Monday, March 31, 2014

High on Life in the Highlands

Just last night I returned from the most magical weekend of my life to date. I started doing research on Highland excursions at the beginning of the semester, determined to make it to the legendary Isle of Skye, but most I found left from Edinburgh or Glasgow. However, at an international Dundee University event, I discovered Heartland Travel, the relatively new company that picks students up from their universities before making the drive to the Highlands! I found a weekend that worked with my schedule and booked it immediately. None of my other international friends chose this weekend until the trip was full and it was too late for them. So I arrived at the meeting point on Friday morning and met 15 new friends. There were two girls from St. Andrew's, three of us from Dundee, and the rest were from Stirling. 
Nori, our faithful leader, gave us a run-down of the weekend as he drove us North. We passed countless sheep and precious lambs as the Glen Coe mountains slowly came into view. Letsbehonest, every single point along the route was a scenic lookout, but we stopped at a particular pretty one to eat lunch in the van before beginning our hike to The Lost Valley. Along the way I drank the absolute best water from a freshwater stream and struggled to find words to describe the looming mountains. Everything around me was so still and it felt irreverent to shout among the peaks. We finally made it to the snowy bit near the top and I swiped a taste of Scottish snow. While we stood there in The Lost Valley, which used to be MacDonald clan territory, we began to be hit by tiny snowflakes. If I had to choose one astonishing sight from this hike, I would say the frozen waterfall had me speechless. We did not get particularly close to it, but to be able to see it from the distance we were was spectacular. I could not help but imagine what it would be like to witness the ice melt. 
Would it happen slowly, one trickle of water at a time? Or would The Lost Valley echo with the crack of ice and the gush of finally freed water? To stand among such is no wonder such special writers like Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir Walter Scott sprung from Scotland. Words meander down the peaks in quiet streams and adamant waterfalls. On the hike down, I found an elevated rock in the middle of the path and took a break to lay on it and stare at the blue, blue sky. We had beautiful weather and everywhere I looked the view was always different. We also saw two stags standing near the side of the road before climbing back into the van. 
Our next stop was the grocery store to get ingredients for a frozen pizza feast for the evening. As we were checking out, an upbeat song came on the stereo and all of the kids in the store started to dance! It was such a cool thing to witness and I refuse to believe it does not happen everyday in the Highlands. I mean, I would dance in grocery stores if I lived there. 
The next stop was likely a highlight for a lot of the group, but since I am not a Harry Potter fan I appreciated the beauty of the Glenfinnan Viaduct, rather than the significance of the railroad being in the films. Of course, if this was a setting from the classic film "Mean Girls" I probably would have fangirled just a wee bit more. A man, who I'm assuming owns the surrounding land, stopped us on our trek to the rail bridge and informed us about the process of filming and the presence of Loch Shiel in the movies as well. I was more enamored with his very Scottish tweed trousers, but he was so nice to stop and talk to us!
The bridge was the final stop of the day on Friday and we continued our scenic drive to Stromeferry, where our 130-year-old hostel was located. The sun set and dusk came upon the most reverent night I've ever seen. The clouds enveloped the tips of the mountains so that I couldn't tell where earth ended and the heavens began. The Highland mountains are boldly blunt, a stark contrast to the various lochs they encompass. They are unapologetically rough, virtually no plants cover the rocky surfaces unlike the green mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee. I felt equally protected and supported by the Highlands, whether I was standing in the midst of mountains or standing on one. 
We finally reached our destination and I scarfed down the pizza before falling into bed. The hostel was really nice, though it had slightly dodgy Wifi on occasions. But who needs Wifi when Lochcarron is outside the window? 
Saturday was fully dedicated to the Isle of Skye. We passed an old Viking castle before crossing over the iconic Skye Bridge, the most expensive bridge in the world. It used to cost 6 pounds each way before the people of Skye began to show their distaste for the toll by paying in pennies. After picking up sandwiches for lunch, we stopped to take pictures of the stunning Cuillin mountains before driving to a 2,000 year old broch, a defensive building from years ago. We caught a glimpse of Dunvegan Castle before stopping for lunch at my new favorite place in the entire world: Coral Beach. 
It's a mile long walk from the car park, but I would have walked three to experience this place. The water was resort clear, with two distinct shades of blue near the shores and in the middle. When the tide is out, one can cross on stones to an island, but we saw two travelers do this and then have to wade through knee deep water when they came back after the tide came in. We applauded their soggy efforts when they reached shore. The sand is made up of coral, hence the name of the beach, and I picked up three shells to add to my Scottish collection. 
I didn't want to leave Coral Beach, but the next location was almost better! Fairy Glen is just as magical as the name suggests. There is a small valley in between the hills and vistas for miles. I rearranged the rocks in Fairy Glen to make my own special message and ran around the fairy circle forwards and backwards, trying to see the sprites. 
It didn't work at the Fairy Glen, but I did see some fairies at the next rest stop! I met Laura and Kiera, the two girls who had to take a different tour since ours was full, and we had a dramatic three-way hug reunion even though I had seen them a few days earlier.

Our final stops in Skye were the Quiraing, Kilt Rock, and the Old Man of Storr. The views of all three were indescribable. I now want to permanently move to the Isle of Skye, but would the views lose their magic if I saw them everyday? Is the beauty of the vistas in the fleeting moments? 
Nori made us spaghetti on our final night and we sat around a bonfire, perfect for bonding and talking about cultural differences. 
The time change occurred in Scotland on Saturday night so when the clock struck 11 PM it was technically midnight for this Cinderella and I crawled into the sheets, feeling about as spry as a 90-year-old woman. 
If I could describe Sunday morning in one word it would be: opportunity. We got the chance to go fishing for scallops with a local fisherman! After sifting through all of the other sea creatures we unearthed, we tossed the scallops into a bucket. And then ate them raw. Yes, I tried a raw scallop. I'm still in disbelief myself. 
For lunch we ate at the cafe of Eilean Donan Castle on the shore of Loch Duich. It was built in 1214 by the Mackenzie clan and destroyed during the Jacobite rebellion. 
On the way to Loch Ness, we stopped for a photo opportunity with Highland cows and one lucky hairy guy posed for a selfie with me. Urquhart Castle was the next stop and finally, I saw Loch Ness. The place, not the monster unfortunately. It was probably the mistiest loch of all so I wouldn't be surprised if a creature did lurk under the water. 
Our final stops were sobering, but important. First, the Battlefied of Culloden, where on April 16, 1746, 1500 men fell in the Jacobite rebellion. The location is essentially a mass grave. 
Lastly, the Dundee and St. Andrew's crew parted from the Stirling babes at a McDonald's. So sentimental. We hugged our goodbyes and promised to visit (I'm already trying to work out when I can visit Stirling in May) and one of the Swedes gave the best farewell when he said "Goodbye, Miss Freedom." #merica! 
All in all, it was definitely one of the best weekends of my life and the perfect way to kickstart my summer! Can I be A Very Lucky Highlander? 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Late March Night's Dream

I know that it looks like I don't do any schoolwork at all. Even my friends here in the exchange program scoff at the four hours of class I attended each week.
But today was the culmination of weeks of preparation for a Shakespeare performance. I chose a Shakespeare module in Dundee because I thought it would be really awesome to learn Shakespeare in depth near the country of his birth. One thing I've come away with is that I don't believe Shakespeare was written to be said in an American accent. I felt so inferior among the proper accents in my tutorial!
A requirement of the course instructed each tutorial group (there were three) to choose a scene from any of the plays we read, perfect it over the course of the term, and perform it on March 26.
My group was on the smaller side and had only eight people in it. We finally settled on an abridged version of the final scene in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The scene has loads of characters in it so we had to get creative with how we wanted to present the scene. We didn't have enough people to fit the parts.
Since the scene focuses intently on the idea of meta-theater, as a play within a play, we decided to film the majority and leave timing for practiced audience interaction.
We worked on the project every week for approximately nine weeks and I have to say, I'm honestly incredibly proud of the finished product. I'm thinking new YouTube sensation....
I personally didn't have a part in the filmed bit, but I said my four lines today with grace and aplomb.
Ask our audience.
And speaking of audience, I was overwhelmed with the support from the international group. I posted on our Facebook page about the show, inviting the members to see Camille, Birgit, and me take Shakespeare by storm. The Brazilians left today for their European adventures, but I know they would have come otherwise.
My friends came trooping in at 1:59 PM and we busted out the extra chairs to fit everybody. Tbo, Zee, Laura, Kylie, James, Sam, Nat, Vanessa, Erin, Brenton...your presence meant so much to me!!
I was incredibly nervous, and my slight hangover didn't help (blame it on Buckfast and Skint night), but I think it's fair to say our group dominated the performances.
I consider it a win when I'm not the only one laughing.
The talent in my Shakespeare tutorial group was incredible. The scene calls for amateur acting and they went above and beyond to create a film I will remember forever.
Call me crazy and sentimental, but I've never loved Shakespeare as much as I did today.
What a way to end my academic career in Dundee.
Thnks fr th mmrs, y'all. They are oh so sweet.
Maybe one day A Very Lucky Girl will know how to work the lights? Doubtful. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Oklahomies in Dundee

I played hostess over the past two weeks and, let me tell you, I slept like a rock on the first night that my room was empty. Not because they were gone, but because I ran them (and myself) into the ground with a rigid itinerary. I wasn't about to let them come visit me and then us sit around looking at each other wondering what to do. Nope, every single day had a schedule. We may have strayed a time or two, but for the most part we stayed true to the plan. Plans are bliss, y'all.
Hannah arrived on Tuesday evening, March 11th. We dragged her suitcase from the bus station back to my flat before heading to Dr. Noodles, a delicious Asian food joint, for some pasta in a box. Then, after scavenging for appropriate Carnival costumes in my closet, I brought her to the flat party of the evening. This particular Tuesday was also the start of the Dundee Hunger Games so I was armed with a blue water gun to match my Kevin Durant Thunder get up. I also lent Vanessa, my flatmate, one of my spare water guns since she didn't have a chance to buy one yet. Bad move. More on that later. 
I pumped Hannah full of alcohol at the party before we went out to the Union for Skint night. I had never been previously even though everyone has been nagging me to go for the entire semester. Here's my confession: I've been missing out! We had a great time dancing and hanging out with all of my exchange friends before we left around 2 AM. Vanessa decided to leave with us and as soon as we had left the building she stuck the gun in my ribs and demanded my target. I was the very first person to "die" in the hunger games, at the hands of my own gun in my own flatmate's hand. The irony is inescapable. The betrayal still stings. 
On Wednesday morning Hannah and I were supposed to wake up early and travel by train to the town of Pitlochry to tour a whisky distillery. We made it halfway there, but the combination of jet lag, 3 hours of sleep, and a hangover was too much for Hannah, and she emptied her stomach until only water was left. 
We decided to return to Dundee and catch up on sleep before venturing out in the afternoon for a shopping escapade.
Megan made it to Dundee on Thursday evening and one of my wonderful friends, Zeeshan, treated us all to dinner at Nando's to celebrate her arrival! After filling up on chicken we headed to Tesco Metro where we spent an obscene amount of time in the alcohol aisle. Priorities. 
Friday morning, I dragged them out of bed and up to the top of Dundee Law before catching the train to Broughty Ferry. We spent the day ducking gusts of wind, eating a picnic in a castle, and meandering in and out of shops, including a furniture store. I don't even think I should tell you how long we spent trying out couches and admiring dining room tables. Is this adulthood? After dinner back at the flat, we went to Henry's for Bailey's hot chocolate and then to Tonic for actual cocktails. I quizzed Megan on the unfamiliar coins in between drinks. 
Saturday, we were on the bus to Stirling! It was so fun to go somewhere I had also never been before. Our threesome has a nice traveling mix. I'm the totally anal planner and Hannah is the experienced jet-setter, while Megan has the enthusiasm to bind us together. After making some circles and encountering strangers who had no idea where their own city's landmark was located, we finally made our way to the castle. It had an imposing presence at the crest of a hill overlooking the rest of the town, directly across from the Wallace Monument. Megan had complained about the crust on her sandwich the day before, so I carefully cut them off in the morning and even provided a little note. We ate this picnic in the courtyard of Stirling Castle. Eating carrot sticks and a chicken sandwich is a meal fit for royalty, right?
After the castle, we found the shops (it's like a magnetic force or something, can't be helped) and walked through the Thistle Mall. I hadn't been in such a mall since leaving the States and it was honestly a little overwhelming. I can't say I had very much culture shock when I came to Dundee, but I think I might have some when I return to America. It's become almost normal for people to drive on the left side of the road! My brain no longer hurts when I sit on a bus and see it happening.
Hannah packed up her suitcase on Saturday night and we all sat in a circle and sang Kumbaya. Kidding but not. It was sad.
We caught a bus to Edinburgh on Sunday morning and explored the castle with Hannah for an hour before she had to leave for the airport. Don't feel too sorry for her though since she was heading to the Bahamas next! If she came back tanner than me there will be a fight. We had a nice group hug near the cannons and then she was gone.
Megan and I consoled ourselves by visiting the prison in the castle and partaking in the free whisky tasting in the gift shop. After the castle we wandered through the Princes Street Gardens and found a cupcake shop where Megan tried her first macaroon and fell in love. After a little bit (ok a lot bit) of shopping, we made our dinner reservations and I got to feast on steak, thanks to Tyler's needless, but welcome, contribution to my bank account. Thanks again, baby! :) It was almost like date night, minus his great company and good night kiss. May 27th isn't so far away now though!
It was the kind of meal where I had to take breaks in order to rest my stomach and I was so thankful I wore leggings. 
Monday was St. Patrick's Day! We spent the morning in the mall so Megan could experience the Dundee Overgate. Nat and I took showers after lunch, and just as I stepped out the fire alarm went off. Perfect timing. I hastily dried off and dashed downstairs with a towel on my head and wishing for a drink in my hand. At least I wasn't as bad off as Nat, who still had conditioner in her hair. After our flat received the all clear, we all crammed into my bed watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S, making a drinking game out of it, decked out in our green. The Union hosted an all-day party so after dinner we spent the rest of the evening listening to live Irish music and then dancing downstairs!
I actually attended class on Tuesday morning, but we left for St. Andrew's soon after! It was such a beautiful day. I couldn't have asked for a better one. Nat joined us and we were armed with rain jackets, but the sun shone nearly the entire afternoon! We visited the golf course, the beach, the castle and cathedral, and picked up cupcakes before our bus home. 
If I had to pick a day that was a total dud, I would have to pick Wednesday. I had heard mixed reviews about Perth, but decided it would be a fun outing. So Megan and I went, accompanied by Nat and Vanessa. It was probably the worst place I've been to thus far. Granted, I know I sound like a total  traveling snob (i.e. "you've seen one small town you've seen them all"), but I swear to you that Perth is like a really attractive person with no substance. They're just pretty to look at, but you'd never want to interact with them. That's Perth. 
My favorite parts of the day were eating ice cream and trying on fake engagement rings at a Claire's in the mall. That's Perth.
I think we were all relived to get on our bus home. 
On Thursday I planned to take Megan on a walk over the River Tay road bridge, but the morning was absolutely miserable. It didn't stop raining until 3 PM and by that time we wouldn't have had time to see very much before we would run out of daylight. So we lounged in bed, drifting in and out of naps while endless episodes of The Office played in teh background. Noregretsnotevenasinglesnuggle. 
For dinner, we tried out the Tay Fry Inn and ohmylord I will be back. I found fried chicken. No, it's not quite Popeyes caliber, but it will do until I get back to the States. Megan went old school authentic and ordered fish and chips, while Nat channeled her inner elementary schooler with the chicken nuggets. I think we were all satisfied with our choices!
Megan and I invited Nat to our sleepover that night. They slept well. I was sandwiched in between two hybrid Darth Vader dinosaurs. It wasn't quite snoring, but it was incredibly loud breathing. I laid awake from midnight until 3 AM when I finally had the bright idea to escape to Nat's room. Peace and quiet. 
Friday was one of my favorite days! Megan and I trained it to Pitlochry with my friend Kiera where we wandered around the town before finding a promising hiking trail. Pitlochry is north of Dundee, further into the Highlands. It was mesmerizing! We saw snowcapped mountains and hiked around the edge of Loch Faskally. I would love to go back to camp or even to retire. I'm not picky. 
I helped Megan pack on Friday night before we fell into bed in preparation for our early morning, taking her back to Edinburgh to catch her flight. 
I waved until I could no longer see the bus!
My room is significantly emptier now, but my heart is full. So glad my friends took time and resources out of their lives to come and visit me! It was wonderful to show them around and have them feel, even for only a few days, the way I feel in this country. 
The departure date gets steadily closer and A Very Lucky Girl is far from ready. Where do I sign up for another semester? 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Dunger Games

AKA--the Dundee Hunger Games. 
Renan, one of the what seems like thousands brazilian exchange students, suggested we have a competition complete with water guns. I heard the word gun so obviously this American was up in arms about participating!  
I needed a tutorial to fully understand the game, but after an intensive learning session with Zee, Renan, and Nat, coupled with Macca's fries and a trip to the 24-hour bakery, I think I've got it figured out. 
Basically, everyone who wants in on the game chooses the name of another person, secretly in a folded sheet of paper. I've selected my target, and I was just relieved to actually know who they were! My next order of business was to purchase a water gun, both for defense and offense, which I did today at Poundland. 
You see, I am obviously after a particular target, the name I chose, but if he or she knows I am coming for them (which they won't because I'm sneaky) and they spray me with water before I can attack? If I am NOT their official target then they are required to share their real target's name with me and I cannot shoot them again for a period of two hours. This should hopefully discourage shooting for the sake of shooting. 
If I do successfully "kill" my target, then I acquire their target's name as well (and any others they have acquired during the course of game play). 
I'm still not quite sure how to win but my main game plan is to stay inside and watch Netflix with the door locked. 
Just Kidding.
I'll use Hannah and Megan, who arrive THIS WEEK, as my bodyguards and stealthily attack my target. Also probably wearing my Nikes as much as possible until this game dies down so I can run away from whoever has my name. 
Here's hoping the odds are ever in A Very Lucky Girl's favor. 

Friday, March 7, 2014

Neighborhood Adventures

I haven't been on any big trips since going to Dublin, but a lot of exciting things are coming up in the next few weeks and I can't wait to share them with you all! I've been saving my cash for my upcoming adventures and writing my final essays. I will be done with all things academic related on March 31st! Which means I'll have almost two full months to travel and just soak up Europe without the drag of having to go to 4 hours of class a week. Like ugh.
My goal is to complete all of my assignments before Hannah and Megan arrive next week! I've finished one essay and am 1,000 words into my Shakespeare one. It's slow going, but I only have four days until Hannah gets here!! She arrives in Dundee on Tuesday and I am so excited, considering I haven't seen her since August. Megan arrives a couple of days after her and then we have a few days as a trio, recreating our SB12 vacation in NYC. I cannot wait to show them around my home. Being the obnoxious planner that I am, I've created an intricate itinerary so we won't waste a single second!
It hasn't all just been Netflix and essays in the last two weeks though! Last Saturday was one of my favourite (my computer knows I'm in the UK and demands I spell it this way) days I've spent in Dundee! Nat and I crossed the Tay River Road Bridge, something I had done before, but this time we turned to the left instead of the right. We followed the Fife coastal path all the way down until we were nearly across the river from Broughty Ferry! Along the way we met a few dogs, a group of elderly walkers, and some horses in a pasture. It was a rare beautiful sunny day and after our snack/lunch we stretched out on the grass, soaking up the rays as best we could. We walked back toward Newport-on-Tay before heading back over the bridge and home to shower. We had a hot date that evening!
I've made friends with a girl in my Shakespeare class and I actually shared my first box of Monsters Inc. macaroni and cheese with her when I got my package from Tracy! Her name is Maria and she is from Newcastle, England. She even saw my bare bed and offered me an extra set of sheets from her own closet for the semester! She lives in a flat less than a mile from ours with her boyfriend, Roy, and they invited us over for an evening of fajitas and a movie. I loved that I could introduce she and Nat, because making friends out of all of my friends is one of my favorite activities. I actually introduced Hannah and Megan and they've become close, and Megan introduced Tracy and I and now I can't imagine life without her! Connections with people are the very best.
Maria and Roy were absolute perfect hosts. She met us outside of the landmark McManus Gallery and walked us the rest of the way to their adorable flat. We met her cat, Bonnie, and chatted on the fluffiest couch I've sat on since leaving the States while Roy made the fajitas.
*Insert F.R.I.E.N.D.S. clip with Ross wailing "my fajitas!" here* 
(YouTube wasn't helpful)
Dinner was nothing short of scrumptious. And I think I ate my weight in chips and salsa. We laughed and laughed at nearly everything. There we were, four different nationalities in the same room. Roy is from Scotland, Maria from England, Nat from Canada, and I'm American. Much diversity. Such culture. I LOVED it! Even when they burst out laughing at our pronunciation of Irn Bru, which is apparently not pronounced exactly as it sounds. They swear it's Iron Bruh. WHERE'S THE O, Y'ALL? Put an 'O' in there if you want it pronounced that way! ;) 
We finally tore ourselves away from dinner and our lovely conversation and went into the next room to watch "About Time" with Rachel McAdams on the projector. Cinema quality with the amenities of home! Despite Roy predicting everything that happened and me crying because duh it's a movie I have to cry, we had such a wonderful time!!
They walked us back to McManus in the few raindrops that were falling and Nat and I walked home the rest of the way discussing our calendar for when to reciprocate their dinner invitation and what on earth to make. I consider it easily in my top 3 evenings since moving to Dundee! I love that my circle of friends is getting wider and wider. I read something in Thought Catalog the other day that I absolutely adored. 
"I have some friends who I would consider family, based on the length, dedication, and unconditional love within our relationship and some blood relatives who I do not consider family because of the lacking of all of those previously listed qualities."
I love creating a family I get to choose of friends who mean the world to me. I'm already making lists of American goodies to send to Nat and Maria when I return to the States. Everyday this giant world gets a little bit smaller. Unfortunately, I'm not shrinking with it considering I'm on my third donut in two days. If you need me in May look for the Very Lucky Whale laying out on a Greek Island.

Friday, February 28, 2014

The Land of Luck

Shamrocks, rainbows, and leprechauns, oh my! Did I fall into a bowl of Lucky Charms? Nope, just dipped my toes into Dublin and the rest of Ireland over the weekend. I say dipped because one measly weekend is not enough for the breathtaking beauty I witnessed. I could use at least a week of leprechaun love. There were about 15 of us that traveled to Dublin on Friday night and we checked into a hostel I had researched located on the outskirts of the Temple Bar (aka year-round St. Patrick's Day celebration) district. It's called Kinlay House and I hesitate to recommend it to anyone else. The proximity to everything we wanted was excellent, however, the Wifi was awfully temperamental, the heat in at least two of the rooms was nonexistent, and only frigid water flowed in the showers. I managed one shower on Saturday evening, bending my back in such a way so that only my head was doused in the icy cascade. The tundra water elicited shrieks and shivers from Nat on my left side and Kylie on my right. At least we suffered together!
I went to bed relatively early on Friday night so I would be fresh for the tour we had booked in the morning. Nat, Vanessa, Kendra, and I met up with Paddywagon tours and went on a coach bus to Northern Ireland. Outside the windows on the drive, the Irish country side unfolded like a lumpy green quilt with stitching of darker green. We juggled the abrupt switch from euros back to pounds with experienced traveler aplomb when we arrived at our first stop, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. The views were better than anything I've ever seen in my life up to this point. The fact that an entire country can suddenly stop right at the edge of the water and not go any further invoked such a feeling of majesty. This wasn't a coast that slowly meandered down to the water, mixing with sand and shells before being claimed by the ocean. There was a clear divide between coast and sea, as evidenced by the sheer drops from cliffs to waves. I could see the Caledonian Isles from the edge of another country.
After the rope bridge we climbed back on the bus to continue down the coast to Giant's Causeway. The local myth is it was caused by a feuding Irish giant and Scottish giant, but in reality, the unique stone formation is a true natural wonder of the world, and is listed as a world heritage site. 40,000 columns of stone rise from under the water, the highest is 12 meters and all but two are hexagonal in shape. A tidbit our guide forgot to mention was the horrendous wind. Nat's beanie flew off of her head, into the roiling waves, and I struggled to maintain my footing on slippery rocks against the persistent gusts. I took picture after picture, determined to capture the wonder in a still moment. My efforts were futile. But the pictures I have are almost as good as the real thing. I scavenged for seashells and swooped up one with green accents in honor of the Emerald Isle. We browsed the gift shop after battling the wind back up to the visitor's centre where I purchased some postcards for the folks back home along with two magnets depicting the adventures we'd had. My refrigerator is going to be the best-dressed someday.
We jumped out at a photo spot to see Dunluce castle off the coast on the way to Belfast. It was a quick stop, but the ruins of this castle were not to be missed!
Our guide, Martin, drove us to Belfast, filling us in on the tumultuous history of the city due to religious tension between Catholics and Protestants. He assured us that all had been peaceful for 16 years and we had nothing to worry about. Nat and I exchanged wary glances...we've both been alive longer than there's been peace in Belfast! We passed the most-bombed hotel in the world, the Europa. In total it was hit 30 times, once 3 times in a particular week. If we had more time I would have gone to the Titanic museum, but I consoled myself with a visit to the Titanic memorial outside of City Hall. From Belfast, Martin turned the bus toward Dublin and I glued my eyes to the window. We drove back around dusk and I gaped at the endless green mounds dotted with houses. One even had legitimate smoke coming out of its quaint Irish chimney. Some had lights on and it looked as if a leprechaun had strewn the contents of his pot of gold over the enchanting hills.
We arrived back in Dublin around 8 PM, over 12 hours from our departure time, and immediately sniffed out some dinner. We found a gourmet burger kitchen in the Temple Bar area and I ate a chicken sandwich with some of the best bacon I've encountered since leaving the States.
Back at Kinlay House, after the ice cold showers I recounted earlier, I snuggled into my freezing bed in three layers, a scarf, my earwarmer, oh, and Nat. We decided body heat would be the best defense against hypothermia. She abandoned ship halfway through the night, but by that time we were sufficiently warmed.
Our second day in Dublin dawned a little rainy, but it didn't stop us from wandering to Dublin castle and then to the Guinness Factory and Storehouse. Guinness was huge! We went to each floor and learned how they brew the beer before a master pint puller taught us how to pull our very own pints. I volunteered to demonstrate to the group and didn't fail! My pint had perfectly formed foam at the top and I carefully drank one sip in the manner we had been taught. In my opinion, any way you drink it, Guinness isn't so hot. Could I have a vodka soda, please?

After Guinness we took ourselves to one of the most magical places on this earth. The Trinity College Long Room. What I wouldn't give to have free reign in that room. To rummage gently among the shelves. To scale the ladders in Belle-like fashion. I sat on a bench, surrounded by two stories of ancient books and wished I could set up camp. I finally tore myself away to find the River Liffey running through the city. I sat on a bench and watched the water go by under the Samuel Beckett Harp Bridge, munching on the sour gummies I bought from Temple Bar candy store. Soon after walking the main shopping avenue, O'Connell Street (could it BE anymore Irish?), I hopped on a bus back to the airport, armed with Pringles and a Cosmo magazine for my night at the airport. Four of us didn't fly out until 6:25 AM. I don't recommend sleeping in airports if at all possible. Lesson learned. However, I would wear the same pair of socks for 36 hours again if it mean I got to go back to Ireland. I felt like such A Very Lucky Girl in A Very Lucky Country.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February 26

I started A Very Lucky Girl exactly two years ago. Writing has always been a part of myself and my discovery of the world. I've kept a journal since 6th grade (that's about 10 years), but I'm thrilled to have been sharing my discoveries with such a faithful readership for two years. So much can change in two years. When I first began writing publicly I didn't know I would be writing about divorce or devastating holidays. I didn't know I'd be writing about adventures to Vegas and Scotland. I didn't know I would recap far too many Bachelor/Bachelorette seasons. I didn't know I would be writing about my relationship with Tyler as it progressed. It didn't even exist this time two years ago!
I didn't know I would garner readers from around the world: Malaysia, France, Ukraine, Russia, Australia, China, Poland, Venezuela, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, India, and Belgium are just a few of the countries of people who have landed on my blog.
I also didn't know the various ways readers would happen upon a post. Let me share a "behind the scenes" look at a blog. I can see exactly what people type into google that randomly pulls up a post on my blog. Some individuals have searched "high school girls selfies" and found my writing, others have been on a hunt for information about various Bachelors and Bachelorettes. The Internet is an amazing place in how so much can be shared. 
Whether you have been reading A Very Lucky Girl for a few weeks or since the beginning, thank you for spurring me on in an activity I love to do. The way a certain written turn of phrase has the power to turn the corners of a reader's mouth turns me on. Thank you for being there for the trashy reality television posts, the posts I didn't edit as much as I should have, and the posts that I will always be proud of. Thank you for inspiring A Very Lucky Girl.
the ultimate haven for a literature lover: Dublin, Ireland Trinity College Long Room