A Weekend Filled with (Dutch) History

As I’m writing this, snow is falling gently, adding to the afternoon’s quiet peacefulness. My ‘balsam & cedar’ candle makes the aura of Christmas even more pronounced, in case you missed the wrapping paper and ribbons lying on the floor. Oh, and don’t forget the Christmas Jazz I’ve been listening to.

You could say I’ve settled into being home quite pleasantly. (The clothes I washed yesterday already have cat hair on them. Oh yes, I’m home.

But, as much as I would love to expound on the advantages to being home early for the Christmas season, what I really planned to write about was my…(drum roll please) Trip to Amsterdam!

You have no idea how psyched I was to find out the art history course I took at UCC included an optional trip to the Dutch capital. So excited in fact, that I bought my plane ticket before the trip was fully confirmed by my professor. Which of course guaranteed that not enough people from the class signed up to go and I was left with the (slightly terrifying) circumstance of traveling to  a foreign country the day after Thanksgiving by myself. Luckily Erin swooped in and offered to come with me, which made the weekend all the more fun and adventurous.

I need to point something out that I’ve noticed since traveling during this semester:

Europe is old. Compared to the US at least. I mean, you hear that all the time, but you don’t really get it until you stay in a hostel whose building is 400 years old. Or you walk out of a 19th century train station to gape at the surrounding buildings that look like real life gingerbread houses (but more sophisticated). Really.

For example, one of the many opera houses of Amsterdam:

The Rijksmuseum:

A shopping mall:

But getting past that phenomenal architecture to the contents of those buildings. Amsterdam is a city filled with history, and to keep track of it all, there are over 50 museums. Erin and I only made it to 5, but oh man, it was an experience.

The first one we went to was the Diamond Museum – I had no idea Amsterdam has such a history with the precious stones. It was really cool to see them being cut (at Coster Diamonds) and then learn about the whole mining and development process. The museum also had some pretty nifty displays:

Yes, that is indeed Van Gogh’s Starry Night with diamonds glittering in the sky. Speaking of Van Gogh, the museum dedicated to him is a must-see. Yes, I am a huge fan, but even the casual museum-goer would enjoy the rooms bursting with color, expression, and would gain a better understanding of the man behind the brushstrokes. On Friday nights they even have live music and are open till 10!

One of my favorite museums I went during my time abroad would have to the Rijksmuseum, which Erin and I visited the following day. I of course took the obligatory picture in front of the “I amsterdam” sculpture:

The museum is beautiful both inside and out and filled with amazing treasures:

The Netherlands have a rich trade history, hence the room full of model ships.

It's so simple and elegant!

 

The streets of Amsterdam are filled with unexpected delights, like street artists doing their thing:

Dutch waffle shops:

Stores like the “Otherist” featuring truly other-worldly object like preserved insects, fancy briefcases, pre-WWII glass eyes, truly unique salt and pepper shakers, and art prints of Cthulhu-like creatures (sorry, no pictures).

Erin and I also went to the Tulip Museum (very small), and a canal tour at night, and on my final day I visited the Amsterdam Museum which offered a very comprehensive history of the city with fun, interactive displays. But that was after I took a nice morning stroll around the quiet streets and went to Mass:

Dutch aged cheddar cheese is Mm-mm, perfect!

Tulip market

Art market

 

The church I went to Mass at - gorgeous inside!

 

I think Amsterdam was one of my favorite cities so far, even though trying to pronounce a language with words that have 10 consonants and 3 vowels is pretty difficult (and embarrassing). Despite the cold, I’d really love to go back. All that art and history right at your fingertips, yum!

The Beginning of the End (or not?)

Hello again! I know it’s been forever since I’ve written, and I really do apologize. Between the experience of celebrating Thanksgiving in a different country, to visiting Amsterdam, to writing two 4,000 word papers (that’s about 15 pages, double spaced) and getting through two exams, it’s been a bit busy here. Not to mention the usual adventures in Cork with my friends.

Originally, I was planning to write this on the plane ride back to the States, but the weather seems to be conspiring against me – my flight was one of thousands to be cancelled due to the snow storm blowing through the east coast this weekend. To be fair, it isn’t too pleasant here, either. As I’m writing this the wind is howling through the alleyway, pushing up against my window and seemingly trying to get into my room to introduce me to its new best friend, Sideways Rain.

So now I have an extra day to reflect on my time here, to ponder over my experiences, and to share some sort of insight with you.

Honestly, that scares me a little.

I’m not…I’m not ready to leave yet. Or rather, I’m not ready to leave permanently. I’m kind of excited to go back home: to see my family and friends, to enjoy the snow (instead of rain), to snuggle with my cats, to read my leisure books, to sleep without an alarm, to knit, to, to…to do everything.

Don’t get me wrong, I would love to do those things here, too. But a little bit of home would be nice. Especially a little bit Baltimore, because I’m really missing that right now.

But back to that ‘scary’ part.

I think a large part of me doesn’t want to sit down and analyze my time here because that would mean it’s “over.” It would mean accepting that I may never come back and see all the amazing people I’ve met and become friends with. It would mean fully realizing I’m almost 3/4 through college and have more questions than answers about my future. Studying abroad has given me so many more possibilities to think about, not just in regards to traveling outside the US, but also to where I see myself in the future (I’ve been toying with the idea of Washington and Oregon).

So maybe I’m not totally ready for a tell-all blog post. Give me a week or two to filter and adjust – then I will be. In lieu of that, I propose a few other posts to break up the introspection:

  1. Adventures in Amsterdam! SO MANY PICTURES. Really. It’s an amazing city.
  2. 10 Things I’m going to miss from Ireland
  3. 10 things I learned from study abroad

I look forward to writing again over the next week!

Doctor Who?

“Duh-duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh, duh-duh-duh-duh….”
“Doo-wee-oooooo, doo, doo-doo!!!!”
The movie theater bursts out in cheers and laughter, audience members high-fiving and bouncing in their seats with anticipation after joining together to “sing” the Doctor Who theme. Squeals of excitement can be heard as the lights dim and I sit back to enjoy the long awaited 50th anniversary episode of my favorite sci-fi show.

You may have heard me mention a few times that I’m a bit of a Doctor Who fan. I mean, you’ve seen my wall with the giant TARDIS poster on it, and if you’ve ever hung out with me I’ve probably worn at least one of my Whovian shirts in your presence. To say that I was excited to see the live simulcast of The Day of the Doctor with my friends would be a huge understatement.

I was thrilled. Jubilant. Ecstatic.The list of adjectives goes on. It also didn’t help that the week before Erin, two other friends and I went to Cardiff to see the Doctor Who Experience.

Yeah, that’s right. An entire exhibit exists to showcase the wonders of the longest running sci-fi show in the world (yes, it even beats Star Trek).

If you’re a Whovian (or nerdy/geeky in general), you totally understand how exciting it is to step foot onto the sets used by the BBC and see the costumes, props, and planning material used for the show. But for those of you who aren’t of that leaning, think of it like this:

Imagine you’ve just met your favorite author, poet, musician, or role model. You start up a witty conversation and they invite you to have coffee at their studio or place where they make what you love. As you step over the threshold, you become part of their world. You see what makes them tick, what brings inspiration, who they are, how they identify with themselves; you get it.

Being part of any fandom and seeing materials used in shows is like that. It’s no longer on a screen. You’re within touching distance and suddenly everything takes on a whole new meaning. Whatever memories and feelings you have of watching the show with others, or yourself, become amplified.

Ok, so maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but I hope you understand a little more why I was so excited and happy at these two events.

Now, for Whovians and non-Whovians alike, here are some of the highlights of my day in Cardiff, which also include some beautiful twilight photos of the Christmas Market!

Time And Relative Dimension In Space - Looks like the Doctor could have parked better!

 

A beautiful bay!

 

A lego Dalek!!! (Daleks are bad guys)

 

Oh man, I wish I could operate this thing!

 

All of the Doctors!

 

My friends are (so convincingly) scared of the monsters!

 

Daleks through the years

 

Rory Williams (and me!)

 

Time Lord apparel - very fashionable

 

Model of a previous TARDIS interior.

 

The 3rd Doctor's car

 

I really love how Cardiff is a wonderful mix of old and new architecture.

 

Christmas Market by the church

 

Erin perusing the market

 

Beautiful, beautiful view to end the adventure :)

 

(Insert London Reference Here)

This morning I amused my roommate to no end by trying to speak. And by trying to speak, I mean croak out an explanation of the communications project I was working on, only to have my voice break half way through a sentence and cause Julia to chortle into her coffee.

Yes, it is indeed that time of year again. The common cold creeps upon unsuspecting victims whose weary immune systems are vulnerable after weeks of personal stress, upcoming final papers, and a weekend excursion to London.

I think it was really that last bit that brought me down with the sniffles, but I don’t regret it one bit! London was…London was beautiful. London was filled with adventures, from strolling through Hyde Park and Baker Street to seeing the Crown Jewels in the Tower. London doesn’t feel like home, as Ireland does, but it fills me with possibility and wonder and joy and great expectations.

I’m afraid I have to say that London beats Paris. Because let’s face it, the following experiences I’m about to share with you will always bring a smile to my face.

As previously mentioned, Hyde Park and Baker Street were our first stops in the city, after quickly figuring out the London Underground of course (it actually isn’t that difficult – it’s way more straightforward than NYC). A brisk stroll through the park brought us to the construction of a winter carnival, which my friends and I got super excited about until we realized they wouldn’t be opening till next week. Bummer. But, we did manage to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the Serpentine!

Our quest for 221B Baker Street proved to be unfruitful, however, as the actual set where productions of Sherlock Holmes is elsewhere in the city. But, we did come across a Beatles paraphernalia shop which was oddly appropriate for the next day’s adventure to Abbey Road.

After witnessing an undercover cop chase down a man in handcuffs, we decided to head over to the Tower, eating a breakfast of baguette sandwiches along the way.

As you can see, we couldn’t have asked for better weather, the sun gracing us with warmth and beautiful lighting for shots of Tower Bridge.

It was really cool to walk around in a place filled with so much history. Just think of all the kings, visitors, and yes, prisoners, who came there through the centuries! We saw so much: the Crown Jewels, the armory, the minting process, the King Edward I’s bed chambers, gargoyles galore, and of course the ravens! (btw, I had no idea they were so big)

Our day continued to follow a historical theme as we made our way to the Globe Theater after winding our way through the London streets. This, I think, was Erin’s favorite part of the trip. I mean, walking past this:

to get to this:

had her jumping with joy. I know, I know, the Globe actually burned down centuries ago, but the theater that stands there today is historically accurate, even down to the method of construction! Our guide even told us that audiences still stand to see the plays, and participation (within reason) is allowed, just like during Shakespeare’s day. I would love to be a part of that someday, to be such an active viewer of one of his works.

I seriously thought my day couldn’t get much better, I mean, seeing historical places, right? Well, being the foodie I am, my evening rocked compared to the daytime activities. Rocked as in That was one of the best meals of my life ever. Hunger may be the best sauce, but add a little wine, good friends, and a delicious desert, and you’ve got the makings of a feast. I ate what was possibly the best fish n chips of my life, followed by sharing a desert platter of chocolatey goodness and raspberry peach cobbler (with apple sorbet!). Looking around the table at my friends, sharing in their laughter and good spirits is a memory I will always cherish.

To top off the evening (and walk off desert), we set off to view Big Ben, the Eye, and the Houses of Parliament in all their lighted glory. We also came across a telephone booth, and yes, we took the obligatory tourist pictures!


Despite coming down with a cold, London was truly an amazing experience and I sincerely hope I can return someday.

*Stay tuned next week for my day adventure in Cardiff!

Photographic Exposition Continued

If you’re wondering why this post has such a familiar title, it’s because this post highlights yet more of my travels in the Emerald Isle. And yes, these pictures are very green!

On the first of our day trips we went to West Cork and hiked amongst the ruins of three different types of Irish dwellings and an ancient stone circle (which also included a dwelling of sorts).

Behold! A brief panorama of historic Ireland!

You can see the ridges of the rings of Garrannes Ringfort here

A glimpse through the trees surround the ringfort

Mossy boughs

 

View from the ringfort - you can see the rise of the mountains in the distance!

Ballincarriga Tower House windows and side wall

Our friend the raven continually interrupted our professor when he tried to lecture!

 

Coppinger's Court - Although not much remains, you can see how it would command the landscape back in its heyday.

Peeping through the windows of the ruin

Erin, Kelsey & I enjoying the sun!

 

I love these flowers; they're so beautiful!

Pathway leading up to Drombeg Stone Circle

A sunny circle (getting a picture without people in the circle is almost impossible)

 

Fulachta fiadh - contains a hearth, pit to heat water, and a mini-well

 

Glorious view of the fields and ocean!

Photographic Expositions

Yet another week has gone by in the land of green hills and gray skies. And what a week! After the hectic mess of midterm papers and traveling I gave myself a break and took it easy. So I actually got sleep, had fun with friends, and started to sew my cloak for the Medieval Renaissance Society banquet in December.

While I don’t have any photos from these escapades, I do have many other photos to share from archeology trips earlier in the term! So without further ado, I present to you…

The Beauties of Newgrange, Monasterboice, and Dublin!

This ancient tomb is older than the pyramids!

Entrance to the tomb - at the center is the rock with the famous celtic tri-circle deisgn

More decorated rock lining the side

Walking up to Monasterboice - home of the highest Irish cross

High Cross

Round tower at Monasterboice (with prof lecturing)

 

Detail of the High Cross

Looking through the ruins of Monasterboice

Dublin Lamp posts are so pretty

Inside Christ Church

The architecture is so gorgeous in Dublin!

Clock tower in Dublin

Dome of the National History Musum

Celtic pin in the National History Collection

Aristic Getaways to Dublin and Paris

As you may have heard, I have a thing for art.

Don’t ever give me a ballpoint pen in class ‘cause I’ll sketch all over my notes if I get distracted. My bedroom has become a mini gallery from the number of postcards that plaster the walls. As for museums themselves…well, sometimes it’s like I died and went to heaven. Which has happened twice in the past two weeks.

What, might you ask, could have caused me to smile uncontrollably when I entered the art galleries in Dublin and Paris?

Well, first off, being in Dublin and Paris (The purpose of which I’ll get to in a minute). Secondly, actually understanding the contents of the rooms. I love art for its beauty, but I also have a deep appreciation for the subtleties of hidden messages and the artist’s conveyance of social commentary or capturing an individual’s private life. It’s really cool when I get to see a piece I’ve learned about in class, or, in the case of Dublin’s National Gallery, am writing a paper on.

But I suppose I should probably explain why I was in Dublin in the first place, right?

Well….

I went to my first gaming con! Cons (conventions) in Europe are different from the US – it’s a lot more about spending time with cool people in a chill environment than cosplaying and attending panels. While I was at the con I learned a bunch of really cool games, like Resistance and Saboteur (SO MUCH FUN – but don’t play with loved ones ‘cause they’re all about lying/tricking people), and added to my collection of buttons and kooky earrings.

I love calligraphy, so these are perfect!

I also invested in some shiny dice!

On one of the days I wasn’t gaming, two friends and I went into the city to explore. After a blessed cup of coffee and access to free wifi at a cafe near the city center, we walked around the neighborhood of Trinity College and eventually decided to split up to visit the National Gallery and History Museum.

 

The Irish National Gallery is fairly small, but the pieces it has are no less spectacular than those at the BMA or the Met. Some of my favorite artists have work displayed there, like Sisley and Vermeer. I feel like seeing one of your favorite pieces of art is like meeting an old friend. You’ve seen them so many times, looked at every single feature, but every time you encounter them you discover something new to love.

Metsu's paired paintings

This feeling of greeting an old friend extended to my visits to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay in Paris. The Loyola group trip to the City of Light included a tour of the Louvre and a chunk of free time to visit wherever we wished, which in my case involved a 3 hour stop at the largest collection of Impressionist art in the world.

I never thought I’d get to see these masterpieces!

I love Van Gogh’s work. I just kept smiling to myself the entire time I was in the room with his paintings.

After hours of staring at gorgeous works of art, Erin and I strolled down the Champs-Élysées (thank you high school French teacher for getting this song stuck in my head) and took the required tourist photos at the l’Arc de Triomphe.

Even on our final day in Paris, I was surrounded by art, this time in the form of the beautiful architecture of Notre Dame. Oh Mon Dieu! C’est encroyable! C’est magnifique!

I had never realized how large it was. I mean, just…HUGE. Huge and breathtaking. I feel like everything in Paris is breathtaking. From the Louvre, to the food, to the architecture (to the smell of the subway even), the whole city is an experience in itself. I can only hope that I will return one day to see it again.

Romantic Ruins

Hello again my dear readers! First, click here for a playlist of fall music that’s keeping me going on these chilly days. Selection includes: The Head and the Heart, Iron and Wine, Vampire Weekend, Olly Murs, Feist, some other awesome people.

I hope all is going well wherever you are, be that Maryland, New Jersey, Ireland, or anywhere else in the world!

And speaking of Ireland…you know what Ireland is full of? Like, besides sheep. And greenery.

Castles!!!

Well, maybe I should clarify. Ireland is chock full of castle and fort ruins, but no matter how much they crumble, they are truly beautiful.

Here are some photos of Trim Castle and the glorious views from its ramparts, Co. Meath near Dublin (where they filmed Braveheart, no less).

Second stage of the castle's expansions

Approach to Trim Castle

Secret Staircase

Side View

Beautiful Land

Watch Tower

Ugh, so pretty

Can't you just imagine magical creatures living here now?

Landscape Surrounding

Landscape Surrounding

 

Church in the distance

Ruins in the further distance

Nature reclaiming the land

 

Autumnal Elation

Ah, autumn has come at last! Leaves crunch underfoot, wind whips down alleyways, and it wouldn’t Ireland without a good dose of cold rain.

And by rain, I mean torrential downpours that come at you sideways broken up by squalls of lighter, slightly more tolerable rain. What would have been a pleasant walk to the train station was more like a swim. I mean, I was soaked. I could squeeze water out of my pants, that’s how wet I was.

Now, why on earth would I subject myself to such unpleasantness?

For Science!

Ahem, sorry, *cough*. I mean, For Service!

The study abroad program at Loyola requires all students complete an immersion project, which can either be a massive scrapbook (including interviews!)/paper reflection about your experiences, or 15 hours of service while abroad and a reflection.

Erin and I chose to do the latter, so we were very happy to hear that there was a service fair provided by the chaplaincy to make it easier for students to find service organizations to volunteer for. At the fair, we came across a table for Fota House, a restored 19th century mansion and grounds that holds events and workshops during the year and hosts tours during the spring and summer.

Being the history and reenactment nerd I am, I was super excited to check them out. And by excited I mean I filled out the volunteer form and returned it to the house this week, full of anticipation for working in what is basically Downton Abbey.

This week Erin will be helping with Halloween workshops for kids, and the following week I’ll be pressing apples for cider with the gardeners! Ah! So psyched!

I think a large part of this excitement is missing the fall traditions of home. Not exactly homesickness, but just certain things that are my favorite memories at Loyola or New Jersey.

In case Halloween/Autumn Fever hasn’t hit you yet, here are a few things to get you in the mood!

  1. Dorm Decoration! I’ve had so much fun with this the past two years. Whether or not you opt in for kids trick-or-treating at your door, it’s still fun to get your orange and black on.
  2. Apple or Pumpkin Picking. Ok, so I haven’t actually done this since high school, but it’s a blast. I keep on seeing pictures of friends on facebook picking apples back home at Terhune Orchards, or with a Loyola group on a trip.
  3. Pumpkin Carving. While it’s technically an extension of the above, it’s by far my favorite Halloween activity. Ever since I can remember I would design the pumpkin faces for my family, and eventually got to carve them myself. I don’t care how gross pulling out the “guts” can feel, it wouldn’t be Halloween without the smell of pumpkin in the apartment!
  4. Halloween Movie Marathons. Whether it’s Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein or Friday the 13th, everyone loves a good movie scare. And if you’re not up for scares, ABC Family is probably showing Halloweentown or Hocus Pocus (Ah, the good ol’ days).
  5. Foooooood. Everyone loves it. Grab some orange frosting and ice some creepy cupcakes, or turn pigs in a blanket to mini-mummies. No matter what you make, Halloween themed foods are the best.

Short and Sweet

There are a few things I’d like to say before presenting the topic of this post:

  1. While studying abroad generally allows traveling to many new places, it doesn’t mean it happens every week.
  2. Ireland’s system of only 1-2 exams/papers as assessment holds all students responsible for pacing themselves and not going crazy when they have multiple papers due the same day as their group flight to Paris.
  3. By the 2nd month of studying abroad, you start to miss stupid things about the US, like peanut butter and easy mac (even if you can cook (healthier) homemade mac n cheese).

What I’m trying to say is: Classes have fallen into a routine and I’m not always doing something spectacular on weekends which is why I feel like I don’t have a lot to share with you and therefore don’t write as much.

*dramatic gasp for air after run-on sentence*

Ssssooo…..I plan to make it up to you guys by sharing the plethora of photos I have over a number of shorter posts. This way you guys get to see what I’ve been up to in detail and won’t get bored with my longer ramblings. One of which will be coming soon! Next week! On…some subject that I haven’t come up with yet!

But back to the topic at hand: Photo Recap!

This set of photos goes back to August, the first weekend I arrived in Ireland, when the Loyola group went to Barryscourt Castle and Midleton.

Barryscourt Castle Walls

Barryscourt Cottage and Gardens

Feast Hall - Complete with goblets and trenchers!

Great Hall Curtains - Lord's & Lady's chambers behind them

Medieval Kitchen Supplies

 

Baby's Crib

Medieval Gardens

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Thistle

 

Jameson Distillery, No worries, I'm 21!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Distillery Equipment

 

Jameson Sign Post

 

Jameson Waterwheel

 

Jameson Casks

 

Jameson Bell

 

So pretty....

 

Rose Petals

 

A bee!