Journals from England Fall, (University of Nottingham)
2009-11-24 Adventures in Scotland, Wales, and Ireland
Cheers! This is me enjoying a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar at St. James's Gate, which overlooks the city of Dublin with a panoramic view.
24 Nov. 2009
It's been a while since my last post, mostly because in the last three weeks I have visited three countries. Tim and I went to Edinburgh, Scotland, before being joined by Katie for a trip to Cardiff, Wales, and this last weekend Tim and I went to Dublin, Ireland.
My mom asked me an interesting question on Skype last night: Are all those cities you go to the same? The answer is no, definitely not. What I've loved about traveling since I've been here is that I always take something different away from each city I go to. From the small city of York to the sprawling metropolis of London, each place has its own culture, atmosphere, and impact on me.
In Edinburgh, I was most impressed by the architecture, but I also discovered how much I love the traditional Scottish culinary delights of Irn-Bru ginger fizzy drink (or soda), fried haggis (Google this if you don't know what it is), and fried Mars bars (as deliciously fattening as it sounds). Also, Tim and I discovered the glory of free walking tours, namely through a company called New Europe; they give tours for free, which usually last about three hours, and you pay the tour guide whatever you think he deserves through a tip at the end. I highly recommend these for anyone traveling through Europe, because the guides teach you a lot about old stories, traditions, and history of the cities that you might not get to learn otherwise.
In Cardiff, we seemed to be followed by Scottish people... they were all in town for a big rugby match and a big football (soccer) match. Our hostel was full of rowdy Scots, and even though they kept us up at night we still had a good time. You can't really be mad at a Scotsman; their accents are so cool and they are just jovial, boisterous people. We had to figure out the bus system in Cardiff, and the infrequencies and unreliability of said buses caused us to play the Waiting Game a lot. Cardiff Castle was quite impressive, especially since we paid a few pounds more to have a guided tour that gave us lots of cool access into some of the rooms of the castle's estate. Katie, Tim, and I stumbled into a quaint little covered market where we did lots of browsing and enjoyed a full English breakfast and tried some Welsh pastries. Probably the best decision we made, though, was to just open up a big map of the city and try to find somewhere interesting to go: We took a bus all the way out to the western edge of Cardiff to go to the National Museum of Welsh Life, which was quite interesting; I especially liked the museum grounds, which included replicas of old Welsh buildings and markets interspersed with grazing sheep.
In Dublin last weekend, Tim and I had a great time. I think Dublin is definitely my favourite city I've been to (Edinburgh is #2 and London is #3). The people in Dublin are just so friendly, outgoing, and warm-hearted (maybe it's all the Guinness they drink!). It felt like an epic pilgrimage when Tim and I went to St. James's Gate, the Guinness brewery. We took a nice tour of the original brewery and storehouse grounds, which have been converted into the museum of all things Guinness, and capped it off with a pint of the black atop the Gravity Bar, which overlooks the city of Dublin. Both nights we were there we spent our evenings at a great pub called The Celt. They featured traditional Celtic and Irish pub songs both evenings, and I got to learn some good Irish songs (they were stuck in my head for days). At the pub we met an old Irish guy with a great moustache who was a bit eccentric; everyone there seemed to know him, so I think he must be a regular there. Anyways we chatted it up with him and he told us stories of his various travels throughout the world and gave us some good advice on life and told us always to be proud that we are Americans " at least I think that's what he said; his accent was pretty thick and I could only understand about 25% about what he said.
The last three weekends have been pretty hectic, with lots of traveling, drinking, exploring cities on foot, doing touristy things, and trying to find out what the locals do and what they are like. Exploring new countries makes me excited for Christmas break, when Tim and I will be backpacking through Europe for a month (in Rome, Florence, Nuremberg, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dsseldorf, and Krakow). It should be a true eye-opening experience. My main advice for people who are studying abroad next year is that you should try to travel as much as possible! Get organized and book your train tickets and hostels early, and don't just stay in Nottingham. There's so much to see around here, and all of Europe is just a stone's throw away.