Tuesday, 27 March 2012

March 28, 2012 – Northern Ireland and Dublin

            On the weekend of March 15-19th I went to Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!  On the Friday we went to Dublin for the day and saw the Trinity College campus, but we didn’t get to see the Book of Kells due to the long line up in the rain and the expensive price.  We then made our way around the city and found a Tim Hortons like in London!  We got excited.  Next we went to the Guinness Brewery and had to wait 45 minutes in line to get in.  The line up was well worth it though and the brewery self guided tour was much larger than I thought it was – we spent the entire afternoon there.  The whole building was about 7 or 8 floors with different exhibits about the making of the beer.  We ended the tour off with a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar overlooking the city of Dublin.  Of course I ended up giving most of my pint to Mike.  It was amazing spending the day before St. Patrick’s Day in the Gravity Bar crowded with people all in green.  Next, we walked over to the Temple Bar area where many celebrations were taking place.  We went in a few touristy shops and walked around the area enjoying the atmosphere.  Eventually, it was time for us to head back to Belfast where we were staying for the weekend.
            On Saturday we got up and walked around the city of Belfast.  We walked along the boardwalk at the waterfront, and went up to the dome at the top of the shopping mall overlooking the city.  After finding Irish souvenirs to wear for St. Patrick’s Day, it was then time to watch the parade.  Shortly after the parade a series of sketchy events happened to us.  We started walking to the area where the Peace Walls are, and quickly realized that it was a Protestant area of town.  Of course we were all still dressed with our Irish flags and scarves, so a man and his kid stopped their car and told us to take them off since the area was Protestant.  We quickly realized what we were doing and stuffed them in Mike’s backpack.  We ended up finding the murals, but also passed by houses that had smashed and boarded up windows.  We wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.  We then made our way back to the city centre to go on yet another sketchy adventure.
            Most of the kids in the city were aged 12-15 and seemed like juvenile delinquents.  They were all VERY drunk.  We decided to walk over to the Titanic museum and to see the port where it was built, and on the way we passed by a group of probably 100 of those young teenagers who were acting very strange.  We then realized that they were all EXTREMELY drunk and acting VERY obnoxious.  We walked past them all very quick.  After an unsuccessful trip to the Titanic sights (museum doesn’t open until the end of March), we passed by where the group of teenagers used to be.  Thankfully some police had shown up and scattered the kids away.  The kids were still all walking in a similar direction as us though, and they were all very drunk still, crying, and limping as if there were a few fights.  We couldn’t believe how they were acting – so embarrassing for the city.  As we nearly passed all of them 8 or 9 police officers showed up to deal with them.  We didn’t stay to watch – just got out of there.
            For our St. Patrick’s Day celebrations we didn’t end up doing anything really exciting.  We talked for a while in the common kitchen area in the hostel as we ate dinner.  We then decided to go out to a pub somewhere to experience an Irish pub on St. Patrick’s Day.  Problem was: they were all full or closed because they were too full.  It was a failure of an adventure.  We then came back to the hostel and just talked for awhile – not very exciting.
            On Sunday we took a tour to the Giant’s Causeway.  We started off the tour seeing Carrickfergus Castle, and then the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, which we crossed!  It was very nerve wracking, but the view afterwards was well worth it.  The water around that area was as blue as the Caribbean – couldn’t believe it!  We took the 3-hour coastal route, which was absolutely beautiful.  The sun was shining, sheep were everywhere, and the water was sparkling under the sun.  We stopped at the Old Bushmills Distillery for lunch, which is the oldest licensed distillery in the world.  Before we reached the Giant’s Causeway, we stopped at Dunluce Castle for pictures – really wish we could have gone in!  Finally we had reached our destination – the Giant’s Causeway!  Seeing the hexagonally shaped rocks was SO cool, and some of them were 12 metres high!  We spent over an hour there and even though we had a sun shower, it didn’t stop us from having a good time.  It was then time to go back to Belfast, but that day was definitely the highlight of the weekend.
            On Monday we walked around the city basically wasting time until we left to catch the bus for the ferry to go home.  There wasn’t anything to do in Belfast except to shop, which we didn’t really feel like doing.  The highlight of that day was the ferry, which had a cinema on it, video games, free ipads with Internet to use, restaurants, shops, casinos, and a spa on it.  It was a lot nicer than I expected!  We then had a two-hour bus ride that took us back to Glasgow when we reached the ferry port, which drove along the coast part of the way.  It was definitely a good weekend, and I’d go back to Dublin and the countryside of Northern Ireland in a heartbeat.  We’ll see if I end up back in Ireland at all in May.

Tomorrow Mike and I are off on our big Eurotrip!  We're starting in Milan and then going to Venice, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam, Bruges, Brussels, Paris, Nice, and Monte Carlo ALL in 3 weeks!  Definitely can't wait!

Monday, 26 March 2012

March 27, 2012 – London and Bristol

            So I know it has been awhile since I’ve done any posts, but that’s because I’ve been so busy travelling and ACTUALLY doing work throughout the weeks to the point that I haven’t had time to write.  Since I’m leaving on Wednesday for my Eurotrip, I decided that I’d better update everyone on what I’ve done these past few weeks, and all the exciting stories that have developed.
            On the weekend of March 9-12th Mike and I went to London and then Bristol on the Monday to visit Chris Spencer who is on exchange there!  After taking an overnight bus and getting 2 hours of sleep at the most, we arrived in London at 6:45am.  We spent the day walking around the city seeing all the sights.  We first saw Buckingham Palace at 7:30am, then walked through Green Park where we saw Canadian Geese and pelicans, saw the Wellington Arch, Piccadilly Circus, and then found the store that sells Tim Hortons hot drinks and donuts which we were VERY happy to see – of course we stopped and got coffee/hot chocolate.  There’s nothing like a bit of home when you’re away from it for so long.  We then went to Trafalgar Square, saw the Admiralty Arch, and then went back to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards.  Next we walked to Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Parliament Buildings and the London Eye.  It was crazy how much walking we did.
            Afterwards, we walked all the way past Buckingham Palace to our hilariously small hotel.  The room was literally a tiny hallway, with a double bed at the end enclosed by walls on all 4 sides except for the where the hallway met it.  The washroom was a tad bigger than an airport washroom, and that is only because there was a tiny shower in it.  We then met up with a friend from Strathclyde at the British Museum (which we walked an hour to) and walked around it for a bit until we were way too tired to walk anymore.  After stopping for some dinner and a chance to rest our tired and sore feet, we then came to the touristy area of Piccadilly Circus again.  The whole area was buzzing with people everywhere and it definitely seemed like the place to be.  We went in a few shops and then found the famous M&M World, which definitely lightened our spirits after an exhausting day!
            On the Saturday we had the London Pass so we had to be as efficient as possible with our sight seeing.  We started the day off with Westminster Abbey, which was one of my favourite parts of London.  It was amazing seeing the inside of it where so many Royalties have been before (and are still there buried!).  It was also amazing seeing the features in real life that I recognized from watching the Royal Wedding on television last year.  We then took the underground to St. Paul’s cathedral where we spent the remainder of our morning.  Once again, we were blown away by the architecture and how beautiful it was inside.  Afterwards, we took the underground to the Tower of London where we walked around and saw the Queen’s Jewels and the White Tower exhibits inside.  We then decided to take a break and get ice cream since it was SUCH a beautifully warm day out.  We ate our ice cream between the Thames River and the Tower of London while seeing the Tower Bridge.  Was definitely a nice break.  Next, we went to the London Bridge Experience, which was definitely a let down.  I don’t recommend it to anyone because there was glass and fencing on each side of it so you couldn’t take any good photos or see very well even.  We then made our way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre to finish the day off with our final tour.  After a very busy day sightseeing we decided to take it easy and splurge by going to a Greek restaurant.  Although it was still very cheap, it was a very nice change from the hectic 2 days we had just experienced.  We then finished the night off by going to the Queen’s Bowl and Skate at London’s ONLY indoor skating rink.  Mike was very excited since he missed skating very much, and I of course enjoyed it even though I only go skating like once a year anyways.  It was a very fun way to end our day, and by the end of it, we were yet again ready to crash as soon as we got back.
            On Sunday we started the day off early and went to King’s Cross’s Platform 9 ¾, Abbey Road, and Soho.  We also went to the Museum of Natural History which I LOVED, and just sat in Hyde Park across from Royal Albert Hall.  We then rented Bixi bikes and rode them for a bit, but then the ride transformed into the Amazing Race.  After 45 minutes we were ready to dock the bikes but the problem was, was that we couldn’t find a docking station for them.  Whenever we DID find a docking station they were all full.  After riding all around the city trying desperately to find a place to dock them we finally did and rewarded ourselves with some pizza.  We then walked back to Big Ben and the Parliament Buildings to take more pictures at night, and then decided to go home.
            We went to bed early since we had to get up at 6am the next day to catch a 7:30am bus to Bristol, but we ended up having to go to bed later.  When we went to bed we heard dripping sounds in the walls but we figured that it was from someone showering.  Then at about 11:15pm Mike woke up to a drip of water landing on his arm.  We turned on the light, looked up, and there was indeed a leak falling right where Mike was sleeping.  Mike went and told the receptionist, who gave us a better and new room.  Problem with this room was that they couldn’t unlock the washroom door.  We then got moved AGAIN to a smaller room like before, which hadn’t been cleaned and didn’t have sheets.  Then all of a sudden they said they got the washroom door open so we ended up staying back in the original new room.  The washroom was not clean though but it was already 12am and we just wanted to get some sleep before waking up early to go to Bristol so we didn't care.  We were not impressed.
            Finally, we went to Bristol on the Monday and met up with Chris!  It was nice catching up with him and sharing our stories that we all had experienced so far on exchange.   He first showed us around the University of Bristol, and to a nearby park with a large tower on it, which we climbed up to see a view of the city.  We then walked around the city until we came to a market and had some lunch.  After having some lunch, we then walked around the city more and went back to his residence to hang out.  We then left and led a blind man with his dog in the right direction, and then decided to go hang out in a pub for an hour before Mike and I had to leave for our plane home.  All in all it was a very fun weekend, but it was definitely jam packed with things to see, to the point that it wore us out.  There are still many sights that I want to see that we didn’t have time to see so I’d definitely go back.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

March 7, 2012 – Rugby Game and St. Andrews

            On Sunday February 26th I went to a 6 Nations Rugby game in Edinburgh with Scotland vs. France.  Of course I was rooting for Scotland, so we hit the touristy shops all morning to try to find the perfect Scotland souvenirs.  We ended up walking the whole way from downtown Edinburgh to the stadium which took 45min to an hour but it didn’t seem that long because there were giant lines of people dressed in France or Scotland gear parading down the sidewalks towards the stadium.  It was a sold out game with 67,000 people in the crowd!  The group we were with included a lot of French students that go to the University of Glasgow with Mike.  The game itself was very exciting and a tad stressful when the scores got close.  I learned the rules as it went on and came to the conclusion that it is more exciting to watch than football since the play doesn’t stop.  France ended up winning but it was still a fun game and a perfect way to spend an afternoon.  In the beginning of May Glasgow is hosting the Glasgow 7’s which is a weekend of rugby and Canada is probably playing so we’re going to go cheer them on!
            This past weekend on Saturday March 3rd we went with the Strathclyde International Society to St. Andrews, which is a small town about 2 hours away where Prince William and Kate met at university.  We started the day off by seeing the St. Andrews Cathedral, which are only ruins now with a cemetery all around it.  We went up a remaining tower, which was definitely an experience.  The door to go into it was about a foot and a half wide, and then right away you had to put your coin in and go through a tiny turn style.  Afterwards, the metal spiral staircase that was about 2 feet wide and very small and steep started which lasted for a while.  Finally we got to a concrete landing, went up more steps and another stone spiral staircase started which seemed like it wouldn’t end.  When we finally got to the top the view was well worth it.  Next we saw the St. Andrews castle.  It was just ruins of a castle but we were able to crawl through the mines underground.  After getting some free time walking around the town we then spent the remainder of the day at the Old Golf Course and beach.  The Old Golf Course is the oldest golf course in the world and is where the British Open is held every year.  We of course took pictures on the famous Swilcan Bridge at the 18th hole where famous golfers have walked across.  We walked along the beach and took many pictures there.  Lucky a rainbow formed since it was sunny and rainy at some points, which was very beautiful.  I felt like a little kid as we climbed all around the rocks beside the shore.  Finally, it was time to go home but it was definitely a great day.  We want to go back at some point if possible!  Now I’m off to London tomorrow (Thursday) night on an overnight bus!