View of the sunset from Fira

Spring Broken

Spring break is known as a time of relaxation, where things, like stress and work, are put on the back burner. This spring break however, took a turn I was never expecting; and ended up being my biggest learning experience of the semester.

My roommates and I had planned our entire spring break excursion together. We decided to start our break off on the beautiful island of Santorini. For half the week we were going to explore this remarkable, volcanic island. Then, we planned to fly to Barcelona and finish our spring break on the beaches of Spain. We all agreed to the plan, and booked our planes and trains eagerly. After a rigorous week of cramming for finals, we made the trek to Santorini, Greece.

Oia is one of the most famous towns on Santorini.

Oia is one of the most famous towns on Santorini.

After a few days of exploring the marvels of this island, we decided to rent ATVs and do a day trip to the famous Red and Black Beaches. Our first stop was the Red Beach. We followed the coastal trail out and stood in awe at the beauty of this volcanic wasteland. After spending an hour or so at the Red Beach, we decided to hop on our ATVs and cruise over to the Black Beach. This is when our spring break to a turn for the worst.

One of the most famous beaches in Santorini. It gets the red color from volcanic rocks.

One of the most famous beaches in Santorini. It gets the red color from volcanic rocks.

One of our roommates, AnnMarie, lost control of her ATV and drove into a brick wall at 35 miles-per-hour. It took the rest of us about one minute to realize the gravity of the situation. AnnMarie was seriously injured, we were miles away from the only hospital located on Santorini, and we were all phoneless. It was obvious that AnnMarie had broken both her arms and she needed to get to the hospital.

The ATVs we rode across the island to get to the Red and Black Beaches.

The ATVs we rode across the island to get to the Red and Black Beaches.

Luckily a local was driving by right after the crash and was nice enough to help. The man did not know anything about us, and I did not even know his name, but at that moment in time he could see the seriousness of what had happened and was there to help. As a group we decided two of us would go with AnnMarie to the hospital, and the rest would drive the ATVs back to Fira.

I was one of the people who went with AnnMarie to the hospital. Between calming AnnMarie down in the back while trying to communicate with a man who spoke no english, it is safe to say it was a stressful ride back to Fira. I have been lucky enough to never face hospitals in other countries, and I hope I never have to enter one ever again. The biggest problem was communication. I had to explain to the doctors what happened, while they had to communicate back to me what the next steps were going to be. AnnMarie had to get X-rays, and eventually the doctors called me back into the room to deliver the news. She had to fly back to Athens to get surgery.

From there it was a downward spiral of finding surgeons and hospitals in Athens, figuring out healthcare coverage, and contacting home. It was a long day of making decisions, very big decisions. Eventually it came down to AnnMarie flying back to Athens and meeting our other roommates, who luckily were staying there for part of the week.

Now, three weeks later AnnMarie is healthy and well. She is almost fully recovered and gets her casts removed in one week. The casts might be gone, but I know I will never forget my trip to Santorini. Broken bones are a common occurence; I have even broken a few myself. But when you are in a foreign country, where you do not speak the local language, and do not have a way of contacting anyone, the situation changes completely.

I learned a lot about myself over spring break. I learned how to deal with real life, scary situations. I learned how to communicate with people, in a way where we both can understand each other. I also learned how to comfort a friend, in a situation that most will never have to experience. Being abroad I have faced some obstacles that have been very hard to overcome. But that is all part of the learning experience, to overcome the challenges that are thrown your way.

Blank Space/Spring Break Lyrics

Blank Space/Spring Break Lyrics

For an assignment in my Human Development class, we were asked to make a teaching tool using all sorts of techniques we discussed in class. The lesson had to be taught through a vehicle, a way that almost anyone can learn or understand something; and a replicator, something that could be reused and applied to another concept. The tool had to apply to any lesson we wanted to teach Fall 2015 incoming study abroad students to our program. I chose to remaster the well known song Blank Space by Taylor Swift, and change it to Spring Break. My friends helped me very much, and I think did a really great job with this product below. Feel free to play the song or preferably the karaoke version in the background and sing along! Maybe you will even learn a thing or two about packing for spring break!

Blank Space / Spring Break

Taylor Swift / Kerry Woods

 

Nice to meet you

Where you been?

I can show you incredible things

 

Grab a backpack and a friend

We got there and I thought oh my god

Look at that place

This looks like my next escape

Break’s a party, wanna play?

 

No money, need a flight

I can find it on sky scanner

It might seem so cheap to fly

But you didn’t see the hidden fees

So hey, read the fine print

Save your euros till the end

Grab your passport and my hand

Make sure you have enough socks for the weekend

 

You might take some pictures, or sleep on lots of trains

You can tell me when it’s over, if the hostel was worth the shower

Got a long list of check-ins

My friends think I’m insane

But I just love to travel, so it was worth the pain

 

Cause we’re young and we’re reckless

We’ll take this world by storm

The views will leave you breathless and make you sad to part

Got a long list of check-ins,

My friends think I’m insane

But I’ve got a passport baby, so stamp your place

 

Sandy beaches, clear blue skies

Oh so many beautiful things

Pretty places, such long lines

Buy your ticket before they sell out

Find out where to walk, take the bus for over three stops

But the worst is yet to come

Oh no!

Walking, blisters, oh my god

I don’t want to pay for a cab

Should have got a metro pass

Then I check the routes like, oh my god

Where am I?

Why didn’t I decide to fly?

But then I would have missed these sights

Cause you wanna buy souvenirs so better pack light

 

You might take some pictures, or sleep on lots of trains

You can tell me when it’s over, if the hostel was worth the shower

Got a long list of check-ins

My friends think I’m insane

But I just love to travel, so it was worth the pain

 

Cause we’re young and we’re reckless

We’ll take this world by storm

The views will leave you breathless and make you sad to part

Got a long list of check-ins,

My friends think I’m insane

But I’ve got a passport baby, so stamp your place

 

Tourists only want selfies if it’s torture,

Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you

Tourists only want selfies if it’s torture,

Don’t say I didn’t, say I didn’t warn you

 

You might take some pictures, or sleep on lots of trains

You can tell me when it’s over, if the hostel was worth the shower

Got a long list of check-ins

My friends think I’m insane

But I just love to travel, so it was worth the pain

 

Cause we’re young and we’re reckless

We’ll take this world by storm

The views will leave you breathless and make you sad to part

Got a long list of check-ins,

My friends think I’m insane

But I’ve got a passport baby, so stamp your place


Location: Perugia, Italy

G’wan Donegal!

To preface this post, I’d like to first explain the title of my post.  In Ireland, especially at sporting matches, it is common to hear the crowds yell “G’wan!” (AKA, “Go on!”) followed by the team or county they’re supporting.  I heard a lot of this when my friend Mary and I went to a Connacht Rugby match on March 1st – we joined in the crowds yelling “G’wan Connacht!” as if we’d lived in Galway all our lives.  Even after the match, the phrase stuck with us, so if we were happy about something, we’d yell “G’wan Connacht!”  Alternatively, we started using the phrase as an affirmative or an expression of praise, as well.  For instance, one of our conversations might ensue as follows:

Mary: Do I get a medium order of fish and chips or a large order?

Maddison: Go with a large.  You’re in Ireland, so why not?

Mary: You’re right, I’ll order a large.

Maddison: G’wan Connacht!

(I’m fairly certain this exact conversation has taken place between us multiple times.)

Me and my friends at a rugby match

G’wan Connacht!

So, to continue with my post… as you can tell from the title, we have changed our “G’wan Connacht!” phrase (which we still use sometimes) to “G’wan Donegal!”  Why?  Well, this may be a bit of a long story, so prepare yourselves.

There are several different accents within Ireland, as many of us study abroad students have realized.  The subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences appear as you meet new people from all over the country.  Many people we’ve met at school and in town hail from County Donegal, on the north west border of Ireland.  Donegal borders Northern Ireland but is still part of the Republic of Ireland, making it a unique county.  It is the second largest county within the Republic and also boasts one of the most interesting accents.  It wasn’t difficult for any of us to fall in love with the unique sound of the accent – speaking with an individual from Donegal could turn the most loquacious conversationalist into the best listener.

Because of our interactions with individuals from Donegal, my friends and I had a little running joke about Donegal because we liked the accent so much.  When I visited a sporting goods store to buy a Galway GAA jersey, I had to try on the Donegal one just for fun!

Me wearing a Donegal GAA jersey

It suits me better than it should, right?

Well, all of this fascination boils down to one obvious conclusion: we needed to go to Donegal.  My friends Mary, Nicky, Amara, and I took an early morning bus from Galway to Sligo, and then spent a bit of time exploring Sligo before we caught the bus from Sligo up to Donegal.  The views on the trip were incredible – the mountains in Sligo are unlike any I’ve ever seen before.

A mountain in Co. Sligo

Gorgeous, huh?

Once we arrived in Donegal Town, I fell completely in love with the place.  The quaint town centre, called “The Diamond” is filled with shops, tea houses, pubs, restaurants, and chippers.  As soon as we got off the bus and oriented ourselves, we decided to stop in a tea house, called Blueberry Tea Room.  We filled our stomachs with the most amazing lunch dishes and plenty of tea before heading out into town to do some exploring.

Within the town centre itself, we visited Donegal Castle, which was an amazing experience due to our ability to explore, learn, and interact with the castle and grounds.

Donegal Castle

Donegal Castle!

The beauty of the exterior was only heightened when, at night, the Castle was lit up by a green spotlight against the darkening sky.  But some of my favorite parts of the castle were inside – the intricate fireplaces, the gorgeous wooden dining tables, and the stone stairs, rooms, and passageways were mysterious and fascinating.  The O’Donnell’s, who owned Donegal Castle, sure were lucky to be surrounded by such beauty!  I had a lot of fun exploring – there seemed to be surprises everywhere we turned!

Me with deer antlers just behind my head

Oh deer!

We also stopped in Saint Patrick’s Church, where we all admired the beauty of the building and said a prayer.  After that, we stopped in a small sweater shop, where we befriended the elderly man who owned it.  Mary bought a beautiful light blue sweater, Amara bought a gorgeous teal sweater, and Nicky bought a lovely green infinity scarf.  Since I already bought a sweater at the Blarney Woolen Mills, I didn’t allow myself to splurge, but I’m glad my friends all found things they liked!  Little did we know that their decision to buy warm clothing would definitely pay off the next day.

Saint Patrick's Church

Saint Patrick’s Church

We partook in the pubs, the chippers, and even did a bit of shopping in the town before heading back to our lovely B&B, called Ardlenagh View, which was only a five minute drive from town.  Our hosts, the Mulherns, were so welcoming and kind – traits we noticed in many people we met in Donegal.  Their B&B was absolutely stunning, as it was surrounded by beautiful mountains, valleys, and the breathtaking Donegal shoreline.

After a good night’s rest, the four of us awoke to a scrumptious Irish breakfast with plenty of tea to keep us awake for the day.  As we packed up our things and got ready to check out, we noticed the sheep that filled the field just beyond the balcony of the B&B.  I jumped at my chance to ask if we could go see the sheep – a prospect which our hosts, Tony and Eileen, found immensely entertaining.  They gladly granted us permission to see them, and soon enough, both Eileen and Tony were watching us out the window, happy to see how much fun we were having.  I even got the chance to make one of my dreams come true, as I called some sheep.  If anyone is in need of a shepherd, you know where to find me.

After we said goodbye to our sheep friends and our wonderful hosts, we headed back into town on a pleasant Mother’s Day.  In America, Mother’s Day falls in May, but in Ireland, it is celebrated in March.  Luckily for us, the Donegal Bay Waterbus was sailing on Mother’s Day, and we were just in time for the 11:00 AM sailing.  Because it was a chilly day, the four of us were the only ones on the top deck of the boat in the open air – everyone else opted to stay warm in the inside of the boat.  Needless to say, as soon as we established ourselves at the top of the boat, we threw extra layers on and bundled for the remainder of our sail.  Nicky and I even indulged in a pint of Guinness to warm up a bit while we all took pictures of the ridiculously incredible views.  Donegal is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in all my life – the beaches, the mountains, the water, the ruins and castles, the people, the culture – it all paints a picture of what life should be like and how it should be lived.

My friends and me on a boat!

Sail away, sail away, sail away…

As we were sailing, I noticed shapes bobbing up and down in the water – upon closer look, I realized some seals had come to say hello!  I yelled to the other girls to look at the seals, and to my surprise, Mary wowed us all with her seal call.  The rest of us just stuck to waving to our new friends!  We saw more seals on the beaches we passed – they seemed curious, so we waved to them as well!

Seals on the beach

Our seal friends!

We enjoyed sailing and singing some Irish songs that were played through speakers to the four of us chilly passengers up top!  We even did some dancing on the boat, which I’m sure the captain found amusing.  It was a great boat ride and we all really enjoyed ourselves!

Me standing next to the boat

Dun na nGall! (AKA, Donegal)

Afterwards, we visited the ruins of the Donegal Friary, where we admired the old architecture and walked around the cemetery.  To my surprise, I found headstones marked with the surnames Martin and Gallagher, which are two of my family surnames!  I was overwhelmed with excitement – I knew from what my great aunt told me that the Martins and Gallaghers from our family were from Donegal, and it looks like she was right!  I couldn’t wait to email Aunt Esther to let her know about my discovery.  Up until that moment, I had felt a particular draw to Donegal, but seeing the prevalence of my family surnames in the cemetery there made me feel an even deeper connection.

Me sitting in the ruins of the friary

Sitting among the beautiful ruins.

After our visit to the friary, we were ready to refresh with some lunch and tea.  We stopped in a quaint cafe, chatted with some locals, and then took a taxi to the nearest beach, called Murvagh Beach.  It was a cold day, but the sights were still incredible.  Walking along the shore brought me such peace.  Hearing the seashells crash against each other as the waves carried them in and out was captivating.  I couldn’t have been happier with our decision to explore such a pretty place.

Spots of sunlight shining on the beach.

The heavens opened up and shone down on Donegal.

As we all walked along at our own pace, we lost track of time – it wasn’t too long before we were all separated and enjoying our solitude.  Breaking away from the business of daily life to experience natural beauty is one of the most therapeutic experiences… which isn’t a difficult thing to do in Ireland.  I walked along the shore and collected interesting seashells, but eventually I met up with Mary and Nicky who had climbed to the top of a cliff which marked the end of the sandy beach and the beginning of the rolling hills just beyond it.  Needless to say, I climbed right up there to meet them!

The beach from the top of the cliff

The view from the top!

Nicky went to find Amara, so Mary and I sat on the cliff and had some deep life discussions.  It felt as if we were on top of the world – in every direction, we saw beauty, and we did our best not to take a second of it for granted.  Naturally, we took pictures of us sitting on the edge of the cliff with beautiful Donegal in the background.

Me sitting on the cliff edge with the beach in the background

Taking it all in.

We didn’t want to leave Murvagh Beach by any means, but we knew we had to get back into town and eat dinner before catching our bus back to Galway.  Before we left the beach, however, all four of us stood on the cliff and took a few group photos to remember our amazing trip to one of our favorite Irish counties!

Me and my friends posing with Donegal in the background

Never forget Donegal!

G’WAN DONEGAL!


Location: Donegal Town, County Donegal, Ireland

The Cliffs of Moher

One of the most famous landmarks in Ireland, as many will know, would be The Cliffs of Moher located in Counties Clare and Galway.  I was fortunate enough to be able to visit them with my friend Mary when two of her friends from home, Claire and Erin, came to visit over their spring break.

The four girls standing with the cliffs in the background.

Mary, Claire, Erin, and me at the Cliffs of Moher!

Our tour started off with several stops as we made our way through Galway  down into Clare.  We visited Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara, The Burren, Corcomroe Abbey, Ballyalban Ring Fort, and Poulnabrone.  Each one is pictured below!

Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara

Dunguaire Castle in Kinvara

Corcomroe Abbey

Corcomroe Abbey

Ballyalban Ring Fort

Ballyalban Ring Fort

Poulnabrone Burial Tomb

Poulnabrone Burial Tomb

We stopped for lunch in Doolin, County Clare, and then continued on towards the cliffs.  It was a chilly day, and when we arrived, a wind and rain storm overtook the entire area.  We all piled from the bus into the tourism center, taking time to learn about the cliffs while the storm passed.  Within about fifteen minutes the storm had passed and the sun came out – in Ireland, weather patterns hit and subside frequently… we could have rain, sun, snow, hail, wind, etc. within the span of an hour.  Mary, Erin, Claire, and I all bravely ventured out of the tourist center and were greeted by some incredible views.

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After visiting the Cliffs of Moher, we stopped at the “Mini Cliffs” which were also incredibly beautiful.  We had fun jumping from rock to rock to get nearer to the water.

Mary trying not to get blown away by the wind at the Mini Cliffs!

Mary trying not to get blown away by the wind at the Mini Cliffs!

On the way home, our bus driver, Gary, made some of the passengers sing to us.  Why?  Well, Gary instituted a rule at the beginning of our trip: if you were late back to the bus at any point during the journey, you’d have to sing and/or dance on the bus back home to Galway.  Mary and I were going to ask if he’d take volunteers, but we thought better of it!  (And no, we were never late back to the bus, if you were wondering!)

By the time we were back in Galway, Gary told us that he would show us how he could make a dog dance.  I was fortunate enough to capture it on video – every time I re-watch it, I laugh hysterically.  See if you can keep a straight face!

I hope you enjoyed it!  As you can hear from my laughter in the video, I certainly did!

Until my next post,

Maddison


Location: Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

What are men compared to rocks and mountains?

View of Mendoza from Terrraza Jardín del Mirador

View of Mendoza from Terraza Jardín del Mirador

 

There were holidays this week, so we had a four day weekend to have an awesome trip in Argentina.  So, my friends and I took a bus to Mendoza for the long weekend. Mendoza is about 15 hours west of Buenos Aires along the Chilean border- I know 15 hours by bus sounds horrible. I bought my bus ticket expecting I would never buy one again after 30 hours of busing. But the buses in Argentina are not like Greyhounds in the US.

I have taken Greyhound home to Philadelphia from State College. We had to stop in Harrisburg and the trip ended up being about six hours in a gross Greyhound bus. But here for long trips, you can purchase a “cama” seat on a bus, which is basically a really wide seat that reclines and has a foot rest to elevate your feet. They give you champagne, a not so great dinner, and a decent breakfast, so what’s there to complain about? An overnight bus trip to the opposite end of Argentina is actually a pretty comfortable trip.

The only tricky part about buses here is that they don’t post the platform from where the bus will depart until about ten minutes before departure or not at all. So I was a little worried when I arrived at the Retiro bus station and didn’t know where my bus would be. But as I have mentioned in my last blog, patience is always required with transportation in Argentina or anywhere in the world.

Once we arrived, we explored the city. It is more of a small town compared to Buenos Aires, and we appreciated the quiet streets and clean, fresh air. The accent in Mendoza is also more familiar than in Buenos Aires. The “sh” sound of the “ll” and “y” of Buenos Aires was not as common and closer to the castellano that I have learned in school. My friends and I rented the second floor of a house from a family in Mendoza. The family was very nice and accommodating and we loved the cozy atmosphere within the house.

One of the coolest things about Mendoza is that it actually has a semi-arid climate, practically desert. Yet Mendoza is famous for its wine production, and the province is lush with verdure. All throughout the city, there are irrigation ducts and rivers of water flowing from the mountains to provide water for the province. So not only do these mountains dominate the landscape, but they provide the sustenance for Mendoza’s people and its economy.

After exploring the streets and plazas for a while, we went to a museum exhibiting regional art that was awesome. It was amazing to see artistic depictions of landscapes that were clearly from the Mendoza province. So many paintings included the Andes looming over the landscapes of vineyards and gardens.

On Sunday, I went horseback riding outside of Mendoza, close to Luján. I have never ridden a horse before, so I was a little frightened by the experience. I was especially scared when I found out we would be scaling a few smaller mountains on horseback to get a better view of the Andes. But I trusted my horse and had a spectacular view of the landscapes in Mendoza.

View of the Andes on horseback

My final excursion in Mendoza was a bike tour through wine country in the province. We rented bikes from a family owned business, Mr. Hugo’s, and got a map of the different wineries around Maipú. Sounds like a bad idea to have wine tastings and then bike to the next winery, but it was great! We also stopped at an olive farm, where we tried artisan olive oils, tapenade, jams, chocolates, and liquors. Through the entire bike tour, the street was lined with shady trees and surrounded by acres and acres of grape fields. In Mendoza, they grow Malbec grapes to make Malbec wine, which I tried on the wine tastings. The day was fantastic, and we rushed back to the bus station to catch our bus back home to BA.

Ready for the wine tour? 

Today, we arrived after our long journey, and I never thought I’d be so happy to see Retiro Bus Station. I came home to my home stay, and my host dad was excited to hear about all of our adventures in Mendoza, where he used to live. Mendoza was such a beautiful place and I had an awesome weekend there beneath the Andean mountains. Like Jane Austen wrote, “what are men compared to rocks and mountains?” After my trip to Mendoza, I wonder what are men compared to rocks and mountains AND wine?

 


Location: Mendoza, Argentina

Carnaval

In this post I will write about a Dominican tradition that actually spans many more countries, including the US. It is carnaval!

You may have heard of Mardi Gras in the US, but here in the DR we call it carnaval. Carnaval is a festival that takes place every Sunday during the entire month of February in the Dominican Republic. Every Sunday in a number of different cities across the country, people dress up in costumes that resemble the devil, and dance in the streets. It seems odd that such a catholic country would celebrate the devil, but they are actually doing the exact opposite. This whole festival is dedicated to making fun of the devil. It is for this reason that the costumes and decorations are way over the top, and people can be very “sinful” without fear of consequences. The DR tends to be very conservative, so carnaval is a way for people to let loose from social norms and either show who they really are or just go wild without judgement. There were people that simply dyed their hair crazy colors, all the way to cross dressers that were a bit more convincing than I would like to admit. I was able to experience carnaval in two different cities. First in La Vega, and then in Santiago, where I am currently living and studying. Each region of the country has their own characters and versions of the devil, but for this post I’ll just focus on the two that I witnessed.

La Vega

In La Vega, the masks that dancers wore were very scary looking. They had multiple horns sticking out of their faces and also had very sharp teeth. To get a better understanding of this, I have a picture below.

Carnaval La Vega

Here I am pictured with a street dancer as well as fellow Big 10 student Emily King (IU). As you can see in the background, there are people hanging out on the roofs of houses nearby, and many more in the street behind us. There are so many people in fact, that sidewalk space is limited. Dancers carry vejigas, or inflated cow bladders. They hit people on the behind who are not paying attention as well as those standing in the streets. Some of the vejiga hits we received were not too bad, but some hits actually hurt a bit so it’s best to avoid them all together if you can. The stores and businesses along the loop where carnaval takes place were all open and bustling. As many things as possible were themed along with the devil theme of carnaval. I even found a local store where a man was selling drinks called the “Red Devil”. I’m not sure exactly what was in it, but I ended up going back for another because it was so good. I’ve heard that La Vega has one of the most boisterous carnaval celebrations in the entire country, so I’m glad that I was able to experience it.

Santiago

The other city where I experienced carnaval in was where I am currently living, in Santiago. The costumes here have a more elongated nose as well as longer horns. The overall design of the mask is simpler, but their clothes are just as elaborate. My neighbor from across the street was a dancer in this year’s carnaval, so I was able to get a good shot of him putting on his mask.

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As you can see he is holding a whip in his left hand. The dancers in Santiago’s carnaval are famous for their whips. As they dance down the street, they crack their whips all while dancing and not knocking their masks over. It’s quite an impressing sight to witness. My neighbor was practicing with his whip before heading down to the center of the city, so I was lucky enough to get a video of him practicing. Here it is below.

Lechone Whip Practice

Carnaval is one of the craziest and most famous street festivals in the world, and I’m glad I got to experience it twice.

Photo of the Week

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Here is one of the many examples of the awesome nature of the Dominican Republic. Last weekend, we went to the peninsula of Samaná. On the way there, we stopped at a roadside cave. The cool thing about this cave is that it was not known about until the highway was constructed. Later in the weekend, we visited other caves further down the peninsula. That’s it for now, see you soon!

 


Location: La Vega, Dominican Republic

Down the Salthill Prom with a Galway Girl

A few weeks ago, I visited an iconic Galway spot, called the Salthill Prom, with my friends Mary and Nicky.  We were very lucky to have a crisp, clear day to walk through town.  We stopped for milkshakes at Rockin’ Joe’s (or, as Mary calls it, Eddie Rocket’s) before heading down to the water’s edge and following it all the way down to the beautiful prom.

For those of you who don’t know about the Salthill Prom, it’s a long walkway (or promenade) positioned alongside Galway Bay.  It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists; it has even been featured in a popular song about Galway, called “The Galway Girl.”  The song was written by an American, but it is still frequently heard all around Ireland – in pubs, on the streets, on the radio, etc.  For those of you who are familiar with the movie “P.S. I Love You,” Gerry sings “The Galway Girl” to Holly when they meet in the pub.  Below is a recording of the song performed by Celtic Thunder – have a listen and see if you can find the spot where they mention the Salthill Prom!

I was completely and utterly taken by the beauty of the prom when we arrived.  We headed down to the beach areas – which are both sandy and rocky – and collected interesting shells and stones.  Mary brought along her selfie stick (a tool used to take photos of yourself so you don’t have to bother a stranger to take them for you) which I was admittedly a bit humiliated to use.  In the end, though, it was worth using because we got some really cool photos!

Mary, Nicky, and I trying out the selfie stick at the Salthill Prom!

Mary, Nicky, and I trying out the selfie stick at the Salthill Prom!

The views were incredible.  The waves crashed in along the shore and mountains were visible in the distance across the bay.  We had a beautiful blue sky full of clouds, and though it was a chilly day, we enjoyed every second of our adventure.

The blue waters of Galway Bay

The beautiful blue bay!

As we meandered along, I was excited to finally see the tower at the prom – a big yellow and blue structure that juts out into the sea from the shoreline.  I mentioned in a previous blog post that I saw Hudson Taylor in concert and that they filmed their video for “Chasing Rubies” in Galway – well, the tower features in their video!  I was very glad to stand on the tower myself and take in my surroundings.  It was very windy so I didn’t get many photos when I was on the tower itself, but I managed to get this shot of the tower from a distance away.

A yellow tower jutting out from the coastline.

The tower at the Salthill Prom.

Eventually, I discovered piles of seaweed washed up along the shore, so naturally, Nicky and I decided to have a seaweed fight!  As I inspected the seaweed, I remembered hearing from a tour guide that a lot of Irish farmers use seaweed to fertilize their soil, which adds rich nutrients to it to keep it healthy for growing crops.  The thick, rubbery consistency of the seaweed made me believe him!

Me and Nicky throwing seaweed at one another.

Me and Nicky fighting with seaweed!

All in all, it was a fantastic excursion, and one I hope to make again before I leave.  As the weather gets a bit warmer, I expect the Salthill Prom will be very busy, but I definitely wouldn’t mind a day spent just sitting on the beach and soaking it all in!  There is certainly a reason why this beautiful location is featured in songs and stories, and I think I figured out that reason when I took a stroll down the old long walk!


Location: Salthill Prom, Galway, Ireland

Snowshoes, Cycling, and Spring Break!

Snowshoeing the Black Forest

Finally made it to the Black Forest yesterday! With our weekly weekend trips, I’ve realized how little time we’ve actually spent on the outskirts of Freiburg! Every weekend there’s something to do, some place to go. And after almost 3 months of being in Freiburg, it was TIME to venture to the Black Forest. One of our friends from our German language course invited us to come snowshoeing there. “Bring waterproof shoes” were our instructions but since most of us hadn’t packed hiking shoes to Europe, we made do with what we had. So equipped with a pair of sneakers, 2 extra pairs of socks, and optimistic minds, we strapped into our snowshoes.

snowshoeing in the black forest

Our group chose the longer 10 km (6.2 mile) route and for 4 hours we went hiking. Because of the uphill path and constant movement, we didn’t get very cold at all! Three fourths of way in, we came across a small lodge where we stopped for warm drinks and some food. The last fourth of the path was flat land and quite easy and quick! Our socks were soaked but we were warm and had made it!

We definitely have plans to go back to the Black Forest during the spring and go on one of the many hiking paths.

TIP: Our student public transport passes are valid not only for the trams in Freiburg but also for the regional trains that take us up to an hour outside of Freiburg (into the Black Forest). If you study abroad, get the student discounted transport passes and take the free rides places!

Buying a Bike!!!

my bike!

My bike!

I bought a bike! This is Pegasus and I am so excited to finally have a bike in Europe. Biking is much more common here than in the States so I wanted to take advantage of a prime opportunity to bike away! Since I only need him for a couple of months I bought the cheapest (working) one for 90 euros and have been told I could expect to make most of the money back when I sell the bike. There is someone always looking or selling a bike in Freiburg. Can’t wait to ride him!!

Spring Break 2015?!

Lastly, here comes Spring Break right around the corner!! 3 weeks. 1 backpack. 7 countries. We will be traveling for 3 weeks around Europe and I am completely stoked! The itinerary is

  • Innsbruck
  • Salzberg
  • Vienna
  • Prague
  • Barcelona
  • Rome
  • Florence
  • Cinque Terre
  • Milan

After hours and hours of booking and itinerary planning, I can’t wait for the 3 weeks and to see even more of Europe. I keep realizing how I’m basically living on a cloud. I know how fortunate I am to have the chance to travel and I am taking in every place and sight I see to learn as much as I possibly can. Can’t wait to share some stories once I return!

Since I will be traveling, I may have less computer access but info about the trip will be out within the month – so stay tuned!!!!! Until then, AUF WIEDERSEHEN!


Location: Black Forest, Feldberg

Shibuya Crossing Tokyo

My Japanese Bucket List

Whether you are young or old, everyone has a bucket list! I just turned 21, but studying abroad in Tokyo has been on my list for two years and I am excited to finally cross it off. I leave tomorrow. I want to see everything, do everything, eat everything and experience everything. I only have four months so it’s going to be tight. Here is my list of all the wonderful things I hope to cross of my list.

  • Visit Shibuya Crossing. I want to visit Shibuya Crossing and absorb the energy, the smells and the sounds and, of course, to make sure I remember everything I will take thousands of photographs. I have been to Time Square, so after this I will be able to say I have visited two of the busiest and most iconic travel locations in the world.

Shibuya Crossing Tokyo

  • Climb Mount Fuji. I am not an outdoor girl, but I have climbed Mount Nittany at Penn State because it is tradition. It would seem a shame to travel all the way to Japan and not even attempt to go hiking on Mount Fuji.

Mount Fuji

  • Experience Kabuki theatre. I love Broadway, Off Broadway and live entertainment. In Japan Kabuki is a traditional cultural entertainment experience that I would not dream of missing.

Kabuki Dance featuring Bando Kotji with live music at Japan Society

  • Visit Okinawa. Much like we visit the shore in the summer, Okinawa is the beach destination for the beach-loving Japanese. While I am not a sunbather or surfer, I can still appreciate the beauty and the sounds of the rolling waves.

Okinawa

  • Travel on a bullet train. Surprisingly and disappointingly, there are no bullet trains (called Shinkansen in the Japanese language) in the United States; therefore, I must experience the ultimate speed of a bullet train, which travels up to 320 km/hr!

japanese_bullet_train

  • Go to a sumo wrestling match. Watching a sumo wrestling match while in Japan would show me a piece of their culture as well as one of their most historically beloved sports. It will surely be an amazing experience as it is the only country to practice sumo professionally.

Sumo Wrestling

  • Go to a Japanese baseball game. After a little research about sports and popular events in Japan, I learned that the Japanese also love baseball. I am interested in seeing the similarities and differences of what goes on during a Japanese baseball game!

Tokyo Dome Baseball

  • Visit a temple. I wish I could visit every temple in Japan, but there are simply too many to squeeze into four months! Hopefully, I will be able to visit Sensoji Temple and the Meiji Jingu Shrine in Tokyo as well as Kinkakuji Temple in Kyoto.
  • Go to Tokyo Disneyland. I discovered that Tokyo Disneyland is extremely close to my university and it would be ridiculous not to visit a traditional American destination that binds us together.

Tokyo Disneyland

  • Go to a Starbucks and order in Japanese. I have taken three semesters of Japanese and feel that if I can correctly order a complex coffee at Starbucks then I must know a good amount of Japanese. Also, I am interested in the similarities and differences in the food, drink and atmosphere of a Japanese Starbucks.

sutaba_02

  • Eat as much sushi as possible. In the land that created so many fantastic dishes, I hope I can try as much traditional Japanese food as possible.

I take off on my plane tomorrow (Monday) at 11:25am and arrive at Narita Airport at 2:45pm on Tuesday. I will let you know if I survive the 14-hour flight. Wish me luck!

Munich and snowboarding the Alps

I can officially leave Germany happily – not only have I fulfilled my goal of seeing the peaks of the Alps but I also RODE the peaks. This past weekend my roommate and I were originally looking to ski locally at a small mountain in the Black Forest. Upon texting our German friend, Matthias, he said, “actually I’m going to Munich this weekend and then heading south to Austria to ski the Alps, want to come?” YES!!

Taking the 6 hour car-ride to Munich, we arrived in the heart of Bavaria. Walking through the city, I loved how…GERMAN it was. One of the locals told us, that Bavaria is like the Texas of Germany and that whenever people think of Germany, they think of the Bavarian proud traditions of liederhosen, beer steins, and weisswurst. Sure enough there was tons of that! The locals greeted us with “Gruss Gott”, which I remember learning from my high school German class. It is equivalent to “Guten Tag” and is specific to the Bavarian region.

Where we stayed in Munich

Matthias is part of a German singing fraternity in Freiburg (very different from American fraternities and not affiliated with the Greek system). He has a sister singing fraternity located in Munich and after a quick call, they offered to house us for the weekend! Receiving our own room in the guesthouse of the home, we were so ecstatic for the great free housing. The brothers were extremely nice and cooked us an authentic Bavarian breakfast. Fresh weisswurst and soft pretzels with a delicious sweet mustard on the side – yummm. (Weisswurst literally means white sausage and was a spongier sausage that comes in a casing that you peel off once you cook them in water.) The brothers also showed us around all of Munich – we couldn’t have asked for better hosts.

The Alps

I love mountain range landscapes and I had been looking forward to the Alps for my entire trip. Clearest blue skies, breath-taking views, and peaceful massive mountains. I was in heaven. After waking at 4:30 AM to drive 3 hours to the Alps, I was re-awakened and revived by the crisp air and scenery. Being acclimated to the sub-freezing slopes of the American North-East, I was remarkably happy to find myself snowboarding without a ski mask and with 2 of my layers tied around my waist. I couldn’t help but exclaim “wow” every time I looked up at the mountains as I went down the slopes …hopefully no one heard me over the swooshing of the snow! Words just can’t do the whole experience justice…

Austrian Alps Austrian Alps me standing before the Austrian Alps

After an exhausting and action-packed weekend, this was one of my favorite trips so far. The Alps were peacefully breath taking. Plus, I fell in love with Bavaria – can’t wait to come back to Munich at the beginning of May.


Location: St Anton am Arlberg, Austria