TURNING THE TIDE 2.0

Dear all,

Hello! It has been some time since I last sat down and wrote a Blog. I regret not taking the time to write, because so many special things happened over the summer, and I wish I had kept some sort of record on TURNING THE TIDE. To make up for the all the posts I didn’t write, I’d like to take a moment to tell you a bit about my summer, this blog and myself.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m from NorCal and I’m a literary journalism major at University of California, Irvine. Yes, I’m a writer, borne from my love of reading. I am a freelance writer for two startup companies, and plan to move into public relations this fall. This is my final year of college. I’m really excited to use my potential to do good, but I’m definitely nervous at the same time!

Summer highlights:

– Landed my dream journalism internship at the UCI ANTrepreneur Center. I learned the importance of networking, how to listen and how to talk to anyone. This internship helped me find my first public relations opportunity.

– Went on a backpacking trip with my uncles, in NorCal. Want to read more? Check out my article. 🙂

– Had a great time with my friends at the beach on multiple occasions. Having a car is wonderful!

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When I started this blog, I had trouble pinpointing exactly what interested me and keeping readers engaged. I would write about some pretty random stuff. Then, I branched out into writing prompt style posts, which got a bit more traffic. I think the most recent stage was when I wrote about study abroad in Ireland.

Now, I am going to try something new! My new theme makes my blog pop, and motivates me to write engaging content. There’s something deeply satisfying in straying away from a traditional look. Besides the theme, the content will change. From here on out, the blog will focus on photography, student life, careers and current events. Occasionally I will do a writing prompt if I need the practice. I think my new direction will keep me on my toes, since I’ll need to read the news, search for interesting subjects, etc. That said, I’m going to post at least once a week, on Mondays.

To all my past readers, thanks for reading this post and following my blog. I appreciate your patience, and I’m sorry to have left you hanging this summer! I look forward to seeing what you’re up to and will do my best to maintain a presence here on WordPress.To first time visitors, I hope that we can connect. If one of my posts inspires you, please don’t hesitate to comment on it. I’ll take a look at your blog, too.

Cheers,

–Jennifer

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365 Daily Prompt: Road Trippin’

You’re going on a cross-country trip. Airplane, train, bus, or car? (Or something else entirely–bike? Hot air balloon?)

The Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon

Photo credit

I am definitely a bit rusty on my Blogging since coming home, so it’s time for a prompt to help motivate me! This question is so perfect right now, since I’ve been talking to my friends about travel and I’ve been daydreaming about vacations.

I like to drive, always have. I find it calms me down. I drive a manual transmission 2005 Honda Accord. I like being in control and driving down the freeway with hardly any cars to my right and left. Before I did my 15.5 hour solo trip down to Irvine a few weeks ago, I had only driven 3-4 hours tops. That was with my parents. I did well on that long solo trip though, thanks to my stack of CDs and the trusty GPS.

If I were to embark on this cross-country trip, first I’d want to see Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe in California. I’ve been to Yosemite before, but two hours is rather short and I did not get to see El Capitan. I’ve always heard people rave about Lake Tahoe. I wonder if it’s worth it. This is why it’s on the list.

My next stop would be the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. The views are breathtaking, I’m told. From here I would travel to the South: San Antonio, Texas for something deep fried to eat, then listen to some good jazz at the New Orleans Jazz Festival, and see Savannah, Georgia, the city John Berendt wrote about so eloquently in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

Finally, and I’m not sure how I would get there, I would spend some time in Boston, Massachusetts and learn more about our nation’s history and then I would go to New York City, New York.

Yes, this trip could be wildly unrealistic, but it certainly covers all the places I still want to see in this amazing country.

What do you think? Does it sound exciting enough? What is your ideal trip, and what mode of transportation would you want to take?

Jennifer Jopson: Lessons From Travels Abroad

My guest blog for Jered on Live Declared.

Top Five Irish Adventures

Traveling to Ireland soon? Are you struggling to pin down the sites you want to see? Consider these places for your trip. You can visit them all in a week!

1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow
Known as the “glen of two lakes”, Glendalough boasts a scenic landscape that is hard for anyone to resist. The Upper Lake is a nice place to take pictures and skip rocks, and the walk to the 6th century monastery is both peaceful and mysterious. The graveyard is interesting, as several of the tombstones are indecipherable due to their age and St. Kevin’s Cross and the Round Tower are part of Irish folklore. Glendalough is also kid friendly, as there are grassy areas with natural features to scramble around on. If you’re feeling adventurous, take a hike up to the waterfall. I highly recommend the Wild Wicklow Tour–my guide was friendly, flexible and knowledgeable. You’ll see much more than Glendalough itself.

The monastery at Glendalough is utterly charming.
The monastery at Glendalough is utterly charming.

2. O’Neills, Co. Dublin
One of the most handsome, traditional pubs in Dublin, O’Neills is a gem that not every tourist knows about. It’s not far from St. Stephens Green and Trinity College. O’Neills is a great place to meet up with friends or to soak up the ambiance–they do traditional music every night and the food is pretty impressive. The Carvery is excellent (come hungry!) and the main menu offers something for everyone. While you should also experience Temple Bar, if you like to get away from hordes of people and always wanted to hear traditional music in a pub, this might be the place for you. I took my study abroad friends here and since then we’ve all returned numerous times.

My favorite place to unwind in Dublin.
My favorite place to unwind in Dublin.

3. Galway City, Co. Galway
You haven’t seen Ireland if you haven’t been to Galway in the West! They hold the biggest arts festival in the country and 20% of its population are college students. The main city is walkable–you can see most of it in two hours. Don’t rush, though, as you’ll want to enjoy a meal here and listen to street music. They have a farmer’s market, several fun shops and some beautiful attractions. The Spanish Arch area out by Galway Bay is a must-see, as well as Galway Museum right behind it and the Galway Cathedral close by.

Galway has an artsy feel: do not miss out!
Galway has an artsy feel: do not miss out!

4. Connemara, Co. Galway
Words can’t really express this place. The views are incredible. Driving around the peat bogs and seeing the idyllic-looking horses in the tall grass is essential to the Irish experience. My family drove quite close to Connemara National Park, which I hear is a must-see as well.

Take the Sky Road in Connemara for an awe-inspiring experience.
Take the Sky Road in Connemara for an awe-inspiring experience.

5. The Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare
Though the Cliffs are probably the most popular tourist destination in Ireland, they are stunning. You can take a hike along the cliffs, called the Burren Way–for hours if you like. I had two hours to explore the Cliffs, and it was plenty of time for me. I would’ve liked to walk along the Burren Way for a considerable amount of time, but since I was on a tour I made a point to take photographs I’d love and study the various angles of the Cliffs. A word of caution: people do fall off the Cliffs, so stay AT LEAST three feet away from the edge. I’d double that amount in the event of strong winds and rain, because you have a higher chance of losing your balance and slipping. Just use your common sense and don’t risk your life for a picture! I recommend the Wild Rover tour for those of you who will not drive in Ireland: you’ll get two hours at the Cliffs, some time to stretch your legs and enjoy The Burren and two hours in Galway. The guides are fantastic, and the value is excellent for the price. I took the Wild Rover tour to Belfast, the Giants Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which I also recommend because unlike the Cliffs, there are no stone barriers at all–you get to walk around it all.

Pick a clear, sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher for the best views.
Pick a clear, sunny day to visit the Cliffs of Moher for the best views.

Thanks for reading! Please share your thoughts: did I miss something people have to go see? What was your experience like in Ireland?

Escape to Skerries

Dear readers,

My apologies for it being a month since my last post. I appreciate your patience. Finals were stressful (the good kind of stress) and I wanted to prepare as much as I could. I survived my semester abroad in Dublin, Ireland, so now I just have to wait for my grades! I’ll elaborate on study abroad in a future post, I promise. I’d love to share a final set of experiences with you before I do.

Last Saturday was my first day of summer. I was so excited to go to Skerries in North Dublin I couldn’t sleep much the night before. Two months before I had read about Skerries in my guide-book, and while it didn’t go into detail about the town, it did mention Skerries Mills. Also around this time the international and Erasmus student society I was a part of on campus gave us the opportunity to do a clean up project in Skerries. I wasn’t able to participate, but once I started Googling Skerries I became more and more intrigued. I learned that they hold an annual Traditional Music Weekend there, for three days in May filled with dance and instrument workshops in the morning, street music in the afternoon and concerts at night. My host mom took one look at the lineup and said I had chosen well. Clearly, this was a cultural opportunity I wasn’t about to miss.

I decided to plan a trip out to Skerries once my finals were over, as a reward for finishing strong and as a chance to see another seaside town before I left for the States. (I leave this week. It’s bittersweet). My Irish friend Nwanne and I couldn’t have picked a better day to go. The journey was simple, as I took the DART (Irish Rail) towards Drogheda, and the route led me directly to Skerries. The weather was quite balmy, the sky a pretty blue mixed in with a few clouds. I talked with a very pleasant elderly gentleman on my walk into town. He seemed dedicated to the music festival, as he had been there before and knew which bands at the pubs I shouldn’t miss. He’d listened to all their music as well, which made him 100% more of an expert than I was.

I had to laugh at myself soon after when I went on a wild goose chase for a tourist office and a public restroom. Signs in the town pointed in the opposite direction of these facilities, which was at once very frustrating and humorous at the same time. After heading in the wrong direction for the monument (I was one street over), I finally met up with Nwanne. It was so good to see her, as she was also recovering from our chaotic finals schedule. When I asked her what she wanted to do, she let me decide what we’d do that day since this was the end of my study abroad experience. She was up for anything I wanted to do, which I really appreciated.

The first place we went to was Skerries Mills. There are three mills at Skerries; two windmills and a watermill. It is famous in part because it was one of the few mills with both wind and waterpower. I found them marvelous structures, and I desperately wanted to take pictures of them to seal it forever in my memory. We went on a nice tour of the Mills and really enjoyed it. In the huge watermill the guide demonstrated how workers would turn grain into flour, their pulley system to haul the bags of flour up to the next floor and then powered up the mill to show us how all the parts worked together. I thought it was pretty neat. Then we got to tour the inside of the Small Windmill. It was drafty inside, and we could hear the wind howling outside (it was not actually that windy outside, but inside the mill sound became more amplified). Anyway, it was my first time in a windmill!  I liked the Small Windmill better than the Great Windmill because it had a more rustic look and the red door with a fence surrounding it was a nice touch. When we got closer to the Great Windmill, however, I loved how it seemed to effortlessly work with the landscape. The thing that amazes me about these mills is the back-breaking work the men did everyday to earn a living. To think that they faced many trials in order to make the mill more efficient showed their dedication to work. Their jobs were very dangerous and the monotony, I assume, made it difficult to feel a sense of accomplishment.

At the Small Windmill--built in 1500
At the Small Windmill–built in 1500
Hands down the most warm and beautiful day in Dublin!
Hands down the most warm and beautiful day in Dublin!
The Great Windmill of Skerries
The Great Windmill of Skerries–built in 1700

After we’d snapped several selfies and soaked up the sun, Nwanne and I headed back into town. We went to South Beach and sat down in the sand. We looked out to the islands there and had fun watching children chase their parents around in circles until we were nearly dizzy ourselves. We wanted to make it to Keane’s Bus Bar by 5 PM for live music, so we skipped the harbor and went to get dinner and wait.

Nwanne and I at South Beach
Nwanne and I at South Beach

Keane’s Bus Bar has the kind of ambiance that makes you feel like you’ve stepped into the early 20th century. The seats were cushy, the tables tiny and several paintings of the Dublin area hung on the walls. We ate our meal with gusto and settled in for some good music. While the band that played was fine, the guitarist was the only one who sang for us. Still, the harp, the fiddle and the Uilleann pipes made the music legitimate and quite colorful. The gentleman I had talked to earlier sat at the table closest to the band, and when he saw me he explained that we had missed a fantastic traditional music session at 3 PM–apparently the whole town went to that one! While I was a little sad, I did not regret any moment spent in Skerries and I happily listened to the music playing. The three small children trying to out-dance each other at the pub stole the show! The band enthusiastically invited them to “play” the Uilleann pipes. Spending time with my friend and with the kind people of Dublin made my day. On my next trip to Ireland, I’ll make a point to return to the quiet and peaceful town of Skerries.

The band at Keane's Bus Bar
The band at Keane’s Bus Bar

 

Got fish? Visit Howth!

With its history dating back to a viking invasion in 819, Howth is one of Dublin’s main out-of-city attractions. Howth sits north of Dublin Bay, and the views from Dalkey and Dún Laoghaire harbors in South Dublin are particularly neat. You can reach Howth by DART (Irish Rail) from the city centre in about 30 minutes.

My friend Anika and I got a great first impression of the village as soon as we stepped off the train. We went into Howth Market, a farmer’s market with mouth-watering bread, sweets and other goods. Anika’s delicious bread had cheese, tomato sauce and jalapeño in it. We really liked seeing the array of shops and restaurants near the habour. Howth Harbour was wonderful! We walked along the west and east piers and saw a seal pop his head out of the water for a minute. It was so refreshing to feel the wind blow into our faces and to breathe in the salty, slightly fishy air. We watched kayakers paddle out to Ireland’s Eye and white sailboats floating far off at the edge of Dublin City. There are few things that are more relaxing than sitting pier side and watching the waves.

While we each had a map of Howth with us, we weren’t sure how close the sites in town actually were, and nothing sounded that intriguing. Anika suggested that we walk for a bit past the harbour, which I thought was an excellent idea. As we started our climb we passed beautiful homes and looked back to see views of the village now and then. We hiked up Howth Head, which is a sprawling peninsula that you could only dream of covering completely if you had the proper footwear, food and water to keep you going. Our boots got muddy but we didn’t mind–running shoes just didn’t seem ideal. I got tired early on mostly because of lack of food and hydration, but Anika seemed to have an endless supply of energy! I liked hiking with her and I’m glad that she motivated me to press on. Plus, the *views only continued to improve the higher we climbed. We figured that we were close to the turn that would lead us to a car park and back down to the village about an hour and a half in. We were right, and we didn’t have to walk far past Howth Summit to find a warm pub to refuel in.

We headed back into town and sat down on a bench to contemplate our trip and rest our feet. We drank some warm cocoa at the first cafe we had seen outside the train station to end the day. We both agreed that while the harbour area and the coastal views from Howth Head were amazing, the village itself wasn’t as beautiful and special as we thought it would be. My advice is to visit Dalkey over Howth, as there is much more to see and it is far nicer as a town. Still, Howth is worth seeing.

One of the things I learned about myself from my trip to Howth was that I don’t have to always travel alone. Here in Ireland I’ve planned most of my sightseeing and so far I haven’t minded doing my own thing.  My hope in this is that I get to develop an awareness of Dublin without limitation. Sounds lonely, doesn’t it? Sometimes it feels that way, but I like to meet people outside of my friend circle and learn about the things that I find interesting here. Having a friend to share yesterday with meant a lot to me. It’s hard to make friends when you’re at a new school and have deadlines to meet, but it is great to have a friend who takes the time to get to know you. Hopefully I can see Anika a few more times before the term ends!

Note: Hover over the photos to view captions, click to view larger

*The view changed rapidly. One moment there was mist over the next 100 meters ahead of us, and then it was clear. No time to take off your jacket!

Scotland’s Gems

Last Thursday my friends and I landed in Edinburgh a day before our UC Education Abroad Program trip started, so we had time to explore the city on our own. The first morning I went to the National Museum of Scotland, a friendly, hands-on place that is perfect for kids. It had a lot to offer, with a total of seven floors–I only had time for two. I particularly liked the space exhibit and Dolly, the first cloned mammal. I caught up with my friends soon after and went on a free tour of The Royal Mile, Grassmarket and many of the closes (neighborhoods) hiding just behind the main streets. I had a nice time talking to people on the tour and listening to our cheerful tour guide. I could tell he loved his job and that he was passionate about Scottish history. After the tour I headed to Edinburgh Castle, which is by far the most impressive castle I’ve seen on my study abroad adventures.  For starters, it’s huge! There are about 20 museums within the castle you can explore, and most of the rooms are open. You can catch sweeping views of the city here as well. It’s worth paying the admission price if you get excited anytime you hear the word “castle” or want to see the Honours of Scotland and some cool dungeons.

Edinburgh by night
Edinburgh by night
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh as seen from the castle
Edinburgh as seen from the castle
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile: architecture you can fall in love with

Our first day as a group we went to see the Railway Bridge, Blair Castle and Culloden Battlefield. The Railway Bridge in South Queensferry is massive, but I liked the bridge next to it because it reminded me of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA. At Blair Castle I lingered at the back of the group so I could read most of the signs and look at the detail in the rooms. While the castle was nice, my favorite part was its grounds. We followed a trail that led into the woods and took a ride on the swings at the playground. At Culloden Battlefield we learned about the Jacobite defeat by the British–they fought a losing battle and roughly 2,000 men died. The exhibit took forever to explore, but once we stepped on the battlefield itself it became entirely worth it. We saw the blue and red flags of the Jacobites and the Brits swaying in the tall grass and imagined what it must have been like to do battle on April 16, 1745. I liked the lone cottage with peat moss on it standing in the field. I thought I would see something picturesque like this in Ireland first, so it made me laugh.

Grounds at Blair Castle
Grounds at Blair Castle
The cottage at Culloden
The cottage at Culloden
Culloden Battlefield--poor Jacobites!
Culloden Battlefield–poor Jacobites!

That night we ate a traditional Scottish dinner of haggis, meeps and tatties. The haggis surprised me, as it wasn’t firm and looked like finely ground beef. While I thought it tasted OK, I couldn’t finish it, as I’d had a filling meal of fish and chips in Aviemore for lunch. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meeps (turnips), but I was game to at least try it. The tatties were simply potatoes, and I found that the haggis tasted better when I mixed them together. The raspberry dessert ended the meal on a refreshing note.

After dinner we listened to a Scottish folklore storyteller for about two hours. He was entertaining and I stayed awake for most of it. The food coma left me slumped over the back of one of the chairs for some minutes!

The next day we went on a Loch Ness boat cruise with Jacobite Cruises. We started at Clansman Harbour and braved the cold in the top deck for half of it, and then sat in comfort in the enclosed lower deck to watch the scenery. In the afternoon we stopped at Glencoe to take pictures. Personally, it was the best 10 minutes I spent in the Highlands. The views of the mountains were stunning and I loved the colors. I highly recommend seeing Glencoe (and spend more time there than I did!)

I have to say that I’m sad time is passing by so quickly. Still, I’m really glad I got to go because it was such a good experience to meet people from other UC schools and appreciate another culture’s history, architecture and natural beauty.

Spotted this photo opportunity at Glencoe.
Splendid photo opportunity at Glencoe.
Glencoe!
Glencoe!

Thanks for reading. If my post triggered any memories of Scotland for you, please share!

The Pretty Town of Dalkey

If you are in the Dublin area for a few days or are staying for an extended period of time, do visit Dalkey Heritage Town. Hint: go on a sunny, non-blustery day to get the best impression. From the city centre simply take the DART (Irish Rail) towards Bray. It should take approximately 35 minutes. I went on Saturday after an attempt to go finally seemed possible. I couldn’t have picked a better time to go! The sun was out, people looked ridiculously happy and it was actually warm.  (For the first hour I was there, anyway).

I skipped the medieval tour at *Dalkey Castle and Heritage Centre and took off on one of the heritage trails listed on my map. I’ll admit, I overestimated just how far I’d walk in total: I think it was about 3.5 miles by the time I left at 6 pm. Still, I can’t complain; it was excellent exercise. I went on a scenic stroll to Coliemore Harbour and marveled at the variety of housing gates and styles. While some homes in Dalkey are quite modest in size with plain gates, most of them had this giant personality to call their own. Let’s just say it wasn’t condominium central, or dull looking.

At Coliemore Harbour I got an excellent view of Dalkey Island. There is a telescope that highlights the island–St. Begnet’s Church and Martello Tower. The seagulls seemed content to call it home. I continued south on Coliemore Road and a woman who saw me boring my eyes into the map smiled and said “How can I help?” The hospitality in Dalkey, and in Dublin, never ceases to amaze me. I told her I planned to see Vico Road. I didn’t even ask her for help, but I appreciated it all the same. Before I went to Vico Road, I realized I was at Sorrento Park. I climbed a few rocky stairs and stood amidst large brown shrubs. I’m guessing it’s nicer when it has actual color. I also got my first glimpse of Killiney Bay.

Next up was Vico Road in Killiney, the next town over from Dalkey. Impressive views of the bay, yes, and fancy estates for the rich and famous. You’ll see expensive sports cars and Mercedes and Audis zoom by you. U2 band members Bono and The Edge live here! It’s not hard to see why. The further you walk down the road, you catch glimpses of the inter-town liveliness. However, Vico Road stretches out way too far for the average person to walk. I almost had to huff and puff my way down that road, which was embarrassing. I made myself sit down on a bench once because my feet hurt.

Here were the two things I wanted to see in Killiney: Dolphins and Bono’s house.

Just guess what I didn’t see in Killiney.

That’s right, dolphins and Bono’s house! Both were nowhere in sight, though I suspect Bono’s house was half a mile to a mile further down from Killiney Hill or so, or I overlooked it on the part of the road I’d walked down.

It was not a wasted trip, but I did feel sad for a moment. I knew that if I wanted to see more of Dalkey and Killiney I’d have to keep trekking. Killiney Hill was neat, it felt like I was hiking in the woods almost. A long ivy-covered wall led me to a junction, where I took a left and climbed up to the summit and saw Killiney Obelisk and caught views of Dublin, Bray, Wicklow Mountains and Killiney Bay. Can’t beat it–urban Dublin with touches of countryside in the background (and this is not the city centre side).

I took a right down from the Obelisk and headed back into town via Killiney Hill Road and Dalkey Avenue. By the time I made it back to Dalkey I treated myself to something sweet and rested before I found the energy to go on another heritage trail. I went to Bulloch Castle, Bulloch Harbour and finished up with James Joyce Tower in a quiet residential part of town. The castle was neat, it’s now a private Nursing Home. The real treat was the harbour, though. I scrambled up and down magnificent rocks and made a few photographs of my view of Dublin Bay on the tallest, orange algae-covered rock. I sat and contemplated my day at the tower, chuckling to myself at the power a little town had to make me feel…so full.

*I’ve heard this tour is worth it so if you have the time, see it. Plus the people at the front desk are extremely friendly, and genuinely so.

Hope you like the photos and the tour of Dalkey and Killiney! Hover over the photos to view captions.

–Jennifer

Belfast: A Divided City

What one can appreciate about Belfast is that it doesn’t lay claim to any one thing. It has a walkable city centre and all the modern conveniences a tourist could want. Impressive architecture pops up in the least likely of places–the Titanic exhibition near the port (next to the cranes and the storage sites), the huge mall called Victoria Square which is lovely lit up at night and too posh during the day. There is a deep, reverberating sadness about the place because of its violent history, particularly the Troubles. In short, Belfast is not a cookie cutter of a city.

I spent two days in Belfast and while I didn’t love the city I was certainly curious about it. I had heard that the Black Taxi Tour was a must, and so I made sure to go. For two hours my small group and I experienced the rougher parts of town in the safety of the British black cab. Highlights of the tour include Shankhill Road, Falls Road and the Peace Wall. The Shankhill and Falls Roads are Protestant (Loyalist) and Catholic (Unionist) areas, respectively. Large murals and small communities make up these areas, and the Peace Wall separates the opposing sides. Now, I am no expert at all with Northern Ireland’s history, but I do gather from what I’ve read on the subject and from the conversations with Irish people and on the Black Taxi Tour that the Protestant and Catholic conflict is not merely religious. It’s political by nature and though the violence is not what it once was 30 years ago, there are still tensions and riots. Our cabbie and tour guide was excellent and gave a pretty even view of both sides of the conflict.

After the tour, some of us decided to get lunch at the Crown Bar in the city centre. The Crown Bar is Northern Ireland’s most famous pub, and one of my goals was to get inside and eat a delicious meal there. Unfortunately we didn’t anticipate a 40-min wait to sit down at an upstairs table so we left and went to Brennan’s Bar across the street. It worked out perfectly! Not only did we have a huge, cushy table to sit at and interesting conversation about the rules of rugby, but just before we got our food we saw four Scottish men come in wearing kilts. Priceless moment. Brennan’s wasn’t the first pub we went to that weekend; the night before we did a pub crawl with the whole student group on the trip–so around 100 other people. I’ll never forget my conversations with my new friends, the locals and the dancing they convinced us to do!

To make the trip even sweeter, we went to Carrick-A-Reed Rope Bridge, Dunluce Castle and Giants Causeway, all in North County Antrim. Fantastic weather, too. I wasn’t so sure the rope bridge would even be open, since the wind was blowing hard earlier in the morning. After bouncing around on a wobbly bus for over an hour, I was grateful to stretch my legs and walk on the windy trail up to the rope bridge. As far as rope bridges go, this one takes the prize! It’s one thing to see pictures of something but quite another to experience it for yourself…there was no way I was going to miss it. The Irish Sea bashes against the rocks here, and it can unnerve some people who look down and see the action. But I was ready and pleasantly surprised to find that the bridge was quite sturdy and that the view didn’t scare me. I marveled at the bridge’s simplicity, the oddly shaped grass on the side of the cliffs and the threat of the elements. A person standing on that bridge is vulnerable whether they are comfortable standing or not. It’s a thrill, really. Dunluce Castle stood in ruins, and the most interesting thing about it was the number of people who fell down on the slippery grass on the way to snap a picture. Thought for sure I would fall, but I didn’t. Giants Causeway was incredible! I liked the hike–a series of hills, stairs and then the paved road that led to the Causeway itself. Sea foam sprayed up in big clumps in the first few minutes while we stood and watched at the shoreline. The waves rushed in, powerful and white. We got to climb all over the famous hexagonal, basalt rocks and wonder how they got there in the first place.

All in all, it was a special weekend here on my trip abroad. If you decide to go to Belfast and see North County Antrim, you will learn about an important influence in Irish Republic history and explore the rural beauty of part of the United Kingdom.

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10 Observations on the Irish Culture

Ireland uncovered!

  1. The Irish people are friendly. Yes, the stereotype is true. If you’re trying to find your way, Dubliners are more than happy to help you. Most of the people I’ve talked to give excellent directions and they take the time to listen to you. If you greet a complete stranger, you’re likely to get insights into their personal lives before you part ways with them. Also, public service workers and shopkeepers will chat with you and offer their honest opinion on a product if you ask for it. Though they like customer assertiveness, if they don’t have it they won’t guilt you into buying something else.
  2. The Irish people are laid back. They just don’t rush. I notice that the average Irish person will enjoy life’s pleasant moments, whether it’s laughing, dancing, eating or drinking. If they complain, they don’t generally do it in public.
  3. That said, the Irish drive insanely fast. Sounds like a contradiction to number 2, doesn’t it? People are certainly in a hurry to get places in this country. Drivers tend to speed up when they see the red stop lights. Pedestrians beware: jaywalk with caution! When in doubt stay at the curb, even if you miss your bus across the street. Once I saw a woman and a child casually skip halfway across the street two seconds before a car whooshed by them.
  4. They don’t refrigerate their chicken eggs at SuperValu. Apparently it doesn’t matter whether you choose to refrigerate or leave them sitting out.
  5. You will hear Bruce Springsteen and U2 nearly every time you go to the city centre. I love it. It’s not “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, that’s for sure.
  6. Irish pubs are some of the best places to meet with friends and enjoy delicious food on the cheap. Many of them offer live, traditional music. Since living here, being at the pub is teaching me to sit and relax and not worry about things. Eating a meal with deliberation is a lost art in America, but here you can take a bite of hearty food and get lost in the pub environment. The older pubs have a cheeriness and an atmosphere that makes you think about the lively conversations that took place there, and the gleaming beers on tap and the whiskey bottles give it a rustic feel.
  7. Travel within Ireland is relatively easy. Car, bus, train, rail and plane–plenty of options. You can hit the coast in all directions in 3-4 hours from Dublin. Belfast in Northern Ireland (UK) is only a two-hour train trip away.
  8. The rain is bearable. I was very surprised that for it being winter and rainy almost every day, it’s not bad. Since precipitation actually warms the ground, it’s better than it being bitterly cold outside. If it rains early in the day it usually clears up and sometimes you can see the sun.
  9. They have an odd sense of humor in TV ads. While they portray the fresh and happy lifestyles of the Irish, they will say something humorous and go on like it is the natural thing to do. For an American abroad, it’s comical.
  10. Getting away from the city centre is good for you. Being away from the frantic shoppers, traffic congestion and touristy places allows for a well-rounded experience of Ireland. Go outside, ride a bike and explore the little towns.
The music is fantastic at The Porter House.
The music is fantastic at The Porter House.