Tag Archive | Ireland

The Big 100th Post

Isn’t it amazingly fitting (and completely coincidental) that my 100th post is my leaving Oxford to return home to the States? This was never my intention; I didn’t plan out all of my blog posts for my entire year to make sure that I ended on the 100th post. I can’t even really believe that I’ve had 100 posts!

In fact, this post is truly the last part of me in England at the moment. In case no one noticed, the time stamp on this one is 4:15 pm, GMT, which means that as this is being blasted into cyberspace, my plane towards Los Angeles has just taken off and I am now in the air, eleven and a half hours of a plane ride ahead of me. Let’s hope there are no screaming children!

So as this is my 100th milestone, in typical blogosphere fashion, I thought I would do a little fun listing, an almost sum-up of my incredible time abroad. Nothing is in any particular order. Enjoy!

25 Great/Funny Experiences

  1. Meeting my amazing dance partner, Dan, is probably the best thing that happened to me here!
  2. Being pelted with snowballs outside the Sheffield competition. First time in the snow!
  3. Disneyland Paris
  4. Harry Potter Studio Tours in Leavesden
  5. Seeing Les Mis on the West End…twice
  6. Dan running into a bollard at Blackpool. This was mostly funny because of the email his dad sent him afterwards, but it’s a favorite inside joke with the two of us now.
  7. Blackpool IVDA!
  8. Thinking that Iguanadons were the same thing as Iguanas (you’ll understand this one later)
  9. Baking parties in the Acland kitchen
  10. Dan’s birthday BBQ
  11. Days spent at the Missing Bean
  12. Keble Ball
  13. Meeting up with Dale in Paris
  14. The Port Meadow Photo Challenge
  15. My family visiting!
  16. Driving in Ireland
  17. Finding Charles Brandon’s grave in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle
  18. Becoming friends with all the people on the dance team
  19. Dancing on a table in Wahoo with Ania 😉 and nearly getting kicked out
  20. Flying off to Zurich alone, completely random! Sidenote: Awesome zoo
  21. Seeing the town that  my family has lived in for hundreds of years (Harlech, Wales)
  22. Walking through horse pastures in the Cotswolds
  23. Varsity Match for OUDC
  24. Going to tutorials in a room that is older than any of the original 13 colonies
  25. Stonehenge in the pouring rain with my brother

25 Things I’ve Learned

  1. The Rose has the best cream tea in Oxford
  2. Custard, cream, and mayo might as well be their own food groups here
  3. Pants=underwear, not trousers
  4. Pimms is awesome. There is always an excuse to drink Pimms.
  5. The instant the sun comes out, expect the streets to get very, very crowded.
  6. Blackwells is the most deadly store in the world.
  7. Sometimes it is cheaper to take a train to a foreign country than to Cornwall.
  8. You can get to Brussels or Paris from Oxford faster than you can get from Oxford to Cambridge (they must have planned it like that!).
  9. Awesome words like keen, overkeen, and knackered should be incorporated into our everyday vocabulary.
  10. British people think that all Americans are gun-toting, obese rednecks.
  11. Cobblestones do not mix well with high heels.
  12. Punting is not just a type of kick in football.
  13. At a BBQ, Brits bring their own meat. Americans bring desserts and sides. Plan accordingly.
  14. Stand mixers are necessary to avoid baking catastrophes.
  15. 14lbs=1 stone. This is how they measure weight. But then they use kg? Wth?
  16. Fancy dress means costumes, not cocktail attire.
  17. Stealing ties and bow ties makes night clubs into a game.
  18. You never wait for a cross walk to cross the street.
  19. Buses will run you over and they get really close to the curbs.
  20. Salad means assorted vegetables that you can have put on your baguette at lunch or lettuce with delicious toppings. However, salads are rarely meals.
  21. You need a television license just to stream a show online.
  22. Everyone, and I mean everyone, watches and loves Downton Abbey.
  23. I know more British history than a lot of British people.
  24. Waffles are dessert, not breakfast. And for that matter, pancakes are basically crepes, not the fluffy goodness we get in the States.
  25. If you forget an umbrella, you’ve guaranteed that it will rain. If you brought an umbrella, it will still probably rain but at least you will be dry.

25 Things I’ll Miss

  1. Nightly tea parties with my dance partner
  2. My friends on the dance team
  3. Olives (the sandwich shop not the food item)
  4. Cream teas
  5. Being able to walk everywhere
  6. Saying Cheers instead of Thanks
  7. Spur of the moment day trips into London
  8. West End shows for cheap!
  9. Being surrounded by history everywhere I go
  10. My bay window
  11. How happy everyone is when its sunny
  12. Oxfordshire Public Library
  13. Free entry to museums and galleries
  14. Everyone in the Keble MCR/Acland
  15. The collective understanding when someone mentions Jamals or Park End
  16. My scouts (aka the women who clean my room every week and empty my bins. They were the nicest people!)
  17. The accents
  18. Ease of travel, unless you want to go horizontally across the country. Good luck with that.
  19. Baking for Dan’s friends and Keble events. Love easy taste testers
  20. Laughing as Dan and I attempt to Quickstep/Waltz/Jive/Cha/Foxtrot/Viennese Waltz
  21. Hearing everyone’s opinions on LA
  22. Dirty Chais
  23. All the literature and film links in the city
  24. Feeling like I’m constantly at Hogwarts
  25. My coworkers

25 Places that I Didn’t Get a Chance to Visit, But That I Definitely Will Someday

  1. York
  2. Cornwall
  3. Dover
  4. Calais
  5. Norfolk
  6. Budapest
  7. Prague
  8. Vienna
  9. Pompeii/Rome/Venice/Naples/Italy
  10. Warsaw/Other Places in Poland
  11. Berlin/all over Germany
  12. Geneva
  13. Istanbul
  14. Marrakech
  15. North Carolina
  16. Athens, basically all of Greece
  17. Slovenia
  18. The Netherlands
  19. Northern Ireland
  20. Brighton
  21. Denmark
  22. Russia
  23. Bruges/Antwerp
  24. The Caribbean
  25. Portugal

Yeah, it’s a long list, but hopefully I’ll have a long life in which to fulfill it, with wonderful friends and family by my side. Now don’t think that because I’m back in the US that this blog is ending. I’m still going to be traveling and I’m working on finding my way back to England for a bit longer of a term. So stay tuned!

And thank you to everyone and everything in England that made this the most amazing year of my life.

Irish Holiday Weekend

And the next stop on our tour is Killarney, Ireland! Though we really spent no more than four hours in the actual town of Killarney, but I’ll get to that.

Oh, and Happy St. Patrick’s Day! (Remember that this was intended to be posted on the actual day but I didn’t have a computer. Use your imagination people!) We missed all of the festivities because we spent most of our day driving from Kilkenny to the Cliffs of Moher and then down to Killarney. It was raining when we arrived at the cliffs, and this was actual rain not spit. As in needed windshield wipers rain. Hoping that it would stop after a bit of time, we went inside the visitor’s center and walked around/ate lunch instead of going straight out onto the cliffs. Good decision too, because the rain stopped and the sun began shining (and it warmed up!).

Cliffs of Moher

Sunlight made the cliffs even more stunning that they already would have been. I would say that it was something out of Harry Potter, but it actually was used in the sixth film so that would be cheating. Again, the views are indescribable, even for me, so I can’t say anything other than it was an awe-inspiring scene. I can’t believe how lucky we were that the sun came out the entire time we were out there. Luck of the Irish strikes again!

Upon arriving in Killarney, we couldn’t remember the name of the woman who ran the place we were staying at, Margery or Marese (ended up being that one) and we basically dropped the bags and drove into town. I think the parade had just ended because the city centre was packed with people decked out in crazy amounts of green and orange and shamrocks. I kind of wish we had gotten to experience one of the parades, just to say that we did. But instead we found a girly and adorable tea shop to grab a TMO of tea and lemon cake. MIss COurtney’s Tea House was one of those über feminine places where all the china is mixed and matched and the waitresses wear pastel sundresses.

Such cute decor!

Apparently they had just been cleaned out in the aftermath of the parade by anyone who either didn’t want to or couldn’t get into a pub (every pub was already filled to the brim with people). So they only had a few cakes left, no scones, but the lemon cake was delicious so I was fine with that. And I got a picture of the boys in there for humor’s sake.

From there we just walked around Killarney, which as it was full of only pubs and shops just screamed tourist town; apparently tourism is Killarney’s primary industry. There really was nothing else to do but wander until it was an appropriate time for dinner and we picked a place.

Shopping in Killarney

The Porterhouse’s food wasn’t great but we ended up talking to the manager over a few drinks and he was a lovely man, very friendly and personable. So that made up for the food. Then it was just another early night in a comfy bed where I was wonderfully warm and toasty, finally.

Our last day in Ireland also happened to be “Mum’s Day” in the UK and Ireland, and I am so lucky that I could spend a form of Mothers’ Day with Mom. I obviously won’t be home for the American one in May, but spending this one in Ireland with my mom more than made up for it. This day we were driving the Ring of Kerry, the Irish version of the Road to Hana only with less waterfalls and more sheep. It was also less twisty and turny and motion-sickness inducing. The views were once again incredible. I know I say that about a lot of Ireland, but this is a stunning country and I have yet to see a part of the countryside that doesn’t make me gasp from its beauty. We made a couple of stops along turnouts so that Mom and I could run out and get pictures, braving the wind and the cold for that perfect shot of coastline. We also made a stop at an ancient fort that was pretty cool as well, but I was speechless at so many of the views that they win. I must have taken over 100 photos.  We also stopped at this luxury resort called the Parknasilla for lunch and tea (it’s Mums’ Day after all!), again paling in comparison to the cream teas in England.

Back in Killarney, Mom and I ditched the napping boys (I don’t understand how you can nap on a vacation like this!) and walked back into town. We walked further along one of the roads and ended up at another St. Mary’s Cathedral and actually a convent as well. I stupidly was shocked at there even being convents anymore, stupid because Mom reminded me that I’ve seen nuns before and there wouldn’t be nuns without convents. I think this alone time with Mom was the highlight of my day 🙂

Now to leave the Emerald Isle, but I hope not for long as it was a fantastic place and I am looking forward to visiting again.

Local Celebrity

Stop number two: Kilkenny, Ireland

Dad was feeling really ill and so opted to rest and sleep in the hotel room while the other three of us explored Kilkenny. I instantly liked this town light years better than Dublin. It has that quaint, people actually live here feel and a warmth that Dublin lacked. The people of Dublin were absolutely lovely. I can’t think of a city where I’ve met nicer people, but Kilkenny as a location is more my style. And this first day was definitely done in my style of traveling. We wandered. We saw a cute street; we took it. Cute potential tea shop? We looked at the menu. The place we ended up going for tea was more like a pub that served “scones” and pastries.

Always up for a cream tea 🙂

The scones were like no scones I’ve ever had, more akin to danishes served with pure whipped cream in a little dish, making me think that maybe something has been lost in the vocabulary translation between the English and the Irish.  No place has done tea and scones and clotted cream like they do in England. Returning from my tangent…

Armed with solely a map and my relentless passion for walking, I led the way toward a 12th century abbey, which as my newfound Irish older man friend informed me was closed to the public for safety reasons (despite how much fun it would be to watch tourists run away from falling stones Ireland has decided against it). He was an adorable man, explaining all of the directions to every church-related house in the entirety on Kilkenny. And he didn’t just point out the roads, he literally moved me into place until I could see the routes.  So cute and helpful.

St. Canice's Cathedral

We ended up going to the closed St. Canice’s  Cathedral, Black Abbey (so called because the Dominican monks wore black robes) and St. Mary’s Cathedral. This is essentially what I do when I travel: on the first day I wander around town, into churches, and plan the rest of my days in the city in which I am visiting.

The Black Abbey

We ate dinner in the hotel bar as the three of us and soon joined by Dad. Both he and Kevin ended up sound asleep by 9 pm, and Mom came to our door. She and I talked for a bit and then once I said that I was sick of spending every night hanging out in a room, she suggested that the two of us go to a pub (yeah, my mom is that cool) without the boys for some local music. We ended up at a pub called The Field where some guy played music nonstop for over three hours. And he was actually really decent. I of course found some way to make an idiot out of myself, this time by confusing the bartender by ordering a basic American cocktail at an Irish pub. Jenna=moron. After the drink debacle (I ended up with an overpriced glass of house red) the night was perfectly low key, but I didn’t feel like I was wasting it. So glad we went out!

Partying it up with Mom!

After my sleepless night, I met everyone downstairs for a bland but included breakfast (amazing how being included means that I mentally disengage from quality standards). I drove us to the Rock of Cashel, a ruin of a cathedral that was originally the ancient seat of the Munster kings in the 300s through the Middle Ages. I love all these ancient ruins ad how I can use the history I’ve already learned to better understand it all. And the sites themselves are obviously spectacular. In Ireland there are more of the ruins surrounded by untamed countryside and not the immaculate gardens and parks you see in England. It was a bit misty and drizzly, which I christened as “spitting” and made Mom laugh. I thought it was an apt description.

Rock of Cashel, under construction aka preservation

Back in Kilkenny we went to Kilkenny Castle which was really more of an exhibit like those of British stately homes, so Dad and Kevin were both bored and let down. I enjoyed it, but I also got into a discussion with one of the employees regarding the lack of Versailles furniture so I was in my element. The tour, self-guided, didn’t have a ton of information and so we were finished pretty quickly and retraced our steps from yesterday to St. Canice’s Cathedral. Cathedrals are all really similar in design so I am more interested in any cool history or who is buried there. One of the former bishops interred here was Obama’s great great granduncle, which is pretty cool. There was also a memorial to a 14 1/2 year old martyr who was beheaded by Emperor Constantine on her way to her first communion. The weather wasn’t cooperating so the boys didn’t get to climb the ancient tower.

I had to play tour guide throughout this whole trip

Dad and Kevin went back to the hotel after that while Mom and I did some shopping and journaling and tea before the boys joined us for drinks. Dad of course ordered a vodka gimlet because this was the fourth anniversary of my grandfather’s death, but he had to teach it to the bartender. Mom then chose to forgo dinner because she was so tired and not hungry, so the rest of us went off. This time, after dinner, Mom and I didn’t have to go to the pub alone; the boys came too. We went to Flanigan’s Pub where at 9 pm this fantastic Irish band called Divil and the Bit was playing. There was a hilarious bachelorette party going on with a crazy Irish dancing mother and aunt. Dad called the office on the iPad so they got quite a surprise. The boys both left early once again, missing Mom getting hit on and both of us getting our picture taken with some locals for next week’s Kilkenny newspaper. Who knows? We might become local celebrities!

How to Become the Most Beautiful Girl

I’m back! Not that I went all that far, just Ireland and Scotland and now London; in fact I am sitting in my hotel room (more on that to come in a fair few number of blogs into the future, have to stay chronological here) finally in front of my computer and figured, hey, why not let people know that they can stop emailing me asking for vacation updates because they are soon coming to a computer screen near you!

I believe I last checked in upon our arrival back in Oxford from Harlech, Wales, that craggy countryside with my 86 year old 6th cousin four times removed. A leisurely breakfast was had by all two of us before we ran some last minute errands and caught yet another form of public transportation: the airline bus to Heathrow. This time our airline was AerLingus, and let me say without going into detail, that it was the absolutely craziest and most intense security checks that I have ever experienced. I’m sure it took us a solid 80 minutes to jump through the various hoops. But at the end of it was Dad and Kevin!!! I am so excited to see my whole family together after the last three months of separation. And how awesome is it that we get to spend it in Ireland, starting with the city of Dublin.

From the instant we disembarked the plane and went through customs, I kind of had to take charge since I’m the one who has been here the longest and as such am most familiar with how people do things on this side of the Atlantic. So I found the bus to the city centre and then popped us in a taxi to our B&B. Mom, Dad, and Kevin apparently got a kick out of me conversing with the taxi driver. They thought it was really cute.

Starbucks in Dublin is still Starbucks 🙂

We didn’t want Kevin and Dad to go to bed yet or else they would be risking exacerbating the jet lag. It was also too early for dinner so we picked a street and walked as far as we felt like and ended up on the Dublin equivalent of Oxford’s Cornmarket Street, all the High Street type shops like Accessorize and M&S and Topshop and Burger King. Most of the shops were closed so we didn’t linger too long, just long enough for Dad to gush over how much he loved the architecture and how adorable all of the pubs were. It was really sweet and cute and not at all what you’d expect to hear from Dad.

We ate dinner at a pub called The Barge where the boys had Guinness of course and Mom and I went crazy ourselves, sticking with tap water. We live dangerously. Once back at the B&B, we all said goodnight, ready for a full day in the morning.

Breakfast being included seems to be the way of the land lately, and I am not complaining since they’ve been of decent quality. Immediately following the meal where I forgot to warn my whole family that pancakes actually means crepes without a fruit filling, we walked by St. Steven’s Park on our way to catch the Hop-on-Hop-off bus that was to guide our itinerary for the day. Those are so much better with a live guide even though sometimes you end up not being able to understand the guide because their accent is so heavy and Irish.

Our first Hop-off location was Dublin Castle, which wasn’t open, but even if it had been I think it would have  paled in comparison to the other castles and manor homes that I’ve been to. I wonder if a side effect of traveling so much is that you get a little jaded and the places need to either show you something new or exceed your expectations. Which Dublin Castle didn’t even come close to doing, so we hopped back on and went to Kilmainham Gaol, a jail built in 1786 that housed some of Ireland’s most famous revolutionaries like the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916. I thought all the history was absolutely fascinating so I whipped out my little black notebook and began taking notes throughout the tour. Kevin almost started teasing me for it, but I think that the family is used to me being crazy and quirky when it comes to learning and knowledge so they barely commented. I’m definitely planning on getting some books on the people and events I learned about.

Kilmainham Gaol

Our next tour was a self-guided one of the Guinness Storehouse (can you guess which family members were most interested in that stop?). The exhibits were really commercialized and overwhelming. Plus I wasn’t interested in how they make beer so much as whiskey (turns out that the first four steps of whiskey making are basically the saw as the whole beer-making process) so after the floor that discussed how they make Guinness I was bored and ready for lunch. It seemed that every dish at every restaurant was made with Guinness in some way. Lucky me. Then we went up to the Gravity Bar for free beers for our boys and two lucky random boys whom I gave our extra tickets to prompting them to immediately christen me “the most beautiful girl they have ever seen”, as well as a wonderful 360 degree view of Dublin. The city is so much flatter than the ones we are used to seeing and the tallest points in the skyline were church spires.

And we hopped back on, heading for more alcohol, the Jameson’s Whiskey Distillery tour. It was the site of the Old Jameson’s Distillery for nearly 200 years, but became a museum in 1978. There is no working parts of the distillery anymore, and the process is shown with replicas and wax figures but the tour was guided and less commercialized than the Guinness tour, alone making it superior in my eyes. I also felt that it was more informative and that I could actually explain to someone else the whiskey making process. The tour ended with the much anticipated free samples. Mom had a sip of her Jameson neat and doubled over in a hilarious display of disgust accompanied with a mouth burning from whiskey. I had about two sips of my traditional British cocktail of Jameson, ginger ale, and lime so I didn’t even taste the whiskey, just the way I like it. Infinitely better tour, but one distillery is enough for me.

At the Jameson Distillery

On our way to the distillery, Kevin realized that he left the bag from the Guinness gift shop on the tour bus. By an amazing stroke of luck that Dad attributed to the luck of the Irish despite none of us having any Irish blood and therefore are ineligible for Irish luck, the bus behind us was the same one we had left the bag on and as such were able to recover it before even leaving that part of the city.

It was a tad too early for dinner so we headed over to the tourist trap/apparent nightclub district that is Temple Bar. I don’t think that any of us particularly cared to visit a place full of overpriced chain restaurants masking themselves as typical Irish pubs. Dad really wanted to eat at the authentic Irish pubs, so we aimed back towards our B&B intending to stop in at a local pub for some grub. Haha, I made a lame rhyme and therefore I must be getting punchy. I think we found about three pubs that would’ve fit the bill perfectly because they were all packed with locals after their days at work and not a table was in sight. We ended up at The Clarendon, on Clarendon Street, a few steps up from the homey dive pubs, but with an open table and a dinner menu. I discovered that I love Irish soda bread!

All that was left of our time in Dublin was our final morning before we set off on the open road. Dad wasn’t feeling well on this last morning, so we left him behind after breakfast to the last few spots that I wanted to see in Dublin but that were closed the previous day. We took a slightly scenic route towards Mom’s chosen site of the day–the illuminated manuscript called The Book of Kellsat Trinity College. The reason for passing through Merrion Square was to see Dublin’s memorial and the childhood home of one of my favorite authors, Oscar Wilde.

Oscar Wilde Memorial in Merrion Square

Part of his memorial was two pillars with some of his most famous one liners etched in. I feel like I’m now part of the “Cult of Wilde” because I’ve now been to his house, memorial, and grave (in Paris). But I haven’t kissed any of it so I’m not that weirdly obsessed…yet.

Oscar Wilde's childhood home

There was a fair number of tour groups at the Book of Kells. They had some really interesting videos that showed how they drew and decorated the book and actually made the physical book. It must have taken so much patience and concentration! I thought it was interesting how they edited their mistakes with symbols and illustrations. I honestly think I would have enjoyed making such a book back then. After seeing the rest of Trinity College’s library, we walked to the National Library of Ireland for a small exhibit of WB Yeats. I;ve never read anything of his, but his life seemed so interesting that now I really want to read some of his stuff. Why is it that vacations always make my reading lists grow and grow?!

Directly across the courtyard from the library was the National Museum of Archaeology and History. It fell a bit below expectations. I was hoping for all these examples of Celtic intricate metalwork, but I was mostly disappointed.. The museum was pretty scant in those terms. There were some artifacts from the Ciking eras and settlements but by this point I was  getting pretty hungry and when you are hungry in a museum, you stop reading anything about the displays and you stop caring, yet I haven’t learned my lesson not to go to a museum near a meal time because I won’t appreciate it to it’s fullest. One day I’ll remember that.

And with that we were done in Dublin! I was really happy to be gone honestly. I mean yeah there were a few cool sites and the city has a lot of interesting history, but the city itself wasn’t grabbing in the same fashion as, say, London, Paris, or Oxford. Those cities themselves make a lasting impression on you and make you just want to wander the streets aimlessly, not necessarily caring where you end up because there is always something beautiful to see. In Dublin, you need a purpose, a destination, a goal.