The Land of My Fathers – Ireland by Photo

 

Top o' the Morning to Ya!

St. Patrick's Cathedral Spire

Blarney Castle

Cliffs of Moher

Me at Galway Bay

Galway Bay

County Mayo!!!!

 

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Leeds Castle

I’m so totally spoiled that castles are starting to look the same to me. But I mean come on, get some variety will you? There’s only so many claustrophobic spiral towers and stone fortresses around gorgeous gardens without looking somewhat similar.

Leeds Castle

Actually a little different! It’s built on two islands in Kent among extremely vast lands. Walking through the surrounding land to reach it was a mix of walking through and English forest and tropical area. The gardens were stunning and the castle both imposing and beautiful.

Inside: standard castle. Dark, stone medieval parts, renovated up until about the ’30s. My favorite room: the Library. Complete with thousands of priceless books 🙂

The back gardens had a maze which you can imagine a bunch of college students had a field day with. We found a secret grotto, a stag statue (go stags), a half tower, and a cafe for lunch!

After the castle we went to Canterbury! I found this extremely cool obviously because of the Canterbury Tales and the fact that I live on Canterberry Court (yes, we Americans have changed the spelling, deal with it). It’s a lovely medieval town with the cathedral dominating the center. There is also a Roman museum with remnants from those days and a Paperchase where I was able to purchase the UK journal I was searching for.

All in all a good day.

Sorry for the short posts of late, but I’ve only got two and a half weeks left and I’m trying to cram as much in as I can while keeping up on the posts.

Cheers!

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Warszawa, Polska

AKA Warsaw, Poland. Again, another name the English Language has completely altered. Especially because in Polish the “W” is pronounced like a “V.” So it’s supposed to sound like this. “Var-sava.” But I digress.

Two friends and I rose at 4:30 in the AM (though I was the only one who was smart enough to go to bed at 10:30 the night before, they had boy interests keep them up far too late, but I suppose that’s a good reason then). We flew into Warsaw and struggled with directions, but not as bad as Germany. Out hostel was right off the main road Krakowskie Przedmiescie by a statue of our good friend Copernicus. We were a little sketched out by the looks of it at first, but it turned out to be a very safe and secure hostel. We had our own room and loved it, quite comfortable.

Most of the city of Warsaw was destroyed by the Nazis, but it was expertly rebuilt in the old fashion. The result is that everything is very bright. Thought the buildings are very new, they were built to look old, but the paint is still relatively fresh and vibrant.

Higlights

The Royal Palace – rebuilt after the war

The John Paul II Museum

The Main Square in Old Town – Stare Miasto

The Old Jewish Ghetto

The Warsaw Uprising Monument

Markets

Pizza Hut

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Harry Potter

London is nowhere near as freak about Harry as America is.

I know weird right? The premier was very tiny with less than a thousand people corwding around and less than 100 screaming. Weird. But whatever.

Yes, folks I stood in line outside the Odeon Theatre in Leicester Square and waited for the actors to descend from the podium and into the theatre for the premier. And waited. And waited.

And discovered that I am not a premier person. If you’re going to go, you have to go all out and camp since six in the morning to secure a good spot and be invited into the prime area to secure autographs. You can’t go three hours in advance, get stuck behind a six foot tall person (when you’re 5’4”) who keeps sticking his jacket in the air when it’s raining and people are also using umbrellas to obstruct your view.

Highlights:

Other people yelling and chanting at the umbrella idiots.

Fire shooting in front of the posters.

Seeing the tops of the heads of Ginny Weasly and Belatrix LeStrange (I think).

Seeing my roommate wrap her head in her scarf and get steadily pushed farther and farther away from us in the back of the crowd. Running joke of the night: “Where’s Brittany?!?!?!?!”

Going Tri-State Area on the people in front of us who kept literally leaning on us, stepping on our toes and pushing us to the back. Example:

  • Megan from New Jersey: “I’m gonna kill her. I’m gonna kill her.”
  • Rosemary from New York: “I’m gonna punch her in the face.”
  • Brittany from Connecticut: “I will arrogantly stick my nose up at her.”

All in all, it was fun and something I’m glad I experienced while in London.

Cheers!

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The Underground

Oh how much we love The Underground. The other day I bought a t-shirt with the tube map on it saying “I’M GOING UNDERGROUND” which I wear to bed quite often and love dearly. The tube is definite;y my favorite, best operated, cleanest, easiest subway system to operate of any city I have ever been in so far. It’s just so freakin’ great.

Except on the weekends. On the weekends it’s positively mental because of God only knows what the real reason is for shutting down the Circle, Hammersmith and City, Bakerloo and Jubilee lines. These are all the lines you need as a tourist or as a Londoner in general to get anywhere in London that is anything. Shutting them down on the weekends is crap.

So in relation and light of the tube madness, one of my friends posted this on Facebook recently and I just had to share it here with you because it’s just bloody brilliant and makes us feel better about being stuck in odd places we don’t want to be to get down to Waterloo, King’s Cross and Embankment. These kind of encounters do occur on the tube. For a point of reference, I live on Baker Street.

HEARD ON THE LONDON UNDERGROUND TUBE:A list of actual announcements that London Tube train drivers have made to their passengers…

1) ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I do apologize for the delay to your service. I know you’re all dying to get home, unless, of course, you happen to be married to my ex-wife, in which case you’ll want to cross over to the Westbound and go in the opposite direction.’

2) ‘Your delay this evening is caused by the line controller suffering from E & B syndrome: not knowing his elbow from his backside. I’ll let you know any further information as soon as I’m given any.’

3) ‘Do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there is a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won’t reach our destination.’

4) ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the delay, but there is a security alert at Victoria station and we are therefore stuck here for the foreseeable future, so let’s take our minds off it and pass some time together. All together now…. ‘Ten green bottles, hanging on a wall…..’.’

5) ‘We are now travelling through Baker Street … As you can see, Baker Street is closed. It would have been nice if they had actually told me, so I could tell you earlier, but no, they don’t think about things like that’.

6) ‘Beggars are operating on this train. Please do NOT encourage these professional beggars. If you have any spare change, please give it to a registered charity. Failing that, give it to me.’

7) During an extremely hot rush hour on the Central Line, the driver announced in a West Indian drawl: ‘Step right this way for the sauna, ladies and gentleman… unfortunately, towels are not provided.’

8) ‘Let the passengers off the train FIRST!’ (Pause ) ‘Oh go on then, stuff yourselves in like sardines, see if I care – I’m going home….’

9) ‘Please allow the doors to close. Try not to confuse this with ‘Please hold the doors open.’ The two are distinct and separate instructions.’

10) ‘Please note that the beeping noise coming from the doors means that the doors are about to close. It does not mean throw yourself or your bags into the doors.’

11) ‘We can’t move off because some idiot has their hand stuck in the door.’

12) ‘To the gentleman wearing the long grey coat trying to get on the second carriage — what part of ‘stand clear of the doors’ don’t you understand?’

13) ‘Please move all baggage away from the doors.’ (Pause..) ‘Please move ALL belongings away from the doors.’ (Pause…) ‘This is a personal message to the man in the brown suit wearing glasses at the rear of the train: Put the pie down, Four-eyes, and move your bloody golf clubs away from the door before I come down there and shove them up your arse sideways!’

14) ‘May I remind all passengers that there is strictly no smoking allowed on any part of the Underground. However, if you are smoking a joint, it’s only fair that you pass it round the rest of the carriage.’

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Remember, Remember the Fifth of November

The Gunpowder Conspirators are discovered and ...

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I am aware it is the seventh, or the eighth by the time this posts. But whatever.

This concludes Guy Fawkes weekend, or more Britishly known as Bonfire. It has been likened to the Fourth of July in the sense that they shoot off fireworks and have bonfires and celebrate national identity, but really the two holidays have little in common. Indeed one celebrates British failure while the other celebrates British triumph.

Fawkes was one of the orchestrators of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in which Catholic Englishmen attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament in an attempt to overthrow Protestant England. Clearly, this plan was botched since the Houses of Parliament are still standing quite soundly (though that is actually debatable seeing as when I was there yesterday half of them were under construction and covered with scaffolding). The English still celebrate this day to commemorate the failure of the Gunpowder Plot and their ability to stop such an atrocity and leave the major emblems of their nation standing. Power to them.

On the 5, friends and I climbed to the top of Primrose Hill and watched the fireworks from there. It was a prime location for we could see the entire city of London from there in a 360 degree spectrum. Fireworks were everywhere, coming at us at all angles. It was a very neat angle watch from. We could see the London Eye, the Houses themselves, St. Paul’s, the BBC Tower and basically everything else that is London-esque about London. But it was better because it was at night and surrounded by fireworks.

Now, in America when we have fireworks, well we are loud. If we see it and we like it we go, “Wooooooooooo!!!!!” or “Ooooooh MAN!” or “NICE!” or “YYYYEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!!” or something else to that effect. The British do not do this. Being British they are much more composed. I have never heard a crowd literally “ooh” and “ahh.” But this crowd did. It was excellent.

Highlight of the night though, was definitely the two blokes who brought wands that shot fireworks out of the tips and had a Harry vs. Voldemort wizard lightning battle.

Cheers!

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Guess What Guys? I’m a Witch

That’s right everyone. Want to know why? It’s because I’m redheaded, left-handed, have birthmarks and wear perfume. If I lived in Scotland about 3-500 years ago all that is fair game for me to be thrown in a lake, put in a spiked barrel and rolled down the Royal Mile, burned at the stake and then have my ashes used for mortar in a city wall.

Sweet.

So that’s what went down in my favorite European city, Edinburgh, Scotland. Now, say it with me: Ed – in – bur – uh. They take offense if you mispronounce it. The train from London took about five hours. I don’t even want to talk about it. I hate trains. Every time they pass another one, it legit sounds and feels like they’re punching each other. But whatever. We made it and stayed in a pretty decent hostel called Edinburgh Backpackers right off the Royal Mile which was fine except for the idiots in other rooms and the disgusting bathrooms.

That’s the second time I’ve mentioned the Royal Mile while assuming you know what it is. It is pretty self-explanatory, the Scotts are not known for their creative names. The Royal Mile is the central road running down the hill on which Edinburgh is built stretching between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. How long is it? Take a wild guess. It’s so cute. Still cobblestones, but cars, horses and pedestrians alike utilize it for getting from Point A to Point B. If you want to get your good Scottish tourist crap, that’s the place to be. I bought my brother a kilt, bahaha!

The reason I love Edinburgh so much is because it is the perfect blend of old and new city. The Prince’s Gardens and Prince’s Street, called New Town across the river are a wonderful modern metropolis, but once you cross the bridge in to Old Town, it’s like you’re back a few hundred years. The citizens of Edinburgh used to be so closed off from the rest of the world that their boundaries are still  semi-enforced. You can cross relatively easily but the result of their extended isolation has helped the Old Town remain basically old. All the buildings are old and aside from the odd Pizza Hut, some one from the 1800s wouldn’t have a problem recognizing it.

So the first day was basically spent exploring the Royal Mile, ending with us by Holyrood Palace, which is still in use today and is where the Queen and Co. stay when they are in Edinburgh. Near that is Arthur’s Seat, a hill connected with a bunch of different legends, some connected to King Arthur, some to William Burke and William Hare (check out the new movie, it’s all about them. Head’s up, they were psychos). Roomie, Holly and I hiked it and saw several views like this

Then we saw a double rainbow which was unbelievable. This is us checking out our pictures to make sure we got a good one (we didn’t there was no way a camera could capture that beauty).

and this is us shortly afterward, having not been paying attention and or thinking logically and having therefore not been aware of the fact that where there is a rainbow, there is rain.

drowned rats lolz

That night we took a ghost tour I don’t want to talk about because I seriously thought I was being pulled into a séance and wanted nothing more than to go to church after. Don’t. Ask. We’re fine and it got me to confession after a long time so there’s a reason for everything.

The next morning we took a free walking tour with Troy!!! He was a fantastic tour guide (unfortunately from Australia and not Scotland, but on account of his being so cool and giving an awesome tour, we forgave him). He walked us around the whole city showing us the major landmarks, like the jail, the heart in the street near the debtors’ prison, which you are supposed to spit on for good luck and not walk through. It’s how you can always tell a tourist from a local. So now I know how to look like a local 🙂

But most importantly than that, he took us to the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.

Side note – the bathrooms are covered in Harry Potter things. I wrote “I hate Ginny.” But this was the best:

Troy also took us to the graveyard with several names from Harry Potter. Meaning J. K. Rowling perused the graveyard and stole some names. Like McGonagall. And Moody. And TOM RIDDLE!!!

We had a ball with that one.

One our way to the graveyard though, we had to pass through the walls/gates of it. It was these walls that were built witch mortar. And unbelievably, I was not the only flaming ginger in the group.

I would just like to point out at this point in time, that excepting Ralph’s sister, I have never met a single other person with the exact same shade of red as mine. So the fact that there were two of us was an amazing thing, we had to draw to the entire group’s attention whenever we got the chance.

Here we are, with our witch brethren.

But now, here’s the question: which one is me? Don’t let he coats fool you. They mean nothing.

Teehee. I think we have about thirty pics with us in each other’s coats and on different sides with different hair styles. Loads of fun.

Pub crawl later that night after a non-demonic ghost tour. Summarized by the phrase, “If you gave me a stick, I would invade England TONIGHT!”

I love the Scotts.

Kicked off the next morning after leaving Troy a surprise in the graveyard so he could it on his next tour (and thanks to free BBM, he let us exactly when he did) with a traditional Scottish meal.

That’s damn straight. Haggis.

It's the brown blob between the beans, toast and egg

Ironically, I of all people love it. I think I like it better than those beans.

The last morning was spent in Edinburgh Castle, which is so cool.

It’s a fortress town really. With a bunch of different levels, it’s built on a hill and it’s blatantly obvious which portions are older than others. Some of my favorite bits are the dog cemetery.

The giant cannon that goes off at one to tell the time (because if it goes off at twelve, you have to use twelve shells. Why waste eleven of them?) We also have a picture with our heads in the giant cannon.

The view.

Real Nazi flag and Japanese katana (Dane Cook anyone?) that the Scottish regiment defeated.

Being a tourist.

And how easy it is to be an American. I’m not joking, the Scots LOVE AMERICANS! It’s brilliant!

That is New. York.

King George the Third. That is not the peace sign over here, let's just put it that way.

Leftover things from American prisoners who were imprisoned there during the Revolution.

American flag carved into a door

And this guy.

 

Yes, Dad, he's still there

And of course, the perfect way to end the trip, getting in contact with my witchy self.

Cheers!

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