Now What…?

My lovely room as I’m packing my life away…

Getting Kicked Out (19/5/14)

Today was the last day of living in residences. I was totally not ready to move out of the place I had come to know as “home” for the past school year, but it was time. I woke up early and was freaking out to no end until I went to the post to ship some things home. During that time, I really got to breathe and calm down a bit – and reflect on what a wasteful culture we’ve created with an increase in wealth and commercialized production of goods.

After calming down at the post, it was interesting going back to the apartment to clean. It was shocking how much my Italian flatmate and I got done in such a “short” period of time. At one point during cleaning, we also came to the realization that we’d miss each other because we’re both pretty equal in terms of our standards of what we consider “clean”, aside from other things. I think the cleaning and packing was probably the most stressful part of the whole thing – and my multiple trips to donation centres so my things wouldn’t go to waste. Checking out of residences itself was a lot easier than expected – though I wish they had given us more details on how it worked.

After a day of hard work, I finally settled back into Abigail’s for the night – where I’d be staying for the next few days. I went to dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant with my Irish actuary friend – who had never had REAL Chinese food and wasn’t well acquainted with chopsticks. It was a pretty interesting dinner watching him struggle with chopsticks and trying to figure out the perfect way to hold his chopsticks. Though, I have to say: I’m impressed he managed to keep up eating at the same rate I did only using chopsticks.

Abigail’s In Day & Singin’ in the Rain (20/5/14)

Today I had stayed at Abigail’s doing “work”, writing essays and making a video for a small sports scholarship I had received. During breakfast, I met the guy who was sleeping in the bed below mine. We got to a pretty interesting discussion about our experiences both as biologists and travelers – though, to admit, he is much more well-travelled than I, being used to a backpacking lifestyle and all. Later in the afternoon, my Thai friend came over and we planned or little excursion to Cork.

Nando’s dinner with the flatmate before our show!

Following that came the event I had been looking forward to since we first conceived such an idea: my musical-loving flatmate and I went to go watch a musical together in Dublin. We began with some finger-lickin’ chicken at Nando’s, which supposedly serves Portuguese chicken though it’s a chain restaurant found in the UK and Ireland. After dinner, we took a lovely stroll to the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre where we watched Singing in the Rain, a lovely musical with lovely choreography and supposedly 1200 litres of water on the two rain scenes where the front row got rather splashed. It was a wonderful last outing with my beloved Italian flatmate.

A Step into the Next Chapter (21/5/14)

The morning began with a meeting with my Italian flatmate. We spent our last moments together as if our big separation wasn’t about to happen. When it was time for us to say goodbye, it didn’t feel like a forever goodbye but rather a “see you soon” goodbye.

After a farewell to my beloved flatmate, I met up with my botanist friend to take a trip to a charity shop and bid farewell to the lovely pair of boots that had served me well all year and my nice thick jacket that kept me warm and dry throughout the Irish winter. As they say, when one door closes, another one opens. After donating, my friend and I browsed around and I found my first maxi-length skirt and my first “silk” scarf.

The night came to a close when I went to my friend’s charity concert and heard her sing for the first time. Afterwards, I bid farewell to a few of the friends I had met during my time here with the hopes of seeing them again one day.

Top: (left) yellow & green courgettes/zucchinis, (right) leafy greens. Bottom: (left) flowers for teas, (middle) white duck eggs vs brown chicken eggs, and (right) top lamb vs bottom beef kidneys.

Cork: Follow the Green Arrow! (22/5/14)

Today I set out to Cork with my Thai friend. We left Dublin bright and early at 830 on a GoBe bus. Upon our arrival in Cork, we settled into the cozy little hostel we booked called Oscar’s Hostel. After we had settled, we took a walk and town and stumbled upon the English Market in Cork where I saw duck eggs laid next to chicken eggs, a comparison of kidneys people eat, my first sighting of yellow courgettes/zucchinis and the cute little fancy chocolates of Wilkie’s, an award winning organic chocolatier.

The Cork Walk arrows in Daunt’s Square.

After an exploration of the English Market and Bishop Lucey Park next to it, we ended up in Daunt’s Square where we found a sign for the Cork Walks, self-guided tours via colored arrows and plaques located around the city. Out of the 4 routes we could’ve taken, we choose the Green University Route to University College Cork. Every half an hour or so we were running around saying, “Where’s the green arrow?” or “Follow the green arrow!” It was our game of the day: ’twas delightful! Along the route we crossed Fitzgerald Park, once owned by the brewer Charles Beamish, which was rather interesting with its unique “art” pieces and its fancy entrance flags.

After a day of walking around, we settled in our hostel for the night and got comfortable with our 3 other roommates. It was an interesting night as we all went to bed quite early after the other American and the other girls mused at my inability and curiosity to know how to wrap my hair in a towel-turban.

The picturesque town of Kinsale.

Kinsale: the Picturesque Sea Town (23/5/14)

Getting out of bed was hard today, so we slept in 2 extra hours. When we finally got up, we had a long and friendly conversation with the hostel owner before we left for Kinsale via BusEireann (link).

We arrived in the cute little town of Kinsale at noon. The fun began with a simple exploration of the town. I fell in love with their little wall painting dedicated to the various plants of the area and a cozy home with a large garden for sale named Merlin’s Keep – which housed a mysterious old man. Following our exploration of the town, we decided to walk to James Fort. It was quite a long walk but it was all in good craic, especially since we saw a seal pop its head out of the water near the bay at one point. At the end of our short hike to the ruins of the invisibly star-shaped James Fort, we wandered onto a beach next to it, Dock Beach. My, that was the first beachy beach I had been on in Ireland with nice – but rather fluffy – sand and not consisting of miles of tidepools. When we finally returned to the little town, we had a nice, filling lunch at a restaurant called The White House, where I had something called a seafood pancake. Then, shortly after, we took the bus back to Cork and met the hostel mascot, a dog named Oscar.

The flags with the crests of the 14 tribes of Galway in Eyre Square.

On My Own…In Galway (24/5/14)

The next big step came today: the beginning of my adventures alone, or as my brother or friends have called it… being a nomad, a wandering homeless person. My Thai friend returned to Dublin to focus on her work today, leaving me to my own means and whims, a victim or a conqueror of my own curiosity.

As I awaited my bus to Galway, I managed to muster the courage to talk to another traveler, another American. Within half an hour of boarding the bus, we quickly faded into strangers again, barely acknowledging the presence of the other. Upon arrival at our destination, we went our separate ways without even a goodbye. Then, more attempts as I chattered my way through a walking tour of Galway with a German high school graduate, a Japanese worker from London and a Slovakian au pair.

Later on, my afternoon was filled with explorations of the oddities of Galway. I began with the Galway Market, where they sold a variety of foods and crafts- and even freshly caught fairies! Then, I walked a bit of Salthill took a stroll out onto the Mutton Island Causeway – which was essentially a pier. I finished my walk of Galway with a fun time getting lost on the National University of Ireland, Galway campus, which definitely looked more modern than University College Cork.

Upon returning to the hostel, I had a simple dinner and I continued my quest to converse with other travelers. I ended up chatting it up with two Canadian guys who were rather silly, but friendly.

A beautiful view we passed on our way to Kylemore Abbey.

Six Acres of Nerding Out (25/5/14)

It was odd waking up this morning, realizing that I was the only girl in my mixed 3-bed hostel room. But it was okay, the guys were pretty passed out when I left for my 10am Healy Tour to Connemara. Our first stop of the day was at a little town called Spiddal, where we saw a real thatched roof over a cottage and a craft village with maypole – though all the shops were closed since it was Sunday. As we drive along to our next location, we could see the 3 islands of the Aran Islands in the distance and the steep – almost straight – drop of the Cliffs of Moher. The driver also told us of the housing rule in the area stating that each house had to have a stone wall to “blend into the landscape”. The next few stops we made were just for pictures: the Screebe waterfall in the town of Screebe, a replica cottage from a 1950s film The Quiet Man in Maam Cross and other scenic stops.

Kylemore Abbey, as seen in many postcard pictures (thought I seriously took this picture myself).

When we finally reached the highlight of the tour, Kylemore Abbey, House and Gardens, I was more than happy to run off the bus. I made a mad dash for the shuttle that would take us from the entrance of the abbey/house into the gardens. For the next two hours, I explored and indulged in the 6-acre garden. I immersed myself to such an extent I forgot to save time to see the abbey itself. I felt like this was a place to spend a whole day touring, considering the extensive amount of land on which it was developed. There were hiking trails, plants and buildings. It was definitely more than my two hour tour bus allowed and I didn’t want to get stuck 70km from Galway, which the bus driver informed us would cost a whopping €110 to take a taxi back from.

After a refreshing day at the Kylemore Abbey, the tour bus took us to more scenic locations for photographic opportunities, including Killary Harbour. Upon returning to Galway, I decided to eat for a night out at the Skeff Bar and Kitchen, which is attached to the Skeffington Arms Hotel and associated with Karma Nightclub. I had a filling seafood chowder starter for dinner and a delicious apple crumble for dessert. Then, I returned to my hostel room to find my room vacant if any other travelers. So I laid my head down on the fluffiest hostel pillow ever and slept soundly into the next day’s adventure.

Things I Learned “today”

  • It’s considered bad luck for a girl to buy a Claddagh ring for herself.
  • The beautiful pink rhododendrons seen in the Western Ireland landscape has become a rampant invasive within the last decade.
  • Sheep farmers buy alpacas to scare foxes away from sheep – because apparently foxes are frightened of alpacas.
  • The colored sheep of Ireland are that way so that farmers can tell which sheep are theirs.

Words/Phrases of the Day

  • Lynching comes from an act carried out by James Lynch which involved the hanging of his only son
  • Drisheen = a type of black pudding

Additional Pictures from the Week:

The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre where my Italian flatmate and I watched Singing in the Rain.

A small panoramic of Cork.

A cute corner of Kinsale I fell in love with – especially because of those two flower plaques.

A view seen on our way to James Fort in Kinsale.

The oddities of the Galway Farmer’s Market.

What I saw on my way back to Galway from the Mutton Island Causeway.

Some interesting sculpture on NUI Galway campus.

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