Monday, February 14, 2005

Leaving for Ireland

It's 1:15AM here in London. Tomorrow morning at around 9AM we are leaving for Ireland for the rest of the week. It's another one of those "educational" field trips that the school "forces" us to go on. Honestly, we couldn't be more happy to oblidge the school in going. It's free travel, all planned out for us. And since it's all of us going together, it's always fun.

We're spending most of the week in Dublin. However, on Saturday we get a free day all to ourselves, so me and some friends are going to Belfast and the northern coast of Ireland. It should be a lot of fun. I'm meeting a friend from the Florence program there tomorrow night. I'm really looking forward to it.

I still haven't packed. I still haven't even thought about what i need to take. The weather is supposed to suck there for the week that we're there. Rainy every day. But they told us Scotland was going to be horrible too and we didn't have any trouble. Sure it was cold, and it snowed a little and rained a little, but we were in a car and it didn't really rain that much anyways. I hope that it's the same for Ireland.

One day we are going on a hike throughout the Irish country side. Somewhere's outside of Dublin. I hear that the most beautiful parts of Ireland and all the culture in the cities are in the pubs. So we'll be spending a lot of time in the pubs. And the school has oblidged us by giving us free time every night. Well I'm off to get some sleep or pack.. one of the other

Bustin' in up in a tiny car for two days

Last weekend was spent crammed in a small small car with three other big dudes.


That's a big guy for a small car. And we had 3 more guys in that. Just for comparison, that car is the same size a Mini Cooper...

We got to see a lot of Scotland though. We flew into Glasgow early Friday morning (not having slept Thursday night) and picked up our rental car and starting driving north. We got all the way up to Inverness (map below) and drove all around Loch Ness. That took up all of Friday, it was a 3 hour drive to Inverness and then we spent another 2 hours driving around Loch Ness and taking pictures. There's this awesome castle at the edge of the water on the southern end of Loch Ness and we caught it just as the sun was going down. Absolutely beautiful.



The red line is how far we drove the first day, and the blue line is how far we drove the second day.

Driving north through the highlands was amazing. There was no snow when we landed in Glasgow, but the further north we got and the higher we got there more and more snow we saw, until the entire scenery was snow! It was gorgeous. I love the highlands. I don't know if I favor it over all the other scenery that I've seen just because we've had the chance to actually drive around instead of just taking a train, but Scotland is definately the most beautiful place I've been to this semester. I think only Greece could top it overall.

Anyways, we drove back to Inverness to spend the night. We were all exhausted from not sleeping the night before and spending the whole day traveling. But we were too cheap to get a hostel so we slept in our little car. I think we started dozing off at around 11PM. But it was very uncomfortable, very very cramped and it started to get cold fast. At around 3:30AM we gave it up and left. We were too cold and uncomfortable to continue to try and sleep. We drove south back through the highlands right through snowstorm. It started pouring snow as we got higher and higher. It took us much longer to make it back through. But it was an awesome time anyways. We got to St. Andrew's at around dawn. We saw the ruined Cathedral and visited the beach. We saw the oldest golf course in the world. After spending a couple hours there we headed down south more to Edinburgh. We got lunch and toured around the city, seeing the Edinburgh castle, the Royal Mile, Arthur's Seat and the new Parliament building, along with much more.





Me, dap and justin in front of Edinburgh Castle



Me at the top of the cliffs above Edinburgh.. the entire city behind me

So we left Edinburgh and traveled south along the coast to see Hadrian's Wall. It was a wall built by the English about 2000 years ago to keep the Scots out. It's not as impressive as it sounds. Today it's about 2 1/2 ft tall. here's a pic...




It's not impressive at all.. but really funny to make fun of. So after that the sun was starting to set and we decided to head back to Glasgow and spend the night in the airport. Our flight was very early the next morning.

Of course I'm leaving stuff out. I can't write everything down here can I??! You got the jist.. and I'm gonna go to sleep

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

They call me "tatter salad"

I think I got like at least 11 hrs of sleep last night, and I'm still really tired. This last weekend really drained me. I think I got about 13 hours of sleep over the weekend and most of those were on a train or in a train station. So I needed that sleep last night, and I need more!!! Of course, from what I hear, Charis has been getting much less than me. At least I can sleep in on during the week somewhat.

So you want to hear the story from Venice huh? It was a lot of fun. I went with Susan and Matt and met up with more people who were traveling separately the second day. We spent half of friday traveling to Venice and all of Sunday coming back. So I got to spend Friday night and all of Saturday exploring Venice and taking in the sights of Carnevale. I think I explained what Carnevale was in my last post. It's really hard to explain in words, you'll have to look at the pictures on my picture website. Venice was really nice, even though I had already been there last semester, I loved it so much I wanted to go again. Carnevale was the perfect time to go. It was beautiful, a little cold, but the sun was out to keep us warm. During the day we walked around all the campos (smaller squares) and took pictures of all the people dressed up in their elaborate costumes. There was tons of people there. San Marco's square was packed with people. They had a stage set up and at night they had bands playing. It was an awesome experience and one of my most fun weekends.



One of the many people wandering around in elaborate costumes


The bad story is kind of complicated. Let's just say that I missed my train, and ended up being stranded in some random train station in Italy. I honestly had no idea where I was. I was forced to sleep on the floor of this small dingy station.

But now I'm back, I survived the experience, I made it back safe and sound...somewhat. I bought an awesome mask, but lost in somewhere in Venice...along with my beanie which fell out of my pocket and I didn't realize it. Oh well...

I'm determined to relax this week. We've had 2 classes so far cancelled this week, and i've spent the time sitting around on my butt like everyone should. =) This weekend I'm going to Scotland with Ethan, Justin and Dap. Then we're leaving on tuesday (early early morning) for Dublin. We'll be in dublin until sunday. and then the weekend after that I'm off for spring break, traveling across Spain and France. I still need to book all those plans. Alright it's dinner time for me!


Later guys

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Venice & Carnaval

Once a year during what us Americans would call Mardi Gras, the Europeans throw a huge party called Carnival. The main cities of activity are Paris and Venice. Guess where I'm gonna be this weekend? You got it....Venice. I'm really excited, Lianne got me a mask in Florence last week so I will fit in. Typically you wear a mask to the celebration to hide your identity. I'm going with Susan and Matt Naramor, we are flying into Milan on friday morning and taking a train to Venice. For the first night we are pretty much on our own, but then Saturday there's gonna be a bunch of people from London house there. Here's a description of what Carnival is :

"The Carnival in Venice is said to have originated from an important victory of the "Republica della Serenissima", in the war against Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia, in the year 1162. To celebrate this victory, dances and reunions started to take place in SAN MARCO SQUARE. Due to the multicultural character of Venice, magicians and others joined the fun.
When Carnival first began it was celebrated from December 26 and ended the day before Ash Wednesday, also known as "Mardi Gras". During Carnival, Venice let her hair down and enjoyed all excesses that were permitted. Hiding behind masks seemed to abolish all social division. Venice was one big party; carousing, singing, dancing and playing games. The most common costume (the baĆ¹tta) was composed of a black silk hood, a lace cape, a voluminous cloak (the tabarro), and a three-cornered hat and a white mask that completely covered the wearer's face. This allowed revelers to go around the city incognito. It was useful to go to casini, places where you could play games of chance.

Today Madri Gras is still celebrated the same way and is held in the month of February." - Carnival by Goner (virtualtourist.com)

I hope it's gonna be as good as it sounds....!! Here's hoping! I'll bring back some awesome pictures of their costumes... See ya sunday.