Bordeaux, France (Part 2)

Stone church with tower topped with a golden spire in Bordeaux, France.
Buildings in Bordeaux.

Before we decided on which cities to visit, we had the options between Paris, Toulouse, and Bordeaux. As you can see, we decided on saving Paris for later.  Kayla and Emily decided to go to Paris the next day because they did not have any classes on Monday. However, the rest of us did and we did not plan on missing any classes (Be Responsible!). Quick advice, if you want to travel, try traveling to places you wouldn’t normally visit. Obviously, I would have visited Paris, but decided to try cities I did not know much about. Which is why our final stop was at Bordeaux.

Breakfast was pancakes served with bananas, whipped cream, organge juice and coffee.
Breakfast at Books & Coffee

After we arrived at our Airbnb in Toulouse, we got ready for the next day before we fell asleep. In total, we probably got 4 hours of sleep. We had to wake up early in the morning and walk around to go catch our bus to Bordeaux. The bus ride felt long, but we were able to catch up on sleep. When we finally arrived at our location, we walked around and tried finding a place to get breakfast. However, I guess it was too early because most places were closed. However, we ended up finding a cute place that was opened called Books & Coffee. I wanted to get a traditional French breakfast but ended up getting pancakes… don’t ask.

After breakfast, we took a tour of the city, which I don’t remember much about, mainly because I was still tired. On this tour, we met some pretty great people, two of whom were teachers. Being an education major, I asked a couple of questions and they recommended I look into teaching abroad. Anyway, we also learned about the city and how it used to be very dirty. Once cleaned, the buildings are the color they have now. On our tour, the tour guide also recommended two places to go wine tasting. When choosing between which cities we wanted to go, Bordeaux was one of them because of the wine. (Reminder: The legal drinking age in most of Europe is 18. If you’re not 18, I’m sorry). However, before we went for wine, we got lunch at a crepe place. We also stopped for macaroons.

Savory Crepe with tomatoes, muchrooms for lunch.
Crepe… this time for lunch.
Vanilla and chocolate macaroons
Macaroons (had to get some because we were in France).

One of the wine places our tour guide recommended was called Vin: Cousin & Compagnie. According to our guide, the glasses of wine were pretty cheap and the customer service was great! We did not end up going to that place for wine. Instead, we went to Le Bar à Vin, which looked classy and had great prices for the glasses of wine. We also decided to go to that one because it was closer to where we were at that moment. This place offered many wines from Bordeaux. I ended up trying a white wine and rosé. Overall, it was a great place to relax after all our walking. I was able to know more about the girls during this time.

Enjoying a glass of rosé wine.
rosé at Le Bar à Vin
Mosaic art inside Le Bar à Vin.
Inside Le Bar à Vin

While we were enjoying our wine, a group of people sitting next to us started looking at us and laughing at us. Since everyone from my group knew French, they knew what they were saying. Apparently, they were making a rude comment about us. We decided to ignore it and not cause a scene. It was a bit uncomfortable but sometimes it is better to ignore some of the things that happen in order to avoid any problems and avoid looking bad in a different country.

After that little incident, we decided to walk to the nearby fair on Place des Quinconces. Our timing was on point because the sun started setting and it looked beautiful (just look at the picture). While we walked around, we decided to have our dinner at one of the stands. We got some doner kebabs with fries on top. It was good but not as good as the ones in Galway from Capital Kebab (the best and my fave food to get when I’m too lazy to cook). After that, we walked some more and Ciara and Kayla decided to go on the ferris wheel. The rest of us waited with their bags.

Deep blue and pink sunset over the buildings in Bordeaux, France.
sunsets in Bordeaux

After this, we came upon a stand with beignets. I regret not taking a picture so you guys can see how beautiful and delicious it looked. Anyway, they made it fresh and had Nutella and Biscoff Spread. I was full and did not end up getting one. However, Ciara got one and let me try hers. It was amazing, especially with the Biscoff Spread. 10/10 recommend. After walking around some more, we went to our hostel and said goodbye to Emily and Kayla. They were going to catch either a train or bus (I don’t remember which) to go to Paris.

French Breakfast with pastry.
Finally got my French Breakfast
French Breakfast with pastry, jams and butter.
Another breakfast pic

The next morning, we had time for some breakfast before we had to head to the airport. During our tour from the previous day, the guide told us breakfast at Karl was a must because of their affordable prices and their traditional French breakfast. I was finally able to get the breakfast I wanted! Also, the food pics turned out great! After breakfast, we caught the bus to the airport and waited to head home. I loved France so much and can’t wait to go to other cities in the future.

Tall narrow stone spires.
more pics from this trip 🙂
Stone Buildings in Bordeaux
Cute building everyone was taking pics of.
Student posing in narrow street surrounded by stone buildings.
Random pic of me.

 

Student standing in the large city courtyard with large stone buildings in the background.
Another pic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrow Streets lined with tall stone buildings with many windows.
Really loved how this photo came out so I had to share.
Group of girl students with the river in the background.
With the girls.

-Jess

Toulouse and Bordeaux, France (Part 1)

Map of the city
Map of Toulouse

It has been a long time since my last post. Things have been crazy with finals, COVID-19, and returning home (more about that on my next post). Before all of that happened, my friends and I had an amazing trip to France!

After the trip to London, I had a trip to Toulouse and Bordeaux booked. It is a good idea to book trips in advance if you know what weekends are available. Sometimes, it is better to spontaneously book trips. This trip was booked right after the London trip. London was fun, but I was exhausted after the trip. I needed to catch up on sleep and have a day to do absolutely nothing.

For this trip, I had to meet Kimi and a couple of other friends at the Galway bus station in the middle of the night (2:30 am). Our flight to Dublin left around 7 am, which meant we would arrive at our first destination (Toulouse) in the morning. during the bus ride, I was not able to get any sleep. On the plane, I was able to get some sleep but the flight was short.  Sleep was nonexistent for any of us on this trip.  Besides sleep, I also had to worry about language because I do not know any French. My vocabulary consisted of ” Bonjour, oui, and, merci”. Thankfully I had Kimi on this trip who knew a bit of French. Enough to get us through. We also had the Google Translate App which helped us translate menus and other important things.

From the airport, we purchased bus tickets to take us to the city. Once we got off the bus, we decided to walk around and explore on our own. One of the first things we did was look for a place to eat because we were all hungry! First, we ended up at a Greek place. We were looking for breakfast meals but this place specialized in lunch and dinner meals. We only got drinks and small pastries here and decided to keep looking. We then ended up at a sandwich shop and decided to eat here, because our day would be long.

The Pink City... La Ville Rose
Toulouse aka The Pink City aka La Ville Rose
Walking the streets of Toulouse
Walking the streets of the pink city.
Crossing the Bridge
Walks across the bridge before the hail storm started.

After our brunch, we walked around the city but then the rain started. None of us were prepared for it, so we had to find a place to stay dry. Once we found a place, we had to stay there for around 10 minutes. After the rain stopped pouring like crazy, we walked some more and ended up at different cathedrals. We also took a walk around the river and crossed some bridges. While we were crossing the bridge, it started hailing hard and we had nowhere to go. Of anything that could happen on this trip, this was probably the worst. The hail was hitting us at full speed and we couldn’t turn back because we were halfway across the bridge. Our only option was to run to the end of the bridge, but we still had a long way to go.

Walks by the river
Walks by the river.
Inside the cathedral
Cathedral in Toulouse
Cathedral
Cathedral… if you zoom closely, you can see little figures spitting out the water from the rain.

After that, we decided to go to a cafe to stay warm and avoid the rain/ hail. While we were at the cafe, we started planning for dinner and needed to find the location of our Airbnb. We wanted to eat dinner as close to the place we were staying as we possibly could. That way, we wouldn’t have to walk a long distance very late at night.

Wine bottles
Wine from a small shop we stopped at.

Before our night plans, we walked around some more and looked inside more cathedrals. We also stopped at gift shops to buy souvenirs. We ended up getting postcards, key chains, wine openers, and other small things. I ended up getting a tote bag with some images of Toulouse and it has become my favorite thing I have bought! Throughout the day, I got to know more about the other girls that were on this trip!

Dinner
Delicious dinner at La Gouaille.

As night came, we started walking towards the restaurant. The restaurant we went to was Restaurant La Gouaille. The person serving us was very kind and helpful to us, especially because he knew that we were not fluent in French. He recommended some of the dishes and I ended up getting a chicken dish that came with sweet potatoes, rice, and a salad. Before our food came, we all had a salad and some bread. The bread was warm and the salad had a lot of flavors. At that point, if that was all I had for dinner, I wouldn’t complain. It was THAT good. We also ordered some wine to share between us. Afterwards, we were just sitting and talking and the restaurant started to get busy. The person helping us asked us if we can go to the bar area because others wanted to eat. He felt bad about doing that but we understood. He ended up giving all of us a free shot of rum. By now, it was almost time for us to check into the Airbnb.  Ciara and I decided to walk around for a bit more. While we were walking, we came upon a small place that had crepes. Since we were in France, we decided to get crepes.

After this small adventure, we decided to head to the Airbnb with the other girls. The place we got was a small apartment and it was so cute! If I was living alone and had my own place in France, this apartment would be it. I regret not taking any pictures of this place. We were all tired and showered before we fell asleep. We had to wake up early the next day to catch a bus to Bordeaux.

Jessica

Building
I don’t remember where I took this picture but I loved this building!
Flowers
Flowers at a cute flower shop we came upon.

 

 

Weekend in London

Buckingham Palace
Me + Buckingham Palace

Last weekend, I went to London with a couple of friends. Originally, this trip started out with five people but then grew to around 11. Since it was a big group, we all did our own thing but we all had such a great time! I spent most of the time with Kimi, Katie, and Elaine. Mostly everyone going on this trip took the same flights and stayed at the same hostel.

On our way to Dublin airport, Kimi and I took the bus that left Galway at 4:15… It was not a good idea. According to our ticket, we were going to arrive at the airport at 7, giving us an hour at the airport before the gate to our flight closed. That was not what happened. We arrived at the airport at 7:30! At that point, I was freaking out. Once we got off that bus, we ran to our gate. The good news was that we made it! After this incident, I have decided to take earlier buses to get more than an hour early to the airport. We arrived at Stansted airport at around 10 p.m. and took a bus to get to the city. Once we arrived,  a couple of us decided to get food before going to the hostel. We went to a kebab place that was open until 3 a.m. It was great because it was late and we were hungry. Also, kebabs have kind of become our go-to food for late nights.

The next morning, we woke up early to go on an all-day walking tour of the city. Our tour guide was great! She knows her history and made it interesting for us. We learned about the monarchs, the city, and the history of the city. She also gave us recommendations for things to do over the weekend. Part of our city tour included looking at the changing of the guard. We were not in front of Buckingham palace because it gets crowded there, instead, we were more further away and were able to see at a good distance.

Ceremony with the guards marching at Buckingham Palace.

Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Changing of the guard

We then had a little break for lunch. For lunch, our tour guide recommended us to go to a pub called the Princess of Wales. The girls got the pies and I ended up choosing a chicken dish. The food was amazing and if I go back, I would definitely go back here. Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures of the food or else I would have posted one. After our lunch break, we finished the rest of our tour. We walked by St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Bridge, Tower of London, and more.

Tower Bridge in the background
Tower Bridge
Friends with Tower Bridge in the background.
Elaine, Katie, Me, Kimi
Student standing in front of tall church in London.
random pic
Girl in red phone booth with St. Paul's Cathedral in the background.
St. Paul’s Cathedral

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After our tour, we were soaked and tired of walking around all day so we

Taxi ride with friends
Taxi ride around London

decided to take a taxi to Peggy Porschen. One of the reasons I wanted to go to London was because of the place called Peggy, which sells tea and pastries. After walking around ALL day, it was nice to sit down and enjoy the views from the windows.

 

Peggy Porschen cake and tea house with lots of flowers decorating the door.  Girl posing in front.
Me + my fave place in London

At Peggy Porschen, we got some cakes, cupcakes, and teas. It was a good place to relax and just talk. looking back at it now, I am so glad to have been able to spend time in London with this amazing group of friends. We spent that afternoon laughing, getting to know each other more, and enjoying the tea and pastries. We also talked about our future travel plans while studying abroad. After tea, Elaine went to go meet up and spend the night with one of her friends studying abroad in London.

Tea and cakes at Peggy Porschen's tea house.
Tea at Peggy’s

Later that night, Kimi and I decided to walk around the city and go to different pubs. On our walk, we ended up in a pub with karaoke. We also walked across many bridges and I took a pic on Tower Bridge. Walking around without any plans was so much fun. At one point, we did not know where we were but we had our maps on our phone to get back. We got to see the city at night and we were able to get some sick pictures!

People walking on the tower bridge with St. Paul's in the background.
Over the bridge towards St. Paul’s
Girl sitting on Tower Bridge at night with bridge lights in the background.
Tower Bridge at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day, we did a Harry Potter tour (which was short) and we went to different museums.  We went to the National Gallery, Tate Modern, and another museum that I do not remember. It was also sunny throughout the day, so we tried spending time outside as much as we could. I did not charge my phone or portable charger before the day started, so I do not have as many pictures like the previous day. Overall this trip was amazing and I can’t wait to go back one day. After this trip, Kimi and I had to get ready for a trip to France with another group of friends.

Jessica Lopez

Blue Skies in London sailing down the Thames river.
Blue Skies in London
Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square
Inside the National Gallery of Art.
National Gallery

Aran Islands: Inis Mór

Inis Mór - looking over rocks out to blue ocean, cloudy skies
Inis Mór

Hey everyone! I have been so busy with midterms, facilitating at the local elementary school, and going to explore new places. Around two weeks ago, my friend Kimi and I decided to go to the Aran Islands on a Saturday. We booked our bus tickets and the ferry ticket. However, we completely forgot to check how the weather was. Obviously, it was going to rain, but there were no warnings for a storm that weekend so we were feeling confident.

On the day of that trip, it was sunny and the sky was blue. However, when we arrived at the docks to board the ferry, the sky was turning grey. It was also starting to get a bit windy… The boat ride was a bit bumpy and I got seasick. When we got off the ferry, I started to feel a bit better. We then decided to take a tour with a local from the island. He drove us around the island and told us a bit about the area. Inis Mór is the largest (in size and population) of the Aran Islands. According to our tour guide, the population of Inis Mór is around 900 (I don’t remember the exact number, but it’s small).

On one of our stops, the tour guide let us explore Dún Aonghasa, which is an archaeological site. It is located on some of the cliffs that are safe for sightseeing the ocean. We had to walk on the path for 30 minutes to get to the top. Once we got to the top, the ocean looked so beautiful. It didn’t matter that the skies were grey. It somehow made the ocean look clearer.

Dún Aonghasa - looking over rocks out to blue ocean, cloudy sky
Views from Dún Aonghasa
Views from the cliff - looking over rocks out to blue ocean, cloudy sky
Cliff views
Picture with the ocean - looking over rocks out to blue ocean, cloudy sky
Had Kimi be my personal photographer.

After the walk at Dún Aonghasa, we stopped for lunch at the cutest place ever!

Cottage on the ocean with a rock wall around it.
Lunch at the cottage

We got a vegetable soup (mainly because we did not want to eat a heavy meal and deal with it during the boat ride… There was no way I was going to get seasick on the ride back). We also got a homemade pie and the lovely owner gave us a free slice of cake! If you ever find yourself in Inis Mór, make sure to stop for lunch at this place!

 

 

 

Preparing for Irish dancing.
Irish dancing at Monroe’s

In Galway, I have been busy working on midterms and projects. Thankfully, they are all done now! I just need to get through finals and classes. Starting next week, I will start on one of my final essays so I don’t stress out about it. I have also crossed one more thing off my Ireland bucket list! Last Tuesday, I went to Monroe’s, a local pub. Every Tuesday night, they have traditional Irish dancing. Sometimes, the dancers allow the audience to join them in dancing. Luckily, that Tuesday, they let the crowd join! I joined, even though I knew I was gonna suck. Anyways, it was SO MUCH FUN! I will definitely go back soon! The dancers were so patient and friendly when they were teaching us the steps to the dances.

Jessica

Meadow of the Sons of Nós

A Chairde (greeting that one of my professors always uses. It means friends.),

I have been busy with classes and planning a couple of upcoming trips. Two of the classes I am currently taking require mandatory field trips. The Archaeology and Irish Identity: Celts, Christians, and Vikings class had a field trip to Clonmacnoise last Saturday. The Irish name for Clonmacnoise is  Cluain Mhic Nóis.  The meaning of this name is Meadow of the Sons of Nós. Clonmacnoise is located in Co. Offaly and about 1 hour from Galway.

Round stone tower at Clonmacnoise
Round Tower at Clonmacnoise

Honestly, I was kind of dreading taking this trip because it had been windy and rainy the whole week. We also had a warning of another storm. So I was not excited about walking in the rain. Did I mention this trip was outside and we had to walk the whole time? Anyways, I got soaked and I was cold the whole time. The wind did not help at all.

Ancient monastic site of stone ruins at Clonmacnoise
Clonmacnoise

On the bright side, Clonmacnoise has an ancient monastic site… this means that they had the high crosses! Since arriving in Ireland, one of the top things to do on my list included visiting locations that had high crosses to take pictures. When I had the chance to do so, I took a bunch of pictures. I also took a lot of pictures of doors and entrances. Although the weather was gloomy, it really made the green pop out. It also gave the whole scene a calm and peaceful feeling.

When our professor was giving us the tour, she mentioned that Pope John Paul II came to Clonmacnoise during his 1979 Irish visit. One of the reasons the Pope chose to come to this site was because Clonmacnoise was the true definition of Ireland and it’s religion. After visiting Clonmacnoise, I can see why the Pope felt that way.

High Cross and Round Tower made of rock at Clonmacnoise.
One of the many pictures I took of the high crosses.
High Celtic stone Cross at Clonmacnoise
High Cross (this one was my favorite one).
Doorway to one of the rock buildings at Clonmacnoise
Cute doorway at the site
Door looking out to the high cross
A beautiful view from the inside
Ruins of a Romanesque Doorway at Clonmacnoise
Ruins of a door.

This weekend I will be going to the Aran Islands and then the following weekend, I will go to London with a group of friends. Can’t wait to fill you in with my next adventures!

-Jess

Favorite Food Places + Connemara

First things first! I found a boba (bubble tea) place in Galway! If you know me, you know how much I LOVE boba! This boba place is called Bubble Bee and they also have bubble waffles, cakes, and they also have a different homemade meal every day. I only tried their mango iced tea with boba, but I’ll make sure to try their other items on their menu.

Mango iced tea with boba
Mango iced tea with boba

Another place that I love is Cupán Tae, which is a Gaeilge word that translates to cup of tea. Before coming to Galway, I followed this food Instagram page that recommended this place. Since arriving, I have been wanting to come. I first went with Lily, a new friend I made in Galway. We both love tea so when we first met, we decided to go to this tea place together. On that day, I ordered the pancake and their famous Dreamy Creamy Galway Tea, which is made of black tea, roasted coffee beans, and jasmine flowers.

Tea and Pancakes at Cupán Tae shop
Cupán Tae with Lily

Later that same week, I returned to Cupán Tae with two of my roommates. They absolutely loved it and we will definitely be back again. This time, I got their special of the day which was a slice of carrot cake with ice-cream on the side. I also tried their Spicy Chocolate Kiss Tea, made of rooibos tea, spices, and cocoa kernels. If you ever find yourself in Galway, we 10/10 recommend this place.

Cupán Tae with roommates
Tea time with my lovely roommates
Carrot cake and ice-cream
Carrot cake with ice-cream on the side.
Tea time with desserts
Tea time

Another fun thing I have done with my roommates is taking a trip to Connemara! This was kind of last minute, but last-minute plans are always the best! We went with a couple of other friends we had met at NUIG. We left early in the morning and made multiple stops on the way.

On the way, we stopped at many places to view the ocean, rivers, and sheep. We also stopped at An Ceardlann in Spiddal, which is a village known for it’s crafting. Although we only had a short stop here, I would definitely try to come back here to get a couple of souvenirs. We also stopped by a river that our tour guide said many call Guinness due to its deep brown color and the foam the river produces. The ride was filled with great views, but I did get a bit carsick due to the bumpy ride.

Village of Spiddal with blue skies
Spiddal
Cottage
Cottage on the way to Connemara
Sheep in Connemara on green and brown pastures with a creek running through it.
Connemara sheep.
River Foam
‘Guinness’ River
Roads across the moors in Ireland next to the ocean.
Roads of Ireland

My favorite part of the trip was arriving at Kylemore Abbey. In 1850, Mitchell Henry and his wife, Margaret Henry, came to Connemara for their honeymoon. She fell in love with Connemara and Mitchell Henry came back to purchase 15,000 acres and built Kylemore Abbey. Around 1920, it became the home of the Benedictine Nuns. From 1923-2010, it became an international boarding house ran by the Benedictine Nuns. Today, the nuns are still a large part of Kylemore Abbey.

During our visit, we were able to walk inside certain parts of Kylemore Abbey, the chapel, and the Victorian Walled Garden. The rooms in the castle were huge and each room was unique. The walls and furniture made it seem like we traveled back in time. If I could live anywhere, this place would be it. The lake next to the castle makes it even better.

Kylemore Abbey with a hill in the background overlooking a lake.
Kylemore Abbey
A large castle next to Kylemore Abbey
Right next to Kylemore Abbey.
Sitting by the lake next to Kylemore Abbey.
Sitting next to the lake with Kylemore Abbey behind me.
Outdoor Thermometer inside the Victorian walled garden at Kylemore Abbey.
Inside the Victorian Walled Garden.

After this whole day trip, we returned back and some of us decided to go the docks to view the sunset. During this time, I was reflecting on my time here and all I want to do. Classes have been great, especially a mythology class I have been taking. I enjoy walking around and getting to know new places. I also have a lot of free time to explore the city. I am grateful for my time here and all the people I have met so far.

Sunset over Galway with a deep blue sky.
Sunsets in Galway.

-Jess

Finally in Galway

Just a few days in Galway and I am in love! Our Linfield group arrived on Wednesday.  We were all tired and just wanted to get to our apartments. However, we arrived during lunchtime and we couldn’t check in until the lunch break was over. Instead of waiting in the cold, we moved to the laundrette and waited. A couple of us went to Dunnes (an Irish retail chain) to grab us some lattes while we waited.

Suitcases in the laundrette where we waited for our lattes.
Waiting in the laundrette with our suitcases.

When we finally were able to check-in, the first thing I did was take a warm shower. I really needed it after the long flight. Tia, Joe, and I met our fourth roommate! She is also from the states. After that, we went out to buy some bed sheets, covers, and anything else we needed. At around 6 p.m., we all met up to go grab some dinner. Honestly, I don’t remember much because I was tired.

Morning selfie with students on the way to the NUIG.
First day of school selfie!
Terryland Castle in Ireland surrounded by flat green fields.
Walking past Terryland Castle on our way to the university.

The next morning, we had to be up to get ready for our orientation. During Orientation, we were able to meet other international students. After this part of orientation, a couple of us took the campus tour. My favorite part of the tour was going to the Quad! Of course, I took MANY pictures.

The Quadrangle at National University of Ireland Galway
Views from the university.
The Quad at the National University of Ireland Galway.
Our tour guide with Tia and Joe!

Later that night, the university had a karaoke night for us at Sult, which is the college bar on campus. At first, it was pretty calm. I kind of wanted to sing, but I didn’t want to sing by myself. My roommate, Brooke, also wanted to sing so we decided to sign up for karaoke together. As our turn was approaching, I started to get nervous, but I was not going to back down. We sang “Sk8ter Boi” by Avril Lavigne. Some of the students in front also sang along with us and cheered us on. I had so much fun that night and don’t regret singing in front of strangers.

Students singing at a college bar on Karaoke night.
Singing at karaoke night at the college bar with my roommate Brooke.

On Saturday night, Brooke, Tia, and I decided to go out to one of the pubs with live music. 1. Because it was the weekend. And 2. We wanted to go out before classes started. We walked around, and kind of got lost. However, we made it back to Eyre Square and walked around looking for a place to go in. We then saw a couple of other students we knew! Somehow we ended up at the 1520 Bar.

Let me tell you, it was a great choice because we saw John Gaughan perform! All I know is that he is a local musician and he is great! He performed some covers of songs, but he also performed two of his original songs. One of the songs is called “Streets of Galway”. When I tell you I felt this song in my heart and in my soul, I am not joking. You were able to feel his emotions from his lyrics and his singing. So yeah, I became a fan. He also shared one of the videos I posted on my Instagram story and he shared it on his page and gave me a small shoutout!!!

John Gaughan singing at a local night club.
John Gaughan performing at 1520.

Loving this city and can’t wait to explore more of it!

Jess

Ireland Until the End

After my trip to Israel with Kristen, I had to face the reality that I had less than two weeks left in my study abroad experience. I started applying for summer jobs and making appointments back in the U.S. rather than booking flights to new destinations. While I was excited to return home and see my friends and family, at some point I  had fallen in love with Ireland. There are so many places I wanted to go back to and even more I didn’t get to see. But my life and bank account said it would soon be time to go back home.

However, I wasn’t about to leave Ireland without visiting a few more of its historic sites. Luckily, Kristen hadn’t visited me in Ireland yet and decided to tag along for the last leg of my journey. After landing in Dublin, we visited the Hill of Tara, a site that I’d wanted to visit since learning about it in my Celtic Mythology class. The Hill of Tara dates back roughly 5000 years, with various modifications over its long history, and has long been associated with kingship in both mythological and historical contexts.

Kristen Huth at the entrance to Tara
Kristen Huth at the Banquet Hall, entrance to Tara

At the Hill of Tara, we followed the coronation path with which begins over the Banquet Hall and ends at the Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny. In Celtic mythology, it is said that when a true king touched the Lia Fail at his coronation, the stone would cry out. Kristen and I both touched it, but sadly, it looks like neither of us will be the next king of Tara.

The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny at the top of the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Ireland
The Lia Fail, or Stone of Destiny at the top of the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Ireland

After visiting the Hill of Tara and Dublin, Kristen and I headed back to Galway, so I could give her a tour of where I’d been living for the past five months. Since she hadn’t seen the Cliffs of Moher, we had to go there again. We got lucky, as it was remarkably sunny and clear. I will admit though, I kind of missed the foggy, Irish aesthetic.

The Cliffs of Moher round two! This time O'Brian's Castle and further out, Hag's Head are clearly visible
The Cliffs of Moher round two! This time O’Brian’s Castle and further out, Hag’s Head are clearly visible

However, we didn’t only stop at the cliffs this time. Since I wanted to experience more of Ireland, we took a tour that also showed us a variety of other sites around the area. If I hadn’t already been in love with the Irish landscape, this trip would have convinced me otherwise.

Dunguaire Castle outside of Kinvara, Ireland
Dunguaire Castle (tower house) outside of Kinvara, Ireland
Poulnabrone portal tomb Co. Claire, Ireland
Poulnabrone portal tomb Co. Claire, Ireland
Galway Bay cliffs
Galway Bay cliffs

Saying goodbye to the place and people was hard. No way around it, I didn’t feel ready to leave and truthfully, I don’t know if I will be able to return, although I hope I will. Because of the latter, I felt more homesick leaving Ireland than I had leaving the U.S. However, it is comforting to think about the people I have back home and the opportunities I’m looking forward to upon my return to Linfield.

Now that I have experienced traveling abroad, I know that should there come a time when I can return to Ireland or travel to another country, I will be ready for it. I have already been planning to teach abroad after college, and this experience has just shown me how incredible an opportunity like that can be. This is not the end!

Goodbye Ireland!
Goodbye Ireland!
Oregon bound
Oregon bound

Spring Break – Spain

After departing London, Phoebe and I arrived at our Airbnb in Madrid, Spain, and largely spent the first day resting. Boring I know! But it was clearly what we, and especially Phoebe, needed, as she recovered soon after. We shared our Airbnb apartment with the permanent residents, so it almost felt like a home stay experience. Our timelines didn’t match up perfectly with those of our other travel companions, so we spent the first few days exploring and getting acclimated before we were joined by Kristen Huth and Sophie Stensvad, Phoebe’s friend from Pacific University.

Maybe the first day of sunshine went to my head, but we spent a little too much time shopping in Madrid’s gorgeous downtown. However, we also spent time at some famous sites, including the Palacio Real and Cripta de la Almudena.

Almudena Cathedral
Almudena Cathedral, Madrid, Spain
Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain
Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain

Traveling around a beautiful city like Madrid can work up an appetite, so after a day of exploring, we would try some delicious Spanish dishes like tapas or paella.

Too much paella for us to handle!
Too much paella for us to handle!

Unfortunately, I had to cram two English essay finals into our travel plans which was a challenge because I felt like I wasn’t committing enough time to either travel or study. Although the essays probably weren’t my best work, I did finish them, and I don’t regret the added challenge of completing them while traveling. There was no way I could miss out on all of the incredible experiences we had in Spain.

After we all met up in Madrid, we traveled to Barcelona. Navigating a country where you don’t speak the language can be difficult, but luckily Kristen played translator when it came to Spanish. Catalan was another story though! The language barrier wasn’t too much of an issue in our day to day activities since it seemed like most Catalan speakers also spoke Spanish. However, we did see a performance of El Despertar de la Primavera (Spring Awakening), the musical, that we thought would be in Spanish and ended up being in Catalan!

From the left, Jordan Keller, Kristen Huth, Phoebe Whittington, and Sophie Stensvad at Teatre Victòria for Spring Awakening
From the left, Jordan Keller, Kristen Huth, Phoebe Whittington, and Sophie Stensvad at Teatre Victòria for Spring Awakening

I will admit that I understood very little of the dialogue of the show, but it didn’t matter because the performance was incredible! A quick Wikipedia synopsis helped me get the gist, and the exceptional acting and singing made for a stunning performance. The fact that it was in Catalan just made the show more fun and unique!

Of course, no trip to Barcelona would be complete without a visit to the Sagrada Família. While we were unable to get tickets to go inside, it was clear why the cathedral is world renowned for its architecture.

Sagrada Família
Sagrada Família

From Madrid to Barcelona, with new friends and old, our trip to Spain was unforgettable. But with only half of my journey behind me, there are still many new places to see! While Phoebe and Sophie returned to York for finals, Kristen and I will embark on our first trip outside of Europe.

Jordan Keller

Traveling to Israel and a Global Family

One of the questions I’ve been asked a number of times since deciding to travel to Israel during my time abroad is, of all the places, why Israel? The short answer is that for me, Israel represents a part of my family and heritage that I want to feel more connected to. Much of my mother’s family is Jewish, and a significant portion, including many family members I have never met, live in Israel. Being only a four hour plane ride away, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to explore that part of my identity and have fun visiting a new country!

A glimpse of the landscape between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea
A glimpse of the landscape between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea

Luckily, my family was kind enough to let us stay with them in Tel Aviv. I’m so grateful for their help with accommodation and activities, and my absolute lack of Hebrew skills and a phone plan could have made things much more challenging without them. However, clinging to WiFi and my Hebrew speaking cousins, Kristen and I were able to navigate without much issue.

One of our first stops was to Carmel Market where they sell all manner food and clothes in stalls along the street. I had never been to such a large open market, so I was thrilled by the colorful array of products and bustling shoppers.

A selection of spices for sale at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
A selection of spices for sale at Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
A produce stall in Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel
A produce stall in Carmel Market, Tel Aviv, Israel

A fun fact imparted by a tour guide, shopkeepers use red awnings to make the produce appear fresher, so it can be better to buy from stalls with white awnings. The red seems to be working though, as everything looked delicious to me!

Since we visited during Passover, most shops and restaurants were kosher and weren’t selling any breads for the first few days of our trip, to observe the holiday. However, this didn’t stop us from trying a variety of tasty dishes.

Knafeh from the Carmel Market
Knafeh from the Carmel Market

One way to work up an appetite for all of the yummy food was to spend a day swimming in the Dead Sea. Everyone says the salt content makes you feel light, but the reality felt far stranger than it sounds. I stood straight up in the water and could float without sinking! It was a truly unique sensation. The mud of the Dead Sea is also famous for its nourishing exfoliating properties, so we made sure to lather up and take a bottle back as a souvenir.

Enjoying the sun and a swim at the Dead Sea, Israel
Enjoying the sun and a swim at the Dead Sea, Israel
Jordan Keller and Kristen Huth raising the travel bar at the supposedly Lowest Bar in the World
Jordan Keller and Kristen Huth raising the bar at supposedly, The Lowest Bar in the World at the Dead Sea. Photo credit: Romi Bibi

The Dead Sea may be iconic, but no trip to Israel would be complete without visiting Jerusalem. For the sake of time, we primarily explored the Old City, but even in limiting ourselves to that, we could have easily spent another day or two there. Old City is packed full of significant historical sites and monuments, markets, and people from all over the world.

Just outside the walls of Old City, Jerusalem
Just outside the walls of Old City, Jerusalem

Another way we explored history, specifically that of Jaffa and Tel Aviv, was through a culinary tour. Hopping from one spot to the next, we experienced the evolution of cuisine in Israel from hummus to shawarma to ice cream. This was a fun, interactive way to learn about the history of the city. Here is a taste of what we tried:

Hummus and masabacha with pita and assorted sides
Hummus and masabacha with pita and assorted sides
Phyllo wrapped potatoes and cheese make a delicious savory pastry!
Phyllo wrapped potatoes and cheese make for a delicious savory pastry!
Malabi, a milk pudding with rose water, coconut, and peanuts
Malabi, a milk pudding with rose water, coconut, and peanuts

It was so fun trying out a bunch of foods which may be common among the local culinary tradition but were completely new to me. My personal connection to the place and the time I was able to spend with my family celebrating Passover, traveling to the Dead Sea, and living together enriched the trip to something beyond another just another travel experience. I definitely want to go back!

Jordan Keller