I’ve been so busy, so I haven’t had a chance to post a blog for a while as you’ve probably picked up on. Anyway, lots has happened from climbing outdoors to chocolate and waffle eating to learning more about how relaxed academics are compared to back home in the States. So, I’ll try not to ramble too much.
Wicklow National Park – Glendalough
Let me preface this with the fact that I’m not much of a drinker; I’ll taste drinks, but I don’t go overboard. The Irish, on the other hand, are big drinkers, so it has been an interesting dynamic, but I have never felt the pressure to drink if I don’t want to.
All 120 of us board two charter busses to take off for Glendalough. Not even 5 minutes after the bus began to move, people were already beginning to drink. This trip through the Outdoor Pursuits Club (OPC) is basically a party all weekend. Between the bathroom stops, traffic, and the fact we were in charter busses, the drive took about 4hrs… I was so ready to get off the bus and sleep by the time we got to the hostel. Did that happen? Nope. I ended up hanging out and socializing with friends for a little. When I say “a little,” I mean it ended up being 3am before we went to bed… oops.
The next morning we woke up and Tailor and I joined a small group of our OPC friends bouldering rather than going with the GIANT group on a hike. Granted, the pictures from the hike were gorgeous, so it’s a bummer we missed that. But, I had a great time playing around on some small overhangs because all of the boulders were wet. I did manage to do a great beached whale top out, but sadly got stuck in the beached whale position (couldn’t get up or down) until my spotters boosted my foot slightly. Oops!
That evening was the “Valentine Ball” (aka everyone dressed up in varying levels of formal attire and most people got quite drunk if they weren’t already super drunk). I had a little bit to drink, but definitely not anything compared to others. This was my first time being to a pub with that many drunk people; it was definitely a new experience, but I had fun hanging out and socializing with friends (and people watching).
The next morning, a few of us who had actually gotten sleep and weren’t hung over got an early start and found some more rocks to climb! It was nice being able to get on my first outdoor top rope since October!
2 Americans, a Belgian, and a Canadian walk into Brussels
So, my friend from the Mountaineers Day Camp and I ate our way through our weekend in Brussels and Bruges (carbs, carbs, and more carbs). If you are judging, I’ll put it out there that we walked about 40 miles that weekend. The weekend began with me flying on my own to a country where English is not the first language. Luckily for me, most people speak English despite the fact that most of the signs were not in English. Although, I wish I could speak French or Dutch so I didn’t feel quite so privileged.
Anyway, I managed to get on the correct train and then bus and find my hostel with only getting a little turned around. That evening I was planning on wandering by myself and taking photos. My friend, Carolyn, wasn’t arriving until the next morning. When walking to my room in the hostel, I met an American studying in Barcelona this semester whose friends weren’t arriving until very late that night. So, instead of exploring by myself, the two of us wandered around together. It always amazes me how much easier it is to meet strangers when traveling by yourself. Back in the states I am way less likely to strike up a conversation with a stranger, so it has been nice realizing how cool it is to meet other people and hear their stories; you can learn a lot about a person through a single conversation. Anyway, the two of us found a very tiny restaurant to eat dinner, resulting in the cramped space forcing us to meet the Belgian and Canadian who were sitting next to us. The four of us ended up hanging out and eating waffles after dinner. Who knew my intended evening of exploring by myself would turn into 2 Americans, a Belgian, and a Canadian eating waffles together in Brussels?
Carolyn made it the next morning and we started our 12+ miles of walking around Brussels that day. Neither one of us are huge museum people, but both of us love pretty architecture and eating. So, that’s what we did. We wandered, taking pictures and admiring the intricate details of all the buildings on our way to our waffle, chocolate, or frites stop. Carolyn had the Rick Steves guidebook for Brussels, so we learned about the various buildings along the way (we made it an educational trip to balance out all the food we ate; that’s how it works, right?). That evening, we headed to Chez Leon so we could eat mussels in Brussels. We were so lucky to get a seat without having a reservation because it was so busy; everyone else who didn’t have a reservation was turned away.
The next morning, we got up early and caught a train to Bruges. We still walked 12+ miles, but it was a much slower paced day. It was night to meander the small town streets and have a relaxing travel weekend. Carolyn and I took a canal tour, getting to see the area from a boat rather than by foot. We went into Basilica of the Holy Blood, which was really cool because it was Sunday. There was a service happening, so it was fun to experience that! Mid afternoon, Carolyn and I climbed the 366 steps to the top of the Bell Tower and met a lady from Scotland, Zoe, who we ended up hanging out with for the rest of the day. Again, it was super fun hearing Zoe’s stories and her current work in marine biology.
How can someone not love Ireland?
My friend from back home, Karin, met me in Galway, Ireland. She has been studying in Salzburg, Austria since September. I knew as soon as she landed in Ireland, she would instantly fall in love. I’ve talked to many of my friends about all of my Irish friends and the people in Ireland in general. Everyone here is so warm and welcoming. Talking to Karin about this was especially interesting because she was telling me how many of the Austrians are quite cold and not as easy to get to know. Back home Karin is the outgoing social butterfly that is super welcoming, where as I can be more reserved and hesitant to strike up a conversation. Coming on study abroad, our personalities have somewhat flipped based on the people we’ve been around.
Arriving in Galway, Karin and I made it to our Airbnb. Grainne, our host, was so welcoming, rushing to the door as soon as we arrived. She had tea and biscuits for us when we arrived and even drove us into town so we didn’t have to bus. I felt very much at home there. That evening, Karin and I hung out at Monroe’s Tavern; we tried Guinness with black current based on Grainne and the bartender’s suggestion. I actually enjoyed it.
The next morning, Karin and I made the trek to Connemara National Park to hike Diamond Hill. It wasn’t a very long or difficult hike, but it was super nice to be outside in nature. Unfortunately the weather ended up being much colder and wetter than the forecast predicted (though, I never trust forecasts having grown up in Seattle). We met four Germans on the hike up and ended up hanging out with them the rest of the day. Getting down from the summit, the 6 of us had 4hrs until our bus back to Galway came, so we hung out in the tea room and chatted over tea and hot chocolate in hopes of warming up.
The next day was much nicer weather (though, still cold) and Karin and I wandered downtown Galway. We walked along the Prom, out to the lighthouse, and then along the Long Walk. It was nice to catch up and have a relaxing weekend. Karin and I both could definitely see ourselves coming back to Ireland; the people and environment make us so happy and it feels like home.
Congratulations! You made it this far!
I’ve been having a grand time in Ireland! It’s sad to think I’ve almost hit the halfway point of my semester here, but I’m going to make the best of the rest of my time here!