I studied abroad in Grantham, England for a semester in the spring of 2010. Start from the first blog post to follow my adventures throughout Europe!

Harlaxton Weekend & Dublin and Galway, Ireland

It's been a while, I know! But I'm ready to dive into what will surely be my longest blog yet...

Here at Harlaxton, we normally don't have classes on Fridays which makes it easier for us to travel. In order to have long weekends (meaning no class on Thursday) we have to make up for the missed day. So we had class on Friday, Feb. 4 and just about the entire school decided to stay at Harlaxton on the short weekend, including me. Friday night a group of us (Sarah, Russell, Susan, Kyle, Molly, Clay, Kyle, Chelsea, and Alex) got together in the Carriage House and played Catch Phrase for a couple hours. As usual, the game provided plenty of frustration and laughs to go around. It was fun to just relax at school and spend time with each other without worrying about traveling.

I spent some time on Saturday working on homework, which unfortunately piles up quickly here. That night, basically all of Harlaxton went into Grantham to the most popular pub, The Goose. All the girls got ready together and dressed up, so that made it even more fun. We learned of a new drink called Cheeky Vimto, whose name was the source of a lot of laughter that night. We spent a couple of hours at the pub, hanging out with each other (we took up nearly half the place!) and then headed to the night club called Vibe. It was fun dancing around and acting silly, but the guys there are SO creepy! They seriously don't give up. I literally said to a 40-year-old dude: "Please stop creeping on us." And it had no effect. It's harmless but also annoying!

Monday morning brought our second British Studies quiz, which Clay, Sarah and I carefully studied for. I got a 9/10 on the quiz (stupid question about England and Scotland's treaty!) which I was still very pleased with. I had basketball practice that night, which I'm still enjoying. Several of us have started playing soccer a night or two a week in the gym, which I am absolutely loving. It's such a stress relief and one of my favorite things to do. Anyway, Tuesday brought with it the prospect of doom for the next day: my first British Studies exam. To begin studying, Sarah, Clay and I made an outline of every single English king (sometimes queen) and their importance. Then we moved on to learning about Lincoln, the town we took a field trip to, and how the city's architecture influenced different ways of life. We then studied different portraits of monarchs, as one of the questions would be to analyze a portrait. We studied together for nearly six hours and then I stayed in the library for another hour or so by myself. When I got back to the Carriage House, I still didn't feel confident, so I stayed up until about 3:30, practicing writing outlines from previous tests. We still had to go to British Studies Lecture and Seminar the next morning (all information that could be on our test too, eek!), and then I spent another hour or so looking over all our study guides.

Finally, the time came to take the test in the Long Hall and I felt like I was in the Great Hall at Hogwarts, about to take my OWLs. We had two hours to answer three essays, and you will probably not be surprised to learn I was in there until nearly the last second. The portrait was of Queen Elizabeth I, which I found to be very lucky, considering I had studied that exact portrait of her the night before. I rocked that essay. The next question was about Lincoln's architecture and I felt like I gave a solid answer but it was definitely the one I felt least secure about. The last question had four options, and I chose to talk about how church and state were related throughout British history. I wrote a freaking novel about Henry VIII and included all sorts of random, unnecessary facts, but I felt awesome about the essay. Hopefully I'll pull away with a B, an A if Bujak is feeling nice! It was such a relief to be done with the test and start looking forward to IRELAND!

After the test, we (Sarah, Molly, Kyle, Alex, Clay, Susan, E-Ho and I) gathered up our luggage and waited for the Refectory to open at 5:15. I then proceeded to shove a tuna sandwich down my throat and hopped in a cab at 5:20. Our hour long cab ride took us to the East Midlands Airport (it was cheaper to take a cab than train in this case) and we went through security (they took my lotion AND patted me down and used the scanner on me!) and got all checked in. Our flight left soon after and we flew with RyanAir to Dublin, Ireland. The plane ride was only about 40 minutes and not bad at all! Once we arrived, we grabbed a cab to our hostel, called Abigail's. We made our beds and got settled in, and decided it was time to celebrate Sarah's birthday since she had spent the whole of it studying for our exam. We made up a card game called Hooligans, and the basic point was to ask people questions and learn about each other. It was such a blast! We had the most fun thinking of ridiculous questions, and sometimes answers. It was a late night, but so much fun, and luckily we were able to sleep until about 11 the next day...

As we had to share a bathroom in the hostel, we hurriedly got ready and set out to find a quick lunch, which we located at Subway. Then we found the meeting spot for our free three-hour tour (with the same company we used in Edinburgh), and found that several other friends from Harlaxton were joining us. Our tour guide was named Garven, and although he was no Alan, he was still awesome with curly red hair (so Irish) and a cool accent. We checked out City Hall, Dublin Castle, an awesomely designed helicopter pad, Christ Church Cathedral (where Handel's Messiah was first performed!), along with the bridges along the river which made up the center of the city, a private school in the city called Trinity, Leinster House, and an adorable park where we had fun taking fake senior pictures. It was a great way to learn about the city. Honestly though, I'm not sure where the phrase "luck of the Irish" comes from. Ireland's history is full of things going wrong, failed rebellions, and shortcomings. Poor country!

On the way back to the hostel we saw a guy performing in the street, fully clothed in leopard from head to toe, dancing to Michael Jackson, doing the limbo under burning sticks. It was interesting to say the least. That night, Sarah, Clay and I went to a little pizza parlour for dinner, which surprisingly had awesome chips (French fries in America). Everyone went out to pubs/clubs that night, but Clay and I decided to check out the city outside. We ended up meeting an awesomely drunk guy (who was SO drunk it was impossible to tell if he was retarded when sober), who informed us he was an artist and told us all the best views of Dublin. It was very entertaining. We walked around a bit more and I saw a shop that was open and suddenly I wanted a snack. We walked in and, low and behold, standing there in all its glory, was an ice cream bar, complete with mint chocolate chip ice cream and waffle cones to put them in. I ecstatically ate my ice cream like a starving child and it tasted just like it does at home--delicious. We turned in fairly early and were excited to hear all our friends went to a club where Ne-Yo performed. No big deal, right?

The next morning, everyone had different plans: Alex and Susan went on a day tour; Kyle, E-Ho, Molly and a few of her friends who are studying abroad also went on a paddy wagon; and Sarah, Clay and I took a train to Galway, a city on the western coast of Ireland. After about a mile walk to the train station, we all practically passed out on the train (which was super nice--the train, and the nap too I suppose) for most of the three hour ride. We arrived in Galway around noon and spent more time than was necessary searching for our hostel, Barnacles. It happened to be located pretty might right in the center of the main shopping street. So we checked into our room and headed out to try and find a tour to the Cliffs of Moher. Little did we know, that requires an entire day tour, and the bus left at 10 in the morning. Unfortunately for us, we already had train tickets back to Dublin for 9:30 in the morning. But, being the smart kids we are, we found a coach that would take us back to Dublin the following night for 7 and a tour that would take us to the Cliffs for 10 the next morning. So we only lost out on £10 for the train ticket back to Dublin, which was totally worth it to me!

We spent the rest of the afternoon checking out the neat shops all over town. We ate lunch at a sandwich shop called O'Briens. The servers were so nice--everyone in Ireland is nice! It was definitely a trend I noticed. Then we headed to the other side of the city, where we found an oceanish body of water that was high enough to come right up to a set of steps where we sat and enjoyed the view. When we first sat down, the whole place was swarmed with seagulls. They were flying all around us in all directions and it was really neat. We had seen a few swans in the water, but apparently there was an entire herd of swans (did you know they're called a "wedge" while in the air?) who were not at all afraid of us. They came so close to us that we backed away for fear of attack. But they are such beautiful creatures! It was fun to watch them for a bit. In an embankment behind us, we noticed people looking down into the water and cheering, so we decided to check it out. We ended up stumbling upon a kind of water polo/soccer in kayaks match, which I had never seen before. We tried to learn some of the rules and watch the way they scored, etc. It was a really neat thing to see--it's crazy what a different world it is over here.

We headed back to the hostel to change for the evening when we noticed it was really quite cold in our room. The heater said not to try and turn it on, so we didn't mess with it, but on the way out we asked when it would be turned on. The desk clerk assured us it would turn on by 7:30, so we went on our merry way to an Italian restaurant next door, which was tasty, especially the chocolate dessert we shared. Yum! We checked out a few of the pubs, searching for a good place to listen to some local music, but they were all so crowded and uncomfortable that we ended up finding the nicest McDonald's ever, splitting a large fry, and just hanging out. We had a good time and decided we ought to get to bed at a decent time since our tour was leaving at 10 the next morning. We returned to our room to find that it was just as cold, if not colder, than when we left. And when I say cold, I'm talking below freezing. Sleeping outside would have felt the same. So in order to adapt and survive, ALL THREE OF US slept in a TWIN sized bed with THREE blankets all night. It was so ridiculously miserable! It was freezing cold outside the blankets, but kind of warm underneath, not to mention I was breaking out in hives and AHH--it was awful! Taking a shower the next morning was the worst; I honestly have no idea how I made myself do it. But we grabbed some tasty toast from the kitchen and got out of there as soon as possible. Everything else about the hostel was perfect, but nothing made sleeping in 30 degree weather worth it.

So we headed to the coach station and located our bus for the day. We left at about 10 and our driver/tour guide told us all sorts of Irish stories along the way. We stopped at a spot where Celtics used to live and saw how they protected themselves from enemies, and we checked out a super old tomb stone that was really awesome to see. We stopped in a little village called Doolin for lunch, where I had some of the most amazing potato soup I have ever had the privilege of eating. And finally, we arrived at the Cliffs of Moher. Absolutely breathtaking. I honestly can't do the place justice; pictures can come close, but seeing it with your own eyes is another thing entirely. The cliffs cascaded down the shore, creating an amazing landscape around the huge expansion of the Atlantic Ocean. The sun even came out while we were taking pictures and I was able to get some awesome shots of the cliffs with the sun shining through the clouds, creating "crepuscular rays" also known as "Jesus rays."

I also thought this story was funny: I had the bright idea to climb up on one of the walls that had flat grass behind it, to get an epic photo with the cliffs in the background. Instead of simply jumping in the air to snap the photo and landing back in the grass, I for some reason thought it was necessary to jump OFF the wall entirely, making about a 7 foot drop by the time I jumped in the air. Needless to say, my feet were stinging and the picture was a fail after that. Then I realized that I could save myself some pain if I just jumped straight up and landed back where I started. I was ready to do this when Clay, who was taking the picture, said, "Okay, one--two--th--" during which time I began to jump, but he abruptly abandoned the picture to move to a better location, sending me flailing my arms in an attempt to regain balance. Finally I did, and the perfect picture was snapped. I refused to jump down again, so Clay lifted me down and intelligently put his camera string in his mouth, sending his camera free falling toward my face, which it collided with and put the cherry on top of my less than graceful experience. I got the picture though, right?

We explored the cliffs, viewing them from all different angles for about an hour and a half before we loaded the tour bus again. We stopped at Galway Bay on the way back to the city, which I LOVED. It was so gorgeous! The sun was setting in the background and the water was so blue and beautiful. We took a few fun pictures and just stood in awe of the beauty of the place. It took about two hours to get back to Galway, meaning we had only about 10 minutes between arriving and getting onto our next coach back to Dublin (we brought our luggage with us on the tour for this reason) at the bus station. We loaded up again and spent the next three hours listening to a pair of grown adults watch Alvin the Chipmunk on a computer with no headphones. Talk about annoying. Our day totaled about seven and a half hours on a bus--totally worth it!

We got into Dublin and met up with the rest of the crew who had stayed there, and checked out a few of the pubs. We found a couple neat places and ended up at a place called the Temple Bar. We ran into Chelsea there, who had gone on the trip with the school, and we decided to find the pub where P.S. I Love You was filmed. It was only about a fifteen minute walk and we found Whelan's Pub and took a picture outside. Clay and I realized we hadn't eaten since lunch and across the street was Eddie Rocket's (basically the exact same thing as Johnny Rocket's), so I loaded up on cheese fries and a burger and it was heavenly. We had a good time talking and recounting stories from the weekend.

After a bit we walked Chelsea back to our hotel (when we met some Irish guys who were fascinated that we were Americans) and hung out at a pub called Legends, which was much more relaxed and chill than any others we had been to. Then we headed to the hostel where our friends had stayed at the night before, called Abbey Court. Our cab was supposed to pick us up from there at 3 AM, but somehow the times got mixed up and our driver thought it was 4. So we were sitting in the lobby of a hostel we weren't even staying at, with a pissed off Ukrainian chick working the desk, telling her friends about us in another language. She basically kicked us out of the lobby to which Kyle cleverly responded, "Alright, you enjoy your cheeseburger!" It might help to know she was not the thinnest or most attractive person. She said, "I VILL enjoy my cheeseburger!" and that was that. Then Kyle, being the lucky person he is, said "I bet if we just stand here long enough a van will come--oh wait, here's on--hi, five Euro a person? Yeah? Perfect." I don't know how he does it!

We headed back to the airport after an awesome weekend, and waited on security to open. I fell asleep sitting up with my head against my suitcase but woke up to get through security with no troubles this time. All we wanted to do was get to the waiting area so we could sleep until our plane left at 7:30. Ah, but this is Europe, and Europe is much much different from America, especially in the fact that they do not heat buildings regularly. So we were in Dublin's airport at 5 in the morning, might as well have been sitting outside, trying to sleep. It was so freaking miserable! I wanted nothing more than a shower and a warm bed. I'd say I slept for about thirty minutes out of sheer exhaustion. Eventually the time came and we boarded our plane, on which I slept the full 40 minutes, and we were back in the East Midlands Airport. We waited for about 15 minutes (I fell asleep) for our cab, and then I slept the hour back to Harlaxton. I had a blast in Ireland but I was so happy to see that Carriage House again. I showered for ages and took a four hour nap before dinner, and it felt amazing.

Dublin was a fun city, but I liked Galway so much more. It was much smaller and homier; I felt it gave a truer sense of the Irish people. It's like New York City isn't really a representation of America, but many people think of that first thing. The Cliffs of Moher and Galway Bay were definitely my favorite parts of the trip.

Monday night the Bistro hosted a Valentine's Day Dance, so we all dressed up ridiculously (I wore a terribly mismatched outfit with red and pink clothes) and had a great time together. Karaoke night is coming up soon so I'm excited for that one! I have an incredibly ridiculous to-do list right now--all sorts of papers and projects coming up. It's so hard to focus when I'm thinking about my plans for the weekend, but it has to be done. I hope all is well back home. Miss you!
Katie Knecht2 Comments