Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ireland and a little bit of Liverpool

Im sorry I´ve failed all of you yet again, but to be fair, I wrote this a while ago by hand because my computer has broken. Good news: it can be fixed! :)

I think I left off last time on my way to Dublin?
Well Dublin was really nice. When I arrived, my friend John picked me up, which was super nice! He is a friend of mine who is also an assistant in Le Hare. He is from Swords, just outside of Dublin. After stopping at his home to see what a real Irish home looks like (just like American homes, except the fridge is tiny and they have a "sitting room") we headed into Dublin.
John showed me around the town, explaining to me some of its difficult history. Of the landmarks, I remember the Spire (a giant silver needle in the middle of the center of town, the joke is that its a giant needle because of the huge heroin problem they have there), a statue of some historic figure on a horse (I remember it because it has bullet holes in it from the civil war=, and a statue of a whore pushing a cart (yes, right on a main road through town).
John and I also went to Trinity College. Trinity is very famous as it is part of a triumverate of elite UK schools: Trinity, Cambridge, and Oxford. It was established as an Anglican school in 1592 (any Catholics found on the property could be shot on sight!).
The campus is quite lovely and open to the public. On the campus (for a hefty fee) you get to go into the old portion of the library, which has become a museum that houses really old manuscripts. About 1,000 years ago, the Irish church was mostly a monastic organization, with monks living in isolation, re-writing the Bible with beautiful designs and colors. The most famous of these books, held at Trinity, is the Book of Kells. The book can be found in a glass case, and apparently they turn the page everyday. I also liked that they had a stone with the ancient Gaelic writing system on it, called Ogham. At the end of the visit, you get to walk along the second floor through the old library, with all the old books in old bookcases. It reminded me of the library in Beauty and the Beast, if that helps you to envision it. You could also see in this section, on the other side of a glass wall, the department where they care for and maintain the old books and manuscripts, which is cool.
I want to take a moment here to talk about Irish Gaelic. Since Ireland's independence, the Irish have taken a keen interest in their culture and history. Thus, in high school, Gaelic is a required subject. There are also elementary schools that are taught in all Gaelic, so that the student are fluent. There are certain towns in Ireland where the lingua franca is Gaelic. And in Ireland you dont have majors in college like we do; you choose 3 subjects to study in first year and then two subjects for 2nd and 3rd year (college is only 3 years in Europe) and typically one of those two subjects is Gaelic. All road signs are also in English and in Gaelic. And just so you know, there is a difference between Irish Gaelic and Scottish Gaelic, though I'm told they are not terribly different.
That evening I met my friend Amy's cousin, who also lives in Dublin. We hung out with him in a pub and he had a friend who was also visiting him who was from the States and studying abroad in Italy. I felt very cool sitting in an Irish pub drinking with Irish people :)
Amy's cousin also invited me to take the bus to Galway with him and his friend and we could crash with his friends who live there. Apparently Galway is the "cultural capital" of Ireland. Unfortunately, I didnt get there until after 11pm and I left in the morning, so I cant say much about it other than that it has a fun nightlife (haha).
The hostel I stayed at, Isaac's Hostel, was not nice- I wouldnt recommend it. It was super noisy as a result of thin wals and wood foors, so that I was up at 8am every day, which is awful because there really isnt much to do there before noon as most things to do in Dublin circle around drinking lol. I was tempted to go to the Jameson distillery and the Guinness brewery, but I felt that it was just too depressing to go to those places by myself... Honestly, I spent most of my time drinking there because theres not much else to do, which is obviously fun, but not really exciting to write about.
They do, however, celebrate Halloween, which is why I went there in the first place. I dressed as a French sailor. On the night before Halloween I went to a Halloween party with John and on Halloween night I went out on a pub crawl with a bunch of different people I met on a walking tour. A few of the girl were even from Rockville Center on LI!
I also got to go to the 21st birthday party of on of John's friends. It was fun- she had it in a pub with her friends and family. There were lots of finger foods, which was nice (they never have those in France!).
Overall, the experience in Dublin was fun, but I hear that I really should have seen the other parts of Ireland which are very beautiful. I was encouraged by one traveler to go back and do the Paddy Wagon tour, which is youthful, cheap, and sees lots of sights around Ireland.
After these epic few days, I took a ferry over to Holyhead in Wales and then a train to Chester and then to Liverpool. The ferry was at 7:30am, so I caught up on sleep on that and didnt really see much, though it was a really nice boat with free (though painfully slow) internet and computers, duty free shops, restaurants, etc. The train from Holyhead to Chester was nice and made Wales look unbelievable open and beautiful. Sadly, I realized on the train ride that in the stress and confusion of finding the right train in Holyhead, I had left a garbage bag of a few things at the train station! (So typical me!) After a mini panic attack, the conductor called Holyhead and got my bag on the next train. Unfortunately, that train was two hours behind me. Fortunately, the conductor was SO helpful and nice and told me to wait for it at Chester and that I could take a free shuttle into town. Turns out Chester is really quaint. There was a lovely little church with a cute courtyard/park that I could sit in while eating a sandwich. There is also a a really nice square with beautiful brick buildings around it. On the neighboring streets were the old style white building with the exposed beams that you see around England. It may sound really silly, but I'm kind of glad I forgot my things and had to spend time there- it was lovely and I wouldn't have seen this little town otherwise.
After nearly 12 hours of traveling, I finally made it to Liverpool. I made this epic journey because the flight from Liverpool was a bit cheaper and I thought it'd be fun to see this other part of England.
Since I arrived to Liverpool on a Tuesday, it was pretty quiet. However, I luckily found a few people in the hostel and rallied them up for going out. It is quite a modern city like Le Havre (except prettier) since it was also bombed in WWII. Near the hostel is this cool church that was bombed so that all that is left is a skeleton of the church: no roof, no windows, just the framework.
Luckily, one of the guys that I rallied to go out the night before had the day free so he showed me around. By the water are really nice ships that you can go on and there is a modern art museum that is a branch of the Tate Museum, though I didnt go in it.
The highlights of the city are its two major churches. There is a massive Anglican church that looks like a medieval cathedral. What is funny is that inside, above the doors, is a neon pink sign giving a quote from the Bible. The church is just as imposing inside as it is outside, and is large enough that it has a cafe in it, which seemed so weird to me.
The other church was a Catholic church that looks like a cross between a teepee and a spaceship. Apparently the crypt is really amazing because they built it really well and really big first, and then realized that if they continued at that rate it would cost too much money...
Oh, and of course the other major sight there is the underground bar where the Beatles made their debut. Unfortunately, when I went in the afternoon it was closed, but at least I got to see the outside!
That evening I flew back to Paris and sprinted from the airport to the train station where I could get a train to Le Havre (my mom can tell you, its quite far- and I made it in an hour!). The next big thing to come up: Ghent and Frankfurt on Nov. 11!