March was filled with great opportunities and wonderful experiences. It began with a wonderful visit from my sister, Jen. Jen landed in Dublin on March 8th and I was able to show her around the UCD campus. We quickly returned to the airport that night for our flight to Paris. We arrived in Paris and took a train and the metro to our Bed and Breakfast. We stayed in a local Parisian apartment with our host Aline. Aline was very welcoming to us. Her apartment was very cozy. She had tea and cookies waiting for us when we arrived. We had a delicious breakfast each morning with Aline. She had us try different kinds of teas while she gave us tips on getting around Paris.
On our first day we took a Sandman’s New Europe walking tour. The tours are built to show visitors the best of Paris and pay at the end what the felt the tour was worth. During the tour we were able to see and learn the history behind many historic monuments and areas of Paris. We began the tour by the fountain at Place St. Michel and ended it at the Arc de Triomphe. Sights we saw along the way included; Notre Dame, View of the Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Gardens, Assemblée National, View of the Pont Alexandre III, Latin Quarter, Pont Neuf, Place de la Concorde, View of the Champs-Elysées, View of the Arc de Triomphe, The Louvre, Palais Royal, Musée d’Orsay, Love Lock Bridge, and View of Les Invalides. After the tour we climbed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The view from the top was stunning! We then went to Notre Dame to tour it and sit in on a service. It was beautiful! We did not stay for the whole service since we could not understand what they were saying. We finished the day off with dinner at a local restaurant.
The next day began with a trip to The Louvre. The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world! You could easily spend a whole day in the Louvre. We decided to make it to a few of our favorite pieces first including, Mona Lisa, The Winged Victory, and Aphrodite. We walked through a few other areas including the Renaissance, Middle Ages, and Pharaonic Egypt before making our way out. Following lunch, we headed toward Montmarte. We climbed the hill to the Sacre-Coeur which watches over the city from its highest point. It was another breathtaking church! We were also able to see the Moulin Rouge and walk through the Red Light District. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperating so we did not stay in Montmarte for that long. We headed back to the bed and breakfast to relax before dinner. We ate dinner in an area that reminded me of a Crocker Park. On the way back we got turned around when leaving the Metro and got a little lost in the rain but eventually made it back.
On our last full day we headed to the beautiful Palace of Versailles. This was one of my favorite parts of our trip. The Chateau was stunning. The elaborate design and decoration were definitely a sight to see. I was most looking forward to the Hall of Mirrors. The Hall was so picturesque The gardens were not open but we could see them from the windows. After visiting Versailles we went to Angelina’s for hot chocolate. The hot chocolate was simply amazing and the tea-room was so cute! After Angelina’s we went to dinner near the Eiffel Tower. After dinner we went to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle as it does on the hour each night. It was a terrific ending to an absolutely perfect day!
On our last day we walked around a few different areas of Paris and we went to Victor Hugo’s apartment. We walked through gardens before heading to gather our belongings at the bed and breakfast and heading back to the airport. We had an amazing time in Paris and I would love to go back!
Thursday was Jen’s first full day in Dublin. We went on a walking tour of the city that went down the quiet streets and bound through bustling boulevards, uncovering the hidden sites as well as the famous ones. The tour explored 2,000 years of history. From some of the world’s greatest writers to dramatic and sometimes tragic events through the centuries, Dublin’s main export has been stories and our guide brought the past to life through her passionate delivery of the history of this vibrant city. The tour took us to; Dublin Castle, Viking Remains, Norman Dublin, Georgian Dublin, Christ Church Cathedral, The National Library, Temple Bar, U2’s Hotel, Trinity College, Chester Beatty Library, and St. Stephen’s Green. We ate lunch at Bewley’s café, which is one of my favorites in Dublin. We went shopping on Grafton Street ad in St. Stephen’s Shopping Center. We met up with my friend Cecilia and went to Trinity Bar for dinner and then to Fitzsimons for live Irish music and dancing. The town was really lively with all of the tourists that came in to celebrate St. Patick’s Day.
On Friday we took a day tour to Wicklow National Park. We were able to hike through an area of the park and visit Glendalough. Wicklow National Park is known for its beauty and it also is where Gerry and Holly met in P.S. I Love You. We then traveled through beautiful Kildare to historic Kilkenny. Once the medieval capital of Ireland, Kilkenny boasts of Irelands finest Norman castle. The city was busy with many tourists from the states who came to march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade. We returned to Dublin and ate dinner at The Church. The former St. Mary’s Church of Ireland is one of the earliest examples of a galleried church in Dublin. Built at the beginning of the 18th century, it boasts many outstanding features, such as the Renatus Harris built organ and spectacular stained glass window. In September 2007 the building was acquired by new owners and renamed “The Church Bar & Restaurant” and its range of services was expanded to include a Café, Juice Bar, Night Club and a Barbeque area on the terrace.
On Saturday we went to a hurling and Gaelic Football match in one of Europe’s larges and most loved stadiums, Croke Park. We were able to see the Dubs on their home turf against their rivals. This was an extremely fun Irish experience, especially the day before St. Patrick’s Day. On our way back we walked through the city which had been “turned green.” Many buildings were lit up with green lights for St. Patrick’s day.
Sunday was St. Patrick’s Day. We got up early to get decked out for the festivities. We went to Trinity Bar which overlooked the Parade. We spent most of our day there. We had a traditional Irish meal with corned beef, cabbage, lots of potatoes, and mixed vegetables at O’Neils. Jen’s last day in Dublin was spent shopping by O’Connell Street, enjoying Irish coffees, and live music and Irish dancing in the Temple Bar area. It was so nice to have Jen here! I wish she didn’t have to leave. We went back to the airport so that Jen could go home and I took off to Amsterdam with 3 other study abroad students.
Amsterdam was a storybook city. It was filled with old building and houses that looked like they came alive right out of a fairytale. We walked throughout the city and went to the Anne Frank House. Touring the house where she hid was one of my favorite things we did in Amsterdam. It was so interesting to see how they hid and what they had to go through while they were in hiding. We went on a canal tour throughout the city. It was interesting to learn that there are hooks that come down from the top of the houses to bring furniture in through the large windows because the stairs are so steep. There were many houseboats that were each very unique. We went to the famous Pancake Bakery and had the most amazing pancakes with bananas and nutella. We also went to the famous windmills. Near the windmills were cheese shops and clog factories and shops. The Netherlands are famous for the tulips, windmills, clogs, and cheese. I will definitely have to come back when the tulips are in bloom because they are my favorite flower!
Returning to class was difficult since I had been off for two weeks. We had a short week due to Easter. I was really missing my family and friends with Easter approaching but I was able to have a wonderful weekend with my friends that have turned into family here in Dublin. On Good Friday a few of us rented bikes and rode through Phoenix Park. It was a beautiful sunny day! Phoenix Park is home to the Papal Cross, U.S. Embassies, Lord Mayor of Dublin’s house, and the official residence of the Irish President. When we came back I went to the Stations of the Cross at night. It was a wonderful Good Friday! On Easter Sunday, I attended a Catholic mass at the Sacred Heart Church. It was an absolutely amazing service. The altar was breathtaking. After that we went to O’Neils for a traditional Irish breakfast before heading to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. We went to St. Patrick’s for an Evensong ceremony and to tour the Cathedral. We finished the day off with a wonderful dinner made by Cecilia’s sister and I was able to Skype my family back in Cleveland.
Easter this year brought about a lot of reflection. I was reflecting on all of the blessings God has bestowed on my family and me in these past few months. I have been able to experience so much during my time abroad that I will never be able to experience again. Also, Jen has been given her territory and will be moving to Orlando this month! This is such great news and I am so happy for her and proud of her! My mom and I will be visiting her in May. We are so blessed and have so much to be thankful for. God is GOOD!!!
Have a blessed day!