So I promised to update this blog while in Europe, so forgive me for waiting until London to write this. Here's a recap of my travels thus far.
Dublin was my favorite city. Our hotel was near townhouses with vines crawling up the walls, with iron fences and rose bushes lined up the walkways. The Irish could tell we were American. Flip flops are a dead giveaway. Add a camera and you literally get an Irish man saying to you, "Hello, American." The heart of Dublin is crowded with people. Pubs can be found on every corner. It doesn't get dark until after 10:00 p.m. We visited the Dublin Writer's Museum, Kilmainham's Goal and Trinity College while in the city. Kilmainham's Goal was fascinating. It's an old jail and has been the location of several movies, including a U2 music video. We visited the countryside as well: Powers Court and Glendalough Monestary. I fell in love. Powers Court reminded me of something you'd see in a real life version of Beauty and the Beast or Alice in Wonderland. Glendalough had old churches and we walked to the lake, which looked like something straight out of Harry Potter.
On our last Saturday, a few of us traveled to Belfast. The train ride was beautiful, and it rained all day. Outside the window you could see the roaring sea with waves that pounded against the shoreline. We met and interviewed the most genuine group of people in Belfast- basketball coaches who unite Catholics and Protestants through basketball. All are volunteers and one lives off of 20 to 30 Euros a week. That's roughly 40 American dollars. We also took a Black Taxi Tour to all the troubled, historical locations in the city. Political paintings can be found on the walls surrounding the wall, known as 'Peace Lines'. The Peace Lines in Belfast (Belfast is ruled by Great Britain) separate Catholics from Protestants and it has outlived the Berlin Wall. We heard stories of Catholics being beaten because they were Catholic, and how it still continues today. The coaches on the team talked about how they were beat up at a younger age and hold a hatred toward Protestants, but know it is wrong. They don't want this generation growing up with the same hate, so they started Full Court Peace.
Ireland has a deep history that seems to be hushed or kept secret from the rest of the world. Recently, reports were released about thousands of Irish children, most of which are now adults, who were abused in Catholic-run schools. I was shocked, and depressed, by all the religious conflict in Ireland.
Belfast was my favorite, but I also enjoyed the one night we all went out as group, all 11 of us. We went to a few Irish pubs and I was the only one who did not drink. But oh, it was so entertaining. Let's just say it resulted in some people dancing on bars. And FYI, pedophiles and creepers can also be found in Dublin. I think we came across three, one of whom was completely wasted, had a overly large gap between his teeth and had a shirt that read 'Made to be Laid'. Some drunk members of our party insisted on having their photo taken with him. We got home at 2:30 and it was truly the most entertaining part of the trip. I love the pubs. They are overly crowded and the ones that play live music have a mix of traditional Irish tunes and American songs. American Pie was my favorite as the entire pub sang loudly together. Dublin is a friendly place, a beautiful place. And I promise myself to come back. I want to live there for at least a year. At least.
Confession: My first impression of Paris was not a good one. I missed Ireland the moment I sat on the airplane. It was rainy, dirty and our hotel room was a third the size of the one in Dublin. We went out to dinner at a delicious restaurant, but Alex said she swore she saw a mouse. I ignored the fact and convinced myself it was simply Ratatouille. We had gelato for dessert- Tiramisu and Biscotti- and it was delicious. The next day we did a bit of reporting, but I was happy to walk around the city. We encountered little rain. The city is gorgeous and the metro train station was ultra confusing. The smells are stronger in Paris, for better or worse. Food is cheap. I lived on bread (1 Euro) and cheese (2 Euros) and Nutella crepes (delicious!). We ended the night by visiting the Eiffel Tower, which is much larger than I expected. I rode all the way to the top and the view of the city was probably the best part of visiting Paris. The lights twinkled below us and there was a perfect view of the river.
It rained the entire time we were in Paris. Like Dublin, I wore winter clothes the entire time. I lived in my leather jacket. We visited the Louvre which, I must say, was pretty snazzy. The Mona Lisa is small, like it has been rumored. But no matter. We also visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was beautiful. The architecture in Paris is spectacular. People dress uber fashionably. I heard men in Paris weren't attractive. I'm here to say that is false. Although, many were gay. I honestly couldn't tell who was straight and who was gay. They all wore skinny jeans, Converse-like shoes and a professional jacket with a t-shirt. Many sported a faux hawk hairstyle. Also, Paris is much, much, much more dangerous than Ireland. We were constantly warned about pick-pocketers. And our professor, Dr. Bill, had his wallet stolen.
Our last full day was spent shopping, since we were in the fashion capital of the world. I was disappointed that I didn't purchase a cute necklace at a small boutique. Btw, every other building in Paris is a small store or boutique. In Dublin, pubs were found on every street corner. In Paris, crepe stands can be found instead. I purchased a present for mom at a vintage store. And I bought myself two presents- scarves- from the brightest, most colorful Indian-like shop. I wanted to purchase every piece of jewelry and every scarf. Our last night in Paris was spent riding along the Seine River.
Paris is somewhere I would visit for a few weeks, but I couldn't live there. I would refuse to learn how to speak French. I'm certain I sounded stupid after every 'Bonjour' and 'Merci'.
I've been in London for 24 hours now and I love it. I imagine it would be somewhat like New York City, minus the fact that NYC lacks beautiful architecture. There is an even mix between modern buildings and old buildings. So far I have seen Buckingham Palace and a few other places, of which I can't remember the names. I woke up early today to see the Trooping of the Colours. I saw the Prince Harry, the Prince William and the Queen of England. It was awesome and I got excellent pictures. It amazed me how close we were- within 30 feet, of the royal family.
Afterwards, Lauren and I went to a market with vintage and antique shops. I didn't purchase anything, but I know mom would have loved it. The people are friendly here. Lauren and I got lost and did not enjoy walking around for 45 minutes in search of the correct bus stop, especially since we are both sick. Amanda and I also went grocery shopping, where I spent 20 pounds. The conversion rate here is awful. One pound is equivalent to $1.61.
Now I am relaxing in our wonderful flat. There our five of us who live here. We have three stories: 1. The basement, which includes a living area (couches, table) and a kitchen; 2. First floor, a bedroom (two beds) and a bathroom; and 3. The upstairs, a bedroom (three beds) and a bathroom. I live in the upstairs. Amanda, Lauren and I each get our own side table, with four drawers, and a closet-like cabinet. Our flat is awesome and I am overly thrilled to have such a large living space. Especially after living in a box in Paris. The other four girls in the flat are getting ready to go out tonight. I am staying in and considering renting Defiance on iTunes. We have ten days left, plenty of time to go out. But for now, I am relaxing and drinking orange juice. And hopefully I will feel better tomorrow. I'm worried about starting our stories this week. But I'm pushing that to the back of my mind until tomorrow evening.
Oh, and I have never walked so much in my life, ever. I have literally walked four to five hours in a day (perhaps more). And it's all fast walking. I am exhausted. I am relaxing. And all is good.
More pictures here: Flickr