Katie' Pau Life En France

Ma vie En France

Brussels and Bilbao April 18, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 5:42 pm

I realized I never wrote about Brussels. I stayed for one day and one night in Brussels on the way home from Ireland. We had to go through the airport, so I figured I might as well see the city and eat some of their famous chocolate and waffles. It is a very good thing we were only there for one day. There is nothing to do, but eat! At the end of the day…actually more like the end of the afternoon (ran out of cool sites to see) we returned to our hostel room with belly aches. This hostel was kind of strange, because they put us in a room set in a seperate building. It reminded me of girl scout cabins, because there was a loft with 2 wooden beds up top and 2 below. It was kind of fun, but the front was made entirely out of glass and there was no heat. I spent a very restless night trying to keep warm!

Let me back the story of Brussels up a bit, to what few sites we actually saw. Elly and I got this tourist map of “sites to see” from the hostel. It was obvious the tourist office is getting desperate for “sites to see” when they tell you to go to the top of a parking garage for a cool view. It also advised bringing a bottle of wine to drink.

“Drinking wine on the top of a parking garage,” Elly thought aloud, “….that would basically make us homeless…”


We saw a good portion of the sites on the map and did hit up the parking garage (saw a wine cork on the ground). The view was pretty awesome and I wish I had photos, but I left my camera in the hostel.

I have no evidence of visiting Brussels. My taste buds will never forget it though- the chocolate was sooo yummy, the Belgian waffle so light and crispy! Never had one quite like that.


Another interesting aspect to this city is the comics painted all over random walls. It is very strange, but kind of awesome. There are also lots of statues of creatures peeing. We saw one of a little boy peeing and a dog peeing. According to the tourist map there was one of a girl peeing too. We missed that one, which could have been the most interesting….and disturbing.


There is weird art in Brussels. A lot of weird art. The city is pretty tacky being full of sketchy industrial sections dotted with an occasional old, beautiful monument or building, as well as randomly placed modern art. We were already baffled by the city’s oddities when we wandered into a cathedral that was cluttered looking on the inside, with really out of place crap lying everywhere and cheesy 70’s music playing.


Brussels was strange. I’m glad I went. The capital of Europe is so bizarre it made the trip worth it.


I also ended my trip to Spain with an ugly city: Bilbao.


Bilbao isn’t far from San Sebastian….I think I mentioned it in my blog where I whined about my feet hurting. That was the last straw for my poor feet, I bought new shoes as soon as I got home.

The city was alright to see, but I was so worn out by the end of my trip I really should have just gone home to Pau.




I took a lot of pictures of the pretty parts of the city. It had an old section of town that was quite nice – a lot like San Sebastian. The most impressive part of all is the museum. The name of it is really long…and I cannot remember it, but I didn’t actually go in. It costs 13 euros and I was tired, sore and sick of spending money by the time I got there. I walked around the outside of it though – so interesting!






Love the cat made of flowers!


Anyways you are now up to date on my travels = ) I haven’t been able to leave since my trip to Spain because of the strikes and in 3 days I leave for Paris and then home!


Barcelona!! April 17, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 7:56 am
Tags: , , ,

Okay, back to the subject of Spain, since I only mentioned San Sebastian….

In Barcelona I met up with fellow cougs Ashley and Lauren (who are also keeping blogs which I added to my blogroll). It was nice to see some familiar faces after a long bus ride where I couldn’t understand anything or talk to anyone. I like travelling alone, but I think in the future I probably won’t go to countries where I don’t speak the language without another person.



Barcelona was a cool city. One and a half days there was not enough, but sadly I don’t think I will ever return – there are too many other places in the world to see. I was fascinated by all of Gaudi’s architecture, but I think Paris is a much prettier city overall (sorry Goonting!).




Our first night there we went out for some awesome Spanish cuisine! Ashley got regular Sangria, but Lauren and I ordered the Sangria Cava Blanc. I’ve had my fair share of regular red Sangria in France, but this drink was incomparable.So delicious and very large!


And some yummy yummy Paella! (Mom – your paella is still the best = )


The waiter tried to convince us that this wouldn’t be big enough for 2 people – haha, I’m glad I stuck to my intuition and told Lauren it would be.


The next day I went to Park Guell, which was amazing!


The best of Gaudi is of course the Sagrada Familia.



This church has been under construction for 150 years and won’t be finished for60. Seeing other USAC student’s pictures of this place is what made me decide Barcelona was a must-see.




For my second (and last) night here, we went down to this fountain for an awesome show (complete with cheesy American music) and saw the remnants of the Olympic games!








Thanks to Lauren and Ashley for being great travelling companions and have a safe trip home next week!


Ready to go home April 16, 2010

Filed under: Pau — katiespaulife @ 8:05 am

USAC had a goodbye luncheon yesterday. Not everyone is going on the Paris trip, so this was the last chance for everyone to be together one final time.

Before the lunch there was an optional group viewing of the Picasso exhibit at le Musee des Beaux Arts.  The museum overall was pretty cool, but the Picasso exhibit was really small and the entire thing was sketches of bulls. Were they Picasso’s favorite animal? Or perhaps Pau’s museum wanted some Picassos and got the response, “Okay, we’ll give you some….but only the ones with bulls”. It was kind of strange, but interesting nonetheless and I liked many of the ceramics and sketches more than other Picassos I have seen. In fact to be honest, this was the first time I’ve ever seen a Picasso I liked. Guess it is a good thing I’m not an art major.

I do have the tendency to not take art very seriously though. Elly is the same. We always seem to have some good laughs at serious paintings and we were the first ones out of the USAC group to finish touring the museum. We thought lunch wasn’t until 12:30 so we went to a cafe to pass the time and showed up right as the clock struck.


Unfortunately, lunch had actually started at 12 and we were the jerks who walked in late. The advisors were nice about it, but we still felt really bad! Plus being the last 2 in the room, we had to sit at a table by ourselves. Reminded me of my first week at ECHS!

On the way home (she is coincidentally the only student who lives close), Elly told me that people keep asking her, “You probably aren’t ready to go home yet are you?” and she hates responding, because the answer is, “well actually, I really am”.

I couldn’t agree more. France has been fun, but towards the end, something seems to happen each day to make me miss the US more and more.

It all started with the trip to Ireland. Just being back in a country where they speak my language was so comforting. Then came Spain where I felt even more lost than I do in France. I had a horrible metro experience there that is kind of a long story, but basically some chick pushed me out of the way after I used my metro ticket, thus stealing my entrance and I got in trouble for trying to get through anyway. Of course there was no one around who spoke English and I ended up looking like a thief.

Did this lady just decide she would never pay for the metro again by pushing people out of her way or what?

Now back in France I can’t go anywhere because of the strikes and I’m just sick of the general public. I’ve mentioned before that people stare at me and it has begun to get on my nerves. Old women on the bus constantly glare at me (maybe it’s because I have no style? I don’t know) and I’m often followed around stores as if I’m going to steal something. Today I went to the grocery store and they even made me open my bag to check to make sure I hadn’t taken anything when I walked up to the counter to buy my salad. I am just so ready to be back in a country where I can feel comfortable in public and less like an unwanted tourist. I am excited for Paris, but home can’t come soon enough.


Sous Le Soleil D’Espagne! April 15, 2010

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 6:47 am
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I LOVE San Sebastian! Just look how blue that water is! What a beautiful place!


My trip to Spain was rather complicated, but it started off with 2 nights in San Seabass on the northern coast. You might recall a blog I wrote when I went here way back in January on my first weekend in Pau. The weather was so stormy (and snowy!!) that I couldn’t do anything but the bars. This time I did everything else!


My first night there I met a girl from Quebec who I practiced French with and had a nice dinner of fruit, bread and cheese on the beach after dark. The bay was equally beautiful at night, with all the buildings lit up, but my pictures didn’t turn out well, so here is one in daylight:



It felt so relaxing to just sit in my shorts at 9 pm with my toes in the sand as the Atlantic ocean washed up on this quiet shore. Not to mention I was eating the freshest strawberries from Portugal and had a great dinner companion! Sadly my dinner company was extremely homesick that night. We spoke of Quebec and the hunting trips she would take with her dad when she was younger, her big family back home and her tiny country village where no one speaks English. And of course there is a boy in the picture to add to the homesickness. She told me every place she has visited in Europe is so romantic (San Sebastian really was!) and she has a boy in Montreal she won’t see again for a long, long time. My heart really went out to her, because she is so nostalgic for Canada and won’t return until the end of July. However, it is true that there is no place like home, but I also think there is no place quite like San Sebastian!


The photos above and below were taken from the top of a funicular that led up to an amusement park for kids! There was a hotel up there as well, with views like this one:




I wonder how much a night here would cost??



Unfortunately the weather wasn’t this perfect for the entire trip. The first day it started off with pouring rain and winds. I tried to keep dry by going to the aquarium – which was awesome. It had one of those tanks with a tunnel where you can see sharks swim right over your head! Oh and the aquarium was at the end of all the docks so I got to see a lot of Basque fishing boats on the way.



In the afternoon the skies cleared up a bit so I reunited with my Canadian friend and we climbed Mt. Urgull. Actually, “climb” is kind of a misleading word, we walked up a paved path – nothing too extreme for my flip flops.


Here are my only shots of the mountain and the Jesus statue on top!

DSC02807 xDSC02865


The horizon that evening was amazing! Never looks as awesome on camera, but it was a once in a lifetime kind of sunset – great to see from the top of Urgull! And across the way you can see that hotel.



Another great thing about San Sebastian was the hostel I stayed in. The owner spoke only Spanish, but he still gave me advice on where to go, was kind-hearted and genuinely hospitable. After the freezing rain he gave the Canadian and I tea with lemon and when I returned from Barcelona he had seen that I gave him a 100% review on hostelworld so he grabbed my face and kissed me on both cheeks. That was a bit awkward for me…I feel like I’ve had so many random ppl kiss me on the cheeks here.


Anyway, I’m too tired to write more, but here are a few more pictures of San Sebastian. If you ever go to Spain you must visit!

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Blog Squad Prompt 6 April 13, 2010

Filed under: Random Story — katiespaulife @ 8:51 pm
Tags: ,

Blog Squad prompt #6:
Hafez Adel, a University of California at Irvine student who studied in
Barcelona, Spain, wrote an article entitled “Slashing Stereotypes” for the
magazine Abroad View. Wrote Adel:
“Living abroad taught me that stereotypes endure because they provide a
comfortable shortcut to understanding complex matters and that they
usually emerge to fill a vacuum of knowledge. Talking with my roommates,
classmates and strangers on the streets of Spain dispelled many of the
stereotypes I held, while studying and hearing stories about Spanish
history dispelled my misconceptions even more… What we [Hafez and his
Spanish roommate] learned is that we know much less about each other’s
cultures than we thought. But what we lost in certainty, we made up for in
understanding.” (Abroad View, Spring 2009, Volume 11, Issue 2, page
Has studying abroad caused you to question any stereotypes?  Is there a
stereotype that the residents of your host culture hold about Americans
that has intrigued, surprised, or infuriated you? Why do you think this
stereotype has developed? Do you think the stereotype emerged to “fill a
vacuum of knowledge” as Adel suggests, or do you think there are valid
reasons for the stereotype?
Conversely, are there stereotypes that you held about the residents of
your host country that have been either dispelled or validated? Blogging
about these kinds of considerations can be an excellent way to document
the way in which study abroad is improving your critical thinking skills.




Hmmm…I don’t really like answering this prompt, because all of my stereotypes about the French have been validated.


Plus a few common stereotypes I thought were ignorant before I came here


Of course I don’t stereotype every person I meet simply because they are French. As in any country/culture, a lot of individuals have been drastically different than the norm.

However, the French in general, have proved themselves to be…well…something. I’m not going to go into drastic detail, because I can think of at least 2 French people who read this and I don’t want to offend anyone. I’ll focus on one positive and one negative though, just to give a couple examples.




They do eat well!! Lots of cheese and pastries….mmmm, but also they focus on well balanced meals with fruits and veggies. Something that I think Americans often overlook. Having that balance at EVERY meal is very important here in France. (Even with the balance…the skinny girls everywhere are a mystery…it has gotta be in the genes!)




They strike ALL THE TIME!!

This is driving me off the wall! I’ve been through so many stressful situations because of the strikes! From the ordeal coming home from Rome, to returning from Spain yesterday to discover no one wanted to sell me tickets home from the border to Pau, because they are still on strike after a week! I don’t know enough about the success rate of their strikes to pass a judgment, but I will say it is one thing that has made me appreciate the US more. This was one of those stereotypes I did not think was true before I arrived. Boy was I wrong. So very very wrong.



Okay so onto the US…I’m not sure exactly what the French think of us. Most of them keep rather quiet about their stereotypes around me (for obvious reasons). But I do know they consider American girls to be sluts and think we are all fat. I also think we have validated those to be pretty true.
From what I have seen over here, French girls are actually much much easier than Americans, but when American girls go to Europe (or meet a French guy in the US), things change. Obviously the accent is appealing, and then there is that whole thought process of “I’m young and in Europe – this is my opportunity in life to go crazy!”. Many American girls in USAC have lived up to the stereotype.


And we all know the statistics show that USA is the fattest country, so I couldn’t argue that one even if I disagreed.


There is one stereotype I do disagree with though. That is that the French believe we all chug massive amounts of coca-cola every day. From what I have seen, they drink way way more coke than we do. And the only people I know back home who are addicted, are addicted to diet coke.

Every French person I’ve discussed stereotypes with sincerely believes we can’t get enough of our coke. This one surprises me, but it is a pretty minor stereotype so I don’t even both to argue it most of the time.


In regards to other countries I’ve visited….


~ I was never hit on by an Italian and the biggest stereotype I had was that they are sleazy catcallers (sorry Marco – don’t think that of you at all!), but I do know many girls who had pretty negative experiences in that area.


~ the Spanish are kind of a mystery to me, no stereotypes come to mind for them. Especially since I cannot understand anything they say.


~ The English kids I met here gave me the stereotype that they drink massive amounts of alcohol on a daily basis. And come to think of it…they were all really perverted….


~ Finally there are the Irish. I seem to have this stereotype that they are all light-hearted


Oh and I now know that they know Americans love Irish accents:


I also think I don’t really take them seriously (because of my whole “light-hearted” stereotype). Just last week I met an Irishman in Barcelona who was not breaking any stereotypes for that country by wandering lost and drunk on a subway at 7 am. I needed to catch my bus back to San Sebastian, but luckily I had left early, because he really needed help going home and was begging me to help him find his bus. I spent a good half an hour trying to figure out where he was going and how to get there. Finally I was sending him on his way when he started begging me to come with him. He said we had a connection, because I was “beautiful, sweet and innocent” and he claimed to be charming and said “I have a nice accent”. I told him that is not a connection and he added that he has a swimming pool as well as everything else a girl could want. I shamelessly laughed at this guy (because I don’t think he’ll remember being laughed at) and then finally found a metro worker to ditch him with because by this point I really needed to get to my bus. Probably would have been creeped out by anyone else I met on a subway drunk at 7 am, but I kind of just thought, “meh, he’s Irish”. 


What all my close-minded outlooks are leading up to is that I know Studying Abroad is supposed to “expand your horizons”, “open your mind” and all of that junk, but honestly I feel more stereotypical and nationalistic than ever. I sound like a prick in this blog, but that is my honest answer. I would love to travel more and see the world as I age, but I think I’ll always reside in the US. It’s my home and I never realized how important to me our culture is until I left it.


La ville Rose

Okay….continuing on from the last blog, we arrived in Toulouse just before sunset.










Being far from the Pyrenees, stones are expensive to ship here and thus most of the buildings are built out of bricks, which is a sign of poverty. Notice how this church was constructed with stones at the bottom and more and more bricks as it was finished? Apparently their budget ran low…


Oh, did I even mention we spent Friday night in Toulouse? Got to stay in a hotel Friday – nice break from the hostels. Than Saturday morning we had a tour of the town (really just a tour of 3 churches), which was very informative and pretty interesting overall. Not going to lie though, it is much, much easier for me to space out when I’m listening to French than English.



One church had the feet of Saint Christopher (patron saint of travelers) in it. People could pray here and touch them for better feet (yep, I touched them). Elly said they looked more like monster feet than those of a saint!



His body used to be painted here as well, but time (and dirty fingers) has erased it.


After the tour we had another giant lunch! The entree was good, but a rather heavy and American-like dish of mashed potatoes, mushrooms and chicken. I only took pictures (or stole from Kim, icr) of my favorite courses!





We walked off the mousse by exploring le jardin des plantes in the afternoon. I don’t know why they call it that though, seemed more like a jardin des oiseaux to me!

“This is like your heaven!” Elly said, with a bit of panic in her voice, because unlike me, she hates birds. The peacock freaked her out a bit – I thought it was awesome though, especially when it chased this poor little duckling into the water!



And afterwards we crossed a couple bridges, went through another park and then into the shopping area.


Got some free gum!


And finally returned to Pau for the night. Great excursion!



Carcassonne! April 12, 2010

Filed under: Travels in France — katiespaulife @ 7:26 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I wrote this blog last week, but I haven’t had time to post it until now. Just got home from Spain today, the specific blog entry was about Friday, April 2nd:


Had my final USAC excursion (aside from the upcoming Paris finale). It was to the medieval city of Carcassonne and la ville rose, AKA Toulouse. My main goal for the weekend was to get in contact with my French family. My dad sent me an email with more names and after searching online once more I discovered I have a relative in Toulouse! I used Elly’s phone to call him from Carcassonne and I got an answer so I eagerly/nervously asked for Renee. This guy said he wasn’t Renee and I had the wrong #. Followed this up, by trying to call my other relative who lives in Moissac, and the phone just kept ringing, ringing and ringing with no answer. One more attempt was made (without success) again later that day in Toulouse. I think I’m going to give it another shot from a phone in Pau, but it looks as if I will not be reaching my family.

Luckily, that was the only disappointing part of my day (well that and an unsuccessful hunt for ice cream). I hung out with Elly for most of the trip and (considering this was the day after our week long trip to Ireland and we still aren’t sick of each other) I think I’ve made an awesome friend through USAC. She rocks!


DSC02545 Out of all the cities from the middle ages, Carcassonne is the most intact (according to my program director). I loved the fact that people still live inside the fortress, but the outrageous number of souvenir shops and over-priced restaurants made me feel more as if I was in a counterfeit world of Disneyland than a medieval city. Because of this, I think prefer St Malo to Carcassonne, the history felt more authentic there and it is right on the Atlantic!








And as with every USAC excursion, we were given a 3-course lunch! The starter was one of the best salads I have ever had:



*stole this pic from Kim


The bread was delicious!! In the middle was a toasted slice with warm goat cheese on top. A lot of cheese for a salad, but it was soooooo goooood!


The entree was Cassoulet, but since it was Good Friday I ate with the vegetarians and we got a horrible entree. It was boring and bland, luckily I wasn’t hungry after that salad.


And dessert was pretty good….not sure what to call this though, some sort of cake with a pear inside:

pear dessert

*also stolen from Kim


After lunch Elly and I walked around the city and we ran into some USAC kids talking to a man who called himself, “The Golden Elf”. Definitely an insane dude dressed in a very bizarre outfit. He claimed to come from the North Pole and drew the group a map, which was solely a penciled X on a blank piece of paper.


It was amusing at first, until I realized he was completely serious and this USAC group was videotaping him and clearly mocking him with their questions. And I got the feeling he knew he was being mocked. Elly looked pretty upset by the whole situation, so we left the group and went to the bus a bit early.


Then we went to Toulouse and spent the night there, but I’ll write about that in a separate blog – don’t want to make this one too long! Kind of an awkward ending here, but I’m lazy



Oh yeah! Forgot to mention this place was filled with creepy mannequins everywhere!!


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(that was another reason I preferred St Malo! )


Oh and when I skyped my mom later that weekend, she said this was my 2nd trip to Carcassonne. So I must have gone when I was either one or four years old…


Weary from Walking

Filed under: Spain — katiespaulife @ 1:50 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’ve just spent 6 days in Spain! Kind of a last minute trip that I ended up on, but a very good one. I was supposed to go to the Riviera this past week.Once again the French and their lovely strikes put a damper on my plans. I thought I would be stuck in Pau for 3 days because of booked hostels and no trains, but at the last minute I realized I could escape the country! San Sebastian was my savior!


I had already planned on going to San Sebastian Saturday night with 3 friends, so I didn’t want to stay there from Tuesday night through Sunday and bought a ticket to Barcelona and back .San Seabass ended up being heaven on earth  and I think my trip would have been just as enjoyable if I had stayed the full 6 nights. Instead this was my agenda:


Tues night – Thursday morning = San Sebastian

Thursday = 7 hour bus ride to Barcelona

Thursday night – Saturday morning = Barcelona

Saturday = 7 hour bus ride to San Sebastian

Saturday night – Sunday = San Sebastian encore!

Sunday (today) = one hour bus ride and afternoon in Bilbao


I’ll rest here for the night and travel all day tomorrow. Getting back to Pau will be a bit complicated…I have to take a bus back to San Sebastian, then a tram to Hendaye in France and then 2 trains. I just hope the strikes are over in France! As of today it was dependant on the train.


I had a great trip here, but I’m worn down from the bus rides and walking all over the cities. I think I need to see a foot doctor ASAP when I get home – my arches and achilles tendons are really messed up! I suppose I deserve it for not investing in good walking shoes, but the only ones with decent arch support are about 90 Euros!


My foot injuries are making it difficult to stay positive at this point. I probably should have gone home instead of to Bilbao this afternoon, but curiosity got the best of me. I walked around the city for a good 3 hours and saw most of the tourist map (except that I didn’t enter the famous museum in Bilbao, the idea of more walking plus the cost of 13 Euros made me decide against it).

Overall this city was probably the sketchiest one I have yet to visit. I knew that I wanted to be back in the hostel before dark, just to be safe. I was travelling alone this time and sans pepper spray. I saw lots of crazy people and in the three hours I spent walking around, I saw at least three people searching through dumpsters.

I wanted to walk more than three hours, because I didn’t see the garden and some popular streets, but at this point I feel like I have 2 voices in my head: one who constantly bitches and moans about how much pain my feet are in and how I am permanently damaging them and the other wants to see everything and walk until I cannot walk any further. I’m at the point where I’m praying to Saint Christopher and I’m going to get ice as soon as I get home to Pau!


On a positive note,  I finally hung out with people I met at hostels. Today I even met 2 girls with clam shells on their backpacks, which signifies they are travelling “Le Chemin de St Jacques”; a religious pilgrimage throughout France and part of Spain. I think I’ve written about it before, as it goes through Pau and St Jean Pied de Port. The pilgrimage has always interested me and I probably annoyed these exhausted girls with my many questions about their experience thus far. Unfortunately, they are cutting their trip short because of a foot injury and have to return home (which is South Africa for one and Switzerland for the other). One of them already did a third of the pilgrimage last summer and the other one just started it this year. They said that it was quite the experience, much harder than anticipated, but that there is a great sense of “walking the well trodden path” and a good connection with fellow travelers. They usually only pay about 5-6 Euros for board a night and some places are even donation only, such as one where they stayed at, which even provided huge dinner and breakfast for everyone that fellow pilgrims prepared.


I’ve also hung out with a couple Canadians and a Brazilian at the hostels in Spain, which has been a nice change. Up until this trip I felt I hadn’t gotten the real “hostel experience”. I’m going to bed early tonight (as every night in this trip) and tomorrow I’m hoping to head out early enough to spend a couple more hours in San Sebastian. Just cannot get enough of that place – you’ll see why when I put up pictures in a few days!


P.S. I sent out some more postcards last week and on 2 of them I signed my full name! Sorry about that guys, I’m so used to signing my signature on forms that it just kind of flows when I sign letters and cards. Such a bad habit, I promise I don’t mean to end a cheery postcard on a cold and impersonal note.


Alcohol Adventures! April 5, 2010

Filed under: Ireland — katiespaulife @ 8:14 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Our first full day in Dublin started off with the free walking tour offered by the hostel. Unfortunately it rained cats and dogs for the entire morning along with very strong, cold winds blowing through the city. Elly and I only lasted an hour and a half on the tour. Neither of us had umbrellas or hoods, so we returned to the hostel looking like this….





After some snacks to tide us over until dinner, we decided to keep dry and warm up a bit by touring both the Jameson Distillery and the Guinness Brewery.


About a week beforehand, Elly and I had been at a USAC cheese tasting and discussed our upcoming trip with many students who had already seen Dublin.  One USAC girl told Elly and I that the Jameson factory had a quiz on the top selling whiskeys from each country and a taste test. She said the answers were US – Jack, Canada – Crown Royal, Ireland – Jameson and Scotland- Johnny Walker. She bragged quite a bit about how she was the only one there who was young and female and yet she beat out all these middle aged experienced drinkers. I wasn’t overly impressed, because she also told me she is a bartender back in the states, but nonetheless winning a whiskey competition is pretty legit in my book. Elly and I were determined to win this quiz she talked about, but upon arrival in Ireland we realized we had forgotten the Scottish whiskey. Luckily a bartender in Cork had a book on whiskeys and we recognized the name when he let us search through it. When we finally got to the Jameson factory though we discovered this girl lied to us! There was no quiz and the taste testing competition she mentioned wasn’t a competition. I volunteered to be a taster, because I have more whiskey drinking experience than Elly, but when I sat down the names were all in front of the shots (of which there were only 3,  Canada unrepresented). This girl told us she received a certificate for winning, but everyone got one. Tsk, tsk, somehow I always meet compulsive liars, everywhere I go.


Anyway, at the Jameson factory I got those three shots for volunteering to be a taster, as well as an extra one to mix with something and a fifth drink I thought was just cranberry juice until I tried it (The bartender came up right afterwards and was like “one drink per person!”  I was caught with both glasses and just said, “Uh, I already drank it”.  He let me keep both).

With 5 shots (small shots, maybe more like 4) under my belt, I felt pretty good by the time Elly and I arrived to the Guinness factory around 3 pm.

The tour there was self-guided and the factory is 5 stories! Elly was convinced they were trying to imitate Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with beer haha (although she was feeling pretty good by this point as well).


At the top of the factory you get a free pint and a 360 degree view of the city that is incredible!



When I went up to order my beer, 2 French kids just stepped right in front of us. One got his ID shot down and these high school kids all got stuck with Fanta.  Because Elly and I both had backpacks on the bartender assumed we were French too. I asked him, “Can I have a Guinness please?”

“Fanta?,” he replied.
”No, Guinness”





So I pulled out my Passport and he started asking me if I was used to the rain because of Seattle. I love it when people recognize Seattle- a surprising amount of French people have never heard of it!


Elly and I both tried Guinness and decided we didn’t like it. I don’t detest it as much as she does, but I think it is an acquired taste I have yet to acquire.  When we had both demolished about a quarter of a pint each, Elly told me, “I think I’m gonna chug this”. I turned around to look at the view. I swear I was only looking for 5-10 seconds, but when I turned back I found this:



This girl is incredible! I watched her do the same thing to a pint of Murphys in Cork. She can drink beer faster than I chug water, and I drink water fast!


She needs to enter a contest…..she never even drinks, I don’t understand how she is capable of that. I am thoroughly impressed.


About 10 minutes later I finished my pint. Here is how I truly feel about the taste of Guinness;




After the tours we went to get a real Irish meal! This was the first real meal we had in Ireland. The last few days had been spent living off the free hostel breakfasts, muesli I packed and a giant loaf of soda bread Elly and I bought at the English Market in cork.


This meal tasted real good!


I ordered Irish Stew and Elly got “Bangers and Mash”. The stew was supposed to be served on mash as well, but since they were out of “mash,” we had “chips” instead! If you ever go to Ireland, get the Irish Stew made with Guinness. Best Stew I have ever tasted.


We went back to the hostel after that and called it an early night. The final day in Dublin was filled with free museums! Saw the Museum of Natural History, an exhibit on Keats in the National Library, the National Gallery and the Chris Beatty Library. I will never forget Chris Beatty’s exhibit on ancient scriptures. There were old testament books from 150 AD!!! What an amazing thing to see!


Ireland was wonderful, but I definitely am going to need to go back one day. Still need to see the Cliffs of Moher, the Causeway and the Wicklow Mountains!



Filed under: Ireland — katiespaulife @ 9:49 am
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I spent a total of 6 days in Ireland; divided equally between Dublin and Cork. Before my trip I had about 3 Irish people tell me to see Cork or Galway, but not Dublin, because Dublin isn’t the “real Ireland”. So I convinced my travelling companions, Kim and Elly, that we should spend 2 nights and 3 days in Cork.

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Dublin, may not be the “real Ireland”, but at least in Dublin there are things to do! Cork was fun and a cute Irish city, but aside from bars, the market and a butter museum, there wasn’t anything downtown that tourists could partake in. It would have made for a good day trip, but 3 days gave us too much time to be bored. We spent first and last of our days there exploring the city, seeing the churches, the market and enjoying the atmosphere of Ireland.


The 2nd day we took a tour to Blarney Castle. Now that made the visit to Cork worth it. Blarney is the coolest castle I have ever seen (in my opinion, even way more awesome than Carcassonne)!


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Elly and I loved this place! The castle and surrounding gardens had so much to explore- if you ever go to Ireland, Blarney is a must see!

There is of course the infamous Blarney Stone which bequeaths the gift of eloquence, but did you know there are also “witch’s steps” at Blarney? Supposedly if you close your eyes, concentrate only on a wish and  walk backwards down the witch’s steps, then back up again, it will come true. Elly and I both did this, but try as I might to focus only on one wish, I couldn’t help thinking I must look like the girl from the ring to everyone above me:


Before coming to the castle, I had heard rumors that drunken locals pee on the stone every night and because of that I wasn’t sure if I would kiss it. Elly and I  even considered asking the workers if they sanitize it, but by the time you reach the stone you’ve been through so many locked gates, spiral staircases and dark passages that you know there is no way a drunk person could make it here. Plus there are sanitizing wipes and gel at the work station of the guy who spots you when you kiss the stone. To reach the stone you have to lie on your back and bend backwards over a hundred foot drop while holding these two bars for support! The spotter doesn’t actually touch you, but it was definitely comforting to have one there, especially when you have short legs like me! (I could feel them slip a bit….eek!)


At the spotter’s work station there was also a radio playing. Right as Elly and I went to kiss the stone, “Here Comes the Sun” came on the radio! Made the experience perfect!


Oh and did I mention who we ran into at the Cork hostel? We were waiting at the bus stop to go to Blarney when this guy walks up from the hostel to wait for it too. I looked at this guy stupefied for about 5 seconds before asking, “Are you Canadian?”

It was the same Canadian we met our first night in Rome! The one who made all the anti-American comments and hung out with the stupid Australian and American girl! He didn’t recognize me and Elly didn’t recognize him, but I will never forget the faces of those three idiots.

Elly and I were astonished and he just said, “yeah, this has happened to me like 3 times already,” obviously not as impressed as we were. Maybe it’s because we’ve been making fun of him for the past 2 months, but this made our day. I demanded a photo this time:

DSC02354 Probably isn’t very nice of me to put this on the internet….but he’ll never find it right?


He came with us to Blarney and met 2 more American girls that were definitely into him. I don’t get it.


He made a few more anti-American comments over the day and told me that he thinks the Harry Potter series is really about the holocaust.