Thursday, June 16, 2011

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brussels and Amsterdam

Since ireland we have visited Brussels in Belgium, Amsterdm in The Netherlands, and Berlin Germany - the current location.  

Brussels was full of Belgian Waffles, yummy flavored fruity beer which I loved, and many replications of the famed Manekeen Pis (a statue of a little boy peeing in a fountain) and inevitably lots and lots of belgian chocolate shops!  Brussels had a pretty good personality about their city.  They replicated the statue of this little boy peeing in nearly all of the shops we walked into.  You could  even buy chocolates in the shape of this chubby little guy.  And if you were willing to play a little hide and seek for the afternoon you could look for Jeanneke Pis, perhaps his sister? This was a less famed fountain of a little girl peeing.  She represented loyalty for a loved one... Because most people clearly associate  peeing in public with unconditional devotion and love.? ;). If you eat a Belgian waffle here, have it plain without all the whipped cream, chocolate and fruit.  It is much better off on it's own!  We wandered the city for 2 days and found a cool outdoor bar where we lounged at and tried some framboise rasperry beer.  I miss the fruity beer already!

Amsterdam, oh amsterdam!  We actually flew into Brussels from Dublin as a means of geting into Amsterdam for "Queens Day" on April 30th... One of the largest street parties this side of the Mississippi ;)  Rules for Queens day: Dress in Holland's national color, orange, and debaucherize the city streets to celebrate the Queen...Seemed easy enough!  We were able to meet up with a few friends I studied abroad with, Steinar (Michael's patner in crime for the weekend) from Norway, and Judith from Germany.  This would without a doubt be a fabulous weekend!   Queens day arrived and we were awaken by eagre party goers already painting the streets orange -Wakie wakie!  Our goal for the day was for mikey to meet a girl who would be partying on a boat in the canal, so that we could party on a boat in the canal.  Mikey was our most eligable bachelor and this would be a group effort.  We met Americans from Colorado instead, but they were cool so we spent the day with them - WALkING along side the canal ;)  We met some Londoners there for a stag party (bachelor party) we stayed with them for a while as they embarassed the groom to be and entertained us.  The rest of the day was spent wandering the red light district canals, meeting interesting people, dancing to music, mikey attempting to jump into boats passing by along the canal, and street food - lots of it.  This day could only be described as "Fun", with a capital "F"!   We napped then found a bar that played a mix of hip hop, house, and rock and roll - the surprises kept on coming.  I went to the bar and asked for a water - it was time. The bartender looked at me like I was crazy, said "this is much better" and poured me a beer.  He did not charge me for this :)  By the end of the night we had formed a circle consistent of sweedish, switzerland, german, norwegian, and american descent.  We jumped, danced, sang - all accents combined must have been so harmonizing to hear ;)   Mikey and I bought an American football in Ireland and because it was orange we chose to bring this football to the bar that night.  Our walk home consisted of interceptions and touchdown passes to passers by.  Because the shape of a football is foreign to most Europeans these throws were not quite as accurate as they should have been and a taxi cab windshield as well as a man's head had to fall victim to this relaity.  This football was entertainment.  

One thing about Amsterdam, i have heard from numerous people - watch out for the bicyclists!!!  This is a true story.  We witnessed a pedestrian get hit square on by a bicyclist.  This was tragic.  They fell, hard, ouch!   Despite the fact that the bicycle has its own bike lane, it is still difficult for the innocent tourist to avoid the cars as well as worry about the bikes.   Food wise we tried french fries and mayonnaise, Holland is known for this and they are supposed to have the best fries ever.  They were pretty good :) Coffee shops here, as most people know, do not focus primarily on brewing coffee.   The red light district, where we stayed has coffee shops everywwhere as well as the "girls in the window" ..... It's a bit awkward seeing people walk out from there and carry on down the street like nobody saw them.  

After winding down from the party filled weekend we visited the Van Gough museum which had works from Van Gough of course, Picasso and a few others.  I really enjoyed this museum and being face to face with some of Van Gough's less well known works.  It's inspiring that he started his career as an artist later in life and with no formal teaching.  And in just 10 years created all the works he did.  We also went to the Stedelijk Museum and later took a boat ride on the canal.  We walked by the Rembrandt House were he had his studio for years and years, and wandered that general area with the markets, canals and cafe's.  That night we met up with Steinar's sister who happened to be in Amsterdam that weekend as well.

So after Amsterdam's tulips, Heineken, the red light district, the bikes, Queens Day celebration, coffee shops and canals I'd have to say that we had a great time there!

Berlin was the next stop.  At this point in our trip we have no plan until early June.  So we contemplated going from Berlin, down through Frankfurt through the "Romantic Road" and on to Munich, but we decided unsted to head to Prague after this and if we can make it to Southern Germany we will go after Switzerland.  More upates on Berlin to come!!!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Ireland Photos

The Last of Ireland

We are now in Amsterdam and will be here for about a week. The second half of our trip to Ireland was great! Thanks to having a rental car we were able to cover everything we wanted to see. The west and south coasts were the most beutiful places we visited, thats the typical image you would imagine ireland to be, all the green hills, narrow roads, and just absolute beauty for miles. The ring of Breara was by far my favorite thing we did. We also visited Galway which was where the Irish ring was invented. We stayed on the main street downtown where there are tons of bars and nightlife. We visited the Cliffs of Mohr and photos dont convey how huge they actually are. Next was Northern ireland where you switch to using pounds instead of Euros and miles instead of KM. We hiked to and around Giants Causway just hefore sunset and it was amazing!!! The rocks that formed here near the ocean are mostly uniform hexagonal shapes, all similar in size as well. They were supposedly formed from a volcano that erupted nearby. We spend about 2 or 3 hours here, just climbing the rocks and watching the sun go down. The next day we visited the rope bridge that connects part of the mainland to a small cliff island. Also an amazing place to hike and explore :) Belfast was our next stop and we were only going to be here for a night so decided to go out. We head out at about 11:00pm and to our surprise most of the bars tell us they are closing and we cannot go in. At the same time there are an abnormally high amount of drunk people wandering the streets for 11:00 at night.... Was there a time change we missed? When did it become 4am??? We stopped to ask someone why the Friday night nightlife semed to be dwindeling so early. He paused then laughed at us and said, "you know you're in one of the most religious cities around.... Its good Friday! Its illegal for the bars to serve alcohol past a certain hour tonight.". We kinda just looked at him, then relaized we would not be experiencing Belfast in its entirity that night. But, we did manage to experience one of the most terrible hostels i have eer stayed in, and we would ge to now go back to that place. Linen House. When we checked into Linen House we did not expect much. We were only staying in Belfast for one night and got the cheapest accomodation we could find. When we arrived to check in the man working at the front notified us we would not be staying in the 6 person dorm we had booked, but the other dorm was 4 Euros cheaper so we figured it was fine. We paid and he pointed us in the direction of our room, right accross from the check in counter and near the kitchen and the common area everyone hangs out in. "Oh, we almost forgot the keys!" I exclaimed excitedly, as if these keys might somehow open up a door to a room that was more appealing than the gloom of the lobby. "Your room has no key" he said, then smiled back. I'm sure he was laughing at us deep down inside and I wondered if this could be the most satisfying part of his day. We walked into our keyless room and looked up to about 30 beds scattered throughout. That might not have been as much of a problem for me, i know we are on a budget so we'd have to deal with this at times. But i was afraid, grossed out to touch anything. One person had created a sort of fort of blankets Nd luggage aroumd their bunk. How long had they been here for?! That night i slept in my sleeping bag making sure that not even a hair on my head touched the mattress, listening to sweet sounds of glass bottles being thrown and breKing outside with a large group of peope laughing and attempting to sing me sweet lullabys. We woke up and left without showering. Dublin we are coming! We stayed in Dublin for 4 nights, Isaacs Hostel. Great awesome clean fun hostel! Yay! Dublin was very fun, Temple Bar was the place to be at night so we spent our nights here and in small pubs listening to live bands play Irish music. During the day we mostly just wandered around town. I saw a midget dressed as a leprechaun but i was reluctan to take a photo of him, feeling i would be endorsing his stereotype and possibly lessening his confidence. My brother reminded me he had chosen to dress as a leprechun and was probably fully aware he was in fact also a midget. Oh well!! As much as i liked the city of Dublim, i'd still have to vote for the west coast and Galways nightlife. While in Dublin we met a friend from Canada, Geordie. While meandering the city with him one day we were goinf through a park, on easter actually, and were approached by a group of 12 year old Dubliners. One of the girls had some sass. She requested a dance off and then proceeded to snap her fingers back and forth in the air while reciting all of the swear words in her memory bank. One that was new to me, and seemed to be her particulR favorite was "pox bottle" pox bo-lE as she said it. I probably should not be saying this now because i still have no idea what it means. The 12 year olds wouldn't tell us. We roomed with 2 girls from Holland, Esther and Lizbeth who we hung out quite a bit while we were there. They were very nice and our last night in Dublin we wen out for Esthers birthday. Had twake up at 5am for our flight out of Ireland, but why not live it up, it was our last night! We woke up in time to catch our bus to the airport.... Belgium here we come!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Some Ireland snipets

Here is a link to some of our photos from our first few adventures in Ireland :)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

London Photos

We've had some trouble loading our photos, but here are some London Highlights (London 4/1 - 4/11 2011)

Monday, April 18, 2011

THE "Rings" in Ireland

So far so good with driving on the roads in Ireland ;). Yes they are super narrow, but I think I am going to become a race card driver after perfecting some of these loops and turns! We are about halfway through our trip in Ireland. Started off visiting the small town of Wicklow - we actually got a parking ticket on our first day but they were nice enough to waive it for us....silly tourists ;). We contemplated sleeping in out rental car that night because London broke the bank, but our mom was not very okay with that so we are just eating pbjs and apples to make up for the amount of pubs we have been visiting. We are going to continue visiting the pubs.

After Wicklow we headed to Glendalough which had some amazing hiking trails, one that led to a beautiful waterfall we ate our lil packed lunch at and spend a few hours exploring! There was a group of about 30 girls staying at the hostel we were at in glandalaugh. They were about 14, 15 years old and in their "free year" at school, or something to that effect. Basically, at that age everyone gets a year off from organized classroom schooling and instead does things like travel around and learn outside the classroom. They said they do it to recharge the kids batteries and decide what they want to study further before they have to go back and take their upper level classes and exams.....I think that's an awesome thing to do for kids! Catch on US ;)

We then drove to Waterford where I toured the Waterford Crystal factory, got to hold the replica/model for the super owl trophy they use each year...kinda cool to see! Waterford was a quick stop, but we chatted with someone in a small store for about 20 minutes about our trip and where to go and what it's like in the states...they are so chatty here!

Next was Kilkenny, another one of our favorites! A very small town which takes about half a day to wander, but once you stop and talk to the locals a full day to experience! We checked into our hostel that night and headed to a pub nearby where we met a bartender who was planning a trip to Vegas and California. We chatted with him for about 2 hours and told us about some cool places to go in Ireland! Went out that night and the next day went to an outdoor market and got some homemade pies. The popular one here is steak and Guiness, but I have not tried this once yet. We stopped at a cute coffee shop called choch o latte and visited with the store owner for a bit before heading out to our next destination.

Cork was a big city we visited after this and stayed for the night before heading further down south Kinsale. I should elaborate on Kinsale because it was one of the most quaint and adorable, colorful, friendly towns we have visited! We went to the well known Fishy Fishy cafe for some fish n chips and went out that night to the local pubs. Everyone knew everyone so we seemed to be the new people in town.

From Kinsale we drove further south west to drive the Ring of Beara. The Ring of Kerry is the more touristy route, which we are going to drive today, but we figured we'd check out the road less traveled first. It was an amazing drive, lots of windy turns overlooking vast valleys of green with yellow spotted shrubs and lords cows sheep and horses. Not tons of trees here like on the east coast, more shrubs and tall mountains. Side note, I told mike i really wanted for us to have to stop our car while driving because there was a heard of sheep crossing the road. You know like in any movie that takes place in Ireland this happens and the people get out of their car and have to scare the sheep away ... I wanted it like that ;) well I have not got my heard of sheep yet, but yesterday we did get a cow lying in the road, alive don't worry. This might have been even cooler than my hopes for sheep.

After the cow We stopped to check out a stone circle and had to basically walk through these people's farm to get there....literally, mike almost got charged by a goat and a cow nearby got in a combat position when we got too close to it's baby calf. I didn't know farm life could be so dangerous. When we got to the stones and they were on top of this mountain with the Atlantic ocean gleaming a deep blue in the background. After wandering the circle for a bit we started to head back and out of this little pin comes running these 2 little jack russel looking doggies. When they finally go to us they rolled over on their backs to be petted, it was one of the jilightx of my day because it was so authentic and just so adorable. Made me miss Liberty and Cooper!!! So, mike and I hung out with our new friends for a while, holding them, petting them, they actually followed us to our car and we had to bring them back up the hill and sneak away. Next we decided to drive to a nearby beach. I did not expect the beaches in Ireland to be a clear blue, but this one was. I'll let you know if they are all like this or if this was our diamond in the rough! Mike and I decided to take a swim and although the water was cold it looked so inviting so we just enjoyed the views until our toes went completely numb. I think about an hour lat we regained feeling in our feet. I wore my beanie in the water with me, it was a warm sunny day, but it was still Ireland ;)