Looking Back…

13 Jun

This incredible journey is unfortunately coming to a close. As silly as it sounds, this has changed my life and I can’t even say how glad I am I did this. If you’re reading this and you haven’t travelled, you must. And you must leave the US. You can’t say how other people in the world live until you go there and see it for yourself. Get outside your comfort zone. Communicate with people that don’t speak English. Eat their food. Discover the wonders of public transportation and being able to go to another country in just a couple of hours. Stay in enough hostels that you forget about having your own bedroom and bathroom at home. Get used to a very different currency. Realize how young the US is compared to these other countries. Learn that prejudices are simply not true. Let someone talk about their prejudices about Americans without getting offended. Prove them wrong. Stay up late and wake up early. Engage in local traditions. Drink a lot of beer. Start thinking about other parts of the world you’d like to see in the future. Most of all, realize that by staying in the US, you have seen NOTHING.

As awesome as this has been, there are some things I would have done differently. I would have cooked most of the time to save money, then splurged on a fantastic local meal every couple of days. We missed going to Scotland because we tried to book a flight too late. Next time, I would go to Scotland/Ireland first, and end on the warmer countries on the continent. I will look into couch surfing as a way to meet more locals and cut down the price of the trip. I would bring different clothes- Europeans don’t wear t-shirts and you will feel extremely out of place if you do. I bought several things while here to feel more comfortable. I would try to find concerts and festivals beforehand and plan my route based on that. Actually, I wouldn’t waste my time planning a route. Rather, just come up with places I’d like to go and the dates of big events and attempt to make them. I would go on side trips with other travelers if they invited me. I would be better about getting the contact information of all the people I meet. Being able to call and text would be handy, not necessarily to communicate with people back home, but to more easily meet back up with the friends we’ve made here. I would stay longer. I would bring a better camera. I wouldn’t do a single pub crawl. I would have gone swimming.

I’m really sad to be leaving tomorrow. I don’t want to turn the service back on my phone or have responsibilities again. I miss my friends, family, and dog, but I’d rather you all just be in Europe with me. It’s an amazing place and I could see myself living in many of the cities we visited. There is just something so appealing about drinking in public being legal and high fructose corn syrup being illegal.

I have run out of things to ramble on about, which is unfortunate since we have a full day of travelling to get through. I don’t want to go home, but I’m looking forward to seeing all of you again and telling many, many stories. And also snuggling with my dog. I have had nights where I have stayed up crying because I missed that giant ball of fur. I really hope my mom gives him a bath before he tackles me when I arrive (PLEASE). I was thinking of all of the people back home I would like to travel with, so let’s start making those plans!

I took her hand and gave her a twirl, then I lost my heart to a Galway girl

12 Jun

I love these smaller cities because things like running into your tour guide at the pub later happen. I love making new friends.

Today we took a fantastic tour of the Cliffs of Moher which is located in the nearby town of Doolin. We made several stops along the way to see a few things in Burren National Park. We paid 20 euro for the whole day- an excellent deal. Our tour guide was an old Irish guy who has been doing tour for 19 years. He was extremely knowledgeable and hilarious. For example, at one of the stops, he came up behind one of the girls and yelled “AH! A LEPRECHAUN!” which made her jump and scream. The rest of us just laughed.

The Cliffs are very beautiful and the pictures probably don’t do them justice. These will be my last photos of the trip, as we are making our way over to London tomorrow to make sure we are there for our flight on Thursday. I really, really, really don’t want to go back. But, I’ll talk about that later.

image

Dunguaire Castle

image

Donkeys! Farms everywhere. So green and pretty.

image

This was believed to be a fairy tree, but it was later decided it wasn't so they cut it down. You can't pay someone to cut down real fairy trees because the legend is that whoever cuts it down will die within a year. The tissues and ribbons were tied to the tree for good luck I think. They will never be disturbed, even though the tree was cut down.

image

They DO exist!

image

A 5800 year old tomb in which the remains of 33 people were found

image

The High Crosses

image

The Cliffs of Moher

image

image

image

Galway

11 Jun

We watched the Ireland-Croatia football game last night in a pub in the lovely city of Galway. Things get a little rowdy around here during the games. But so much fun. Ireland lost, unfortunately, but an guy at the pub told us “we’re the Irish and we never say never! We’ll win the rest of the games” so there you have it. They call them the fighting Irish for a reason!

Galway is a medieval fishing town. Very small and pretty. I believe the population is 65,000. Extremely easy to walk around. You don’t need a map at all. I really prefer is to Dublin. We took a tour today and took lots of pictures. Tomorrow we’re going on a full day tour of the Cliffs of Moher. Really looking forward to it, and also having more pretty pictures!

image

Rowdy Irish after the football game

image

The Lynch House, home of one of the original Norse families that ruled Galway.

image

Inside the Protestant church

image

If you are familiar with these rings, this is where they came from.

image

An Irish lady on our tour had one. It belonged to her mother and is over 100 years old.

image

Christopher Columbus came here prior to discovering the new world! That's all this says.

image

Organ in the Catholic church

image

The building of the Catholic church coincided with JFK's visit to Galway, and this is a mosaic of him praying to Jesus.

image

River running through the city

You’ll Never Beat the Irish! (Dublin)

10 Jun

For the past couple of days we’ve been having a blast in Dublin. The first night we went on a pub crawl, which was okay, but not great. The first couple of pubs had live, traditional music, which was awesome. But afterward, they took us to a club which was very crowded with Aussies, Canadians, and Americans. Most of which were quite rude. We’ve had both good and bad pub crawl experiences, but overall I don’t think they’re worth it.

A brief side story: after the last club, we went and bought a slice of pizza. We were walking down the street eating it, when I apparently looked at a guy standing off to the side the wrong way because he cursed at me and slapped the pizza out of my hand. We ran off and got a cab to take us back. This has been the only time during the trip that I’ve been a bit scared. I kind of learn the hard way that Dublin is not safe to walk around at night, but that’s completely different from everywhere else we’ve been. I told the cab driver what happened, and he said he was probably drunk and thought I was British. Some animosity still exists, but this is really just a problem with the more ignorant people. Sounds like the US perhaps?

I’ve gotten a lot more confident when it comes to speaking with locals, and I think it’s much better to go to smaller pubs that aren’t filled with tourists. If you find locals that speak English (obviously in Ireland that’s all of them), they will talk your ear off about their country’s history, their views on the world, what they hate about the city, etc. Night two in Dublin we met tons of Irish and had an awesome time. We are made fun of a lot for not watching football. Ireland plays Croatia today, and a couple of Irish guys made sure I promised to cheer for the “men in green.” It would be really awesome to be in Dublin for the game, but we already made plans to go to Galway today. I suspect the pubs there will be just as packed.

More on Dublin: it’s not a pretty city. Kind of dirty and smelly. It’s huge, so it’s a bit inconvenient to try to walk everywhere. Very, very touristic. Everyone will tell you to go to Temple Bar at night, but you won’t meet a single Irish person there, so we didn’t go. We were told that we will really experience Ireland when we get out of the city and go to a place like Galway. But, there are fun things here, such as the Guinness factory, which we toured. They take you through the whole brewing process, then they teach you how to properly pour a pint (and you get to drink it, of course!) I loved Guinness already, but it tastes so much better here.

Some pictures I took! I apologize for not knowing what these buildings are.

image

image

image

Most amazing meal of the trip

image

image

image

image

image

image

I poured this! Perfection.

image

Biking through Brugge

5 Jun

We made it to Bruges last night at about 7 PM and were welcomed by a complimentary bus ride to our hostel. We offered to pay the driver, but he said “no I’ll just tell you when it’s your stop.” After getting off the bus, about 5 different locals gave us directions without us even asking. Basically, the people here are super nice.

We hung out in our hostel bar last night. Travelling tip: ALWAYS stay at hostels with a bar. You will meet tons more people that way. Locals too, since they will come visit their friends that are working. I happened to talk for hours with a local hippie last night. When I say hippie, I mean hippie. Like, build tree houses and occupy forests for months at a time hippie. Really, he told me all about it. A very interesting person. We are in the Flemish region of Belgium, so that is his primary language. He also speaks Dutch, Spanish, French, and English. I am wishing more and more that the US stressed the importance of knowing multiple languages. Almost everyone over here is multilingual. He is not a fan of America, like most Europeans (except for Germans), but we had a great conversation because I asked him all about Bruges. Basically, the locals here are bored. It’s really pretty here, but when you’re around it all the time, it’s not that exciting. He is going on holiday soon, and says he doesn’t want to come back for a year.

Today we rented bikes from our hostel and did a self-tour of the city. The city center is gorgeous. Pictures below, of course. Not that I know what any of these buildings are, but they were fun to look at. We eventually found a bike path that went along the river on the outskirts of the city. Really lovely. We each got a Belgian waffle for lunch- the best waffle ever. Covered in chocolate and strawberries. The plan for tonight is to sample what Belgium is also famous for- it’s flavored beers. There are hundreds of different flavors, and they are all 8+% alcohol. We’ll see what happens!

image

image

image

image

image

I love canals

image

image

looky we found a windmill!

image

To die for

A more complete update of Stuttgart…

3 Jun

My last post was lacking in substance because I was being challenged to drink as much beer as possible. Now I’m able to provide more details of my time here.

Yesterday was prom for the kids going to the American high school here. Their son went with his date and another couple. They took pictures outside of their house before dinner. Montana and I took some prom pictures ourselves because we’re awesome. Then we walked to dinner with everyone to a nearby Italian restaurant. One of the kid’s dads picked up the bill. Like I said, we’re being spoiled.

After that, we headed down the street to this fish market festival. They love American music here, and a band was playing all kinds of stuff (i.e. hang on sloopy). Lots of fun. This is where I was being heckled with “you can’t drink another beer!”

Today, they took us to Heidelberg to see this really old castle built in the 1000’s sometime. Really incredible. Some of it was destroyed by the French. Pictures below. Heidelberg is a really pretty town itself and is somewhere I would go again.

We are so appreciative that this family let us stay with them. Such a nice break from the hostels. Their kids are great and we’ve had a blast hanging out with them. We’re off to Bruges tomorrow, and we’ll miss being able to stay in an actual home.

image

image

image

Lighting was bad, but this is a giant wine barrel. They drank wine exclusively in the castle because they thought that water was too dirty.

image

image

Huge chunk of rock blown off by the French

image

View of the town from the castle. I love the mountains.

Stuttgart with Martina

2 Jun

So we’re staying with my mom’s friends and they are so nice. They challenged us in a beer drinking contest. I think we won. Don’t worry mom I told them I would put this in my blog. Anyway we’ve been playing with their kids and we went to a festival down the street today. There was a live band playing American music. So much fun. My mom’s friend is trying to set one of us up with his son at the naval academy. Who knows. Anyway, pictures! I really love Germany.

image

i believe they were playing some Jimmy Buffet at this point

image

really awesome ice cream

image

fireworks?!?!