Sunday, April 5, 2009

Yes That's French They're Speaking, but These Children Aren't French-They're American

Now that I've had a few days to catch up on sleep and recooperate I'm ready to talk all about our week long vaca to Dublin and Paris. Last Wednesday (March 25) we hopped on a 4.5 hour flight to London, the first stop before one of our two intended destinations. We had to first fly to London because flying anywhere else from Cyprus is unbelievably expensive. We stayed overnight in a Holiday Inn near the Gatwick airport, which was cute and very near a grocery store (thank God, because there was NO food served on our Monarch flight). I found Dr. Pepper there, which was surprising and made me VERY happy since I hadn't had any since January. The next morning we got on a one hour flight to Dublin, where the weather was beautiful. We spent the afternoon checking into the Shining Hostel, eating at a pub along the river and exploring the city. We were very near the Spire, which served as a great landmark to help us find our way back. That night we traveled to Temple Bar, which was alive with music and tons of people. Within minutes of entering and buying drinks we were approached by some Americans who were very friendly. When they left we migrated to the live music area, where we met a few very friendly Irish guys, Collie, Seamus, and Robbie, who bought us another round of drinks. We talked with them all night and told them about how we were studying in Cyprus, and they laughed at us(everyone in Europe knows Cyprus as the party/vacation destination). Dezi told them that I could Irish dance so of course they made me, and took pictures. We had a fantastic night with them and made plans to meet up with them the next day so that they could show us around Dublin, since they were all natives. They were super funny and super fun. As we were leaving the bar, we met some fun Dutch guys who were on the Dutch water polo team and had played Ireland and lost earlier that day. We walked a bit with them and they told us about how they thought American football was stupid and about how we should go to visit Holland. We went back to the Shining Hostel and prepared our stuff to leave at 11 am the next morning. We had to switch hostels due to the Ireland vs. Bulgaria soccer game that attracted a huge crowd and caused most hostels to be super booked for the three nights we needed.

The next day we woke up and moved to Isaac's Hostel, one that was bigger and nicer. We then left to meet Collie outside of Trinity College. He is a security guard there, so he gave us a tour and got us into the Book of Kells exhibit and the fantastic old library for free. We walked some more and took a tour of the Guinness Factory, where we met up with Seamus. We learned all about how Guinness was produced and then got 1.5 pints for free at the Gravity Bar, which overlooks the city. There we met two girls from (surprise!) Pittsburgh that go to Penn State and ran into two guys from Boston that we had met the night before. Collie left us to run some errands, so Seamus walked around with us to see St. Patrick's Cathedral and St. Stephen's Green. He left us soon after that and we ventured off to find food. We ended up eating at an over-priced diner that was mega disappointing. It started to rain on our way back to the hostel and I struggled with my Pitt umbrella until the strong wind eventually broke it :(. We hung out at our hostel until the rain stopped, when we left to go souvenir shopping. We walked around the town a bit and bought some things, and then headed to Cassidy's Pub where there was more live music. We stayed there a while and met some Scottish guys who were visiting Ireland for a bachelor party. Even when the music wasn't playing, none of us could comprehend a word of what they were saying. Of all of the people that I've met on this trip, the Scottish are by far the most difficult to understand. We left after a while and went to bed relatively early to prepare for our long trip the next day.

On Saturday we woke up around 6 to get on a bus around 7 for our trip to the Cliffs of Moher. We drove for a few hours (with our HILARIOUS tour guide) and stopped in Limerick by the River Shannon to take some pictures near King John's Castle. We drove further to Galway and the Burren, where we stopped and took more pictures. Finally we jumped back on the bus and it took us to the Cliffs of Moher. It was a beautiful, clear day so it was easy to see the cliffs and the islands in the distance. Everything was uber green and uber pretty (we made a video! see it here). We spent about 1.5 hours there taking everything in before we left for our long trip back to Dublin. We got back around dinner time and went out for pizza. We made our way to a fantastic bar, where we hung out and drank Guinness and Bailey's and watched the soccer game. We had to be in bed early AGAIN for our unbelievably early flight to Paris the next morning. We woke up around 4:30 to get to the airport around 6 for our 7:30 flight. The cab driver that took us there was ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL and was a great start to our long day. The flight on Ryan Air was only about 1.5 hours long, and after the time change we landed in Paris around 10-10:30. We took a bus from the Beauvais airport into the city, where we met Erin, Lauren's friend from Michigan. She's studying abroad in Paris this semester and offered to let us stay in her dorm room and show us around while we were there. We took the metro back to her fantastic dorm at the International University of Paris. After settling in, Erin took us on the metro to the city where our first stop was Notre Dame. It was absolutely breathtaking-it was huge and all of the detailing on the outside was super intricate. We got to go inside and walk around, which was neat, and it smelled like incense. We blessed ourselves with the holy water and took some pictures before peacing out. We couldn't go all the way to the top because there was way too long of a line. After we left we headed toward the Louvre. The building was WAY bigger than I thought it was going to be and it was absolutely phenomenal. We went inside and walked around for about 3 hours and I still feel like we barely saw anything. We did, however, get to see a CYPRUS artifacts exhibit which was really exciting because I still feel like no one in the world has heard of Cyprus. We also saw some mega famous paintings that I learned about in my modern art class (who knew I'd be able to apply things I learned in school to the real world!) and the Mona Lisa, which was a ton smaller than I thought it would be. It was behind a fancy red velvet rope and (supposedly) bullet-proof glass. We walked into an ancient Egyptian tomb and saw some mummies and old Egyptian artifacts, all of which were better taken care of there than they were in Egypt. We walked around in the basement of the Louvre, which contained the original foundation from when it was a castle. We got kicked out around closing time, but contemplated hiding in the Egyptian tomb with the hope of seeing the museum come to life at night (Night at the Museum). After leaving, we took some more pictures and headed to a coffee shop. We then headed back to Erin's, where we got ready for dinner at a nearby pizza place. After dinner we went to Erin's again, but this time for bed. We woke up the next morning and headed back into the city, starting our day out with some crepes (they were absolutely wonderful and I don't know why they're not more popular in the US). We headed to Musée de l'Orangerie, where we saw some ginormous Monet paintings, and tons of other impressionist stuff (again, many that I learned about in modern art and was really excited to see in person). We left the museum and were hungry, naturally, so we headed to this super famous and super expensive cafe called Angelinas. Any time we passed it there was a long line outside, but this time the line was relatively short. They had THE BEST hot chocolate ever-it tasted like a liquid candy bar. It was expensive and so were the delish desserts so we had to split everything to cut costs. While we were there we saw Dita VonTeese, a super famous and super beautiful American burlesque dancer. Unfortunately Erin wasn't allowed to get her autograph even though she absolutely adores her. After feeling fancy at the cafe we headed to a book reading with wine and cheese at a little old book store called Shakespeare and Company. The author was an American wine enthusiast, so his book was a bit boring to me since I know nothing about wine. The event was set up through Erin's program so afterwards we got to meet some of her coordinators. It was getting dark as we left the bookstore so we finally headed over to the Eiffel Tower to see it lit up at night. It was AWESOME. We really wanted to go to the top and see the city, but the line for the elevator was reallllly long and it cost 12 euros. We decided to take the stairs halfway since there was no line and it cost 3 euros :D. About 700 stairs later we found ourselves looking down at Paris all lit up. It was so amazing knowing that we had traveled that far on our own and that we were finally seeing PARIS! After the long trek down the stairs we decided to finally get some dinner. We ended up eating Chinese (there's NONE in Cyprus, so it was nice to switch it up a bit). It was entertaining to hear the Chinese owners speak in Chinese, French, and English. We headed to McDonald's shortly after for dessert, and then to a Sangria bar. All in all, a fantastic day.

The next morning we woke up early to get pain au chocolate and coffee before we headed to the Musée d'Orsay, where even MORE famous works of art (including OLYMPIA!) are kept. Again, it was mega cool seeing in person all the works of art that I was forced to learn about. When we left the museum Erin had to go to class, so Kell, Lauren, Dez and I headed over to the Eiffel Tower again to hangout for the rest of the afternoon. We ate some crepes and napped on the lawn for a while, then headed back toward Notre Dame to do some souvenir shopping (not a short walk). We met back up with Erin after shopping around and we rode the metro to the Sacré Coeur Catholic basilica in Montmartre. It was huge and beautiful and it was on top of a hill with a fantastic view of the city. Apparently it is a huge tourist destination, because there were tons of people there. There were also these guys that Erin warned us about, the "string people". They would lure tourists over (and sometimes just grab them) and begin tying string around their wrists. Convinced that it was some cool bracelet, the tourist would let it happen, and after the bracelet was finished being made, the stringer would ask for an obscene amount of money in order to be cut free. The more the tourist refused to pay, the higher the price went. They were all over, but we successfully avoided them. Of course after the long day we were hungry again, and Erin took us to a phenomenal fondue restaurant. They served us each a glass of some fruity wine, then a baby bottle filled with wine (?) and some ors d'oeuvres, like olives and cheese. Then they brought out baskets of bread and a huge hot pot of fondue, which (surprise!) also had a ton of wine in it. I honestly don't know how any customers left the restaurant sober. Everything about it was very very cool, and I've never experienced anything like it. There was writing all over the walls (many Erasmus students had signed before) and it was in such a small place that all of the tables were lined up along the benches against the walls, and in order to get to the bench you needed to physically climb over the table (forget about going to the bathroom in the middle of a meal). When we left the restaurant pretty buzzed we decided to go and hangout at a cute cafe/bar place for a while to decide what we wanted to do next. We ended up walking through Paris' red-light district, which was very interesting. We walked around for a bit and watched some guys get arrested for being inappropriate and rude, and then we found the Moulin Rouge! We were all really excited. By that time it was late so we hopped on the Noctilien, a free bus that makes rounds late at night after the metro closes. It felt like being on a PAT bus in Pittsburgh late at night-there were some creepy old people and there were drunk people. We made it back to Erin's and had to pack up, because the next day was our LONG trip back to Cyprus.

We woke up on Wednesday around 4:30 am, said good-bye to Erin, and hopped on a metro. We messed up getting on our second metro so we were late getting to the bus that was supposed to take us to the airport, so we were forced to pay for a taxi. It ended up being an unbelievable 140 euros. We got to the airport in a hurry and had so many problems with our bags before even getting to security. Dezi's bag was "too big" to take as carry on (even though the same airline had let her through on her flight to Paris) so she had to take sweat shirts out of her suitcase for us to put on so that the bag would be smaller. After about 3 tries we all got through and then went to security, where Kell almost lost her passport and Lauren had to leave some souvenirs behind because they violated some kind of code. We made it through security and finally onto our plane to Dublin. We got to Dublin and went through passport control, and even though we were only there for a few hours it was nice to be in a place where people were overly friendly again. We then got on another one hour flight to Gatwick, then hungout in that airport for about 3 hours before we got on our final flight to Larnaca. We landed successfully in Cyprus at about 10:30 Cyprus time and took a taxi home. What a LONG day.
Overall, the trip was absolutely fabulous. Dublin was super fun because everyone was super friendly and Ireland is beautiful, and Paris had awesome food and fantastic architecture. Both are places I didn't anticipate myself visiting on my study abroad trip and I couldn't be happier that I got the opportunity to go. Now I've got a full week of classes (minus photography, which ends tomorrow :D) until we leave for 4 days of spring break in Ayia Napa and 1.5 weeks in Greece, Spain, and Italy :D.

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