Saturday, October 31, 2009

P.S. I Love You Ireland, Day 2

Day 2--Wicklow National Park

On our second day in Ireland we decided to take a trip through the countryside. We woke up at 8am and were out the door by 8:30am. We were headed to the Tourist office where our tour was picking us up. When we arrived the bus was there and waiting and we hopped on without a hitch. Our tour guide's name was Martin and the rest of our group was filled with some very loud Americans from California, an elderly French couple, and two younger Asian girls. It was going to be quite the adventure. Our first stop of the day was the port of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dun Leary). The coast is beautiful. After a quick picture we were back on the bus and headed to the Wicklow mountains. I quickly realized that the country is every bit at beautiful as people describe it to be. It's green and rich and colorful and exciting. We made our first stop at the overlook of a lake and it was pouring outside. And I mean pouring. The picture above was taken there. We were loving every second though. I was pretty soaked in the first ten seconds, but it was completely worth it.

Our next stop was at what may seem like a normal piece of road, but it definitely isn't. We pulled over at the place in P.S. I Love You where Holly and Jerry meet for the first time. We watched the movie the night before so it was fresh in our memories and that much more special. If you haven't seen the movie see it, and then you'll understand exactly why we were so excited. Not only is the area around it beautiful, but it also had a romantic feel to it knowing the story in the movie. All I needed to finish it off was an Irish boy to come sweep me off my feet. Unfortunately I wasn't that lucky. We had a blast taking a bunch of pictures though. I was so happy. My day could have ended there and I would have felt fine about it.


After we left the scene behind we kept making our way around the mountains. We stopped at another really beautiful site. It was a huge waterfall that happened due to all the rain they just started receiving. It was seriously breathtaking. You could see where the waterfall started and its ending point in this large, open valley. It was also amazing because the fall colors are just starting to come out over there so they really added a whole new element. At this point Martin decided to give out whiskey shots. Not even kidding. As tempting as it was we politely declined, but our Californians definitely wasted no time in consuming a few...Oh the Irish. At this point it was about time for lunch so we drove into the small town of Laragh (pronounced Laura) and were given a few places to eat. We decided to eat at the most charming Bed and Breakfast ever. It was called The Conservatory and it was amazing. The room we ate in was just windows and skylights and I loved it. We ordered some hot chocolate (that was delicious) and shared a couple scones. I just enjoyed every second. If I ever get back to Ireland I'm determined to stay at this place. It was the most ideal B&B ever.

Our last stop was a beautiful tourist area. It started raining right when we got there of course, but by this point we were way past caring. It had an amazingly old graveyard, and an even more amazing country walk. We had a couple hours so we took our time walking to the ending point--an amazing lake. Everything about the walk was beautiful. It's hard to describe how green and rich all the plants and trees are. I was just in awe. There is something about nature that makes life seem so simple. The three of us had fun chatting about favorite movies, favorite songs, and life in general. When we got to the lake the rain had stopped so it was perfect. The lake was completely still and even had a slight mist coming off of it. We quickly took a bunch of pictures because we knew the weather wouldn't hold out for long. Soon it was time to head back to the bus and then back to Dublin. The ride back was a quick one. We were pretty exhausted by our crazy day, but it was well worth it. I loved experiencing the countryside of Dublin!


Monday, October 26, 2009

P.S. I Love You Ireland, Day 1-Dublin


For our four free days Catherine, Laura, and I decided to head to the Land of the Leprechauns. It will probably be one of the highlights of my semester here. It was that amazing! I loved Ireland more than I ever thought I would. We made the most of every day, traveled all across the country, and took advantage of every second of every day. I was sad to leave on Saturday night.
Between the three of us we took about 600 pictures so I've decided to do a blog per day, plus I have so much I want to say! This first blog is about our first day in Dublin...

Well we started our day on Wednesday, October 21st super early. The three of us woke up at 4:15am and were out the door by 4:45am. It was still dark outside as we made our way to the bus stop. Surprisingly I wasn't super tired at this point so it wasn't too painful. We hopped on the 5:02am bus to Victoria Station and from there boarded our ever-faithful EasyBus! It was about 5:30am by this point so when we got settled in our seats the tiredness kicked in and I slept the whole way to Stanstead. We made it through security without a hitch and to the gate in plenty of time. While we waited to board our favorite airline, Ryanair, I texted my dad to have him call me 30 seconds later. I laugh at it, but it really wouldn't feel like traveling without him. The plane wasn't full so Cath found a row to herself and Laura and I shared. I didn't realize it at the time, but the flight to Dublin is only 45 minutes. It seriously felt like we took off only to land a few minutes later. When we arrived we had to get some euros out of the ATM in order to get anywhere, and then we had to buy smoothies to break our 50's to get change to get on the bus. It was quite the process. Then to add on to that it was pouring rain the second we stepped outside. Luckily, we did manage to get on the right bus and get off at the right stop. Next step...finding our hotel. It actually wasn't too difficult--just up O'connell, left on Parnell, and there at the top of the street was the Maldron Hotel. Choosing to stay in a hotel over a hostel was the best choice we ever made. Seriously, it was so nice to be able to leave our things, have our own room, own bathroom, and just be in a clean environment. We decided to take a power nap because we had been up for quite a while now. Don't worry, we only slept for an hour and then we headed out to explore the city.
Dublin is a really fun and charming city. It had a little bit of London in it, but on a much smaller scale. We found our favorite Irish treat on our way to Temple Bar...home made, hot donuts, either dipped in sugar or chocolate. They were delicious and only cost 60p! Such a steal. Another thing I learned quickly about Ireland... You're umbrella is your best friend. It would honestly be pouring one minute and suddenly stop the next. Then it would start all over again.  Anyways, we decided to head to Dublin Castle. We figured it was probably a must-see. We ended up going on a guided tour and who did we run into, but 4 missionaries! It is such a small world. I said hi and mentioned that we went to BYU. I think it was probably nice to see some people who know exactly who they were and exactly what they were doing. The castle was pretty cool. I didn't realize that the Vikings had lived there at one point.

After our visit to the castle we decided to eat an early dinner. Our unfailing friend Rick Steves recommended a place called "Bad Ass Cafe". It was so good, plus they had a great deal going--1 starter and 1 main course for 9.80 euros. We decided to get a french onion soup and garlic bread as our starters and a margherita pizza and caesar salad for our main courses. It was a very satisfying meal. We finished it off with some gelato. I had hazelnut and it was very tasty. When our stomachs were full of food we went and looked at Christ Church Cathedral. Our plan was to go inside, but it was closed so we wandered around the outside for a bit. Eventually we made it back to our hotel. We had fun taking a bunch of self-timer shots in our bed. They were pretty funny. Last, but not least we watched P.S. I Love You. A large part of it takes place in Ireland, specifically in the area we were going to the next day!
It was a great first day in Shamrock Land!


Sunday, October 25, 2009

When in Bath do as the Bathers do...

Our last stop was Bath. Bath is a pretty historical place. It was in this small city that the Romans once lived. They built an entire life here including buildings, homes, and...baths of course. When we got to the town we took an audio tour of the Roman Baths. It was actually really cool to learn about. The Baths were literally meant for the people's enjoyment and varied in temperature, size, class, and purpose. The only naturally heated bath was for the King's use only. The main bath in the center was for everyone's use. The indoor bath's were for more private use. They even used them for recreation. I guess I forget that even then people needed time to relax, play, and enjoy themselves. Another fascinating fact I learned was that the water in the baths today is the same water that was in it hundreds of years ago. When they discovered them they were still full and have been ever since. That is just crazy. I'm not sure I would like to take a bath in one of them anytime soon.
After we finished our tour we had time to explore the city. It's actually quite a charming place. It reminded me of Italy in alot of ways. There were cobblestone streets, narrow roads, and smaller buildings. Annie, Cath, Abs, and I ran into a delicious fudge shop and couldn't resist giving it a taste. We then sat down in a small square so they could sketch and I could write some poetry (not lying). We've turned quite artsy over here in England. When it was time to go we hopped on the bus and had a long 3 hour drive back to the city.

It was a really great day. I would go as far as to say that it was my favorite day trip yet!


Beautiful Stourhead

After our departure from Stonehenge we learned about our next destination--Stourhead. Stourhead is this magnificent, man-made garden built in the late 1700s. It was constructed by Henry Hoare, and the image was inspired by Italian landscapes. There are also a number of temples that surround it. They were meant to show the Hoare family's education and wealth. I was excited to see it after hearing all of this, but I was not really prepared for how incredible this place was. As you can see in the picture above it's unbelievable. The lake was perfectly still and so the reflection of the bridge, the trees, and the temple are perfect. The grass was bright green and the leaves were just starting to change. I was seriously in awe. We were given a couple hours to walk around it and I felt like I was in a secret garden of some sort. Never in my life have I seen a place like that, and I probably never will again. It's crazy because it felt so picturesque and ideal which is exactly what it's meant to be, because it's manmade. Hoare clearly did his job right because I kept forgetting that someone actually designed this place for people's enjoyment. I was just caught up in the moment of it all. We kept saying that it would be the perfect place to take your bridals! At one point we crossed a bridge and got to throw pennies in and make a wish. If there was ever a place that actually granted wishes I think Stourhead would be it. Another fun part of this place is that one of the temples is where a scene from Pride & Prejudice was filmed. Of course the day we go it's under construction so we didn't get to go in it, but I guess knowing we were at the place is enough.

Well, what else can I say? Stourhead was amazing! It is probably one of the prettiest places I've ever been and ever will get to see so I will definitely never forget it.

Rock on! (no pun intended)

For our day trip this week we went to Stonhenge, Stourhead, and Bath. Because I took so many pictures and have so much to say I've decided to do each place separately. Place #1 is Stonehenge. I absolutely loved it. I've heard that it can seem pretty anti-climatic, but I thought it was anything but that. Yes, as we drove up it was literally sitting on the side of the road, and yes it is a lot smaller than you would think, but those paled in comparison to what I actually saw. These rocks have been standing there for thousands of years, and not only have they been standing there, they were put there! It is seriously beyond my comprehension.
When we first got there it was lightly sprinkling and we were getting worried (we had been promised good weather), but once we made it to the actual stones the sun came out and the weather couldn't have been more perfect. It was slightly misty and slightly sunny all at the same time. Catherine was extremely disappointed to discover that you can't actually walk up and touch the stones, but she made the best of it. You can walk all around them at a good 50 foot or so distance, so you know we made the best of that. Annie, Laura, and I were having fun coming up with reasons as to why the stones were put there. Religion? Slavery? Super powers? No reason at all? Who knows! I decided it could be one of the first things I want to find out about when I get to Heaven. It certainly proved to be a fun place to take pictures though! We did a few jumpers, a few interpretive, and a few "rock on" (no pun intended) shoots. I honestly didn't want to leave. It was one of those places that I could sit and stare at for hours and never get any closer to the reason behind it.
I'm so glad we went there and I got to see, and experience the mystery that is Stonehenge!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tea Time and Les Miserables!

Tuesday was the most beautiful day! There wasn't a cloud in the sky, the leaves are starting to change, and it was the perfect fall temperature. As they say in You've Got Mail, "It makes me want to buy bouquets of sharpened pencils." That is exactly how I felt. Cath, Abs, and I went for a mid-morning run and I honestly couldn't stop smiling. I was running through Hyde Park on a perfect fall day in London...Complaints? I think not. That afternoon we decided to go for tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens. We put on our best "tea attire" and Cath, Abs, Annie, Laura, Kristin, Nicole, and I headed over there. It was quite delightful. I felt the need to be a proper, polite, English, young lady (even though it was pretty obvious that we were a group of overly excited American girls).  I ordered the Millionaire Shortbread with Caramel, and Laura and I shared the peppermint tea. The shortbread was delicious and the tea was even better. Mind you, this was our first experience with tea so it took us a few minutes to figure out how to use the strainer, how much sugar and milk to add, and how to drink it "properly". We got there eventually though! I loved it. It really was quite satisfying. On our way back to the center we just enjoyed the beauty of the park. I was seriously so happy. I couldn't contain it. It was probably one of my favorite afternoons here.

That night we enjoyed a delicious "Greek-themed" dinner. It definitely makes my Top 5 meals we've had here. We had a yummy salad with bacon, cashews, cucumbers, and a homemade dressing, rice, chicken with a pesto sauce, artichoke hearts, and fried zucchini. It tasted so unbelievably good. We had to hurry through it though because a group of us went to Les Miserables that night. That meant that the second our dishes were done we were out the door, and on the tube. The group that went was me, Laura, Abby, Annie, Mandi, Catherine, Courtney, and Lauren. We bought the tickets when we got there so we ended up sitting in pairs. I sat with Laura. The play was truly amazing. I have heard so many things about it, but to see it live was a whole new experience. It was so emotional! Laura and I kept turning to each other in tears. When it ended I gave it a standing ovation. I am so glad we decided to see it!
It was a perfect fall day in London town!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Borough Market

On Saturday a group of us went to Borough Market. It is a huge food market that goes on every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. We'd heard great things about it, but the actual experience surpassed all my expectations. There were literally dozens of stands and an endless varieties of food. When we walked in we didn't even know where to begin. People were everywhere, colorful tents lined the sidewalk, and I was immediately excited. We decided to just start wandering and quickly discovered the beauty in Free Samples. Everywhere we went people were offering us small tastes of their food. I tried brownies, shortbread, pesto, balsamic vinigarette, pastries, chocolate, turkish delight, fudge, strawberries and cream, and lots of cheese (just to name a few). I couldn't get enough of it. A few of my favorites were all the cheeses, the pesto, and the crumbly fudge. I've decided that cheese is definitely one of the essential food groups in life. Pesto is delicious anytime you have it, and the crumbly fudge was simply to die for. I'm sad to say that I didn't like the Turkish Delight. I had high hopes for it after seeing "Chronicles of Narnia", but it really wasn't very tasty. It was a really good thing that a group of us went together...we all sampled and shared everything, but thankfully didn't overeat (which could have easily happened). I've decided that if I'm ever at a loss for lunch on the weekends I'll just hop on over to Borough Market and be totally satisfied. It was a great day!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Country Walk

On Wednesday we went on a 9 mile country walk through Kent. When we woke up that morning it looked really cold and really wet outside so there was the small hope that they had cancelled it...but to our slight dismay they hadn't. With this news we got up, made our lunches, bundled up, and headed out on our adventure. I was in sweats, a long sleeved shirt, a sweatshirt, and an ear-warming headband. I was ready. We took the tube to St. Paul's and then hopped on a train to our final stop. Annie, Abs, Cath, and I sat together and filmed a few videos while snacking on Oh's. When we got to our stop I got off the train and was still freezing! Even in all my layers! I was a little worried, but as we started moving I warmed up pretty quickly. It was really beautiful. The English countryside is unbelievably green. Imagine the greenest grass you can think of and double it...that's what I was looking at. I really enjoyed the walk. It's always nice to get out and really be part of nature. We stopped by a castle that still stands and is used today, and we stopped by a castle that was used hundreds of years ago. All that was left of it were run down walls and ruins. We ate lunch here and watched as Brooke and Mary-Celeste tried to climb the walls. It was a little nerve-wracking. I would hate for anyone to get hurt...especially them. When we were done eating a group of us hopped on the train and headed back a little early. It turned out we made the right decision because right then it started pouring. When we got back to the center we enjoyed some nice, hot cheese brocolli soup...delicious. What looked to be a cold day in the English countryside turned out to be a great one!