Saturday, June 30, 2012

On The Road Again

Today was just alright to be honest. But every day can’t be amazing right? We spent six or more hours in the coach headed to Cardiff. Felt like a whole week we were bouncing around on the small, curvy roads or Wales. We made two stops. One to another mine. And then another castle.
   This time the mine was a coal mine. This one was a lot more intense then the last one. We couldn’t bring down anything with a battery in it. We had hard hats with head lamps that were attached to batteries and a gas mask. “Just in case” they said. Our tour guide was pretty cool. He asked about Donny Osmond when he found out we were from Utah. He said that Donny came and did a concert because his ancestry is from here or something. (Sometimes there accents can be hard to understand!) I just thought it was funny because we were in some small town in Wales, in a coal mine, and the tour guide was asking about the Osmond’s and actually knew a lot about them.
   The castle we went to today was built at first as a fortress but then in the eighteen hundreds was done up as a fairytale castle. They painted the rooms and added cute furniture. Miranda and I danced to Love Story by Taylor Swift to really get in the mood of it. Overall, we definitely saw a lot of Wales from our seats in the bus. 
Going down to the mines. 
Fairy tale castle.

Friday, June 29, 2012

You Only Live Once?

June 28th, 2012
    This morning started off bright and early. We had a 7:20am time for the ferry so we were off on the bus by 6:30am. And it was pouring. Nice. Good way for Ireland to say goodbye to us. But off we were headed to Wales. The ferry we took was really nice. Almost like a miniature cruise ship. I wouldn't really know how nice it was because I slept nearly all three hours we were on it. I did stop my nap to do some homework by interviewing these super nice elderly chaps (I can say that now because I am in Europe right?) for my varieties of English class. That was my productive part of the morning.
   Once in Wales we went to Beaumaris Castle. This castle was different than the rest because it was a castle within the castle. And it had a mote. So that was neat. Fun fact I remember from the tour is that it was built back in 1295. There was a chapel inside that had really great acoustics so our group ended up singing a hymn. It was a great moment to have with our group. A little cheesy to say that? Yes. But it really was. 
   The next stop was uh.. a special one to say the least. When my sister did study abroad a few years ago she went to a mine. I specifically remember saying, "I will never do that." So how did I end up wearina hard hat in a small box thing descending into a mine? I think it was the long bus ride and early morning that made me a little out of it. I didn't even realize what was going on. Those tricksters. I hate:
1. Darkness
2. Small spaces
3. No clear exit
4. Being trapped.
   Mines? Check, check, check and check. If I was to die somewhere on this trip this place would be it. But I did it. It really wasn't that bad but it was the whole idea of being it down there. At one point in the tour they said we were seven stories down and there were eight more below. After this information they instructed us to follow the stairs down even farther. Uh, how can I say no thank you politely? But it was a really neat experience. Once again I was reminded how blessed my life has been. 
   I already decided I like Wales more than Ireland. Maybe it is the fact there is a castle here called the Croft castle but I am loving it. There are more mountains and trees. It seems more "nature-y" if that is even possible. I just love it. 

June 29th, 2012
   I guess I should start off by talking about last night. I love when you have an unexpected fun night. The [lace we stayed at for our first night in Wales was er... different than the other places we have been. It was a large guest home with only a few showers for our huge group. Our whole study abroad group took over the whole house. The professors for the program apologized for it. There was no internet but there were big rooms to hang out in. We made our own fun. We had a group dinner of traditional welsh food and fish and chips, there was a Pride and Prejudice reenactment, we danced to Shrek, took Renaissance pictures and told scary stories. We filled that house with our laughter. This place ended up being the most fun places we have been. This is what I love most about this group of girls. We all just go with the flow of things. No need to be stressed. We are here for the experience. And it has definitely been a great one. These are the memories I'll remember the most. More than any beautiful scenery or castle but the people I share it with. 
   After switching to a much smaller coach we made our way to Caernarfon Castle. Yup, this is not deja vu, but we really saw another one. This one was technically considered a palace. We were suppose to hike today but the weather was not good enough so we visited a castle. Wales has a plethora of ones to choose of. So we are in no short supply of them. The rest of the day was spent exploring small towns throughout Wales. 
   I'll I know now is that my brain is fried, I am full of vegetable soup and I am completely exhausted. 
 Ferry ride.
 Beaumaris Castle.
 Slate mine.
 Best homemade ice cream in Wales.
Represent BYU in Wales!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

See Ya Later, Ireland

   This morning started off a little differently. Jessica and I were off to breakfast and the directions were unclear on where we were supposed to eat. We ended up going to this cafeteria but no one checked to see if we were actually suppose to be there. Well it turns out that was not the place we were told to eat. Basically, we "snuck" into some college cafeteria ate some food and left. Oops. Maybe it was because we fit in with all the other students that were there. Oh the things that happen on this trip. We then found where we were actually meant to be and had a second breakfast. I am definitely not going to complain!
   The first place we went to visit was The Book of Kells at Trinity College Library in Dublin. The Book of Kells was written over 1000 years ago. This was definitely a stop for the more linguisticly inclined but I ended up really enjoying myself. The colors and drawings they included in the book were beautifully done. The four gospels are written in the book with gorgeous decorations. After looking through the exhibit you walk upstairs to the Long Room. This is a huge, beautiful library that I want in my future home. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take pictures but think along the lines of Beauty and the Beast and you're there.
   We had some extra time to roam around the college before our next stop. This led to a little bit different, but definitely just as exciting, find. College guys playing Cricket! I must admit, I know nothing about this sport but it was very fun to watch them practice and try to make up rules about what they were doing. I'll have to look up what they actually do rather than just enjoying the view haha.
    The next visit was to Kilmainham Jail. It was a jail used during the Irish Revolution. The tour and jail was very intriguing. Our tour guide ended up being a member of our same church! She saw we were coming from BYU and decided to take our group on the tour. She even took us to places she said she doesn't normal take groups. The whole experience was very eye opeing. It made me very grateful for the life I have had. She told a story of a couple where the man, Joseph was incarcerated for being a leader of the revolution. He was engaged to Grace and asked for permission to be married before he was executed. They were married in the jail's church and then she had to leave. During the ceremony they were not allowed to talk and only could say their marriage vows. Nothing else. She was then able to return two hours later for a total of ten minutes. The gaurd at the door counted down the minutes. She then waited outside the jail until she heard the shots of guns. She never remarried. It was this story among others that brought the jail's history to life. The history of Ireland is very interesting. If you don't know much about it yet I encourage you to read up on it.
   After having a few hours to wander around Dublin we went as a group to see River Dance. It was much more than I expected. Phenomenal Irish dancing but the whole show of it was even better. From hip tap dances, sassy flamingo dancers to a just as sassy violin soloist. The dancers were amazing, the music was amazing. And that is such an understatement. I wish everyone could see what I saw tonight.  
   Today was our last day in Ireland. Who knows if I will ever get the opportunity to return. I have loved my time here. I really have seen all sides of the island. It has been nothing but beautiful and the people have been so kind as they welcomed the awkward american tourist we are.
 Exploring Trinity College.
 Cricket in the courtyard. 
Kilmainham Jail. 
 The chapel where Joseph and Grace were married.

 Natural History Museum in Dublin.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wilderness to Uptown Girl

   It is crazy that by the end of the day I don't even know where to begin my posts. I can't even remember what I did just a few hours earlier! I always go back and look at our agenda so I can keep track of the newest adventures! The day started off with us heading to Dublin! We went to Glendalough which is up in the mountains on the east side of Ireland. The scenery was a lot different than what we had been seeing. More rocks and evergreen trees. I know I say this a lot, but it was simply gorgeous. I think this rivals for the most beautiful stop we have made. On the way to St. Kevin's monastery from the 7th century we took some pictures off the side of the road. I literally jumped out of the coach, looked at the stream and ran up the hill to the ruins of an old home or church. It felt so good to get out and move after sitting in the coach for so long. Plus, the air was fresh and the mountain seemed to be calling my name! Can you believe there are these beautiful ruins just off the side of the road here in Ireland? No signs telling you not to climb on the rocks or walk on the grass. Just free space to enjoy.
   Once we made it to our real destination we walked along the pathway to find the monarch city which is where St. Kevin came to build his monastery. We strolled through the woods to the lower lake where we stopped to skip some rocks and take some pictures. There was a large round bell tower sitting in the middle of the site. It reminded me a lot of Tangled. Though, no princess lives there now. The cemetery was a different kind of beautiful. A bit Gothic and untouched. There were slanting tomb stones and ivy crawling up the side. 

   We ended the day with some free time in Dublin! The city is big and pretty. I didn't realize until halfway through our visit why the city felt a little different than all the other cities I have been to. There are no sky scrapers. Everything else had the city vibe. The busy streets, people walking, talking, shopping. The tallest building was probably five stories tall. I obviously did not explore the whole city but from what I noticed it was the most quaint city I had ever been in. If that even works to describe a city. We walked around and enjoyed the sites and did a little shopping. There is a problem though. I bought clothes! It has started. I think that once I start to notice cute things to buy I won't be able to stop! I mean, how fun is it to say that you bought it in Dublin. But I am sure I will be able to manage my money just fine. Clothes over food right? I can live on baguettes the rest of the trip...

 A stop off the side of the rode to Glendalough.
 Bell tower and cemetery at St. Kevin's monastery.  
 The Lower Lake.
 Dublin, Ireland. 
 Locks to represent love on a bridge in Dublin.

   Part of the group shopping in Dublin.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I Must Become a Butler or a Drummer

   We left Cork this morning to head to Kilkenny. It is crazy how much they keep us moving around. The longest we have ever stayed in one place is two nights! The day started off by going Cahir Castle. Yup, another castle! I feel like I am becoming a castle snob. I can say things like, "well this castle is alright but not as good as the last one." Really? It is a castle! They are all amazing! This castle was used as a fortress. There were many spots for arrows to be shot through and different places for pots of boiling water to be dropped on the enemy. The Butler family reigned in the castle for most of its existence. The guide told stories of fights and ways to kill the enemy during our tour. It gave a different feel while walking around the castle. Obviously I know this stuff happened but I still have the little girl mindset of fairy tales and princesses. But it was neat to get a different perspective. 
   The next stop was surprisingly not a castle. Though it looked like one. it was the Rock of Cashel. It is a big limestone hill that sits five religious buildings. When we first got there a few of us from the group just sat on the grass at the top of the hill and soaked in the sunshine and beautiful landscape. It was nice to just sit  and take a in a moment of bliss. It was one of those moments when you realize how blessed we are. To be here, in beautiful Ireland, looking over the scenery with friends. A blissful moment. The buildings at the Rock of Cashel are all have very interesting stories. A few of the buildings had no roofs. At one point there was a tax on all buildings that had roofs. The Bishop told them to take off the roofs so he wouldn't have to pay the tax! He also did not like having to keep paying for new stain glass windows so he had the windows made smaller. 
   Our last stop was to Kilkenny castle. This was also owned by the Butler family. Obviously the Butler's are where it is at! I need to find me one of my own! They own all the awesome places here in Ireland. This castle was unique because it was last restored by the family in the Victorian time period. It was originally made from timber before it was made out of stone. It was gigantic! We got there later than we were thinking and so the rushed us through it. We still had 30 minutes before it was suppose to close but every time I looked over the employee was staring us down. It didn't matter though because the castle was fun to see but it was still just a castle. I know I have plenty more in my future! All I know is that the Butler family had it made. They owned the castle for 600 years!
    Once we had made it to our hotel we were set free to do what we pleased. Jessica, Ann, Miranda, McKenna, and I went to find somewhere to eat. We ended up at Kyteler's Inn which had some live Irish Drum music. When we went in we did not know we would end up being a part of the entertainment! Damien, the drum master, called down people in the pub for a mini lesson on how to play the Irish drums to some Irish music. It was great fun.
   It is safe to say, now with it being the end of the day, I am exhausted! It is amazing how much we can pack in to one day in Ireland. 
 When I was listening to the tour guide I might have also been thinking of cute places to take pictures.
 Got to start learning how to run my castles.
 Rock of Cashel.
 Blissful moment.
 Rock of Cashel cemetery.
Our bus! Our home away from home.
 Kilkenny Castle.
  Anne and I were pro at drumming. 
 Damian our drum instructor. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Kiss for the Storybooks

   This morning we were able to go to a branch in Cork for church. I think we doubled the amount of members that were there. I love this about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, no matter where you are you can find other members and the church is still the same. The same principles and topics are taught and you can feel the same spirit. It was great to talk to the members and see what church is like at a small branch. There were two missionaries in front of me during the first hour and it made me think of all of my friends (and sister!) that are scattered around the world doing the exact same thing. Teaching and serving other people in many different countries. I am glad I got a little glimpse of that kind of life.
   After church we went to Blarney Castle. This has been my favorite castle that we have visited so far. There were vines growing on the side and the castle looked like it hadn't been touched in ages. The last castle we had been to was all made up inside which was great to see but I liked to see the ruins of the castle. It was beautiful. 

   At the top is the famous Blarney Stone. The myth goes, if you kiss the stone you are given the gift of eloquence. You have to kiss it upside down though. And it is about three flights or more up. We walked up 100 steps in a tiny spiral staircase in the castle. So it is pretty high. And you kind of lean over the edge a bit. There are handrails and funny guys to help you though. It was so much fun! When I kissed it I looked down and could see the green grass all the way at the bottom. I felt exhilarated after. Maybe a bit of adrenaline kicked in after thinking you might die while trying to kiss a stone. It was a lot to take in a millisecond of time.
   After the Blarney stone we went to the Cobh. Cobh is the last stop the Titanic took before it sunk. It is a very picturesque town on the water. We walked around and stopped at a beautiful cathedral and listened to a part of a Catholic Mass. During our stop I really had to use the restroom though. We were looking around for one on the streets so I could go. Jessica and I found one but you had to pay 25 cents. At that point, it didn't really matter to me. It was an experience to say the least. It automatically opens and closes for you. Once you are done you have to press a button to be let out. I thought I was going to be beamed to some space ship as the door closed. It takes two minutes and cleans the entire room before the next person can use it. I guess it is probably one of the cleanest bathrooms in Ireland though. Europe can be weird at times. 
 The group at church in Cork.
Blarney Castle.
 Kissing the Blarney Stone.
 More of Blarney Castle.
The funny bathrooms in Cobh.