The Ireland Incident

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Sam, Madison, me and Sara!

Another weekend, another trip. This time, it was a girls weekend to Dublin, Ireland! Ireland is a place that I’ve wanted to go for a long time, so I was super excited. Especially because I got to go with all my ladies.

The night before we went, we got maybe 5 IMG_1194hours of sleep because of school and how early our flight left. When we arrived, it was pouring buckets–welcome to Ireland! Because of that, we kind of laid low, checking out Trinity College and some other local sites. We checked into our hostel and our room that had 42 beds in it. That was an experience I can say I probably don’t want to have again. A mini pub crawl began that night, but I got really sick so I didn’t stay for most of it. (Get ready, this is going to come back later.)

IMG_1216The next day, however, was absolutely spectacular. We went out to Glendalough National Park (glen-da-lock, ladies and gents) and had the most perfect day for it. We explored some monastic ruins, ran into some deer, hiked around and played in a waterfall. It was just gorgeous and perfect and wonderful.

That night, however, was not so much. At 2AM I awoke with serious pain in my right ear. I tried to go back to sleep, not wanting to bother anyone at 2 freaking AM, but it didn’t last long. 4AM rolled around and I was crying in the fetal position. Poor Sam. I had to wake her up and beg for Advil, which she didn’t have, and then curl into a ball and ask if maybe we could go to the ER.

I don’t know if you know this (I hope you don’t) but 4:30AM on a Sunday morning is a very strange time to go to the ER. Most of all the drunken messes have been and gone, and the only people left are a random conglomeration of people with varying degrees of problems. Also, I think a few homeless people trying to spend the night out of the cold and being shooed by the security team who is very done with their jobs at this point. However, I got myself some strong painkillers and antibiotics and went back to sleep fairly quickly. (I had to take midterms on these drugs. They are very strong.)

IMG_1261The next day, we slept a lot. Sara left that morning for her internship, so it was down to Madison, Sam and their friend Kat. We spent the rest of that day roaming Dublin Castle and looking at the outsides of St. Patrick’s and Christ Church, then hid from the threatening rain in a Peacock Green cafe. Later on we explored an Irish Oktoberfest, which for this person of very German descent was absolutely hilarious.

Madison left Monday morning, leaving Sam and I with a full day to wander. We’d basically

Giant's Causeway at the National Leprechaun Museum!

Giant’s Causeway at the National Leprechaun Museum!

exhausted the city by then, though. We went to the Dublin Writer’s Museum, the National Gallery and the National Leprechaun Museum in our museum crawl. We wanted to see some others, but they were closed (ON MONDAY WHY?). We actually got to the airport really early for our then hourish delayed flight until we finally rolled into our beds at 2:30AM.

Honestly, Dublin was really underwhelming. Compared to London, it’s a very small city with not a lot of (free) things to do. I would have gladly paid for some of the experiences (and did) but really I just wanted to be anywhere but the city. You can really do all the highlights in a day or two. I certainly want to go back to Ireland, but I never want to see a city. I want to hit all the sites outside, like the Hill of Tara and Trim or the Giant’s Causeway. Even the tourist offices in Dublin know that most of the good times happen outside the city, so there are plenty of day trips from there to all these places. If you want to do Ireland, take full advantage of that. Just plan them ahead and don’t expect the city to propel your entire visit.

I’m off to Italy tomorrow for ten days, with a still plugged ear and a lack of antibiotics so this should be yet another adventure. Until I return!

A Tourist Gotta Do What a Tourist Gotta Do

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In Scotland, Madison perfected the tourist look.

Honestly, I think me and my friends have been pretty good about not being THAT American. You know, those people wearing American flag pants or backpacks talking loudly on the tube. Actually, we’ve done really well at not being THAT tourist, wandering around wearing I LOVE LONDON sweaters or something.

Sometimes, though, you just have to cave in. You have to do THAT TOURIST THING because at the end of the day, we are overseas for four months and we are tourists. That’s just it.

In my attempt to be all chill about living in London, it IMG_1055actually took me a month to see Big Ben. I KNOW, right? Silly me. But honestly it’s just a clock, guys. And not as big as I thought.

10444678_10204876772298356_4421531040499595570_nAnother touristy moment of mine was heading out to Kew Gardens. These Royal Botanical Gardens are one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen – and SO BIG. In just one greenhouse, they showcase every kind of environment from deserts to rain forests that plants can be found in. And then there are rolling lawns for days. I call this a touristy moment because the second I walked in there, I lost my mind. I didn’t realize I’d been missing green so much, because I just started dancing and running around and generally being laughed at by everyone I was there with. Absolutely no shame.

I think there’s no question about my touristy moment at the Royal Observatory in IMG_1082Greenwich. We climbed the hill and paid the money to go stand in two hemispheres at once and take the requisite picture. In a way, what was cooler was that the museum that they have there had been taken over by steampunk artists, so the history was littered with steampunk garb and art by a bunch of different people. Completely worth it!

IMG_1140I also feel compelled to add in here the trip I just came back from, which was an overnight ostensibly to Stratford-Upon-Avon. On our way there, we stopped at Warwick Castle, which is a gorgeous bit of architecture that entertains you all day long with activities presented by people who really seem to love their job. We saw a trebuchet launch, a bird’s of prey show and an archery demonstration. Total tourist trap, but totally worth it.

While in Stratford itself, we saw a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Love’s IMG_1156Labour’s Lost, which was simply fantastic. The set alone was a marvel to behold. I still don’t like reading Shakespeare, but watching it performed has grown on me a great deal. We also wandered our way out to Shakespeare’s grave, of course, and paid to stare at that. Again, total tourist thing you just HAVE to do if you’re out there. Why not, right?

IMG_1169On the way back, we stopped in Oxford and basically just wandered around. We were all a bit tired by that point. Still, we went and stared at the church where they filmed the Great Hall scenes in Harry Potter and wandered around the college streets.

I’m sure there will be many more moments when I have to suck it up and strap my camera to my belt, map in hand, and I’m not going to regret them. We’re abroad to do those things that you do in a foreign country. Tourist traps are one of them. You just absolutely have to do some of these things. Otherwise, it’s just an opportunity missed that might not ever come around again. No shame from me!

This is What Dreams Are Made Of

Ten points to the correct age group who just got that title reference.

I know it’s been a while, but as it turns out I’ve been really busy! NYC may be the city that never sleeps, but that’s also a good descriptor of me trying to get the most out of my time here. As I write this, just over one of my four months here has elapsed and that is a scary, scary thought.

And yet, I’ve already done so much!

At the end of the last post, I was off to see a production of Medea, which was one of the most amazing pieces of theater I’ve ever seen. Since then, I’ve gone back to the Globe to see Comedy of Errors – SO MUCH BETTER on stage than while reading it – gone back to Edinburgh, Scotland, for a weekend and turned in my first paper of the semester. Along with a bunch of other stuff.

The thing I want to highlight in this post, though, is my trip to Hampton Court a few IMG_0975weekends ago. If you don’t know, I’m a huge Tudor history buff and Hampton Court is just about THE PLACE to go if you love Henry VIII and his crazy family.

I’ve wanted to go for years. I can’t tell you how long I’ve wanted to go. It’s a bit out of the city and tickets aren’t all that cheap, so I ended up having to beg a friend to go with me. (HI SARA I LOVE YOU.) (I’m a sucker for going places alone.)

IMG_1000Getting there was like entering a dream. Pictures and videos will never make you ready for the real thing. It was the absolute definition of the word “majesty.” It was just so gigantically huge that I thought it would swallow me whole and then I’d need a week to find my way back out again. I almost did.

We went ahead and got those audio guide things, which was a great decision because the overall signage in the rooms wasn’t great. There was so much information on them that I don’t know how anyone was going without. We wandered through the rooms of Georgian kings, the suites of William and Mary and then finally – saving the best for last – the rooms of Henry VIII.

It was like I’d stepped through my TV screen. Finally, finally, the crest of Anne Boleyn and IMG_1004the ceiling dedicated to Jane Seymour and the gallery where the ghost of Katherine Howard is said to walk. All in front of me.

I don’t want to gush over long about all this, but I guess my point is that there are dreams that eventually do come true. What sounded crazier than saying “I want to visit this random palace in England” just a few years ago? And now I’ve done it. I’ve wandered the Hampton Court maze and traipsed through Henry’s great hall and now I own a mug with Henry and his wives on it, where the wives disappear when you fill it with hot water.

I did it. That dream came true. And it feels like I can do anything next.

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The UK: An Only Slightly Different Alternate Reality

I’m sure this is a typical thing, but when I was accepted into my study abroad program I got a lot of pamphlets about culture shock. You know, it’s going to be different, it’s going to be weird, what have you.

Honestly, I wish that was true.

See, I was expecting this massively different culture and was all prepped and ready, but instead … it’s worse. There are all these minor little details that are just twisted a tiny bit and it’s SO WEIRD.

Like potato chips. Those would be crisps here. And the ones I always get in my meal deal at Tesco? They look JUST LIKE LAYS, but with a different name. TJ Maxx becomes TK Maxx.

The real culture shock comes when you’re standing in the grocery store and it looks like the world is just a tad bit out of focus, instead of something completely new.

At least we speak the same language. Sort of. MUST. REMEMBER. TROUSERS.

10522454_10204950962118394_8835607800532274012_nOn a better note, I’ve been absorbing the culture at other places than the grocery store. Part of my school went to a football (soccer for those still in America) game, and that was one of the most entertaining things I’ve ever seen. The small boys (9-12 years old max) were just cheering right along with chants such as “YOU F***ED UP” and “YOU FAT C**T.” And it wasn’t even premier league.

We also went and saw Antony and Cleopatra at the Globe, which was an amazing experience. I’m not one of Shakespeare’s16713_10204950962038392_6756811290056636776_n biggest fans, but even my cold heart has to feel something standing in the pleb courtyard at the actor’s feet, watching Antony die beside me. I’m going back soon to see The Comedy of Errors and Julius Caesar later on for class, and I’m thoroughly excited.

I’d write more, but I have to run! More culture is calling; I’m seeing Medea tonight!

Review: “Isla and the Happily Ever After” by Stephanie Perkins

IslaIsla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

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Love ignites in the City That Never Sleeps, but can it last?

From the glittering streets of Manhattan to the moonlit rooftops of Paris, falling in love is easy for hopeless dreamer Isla and introspective artist Josh. But as they begin their senior year in France, Isla and Josh are quickly forced to confront the heartbreaking reality that happily-ever-afters aren’t always forever.

Their romantic journey is skillfully intertwined with those of beloved couples Anna and Étienne and Lola and Cricket, whose paths are destined to collide in a sweeping finale certain to please fans old and new.

Five stars

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We’re Gonna Make This Place Our Home

One thing that you know going into my college’s semester abroad program – well, know but don’t really know – is that you have to find your own apartment. I say that you know, but not really, because you are told that it’s stressful and are told that it’s crazy and yet you really don’t understand the meaning of all those words in context until you do it.

The first problem is that no one in London wants to let to students only stay for four months, and leaving right before Christmas. The second is that they want to charge more than my group was willing to pay. The third is that with any kind of group of people, what you’re looking for is always going to be different.

I’m proud of my group of sticking it out and working together. It was a rough couple of days. Some groups didn’t make it. Some groups ended up paying a crazy amount of money. (The conversion right now is almost two American dollars to one British pound.)

We ended up finding a place, for all our troubles. It’s tiny and it’s nowhere near as fancy as all the other flats I’ve seen. But you know what? I can pay for it. I can pay the rent and also eat and travel and maybe buy a few more pairs of shoes. What it doesn’t have in space it makes up for in the bit of relief it gives my budgeting.

Better yet, the one thing I’m not worried about is my group killing each other in the small space. At least we have got that going for us.

Plus, we like our arts and crafts. These white walls won’t stay that way for long. Most importantly, it’s ours. No more moving big bags around and living out of suitcases.

We have a London home.

Och Wheesht and Get Oan Wit It!*

The fastest way to start this trip off with a bang is by starting in Edinburgh, Scotland. My school does a five day little add on trip at the start of the London semester that you can opt in to so you can explore this gorgeous city during festival season. I took full advantage of it.

Of course, there’s all the traveling to get there. I left my house at 7:30AM EST, boarded a connector flight at 11AM EST and landed in JFK at about noon. My plane to London didn’t leave until 7:30PM EST. Then it was seven plus hours to Heathrow airport, where we boarded a coach to the school center that took about a half an hour. Some waiting ensued, and our train to Edinburgh left King’s Cross Station at a few hours later. Five hours later, we showed up in Scotland, tired of traveling and everything else but unable to sleep because JETLAG. Do yourself a favor and don’t count my travel hours. They made me a little ill.

BUT. The next day the adventures could begin!

The school scheduled some events for us, but a lot of time was also left to ourselves, which you’ll soon see. Our first IMG_0783scheduled event was a bus tour around the city with a guide. I took way too many pictures of the architecture. Seriously. Like 60.

I’m not going to bore you with this day by day itinerary, don’t worry. But I can’t help but mention the fun times had at Camera Obscura, an optical illusion interactive museum, where we all shuffled through a mirror maze and screamed through the Vortex Tunnel. There was also IMG_0855the Edinburgh Dungeons, which I really didn’t want to go to but ended up having a great time. These two were choices by my friends, which were very, very good choices for attractions.

The school got us into Edinburgh Castle, where we had a fantastically sarcastic and also good looking tour guide. They also brought us to IMG_0816Arthur’s Seat, the hike of which I was not prepared for in any sense. (I was not warned to bring a mountain pony and sherpas. I was wearing knockoff Converse for goodness sake.) They helped us partake in the Film Festival, however the play we watched left even those majoring in the theatrical arts scratching their heads.

IMG_0868Thankfully, my friends and I got our own tickets to see Sh*tfaced Shakespeare. Ah, serious theatre.

And yes, there was some drinking of my own involved. Turns out I really, really like the UK acceptance of cider. Who knew?

I didn’t expect to love Scotland as much as I did; I don’t know why. I literally turned to a friend and said, “I hope I like London as much as I like Edinburgh.” After all, a majority of my four months was about to be spent in a city I had yet to see. As our train headed out of Edinburgh Waverly and headed towards King’s Cross, I could only cross my own fingers.

*Dear Sam – I swear this was the title of this post before I saw what you’d titled yours.