21 December 2009

Doing the Dubler - Part 2

So we got up early and headed to Galway on the west coast of Ireland. The bus ride was beautiful but I couldn’t stay awake. We got into the town around 3pm and met Jenny’s friend Brett. He studied for the semester in Galway so he took us on a tour of the town after we dropped our luggage off at the hostel. The first thing we saw was the river running through the middle of the town. It’s the fastest running river in Europe! It was definitely no joke, but the picture doesn’t make it look very impressive. There were no rails, so instead there are “ringboys” all along the edge, which is just what they call lifesavers.

It really only took about a half an hour to walk around, but I really loved the small-town feel. People were all incredibly nice. Then we had delicious fish and chips at a tavern. Cian, my Irish friend, also put on my list of tasks “eat fish and chips with brown sauce.” So after getting my steaming hot plate, I told Brett that I wanted some brown sauce for my chips. He was like “ok, but you need to ask her.” I wasn’t really sure why, but I went with it. It took me at least five attempts to get her attention. At IU my friends say I sound like I’m meowing when I say m’am, so needless to say getting waitresses attention can be challenging for me. I finally get her to come over to the table, and I ask, “May I have some brown sauce please?” She looks at me like I’m an idiot. The only response I get is “ok.” Then Brett informs me that it’s really weird to eat brown sauce with fish and chips. Thanks Cian! Apparently you’re the only one who does that, but you know what, I thought it was good. The brown sauce is basically like worcheshire sauce. Not bad on French fries! 

Then we went and met some of Brett’s friends at a coffee shop. We ended up talking to these two girls Katie and Sarah quite a bit and because Brett had to work on papers, they decided to show us the local pubs. They were so picturesque in Galway. There were people playing live traditional Irish music while I sipped a coffee with Bailey’s by the fire! It was so much fun!

The next morning we headed to the coach station with our suitcases to see the Cliffs of Moher. Apparently only Jenny and I had signed up for the tour with our company so they had us join a different tour group. Our guide Peter was witty and so knowledgeable. First he drove us through the Burren and gave us some basic knowledge. The Burren is around 350 square kilometers of exposed limestone hills, but the interesting part is that this area contains 80% of the plant life of Ireland as a result of the high levels of nutrients in the stone, and its ability to hold warmth. It’s absolutely beautiful, raw, and enchanting land.

A part of the tour that we joined was a walking tour through a farm on the Burren. We had to pay another 8 Euros to go, and honestly I was a little skeptical. I’m so glad that I did it. It was lightly raining when we arrived, but John, the attractive, rugged, Irish farmer, took the group to a room full of rain gear and had us suit up. We put pants over our pants, jackets over our jackets, wellies over our shoes, and wollies our hair (wellies= rainboots, wollies = wool sock hats). I thought, “this seems excessive, but ok.” I could not have been more wrong. Once we got to the top of the hill the rain was beating my face and the wind actually knocked me over. But it was still one of the coolest experiences of the trip to get off the bus and experience the terrain. From the bus it looks like it’s just rock but once you’re up there there’s crazy plant life everywhere.

After the walking tour we got back on the bus and headed to a set of small cliffs for a photo stop. I thought they were amazing, but I didn’t even know how much cooler it would get.

Then we got to the Cliffs of Moher. It was such a beautiful, mystical place. It was weird, but there was something almost spiritual about that place. I felt overwhelmed by the nature God created. It was so simple, yet so breathtaking. It just made me think about the intricate artwork, we humans create. Honestly that art will never be adequate in comparison to what God made from the earth. I don’t even know if that makes sense, but that’s how I felt in the moment.

On the tallest cliff there’s a Tower with green grass coming down from it, and I’ve never seen grass look like that. It was long, but blown down by the wind. It looked like velvet and it was so enchanting.

After that overwhelming experience, we went and saw a 5800-year-old dolmen! The wonders of the Burren are never ending! A dolmen is an ancient burial site, in which the people built a hill over the body and then placed stones on top of it. Honestly I had no idea that Art History class at the beginning of my time in Spain would be this useful. But it makes me feel really good whenever I can actually identify and understand things that like.

After the tour we were exhausted so we slept all the way to Dublin and then headed straight to the hostel to go to bed! The next morning was our last day in Dublin so we decided to try and hit the things we had missed before. Our first stop was Merrion Square. You know those Doors of Dublin calendars? Well all those doors from a square around a little park, and that’s Merrion Square.

A ton of literary figures have lived there, like Oscar Wilde and Yeats. There’s even a statue of Oscar in the park so I had to continue my homage to Mr. Wilde and take my picture with his statue (last year I kissed his grave in Paris).

It was another sunny day in Dublin so Jenny couldn’t resist soaking up the sun in the park, and it was the perfect opportunity for a shadow group pic!

That night we continued our Christmas spirit and walked to the other side of the river to see the Christmas lights, and then we went and saw a Christmas Carol with Jim Carrey. It was a nice, relaxing way to end the trip because we had to get up at 4am the next day to head to the airport. Ireland was amazing. I highly recommend it to anyone!

16 December 2009

Doing the Dubler - Part 1

I have SSOOOO many fun thoughts about Ireland that I need to split the trip into two parts: Dublin first two days, and Galway and last day in Dublin! It was so amazing that I don't even know where to start so chronologically will have to do. My friend Jenny and I decided to go to Dublin over a long weekend, and I was so amped.

When we got off the plane I immediately realized I wasn't in "Kansas" (aka Madrid) anymore. I kept speaking Spanish to everyone. Saying "perdon" when I was trying to get past someone and "gracias" to shopkeepers. I even asked this guy in Spanish if there was anyone in the bathroom. What's even funnier is that I clearly do not resemble a Spanish person. I look vaguely Irish. So some short, auburn-haired, green-eyed, freckled girl walks up to you in Dublin and starts speaking badly accented Spanish! He looked at me like I was a crazy! Understandably. But I apologized and explained that I've been living in Madrid. Although he didn't really stop looking at me like I was really strange.

That first day, we just tried to get our bearings and battle the culture shock. I was so confused as to why people were eating at 6pm and in bars at 8pm. In Madrid we eat at 10pm and bars don't even open until midnight. To top it off the sun set at 4:30pm. I didn't realize how much I'd adjusted to Spanish life until this moment. I realized that the much more American customs were confusing the heck out of me! So after a long, strange day of traveling, we hit the hay fairly early.

The next morning we got up bright and early, ready to conquer the day! Our first stop was Dublin castle, but it was closed (and not that impressive). So we moved on the Trinity College. The university is surrounded by a wall and there's only one door to enter and exit. It was like the door to Narnia.

The campus is so magical and absolutely gorgeous! I hadn't seen so much green grass in months! We also got lucky with blue skies in Dublin!

In the library at Trinity College, there is an exhibit about the Book of Kells, which is a latin book of the four gospels dating back to the 800's. There was a sweet exhibit with large displays of the beautifully decorated pages and lots of interesting information. Plus in the back room, you could actually view the books. It was really cool to see some of the religious symbols I learned earlier in the semester in Art History in a real life setting.

Then after the exhibit there are stairs that you're led up to leave and a sign for the "Long Room." I honestly had no idea what that meant but I went with it. At the top of the stairs you turn right and laid out before you is the most beautiful library I've ever seen. I gasped and Jenny's jaw fell open. It was unbelievable. It's the library of my dreams (yes I'm that much of an English major that I dream of having a library of my own!). You aren't allowed to take pictures so I've found one so that you can get an idea, but man I've never seen anything like it. It as cool as the Book of Kells.

After the exhibit, we decided to put together a little picnic. My Irish friend Cian, sent me to Ireland with a couple of tasks. One of them involved purchasing the ingrediants for and eating his favorite sandwich. So we thought it was the perfect time to grab some groceries and head to St. Stephen's Green. Cian's sandwich constituted: Brennan's bread (yellow wrapper), Kilmeeden's cheese (mature red cheddar), Irish butter (dairygold preferably), and King crisps (cheese & onion are essential). It sounds a little strange, but we thought why not try it.

It was the best picnic ever! We had Cian's sandwiches (which are fantastic by the way), potato salad, muffins and diet coke. But it was so cold we had to eat with our gloves on!

After the picnic,we headed to Christ's Church Cathedral to hear an evensong service. It was such an amazing experience. A full choir came out and sang songs in both English and Latin. It was a really great way to see the cathedral!

After a little R&R in the hostel we headed out to look at the Christmas lights. Dublin is absolutely all about Christmas. Every shop plays Christmas music and every street is decorated. In Madrid they are just now starting to get into the Christmas spirit but in Dublin it was in full force a few weeks ago. Oh yeah and "Nollaig Shona Ouit" means Merry Christmas in Irish! It was everywhere!

After being filled with the joy of Christmas we headed back to the hostel so that we could catch the early bus to Galway.


11 December 2009


A few weekends ago, we had our WIP Fall Excursion so all 24 of us piled into a coach and headed south to Cordoba. We had a guided tour of the city and I thought it was really interesting. So if you're interested in a nerdy entry keep on reading!

Cordoba is in Andalucia and as such was occupied by the Arabs for a much longer time than regions in the north. As a result, Cordoba has some really cool muslim architecture like the Mezquita, which is just mosque in Spanish. The Mezquita is absolutely huge! First there's a tower where originally the call to prayer would ring out, but after the Christians conquered Cordoba they converted it into a bell tower.

Inside the mosque is full of double arches made up of alternating red and white stones and a million columns. This structure is supposed to represent the palm trees of paradise after a muslim dies. It was amazing to see how many there were!

After the Christians conquered Cordoba, they took the middle of the mosque and made a Gothic cathedral. It's so weird to see the "mash-up" of not only styles but major religions.

There's also a castle in Cordoba but it was closed when we got there so we only got to see the outside.

On Sunday, we headed to Madinat al-Zahra, which is an archeological site outside of Cordoba. Madinat al-Zahra was the governmental capital of muslim Andalucia in the 10th century. The ruins were really cool, but it was steadily raining and I had no umbrella so to be honest my attention level was fairly low!

I think that the mixing of faiths was the most impressive thing about Cordoba for me. The intermingling of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity can be seen everywhere. There's a jewish quarter that has one of only two remaining synagogues in Spain, as well as the cathedral/mosque. I was just really fascinated by the interactions.

Well that's a very brief tour of Cordoba. I hope you embraced the nerdy blog!