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Cheers Mate!

I LOVE how everyone says cheers mate, it’s kind of my favorite thing ever, especially with an English accent 😉

Huddersfield

Day 11: Came and went in a flash my goodness I was only in the city for about 16 hours. I participated in the Hansen Summer Institute this past July and one of my roommates from Tunisia, Dora, is getting her masters at the local University in Huddersfield. Whenever I would tell a local where I was going they would always give me this “Are you crazy?! Why are you going there?! Look, especially friends, strangers refrained themselves a bit.

As you might have read on Facebook getting to Huddersfield was a bit of a hassle. I ended up missing 3 different trains and getting on 2 wrong ones within the span of 20 minutes. Luckily I didn’t have to buy a new ticket for each mix-up. So due to my missed trains and taking an unnecessary stop to the Manchester airport, I arrived about 1.5 hours late. But there was Dora and some of her new university friends waiting for me! After a quick taxi back to her place we quickly got ready to go out to the end of Fresher’s week party. Freshers week takes place all throughout the UK, it’s basically the week before real lectures starts and they host a bunch of events for the freshmen, it’s basically a welcome week and everyone gets shitfaced. The end concert was more of a carnival/concert. They had performers walking around on stilts and blowing fire, a beer garden (cause the drinking age is 18 so pretty much everyone in University can drink) a twister ride type thing, food, and my favorite an inflatable obstacle type game. Everyone stands in a circle around the middle pole, the middle pole has 2 other poles facing outward at everyone, one is high you have to duck under, the other is low you have to jump over. It was great!! They had a few opening artists but the place didn’t get busy until the last two sets, DJ —-? And Sigma. I’ve never heard of them. But the locals were super excited. If we ever got too cold, because the whole thing was out doors, we’d just go in closer to the stage.

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After the concert getting back to Dora’s apartment complex was a bit difficult, the taxi’s didn’t want to drive all the way out to the concert venue. Eventually we ended up hopping on a bus back to the university in the city center. Had some more difficulties calling a taxi, then finally one agreed to pick us up! Dora was so hospitable and it was great to catch up in person! I was off early the next morning for London.

London

Day 12: I woke up in Huddersfield, Dora made me a delicious breakfast omelette and sent me on my way with snacks 🙂 The day was mostly spent on the bus, sleeping half the time but never getting quite as comfortable as I wanted.

I met Anna through Melissa who was one of my closest friends in GAA last year. Anna came out to visit Melissa in January and we went to Las Vegas with a couple other friends. I managed to arrive to London on time but per usually couldn’t easily find wifi. By the time I did I had given Anna a heart attack thinking she lost me, oops!

That night there was a World Cup Rugby match on, Wales vs England so Anna, her roommate (Ruth), and I met up with 2 friends of hers to watch the game. I had never really watched rugby so it was great to have some guys explain it, but I like it! It’s fast pace and the rules are pretty easy to catch onto. It was a really close match but Wales pulled ahead in the end, which Anna loved since she’s from Wales. After that we went out to a cocktail bar and I got to play the accent of a snooty American during a story one of the guys was telling. Eventually we ended the night at another bar/ club where the bar tenders kept ‘making it rain’ with napkins and ice. Then the bar help had to go around picking up all the napkins haha.

Day 13: We all got a late start to day 2 in London since we were out till 3 ish the night before. After having a bacon bitty (bacon and toast sand which) we headed off to explore the city. I still get the zones wrong but I think we were in Zone 2? Anna, Ruth, and I explored the London eye and walked through all the street performers that hang out in front of it by the river. We walked across the river to see Big Ben and a better view of the eye. Of course I then had to take a stereotypical tourist pic with a phone box and Big Ben in the background.

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We Grabbed sandwiches for lunch and sat in the sun in front of National Gallery watching the kids run around and play on the statue. It really was a gorgeous day in London, then we walked through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace.

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After that we wandered through Piccadilly Circus, a giant shopping center and department store I forget the name of…. Checked out M&M world then found a plaza where they had dozens of Wallace the sheep statues!

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After walking around for almost 5 hours we were all pretty tired, and Anna and Ruth both had work early the next morning so we headed back to their place and ordered take away (they say take away not take out haha).

Day 14: Anna and Ruth both had to go to work all day so I got to explore the city on my own which was quite fun. I started at the Tower of London and walked along the waters edge towards Tower Bridge and passed a group of school children. They were only about 4-5 years old, all holding hands and being all adorable with their accents and everything. I know I was in the tourist zones but besides the school children I rarely heard an English accent. It was a mixture of every language imaginable; at least that’s what it sounded like to me. After Tower Bridge I wandered over to Borough Market where everything smelled delicious, then made my way over to Shakespeare’s globe. I wasn’t interested enough to pay for the tour but had a good time walking around. Anna and Ruth both work pretty late so I grabbed some dinner on my way back and managed to finally publish my first post to my blog post!

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Canterbury

Day 15: I slept in a bit, packed my things up, hopped on a tram to the city center and was off to see Connor! Connor was my 4th GAA meet up. I forgot to tell him I was coming in by coach instead of train. I got in 45 min late and once again I was on that wifi hunt. Once I figured out directions it was a nice walk through Canterbury’s main street. That night one of Connors clubs, the Sci-fi, Fantasy and eXtreme cult (SFX) society, was putting on a free showing of Mad Max, which was actually a pretty decent movie. I tried a sip of their famous college drink a ‘snake bite’, which is half cider, half beer and has some black cherry syrup type of mixture added.

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Day 16: I already lost a sock 😥 I did laundry that morning and after everything had dried and I was matching up my socks I noticed I was missing one. NO clue where it went or where I lost it, I thought I had been really good about folding them up into balls when putting them in my laundry bag! I went to explore the city of Canterbury with Harry while Connor was at class. I also met Harry in San Diego through my student org. We walked up the main strip, over to the cathedral, down a couple side streets and stopped in a cute café, hot chocolate in Europe is amazing. After getting football (soccer) shoes for Harry we stopped on our way back at the grocery store so I could stock up on food for next couple days.

Connor dropped his gf off at the train station who had also been staying with him and then we got ready for the evening. We were going to the mixer for Connor’s male Lacrosse team but I got to tag along anyways. They are so entertaining, it was a great night.

Day 17: Connor and I decided to do a longer tour of the city of Canterbury. Oh and remember the hot chocolate from yesterday? Today’s was SO much better it was like melted chocolate it was so creamy and delicious! After drinking the hot chocolate in another adorable cafe we wandered down the streets, I saw the towns most slanted door and then we checked out the Cathedral. It was interesting because there’s a school on the other side of the Cathedral so there were a bunch of kids in their school uniforms just laying out on the grass. After that we checked out the old and very run down castle and wall that use to surround the city. I had been sleeping on their couch down stairs but one of Connor’s housemates was going home for the weekend so offered me his bed for the next 3 nights, so nice of him!

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Day 18: Connor only had an evening class so we went to Whitstable. A very very tiny coastal town, you can’t really call it a beach town cause there isn’t much of a beach either haha. We walked up the streets looking at the shops, which were mostly directed at people over the age or 60 or under the age of 10. We got some delicious fish and chips for lunch, ate them by the beach, then went to his favorite Ice cream parlor. My ice cream came in a little yellow boat (literally a boat) and the spoon was a tiny little shovel. Small towns tend to have the cutest shops.

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That evening Claire came back because her living situation wasn’t working out for the weekend. Plans for that evening kept changing and we went to a few friends houses but ended the night on the Connors roof curled up in blankets talking to the people walking down the street haha.

Day 19: Found said lost sock from a few days ago! Saturday was a lazy day. It would also be my last day with my own room for a couple weeks so wanted to take advantage of it, it was great! And just what I needed before the main portion of my hostel life started where I’ll constantly be in a room with 3-12 other people. I slept in, caught up with family and friends back home, edited some photos, took a nap, and updated my blog.

London part 2

Day 20: Connor dropped me off at the bus station and I was on my way back to London! I had my second HSI reunion with Aisha, she’s from England/lives there and took the bus into London to hang out with me for the day! We checked out Buckingham Palace again, walked through a couple parks, and went to the National History Museum.

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Aisha had to head back in the evening because she had class in the morning so I ventured off to find a friends older brother I had never met haha. I met Miranda through GAA, and her older brother who was visiting London for 2 weeks so she put us in contact with one another! My favorite thing about meeting other travelers is it doesn’t matter if they’re strangers, Alex and I had never met nor did we really know anything about one another BUT we had a great conversation over dinner about past travels, future travels, and life in general. After dinner he helped me navigate back to my hostel and we parted ways.

I was only in the hostel for 1 night because my coach to Brussels was early the next morning but I only got about 2 hours of sleep >.< It was a 15 person hostel room and I was on the 3rd bunk. Yes there were 5 bunks 3 beds tall and some guy decided to call his girlfriend or someone at 2am from his bed. Put a bit of a damper on my evening but I was off early the next morning for Brussels!

Highland Cows

Glasgow
Day 8: My 8am flight from Belfast to Glasgow was only about 25 minutes, I passed out before we even took off and didn’t wake up until the jolting of the landing. Besides when I checked my bag at the airport no one looked at my passport. Once again transportation from the airport to the city center wasn’t that hard. Figuring out the map, however, was a different story. I ended up wandering around Glasgow’s shopping district/ city center for about an hour until my backpack started to get too uncomfortable. Then I had my fist of many meet ups for my travels! Donald studied abroad at my Uni for the past year and we met through the organization I started the year before that.
My favorite part about traveling is meeting the locals, even if they are a bit wacky. Donald and I went for lunch at this old bank now made into a pub! We chose to eat in an old safety deposit box room. After only about 5 minutes this woman, about 60 with bright blue eye shadow, walks in and asks to join us while she waits for a friend. She was very nice and interested in who we were, how we knew each other, and my travels. She ended up staying pretty much as long as we did and joining in on our conversations but was very polite and kept apologizing for interrupting. I also tried a local favorite brew, St. Mungo beer! There are so many little Harry Potter terms/ facts I’ll learn about in the UK (St. Mungo’s is the hospital in Harry Potter for those who don’t know).
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After lunch Donald had to return to class and I was off to meet up with another old friend from university who I’d be staying with that night, Jack. After finally finding each other (It’s always a game to see where can I find free wifi to communicate with people haha) we went to explore the old Cathedral, St. Mungo’s Cathedral. The top of the graveyard had a pretty decent view of the city. There is also a statue in the middle of the town that the locals keep putting a cone on, police often take it down but the locals always put it back up!
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Jack’s family was extremely welcoming and a joy to spend time with. When I first arrived I just sat in the kitchen talking to his parents about my travels, theirs as well and all drinking wine. His mum made a delicious meal for dinner and we all spent the evening sitting in the living room drinking coffee and biscuits, talking, and watching their two labradoodles play. An Empire Biscuit is SOOO good by the way 🙂
Edinburgh
Day 9: I definitely enjoyed staying with Jack’s family outside of Glasgow but I am so glad I took the time to go visit Edinburgh because it is just something else completely. Majority of the roads are cobble stone, the buildings along the Royal Mile are still from the 1700’s, and there are men walking around in kilts. After catching the train on a very chill morning I met up with my friends from Dublin! Rebecca, who is actually living in Edinburgh on a working visa, and Jake and Natalie who were also just visiting. We started the morning off with another free walking tour and our guide was really from South Africa but he was very knowledgable on the city and could easily answer any questions thrown his way. He filled our morning and early afternoon with folklore tales, Harry Potter facts, and a history of the city.
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After the tour we went on the hunt for some haggis, then we all got in the mood for pies but all the pie shops are SUPER tiny and already had people seated at their tables so eventually we wandered into a pub. After re-fueling we went on the search for a certain park which we were told had some great views of the city/ castle and boy were they right.
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We walked along the Royal mile stopping in a few souvenir shops and exploring cool alleyways. By this time our feet were a little sore after walking around for about seven hours so headed back to Jack and Natalie’s hostel before I had to catch my train.
The only thing I wasn’t able to see and wanted to was to hike up to Aurthurs peak but it’s a good couple hour hike and with only one day I wanted to see the city. I do want to go back (in warmer weather) and explore the high lands so maybe then I’ll stop back in Edinburgh.
Glasgow Part2
Day 10: We woke up to stormy stormy weather, high winds and high rains, but we were determined to go on a hike. Or climb a hill as Jack liked to call it. After picking up one of his friends we made our way to Tinto Hill. Got a little lost along the way and made out way up the hill. I have never hiked in such windy conditions. Wind was probably 20mph most of the way to the top and about 50 at the very top, making it almost impossible to take any photos.
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On the way back into town it started to rain, and not just a little rain but pouring down rain, lucky us missed it on the hill!
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Day 11: I got up after being able to sleep in a little bit, showered, packed up my things and headed to the station to head off to England!
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Highland Cows
You’re probably wondering why I titled this post Highland cows. And no it’s not because they’re the national animal of Scotland, the Unicorn actually is haha. BUT Highland cows are just absolutely adorable and in all the driving and train rides I never actually saw any but feel everyone needs to know about these adorable creatures.
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Ireland: Republic and Northern

Dublin

Did you know Ireland isn’t just Ireland? There’s The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. I found this out a couple years ago but find some people still don’t know this. But Ireland, what a wonderful way to start off my 14 week adventure.

Day 1: My first day consisted of a lot of flying and very little sleep. From Seattle, to Chicago, to Newark where we left about three hours late because our navigation system wasn’t working and had to trade planes  at midnight to finally arrive in Dublin. I left my house at about 7am on Tuesday Sept 14th, I didn’t get into Dublin until 12:30pm on Wednesday.

Day 2: Transportation from Dublin’s airport to my hostel was pretty easy. I got a little confused once off the bus so stopped in a local pub and got a few odd stares from the old men having a beer at 1 in the afternoon but the bar tender pointed me in the right direction and I was set to go! Three people in my room were napping which didn’t help the fact that I wanted to nap as well. I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep on my flight but it was only 2pm and I wanted to re-set my clock after the 8 hour time different the best I could. The first hostel mate I met (in my room of 14) was an Italian named Paolo, who was also backpacking by himself. After relaxing in the hostel for a bit we headed off to walk around the city, checked out a few sites and grabbed dinner in a pub. The next couple days consisted of a lot of pubs haha

Day 3: Paolo and I headed off on the free city tour our hostel offered after a fairly sleepless night. I hadn’t been as tired as I’d hoped after about 20 hours of traveling and 2 hours of sleep. Before the tour started I spotted some other solo travellers, one girl from Wisconsin, Natalie, and another from Australia, Rebecca. Soon we had a small little group going! Paolo’s English was good but it was too hard for him to keep up in a group of fluent English speakers so split off. About half way through the tour we stopped at a pub for some Guinness, because who goes to Dublin and doesn’t have a pint of Guinness?

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Apparently Guinness doesn’t travel very well, something to do with it sitting in the barrels for days/weeks and that’s why it’s not that great of a drink in the states. I’m not a dark beer drinker but I actually liked it! At the pub I heard a Canadian accent and we collected our 4th solo traveller, Justin. The tour spit us out on the far side of Dublin so we took our time exploring on the way back. We spontaneously decided to book a tour to the Cliffs of Moher for the following day that Justin had just booked that morning, and stopped by the Book of Kells. It was really interesting reading about what it took for them to collect the colors way back then, and read about how they created the pages (calve skin) cause they didn’t have paper! They estimated they used an average of 185 calves to create the book :O The short little exhibit then lead us upstairs into the Trinity College Old Library which was absolutely beautiful.

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Back at the hostel before going out to dinner I met a new roommate and solo traveler from Australia, Jake, who I invited out to dinner. We headed out to O’neills, another pub that had been recommended to us for a traditional Irish stew (very delicious by the way). After enjoying some great stew, beer, and conversation we headed back to our hostels where Jake decide (at 10:30pm) he’d join us on our 6:50am bus to the Cliffs of Moher the next morning.

Day 4: The 12 hour tour to the Cliffs of Moher was amazing but my new friends definitely made it 100 times better. We woke up at 6am, packed our bags with snacks and water and headed off. Our tour guide was a hoot! He kept trying to teach us Irish/ Gaelic but it wasn’t really working at 7am. One of the best parts of the tour was on the way across the Island to the West coast where the Cliffs are we took the country roads vs. the main highway. The countryside looks pretty much exactly as you might expect. Green EVERYWHERE with a few trees popping up here and there with stone fences dividing most of the farms. We had an hour and a half to explore the cliffs which we thought was plenty of time but ended up running around anyways. Anyone else a Harry Potter fan? Behind us is where they filmed Harry and Dumbledore entering the caves at the end of the 6th movie!

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After a quick stop in another pub for lunch we stopped at the Burren, which is a national park of basically flat cracked lime stone. Our last stop was at a quaint little Chocolate shop that grew their own coco beans and had some delicious hot chocolate, then we headed back to Dublin. Instead of eating out again we decided to cook dinner at our hostel. Ground turkey, red and yellow bell peppers and pasta topped with parmesan cheese. Only 4 euros each when split between the 4 of us.

Day 5: We got a little of a late start to the day since we all decided to sleep in after waking up so early the previous day and finally left the hostel about 11am. The boys wanted to go on a tour of the Guinness Factory but I hadn’t heard great reviews of it so Natalie and I went exploring and found Phoenix park to hangout in while we waited. Apparently the tour wasn’t even a tour of the factory/ where they brew the actual beer and it was self guided but the view from the top of the factory with a fresh Guinness made the tour worth it for the boys. By the time we met up again it was time for lunch and once again we found another pub to eat lunch at. I was short on time before I needed to head back to the hostel before heading up to Belfast so we grabbed another beer at the pub around the corner from our hostel where I had initially asked directions. Dublin had a perfect ending with a very funny old man with a very thick Irish accent who kept asking us where we were from and trying to teach us Gaelic. My new friends dropped me off at the bus stop and I was off to meet my uncle and aunt for my destination, Northern Ireland.

Belfast

On the drive up from Dublin to Belfast there wasn’t much of an indicator between the two countries besides the road signs turned from blue to green. The speed was still on the same sign but went from km to miles. Since it was already late evening by the time we were approaching Randalstown (small town outside of Belfast where they live) we stopped at a pub in a small town/ village for dinner and drinks. Hostels are great for meeting people but having a nice quiet room and a giant bed is something else, even after only 4 nights without one haha.

Day 6: After sleeping in once again my uncle made a delicious brunch, bacon (more like Canadian bacon than from the states) omelette, and potato bread. After packing up our things we headed off to explore the northern coast. The country side really is beautiful, we had a tour book in which all the photos of attractions/ destinations were sunny. We joked around the company hired a photographer to drive around to all the sites on the same 1 day it happened to be sunny.
After driving through several cute small towns we made out way to the coast. I really should have kept better track of all the names of places we stopped/ drove through but this is what I remember. We mostly did a scenic tour since the weather wasn’t that great, cold, windy, and started to rain half way through. We did stop and get out at the Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge which was pretty cool.

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The rain didn’t let up really after this point so we mostly stayed in the car. At one point we were in a caravan of old and new mini coopers! We think they were on their way to a car show. We ended the day at a distillery, but the last tour had just left so we were unable to see the factory BUT we still got the free sample of whisky 😉

Day 7: I tried to not sleep in but it didn’t work very well ha. I got ready and we went off to explore the city of Belfast. We did a black taxi tour which was a great way to learn more about the history or Northern Ireland and war and why and how it all went down. Belfast is still slightly segregated between Protestants and Catholics and they have a wall and gates that are only open between 7am to 7pm. During the day people can walk/ drive through but when they close people can only cross through the city center. The wall was originally built to protect both parties from those on the other side who didn’t want peace. It was really interesting exploring the wall and reading all the writings, a lot of them are about hope and peace.

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After the Black Taxi Tour, which I highly recommend, I went and visited the Titanic Museum which is actually really cool. It took me about two hours to get through but they talk about the city of Belfast before they started building, the ship yard company responsible for building the ship, what it was like while building and then the crash and the after math. By this time it was already dinner time so we headed back to the house. After dinner we went out to my aunt and uncles favorite local pub. But since it was a Monday the pub was pretty much empty haha. I packed my bags and the next morning we headed off to the airport for my flight to Glasgow.

Random things

  • The lights change Red -> yellow -> green, to give them a warning to start changing gears.
  • Farmers paint a spot on their sheep in different colors to know whose is whose haha.
  • Thick Irish accents are REALLY hard to understand.
  • Gaelic makes absolutely no sense to me.

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