Thursday, March 27, 2014

My belated trip update! Part 1

Hey guys Izzy here! Boy golly I've been really behind on writing to you about my adventures. I'll try to make it up with my update. So, Sabrina and I decided to go on adventure over Spring Break with a fellow student, Gao. Gao is a student in international relations who is on exchange from Beijing.

Getting to the airport from campus was a bit of an adventure. We had to take one bus into the city center, then walk to get to another bus stop. That bus must have taken 40 minutes to get to the airport. It was still pretty fun seeing parts of Dublin I'd never seen before. The airport in Dublin is really nice, I liked it just as well as the one in Indianapolis. Anywho, we arrived safely to the airport in Vienna.

At first, I was a little nervous about how big the Vienna airport was. But Sabrina, Gao, and I managed to navigate to the correct train station. The trains in Vienna were really neat, probably because it was my first time on a train. Of course, all the signs and voice announcements were in German. Luckily, the hostel was at the last stop so it was a relaxing ride.

After we dropped our stuff off, we decided to explore Vienna at night. It really is a beautiful city. The architecture is amazing, all fancy and old-fashioned looking. I especially loved the consistent look of all the shops, so white and pretty.
We got to hear St. Stephan's cathedral's bells toll. They were amazing! I'll try to find the video for you. It got lost in all the computer files. Sabrina loved the horses outside the cathedral. They were pretty neat to watch.

The next day we decided to visit the Schonbrunn Palace (I think that's how it's spelled). It was so huge! The rooms were amazingly decorated and Sabrina said it was the fanciest house she'd ever seen. One room was called the "million dollar" room because it's walls were covered in some of the rarest, and most valuable wood in all of the world. My favorite room was the grand dance hall, complete with one of a kind ceiling murals. Sabrina loved the oriental themes rooms with delicate rice paper drawings imbedded into the walls. Sadly, we couldn't take pictures on the inside, but Sabrina bought a little guide book so I could remember the rooms.
After the tour, we went to the carriage museum next door. It was really neat to see all the royal's carriages. They came in all shapes, sizes, and styles. Sabrina's favorite was the really decorated carriage (I think it was for special occasions). I thought the little carriages for the children were so weird. They were exact replica's of the other carriages but ridiculously small.

We went to the zoo afterwords since it was only a few minutes walk away, on the same grounds as the palace. On the way, we stopped by a hot house. The plants were beautiful and we had so much fun exploring the greenery.

The zoo was one of the best I've ever been to. It was great fun to walk around, even if the signs were all in German (a few were in English too). Sabrina was ecstatic to see giant pandas for the first time. I had fun seeing the koalas. The zoo grounds were lovely and all the exhibits were first rate. Sabrina's favorite were the free flying bats in the rainforest dome. They flew right over your heads, and were really active. We wanted to explore the zoo longer, but the apple strudel demonstration was starting.

The strudel demonstration was fun (and tasty). Afterwords, we walked around the back of the Palace. There was so much space around the back of the place, it was crazy! The fountain was beautiful but would have been better if it was running (the problem with coming in spring). Still, it was fun.

We headed back to the hostel after that. Sabrina and Gao were exhausted. We started our tradition of Spar-Treeing it that night. For those who don't know, there's a convenience grocery store chain in Europe/Ireland called EuroSpar. It's symbol is the word Spar and what I gather a green, upwards pointing spade (like on a deck of cards).  To Sabrina and Goa however, it looked like an evergreen tree. Thus it has been dubbed forever in Sabrina's vocabulary as Spar-Tree. Thus, to save money on our journey, we often had many Spar-Tree dinners. Yeah Spar-Tree! More to come next blog (the computer's not going to like all the picture's I'm posting). Until next time,


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hey guys Izzy here! Hope you are all OK with all the snow and cold back home. I was so sad to hear about all of it :(

But...I hope to warm you all with my stories of Ireland. Last weekend Sabrina and I headed for Cork on a weekend trip with the student society. Our first stop was Cahir castle on the way to cork. It was such a neat castle that has been around since like the 1100's (at least I think so, I wasn't really paying attention to that). It was so neat to walk the narrow little paths separating the courtyards. It looked just like I thought a castle should look like and was so fun to explore! Sabrina loved it too though she was scared of the hights and non-guardrail stairs. She's so silly :)

 After that we went to explore Blarney castle and kiss the famous stone. It was a really neat castle and grounds but to tell the truth Cahir was a lot more fun. Blarney is older than Cahir but is in a lot worse shape (Cahir was never destroyed by battles or abject disrepair). I could tell Blarney castle had been a lot more impressive in the best. BUT, it was still so cool to go up the really old stares to the very top of the tower and watch Sabrina kiss the Blarney stone. She's supposed to have the gift of gab now but to tell you confidentially I think she had it in spades before :) A really memorable and fun stop!

Me by the murder hole (where they'd drop hot oil on intruders)

After we ventured around Blarney we were driven to Cork to rest. Sabrina and I explored Cork city that night and the next morning. Apparently the natives really love their city but to be honest Sabrina and I sure didn't! It was nice enough but there were way too many creepy areas and absolutely no places for students to eat. Sure it was Valentine's day but even if it hadn't it was really hard to find places to nom on. Restaurants were either McDonald's/ fast food American or super fancy joints with reservations required. There was no middle ground and the only place Sabrina and her traveling companion found to eat was a local Mexican fast food place (which was actually better tasting and cheaper than McDonald's no lie!).  We must have wandered for hours to try and find food but we weren't sucessful and Saturday night we ended up at McDonald's. Ireland has awful McDonald's and the food was yucky and the ketchup/soda WAY too sweet! They even messed up the fries! Anywho, we did get to see this awesome bell tower in Cork called the 4 liars (because each clock on the tower tells the wrong time). At least that was cool.
Saturday we had some fun too. First we went to a small sea-side town and explored for an hour or two. The town was Medieval and pretty neat to explore. After that we headed to a wildlife park (like an outdoor zoo). I had fun getting to see all the animals. I'm just glad Sabrina didn't leave me there! My favorite to see were all the cheetahs. This place had a LOT of cheetahs! There was a really cute baby cheetah with a glass viewing area. He was sooo fluffy and cute (not as much as ME though)! The only downside was the really cold wind blowing the whole time we were there.
After the park we ventured to the Jameston Distillery. The tour was amazing and we walked through the old distillery (used until the 1970's). It was really informative and I sure learned a lot! Sabrina enjoyed trying some of the whiskey and it was a fun trip!

Sunday was a neat day too. We started out visiting the coastal town of Cobh. The town was really stunning and built on a hill. We went to see the beautiful cathedral on the top of the hill and it was breathtaking! After that we went through the Titanic experience (another titanic museum). Later we traveled to another small coastal town on the way home. It was neat but we didn't have long to wander there. Last we went to Killkenny and saw the castle. It was beautiful but kind of pieced together. It's been around since the 1200's and has been modified and re-modified. It was abandoned in the 1930's and was in a state of abject disrepair for years. They restored the inside and it resembles more of a Victorian manor house than a castle. After that we traveled the town. Sabrina and I had the best milkshake a local restaurant. You got to choose your favorite candy bar out of a wall of them and they make it with tasty ice cream. After that tasty break we traveled back to Dublin. It was a great trip and I can't wait for the next one!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Flashback time! Hey guys Izzy here. I wanted to write about the of February 1 and 2. Sadly I forgot to let you guys know what fun we had so here I go! That Saturday we went to downtown Dublin to find the Dublin Archaeology Museum (at least I think that's what it's called). It was near the government buildings of Dublin and the museum building looked like an old government-type building. The best part of the museum is that it is free! I had fun walking around the museum and looking at all the artifacts. They had a lot of creepy bog bodies in one part. I'll admit they scared me a bit so I stuck really close to Sabrina. She thought I was just being silly but there you have it :)

My favorite part was definitely the Medieval artifacts. They were so fun to look at and I loved the detail they put into even simple projects. I really enjoyed the seals which were very intricate with the family's crest on them. Sabrina liked the section on historical Irish horsemanship and how the native Irish didn't use stirrups. Overall it was a beautiful building with lots of neat things to see.
After that I though we could go and relax but Sabrina had different ideas. She thought we should see the natural history museum just around the block as it was free also. I went along but really regret it now. The building was really old like the archaeology museum and the outside looked great. But once we got inside I realized how creepy it really is! Walls and cases stuffed into a long hall building completely packed with taxidermy animals. There were SO MANY! The taxidermy was really creepy and poorly done as most of it was done in the late 1800's and early 1900's. There were hardly any descriptions of the animals just their poorly mounted skins. I was so scared I nearly wet myself. So glad Sabrina isn't going to put me on exhibit there!

Sunday we decided to go someplace more fun, the zoo! We took the bus over to downtown and caught another headed for Phoenix Park where the zoo is. A fun note about the park, it was built originally as a hunting grounds for the wealthy citizens of Dublin, that's why they have a huge stone wall surrounding it. It is over double the size of central park and even has a herd of deer. It's super pretty. Sadly I don't have pictures but Sabrina promises to take me again when it's warmer. Anywho, back to the story...

As we were riding the second bus through downtown we ran headlong into trouble! Well...not exactly trouble but an inconvenience for sure! A group of citizens were having a walking protest against homelessness right down the road in front of the bus. They were blocking both lanes of traffic and moving like frozen molasses in a snow storm. I really was anxious to see the zoo and wish they would have moved to the side but they didn't. So our bus along with about 10 more city buses and a horde of cars had to follow the protest at their speed down the road. By the time we got away from them it had been almost an hour!

Eventually we got to the zoo. I was so happy when we arrived and couldn't wait to see some of my fellow animals. They have a really nice zoo in Dublin! First we got to see the tigers, snow leopard, and wolves. We moved throughout the zoo and had a great time of it. The animals were really active so I got to enjoy seeing them all. We even got to be right in front of the elephants as they ate dinner! Sabrina's favorite part was the flying fox fruit bats enclosure. We got to watch the bats eating their food, flying around, playing with each other, and resting. Sabrina says they were the most active flying foxes she'd ever seen. And as a special note for big sister Erin we got to see a family of red panda's up close! They were so cute that I even got a little jealous. At least I smell better :) Here's the pictures. Until next time! 


Monday, February 10, 2014

Hey guys Izzy here. Sorry for not writing in sooo long, I've been super busy!

This weekend I went with Sabrina and the international student society to Belfast. We took a ride on the Paddywagon tour bus and drove up north about 2 and a half hours. About the same time it takes to drive to Fort Wayne from Lafayette but with a lot more hills and sheep to look at :)

The countryside around Northern Ireland is beautiful. It gets pretty hilly by Belfast and there are two mountains really close to the city. I learned all about the history of Northern Ireland from our tour guide on the trip but I can't remember too much of it! I do remember that the trouble between Protestants and Catholics started in the 1600's when England sent a lot of Protestant people over to live in Ireland and slowly change public opinion in support of them. There were lots of battles and fights so I don't remember all of them.

We learned that unlike in the republic Northern Ireland has a fully armed police force with big armored vehicles. I think that came about from all the bombings in the 1960's through the 1980's. They have a really big wall dividing the Protestant housing district from the Catholic one. It's higher than the Berlin wall! We got to see it during a tour of the city but more on that later.

Our first stop was the almost brand new titanic museum by the docks. I didn't realize it but the Titanic was actually built in Belfast. The building is huge and covered in steel panels. It is engineered to be the same height as the Titanic itself, 90 feet! I learned a lot about the history of Belfast and of the Titanic. My favorite part was learning about the various industries involved in building the Titanic. The museum even had a little ride in it where you could learn about how people built the Titanic in the dry dock. Here's the pictures!

I got to help Sabrina listen to a Morse code message too! That was fun.
Here's a picture (sorry it's blurry) of how deep the Titanic is buried under the ocean. That arrow shows where the Titanic was found and the white dot at the top is the iceberg. Really deep water!
After the museum we went on a famous "black cab" tour where we learned more about the political history of Belfast. Our tour guide took us to the Protestant block first. These people are really, really British. Our guide joked that they are more British than those folks living in Britain. They over-emphasize their Britishness because they want to remain under the rule of the crown and not join the republic of Ireland. They have lots of murals on the walls glorifying the citizens loyal to Britain who stopped/killed the IRA rebels during the turmoil.

Sabrina and I found a mural of Martin Luther. Just had to take a picture!

After that we drove to the peace wall (the wall I told you about earlier) and we got to write our names on it. I didn't get a picture of it but it was really high concrete with barbed wire on top. We drove through one of the gates and entered the Catholic side. The murals here were made similar to those in the Protestant section but with the opposite viewpoint. They were proud of the IRA members especially those 10 who died in a hunger strike trying to be classified as political prisoners instead of terrorists. 
After the tour Sabrina and I wandered around with a couple of exchange students so the second group could join the tour. Belfast isn't very fun to walk around. It feels a lot dirtier and more unfriendly than Dublin. We did walk to the top of a dome at the mall and looked out over the city. 
After the dome we walked to see the leaning clock tower. Apparently this tower started leaning years ago after it had been built. They spend exorbitant amounts of money trying to straighten it but they didn't even succeed in moving it a cm. So sad but it makes for a good picture!
Once we were done wandering we loaded up into the bus and drove back. It was a really long day and I had fun. Though I don't think I want to go to Belfast again. It's not a very pleasant place to wander around because of all the filth and graffiti. I much prefer to wander Dublin's streets than Belfast's. Once we got back to campus I made Sabrina pose with me by the Paddywagon bus. It has a sheep on it too :) Sabrina got mad because it's a really bad picture of her but I'm posting it anyway! Thanks for reading and I'll write more soon.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hey guys Izzy here! Sorry for not posting earlier, I've been really lazy with all this rain. This Saturday Sabrina took me around Dublin with two other girls. We decided to go to the Kilmainham jail first so after a fun bus trip we arrived. The jail is one of the most important historical buildings in Ireland because of all the political history that went on there. It was the place where the 14 leaders of the 1916 rebellion were executed. Their executions turned public tide in support of the revolution and changed Irish history forever. At least that what I got from the guide's speech! Here's some pictures!

After the jail we went off to the Guinness factory. Boy was it a happening place!  SO MANY TOURISTS! But that was okay because we decided that just for that day we were going to be tourists too. I had to pull Sabrina away from looking at the horse drawn carriages outside of the factory on the cobble street. She was way too excited!

The factory was neat and I loved to see how they made everything. My favorite part was the huge wall of water that came from the mountains. Apparently they are really protective of the water and it makes the Guinness better as a result. After a really long exploration of the process we went to the top viewing tower to try some. Sabrina really hated it! She said it tasted worse than medicine and I have to agree. Well, maybe I'd like it more if I grew up with the stuff. Either way it was a really fun adventure and I can't wait for the next one. Talk to you later!