Saturday, January 30, 2010

Almost Home!!!!

When I arrived back in Ireland it was raining...go figure. I walked the bustling streets one last time, ate some Chinese food and struggled to repack my suitcase. It was a little more difficult than I imagined, but I was going to try to take what I had.

The next morning (basically that night for me since it was still dark) I caught the airport shuttle at 5am and proceeded to check-in.

My suitcase was 5 kilos over weight. I bent down and started unpacking my luggage. I was moving things to my carry on, and trying to get it down. I finally got one kilo over and they allowed it to pass. Problem was my carry on, which was already stuffed. Now, it was busting. I put on more layers. I was now inside wearing 3 layers and 3 coats. I have never sweated so much so early in the morning in my life.

The lady working for Delta was very nice. She was trying to follow protocol, but could see I was struggling. She told me that she would clear my carry-on, but that I might still have to make it smaller when I boarded. I thanked her and went on with an over-sized carry-on duffel and bookbag attached to a rolled up duvet I was trying to pass off as a blanket.

I passed a stand with drinks and immediately bought I water. I was dying! It ended up costing me the equivalent of $5, but I had to invest.

After waiting to get into the international area I discovered I was going to have to throw some more stuff out. I had already left an entire bag of knick-knacks from clothes to flashlight and shoes in the hostel. This time I literally chucked my tennis shoes and a few shirts in the nearest trash can to pass security with something that didn't look like a monster of a bag. Not to mention I was sweating like crazy...oh, security - this girl looks suspicious!

I crashed into the nearest seat in my terminal once I passed through customs. Some time had passed while I was trying to cool my body temperature down when I heard my name called over the intercom. I went to the desk and the gate attendant asked me if I was traveling alone. When I responded she asked if I'd like to be moved up to first class. I couldn't believe it!!!!! Of course I said yes and she changed out my ticket. I was thrilled when they called the elite passengers to board first and no questions were ever asked about the amount of carry on I had since there was soooo much space in fist class.


After my time in Italy where I got to see Rebecca, spend some quality time with Maddie and meed all her super nice friends, I caught my plane bound for the outskirts of Frankfurt where I took a late bus to the city an hour away. Thankfully, my hostel was just near the train station where the bus dropped off. Thankful because it was close, but not thankful because "near the train station" means the red light district pretty much. The place was clean and mostly youthful, but the corridor that led to my room looked like the FBI would be busting down a door at any moment to find naked girls separating cocaine.

In the morning I explored some of Frankfurt and their Christmas Market. I was delighted to see that it was not like Dublin at all and much more traditional than Italy's. I checked out of the hostel and caught my three trains to Rothenburg ODT. As I walked from the train station to the little town I kept thinking I was going to see my parents driving by and waving out the window. It wouldn't be unlike my father to circle around the streets till he found me. They were supposed to arrive in the city the same time my train did, but my last train was about 10 min behind schedule.
I found them at the hotel, having just arrived. Had my train been on time they would have passed me walking into the city.

Rothenburg was mesmerizing! The classic Christmas village, and the most famous. It even snowed the second day, and continued to show for the rest of the trip after that. The roads were not in bad condition at all because the temperature was so cold and dry that the snow did not stick. It just floated off like dust. I've never seen anything like it. We joined the English club on Wednesday night at the suggestion of the Rick Steve's book. Herman the German and Wolfgang made fast friends with us and I sat talking about German history, traveling and cultural misnomers with a few other Germans and a Texan who had also joined the party.

Dinkelsbuhl was the next town we visited. It was unusual because it was not in a valley or on top of a hill. It was just there, surrounded by the classic stone wall and barren fields. There were the modern gas stations, grocery stores and shopping facilities around the city, but for the most part its original essence was preserved.
The market here was not so grand and exciting as the rest, but we did find the best kept secret in the little town - L'Osteria, an Italian restaurant with a chicken fig ravioli and a Parmesan soup to die for. Their tiramisu was very tasty too and received a well deserved high rating (

While staying at the little "mom and pop" B&B in Dinkelsbuhl we took a side trip to Ulm. The cathedral there was breathtaking. Architecture these days does not compare to the time consuming and painstaking work of the past. The race to the finish produces amazing works in their own right, but nothing like the detail of the past.

Our next two nights were located in Nurnberg. It boasts a beautiful medieval castle and an excellent market. It was also Hitler's favorite city, so just outside of the old town are the Rally Grounds (Nazi Headquarters) The Germans chose not to maintain the area because they don't want to glorify its past in any way. The area was pretty, but the stone work is quickly turning to rubble.

We took a side trip to Wurzburg. It is the start of the Romantic Road that winds all the way down to the Cinderella castle in Fussen. Wurzburg is also a larger city with an extensive market, but nothing compared to the market, or markets in Munich, the last city of the trip.

There were multiple markets all over the city. The Rathaus, city hall, is extraordinarily ornate. Our hotel was just past the victuals market, which was nice for the soup stand and fish stand and butcher and pastries...well, you get the picture. I only had one night in Munich, but it included a tasty meal at Ludwig's and another amazing tiramisu.

The trip from Munich to Memmingen for the Ryanair plane was long and snow-filled. Mom and Dad stayed to catch a plane home the next day.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can I just say that Europe has thankfully excluded Miley Cyrus from broadcasting her new song! So, I haven't had to hear it! However, I fear I will be home before it fizzles out in America.

I am in Italy now and the food is wonderful! I missed this country a lot, but I still have an urge to be home. There really is no place like home.

Going back to Florence as a place I lived for awhile is pretty cool. I have been able to pick up where I left off. I haven't felt lost and I've remembered most of the place I had been previously - maybe to the annoyance of the people around me.

I did get to go up to Fiesole today - one thing I didn't get to do while I was here previously. Tomorrow I think I am going to try to meet up with Rebecca and go to the Christmas Market out near Santa Croce!

Loving Italy!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Final Post for Ireland

Today has been a busy and sad day all in one. I woke up at 9 amd took a nice hot shower to start the day off. I finished up a few things, went to tell Monica goodbye, had some tea and then left in a caravan consisting of Jordi, Marta, Zach, myself and four pieces of luggage with Roberto running to catch up (he slept in).

Roberto made it to the bus station just before I borded. Many hugs and many goodbyes make for an emotional display.

THe bus ride was long, but I had my ipod. When we arrived in Dublin, I wasn't sure which side of the river we were on. I can never tell. I got off and unloaded my things from underneath. It was quite a load and an Irish guy offered assistance(just like Marta told me to find to help me!) He carried my duffel bag and I wheeled my suitcase and other hand bags. He was very nice. From Galway and in Dublin on business. He carried my things all the way to the USIT office which was thankfully just across the bridge and down a block. I thanked him and then went upstairs to report my arrival and figure out what to do with all this stuff. Most of it will be condensed after I get back. Some of it I am sure I will have to throw out, but I'm waiting till the last minute for that.

The bus did not have a toilet, so while the BUNAC people were sorting out my bags, I ran for relief! I don't understand why some of the buses have toilets and some don't. They go the same route, so you'd think it would just be standard.

I spent some time printing out my tickets for upcoming travel and making sure I had everything arranged as far as the taxes, bus stops, etc.

After I left USIT, I went to check in at my hostel where I have a 3 bed dorm all to myself so far. I picked the bed next to the heater and settled in! I get breakfast, but I have to leave to early for it. BOOOO! I am taking a 5:30 bus to get to the airport for a plane leaving at 7am. Maddie, here I come!

Dublin has all their Christmas lights up and a lot of stands on the streets selling Christmas products. I hope the ones in Germany will be much less commercial.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Last Day in Galway, but a few firsts before I leave

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

I left the apartment only once today with Marta for some eggs. I woke up at noon and spent the day packing everything up and getting all my tickets in order. That was a lengthy nightmare! I discovered that the airport I am flying into – Frankfurt-Hahn- does not have a train station (which I thought was strange that it would have one). My bus connection arrived at the nearest station 30 minutes too late. I decided instead of waiting 4 hours in the middle of the night for the next train, I would stay the night in Frankfurt instead.

Marta had prepared lunch/dinner, which we ate at 4:30 of fried bananas, mushroom rice, fried potatoes and fried egg. It is called arroza la Cubano. I have never eaten fried banana nor a regular egg not scrambled. I hate banana usually, but if Marta cooked it, it’s usually good – same goes for Monica. Evidentially, when you fry a banana it becomes sweeter, which I liked. The egg mixed into the rice was tasty too.

Monica came over after dinner when she got off work. I assumed she’d give me a hand with the chocolate éclairs I was going to attempt, but she decided to watch TV instead. The éclairs didn’t turn out how I expected anyway. I was in a hurry and the dough was a bit odd. Mostly, I think it was because I didn’t have a “baking sac”. I cut the end off a plastic bag instead.

While Marta went to class, Jordi, Monica and I lounged around watching episodes of Father Ted.

Kathleen came over to hang out and say goodbye. Zach was at the pub with the au pairs, so when Marta got home Marta, Kathleen, Monica and I made some visits to say my goodbyes. It appeared to be a couples night so we left to see the ice skating rink. It was closed, but we still got to look in. Cute I guess, but not worth the quid. 15 Euro and the chance of injury definifely not worth it.

After that we went to Monica's house so she could change. We were goin dancin. First dance club I go to in Ireland and it is on my last night. I had borrowed Marta's dress beacuse all my stuff was packed and locked up. It was a beautiful artsy number and I was ready for some good dancin. Much to my dismay, the clubs in Galway are the last thing I would to choose to do again. We had some fun, but having to turn away creeps became annoying. It was 80s night, but I think I even prefer PTs to that - and that's sayin somethin. I did get to do the Macarena and they even played Christmas music in the club, so there was some bustin out of tunes.

We walked home after less than an hour there. Monica decided to go on home fearing that if she sat down in the apartment she wouldn't be able to get up.

Marta and I made hot chocolate and bagels with cream cheese, olive oil, tomatoes and ham. Zach was still up so he joined us. Then it was bed time!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

When I left Monica’s this morning it was freezing! So cold it was hard for me to lock the door. It actually snowed this morning while I was shelving items, but not for long and everything is too wet for it to ever stick.

The rest of the day has been cold drizzle with harsh wind. So inviting!

My apple courgete cake was a hit. Everyone loved it.
I said my goodbyes
Of course in my last 30 minutes of my last day I got the worst kind of paper cut right across the tender spot between the thumb and forefinger. Ouch! I enjoyed taking some time out to doctor it. I have a solution to the predicament. If you get this type of injury use a band-aid immediately. It pulls the skin together and lets the wound heal. If you leave it be then the skin tugs and the cut will not heal instead it burns like fire.

Went back to Monica’s and slept for another 50 minutes. I tried taking a shower, but the water was so cold it was of no use. They combine the worst things in Ireland. Cold shower, frigid air, damp towels (because they never dry out).

I woke up and ate a roll with butter and a tea while watching part of Desperate Housewives that Monica was watching.

I left to meet the Italy woman from work. We took a coffee together in Griffin’s. Yes, I gave up on my grudge. I had a Bailey’s cheesecake, more like mousse and a mini hot chocolate. It was actually quite large and I would have hated to order the big size.

We talked for an hour about how much Ireland is no good for living and neither is Italy evidentially… elaborate on Berlusconi.

I picked up some potatoes and headed home to make tortillas with Marta.

They had not come back from their exam when I returned, so I took a hot scrub bath. While I was drying my hair Marta had come back. Jordi and Roberto had gone for a celebratory drink at a pub.

Before we started the tortillas I suggested to Zach that we go tell Teresa goodbye. I gave her a loaf of bread and we took our picture together. She said she would let us know how Prague is because she gave me her e-mail address.

You can tell a lot about a person by the way they cross the street.

When we got back Zach and I started helping Marta by peeling potatoes. I opted out of slicing them to dice up the garlic instead. I was also unable to cut the onion, but Zach took care of it. The tortilla is not what Americans would call a tortilla. It is more like a cross between an omelet and a quiche with potatoes. We had garlic rice as a side. Marta said that they normally have it with a topping of ketchup mixed with mayo, but all we had was ketchup…thankfully!

I went over to Monica’s in the evening to try some of her curry soup she had made. It tasted very good. She was watching Vampire Diaries on her computer, so I wrapped up in blankets and joined her. When the episode was over she asked me to curl her hair with the new device she’d purchased.

It was a curler, but without a clamp. You just wrap the hair around the tube and it curls. I want one! I curled her hair, and then she did the same to mine. It makes the long wavy curls and not so much the tight ones – which I think look awful on my head.

I had to meet up with the Canadians at 8:50 to go to the storytelling. Due to the severe rains, the normal venue for storytelling is under repair, so it was being housed in the Nun’s Island Theater instead.

When I got to the meeting spot Zach was there too, so we all walked to the performance. It was good, but the other nights were better. I think most people were afraid of getting up to actually perform on a stage instead of the middle of a room. We all left at half time. Zach stopped to say hello to Shin who he saw across the street and I walked on with the girls. We said our goodbyes where it was time to part. I went on back to the apartment and Zach caught up with me to get in the door.

Jordi came to answer the door downstairs, and he seemed unusually giddy. Roberto answered the door to the apartment and started pushing us toward the living room where it was dark. I walked in and the lights were switched on while all our friends jumped out and yelled surprise!! It was my first surprise party!! I felt so loved and included! There was a table full of salty and sweet goodies, so we all stood around talking and taking pictures to preserve the memory. People kept disappearing and reappearing. I tried to go into the bedroom, but I was kept from entry. Something was up!

Eventually, another surprise was revealed and a scavenger hunt was in order! We went from the elevator to the snack machines to the patio to the oven to the hot water heater to the freezer to a map of the world. Finally, Zach and I found a bag in the closet with photo cards for each of us and presents. It was so creative and thoughtful. Everyone had signed the cards in-between and around photographs from our time here.


Monday, November 30, 2009

I woke up for work and was good not to wake anyone else up, except I forgot my watch and scared Jordi when I went back for it. He was getting up to use the toilet and he didn’t know I had already gotten up. When he saw me he said something in Spanish and then looked over at my bed then realized it was me. It was funny, but I felt bad for scaring him!

I took a nap when I got back from work and then Roberto and Marta prepared pork chops for lunch. We eat at typical Spanish eating times. Lunch is usually prepared to be eaten around 2pm. The pork chops were amazing – tomato and pineapple in a tomato sauce. A delicious and simple dish from the south of Spain!

During and after lunch I prepared multiple apple-courget cakes to take to dinner, work and Teresa. They actually didn’t stick to the pan this time, which was a relief because I had a limited number of pans.

Around 6 Monica met Marta, Jordi, Roberto, Zach and me to go take a tiramisu and hot chocolate at the Italian café. It was Roberto’s Christmas present from me. The company was good, but the tiramisu was below par. It was actually very dry with too much cheese. I did snap a picture…for those of you who were wondering!

Monica walked back over to our apartment and I grabbed my things for a sleepover! Since Marta, Jordi and Roberto have their exam tomorrow I wanted to let them rest as much as possible and not accidentally wake them when I went to work. Monica has Tuesday off, so she could just fall back asleep if I woke her.

I unloaded my things at Monica’s place and she showed me a few notes on her guitar before we went over to Michele’s (the Italian) for dinner. We waited around for Andy (the Italian’s Irish housemate) to get home and then started the cooking. He waited so he could show us how he makes authentic Italian Carbonara. His tasted much better than mine. I showed everyone the Italy v Europe video Marta had shown me. Michele said he had already seen it, but still laughed because it was true. He also showed Monica the myspace page for the band he is in. He is the drummer. From what we could hear they weren’t that great - mainly due to the singer, but at least they can read music…that’s more than I can do. I sliced up the loaf I’d made and everyone seemed to enjoy it. It is a good dessert because it is not too sweet and it is filling.

It was about 11:30 when we left. I needed to get in bed for my early morning. Monica and I strolled back to her apartment arm in arm and bellies full after having declined to be walked home. It was a nice gesture, but we’re big girls…after all, I had my alarm with me : )

Monica’s bed is huge and both of seemed to sleep pretty well snuggled up under the duvet.