Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Final Exams

May 12th concluded my final exams here at the University of Limerick (although many students had finals scheduled until May 19th).  As I said before, a vast majority of the finals are essay question, and you are given between 2-2.5 hours per test. I have been so used to multiple choice exams I found it a bit more difficult trying to adapt to this essay style. It was a week of incessant studying, takeaway eating, and little sleep for many. Some students had exams worth 100% of their grade...There were 12 full teaching weeks throughout the semester and then what is called a "reading week" which takes place the week before final exams.  This is designed to provide extra time for studying the material learned throughout the semester, as most finals are cumulative. We are supposed to find out final grades this June.
*My computer has been broken so I will post more pictures and things to come! :)

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Irish Cuisine!

If you're a food lover like me, keep on reading. From my stay here the past three months, I've noticed that the Irish really enjoy home-cooked, hearty foods. I don't think any Irish person would take offense when I say that the stereotype about potatoes is somewhat true. They love their potatoes. Taters are served with practically everything.  When I order a pizza it comes served with chips.  The cool thing about Ireland, however, is that if you get sick of eating the traditional foods like fish & chips, they have practically every other type of cuisine your little heart desires. Right next to Plassey village is a Chinese food restaurant; there are a lots of Indian restaurants that serve kebabs and really good curry cheese fries; Mexican food; American food, you name it. Here are a couple of traditional Irish dishes that I really enjoy:      

1) Traditional Irish Breakfast  (often times just called a "fry") I know I've mentioned this in previous posts but it's so amazing I'm just going to tell you again. It includes the following:

-Rashers (like thicker cut bacon)
-Sausage (of course, the best sausage ever in Ireland)
-Baked beans
-Black pudding (don't ask just eat)
-White pudding (I like mine with ketchup:)
-Fried or scrambled eggs
-Soda Bread
-Fried tomatoes and/or mushrooms (varies in certain places)
-Tea or coffee

Here is a picture of a fry that I made, its missing black pudding and fried tomatoes, but as you can tell its a lot of food! If anything, you just have to have the rashers and sausage together.

2) Guinness Stew, Irish Stew, & Clam Chowder
The Irish enjoy a lot of stews and chowders that are delicious and very filling.

^This is a pic of the Guinness stew I tried with my family in Dublin! The ingredients can vary but mine had beef, mushrooms, onion, and potatoes I believe. Oh and a bit of Guinness beer too;)

3) Fish & Chips 
Of course, the deep fried cod and chips are very good. When my family came to visit, my dad had this five nights in a row for dinner... We started to worry for his health. A great place to get this dish is at McDonagh's Fish & Chips restaurant located in the heart of Key Street Galway.

4) Sheppard's Pie

Often called "Cottage Pie," this dish consists of ground beef and mixed vegetables (like carrots, peas, onion) topped with a creamy layer of mashed potatoes!

 5) Bacon & Cabbage

One of the age old Irish delicacies is the traditional Bacon & Cabbage dish. This dish is the most tried and tested culinary concoctions since the days of the Famine. It is quite a hearty and filling meals and is one of the most generic dishes you will find in Ireland. Quite simply it consists of green leafy cabbage, fluffy 'mash', and generous servings of thick collar bacon, usually served with cauliflower sauce. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Claddagh Ring!

If there are two souvenirs I wanted while in Ireland, it was an Irish flag and a Claddagh ring.  The Claddagh ring was something I was completely unfamiliar with before studying abroad.  The ring is quite unique and symbolizes friendship, loyalty, and love.  Many people wear these as wedding rings in Ireland.  I was gifted my ring a few days ago as a 21st birthday/Easter present. The slip of paper that came with my ring explains the story behind the ring better than I could:

"The hands of friendship, crown of loyalty and the heart symbolising love.  The tradition dates back to the 16th century when a native of Galway City, Richard Joyce was captured by Algerian Corsairs on his way to the West Indies. When he eventually returned he settled in the small village of Claddagh just outside the city of Galway where he crafted the first Claddagh ring."

The interesting part is how the ring is worn...

My Claddagh ring!

Worn on left ring finger with the crown pointing towards your fingertips indicates you are spoken for, or married.

Worn on right ring finger with the crown pointing towards your fingertips suggests you are in a relationship, or that love is being considered. 

Worn on the right ring finger with the crown pointing towards your wrist, however, means that you are single, or that your heart is not spoken for. 

You can find these rings in many gift shops and at almost any jeweler. However, I was told that I should get the ring from Galway where it originated (more authentic). There are a number of different styles one can choose from-some are very simple and some can get quite extravagant with engravings and different coloured gems inside the heart and around the band.  Most all are sterling silver. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Galway for Paddy's Weekend

Patty's Day Parade

I know many of you have been curious as to what exactly went down on Paddy's Day in Ireland. I apologize for the extreme delay in this post.  As one may assume many tourists flock to Dublin for this great Irish holiday.  I heard from a couple of people, however, that it gets a bit congested in the capital city and that it might be better to go to a smaller town to get a more authentic experience.  My friends and I therefore planned a trip to Galway, located on the west coast of Ireland.  Being the penny pinching college students we are, we booked a 3 person hotel room at the Travelodge and tried to cram 6 of us in there.  It was a very clean hotel and I would recommend it to anyone.  Just note, on Paddy's weekend they keep a security guard at the entrance tallying the amount of people going up to each room.  Let's just say we had to purchase a second room for the following night... 

As for the city of Galway, it's absolutely fabulous.  I've been here twice now, once for Paddy's weekend and once with my parents when they came to visit. I plan on making a third trip later this week (its UL's Easter break). Of all the places I have been so far, this is my favorite. Cobblestone streets blocked off to cars with cute little shops, pubs, and cafes lining either side.  A number of street performers singing and playing musical instruments add to the lively atmosphere. There is also a wonderful pathway next to the ocean great for walking, and a beautiful Catholic cathedral in the city centre. We quite enjoyed the Paddy's Day parade; it was cute watching the primary school kids march playing their penny whistles.  Below is a clip of the Amazing Apples band we saw over Paddy's weekend at the Roisin Dubh in Galway.  I absolutely love the authentic Irish music.  You will figure this out as you watch the clip, I get excited and start hooting and hollering in the end; I apologize in advance.            

Oscar Wilde statue

Y'all know how much I love scones

And last but not least, THE DOUGHNUT MAN. Serving heavenly goodness in every bite. He also hums whilst cooking them up.

Day Trip: Killarney

A couple of weeks ago my friends and I made a day trip down to the city of Killarney & Killarney National Park. To the left you will find the best photo bomb ever taken.  Overall, it was a really fun day, apart from me falling off of a tree at the park. Not the wisest decision I've ever made I must say. 

Highlights of the trip included:

*Lake cruise on Lough Leane, the largest of       Killarney's three lakes

*Torc Waterfall (my personal favorite) where we did a bit of hiking 

*Horse carriage ride throughout the city of Killarney   

Torc Waterfall

Ross Castle situated on Lough Leane

Friday, March 28, 2014

Do's & Dont's in Ireland

The purpose of this post is to help those of you planning on visiting Ireland avoid those potentially awkward situations, and to just provide you with some fabulous advice.

#1. DONT say "Top O' the Mornin'" to an Irish person. Some may take offense, but you will just look ignorant more than anything.

#2. DO remember to look both ways before crossing the street. They obviously drive on the left side here, which can take a second to get used to.

#3. You don't need to tip waiters, bartenders, or taxi drivers unless you would like to, or unless they do an extremely exceptional job. :)))

#4. DO start saving up as much as you can.  You will want to be able to do lots of traveling to different cities or even countries during your free time. I have found it to be a little more expensive living over here. Part of it may be due to the exchange rate, but the only things I have really found to be cheaper are clementines and olive oil.  Not to discourage any of you, because I absolutely love Ireland. But my "I owe my parents a ton of money" tab is getting a little hefty.

#5. Don't throw up the reverse peace sign. I don't feel the need to elaborate upon this one.

#6. Don't call it "St. Patty's Day."  None of the Irish call it that; it's "Paddy's Day" with two D's, not patty like a hamburger.  I was mocked for this a couple of times.

#7.  Do bring a backpack or a re-usable grocery bag to the store, since most do not provide plastic bags at checkout.

#8. DO try an Irish fry. White and black pudding, rashers, soda bread, baked beans, fried tomatoes, fried eggs, and Irish sausage.  Gotta love the traditional Irish breakfast.

 #9. Don't take a long shower. You'll figure this out sooner or later if you're living in Plassey.  Some houses have this mystical thing called an "immersion" here in Ireland.

#10. DONT forget that umbrella! It's always when you forget it that it rains.

#11. DO have the craic. You're only here for so long, don't spend it in your room! Go to the Sports Arena on campus, the milk market on Saturdays, see a Hurling or Rugby match, try different foods, meet new people and travel the country. Lots to do and so little time. :)

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Aillte an Mhothair (Cliffs of Moher)!

Dia Dhuit! (Irish for Hello) Above are a few pictures from a recent excursion to the Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland. I've posted a map below, so you may see where it's located in relation to Limerick.  This was probably one of my favorite trips yet.  I went with two other CMU students studying abroad at UL and another mutual friend of ours.  We booked this trip through Paddywagon tours for only 25 euro.  The tour guide was a very enthusiastic man from Cork who sang Irish songs and gave us a lovely history lesson as we travelled over in the big green bus. We first stopped in a quaint little town called Doolin for lunch at a pub.  The girls and I had a bowl of fresh clam chowder and soda bread (my fav), and Michael decided to go with the fancy chicken & mash.  We then continued on to the Cliffs where we had about 2-3 hours to explore and walk about before returning home. The Cliffs stretch 5 miles along the Atlantic Coast and stand 702 feet at their highest point!