A Semester in Prague: Week 1

Its no secret that I’ve been a traveler since I knew what the word meant. I’ve spent quite a few summers abroad, exploring the world less known to me. When the opportunity to study abroad first became known to me my mind went wild with possibilities. Would I stick with something comfortable like London, go as far as I could to Australia, or place myself in an entirely foreign environment like South America or Africa? While Australia really tickled my fancy for a while, a program offered by my university caught my attention. You see, NC State has a foreign campus in the cultural hotspot of Prague, Czech Republic. I had never been to Eastern Europe and the comfort of having a piece of my family just a short plane journey away really appealed to me. I submitted my application and within a few months and a fair deal of planning, visas, and stress, I was on a plane to the Czech Republic.

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Monday (Jan 8th) started the first day of orientation for NC State Prague. We hopped on a tram and took it to Wenceslas Square (Václavské náměstí). It turns out the school is located directly in the center of Prague, just a few feet off of the Old Town Square. After what seemed like endless meetings about expectations, rules, and academics, a few awkward ice-breakers, and a quick history lesson we were free to explore the city. It gets dark at around 4:30 here, so most of our exploring was done in the dark, but this city looks beautiful lit up at night. We wandered around the Old Town Square, made our way to the Charles Bridge, and managed to get back to our accommodations without getting lost or asking for directions.

The next day we were given a guided tour around the city. Our tour guide was American and had moved here after her studies, and knew a heck of a lot about the city. It was interesting to learn about the history of the city through the world wars and the communist regime in the Czech Republic. Since the city was occupied by the Germans before WWII began, much of the city was left unharmed in the war. A good majority of Prague is centuries older than the United States and its crazy to think of all the life that has been lived on the streets of Prague.

After a full day of touring the city, my friends and I wandered into a so-called speakeasy in the center of Prague. It was recommended by our tour guide as a good spot for a beer away from the typical tourist destinations. It was located within an apartment, on the very top floor and was cool and quirky, the way you’d expect a speakeasy to be. After a beer and some good conversation, we headed back to our dorms and called it a night.

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On Wednesday, we left the city for our first out-of-city excursion. We headed north in the Czech Republic for a ski trip in the mountains. On our way we stopped at the Sychrov Castle for a tour. The castle was owned and occupied by the Rohan family from the early 19th century, when they reconstructed the castle that previously stood here, until the WWII when it was nationalized. It was absolutely beautiful, but oh so cold within the castle walls. I guess central heating wasn’t popular in the 19th century.

After our tour we headed to Černý Důl, a small ski town in the northern part of the Czech Republic. Once we had checked into our hotel, we went to the ski shop to rent our skis. Later we had dinner, and the whole group met up for a night of games. The restaurant/pub had 9-pin, pool, and table football. We played these games late into the evening, then went to bed, getting well rested for a day of skiing.

The next morning, we woke up to a fresh dusting of snow and a winter wonderland in Černý Důl. We put all of our gear on and walked to the ski lift only a short walk away. Unfortunately I sliced a good chunk of my finger on the bottom of my skis, but a quick rinse and bandaid later, I was ready to hit the slopes. The view from the top of the ski lift was worth the terror of making it down the slope. I am no rookie skier, but I was not prepared for the steepness of the hill. I managed to make it down the hill a few times with only one fall before deciding to call it a day. I wanted to stop while I was ahead and before I took a huge tumble or exhausted every muscle in my body. But my goodness, it was a beautiful ride. We ended the day with a traditional Czech meal of meat and potatoes, and my friends and I all pushed a few beds together and watched The Shining.

The next morning we hopped back on the bus and made our way back to Prague. On the way we stopped at a Czech brewery for a tour and tasting. The Svijany Brewery is one of the oldest breweries in the Czech Republic, dating back to 1564. There they showed us the process of brewing their beer and even let us try their malt and hops (which I would not recommend). I’m not a huge fan of beer, however I did try the beer because why not, but all I could taste was hops from trying a hops pellet earlier in the tour (that taste really lingers). After our tour we made our way back to Prague, sleeping most of the way home. I decided to call it an early night to recharge my battery.

On Saturday, my friends and went on a city adventure. We walked almost all day and saw quite a bit of the city. We took the metro into town and headed straight for the Charles Bridge. It was a bit more crowded than earlier in the week, but the views were still gorgeous. We made our way into Malá Strana which is the smaller part of Prague across the bridge. While the English translation for Malá Strana is Lesser Town (for its size), it certainly is not lesser in beauty.

At the top of the hill sits the Prague Castle, surrounded by palaces and ecclesiastical buildings. Below sits a wide variety of shops, churches, and gardens. We wandered through the residential streets for a bit before deciding to make the trek up to the castle. The views from the top were magical, and you could see the entirety of Prague. We didn’t manage to make our way into the castle, agreeing that it would be more fun when the crowds were fewer and the weather was warmer.

We made our way back down the hill and wandered among the tourist-y streets until dark. We crossed back over the Charles Bridge back into Old Town and found our way back to Old Town Square. We had some time to kill until dinner so we headed over to the Palladium shopping mall to escape the cold. There I found some post cards to send to my family and spent quite a while roaming a Czech bookstore, looking at pretty books, unable to understand anything. We braved the cold once again to head to dinner. We took the metro to Praha 3 where we found a underground Vietnamese restaurant away from the hustle and bustle of the center.

My first week in Prague has been chock full of exploring and culture. I’m still getting used to living in a city abroad, and I’m starting to plan my first ventures out of the Czech Republic. So far, I’m loving the adventure, not crazy about the traditional cuisine, and forming a strong group of friends. I still have a week until classes start, but my school has prepared a few activities for us to get to know the city like a local.

I’m looking forward to learning to live in this city and exploring all there is to see. And I hope you come on this adventure with me!

 

Mini NC Adventure: Rough Ridge

Rough Ridge is definitely one of the most popular hikes around the Boone area of North Carolina, and after visiting, I can see why. There are few other hikes that are as short yet rewarding as this one. While the climb can be a bit treacherous, the views from the top are amazing.

The trailhead is located on the Grandfather Mountain section of the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 302.8. There is a pretty decent sized parking lot at the trailhead, and both times I have gone, the parking lot didn’t fill up. But I can imagine that during the summer and fall, it would be hard to find a space.

The hike all the way to the top is just under a mile, but if you wanted a shorter hike, you could definitely stop at boardwalk that has been built about 1/3 of a mile up. The boardwalk was built to protect the fragile vegetation that grows on the rocks, and hikers are required to stay on the boardwalk. The summit is another 1/2 of a mile up, and the views just keep getting better and better. Along the way to the summit you will find a rock jutting out which is a famous spot for photos. Be careful on the rock though. While photos make it look a bit more daredevilish, there is still quite a drop to the ground if you were to slip and fall. After just a bit more hiking, you will reach the summit at 4,773 feet.

From the summit you can see views of Grandfather Mountain, the Linn Cove Viaduct, and miles and miles of beautiful mountain scenery. There is a cable to help you get to the highest rock as it is pretty steep, but you don’t want to miss the views from the top there. You feel like you are on top of the world. There are several rock outcroppings to sit and enjoy the views which would be perfect for a little picnic on a sunny day.

The hike is an in-and-out trail, so once you have soaked up all of the views, just turn around and go back down the way you came up. There are more trails that connect to this one and is part of the larger, 13 mile Tanawha Trail and Mountains-to-Sea trail.

I have only enjoyed this hike in the winter, I can imagine that the colors are spectacular in the fall while the leaves are changing or in the spring and summer when the mountains are full and green. I’d also love to go back for a sunset when I can imagine the sky lights up a beautiful shade of pink and ends the night with a fade to purple and blue. I will definitely be visiting Rough Ridge again in the near future.

After exploring this trail with my dog, I read that dogs are not actually allowed on this trail. Pets are prohibited to protect the fragile and vulnerable plant community and keep it in tact. So, I would not recommend bringing your fluffy friend along with you especially if you are planning to hike on a potentially busy day. No one actually said anything to me, but I had the feeling I might be doing something wrong when I realized that no one else had a dog on the trail, something that doesn’t often happen.

I strongly urge you to test this hike out if you have not already. You could not ask for better views for such a quick hike, and if mountains are what you love, this hike is for you.

 

When you travel with your sister

When you travel with your sister, you argue, you make up, and you come back stronger than ever.

I couldn’t imagine a better travel buddy than my sister. Although, I’m still surprised by how well we travel together. With two years between us, my sister and I have always been pretty close. Growing up, I would follow her every move, trying to be just like her — I can distinctively remember her rolling her eyes when I tried to convince her to wear a matching outfit. She has always been there for me, teaching me the ways of middle and high school, taking the brunt of responsibility, and being the person I could run to when things went wrong. Despite our different personalities, we are always there for each other.
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Our personalities perfectly balance out each other. She is a planner. She likes to know what time we’re leaving, where we’re going, how we’re getting there. I’m more impulsive. I see something interesting and its all I can keep my mind on, I just want to go… do. She is organized, and has all of our travel details written down, always available. I’m easy going and will go along with any plans that are made. I calm her down when we’re running a bit late, and she always knows what to say to cheer me up.

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We share an appreciation of experiencing a city like a local, and would rather get a coffee in a local cafe than get sucked into all of the tourist traps of a particular location. We know what each other like, and make sure that we both get what we want out of our trip. I know that she collects shot glasses, and I collect playing cards, and we have both accepted the fact that we will not leave a country until we have added to our collections.

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After traveling for two summers with my sister, I can say that we have never been closer. I understand and appreciate her more deeply that I ever have. I’ve learned to love all of the little things that used to annoy me, like how she hates going into grocery stores alone, or how silly and touchy-feely she gets with a few drinks in her. Together we’ve learned how to navigate in foreign countries, tried all sorts of local cuisine, and seen some incredible sights. These experiences, both good and bad, have pushed us together as we learned and figured things out with each other.

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Together we are a stronger travel team, and I’m so glad that I have her by my side, whether we’re rushing to catch a connecting flight, exploring a city for the first time, or shopping at the Albert Heijn in Boxtel. When you travel with your sister, you are reminded just how much you love her.

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Mini NC Adventure: Upper Creek Falls

This spring break lead me to a wonderful new hike to another gorgeous waterfall in North Carolina. After two long months in Raleigh, I was ready to get outdoors, in the mountains, and surround myself with nature for a bit. After searching around the interwebs for some new hikes, I found this hike and immediately had the urge to go. The hike in and out wasn’t long and I can’t wait to go back in the summer and possibly swim in the smaller falls.

The falls are located in the Pisgah National Forest along NC Highway 181 near the small community of Jonas Ridge. I was driving to the falls from Pineola and found the trailhead on my left after driving for about 7.5 miles. You can see a Pisgah National Forest sign from the road, that leads you to a pretty decent size parking lot.

 

The hike was a loop hike, and you could choose to see the lower or the upper falls individually as well. I started with the upper falls, (although, for a less strenuous hike, I would recommend starting with the lower falls). The hike down to the upper falls was not too bad. Despite it being so close to the highway, I found that after a few minutes of hiking, you felt completely immersed in the Pisgah National Forest. The trail is full of rocks and roots, so be careful of your footing on your way down.

Once you have made it down to Upper Creek, you will find a wooden bridge that leads you down to creek. I wandered around for a bit trying to see what I could at the upper falls. To get across the creek you have to rock hop, but I found that the hop-able rocks were easy to get across. When you get to the other side you can walk out to the top of the falls and try to get a glimpse over the falls. I would not suggest getting too close to the edge, especially if the rocks are wet or you don’t feel sturdy on your own two feet. One slip, and the fall would be lethal. But the large open rocks would be perfect picnic spots on a sunny afternoon.

After crossing the creek, you will find a campsite with a trail leading you to the lower falls. There are a few other herd paths that lead you further up the creek, but it is obvious which one leads you to the bottom of the falls. There are several different herd paths that lead to the bottom of the falls, and after viewing several other photos from the falls, I’m not sure if I took the right one, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

After spending a few minutes chilling at the bottom of the falls, I hiked back up and out of the gorge. Again, you have to rock hop across the creek, but then its up, up, up to the parking lot. I am not the biggest fan of switchbacks, and found the hike out tiresome, but well worth the waterfall. As you hike back up to the parking lot, you will find a large boulder jutting out of the ground and it looked like climbers had already put anchors on the rock. If I could boulder, I definitely would have stopped here and had a little climb before finishing the hike out. You can also climb onto the top of the boulder from the back and find a slightly terrifying view of the creek below.

The hike was not too long, about 1.7 miles, and perfect for a warm afternoon. Since you’re hiking down a gorge to the waterfall there is a loss (then gain) of about 500 feet.  The majority hike consists of switchbacks so its not too steep, but your calfs will still be burning on the way up. I can’t wait to go back and visit in the summer months and hopefully take a dip in the upper falls.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 17: Kylemore Abbey

It was a sad morning, waking up and knowing that today was our last full day in Ireland. We woke up and had breakfast with some people from South Dakota before heading out to make our way back to Dublin. We drove for a while in Connemara which was beautiful. Along the way we stopped at Kylemore Abbey where we took lots of pictures. We went to the gift shop and got some little gifts and of course, an Irish coffee. Since we had to pay to get onto the grounds, we just walked as far as we could (without having to pay) took some photos, appreciated the beauty of Kylemore Abbey and then headed back around to get in the car. We drove for the rest of the day until we got to Dublin. We made a few stops along the way which was fun, saw a few herds of sheep strutting down the road, and in true road trip fashion, sang at the top of our lungs the whole time.

When we got to the hotel Mom and Amy went to drop off the car while Marguerite and I printed out our boarding passes for our flight the next morning. When Mom and Amy got back we had dinner in the hotel restaurant. Dinner was good, and for dessert, Marguerite finally got to have her crème brûlée. When we were all full to the brim, we went back to our room and had a relaxing night before leaving for the Netherlands. After nearly two and a half weeks of continuous travel we were finally going to see the family. We knew that countless days of sitting in our Oma’s garden, riding our bikes through town, and morning tea with the family was awaiting us. So with those thoughts in our heads, we went to bed.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 16: Cliffs of Moher and Spiddal, Ireland

*Just a little disclaimer, this was one of my favorite (if not my favorite) day of our trip. The Cliffs of Moher had been on my bucket list for a while, and it was like a dream come true.*

And on the 16th day of our Europe adventure, my wonderful sister turned 21. This morning we woke up in our castle of a B&B and had breakfast with a nice couple who was also staying there. After breakfast, we went back up to the room and Marguerite got some of her 21st birthday presents. After the festivities were over, we packed up all of our stuff and started to load up the car. Mom had not booked a B&B for the next night yet so the lady of the house kindly called a place and booked it for us. Then we got a quick picture in front of the B&B and then headed into the town of Ennis.

We walked around Ennis for a bit, just to see what it had in store. It was cute and very small, but nothing spectacular. We were really trying to wait out the weather, hoping for it to get a bit sunnier. When the clouds had begun to clear, we got on the road and headed to the Cliffs of Moher.

I was extremely excited to go there and could not wait to see the cliffs. Marguerite was a bit nervous because she was worried one of us might fall, but when we got there it was not so bad. We walked along the fenced in part of the cliffs up to O’Brien’s Tower. We climbed to the top of the tower to see the view from the top. On our way back down, Marguerite found two wedding bands attached to a small note, tucked into the wall of the tower. She showed all of us, but did not read the note (although now we regret not reading it because we want to figure out what it was for). We then walked in the other direction where we could climb over a small wall and get closer to the edge of the cliffs to look over. We took lots and lots of pictures. This was probably one of my happiest moments of the trip.

When we had taken all the pictures, we got back in the car and headed towards Spiddal. We took a little break in the town of Burren to have lunch and then got back on the road. We finally made it to Spiddal and got all set up in the B&B. Mary, the lady of the house, was so sweet and welcoming. She was very talkative and so excited that it was Marguerite’s birthday. After a failed attempt at finding crème brûlée for Marguerite’s birthday dessert, she made a reservation for us at a restaurant in town.

We took a walk near the water before we got to the restaurant and looked at an old church (there is no shortage of these in Ireland). Then we went to dinner which was delicious. When we were finished we went to another bar and all four of us took a baby Guinness shot (not really my favorite). Then there were two guys in the bar (a few beers past drunk) that kept talking to Marguerite. One of them decided to come sit with us and talk (Gaelic was his first language so his English perfect, but pretty good considering). His friend/brother/partner (all three relationships were thrown around, but I’m pretty sure they were just friends) came over and sat with us as well. He kept saying he was going to marry Marguerite. They were a hoot. The old men in the bar were singing old country music and Amy was singing along with them. One of them came over and gave Marguerite a kiss on the cheek. Mom managed to get the manager to give Marguerite one of the Guinness beer glasses so he came over to give her a hug as well. Then we left the crazy Gaelic Irishmen, and went to the other bar down the road. This one was much quieter, only three girls (one of them was our waitress from dinner). We took another baby Guinness shot before deciding to call it a night. When we got back to the B&B we fell straight to sleep.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 15: Bunratty, Limerick, Ennis

We woke up early, had a light(er) breakfast, packed up the car, and said our goodbyes to the O’Sullivans. We all piled into the car and headed to Limerick. We first drove to Glenstal Abbey and visited Marco (an old camper) who gave us a miniature tour of his castle of a school. Glenstal Abbey was absolutely gorgeous. We then took Marco into Bunratty to see the Bunratty castle. We had lunch at Durty Nellies Pub, which is the oldest pub in Ireland (almost 400 years old!). We then walked across the street to the Bunratty Castle and took a tour of the castle, which was interesting. After we had been all throughout the castle we started walking around the grounds. The area around the castle was set up with several different little shacks to display how the people used to live. Sadly, the grounds were being closed down so we did not get to see much of the insides of the houses. We did manage to get into a few of the houses and the blacksmiths house. Then we decided to walk around the grounds a bit more, even though we couldn’t go inside any of the houses. We saw the little animals and the gardens and just talked with Marco.

When we had seen enough of the grounds, we left and went into the city of Limerick and walked around for a bit. After walking around for about an hour, we drove back to Glenstal Abbey where we dropped Marco off. We said our goodbyes and took a quick polaroid picture and then headed off to our next destination. That night we were staying in Ennis where in a B&B that looked almost like a castle. It was quite beautiful. We got there pretty late but walked into town looking for a place to get a bite for dinner. Unfortunately the super market was closed, and all of the restaurants were closed as well so we just walked back and had a few snacks for dinner and some Baileys. Then we all went to bed.

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May the road rise up to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face, the rains fall soft upon your field sand until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 14: Ring of Kerry and Night Kayaking

We woke up to another lovely Irish breakfast made by the O’Sullivan’s (at this point, I think we were all exhausted by the Irish breakfasts). After a quick tour of their greenhouse we all got into the cars and headed for the Ring of Kerry. We had to separate into two different cars so Amy and I went with John, and Marguerite and Mom went with Kate. We stopped lots of times to take pictures (I probably took about 500 pictures this day). The roads were crazy narrow and what I would consider a one-way road was used for two cars (granted, sometimes we had to drive off the side of the road to get past someone). It was absolutely beautiful though. We got to see the coast and the “mountains” and it was such a lovely day as well. We stopped at a nice restaurant for a Bailey’s coffee and we saw a group of sheep being herded down a small road. We kept driving and stopping, driving and stopping, until John got us kind of lost. We managed to find our way onto some crazy back roads that I am pretty sure were meant for cattle but saw some pretty sights in the meantime. We stopped at a little hiker’s lodge on the side of the road for a quick bite and talked to some drunk hikers (and by we talked, I mean that mom talked). After some sandwiches and soup, we kept driving and saw lots of sheep. At one point we met a car coming the other way and since the road was too narrow and there were rocky cliffs on either side the car had to back up so much to let us through. Finally we made it back to the O’Sullivan’s house (it took 9 hours for the whole Ring of Kerry) and had a very quick dinner before suiting up for night kayaking.

I rode with Kate and Mom on the way to Lough Hyne (a marine lake which is incredibly biodiverse and has many people studying it). John lead the way and got us a bit lost again, but he found it eventually. We got to Lough Hyne just in time to go on the tour. We geared up our waterproof jackets and pants. While we were waiting to start kayaking tons of little gnats (called midgets by the O’Sullivans) kept flying in our faces so we were all running around like crazy trying to avoid them. When everyone was suited up the guide gave us a little lesson on proper kayaking techniques before we hit the water. Mom and I shared a kayak, Amy and Marguerite were in another, and Kate and John shared one as well. It was a really fun night. The tour guide told us old stories and jokes which was great. There was a full moon which made kayaking easier, but it also made seeing the bioluminescence a bit harder. We dipped our hands it the water and shook around trying to see them, but I only saw a few. We finally finished the tour at midnight and got into the cars. When we got back, Marguerite and I went straight to bed while Amy, Mom, Kate, and John stayed up talking until the late night hours.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 13: Blarney Castle and Bantry, Ireland

On day 13 of our trip we woke up bright and early at the B&B and had a tasty breakfast made by our lovely hosts. We packed up all of our stuff and drove to the other side of the bay where we got out and looked at an old church in Abbeyside and took pictures of the boats out in the bay. Then we hopped back into the car and drove to Blarney where we went to the Blarney Castle. Unfortunately, Ireland’s famous soggy weather joined us at the Blarney Castle and it was the first day of our trip that the sunshine decided not to follow us. But we hadn’t come all this was to miss out on kissing the Blarney Stone. According to legend, kissing the stone endows the kisser with the gift of the gab. We walked to the castle, climbed up a set of insanely small and steep spiral stairs and made it to the top rim of the castle. From the top you could see all of the grounds and even on a cloudy day, it was quite beautiful.

After waiting for our turn, we each one by one layer down on the floor of the castle wall, leaded our head back way farther than I thought we would have to, and kissed the bottom of a stone that has been kissed by millions of people (including Kaitlyn Bristowe and Jared Haibon of the Bachelorette). It was definitely an experience but Marguerite was pretty grossed out by how unsanitary it was. Once we had all kissed the stone, we made our way back down another set of insanely small and steep stairs and walked around in the gardens. We also saw the poison garden which was filled with poisonous plants from all around the world. The gardens were beautiful and filled with azaleas of every color, that were a beautiful contrast against the gray and foggy sky.

When all of the pictures had been taken, we got back in the car and started heading towards the O’Sullivan’s in Bantry (a former counselor, Donagh’s parents). Boy was that a journey. Before we started too much of our journey, we made a quick stop for coffee and some carrot cake as well as getting a few gifts for the O’Sullivans. When we got back onto the road we managed to find our way into quite a traffic jam. Not in the sense of like rush hour in a large city, but more in the sense of a truck getting stuck and blocking the narrow Irish roads. We were first stuck in traffic for about 30 minutes and then an older lady told us to follow her where she took us on a back road. After driving on that road for a few minutes, we figured out that the back road was also blocked because a HUGE truck was stuck there. So we turned back around, asked the older lady for another way to try and followed that to try to get out of all the traffic. After driving on a few way-too-narrow back roads, we finally managed to find our way into Bantry.

John O’Sullivan met us in downtown Bantry and lead us to their house where we met Dierdre (Donagh’s sister) and Kate (the mother) who had made us a lovely Irish dinner. Then we had rhubarb cobbler and tiramisu for dessert which were both delicious. After being full to the brim, we went into their living room and chatted for a while after deciding that it was too wet outside to go for a walk. When we all started practically falling asleep on the couches, we went upstairs to our rooms. Deirdre very kindly let us sleep in her room, while Amy slept in the guest room. Despite the long car adventure and the gray skies it was a pretty exciting day for us all.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 12: Waterford, Ireland

After waking up we went downstairs and had our first traditional Irish breakfast. It was interesting and consisted of a fried egg, sautéed tomatoes and mushrooms, bacon (not traditional American bacon though, more like cooked ham), sausage, and black and white pudding (which was strange to say the least). The black and white pudding are truly Irish and like small patties of mush. The black pudding was made with pig’s blood and is supposedly super good for you. I tried it, but wasn’t really a fan. After breakfast we packed up and headed towards Waterford. The road trip had begun.

When we arrived in Waterford our first stop was the Waterford Crystal factory. We went on a tour and got to see how it was all made. It was very similar to glass blowing, but the crystal is much stronger than glass so they were able to cut into it without it breaking quite as easily. Our tour guide was a cute little older gentleman and knew so much about the crystal. At the end of the tour they had a bunch of pieces that were the testers for more important pieces such as a 9/11 tribute, a bowl for Barack Obama, and a bunch of trophies and awards including the People’s Choice Award, which we all got to hold.

When we finished our tour around the Waterford Crystal factory, we went walking around the city. We found the old wall that used to surround the city and the four towers all of different shapes. Then we went out to lunch at a place called Bodegas which was delicious. It was all local food with an eclectic twist. After we were all full to the brim we went on a wild goose chase to find a power adapter since Marguerite’s had broke in Switzerland. After checking about five stores and asking several people if they could point us in the right direction, we finally gave up. I managed to find a Irish plug in for a USB so I got that so I could at least charge my phone. Then we headed to our B&B which was about an hour away in Dungarvan.

When we got to our the Bayside B&B, the owner was so sweet and had so many stories to tell us. We decided to go for a walk around the bay which was lovely. We walked on this small little pier and in an effort to get a awesome picture, I almost fell into the bay. I saw these small steps that led down to the water so I went down, not expecting the last few to be extremely slippery. Luckily I didn’t slip all the way into the water, but it was a pretty close call. We ended up walking to a little beach where we all picked some smooth stones to bring back with us. Then we raced back to the bay to watch the sunset. It didn’t end up being as spectacular as we had hoped because the clouds got right in the way of the sun but it was still nice. When we got back to the B&B we were all still too full from lunch to eat dinner so we all sat in Amy and Mom’s room and ate chocolates and drank Baileys and talked. Marguerite and I ended up going back to our room at around 11 and then fell asleep. It was another good day in Ireland.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 11: Dublin, Ireland

Marguerite and I woke up and took showers before heading downstairs to meet Conor for breakfast. We had a quick bowl of cereal before heading back to Dublin to meet Amy and Mom. Conor and I weren’t very talkative, and Marguerite complained about it again, but it was still nice to just all be together. When we got into Dublin headed to St. Judes B&B to drop our bags off. The owner was kind of grumpy, but we got them in our rooms anyway and then headed into the city.

We parked and then walked to Stephens Green Park to wait for Mom and Amy. They had already been out and about exploring for a bit before we got there. We heard them as soon as they were close because Mom yelled out to us. It was kind of embarrassing, but it was so good to see her face coming across the street. We then toured around the city a bit, looking to Conor to tell us what everything was. He went to college there so knew the city pretty well. He took us to the Temple Bar for a drink and a bite to eat before he left to go help out with the new baby calf. Before he left we bought flowers for him to take back to his mom for being such a good hostess. Then we said our goodbyes, but it wasn’t all that sad because we would be seeing him in just a few weeks for camp.

After Conor left, we walked around for a bit and tried to decide what to do. We made our way (eventually) to the National Museum of Ireland trying to find a collection of Leonardo de Vinci drawings that were on display. After walking around for a few minutes, we discovered that we were in the wrong place. We asked around and got directions to the National Gallery of Ireland where the Leonardo de Vinci drawings actually were. It was so interesting to see these drawings and knew that the genius Leonardo de Vinci himself made all of the marks of the paper. Once we had a good look at all the drawings and a few paintings that were also on display, we went back to Stephens Green and walked around a little bit more before catching the tram back to the B&B. Everyone took a nap when we got back to our room because Amy and Mom were jet lagged and Marguerite and I were exhausted from traveling. When we were all a bit rested, we walked into the small town of Cowper for dinner. We ate at a local Irish pub, Mother O’Reilly’s which was mainly filled with locals watching soccer. After dinner we walked back to the B&B and went straight to bed.

*Photos courtesy of Amy. I didn’t take too many pictures this day.

Europe Trip 2016 || Day 10: Basel, Switzerland to Timahoe, Ireland

It was our tenth day of the trip, and we were getting on a plane again and traveling up to Ireland to meet our mom. We woke up really early that morning and got ready for the day before saying goodbye to Chris. She had a class that morning, so Lorenzo drove us into Basel to the train station before going to work. We got to Basel pretty early, so we got a locker for our suitcases and went into the city. Marguerite and I weren’t that interested in the city of Basel (we had seen quite a few European cities by now), and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explore. We stopped at a coffee shop, trying to get wifi (which we didn’t end up getting), and had the most spectacular hot chocolate I have ever had. We then walked around the city some more, not really caring if we got lost or not. We just needed to waste time until our flight left. It was nice to have some sister time since we had been together quite a bit but not really just the two of us by ourselves. It was also nice to just wander without a clear direction of where to go. When found a Starbucks (how American of us…), we glad were drawn in, as we just needed the wifi so that Marguerite could write back to our mom. Then we headed back to the train station to get our bags and catch the tram to the airport.

We got to the airport a bit early so we had a soft pretzel and some juice before checking in and going through baggage check. Everything went really smoothly and before I knew it, we had touched down in Dublin.

Once we got to Dublin everything went pretty fast, and it didn’t take us long to get our bags or find our way out of the airport. We got outside and met Conor (another former counselor) relatively quickly. We (more like he) packed our stuff into his car, and he drove us back towards his town. It was a quiet car ride (Conor and I are both pretty quiet people), but we all had things to say since it had been a year since we saw each other. He took us to a round tower in the Timahoe town center that was used in the early times to look for invaders. That was pretty much all there was in the town center. Afterwards we went back to his house, where his mother Gill welcomed us as soon as we got there. We had a cup of tea and spoke about camp (Conor was returning again this summer). His father came in and told us that a calf had been born the night before, and we went outside to go see it. It was so sweet; all brown with a pink nose, but the mom wouldn’t let us get close to it. Gill had prepared a HUGE dinner with steak on bread with paté, potatoes, green beans and onions. It was delicious, but there was so much food. There was Bailey’s cheesecake for dessert, which we were all too full to eat,  but it was too good to resist. There wasn’t really much to do in Timahoe, therefore we watched Monument Men which I had never seen before. Marguerite fell asleep then started asking what was happening halfway through the movie, but she had missed too much to catch her up. Before we went to bed we chatted with Conor’s brother, Kieran who revealed many embarrassing stories of his brother and Conor told stories of his brother. It was a good, relaxing first day in Ireland.

*Didn’t have many pictures today, so enjoy these few snapshots and snapchats from throughout the day.