On a place that feels like home…

It’s one of those nights in which I miss things – big things, little things, tangible and intangible things. Most specifically, tonight I’m missing Galway.

I just finished reading an acquaintance’s book of poetry [Mark Brewin’s collection Scrap Iron, which is in fact phenomenal and you should all run out and buy it], and some of them draw pretty heavily on this Irish town I love. And it made me miss, in a visceral sort of way, the feel of the air coming off the river, the smell of fish at the morning market, the gaudy storefronts with Gaelic lettering, and the people – oh, people.

If I were to wax poetic for a moment, I’d tell you about the merry, ruddy-faced man my friends and I met in a pub. He spun us all around and taught us to dance something snappy. Or I’d tell you about the barmen – Sean, Ronan, Aongus, the bouncer Johnny – and how they made us feel at home by throwing cardboard coasters at our heads. I’d tell you how, the night the pub was so busy you could barely stand, I snagged a stool beside the musician’s corner and didn’t come up for air for hours, face in my hands and staring at fingers moving across strings and buttons and accordion keys. I’d tell you about making friends with Enda and Lorcan, best friends who had a penchant for hitting on the same girl and thus royally cock-blocking each other (there is no polite way to put this, I don’t think). I’d tell you about closing down the pub and having a lock-in, and the boys fussing at us for helping gather the empty glasses from the ledges ’round the walls. I’d tell you how intelligent they were, how interested they were in our opinions, how we talked about literature and politics and religion.

It was all so good-natured and friendly and fun, and tonight I am in love with those memories.

Tonight it feels like I’ll never get back there, like it won’t ever be the same. And while I know the first bit’s all in my head, the latter bit’s spot on. I won’t be a student visiting again. I won’t be studying there. I’ve got this basket of preconceived notions I need to figure out how to throw out the window, because the next time I’m in Galway will be so different than the memories I’m so fond of.

But I’ve got some ideas for it, for those future trips I hope to make. It’s a city that feels like home to me, more so than anywhere other than the Blue Ridge, and I can’t imagine never being there again. Maybe next time I’m there, it’ll be with a certain Englishman I’m fond of. Maybe it won’t be so cold. Maybe it’ll be summertime on the islands and the sky won’t really get dark all night, and we’ll stay up so long that we can watch the grey bits turn pink over the River Corrib. Maybe next time.

From London to Dublin and back again!

What an absolutely crazy weekend. A friend and I went to Dublin to see the Ireland Winter Term class and had a ball! Admittedly, the whole thing started off a little rocky, though…

We cut out of class a bit early and booked it from Tube to bus to airport with time to spare. Unfortunately, due to the strange setup of London Luton, our inexperience flying, and the complete and utter lack of helpfulness from airport personnel, we did not “check-in” to our flight. I thought that, by checking in online, we had bypassed that step. Apparently, we did not. As a result, we made it completely through security and all the way to boarding our 2:20 flight, only to be told that we hadn’t checked in and couldn’t get on the plane.

OOPS.

Not only that, but we had to be escorted back through the airport to book another flight. Now, I’m generally a very polite, friendly person when it comes to people who are just doing their jobs and, as a result, people tend to be fairly helpful and nice. Not the case at the airport. Suffice it to say that the airport employees were cold and unhelpful enough for the ordeal to have been a bit more upsetting than it ought to have been, resulting in, well…essentially crying in front of the nice men flying to Belfast who were trying to see if we were alright.

Did I mention that it was also snowing, so we didn’t know if the next flight would get cancelled or not?

Anyway, we got it straightened out and I will never neglect checking in at an airport ever again. Our second flight was supposed to take off at 5:50 but didn’t leave until 8:30, and we got off the bus in Dublin around 11. I was incredibly pleased with myself for remembering the layout of the city and getting us from the bus stop to the hotel without a map AND without asking for directions.

I mean, I was really quite proud of myself.

Thankfully our friends had gone out instead of waiting for us; we had no way to communicate how late we were going to be and were really worried that they’d have had no fun on a Friday night on our account. But we got to the hotel and they weren’t there, so we headed to a nearby pub for a pint (my friend) and some whiskey (me). And girly drinks because they were on special.

Finally met up with my old flatmates in the hotel a little while later and had a great time hanging out. Really hadn’t seen them as much this past semester as I’d wanted, so it was nice to spend a few days with them. This year’s Ireland crew is great (though not as awesome as mine!) and I had a lot of fun not only with Kate and Hannah, but everyone else they hung out with. I also knew way more people on the trip than I thought I did, which was really entertaining. (Cue confused looks about how I suddenly appeared in their class.)

Steve, the prof from last year who’s leading this year’s trip, let us tag along to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and, even though I saw it last year, it was still pretty spectacular the second time around. Lit a prayer candle for all the military boys (been on my mind lately!) and just walked around looking at the stained glass for a while before going to get some super yummy pizza. Steve also took some of the visiting students out for dinner that night, so I officially ate better this weekend than the entire time I’ve been in London.

It was so great to be back in Ireland. The people were friendly, the pubs were great, drank in the one where James Joyce met Nora Barnacle, and shared some amazing nights with dear new and old friends. I’m SO unbelievably glad that Hannah and Kate went on this trip this year; now they totally get how great Ireland is! (I’m also not-so-secretly pleased that everyone thinks Galway is the greatest place ever.)

So now I think I’m going to curl up in my new wool sweater and take a quick nap before class – which will take place in the Victoria & Albert museum tonight, natch – and be happy where I am for the next (exactly) three months. And maybe, just maybe, in another year and a half I’ll be studying again in Galway.

Sláinte!

Camden!

So I started out this morning with the best of intentions. I was going to spend the day at the British Museum soaking up some history, see some art, get a coffee on the way back…standard.

And instead we went to Camden Market/Camden Lock…which was/were AWESOME! Seriously…so many stalls, so many trinkets, so much street food. It was like the biggest, best festival ever, and it’s open every day! It was a little overwhelming so we basically just walked around, soaking it in and taking pictures. But I’m definitely going back to do some shopping! After all, who needs groceries when you can have camera lenses converted into coffee mugs?

I did, however, get a cool Jack Daniels Zippo (Jake/Chris/DJ, are you jealous?) from a vendor guy who seemed nice because he cut the price in half…and then not-so-nice because I didn’t count my change, and he actually charged me full price. Note to self: stop being so trusting. Unfortunately it was really too late to do anything about it once I discovered that, but it has definitely served as a good lesson to check the bills people give back to you!

Tomorrow I am finally Dublin-bound! I can’t wait to see Hannah and Kate, to be back on Irish soil, and to listen to some good ole fashioned Irish trad! Packing tonight and getting ready to head out after class tomorrow.

Cheers!

Plans…finally!

So, the tickets are bought and it’s official! I’m going to Ireland with a friend next weekend! We’re heading into Dublin on Friday the 18th – yay! – and coming back the Monday morning after. Getting the tickets have been an absolute pain in the rear. From AM’s request not going through, repeatedly, to both of us being unable to do the online check-in, also repeatedly…I’m seriously questioning using this site again. I’m still a little green to the whole buying plane tickets process, but still! The issues we’ve been having are definitely site issues, not personal ones!

In spite of all that, though, the tickets have been bought. We have train tickets getting us from London to the airport and back, and we’re winging transportation from the Dublin airport into Dublin. We tried to hire a car (which I thought meant we were hiring a cab), except it actually meant hiring a car…as in, to drive myself. So I had to call the rental place and cancel it because, as we all know, I can’t drive here!

Nobody make any comments about how I can’t drive at home, either.

I’m so psyched to go back to Ireland and to see the friends I have on that trip! And – hopefully – to see Enda as well!

School’s (NOT) Out, Forever!

Sadly. And I’m only part-way kidding. We celebrated our last night before classes began by going out last night (and by last night, I mean Sunday). Went to the only bar here that shows American football and ran into people from two other the Elon WT classes. Small world! It was a good time, there was a crazy American girl flipping out over the Redskins’ loss, and I finally toasted being here, Ireland style.

We met some fun Englishmen and I’m pretty sure the group of us hung around the outside of the bar for at least an hour after it closed. Ridiculous. Got to see my friend Sarah’s beau, who’s on the WWI tour, so that was nice. Realized I definitely talk about Ireland too much…then again, everyone from that trip does, so…I don’t know what to do about that exactly, short of duct tape.

Today was the first day of classes. I only had one, from 5-8 tonight, which was fantastic seeing as we got back to Manson Place around 2 AM. There’s already a bit of homework to do, but our professor seems really chill and great, and I’m splitting books with a flatmate, since apparently our professors thought it’d be easiest just to tell us we had required reading on the day that classes started. (Not cool, people.)

After class and a trip to one of the many grocery stores – all of which are always crowded – I successfully made couscous and sugar snap peas, and had a minor major freakout because some freelance work had completely slipped my mind! But I  did over five hours of work today and am, hopefully, a going to be able to balance that with everything I want to see and do here! I’d definitely like to go to a museum on Wednesday during the day, and probably again Thursday, depending on how long life at the Apple store takes.

NEED to get on planning this trip to Dublin in less than two weeks to see the new WT crew with Claire! Soon…soon.

P.S. Here’s a picture of the street we’re staying on! See the roof, the slant-y bit? Yeah that’s where I live.

the flat

The Odds and Ends of Thoughts

It’s day four in London, and so much is unexpected. There’s some good, some strange, some maybe bad? It’s all here.

1. I didn’t think I’d still miss Ireland.
But I do. Even more now, actually, than when I was in the states. I’m so close to her! But I’m still not there. I miss THAT trip, those people (though I am fond of the people on this trip, don’t get me wrong), my amazing roommate there, the pubs and the music and the fun people we met! Hiking the Aran Islands and Connemara and the Giant’s Causeway. Ohmygoodness I miss it so much. And I guess I thought that since I’d be here, in this amazing city, that I wouldn’t be longing for Ireland still. (Oops.) I mean, I am still so glad that I’m here and I know that I chose this trip over going back to Galway or Dublin, and this will be a great experience…I just miss being in Ireland. So I’m seriously going to try my darndest to get in the MA Writing program at U. Galway so that I can live there for a year. If I’m being completely honest with myself, and with you, that’s where I want to be.

2. I did not take this walking thing seriously enough.
SO. MUCH. WALKING. Unbelievable amounts of walking. And I thought I walked a decent amount at Elon! Here, a grocery trip turns into 45 minutes because it’s a 15 minute walk each way, and you stick to your list because you’ve got to carry all your bags back! I have decided I’ll only be doing small amounts of grocery shopping.

3. I think it’s possible that I live on bread, cheese, gelato, tea, and coffee while i’m here.
With some clementines thrown in for good measure. I bought couscous because it was on sale yesterday, but winging the water-to-grain ratio was a really bad plan. Making pasta involves buying extras like olive oil (and I’m not cheap about my olive oil), sauce, and veggies, and glass jars are a lot of extra weight! Hence my projected diet. Of course I’ll eat out some, and the cafes have really good, fairly inexpensive sandwich options. M&S has ready-made pastas and salads with fresh veggies and salmon and such, so those are good, cheap eating-out options. So I guess what I’m saying is I plan to eat the above (#3) when I’m staying in my flat. Dinner tonight was toasted whole-wheat bread slices, one with manchego and another with a soft chaume (nice cheese was on sale at M&S yesterday, haha).

4. I think I’ll be meeting a lot more international travelers than English people.
Basically because the travelers seem much more willing to meet new people and such – I’ve had like 5-6 people off Couchsurfing contact me about meeting for coffee/drinks/park/museum stuff, so that’s cool, from places from Buenos Aires to Turkey! I’m thinking of trying to coordinate a casual night in a S.Kens pub with them and some of the girls. Or, you know, we could always go get gelato.

5. I’m going to go live in the park.
Hyde, Kensington…different parts of the park have different names but it’s all basically one big park, and it’s awesome and huge and I LOVE it! Went to the Peter Pan statue today and just stared. Will be adventuring out there again soon.

6. I love this weather.
It’s funny because someone else today was all “well the weather’s pretty nasty so I’ll probably go to a museum today.” Which was funny, because it wasn’t really even raining. I mean, it’s completely overcast and a bit cold and all, but there was only a teeny, tiny mist once or twice during the entire time I was outside today. And I am totally okay with that! Knock on wood that this weather continues.

Anyway, those are the thoughts of the evening.