Sunday, March 21, 2010

London Bridge is NOT falling down.

This past weekend I went to London with Dayna and Miranda to visit a friend, Leslie, from grade school. She happened upon my facebook one day, saw I'm in Ireland, messaged me and then we got in touch about visiting! She graciously offered to host us for the weekend and it was soo fun to catch up with her! We arrived Thursday night, got some mixin's for stir fry, drank some wine and caught up on life. Then we walked to her college and got some amazing waffles with ice cream!

Friday Dayna and Miranda took a bus tour, while I opted to have Leslie take me around and show me the cool jams. We were going to take a free walking tour but the tube was ridiculously backed up and we missed it, unfortunately. But we headed to the Tate Britain, which I thoroughly enjoyed. My favorite work was in a large sort of rotunda where the walls were covered with snippets of conversation that the artist had overheard. I can't remember his name, but he was fascinated with light and dark, good and evil, basically any opposites and the phrases and sentences had opposites on other walls in the rotunda. Some of the words were written backwards, too, and some things made no sense, like "from the moment you hear this to the moment you kiss someone with blue eyes" or "tell someone a beautiful truth" with "tell someone a beautiful lie" printed on the opposite wall backwards. Stuff like that. I'm sorry I didn't explain it well but trust me, it was really cool. After that we went back to where the next free tour was supposed to start, ate some sandwiches and then found out the tour started at 1pm, not 2pm. SO I was annoyed I had mixed up the times but we got ice cream and took a double decker bus to the last stop, which happened to be the area where Oliver was being performed. We checked out ticket prices and then Leslie headed home while I went to the Museum of Natural History. I spent a good 2 1/2 hours looking at dinosaurs, mammals, gemstones, sea creatures and other SWEET stuff. I seriously could've spent the whole day wandering around. I get REALLY into museums and like to take my time checking out the scene and reading the plaques (only if I want to and am interested, I don't read every single one just to read it) and I loved all the dinos! And I learned more about the human body than I'd ever learned in any health class (read: never had a proper health class). But it was pretty amazing. Then I headed back to Leslie's apartment, met up with the ladies, mapped out our next day and got Indian at the restaurant around the corner, and it was DELISH! So tasty. Then we hung around the apartment and went to the flat across the hall for some fun and games before everyone went out.

SATURDAY we planned to go to Westminster Abbey for a service at 9am (it was free, as opposed to paying 12 pounds to take a tour) but of COURSE my tube was backed up and their bus was on time. So they got to go and I didn't, but it ain't no thang. I took a tube to Notting Hill to walk around Portobello Market, met them and had fun wandering around the millions of stalls set up. I'm really excited about the ring I got--it's sterling silver with an amber stone. I haggled it down to 10 pounds, woot woot! And I got a pretty summer-y pink paisley scarf. AND of course, a delicious bratwurst with the works and apple strudel. I love walking around markets and poking my head into cute and overpriced boutiques. The girls left a little earlier than I did as they had a "rockstar" walking tour to catch but after I had my fill of the market, I headed to Buckingham Palace to take some pics of me awkwardly standing in front of it with a camera in hand. I walked through Green Park and St. James's Park, and ended up at Westminster Abbey for the Evensong. It was ridiculous and so beautiful inside. And the choir was amazing, of course. It was sort of funny, though, to see all the people at the Evensong. Some to most of them, like myself, were tourists, but a lot of people had no idea what was going on. Luckily I'd been to an Evensong before and church in general, but it was slightly entertaining to watch people hesitate before doing anything or making any moves. So after the service, I was supposed to meet the ladies at Harrods and take tea. Well, OF COURSE the tube was delayed and the most direct line was under construction, so it took me 45 minutes to get through 3 tube stops. I would've walked but had NO idea where I was going, though it probably would've been faster if I had gotten lost on the streets of London. At least I would've seen sunlight..or rain. Whatevs. So EVENTUALLY I got there, ran through the beautiful fine jewelry section as sparkly things danced across my eyeballs, and found them in the "food court" of Harrods, which is must francier than any food hall I've ever seen before. But we sat down for tea and I realized it was all wrong! We were supposed to be the grand tea room on the 4th floor, but as I looked at the time, I realized we wouldn't have enough time for tea AND the Grim Reaper tour we had planned for the evening. So we left Harrods WITHOUT TEA and without looking at the beautiful and way expensive gorgeous Valentino bags, Burberry anything, ridiculous jewelry, and whatever treasures were hidden from my direct line of vision as I walked out slowly and in very bad spirits. Harrods! You've slipped through my fingers again! At least I made it in the building this time, BUT STILL. I suppose a nugget of back story is needed. When mom, dad and I went to England years ago to visit Katie, we drove past Harrods and I begged them to take me inside but we "didn't have enough time" to go in. SO 10 years later I was finally there but still didn't get to look around :( Anyway, we took the tube to the tour, and it was really cool! And creepy and fun! It lasted about 2 hrs and 45 minutes in the rain and darkness. We learned about the Black Plague, Tower of London, Jack the Ripper and Prostitute's Church! It was really interesting and the tour guide was awesome! After the tour, we went back to Leslie's, had dinner and went to a club in Piccadilly called "Shaftesbury." Luckily we got the 5 pound cover rather than 15. Holllla! I loved the music--the beats were siiiiick, yo. And I got a gin and tonic that was more like gin and TOXIC, but it was palatable. We got home in the wee hours of the morning, and I slept like a rock.

TODAY Dayna, Miranda and I headed to the Museum of Childhood. It was full of toys and fun stuff geared towards children, but I liked it even if it was a little bizarre. We even played dress ups and did puppet theatre! Then we took a train to the airport and eventually landed safely in Shannon. Ryanair flights are somewhat crazy, and they reinforce why I hate flying. Every flight I've been on with them has made me fear for my life for about 10 minutes and then feel kind of ok. I can't explain the feeling, but I'm curious to know where their pilots come from. They're just crazy. If you've been on Ryanair, you know exactly what I'm talking about, with the feeling of being pressed down into your seat and feeling like you're on a roller coaster.

Anyhoo, I had a nice weekend, albeit short. I wish we had had more time in London--I felt like 1/3 of my time was spent on the tube or chasing people down to meet up with them. I certainly didn't mind spending most of Friday by myself. It was nice to wander at my own pace and not feel like I was holding anybody back. I might just have to schedule another trip there this semester before I go home to check out Harrods (obvs), the Tower of London (I didn't take a tour because I heard the exhibits were closed down but I wish I had anyway), and the Tate Modern art museum. Phew! Busy busy.

This week I have to read a book, write 3 more papers, and make a portfolio of my volunteer work for my literacy service course before M&D come A WEEK FROM TUESDAY! I can't wait to see them, it'll be so nice to have my family with me!!!! Yay! Ok time to buckle down.


Sunday, March 14, 2010

How old are you? Oh, 21. No big deal.

So I rang in my 21st year to Dexy's Midnight Runners "Come on Eileen," and it was very epic. We started the night off trying to get into Roisin Dubh but there was a cover so we walked very quickly up to Shop Street to see where the cool jams were. We found a lovely young lady promoting "Coyotes," a honky tonk sort of bar that was giving out free shots of whatever. So we got there, had the free drink (champange mixed with red food dye? it was weird and gross), danced a little bit and then I jumped up and down like a crazy person at midnight. A few minutes later a fight broke out amongst some guys and a girl, and I must say, I've never seen a girl with so much..will power and flair. I should also note the sorts of...ladies...who were at Coyotes. To put it delicately, I have shirts longer than some of their dresses, and they looked a lot like Bratzzz Dolls. But anyway we left that place quickly and headed to Bar 903 which was a lot of fun! We basically danced all night, hung out at the Spanish Arch and of course got Charcoal Grill. I'm not sure if I've mentioned Charcoal Grill, but it's a kebab/burger place that serves dirt cheap (2.30 for a cheeseburger) food and it's amazing in the wee hours of the morning. So my gal pal and I enjoyed our burgers and headed home. It was a fun night and I'm glad I got to spend it out dancing woooo!

Later that day after I woke up, I picked up my friend Colby (from my a cappella group NOTA), and it was SOOO awesome to see him. I was (and am) so excited and happy that he came-it's so nice to see a familiar face. We walked back to my house, ate lunch and then walked along the ocean for a bit before getting Guinness at Tig Coili, my fave place for the good stuff. He was completely in heaven the entire time. Then a bunch of my friends met us for dinner at Tamarind, a cool Asian fusion place and I treated myself to the 24euro appy and entree special, and I got fried goat cheese wontons, Pad Thai and a glass of white wine that had a terrible after taste, but whatevs! It was so nice of my friends to come and we had a great time. AND I got a complimentary bellini from the restaurant for my birthday, holllla! After that we skipped home to get ready for the party that my housemate was throwing for me and I put on my black sparkly sequin-y dress that I bought for the occasion. Then we headed downtown and danced a bit at Roisin Dubh and tried to dance at Bar 903 but it was waaaayyy too packed. So we headed home to bed.

So this past week was RAG week (Raising And Giving but more like Rum And Gin), which is supposed to be about raising money for charity but it was mostly about drinking copious amounts of alcohol. People were milling about outside for 4 days in the suspiciously beautiful weather, playing games and smashing bottles everywhere. It see how ridiculously drunk people would be by 3pm after I got home from classes. Unfortunately I couldn't join in in all the fun because I had classes I absolutely HAD to go to, but I didn't stay in the whole time, no worries. Colby and I went to a few parties during the day and at night which were all really fun. But Monday night I didn't go downtown because I presented at a conference on Service Learning on Tuesday (it went well), and I had to be up by 8am. But Tuesday night we had lots of fun at an apartment before heading out. However, before we even left Gort (where I live), I sprained my ankle really badly. To make a short story even shorter, I jumped in the air and crumpled to the ground. So Colby took me home and I iced my ankle all night. But all the people who went out came home almost immediately because someone forgot their I.D. and they brought the party to me! So that was kind of them and I didn't feel so badly for not being able to take Colby out.

Wednesday I had more classes but couldn't go to them because I couldn't move, so Colby helped me get to the student health clinic on campus where the lovely nurse gave me a compression support sock sort of thing and it's absolutely helped my recovery. I can totally walk on it and it only hurts when I walk on uneven surfaces or rocks. More on rocks later. So I just stayed in all day while Colby went shopping with one of my friends to get his souvenirs. Then I made dinner for us and we just chillfaced before he went out dancing with my friends. Then he left the next day for Cork!

Yesterday we went to the Aran Islands (specifically Inis Mor) through Arcadia. I think there are 900 people who live on the island, so it's really small. There's one ATM on the island and I think one grocery market. But it was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful. We rode bikes around and stopped by every horse and fed it, petted it and I even kissed a few for the "Romance" photo competition Arcadia was doing that day. I have no idea what it's for (other than cold hard cash) but it was fun. We also went to DĂșn Aonghasa, a 2000 year old ringfort on top of a cliff on Inis Mor. It was really really cool and old. The only catch is an uncomfortably long walk up a rocky and gravely hill. It would've been cake if I hadn't injured myself but oh well. Then we got home and I made AMAZING pitas with my friend. We bought eggplant, mushrooms (I know, mom and dad, I'm surprised too), pepper, onion, olives, feta cheese, spinach, celery, and tomatoes and hummus and it was so delicious! Oh my goodness I'm going to eat this every day for the next month. I haven't exactly been eating healthfully the past week so it's good to get some veggies in my diet.

Phew alright there's a recap of my birthday week long celebration!

Friday, March 5, 2010

I had my cake and ate it too.

So this past weekend I spent my time in Belfast. It was sponsored through Arcadia and we left Friday morning and arrived around 3pm. It was pretty rainy and dreary, but we were seriously ahead of schedule so a few of us decided to walk around. BUT before doing so we were warned NOT to go to the Royal Pub because it's dangerous. And also right behind our hostel. OH and the hostel room I was in had TWENTY TWO GIRLS IN IT. It was ridiculous and there was a LOT of estrogen floating around. And it smelled kinda funky. But a group of us walked around and saw City Hall and a giant ferris wheel. There was also a super cute shop we wandered into with all sorts of fun cooking supplies and aprons and home goods and what not. Reminded me a lot of Urban Outfitters/Anthropologie. I picked up some lotion to sample and realized it was SOLID PERFUME and I smelled like an old lady for a good solid half hour before we found a store to wash my hands. Oops! Then I went to a cupcake cafe and had a nutella cupcake and tea...yum! Then we had dinner in the hostel [chicken curry--Sorry God, I couldn't help eating meat :(] and then met my good friend from home's Irish boyfriend (I'd met him before) who lives and works in Belfast. It was so nice to see a familiar face and we headed to a karaoke bar where they wouldn't let me sing. BOOOO. Apparently I was too late signing up, but I begged and promised I was good. Oh well, their loss. So we chatted and caught up, had a lovely time, danced and went home.

The next day we headed to Giant's Causeway, and it was really cool though I thought it would be bigger. There are tons and tons of hexagonal rocks sticking out of the ocean. Pretty cool and spectacular. So we got a tour and took lots of pics. I also made a wish in the famous "wishing chair" though I can't remember it and if I did I WOULDN'T TELL YOU! Then we stopped in a beach town for lunch and got fish n chips. It was really bizarre to see all the British flags. Weirdddd. Then we got home, and I took a nap because I hadn't slept well the night before, and then met John for rugby at a pub. It was crazy to see so many men standing in one room staring up at a giant screen, screaming and jumping and cheering. But we met some of his friends, had a pint and then headed back to the hostel to get dressed for dinner. Arcadia provided dinner for us at a nearby hotel, but it was pretty meh. Soggy lasagna, potatoes and rice. I definitely don't need that many carbs in my diet, but I ate it anyway. THEN we went back to the same pub, hung out and John met up with us again! We left after a bit to go to the Stiff Kitten club but the cover was 14 pounds soooooo we headed in a different direction, and I got samosas. After searching for a pub for a bit and realizing how tired I was, I parted ways with him and headed on home to bed and slept quite soundly.

Sunday we had a lecture on the murals of Belfast which was actually very interesting. Then we had a bus tour of Belfast, saw some really cool things we wish we had known about Friday so we could've gone to those cool things, saw where the Titanic was built and then saw some of those crazy murals. Some are very creepy...armed, masked men pointing very big and scary looking guns directly at you. Others are a bit more friendly, but it was still a little unsettling. Then we headed home!

It was a reeeeaaaallly quick trip and I wish we had had more time, but I might be going back with Mom and Dad. It was interesting to hear about how we couldn't go into certain parts of the city because of the strong Unionist that pub. John was also talking about showing us a mural but decided against it because "they wouldn't like my accent in that part of town." CRAZY.

Anyway, this week has been pretty busy. I'm working hard on finishing about 8 papers before March 31. We'll see how that goes. Well, it must go because I want to get them done before mom and dad get here. Wednesday night was pretty friends threw me and my good friend a joint surprise party! Our one friend invited the two of us (me and Liza) over for macaroni and I was going to go home to do work but he insisted I go with him to watch Glee at Liza's house. He was pretty persistent so I finally gave in, thinking I'd stop by for 10 minutes. We walked in the door and there was a cake on fire and about 20 people!!!! It was really really sweet and the cake was vegan red velvet--so delicious!!! No one's a vegan, it's just a delicious recipe :) But then I had to go get dressed, naturally, and put on the LOVELY awesome new birthday outfit mom and dad sent me for my birthday in a lovely carepackage including a beautiful ring and about 8 cards, and just about everyone from Arcadia went out to a club to dance. It was so much fun! I definitely needed to get out of the house after being trapped in my room for the past few days and it was great to express myself through the medium of dance. Wa wahh. But it was perfect. Then todaaaaay the weather was ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS and I went for a run, did laundry, returned a book to the library and got an overdue book fee knocked down, and then went to a CAKE TESTING COMPETITION at the Galway museum. My cooking teacher told us about it and how she submitted a cake. The competition was intended to benefit Fairtrade, which I didn't know much about but now think is really great. Anyway, I taste tested FOURTEEN different cakes and voted on the chocolate Guinness cake with crystalized rose petals as the winner. It was delish! (the audience got to vote on the best cake and the winner got a gift basket of fairtrade stuff). THEN I went shopping and got a dress for my birthday!! My Irish housemate wants to throw me a party on Sunday for my birthday and to kick off RAG week! Rag week sounds like it's going to be out of control. It's supposed to benefit a charity but it's just an excuse for all the students to get rip roaring drunk. I don't know that I'll be participating in all those crazy things, but I'll definitely go to some events because my dear friend from NOTA Colby is coming to visit on Sunday! WOOOO!

Alright, back to work!