Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Galway for Patty's Weekend

Patty's Day Parade

I know many of you have been curious as to what exactly went down on Patty'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 Patty'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 Patty'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 Patty'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 Patty'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!     

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Classes at UL!

Main entrance to the University of Limerick, marked by the 2 beautious flags

So I know many of you have been curious as to what classes are like here at the University of Limerick(UL)! After all, that is why I'm technically here.... All of the weekend trips, adventures and meeting new people are just added bonuses of studying abroad. :) With the way classes are structured at UL, it can be very easy to fall behind if school isn't your primary focus.  We are now in week 5 of classes, and I have not had one homework assignment. In Ireland, students are expected to stay on top of coursework by completing the textbook readings and articles associated with the lectures each week.  It is a lot more of an "independent" type learning style.  I am currently taking 5 classes (or "modules" as they are called here): Irish Folklore, a management class, and 3 marketing courses. Final exams, projects, and essays are typically weighted much more than back home.  For instance, one of my marketing classes has an assignment worth 70% of my grade, and a final worth the remaining 30%. That's it!
My favorite class right now would probably be my Irish Folklore class. It's very interesting to learn about the Irish culture.  As one can surely imagine, this class is entirely consumed by international students.  In all of my other modules it's primarily Irish students and a only a handful of study abroad students.  In any case, the past two weeks we have been discussing Irish Funerary Traditions (sounds morbid I know, but its highly fascinating) and things like the Merry Wake.  Our lecturer hopes to bring in a storyteller at some point in March. Below is a picture of the St. Brigit's Cross I made during the second week of class to celebrate "Imbolc" or "St. Brigit's Day" marking the beginning of spring on the Gaelic calendar.  I think I shall wrap this up and give it to my sister Bridget.

A note about the campus- Upon arrival to the university, new students are given a tour of campus followed by a two day orientation.  The campus is a fairly decent size; it usually doesn't take more than 10-12 minutes to get anywhere though. I ran into a little trouble finding my classes the first week. However, if you ask enough people you'll find your way.  The Irish are very friendly and more than willing to point you in the right direction.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Day Trip: Cork City & Blarney Castle

Farmer's Market

Last Saturday I ventured over to the beautiful city of Cork as well as Blarney Castle (little over an hour drive from Limerick). This was an event planned through the international student society I am a part of here at the University of Limerick. I highly recommend this club for anyone studying abroad here in the future, as they have many fun trips & events taking place each weekend.
We were given about 4 hours to roam the city and do as we please; although the weather was slightly chilly and rainy, my friends and I enjoyed perusing through all of the cute little shops.  My favorite part was undoubtedly the farmers market, however. There are few things in life that excite and delight me more than homemade food.  Fresh bread, cheeses, organic fruits and vegetables, homemade sweets and any type of meat you could desire, all in one convenient little market. I discovered that I am quite a big fan of the homemade Irish soda bread. While in Cork we also visited the St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, and had chicken & pesto crepes by the river. It was quite the enjoyable afternoon.  
Blarney Castle is another "must see." Atop the medieval castle lies the famous Blarney Stone. It is believed that if one kisses it, they will be blessed with gift of gab and have eloquent speech!  I've posted these pictures below, as well as some pretty pictures from the lovely gardens surrounding the castle:)

Everything is just green, green, green!

Kissing the Blarney Stone, must be done upside down!

Monday, January 27, 2014

First Week/Tour of Plassey

     It has been an interesting first week in Limerick, Ireland!  I've already gone through two umbrellas- The weather here is quite unpredictable (although favorable compared to the "Polar Vortex" occurring back home). It drizzles on and off throughout the day.  The rain doesn't seem to phase the Irish at all, however. In fact, I've noticed many of them don't carry umbrellas or even wear rain boots.
     Ireland truly is an Emerald Isle and is exactly what one would imagine it to be.  It was remarkable flying into Shannon airport and seeing the countryside from an aerial perspective.  I think my mother would die to have a yard full of grass as green and lush as Ireland.
     Grocery shopping for the first few times actually proved to be quite the adventure.  One should know that plastic bags are NOT provided upon checkout.  Customers are expected to purchase a re-usable bag or bring their own.  While at times this may perhaps seem inconvenient, I like their eco-friendly approach.  Depending on the store, you may also have to pay to use the grocery carts.  I'm sure the locals can easily spot the foreigners carrying arms full of groceries around the store.  Products in Europe also contain a lot less preservatives than in the United States.  This means they expire faster, so people generally don't buy as many things at once.    
    Perhaps one of the most amusing things thus far has been learning Irish words as well as Irish "slang." I will share with you a few of the terms I have learned:

-The word "Craic" (pronounced "crack") is often used in place of the word "fun".  For instance, an Irish student said to me the other day, "Rugby is good craic." I was taken aback momentarily.

-Many of you I am sure know this next one. The Irish refer to their french fries as "chips," and call potato chips "crisps." I had forgotten about this the first time I had a meal here!

-The next word, "muppet," I haven't really heard used as much.  It often refers to an ignoramus or foolish person. If you are ever called a muppet, I would certainly not take that as a compliment.

-Everything in Ireland truly is "grand." I have heard this used countless times in conversation the past week.  In this aspect it really is like the movies. I smile each time I hear it.

I have posted below a video I filmed of where I am living during my stay! There are five villages on campus that students may choose to live in.  The houses in the villages are essentially like apartments, or town houses with anywhere from 4 to 8 people (of either gender).  Each student gets his or her own bedroom, and shares the kitchen and living room area. If you have any questions please feel free to comment!