Photography by Brianne Lee

Photography by Brianne Lee

1D in Dublin

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Emerald Isle. Sheep. Cheerful people. Lighthearted music. Lots of cider. And beer. As well as cozy pubs. This is how I've always imagined Ireland to be. And from what I experienced from my week in Ireland, I can say that all of that is most certainly true! Oh...and lots of rain. Did I forget to mention this? 

Our last stop in Ireland was Dublin; a surprisingly beautiful city with its wonderful architecture, clean streets, and grand parks. The buildings are old, but not ancient and sophisticated, but not showy. 

The city itself is small, easily walkable from end to end. Dublin’s smallness is part of its charm.  Not too big, not too crowded, just perfect size.

Our days were packed with lots of walking, sightseeing, eating, and enjoying pieces of “home” that we couldn’t get in Italy. (Namely Starbucks, bookstores, and food other than pasta!)

The highlight of my time in Dublin, and quite possibly of my entire time in Ireland was a certain concert I have been dreaming of going to for a while now. One Direction!

I have no shame in the fact that I felt like a giddy 13-year old the entire night!

One Direction kicked off their UK tour in Dublin, which also acted as a homecoming for Niall Horan, who used to live in a small town just outside of Dublin.

About a half an hour into the show, Niall waved an Irish flag and took to the front of the stage to address his public.
‘Four years ago nearly to the day I stood over in the corner and auditioned for The X Factor and look at me now,’ he said.
‘I have had so much love and support from you guys and hope- fully we can pay that back tonight. You don’t get to play Croke Park every night.’

Their concert was incredibly energetic. No cheesy choreographed dance numbers, no matching suits. For the most part the guys jumped around the stage like they’re hanging out together having the time of their lives, but in front of 82,000 people. They’re charming on stage, with their inane between-songs banter keeping the audience amused.

The finale was outstanding. Which is what finales obviously should be, but it needs to be said. 1D belted out Best Song Ever as the entire the Croke Park Stadium sang, screamed and danced along as a blaze of fireworks exploded from behind the stage.

Their concert was the ultimate conclusion to our chapter in Ireland and once again, left high expectations for my remaining travels.


The Wicklow Way

Monday, May 26, 2014

During my freshman year fall break, Meghan and I took a trip to Scotland with one of my classes to hike the famous West Highland Way.  It was truly a remarkable trip, one that challenged me both physically and mentally in ways I had never experienced before. It left me with a craving for more. So when Meg and I found out about a similar trail in Ireland, we jumped at the chance get back out there and do it again.

The Wicklow Way is a 132-km long self-guided walk, which meanders through farmlands, forests, rolling countryside, steep valleys and mountains; and along swift wild streams and lakes. Because we were short on time, we only did 2 out of the 8 days it’s supposed to take to complete the entire walk.

If I learned anything from hiking in Scotland, it’s that there will be days, which will test you and force you out of your comfort zone. Take day two for example. Meghan and I along with our new friend from Chicago, Mike, set out for a 22-km (around 12-13 miles) hike to the town of Roundwood. We set off with decently nice weather. No rain that is. 

However, as we began walking alongside the Djouce Mountain, we found ourselves inside the clouds, then proceeded to be stuck in a torrential downpour with wind speeds blowing so viciously we could have been knocked over if we weren’t careful. The cherry on top occurred at the highest point when the rain turned into hail!

 After what seemed like hours (and probably was) the weather took a turn for the better and blessed us with glorious views of Lough Tay.

 Regardless of the weather we endured on our hike that day, the feeling of accomplishment I felt after walking 12 miles was unexplainable.

Later that evening, Meghan, Mike and I met up at one of the pubs in Roundwood along with 3 others Germany (2 hiking the Wicklow Way, 1 biking it). We enjoyed a much-needed relaxing evening filled with refreshing drinks, wonderful company, and great conversations.

Kindness of the Irish

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ireland has captivated me from the moment I arrived. While the country itself is beautiful, I have come to find it’s the Irish, which make Ireland so wonderful. The people I have met and encountered here are some of the most remarkable, genuine and warmest people I’ve ever met. I love the abundant friendliness and hospitality I have been continually shown while here. Whether it was asking questions on the street, interactions in stores or making small talk, the Irish were have been happy, helpful, and energetic. They have an infectious charisma that just makes you happy.

The most prominent example of the kindness I have been shown while being here occurred just the other day. Meghan and I had planned to take an overnight trip to the small town of Doolin, about an hour ½ bus ride from Galway. We were told that there was only one bus and that it was to depart at 10:30. So we arrived at the station, bought our tickets and then attempted to find our bus only to realize that there was none. We talked with a nearby worker about our situation and were informed that the times were wrong and we had missed it.

Realizing we now had no way to get to Doolin, the worker immediately got on his phone and came back no more than 10 minutes later to inform us that he had a private car on the way to take us (along with two other girls in our situation) to Doolin! The four of us had such a great car ride as the driver chatted with us about his life and ours, told us about the sights we were seeing, and even stopped the car a few times so we could take photos.

I was absolutely blown away by the kindness we had experienced onthat day. Their demeanor, their attitude, and their willingness to go the extra mile for others– the Irish are incredibly hospitable hosts and left a lasting impression on me.

Ireland is a beautiful country, but what will bring me back to is the people and a desire to learn more about their history and culture.

From Italy to Ireland

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

This past week has been such a whirlwind of emotions that I feel like I’ve barely even had time to breathe!

·      Finals done.
·      Moved out of my apartment.

·      Left Florence. :(
·      Jetted off to Ireland!

I can’t even begin to process the fact that I am done with the “study” part of my time abroad. Packing up, saying final goodbyes, and departing from Florence was one of those moments you don’t want to believe is actually happening. Although it was difficult to see this part of my experience come to an end, I was beyond excited for a new round of adventures to begin.

First stop of my 3-week travel extravaganza: Ireland!

 Ireland has been on my to-go list for a long time. I’ve seen the picturesque landscape in movies and craved it. Ireland is exactly how the movies depict it. It has rolling hills, meadows with sheep, cliffs that jut out one after another. It’s windy, then it’s still, then it’s rainy, then it’s sunny. Only in Ireland can you get the four seasons within five minutes!

 Our first stop in Ireland was Galway. I think I could have stayed there for months and been content. It sits right on the sea, the locals are kind, the shops are quaint, the accents melt your heart and the pubs are well… very Irish! I don’t think I have ever fallen in love with a city as quickly as I did with Galway.

 After arriving, we met up with my friend from school, Gillian, who has been living and studying in Galway for the past semester. She graciously took us under her wing, showing us the ins and outs of the city, her favorite hangout spots and where to find the best restaurants and shops. 

On our second day in Galway, Meghan and I started the day out early by making our way to the Aran Islands. Anyone whom I've spoken to about this excursion had nothing but positive things to say. While on the ride to the island, it was pouring rain, but luck was on our side because by the time we got on the island, the sun was shining and skies were blue.

Meg and I rented bikes and spent the day exploring the island and hiking up to the massive, majestic cliffs that give you panoramic views of the island and the Atlantic.

After returning from the Aran Islands, we met up with Gillian and some of her friends at their favorite pub where we spent the night listening to live music and made friends with some locals. And as the Irish would say, great ‘craic’ (fun) was had!

My time in Galway was everything I could have hoped for and more. I think it’s safe to say that the bar is now set quite high for my remaining travels! 

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