friday morning I made my way into town and we got the on the hop-on/hop-off bus tour. It took us all around Dublin, which was nice. But we hopped off at the Guinness Storehouse  and the Kilmainham Gaol. It had been my third and second times to those sites so I am really starting to feel like a local. Took me long enough. But Friday night we went out to Findlaters, a really nice bar in Howth, to meet with all of the Shore Club instructors that had worked with my Dad in the past three summers. He hadn't seen some of them in a few years so he was pretty excited for that. The next day we woke up to SNOW!! It was great!! It wasn't all that much at all and we still hopped in the car and drove up to Newgrange, a really, really cool tomb. I have still yet to see the inside because when we got there we realized that the buses to the actual tomb from the car park weren't running. We called ahead and they said they were running just fine... I declare lies. But we did get a free tour of the museum because of it! And we were able to see it off in the distance. So that was pretty cool. That night, we all went off to Johnny Foxes, a traditional Irish pub located up in the Wicklow Mountains. We were there for a traditional Hoolie Night. It was complete with Irish music, Irish dancing, and non-Irish food. It was a great night and a great send off for my Dad who had to head home the next morning.

We woke up Sunday morning to MORE SNOW!!! But more on that later, I'll talk to you all (and see you all) soon!!


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Disclaimer: This Post Was Written in a Coffee Shop

Unlike other posts that just reference history, this post has history. It all began about a year ago, on December 17th, 2009. It was a cool Dublin morning, and Carole and I had just gotten off of the plane in Dublin as we were visiting Max the week before Christmas. Later that day, we made our way into town with Max. He went off to his classes and we went off adventuring. We wound up at Insomnia. In my opinion, that is probably the best name for a coffee shop. While we were there, Carole got a White Chocolate Lemon Muffin. She claimed that it was the best thing she'd ever tasted. As a skeptic, I tried it... and it was pretty amazing. So now fast forward to present day. I was talking to Carole on skype and she made me promise here that I would go back to Insomnia, eat that same muffin, and then document it in a blog post. But I couldn't just document the fact that I ate said muffin. She wanted a play by play of every taste. So I literally sat in Insomnia taking notes while I was eating my muffin; jotting down words that described what I was tasting. Now I can see how some would deem this a waste of a post, so for those of you who do not want to read about baked goods please skip to paragraph three.

So now for the play by play. First let me begin by saying that the coffee I had with this muffin was actually quite good. But we're not here to talk about beverages. So as I do with all my muffins (making seem like I'm a muffin expert), I first flipped over the... pastry? The bottom of a muffin is never as good as the top and you've gotta save the best for last. As tore off a chunk of the muffin, I realized that the cake was actually cold. Which was interesting. But the first bite gave a burst of, well, lemon. It was zesty, cool, refreshing, and pretty much every other word associated with lemons. Except sour. That'd be gross. Also, there was an intense, but not overpowering, taste of vanilla. Every now and then, the spongy cake would be accompanied by a crunchy white chocolate chip. Surprisingly, the muffin was extremely good cold. But it wasn't just room temperature, it was actually chilled. It went well with the coolness of the lemon. After I got through the bottom of the muffin, I advanced on to the muffin top. Nobody knows why, but everybody knows that, the muffin top is always better. There's just something about the... texture of the muffin. It really can't be beat.

I was going to start this next section off with the word meanwhile, but that gives the impression that me eating this muffin was a part of a larger scheme, like a plot against the Queen or an assassination attempt. Obviously, it wasn't. So, while I was eating my muffin I witnessed many strange occurrences at the Insomnia Cafe. It could be the loss of sleep... First, I noticed a bunch of old women, gathered around the door peering in through the window. They were obviously jealous of my muffin. Second, I noticed the man next to me. He was sitting alone, but for some reason he had two cups of coffee on his table. For some stranger reason he would alternate drinking from each cup. And for the strangest reason, aside from lifting the cups, he remained entirely motionless and dazed off into space. I don't know what any of those reasons were. But I'm sure that they're there. Third, I saw another student eating a muffin. And he too was writing stuff down. Obviously, he was taking notes for his blog about his not-as-amazing blueberry muffin. In all honestly, its probably really good, but nothing (I repeat: NOTHING) beats white-chocolate lemon.

Then Vikings drove by. I heard their war cry, and it was kind of scary. But there is an explanation to this. I promise. There's a "Viking Tour" of Dublin city centre. The whole tour group sits on the back of a truck (kind of like the top level of an open-air, double-decker tour bus). They drive you around all the major sights and the truck even swims. The vehicle floats and doubles as a boat as you go on the river for a bit! But the best part, by far, is what actually goes down while on the "bus". For starters, they give you Viking helmets. And as you drive through the not-so-calm city streets: YOU SCREAM!! As loud as you can. Let the inner Viking out!! So while I was enjoying my coffee and muffin, with my back to the door, the Viking party bus drove by. To further magnify their battle cries, someone just happened to open the door at the exact moment that they passed Insomnia. So just incase the coffee wasn't strong enough, the Vikings would wake you up.

So that was probably a typical day in a Dublin coffee shop. I've spent a fair amount of time in them and they're quite the centre for people watching... and muffins.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Surprise Party

Ohhhhhh myyyyyy Godddddddd!!!!

For those of you that caught that reference, kudos. For those of you that didn't, watch more SNL. Now to the actual post. So Thursday night we got back from Lisbon, but I didn't get back home to Howth until about 11 or so. I got home, and went straight to bed. The next day was a lazy day of recovery. Definitely needed. This is where the surprise comes in. That night at dinner I found out from Max that we were going to Leanne's 21st. She was one of the three girls that came over to instruct sailing with Max last year. So I asked him when, to which he quickly replied...tonight! Obviously it wasn't a surprise party for Leanne. She knew all about it, I just found out last minute. Apparently, the 21st birthday is a really big thing in Ireland. Even though you've been legal to drink for three years, its something along the lines of coming of age. Parents usually throw a big party for their kids and its quite a big deal!

So we got ready to head out, and conveniently walked up the road to Leanne's place. We were supposed to be there at 7:30. But at 7:30 Max and I were sitting in his kitchen thinking, yeah we can't leave yet. That's too on time. So the next ten minutes dragged on. And on. And on. Then, finally, at 7:40 we concluded we could make our way up the road...slowly. We got about ten feet away from his front gate and then one of Max's friends just happened be driving up to her party. Crap. Now were only going to be a little bit late. When we got there we joined the massive guest group of...two. I hadn't seen Leanne in a while and it was good to meet Zara and Nico. So the four of us hung around while Leanne continued to greet more guests. As more people trickled in, more drinks were passed around and people got happier. Thankfully, I had the group that had been there from the beginning...because I knew nobody else. But then even more people started to trickle in, and I saw some familiar faces, Gillian and Niamh. They were the other two that were in New York for the summer with Leanne and Max. So it was definitely good to catch up with them all.

At around 11pm or so, we all got on a bus to go in to town. Leanne had about thirty-five friends on the bus, so it was pretty crazy. We got off in the city centre at the Palace night club. I had never been before, but I'd heard that the place is...quote...hoppin'...end quote. Although it may be hoppin', its also frickin' expensive. It was ten euro to get in. Furthermore, a vodka redbull was seven euro. Damn. WHY MUST THERE ALWAYS BE A PROBLEM?!?!? (Seinfeld reference? Kyle and Nicole?) Wow I am just all over these references today. But yeah it was a really great night. Niamh was running around the whole night, snapping pictures without warning. So that made things interesting. There was drinking and dancing and just good craic all around.

At around 4am, the club started to close. So, naturally, we got Chinese. Max, Gillian, Katie, Claire and I made our way across the street to Charlies. Obviously still open for all the drunks. Chicken fried rice made the best finish to a long night of partying. But considering that they all lived in the same general area, we got a taxi back to Howth. Upon getting home, I chugged some water (best pre-hangover remedy) and passed out on my bed.

Woke up on Saturday, no hangover. Awesome. Well have gotta get going, but I hope everyone's doing well!! Talk to you all soon!!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Welcome to... the Best Place... in the World

Upon landing in Dublin after the trip to Edinburgh, Katie, Serena and I quickly got a cab back to Serena's apartment. That is where the last entry was written from. After meeting up with Laura we got back in a cab, went back to the airport, and flew to Lisbon. Safe to say, that was a whirlwind of a day. But I am now back in Howth and actually ready to tackle this "reading week". Once we got through security at the Dublin airport, we made our way to the Guinness gift shop (how Irish) to bring to Dan, our host for the week. Keeping with my usual trend, I conked out as soon as I sat down on the plane. Keep in mind that I had stayed up the whole night before too to make the 6am flight from Edinburgh to Dublin. But apparently, according to Laura, I was gone. The stewardess needed to push the cart down the aisle and she didn't see my elbow sticking out over my armrest. So, she hit it. I still slept. Laura shook my arm to wake me up. I still slept. Eventually the stewardess lifted my arm just enough so she could get the cart by. And, I still slept. When the plane touched ground in Lisbon, however, I woke up instantly. Sometimes I just don't understand myself.

Soon after we landed in Portugal, all four of us reached the depressing conclusion that we were in a country where they don't speak English. Thankfully, being tourists, we found the tourism office just outside of the passport check. Dan had told us to take the metro to the Arroios Station and that he would meet us here. That would have been easy, if there was a metro station in the airport. So we got a bus into the city centre and, thankfully, found a woman on the bus who not only spoke English, but was going to the metro as well. Epic win. We got off at Arroios at around 7pm and since we still had two hours until we met Dan, we went to go get dinner. Craving any sort of food at this point, we popped into a Portuguese restaurant just up the street from the station. Again, we were confronted with a language barrier. Using the combined French and Spanish from the four of us, we attempted to decipher the menu.  Katie and Serena both went with Salmon, and Laura and I still aren't too sure what we had. It was under the "Carne" section, and we think it was some kind of pork. Either way, it was really good. From here we made our way back towards the station stopping at a pastry shop along the way. Food was so extremely cheap, and so extremely good. It really is the best of both worlds.

A little bit before 9pm we trekked back to the station to meet Dan. We had found him through Couch Surfing, which is an online travel forum...I guess that's its technical classification. But basically, you host travelers (or surfers) for free but this also gives you the chance to surf on other peoples couches. Explaining this to some people can be really difficult because they cannot get past the image of a couch on a surfboard. Regardless, it is not as sketchy as it seems. Surfers write references and you need to have your location verified by responding with a postcard and they go through a lot to make sure this is as safe as possible. So we met Dan in the station and then walked back up to his flat, which wasn't far away at all. I don't know how this guy does it, but he started hosting surfers at the end of the summer, and he's already had more than fifty stay with him. But his apartment is amazing. It's really hard to believe that he's a student and he owns  this amazing flat. Usually Dan goes around showing his guests around Lisbon, but this was the middle of the school week. Because of this, that night, he planned out the whole three days with us. Quickly establishing Portugal as the best place in the world, Dan told us what to do, where to go, how to get there, and even a few key Portuguese phrases. After this quick lesson, the four of us turned in. We were extremely tired and needed to sleep if we wanted to see Sintra the next day.

Tuesday was Sintra day. I woke up at around 9am while the girls were still asleep. I walked out on to Dan's balcony and was welcomed with the warm weather that I had been missing for months. The balcony looks over a courtyard formed by the surrounding apartments and I was still in disbelief that I was actually in Portugal. Everyone gradually woke up and we were out the door by 11. From there we walked up the street away from the metro to a fruit stand where we essentially bought breakfast and lunch. I got two pears, two apple, a mango and some grapes for less than one euro. And it was good fruit too. We then backtracked to the station and stopped at a pastry shop along the way to further add to our meal. Laura and I both got this fried bread, french toasty thing. But it was delicious. After this we wandered down towards the station with our bags of fruit and hopped on the train to Sintra.

Right after getting off the train, we approached the tourism office, picked up a map of the village, and made our way up the street towards the town centre. Looking up the face of the hill, we were able to see both the Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle, the main sights of the town. After walking for a half hour, we quickly realized that we weren't going to make it to the top of the hill to see both the palace and the castle before they closed. So we reluctantly forked over four euro and hopped on a bus up to the top. Right as we rounded the final corner we were able to see our first stop, the Pena Palace. Although it was founded as monastery during the Middle Ages, the Palácio Nacional da Pena was built in the nineteenth century. The actual facade of the palace is extremely beautiful. No two sections of the palace's exterior are the same color and it takes to its historical roots lending to a very cool Arabesque style. Although it was an amazing palace, it was on top of a hill and it was extremely windy. As we were walking around the side on the balconies that surrounded the building, there were multiple times where any one of us would cling to a column or back into a corner to avoid the wind. All things considered, the wind being all things, the palace was amazing. The outside architecture was easily matched, but not surpassed, by the inside. Every room we walked through it was "The Queen's This" or "The King's That". They were obviously some rich folks living in Sintra. Hands down.

After leaving the Pena Palace we made our way a little bit further up hill to the Moorish Castle. Originally built in the ninth century, the Castelo dos Mouros was restored by King Ferdinand II in the nineteenth century. The structure is more of a fortress considering that it is comprised of walls surrounding something that could function as a village.  But the actual construction is unbelievable. The wall wraps itself around the hillside making the perfect fortification site. On a smaller scale, it actually kind of looks like the Great Wall of China. Kind of, but not really. Probably more impressive, however, is the view that it provides. When we got to the top of the tower the wind was extremely strong. At the highest point in the tallest tower (starting to sound like a fairy tale) I seriously felt like I was about to be blown away. As we were starting to make our way down to the exit of the castle, it started to rain. It is very hard to run on wet stones. They were extremely slippery, and we were running down the stairs, and it was really windy. With every step I took, I worried about tumbling down the stairs. Thankfully that didn't happen. We got down to the exit, made our way down the hill to Sintra and, of all things, got Chinese food for dinner. We were all extremely hungry and it was the first restaurant we came to.

When we got back into Lisbon, we were in for a couple of hours and then we went out for the night. The Portuguese are huge fans of the fruity drinks so this was definitely a night of those. All five of us got the same drinks because only one of the five of us knew Portuguese. Seems like a pretty reasonable plan. The three main drinks from the night, which are apparently hallmarks of Portuguese night life, were the Black Vodka Cocktail, a Champagne Cocktail, and a Chocolate Shot. The Black Vodka, I think thats what it was called, was primarily fresh berries. And a lot of sugar, then topped off with, well, blackberry vodka. I think thats what it was at least. To be perfectly honest, I have know idea what went into the Champagne Cocktail other than Champagne. Go figure. The Chocolate Shot wasn't an actual chocolate shot, but a berry vodka out of a chocolate shot glass. It was pretty amazing. So in addition to a one euro beer, the night out in Portugal didn't surmount to much at all!

Wednesday was the day that Serena almost got stuck in the metro doors. But more on that in a bit. As per usual, we had our breakfast of cheap fruit and fried french toasty cinnamon sugar bread. Soon after we made our way back down the main road towards the metro station. That is where things got complicated. As we were walking down the stairs to the train, we see the train pulling in. Obviously, we legged it to the doors. This one person was forcing the doors open for us so we could make it in time. I got in. Laura got in. Katie got in. Just as the doors were closing, Serena got stuck. I didn't realize what had happened until we heard a loud scream and then we were prying the doors open to fit her and her bag through. But we finally got her through. Having survived this experience, the train pulled away from the station and we were on our way to Belem. We changed trains in Cias do Sodre and there we had an epic picnic lunch on the platform consisting of a one euro loaf of bread, and a fair amount of cheese for only two euro. Again, epic.

We finally got to Belem and started to make our way down the main boulevard. Across the street we saw the monastery that we knew we were gonna see on our way back, so we didn't fuss over pictures or anything of the sort. The first actual monument we came across was the Discoverer's Monument. This is an amazing sculpture that has carvings of all these Portuguese explorers and advocates of Portuguese imperialism. This is also where we started to get artistic with our pictures. With the sun in the background, we took countless pictures of each other trying to obtain a black silhouette in all these random poses. This was another dangerous moment, for Serena again, because she almost fell off the side of the pier into the water. She and Katie were doing one of those jumping pictures as those black silhouettes. She lost her footing when she landed and almost fell into the water. Thankfully, some quick feet saved her from going for a swim in the Portuguese waters. We proceeded down the side of the water towards the Tower of Belem, a sixteenth-century fortress designed to protect the banks of the river. We took more of the silhouette pictures by the tower, but because we were too late we couldn't actually enter the tower itself. Disappointed, we made our way back down the boulevard and to the train station to get back to Lisbon.

Our final day in Lisbon started like all others did. Fruit and bread. From the Arroios Station, we went to the end of the line and got off at the Lisbon Oceanarium. As the second largest in Europe, this venue is pretty amazing. In the centre of the building there's one giant tank that has all of the common fish, but then there are four surrounding areas for each of the four oceans. The penguins were an obvious highlight for me. But then the cool part about each of the four subzones was that when we went downstairs we would see under the surface of the water. So not only would we see the penguins chilling on the rocks, but we'd see them rocketing through the water. After the epic visit to the aquarium, we stopped at the market for another two euro lunch of not only bread and cheese, but salami. We're moving on up. This was our last stop on our way to the Lisbon airport. Although I'm missing the warm weather and cheap food, it is definitely good to be back home in Howth!!

Whew that was a lengthy one. Hope every thing is going well with everyone else back in the states! I'll talk to you all soon!!


Monday, November 8, 2010

Go Jump in the...Loch?

Actually don't. Nessie might get you. So picking up back from where I last left off: Max's party. People were staying the night, don't drink and drive, so the shindig went pretty late. Now to the interesting plot twist. I was flying to Edinburgh on saturday morning. At 6am. So, quite obviously, I didn't sleep. The taxi arrived while everyone was partying away at 4am. This began an epic weekend in Scotland. Surprisingly, considering the state of my condition, I made it to the gate my opinion of course. Thankfully I ran into someone I actually knew at the gate, Ian from Cork, and that made the journey far easier. Not saying I was the best travel buddy though. The moment I sat down on the plane, I was out like a light, half expecting to wake up hungover in Edinburgh. Despite my predictions, I woke up just fine and Ian and I took the airlink bus to the city centre. From there, we climbed the main hill towards Edinburgh Castle and our hostel. When we walked in at 7:30 am, we signed in at the front desk and were told to drop our luggage in the storage room and chill out in the common room until a civilized hour. Then we would be given our room assignments and we could meet up with everyone else. Of course we went exploring in the hostel. We just happened to walk by an open door and saw Ben, another Cork friend, inside. Further pushing the door open, we saw everyone else waiting for our arrival.

After reuniting, we all made our way down to the Elephant's Head Cafe for breakfast. It was a nice little establishment just off the Royal Mile. Their coffee was good, their scones were amazing. Oh and also, this was where J.K. Rowling generated her ideas for the Harry Potter plots that we all know and love. So that was extremely exciting. But after breakfast at that literary landmark, we made our way up High Street towards the Edinburgh Castle, home of the Scottish House of Stuart. While we were standing in line to enter the castle, I overheard some of my friends talking about Bloody Mary and her life in Edinburgh. Now I don't like correcting people, but I just had to. Bloody Mary was Mary Tudor. Mary Queen of Scots was Mary Stuart and she lived in Edinburgh Castle. With that history mixup fixed-up, we entered through the main gates to the castle to see an amazing view of the city of Edinburgh. After taking the token pictures with the cannons lining the castle walls, we made our way into the inner castle only to see...more cannons and a giant cannon. Jessie almost climbed in, and she would have fit, but the guard stopped her. From there we went inside the actual building to see the crown jewels of the Scottish royal family which were amazing. I've never really seen a scepter up close...but man are they cool. Being pressed for time to make it to "thanksgiving" we ran out of the castle, down the Royal Mile, and found the Caves.

This weekend was a Californian invasion of Scotland. All of the UC students studying in the UK and Ireland met at the Caves for an American thanksgiving dinner. We had all the traditional stuff. Well, five of the traditional things. When you're serving over one hundred students, you gotta scale it down a bit. The dinner was fun, the food was great, but the real fun part about this day was the Scottish Ceilidh. Now in its crudest form, this is Scottish square dancing. We felt like complete idiots and we were partly convinced that the caller was making it up as he went just to laugh at us. But it was so much fun.

Yesterday, was the day of the Highlands. And a day in the Highlands is a day in the low temperatures. We were up at the crack of dawn and were out the door soon after. We boarded the bus and we were off. Headed northwest, our tour guide drove us through the Highlands on the way to Loch Ness. Before the stop at the legend lake, we made a pitstop to see this awesome cow. He was called Hamish. Sounds kinda demoralizing. But he was awesome. The mountains and secenery on the way up were absolutely amazing and I really now wish I could have hiked it. But we got Loch Ness at around three in the afternoon and boarded the cruise down to the castle. We didn't see Nessie, but he's out there. Well I hate to speed things up but we quickly drove back down to Edinburgh and were home by dinner. This morning, after another night of no sleep, I hitched a ride down to the bus station from a baker. He was delivering bread to our hostel and offered a I guess I didn't hitch it. But I caught the bus down the airport and flew back to Dublin this morning.

Well I'm racing to finish this as we are about to head off to Lisbon for reading week (or as the customs agent said: "Drink Lots of Pints Week"). I think he's right. But I'll talk to you all soon!!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Smirnoff = Poisoned

So just to clear up the title, if you type in Smirnoff (as in the vodka) into predictive texting...the first word to come up is poisoned. Irony? I think yes. But more on that later. The past few days have been absolutely crazy and I'm really sorry I've been failing at this. But, I'm going to attempt to chronicle it all in two entries. This one will be about everything that went down in Dublin up until Friday night. So we last spoke after I found out that the witch hunt was canceled. And that was a huge let down. Regardless, life goes on. Thursday and Friday were some pretty low key to be completely honest. I ventured around Gregorian Dublin on Thursday which is a very cool neighborhood by Serena's place. Made famous by its doors. They're quite colourful. But nothing really crazy happened. I finished up my Pitti and Dati essay on Friday night because the next night was Halloween...and I didn't want to be in for Halloween. No brainer.

Saturday (aka "Halloween") began with a murder. How fitting. I went with Max and his family to the Gaiety Theater in Dublin to see Agatha Christie's play Witness for the Prosecution. Obviously, Christie's a genius. Her stories are absolutely brilliant and this really proved to be one in the same! I thought I knew the outcome and was still convinced of it by intermission...but another one of her plot twists really shocked the whole audience. I'm not gonna tell you what happened, you'll just have to see for yourself. That night, after dinner back at in Howth, Max and I headed into town for Halloween. I went as the simple lumberjack and Max, well, he unzipped his face. He bought a spare zipper and glued it to his nose and then down either side of his nose with carpet glue. Apparently its industrial, but really safe. Then, he covered his whole face with red food die. It really looked great and kinda put my burnt cork five o'clock shadow and north country outfit to shame. Even if I was wearing Tasmanian Devil suspenders.  But we pregamed with Amy at the hostel she was staying then made our way to Copper Face Jacks. With a 45 minute line to get in, we had hight hopes. And they sure were answered. The only problem there was with the whole night...the DJ didn't have 'Are You Gonna Be My Girl'. You gotta Jet. It's a classic.

Despite it being the actual Halloween, Sunday was extremely low key. Didn't really wanna risk sleeping through my class on Monday to turn in my paper. Yeah go nerd. But when its worth 40% of your grade, not even I take chances. The rest of the week, up until Friday of course, was also pretty relaxed but work dominated. I had a pretty big presentation to give on Thursday on violence in Renaissance Florence. It was surprisingly not that bad. Thursday night, Max's birthday, was a night out with family in town. We went to Wagamama's, once again, and it was amazing. And then we went to the theater (they like the theater) to see "Between Foxrock and a Hard Place". Huge and hysterical commentary on upper-class Irish society during the recession. It's about this high scale family forced to live the life of the common man and they enforce every stereotype of the snooty rich folk.

Now to the toxic vodka. As Max's parents were in Boston for the weekend, Friday was his actual party. On my way back from college on Friday, I texted Max while on the DART asking what he'd be drinking that night cause I'd swing by the store on the way back up the hill. Suggesting smirnoff, I quickly realized that poisoned is the first word that comes up when you give that sequence. Coincidence? NO. It's quite obviously an Irish anti-alcohol campaign. Haha yeah, never in a million years. Anyway, held at his place in Howth, it brought together his three different groups: those from school, those from badminton, and those from sailing. While at the beginning, and while everyone was still sober, there was clear mingling within your own group, the end of the night saw everyone mixing together. This proves one of two things: birthdays bring people together...or alcohol makes you friendly.

I'm in Edinburgh now, and I will get to that, but we're about to head off to the ghost tour. So I will touch base with you all tomorrow or soon after on the events of this weekend!!! Talk to you soon!!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

...And What Do You Do With Witches?

In this entry I could talk about the witch hunt that I went on tonight. I could talk about how it was put on by the Trinity College History Society and took the form of a treasure hunt. I could talk about how funny it must have been to see a bunch of college kids running through the streets of Dublin with pitchforks and torches. I could talk about the people on my team and how we almost won but lost in the end. I could talk about all this, if it weren't for the rain. Tonight was the night for the annual (I think?) Trinity College Witch Hunt. We were all told, quite mysteriously may I add, to meet at the campanile at 5:30 pm. As pointed out by Samantha, thats kinda sketchy. Regardless, I popped into Dr. Ditchburn's office hours right after my class was over to discuss the first of two essays we have to write for his class. While I was sitting in his office discussing the self-centered nature of Bounaccorso Pitti, it saw that it started to rain outside. Now this wasn't your typical Irish drizzle. It began to downpour. Not good. Still at 5:30, it had cleared up a little bit, I made my way over to the center of campus to meet everyone for the witch hunt. I quickly learned that it would be postponed. Again, not good. In the end, while severely disappointed, we all decided to head over to MacTurcles, a pub not too far from campus with fairly cheap pints.

Despite that being quite the letdown, today was actually pretty productive for me. I cranked out 2000 words for that Ditchburn paper and played badminton for two hours. Yes I probably would have wanted to top off the night by burning a witch, but the rain would have put out the fire. So no point in that. But I also did learn of a Dublin tradition called the "Twelve Pubs of Christmas", so that should be interesting!

Well off to bed now! Check back with you all soon!


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stay Off the Grass... Just Kidding

So when Ireland is brought to mind, most people think of beer. If not you'll probably think of drunks. If you can somehow bypass that mental schema you'll think of the color green. Trinity College is no different. Like most of the college campuses in the states, the grounds are dotted with green grass and all. Unlike American schools, however, pretty much all of the grass is off limits. It is not unusual to find 18th-century metal chains surrounding the green or 21st-century signs warning us to stay off the lawn. On a normal day, most people will surround the grass. Never on the grass, only sitting on the steps next to it. That was not the case today. Normally on Tuesdays I would have Developmental Psychology and Irish History back to back. But today after my first class, the fire alarm went off. First off Irish fire alarms are really loud. Secondly we really didn't know what to do when it happened. Obviously, go outside. But the last time we all heard a fire alarm go off in the buttery, no body moved. So we were quite literally deer caught in the headlights. Ok maybe not literally. But so anyway, we were ushered outside by security guards. From the front door to the arts block we made our way, by the direction of the guards, on to the grass. Take a moment to take in the gravity of this situation. They forced us on to their coveted lawn. Thats big news.

Well thats gotta be all for today. Been working with all the Cork people to figure out the Edinburgh trip. Hope it will all come together in the end!!!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Vikings Have Holidays Too!

FDR was really on to something... Now you're probably all trying to make the connection between the Norsemen of Scandinavia and the New Deal. Well I have to say you're probably not going to find it, so I'll just get on with it. Today was a Bank Holiday. Considering we do not have a day off for Columbus not discovering Ireland, we get a day off to pay tribute to banks. Seeing that it had been a pretty lazy yet productive weekend, I sat around and did research, I decided to take today to venture into town. Also random side note: apparently all this time when I've been saying that I'm going into Dublin...I've been wrong...I've been going into town...Howth is in Dublin. Who knew?! Anyway construction rendered the DART useless for the weekend so I caught the bus into town from the Howth summit. As I got off the bus at the O'Connel Street Spire at around noon, I found myself to be extremely hungry. Beyond belief. So after making a quick stop for a Chicken Legend, I wandered across town to Serena's apartment by Fitzwilliam's Square. Another random side note: the Fitz's are very common in Ireland...Fitzwilliam, Fitzgeralds, Fitzsimmons. Seeing that the last two names on that list are bars by Trinity does not really say much for my character.

From her apartment, Serena, Katie, Laura and I crossed town, yet again, to Christ Church. Now I had already seen this amazing cathedral so I will not dwell on it. One thing that I did notice this time, that I don't think I saw before, is that one side of the building looks like its falling down the hill that its situated on. Facing the alter, the wall on your right-hand side looks perfectly perpendicular with the ground. The left-hand side, however, seems to be angled away from you! I probably should have asked someone while I was there as to what is going on. But with no other knowledge, I am going to promote my theory that the cathedral is falling down the hill. Stay tuned.

Across the street from us was the Dublinia museum. With our combo Christ Church / Dublinia tickets, we crossed into the world of the Vikings. Despite the common perception of the Vikings invading all of the British Isles, they actually founded Dublin in 841. This site is a tribute to their culture, and how they adapted and furthered civilization in Ireland. As serious as this may sound, there were costumes. At one point on the first floor of the exhibit there was a chest of clothes screaming in capital letters: TRY THESE. So we did. Laura actually got a pretty good picture of Serena stabbing me. It was pretty epic. Yet extremely unfair because there was only one sword. But the museum had some really cool setups about typical life in this period. They depicted the traditional county fair, the center of medieval commerce, and the typical merchant's house. From here we made our way to the top of the tower in Dublinia. The museum has a very similar style to the Christ Church Cathedral, just across the street, and they're connected by a second floor stone bridge of a similar style. I'm probably completely wrong about this but my guess is that Dublinia was some sort of religious order or group affiliated with the church before it became Dublinia. That would probably also explain the tower. Regardless, the tower provides an amazing panoramic view of the city. Many people say a rooftop view of Dublin is not much to see, well I think they're wrong.

With dinner time approaching, we walked back down Dame Street towards Trinity College. The plan was simple. We would go see the grounds to Dublin Castle on the way to get dinner. We weren't going to go inside because it was to close in twenty minutes. Surprisingly, we stuck to that plan. But the castle is an amazing site. Its smack-dab in the middle of Dublin city centre and it still evokes an amazing Medieval feeling when you walk through the front gates. As planned, we did not stay long at all but got a few quick shots in. Photographs, not alcohol. Leaving the eleventh-century grounds we made our way to Wagamama. Yes that is the actual name of the restaurant. It is a Japanese place of Grafton Street and it has a really laid back atmosphere. But the food was cheap and it was delicious. I got some really spicy, and somehow really sweet, noodle dish with Teriyaki Chicken. I don't think it was Teriyaki. But it was still really good. After dinner I caught the next bus back to Howth, watching the scenery go by as listened to, yet another, history podcast.

Well so this ends a three, actually four, day weekend. Talk to you all soon!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Hiking Howth and Cajun Chicken

Although this is a three day weekend, and I do need to get a lot of work done, I figured its only Saturday! I still have two more days where I can read to my heart's content. Rather than sit around the house I thought it'd be productive, and worth it, to hike around the Howth cliffs. So after a quick breakfast, I set out up Balkill Road towards the Summit Inn at the top of the Hill. Just beyond the inn, which was only a quick walk, was the car park for the cliff walk. I started to walk down this paved path when I ran into an elderly couple. I asked, just to be sure, that I was on the trail that wrapped around the peninsula down into Howth village. The man confirmed that I was on the right path, but an even better hike goes a bit further down and is fairly close to the face of the cliff. I took his advice and doubled back up to the trail head where I got on a steep path that, as he said, led towards the edge of the cliffs. As soon as it began to level out, I looked to my right and this really cool lighthouse, the Baily Lighthouse, just chillin' on the end of a point jutting out into the sea, rightfully called the Great Baily. Looking back on the pictures I took from today, I have so many pictures of Baily that it may seem like I'm walking towards it, when in reality every time I'd round a corner, it would somehow just pop out for a really cool shot! Truthfully, the hike around Howth head reminded me of Bodega. A lot. It was just a really nice hike and I'm sure I'll be doing it again.

After I had been hiking for about an hour or so, the trail started to go downhill again as I made my way down towards the village. Before completely getting down on to a paved road, I passed through a row of metal bars that were about a foot apart from each other. They were easy to walk through, probably just as easy to bike, so were they trying to prevent people from driving on the cliffs? Who knows... So I walked down the road to the village and along the way I passed by a Martello Tower. These were built across the British in the nineteenth century to protect her Empire from Napoleon and the French. While they were primarily military fortifications, they were known for their use of fire to communicate. Set up around the whole perimeter of Ireland, any sign of invasion would cause the first tower to light a fire; the next tower, always within sight, would light there's and this chain reaction could send messages across the island pretty quickly! From there I walked the length of Howth pier which provides an amazing view of the whole village. From the walkway there were stairs down into the water. Now I think these may be for rescue purposes, but I gotta say, I was tempted to go for a swim. Granted the water was probably, no definitely, freezing. So I resisted. I started my walk back up Howth hill and stopped for lunch in village at the country kitchen. With a cajun chicken sandwich in hand I continued my trek back home. I paused on a bench overlooking the harbor to eat and just as I sat started to rain. Considering that I was under a tree, I thought it best not to make a run for it. Having finished my sandwich, I waited for the rain to stop (which happens all the time) and concluded my walk back home.

Well thats all for now! I'll be in town tomorrow being a more on that soon!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

California Dreamin'

So todays blog is about the weather and mexican food, two things I miss dearly from California. I'll start things off by saying that we are entering the winter months in Dublin...mid-October. But its strange because, keeping with Irish custom, the weather remains completely erratic. Yesterday morning I got a ride to the DART station from Pam (Max's mom). When we walked out to her car at 8am, it was freezing. I ran back inside, got my Lakenridge fleece, and staged take two of Harry vs. the cold. I realized how cold it really was when I got into Pam's car and saw that the front window was completely covered with ice. This wasn't just a little frost; you could not see through it at all! Regardless, I made it to the station in time for the train into town, went along with my merry way and arrived in Dublin at around 8:45. From that point on, I was basically shut inside from classes, where my non-PC Irish history professor made many Catholic Church jokes (another story, different day), until around 3:30. Before leaving I looked outside and saw blue skies and quite a lot of sunlight. So I rolled up my sleeves, put on my sunglasses and walked out the front door to the arts block...only to be greeted by a huge gust of freezing wind. Stupid windows. I then proceeded to the Pearse Street Station to catch the next DART home. On a random side-note, look up the "Stuff You Missed in History" podcast on iTunes. I listen to it on the train and it is quite addicting. After the ride back of the city, although there were Arctic winds when I got on the train, I stepped on to the Howth platform and felt a nice warm breeze accompanied by warm sunlight. Not the fake sunlight I saw on campus. It was legitimately warm outside. Sometimes I just don't understand Ireland.

Today was a very intense Mexican day for me. I really don't know how it happened, but I can tell you what happened. So today after Renaissance Florence, Serena, Katie and I went to go get lunch at this crepe place right on Grafton Street, which is just a block from Trinity. Now because this place  specialized in crepes, I got a sandwich. It was far cheaper. According to the menu, it was actually a melt. A salsa melt. But it was between two pieces of bread which, back home, we call a sandwich. Either way, it was really good. It was filled with, well, salsa for starters, but it was packed with guacamole (haven't had that in a while), cheese, peppers, and more stuff I'm sure. It was then melted, apparently, on a griddle. So basically I had a Mexican grilled cheese. Fast forward to dinner tonight. We had fajitas. Now to be fair, the only common ingredient was the salsa. But it was still Mexican twice in one day! Anyway the fajitas were also just as good as the melted sandwich. Although both of them were great and they did satisfy my need for Mexican food, but its just not the same as back in California! So I guess nice weather and great Mexican food just aren't in the cards for Ireland.

Now I'm not saying a tortilla made me homesick, but when something reminds me of home I start to miss you all on both coasts. Yeah its sappy but its true. Not to worry though, I'm not having a melt down (haha melt) or anything over spicy food, things are still a blast and I expect so much more from the final two months. Talk to you all soon!


Monday, October 18, 2010


It is 7:30 am, and I am just about to run off to catch the DART, but wanted to attempt to quickly log the events of the past week. I know I haven't had that many posts in the past week (in fact, zero), and its not because it was an uneventful week. It was a typical week for a typical student in Ireland, except for a select few parts. So bare with me and hopefully it will all get out there.

Leaving off from my last post about my DART adventures: I went to the Garda Immigration Bureau, waited on line for three hours, got another ticket inviting me to come back and wait on line again, went to class, my professor called the Irish retarded, went back to the Garda, waited three more hours, breathed a sigh of relief, went to the library (many times), researched Renaissance violence, played badminton, swam at the gym, wandered Dublin (obviously), bought tickets for Portugal, skyped with Carole, discussed muffins, more research, lazy Friday night in Howth, in town Saturday morning, dinner with Katie and Serena, went to Flannery's, drank at Flannery's, got sick at Flannerys, woke up on Serena's and the DART home, skyped with Nicole, discussed trombones, downloaded some history podcast (go nerd), woke up yesterday (in my own bed), went to class, learned about drugs, read some guys diary (don't worry he's dead), and called it a night last night after watching the Inbetweeners. 

...I think thats everything. Well thats all for now! I'll check back sooner next time!!


Monday, October 11, 2010

Adventures on the DART

Monday is always a study day. I'm on campus at 10:00 for my psychology of addiction course and thats it for the day, so I will always end up in a cubicle in the library. Today, after spending a lovely four hours reading and outlining my textbook on Sixteenth-Century Ireland, I ran to Pearse Station to catch the next DART home. I casually walked into the lobby, glanced up at the screen, and saw that the next train to Howth left in...0 minutes. Great. Kicking it into high gear I sprinted up the stairs only to see the green trains pulling away from the platform. In retrospect, I am extremely glad that I missed that train because I had no idea what was coming on the next DART home.

1. I witnessed a chinese fire drill. As we pulled into the Clontarf Road Station, four guys, I'm guessing they were friends, got up out of their seats and ran out the door. Apparently they ran down the platform to the other door on the car, because soon enough they were back in their seats. Only, there were just three of them. As the train pulled away from the station, all of three of them looked out onto the platform to search for their fire drilling friend...with little success because he was sitting in the seat just at the end of the car. After a bit of a freak out, his friends soon realized that he had, in fact, safely completed the fire drill and was only watching for their reactions.

2. This wasn't as funny as the safety precautions of the first, but it was just one of those moments that catches you off guard. There are signs on all the windows displaying the witty phrase: "No Feet On Seats". How creative. But as we were rolling along today this middle aged man turns to this girl sitting across the aisle from him and says in an extremely disgusted tone: "Get your feet off that seat!" I mean thanks for enforcing the law of the land, but really now? He obviously didn't know her and she obviously rode the rest of the ride in extreme discomfort.

3. This is probably the best of the three, and thats why its going last. As we were pulling into the second to last stop, Sutton, I see this herd of women standing on the platform. We slowly inched to a stop and they all piled on to the car. First of all, this is strange because got the ride for only one stop. Its just as easy, if not easier, to drive or even walk to Howth. But I was about to turn my attention to something else when I realized that they were all wearing shower caps. I didn't really know what to think of it! So I chuckled to myself, and eventually successfully turned my attention to something else.

So I guess that missing the train ended up being a good thing! Hope everyone is doing great and I'll talk to you all soon!!


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Please Sir, Can I Have Some Moher?

This was an epic weekend. Last weekend when I was in Cork we had all talked about going to Galway  and seeing the Cliffs of Moher the next weekend, but it was one of those promises made by a group that had a high possibility of not actually getting carried out. I was happily proved wrong and it did happen. Everything began as I caught an evening DART into town which was an adventure on its own. On Friday night there was a Eurocup 2012 qualifier match against Russia, so the train was packed with soccer hooligans. It was awesome, but it probably violated many health codes with all those people. My original plan was to take the train across the island, but that fell through. Seeing that the Tara Street DART station is right by the bus stop, I felt it made sense to go for the more convenient, and cheaper, route to Galway. The bus got into the city center at 11:30 and I crossed town to meet everyone at the hostel. They were all just getting ready to go out for the night so I threw my bag on my bunk bed, it was just like summer camp, put in my contacts and we headed out for the night.

There were a few stops at a few pubs. I got a pint of the Galway Hooker at one of the bars so dirty jokes instantly circled the table. Eventually we found ourselves at the King's Head. The pub was founded in 1649 by the man responsible for executing King Charles I. It turns out the actual area had been a public meeting place for over 800 years, but the actual pub itself wasn't founded until the 17th century. Either way, obviously, I loved it. Filled with locals, the building was amazing on its own. The live music was nothing short of awesome. "The Naked Bear" played pretty much every popular song that a drunk person would sing along to. Everything from Journey to Blink-182 and MGMT to Lady Gaga. Their version of Bad Romance was actually really good, but the one song that got everyone singing was Little Lion Man. It is now its suck in my head, and has been for the whole weekend. If you haven't heard the song before...go youtube it now. As the night started to come to an end, everyone started to get really hungry. Jessie, Kerry and I ventured back to the hostel and a pizzeria across the street from our home was letting off an amazing smell. We poked our heads inside and it just got better learning that garlic bread and pizza make for wonderful food after a night at the pubs.

Waking up on Saturday was a long process. There was no hangover involved, but I was just extremely tired after getting only three hours of sleep. It didn't matter though, because we were going to see the Cliffs of Moher. Jessie found this amazing tour company that leaves from Galway and goes all around the area stopping pretty frequently at major historical sites. So again, I loved it. We drove by this one castle that was only accessible when there is low tide. Thanks to modern engineering they connected the quasi-island to the mainland but it was extremely cool. We also stopped at a ring fort which was an actual manmade hill formed into a ring in the earth. Apparently leprechauns lurk inside the circle so going off the trail on the ridge is quite risky. The tour made a stop in Doolin for lunch where we all ate at this small little pub in the village. I got the beef and Guinness stew which was amazing. It was such a simple dish but it tasted so good.

Finally after much anticipation and excitement, we drove over to the famous Cliffs of Moher. Even though you may not realize it, you have all seen these cliffs at least once and quite probably two times. For one the background to the blog is a picture of the cliffs themselves. Also, in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, the cave that Harry and Dumbledore go to is at the base of the Cliffs of Moher. Although those are both amazing shots of this natural wonder, the pictures do not do them justice. It is absolutely breathtaking, for both its sheer beauty and for the feeling you get when you look over the edge 700 feet down to the crashing waves. We ventured in both directions around the rock face, taking pictures at every angle as if the cliffs were going to magically change. But I am proud to say that Jessie and I found the Harry Potter cave. We spotted it from O'Brien's Tower, the nineteenth-century tower placed on the highest point on the cliffs. As amazing as it was, we were all fearing for our lives considering the strong wind. You could jump and get carried a foot or two towards the edge. For that reason when we did the token jumping picture, we started a good fifteen feet from the drop off. Although no one wanted to leave the cliffs, we had to get back to our bus driver and tour guide Desmond who was on a very tight schedule with us. We made one more stop on the way back to Galway and we thought it'd be a good idea to build a pyramid...with fifteen people. We got three stable rows down perfectly. Then someone started to climb to start the fourth row, and our pyramid started to crumble. Being on the bottom row was not enjoyable.

Last night we ended up, yet again, at the King's Head. We drank before back at the hostel with some guys from Spain and taught them our vast supply of drinking games. The music at the pub did not disappoint either. It wasn't the same band as the night before but they hit on pretty much all the same classics. Sticking to tradition, we also found ourselves getting pizza. The only thing was, I had a good amount of alcohol in me and I had almost completely lost my voice from all the singing at King's Head. It was apparently, according to Jessie, a conversation of epic proportions. Like yesterday morning, getting up today was indeed quite the production. But we got breakfast and ventured off into the city to see what it actually looked like in the day time. We were touristy walking up and down Shop Street, which is literally lined with shops and we went down to the water to see the docks and the Spanish Arch. The cathedral in Galway is amazing. I got one picture of the outside and then my camera died. So that was a bit of a let down. As the day continued on we all started to make our way to the bus station. Having survived an amazing weekend in Galway, I find myself sitting in my room, still a little hoarse, but ready for whatever is next.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Well Thats Just Corky

It was the first weekend after classes started and the workload was already starting to pile I went to Cork. Max was driving down for a friends 21st birthday, and I had many friends to visit, so I jumped at the opportunity and rode shotgun all the way through the Irish countryside on one fine Saturday morning. It really did, in some places, look like the movies: absolutely green everywhere and you could see for miles. We didn't have to pass through any cities on the motor-way which was really nice so we saw all green, all the time. On a side note, I saw something very peculiar in almost all of the fields: colored sheep. But these weren't just black or white, many of the wooly mammals had a red or green stripe on their back. Now this was either a way of marking one's sheep, which would just be as easy with a collar, or they were all victims of the rising phenomena of sheep graffiti. My money is on the latter.

While I am extremely happy to be in Dublin, Cork is an amazing city. The weather was great the whole time we were there (something to be savored in Ireland). It has the perfect mix of modern culture and historic tradition. The campus of the university has a really nice castle plopped down right in the middle. Apparently if you walk through the main archway in the castle, and over the school's crest, you will either get pregnant or fail your exams at the end of term. Now considering that its bad luck to believe in superstitions, I went for it. I think I have a leg up on the curse though, because I will obviously not be getting pregnant and we don't have exams this term...just term papers. So take that century old legend!

Apparently it was also one of my friends' friend's birthday too. I felt bad crashing the party considering I didn't know the guy at all...but I wasn't the only stranger there. But, for those of you counting, this is the second person I have met at their own birthday. So for Gavin's 20th, Jessie and I made him a Guinness birthday cake. We had already had a few drinks by the time we started baking it, so we weren't holding high expectations. With that being said, we used a devil's food cake mix and the metric system. Let me just say, the metric system is obnoxious, especially when your recipe is in the system that we use back home. Making the cake was easy.

Step 1. Open bag. Empty Contents. (Betty Crocker must think we're brain dead)
Step 2. Add eggs.
Step 3. Add water and oil.
Step 4. Add Guinness.

The fourth and final step was a creative adjustment Jessie and I made at the last minute. Originally it was just going to be a chocolate cake with Guinness frosting, but why not?! The frosting, however, was a whole battle in its own. Jessie's recipe was in ounces. All we knew it was a 2 to 1 ratio of sugar to butter. So we dumped everything in the bowl and started to whisk. We think we had the right proportions, but we just went by taste. In goes the orange zest...and it was a lot of orange zest. So we diluted the orange power blast with some Guinness. Then some more Guinness. And finally, a little more Guinness. In the end, it actually turned out great. Jessie said that she has to show us a real Guinness cake, but there's nothing wrong with this one!! Kerry soon got the call that Gavin was on his way, and everyone started to hide...which made no sense at all cause he knew we were all there. Any-who, after a few rounds of drinking games we went out to the bars for Gavin's twentieth.

The following morning I found myself at Eddie Rockets with all my Cork buddies. I didn't randomly wake up there, but nothing of interest happened up until that point. Now Eddie the exact same thing as Johnny Rockets; just a different name. After splitting a crazy student deal with Kerry, which amounted to a burger, fries and drink for five euro (really good!), we walked back to their place. Max was also ready to hit the road and hit the road we did. The drive back was just as nice as the ride down, especially because there was no rain at all. Max made great time on the motor-way making it back to Howth just in time for dinner!

Well ought to be getting to bed now. Hope to talk to you all soon!


Friday, October 1, 2010


So the first week of classes is officially over, but man do they hit the ground running here! I'm already buried up to my nose in reading and I think I'm going to Cork tomorrow. That really shows where my priorities are! Just gonna quickly run through all my courses, but then I promise I won't do it again unless it's something thats blog-worthy. As most weeks tend to, this week began with Monday. Caught the DART in to town and headed off to "A Cognitive Neuropsychological Approach to Drug Addiction". For future reference, although the full name is cool, that will probably be shortened to the "drug class". We soon learned Trinity seemed to violate numerous fire codes when we found out how many people were enrolled in the course and how much space was in the room...there were no aisles, just rows of desks with no gaps. If there was a fire, we would have been screwed. Thankfully, we made it out of that death trap of a room and apparently the lecture has been changed to a new room.

Tuesday began with Developmental Psychology. Sticking to the norm of the discipline, what else would my lecturer lecture on but the nature vs. nurture debate? Who knew?! It's both!! I have lost track as to how many times I've heard this discussion. Professors always say that there are some scholars that think its one over the other, well apparently not because every professor I have had has always right in the middle! That afternoon I had my first lecture in Irish history. There is an old man in my class. Come to think of it there are many old people in my class. But this old man, this old man is a piece of work. He acts like he is all buddy-buddy with the professor and speaks like he thinks that he is a walking encyclopedia. I can't wait to get into a debate with him.

Just a heads up, class times are really weird. I have some classes on back to back days, but at different times. Anyway, Wednesday morning began with another discussion of, you guessed it, nature vs. nurture. There really isn't that much more to say about that. But I had Irish history again that afternoon with a different lecturer (apparently team teaching is a big thing). Now this professor is pretty old fashioned and one thing that he values is being on time, which is odd because he arrived late. But to make his point that he would always start the lecture on the hour, he started talking before he walked through the door to the lecture hall. It didn't take me long to realize that lecture would begin regardless of whether or not Professor Brady was in-front of a class.

Yesterday was a nice day. I had my first class of Renaissance Florence and our professor proceeded to transport us back to our childhood years. We played a name game. The class had twenty people and I felt like I was back in fourth grade. After explaining the course of the course he let us out early warning us that the teeth pulling starts next week. Just a side note about Dr. Ditchburn, one of my friends who has had him before described him as a leprechaun that could not stand still for the duration of a lecture. I completely agree with her.

Seeing that I have no class on Fridays, today was a very nice day. I also realized that it had been a long time since I have wandered Dublin. So I caught a late DART into town and wandered the Trinity campus. The buildings are absolutely amazing just to look at and some of them date back to the eighteenth century. I avoided the bell tower though, as it was close to the hour and walking under the chiming bell could cause failure on any exams. But then the Irish do say its bad luck to be superstitious of anything.

Well I am completely shattered and need to get some sleep. Thanks for following guys!!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

Pub Crawls and Tapas Bars

As the title would hopefully suggest, this entry will catalogue my weekend of, oddly enough, a pub crawl and my first visit to a Spanish Tapas Bar. Most of you probably know of the beer Guinness, and its origins in Ireland, but few know that Arthur Guinness' famous recipe dates back to the eighteenth century! On September 23rd, 1759, the Guinness factory was opened in the middle of Dublin. Because of this, Dubliners started the "tradition" that September 23rd would officially be Arthur's Day, even though it was not even official at all. This "long standing tradition" began, last year, for the 250th anniversary of the opening of the factory. So this past Thursday was Arthur's Day and at 5:59 p.m. (17:59) there was a toast to the good man himself. That was when our pub crawl began. The crawl was made up of the members from the badminton, tennis, and squash teams (I had joined badminton and tennis, but more on that later). We partook in the toast at the Gingerman, a pub not too far from Trinity College. With a pint of Guinness in one hand (it is really not that bad) and new friends around me, it was a great way to start the crawl. From the Gingerman, we trekked on through the night with our stays ranging anywhere from a quick drink to, well, more than a quick drink. As the night wore on, everyone started to break off from the original thirty or so. At the end of the night, I found myself at Doyles, which is right by Trinity College, whereas Max was at Howl at the Moon, which is not right by Trinity at all. Both ready to head home, I made my way over to the nightclub with the help of many locals, because everyone wants to help a stumbling American, and we got a taxi back to Howth.

Friday night was Tapas night. Max and I drove into Dublin with Emily, Max's sister, to meet their cousins for dinner. We met them at Salamanca, which has apparently won the best tapas restaurant in Dublin multiple times. Going into it, I felt that it could have been a little bit awkward for me, but it really was not at all! Obviously the five of them got along great but I did not feel like an odd man out at all. But the food at this place was amazing. Tapas are a really good way to go when you're with a group: everyone gets two dishes, and you share everything. Being the American that I am, I got the chicken wings (which really compete with Sherwood's) and the beef and lamb stuffed peppers. In reality though, you kind of have bits of what everyone has. All in all, it really was a great night. Filled with great food and friends you really couldn't ask for more.

Summer officially comes an end today as classes start tomorrow morning. To tell you the truth, I'm actually really excited to start the semester. Sticking to my major track, I'm taking two history and two psychology courses. I thankfully lucked out with history because they are worth double the credits of most other modules. But I will quickly rattle off what I'm taking then I will have to go: Ireland and the Wider World, 1534-1641; Renaissance Florence, 1348-1527; Developmental Psychology; and a Cognitive Neuropsychological Approach to Drug Addiction. The last one sounds extremely intense, but I hope it will be a good time and I'll find out soon enough!!! Talk to you all later!


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Reformations? Orientations?

So last year I took a history class called Christianity and Culture from 1450-1600 and the course discussed the many European Reformations. I say Reformations (plural) because that was one of our professor's main points: it was an era of multiple Reformations working together and, sometimes, against each other. Now making a slightly off topic connection, I feel the same way about orientation...or should I say orientations? It's generally referred to as "orientation" and that does not make it seem so bad at all! But it is really so much worse: multiple orientations with multiple people usually over multiple days. For the past few days I have been painfully partaking in various seminars and lectures about being abroad, dealing with culture shock, and the differences between the English language and the English language. Anything and everything that we discussed was easy to pick up or just common sense. On the first day, we discussed the importance of safety which was like pulling teeth. The guy presenting had a slide show and everything, but in the end I already knew to look for emergency exits when I enter a building. Day two, today, consisted of lectures on cultural differences. While I understand them wanting us to not experience culture shock, experiencing culture shock is part of the whole experience of studying abroad! You've taken yourself out of your element for a reason! I would much rather have actually learned these things on my own, not be lectured on them. But, I talked to another international student who had been here for two years already and she said that they do not even skim the surface, so there is still a lot more for me to learn. Regardless, I finally finished my orientations today so that was a huge sigh of relief. Until next time, thanks for following everyone!


Monday, September 20, 2010

Cathedrals, Crypts and Coffee

Saturday was a day of wandering. I took the DART into town and got off at the Tara Street station, the first stop over the Liffey River. After strolling down the the riverside quays (pronounced keys), I turned left up on to St. Michael's Hill. At the top of the hill was the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, more commonly known as Christ Church Cathedral. After walking the perimeter of the Cathedral, which is an amazing site to see on its own, I made my way inside. With construction beginning in 1030, this is a true marvel of Gothic and...Victorian architecture? Obviously the church as it stands today is not was it was nearly a millennium ago, and the remains of a separate portion of the original church lie right next to the "modern" building. Under Queen Victoria (Ireland was still British in the 19th century), extensive renovations were brought to the Irish hall of worship. The church stands today as an amazing mix of medieval and more contemporary architecture. While the exterior of the Cathedral is amazing, everything inside the church gives the feeling of a museum from the shrines erected in each of the chapels to the tiling on the floor to the stunning stained glass windows.

After walking all around the church, I crossed every possible path at least twice, I suddenly got extremely hungry. Obviously I went to the crypt of the Cathedral. Part crypt and part coffee-shop, the basement of Christ Church provides that spooky feeling that everyone vies for while they're eating. Although it has been somewhat renovated and really not that creepy at all, every now and then, usually mid-bite, I would stop to think about where I was...surrounded by tombs. Finishing my lunch, I looked across the room and saw a section of the basement that while open to everyone was camera restricted. My first thought was that that clearly meant the good stuff and it was. This area was filled with books and artifacts dating back to the English Reformation including one of the original copies of the sixteenth-century Book of Common Prayer...go nerd. My visit to Christ Church Cathedral ended with a member of the clergy who convinced me to also go see St. Patrick's Cathedral. It's only a few blocks away and I really can not spend a semester in his land without seeing his Cathedral! But that will be for another day.

Well thats all for now! Thanks for reading guys and hope everyone's doing great!


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Socially Required Entry About the Weather

So it's raining right now, and it is probably the fourth time today that has rained, so welcome to Ireland. As much as I am not a fan of the rain back home, it does not really bother me while I'm over here. It is really part of what makes this such an amazing country, the rain does in fact make everything that lovely green that everyone thinks of when they think of Ireland. But the thing that I'm just starting to get used to is the random nature of the rain on the island. It will be nice and sunny at one moment and then that will quickly turn to rain. The window in Max's kitchen provides an amazing view of the Irish Sea. Every morning when I look out over the rest of Howth, and the water beyond that, I can see so many different types of weather forming, prepared to strike at any instant. If there is anything that I have learned in my first few days here it is how to dress for the elements. Keep in mind, when I say elements don't picture blazing heat or hurricanes passing over Dublin, because they really don't. The elements in Ireland are rain and sun.  But basically, anywhere you go you'll want to be wearing jeans and a sweatshirt. It's that simple! But as I sign off on this entry, in typical Irish fashion, the sun is just beginning to poke its way through the clouds over Howth.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Out and About

As the days go by I find myself exploring and loving more and more of Howth and Dublin. Yesterday I started to improve on my non-existent golf skills. Max and I drove to the driving range and I quickly realized that it is an extremely good time to completely obliterate a tiny little golf ball. We immediately rushed to the second story because that extra height will add so much to your distance (it's all about projectiles Ms. Browne), making us look far better than we actually were.  After adding 240 white specs to the green lawn ahead of us, we got lunch at the cafe right on the course. Later that day I headed into Dublin on the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit...kinda like BART, but for Dublin). I wandered around the Trinity campus taking in all of the amazing architecture while trying to not look like a crazy tourist. Pictures were taken, so I probably failed at that. But I did find out where my department offices were, so that was a plus.

To be perfectly honest, today wasn't too different! I did some more wandering of the Trinity campus, sans camera. That may have helped the whole not look like a tourist thing. Having wandered sufficiently, I took to Grafton Street which is just across from the main gates to Trinity. As a street that does not allow cars, Grafton is lined with little shops and cafes. Looking for a nice place for coffee and reading, I quickly found the famous Bewley's Cafe. Having served coffee since 1840, I new I could find a good drink here. As I was sitting down to a nice cup of coffee, I pulled out A Gambling Man: Charles II's Restoration Game. It's a great book, but he has not even gambled yet. Anyway, I could not manage to keep my focus as I was just completely mesmerized by the atmosphere of the European coffeehouse. We had studied them in one of my history classes but it was amazing to actually see everything as it was! Obviously things were not as they were in the seventeenth, eighteenth, or even nineteenth centuries, but it still remains to be a crucial social hub of Europe.

Just a Heads Up: This will be the first of many history references. It's my major and I'm in Europe, this blog can not go without them.

Well I must get going as it is currently very early on Thursday morning now. Hope all is going well with everyone and thanks for reading!!


Monday, September 13, 2010

Part I: The Telemachiad

On day four in Dublin, I  have finally come to the realization that I'm finally here in Ireland. Because I want to keep in touch with everyone while I'm abroad, I've decided to record my adventures in Dublin, and beyond, just as James Joyce did with Leopold Bloom in the 1920s in his world famous novel Ulysses. As "The Telemachiad" is the first chapter of Bloom's travels, so it will be mine as well. Obviously my circumstances are quite different than Bloom's, as the entire novel spans his one day passage, 16 June 1904, through the Irish city. But with that being said I do intend to see as much of Dublin, Ireland and Europe as he did while I'm abroad.

This semester long adventure began last Thursday night as the Aer Lingus flight 108 departed from John F. Kennedy airport. Overcome by the excitement, I did not (or could not) sleep on the plane, which made for a very interesting Friday. Landing just in time for breakfast, I was picked up from the Dublin airport by Max, a great friend of mine for the past three summers. For the next few months, I'll be living with him and his amazing family in Howth, a seaside town just northeast of Dublin. To avoid jet lag, I didn't go to sleep immediately, but I played golf instead, and quickly learned that I am no golfer at all. To further avoid jet lag, I didn't go to sleep at a normal hour, but we went out for the birthday of one of Max's good friends. Safe to say, I was easily roped into the time zone I'll be in for the next few months.

The following morning I drove into Dublin with Max to the site of the UCEAP (University of California Education Abroad Program) orientation. There I met the nine other UC students that will be at Trinity College, and the forty other UC students studying in Ireland this term. While at this meet up in Dublin we discussed campus safety, registering for classes, and went on the occasional field trip to famous Dublin sights, we were really there to meet other students from the Ireland program. The weekend was filled with awkward introductions and quite often you'd introduce yourself to the same person. You'd meet someone, learn all about them, not ask their name again at the end, and forget their name...and this was not just me. I talked to a bunch of my friends and they forgot a lot of names too. To fight this, we'd go through the whole group whenever we had a moment matching up names, faces and descriptions.

Towards the end of my second day in Ireland, while on one of the orientation tours, I made a pact with four of my friends that we would go on a "fright night" bus tour of the city and then follow that with our own ghost stories at a pub. Well we read the times wrong. Turns out 20.30 is 8:30 not and learn. So last night was our last night all together before we split off to our different campuses and we finally made it a Ghost Bus Tour through Dublin's horrific past. The tour guide was hilarious and overall, while a little corny, it was an amazing night. So all in all, what was a seemingly dry orientation, turned out to be a great weekend of meeting friends that will be all over Ireland.

I know I'm going to miss all you guys tremendously, but I think this is a great way to stay in touch. Thanks you guys so much for reading and not to worry, I am in great hands here in Howth!