Missing the Emerald Isle

It’s almost been a week since I returned and as much as I’m enjoying good strong coffee and Christmas movie marathons, there are things about Ireland that I already miss. Although a few of them are seasonal, like the less obtrusive Christmas and holiday paraphernalia, some of them are of a more permanent nature.

Time for a List!

  1. That Irish Accent. When I was in Cork I was surrounded by people with Irish, German, French, Dutch, and English accents. I hung out with Americans in and out of class, but I still spent a good amount of time with very mellow non-American accents. Being back in Jersey has made me understand why people say Americans are loud and, well, easy to poke fun at. Don’t get me wrong, I know I have an accent (I drop my constants constantly), but I’m still getting used to my parents making “cawfee” in the morning.
  2. Respect for Pedestrians. Coming from the tri-state area means you’re used to all sorts of drivers, and if you visit the city often enough you know you have to book it across the street if you don’t want to get run over, even if you have a green light. I originally thought I’d have major issues in Ireland, with them driving on the opposite side of the street and everything. But honestly, they are some of the most polite drivers in the world. They actually wait for you to cross the street, and they don’t stop within a hairsbreadth of you or trigger a mini-heart attack while you speed walk past a sign that says “pedestrians have right of way.”
  3. Sense of Anonymity. Cork may not be a big city, but it’s large enough I wouldn’t run into 10 people from UCC I knew while grocery shopping. Coming from a small town where that happens on a regular basis really made me appreciate the just-right size of Cork. Not too big so I can walk to classes and stores easily, and not too small so that everyone knew my business.
  4. Food Quality. Especially the dairy products. I don’t think I had ever seen so many brands and types of butter until I went to Tesco in Cork. It took up half an aisle. I’m not kidding. The Irish love their butter, and they know you get what you pay for. I have been completely spoiled on fresh eggs, fresh butter, fresh milk, fresh cheese, fresh meat, fresh everything. If you shopped at the English Market you’d be guaranteed low prices and great quality while supporting local farmers and shop owners. My parents cook almost all our dinners from scratch, but I’m still going to miss buying a bushel of carrots with the green leaves still attached.
  5. Chips. Not Fries, Chips. You haven’t experienced Ireland properly until you have some chips at Jackie Lennox’s, Chipsy King, or, honestly, any place that cuts their own. The Irish have perfected chips: light and fluffy on the inside, crispy and crunchy on the outside. The only place at home that can compete from home is Cream King, and it’s only open in the summer, so I’m kind of bummed about that.

What I miss most of all, or rather, who I miss most of all are the people. The Irish are extremely friendly, outgoing, and have a very quirky sense of humor. From shop owners to students you’d be greeted with a smile and wave, and I can’t tell you how many times a 5 minute conversation turned into an hour discussion. I know I’ll stay on contact with my friends via Facebook and all, but those group invites to see The Hobbit and Merry Christmas Wishes tug at my heartstrings a little. Hopefully I’ll be back soon!

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!

(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

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!

 

The Sound (and Places) of Silence

Today is quiet.

The ticking of the water heater echoes through the silent apartment. There’s a slight buzz of electricity emanating from the fridge. Outside, the cars speed by, their splashing through puddles creating a rhythmic whoosh…whoosh. The occasional seagull cries over the River Lee.

Even the sky is peacefully quiet, its soft grayness blanketing the city, the clouds stretching across the horizon. A light mist surrounded me as I walked to the grocery store this morning, the drizzle adding another layer of silent contemplativeness to the drowsy day.

I actually really love days like this. I like being able to think and listen to the world around me, an activity that’s hard to do during the busy weekdays. As much as I enjoy the company of others, it’s nice to have some time to unwind by myself, to regenerate after 3 weeks of being constantly surrounded by people, activities, trips, and due dates. I’m not saying the work here is exhausting (not yet, anyway), I’m just saying my friends and I have been very busy and it’s refreshing to have a slow, easy weekend to myself.

Take last week for example (Sept. 23-29). International students had to hand in their module registration forms, classes picked up and I discovered I actually can sit through an hour lecture without getting distracted. Erin and I watched “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” with the MedRen Society and later in the week hung out at a pancake party at one of the member’s houses, my archeology final project was due, and the Loyola group went on a weekend trip to Kerry.

The last, by the way, was really quite fun, even if I had a migraine when we got back to Cork Sunday evening. We left Friday afternoon with other U.S. visiting students and picked up some more from UL. Our first stop was at Crag Caves before continuing to our hotel in Cahersiveen where we had a wonderful dinner, heard about Gaelic football (it’s intense), and had a blast learning Ceili dancing.

The next day was jam packed. We did the Skellig Ring tour, which included learning the history of Valentia Island and the Ballinskellig region, climbing a mountain, strolling along the beach, visiting a chocolate factory, and having a commanding view of the landscape from the ramparts of Cahergal Stone Fort. We also had some free time to watch the hurling final rematch before dinner and a singing session, later followed by a trivia game in the hotel’s pub.

Ballinskellig Beach View from Quarry

View from Fort(I realize this is very list-y, but I’m trying to get to the super cool part)

Our final day in Kerry was probably the most beautiful. Even though it was gray and drizzly and foggy (much like today). Where did we go that could have me still thinking about it a week later, you ask? I’ll show you.

Forest

Glimpse of the Lake

I just…

Words can’t describe how amazing it was to stand on the cliff overlooking the valley. To see the land spread before me, the rolling hills climbing into the sky as the sun broke through the clouds at last, a single beam illuminating rocky green bluffs. Even in the valley, the woods surrounding the waterfall were serene. All around me trees reached up to the sky. Moss grew on every surface, creating a blanket of green that muffled the rushing water crashing from the rocks above. And the lake….jaw-dropping. Walking through the woods on a tiny, twisty path, I half expected to see elves or hobbits or some magical creature emerge from the trees. The lake’s edge was revealed after passing through brambly bushes and low tree-cover, the clear water mirroring the gray sky overhead.

It was so silent. So peaceful. I felt like I could truly meditate there. And I swear the clear air and sky cleared the cobwebs from my thoughts. I wish I could recreate that clarity, that inner peace found in the beauty of the mountains, waterfall, and lake.

Today is coming close to that, at least in the quiet reflection time available to me. My apartment might not have a beautiful view or songbirds to wake me in the morning, but at this moment, it provides a refuge from the hustle and bustle. And I’m happy to call it home.

Instant Friends: Just Add Food!

Nothing brings people together faster than new, and sometimes intimidating, situations and sharing meals. Going to college means mastering control over awkward situations, learning the skills of small talk, and knowing that eating with new people provides an excuse for contemplative silence. Studying abroad in a new country, well, that puts all of this to the test.

As someone who’s a bit shy when it comes to striking up a conversation, social situations are a bit stressful for me. I’ve never been the best at breaking the ice and keeping up conversational banter has often left me tongue-tied. Coming to Ireland was a bit like freshman year at Loyola all over again. I was in a new city with new people and new professors and new class systems and new everything. Not gonna lie, it was kind of scary.

At Loyola I had a friend group, well, several friend groups, and I had activities outside of class that I knew would be full of “regulars.” My professors knew me by name, and I knew I could have lovely conversations outside class with many of them. Loyola’s small campus provides a very cozy feeling to those who are a bit homesick, and apart from the Humanities building, it’s fairly easy to navigate.

Being at UCC is like transferring to a state school: there are over 20,000 students, the campus is much larger, the classes do not cap at 35, and I haven’t met any of my professors yet, so I can’t really tell you how that’s going. But despite these differences, there seems to be a universal equation for making new friends.

Food + People = Natural Flow of Conversation

During my Early Start course we had a coffee/snack break halfway through the lecture period and after the first day, people started joining each other for tea and coffee. I met a great group of friends who were history, anthropology, archeology, English, and various other majors and we had wonderful conversations that day and during the following weeks.

But I really think a lot of this had to do with eating food. There’s something so communal about breaking bread, or a chocolate croissant, with someone. Now that I have a new roommate, this also carries over. We make dinner at about the same time, so we chat as we cook and our conversations carry on well past our plates becoming empty.

A couple of weeks ago Erin and I were eating lunch in the Chaplaincy and there were some Irish students hanging out there. After a bit, they joined our conversation and we had a really fun time getting their perspective on stuff. We also learned some more of the slang (“Crack” here does not mean the illegal substance like in the US, just a heads up).

This past weekend I had to register with the police (that I was legal, and a student, and would be leaving in December, etc.), and on the way to the station, Erin and I came across a few American Early Start students who were doing the same thing. After a (very) stressful 2 hours, we had a celebratory meal together at a wonderful little bistro. And again, the entire time we were together there was a running conversation.

I’m telling you, there’s something about food.

Speaking of which, I should probably get some lunch now. I bought some fresh bead yesterday and I’ve been dying to make grilled cheese.

For photo-sets of my wanderings in Ireland, please visit roryroamingthegreenhills.tumblr.com. Thank you!