Travel

Ireland, October 2015: Checking off Lists

Well, turns out Ireland is all it’s supposed to be.

I did a little solo trip there 2 weekends ago and it was just about the best of the best.  I went to Dublin and Galway, and took day trips to the Cliffs of Moher and Aran Islands.  With all the alone time I did plenty of observing and over-the-top, Anne of Green Gables/Jo March style writing. But lucky for you I also love making lists.  As much as I’m sure you wish I would, I’ll hold back from going totally late-19th/early-20th century female on you and will give you for the most part the list portion of my notebook contents.

I started off my trip with my usual travel to-do list.  These are usually made while waiting to board planes.  This one was no exception.  I stuck in my lil’ old headphones, started my Ireland playlist, and made myself a lil’ Ireland To-Do List.

Ireland To-Do List
(These list items are exactly as they appear in my notebook,  Go ahead and judge me.)

  1. Lay in REAL GRASS
    Check.  I can’t explain how homey the smell of grass is.  I didn’t realize it till I smelled it again, but that fresh, cool smell is just home.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen more than questionable city patches of grass so I was practically ready to eat the stuff.
  2. Read William Blake somewhere outdoors.
    No check.  I want to say check so badly but couldn’t find a darn bookstore that had even the tiniest volume of William Blake.  First and only strike for Ireland.
  3. Cliffs of Moher + Atlantic Ocean Breeze + Hair down
    Check.
    Yeah whatever you would have wanted your hair to blow over cliffs too so don’t even try to judge me.
     I spent most of my time at the Cliffs walking and had to rush back to catch my bus before writing much.  But here is what I did write:”I am sitting in the deepest, brightest green grass with little tufts of heather all around me. I’ve been all alone for the last few kilometers and could have stepped back 400 years for all I know.  Three feet in front and 700 feet down is a dark blue Atlantic ocean crashing white against mossy, jagged, grey cliff walls.  Thirty feet behind me is a thin wire fence separating me from some giant Irish cows.  Pretty sure one could eat me.
    Soft green, long-since tamed farmland rolls into far-off gentle mountains-a sharp contrast to the wildness it faces in the Atlantic.
    The sky is a pale blue spotted with cotton-candy fluff clouds.  Sunshine is bouncing off the Irish green all around.I love it here.  I love having nothing but air and ocean.  I love friendly faces.  I love speaking at the same speed as my brain is working.  I love black coffee…Dear Cliffs of Moher, you are a wonder of scale and contrast and I love you.”
  4. Make Irish friends
    Check.
    So in my head Hannah making friends with Irish people pretty clearly translated to this specific scene from PS I Love You.   In a classic turn of events however, 100% of the 3 local phone numbers I collected that weekend were from Irish grandmothers.  That’s cool though…I mean I wanted that actually and who cares about Irish men and their perfect accents anyways!?  NOT ME.  So here’s a picture of me with a cow because at least he liked me.IMG_7743
  5. Potatoes
    Not really sure what I meant when I wrote this.  Maybe I wanted to go digging for potatoes?  No wait actually who am I kidding?  I totally just wanted to eat potatoes.  And did I ever!  I ate mashed potatoes with everything.


  6. Guinness
    Check Check CHECK.
    Guinness is Ireland.  Ireland is Guinness.
    Hannah loves Guinness therefore Hannah loves Ireland.  And vice versa.
    Word on the street has it that Irish Doctors prescribe this stuff to patients.  I saw multiple bars with advertisements in the windows touting the strength-building benefits of Guinness.  So it’s healthy?  I guess?
  7. Cheese
    Check.
    I walked into the Cheesemonger in Galway and after staring at all the wax coated wheels of heaven for about 10 minutes finally asked Charlie the Cheesemonger to give me his strongest Irish cheese.  This, my friends, was a fantastic decision on my part.  He directed me to the bakery just around the corner where I obviously RAN in order to buy a whole wheat scone which would become the conduit to my precious cheese.  I went on to pound my 2-part culinary masterpiece while listening to live music on a Galway corner.  Afterwards I had to shake the equivalent of a half scone of crumbs out of my scarf.  That moment could be considered both a high and low point for me.
  8. Hike Connemara
    No check.
    Instead I ended up going to the Aran Islands.  I boarded a ferry in the morning and obviously I got off at the wrong island.  But it urns out that this was one of my best travel mistakes to date. I ended up on Inis Meain island inhabited by 160 Irish-speaking inhabitants (fun fact-Irish is a separate language from Gaelic.  It’s totally different and THE most beautiful).  The island is a patchwork of ancient stone walls.  The entirety of the island is divided into square patches no bigger than 40×50 feet.  How you get between and to some of the center ones I have absolutely no idea.

    On Inis Meian I met a little old lady who served a new friend and I tea in a garden and she described the island best.  “You step off the ferry onto the island and you feel like you found a new old world. And one you’re on the ferry back to the mainland it all feels like a strange dream.”  There’s nothing better than that to be said about this little bit of earth.

  9. Live Music in Pub
    Check. Turns out this was every pub always.  Music was everywhere.
  10. Watch rugby match
    Check.  Ireland v. France.  The Irish won.  And thank heavens they did because I am entirely convinced I would have lost my life to some brawling Irish man with a 10 pound glass Guinness stein.
  11. Cream Tea and Scones
    Check.  So if I drank tea with whole fat milk constantly in the hostel (because it was FREE) that counts, right?
  12. Trinity College Library
    I love books and I love the smell of books.  Therefore, I love libraries.  This place has been on my bucket list ever since I started reading lists of “the world’s most beautiful libraries”-and I started reading those lists a long time ago.
  13. Irish soda bread
    This stuff is like putting a brick in your stomach.  And I mean that in the most complimentary sense.  I’d eat this bread every morning if I could.
  14. Black pudding
    No check.  Honestly wasn’t too jazzed about checking this one off anyway considering Wikipedia defines these as “Sausages filled with blood that are cooked or dried and mixed with a filler until they are thick enough to congeal when cooled.”   Terrifying.
  15. Buy yarn.  The real stuff.
    No check.  BUT I found the real stuff and wanted to buy it.  But obviously they don’t even have a single ATM or credit card machine on Inis Meian, so it wasn’t happening.
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Travel

3 Days, 4 Pals, 5 Countries

I´m sitting here trying to sing the title of this post to the tune of Beyonce´s Countdown…and it´s actually going really well.  Too bad you can´t all hear me. So guess what guys-I´m still in Europe and I´m still alive and I´m still having the best of times!  There have been at least 74 happenings I should have written about in the last 6 months but I´ll just have to carry those memories close to heart and hope the dear Lord doesn’t take my memory for a good long time. This last weekend was a lil´ slice of heaven.  Sunday the 12th my dear friend Olivia (check out her blog-she actually writes more than bi-annually) and I sat on her bed, little sunburnt crips, wishing our weekend in Costa Brava, Catalunya hadn´t just ended.  So what do two burnt little wonderlust-struck crisps do?  They thank their lucky stars that they have friends driving back from Switzerland the next weekend and immediately book flights.  (Thanks Tim & Dennis.  PS-you’re great dancers.)

Switzerland

I’ve been trying to get back to Switzerland ever since I left just after Christmas.  Just outside Geneva there’s a little town named Cologny.  In this little town sits a not-so-little home filled by a not-so-little family.  The Masters family of 9 was kind enough to open their home and family to a Christmasy-homesick vagabond (me) this last December.  By some magic stepping through the front door of the Masters’ Geneva home was like unlocking a trans-Atlantic portal back to my own warm, white, Virginia home.  I guess it was some mix of the Christmas pies, brother fights, blankets-on-floor-movie-watching, bookshelves full of adventure and theology, guests gathered from corners of the world, and most of all-the love of Christ encircling the rest.  All that to say-I’ve been wanting to make it back to that home away from home.

So-Tim, Dennis, and Olivia picked me up from the airport and we headed to the Masters where everything was as perfectly homey as always. After a lil’ QT with the Masters we figured we should decide a route back to Barcelona.  OBVIOUSLY that meant I needed to write a list.  Now guys-about this list.  If 14 year old Hannah had been told this list was full of real possibilities she would have dropped dead as a doornail.   The list went something like: Portofino (Italy), Nice (France), Monaco, San Sebastian (Spain), Cinque Terre (Italy).  Yep.  Little Hannah dead.  There’s that. Somehow or another a pros and cons list never happened and Cinque Terre was the final call.

So back to 14 year old Hannah-at this point she’s clutching her beloved Cinque Terre wall calendar, library checked out backpack travel guides, and is for SURE jumping up and down.  Present 23 year-old Hannah is right there with her.

We loaded into the Porsche ( L O L ) and headed South.  Within that “headed South” were Alps, traffic jams, good music, more Alps, and lots of smiling so hard it hurt.

Italy

First stop: Genoa

Genoa was pasta and pesto, little backstreets, limoncello, a pretty gross beach, and a hotel with grand piano in the lobby.

Second stop: Vernazza

Woke up bright and early to catch the miraculously 6€ train from Genoa to Vernazza.  Got on the train a bit groggy and croissant-stuffed.  Exited the train to yellow tinted sunrays bouncing back and forth from one color-drenched building to the next.  The kaleidoscope Vernazza street dipped slowly down toward jewel-blue, boat-lined sea. To the right of the street was a little supermarket where we bought apples and lemons.  Apples because they are the best and lemons because having Italian sun-bleached hair is also the best.

We made our way to the end of the main street where white boats bob up and down on Mediterranean blue.  Next to one of these boats stood a little old Italian man.  By some miracle he decided to try to strike up a conversation in Italian with the pretty clearly un-Italian Olivia and myself.  By some extra miracle we answered in Italian/Spanish decent enough to make him keep talking.  Francesco comes to Vernazza 2 months every summer.  He comes back because he met his “amore”-Margherita-there many decades ago.  The Francesco and Margherita that met those many years ago now return with their grandchildren to the timeless, sun-stained streets and waters of Vernazza every summer.  So yeah-it’s cool.  We all just want to be Margherita and stuff but WHATEVER. NOT JEALOUS.

Francesco took Dennis, Olivia, and I out for cappuccini and we all felt pretty darn good about life.  Still not sure how it all could have been real but here’s a picture to prove I didn’t go all 14-year old Hannah and just daydream it up. (photo cred: Dennis)

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After this time got lost.  I’d rather keep the rest of the day a dream-like blur.  The blur is all half-opened eyes in blue, salty  water, sun-warmed stone, sunBURN, barnacle rock scraped fingers, melting gelato, cliff jump weightlessness, kayaks and coast, and absolute failure at skipping rocks. I could write an essay on every one of those things. But Lord knows this is already ages too long so I won’t do that to you.

Sunburnt and burned out on late Italian trains, we finally made it back to our hotel and slept like lil’ angels (JK woke up like 72 times but whatevs). Woke up the next morning and had THE breakfast of champions.  Not even going to go there.  Let me just tell you it was a BUFFET.  Scratch that it was about 12 buffets: yoghurt/toppings buffet, fruit buffet, pastry buffet, bread buffet, meat buffet, vegetable buffet, omelette buffet, coffee buffet, EVERYTHINGBUFFETGAAAAAAH.  I can’t even talk about it anymore.  Just trust me-it was gosh darn delicious.

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We began the trek westward to Barcelona.  The westward trip included a Tim Keller sermon, word-association game, lots o’ musicsss, maybe a little speeding, and finally, a stop in…

Monaco

Yeah Monaco…I’m pretty tired and this thing is so long ain’t nobody going to read it. So I’ll just tell you this: Everybody and everything in Monaco is rich.  The cars are rich.  The casinos are rich.  The boats are rich.  The roads are rich.  The parks are rich (like…you’re not allowed to walk on the grass so what even is the POINT!?).  Probably the cockroaches are rich (L O L . As IF they even know what cockroaches are).

Well folks, there’s a wrap. I’m all written out for the day. Here’s to hoping I can do another one of these before another 6 months pass.

And disclaimer-only 3 countries were mentioned in this post BUT-technically we passed through France AND ended up back home in Spain.  So there’s that.  5 countries fair and square.

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