“Do Not Be Afraid to Dream Great Things” – Pope Francis

HEELLOOOOOOOOO Fam and frandsss!!

I’m currently sitting in the airport waiting to board a flight for what is hopefully going to be a beautiful week on the island of Crete! Our entire house ended up booking a flight and soon we’ll all be laying out on the Greek beaches, (sort of) studying for the finals that are fast approaching (yikes). But enough about the future because I still haven’t updated this blog about the past and what is likely to be my most memorable experience while abroad: our Easter weekend in Rome! And before you ask, no I was not mistaken for an international superstar, only to become a part of a scheme to embarrass the crap out of my international superstar counterpart and then sing a duet with my international superstar doppelgänger. It’s not as common as you’d think…

Okay so We arrived to Duquesne’s Rome campus – what is actually a convent for a Nazareth Charter of nuns –  located a bit outside the city center. Josie (my roomate) and I were reunited with our best friend and current Rome resident Ashley! We got to meet and make friends with a lot of the Duquesne students studying in Rome and share our experiences. The Rome Vs. Dublin experience is so incredibly opposite it’s impossible to compare the two and I have no idea which I would prefer.

ANYWAY we arrived Thursday morning and almost immediately our Easter weekend began. We celebrated Holy Thursday with a church crawl led by the only English speaking nun, and Philadelphia native Sister Mercedes along side a priest, some students from the Loyola Chicago Rome campus as well as a group of seminaries. We all were given a candle and a prayerbook and were guided through the streets of Rome visiting some of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen in my life.  Luckily I utilized my iphone this time around and I can finally post some more pictures than I’ve been able to!

After our church crawl we were treated to an amazing Italian meal and then sent on our way so we could get rested and be prepared for the following early morning. We woke up bright and early on Friday and made our way to the Vatican! Where world renowned art historian and an adjunct professor for Duquesne, Elizabeth Lev gave us a swift moving and sarcasm filled guided tour. I loved it and her. Although she’s american, she grew up in Italy as her mother was US ambassador to the Holy See and one of Pope Francis’ top advisors, Liz is fluent in Italian and has a family with a former priest!!  She also served as a main consultant during the writing and filming of the Da Vinci Code (I think). The woman is pretty freaking cool. The Vatican was unreal and I wish I could’ve retained half of the incredible facts Liz Lev provided us with butttttttt I could not. Soooo here comes my completely uneducated and description-ally (haha that is soo not a word) challenged explanation of our tour through the Vatican. I just remember thinking about how many incredible people lived and walked around the grounds I was touring. Obviously Michelangelo was a huge part of our tour. We saw the Belvedere torso. An ancient sculpture that inspired his anatomical style of sculpting. We also walked through a courtyard which is apparently where Michelangelo among other famous sculptors and artists would sit and gather inspiration. It was gorgeous and filled with Greek mythology inspired sculptures. We walked through rooms with walls and ceilings filled with incredibly detailed artwork and architecture until we eventually came to the Sistine Chapel. Now time for some fun, probably inaccurate, facts about the Sistine Chapel that I only sort of remember: Although Michelangelo was a sculptor he was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The Ceiling tells a story of Creation and human life on Earth with famous stories such as Noah’s Arc (P.s. the Russel Crowe movie.. blows. Don’t go see it.), and Adam and Eve. My absolute favorite painting (originally meant only for the pope among other esteemed Clergy’s eyes) is the one directly behind the alter depicting the day of judgement, appropriately named “The Last Judgement”. Michelangelo had first painted everyone in the photo nude and in their most beautiful form (ripped bods and six packs) in order to communicate the perfection that comes with the ascension to heaven.He included women and blacks ascending into heaven as well, depicting an idea of equality that was years before it’s time. The amount of detail that went into the painting could leave me typing for hours.  Eventually the painting reached the public eye and in order to avoid the massive backlash, the addition of fig leaves was added to the parts of the photo that weren’t as favorable to the public and therein lies the beginning of “fig-leafing” (Something I wish they’d do to the nude statue just put into place on UCD’s campus. Who puts a naked man in the middle of a college campus?). ANYWAYYYYYYYYYY (bored with me yet?) After that came St. Peter’s basilica and holy heaven (see what I did there?) that place was unlike any Basilica or church I’ve been in yet. I was in shock. I just kept walking around and around and underground until I was so late to meet the group they almost left me!

 

The group, however, did not leave me, and upon finding them at the last minute, we headed out to make our way around the City of Rome! We found the pantheon which was breath taking. It was built between 27 BC and 14 AD as a temple to the Gods of Ancient Rome. The Granite columns seen at the front of the Pantheon came all the way from egypt by way of rivers. Which brought about the question I found myself asking on way, way more than one occasion: “How the heck did these people do this?” Our self guided tour around the city also brought us to the President’s mansion, the remains of four ancient temples only discovered in the 1920’s when the find halted plans to build there. It’s now believed those temples are the site of the assasination of Julius Caesar. Then we came to the Ancient Roman forums and eventually landed around the beautiful Vittorio Emanuele monument and the Colosseum where we were meant to meet our group for the 9 o’clock Station’s of the Cross with the one and only Papa Francesco! We knew the Pope would be difficult to see, and the stations would be recited in Italian, but the energy of the atmosphere was so amazing that just being able to be a part of it was unforgettable.

We arrived back at the convent a bit late and headed to bed. Saturday morning, the Rome and Dublin kids all took a bus trip to the Tivoli gardens guided my the Dr.’s Wilson. A married couple well known for their knowledge on art history. The Tivoli Gardens were amazing to walk through. Once home to Cardinal Ippolito II D’Este, in the 1500’s it’s now a UNESCO world heritage site. The gardens are filled with beautiful fountains and plants and the home is wall-to-wall in artwork.  After the Tivoli trip, we packed up and headed to Nemi. A small town in Italy known for their little baby strawberries called Fragoline. We all had a group lunch at a restaurant over looking Lake Nemi, a volcanic crater lake with an undetermined depth. There we took part in a mini wine tasting and got to know each respective Duquesne abroad campus a bit better. When we returned to the convent, Ashley and another Rome student Dave, took us out into the pouring rain and gave us their own tour of the city. They were the best for taking time out of their super busy schedule just to walk through the soaking wet streets of Rome for us. They took us to the Spanish stairs. So named due to their close location to the Spanish Embassy,  as well as a church and their favorite gelato place. So much Gelato before our trip to Greece probably wasn’t our most bathing suit friendly idea, but “When in Rome ;)” Ashley also gave us the origin of that now common phrase: It originated with St. Augustine in a letter to Januarius when Januarius asked how he should handle the differing Church customs of the Romans. St. Augustine’s advice became the now famous phrase: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Josie and I also got to make our wishes at the Trevi Fountain which we were able to experience at night and during a gorgeous Roman day. I can’t tell you which was more beautiful. Once we were soaked to the bone from the Rain we headed back to the convent to rest up for the big event: Easter Sunday!!

Easter Sunday 2014 will forever be unforgettable and something I’ll look back on and talk about for the rest of my life! We got up around 6 am in order to prepare for the 10:15 mass.The Roman transportation systems were a bit of a pain in the butt so we arrived a little less ahead of the crowd than we would have preferred, but as Sister Mercedes said “You can’t be nice at Easter Mass. Just push and push and push until you find your spot” and that’s exactly what we did. BUT as it turns out, we didn’t really have to. Sister Mercedes along with a few other students had arrived an hour earlier than us and reserved three whole rows front and center. None of us could believe our luck, and the level of bad-ass-ness little 70 year old Sister Mercedes possessed. We all knew we were experiencing something we’d always remember. The mass was incredible with at least five different languages used throughout. Luckily the mass booklet contained an English translation for everything.They even managed to serve Eucharist to almost all of those in attendance. Once the mass ended, the Pope made his processions in his suuuuuuper pimped out Pope mobile. He was just a few feet in front of us I couldn’t believe it! I tried as hard as I could to take pictures while also trying to be as present in the moment as possible which lead to a blurry pope but an incredibly detailed photo of the back of Ashley’s head. BUT we were lucky enough that we got a second chance as Papa Francesco made another trip past our young crew and I managed to take a much better photo. I can’t believe I was able to be that close to someone that is likely to be on of the most influential Catholic figures of my lifetime. Viva Il Papa!

After Mass we enjoyed a nice little Easter lunch with some of the Rome kids and then Josie and I broke away from the group in a blind search for the Colosseum as we had yet to experience the inside. Note: If you go to the colosseum, do not be discouraged by the long and disorganized line that precedes your ticket purchase. It’s a much quicker wait than it looks. But in order to avoid the ticket line completely, reserve your tickets online. Things will go even more smoothly. Anyway. Along our colosseum search, we stumbled upon the church St. Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major), a church Ashley had explained to us is the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. It was built between 432-440 AD and was one of the first churches built in honour of the Virgin Mary. And just like every other incredibly detailed church in Rome, it was breathtaking. Finally we stumbled upon the Colosseum and made our way inside. I wanted to type out all the fun facts and history of the colosseum but it’s a crap ton and with the amount of info I’ve already typed out I’d be surprised if anyone actually read this far instead of just quitting after my sad attempts at describing the Sistine Chapel to just start looking through the picture galleries I’ve been providing. But, I took lots of pictures of the information the Colosseum  provided and hopefully you’ll be able to read the info from there if you so chose!

Finally we enjoyed a wonderful Easter dinner the Nun’s prepared for us at the convent where Josie Ashley and I were able to catch up and enjoy our last hours together before Josie and I departed back to Ireland and Ashley departed back to America. She leaves April 30th! It’s funny because I was able to see and spend more time with Ashley while we were in Europe than I’ll be able to all summer while we’re both in America. It also made me realize how lucky I was to be able to travel and experience so much with my best friends. As David Gordon (Gordo) (Lizzie McGuire people!!) once wisely said “I’m in Rome with my best friend, what else would I wish for?!” <- I may have embellished that line a tiny bit.

And that concludes my lengthy recap on an unforgettable experience in the Eternal City. I’ve been so busy with travels and playing blog-catch up that I haven’t been able to update on my downtime in Dublin so that post should hopefully come during my upcoming downtime in Greece. After my week in Greece comes my week of UCD final exams (pray for me puhlease) and then a short week later I am returning home! I can’t even think about it though because as much as I miss every single person at home, I cannot imagine leaving Dublin and the amazing home and family I’ve been blessed with here! Anyway onwards to Greece! Hope everyone’s Easter was filled with lot’s of bunnies and chocolate and Jesus and maybe some Snoop Dog and such!

Caio for now!!!

xoxo Nellie

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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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May you have love that never ends, lots of money, and lots of friends.

Well, two out of three ain’t bad!

Hey fam, friends, stangers, and others,

So my first of many visitors have come and gone without any casualties (other than some scraped knees on poor, drunk Emily.). And holy crap you Americans are crazy. 😉 I’d recovered from my tonsillitis and Aunt Beth (who asked me to stop calling her aunt), Emily, and Olivia arrived last Wednesday afternoon and had a non-stop week long party that I almost had trouble keeping up with. Wednesdays are a busy day for me with classes starting and 9 am and going till 8 pm, so when I arrived to their hotel around 9, I was far behind their pint count as they had started their party as soon as their plane touched down. Crazy crazy Americans.

So if the first day was any indicator, clearly we spent many a nights exploring pubs and trying to find Beth the best Irish coffee in the city (which we decided can be found at the Porterhouse). While Beth was falling in love with Irish coffee and Brown Bread, the girls were falling in love with the heartthrob bar staff of the Auld Dubliner. Barry, Warren, and Owen became quick friends to Emily, Bethy, and Liv, and we were sure to stop in for a pint every night so they could say their hellos. Some other pubs we frequented this week included O’Neill’s which has some great Trad music playing upstairs every night, Peardy O’Kearny’s where I was forced to sing – sorry, scream- a rendition of Valerie as per Beth’s not so optional suggestion, and the Old Storehouse which might have been my personal favorite. It screamed classic Irish pub culture with displays of old newspaper articles, pictures, and Guinness adds lining the walls as some musicians played some great Irish pub songs.

But contrary to popular belief, the girls’ entire time here, was not spent watching Barry and Warren run around the Auld Dubliner. We got some culture and history lessons in as well as my personal favorite part of the visit; some home cooked meals!!! We spent one of our days roaming around the beautiful Trinity campus, visiting the Book of Kells and the Old Library which looked like a scene out of Harry Potter, and of course an hour or so afterwards you could’ve found us drinking Irish Coffee and Pints at the Porterhouse, but quit judging, we needed an afternoon pick me up. Saturday was one of my favorite days here. We were picked up by Beth’s friends and Dublin residents Amanda and Diarmud, sister and brother-in-law to her boss and friend in Atlantic city, Ruth. Amanda and Diarmud took us to the Glasnevin Cemetery, museum, and botanical gardens. Diarmud is a huge history buff and told us all about Daniel O’Connell’s grave among other historically important figures buried there. We were also able to visit Amanda’s brother and father’s spots in the beautiful cemetery and afterwards roamed the grounds of the Botanical Garden nearby. Afterwards we headed to Amanda’s mother’s house where I enjoyed my first home cooked meal in over a month! Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread. I was in heaven. Their family and home was a fantastic environment to be around. The girls also spent a day touring Belfast, but I sat out of that trip in hopes of catching up on some homework I had been neglecting. I ended up watching hours of How I Met Your Mother, but hey at least I got to rest!

The last night of the trip was spent at Amanda and Diarmud’s. They made us soup and ribs. I think my enthusiasm for the Spaghetti meal aroused some pity in them and they decided I could use another home cooked meal 😉 . It was so so delicious. Amanda is an amazing cook. and They’re both great company. I’m so glad I have some friendly faces to turn to in Dublin and I’m so appreciative of the great time they showed all of us while Beth, Liv and Emily were here. So that was our week in a nut shell. Clearly lots of love and lots of friends!! I had an awesome awesome time with my first round of visitors. I leave for Norway tomorrow afternoon in search for the Northern lights. When I return on Sunday I have just a few short days of classes until my roommate and best friend Ashley, Aunt Jackie, and Brittany arrive on Thursday and just a few short days later Uncle Ed, and my Mommy and Daddy are finally here!!!! This is gonna be a fantastic couple of weeks and I can’t wait to write all about it!!!!

Until Next Time! xxx

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A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures.

Hi world!

I’m writing to you from my bed, where I have been for the past 48 hours because I figure, meh Ireland’s cool and all but, watching 2 and a half seasons of How I Met Your Mother is like wayyyy cooler. Jokes. I’m sick. I have the Plague and I am dying. Jokes again. I have the ever so persistent strep throat. It feels like a burning hot curling iron is lodged in my throat and I haven’t been able to eat or talk at all, but don’t cry for me people. I will be okay I will make it out of this alive I promise you.

Welcome to my Pity Party! We have snacks!

Welcome to my Pity Party! We have snacks!

BUT there is good news (besides the fact that I can eat pints of Ben and Jerry’s without the usual self loathing that follows): Before the strep really kicked in I had the opportunity to do some super cool Irish stuff on Saturday (and it was all paid for by UCD. Win!) So we started our day at the Newgrange passage tomb in Co Meath. If you’re like me and you had no idea what that is, I shall tell you what that is.

Newgrange

Newgrange

The Newgrange passage tomb was built in 3200 B.C. Before the invention of the wheel, before the pyramids were even a thought in egyptian minds, and… Before Christ? (I couldn’t think of a third one). Anyway the fact that this thing was built before the invention of the wheel is pretty impressive because the stones they used were only available in other Irish counties. These stone age people had to carry these rocks from places miles and miles away to build this thing. The Newgrange tomb went unexplored for thousands of years until the 60’s when an archeological team was put together to do some excavating. Before then, Cows could still be seen grazing on the grass on top of the tomb. Something else incredibly impressive was the window-type structure above the entrance to the tomb. During the winter solstice, when the sun is rising, this window structure was carefully placed where it was in order to capture the sunlight to shine directly into the tomb. We could only see a reenactment of the event, but still very very impressive. While it is still unsure as to what exactly the tomb was for, it is believed that these people would cremate their dead, place the ashes in the tomb, and when the winter solstice arrived, the beam of sunlight (if they were sun worshippers) would carry their souls onto their afterlife.  While we were inside the tomb, the tour guide was sure to let us know that we were standing under thousand of tons of rock that were placed there without any adhesive assistance. Comforting. But still an incredibly cool experience.

After we finished our tour at Newgrange, we bussed to a place called Causey Farms. First we partnered up and learned how to make Irish Soda Bread (Psh I already knew how to do that). While we were waiting for our bread to bake, we went into a barn where we learned an Irish Dance and learned how to play an Irish drum a.k.a bodhrán. In case you were wondering, I wasn’t very good at either. We still had some time to kill so the farm owners took us to look at some baby lambs that had just been born where I fulfilled the long sung prophecy: Mary had a little lamb. Those things were so freakin’ cute I came so very close to sneaking one home with me. At that point the strep was really kickin’ in so I didn’t get to try our Irish Soda Bread, but I heard it was great.

I’m hoping for a speedy recovery because Beth, Liv, and Emily get here Wednesday!! I’m so excited to have my first visitors in Dublin! Hope all is well at home, or wherever you’re reading this from! Miss everyone a lot a lot a lot!! I’ve had my good laugh with writing this, now it’s time for a long long long sleep.

Sláinte!

 

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“Tis a beautiful land this dear isle of song, Its gems shed their light to the world”

Hey hey!!

It’s 9 a.m. here and while I should be getting ready for class I’m just way too excited to start this post. Quick UCD update: In hopes of meeting more students at UCD, we all decided to join some of the school’s clubs and societies that they offer. There’s some really cool options for students including wind surfing, mountaineering, and judo. I didn’t choose any of those. But I did join the boxing club (after they promised I didn’t have to compete if I didn’t want to). I also joined the Saint Vincent Di Paul volunteer club, and the music society. The music society kind of creates a network for musicians at the school and also holds open mic nights and provides vocal workshops. Can’t wait till they start up.

But anyway on to the fun stuff. Saturday morning Josie, Ashley and I headed off to Kinsale in Co Cork. I don’t even think words can describe how much I love this place. We arrived at our hostel Saturday afternoon and it was comedically terrible. We all sat in the room and laughed for ten minutes about our beds and the smell of the hostel and then decided we might as well get out of there and start exploring. We found Jim Edwards (thanks Karen) and grabbed lunch. Because it was so early we decided to walk around for a bit, but none of us were prepared for the rain and ended up soaking wet and seeking refuge in a little chocolate shop called Koko. We asked about a bar I had read about online… turns out it’s been closed for ten years.. not embarrassing at all. While we were using the man’s store as our protection from the rain, we figured we’d have to buy chocolate.. it’s the polite thing to do right? So Ashley and I bought “chocolate shots”: literally liquid milk chocolate in a shot glass. Clearly that was the official start to our fantastic night.

Since the owner of the chocolate store couldn’t figure out which pub we were looking for, (awkward) he suggested we go to the Greyhound. Mostly because they had fireplaces and we could warm up and dry off from the rainy weather. We headed over there, but didn’t take the France Vs England Rugby match into account and walked into and incredibly crowded pub. Just as we were about to leave due to a lack of places to sit, a group offered to share their table and as awkward as we felt at first, I am so glad we decided to stay. Our table-mates turned out to be a lot of fun. A comedian from Galway named Breda Larkin and a drummer in a local reggae band called Karma Parking from Zimbabwe named Jono. Jono’s been living in Ireland for almost 13 years and because we clearly had no idea what we were doing still searching for a bar from 10 years ago, he helped us out. He brought us to a pub called Seanachai where he literally knew everyone. It’s just like when you walk into a bar dad, except when he walks in the reaction from the bartenders is a little more welcoming than “shit he’s here, hide the scotch.” 😉 We made friends with the wonderfully gay surfer bartender Dale and the dreadlocked co-owner of the bar, Danny. We listened to Danny and Jono add a bit of a reggae sound to some Irish trad music with their drums and then danced to a reggae DJ until the bar closed. Then we got to hang out with a bunch of the bartenders and local people in Danny’s apartment above the bar. It was one of the first times we didn’t feel like the tourists that we are!

We woke up the next morning not even a little bit hungover (I swear Kinsale is magic) and decided to explore. The weather was so perfect: enough rain to make a few rainbows, and then sunny for the rest of the day. We made our way to Charles Fort and the views on our mile and a half walk were like looking at a 3-D postcard:

We still had some time before our bus came to take us away so we did some more exploring of the town. Here’s some pics from Saturday’s rainy exploring and Sunday’s sunny exploring:

On our way back we took a detour from Cork city center and found Blarney Castle. I wish we had more time to explore but we had to catch the last bus out of Cork at 6 so we had just enough time to kiss the stone!

The past few days have been so much fun. After a long day of classes, the rest of today will be spent catching up with some long lost sleep. Thank you so so much Karen, Torker, Ceil, and Ted for contributing to the “Nellie can’t afford to buy pints in Ireland” fund. It was put to great use this weekend!!! Hope everyone at home enjoyed their super bowl Sunday! How amazing was Bruno Mars?!

Until next time!

Nellie

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Playing Catch-Up

Hey peeps,

Haven’t posted in a week or so, so I thought I’d do that now! Not much to report this time… Last week was our first week of classes. I’ve already talked about my music and words class, but I’m also taking a class called Life in the Republic. The class is a look at the transition from the Irish Free State to the Republic of Ireland up until the bank failures in 2008. I’m feeling a bit in over my head on this one, but hopefully I can keep up.

Last week we saw another band at Whelan’s. This time a local group called Mojo Gogo who put on an awesome show. We also went to a club/pub inbetween called Flannery’s which we all loved. My roommate Ashley found a more European-style restaurant called the Winding Stair right across the river from the Temple Bar area. The food was amazing and the view was gorgeous.

The Winding Stair over looks the River LIffey

The Winding Stair over looks the River LIffey

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Ashley also found a cute little cafe called the Bell & Pot so six of us ventured there this afternoon and as my friend Tara put it, if Anthropologie had a restaurant, this would be it. We spent the rainy afternoon drinking tea, eating soup, and just talking about everything from ghost stories to family aspirations. Then we searched for a Gluten free bakery Tara had heard about called Antoinettes.

Clearly not a super amount of interesting things to report this week, but most of it was spent trying to get acclimated to the city. We’ve almost got the bus system mastered! My Irish friend from Duquesne, Harry, asked me yesterday if I’ve noticed any differences between Ireland and America. Although there definitely hasn’t been anything major quite yet, there are some little things:

1. People here drive like maniacs and would probably belly laugh at the term yield to pedestrians. When you’re crossing the street you better look left and right three times over before taking a step. Those cars come out of no where and the busses will kill you before stopping to let you cross.

2. The students dress differently here. Showing up to class dressed in clothes from the work out section of TJ Maxx (TK Maxx in Ireland for whatever reason) is a huge no no. The girls dress so adorably. I’ve seen a lot of black booties and white converses, Cigarette style skinny jeans, and over sized sweaters among other fashionable tops as acceptable class wear. I’ve been keeping up so far, but it’s likely I will return to my TJ maxx attire soon because putting together cute outfits is just too much damn work. The boys however still seem to be living in 2008. Hollister and Abercrombie & Fitch are everywhere you turn. Remember DC sneakers? You don’t have to reminisce too far back over here because they still seem to be a thing. But obviously the accent makes up for any and all fashion faux pas.

3. The houses here. The houses I have seen in Dublin are absolutely beautiful. No one house looks like the next. They all have their own character to them and none of them are made of the cheap plastic type material you’ll find in the states. Sometimes I’ll switch up my runs from the bay to the streets just get a better look at all the gorgeous detail put into each home.

4. Dogs without a leash. The dogs here are so ridiculously well behaved! More often than not a dog is walking alongside his owner leash-less. I don’t know how they do it. If Rudy was off his leash for a second he’d be jumping on the first person that passed him or chasing the first squirrel he saw. These dogs could care less about any one else. All they want is their owners and their tennis ball. The dogs without a leash used to make me nervous, but now I find myself less trusting of the ones with the leash.

5. Alcohol is expensive as fug. (sorry mom). But really a pint here is usually between 5.50-5.70 euro. Which converts to about$7.80. A handle of Smirnoff is about 51 euro which converts to about $68 (we’re trying to find the Vlad equivalent, but no such luck so far). I’m definitely going to have to start looking into some more free/cheap activities to do here in Dublin before I spend everything I have on pints and cabs.

All in all I love it here. My views on my runs never get old and I found a yoga studio half a mile up the road. We’re hoping to plan a trip to Cork for the weekend. So I’m sure I’ll have some slightly less boring stories to tell after that. Until then here’s some more random pictures I had no where to place in this post!

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“In Dublin next arrived, I thought it such a pity, To be so soon deprived, A view of that fine city.”

Hey all,

Thanks for all the responses! Its nice knowing I can share this with you guys!

(+10 points to anyone that knows the song I took the title of this post from!)

So since I left off last, I have had some beautiful runs, visited my school, and continued my strict diet of soup, popcorn, and Heineken. Josie’s finally made it to Dublin! She arrived around 10 this morning and all the girls in the house took the day to shop around Grafton Street. It’s a gorgeous pedestrian only area with an overwhelming amount of amazing sales. I got some new shirts to go out in since I’ve seemed to burn through my wardrobe already.. oops.

Friends and family, I’ve come to a sad realization in my recent nights of meeting people from all over the world: The world seems to think everyone from New Jersey is Snooki. I can’t tell you how many times the response has been a wide eyed gasp followed by “New Jersey? Hey guess where she’s from? New Jersey!” when I answer the deadly question of where I’m from. I might start saying Canada so I don’t have to continue with my now perfected “Jersey Shore Disassociation” speech. Although there is one exception: one saintly Irish person’s immediate response to New Jersey  was “Oh! Bruce Springsteen!”  He has given me hope. I won’t try to pass myself off as Canadian just yet, but if I come home saying “aboot” I think you can guess why.

I have a million pictures to post, but I still suck at this blog thing so there may be an easier way, but bare with me. If you’ve been following me on instagram or facebook (so everyone except my mother) then you’ve probably seen some of these, but for my mom’s sake, I’ll post them on here as well. I ran about 7 miles today and came across the most beautiful trail ever. My run ended up taking over an hour cause I couldn’t help but stop and take a billion pictures and also because walking dogs without a leash seems to be incredibly common. Hopefully that proves to be therapeutic. I ran past two today without stopping to cautiously walk! Running seems to be very popular here. Every time I step outside I seem to see at least three runners, but even more during the night time. I would much rather run during the day however. My mom always tells me I’ll breathe better if I keep my head up and stop looking at the ground and after you see these pictures, you can understand how easy those directions will be to follow. (mom, if you click on the pictures, they get bigger).

Last night may have been the best night of the week. My roommate Ashley and my resident director laura and two guys living with us went to a place called Whelan’s. Which can be seen in this little clip of P.S. I Love You. (the one with singer that’s not Gerard Butler). If you are one of the few coming to visit me and you don’t yet know every word to Galway Girl, it’s time to change that. The sooner the better because that song is everywhere over here.

Unfortunately a cute Irish man did not dedicate a song to me, but rest assured, I have not given up on my P.S. I Love You dreams quite yet. But we did see Deer Tick who put on an awesome show. Apparently the lead singer of Deer Tick was also on his Honey Moon with “A Thousand Miles” singer Vanessa Carlton who came out to perform a duet. Kind of a cool surprise. What made the night even better was how unbelievably kind these people were. Normally at shows I’ve been to in the US, people are elbowing, pushing and cursing to get up to the front of the stage. At this show however, if my shoulder so much as grazed another person’s, that person responded with an immediate “I’m sorry” even when it may have been my fault. My resident director is about an inch or two shorter than me, and when the tall man standing in front of her noticed, he immediately offered for her to move in front of him for a better view. I could barely believe the difference between the concert etiquette. I definitely want to see some more shows there.

Deer Tick at Whelan's

Deer Tick at Whelan’s

We also had orientation at UCD. The campus is insanely pretty. Very, very modern. There are a million clubs available to us as well. I’m looking into the boxing club, which stresses that girls are welcome to join, but I’m still feeling a little intimidated so… we’ll see if I get up the guts to do that one. Tomorrow morning around 8 a.m. we head to Belfast for the night. I’m sure I’ll have tons to write about after that. In the mean time if you haven’t tried a Baby Guinness shot, I highly recommend it. Kahlua on the bottom, Baileys on the top. Sooo good. That’s all for now folks! Slán!

Lunch at Bewley's on Grafton Street today. My coffee came with a biscuit :)

Lunch at Bewley’s on Grafton Street today. My coffee came with a biscuit 🙂

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