Archive for February, 2014

Dublin in moments

Friday, February 28th, 2014

hostel Hostel with the Ladies

butlers Butler’s hot chocolate after the rain

IMG_1221  stained glass

IMG_1227 random ceiling

kennedy's Kennedy’s Pub (James Joyce)

long room soo-liThe Long Room

long room Can I just please live here?

museum random staircase

oscar wilde and his ladie's Sassy Oscar Wilde

peaches At “Peaches” for lunch.

scotland's independence Scotland’s independence!


The Seventh Week (Dublin!)

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Again, my apologies for the delay. The rest of the pictures will be up soon, they’re on another friend’s camera.

Social

As big as UCC is (20,000 I believe), the international community is fairly close knit, there are about 3,000 of us. So it doesn’t feel much bigger than UMW (which is a little over 4,000 undergrad) even though in reality it’s almost five times the size.

Coursework

RAG (Raise and Give) Week took place, although that’s not really coursework but it is a huge part of campus life at UCC. The week is centered around activities, games, and merchandise to raise money for various Irish charities.

On campus during the day they have all sorts of different vendors from the city selling food and drinks. There was some great Lebanese food, O’Conaill’s hot chocolate, and a few places I didn’t recognize. Bands and DJs perform during the day, and then they have contests (like hot dog eating). At night pubs have special deals and promotions for RAG week, and this is where it gets a bit crazy.

Dublin

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Trinity College was the first thing I saw, after lunch because that is a long bus ride. There was a Burke statue out by the front gate, I don’t know which Burke or what he did but it is an awesome feeling seeing your surname on a statue and pretending you’re not too distantly related.

IMG_1179 Burke

IMG_1229Frank McCourt, author of “Angela’s Ashes”

We saw the Book of Kells, which was magnificent and then toured the Long Room which was absolutely stunning. I wish I could live there. I wish I could read all of those books. (I don’t have any pictures of it on my camera, so I will upload those soon!) On our way out of Trinity, we ran into a Scottish man who is traveling and bringing attention to Scotland’s potential independence. He had us hold up the flag and a little stuffed bear dressed in a kilt for the facebook page.

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The National Gallery was being renovated so only 1 of the floors was open, but that was more of a blessing in disguise because we were able to get through it much faster. We proceeded to waste any time we saved wandering in the gift shop.

After lunch we decided to go to the History museum and then find a pub so we could get a table to watch the Big Rugby Match, England versus Ireland. We got a bit lost on the way, and a magical thing happened. I saw Kennedy’s Pub. Where James Joyce himself would drink and write. We went in, all excited, and asked the bartender if this was The Kennedy’s Pub and he just laughed and pointed to the big plaque behind him. We decided this was the perfect place to watch the game, two birds with one stone you know, and headed out to find the history museum.

It turns out the history museum was a natural history museum, and just filled with dead animals that had been stuffed. Not quite what we were anticipating. The archeological museum (which I was keen on seeing) was just down the block so we went there. We were pressed on time, and only had 40 minutes to get through it if we wanted to be back to Kennedy’s in time to get a table.

This museum was much cooler. It had exhibits of ancient Celtic gold jewelry, and a Viking ship (Side note: I had just finished watching the TV series The Vikings so I was particularly excited), and artifacts from the first kings of Ireland. The coolest (grossest?) part was three partial human remains from the Iron Age. It sort of snuck up on me, but I probably should have figured it out on my own. I was reading a little blurb about what can be discovered from human remains. Specifically information like how tall this man was, what his meals were three months before he died, his occupation (because of his hands), etc. Then I step around corner and there’s a wrinkled, leathery looking torso in a glass case. Again, I suppose I should have expected that. But I was not. I was not expecting to see that at all. After I got over the shock, it was pretty cool (but still sort of gross).

On the way to Kennedy’s, one of the Ladies saw the Oscar Wilde Statue. The second magical occurrence of the day. We had hoped to see it, all being lit-nerds as a friend so kindly referred to us, but figured we would waste too much of the day trying to track it down and would be better off going to the bigger sights. Let me tell you, this is a sassy statue. Wilde is reclining on this big rock, with his eye brow raised and this little cat-ate-the-canary grins.

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 So we went to Kennedy’s and watched the game. I’m fairly certain the guys next to us hated us as they listened to us (inaccurately) explain the rules to one another and played with our phones during the boring bits. It was cool to watch, and be in an Irish pub for the experience at least. England won, but we had left by then. Probably best not to be in the pub when that happened, they were all very intense.

We went to a traditional pub for dinner (delicious) and listened to some Irish music, finally. I can’t believe it’s been almost two months and this was the first time I heard any live Irish music in Ireland. The third magical occurrence took place here as well. One of the Ladies and I are a big fan of a British show called the IT Crowd, starring Chris O’Dowd. it crowd

No we did not meet Chris O’Dowd. But we met his neighbor, which is practically the same thing (right?).

          chris o'dowd This guy here!


:/

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Sometimes,  I have to actually remind myself that I am in Europe and doing all the things of always dreamed of doing. It’s not that I’m ungrateful and forget that I’m extremely lucky to be seeing much of Italy at such a young age, but it’s as if reality just has never totally sunk in….

Venice!

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

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My trip to Venice!

So after my intensive italian course final, Suzy and I caught a train to Venice for Friday and Saturday…. the beginning of Carnival! It took about two and a half hours to get there, which felt like days because we were so eager and exited. But when we arrived, we walked outside the train station and were immediately on the Grand Canal! We then boarded vaperato, number 1, which is quite slow, but it allowed for great sight seeing along the waterway. We stayed on the boat for several stops, but decided to get off at one of the ports along the canal because it was taking too long to get anywhere lol.

We made our way into the city, and we came along a small piazza, where there were several performers performing for a small crowd of people. One of them was an old man, dressed in Venetian Renaissance clothing who was singing beautiful opera.We stayed to listen for awhile, but then ventured away from the piazza, down one of the side streets, which was lined with small bakeries andl mask and costume shops! I stopped in on of them and bought a beautiful carnival mask, made of black metal wiring. For a couple of hours, we continued to explore many of the quaint streets just to take photos. But during  this time, I also went into a bookstore and bought Carnival’s 2014 poster of the year. It’s of puppet that is strung up from the stars and she is also holding two masked carnival character puppets.

When the sun was setting, Suzy and I finally reached Saint Mark’s Square! The basilica was beautiful, as were the other ancient buildings surrounding the square. The square had a magical essence to it. Per6aps because of Carnival’s festivity, but also I think it’s because Venice seems timeless. The city hasn’t really hasn’t changed much for many  centuries. The buildings and waterways are the exactly as they were in the15 th century, with really no modern additions because there’s no space to add anything. There are no roads for cars, just boats. Also, the people nowadays even celebrate holidays and festivals in which people from many generations back did as well.

After exploring the area around Saint Mark’s square and getting dinner, Suzy and I caught a vapereto to Lido di Venice, where our hotel was located. The hotel was very nice and the breakfast the next day was amazing! The croissants were to die for! Suzy and I both decided to stuff as much food in our bags as possible so we could eat later for free. We were about on our fourth croissant and our third baguette into our bag, when my purse got knocked over and everything came spilling out in front of everyone. I couldn’t stop laughing because the entire time we were trying to be as sneaky and discreet as possible. It truly was karma lol. But after collecting our food and ourselves lol, we checked out of the hotel and made our way down to Lidos beaches. The weather was overcast and partly rainy, so the beach was completely empty. Suzy and I walked around by ourselves and gathered lots of beautiful shells! After that we got a boat back to Saint Mark’s square and explored some more. We went into a famous art museum and looked at a lot of very old art. To be honest though, I’m not much of an art person. I know that’s bad, but I’d rather be outside exploring ;/ …But no much after that, we then got a train back to Milan… meep :,,,,,,,(

Carnival and Venice

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

This past weekend sabrina and I left school early and caught a train to venice. We spent the day exploring the tiny maze of streets and crossing small bridges over the waterways, while wearing our masks of course:) I’m not much of a city person…ironic that i’m studying in Milan…haha but for a city, Venice is really cool! It’s so different from any where i’ve been before…and so beautiful. The water itself is a dark blue, green in the small canals, and light blue, just off the island… and numerous times we got lost in the many alleyways (which dont have names)…but it was all just part of the adventure.

We spent the night on Ledo island, and the next morning we scoured the nearby beach for the beautiful seashells littering the shore…which are now cleaned off and sitting on our apartment windowsill. Later that day we headed back to the main island and to San Marco piazza for the carnival events. On the way to the square we got caught in a parade of drunk costumed people, dancing along to the orchestra playing at the front of the line. For the rest of the day, we continued exploring…but because the weather had turned cold and windy, we ducked into an art museum…and then into a cafe. We finally finished the trip by buying a couple packages of fried carnival treats, and headed home on the train.

… also on a side note, we found a angelfish movie theater :D I miss watching movies… anyways on Sunday we saw “12 years a slave” which was really good. The theater has a lot of critically acclaimed movies, so we’ll be going back soon:)

….andddd…not this weekend, but the next, we’re gonna spend a few nights in Zermatt, and ski one day…YAY!

 

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The Sixth Week

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Social

Thursday night I had a group of friends over for dinner. I made a beer cheese fondue (with Irish cheddar of course) and pulled BBQ chicken sandwiches. I never considered something as simple as condiments would taste all that different, but this BBQ sauce was not what I am used to. It’s funny the small things you end up craving and missing from home.

In any case, the dinner was fun and The Ladies brought salad and slutty brownies (a layer of cookie dough, Oreo cookies, and topped with brownie batter all cooked into one delicious dessert) and the evening was amusing to say the least. I’m sure my roommates hate me for all the laughing and noise we made.

Coursework

Group projects for my business classes have been assigned. These are interesting because they address European issues and Irish brands and companies, as well as familiar international brands such as Apple or McDonalds.  One of the specifically is picking out an Irish company, which we visited on fieldtrips, and how to market it for international use. I’m hoping to use the example of a microbrewery that started a few years back.

Saturday in Cork                                               

            Saturday I took myself out to lunch at Gino’s (which looks like it’s quickly becoming a weekly visit) as I didn’t have any other plans. The weather held up for most of the afternoon, a miracle in itself. From Gino’s I went to the English Market for some fruit and soda bread. The English Market is sort of like a farmer’s market, except with very permanent stalls and shops. Products range from vegetables and fruits, bread, dairy, meat, even chocolates and pastries. Most of these are local products, and there is a shop of specifically organic foods. Meat products specifically are much cheaper than the grocery store and give a lot more choices in any case. The building itself is beautiful and warm, with strings of Christmas icicle lights draped across the top of the doors. Honestly I could do a whole post about the wonderful place that is the English Market.

Anyway, after the market I went to the Crawford Art Gallery, which is free to the public and one of the exhibits changes every few weeks. The gallery was nice and had some interesting artwork in a variety of styles and mediums (videos, paintings, sculptures, stained glass, etc). Their visiting exhibit was a series of casts of sculptures from various Greek and Roman artifacts. This part was my favorite, although morbidly called “Visions of Tragedy” (find it here: http://www.crawfordartgallery.ie/Exhibition_Samuel_Forde.html)

It was however a bit small and the renovated rooms with sleek hard wood floors and floor to ceiling windows make it look modern. The contrast between those rooms and the older rooms, which reminded me of a nineteenth century mansion converted to a museum, was slightly odd. The experience was pleasant, idly wandering from room to room without any need to hurry along anywhere else.


Verona and Riva del Garda

Monday, February 17th, 2014

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Trip to Verona and Lake Garda

The weekend after the Bergamo trip, we decided to visit Verona and Riva Del Garda. It took about two hours by train to get to Verona, which is located east of Milan near Lake Garda. Verona is a beautiful town, rich with romance and history. The streets of Verona are lined with old, ‘italian’ styled houses, and the walkways are made of pink limestone, which gives the town and even more romantic feel. There are at least two castles, both of which we saw when we visited that day. We also walked around and saw Verona’s small arena, Juliet’s balcony, and hiked up to a hill overlooking the city and it’s surroundings. Overall, Verona was very pretty and had very unique features and sites.

However, my favorite part of the trip was the second day…We got a bus to Riva Del Garda after seeing Verona, and checked into a hotel Saturday night. Because it was dark when we got into the town, we had no idea of the natural beauty surrounding the area. Therefore, we we woke up the next morning and peered outside the window, we saw enormous, jagged mountains all around us, with the morning’s mist lingering between the mountain’s crevasses. We ate breakfast as quickly as possible, so we could get an early start on the day. The first thing we did when we checked out of the hotel was to go visit a nearby waterfall. We paid 5 euro to get in, but it was definitely worth it. The waterfall was located within a cave, which was carved out by years of weathering from the water. We traveled inside the cave, and not long before we were rained down upon by the waterfall’s mist, soaking our jackets. There were several different passages in the cave to explore, all leading to the massive waterfall! I tried to get pictures, however, I was too afraid of my phone getting water in it, so I was unable to… :(

After the waterfall, we made our way down to the lake. Lake Garda, which Riva Del Garda is built apon, is the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen. The water stretches so far that it looks like it may even be a bay to the ocean.. It is surrounded by huge white capped mountains with small Italian villages built along the water’s edge. It’s beauty is so indescribable that it’s hard to put into words. ..Riva del Garda and the lake don’t even look like something of this world, perhaps something you’d see in heaven. So, Suzy and I just sat near the water taking in all it’s natural beauty for about an hour, trying to take a mental picture because our camera’s couldn’t justify it’s true magnificence.

We walked around the lake for awhile before we had to catch a bus back to Milan…And that’s when the bathroom situation became a problem…Let’s just say, if you have to use a public bathroom, the worst place on Earth to be is in Italy. There are NO free public bathrooms at all.After venturing around for a good half hour, I came across a little building that looked like a mini spaceship, which had a bathroom sign on it, so I was relieved! However, it cost ,80 euro to get in and the timer starts from 10 minutes. The inside was absolutely disgusting. It was a hole that was elevated from the ground with crap and piss everywhere.,,,ughhhhhhh, and you had to press a button to get 2 sheets of wet toilet paper from a machine….it was mentally scarring. But that bathroom wasn’t as bad as the one at the station…this ‘bathroom’ was a literally a hole in the ground. It reeked of urine, and to be honest it was quite hard not to pee all over the place, so I understand why it smells so bad.However, the trip was overall pretty amazing, besides the bathrooms that is. Riva del Garda has definitely been my favorite place I’ve visited so far.

Bergamo!

Monday, February 17th, 2014

 

About a week ago, Suzy and I took our first mini-trip to Bergamo, which is a small town located to the east of Milan. It took 3 different trains to get there because the ticket we purchased was not direct to Bergamo…ahhhhhh! But, after about two hours we finally reached our quaint destination, hidden in the valley.

When we got there, Suzy and I walked from the train station to our hostel, and dropped off our bags. We met two Australian girls that were staying in the same room as us, and later had dinner and breakfast with them the next day. After getting situated, Suzy and I explored the old town on the hill overlooking the rest of the valley. We visited the Piazza Vecchia, which was an old square that had a beautiful fountain in the center and old buildings outlining the perimeter. We also visited the Bergamo museum and read about the history of the town. Bergamo is much older than I ever imagined! Archeologists found ancient remains of shops and homes from 100 AD under the ground near Piazza Vecchia. Bergamo was once apart of the Venetian Empire, which stretched much farther west and north than just around Venice, and it was a major trading post.

After looking around, we decided to get food before we crashed at the hostel. We went into a tavern off of one of the touristy streets and both had delicious sandwiches! We made our way back to the room and slept a good 6 hours, then woke up around 2 am and skyped our parents haha!

The next day we had breakfast with our Australian roommates. The breakfast was served buffet style, which was nice because I could steal food for later hehe ;) We decided to explore more of the upper town, so we took a vernacular to the highest part of the town. At the top, there was an ancient castle, which we went through. The inner halls and stairs to the castle where so dark, damp and small that it was tricky to navigate our way. However, when we eventually reached the top, there was a spectacular view of the town and city below with the surrounding mountains all around! You could even see several snow capped mountains that were behind the black hills.

Altogehter, I think Bergamo was a wonderful little city nestled in the hills. I am glad I was able to visit this town and learn more about it’s history and people. I would definitely recommend going here to anyone visiting northern Italy.

L’estate a Febbraio

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

The weather in Sorrento is finally getting sunny, and life remains just as beautiful as ever.  A trip to Pompeii, scooter rides through the city, a dinner with my friend Morgan’s host family, and days by the water have filled my time in the past week.

Sul mare con le mie amiche Rosie e Morgan.

Al mare con le mie amiche Rosie e Morgan.

Visiting Pompeii was one of the things that I was most excited about doing in Italy.  Lucky for me, it’s just a short thirty minute ride from Sorrento on the Circumvesuvian train.  The trip was part of the Archaeology class I’m taking, and I feel that I learned more in one day in Pompeii than the rest of the month I’ve been here sitting in a classroom.  I loved getting to actually see the city and experience the ways in which the Pompeiians existed as people, not just as a feature in a history textbook.

A Pompeii con le mie amiche Morgan, Tsu, e Haley.

A Pompeii con le mie amiche Morgan, Tsu, e Haley.

One of the most interesting things that my professor Ilaria showed us was one of the buildings that used to hold a Thermopolium, the Roman era version of fast food.  There are dozens of these types of buildings in Pompeii where people used to go to get something to eat for lunch while they were out during their day.  Intricate details like these can only truly be appreciated by visiting the place itself, and it reminds me that the Pompeiians are not just a historical story about an eruption; they were a bustling city by the sea where real people lived and, unfortunately, died.

Pompeii e bello.

Pompeii e bello.

There are two myths about Pompeii that were dispelled for me on this excursion: one, that the bodies “frozen in stone” were caused directly by the volcano, and two, that Pompeii was not evacuated because it was nighttime when the volcano exploded.  In reference to the former: the bodies that are often shown in Pompeii are actually plaster casts.  An archaeologist named Giuseppe Fiorelli sensed the hollow places left by the decayed bodies and filled the void with plaster, creating a cast that preserved the position in which the individual died.  The bones are preserved within the plaster cast, and while this method creates an empathetic response, it is not as practical and educational as examining the bones themselves.  The later is an interesting idea that seems to be fairly wide-spread, but based on the writings of Pliny the Younger, who observed the eruption, we know that the eruption began around noon and reached Pompeii an hour later.  Perhaps this notion stems from the fact that the pumice and ash in the air blocked the sun temporarily and created night in the day.

Un uomo da Pompeii.

Un uomo da Pompeii.

Continuing in the realm of active learning, later during the weekend I went to my friend Morgan’s apartment where her house mother, Mamma Teresa, taught us how to cook an elaborate meal.  We begun with way too much bruschetta for five people, made a huge pot of pasta carbonara, then broccoli and sausage, followed by a big salad, and ended with a giant dish of Tiramisu.  The food was delicious, and I left stuffed, but the best part of the evening was talking to Mamma Teresa.  She’s a retired teacher and is very patient with us when we’re muddling through our mediocre Italian.  I spoke exclusively Italian with her, as she does not speak any English, and it was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had since I’ve been in Italy.  She is warm and loving, and has invited us back with open arms.

Mamma Teresa e molta simpatica!

Mamma Teresa e molta simpatica!

Meanwhile, the sun is shining and I’m in Italy–what could be better?  However, it’s still technically “winter” here, so we get some pretty strange stares from the Italians when we go to the beach in shorts and tank tops on a Sunday afternoon in February.  Granted, it gets pretty cold once the evening sets in, but sitting on the rocks watching the sea swallow the sun as it drifts towards midday in America, it’s totally worth the chilly fingers and toes.

Io e la mia amica Rosie al mare.  Siamo pronti di andare a motorino!

Io e la mia amica Rosie al mare. Siamo pronti di andare a motorino!

This must be the place

Monday, February 10th, 2014

This past Friday, Sabrina and I decided to escape the lousy Milanese weather, and headed for Verona. That night we arrived at our bnb…which was fine, but had the worst breakfast ever. Our host prepared the breakfast the night before in our room and covered it with seram (spelling?) wrap. The breakfast consisted of nasty ass bread with a bagged croissant that tasted worse than the croissant I had on my plane to Italy lol.

Anyways, the next moring we headed into the town of Verona. The weather was beautiful. It felt like spring…which is my favorite season:D We first ventured up to San Pietro Castle on the crest of the hill above the city and river. We sat for a good while on a wall, watching the river flow by.  We then headed back into town and stopped at Juliet’s Balcony…which I didn’t really care for…but not because it wasn’t interesting. The site itself was actually really cool…but it just seemed overly commercialized, which, in my eyes, lost some of it’s charm. After seeing the balcony, we walked to the arena and people watched on a nearby bench. (Haha) Sabrina and I are good at just sitting, and relaxing in a pretty spot, taking it all in. Finally, it was time to have late lunch/early dinner:D We generally try to stick to buying only smallish snack-like food, and not paying for a big meal, but we needed it…splurgy splurge;) So we had seafood pasta with wine. Afterwards, and with a little buzz, we caught our bus to Riva del Garda, on lake Garda. The sun went down, and it began to rain while we were on the bus. I guess it was maybe the combination of that and other things, but i has eh sad moment:(  I don’t know, I just began to miss everyone from home, and even with Sabrina sitting next to me, I felt really lonely.

The next morning was better, though. Sabrina and I had an awesome breakfast, which made up for breakfast the day before! I quickly glanced in my lonely planet Italy book and saw that like 10 minutes away there was a waterfall. So… i suggested to Sabrina that we should go, and she was game. The waterfall itself is tucked in a cavern 100 meters high and quite narrow. At first we could just hear the falls, and see milky blue water passing below the little bridge that wound it’s way into the cave. As we got closer, we started to get wet with the spray from the falls. By the time we reached the lower part of the falls…as close as the walk way would take us…we had become drenched and roaring echoes filled our ears from the sounds of pounding water. I wanted to get some pictures closer to the waterfall, but I didnt want to soak my camera. We came out of the cavern, and walked up the hill where there was another entrance into the falls…this one about mid-way up the waterfall…which I think was a manmade entryway carved from the rock. This part was even louder, and we couldn’t get too close to the falls because of the whipping wind and water. By the time we came out into the sunshine, our faces were dripping and we were glad we hadn’t put much make up on, that morning.

 

So, we made our way from the falls back down to the lake itself. The mist began to rise, and appearing around us were towering rock cliffs and mountains. In the distance we could see the lake with snow capped peaks around it. Excited, we quickly made our way to the lake. Although, the walk there was really cool, too, because growing in this mountainous, snowy region were tons of olive and chestnut trees, and orange and lemon as well. Also, palm trees lined the roads…which made the area that much more unique. Sabrina tried to pick an orange, but it was too high, and we didn’t want to draw too much attention lol. Also, I tried a raw chestnut which tasted like godawful…which I should I have known. When in Rome, right?;)

We finally reached the lake, which was spectacular. We had plans to head south into the other towns, but we ended up just sitting on the rocks lining the shore, basking in the sun and eating food we had stashed from breakfast. I played some music (hence the title), and we relaxed for a long time. It was so beautiful, it makes me mad that my pictures don’t do it justice. Everytime I looked up at the mountains, or the shear cliffs to my right, or at the beautiful clear blue water, I thought the landscape had become prettier and prettier. It amazed me how beautiful it was…and numerous times Sabrina said “it’s what you picture heaven to look like”. I can’t wait to take my parents here again when they come visit it April!!!

 

Verona

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