Sunday, January 31, 2010

Aran Islands "Ireland's Alcatraz"

This past weekend Tom, Jane, Lauren, and Kristina came to visit and to see what Galway and the west coast has to offer. We met up Friday night and I showed them a few hot spots in Galway’s nightlife. In the midst of the night they convince me that I should come to the Aran Islands with them tomorrow morning. After waking up to my alarm at 8:30, which I don’t remember setting, and I stumbled over to the Kinlay House where they were all staying. Thank God it was right down the road. 26 euro and an hour and a half later we found ourselves on the ferry taking us out to sea. The ferry ride is 45 minutes long, and after quickly realizing that sitting below deck along with a hangover and an empty stomach is a horrible combination. Good thing the sites you see as you travel out to the Atlantic on the top deck are completely worth the cold temperatures that you go through. We arrive on the largest of the three islands and realize that we don’t really know what someone does once they get to the island. So we decide to take a bus tour around the island with a man named Bertie Flaherty, probably the nicest man I’ve met in Ireland, and that’s saying something. Bertie has lived on the Aran Islands for the better part of his life and recently retired from being a fisherman. The Aran Islands consists of a population of 825 people, that’s smaller than my high school by 300 people and I felt like I knew most of the people there. Basically everyone knows everyone. Bertie brought us all around the island which is 10 miles long by 2.5 miles wide. The coolest part of the trip was definitely the area called Dun Aengus. Dun Aengus is basically identical to the Cliffs of Moher is every way except that it is not on the main land. This place was amazing. It was by far the coolest thing that I have yet to seen while on my European adventure. Imagine hanging off the side of a mountain with a 300 foot drop down into the ocean. Pretty cool huh? I literally felt like an 8 year old in a candy shop, never wanting to leave and always wanting more. After Dun Aengus Bertie brought us to the furthest west edge of the island. It was here that I realized that when I stepped out the furthest from my friends I was the closest person in all of Europe to America. Pretty cool. Miss you USA.

Then things started to get really interesting. After realizing that time was running short we ended our bus tour and went back into “town” or at least the harbor. We realized that we had a couple hours to spare so we went into a bar to wait until our 5:45 ferry departure. After a while we left the bar and walked down to the dock, and didn’t see the boat. We started to panic a little but then thought that it must be coming in any minute. So we looked at our tickets and saw that the ferry leaves at 5 pm and the bus ride home ticket leaves at 5:45 pm. Perfect. We run into the tourist house and ask if there was another ferry leaving the island tonight. He laughs at us and says that we should be looking for a place to stay the night. Let’s just say that tensions began to rise and rage surfaced. After words had been spoken within our group and pointing the finger at each other we knew that there was no way that we were getting off this rock until tomorrow morning at 8. Well since there is only 1 hostel on the island the choices were limited of where we would be staying. After securing down our room, which we didn’t even end up sleeping in because our roommate was a creepy Italian that was not only giving the girls “the eye” but also Tom and I, we knew that we had to get supplies. Step one: Spar for alcohol and bagels. Step two: drink the alcohol and eat the bagels. Step three: repeat step two. After getting past the feeling that we were being imprisoned or enslaved on the islands that are only 9 miles off the coast of Ireland, we tried to salvage the night. It was like our own little Alcatraz. We ended up meeting up with some Americans from New York who were planning on staying on the island that night along with some really nice Irishmen and a South African. We raided the two bars they have on the island and saved everything we could from the night. By the way, you want to see stars like you have never seen before I suggest going out to the middle of the Atlantic and looking up. I felt like I was looking through a telescope and thankfully it was a clear night and a full moon. The five of us slept in the Rec Room on the couches for about 3 hours and then rolled out of the hostel in the morning and onto the ferry. 2 hours later I took a vow to myself that next time I go somewhere I can be stranded I will look at the ticket for my ride out of there myself. Would I go back to the Aran Islands? Yes, definitely. Would I spend the night there again? No. Has the reality of what happened to me yesterday become a funny story now? Absolutely.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


First trip major trip of the European adventure was completed this past weekend. I pictured my trip to Dublin to be a like a warm up before a big game or a pregame before a big night of drinking. Dublin would be the test specimen for what to expect when I visit other major cities and countries in the next couple months. If I learned anything from Dublin it is that I’m going to break the bank very quickly. Dublin took everything I had and then went after my family and then took the clothes off my back, leaving me with nothing but cobwebs in my wallet and a pocket full of receipts. All that besides, Dublin is an awesome city! It is so much bigger than what I had expected that every part of the city blew my mind. But before I get ahead of myself let me start at the only logical point: the beginning.

Day 1: Being too lazy to get up at the crack of dawn Bobby and Hubick and I took the 9:45 direct bus from Galway to Dublin on GoBus. A bit less than 3 hours later we arrived on O’Connell Street navigating ourselves around in circles trying to decide where we would sleep that night. (tip for the future: plan ahead) After wasting an hour or so we decided to stay at the Kinley Hostel where all our friends were already staying. Should have saw that coming. We dropped off our packs and headed out immediately. Statistically, the first word American college students associate Dublin with is the word Guinness. Dont believe me? Look it up. So naturally the first stop on our list was the famous Guinness Factory. Thankfully the hostel was pretty close to the Factory and of course all our friends were already there. Naturally. The Guinness Factory is one of the coolest things I have ever experienced. If Arthur Guinness already isn’t sitting in the VIP section of heaven he should be. All 55 acres of his factory are probably considered the Irish Holy Lands, considering Ireland alone drinks about 13 million pints of Guinness every two weeks. (fun fact for you). All 7 floors of the Factory are amazing. Each floor designated to a different aspect of the Guinness foundation: G) Welcome Atrium and Ingredients 1) Brewing, Cooperage and Transport 2) Advertising 3) Brewery Life 4) Celebrating 250 years of Guinness 5) Gilroy Advertising/ Bars 6) Gravity Bar- highest tourist point in all of Dublin. Every floor= heavenly. (Excuse all the religious sentiments, it was just that awesome.) Best part of the trip was pouring my own pint o Guinness; it just doesn’t get any more cliché. Pouring my own pint of Guinness, in Dublin, in the Guinness Factory. That’s something you see in the picture books or on postcards. The Gravity Bar at the top is an amazing sight. The bar is a complete 360 degree bar with glass surrounding 90% of it showing off the entire city of Dublin and the Wicklow Mountains. It is a fantastic sight to behold on a clear day, which we had. Luck of the Irish right there. After snapping some photos we left and were on our way to the Jameson Factory. We figured we might as well keeping drinking if we already started so early. Jaymo was a bit of a let down mostly just because Guinness was so cool. But the free Jameson wasn’t a let down at all. Thank you John Jameson. That night we all went out and hit up the famous Temple Bar area, aka tourist central. I met up with Tom Culkeen, and granted him the title as Tour Guide Tom. He took us around the area and eventually we met up with more BC people and had a night for the ages.

Day 2: A lot to swallow in the first day so take a deep breathe, a drink of water, grab a power bar and when your ready continue onto day 2. After waking up to 23 other people in my hostel room and immediately feeling disgusting I eventually pulled myself together and jumped back into the thick of things for day 2 of Dublin. First stop: Kilmainham Jail, the famous jail featured in many movies like the Italian Job and Michael Collins and even a U2 music video. This is where they kept the 13 leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916. The jail was pretty unbelievable and the conditions they lived in where unimaginable. After leaving the jail we decided to go somewhere saintly, so obviously St. Patrick’s Cathedral was top of our list. The Cathedral was one of the coolest parts of the trip for me. It was gorgeous and enormous and not at all what I had expected. Inside are a lot of memorials for soldiers that died in WWI and WWII and in the Easter Rising and many of other battles. I thought that was really cool since I always felt like the Church tried to separate itself from the politics of war and the pain and sadness that surround it, so that was an interesting surprise. After the Cathedral we went to Dublin Castle, which was pretty awesome. The president of Ireland had been there a week before we were there at a meeting. The history behind the castle was really interesting and the building was beautiful inside. That night we ran all around Dublin and saw a lot of the city which was a lot of fun. Hubick and I met up with Tom again and we ended up sleeping on his wood floor in his single at UCD to save a buck on the hostel. Thanks Tommyboy.

Day 3: Hubick and I woke up 2 hours later than planned, thanks a lot Jagermeister. After realizing we were 20 minutes outside the city we struggled to find a bus. Finally got on one and felt like Harry Potter on the Knight Bus, so naturally it was totally worth it. Eventually we got back to Dublin and went up and down O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street. After that we trekked over to Trinity College. The campus is remarkable. It is massive and reminded me (and I hate to say it) of Notre Dame with the open quads and untouchable grass. After snapping a few shots of the Trinity Arch we went to the Book of Kells. The coolest part of my trip by far. It blew everything else we did out of the water. Unfortunately pictures are not allowed inside it so I cant show you any pics but that might be a bit of the reason it is so amazing. We spent probably 2 hours in a tour that you can walk through in under 90 seconds. Everything about it was just extraordinary. It’s hard to put into words what being so close to something so profound was like so I wont try. Bottom line it was the coolest part of the trip. If you go to Dublin this is a required stop. The library that follows the Book of Kells can only be compared to the library in the Beauty and the Beast. Absolutely magnificent. Rows upon rows, shelves upon shelves, floors above floors of books. It was unbelievable. After leaving Trinity College Hubick and I walked around St. Stephen’s Green and saw the largest indoor clock in Europe and basically called it a weekend. We jumped on a bus back to Galway, pockets a little lighter but memories packed to the point of explosion.

Texts From Last Night

Last week was Bobby’s 21st birthday. So naturally like any American we decided to make that day a complete drinking fest, that would only be successful if Bobo could only talk, read, and write at a 4 year old level. After a dinner prepared in the palace (19 Donegan Ct.) the pub crawl commenced. Starting off in the middle of no where Galway at a pub where we watched the Man United game we slowly but surely began to walk towards civilization, and into the lights of Galway. 10 pubs later and 10 Jameson shots down the hatch for Bobby we stumbled into GPO, one of the nightclubs that Galway has to offer. To the great pleasure of the pub crawlers that still were hanging onto the night Bobby was at a state of mind that was below a 4 year old intelligence level. And of course for those who stuck out it out to the end Bobby was not the only one K.O. by Galway that night. After some fantastic dining at Supermac’s, Rebecca and I began to walk back to The Niland House. After laughing about how great of a body guard I would be for the both of us in the event of danger, Rebecca reassures me and says she has mace. Like a 7 year old boy in a toy shop I am mesmerized by this and demanded to see the bottle. I mean come on what person hasn’t thought of what it would be like to tear gas someone? I know I have. And now I know both sides of the story. Without feeling for the point where the mace will be sprayed from I push down on the bottle and got a first hand experience of what the creepy assailant would feel when they come to attack Rebecca. Second fastest sober up period in my life. Needless to say I ran the ¼ of a mile home just like Ray Charles plays the piano, all from memory. After possibly the quickest ¼ of a mile I have ever ran or the longest ¼ of a mile I have ever ran I arrived home. I couldn’t really tell you how long it took due to the fact that my eyes felt like they were walking across a fire pit like I was some circus performer. One hour later of running my eyes under the sink I went to bed with wet towels on both eyes praying that when I wake up in the morning I wont need Jesus’ second coming to perform a miracle. Thankfully I woke up and just like Jesus cured the blind man I had been healed, though not completely fully. Best part of the morning however was the text I received from Rebecca from the night before that read: “Seriously though, now you get to go home and tell everyone that you survived being maced in the face. By yourself…” I’m still holding out for to respond but I have faith that it will be posted eventually. Lesson I learned: Mace is for girls, not Jimmy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Burren

So a couple of days ago there was a student activities fair that some friends and I checked out. Basically just a bunch of clubs asking you to sign up and join. When we were there we found the usual clubs that you find back at home, but then there were a few that were definitely not at BC activities day, like kayaking, equestrian, mountaineering club, and surf club. Deciding to join the clubs we don’t have the opportunity to back home we signed up for most of these. This weekend we had our first mountaineering club experience, and the destination of the hike was called The Burren. The Burren is an area of land in county Clare that literally is just mountains and hills of rock, half the time I felt like I was running through the set of Lord of the Rings.

But to start from the beginning, I woke up and got to the bus at 9 am, a difficult task for any day of the week but especially a Sunday. Eventually we were off 30 minutes later and on our way to county Clare which took about an hour and a half to get to. On the way they periodically stopped and let people off the bus to go up different paths. Due to the fact that Hubick, Lindsay, Lissy, Elora, and I didn’t have the proper shoes, pants, and just general attitude towards everything so early they put us in the last group designated the “slow group.” Getting off the bus Hubick and I realize we are the only two guys in the entire group of 22 people, besides one of our tour guides Neil aka Lars. We started our ascent to the top of God knows where and along the way practiced our extreme mountaineering, laughing about how good we were and how the medium and fast group have no idea what they are missing without us in it. We started off on the path which quickly turned into nothing so we began to climb up. 1 hour later we reached what I like to call the Land of My Fore Fathers, which was just a circle of rocks built up about 9 feet high. 30 minutes later we reached the top of the hill where I we all thought we would end but instead we continued onto a second peak about an hour further from where we were. Exhausted, tired, hungry, aching, and delirious we reach the top of point two and are told that we are going to turn around and head back down. Kill me. Hiking up for two and a half hours is one thing, turning around and hiking back down is torture. Nevertheless we cursed the skies, wind, and our tour guides as we turned around and hiked the 2 hours back down.

Now I know that there was a lot of bitching in there, that was mostly for my dad because he would love to hear that I spending my day starving myself and pushing myself to the limit and hiking all day. But the top of The Burren is truly an unbelievable sight. The winds up there are so strong that I am certain if I opened up a sheet and connected it to my backpack I would be paragliding down the side of the mountain instead of hiking. (Probably a better idea than hiking down.) Half the time it was a struggle just to stand up but it was definitely worth it. The sight at the top looks out over the entire Galway Bay and the beginning of the Atlantic Ocean. You can see the Aran Islands from there and you know that you are just on the edge of a vast emptiness of water. Lets just say that the end definitely justified the means. After explaining to some of the people in the group what 'SFD' meant we were back where we started in no time. And with just enough time to grab a bite at the pub at the bottom and have some of the best chowder that I have ever had, sorry Bostonians. On the way home I passed out, and woke up back on campus and pulled a death march back to my place realizing that sleeping tonight is not going to be a difficult task.

Friday, January 15, 2010


After class today Hubick and I went to the gym on campus. Now before some of you stop reading this because you know I have to be lying if Im talking about going to the gym, stop and realize that everyone told me that while in Europe I should try as many new things as possible, and this I decided would be one of them. To join the KingFisher is 200 euro. So you know that there is no way Im joining, but today was free trial day, or so we thought, so Hubick and I thought it would be a good learning experience to see what fit people do when they come here. When we get to the desk we find out that it is not free gym day and before turning around and leaving on the spot, the lady understands that we are dumb Americans and didn’t realize that the free trial was really last week and for only the first 50 people. We get in, and work out for a total of possibly 45 minutes, worst part of the day, and quickly hurry down to the pool, the one reason we really wanted to go. We jump in the pool, without a required swim suit but instead just a pair of gym shorts. Immediately the pool attendant comes over yells at us and makes us wear swim caps. It was my first time with a cap on, not as much fun as I thought they were and definitely not as effective. There was probably 4 other people in the pool too, we were in the lane labeled “slow.” After realizing that we weren’t even really swimming the people around us started to get pretty pissed. Thinking that there should be a lane designated for Americans we left the pool, went in the steam room, and jumped in the required shower area to rinse off. I took a shower washing every body part with actual soap; including all my major crevices; including in between my toes and in my belly button which I never did before but sort of enjoyed. I washed my hair with adult formula shampoo and used cream rinse for that just-washed shine. I can't seem to find my toothbrush, so I'll pick one up when I go out today. Other than that, I'm in good shape. Realizing we have no towels we went to the changing village- an area that girls and guys both can use together for last minute touches before they leave the changing area- and we used the hair dryers to dry off. Which we were then yelled at by a gym worker because we were going to fry to dryers doing that. Laughing at the fantastic spa day we just had we looked on the bulletin board and saw the next free gym day in on the 21st. Spa Day part 2 is definitely happening, just going to remember a towel.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

So it is probably time I give credit to the people who host me and the guys so many times before we go out since it is clear from reactions from my last post that they were very upset that I failed to give accurate details. Before most nights of going out hubick, bobby, and I travel the grueling 20 second walk upstairs and go to lissy, liz and she who chooses to be kept anonymous (elora) apartment. (this is of course after I walk the 8 minutes to their apartment buildings) this travel upstairs is a necessity due to the fact that unlike the girls place, bobby and brian’s place, and my place don’t have enough room to stretch our legs out on the couch without hitting the other side of the wall. Their place on the other hand is a palace. If bobo’s and hubicks and my place equaled the Holiday Inn in Omaha, Nebraska their place would equal the Ritz-Carlton in Dubai.

Now the glory that is “the pregame” is a beautiful thing for one reason, its cheap and there is usually a goal of drinking as much as you can before going out. Probably in Ireland: the euro. The pregaming I have been doing here I am not exactly proud of. 5 euro wine bottles is one of the cheapest deals and then 8 tall boys of the drink fit only for a King, the Bavarian Crown, for 10 euro. However, we always seem to make due. Interesting side note people would like to know, is that Elora is actually the person who had my keys when I lost them. So thanks Elora! Anyways, long combination of thumper (which I am getting better at) and speed quarters always follows. Life without solo cups and pong balls is limiting. I think Im going to have to make up a new game because my ears are ringing with the sounds of quarters hitting glasses and hands pounding the table.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Worst First Day of School Ever

I have had approximately 16 first days of school in my lifetimes. And there have definitely been some rough ones in there. First day of elementary school is scary, first day of middle school is awkward, first day of high school is intimidating, but who would have thought that I would have to travel all the way to Ireland to have the worst first day of school in my life! This is a quickie of how my day went. (I already typed it out on time and I got kicked off line so this isn’t going to go into as much detail about it all, it will be more of a rundown, but in the end I would probably have bored you with the details anyway). Woke up at 8, took a shower after two of my roommates- no hot water. Went to class at 9, teacher didn’t show up. Went to pick up my student ID card, office hours don’t start until 10 am. Walk to the second farthest building on campus to find out why the teacher didn’t show up at 9. found out seminar courses don’t begin until next week. Go back to the student union and wait for my next class. Go there at 12, zero people show up. Walk with Brian to the farthest building on campus to find out why no one showed up to the second class, class room was changed earlier that day. Awesome. Go back to center of campus to try to pick up course descriptions in different departments. Basically end up running around campus for the next 3 hours doing that. Eventually have to go back to that furthest building again, fml. Go to try to pick up my ID now, note on the door that says ID cards wont be ready until later this week. Of course they wont. Walk back to Hubick’s place, much closer to campus than mine. Sit there for an hour waiting until my last class of the day at 5 pm. Walk back in the freezing, sit through the class, actually got to one today (1 for 3 not bad). Get home, feel like death, try to battle through a fever and sore throat bc it’s the first day back for all the irish students. Go out, a lot of fun, meet some pretty cool irish guys that live in Brian and Bobby’s apartment. Find my keys that I lost 3 days earlier (highlight of my day), go back home. Maybe get an hour of sleep the entire night. End of worst day ever. As they say, the sun will come out tomorrow. But if it does and it looks like this I don’t want it to.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First 24 Hours

So as I said before I was going to hopefully have exciting news for the next post. Idk if my first 24 hrs are exactly exciting but they sure were eventful. After arriving at Ohare in Chicago I said goodbye to my mom and went through security to find myself having to go through extra security. Typical. They put me in a glass box and said to wait for someone to come and they will give me a further inspection. After 5 minutes a man came in and did everything put a colonoscopy to me. Eventually the guy let me go finding that I am not a terrorist and telling me to have a "great flight!" I boarded AerLingus flight 143 and sat in the wrong seat to begin. Thankfully I realized it before the 300 man who was sitting in the seat next to that one got there. 7 hours next to a man of that size and I would want to kill myself. I ended up sitting next to a really nice 26 yr old girl named Danielle who is studying Irish poetry in Belfast. She gave me some really good advice about what to go see and what airlines are the best to scope out. I watched Public Enemies and Entourage episodes and the flight went pretty well. I landed in Dublin at 8:30 am and that is where it all began to go wrong. I got off the flight and went through customes fine but had a 4 hour delay until my flight to Shannon airport. After waiting the 4 hrs i boarded the plane and was going to take off until the pilot told us that Ireland is experiencing the worst snow in 20 years and that we might be delayed. oh boy here we go.

After looking outside my window i realized that there was possibly 3/4 an inch of snow (not kidding). The pilot said that Dublin has completely shut down and that schools are canceled and ppl are not going to school because of it. are you kidding me? one of the countries in the world with the most amount of rainfall and they are unprepared for the weather to drop below freezing? nevertheless i laughed about it with my friends on the flight thinking that the delay would be short. 5 hours later, 3 trips out to the runway, and 4 times defrosting the wings of the plane i wanted to murder someone. eventually the just kicked us all out of the plane and said get on a bus. So after waiting an hour to get my bags I got on a bus to Galway. I arrived to my apartment building around 10 pm and after 24 hours of traveling all i wanted to do was drink. I met my roommates and decided to go to the pubs. I arrived to the King's Head at probably 10:10 pm and then bounced around from that pub to The Quays (pronounced The Keys) until the end of my night.

I live right next to the harbor. I look out my front window and there are 2 massive ships 20 yards away from me. I feel like I am on the set for The Deadliest Catch. It really is a nice spot with an awesome location to the downtown life. I have 5 roommates. Chris from Elgin, IL and he went to Carmel, and goes to Marquette now who I am directly rooming with, Ian from Washington DC and goes Georgetown, Patrick from Grayslake, IL and goes to Madison, Charlie who has lived all over the world but currently in Germany and goes to Georgetown, and Nick from Libertyville, IL and goes to Marquette. Our place has definite up and downs. Great location for downtown, very tiny. Far from school, but somewhat isolated.

Today was orientation I am not going to bore you or myself with the details from that. After it I walked around a bit, got my sweet new phone, a Motorola piece of crap that I kinda like a lot, grabbed a quick bit to eat at supermacs (looks like a great late night food spot) and then went on a booze run. Booze is very expensive- 24 bottles of stella for 15 euro is the best bet we have found so far. We will see how the night goes from here…

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back to the Home Country

So I decided to start this blog for a few reasons 1. because a lot of people said that I should start a journal, and I want to be cool like all the other kids 2. so that I can try to remember all the things I did while I was abroad and 3. so that people can stalk me on multiple online portals. While I know that my blog will not be the homepage of your computers, it will allow many of you to have another website to go to as you procrastinate from doing what you should. Im not going to get my hopes up and think that people will visit this, oh idk daily, but Im hoping that it will eventually become at least one of your top 5 sites that you think of when you open your computer, or maybe not.

I just finished packing up everything and am about to head out in a couple minutes to the airport. I arrive in Dublin tomorrow morning then make my way over to Galway by the afternoon. So hopefully by the next time I post it will be something a little more exciting then this. See you guys on the other side of the pond.