Tuesday, April 21, 2009

London Bridge is Falling Down

Day 8: After staying out till 3:30 and getting up 5:30 to catch my flight, I was pretty tired, which to be fair, may have contributed to my dislike of London. In any case, after I got off my flight, I picked up my London pass at the tourist office then headed to drop my bags off at my hostel. What I didn't count on when planning the London segment of my journey is the fact that it takes FOREVER to get ANYWHERE in London. To be honest, it's a little bit ridiculous.

Anyway, after the hostel and a quick lunch, I headed of to St. Paul's Cathedral, designed by the great Sir Christopher Wren, and the wedding place of Princess Dianna. It really is a fairly cool piece of architecture, but definitely not my favourite cathedral. Here's a picture of the outside:

Next on the list was supposed to be Globe Theatre:

However, upon finding out that I would have to wait quite a while for the next tour, I decided to do the more expensive Tower of London with the pass that I'd already paid for. I had to practically run to get there on time, and when I did, I found that half of the exhibition had been closed down and I only had 30 minutes to look around. The stuff about torture was pretty cool though. (Good grief, I sound like a sadist.) And I got a good picture of the sunset. Tower of London and sunset:

And I saw the Tower Bridge and walked across it! That's another thing about London though... it definitely has cooler bridges and better architecture than Dublin, but in London, it feels like the bridges take precedence over the river. It's like it's there, but in the way, and when someone does notice the river it's more like an annoyance, and something to throw trash in. But in Dublin, the river is like a part of the city, and people enjoy it and want it there. So they don't build bridges to hide it. They hope the river hides the bridges. I sound like a crackhead. But whatever.
Day 9: So, I was SUPPOSED to go to Stonehenge today. My bus left at 7:15, and I thought that 45 minutes would be PLENTY of time to get to the bus station from my hostel. Not so. I ended up there at like 7:30 or so... and the next bus wasn't til 11:15, by which time it would be too late to catch another bus over to the actual Stonehenge site. So, instead I stayed around London and did a couple of walking tours of London.

The first one took me through a little bit of the history of the city, and I learned a lot and saw quite a bit, so I really enjoyed it. For example, I learned that the London street layout is based on a street plan that was drawn in the middle ages, and the majority of the streets haven't changed. Which means that if Dickens or Shakespeare came back to London today, they could walk you through it, no problem. Speaking of Dickens, we walked past the George and Vulture pub, which I believe he mentions in the Pickwick Papers.
The next walking tour I did was supposed to explain some of the history and legends in the London portion of the Da Vinci Code. I didn't really like the tour though, because I felt like it was just a reenactment/summary of what happens in the film/book. But we saw this snazzy Templar church... or was it masonic? I can't remember. But they're known for their circular churches.

And we also got to see Big Ben! Tourists can't actually go inside the building though, because they're parliament offices.

And although I didn't watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, I DID watch the changing of the horse guard. Woot woot!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Everyone's Irish on March 17 :)

So, before I get super into St. Paddy's Day, I have to tell you all about my short stint in Belfast.

Day 5: SUCH a good day! I started out a little later than normal, and headed off first to tour the Guinness Storehouse, which was really the only touristy thing that I did in Dublin, if you don't count Temple Bar. On route to the Guinness Storehouse, I misread my map and started walking along the river in the exact opposite direction I was supposed to be going. I thought I'd be annoyed at this waste of time, but the river was so peaceful and beautiful, and it was this little mishap that probably made me fall in love with Dublin. Yes, in love, I say. I'd love to return to Dublin in the very near future to study.

I LOVED the Guinness Storehouse. I learned a lot, there weren't many people to annoy me, and there were great tidbits of info everywhere. I'd highly recommend it, even if you don't drink Guinness.
So an interesting tidbit about the Guinness Storehouse. Every year, Guinness pays 45 pounds to the leaser. This is because Arthur Guinness, Guinness's genius founder, signed a 9000-year lease for the site of the Guinness Storehouse. So until the year 10,759, Guinness will continue paying 45 pounds/year to their leaser. Below is a picture of the original lease, signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759:

A few other fun things I found at the Guinness Storehouse:

And moving on to Belfast, haha. After the Storehouse I hopped on a bus to Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland, thus although still part of the fair isle of Ireland, part of the country of the UK. Anyhoo, originally I had big plans for Northern Ireland, but they were upset due to my late start at the Guinness Storehouse, and a miscalculation on my part the following morning.

Staying at my hostel with me were two Brazilians who were both living in Dublin but on vacation to Belfast at the moment. The girl is named Marsela, and the boy Adriano. Then that creepy bald guy is the one who we met randomly and who also just as randomly tried to kiss me. AWKWARD! Oh, and pay no attention to the crimson of my eyes, I've just turned into a vampire over my travels.

Um... why am I driving on the right side of a taxi? ON THE LEFT SIDE OF THE ROAD?!

Day 6: So, I was SUPPOSED to go to the Giant's Causeway this day. Buuuuuut, I'm horrible at life, so I didn't make it. Actually, it's not really my fault. I got up at around 8:30 AM, and was supposed to leave for the tour at 11:00 AM. Since I was running out of clean clothes, I naively calculated that 2 and a half hours would be plenty of time to do a load of laundry. At 10:30, when the washer was still running, I realized that the tour was a lost cause, which was too bad, because I would've really liked to have seen it. Oh well though. I'll be in Ireland again at some point in my life, so I'll just go then.

Instead, I spent the day wandering around Belfast and looking for cheap going out shoes (my white ones had been ruined the first night in Cork). I got an early bus back to Dublin, had a relaxed dinner, then headed off for the biggest ego trip of my life, which happened at a couchsurfer gathering. By biggest ego trip of my life, I mean that I got a ridiculous amount of compliments. I'll spare you all having to read through them, though =p

Day 7: Happy St. Patrick's Day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! St. Patrick's Day was fun, and pretty crazy. Well... not for me, but for a lot of other people. For me it was pretty laid back. I woke up late, got annoyed with the hostel I was staying at for it's lack of outlets, and went off to the parade. Which was PRETTY cool, and I've included some pics for your viewing pleasure. I have TONS more though.I liked the guy with the world on his shoulders...

Here's one of my Irish friends that I met! He turned me into a leprechaun!

This isn't what it looks like, I swear! We were doing the one kiss on each cheek thing after a lovely dance, and one of his friends just happened to take the picture at exactly the wrong moment... lol.

This pic is for my little brother. I was talking to these two Irish fellows, and they asked me something about how my St. Patrick's Day was going, and I told them it was going well. Somehow the conversation turned into how my little brother really wanted me to find a red-haired Irish man named Patrick and take a picture with him. And he was like, "Well my name's Patrick... and I sort of have red hair!" And that was it, we took a picture. I don't remember the name of his friend though...

A couple other things happened on St. Paddy's Day, but none that I'm going to write about. Except for one. I had been talking to another Irish guy (whose name is currently escaping me) and then I was like "I'm going to go meet people now!" And then when I came back to talk with him again towards the end of the night he was so annoyed with me. He was like "I thought we were getting on so well!" I guess that's what you get for being friendly sometimes. Ah well. Then, at the very end of the night, he very cutely asked, though I had no romantic interest in him whatsoever and didn't think I'd been sending any signals that said otherwise, if I was going to let him kiss me. To which I of course said no :) (Although it would've been a good souvenir, haha!)

Thus concludes day 7 of my journey, and my St. Patrick's Day of 2009.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Galway and Dublin

Hey hey hey! I just realized I forgot to tell you all what "craic" means (from my last post). It's basically like fun... but it has a lot of different meanings. Very versatile word.

In any case. Continuing where I left off. In Galway I stayed the night with Lindsay and Torri (sp? Torri, if you ever read this, I'm REALLY sorry if I spelled your name wrong... I'm just too lazy to go and check lol). We had a good chat and had fun swapping stories about things that have surprised us in our new countries of residence (Ireland and Spain, for those of you who've somehow missed that information =p).

Day 3: In the morning, Lindsay headed off to class and Torri accompanied me to the Healy Tours pick-up point, where we said good-bye. All of day 3 was spent on a tour of The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren.

The Burren was first, and I opted to do a walking tour of the area with a local farmer. He had some cool stories to share with us, although I didn't enjoy wearing the Wellingtons to avoid the mud, because they rubbed against my ankles weird. Anyway, The Burren is just basically a huge area with a ton of really cool limestone rock formations. The structure I'm standing next to was made........ I forget when. But fairly recently. I thought the rock formations were super cool to look at, thus they made the pictures...

Cliffs of Moher came next! I think I would have been more impressed by their 700 meter sheer drop-off to the sea if it hadn't been FREEZING.
After the Cliffs of Moher, I grabbed a bus to Dublin. That night, I decided to check out the Temple Bar area of town, which has a lot of good places for dancing. At one of them, I was just minding my own business, and there was a creepy guy that would NOT leave me alone. So I had to leave.

Day 4: Today I got up and figured out a bus route to take me to Newgrage and Knowth, which are neolithic tombs. They were pretty cool I guess, but a little anticlimatic, because of the cold and wind, I think. It is incredible, though, how much those people knew about the sun and the moon and the earth and their movements and everything, and how they could build things so precisely that on important occasions (equinox, solstice) the entire inner chamber would be illuminated at precisely the moment the equinox or solstice occurred, no matter what, for as long as the structure remains standing.

I was SO annoyed about the wind lol.

After I got back from that little tourist attraction, I got back to my hostel where I met these three girls. Sadly, it's the only picture I got from the night. From left to right: Katy, Dayna, Christina, Me.

I knew I'd get bored with them the moment one of them mentioned Rihanna and Chris Brown, but we all decided to go out together anyway. Strength in numbers, eh? So we went to this place in Temple Bar called Oliver St. James, which was absolutely PACKED with tourists in ridiculous hats and clothing, all decked out for St. Patrick's Day. I was pretty convinced that I wouldn't meet any Irish people there, but I decided to stay anyway.

To make a painfully long story short (in other words, be glad you're not my mother, who had to listen to every bit of it) I met two RIDICULOUSLY cool Irish guys, with their cute Irish accents. They were brothers, and Katy REALLY wanted to make out with one of them, so she kept asking him to dance, and he kept telling her no, haha. Reasons they're ridiculously cool:

1. They told me that for them going to Temple Bar was like going to the zoo. Being from Moab and having observed Jeep Safari, I can totally relate.
2. They told me I was the only girl in the place worth talking to.
3. I expected them to be completely into the sorority girls, and they weren't. Sometimes girls with brains DO finish first!
4. When they eventually ended up leaving, they were like, "It's not you, it's her." I felt like they were breaking up with me, lol.
5. They refused to let me be overly nice to Katy (who handed me her coat without even asking if I would hold it), and told me to put it on the ground with their scarves.
6. When I mentioned I was from Utah, the first thing they mentioned was L. Ron Hubbard.
7. They had somehow procured a sample of 160 euro body spray (the word that you use for mens' fragrances is currently escaping me right now) and asked me to test it. I'm not gonna lie, it smelled delicious.
8. The one Katy was trying to dance with recognized that "dance" was just a way for her to make out with him.
9. They taught me some good old-fashioned Irish dancing.
10. When I was describing the cuter one in my journal, I realized he looked kind of exactly like a vampire from Twilight. And I used the phrase. Haha. Nerd that I am.

Man, they were cool. I wish I had pictures with them! But alas, I don't... Ah well.

Thus concludes day 4.