Galway International Oyster Festival

I’m back at Purdue finishing up my senior year and am all set to graduate in May! I could honestly ramble on for a paragraph on how much I all my experiences as a Boilermaker have impacted me as a person, how much I’ve grown, learned, etc, etc. But that really isn’t the point here – we are here to have look at pretty pictures (ok that may be a lofty goal) and talk about adventures from last semester! So here goes nothing …. again.

Now I already spouted off all my information on Galway’s tourism industry, especially amongst the Irish looking to get away for a weekend, but the main events in the city are festivals – an art festival in the late spring, a sailing competition in July (they started advertising around town in October!), and the Galway International Oyster Festival in September. The Festival features “A Seafood Trail” (think pub crawl – but with seafood), “Taste of the Sea Banquet” showcasing Galway’s seafood, the National and International Oyster Opening Tournament, a parade for children through Galway, a beauty pageant and lots of live Irish music!

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The Galway International Oyster and Seafood Festival!

One of my girlfriends, Lisa, who I met at NUI Galway and goes to USC, found a great deal to the National Oyster Opening Championship event on LivingSocial! West Lafayette (home of the Boilermakers) doesn’t even have LivingSocial or Groupon deals, but Galway and other major Irish cities offered great deals – I was really shocked! So Lisa and I grabbed the deal and dug out our dresses and dancing shoes for the big night!

Although my apartment was at least 30 minutes away from “downtown” Galway, I sucked it up and made the walk numerous times. However, the event was on a Friday night, it was raining (haha), I was freshly made-up and in high heels – so I paid my 8 Euro for a lovely chat with a cab driver right to Lisa’s front door (she had an awesome apartment right downtown).

The Marquee was right on the docks, overlooking the bay and only a few blocks from Lisa’s place. Although we had both been in Ireland over a month, we set out right at 7pm (when the doors opened) so that we didn’t miss any excitement. Of course, we had to wait in line (in the rain) for the doors to open, which they did promptly at 7:15pm! We strolled around, grabbed a drink and I took a couple pictures of the (empty) Marquee.

IMG_0342Outside the Marquee

IMG_0344Marquee at the beginning of the night (a bit empty!)

One of the highlights of the evening was dinner (of course)! All guests had a ticket for a Seafood Platter – we had clam chowder, Irish soda bread, smoked salmon and cream cheese rolls, tuna cakes, and crab claws. Everything was delicious, but I especially enjoyed the salmon and clam chowder.

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Lisa and I did know one Irish rule –  no meal would be complete without a pint of Guinness!

IMG_0351Lisa with her pint of Guinness and seafood platter

Lisa and I also shared oysters from the Festival’s 2010 Champions! The oysters came with specially made sauces and we made sure to try all of them out. This was my first experience with oysters (I have to admit I Googled “How to properly eat and oyster” before leaving my apartment for this exact reason!) and I can’t say that I’m sold on the whole slurping up raw fish from a shell thing. But I’m glad my first experience was a world-class one!

IMG_0354Our oysters and pints of Guinness!

Throughout the night there was plenty of entertainment – first there was a live band. I loved that really no matter what venue we went to in Ireland (besides the clubs at 1am, obviously) there was some form of live music. However, I was continually surprised that many bands played old country music hits – think Wagon Wheel, Johnny Cash, etc. These staples were included in the set, but the band also played lots of songs that were meant to get the crowd on their feet.

IMG_0352The entertainment for the evening

This leads me to the observation that there were a lot of older couples at the event – many that were middle aged and out with a large group and a lot of grandparent-aged couples enjoying their oysters! Of course Lisa and I, not matter how hard we tried, couldn’t dodge all the grandpas that wanted to dance with us – we got a good laugh out of that!

We took a break from all the fun on the dance floor and went to enjoy our cupcakes that were part of the LivingSocial deal. We were lucky enough to share a table with a group of five 30-ish year old guys that were travelling around Ireland while visiting one of their friends. They proved to be quite the entertainment – especially when one of them spilled his pint and chowder all over the table! Although they didn’t save us from the old guys on the dance floor – they were handy as our photographers!

IMG_0356Cupcakes!

IMG_0358Lisa and I at the Festival

The main event of the night was the National Oyster Opening Competition! Lisa and I were a bit confused about the rules and scoring of the entire event but as far as we could tell each of the contestants (most represented an Irish seafood restaurant or market) had to shuck a dozen (I think…) oysters and place them on a tray for judging. They were judged both on their speed and their presentation. There were also penalties – but that was too complicated for us to figure out.

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The host made up funny names for each of the contestants and the crowd was cheering for their favorite! It was a lot of fun to watch the competition and root for our favorite – which was really just the cutest guy out of the bunch on stage! haha

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The competition was the main event of the night and we were all partied out when it ended so we headed home without hearing the results. The website says that the 2010 Irish Oyster Opening Champ won this year too – his presentation saved him!

The evening was a ton of fun – I really felt like a part of Galway’s festivities! It was fun to go out with a new friend and get all dressed up (I had low standards and this was a major step up from v-necks, leggings, and cardigans!).

More posts to follow – lots of pictures!

Posted in Eats, Galway, Ireland, Study Abroad, Weekend Adventures | Leave a comment

Connemara and Kylemore Abbey

I read an article recently about some scientists discovering a wrinkle in the universe – some crazy science-fiction-esque phenomena – which led to a discussion on the obtainability of time travel. Unfortunately I don’t think these said scientists have translated their (supposedly) astounding findings into anything relevant to our daily lives (yet) – so for the time being, let’s just call this a trip down memory lane.

Sorry about my nerdy introduction, too much NPR! I listen to Fresh Air almost daily and have learned a ton about American culture and the current political, economic and social climate in the US. Listening to Terry Gross is always informative, often funny, and has done wonders for my limited vocabulary (now if only I could learn how to spell…). I also love listening to Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!, a current events game with a panel of comedians and a celebrity guest. Needless to say I have embarrassed myself multiple times laughing out loud on the elliptical at the gym or on my walk home – they are hilarious!

I digress. This post rewinds to September 10 – the twelfth day in Ireland, the first weekend after classes started, back in the fall when it was warm (but still rainy!) and there were more than 7 hours full hours of sunlight in a day. I took my first tour with the Galway Tour Company to Connemara and Kylemore Abbey. I had originally planned to just wake up Saturday morning and head off – but luckily a couple classmates were talking about going on the same trip and invited me to join their group. My new friends are both Erasmus engineering students, completing the first semester of their fourth year of university in Galway (their “undergraduate” degrees are only three years long, with a fourth and fifth year as more of an option). So off I headed on a rainy Saturday morning with a group of Italian, French, and German students from NUI Galway.

The day was the definition of an adventure – but looking back it was a lot of fun and taught me a lot about how some people perceive Americans. First thing in the morning, at the bus station, somehow in the shuffle of groups from one bus to another, the large twelve person group was split in half. I spent the rest of the day with three German guys and two French girls – plus a bus of young Italian students (probably around 13), an older Indian couple, a few twenty-something European couples, and the strict GTC bus driver who spoke too quickly for even me to understand! Needless to say, I had an interesting day ahead of me!

The tour started with a lengthy drive through the Irish countryside. The actual “Connemara” region in western Ireland isn’t very well defined, however, it is boasted to be the “last unspoilt areas in Ireland.” The picture below is the basic scenery for the first half an hour of the trip, along with countless stories recalling the “old days” and what Ireland used to look like (can’t really imagine it being much different but apparently there is a lot of pollution now with the many factories around Galway and in western Ireland). There was a major emphasis on the peat bogs, which are cut and the turf blocks are used as a fuel source. This sounded kind of crazy to me, especially since I wasn’t quiet sure how a bog could be used as a fuel source, but every place we stopped at from then on had turf piled up outside to use for a fire and students here have said that also use peat in their fires – so it is the equivalent of us cutting down trees to use wood for our fires.

Peat Bogs in Connemara

After our little geography lesson we made our first stop – Ross Errily Abbey. The Franciscan friary was founded in the mid-15th century (that date is for you mom!) and is one of the best preserved medieval monastic sites in Ireland. Local residents are still buried at this and other medieval and post-medieval religious sites all around Ireland – so you visit and see tombstones from the 1400s right next to those from the 1900s.

A 14th Century Franciscan Friary

Ross Errilly Friary

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Inside the friary, the majority of walls are still standing and you can distinguish between the different rooms – the kitchen, the living quarters, the chapel, and even the bathroom (eww)

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Pretty view looking out of the friary windows, this is before the torrential downpour!

Tombs in the Friary

One of the tombs, probably belonging to a leader of the church, many lay people are buried there and just have flat tombstones with lovely engravings on them (those slabs of rock on the ground on either side of the large tomb).

After the friary, the next stop was in the city Cong. The city is actually located on an island between two lakes right between Counties Galway and Mayo which connect through numerous underground streams. We stopped for a coffee and bathroom break and then walked around the city for a bit. Of course I ordered an Americano – I really wish they would have named it something else – and all my travel buddies got espresso, then we went off to explore Cong. We ended up walking around one of the parks and I took some lovely photos. However, when I go on trips with people I don’t know very well, I find it a bit odd to ask them to take pictures of you (especially since they weren’t doing it for each other…). So I regret to inform you that you won’t be seeing my pretty face for the rest of this post.

River surrounding Cong (city where the Quiet Man was filmed)

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The bus driver also told us that John Ford’s movie “The Quiet Man”  starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara and Barry Fitzgerald. The film was shot in 1952 and won an Oscar. The city apparently hasn’t changed much in the past 60 years, and is a tourist attraction for “The Quiet Man” fanatics. Sorry but I have never seen or even heard of this movie – so I was a bit unimpressed by the museum – and I’m pretty sure no one else on the bus even understood what he was saying let alone why they should care! – o the joys of a very large language and cultural barrier.

Although the intended destination of the tour was Kylemore Abbey, the scenic bus drive through Connemara was definitely a highlight. The area is gorgeous, everything is soooo green – unfortunately, the pictures through the bus windows don’t really do it justice.

Lough Corrib -- Largest inland lake in Europe

A few of the 365 islands (or so the tradition tells…I think there are actually over 1,000) in the middle of Lough Corrib. The Lake connects to the sea via the River Corrib running through Galway.

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Famine House -- Rocks in windows to avoid taxes

On our trip through Connemara, we saw a lot of homes or churches left in ruins. This is a home (from around the time of the Irish Famine, 1845-1852) and you can see there are rocks in the windows. The landlords would charge a fee per window, so to avoid this the tenants put rocks in their windows and cut their front door in half to allow some sunlight in – this is where the term “robbing the daylight” came from. Also, this home is situated right on the lake, meaning it would be really windy, so less windows meant less turf needed to keep the house warm.

After a long bus ride we finally arrived at our destination – Kylemore Abbey! First a bit of history (mostly pulled from their site …or Wikipedia – don’t get me started on my love of Wikipedia). Mitchell Henry built the castle as a family home in 1867. Henry was a wealthy politician and a Member of Parliament for County Galway during his residence in the castle. In 1920 the Benedictine Abbeys purchased the castle and the grounds when they were forced to leave Belgium during World War I. Once established at Kylemore, they opened an international boarding school, which recently closed in June 2010. The castle, chapel, gardens, and the rest of the grounds are now a tourist site in western Ireland.

Kylemore Abbey

Kylemore Abbey – the main Castle

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The sitting room inside the castle. For some reason, being inside the castle (which really wasn’t modernized in any noticeable way) reminded me of my many visits to Mt. Vernon and Monticello as a kid (however, both of these Presidential homes were built about 100 years before the castle, it must just have been the “old” feeling of the rooms).

I’m a bit disappointed in how well the pictures turned out (haha)! It was pouring down rain the entire time we were at Kylemore Abbey – we literally almost got in a fist fight to get a spot on the tram from the Castle to the Royal Gardens (literally a 10 minute walk away). But the gardens were gorgeous, and with admission visitors can also climb the mountain behind the Abbey- however we didn’t really have the time, motivation, or energy to go on the adventure.

Victorian Walled Garden

The walled gardens were built by Henry and then resorted by the Benedictine Community.

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The gardens were so advanced for their time, they were often compared to the Kew Gardens in London.

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Renovated glass greenhouse used for tropical fruits and veggies

The original garden had extremely innovative technology and must have had top-notch engineers working on the design and construction. Henry had 21 glasshouses filled with exotic fruits and plants in the original garden. These early-day greenhouses were heated with thousands of feet of pipes carrying hot water from the main living area of the grounds to the garden.  Recently, these too have been renovated, as seen in this picture.

Overall, I really enjoyed my trip through Connemara and my visit at Kylemore Abbey. It was kind of crazy to drive through the gorgeous Irish countryside, with very little to see besides green pastures, mountains, lakes, and sheep, and then just arrive at a large Castle and visitation complex. The other interesting part of the day was being the only American in my group, and one of the few fluent English speakers on our bus. This definitely presented some challenges and meant there wasn’t much more than casual small talk (“o I hate the rain” or the jokes about the strict bus driver who wouldn’t allow us to eat anything on the bus). However, when we could form that bond over such simple topics or events, it made the day that much better. I’m really glad I went with the group, it made me more aware of how I, as an American and fluent English speaker, am perceived by my European peers, which was helpful throughout my time in Galway.

I’m all done with exams and can focus on celebrating the end of the semester and cleaning and packing up my apartment! In a little less than a week I’ll be back in Westlake – eating cookies, playing with Zeke, and laughing with my family. I’m definitely excited to go home, but know I’ll miss a lot of things from my semester in Galway. I already had to say farewell to two of my girlfriends – one from California and the other from Milan – but I hope I’ll get to see them again, or at least keep in touch over Facebook!

 

Posted in Day Trips, Ireland, NUI Galway, Study Abroad, Weekend Adventures | Leave a comment

I’m Back!

Well in exactly a week and a half I’ll be enjoying the snow back in Westlake! Despite the incessant requests from my mom and Clare (ok I’m sure my mom told her to…. haha) for more blog posts, between a family visit (!) and studying for finals, I haven’t really had the time or energy to write about my trip to Rome or my random musings on Ireland and being abroad. However, after crazily studying (probably too much, but what else is new?) for my four finals last week, I’m finding myself with a bit more free time. And what is a better use of that time than shopping in Eyre Square, sleeping in a bit, and blogging – of course!

I’m in the computer suite on campus right now, smiling to myself because I only have one more exam that won’t require much studying, so I don’t have access to many of my pictures. I’ll leave you with a few from my family’s visit (these are the less embarrassing ones, if you can even imagine that!) and a link to my Study Abroad Update for the Purdue BME department.

The family Christmas card, it was raining (imagine that...) so we were a bit wet, but still look lovely :)

If you can’t tell (haha), we are in the Quad on campus and received more than several funny looks for taking 20 pictures and making fun of my dad, the photographer, after each one (some things never change!). I was so happy my family came, we had a lot of fun and laughed a lot – but of course the weather didn’t feel like cooperating the few days they were in Galway. On my birthday (which was also Thanksgiving) we all went on the Cliffs of Moher tour with the Galway Tour Company. I was o so thrilled when I found out we had the same bus driver as when I had gone, because I didn’t get enough of his 75 year-old Irish humor the first time around. My sister may kill me for posting this, but I think it is funny and equally embarrassing for me so I’m going to go ahead and do it…haha.

Super wet Wittenbergs at the Cliffs of Moher

I’m actually surprised we survived the gale force winds….but more on that later!
I’m off to the gym now and hopefully will be working on new posts the next few days! I’m looking forward to seeing my family for Christmas and going on more ridiculous family trips (the Purdue Bowl Game!!!), but a little sad about leaving Galway.

Posted in Ireland, NUI Galway, Study Abroad | 9 Comments

Weekly Dinners

I’m pretty sure one of the top tips for a successful blog is to be consistent. Well being that my mom and possibly my sister (when she isn’t too busy planning elaborate Halloween costumes with her sorority sisters or studying business-major-stuff) are my most devoted readers, I think I have been cut some slack in that department.

This is another catch-up post, ideally I could write this as a bunch of separate posts and link them all together under a cool tab page, but that would involve too much copy-and-pasting on my part and clicking around to find the posts on your part—so I’ll just keep it simple and in one long post. Plus, I like scrolling through the pictures and seeing them all in the same place!

A bit of background for this post:

This summer during my internship with Cook Medical I lived in Bloomington, Indiana. While it definitely isn’t a “big” city by any means, it is still a decently sized college-town and I think it’s fair to equate it to West Lafayette – however some Indiana University interns and avid Bloomington fans would beg to differ. Anyways, one of the perks of living in Bloomington was the numerous ethnic restaurants around town—ranging from Thai to Mexican to Turkish cuisine. A group of engineering interns (and a few non-nerdy interns too!) started visiting a different restaurant every Wednesday night after work. We would all make suggestions and then hammer out the final decision over email at the beginning of each week. It was a great way to get to know Bloomington, my fellow interns, and have food adventures (and we all know how much I love to eat!).

Since our weekly dinners were such a hit (and usually a success, except the time we went to a Thai place and the waitress had to give us picture menus to order from!), I decided to try to initiate the same tradition in Galway. Of course, the first invite only included a few students outside of our Purdue gaggle, but there have been many additions to the group along the way and it is definitely a night I look forward to every week!

The first dinner was a week or so before I committed (loosely of course…) to this whole blogging thing, so sadly there are no pictures! We went the The Oslo, a micro brewery on Salthill, super closer to where we live. Unfortunately, it was a few days before my half-marathon, so I didn’t try any of the beer, but my dinner was delicious.  I had the Salmon & Natural Smoked Haddock Fish Cakes with Pesto Dressed Salad & Tartar Sauce, the serving size was just right and since we are right on the Bay the fish was fresh and local. The Oslo was really chill inside, with big screen TVs showing the rugby and hurling matches and there were a bunch of people just hanging out, grabbing dinner with a friend or two or just reading the paper. I would definitely recommend it if you are in the Salthill area, if not, the same company runs the Salt House in downtown Galway and Against the Grain in Dublin.

The next dinner was sort of an impromptu crepe night at one of our neighbor’s apartments. Our friend goes to school in southern France and she and her boyfriend, who was visiting for a long weekend, made crepes for the gang (I heard he did most of the flipping!). They had a handful of toppings – tomato sauce and cheese for your “dinner crepe” and then honey, chocolate, strawberries, jams, and ice cream for your “dessert crepe.” I’m pretty sure that we all had at least twice as many dessert crepes, but they were soooo yummy – by far the best crepes I’ve ever had!

Crepe Night with our French NeighborCrepe Night!

After crepe night, we tried to brainstorm what a traditional “American” meal would be that we could make our new friends, but had a difficult time defining American cuisine (I’m pretty sure I just read a magazine article about how this is on of the many issues contributing to the obesity problems in the US). We threw the idea of Tex-Mex around for awhile, but a seeing as this is all in the “Ethnic Food” aisle at the grocery store, it is a bit pricey for the generic brand let alone for the Chi-Chi’s brand (out of all the brands we have who would have thought Chi-Chi’s would be sold in Ireland?). Sadly we haven’t done an American inspired dinner in our apartment yet, any suggestions as to an easy, traditional American dinner?

Our next dinner out was to a Galway staple, all the travel books and travel websites highly suggest that McDonagh’s is the place to go for authentic Irish fish-and-chips and  other “pub grub.”

McDonagh's Fish Seafood Bar in Galway

There are two sides to the restaurant – the take away side, where you can order off the a-la-carte menu like at a fast food place and then sit at a picnic table and enjoy your deep fried meal or the sit-down restaurant side, where a waitress will come and take your order and bring you your deep fried meal on a nice plate! We had some new people join our group this week so we went with the sit-down side so we could chat and get to know each other. The popular dish was, or course, the traditional fried cod and chips, served with mushy peas – yummmmm. The fish was extremely moist and delicious and the mushy peas were actually good (I know a lot of people are grossed out by the texture, or if you are like my roomies, by the fact that they are vegetables!).

Group Dinner (9/29)Take-away A-la-Carte Menu

First (and only!) Fish and Chips ...o and the mushy peas!Fish and Chips in Ireland (Note the “salad” on the right)

Dinner was great, if you are looking for a traditional Irish Fish and Chips dish. Fried food isn’t really my favorite, but the restaurant was lively with all the customers ordering take-away coming in and out and all the tables on the serviced side were also full—guess it is a popular place!

All of this was sooo long ago and honestly I’m just going chronologically by the order the pictures were in my iPhone! The next big outing wasn’t a dinner out but a night at the pub with the International Student Society. They have an event at a local bar every week complete with appetizers, drink tickets, and nametags! I went to one of their first events (before engineering took over my life again) at Skeff Bar right on Eyre Square in the heart of downtown Galway. The bar is huge, it has multiple rooms and bars downstairs, a dance floor of sorts, and then more rooms and tables upstairs.

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I ran into an Irish student who was in my yoga class and a few international students I recently met, it was great to see some familiar faces and to meet some new international students as well. I recently found out from some of the engineers that Skeff is a popular hang out spot for students, particularly the older (over 21) crowd. O, in case you didn’t know, in Ireland the legal drinking age is 18, and freshman are usually close to 18 when they enter college. However, 21 is still a big birthday, people will rent out bars and invite crowds of their friends for a huge party and at midnight the birthday boy or girl gets 21 kisses! Most students turn 21 sometime in the senior year of college, unlike in the US where we turn 21 in our junior year (usually). I’m going to guess that this plays a part in the differences between our college experiences, social interactions, and probably our prospective on the “real world.”

Back to our group dinners! I had been craving ethnic food since being surrounding by traditional Irish fare (heavy stews, random curry dishes, fried ….everything, and of course potatoes). Luckily, Shishir agreed and he picked Kashmir, and Indian restaurant downtown (we took turns picking the restaurants because we knew group consensus wasn’t going to happen).

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DSCN1702Inside of Kashmir

Kashmir had a great Early Bird Special deal – a starter, a main dish and glass of wine for 19.95euro! I enjoyed my glass of red wine, vegetable pakoras as a starter and chicken korma as my entree.

DSCN1703Vegetable Pakoras: An assortment of mixed vegetable fritters friend in gram flour batter

DSCN1704Chicken Korma with Naan

The waitress was super patient with our horrible Indian pronunciations of our dishes and the service was super speedy. Dinner was delicious, I could have eaten 3 whole baskets of the naan! The only downside was that there weren’t too many other people dining in, most were ordering take-away, which made the place a little less friendly. But, I’m putting this on my list of potential take-away places for study and finals week when I won’t want to cook.

Mohit was up next to pick the place for dinner. He is at NUI Galway on a Mitchell Scholarship and so he has had the opportunity to meet a ton of influential professionals within Ireland and in Galway. His choice was the Galway Bakery Company, apparently a favorite of Martin Sheen when he studied at NUI Galway for a semester 2006. Yes I go to the same school that the President Bartlet went too (be jealous Clare…) [Random fact: apparently his mother is originally from Galway and that is why he choose this university].

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This was during the period where my iPhone was MIA (long story involving dead iPhone, lots of emails to my tech-savvy dad, and mailing iPhones across international borders), so I don’t have a picture of my entrée. I had vegetable fajitas. They were good, lots of veggies (duh!), but nothing special. We sat upstairs in the dining room, however, there is a cute deli/café downstairs that is open for breakfast and lunch. I’ve walked by a few times since going to dinner there and it is always packed in the middle of the day – sounds like I need to pop in for a pastry!

Cooke’s Restaurant was up next (Kara’s choice). It was a bit pricey, but completely worth it. Our waitress was super friendly, and I have really learned to appreciate how much of an impact that can have on the “dining experience”. The restaurant was cute, it had very traditional furniture and décor, giving it a cozy, home-like feel.

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They already had the interior all decked out for Halloween!

I had Vegetable Satay with Market Root Vegetable Cooked in Peanut and Curry Spices & Served with Rice as my entrée. Kara shared her mussels and a few bites of her strawberry meringue cream sundae too. My dinner was super flavorful and I loved all the vegetables. Everyone was happy and full after this dinner!

IMG_0374Vegetable Satay

A few Sundays ago I went to Dublin for a Saturday for a shopping spree! It was  great way to get out of Galway (escaping the rain!) and away from my schoolwork for a day. After taking a cab to the bus station, then the bus to Dublin (slept the entire way…oops, so much for reading review papers on bioreactors), I was ready to hit the shops. I stopped at Pennys, a lower end department store, a few athletic-ware shops and then finally found H&M. I spent forever in H&M looking for a winter coat, but only came out with two pairs of black leggings/jeans and a black zip-up sweatshirt (I’m really exciting shopper I know, that is why this isn’t a fashion blog!). I was exhausted and a little dis-heartened by the lack of any decently-priced, cute winter coats so I decided to break for lunch. I had heard about Boojum from a friend in Galway and was determined to find it. However, I didn’t have internet connection and McDonald’s was too busy to sign into their free Wifi (this was an odd day where I loved McDonald’s for their free restrooms and Wifi…o the little things). Boojum is basically a knock-off Chipotle, with essentially the same menu options – but definitely not the same ingredients!

After wandering around the main shopping street in Dublin (which I was pretty familiar with from my weekend there), I found it! I ordered my usual, a burrito bowl with guacamole.

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Inside Boojum

All I’m going to say about this experience is to underline what is in small print on that sign inside Boojum: “Fresh ingredients imported from Mexico”.

After lunch, I know you are super curious about my winter coat shopping, I hit the stores for another 45minutes before heading back to Galway. I found a great deal on a long (black of course) puffy winter coat at JD’s, a sports-ware store based in the UK. The coat was on sale for 60euro, which was a steal compared to what I had been finding the rest of the day! I was glad that I could end my shopping trip on a good note, I guess my persistence paid off, o and my great shopping skills, of course Smile.

The most recent group dinner was at the Asian Tea House, Lisa’s choice. I was craving Asian-inspired cuisine so I was really excited about this place.

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After we were seated, we all received a small cup of Jasmine tea, it is a Chinese tradition to have tea before a meal. I loved all that the place settings had both a fork/knife and chop sticks – in general why is there such a lack of diversity in eating utensils? We could come up with a fork/knife/spoon, chop sticks, and hands as examples from various cultures. I would think there would be more diversity considering the wide range of cuisines out there, but I guess the hands work well for mostly anything if you have to use them (sorry random ramblings….).

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I had such a hard time making a decision, everything looked great! The menu reminded me of my trip to China, I miss that type of travelling/tourism at times. The whole experience is unforgettable, I’m lucky that I had the opportunity to go when I did. After musing about this (and the utensils) for awhile, I finally decided to go with the Vietnamese Spring Rolls as a starter and the Jing Tu Chicken for my entrée.

IMG_0406Vietnamese Spring Rolls — Mixture of prawns, vegetables and ground peanuts
wrapped in Vietnamese rice pastry

IMG_0409Jing Tu Chicken: Fresh tender chicken fillet cooked in traditional
tangy ginger Jing tu

The Asian Tea House had a huge menu and also has a take-away service, I definitely want to go back and try the Pad Thai before I leave Galway!

Well now I’m all caught up on weekly dinners (and some other random food detours along the way)! Hope you enjoyed my (not so great) photos of all my meals thus far, I can just hear my mom saying to me over Skype: “why don’t you have any pictures of people?” – I guess I’ll keep that in mind for our dinner this week. It is my turn to pick, I don’t have any clue where I want to go….maybe an Italian Restaurant for pizza? I’ll keep you posted!

But since we are on the subject of Italian pizza….I have some exciting news — I booked my flight and hostel for a weekend in Rome in a couple weeks! I’m super excited, Rome has been on the top of my list since I got to Ireland, so I’m excited that it is finally all planned out! Taking suggestions for  my “must-see” list again. I’ll be there a full day longer than I was in London, so hopefully I’ll have plenty of time to take everything in.

Posted in Day Trips, Dublin, Eats, Ireland, NUI Galway, Random Musings, Study Abroad, Weekly Dinners | 7 Comments

Dublin

This is a continuation of my half-marathon recap post on our weekend adventure in Dublin. As I’m sure I sufficiently pointed out in my recap post, I was pumped to have finished my first half-marathon and very pleased with my time (totally a PR…haha). I was still riding my post-13-mile-run endorphin high when we began planned the rest of our day…let’s just say I’m glad Dublin is a very walkable city with affordable public transportation. O and I’m thankful for coffee too, definitely a necessity!

First stop was the Guinness Brewhouse! The guys were pumped for this, and I think it is a Dublin staple, but it is basically a mix between science-center, history museum, and an bar – a marketeer’s dream (I just learned that word today in my “Marketing Principles” course).

Guinness Factory Tour

In front of the Guinness Brewhouse – the St. James’s Gate Brewery is nearby, but the general public can’t go inside. Guinness was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759 and is still the largest brewery of stout worldwide.

I already posted about Enginerds – well let’s just say the mix of beer, 4 engineers (nerdy ones at that…), and a post-run buzz made us a pretty rowdy bunch at the Brewhouse. There is mock-up equipment for each of the stages of the brewing process along with fancy artwork, quotes from Guinness, and tidbits on where all the ingredients come from. A highlight (Nerd Alert!) was this sign:

We all got soooo excited that a Guinness employee started the Student "T" test....how nerdy are we

One of the Chief Brewers at Guinness actually developed the Student’s T-Test (he used the pseudonym Student) which is used to determine if there is statistically significant difference between two normally distributed means. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you about the Nerd Alert!) ….We all thought this was really cool, hence the picture!

There were a lot of tourists at the Brewhouse and it was really neat to see all the equipment they use and actually understand the process since we could read for ourselves. I’ve taken my fair share of brewery tours – Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee and also Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma Brewery in Monterrey, Mexico which brews Dos Equis and Tecate – but this time I didn’t have a language barrier or dopey tourguide to mix up all the details of the process (haha).

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Perfect recovery meal right? :)

The roomies with our pints of Guinness in the 360° Bar on the 7th floor of the Brewhouse. Not my best picture—kind of looks like I’m ill or on drugs or something – I’m blaming it on exhaustion.

Along with our complimentary pint of Guinness, the 360° Bar provides amazing views of Dublin, with helpful signs of what you are actually looking at! Here are a few of the views:

360 degree glass bar on the 7th story of the Brewhouse...could see everything in Dublin

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This is the view of the mountain range to the south of Dublin -o and look the sun! 

We really enjoyed our Guinness and chilling at the bar. It was definitely a bit of a tourist destination, but I feel that it is one of the staples especially for a college student’s trip to Dublin. Next we were off to find dinner! We didn’t really plan where we wanted to eat – so we headed back toward the hostel and kept our eyes peeled for places with good deals and that would seat six people (not as easy as it sounds…). Along the way we stopped at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, unfortunately the Cathedral closed right before we got there, so we only could take pictures outside.

St. Patrick's Cathedral

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Now that I’m on the subject of dinner,  I think this is a perfect time to mention a few things about eating out in Ireland, and probably Europe in general. Once again, if you know me at all, you know I love to eat. My love of food probably stems from a multitude of sources and experiences in my life – but that is boring so lets just stick to food I actually consumed and the experiences at the various restaurants I’ve been to while in Ireland. (To be perfectly honest a discussion about Chinese culture when it comes to meals would be super interesting, albeit probably a bit shocking for some of you (haha), but I don’t know if I remember enough details to write about that adventure.)

Back to meals out in Ireland. A group of us have been going out to various restaurants in Galway once a week. Not only does this let us get out of our apartment and off the computer, but it also allows us to explore our new “home” and  interact with some of the locals. It is great to go out, chat with some new friends about their classes, weekend plans, or new fun facts we have learned about Ireland during our time here. These dinners are fun, and definitely one of my favorite events of the week. I’ll try to get those pictures up soon too! While eating dinner out in Galway is enjoyable, eating out “on the road” can be a bit of a different story. Here’s why:

  1. Travelling in a group. This is self-explanatory really, it is pretty much the same no matter where you travel or who you travel with. Somehow a decision on the restaurant needs to be made so that the majority of the members of the group are in agreement. This is difficult and can lead to some unhappy campers, but that’s just life I suppose.
  2. Seating. In the US, the majority of sit-down restaurants you visit will have a hostess (or 5…) that will seat your party and try to accommodate large groups without causing too much of scene. However, in Ireland, most places expect you to seat yourselves, which can lead to a bit of a spectacle in a small restaurant with a large group. On the other hand, this is great for avoiding the tables with a draught, that are too close to the kitchen, or that are right next to a screaming child.
  3. Prices. It is expensive. Period. There are Early Bird Specials, though, that offer two or three courses off of a restricted menu at a discounted price. This is a great option, especially if you are super hungry, or a guy (who seem to always be super hungry).
  4. Portions. Following that last point…The portions in Europe are smaller compared to those in the “Supersize Me Nation” (AKA the USA). A lot of the guys I’ve been out with have complained that they are still hungry after their lunch or dinner and will go grab a few snacks from a grocery store when we are outside of Galway. But, honestly, I’ve found that the portions are perfect at most places and there is no need to set half your entrée aside to take it home in a “Doggie Bag” (as its been called numerous times here). However, I also love to snack – I never go on a trip without packing a ton of healthy snacks to munch on – so my fruit-and-nut trailmix from Aldi’s helps me out on this one!
  5. Paying. Last point I promise! Firstly, you have to determine how to get the bill. In some places they will bring it to you after everyone is finished, in others you need to ask your server, and in other restaurants you are expected to go up to the bar and pay after you have finished. Good luck figuring out which option is best. I usually advocate for waiting for tables around us to be done and seeing what they do. But if that fails, there is no harm in asking – I mean they totally know we are not Irish by our accents. Secondly, figuring out how to split the bill. The server will not provide you with separate checks, don’t ask it creates a lot of confusion!  So there seem to be two options. Either you all whip out your cash and put money in the kitty so that you can make change for that one person who has a 50Euro bill (totally brings me back to my high school days at Applebee’s on Friday’s after football games before we all had credit cards). Or at some of the smaller, less crowded restaurants (mostly in Galway) the server will just keep the bill and check off the orders as each person goes to the register to pay. Either way, it can be a bit of a hassle and a bit time consuming. But hey we are getting better at our counting and mental math skills (haha)!

Ok back to dinner, I know you are dying to know! We went to Salamanca Tapas Bar (which is actually recommended in my Dublin cityguide as I found out later) and I ordered the smoked salmon. I needed my protein to fill me up after my long run this morning, and local salmon sounded delicious! I also had to order an Americano (it is hit or miss with ordering coffee here) so that I could go out to the pubs later without falling asleep!

Tapas Bar for dinner

Smoked Salmon --- Delicious

Yummy! This was probably one of my favorite meals out while in Dublin.

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Me and Shishir inside the restaurant.

No pictures really from going out, I was exhausted (despite the Americano!) and it was dark and drizzling, not optimal picture time. We went to the famous Temple Bar and, not surprisingly, it was packed. So we headed over to a smaller pub, grabbed a few drinks, listened to a local band play their set, and then headed out. Next we hit up a larger bar that actually had a club upstairs that opened shortly after we got there. We danced (and no it isn’t like American style dancing, it actually reminded a bit more of dancing in China…or I guess a middle ground between the two). The other clubbers were college students, mostly from Trinity and wow these girls dressed to impress! They had super high heels and cute/fancy dresses (you can see now why I don’t have a style blog…haha). We hit the road pretty early,though,  it had been a long day and we still had some sightseeing to hit on Sunday.

Woke up bright and early Sunday (just a FYI – hostel beds are not conducive to good sleep, in case there was any doubt haha). The whole gang wasn’t ready at the same time so a few of us went out exploring near the hostel for a bit. We stumbled upon the Garden of Remembrance several blocks away — it is a site the commemorate all those who gave up their lives for Irish freedom.

 Memorial to those who died fighting for Irish independence

The water feature is in the shape of a Crucifix and the statue (shown below) is supposed to represent resurrection and rebirth.

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It is always fun to run into unexpected sites in a new city. But I think it is more interesting to be in a city and walking around pretty early in the morning, before the hassle and bustle takes over the day. You see normal people walking their dogs, playing with their kids, running into the grocery store for a liter of milk – people just living their lives.

We went back and collected the rest of the group and headed over to Trinity College right across the River Liffey. The college is gated and all the students are required to live in the dorms, but the gates are open to visitors during the day. We opted for a self-guided tour to save time and a few bucks Euros, plus Kara had taken the tour with her mom, so she made sure we didn’t get lost!

Trinity College

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Since we didn’t take the tour, I don’t have any fun/lame facts for you, sorry!

Soccer Fields and Medical School

Soccer fields (soooo green!) and the Medical School.

Chocolate Shop

Pit stop at a chocolate shop so some of the group could satisfy their sweet tooth (teeth?)!

Next stop was Dublin Castle! On the way we passed a few other notable historical sites – City Hall 1779, Chester Beatty Library, and Jonathan Swift’s Home (which was literally a plaque on a stone wall where he used to live…anticlimactic after spending 10 minutes looking for it…).

Dublin Castle was heavily fortified by the Normans and was complete with a large wall surrounding the civilized portion of the city and a moat by the 1200s. The castle changed many times throughout the years (if you can’t tell…we waited until it opened at took a guided tour so we could see the interior), and was destroyed by a fire in the late 1600s. It was then rebuilt and remained a royal residence for the Viceroy of Ireland and also for the current monarch to keep quarters on visits (very few British monarchs ever came to Ireland, the Castle was full of mostly royal guests such as artists or visiting diplomats). The Castle was the site of much violence during the Anglo-Irish Wars and now that Ireland is a free nation, the Presidential inaugurations take place in St. Patrick’s Hall. The Castle was recently renovated and many State functions are held there, including recent visits from Obama and the Queen of England last May.

Dublin Castle

The Record Tower in the background is the sole surviving piece of the Mediaeval castle, dating around 1230.

Throne in Palace

Of course British Royalty didn’t come to Ireland often but they kept every room fully decorated and had a throne room for accepting visitors. There were tons of portraits and chandeliers, however, many of the more valuable decorations were taken back to England following Irish Independence, so we didn’t see the rooms in all their glory. In an odd way the castle tour felt like going to Washington DC or Mount Vernon and touring the grounds and homes of the past Presidents.

St. Patrick's Hall -- Still used for Presidental Inaugurations and important guests (JFK, Bill Clinton, Queen Elizabeth II)

St. Patrick’s Hall. This is one of the oldest rooms in the castle and is used for Presidential Inaugurations and hosting international dignitaries. The ceiling is beautifully painted, but the pictures didn’t really come out so here is a link.

After seeing the interior of the castle, we wanted to bolt and go eat, but the tour guide took us to a secret (well not really…) exhibit. The exhibit took us underneath the current castle to the ruins of the Medieval Castle that were recently discovered. There was a clear portion of the original wall left and a doorway where the wall would have led out to the moat. Glad we stayed! We went to for some traditional pub grub (hamburgers are not fun to photograph….) and then rushed out to a pub.

It just so happened that it was the All-Ireland Final of Gaelic Football on Sunday. This had been described to us by many of the guys in our classes as the Irish equivalent of the Superbowl. They said the city would be super rowdy not only because the game is at Croke Park, right outside of Dublin, but also because Dublin was playing Kerry, the winning-most team in Ireland. When we were out for our morning adventures we saw numerous people drinking in the pubs early in the morning, guys loading on buses with jerseys on, obviously headed to the stadium, and girls with some crazy outfits sporting their team colors! We wanted in on the action.

We popped into a crowded pub and situated ourselves by the projector. The match was super close (I Goggled the basic rules and scoring at dinner so we had an idea of what was happening in the game), Dublin was down by a few points but Kerry was on the offense the majority of the time. Over the next 30 minutes it was a rollercoaster ride for Dublin (we really had no choice but to root for Dublin given the crowd in the pub). Dublin tied the game in the last minute and off they went to overtime, now the fans were really excited! Dublin ended up winning in overtime and the crowd went wild!

Busker's Pub in Dublin for Gaelic Football Finals -- Crazy rowdy fans!

Packaged bar, everyone with their pints and the Gaelic Football game on a projector!

There was crying and hugging (I even got a hug!) and lots of cheering! What a great end to our time in Dublin!

We rushed off to the hostel and picked up our bags so we could catch the bus back to Galway, good thing we planned ahead and had our tickets, the bus was packed! It was a great weekend in Dublin and a good first trip outside of Galway. The Half Marathon will be something I’ll never forget and Dublin proved to be a fun city that wasn’t too big or too crowded to enjoy for the weekend!

Posted in Dublin, Eats, Gaelic Football, Hostels, Ireland, Random Musings, Study Abroad, Weekend Adventures | 2 Comments

London Sneak Peak

Spent the weekend in London and loved it! We arrived super late on Friday night (around 2:30am) and crashed immediately. But we were up for an early start – breakfast, showers, and out of the Hostel by 8:30am to start our adventure in London. We hit up a lot of must-see-stops on my list – thanks for the suggestions!

I’ll be back with more details when I have time (this whole homework and school thing is really cramping my style lately…haha). But for now here are some sneak peak pics from the weekend. Enjoy!

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First stop of the day. We didn’t go in, just pictures from the outside, it was a few blocks from our Hostel and right along the Thames.

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Tower of London! Soooo glad we went to this first. Inside, we saw the prison where Henry VIII kept his wives and also the Crown Jewels (no photography allowed), which was a definite highlight of the trip! Also, notice the contrast between the modern buildings in the background and the historical buildings – love seeing this in a big city (more on this later…I know I’m a dork…).

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We mastered London public transit by the end of the day. So glad we got the day pass to ride the Underground and the buses for the entire day! We hit so many more places because we didn’t have to walk everywhere…now if we could only get reasonably priced public transit in Galway!

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I just had to….

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View of the Eye and the Thames River from behind the Parliament Building in this cute park we found.DSCN1794

Speaking of parks, we walked through a ton of them throughout the day. This picture is taken in St. Jame’s Park — but the Princess Diana Memorial Walk spans 7 miles in the many city parks in London. They were beautiful parks, but definitely not as clean or as green as the landscape in Galway. I loved that there were runners EVERYWHERE throughout the day—wish I could have packed my trainers!

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My attempt at an artistic photo (loving the Toms!). This was at the Prime Meridian (or Greenwich Line). I have a better picture, so more on this later!

Travelling is a blast, but sure is exhausting! I have a ton more to share once I get back into my routine in Galway. I’m getting better at taking photos to remember my experiences, but not too many as to ruin the experience — it has only taken three big trips! haha. Better late than never.

I’m taking suggestions for a catchy blog title (Dad I’m looking at you), any ideas??

Posted in Hostels, Ireland, London, Study Abroad, Weekend Adventures | 2 Comments

Fall!

As I wake up each morning and check my Gmail account and my Blogroll, I also get a glimpse of the weather in all three places I’ve called “Home” in the last year (Westlake, West Lafayette, and Galway). It is more fun to compare the temperatures and weather conditions now that fall has arrived in the Midwest. On some days it is actually much warmer here than back in Ohio, but that is usually negated by the strong winds and abundance of rain.

Although it is nice that it is still so warm (around 60F), I do miss the traditional signs of fall. The leaves turning pretty colors and falling, the smells on a brisk walk to the BME building in the morning, and going to the Purdue football games and tailgates. But luckily here I have plenty of nature to make up for that, morning runs along the Galway Bay, the smells of the salt water …constantly, and the cheers from a near-by stadium (still need to go on an adventure to find out what sport they are playing!).

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Galway Bay – less than a 1 mile run from my front door

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Super sunny day (that doesn’t happen often) but it is still very windy, especially down by the water – hence the windbreakers on that random family

Mutton Light Famine Memorial

Memorial to those who left Ireland during the Great Famine. It is to the lighthouse (on a dock behind the rock), which would have been those people’s last sight of Ireland as the Coffin Ships sailed away toward America

I am enjoying my time here and the beautiful views, but there are a few stereotypical American “Fall” customs I’m missing while in Ireland!

1. Candycorn – I’m especially obsessed with the pumpkins

2. Canned Pumpkin – great for Pumpkin oatmeal, bread, cookies, pie…..!

3. Bonfires. I asked a classmate if they ever have bonfires, sit around, drink a few beers and just chill. Let’s just say I got some strange looks. I mean, I thought it was a fair question given their affinity for American country music….I guess they prefer the pub for its shelter from the rain, can’t really blame them!

4. October Break! – We don’t get a vacation weekend in early October as is accustom for many American Universities on the semester schedule. A few days off would be nice, we could plan a longer trip somewhere! But honestly I’ll miss coming home and seeing everyone (and celebrating a couple birthdays!).

Rumor has it that we have the Monday of Halloween off  – it is a bank holiday here, so there may be some truth in that. O what will I be?

Any suggestions for cheap/simple Halloween costumes? I’ve heard it is a multiple day affair here in Galway, with special pub deals!

Posted in Ireland, Study Abroad | 1 Comment