Pre-Study Abroad Travels
Hello and welcome to my study abroad blog! This fall I will be spending four months in Barcelona, Spain studying, interning, traveling and hopefully having the time of my life. If you are at all curios about what I’m up to during this exciting time then you’ve come to the right place!
Last Tuesday I began my adventure abroad by flying to Oslo, Norway with one of my best buds Hannah. Since we were already spending a fortune flying to Europe, why not go a week early and see some cool places?
Our time in Norway was very short and sweet. We got over jet lag pretty fast, spent a lot of time with an awesome chick from Sweden, saw a few neat tourist attractions (the opera house, palace, and sculpture garden); but what I really want to talk about is our week in Ireland!
After our day and a half in Norway we were back on a plane heading to Dublin, Ireland. After some confusion in the airport (we forgot to turn our clocks back one hour from Norway and waited forever for our shuttle!) We finally checked into our hostel and were off to a pub to have our first Guinness and fish ‘n chips. What we planned as a low key night turned in to meeting lots of locals and dancing many traditional Irish dances with friendly old men!
I’ve been here for a week now and it still amazes me how friendly people are. We came to Ireland without a single plan and just by talking to a few locals we had our entire week planned! They also go so far out of their way to direct us and answer our silly questions; basically if you want to visit a European country that loves tourists, Ireland is the place to go.
The next day we spent wandering around Dublin. One of my favorite parts about being in a new city is walking with no destination and seeing where I end up. We saw O’Connell Bridge, Trinity College, Temple Bar, St. Stephen’s green, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and ended our day with a tour of the Guinness factory! We had a low key night since we had to be up bright and early for our Cliffs of Moher tour.
Our bus to the cliffs had about ten people from all over the world: Japan, France, Spain, Mexico… We got lucky with an awesome tour guide who told jokes and facts about Ireland the entire drive. On the way we stopped at some beautiful Ireland ruins and a rest stop called Barrack Obama plaza. Obama traces his roots back to this town and it’s a really big deal for Ireland, pretty funny.
It’s hard to choose my favorite part of Ireland, but the cliffs are definitely on the top of my list! For a while we tried capturing the beauty from different spots and angles, but our pictures just don’t do it justice. So we put our cameras away and instead found a nice spot (pretty close to the edge!) and we just took in the beauty until our bus left.
That night we had a blast doing our own pub crawl. We ended up at a pub called O’Briens drinking, dancing and singing to my new favorite song Bog in the Valley O.
The next morning we took a bus to Galway. Again it’s so hard to decide, but this was probably my favorite city! There wasn’t much to see like castles or cathedrals, but the people and energy in the small town was amazing. We rented bikes and enjoyed the rainy day in Salt Hill, we almost jumped in the ocean with some Irishmen having a stag party (bachelor party) but we decided to watch them freeze instead.
We cooked a delicious dinner in our hostel and made some friends. Then we were ready for a night out with Jacob from Texas. All of the pubs in Galway are on one street which was so convenient for pub hopping. By the end of the night I had lost count of the number of bars we went to. We met so many interesting people, including a man from Chile who thought I looked French with my short hair. Our most fun night in Ireland by far!
The next morning was a bit of a struggle, but we hopped on a bus and made our way to the lovely city of Cork. Once in Cork, we wandered around for a bit and ended up one a bus to Blarney to see the Blarney Castle and kiss the stone! We were debating whether it was worth the 10 euro to get into the castle, but once we were in it was definitely worth the money. The castle was on a large piece of property with many hiking trails that passed streams, beautiful hills, and horses.
After a lovely hour long stroll we lopped back around to the castle. It was quiet the hike to the top of the castle in a very narrow winding stairway. Once at the top we got to kiss that Blarney stone which is supposed to give you the gift of gab, tourists love it. I was hesitant at first but really glad I did it. You have to lie on your back and hang basically off the castle to kiss the stone. A man is there to help you, but I still felt pretty bad ass doing it. Next we enjoyed a 99 which is soft served ice cream with a chocolate ‘stick’ in it. So delicious and creamy! Lastly we headed back to Cork and then back to Dublin. The best way to travel through Ireland is on buses which is cheap and convenient, but it gets old pretty fast.
The next morning we were back on a Paddywagon bus heading to Glendalough, the Wicklow Mountains and the town of Kilkenny. Our tour guide this time was not very informative or entertaining; Hannah and I decided that he was hung over. Despite the bad guide, we had a nice morning hiking through a beautiful mossy forest in Glendalough and exploring the ruins. There were many destroyed buildings including a tower, cathedral, church, priests house…all surrounded by a graveyard. It was a foggy day which gave the abandoned area a mysterious, spooky feeling. Next we drove through the Wicklow Mountains; unfortunately it was a rainy foggy day so we couldn’t see the stunning views.
After a nice nap on the bus, I woke up in the city of Kilkenny. Hannah and I spent some time walking around the Castle. We enjoyed walking on the endless green property letting the crazy wind hold our bodies up. Next we leisurely strolled around the cute town and ended up at a chapel. We paid a few euros to climb to the top of a round narrow tour. Once at the top we enjoyed a great view of the entire town. After a sleepy bus ride home we got ready for a fun night out to celebrate Hannah’s journey to Bulgaria the next day!
Our night began with a scrumptious dinner out were Hannah finally got to try bangers ‘n mas, another traditional Irish meal of sausage and mashed potatoes. Next hung out with some Spaniards from our hostel on a balcony drinking wine. We had fun teaching the English while they taught us Spanish and showed up some awesome magic tricks. Even though we were having a blast we left to meet some of the hostel staff at a pub down the street. We arrived right as the pub was about to ‘lock up’ which means people can stay for a few hours but they don’t let any new people in. So we arrived just in the nick of time! We had a great night drinking and discussing funny things about our hostel, Paddy’s Palace, which has its ups and its downs. One highlight of the night was running into a Canadian friend Sean that we met in Cork two days before. Man what a small world. It was a great last night with my travel buddy, Hannah.
The next day was pretty uneventful. We woke up late and had a traditional Irish breakfast which you can order a full or a mini, I got the full of course. It’s pretty much an assortment of strange yet delicious meats, a fried egg, and a lot of toast. Then we bought some postcards which is one of my favorite souvenirs to bring home. Afterwards it was time to say our good byes. It was bitter sweet; one adventure ends and another begins! Later that day I checked into a different hostel across town, this one had better wifi so I could spend some time emailing, uploading pictures and typing my blog. The next day I had a leisurely morning eating, journaling, and talking to some of the other travels. Around noon I returned to my original hostel to meet up with my Spanish friends for a day in the cute boat town called Howth. I had no clue what to expect, but when a group of fun people ask to spend the day with me I just can’t say no!
After a 20 minute train ride north we made it Howth. This is when I found out that we were going on a 10km hike through a mountain. I was excited but bummed that I didn’t dress appropriately for hiking. Anyways we were off up the mountain in no time. It was absolutely stunning! I would compare it to the Cliffs of Moher but with fewer tourists, so pretty much my favorite place in Ireland. We took a lot of breaks for photos and great views, but eventually made out way to the top of the mountain were we ate lunch and took a siesta.
On our way back to the town we looped around and took a different path. I’m so glad I came with this group because they knew were all of the awesome spots were! One of the guys took us to a hidden beach. Getting to it involved scaling down the mountain with only a rope for support. Pretty terrifying, but pretty awesome. It was beautiful! We spent at least a half an hour at this spot snapping a few pictures but mostly just enjoying the sights and crazy waves.
It was great practicing my Spanish for the day, but I also got some breaks by talking to an Australian named Bell in English who tagged along as well. Once we got back to Dublin I split off for a relaxing night attempting to skype with my family. I got to say hi which was great but my internet connection didn’t allow a great conversation like I had hoped for.
Today was my final day in Ireland and it was a good one. I started the day by making a new friend named Rahul from Washington State. He just spent the summer in Madrid and got me really pumped for my time in Spain! Then on my own I headed to the National Museum of Ireland, the Archeology Museum, and the Natural History Museum. All three were free so I strolled around without a care. Next stop was the Old Jameson Distillery, but when I arrived it was filled with people here for the Penn State football game tomorrow and all of the tours were booked. I was bummed at first but decided to spend the money I saved on the tour on a nice meal out and a Jameson at the pub! It was a great last meal in Dublin.
I’m headed to bed nice and early so I can wake up and catch a bus to the airport at 2am. I’m off to Barcelona tomorrow to finally begin orientation and my semester abroad! Thanks for reading, I’ll post again soon.