*after Texas, of course...
Our adventures this week began way before we even arrived in Ireland. I'll take it from the Tuesday night before leaving. Let me preface this with these thoughts: Mom and Dad, I knew all along our plan to "wing it" wasn't gonna work out. Yet, this one time I allowed Bonnie and Jean to convince me that I was being too uptight about the situation and needed to just go with the flow.. therefore, I did. I've never been the most patient or the most responsible person.. why did I decide to be this time?? So many lessons have been learned through this experience.
Bonnie and I slept until about 1:00, knowing that we would have a late night trying to get to the airport and then leaving on an early flight to Dublin. Once Jean finally gave up on being sweet with her ways of waking us up, we hopped out of bed and headed for food. We once again found a small cafe with great food, and even better pie! *Side Note: J, B, and I have made a pact (more than one, actually) to meet for a dessert once a week at our newly discovered cafe. :) This makes our record for food findings in Maastricht 3-0! Since the "mall" is next to the Cafe Monopole, I stopped by Shoeland to buy some more comfortable shoes -- have I mentioned that we walk EVERYWHERE!? Probably a good thing seeing that we will be having pie dates at least once a week. After a stop by the market, a shower, and packing, Bonnie and I realized it was about time we left for the bus so we didn't miss the bus. Little did we know what was in store for us
... DUNDUNDUNNNN! ...
I traveled with five other girls on this trip; Jean, Bonnie, Traci, Leah and Kaitlin. None of us had any idea where we were staying once we got to Ireland and only little about what we were going to do when we arrived. Once again, being the responsible one, (kind of..) I tore out the "Ireland" section of my tourist book and stuck them in my "fanny pack." I thought it'd be fairly simple to ask the front desk to staple the pages together for me to make it a little easier on us, but nooooo... The stapler had to get stuck- which at the time, wasn't a big deal. Now, I strongly believe that that one little happening created a domino effect for the rest of our trip. As we're nonchalantly walking out of the dorm and to the bus stop, we conveniently see the bus drive away, for the second time this trip, right in front of us. The train is scheduled to leave at 9:09 and it's currently 8:45... Thinking the bus ran every few minutes, we patiently waited for the next one to come around. We could have EASILY walked to the station in about 20/25 minutes, but instead waited. And waited. ..I'm sure you have already predicted that we missed the 9:09 train.. You're absolutely right! :) So, we ordered kebabs from the train station and waited around for the next train to Liege. The next step happened with no problems. On the train in Maastricht, off in Liege. It was upon arriving in Liege that our situation became a bit sticky.
"It makes me happy to know none of us get a 'how to' guide; we're all just kind of winging it."
As soon as we stepped off the train in Liege I pointed out a marquee above one of the platforms that read "Charleroi-SUD" which is the airport we were going to. Being clueless and "responsible," yet again, we decided to ask a security gaurd (garda) which train would take us closest to the airport (or if there was one that took us straight to the airport.. cause we had no idea if there was or not). He kindly directed us to Brussels and told us to get off at Brussels-Nord. We listened. We got on the train to Brussels-Nord. Because we were still a bit unsure and wanted a second opinion, we asked the train conductor once getting on the train. He told us to get off at Brussels-Midi. Figuring he was our best source of information, we took his advice and set off for Brussels-Midi. Along the way we met some interesting people... One man who played the accordian and another chinese man that spoke little English but was a huge Spice Girls fan! The two formed an entertaining duet to keep us occupied on the train ride. I say it very lightly now, but at the time, we were quite frightened by these characters that were just a little too friendly for our taste. The man with the accordian advised us to get off at Brussels-Central... uhh, thanks, but no thanks mister!
There are sometimes that I just wish someone followed us around constantly with a camera to capture moments like this: we stepped off the train in Brussels-Midi to find an empty station. We walked outside past a few homeless people and across a deserted street to a lit hotel. Luckily it wasn't TOO late for the doors of the hotel to be locked (I believe it was 1:30am) and I chatted with the man at the front desk. I explained to him our situation that we needed to find Charleroi airport and we cannot get a straight answer from anyone about how to get there! Of course, we needed to take a shuttle to the airport and it was too late to catch one that night. We inquired about booking a room for the 3 hours we had to wait around for the shuttle, but the man allowed us to take over the lobby for the night. God Loves Us! :) We knew he especially loved us when we found out the bar was open for another 20 minutes.. "two bottles of wine, please!"
It was basically downhill from there getting to Ireland.. minus the security at Ryanair! Terrible!
.. And that's all I have to say about that..
Sure, Tuesday and Wednesday are considered separate days, but for us, it kind of runs together since we had little sleep over these 48 hours. Time number two I wish we had a camera following us: stepping off the bus in Dublin. Luckily, the Irish speak English so we didn't have much of a problem finding the "hostel row" with tons of choices. We chose Isaac's. Great Choice!! Once again, God was watching over us as the hostel receptionist informed us that there was one 6 bed room available. Well, we took it and we were VERY pleased! I always pictured a hostel to be small, dark, dirty and scary.. that was not the case at all. It was spacious, light, fairly clean, and the beds seemed to be more comfortable than the ones in our "hospital dorm" rooms.
Our Explorations Found us in:
Trinity College -- see below
St. Stephen's Green -- swans in the pond and people of all ages soaking up summertime
and the gorgeous weather
The Dublin Castle -- disappointing, but a castle nevertheless
"It's moments like this that make me wish I could freeze frame time..."
A game of Cricket, beautiful and perfect blue skies, a field of green, bubbles, and a group of Irish students singing and playing Beatles tunes.. What could be better? Each of us sat in silence for a good 30 minutes just reflecting on the chance we had been given to travel all over the world for a full summer. I also realized the power of music, not only at this college, but all throughout Ireland. Music is a universal language that all can enjoy and relate to.
After a full night's worth of sleep-- FINALLY! --we woke up and met on tour guides across town. Altogether we traveled 600 km on a bus Thursday! Holy moly! But no worries, it was totally worth it!
We traveled from Dublin to Galway, Galway to the Cliffs of Moher, a circle around western Ireland, then back to Dublin.
The Cliffs of Moher were breathtaking! It's places like these cliffs that make me wonder how anyone could ever deny that there's a God. I attempted to capture it's beauty by taking pictures, but those don't capture the sense of peace and quiet that is felt on those cliffs. The castle remains at the top of one of the hills made it even more lovely while the cloudy weather made my expectations of Ireland a reality.
"God saw everything He had made, and indeed, it was very good." Genesis 1:31
Since it was pretty chilly on this day, I decided to invest in a hat to keep my head warm. Little did I know it was going to become a part of my Ireland experience. When buying my hat from an Irish man working in a shop next to the Cliffs exhibition, I asked, "Did you make this?" His answer: "No, Marian from the barn handmade the hats and the scarves." ...This is probably one of my favorite quotes from the whole trip. It's humorous to think about an old lady knitting my hat from the wool she acquired from the sheep on her land and them ending up in this shop. It's even better that this man spoke of Marian and the barn as if I was an old family friend.
That's the thing about Ireland-- everyone (except one grumpy man in the park.. haha!) is friendly and willing to help those around them.
That night, we tried out the Dublin nightlife, which is somewhat overrated. The Temple Bar area, the nighttime hotspot, was filled with people-- unfortunately, mostly older people. We had lots of fun: stopped by all the popular pubs, listened to some good ol' Irish music, and tasted a Guinness!
After getting to sleep-in for the first time during our trip, the six of us took a walk around Dublin to find breakfast and were entertained by a group of Algerians chanting songs and waving around their flags. Algeria and Ireland played a friendly soccer game that night, come to find out.
Again, we hopped on a bus to a small town called Enniskerry that was suggested to us by a tourist information lady. Upon our arrival, we had no idea where we were staying or really even where we were going. I stepped off the bus, looked up to see a sign that read 'Ferndale B&B' ... perfect! Exactly what'd we'd been wanting all week. So we took a chance -- I walked straight up to the bright red door and was greeted by a sweet Irish man. "Hiiii... Do you have anything available for tonight??.. :)" I'm sure he was shocked by 6 girls, all with huge backpacks standing at his door in the middle of the day in a town that is not used to tourists (The town consisted of a couple of pubs and a string of boutiques). He invited us inside and we made ourselves comfortable in the lounge. AGAIN God loves us-- "Grandpa Noel" informed us that he had 2 rooms available that each can sleep 3. PERFECT! Of course we took the deal, only 30 euro, and enjoyed our luck for the rest of the day.
The Powerscourt Gardens were located about a mile from the B&B so we took a stroll up the hill. A few hours later we finally found ourselves at the garden but decided to wait until Saturday to take them on since we'd spent so much time soaking up the beautiful scenery that led the way to there. We stopped at an old Catholic church and cemetery that sat in front of the Irish mountains. There were many other times along the way that we paused for a picture or two. We also saw some wild horses hanging around the path on the way there. This is significant because on the way back we sat down along the edge of the fence (not sure how else to describe it) they were guarded by to observe. To our surprise, the horses slowly made their way over to us and before we knew it, they were eating grass out of our hands and letting us pet their faces.
At that moment, each of us laughed and realized how awesome and blessed our lives are: Petting wild horses with a scenic, mountainous background on a warm, sunny day in Ireland. Wow.
That evening we walked ALL THE WAY across the street to "Nancy Murphy's" where most of us had our first Bailey's experience. Yuck! The Ireland vs. Algeria game was happening at the time and a nice middle-aged man directed us to the hot club "Bray Sea Front" that was only a few minutes down the road. After talking with another Irish woman for a while about her life, she also suggested the club. So, we took off to the bus stop once again, got off the bus, and started walking aimlessly. Luckily, we ran into a group of young Irish people who were headed to the same club after stopping by a local bar where their friend was playing in a band. We walked down a creepy, dark alley to the "Bray Harbor Bar" and joined a small group of people supporting this talented band. This was definitely my favorite night in Ireland. Listening to wonderful music, mostly American, drinking with Irish people, and staying away from your usual tourist places in the country. We became pretty good friends with the bartender and the owner of the bar (his son to be exact) and had such a great time together singing songs such as American Idiot, Sweet Home Alabama (we all stood up and danced for that one) and many others. We took a taxi back and called it a night.
Saturday morning was so fun waking up to a delicious and nutritious breakfast downstairs and enjoying it with many native Irish couples. Josie, the owner, allowed us to stay for a while after check-out to let the weather clear up for our day at the Powerscourt Gardens. We sat around and drank coffee while eating cookies in the lounge. PERFECT, once again!
The Gardens were beautiful! So bright and colorful on such a cloudy day with the mountains surrounding us, nothing could be better. I tried, again, to take pictures to capture their beauty, but it doesn't amount to the real life experience we had.
The rest of our trip was really simple. We took a bus back to Dublin where we spent the rest of the night talking and resting for our trip back to Maastricht the next morning.
All in all, the trip was definitely a terrific first trip with lots of relaxation along with trials and tribulations we had to go through. As I said when the volcano postponed our trip, God is in control of everything and will take care of us no matter what. That fact is going to be reiterated throughout our studies and travels over these next few months and I cannot wait to see what else He has in store for us!