January 2010


Uncategorized21 Jan 2010 12:19 pm

Last weekend, we embarked on perhaps the tourist-iest attraction on this whole island, yes, for all of you sitting on the edge of your seats in eager anticipation; we went to kiss the Blarney stone. Despite a dreary forecast, the gray skies of Ireland miraculously decided to cut us a break, threatening rain all day, but holding back as we wandered the grounds of Blarney castle. While all of the tourist attractions in Kinsale our first weekend had been closed seasonally, Blarney stays open year around and was pleasantly crowd free. We had a slightly larger traveling group this time (We had  run into some fellow Spires-dwellers at the bus station), so there were even more photo opportunities, as, of course, every person had to be photographed with every scenic view, and, on the treacherous climb to the Blarney parapets, there are many scenic views indeed.

 wicked sweet fog        adorable picture of me and maura

group with blarney bench

 

 

When we reached the top, we of coursed kissed the stone. Now for those of you who haven’t hung upside down off the top of this castle, let me explain how this works. This questionably older gentleman (I say questionable because I am greatly afraid he will drop me) tips you over the side of the stone wall (I am probably making this out to sound worse than it really is- there are protective grate-like-things that would probably stop you if the questionable older gentleman were unable to physically hold you). You hang upside down and kiss this rock- the great Blarney stone. Many a famous person has kissed this rock (there are lots of commemorative plaques with cartoon Einstein’s and George Barnard Shaw’s that tell you this), with the purpose not only of fulfilling that great tourist-iest of touristy Irish dreams, but also with the intent of become a more eloquent speaker. No one knows, as far as I can tell, quite where this legend comes from (I suspect it was invented by the Irish government as a revenue generator, because they charge you a flat rate of 8 euro per person to enter the castle grounds.) but, apparently, if you kiss the rock, you will be graced with the gift of gab- the ability to impress many by showering everyone you meet with a flowery rhetoric of flattery. I actually kissed the stone twice (the photo of my first kiss did quite turn out the way I would have liked), so I suppose I have extra flattery skills now. Let me see… I’ll test them out…

 

Dearest Mum and Dad,

   I would like a pony. Please. So that I may tour the Irish countryside riding sidesaddle on the back of my great steed and so that I may find the prince of Ireland, who will undoubtedly need to rescue me from a great dragon of sorts and whisk me off to a castle where he will marry me and I will, at long last become the princess of the Land of Ire. I am enjoying my stay here in Ireland, but I believe that a pony would make this great adventure much more memorable and even more enjoyable for all.

Love,

     (The future princess and pony-owner) Lindsay

 

Next Post, look forward to hearing all about the pony!

 stone kiss #2

Uncategorized21 Jan 2010 12:09 pm

Maura and I took our first “day trip” two weekends ago to the village of Kinsale. Saturday, we got up early and caught the bus. Up and out before 8 am here for the first time, I realized that the sun here doesn’t rise until 8:30! Now, geographically, Ireland is located in a rather north, so I suppose this shouldn’t have come as too much of a shock, but it blows my mind. The days are only 8 hours long- in Virginia you all are getting like 9 and a half hours of sunlight! (I know this because I was, in fact, so baffled by this shortness of sunlight that I proceeded to weather.com every place I could think of to see how long their days are. In case you are wondering, Antarctica is currently averaging 6 ½ hours of sunlight a day)

 Sunrise in Kinsale

So, as I was getting to, we went to Kinsale early Saturday morning. For another quick geography lesson, the town of Kinsale is a small sailing village located in Cork County, Ireland, along the southwest coast. It wasn’t far from Cork city (where we are living) at all- a mere half hour bus drive. We arrived just in time to see the just-risen sun peaking over the horizon casting its glorious sunlight on the sailboats in the Kinsale harbor. We had big plans for a walking tour, but it was so cold that we skipped it and just spent the day wandering in and out of the little shops and seeing what this well-known B&B and restaurant town had offer in way of scones, cappuccinos, and sandwiches (all, I might add, absolutely delicious!) I think we wandered in and out of every little shop in the town. I also learned that in Ireland, a “Book-maker” is not a shop that makes novels- it is a fine establishment where one can go to place bets on the horse races. Luckily, there was a real bookshop, so I was able to get my literary fix.

 Maura and the fishing village

Unfortunately, because it’s January, a lot of the historical places to visit were closed for the winter months. Kinsale is famous not only for its quaint village scenes, but also for its role in the US involvement in the First World War The sinking of the Lusitania, the event that invoked US president Woodrow Wilson to enter the war in 1915, happened just outside the Kinsale harbor. There is also James Fort, which is one of the last traditional 17th century forts in Ireland, but tours there were closed seasonally as well. Pehaps there will be a return trip for us in March… I certainly wouldn’t mind heading back!

Uncategorized11 Jan 2010 04:08 pm

I flew from Dulles airport to meet up with Maura in Boston on the 31st of January, celebrating New Year’s on the lovely Aer Lingus airplane. It was a bit rocky getting out- it was snowing in D.C. and there were several inches of snow already when we boarded the plane to Dublin. Once we were up in the air, however, I relaxed a bit. It never snows in Ireland, landing shouldn’t be a problem. We were just going to catch a bus from Dublin to Cork, arrive with a few hours to kill before checking into the apartment and enjoy the journey.
Passport and Plane ticket- I'm Dublin bound!

 
Passport and Plane ticket- I’m Dublin bound!

Things did not go quite as planned. When they tell you- they meaning Mr. Frommer of Frommer’s guide to Ireland 2010 that the weather is mild and very very rarely snows in Ireland, they do not anticipate the coming of the next Ice Age that Ireland is currently experiencing. Dublin airport decided to shut down while we were halfway across the Atlantic. But we were able to land safely at Shannon airport, across the country from Dublin. We landed at approximately 5:30 am, the pilot of our lovely plane informing us that no one was actually in the airport working, so we would sit on the plane until the employees arrived or until Dublin airport reopened and we could fly to our intended destination. After 4 hours of sitting on the plane in Shannon, our pleasant pilot regretted to inform us that, alas (when all is said in an Irish accent, it really is quite pleasant), he and his crew had run out of their legal flying limit and were no longer able to work. Off the plane and into Shannon airport we went! We bought bus tickets to Cork, where our school was, had a bite to eat, and went to board the bus.
***Travel Tip! Always make sure you have the right bus- do not board the bus to Galway while the bus to Cork drives off into the distance if you wish to head to Cork****
Luckily, we only had to wait an hour for the next bus. We still had 8 hours to spare before we could get into our apartment, so this was no problem. At 12, our journey to Cork via Bus Eirann finally commenced. Determined to stay awake and soak up the scenic Irish countryside in its mysterious thick fog, Maura and I, naturally, fell asleep. Thankfully we did not miss the stop at the Cork Parnell Place bus station.

         Laden with our heavy luggage we stepped into the streets of Cork City Centre, which on New Year’s Day, has a tendency to be quite empty. We finally found an authentic, Irish… McDonald’s, where we hunkered down to wait it out until 6pm, when the “warden” arrived to check us into The Spires, the apartment complex that would be providing the roof over our heads for the following six months. We caught a taxi at a quarter to 6, learned that we were living on Bandon Road (not Brandon Road- although this took a while to figure out, on account of the fact that we had to ask our taxi driver to repeat himself at least, I don’t 4, 5 times). As we walked through the gates of our new home and knocked on the door to the Warden to receive our keys, we shivered in the cold, but it wouldn’t be long now until we could walk into our nice, warm new place!
***Travel Tip! Never assume that your apartment should be warm. Plan for sub-Arctic temperatures.****
Apartment 19, The Spires was freezing. Luckily, our lovely Warden turned on the heat. Unluckily said heat takes approximately 24-28 hours to really heat up. I was smart; however, I stole a blanket from the airplane- a thin, threadbare piece of fleece the size of a child’s scarf- absolutely brilliant! My outfit for the first night: underarmour coldgear turtleneck, nike coldgear zipup, long sleeve shirt, sweatshirt, down vest, north face jacket (at least I was sporting the R.E.I. winter catalog) along with 2 pairs of thick socks, spandex underarmour tights, sweatpants, gloves, an earwarmer and a hat. And I was STILL COLD. Thus began the coldest night of my life. Maura and I tried to sleep in the same bed for warmth (did not work- bed too small for two people) and cold person + cold person unfortunately doesn’t = warm people. But I couldn’t sleep. I tried sleeping in a chair, on the floor, under a desk (next to the heater) all to no avail. But eventually, many cold miserable hours later, it was morning. Maura and I headed into town to buy duvets. We found them eventually and bought double sized ones, desperate for added warmth. We got cell phones and had lunch. We returned to the Spires laden with our new purchases. Night 2: Warmer, but unfortunately, we forgot pillows. That wasn’t too bad; I was simply able to stuff my pillowcase with 1/3 of the previous night’s pajamas and had an instant fluffy pillow! Also, we forgot food. I don’t know how we could have done this, but, still jetlagged, we awoke the next morning at about 1 pm absolutely starving. And while this may seem like a long sleep, it wasn’t- jetlag had us awake until about 4 am.
The following day, January 3, was successful! We got groceries! We were introduced to Crunchy Nut cereal (DELICIOUS!) and learned that brewed coffee is a rarity, and good brewed coffee is even rarer of a rarity. We bought cappuccino mix, don’t worry, America, Lindsay and Maura are finding ways to get caffeine and are thus, surviving!
Reading back over this, I feel as though I should you all that I am, in fact, enjoying Ireland! The town of Cork is very cute and I have met lots of nice people (or at least I think they are nice. Because of the accents, I catch about 75% of what they really say, so they could only be ¾ nice, but I’m willing to give the ol’ Irish the benefit of the doubt). I’m a wee bit late in getting my initial post on the web, so it’s been about a week and a half since the above events actually occurred. I’m still fighting the culture shock a bit…well a lot not a bit, but, overall, I think Ireland is pretty class! (Irish Translation: class = superb! Fantastic! Great! It’s all good in the hood!)
Cheers,
Linds

 

This is the Main Quad at my school in Ireland. Thanks for sending me to Hogwarts Mom and Dad!
This is the Main Quad at my school in Ireland. Thanks for sending me to Hogwarts Mom and Dad!
Uncategorized04 Jan 2010 12:56 pm

I decided this past Fall to spend the spring of 2010 in Cork, Ireland! I’m a visiting student at the University College Cork as an American Studies major (which, I know, seems rather ironic- going to Ireland as a student of American culture…) Contradictions aside, I’m here in Ireland ready for the grand European travel adventure- complete with my trusty roommate Maura, a few guidebooks and a case of culture shock!

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