Journey Around The Emerald Isle

I switched locations for a bit this long weekend and set off to Dublin. My first thought arriving into the country was “Oh my God, everything’s in English!” and my second thought was realizing I had no idea what the Gaelic language looked like prior to being there. I spent time at Trinity College, exploring Dublin, and taking the train up and down the east coast. Shoutout to Adrienne Bilak, the amazing host and sister of my friend Ivanna that’s with me here in Amsterdam. I flew into Ireland alone but met up with Ivanna and Adrienne, then Kaitlyn the next day. The trip was absolutely beautiful, refreshing, and worthwhile. My favorite part was the city itself in the fall, Temple Bar and its music, and of course stopping in the small villages along the water. Can’t forget about the food either! We picked a good weekend for Dublin; it was a bank holiday on Monday, so everyone was out and ready to drink early. Also, Ireland LOVES Halloween, so we saw a lot related to the holiday and the Bram Stoker festival. I think I covered everything and more in this post, but I know my parents will want to read it. At least look at the pictures.

Thursday night after my journey to Trinity (see previous post about travel troubles) we immediately ate at O’Neill’s, a famous and multi-story/room bar and restaurant. They had a counter (cafeteria style I guess), where you were equipped (yes– equipped) with not only the main dish you ordered, but a huge amount of baked or roasted vegetables. Zack told me I couldn’t leave Ireland without getting a stew, so I went with the Irish Beef and Guinness. Sweet baby jesus it was incredible and I couldn’t come close to finishing it. A half pint of Smithwicks and a full stomach later, we explored the rest of the bar and marveled at the traditional wood and coziness of the pub.

Dinner at O'Neills, incredible stew!

Dinner at O’Neill’s, incredible stew!

We also went to a Trinity philosophy society debate on the death penalty (they hold semi-weekly debates open to all students), and yes, Texas was mentioned a ton. I just pretended I was Irish, it was easy to do! Afterwards we explored the Temple Bar area and went to a few pubs (The Oliver St. John Gogarty and The Temple Bar) to hear live Irish music and I had my first Guinness in its hometown. The amount that the Irish 1) drink, and 2) love oldies from America is incredible. We sang to “Country Roads,” “Galway Girl,” and “Take it Easy” at least three times.

First Guinness in Dublin!

First Guinness in Dublin!

The next morning Ivanna, Adrienne, and I went to the National Museum (museums there are free! What’s that?!) and saw a ton of Celtic gold. While looking at the brooches I learned from Adrienne (the Bilak twin that goes to Trinity) that Joffery from Game of Thrones goes there too! I really wish I would have seen him… I bet people really hate him there. Anyway. Irish history was pretty cool. I especially liked the book that was found in a bog, somehow it was preserved. The tweezers that belonged to the royals were cool too. As my family knows. I’m not that into museums, but I figured this one was important and definitely cost-efficient.

National Museum, can you spot Adrienne?

National Museum, can you spot Adrienne?

Once Kaitlyn arrived that afternoon, we saw more of Dublin and went to the Jameson Distillery for a tour (and lots of whiskey of course!) where I was a taste tester at the end. We started the tour with some drinks from the Jameson bar (I had a Jameson Honeycomb, basically warm milk and caramel and whiskey, yum) and ended the tour with a Jameson and ginger, my favorite! Unfortunately I somehow lost my diploma from graduating the Jameson taste test, but it’s the memory that matters. We went to the biggest shopping street in Dublin after, obviously, and then had a quick dinner before resting up for our Friday night out. We explored a few Irish clubs, saw a bunch of really weird but also admirable halloween costumes, and acted like a bunch of college girls.

Christ Church, Dublin

Christ Church, Dublin

Entering the Distillery!

Hm, looks like the bar doesn't have enough Jameson back there...

Hm, looks like the bar doesn’t have enough Jameson back there…

Saturday was rainy, but that was something we grew to respect and ultimately love. The Temple Bar Food Market was being held in town so we went for some breakfast (for the other girls, HUGE scones, for myself, a pork pastry and hot chocolate with Bailey’s cream). Ivanna and I also splurged for some nice olives to snack on later. By this point it was pouring and we decided to head back to Adrienne’s, but then I left to find myself an Irish Aran sweater. SO happy with my purchase (see if you can spot it in my pictures!) Saturday evening we went to the Aussie rules/Gaelic football Internation Rules soccer game at Croke Park, and we had amazing seats. Internation Rules basically means anything goes (or someone can correct me on this, like I know what I’m talking about when it comes to soccer-like things), so people are running around the field, throwing or kicking the ball, and also hitting each other. Something you have to see once I guess. We–wait for it–went to a pub afterwards to meet up with more of Adrienne’s friends. I met a dental student who was missing a tooth himself (from hurling we assume), an Aussie who was upset about their 100-point loss, and a few other Americans studying in Ireland. All in all, good times.

Olives on olives on olives, including Ivanna's olive boy!

Olives on olives on olives at Temple Bar Food Market, including Ivanna’s olive boy!

Amazing baked things at Temple Bar Food Market

Amazing baked things at Temple Bar Food Market

Rainy girls walking through Trinity's campus, stunning even when wet!

Rainy girls walking through Trinity’s campus, stunning even when wet!

International Rules game, violence not visible.

International Rules game, violence not visible.

Great girls, great beer, great Aran sweater.

Great girls, great beer, great Aran sweater.

Our final day was spent being as Irish as possible. We got up for an Irish breakfast at Bewley’s (poached egg, blood pudding, roasted mushroom and tomato, some type of potato thing, sausage, real bacon) and ate it all in literally ten minutes and ran afterwards as we thought we’d miss our bus to Glendalough. Turns out we did! But as I named my last post, everything happens for a reason. We decided to instead take the DART (shares the name with Dallas) to a few towns along the coast, specifically Dun Laoghaire, Dalkey, and Greystones. We were greeted in Dun Laoghaire by the most beautiful rainbow I’d ever seen and walked along the docks, basically almost being blown into the water. We found a market in the little village (after randomly running into an Amsterdam friend’s older sister who the girls had met the weekend before and had NO idea where she worked) that happened to be the same one that was in Temple Bar a day earlier (scones round two). Dalkey was an adorable city with a little castle in it. We walked all around residential areas (on accident) but ended up seeing some amazing sights, like a school that was in an actual old castle. The ride from Dalkey to Greystones was absolutely incredible. We saw the water and the beach and even some seals, and could look back at the route we’d come from at the Irish cliffs and hills. Stunning. Amsterdam still wins, but Ireland is beautiful in its own way. After a scallop and Sunday roast dinner in Greystones we travelled back to Trinity. That night our same Amsterdam friend’s cousin (so therefore also the cousin of the random sister we ran into) was playing with his band in a very hip Irish bar/club called Workmens. This place reminded me a lot of Amsterdam but with a younger crowd. It was a great way to finish off the trip with my girls.

A traditional Irish breakfast, can I get one in America?

A traditional Irish breakfast, can I get one in America?

Is this real life?

Is this real life?

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I’m ready to stay in Amsterdam for a while and am lucky to enjoy the beauty of my city this weekend with Margaret. Despite the intense storms and already feeling a little behind in my classes after missing them from train troubles, I feel so at home and relaxed again. Until next time, when hopefully I’ll have another grand adventure to share!

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Alle waarom heeft zijn daarom. “Everything has an underlying reason.”

So many things happen that I can’t explain while living on your own, living in Amsterdam, travelling Europe, or just trying to work out being a young adult in general. I decided to title this post with that particular Dutch proverb because I feel like no matter what happens over here, it was supposed to. Whether having (initially) just an acquaintance staying at your home or getting thrown off track while travelling, everything really does happen for a reason. Or you can choose to have resilience and accept it, therefore making it seem more natural, whatever works.

Where have I been? That’s something I’ve been asking myself also! My time was spent rotating between the Crea cafe (an adorable cafe attached to the UvA arts department), entertaining a friend from Claremont, and getting prepped for Dublin. I’ve also been spending time thinking about the fact that my friends here only for the first semester will be leaving in about a month and a half (or while I’m back in Dallas).

I loved having my girl Melanie (from Claremont McKenna but studying abroad in Copenhagen) stay with me for a few days. Melanie is an Environmental politics and economy major at CMC and I love that we’re basically in the same boat in terms of education and studying this topic abroad. EA majors in Claremont have mental crises every few weeks when we try figuring out why we put ourselves through such depressing and tough topics, but then we thoroughly enjoyed discussing carbon taxation in our free time, so maybe that’s why. She brought along her friend Danny, and the four of us spent time around Amsterdam and also went to the Amsterdam Music Festival (with Nat), and it was absolutely insane. The biggest Dutch house djs were there including Armin van Buuren, Alesso, and Hardwell. Amsterdam had their huge dance music festival last weekend and I guess over 300 different shows; that’s unheard of! Amsterdam Music Festival.

Luckily the weather was perfect that weekend. I talk about weather so frequently but it really determines what type of day you’re going to have. I met up with Melanie a few more times during the week when I wasn’t too busy studying. We went to the annual fall carnival in Dam Square and rode this giant swing thing that allows you to see Amsterdam from pretty high up. Spending just a few days with someone you only somewhat knew before can spawn such a friendship and I’m thankful Melanie reached out to me for a place to stay. Incredible!

"Around the World," our favorite ride at the carnival

“Around the World,” our favorite ride at the carnival

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After my exam last Wednesday evening I packed and got ready to ship out to Dublin to stay with my friend Ivanna’s twin sister (Ivanna is with me in Amsterdam and her sister studies at Trinity), and I met up with Ivanna and Kaitlyn there. That will be in my next post, but I wanted to cover my travel nightmares in this one (and not put such a damper on a post that should be about a glorious trip in Ireland!). My flight out of Eindhoven (1.5 hours away from Amsterdam) was rerouted to fly out of Maastricht due to too much fog– this entailed everyone on the flight loading onto a bus for an hour trip. Although I was obviously frustrated, I ended up getting to see the Dutch countryside for the first time. I saw the agriculture I study about and even traditional windmills. The country is flat but still beautiful. The leaves are changing but everything is still so fresh and green. I finally got to Dublin later in the afternoon than anticipated, but it ended up being alright. I met a woman on the bus from the airport to Trinity who was actually Dutch and so happy to talk to me about my time in Amsterdam and helped me navigate the city. Freaky coincidences happen every day, what a truly small world.

A Dutch sunrise, behind a dirty Dutch train window.

A Dutch sunrise, behind a dirty Dutch train window.

I’m not sure how much news about the UK hurricane is revolving around the US, but a pretty huge storm hit Europe today (not technically a hurricane but ridiculous winds). Luckily Ivanna and I flew out of Dublin before it occurred, but it became basically impossible to take a train back into Amsterdam from Utrecht because of electrical failures. A few people in Amsterdam even died because of this storm (falling trees), and that’s terrifying. Civilians were warned to stay inside and not to ride their bikes, so I guess you could say the weather was pretty serious. After 6 hours in the train station I finally made it home.  And again, as much as I wanted to complain about being stuck in the Dutch countryside, there was absolutely no reason not to smile when we finally got on a train to Central Station; you could watch sheep for miles out of the windows. The sun was starting to set under the dark storm clouds and everything was so green. Sheep and cows were grazing right beside the train and they were beautiful. No picture from the train could have done them justice.  I loved seeing the sheep while flying into Holland, but now I love seeing them from the train as well. The trees on this route were more bare and it felt more like winter than autumn, but nevertheless it was exactly what you might imagine from western European farmlands. I guess there are some upsides to unexpected changes in your schedule. That’s something I learn from studying abroad over and over again.

Washed Out (literally)

So THIS is what Amsterdam rain is all about! I really thought our apartments were going to blow right into the bay this weekend. Downpours started Friday and haven’t quit. Did I break my umbrella, try to deal with a broken umbrella, and then break it worse? Of course! Did this hinder my weekend plans? Of course not! Except I do need a new umbrella, so that might hinder my weekday plans…

I’ll dork out for a second to talk about my Friday computer practicum for Food Production– we got to use a program to model crop rotations of a certain amount of years, and see how certain crops and fertilizers changed the environment and production of nitrogen in the Netherlands and also in Spain. It was really interesting and a lot of fun. I am also now a member of Students for Sustainability Amsterdam, which is a city-wide environmental group. Although the group is mainly Dutch, the coordinator said they would be happy to have an English speaker to work on the divestment campaign. I did some work for a campaign like this at Pitzer (trying to divest from fossil fuels), so I feel like I somewhat know what I’m talking about. We’ll see how this goes, I’m meeting with them this week.

Incase you were curious, this is what my commute to campus looks like while riding through the more industrial part of Amsterdam: am_commute

Friday night was a relaxing night of drinking with friends and going to a very local bar right in the middle of Westerpark (where the market was last weekend). It’s called Pacific Park, and they play lots of oldies. The atmosphere is amazing and everyone is young and so very Dutch (typical). My partner in crime, Natalie, was off to Ukraine so I enjoyed time with other friends in my building and had a really awesome night. It ended with warm tea in the Cal(l)um apartment which was perfect. The only picture I have is this very eerie picture of the giant table and chairs that are also in the middle of the park. am_table

Saturday was homework, pizza, and rain-filled. So I’ll just leave that there.

Sunday, I ventured into the city center for retail therapy (specifically more sweaters… necessary!) and this is where I saw pure chaos. Broken umbrellas were flooding the streets, and the street cleaners were out just to take care of them. The wind was insane, but tourists were still out and about.  I would see tourists walk out of gift shops with brand new Amsterdam-themed umbrellas (rainbow, marijuana leaves, anything that was left) only for the umbrellas to immediately invert and break. So sad, but also kind of funny? I enjoyed roughing it alone in the rain and getting out of my apartment. Leah was gone for the weekend and I did some deep cleaning and organizing (finally). Although I sense another IKEA shop coming upon me (probably when the rain stops).

Once returning home, I went to my very first Canadian Thanksgiving. I didn’t know this was a thing until my Canadian friend, Devon, planned it. Either way, it was a great excuse to eat yummy mashed potatoes and salad and some steak (no turkey…) with some sweet Canadians. Unfortunately, Taylor (an actual Canadian) and I had to leave dinner early to head to the Washed Out concert at Melkweg. The wind was still insane, the rain hadn’t stopped, and buses were on weird schedules. Callum, Nathan, Taylor and I might have gotten lost in the rain a few times before finally arriving for the show. We caught the end of the opening act, Amateur Best, and then saw Washed Out. He/they were so good, really incredible. Their popular song is “Feel it All Around” which plays at the beginning of Portlandia, you’ll recognize it– song is under the picture.

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Still smooth sailing apart from adjusting to daily hurricanes. After my Dutch exam this Thursday, visitors from Copenhagen and a music festival this weekend, and an exam on Wednesday, I’ll be off to Dublin. Two months until I’ll be back home. I honestly can’t imagine only being here for a semester. Oh the things I would miss. am_stickers

Here’s a bonus picture of my breakfast from today, just for fun. It’s orange, like this country and me. am_breakfast

Tot ziens!

Something about it.

Cycling over the bridges of West Amsterdam after a hard rain. Car lights are on, but it’s not completely dark yet. It’s that time of day I’ve always hated; although everyone is heading home from work or cooking dinner or in the market, everyone is alone. Some leftover rain is hitting my face but I don’t really care. I realize I’ve never experienced the beginning of autumn. And no autumn will ever be like this cleansing, crispy, lonely-in-a-good-way autumn again. Het leven is mooi. That is all.

Silly Little Dutch Things.

I’ve reached that lull in the semester that although I’m still greatly enjoying my time here, I have a schedule down pat and and I am busy with classes and homework. This whole month will be insanely busy with a final Food Production paper, two final exams, friends visiting, the Amsterdam Music Festival, and planning a trip to either Dublin or Poland for mid October. November will be even more busy with an added class and GIS lab once a week and a trip to Prague in early December. I did the math and my commute to and from Science Park is a total of 10 miles. That will be at least 40 miles a week next block to school alone. That doesn’t include daily biking around the city for groceries/my culture class/anything else. After biking this much, how could I ever drive a car again?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my Food Production course, particularly our guest speaker series where we talk and debate with GMO professionals. Now my opinion on genetically modified food is all jumbled and I don’t know where I stand; I thought the Netherlands would have been against this. Oh well, you find out something new every day here.  I will have the rest of this semester to learn more about these food issues and of course that’s why I chose this program. My Dutch course is also winding down, and I have enjoyed it so much. I’ve gotten to the point where I ask my Dutch teacher random cultural questions that usually spin the class off onto a tangent, but what can you do when you’re a curious little exchange student. We talked about biking last week and googled all the different types of wagons people attach to their bikes. We also talked about bike theft and my teacher left us with the great wisdom that “if you’re a junkie, you’ll do anything” when we discussed bikes stolen from infront of police stations. I’ll be sad when it’s over, but I’ll continue learning on my own of course.

Since I do have a more boring life now (only more boring than what I originated with, not more boring, but calmer) I decided to dedicate this post to silly little dutch things that I’ve been seeing lately. Kind of like a “day in the life” segment.

1) I mentioned biking earlier, actually twice, so it is obviously no joke here. We usually lock up to four bikes together if we’re all leaving somewhere at the same time. No one wants to deal with a pile of bikes. Taking your bike on a train or the ferry is usual, and there are definitely less people without bikes than with bikes on ferry rides. I saw the kids in the last picture today at the Westerpark Sunday Market, notice the tiny ones that don’t have training wheels. They get done with training wheels by age 3. These kids are incredible. In fact, as I am writing this, Natalie just sent me a picture of the Dutch model Doutzen Kroes walking around New York with her two and a half year old son on one of the “walking bikes” little kids use! The Dutch are spreading!

The "chain gang," or us creating the obnoxious bike pile in Rembrandtplein

The “chain gang,” or us creating the obnoxious bike pile in Rembrandtplein

Bikes on the ferry!

Bikes on the ferry!

Kids on bikes outside of a bar in a park... typical!

Kids on bikes outside of a bar in a park… typical!

2) Hedgehogs are a real thing here, and walk around. I have yet to see a real one, but I ate one made out of chocolate and saw hedgehog food for sale, so I know they are a thing. I WILL see a hedgehog before I leave, and I WILL try to catch it. I don’t think they are very fast. I will be doing more research on wild hedgehogs (Anna) and see what I find out.

Me and my hedgehog.

Me and my hedgehog.

I found this video while in Amsterdam when Miley Cyrus’ new video came out. Also some hedgehog symbolism. What does it all mean!

3) I thought I had a love of boots before, but the love has grown. And not even for just leather boots, but booties and baby boots and rain boots too. I thought I would put up a little tribute to my cycling boots that are perfect for the rain. They are my best friends, and the laces even match my rain coat. The felt boots were at the Sunday Market as well. How cute! I wish I knew someone with a baby that I can buy them for. Well actually… I just realized I do… get ready, Sahar!

The best rainboot investment to date, hope they last!

The best rainboot investment to date, hope they last!

How cute!

How cute!

We love our city, and ice cream, and the weird things that includes. Here are the last of my random pictures from today.

Yeah we like our ice cream by canals.

Yeah we like our ice cream by canals.

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Lunch today, yummy street market food!

Lunch today, yummy street market food!

And for the final surprise… a flea market find from two weeks ago! Anyone that knows me knows my obsession with the Sims, can you believe I found it in Dutch!

The Sims in Dutch... at a flea market...

The Sims in Dutch… at a flea market…

That’s all for now. I hope for a week of good weather and good adventures! Tot ziens!