Viva Espana!!

On April 3rd, I embarked on my week long Spring Break excursion to warm and sunny SPAIN!!! Traveling with me were Colleen and Olivia (of course), along with Gracie, Lindsay, and Bailey. Our first stop was Barcelona where I got to meet up with one of my roommates, Hilary, who is studying there this semester. Although I saw Hilary about two weeks ago when she came to Ireland, it was still really nice to see her again and have her take us around Barcelona! Now, I have been to Barcelona before, so I had already done all the touristy things, but we still hit up Park Guell and Sagrada Familia along with a few other things!

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I found Hilary!

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Me, Gracie, Lindsay, Colleen, Bailey, and Olivia on La Rambla!

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Sagrada Familia! Check it out Grandma!

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Pretending to be a lobster, obviously.

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Park Guell

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This trip to Barcelona was a tad different from when Dad and I took on the big city while visiting my sister Annie who was studying there in 2009. I got a REAL taste of what Barcelona nightlife was like this trip, and let me tell you, it is really something else. We went out two of the three nights we were there and the earliest I got back to my hostel was 5am. So yeah, I did stay out until 8am one night (morning?). It sounds late, but Spaniards don’t even go out until 1 or 2am! Such a different lifestyle from Ireland, where most of the pubs close by midnight, leaving just a few places open until 2am. Despite the late nights, I had SO much fun! The clubs were crazy. Absolutely insane. When the club closed at 630am, I had no idea that it was so early, or that we had been there for so long. No Dad, not because of the drinking, but because it was seriously so much fun!

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After our three day jaunt in Barcelona, we jetted off to Palma de Mallorca, an island right off of Spain. Palma was breathtakingly beautiful. Our hotel (which was cheaper than our accommodation in Barcelona) had balconies that overlooked the pool and ocean. I felt like a real diva staying in such a room with such an amazing view.

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The view from our room

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The cove right outside our hotel

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 Olivia on the beach

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During our stay in Palma, we got to lay in the sun for hours and hours and hours. It was SO nice to see sun after living in rainy Ireland for the past three months. Our days pretty much went like this: wake up at 10am, go down to the pool, read, nap, read, nap again, go back to our rooms, shower, nap again, go to dinner, bed at 11:30pm (sometimes earlier). Repeat for four days and it was a really relaxing trip. Which is just what we wanted/needed after getting basically no sleep in Barcelona.

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Me and Linds in the cove

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San Miguel was the beer of choice on the island

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Palma rocks!! (Get it?)

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 Liv and I at sunset – SO romantic!!!

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 Me, Gracie, Liv, and Colleen

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The Gang

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The island of Palma was pretty deserted when we got there. Probably because we were visiting in April, when their summer season starts in May. It was so empty that a lot of the restaurants only had one or two people working in the entire place. One of the days, Colleen, Olivia and I went into town to get lunch and decided to go to “Cafeteria Grill Sebastian”. Our waiter, who turned out to actually be Sebastian (never would have guessed that one), was the owner, waiter, and chef!!! He was really nice guy! And pretty funny too.

The weather was really nice! It was sunny and in the mid-60’s everyday! However, it did get a little windy at times, and if the sun decided to hide behind the clouds for a few minutes (one day it was hours UGH), it did get a little chilly. However, I still managed to get sunburnt! And I picked up a few freckles while I was there too.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable week! It was nice to have an entire week of traveling instead of a rushed weekend trip. I’m back in Galway and while I am writing this, I am listening to the rain hit the skylight window in my room. Yeah, I wish I was still sitting poolside in the sun with a book. But it sure is nice to be back on the Emerald Isle. It’s shocking to think that I only have a little over a month left here. I haven’t a clue where the past three and a half months have gone. Mom and Dad are coming next week, then Margot (a friend from home), comes the week after that. Then I will be traveling for a week to Scotland and Amsterdam, and by the time I get back to Ireland, I will have about a week and half left abroad. Wow. Time is definitely going to fly, which is actually kind of depressing.

Until my next adventure,

Cheers!

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Flocking to Florenence

Olivia, Colleen and I (we seem to enjoy each others company just a little bit), flew over to Florence March 12-16 for a little fun! Two of my roommates from college at home are studying there so I was VERY excited to see them after all this time apart! We got into Rome late on the 12th and had to sprint onto the last train to Florence. I still can’t believe we made that train. If we hadn’t we would have had to wait until the morning for the next train. So thank god that didn’t happen! 3 hours later (lots of delays on the train) we finally made it to the beautiful city of Firenze!!! It was so nice to reunite with Molly and Allie too!

Molly and Allie had classes Wednesday and Thursday so we got to sleep in a little bit until they were out of class. On Wednesday Molly took the three of us through Florence and we hit all the main spots such as the Duomo! We also saw the “fake” David and the bridge that is on all the postcards I bought! The only downside was that it was raining most of the day, and I currently do not own a raincoat…. Never the less, Florence was still beautiful!

Molly and the Duomo

Molly and the Duomo

Florence

Florence

The Duomo

The Duomo

Molly and I with the fake David

Molly and I with the fake David

Later that night, we headed to a very American pub down the street from Molly and Allie’s apartment called the Lion’s Fountain  This pub let everyone sign the walls and there are a lot of t-shirts with Universities logos from all over the country. Yes, there is a Roger Williams one, but I didn’t get to sign it. I scored a nice spot on the wall where I couldn’t fully form my “Y”s so it looks like my name is actually MARV. Oops. Anyway, at the Lions Fountain, Colleen and I got to meet up with our pal Jack from high school! It was so weird, but fun at the same time. He also bought us a drink on his parents card. THANKS MR. AND MRS. SHEEHAN!

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Jack, Colleen, and I

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Marv/Mary… Same thing

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Florence Fun… Right Molly?

The next day we walked around the city again and got to see the REAL David this time. Let me tell you, this guy is MASSIVE. I have no idea how Michael Angelo carved that thing on his first try. The statue is absolutely amazing. However, upon closer inspection, you can see that a lot of his body parts aren’t proportional to his actual body. It was still really amazing to see.

We had to head out Friday afternoon in order to make our flight which was out of Rome at 6am. Yes, that is right, we had to leave Florence at 4pm in order to make a 6am flight. Italy’s transportation system is pretty awful and they don’t run trains past 9pm or earlier than 7am. We left on a 4pm train with hopes to maybe see a little bit of Rome, but by the time we got there it was dark and none of us knew where to go. Not to mention we were really scared of the italian men. The three of us just ended up getting an overly priced dinner and some gellato before we took a bus to the airport.

We got to the airport at 10pm. And had 8 hours to kill before boarding our flight. The first two hours were great because we had benches to sprawl out on and try and get comfortable. However, once the clock struck twelve, security kicked us out of the terminal and told us we had to find somewhere else to stay. Now, picture this. Three 20 year old American girls, roaming the streets of Rome at midnight. Yeah, we freaked out too. Luckily, the building next door was open and we got to nap it out on the floor. I slept like a baby. Apparently I find floors quite comfortable. Colleen and Olivia on the other hand just kind of rolled around for 5 hours before we could get on the plane.

Olivia (attempts) to sleep at the airport....

Olivia (attempts) to sleep at the airport….

It took us a whopping 22 hours to get home! Although it was a really long trip, I think it was worth it. Italy was absolutely gorgeous and I got to see some friends as well!! What’s not to like?

Ireland Happenings

I have been so busy lately I haven’t been able to update you all on what I have been doing with my life these days! I have had a few visitors from home that have been keeping me preoccupied, and of course there was a little traveling thrown into the mix as well (check out my Florence post!)

The first weekend of March, my friend Jenna from home came to visit little old Galway. Jenna is currently studying in Rome so she just flew over for the weekend. We had some traditional Irish meals such a Guinness and potatoes. It was great craic! One day we even went over to the market that is held every weekend in Galway and I finally got to experience homemade donuts from the donut man! We also walked down to the beach so Jenna could see the docks, colorful houses, and the beach. Fun was had by all!!

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My favorite street performers in all of Galway

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The Donut Man!

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Jenna and I with out donuts (special appearance by Colleen)Image

Jenna, Colleen, and I on the beachImage

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We finally found the sun!!!

From March 6-12th one of my roommates, Hanna, from college back in America came and visited me!!!!! It was SO weird to see someone from America. I still cannot believe that she traveled such a long way to see little old ME! Anyway, Hanna planned her trip just right and came intime to celebrate Colleen’s 21st birthday with a Pub Crawl the first night she got to town! It was a really fun time, most of the kids in my program participated in it and it was such a great (and pretty cheap) way to see a lot of the pubs in Galway. And celebrate Colleen’s birthday as well!

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Here’s a group shot of all of us

The next day we went into town and went to Galway’s tea room for a few cups of tea.

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 Hanna and her tea

After that we sat by the docks for a few hours and toasted to Ireland with a really SCRUMPTIOUS cider we discovered called “Scrumpy Jack”. Far from scrumpy, let me tell you. It was delicious!

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Hanna and I also got to make a trip to the Cliffs of Moher! It turned out to be a pretty nice day and we got to adventure around all the cliffs I’ve never been on before. It was so scary to be so close to the edge of cliffs that are over 390 feet tall. It felt like I was on the edge of the world – SO exhilarating.

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Not that high at all……Image

Hanna stays a safe distance from the edgeImage

I chose to live on the edge

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Nice view, huh? (yeah those are my feet.. sorry mom and dad)

One of my other roommates from college, Hilary, came to spend St. Patricks day in the land where it all began! We had the craic getting our green on and hanging out with the natives on the Irish born holiday! However, I did find that many locals found our obnoxious face tattoos and shamrock sunglasses a little weird – but we really didn’t care at all!

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 Olivia and I in townImage

The Parade in town

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Olivia, Colleen, and I at the Quays Pub

That’s all for now folks!! Classes officially end here a week from today! Crazy to think that I have about a month and a half to write a few papers, take an exam, and do the last of my traveling before I head back to the wonderful U S of A. I’m sure I’ll be living it up as much as I can. I can tell you right now, I will miss my little town of Galway.

 Cheers! Mary

There’s Nothing Like Paris

I might be the luckiest girl alive. This weekend I was able to make my SECOND trip to Paris, which could arguably be the prettiest city in the world. Olivia, Colleen and myself left Galway Friday afternoon (February 22nd) to catch an evening flight from Dublin to Paris. We arrived at St-Michel Place around 12:30am and were greeted by my Aunt Eileen and Uncle Joe who live in Paris and were nice enough to let us crash in their apartment for two nights.

On Saturday, we began our day with croissants that Aunt Ei was nice enough to pick up for us from the bakery down the street and tried to plan out our weekend. It was decided that we would make moves to check out the Louvre and Touleries, and then later have Aunt Eileen take us to Notre Dame before dinner. So we headed out to try to venture our way through the streets of Paris. Luckily, we took along our dear pal, Rick Steves. And I also had written down a few french phrases which would hopefully come in handy if we needed them.

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The bible

On our way to the Louvre we walked over what Aunt Eileen called the “Avon Bridge” because it is made of wood and looks like the boardwalk in Avon. To our surprise this was one of the Lover’s Locks bridges in Paris. On the bridge you write the initials of you and your lover and lock it to the bridge. You then throw the key into the Seine River and your love is ‘locked’ forever.

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Unfortunately, Olivia and I did not have a lock and key. So we won’t be locked together for eternity (thank god).

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After strolling over the bridge we arrived at the Louvre, which is the home to over 445,000 works of art, but only shows 35,000 pieces including the Mona Lisa. We kind of got bored in the museum, but the art was really interesting. Olivia had a good time trying to recreate many of the sculptures.

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The Louvre

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You almost got it girl! I can see your passion.

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NAILED IT!!!!

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Hey Mona, didn’t see you there!

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I’m a tourist, okay?

After maxing out at 2hrs of touring the massive museum, we headed out into the Touleries for some fresh air and to hunt down a cafe for some Croque Monsieurs (basically grilled cheese with ham) and Crepes. Luckily we found both! But before we could sit down to eat, we got our first daylight glimpse of the Eiffel Tower! So beautiful.

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There it is!

Anyway, we found the cheapest crepes we could and they were even filled with nutella! YUMMPOP! I got half way through mine and wanted to puke it back up because it was so rich and filling, however Colleen and Olivia MADE me finish it. After our lunch and snack we ventured back to the apartment where Aunt Eileen had some afternoon tea waiting for us. We rested up for a little, but then went back out for more adventures, Aunt Ei leading the way this time.

She took us to see the Roman Ruins, the place where a lot of famous Parians are buried (I don’t remember the name), the steps where Owen Wilson sat in Midnight in Paris, and of course Notre Dame (are you reading this Grandma?) It is the 850 year anniversary of Notre Dame so there were a lot of people around the church to see it. When we went inside Aunt Eileen pointed out these massive bells that were lining the main aisle of the church. We had no idea what they were for, but later found out that they had been purchased for the 850yr anniversary and were going to be placed at the top of the church later this week. Pretty cool that I was one of the few (or many, whichever way you want to look at it) who got to see these bells! It’s also crazy to think that Notre Dame has just reached it’s 850yr anniversary while America is only 236 years old!

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Notre Dame!

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Inside Notre Dame

After our little walking tour with Aunt Eileen, we met Uncle Joe at a cafe across from Notre Dame for a drink before dinner. We ended up eating at a little place down the road where there was a cat who would sit on your lap while you were eating! He really had a thing for Colleen and Uncle Joe.

Uncle Joe, Colleen, and Cat

Uncle Joe, Colleen, and Cat

Dinner was amazing. Colleen, Olivia and I all agree that it might be one of the top dinners we have had while being abroad. That’s not saying much since we usually dine on PB&J sandwiches… But it really was amazing. After dinner and dessert, we walked back to the apartment and tried to rally ourselves to go out. The girls and I ended up just going to a cafe down the road for a glass of wine.

We woke up really early (7:30am) on Sunday to get to the Eiffel Tower before it opened. Our trusty pal, Rick Steves, suggested this in order to avoid long lines. Well Rick, you were right! Colleen, Olivia and I got there around 9:15am and the ticket booth opened at 9:30am. We were able to get up and down the tower in about 45 minutes! We only went to the second floor because it was an extra 7euro to climb to the tippy top. Ain’t nobody got time for that! The second level was more than enough for us because it was about 20 degrees, windy, and snowing. At one point we all had tears streaming down our faces from the wind. We did however splurge and buy ourselves a little cup of hot chocolate and enjoyed the views.

Second level view

Second level view

Second level view

Second level view

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I think I'm in love

I think I’m in love

We left the Eiffel Tower and walked over the Arc De Triomphe and down the Champs-Élysées. It was really pretty!

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On our walk a lady came up to us and started telling us about how she was from Canada and was here shopping but her debit card was eaten by the ATM and had no money to get back to her hotel. We were all a little skeptical about her real motives for asking for money, but the lady was almost in tears and I felt really bad so I gave her the 3 euro I had in my pocket. I think she really was lost/in trouble because she didn’t ask for more once I have her my last few dimes. This made me feel pretty good about myself and I was happy I could help out a stranger. It is lent after all!

Before heading back to the apartment the three of us just walked around and got lost in Paris. Seriously. We got lost and couldn’t figure out how to get back to the apartment. Thankfully Colleen and Rick were able to navigate us back to St-Michel for a quick nap before the last supper with Aunt Eileen and Uncle Joe.

The weekend was really amazing. It is such an awesome experience to be able to travel to all of these magnificent places with your friends. Who else gets opportunities like this? I am also really thankful that Aunt Eileen and Uncle Joe put us up for the weekend because it made the whole experience of Paris more glamourous compared to if we were sleeping in a gross hostel with strangers.

After this second trip I have had a few realizations about Paris:

1. It’s my favorite city in the world (as of yet, that is)

2. Parisians are actually very friendly contrary to popular belief!

3. Going off of Parisians being very friendly. They might be a little TOO friendly. The men in Paris really liked to flirt with us. While in some cases it was good fun (ie. “Don’t touch your plate, it is very hot…  Like me” – Waiter), other times it was a little creepy, (“Sorry, you can’t board the plane, you’ll have to stay the night in the airport with me” – Passport control)

Hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed Paris! I’ll be back again soon.

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Xo, Mary

LONDON!!

This past weekend I flew over to London to visit some of my friends from RWU who are studying there this semester. I left Galway very early Friday morning and didn’t get back to the Emerald Island until about 5pm today (Monday). It was great to see all my friends and was cool to walk around the city again (even though I was just there in May). I stayed with  Cait in her dorm which was really nice because I didn’t have to pay for accommodation. We did the usual touristy things like going to see Big Ben, the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, ect…. The weather was also really nice (no rain)!! Check out some of the pictures below.

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The London Eye and Big BenImage

Cait and I waiting for the tubeImage

Westminster Abbey (and Caits head)ImageImage

This horse tried eating my head, sadly that special moment is not captured on filmImage

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Big Ben!Image

In front of the London Eye!

I really like London, but it was so nice to get back to Galway. London is massive compared to my little town of Galway, not to mention London is really expensive! All in all it was good craic and I am going to miss all of my friends who are living there this semester.

Stay tuned for more of my adventures abroad!!!!!!

Rugby Games & Castlebar!

So much has been happening the past two weeks, I haven’t had time to write a new post and update you all on the craic over here in Galway! I think I have officially settled in to classes at NUIG and my house. I went to my first rugby game a two weekends ago and was up in Castlebar Co. Mayo to stay with an Irish family as part of my orientation. I don’t even know where to begin to explain it all, so once again, I am going to break it down a little just to keep my thoughts a little more organized!

Rugby Game: 

I think it was two weekends ago when we decided to go to a rugby game at NUIG. I have been to a few of the rugby games back at RWU, so it wasn’t that much different, but it was still really fun and exciting! The game was home so we had to navigate our way through Galway/campus to find the fields. This took a little time, but with help from friendly Galway natives, we finally made it! Thankfully it was a sunny day so we were able to enjoy ourselves and the game without standing in the rain and being miserable. When we arrived at the game, I was surprised to see that there was actual a castle right across the river from us – just another reminder to me that I’m actually in Ireland. NUIG ended up losing the game, but it was still fun to cheer on NUIG and take in some of the sights!

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NUIG in Maroon (I think…….)

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At the game with Maggie, Gracie and Olivia.

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Model status with Krissy and the castle!

Home Stay in Castlebar, CO. Mayo:

Friday, January 18th-Sunday, January 20th, my whole program was shipped off to the town of Castlebar which is in Mayo County, to spend the weekend with an Irish family. We were placed with another Arcadia student so we weren’t completely alone which was comforting. Moira (who I was placed with) and I ended up staying with the Faul family: John (Dad), Angela (Mom), Lauren (17yr old sister), Jane (13yr old sister) and their two dogs Harry and Russell. I wasn’t too nervous going into the weekend, which was a good thing because our family was so friendly and welcoming! The lived in a beautiful house which actually used to be an old Bed and Breakfast! Moira and I each had our own room and bathroom which was very unexpected.

It was the first time the Faul family had ever done the home stay program, so I think they were a little unsure of what to do with Moira and I, but we still made the best of it!! They took us to see Croagh Patrick which is a mountain in Westport, Co. Mayo, which is apparently where St. Patrick fasted for 40 days then built a church on the top. Everyday you can find people climbing it as a pilgrimage. My host sister, Lauren said that she climbed it once and it took 3.5 hours to get to the top, but the last 10 minutes before you reach the summit you are climbing on your hands and knees because it is so steep! I didn’t get to climb it, but a few of us from the program are talking about going back to make the journey to the top!

Croagh Patrick

Croagh Patrick

I swear there is a church on the top

I swear there is a church on the top

Chapel at the bottom of the mountain

Chapel at the bottom of the mountain

Besides seeing Croagh Patrick, we also went to a nearby beach, a museum, and drove around the country side! Ireland is seriously one of the prettiest places I have seen – rain or shine!

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Rainbow over the Atlantic!

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Snow at the top of this mountain (I don’t remember the name of it)

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If you keep going straight, the next Parish is in Boston! (Says my home stay dad)

Besides sightseeing, my home stay family was determined to give us the best “cultural experience” they could. This included drinking roughly 10 cups of tea a day, a viewing of Ireland’s infamous Father Ted, and feasting on a typical Irish breakfast which consists of eggs, sausage, and Irish pudding. You might think the pudding is your typical Jell-o recipe, but I’m sorry to inform you it actual consists of pigs blood. Yes. pigs blood. Believe it or not, I did try some and it wasn’t THAT bad, however, I still found it really hard to eat just because I knew what it was.

The Faul family invited Moira and I to come back whenever we want, especially if we are feeling homesick and want a home cooked meal. I will always remember this experience and am so happy that Arcadia University had us participate in it.

Other than that, nothing else has been going on in little old Galway besides trying to stay as dry as possible!

I’ll try and write again soon!!

Mary 🙂

What’s the craic?

Today ended the first week of classes at NUIG. I’m required to enroll in 6 classes in order to stay up with my credits back home in the States. We are allowed a 2 week trial period to test out as many classes as we want before officially deciding. Pretty cool!! I’m still trying to figure out what ones I am interested in, but for the most part they are all about the history of Ireland. I wanted to make my schedule so that I don’t have class on Fridays in order to make the most out of traveling Europe, but I don’t think it will be able to work out in my favor. Class is optional and all the notes are online so if I do miss a class it’s not the end of the world! Very different from America.

I met my Irish roommates (Lisa, Emma, Ann, and Ornah) on Sunday and they are absolutely lovely. They love to drink tea, I don’t hate it! All the girls have been so accommodating to Katie (my American roommate) and I with getting adjusted to Galway and class. They also love hanging out with us and introducing us to all of their friends. Apparently we are a lot more normal than the Americans they had last semester. They clearly haven’t gotten to know me yet. But overall they are a loud, funny, crazy group of gals. I think I will fit in quite nicely. I have noticed that their lingo is a lot different from mine which has caused a little confusion in conversation. My favorite is “What’s the craic?” See definition below. The good news is I’m slowing picking up all their little phrases and will probably come back to the US with a whole new dialect.

Craic – 
Irish word for fun/enjoyment that has been brought into the English language. When mixed with alcohol and/or music.  ’Bhi craic agus ceol againn’ : We had fun and music. Fun doesn’t really cut it though. General banter, good times had by all.  Also, a person who is good fun/great company.
Examples:
  • It was great craic. 
  • She’s great craic when she gets going. 
  • He’s great craic when he has a few pints on him. 
  • What’s the craic? 
  • How’s the craic? 
  • The craic was mighty. 

Very excited for what the next five months will bring!!!

Love to all,

Mary xoxo :)

PS. Enjoy the attached picture which is my reaction to whiskey. I call it “traumatized turtle”.

Traumatized Turtle

Traumatized Turtle