Wednesday, March 16, 2011

“When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."

Well if this quote doesn't sum up my time here, I'm not sure what does! It has once again been a while because I never actually sit down and do this. So put your reading glasses on, get a comfy chair and some coffee and get ready for some excitement :-)

I last posted on Monday, so by the natural order of things I shall start with Tuesday. On Tuesdays I have my folklore class, which meets for a 1 hour tutorial and a 2 hour lecture. I've gotta say, I love the content of this class. But the way in which it is taught? Not so much. The tutorial and lecture are taught by 2 different people, and let me tell you, it makes a world of difference. The tutorial is a smaller version of the lecture, so it only has about 30 students and it's very interactive. We've already done presentations, done a report on a movie and completed review games for quizzes. The professor is a younger guy and he makes the class really fun. The lecturer is a great guy as well, but he has an extremely monotone voice and literally talks a mile a minute. We've asked him to slow down several times, which he does for about 2 minutes, and then we are all lost again. It's really interesting stuff, but they could present it in a much more interactive way. I have some ideas for them if they need it...

Tuesday night we all cooked a great dinner because Morgan's friend Andy from back home was here visiting. We (okay, fine, Morgan) made chicken and veggie stir fry. It was so delicious and probably the best meal we've had so far. But let's be honest, that's not saying much considering we live off of PB&J's and pasta with sauce.

I LOVE Wednesdays because I only have one class, my economics tutorial, from 15:00-16:00 and it's so nice. I got to sleep in, go to the gym, do some cleaning, catch up on Glee and do some homework. It was a good day. After class I decided to try choir again since I missed it the previous week. I must say, it was a lot better the second time. After knowing what to expect I really did enjoy it. Singing is always so much fun so I'll take whatever I can get. Afterwards I decided to try out the Christian Union Society as well. Why I decided to wait so long in the semester to go is beyond me because it was an awesome night. We basically just all sat there for about 3.5 hours talking and getting to know each other. The bible study was wonderful and I definitely needed it. It helped to fill the void a little bit since I haven't been able to find anything here like my church back home. The people were so great and it made for a really enjoyable way to spend the evening.

Thursday I had my magazine journalism class, radio tutorial and geoscience lecture. Journalism is a neat class but I really enjoy my writing classes back home better. Right now we are working in groups to design our own magazine and then we will be pitching our idea to the editor of an Irish magazine. Whichever group has the best pitch is the "Editorial Team" for our class magazine that we will be designing. However, my group is not too set on winning the pitch because a few of the members were on the editorial team for the newspaper class last semester. I'm trying to convince them that it might be fun, but we'll see how it goes!

Thursday night we went to a circus. Yes, a circus! I don't think I've ever been to a legitimate circus before...if I have I definitely don't have any recollection of it. So, thanks mom and dad for never taking me to one because it was extremely weird and very long. The acts came from all across Europe, which was neat though. All in all it was a fun night since we were all just laughing and hanging out together. At the circus there were: fire breathers, trapeze artists, Disney characters, motocross racers and camels. A pretty eclectic mix if you ask me.

I got back to my room at about 10 p.m. from the circus and had to pack for my trip to Brussels and Amsterdam for the weekend. Since our plane was at 7:50 a.m., we had to take the bus from UL to the Dublin airport at 1:10 a.m.! Luckily I slept the entire ride so it wasn't bad at all. My roommate Chihiro and friend Kelsey didn't sleep though unfortunately. We got to the airport at around 4:30 a.m., checked in and went to our gate. We feel asleep there thankfully so the journey wasn't too rough. Our plane took off on time which was nice so we landed in Brussels, Belgium at about 10:45 a.m. But who knew that there are 2 airports both called Brussels? Not us. Our airport was about an hour outside of the city and about an hour and half from our hotel. We made our way to the bus stop to get tickets, but there must have been at least 80-100 people waiting in line to get a ticket. I guess most people use this airport instead of the one directly in the city because it is a lot cheaper! While we were standing in line to get our tickets for the bus, a group of Irish guys and girls turned to us and asked if we wanted to split a taxi to the city instead of waiting hours for the bus to get us there. There were 8 of us so it was only 12 euro a person which was really nice. Definitely beats waiting for the bus, that's for sure. Once we got into the city, it was a matter of finding out hotel. We successfully, after much time, navigated the metro and found our hotel. I'm pretty proud of myself, not going to lie. Although I owe all of the credit to my summer in D.C. Our hotel was called "Hotel Opera" and it was actually extremely nice. I was really impressed for the price we paid. We checked-in and then took an hour power nap before setting off to explore. The city itself was amazing. The Grand Place, which is the main square and center of the city, was great. Throughout the day we checked out museums, got Belgian waffles, went to St. Micheal's Cathedral and basically just walked the city.

After our day of exploring we set off to find some dinner. All of the menus were of course in Deutsch or French so it was an interesting experience. We wound up going to a great Thai restaurant though which was right downtown by a lot of the other nightlife. We walked back through the Grand Place at night, which was incredible, and then went for drinks. We got cherry beers, which I think are my new favorite drink. So delicious!

Saturday morning we got up and took the metro to the other side of town. We saw the European Parliament and the Antonium which were amazing. We're such tourists by hey, what are you gonna do, right?

We took the metro through the town of "Louiza" which is basically like 5th Avenue in New York. All of the amazing designer stores were located there and it was great fun to window shop. We also got to see a palace and had an incredible view of the city too.

We of course went back and got another Belgian waffle before departing for Amsterdam. This was, by far, the BEST waffle I have ever had in my life. The man behind the counter was one of the funniest guys I've ever met. He kept calling us "queen's" and he gave us our waffles for half price. Gotta love that, right?!

Saturday night we took the train to Amsterdam and what we though was an hour and half ride was actually almost 3 hours! Good thing we left ourselves plenty of time. We got to our hotel at around 10 p.m. after arriving at the beautiful Grand Central Station. Our hotel (but really a hostel) was called "Hotel Utopia" but it was FAR from it, let me tell you. If I tell you it was on the top floor of an Amsterdam "coffee shop" would you believe me? What an experience that evening was. We dropped our stuff off and took a stroll into town. I don't know what it is about Europeans LOVING Americans, but they seriously do. We found an awesome bar called "Euro Pub" right on the square and by the time the night was over, we had gotten 3 free drinks from the bartenders who, no doubt, had a crush on my friend :-) It was a very successful night! We also walked through the red light district which was definitely an experience. If you don't know what I'm talking about, Google it. It's pretty much like an entire other universe they way they live. It's something I'm glad I experienced, but it's not something I'd go back and see.

Sunday morning we work up and did a free walking tour of Amsterdam, which was awesome. Our tour guide, Gerrt, was about 25 and was born in the US. He moved to Portugal during college and then to the Netherlands soon after. It was a 4 hour walking tour, but it was worth it. He made it so much fun and it was a great way to spend the day. We learned that there are over 600,000 bikes in the city and every year, the one hundred kilometers of canals are emptied and over 30,000 bikes are pulled out. Apparently people think it's funny to throw bikes into the canals if they are not locked up. I'd hate it if it were my bike, but I guess it's humorous when its someone else's. Our guide took us to the best cheese shop in Amsterdam, showed us the most famous "Coffee Shop" where we got free posters and also walked us around the Anne Frank house which was incredible to see. Lots of pictures are on FaceBook but here are a few as well.

After our tour around the city, our guide gave us information about a pub crawl through the nightlife section of town. He said he had done it and it was a lot of fun, so we decided to try it out. What a night it was! We met people from all over the world; Spain, France, New York, Portugal and two amazing girls from Northern Ireland! We went around the city to 6 different places and it was such a fun time. I loved meeting new people and experiencing a new and exciting city.

Monday we had a full day of traveling so we got up and began our adventure back home. Since I have been abroad, I think I have pretty much taken EVERY form of public transportation there is: bus, car, taxi, tram, train, metro, plane, bike, I missing any? Phew...we took the train back to Brussels since that's where we were flying out of and then the bus to the airport. We got to the airport at around 4 so we grabbed dinner and checked-in. We met two American guys who were studying abroad in London and Scotland and they were really fun. After doing some duty free shopping we boarded our plane and then found our bus back to UL. We left out hostel in Amsterdam at 11 am and got back to UL at 1:30am Tuesday morning! What a long day. I guess that's what you get for wanting to travel the globe.

On Tuesday morning I met my group for magazine journalism at 10 and then had class from 11-3. It was an absolutely gorgeous day outside; probably the best one we've had so far while in Ireland! Sunshine, mid was fantastic. After class, Morgan and I decided it was WAY too nice outside to go to the library like everyone else was doing. So instead we walked ALL around campus by the Shannon River, which was beautiful. We came across the ruins to an old tower/castle which was really neat. I actually climbed all the way to the top! So proud of myself for conquering my fear of heights. Even Morgan didn't make it all the way up...hehe :-)

Since it is almost St. Patrick's day (and it was such a nice night!), we decided to go and get Shamrock Shakes at McDonalds, which is about a 30 minute walk away. There were fireworks on campus at 7:30 too which were great! All my Irish friends had warned me that they wouldn't be as good as in the US, but they really were quite impressive. After frolicking through the HUGE football field on really...

...we finally got to McDonals at about 8:05. We went to the counter to order our shakes, but apparently on Tuesday nights they clean the milkshake machine at 8 p.m. Just our luck, right? Well anyways, we walked back and everyone decided to go watch a movie. My friend Dan and I decided to walk around a little since it was still so beautiful out and we wound up at the same tower Morgan and I had visited that afternoon. But climbing it in the dark was a little different story. Right when you get to the very top, there is a drop off and there are 2 stairs missing! It is kind of scary and you basically just have to hop over it and wish for the best. So far so good, but I bet next time we decide to take this little adventure maybe I won't be so luck? Probably shouldn't push my luck.

So that's been an update on the happenings of my life. A lot more to tell but I am off to Dublin in a mere 6 hours (yikes!) so I'm going to get some rest first. St. Patrick's day is tomorrow and I am sure Dublin will be filled with tourists! I am staying with my parents friends for the weekend and I am so excited to experience the city with people who know where they are going and what they are doing. It should be a great time. I'll be back Sunday and update you all again next week.

Until then, cheers!
Huntley :-)

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