So a thousand times adieu, We’ve got Bono and U2, All we’re missin’ is the Guinness, and the rain

Okay. So. Here we Go. My final blog post to officially end my semester abroad. Apologies for neglecting the site these last couple weeks. With finals taking up much of my time, with any free moments I had I tried my hardest to be out of the house and making the best of my incredibly limited time. I’m currently flying 36,000 feet above the Atlantic, headed for JFK and I have no idea how I want this post to sound. But I want to start with this disclaimer: No matter how this post comes across, I truly am ecstatic to be home. If you were a reader of this blog or someone that kept in touch with me throughout my experiences here, you are 100% one of the people I am so excited to hug and see and talk to about everything going on at home! With that being said, I am heartbroken to leave the place that’s become my home over the past four months. It’s hit me a lot harder than I thought it would. The past couple of days have been nothing but nostalgia and hugs coupled with crying and laughter.

 

I spent my morning sitting out on our balcony (which is against the rules.. soo… sorry Gara and Laureth), with a coffee watching the sun move higher in the sky and trying to really reflect on my time here. Actually, that’s how I’ve spent most of my time these last couple days. I thought about my last night with the recent strangers that had become closer to me than people I have known my entire life. I thought back on a conversation we’d all had about how to describe exactly what we’re feeling. The best I could come up with was: “it feels like someone is breaking up with me and there’s nothing I can do to change their mind.” And once I thought about it the more I realized how true it really was. It’s like one of those great romance novels or Nicholas Sparks movies: It was love at first sight in Dublin. From the minute I landed to the minute I took off, I never once felt like I wasn’t home. It was so comfortable and so exhilarating at the same time. If this were a Nicholas Sparks movie, I’d have plenty of music-backed montages to show the incredible laughter and happiness and new experiences this Emerald Isle has brought me.

Just like in any relationship that comes to an end, it’s the little things that you miss the most. The walks to Tesco, topping up our leap cards, trying to make the DART on time, Dun Laoghaire and the 40 foot, the River Liffey, Grafton street and the incredibly talented street performers, Henry Street, the crazies on the corner across from the O’Connell Bridge, the proper voiced bus stop announcements in English and Irish, Temple Bar, the always interesting nights that come with Flannery’s, the communication barrier between the Irish texters, and of course our incredibly beautiful home, Ailesbury Road. This is probably incredibly boring for the readers that haven’t lived this, but that’s okay. I’m writing this for me, while everything is still crystal clear and fresh in my memories (sans the Flannery’s nights which have never been crystal clear .. sorry mom) because in the past week anytime one of the aforementioned little things came about, I’d get that tight feeling in my chest and the lump in my throat. I loved those little things and it’s important to me that I don’t forget what they are.

 

I thought about saying goodbye to our beautiful house and then I thought about the amazing family that came to be because of that house: the beautiful people who made that house a home. From that mildly awkward first day at the Guinness Storehouse, to our first night out, getting off at the wrong bus stop (Sorry guys), our less awkward trip to Belfast (Helfast for some), to the family we became in Galway, to the shared looks of boredom and giggles in Marnie’s class, and the laughter till we cried in the kitchen, we truly became the family that was so hard to part with this morning. I don’t think there’s much I can say that hasn’t already been beautifully worded by one of my housemates already. I just wanted to say, if you’re reading, Nicole, Cassie, and Tara, you’re ability and preparedness to help anyone, be there for anyone, and uplift anyone at the drop of a hat has taught me a huge deal about the meaning of friendship. Ashley N.  Your hilarious stories and sense of humor brought a smile to my face every time I got to hear a recap of our Dublin nights. Kathleen and Joanne although completely opposite, you’re ability to truly be yourselves no matter who’s watching and what you’re doing is something I hope never changes. Evan and Lucas were just the brothers I needed to keep me grounded and keep me laughing at myself. Cara and Meredith, You are both truly beautiful people. Cara the energy you always have about you even when you’re stuck in bed with strep throat, you’re still able to make me die of laughter. And Meredith I am so happy I get to call you my friend and to know someone just as obsessed with the Jonas Brothers as I am. Gareth was always around with travel advice, a funny story, help with our way around town, or just for a laugh and Laura was like the big sister I’d never had, constantly there to show her support, give advice, or just listen. And then there were my roommates: Ashley and Josie, I cannot imagine this semester without you. You two goofballs taught me so much. You cleaned up after my messy side of the room, you danced with me to countless songs, you pigged out with me in the worst ways possible: Ben & Jerry’s, Pringles, Potato Chips, and Chocolates. I wouldn’t have been able to share that beautiful room with anybody else. You’ve truly become my sisters and I’ll miss our spacious bedroom with our more than comfy Ikea beds in the beautiful St. Michael’s Mansion on the breathtaking Ailesbury Road. What I would do for one more kitchen dance party. Those goodbyes were not easy. And then my thoughts turn to my tearful goodbye to the breathtaking Dublin Bay, which has proven to become an amazing friend of mine. I know only crazy people and 5 year olds are allowed to claim inanimate objects as their friends, so maybe I’m crazy, but that place was always there for me and never ceased to amaze me from my first run in January to my last one on Thursday. I always ended up there when I’d need to get away from the house, or my homework, or technology and when things got hectic a trip to the bay made everything clear, it brought me back to the present, it shut my thoughts up and let me just be. Anyone that knows me in the house knows I never shut up about that place. Sometimes a 6 mile run would take up to an hour and a half because I would find a new place to just sit and watch the waves roll in and out, or the sail boats in Dun Laoghaire blow around, or a new glimpse at my favorite bright red lighthouse in the distance. The Dublin Bay was definitely one of the harder goodbyes I’d ever had.

Living here abroad and traveling Europe has changed me in more ways than I can even think of and I’d like to think it’s all for the better. I’ve figured out how to maneuver my way around foreign cities without the help of the ever so present iphone. I’ve learned about countless new cultures, met some truly incredible people from all over the world, and I’ve learned a shit ton about myself. I know I don’t have much of a right to be so sad to leave because of how lucky I am to have been able to experience this life in the first place and I count my blessings everyday, trust me.  Just two years ago the entire scope of my world was the drive from little old Margate to the halls of Atlantic City High School, but now, 24 months later, I find myself with three different places I’m lucky enough to claim as home: My quiet little South Jersey beach town, the skyscraper and river surrounded city of Pittsburgh, and the beautiful, breathtaking, buzzing town of Dublin Ireland. I’ve said it before and I know it’s cliché, but home is absolutely where the heart is and after this four month whirlwind, I’ll always have a piece of my heart on this Emerald Island. Until Next Time Dublin town

 

So much love,

Nellie

 

 

 

PS: I also need to send HUGE and incredibly heartfelt and grafteful thank you’s to the people who are making my departure from Dublin so much easier so look fo yo name!

 

Aunt Ceil: My friends and I always knew that as soon as a post with my name tagged it in went up, you’d be the first one on there to show your support and love. They would always say: you’re aunt really loves you doesn’t she? So thank you so much for constantly keeping up with me, and keeping in touch with me. For taking time to send me cards and money on my birthday! I’m so lucky to have you!

 

Aunt Beth: Always asking for the next blog post and always just as excited for my adventures as I am! You’re visit is something I would talk about to my last day in Ireland. My friends still ask me about my fun Aunt Beth. Thank you so much for all your support and love I’ll see you so so soon!

 

Kar-mom: Every time my blog post would go up I could count on you to share it right away along with an e-mail complimenting my writing and letting me know that you’re right along this adventure with me! Also incredibly grateful for the time you took to have everyone send me individual birthday cards with updates and love. And for sending me money in hopes that I could make these four months everything I wanted them to be. And I did so thank you.

 

Aunt Ellen: My G-mom. Thank you for the e-mails and all the encouragement on facebook and the texts letting me know that it’s okay to be sad I’m leaving, but that I also have so many amazing people to come home to! You’re financial assistance is also responsible for a lot of the amazing times I’ve had here and I have no idea how to thank you!

 

Aunt Jackie and Britt: I’m still so happy I got to see you here in Dublin. Thank you for taking your time to come over here and let me share some amazing memories with you. And for taking the time to send me the birthday card with all those pictures.. I think you can guess which one was my favorite.

 

Uncle Ed: I don’t even know where to start. Throughout all the time I’ve known you (so like… my entire life) you never ever let me make excuses or take an easy way out. You’re constantly finding the holes in my stories and forcing me to take the risks I may have been trying to find an excuse to avoid. You’ve helped me to become a better person in so many ways. I know we don’t do this sappy BS but I don’t know where I would be without your support.  You’re not just my uncle, but one of my closest friends and I constantly want to share what’s going on and my newest and most exciting stories with you. None of this would have been possible without you. So thank you so so so much.

 

Mom and Dad: For constantly supporting me, and never ever allowing me to limit myself to all the possibilities and adventures I experienced while I was here. For taking time away to come visit and allowing me to share my new world with you. I would be nowhere without your constant love and support and laughter. Another example of not only my parents but some of my best friends. I can’t believe I lasted so long without you guys around, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it if you didn’t teach me how to grow and be the independent person I am. I love you guys.

And also to Aunt Ruth, Nanny and Poppy, Patty Enright, and Suzie & Carl for all the mail. Everytime I’d see a postcard or envelope waiting with my name on it made my day a little brighter. Thank you so much for keeping up with my experiences here.

Alright readers, if you’re still with me, that’s probably about it for me and my adventures, I’m headed into a summer of two jobs and then an incredibly busy school year. Thanks so much for keeping up with me during my time abroad. My blog has surpassed 10,000 views over these four months and I’m sure to real bloggers that’s not a huge deal at all, but for me that’s incredible. So thanks for reading, even through my long rants like this one. Less than two hours until I’m home, I’ll see you all soon. Sláinte

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Bienvenidas esto es mi sueño

Hello Folks! It’s time for the final installment of Nellie’s Spring Break Adventures! This time in the beautiful city of Barcelona!

SO Ashley and I arrived in Barcelona March 19th and after a little bit of confusion found our hostel right off La Rambla – the touristy hub of Barcelona. We spent 5 days here and always had something to do. I definitely appreciated the warmth of the upper 60 degree weather, as Ireland hasn’t been passing the lower fifties. Unfortunately a lot of what we did was based on taking in the beautiful sights and since I still don’t have pictures of much I”m not sure how much I can put into words, but I’ve found a youtube video someone must have captured of me ash and some friends while we were making our way through the city:

Clearly we were having a blast. Anyways. That’s the best I can do without pictures. It actually captured a lot of the places we got to see! We started our first day with a free walking tour. And time for our third installment of “it’s a small world after all”: A boy in my tour group was wearing a T-shirt with St. Augustine’s Prep on the back. He didn’t go there, but he was from New Jersey. Weirdness. Anyway We learned a ridiculous amount on our short walking tour. But my ADD kicked in. I got so distracted by the sights that Ashley had to repeat more than half of the information our tour guide had taught us because I had zero memory of it.

Our hostel was just around the corner from the Gothic Quarter with most buildings dating back to medieval times, but some going as far back as the Roman settlements in Barcelona. The buildings were beautiful and walking through the little tiny ally-ways, it almost felt like we were being taken back in time. We saw a lot of Picasso and other artworks, but my absolute favorite sights was anything done by Antoni Gaudi, an architect from the late 19th and early 20th century. Ash and I made a point to visit his famed work throughout Barcelona, starting with Parc Guell, which can be seen in the video posted above. The park was intended to be a housing complex with beautiful views of the city, but proved to be unsuccessful and eventually became a national park. We spent hours roaming around the park, looking at the beautiful buildings and structures. It was like walking around Candy Land! We also made our way to La Casa Batllo which is absolutely beautiful. It built for a middle class family, but is now more a museum. Ash and I just admired the outside and then made our way to Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece: La Sagrada Familia. This church was unbelievable. Gaudi began his plans for the church in 1883, but because construction relied on private donations, the building of the church went by slowly and unfortunately, due to a Tram accident, Gaudi passed away in 1926, unable to ever see his finished product. Due to interruptions from the Spanish Civil war and still slowly incoming funds, the church remains unfinished, but there are plans of a finished product in 2026, the centennial of Gaudi’s death. I really can’t even find words to describe how breathtakingly unreal this place was so I’m just gonna steal some pictures from the internet.

Ash and I also got to see a fountain show that they call the “Magic Fountain” which can also sort of be seen in the video I posted above. And we made sure to eat a crazy amount of food and Tapas. Our favorite being “Patatas Bravas” which were french fries with a spicy mayo sauce on top. SOOO ridiculously good. The club scene was insane. Although I may have over done it the first night, and couldn’t really find the energy to go out with Ashley and a couple of her friends from Rome, the following night, Club nights should actually be considered club mornings as they usually being around 12 or 1 am and don’t end until 6 or 7 in the morning. Yikes. Our first night there we ended up accidentally in the VIP line of the club, but after pulling the stupid American card, they let us in for free, gave us free drink vouchers, a free shirt, and free shots. We had an absolute blast!

We also got in a beautiful walk around Montjuic Mountain where the 1992 Olympics took place, and at the very top was Castell de Monjuic which provided gorgeous landscaping and sights of the city. It was at a little restaurant up there that we discovered the beauty of Heineken and Lemonade mixed together. It’s my new favorite thing. Unfortunately it was still a bit to cold to try out the beaches, but we still got to go for a nice walk along them!

Fun fact about Barcelona: Their first language isn’t actually Spanish, its Catalan. The language seems incredibly complicated with hints of French, Spanish, and Italian. Their word for thank you being a strongly pronounced “merci” and good morning: “Bon Dia” We had so much fun some days just wandering around popping into crazy little shops and finding one of a kind jewelry and clothes.

And that was my unbelievable spring break of 2014. I’m still in shock at how lucky I am to be experiencing so many incredible things at my age. And it doesn’t stop there. Tomorrow I leave for Easter weekend in Rome where I get to experience Easter Mass with Pope Francis!!! Seriously someone pinch me!!!

Also, I’ve gotten some more mail from Susie and Carl,Ceil, and Aunt Ruth! I loved my cards and my updates on everyone and everything! Thank you guys so much!!! I can’t wait to respond to them all!! Now I need to start packing for Roma! Happy Eater everyone!

Until Next time,

Nellie xo

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“Some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom.”

Hi loyal friends, family, and other readers!

I’m sorry for neglecting the travel blog! I’ve been spending a lot of much needed catch up time with my house mates. I’ve missed them for almost a whole month as the end of February and much of March were jammed packed with out of the house activities. Anyway, I still haven’t updated the blog with all the info from my Amsterdam and Barcelona trips over spring break! Still I am virtually photo-less so I’ll try to paint the pictures for you as vividly as possible.

After our departure from Budapest, Ashley and I landed in Amsterdam Saturday March 15th. We stayed in a hostel a bit outside of the city center which was nice because we got a feel for the residential aspect of Amsterdam, as opposed to the played up tourist craziness typically found in the Red Light District and surrounding areas. We spent about four days in Amsterdam and I really really loved that city. The canals and bridges were beautiful. There were flowers and gardens everywhere. Thrift stores, book stores, and record stores lined the streets and bike riding was the main form of transportation. It was like a hipster’s paradise. I felt like I was living inside a romantic indie movie every time I walked the streets.

So after a bit of confusion in getting to our hostel, Ashley and I arrived late at night to a room of girls from America also studying abroad! One girl saw my wallet and noticed I was from New Jersey. She said she had a friend from New Jersey and so following the now memorized script I have when someone is familiar with NJ, I said “yeah, I from the Atlantic City area if you know where that is.” She said her friend was from that area too, from a town called Margate… I was in shock! A stranger in Amsterdam just said the word Margate. Just another small world event that happened while on my spring break! Turns out, after a bit of Facebook creeping her friend was actually from Northfield, but can ya blame her for lying? 😉

Our first day in Amsterdam began with a bit of exploring and then a free walking tour. One thing our tour guide pointed out as she took us around the city was the extremely logical and business oriented way of doing things in Amsterdam. There’s no judgement and no insanely strict laws. You can pretty much do whatever you see fit to do as long as it’s not causing extreme harm to your neighbors and fellow citizens. We started our tour in the infamous Red Light District and as promised, there were plenty of Naked girls on display in their storefront windows. But as much as they enjoy being stared at, apparently if you were to take a picture, they have a tendency to come out and beat the crap out of you. Just a forewarning for anyone planning on making a trip. But really readers, these prostitutes are heroes. Before you judge, let me explain. In Amsterdam’s beginnings it was huge for trading. Sailors would travel for weeks to bring their goods to trade in Amsterdam. Ships full of just men for weeks and weeks can get to be a bit maddening, putting the women of Amsterdam in harms way. So instead of having drunk, rambunctious sailors harassing and causing problems for the citizens of Amsterdam, some women found a business opportunity and that’s where the prostitute culture of Amsterdam began. In the center of the Red Light District, surrounded by prostitutes in windows is an old church. The church was strategically placed there so these rambunctious sailors would go pay to have their sins absolved in the morning. The dutch were always thinking of the best way to make business.

The houses here were really different. They were all tall and skinny since property tax was based on a house’s width. (shout out to my roommate Josie for giving me that little fun fact.) A lot of the houses were actually very crooked since they were built on marshland and the foundations were beginning to shift. Not so fun for the residents, but super cool to see. Another subculture I found to be really cool in Amsterdam is the squatting culture. Many people would buy out buildings and then never do anything with them. Because of this, a law was put into place: if a property went unused for a year, it was then open to public use, until the owner decided they were ready to do something with it. So squatters would place tape across a door, and if a year later that tape went unripped, they made their home there, free of charge. Many of the property owners actually benefitted from the squatters because they kept the homes clean and in shape and were quite friendly to neighbors. A few years back when a new government attempted to change the laws and make squatting illegal, many Amsterdam citizens began to protest in favor of the rent-free residents… I just love the way Amsterdam works. It’s so happy and care free. They don’t don’t seem to get caught up in the hyper sensitive, religious divisions, and petty complications a lot of other cities, states, and countries struggle with. A lot of their dealings are based off logic and functionality.

One of the crooked houses

One of the crooked houses

 

Of course Ash and I couldn’t leave without visiting the Anne Frank House. Growing up in such a prominently Jewish community (I counted and I’ve attended 16 freakin bar and bat mitzvah’s. 16.), and having met and heard countless amount of holocaust survivors come in and speak all throughout elementary school, middle school, and in high school even attending a survivor’s brunch where we had the opportunity to converse one-on-one with these incredible people, and of course reading The Diary of Anne Frank: being in the house where it was all written and being in a city that 70 years ago had an incredibly large Nazi presence was an overwhelming feeling. I never ever thought I’d even get close to the countless stories I had heard over the years, but there I was walking through Anne Frank’s hidden home. I’ll admit that at one point there were tears. I’ve already written a ridiculous amount so if you don’t know the story of Anne Frank, it’s not too difficult to learn, but you’re gonna have to go a little bit further than my blog to learn about it.

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Anne Frank House from the outside

Stole this pic from my roomie Josie. Check out her blog too! :http://josieurbanski.wordpress.com/

Stole this pic from my roomie Josie. Check out her blog too! :http://josieurbanski.wordpress.com/

AANDDD Of course there were also the coffeeshops and a fun little bar crawl. Ash and I also went to an old victorian style theater turned movie theater, where we fought off tired eyes to watch The Grand Budapest Hotel. The theater was beautiful and the movie was hilarious. Of the three countries Ashley and I visited Amsterdam, believe it or not, has been voted the best place to live and raise a family. There is so much tolerance and love in that city. The homes outside the city center are absolutely beautiful and the bike culture is my favorite. Amsterdam was the perfect four days of relaxed exploring Ashley and I needed before we hit the buzzing streets of Barcelona! <- Blog to follow!

PS Special shout out to Patty Enright and Auntie Ellen. Patty especially for the card! I love love love getting mail here and I loved the photo you took on the front (I’m in the process of e-mailing you back just incase this blog was too painfully long to read all the way through). And Aunt Ellen for the E-mail update. I loved it! I’m also in the process of e-mailing you back as well! Miss everybody tons, but thanking the universe for everyday I have here!

 

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There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.

Hello Friends, Fam, wordpress users who clicked on my abundant tags, and confused facebook friends who thought this was a quiz to figure out which Full House Character you are. (I haven’t taken the quiz yet, but my guess is I’d be Comet, I’ve always felt a deeper connection with his storyline).

ANYWAYS hey to all. I’m finally back and well rested from my eleven day spring break adventure! I can’t believe I get to say that my Spring break in 2014 was spent in Budapest, Amsterdam, and Barcelona with my best friend. But it’s real. And I did. And now I’m going to write about it so that I have proof that I did. So here I go:

I left Dublin for Budapest on Thursday March 13th. I arrived in the Budapest airport at 11 a.m. to a very exhausted roommate who had been waiting there for me since 1 a.m. Once we figured out the bus and train system we were on our way to the city. I have to give a huge thanks to Ash for doing all the homework and picking out the best possible hostels to stay in during our travels. She did an amazing job! Our Hostel in Budapest was a two minute walk from St. Stephen’s Basilica as well as walking distance from almost everything in the city. One thing Ashley and I learned over our travels is that a walking tour of the city is an absolute must. We found a tip-based, free walking tour of Budapest where we learned a lot of really interesting things that at this point I probably remember about 1/3rd of. BUT we live in the age of the internet, and therefore I can cheat.

Budapest (pronounced Buda-pesht) is the capital of Hungary. There are two parts of the city which are separated by the Danube river. We were staying on the Pest side. The Pest side, while still possessing incredibly beautiful, and seemingly old, buildings everywhere, is considered the more modern side of the city. Many of these seemingly old buildings with incredibly detailed architecture, actually only date back to the late 19th, early 20th century. Regardless of their young age, they were still incredible. Especially St. Stephen’s Basilica, which is tied as the tallest building in Budapest with the Parliament building to symbolize an equal importance of government and religion. The Buda side of the city, mainly the castle district, is equally as beautiful. It’s where a lot of the wealthier Hungarian citizens live (including the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube) as well as the home to the amazing Castle district. We had a gorgeous view of the Danube and the Pest side of the City once we reached the top of the Royal Palace. We also saw the Mathias Church which looks like a Disney Princess Castle.

Unfortunately we only had two and a half days to spend and we didn’t get to climb to the highest point, or take a Turkish Thermal bath, or see any of the really cool museums like The House of Terror. BUT we did try chimney cake (sooo amazing) and we did go caving. Well, Ashley did everything but drag me by my hair to go caving. (technically it’s called Spelunking, but I can’t type Spelunking without hysterically laughing, so for the sake of finishing this blog in a timely manor, let’s call it caving). Budapest is built on top of underground springs, responsible for the naturally heated thermal baths. These thermal springs have also created caves and these caves have become a guide-led adventure for people to partake in. I was so so so scared, but after a pep talk from Ashley during which I was called the explicit name of a lady’s certain body part multiple times, I really had no choice. We put on some intense caving gear and we were on our way. The experience was incredible. There were times when we had to squeeze through holes so tight, some of the bigger people were forced to take an alternate route. There were also giant rooms in the caves and at one point while we were all sitting together in one of the bigger rooms, our guide told us to turn off our lights on our helmets. We sat in pitch black darkness. It was so peaceful. Then our guide sang a traditional Hungarian song with the complete darkness and the echos of the cave. And then he asked if any of his group members could sing. Ashley couldn’t keep her mouth shut and I was forced to sing, but luckily it was pitch black and no one could see my bright red face.

That night we decided we would do a bar crawl. Budapest has a lot of “ruin bars” which are bars built in the ruins of the Jewish quarter, which was abandoned after World War II. We only got to check out one on our bar crawl but they seem absolutely insane and a total must if you’re in Budapest. Bar Crawls are also a great way to meet people when you’re traveling. Almost all the people on this bar crawl, however, were UCD students on spring break. Small world (small world seemed to be a recurring theme on this break as I traveled from country to country). Ashley and I made friends with the people that run the Bar Crawl. Daniel, Chris, and Michael. Meeting new people is one of the absolute best things about traveling. The stories people have to tell are incredible. Simply asking Daniel his last name, led to an amazing story about his grandfather, who was in the Holocaust and in line to enter a death camp only to make a run for it and get shot in the back. He survived the shot, but remained on the ground to appear dead and escape in the night. Chris and Michael came from England. They had intended to visit Budapest for only four days.. that was two months ago. They ended up becoming great friends with Daniel and just decided to live with him and help him with the bar crawl.

Out of the countries Ashley and I visited we voted Budapest the best one to study abroad in. English is incredibly easy to come by, prices are affordable, and the ruin bar nightlife as well as museums and communism, or Jewish walking tours prove there’s always something to do there. Sadly our two and a half days in Budapest were over before we knew it, but I have every intention of returning. It was incredible and I still have so much I’d love to be able to do there! But it was time to pack our bags and head to our next destination: Amsterdam. <- blog post coming soon!

Unfortunately throughout the trips I relied on Ashley’s super fancy Nikon camera and kept my phone in my pocket only to find out she can’t upload pictures to her computer at the moment! But my mother is really pushing for these blog posts and so you’ll have to rely on my words and less on the pictures. As soon as Ashley gets the opportunity to upload the pictures I’ll share them asap.

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“And to sit beside a turf fire in the cabin And see the sun go down on Galway Bay”

Hey hey!

I’m writing to ya’ll on a train bound for Amsterdam Central Station! Ash and I just left Budapest and plan to spend four days in this Netherlands city. As I try to pass time on this lengthy train ride, I started scrolling through my Instagram feed featuring forty shades of green, orange, and white partnered with a crap ton of alcohol and drunk selfies. This can only mean one thing: it’s St. Paddy’s (Not patty’s) parade day! Which reminded me: I never updated you on my trip to Galway!! Hopefully I can pack in some irish facts for you guys just in time for the season!

SO I arrived in Galway a day earlier than my classmates because my parents and Uncle Ed wanted to see the West as well. After I said my sad goodbyes, I checked out of one luxury hotel and walked thirty seconds down the road to check into another. Rough life I lead I know. The first day with my classmates was spent getting acquainted with the city and the beautiful Galway Bay. We also did a group dinner, searched for claddagh rings, and enjoyed a night out.

The next day we got to experience some on sight irish history and culture. We took a beautiful ride out to a farm where we saw a beautiful view of the country side and then we were driven by tractor-pulled trolly to an old cottage once owned by famed farmer Dan O’hara. A farmer forced by tyrannical landlords to leave his home after he refused to pay the fine for increasing the size of his windows. He and his family packed up and left for America. Unfortunately, his wife and one of his children died on the boat ride over and he was left broken hearted and poor, forced to sell matchboxes on the streets where he would sing this song:

some irish info I learned at the cottage, if you are easily bored you may want to skip ahead a bit.
The man giving the tour showed us how to pull turf. A solidy/muddy substance found in the ground. The turf is packed so tight that oxygen can’t get in and due to the lack of oxygen, perfectly preserved bodies (bog bodies) have been found four times in the irish turf. The guide cut a piece in half revealing some plants that can date back to a time when Christ was walking the earth. When the turf sits out for a few days it’s eventually dried out and used in fireplaces to produce fire: a turf fire.

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The man also explained the story of wellies (rainboots) and why they call them such a strange name. (Sparked my interest as Uncle ed had just gotten me a pair and we did not understand the term at all) well General Wellington -the Irish-English general responsible for defeating Napoleon- died and as a sign of respect his boots were turned backwards in the foot holes of the saddle on his horse. This created a leather boot fashion trend, and when someone started making them out of rubber to cut costs, the name was born.

Once inside the cottage our guide pulled out some moonshine from a hiding spot in the ceiling. The irish call it: uisce beatha which literally means “water of life” and is thought to have influenced the modern irish word fuisce meaning whiskey. I’m assuming that was the drink of choice for most yesterday, so now you can say it in the irish language! (Don’t ask me how to pronounce it) After the introduction, he poured some people shots. I opted out. But I enjoyed hearing the familiar toast that he taught to the students braver than I: “Here’s to those who wish us well and those who don’t can go to hell” (familiar thanks to my abundant irish alcoholic family members.)

Then we left for Kylemore Abbey to see how the other half (the landlords) lived during those times. It was incredible. And also very nearby multiple filming locations from The Quiet Man. This was the mansion belonging to the Henry family. The owner was a landlord who had a bit more sympathy for the farmers than many others of his kind did.

The next day we left early morning for the Cliffs of Moher. I have zero words for them. It was a surreal experience. I managed to stray from the group and avoided picture taking in order to get to the best view in limited time. Once I reached my destination I stood in silence for ten minutes looking around in awe and feeling incredibly small. I wish I could find words or pictures to really do it justice, but I cannot.

After the cliffs was a lunch stop that I appreciated: the original Durty Nelly’s. Then a trip to Bunratty castle/village. The castle was really well preserved and had real artifacts from room to room. We also got the chance to walk around the little Bunratty village and pet some Irish wolfhounds, goats (the funniest animal ever), and a piggie.

Once we were done at the village, we packed on our bus and headed back home to Dublin. Finally all my essays, visitors, and trips were taken care of and I had two days to myself before packing up and leaving for my 3 countries in 12 days trip. Budapest to Amsterdam to Barcelona. I’m four days in and having the absolute time of my life. I can’t wait to write all about it.

Until then: I hope your parade day was a great Craic!
Saint Patrick was a gentleman,
Who through strategy and stealth,
Drove all the snakes from Ireland,
Here’s a toasting to his health.
But not too many toastings
Lest you lose yourself and then
Forget the good Saint Patrick
And see all those snakes again.
‘Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!’
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Sláinte

Some (memory based and probably only half true) St. Patrick facts:
-he first arrived in Ireland from England as a slave.
-upon escaping/being freed he returned to his home only to hear a calling from God to go back and convert the Pagan Irish to Catholics.
-it’s believed Patrick May not have been the first to introduce Catholicism as a man named Palladius was documented as a catholic missionary in Ireland a few years before Patrick’s alleged return to the country.
-he became famed years after his death due to two writers, who are believed to have been the originators of the famed snake story among other myths surrounding the saint. They did so in hopes of making the saint of their church the patron saint of Ireland.
-America has adopted the holiday and some irish say the parades in America are bigger and better than the ones throughout Ireland!!!

To live above with the Saints we love,
Ah, that is the purest glory.
To live below with the Saints we know,
Ah, that is another story!

Okay bye for real this time!

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We swam among the northern lights And hid beyond the edge of night

Hei Verden. Jeg er forelsket i Norge!

(Hi, world. I am in love with Norway!)

Honestly the only thing I could type with out using google translator in that sentence was hi, but that’s okay because obviously I’m not Norwegian (yet).

This country is breathtaking. Although I will probably be finishing this post when I have returned to my cozy room in Dublin, I’m beginning it as we wait for our flight from Tromso to Oslo and the gallery below is my current situation. Have you ever heard of people wind skiing? I haven’t, but I’m watching it happen right now as I eat my wasabi peanuts and Ashley sips her latte from the warm comforts of the airport cafe.

I’m starting this post a bit premature as we still have another 24 hours or so to explore Norway, but with all my visitors coming to Dublin at the same exact time as all my assignments are due for my classes, I figure I better make the most of the little free time I happen upon.

When Ashley and I revealed our plans to travel to Norway a few weeks back we received the same warning from multiple worldly sources: Norway is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Wish we knew that one before we booked our flight but our flights were cheap and we were determined to see those Northern Lights, so we bought some snacks from the Dublin Tesco and we were on our way.

We arrived in Oslo, Norway late Thursday night. We got a taxi to our hostel and quickly went to bed. We had an early flight the next morning to Tromso which is renowned as one of the best places the Northern Lights can be seen. When we arrived in Tromso at about 10 am we had some time to kill before we were able to check into our room at 3, so we explored the city and I am completely smitten. Tromso is a small Norwegian island in the Arctic circle. Although it has the same latitude as other freezing arctic locations, it’s temperatures are much higher due to its rare relationship with winds coming from the gulf coast. From the 21st of November to the 21st of January the city doesn’t see the sun at all. Although it’s not pitch black all day everyday for those three months, the sun doesn’t visit again until January 22nd and only hangs around for about half an hour to an hour; but it stays a little longer each day until about May 21st. When May 21st arrives, the sun is there to stay 24/7 and doesn’t begin to disappear again until July 21st. The wildlife here is supposed to be surreal during those winter months. Our Northern Lights tour guide told us of one tour he was on last January where they stopped the bus to view the lights and while they were taking in the beautiful sights of the lights, they could hear the whales breathing in the water.

Ashley and I walked around this cute little arctic town for a couple of hours and never really found ourselves bored. There was always a beautiful sight to see or beautiful street to walk down. We went to a pretty authentic Norwegian restaurant for lunch. I got something I was told was a shrimp sandwich but ended up looking like this

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While Ashley ordered the “pickled herring” sandwich which came with mashed potatoes:

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Each were somewhere around $20-25… Insert cringe here. But we were warned that Norway wasn’t cheap so we sucked it up and sucked it down. Although Ashley’s meal wasn’t as appetizing as mine, we were proud of the fact that we experienced a bit of Norwegian culture. The Herring fish is very common in the oceans of Tromso and their migration patterns are what brings about the large amount of whales to Norway every winter.

Once we finished our meals, we grabbed a latte and attempted to find something to do that didn’t make us weep at the act of pulling out our wallets. We stumbled upon a free photo gallery featuring an Italian artist from the 50’s-70’s. We really enjoyed it. We did a bit more sight seeing, I took some pictures of some really cool looking boats for my dad’s sake, and then we headed to check into our hostel.

After a bit of rest from the nonstop travel, we started preparing for our journey to chase the lights. Two different wool socks, and a pair of alpaca socks squeezed into my Uggs, two pairs of outdoor wool lined running pants, two cold weather shirts under a Northface jacket liner, under my Northface parka along with a pair of earmuffs and a souvenir Norway hat (which was cheaper than my sandwich..) and a scarf and gloves and I was ready for our journey.

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We met outside a hotel around the corner from us and boarded a bus that would take us away from the city lights and onto a “base camp” where the lights were most likely to be seen. There you had the option to purchase a hot meal, but they also had free hot chocolate, Norwegian cakes (I have no idea what they were but they were absolutely delicious) and hot coffee. They also had a fire pit and two heated rooms available if the temperatures became too much to handle.

While we were waiting around the fire pit for our glimpse of the lights, I met a couple from Dublin. The woman told me her sister was a speech pathologist and while there wasn’t much of a demand for it in Ireland, a company from Australia flew her there and pay her massive amounts of money to go work with the aborigines. As soon as I get some wifi I plan on doing a bit more research on jobs like that and spell checking aborigines.

The camp ground we were situated in turned out to be a bust. The clouds were so thick even the stars were hiding, so we decided if the lights weren’t going to come to us we were going to go to them. We boarded the bus in search for some clear skies. After about an hour drive some stars started to appear through the clouds and we found a place on the road to pull over and look for the lights again.

Unfortunately conditions weren’t ideal, but we got luckier than some. The lights appeared, but were very scarce and difficult to see behind the clouds. With some special setting up of Ashley’s Nikon we got some pictures that actually made the lights easier to see than in person. The group was a bit disappointed with the display, but Ashley and I decided we weren’t supposed to experience the full beauty of the northern lights quite yet.

I’ve decided that as soon as I can figure out what an English speaking speech pathologist can do to afford the prices of food in Norway, I am moving to Tromso and raising an adorable blonde haired blue eyed skiing champ family. Or atleast spending my honey moon there where I can take the time to really try to find the Northern Lights.

We arrived in Oslo Saturday evening. We took the subway (I now know the Oslo public transit system better than Atlantic City’s or Pittsburgh’s) to our apartment style hostel in the eastern side of Oslo. The transit systems have places where you can buy tickets but we found ourselves getting on and off subways and busses for free without issue. Our hostel was in a bit of a shadier part of the city but it was cozy so we were okay. We grabbed a delicious raw-fish free dinner at a very hipster-style restaurant and cringed at our bill again. The next morning we explored the city and obsessed over the incredible architecture. We took a bus to a peninsula with a weird name that I’m not going to even attempt to spell. It had a lot of cool museums and beautiful sights of the sea. Apparently it’s also the location of the king’s summer home. As you’ll be able to tell in the pictures it was a bit of a dreary day, but we still enjoyed it. Oslo seems it’d be a much more breathtaking experience come the summer time when their green parks are in full bloom. Alas Tromso will forever have my heart and I’m already planning my second trip back (I wish).

All this talk about money and expenses always brings a bit of worry and anxiety to any normal college student. I just wanted to take the time to give an extremely heartfelt thank you to my Favorite partner in Paleo crime, Uncle Eddie for making all the amazing things I’m lucky enough to experience over these four months possible. Anytime there’s even a little bit of hesitation in considering a pricey activity he’s there to say “don’t worry about it Nell, go ahead. Whatever you need.” I don’t even have to ask. I am so lucky to have someone like him whose only worry is that I am safe and having the absolute best experience that I can. So thank you thank you thank you thank you to my amazing Uncle Ed. Who would’ve thought 15 years ago when I was making egg rivers out of my dippy eggs and French fries that’d I’d now be living in Dublin and traveling the world and so much of it is thanks to you! In return for your kindness I will make sure that when your so old that not even your Paleo diet can save you, you will have the hottest hospice nurse in your nursing home. 🙂 But seriously I really am forever and ever grateful to have you in my life and so very excited for you to get here in just one short week!

Uncle Ed ed 2 ed 3

Talk to ya’ll next week with updates on my visits from Aunt Jackie, Brittany, Ashley, Uncle Ed, Momma and Poppa!!

Inntil neste gang! xxxx

(Until Next Time!)

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