Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ireland: The Friendliest Place in Europe

This is what you think of when you think of Ireland right? Well, let me tell you something. If you ever want to visit Ireland, or Europe, for that matter, go ahead and do yourself a huge favor. GO IN THE SUMMER. Joel and I arrived in Dublin with okay conditions...a bit cold for the end of March but nothing to worry about. Well the next day, we woke up to torrential rain pour and ice. It really changed the Ireland experience for us because we didn't get to enjoy the outdoors much. But anyways, I'll start from the top.

Joel and I left for Dublin on Sunday. We arrived Sunday night and had food at the touristy, Irish bar called Gogarty's. We went ahead and ordered "traditional" Irish food, even though we had heard that it was bad. Well, uh, it was. BAD. Joel ordered Irish stew and I ordered trout. Oh boy. My fish had the skin on all over it, with tiny bones in every bite, and Joel's lamb in the stew was made up of all kinds of parts... The only food we enjoyed from the meal was the brown bread and Guinness! In fact, that's about all I ate of that meal.

Monday we woke up at 6 AM for our grand tour of the countryside of Ireland, including the acclaimed Cliffs of Moher. HA. HA. We walked out of our hotel and immediately got side-swiped by the wind and rain. We were so hungry from not eating the night before that we looked up a McDonalds to eat at for breakfast. We ran to the McDonald's in the rain, got some egg mcmuffins, and ran to find the tour place. We got lost for about 15 minutes but found it and climbed into the mini bus.

Our tour guide was great- charming, old little Irishman. But then as we went along with our tour, he didn't really give us many facts as much as tell us about his mother's sayings. "Like my mother always said, it's better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it..." Haha, he just would go off and tell us little ideas he had about how he was an atheist but that we should pray for better weather if we had any influence in that department. Oh dear. Why couldn't he have been the Irish Catholic stereotype? Come on...but he was a very nice, witty old man.

Our first stop- the Cliffs of Moher. It took us about 5 hours to get there from Dublin. LONG bus ride. And then we got there and it was a freezing hurricane. Joel and I trudged up the cliff to get to the top and we got soaked and scraped in the face with ice. Not to mention, the wind literally burned our faces. Pleasant right? Well, you know me, I defied the weather and got up there and put on a huge smile for a picture. And then ran down the cliff, arms flailing, crying from the cold and my face about to fall off.

The rest of the day we pretty much were in the bus. It made me SO MAD that the weather was so bad because we passed the most lovely scenery!! We even were supposed to stop at the Burren, a cool rocky landscape where tons of flowers grow. But I, and the rest of our brave tour companions, could only stand about 5 minutes outside of the bus. There was absolutely nothing anyone could do, and our tour guide did his best. But all in all, it was a disaster. I want to go back to Ireland when the sun is out because it would have been an entirely different experience. We arrived back in Dublin at 8 PM.

That night, we had dinner at an Indian restaurant called Jaipur. It was EXCELLENT! My appetizer and entree was not too spicy at all! Great flavors! But Joel ordered an entree that looked like a bowl of fire. We made a stop at the pharmacy on the way back and got some antacids. GREAT call. :)

The last day in Dublin, again, was freezing rain. It was so sad. I wanted to do a free walking tour of the city, but it was literally impossible. Or, you would just catch pneumonia after doing it. So, we had a late lunch and went to Gogarty's again.
This is going to sound weird, but I think my favorite part of our Ireland experience was our 30 minute cab ride to the airport. We talked non-stop with our driver, and it was the most wonderful thing ever. I felt like he was a long-lost grandfather or something. Hands down, the nicest person we have met in Europe. As for all Irish people, Joel and I both agree that they have the friendliness and charm that their stereotype gives to them. What a great stereotype to have!

Ireland, I loved you. Even in your absurd weather. But please know, I will be back. And I am bringing my family next time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Month of Travel Calendar!

Here it is—our month of travel calendar. (They call it a “month” but really it is more like 3 weeks…) The calendar was revised probably ten times over two weeks because we realized we just couldn’t do all that we wanted to do. But everyone is really excited about the finished product.

Week 1- Ireland, Scotland, and England

Sunday, March 28- Dublin, Ireland

Monday, March 29- Day Tour of Ireland Countryside & Dinner in Dublin at Jaipur, an awesome looking restaurant featured on the Food Network!

Tuesday, March 30- Walking Tour in Dublin & late flight to Edinburgh, Scotland

Wednesday, March 31- Day Tour of Scotland Countryside

Thursday, April 1- Walking Tour in Edinburgh

Friday, April 2- Train from Edinburgh to Oxford, England

Saturday, April 3- C.S. Lewis Tour in Oxford, then travel to London

Sunday, April 4- Easter church in London, travel back to Maastricht

(Switch cold clothes for warm clothes, re-pack, sleep)

Week 2- Island Time!

Monday, April 5- Fly to Athens, Greece

Tuesday, April 6- Sight see in Athens, late flight to Santorini

Wednesday, April 7- Santorini

Thursday, April 8- Santorini

Friday, April 9- Santorini

Saturday, April 10- Fly from Santorini to Naples, Italy, then a ferry to Capri, Italy

Sunday, April 11- Capri, Italy

Week 3- Italy and Switzerland

Monday, April 12- Day tour in Pompeii, spend the night in Rome

Tuesday, April 13- Rome

Wednesday, April 14- Rome

Thursday, April 15- Florence

Friday, April 16- Cinque Terre

Saturday, April 17- Cinque Terre

Sunday, April 18- Train day to Switzerland

Monday, April 19- Switzerland

Tuesday, April 20- Switzerland to Maastricht

On April 20, everyone will meet back in Maastricht. April 21 we will regroup and pack, and on April 22 we leave at 5 AM headed for the Amsterdam Airport.

April 22- Back to USA

Will we be successful in our travel goals? Nobody knows. We have booked some pretty cheap hostels and are planning on doing lots of free tours to make up for the flights we had to take for the sake of time. If you need to contact me, Joel has his phone (it is 251-656-8583). We will be checking internet as frequently as possible!


Wednesday, March 24, 2010


It is the end. THE END! the end? the end! of school! (I have been reading Samuel Beckett and it is not good- hence the writing style) I really did not like Waiting for Godot, but apparently it is a HIT, and revolutionary and absolutely wonderful. Only reason I would go see it is to see Ian McKellen play in it. ANYWAYS- yes. School is over. I just have to go into class tomorrow and present my paper on two books that I read this semester (Demian by Hermann Hesse and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce). Then we have a goodbye party for all the Baylor students in the afternoon. THEN, people are taking off! Leaving for good until the end of April! As for me, I will not spread my wings from Maastricht until Sunday. My two extra days in Maastricht will be to finish my independent study paper (A HUGE undertaking) and then to pack and plan. I will post our month of travel schedule in the next post. But do you want to know where I am starting...??? DUBLIN, IRELAND!!!! More to come.

Okay so these pictures are from my literature class. We were reading Waiting for Godot, a very silly, black comedy, British humor, nonsensical play. The girl standing on the table is a tree. Her name is Amanda. At the beginning of the semester, she got into a debate with our German professor about the movie, Dead Poets Society. He thought the Robin Williams character was irresponsible but she loved him and the way he helped the students to rebel and such. So we always had this joke about how he would be a great teacher if he let her stand up on a desk. Well, as luck would have it, he let her stand on a table to be the tree for the setting of Waiting for Godot. It was great.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Visitors From Home Part II (Kelly!!!)

As I got settled in Maastricht in January, started traveling in Europe, and going to school, I realized something. I very much wanted my best friend from Baylor to experience this. And to experience it with me! I knew this was impossible, because it was too late. There was no time for planning, no time to visit, and certainly no way any college student could afford to come to Europe at such short notice. But, I would constantly email and facebook my friend Kelly, "Come visit!! Just get over here and I will help pay for food and you can stay in the dorm with me!" Well, Kelly told me it might be a possibility, but the days I wrote these things started to turn into weeks, and school was going right along. I knew she wouldn't be able to come.

So one day as I checked facebook, I received a wall post. It read:

"okay. ticket bought. i will be there earlier monday so you may not wana meet me 'cuz I dont know when ya'll have class. I'm fine with chilling in Amsterdam until whenever a train is available. i honestly havent looked at train times... you are stuck with me from monday-sunday though."

?? Okay, so Kelly just informed me that she will be flying across the world to visit for a a facebook WALL POST. That's Kelly for ya. So, we started planning and counting down the days.

She informed me that her mom had purchased a Eurail pass for her, so we wanted to visit as many countries as possible in a weekend to get the most out of her train pass. So, our weekend itinerary was:

Thursday: Heidelberg, Germany.
Friday: Sight see in Heidelberg, then Metz, France.
Saturday: Metz, France to Amsterdam.
Sunday: Kelly flies home out of Amsterdam in the morning.

However, I was in school from Monday to Thursday. So we had little adventures in Maastricht while she was here. She arrived Monday, no problem (thank goodness!) from Amsterdam to Maastricht.

We had a movie moment at the train station, both with our cameras out, when we saw each other.

Tuesday after my Modernism and Beyond literature class, Kelly and I went out in Maastricht to see the Vrijtof (main square with shopping and cafes). Here she is videoing the river and scenic views in Maastricht! This is the day Kelly had her first Belgian waffle too. Great experience.

Wednesday I thought it might be a good idea for Kelly to see more of Maastricht and go to school with me. I took her to Dutch Art History, which I thought hey, might be an intersting class for her. But.. kind of forgot to tell her it was 4 hours long. So I felt really bad for her towards the end. But she was a trooper and joined in discussions about Impressionism and Renior influencing Van Gogh.

It sure was a hectic travel weekend! But we had a lot of fun. Heidelberg was definitely my favorite city. It is a modern city, but some of the "old town" has been preserved and is a hot spot for tourists like ourselves. We stayed in a charming German hotel above a restaurant. The staff were very friendly and spoke wonderful English.

We got into Heidelberg late on Thursday night (9 or 10 PM) so we went next door to the Irish pub for some food and fun. I have no pictures from this night because I looked pretty rough- tired and hungry. But I got a picture of the pub the day after.

On Friday, we woke up early to a cold, but charming Germany. We were welcomed to the hotel breakfast spread which was pretty good!

We saw a beautiful castle in Heidelberg, or Schloss as they call it. Full of history and beautiful sights.

And my personal favorite part of the blog-- food. Here it is, my German meal in all its glory. Grilled sausages with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and a beer of the waiter's choosing.
Heidelberg= FANTASTIC.


Long story short: got into Metz, great budget hotel at the train station.

Kelly loved the fact you could open the big windows.

We walked to see the Cathedral. Got lost for an hour. It got dark. Took a picture of a carousel.

We got hungry and cold. At our losses, walked into a bistro.

They didn't speak English. We were embarrassed. This crazy meal ended up being the best thing that happened to us in France. We got an amazing, gourmet, 3 course meal for 20 euro each. Scrumptious.

Kelly got to experience first-hand why I love French food the most. We didn't even know what we ordered and it turned out to be AMAZING!!! AHHH I LOVE FRENCH FOOD~!

We left Metz early in the morning to head to Amsterdam. We had really good cappuccinos and pain au chocolats in the train station. We missed our first train because we were buying postcards. Caught a train to Luxembourg 30 minutes later, so no biggie.

Smelled weird on the first train, so we made our scarves into masks.

Later in the 8 hour train day...

Kelly made friends with this young man on the train. Story self-explanatory.

I told her not to talk to strangers but she doesn't listen.


Our experience in Amsterdam was short but sweet. We got there at night and stayed at an airport hotel, so we had to take a train into the city. I showed her the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijks Museum.

Kelly did not know about the main attractions of Amsterdam. Namely, that both pot and prostitution are completely legal. Seeing this firsthand, now she knows! :)

The next day, we had an early morning and said goodbye. It was a wonderful and much needed trip for the both of us! I'm so glad she made the journey over here!

(Aside: Kelly and I were both accepted into Baylor's New York City program. However, she will be there in the fall semester and I will be there next spring, so really we had our last college semester together last fall. So, this trip was special because these are our last college moments together!)

Visitors From Home Part I (Joel's Family!)

Two weekends ago, Joel's family made the trek out here to visit us! We met up with them in Paris. Thursday night we ate at a restaurant where part of "Something's Gotta Give" was filmed. It was an acclaimed seafood place, but Joel and I still agree that the best seafood will always come from the Gulf Coast. (No, seriously, we really think the seafood tastes fresher and of better quality from home!)

Friday we started out at the Louvre. There's Joel lovingly picking up his sister Celeste, me with the Mona Lisa,

and Joel being inspired by the Michelangelo statue.

After the Louvre, we headed to the Champs Elysees to have lunch at Laduree, an acclaimed restaurant and dessert place. Our lunch was fabulous, as French food usually is.

We strolled down the Champs Elysees and poked our heads in the stores. It was great because we had a wonderful tour guide, Patsy, who is from Birmingham, AL but knows Paris like the back of her hand. She has done hundreds of tours but it felt like she was giving us her first tour ever. Her enthusiasm for the art, history, and culture of Paris was inspiring.

While we were walking, Mrs. Lisa saw this house and loved the architecture. So pretty!

We went to the Musee De L'Orangerie in the afternoon where we saw paintings by Monet, Renior, and other impressionist painters. I discovered a new favorite artist there named Utrillo, who painted beautiful scenes from around the Montmartre area.

After that museum, we walked around and looked into little shops.

We saw a bridal store there, so I had to take a picture of Celeste in her element!

Saturday we planned to go to Versailles, but due to an upset stomach (me..) and exhaustion from the day before, we took it easy and spent the day shopping around our hotel. The view from the hotel was beautiful.

Sunday, we found a Japanese place for Joel to eat at. He was thrilled with his edamame and soba noodles while the rest of us longed for croissants and cappuccinos at a Parisian Brasserie...(just kidding Joel). But really...

Our train left at 4 pm so we had to say farewell to Joel's family! It was a short, but wonderful trip to one of my favorite cities in the world. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

School in Maastricht and USA v. Netherlands Soccer

You may be forgetting a very important factor. I am also in SCHOOL! I feel like this semester is going by so fast because we spend so much time planning travel, but when we get back we dive into studying and preparing for tests. Here is our Dutch Art History class. The next picture is the outside of our school building.

One of my favorite things so far has been going to Amsterdam for the USA vs. Netherlands soccer game. This is soccer on a mass-audience scale! Something we do not get in the US. Our group of Baylor students dressed in red, white, and blue was a small majority in the stadium of bright orange, the color of the Netherlands soccer team. The US team played pitifully until the last 10 minutes. It was 2-0 (the Dutch team winning) and we finally scored a goal. THEN, we almost scored again, but the time ran out. At least we scored once. It was so much fun. Cold, but fun.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Amsterdam and Den Haag

I am a bit behind on blogging. My apologies. Even now as I write, I am excitedly awaiting the arrival of my friend Kelly to Maastricht in 2 hours! But that is another story that will come later! Amsterdam-- clean, friendly, quaint, liberal, orderly. Laid-back. The weather was unfortunately gray and rainy while we were there, but what can you expect these days in the Netherlands?

Let me back up. We headed to Den Haag (or "The Hague" in English) on Thursday night. Friday we had to be at a museum for a mandatory excursion for Dutch Art History.

We saw the famous "Girl with a Pearl Earring" painting by the Dutch painter Vermeer. But we didn't even stop at that painting.

No, our teacher likes to focus on paintings like "The Bull" by Paulus Potter. Which, by the way, is HUGE. Like covers the whole wall, larger than life cow staring at you. So strange.

After the Art Museum, we had a lunch break in one of the little squares in The Hague. We took a cool picture of the city behind us-- the historical architecture behind us, but further back, the modernity of the skyscrapers in the distance. Cute, artsy, neat city. It is actually by the coast, but we never saw the coastline (way too cold and gray to venture out there).

We went from The Hague to Amsterdam. We got there in the afternoon and decided to go to the Van Gogh Museum. It was crazy crowded (afternoon on Saturday is NOT the ideal time to visit a world famous museum). But it was wonderful. Van Gogh is one of, if not my favorite artist. His post-impressionist style is so unique. Nobody else will ever paint the way he did. His paintings are so original and beautiful, yet his life was a struggle-- full of anguish and sadness. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the museum, so I took a picture outside.

On Sunday, we had a really cool experience. We got to go to church for the first time since we have been here. In Amsterdam, there was a church about 3 minutes away from our hotel. And it was in ENGLISH! Very important. The church was built in 1604 by Protestants escaping persecution. It was really cool to experience a church service in a church where Christians sat 400 years ago. Also, it was cool to just sing worship songs with other believers in Amsterdam, a place dominated by secularism.

Amsterdam was very clean, quaint, and laid-back. Wish we would have had better weather, but it was a great stay.