From Ohio to Dublin: a once in a lifetime adventure full of leprechauns, potatoes, guinness and craic!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

It's a lovely day for a Guinness

It's always funny when stereotypes prove true,
but Guinness in Ireland is a different story.
It is literally everywhere:

I've been tempted to buy this shirt of several occasions... and I don't even like Guinness.
Obviously I had to take a trip to the Guinness Factory to see if this was really all it was cracked up to be... and it is.
It's awesome. I've been twice.

There's a whole section devoted to advertisements over the years
(you have to wonder what the stranger was thinking who we asked to take this)
When you get to the top of the storehouse, you enter the "Gravity Bar,"
where you are served up the freshest, most genuine pint of Guinness in the world which you enjoy as you gaze out at the 360 degree view of Dublin... it's best to go at sunset!
(And this is proof that I actually did give it a fair chance... )
After my visit to the land of free flowing darkness,
I decided to write a poem about this magical substance:

If anything on earth resembled the heavenly gates above

Arthur Guinness is responsible for building them with love

With one hundred pounds left by his Godfather’s will

He built large shoes out of barley for his ancestors to fill

A smart business man of immeasurable confidence

Signed a historic lease for extremely little pence

Nine thousand years in Dublin for 45 pounds each

Ireland’s stuck with the legacy like a dog with a leach

If he could see it now he’d raise a glass in his own honor

10 seconds for Art and that black beauty’d be a goner

Well he has been long gone and we’ve just got here

So we climbed atop his castle and raised our dark beer

“Slainte” we said before our foam mustaches arrived

And we felt his presence from the gravity bar revived

Looking over the country that floats on barley and oats

Grass that’s too green and an unusual amount of goats

So glad Arthur used that hundred for such a business

Because every day here is a lovely day for a Guinness.


Monday, March 29, 2010

2 Wheels are Better Than None

During the first few weeks of arriving in Dublin I had slipped and fell twice, ruined my tennis shoes, my boots had begun to tear apart at the soles and my feet were using muscles that I didn't know existed... this concept is called walking. We do it a lot here. A lot a lot. Coming from a small town where we drive everywhere and a school campus where I can walk 10 minutes to class, this was new to me, this walking thing. 30 minutes to the grocery store, 30 minutes to class, 30 minutes to work... everything is 30 minutes away on foot.

It didn't take me long to notice a lot of people riding similar blue bikes and put the pieces of the puzzle together: dublin bikes.

Look...They even come complete with a cute little basket, a headlight and a bell!
Step 1. Active Observation (aka terrified of cycling on the wrong side of the road)
This is what I told my friends when they asked why I hadn't gotten my pass yet... "I'm just observing for a couple weeks so I don't kill myself." I wasn't observing... I was scared of being run over by a double decker city bus.

Step 2. Sealing the Deal.
I finally decided to do what I had been talking about since we arrived. I got on my computer and visited the dublin bikes website to order my membership card online. 10 euro for a year-long pass! That means I can use any of the Dublin bikes for 30 minutes or less without paying extra. Every half hour after that is around 50 cents or something... this is a STEAL.

Step 3. You've Got Mail.
My very first piece of mail to my apartment in Dublin: my Dublin Bikes membership. Pathetic, I know, but I was still so excited (for the record, since then I have received 1 other thing in the mail: a St. Patrick's Day card). So I read up on my road safety and learned a little bit about the bikes system. There are 40 stations around the city and each of them have a computer screen and a set of bikes at separate stations. All you have to do is scan your card and choose an available bike- then you're free to cycle where the wind blows... at least for 30 minutes. with traffic. on the wrong side of the road. next to crazy taxis and large buses. It couldn't be that bad... or could it?

Here's an example of one of the 40 stations situated throughout the city

Step 4. Just Do It.
I carried my membership card around with me for about 2 weeks before I finally tried it. I got off of work late and didn't have the energy to walk home, so I figured it was time. I walked up to the stand awkwardly looking around to watch what other cyclists were doing. I scanned my card, feeling like a VIP member of a club and followed the directions. They couldn't have made it any easier to do this. So I filled my basket, lowered my seat (apparently a giant had taken my bike before me) and took off... in the wrong direction. Long story short, I hadn't noticed until that day just how many 1-way roads there are in the city. Bummer for me... I was literally going in circles. It probably ended up taking me 30 minutes to get home... just the same as if I had walked. But the good news is I finally tried the bike! WAHOO!

I have done it a few times since, but still am uneasy about it. My goal for the next couple weeks is to use it as much as I can! I will report back with any sudden injuries or near-death experiences.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Temple Bar Farmer's Market: A blessing and a curse

On Thursday my roommate, Brianna woke up and said, "is it Saturday??!!" "No, Bri it's Thursday." You could say that we look forward to the farmer's market in Temple Bar on Saturdays a littttle too much sometimes.

The farmer's market is wonderful for many reasons:
1. The healthy, diverse food that they sell (and pretty inexpensive as well)
2. The really friendly people that work there
and 3. It gives us a reason to get out of bed on Saturday and get some fresh air

It is also bad for a few reasons:
1. I am now addicted to hummus, pesto, smoothies and crepes
2. We usually end up buying so much that I drain my pockets... it's easy to get carried away, what can I say...
and 3. I'm afraid that going there every single weekend will put me through devastating withdrawals when I return to the U.S.

Here is a little taste of what the farmer's market has to offer:

(My friend Mackenzie came to visit from Scotland and this was
probably her favorite activity of the weekend)

Sweet potato soup in a bread fave!
(even comes with a compostable spoon)

(the boys enjoy this saturday afternoon outing more than anyone...clearly...
glad I caught this candid shot of pure farmer's market ecstasy)

The oyster bar:
(haven't tried it yet but always packed)

Nutella/banana crepe:
(my weakness... and cause for the most genuine smile I can produce)

Fresh sushi:
(which apparently has the best and hottest wasabi... if you can handle it)

annddd dessert of course!
also: cheese, bread, meat, olives, pesto, hummus, fresh juice and more!

While writing this blog I realized how happy people (me, in this instance) get over good food. We are like kids in a candy store, I swear... walking around in circles checking everything out, then checking our pockets and deciding what we will limit ourselves to that day.

I also realized that I only have 4 more saturdays in Dublin!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Horse Trading is Still in, Who Knew?

Ever since I arrived in Smithfield (our small area of Dublin city), I've heard rumors of a "gypsy horse trade" that occurs every 1st sunday of the month. Now in my 3rd month here, I decided to give it a go... it had been long enough that I was wondering what exactly occurred these Sunday mornings that resulted in a maze of horse poo for me to weave through for days after. Today as I was walking home from work I could still smell the lovely sweet scent of the hundreds of horses that visited the square 3 days ago.

It's funny to think that on any other Sunday I may have slept until noon or one even if I'm that bad... and that I could have easily slept through this wonderfully entertaining and culturally shocking event that occurs only 2 minutes away from our apartments. So I rolled out of bed, brushed my teeth, threw some clothes on and to the "gypsy horse fair" I went without any notion of what I was getting myself into...

On my way to the fair:

Shortly after I arrived, I could not believe the reality of this event.
I felt the need to try to show this madness to anyone and everyone:

The Smithfield Horse Fair has been going on for about 280 years in the exact same place. What I found out later was that it's actually a very controversial event (I'm sure you could've guessed that by now) between the participants (gypsies, travelers, small farmers...) and the government officials of Dublin. There have been recent efforts to build up the Smithfield area with new flats, restaurants and businesses, and apparently these plans of modernization would not ideally include a discount horse market that draws in a "different crowd" (The Independent, "Gentrified Dublin tries to rein in horse fair and 273 years of tradition). There are also animal rights groups that have demonstrated their opinions against this event. Personally, I love that such a random event occurs right down the road from us. How many people can say that they have been to a traditional horse trading fair? It was an experience to say the least... I wanted to ask how much a typical horse was at this fair, but I was scared that if low enough, I may have been tempted to buy one to shorten the 30 min walk to work and class every day. I'm sure the people at our apartment building wouldn't mind if I tied her up in the courtyard and left a couple hay bails out every once in a while... but I never asked... everyone is probably better off. After weaving through this circus of flaunting, trading, selling and buying for about 30 minutes I was horse pooped out and ready to remind myself what fresh air smelled like.

Bob Marley reincarnated:

More information about these mysterious and intriguing gypsies and travelers...

Article on the smithfield horse trade:

"my-big-fat-gypsy-wedding" Channel 4 documentary (good stuff)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Film Lovers in Paradise

Sometimes it's nice to get lost in the city... or to at least walk a different way to class every once in a while. Just walking around town, you'll be surprised at what you see- whether it's a bunch of gypsy's trading horses on a sunday morning (literally...this is not a joke), a group of Irish kids having their first snowball fight or an advertisement for an upcoming event in the city.

This was the case with me while walking past the Irish Film Institute one day in January. The Jameson Dublin International Film Festival has been going on for the past 8 years. The festival lasts eleven days, showing over 120 films in six different theaters in Dublin. This not-for-profit organization is ran by hundreds of volunteers, the few I interacted with being extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

There were sooo many different films showing I couldn't decide which ones to see: French, American, Irish and Korean... comedy, drama and action....religion, sexuality, love and war. And it didn't help that the prices weren't bad either, ranging from 8 to 18 euro. I finally decided on two: Alice in Wonderland 3D and Lourdes.

I wasn't sure what to expect at all with this film festival... Do you dress up? Do you expect to run into someone famous? Do you show up early to get a good seat? Is it still socially acceptable to sneak candy in your purse (not that it ever is)? So a friend and I show up to Screen Cinema about 30 minutes before the film began and ended up waiting in the lobby for that long, shoulder to shoulder with eager and anxious film lovers who were attempting to work their way up to the front of the line like children at Disney world. We BOUGHT movie snacks and made our way in... turned out to be basically a normal movie theatre experience minus the woman to my direct right with the obnoxious laugh and plus the actors speaking French with English subtitles. It's not like it's every day you get the chance to see a French film on the big screen, so it was interesting.

Next a group of 5 of us saw Alice in Wonderland at Savoy on O'Connell Street... this was more like it. Not only did we get to wear really cool glasses for the whole experience, but we were in an 800 seat theatre which was completely sold out, while sitting in big comfy red chairs... So comfy, in fact, that my friend fell asleep in the middle of the film. Oh and not to mention there was a huge red curtain that made the movie a little more epic. It was an amazing movie, followed by two of the actors speaking and answering questions: the handsome and put-together White Rabbit (Michael Sheen) and the humorous and entertaining Bloodhound (Timothy Spall).
Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall
Bri, Me, Alex, Ben and Mackenzie post-Alice (still have my glasses)
Advice for people going next year: 1. Get your tickets in advance because you never know which ones will sell out. 2. See a foreign film (Non-American). At the very least you get the chance to listen to a really cool foreign accent for an hour or two, but you'll probably find something that you like about it. 3. Try to see one in Savoy... the theater is HUGE and so nice. 4. Try out the "surprise film" (which always sells out) or a special event!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Who Am I?

Hi friends!

My name is Katie, and this is my blog! It’s funny, a lot of times people wonder why certain people have blogs or twitters (or update their facebook status every 10 minutes)… People wonder, “Who cares?” Well, I'm certainly not a celebrity and I'm not a writer but I hope to share with you interesting experiences from my study abroad program in Dublin, and at the very least hope you learn a little bit about this diverse city and what it has to offer. I am from a little town in Ohio called Kent, and I go to school at Elon University in North Carolina. This is my first real time in a big city so its been overwhelmingly exciting since I arrived… too much to do in such a small period of time! So enjoy hearing about my time in Dublin… the things I’ve tried, seen, loved, and have failed miserably at.

Slainte, Katie