Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Last Two Days

I have been a little derelict in my blogging. I was extremely tired yesterday after a long week, so I fell a bit behind. We started our day in Dublin early. Try 6:00 a..m. early. We got ready to go to Wales, eating breakfast at around 6:30. Frank, our coach driver, drove us to Dublin port. We saw the large ship the Ulysses in port. We pulled up to the port and took a few pictures with Frank. We all felt a twinge of sadness in leaving Ireland. We got checked in (I led the check-in, as always) and waited for our boat, the Swift, named after Jonathan Swift of Dublin (I got a picture next to his birthplace on our three hour walking tour of Dublin). We took the boat for about two hours. After getting off the boat, I felt like we were in a very beautiful place. I loved seeing the red dragon everywhere off the boat. All of the signs were in Welsh as well! We met our coach driver at the airport. His name is Tony and he is from London. After getting the coach loaded up, he reminded us of the safety rules. Safety rules? Ireland must be a little bit more relaxed about safety rules. We drove to the longest town name in Wales/ the world (my instincts tell me that the full name of Bangkok is longer). Llanfair (Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch) is clearly a touristy place. It has a few things, but it mostly attracts tourists curious to see the sign of the city. I went to the Co-Op to get something to eat. I found some Welsh cakes. They were delicious! They reminded me of when the Welsh teacher at BYU, Susan Woods, came to visit us in class winter semester.We drove to see Conwy castle and explore the city of Conwy. The castle was nice. We got some good pictures, and we also got to see a little bit of the city. The Welsh countryside is green, but it is a different green than Ireland. There are sheep everywhere. I love the look of the houses. We then drove to our hostel in Llandudno, a beach town where Alice Liddell's family used to spend their summers. 

When we were driving into the city, we saw many statues of Alice in Wonderland. After getting settled in the hostel, a hostel owned by Lithuanians, we took a trip to Asda. I bought some food with Katie, Liz, and Matthew, so we could share food for the Sabbath. We bought the things we needed for sandwiches and salad. After that, we went home to rest. The hostel is homey, but crowded. There is barely enough space in our room to move, let alone be comfortable. I am getting eager to not be on the road. 

Today, we got ready for Church. Church was pretty good. The branch was in Colwyn Bay, a small town nearby Llandudno. Sacrament meeting was from the seminary program. The youth here seem very well-spoken. The Sunday School lesson was a bit harder for me. I dislike the story of the milk and cream with the Marshes. I do not feel that it is historically accurate. The Marshes left the Church over more complicated matters than that. Also, I do not like the "choose to be offended" rhetoric that is perpetuated in the Church. The lesson after that was a combined lesson on the missionary broadcast and on the British Legion. One woman used the phrase "I'm pants at knitting," meaning "I am horrible at knitting." After returning home, we ate and took a nap. Then a few of us went to the beach and an Alice in Wonderland park. It was a beautiful view. I feel very attached to Wales. I hope to be able to return someday. I would love to be able to come back and stay for longer than we are here. We also had a musical fireside where the Gardners invited some people from Spain and Pakistan to attend. Someone sang "The Streets of London." I loved hearing that in an LDS building. The men from Spain were very friendly. One of them was an architect from Sevilla who came here to learn English in order to find a better job. The Gardners also invited some of our neighbors in the hostel. They were from Pakistan, but had lived in the United States. The musical fireside ended and we headed home. We had some dinner and now I am getting ready to go to bed. Tomorrow, it is off to Snowdonia and Cardiff!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Last Day in Dublin

We woke up and had our typical breakfast of cereal and toast. After this typical European breakfast, we went to see the Book of Kells at Trinity College. I have always had a thing for illuminated manuscripts; the Book of Kells was beautiful! It dates back from 800 A.D. when it was written by Irish monks off the coast of Scotland on the Ireland on the island of Iona. The Trinity College library is also incredible. The architecture was borrowed in recent films such as Attack of the Clones and Harry Potter. I really enjoy books. After this adventure, some of us decided to take a walking tour that was free. Dublin is a large city. Like any city, it is easy to get lost in Dublin. We got lost before we finally found the tour. The three hour tour took us on a crash course in Irish history. From failed rebellions to musical genius, Dublin has a lot to offer. We saw the place where the failed Irish rebellion where the Irish could have taken over the seat of British power took place. We also saw statues to many famous Irish heroes. One of my favorite sites was Christ Church Cathedral, the place where Handel's Messiah was very first performed. We also saw the museum of Ireland. It had a lot of artifacts from various periods in Irish history, in addition to various artifacts from Egypt. After some more wandering, we got some lunch/dinner at a local pub. Most of us had Irish lamb stew. It was incredible! The meat was tender and juicy. 

Tomorrow we are heading out to Wales. Part of me wishes I could spend more time in Dublin. It is a diverse place. I have also seen how there is a lot of contrast here in Dublin. Ancient and modern. Irish and foreign. There seems to be a great culture war going on here over several issues (there must be an abortion bill that is being hotly debated- we see pro and anti-abortions signs everywhere.) There is a large amount of Polish people here, in addition to people from other countries and places. One interesting fact: the population of Ireland pre-famine in the mid 1800s was 8 million. The population today is only 6 million. 

Off to Wales we go!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rock of Cashel

We woke up in Killarney. After a long day, I was ready for some good news today. After waking up, I decided to go figure out the baggage situation. I went downstairs to ask to use the phone, and I called the Shannon Airport. They knew it was me since I had called them twice now. After calling them and giving them the address to deliver the bags to in Dublin, we all had breakfast together. The breakfasts here are always toast with jam and cereal . Today they had apples, so I had one of those as well. After that, I called both Blarney Castle and Rock of Cashel to confirm our visits. We drove to Blarney. The line at Blarney was about an hour and half. We ran into a woman from England who had a long-time wish to kiss the stone. She didn’t get to kiss it since the line was too long. We were waiting in the line for about an hour and a half. We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to kiss the actual stone, so I kissed several stones in between. I was in line with a couple of people from my group. We were all very eager to get the gift of the gab. The castle itself had a lot of winding stairs and some interesting rooms. Everything in Ireland points to a past where people were midgets. It seems like every step, every bed, and every room is just smaller. I imagine that our level of nutrition has lead to increased height and weight. We had lunch at the Castle before heading out for Rock of Cashel.
                Rock of Cashel has been one of my favorite things that we have seen so far in Ireland. It was a beautiful church with some ribbed vaulting, beautiful windows, and a lovely view of the countryside. A few of us decided to walk down to the ruins of a Sisteritian Abbey from the 13th century. It is amazing to think how old everything here is. We got some great pictures. And made some new friends (namely a cow). 
                After Rock of Cashel, we began the long trek to Dublin. It was about a two hour ride. The first thing you will notice about Dublin is its size. It is a larger city than anyplace we have been. There are lots of businesses and hostels, pubs and grocery stores.  I arrived at Jacobs Inn to find that my bags had been delivered! I have been waiting for several days to be able to shave; I was starting to grow a beard. I finally shaved it off tonight after a dinner of beef stew at the local pub- it was delicious! It had Irish beef, potatoes, carrots, and peas. The woman at the bar was amused when we asked to get a picture of us with our glasses full of water rather than Guinness, the local beer of Ireland. She was teasing the other boy on the study abroad who asked her about one of items on the menu. After our dinner at the nearby pub, we went walking around. Dublin reminds me a lot of New York. Diverse, large, and very much city-like. As for now, I think it is time for me to hit the hay and prepare to see the Book of Kells tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Muckross House and

My luggage didn't appear to be coming, so I decided to call the airlines this morning. We still don't have a cell phone for the group since we aren't quite sure what to do. They anticipated that it would be on the flight today, so I told them to send it to Killarney. The breakfast we had was toast and cereal. I went to Tesco (gave me flashbacks of Thailand's Tesco Lotus ("Lotus" for short) and bought a bottle of water and a Crunchie. I couldn't resist the Crunchie! It's been years. It was just as nice as I remember it. Today we went around the Dingle Peninsula. The view was incredible! The rocks of Ireland are not to be missed. We stopped by a statue of Jesus on the cross to get some pictures. We got some great pictures.

We stopped for lunch in Dingle. Two words: tourist trap. I like fish and chips, but I felt like the prices were geared towards tourists, so I skipped the fish and chips and headed to the local market to make myself some sandwiches and eat that with some produce. It was much cheaper than anyplace out in Dingle.

 We also went to Muckross House today. Muckross House was a house that Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert stayed in during a brief trip to Ireland shortly before Albert's death. They informed the owners of the house that they would be visiting six years in advance. I cannot imagine if someone told me that  I was amazed. It was interesting to see how that small segment of the rich Irish society lived. We were there for a little bit before we went to Ross Castle. I didn't go in since they didn't have room for all of us, but we didn't miss anything. Everyone left Ross Castle fairly underwhelmed.

After all of this, we checked in to the hostel and had dinner at a local pub. Everything is going well. I have been trying to figure out my bags fiasco for about an hour and a half, but besides that, things are good. I will try to update when I can. As for now, I need to get some rest and get to bed.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

First Day in Ireland

I rarely blog, but I can't go several weeks without blogging about my adventures in the UK. After many hours of traveling, we finally arrived in Tralee for the night. Let's start at the beginning of our adventures.

When I got to the airport on Monday, they told me that my flight had been delayed by thirty minutes. Since my flight was delayed getting to JFK, I was nervous that I wasn't going to be able to get on the flight at JFK for Shannon because I only had an hour layover to begin with. Somehow, I knew that I wouldn't have my luggage when I first arrived in Ireland. After saying a few goodbyes to David and Mother, I headed through security. I saw lots of missionaries. Many of them were headed for Madagascar. I also, in an ironic twist of fate, saw a Thai monk. I was sure he was Thai because of the color of his robes and the bag that he was carrying, a bag common to Thailand monks. I waited for the plane and got on board. The man in front of me was a short, stocky man with a grey fedora. I knew it was going to be trouble when he started complaining to no one in particular that someone was messing with his scalp. He claimed that someone was burning all his hair off somehow. He kept asking what was wrong with people because they were clearly messing with his scalp. Insinuating that the girl from China sitting next to him was the culprit was particularly odd.
          The ride was incredibly bumpy. At one point, I nearly thought the plane was in trouble. The captain asked the flight attendants to sit down even though they were distributing drinks. We stayed seated for most of the flight. I got nervous before we were due to land since my flight was due to leave at 9:32 p.m. and we were supposed to land at 8:57 p.m., so I talked to the incredibly friendly flight attendant who was from either China or Korea. She got me a seat closer to the front and told people to give me priority. I was impressed with Delta’s response. After we deplaned, I literally ran to the gate and made it in time for boarding. My bags, however, could not run as quickly as I could. I knew they didn’t get on since I boarded at 9:15. I enjoyed sitting next to two lovely Irish women, a nun and a nurse. The nun had worked in Utah for five years teaching at a Catholic school close to Cottonwood High School. The nurse had an American husband and had worked in New Jersey for a while. The Filipino flight attendant also asked if I “attended the Mormon temple.” I told him that I was indeed a Mormon. Somehow he knew that Mormons had a temple in Ghana. Small world. The Irish nun also told me about how she was neighbors with a direct descendent of Brigham Young when she lived in Utah. Again, it’s quite a small world.
          We arrived in Ireland and figured some things out. We got some money and met the Gardners at the airport. We waited for several hours at the nearby hotel. Others arrived and then we got on the coach and headed to Bunratty Castle. One girl missed her connecting flight, so we later returned to get her after we had visited Bunratty. Bunratty was a large castle with enormous grounds. There were several groups of French and German tourists. We saw one woman in the grounds who was demonstrating the way to make butter. She washed the butter and proceeded to spank the butter. She told us it was just like spanking a child. Wait… That’s mean! Or is it? After that we went to get some dinner. I had some fish and chips from a local McDonald’s like place. And then we rode to Tralee. We checked in with me acting as the official bell boy.

Irish people are incredibly friendly! They love to talk to you and they are all so nice to strangers. I have been impressed with the beauty of the country and its people. Tomorrow, we should be going to Killarney. Here’s to hoping that I get my bags!