Europe–Chapter 2: A Whale of a Time

Today I will be writing about Wales, the second leg of my unforgettable six-week adventure in Europe.

We left Dublin early in the morning in order to catch the ferry that would take us to Wales. I mentioned to one of the girls in my group that at some point I would have to get on top of the ferry in order to take some pictures of Wales. She gave me a confused look and asked, “Do you honestly think we’re going to see whales?!” I explained to her that I was referring to the place, not the sea animal. Eventually, after becoming better friends with her, I made fun of her endlessly for the misunderstanding. But it was an honest mistake. English can be quite confusing!

I must admit that I wasn’t all that excited to see whales… I mean Wales. Don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t like I was dreading it or anything. But I had never heard much of anything about Wales, so I wasn’t expecting much from it.

Little did I know that Wales would end up being one of my favorite locations of the trip! It may have lacked the grandeur of London or the majestic views of Scotland, but the simple beauty of Wales was something that, in my opinion, could not be matched by any of the other places we visited.

In fact, Wales turned out to be quite the pleasant surprise! Here are just some of the “surprises” that turned Wales into an unexpected gem:

The longest place-name in the world: Llanfair­pwllgwyn­gyllgo­gerychwyrn­drobwll­llanty­silio­gogogoch

998794_10152102177919409_882614354_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My favorite castle: Conwy Castle

1186241_10152102178749409_1532178144_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Llandudno: The seaside town with the awesome views… a place where everyone was so delightfully friendly… and the location of my future home!

1003374_10152102180874409_753745899_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The evil Alice statue that would forever distort my vision of Alice in Wonderland.

1004534_10152102180014409_1235878975_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snowdonia!

542197_10152102181299409_1548775541_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tintern Abbey

988272_10152102182984409_832829642_n

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Fagans: the traditional Welsh village.

1002506_10152102183839409_1117267706_n

Advertisements

Europe–Chapter 1: The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side (of the Ocean)

999847_10152088930714409_824040656_n

The first stop of my summer study abroad trip was Ireland, home of the fifty shades of green (not to be confused with the trashy novels, Fifty Shades of Grey). Prior to my trip, I had heard many rumors about the Land of Ire, some of which included:

  1. It rains constantly, but it’s a different kind of rain–a magical mist of sorts that covers the Irish grounds and really makes the green countryside sparkle.
  2. Ireland is just swarming with gingers.

Only neither of those rumors turned out to be true–at least, not during my trip. I suppose it really does rain a lot in Ireland, as was evident in the blinding green scenery that stretched as far as the eye could see. But it certainly didn’t rain much while was there. No complaints, though… too much rain depresses me.

1002175_10152088930304409_1002906388_n

Also, I do not remember seeing an overwhelming amount of gingers. Then again, I’m not very observant. For all I know, could be a ginger and I just haven’t noticed!

The point of all this is that you often have preconceived notions of a place, but once you travel there, you find that the place is completely different from what you imagined. The same can be said, I suppose, of people… we develop these snap judgments of people, only to have those judgments proven completely wrong after taking the effort to actually get to know a person.

Ireland, as well as the United Kingdom, was nothing like I imagined… it was much better! My brain did not do it justice! Though I would not say Ireland was my favorite stop of the trip, it definitely was a great first stop. It was a pleasant introduction to Europe.

The people I was traveling with ended up being a pleasant surprise as well. Throw a group of college-aged strangers into Ireland, and what do you get? A little awkwardness at first, sure. But I was surprised how quickly I became comfortable with some of the other students in my group. And we might not have been good friends yet by the time we left Ireland, but we were definitely on our way.

"Are we friends yet...?"

“Are we friends yet…?”

In Ireland, we saw miles of green pasture that provided a home for more sheep than you could count.

This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.

This sheep was clearly posing for a picture.

We visited cliffs with breathtaking views of the ocean.

577222_10152088931559409_804559783_n

We met the Three Sisters, a triad of mountain peeks that supposedly represents three women of different ages.

1157444_10152088931829409_789237716_n

Can you find the Three Sisters in this picture?

We saw castles and abbey ruins.

539042_10152088933274409_1355779652_n

Some of us kissed the Blarney Stone and gained the gift of gab!

(No picture necessary or available)

And for crying out loud, we stopped in a seaside town named Dingle! The town name kind of speaks for itself.

Dingle!

Dingle!

Of course, a trip to Ireland would not have been complete without going to a pub. Since none of us drank alcohol, we did cheers with glasses of water. And pub food was definitely something to write home about (and I think I did a couple of times). Speaking of pub food, I had the opportunity in Ireland to try something new… black and white pudding. If you don’t know what’s in black and white pudding, you probably don’t want to know. I actually didn’t mind the white pudding. I would not, however, recommend the black pudding. I’m not being racist or anything; it’s just a matter of personal taste.

A traditional Irish breakfast... complete with black and white pudding!

A traditional Irish breakfast… complete with black and white pudding!

Our last stop in Ireland was the great city of Dublin. Here I slept on the top of a bunk bed… nothing unusual, only in our particular hostel I happened to be sleeping on a bed that had no rail and was right next to a large window. If I had rolled a bit too far to my left, I surely would have plummeted to my death! Oh well… what’s life without a little risk, right?

The hostel window of death in Dublin.

The hostel window of death in Dublin.

I also found out here that it is often when you wander aimlessly while traveling abroad (or even stateside for that matter) that you make some of the coolest discoveries. (This would later prove valuable in enhancing my London experience). Here’s a photo of something we ran across while trying to find our hostel:

What the giant-hand statue?!

What the giant-hand statue?!

All in all, Ireland was a great experience. Looking back, it’s almost a shame that this had to be the place where we overcame our jet lag and dealt with the awkwardness of not really knowing each other. Perhaps under different circumstances I could have enjoyed Ireland even more. On the other hand, we had to start somewhere.

And I can’t think of a better place to start a six-week European adventure than in Ireland!

Next stop: Wales!

Europe: A Prologue of Sorts

Hello world!

A week ago yesterday, I returned from my trip to Europe. What can I say? It was awesome! Easily one of the best experiences of my life.

I do not regret for a second the amount of money I spent to make this trip possible (and believe me, it was a LOT of $$$). Even though my bank account is now DECIMATED, everything was well worth the price.

In fact, my trip was so wonderful that I could not possibly do it justice in a single blog post… so I’m not even going to try. Therefore I will spend the upcoming days/weeks posting about my many adventures: starting in Ireland, moving right along to Wales, making my way to England (which will probably take at least three blog posts in and of itself), taking a brief stop in Paris, and ending in Scotland.

But I don’t want anyone getting the idea that this mind-blowing, life-changing, mood-altering experience is all chalked up to the cool places I got to see. Sure, it was awesome seeing Big Ben and climbing up the Eiffel Tower. And how could I forget the Irish countryside? Or the coast in Wales? Or the breathtaking hill-top views of Edinburgh in Scotland?

Yes, all of that was great… but it was the small things that made this trip truly memorable.

The inside jokes.

The moments that made me laugh so hard that I doubled up and/or cried.

The friends I felt like I had known for years, even though I had only known them for a few weeks.

The fake engagements.

The unofficial trip theme songs… one of them being this:

And yes, more laughter.

To truly capture the essence of my trip in a series of blog posts is probably a tall order. But I will do my best.

For those of you who don’t like travel blogs, feel free to tune out for a few weeks.

For those of you who are insanely jealous of my experience, feel free to live vicariously through me. I know I will… if it’s even possible to live vicariously through yourself.

So come and take a journey with me–not an actual journey, mind you, because ain’t nobody got time (or money) for that! But instead a virtual journey, a blog journey if you will, one that will give you a glimpse into my life abroad. If you will jump onto my imaginary plane, I will take you across the ocean and help you get an idea of just how much this trip meant to me.

DSC03625

Stay tuned!