Thursday, March 24, 2011

Everyone Must Visit Brugge Once in their Lifetime.

We left at 6am Monday morning for a long bus ride to Belgium. When we got to the white cliffs of Dover our trip became even longer. Our ferry across the channel had been canceled do to technical difficulties so we had to wait an extra two hours. This wouldn't have been too bad of we could have maybe visited Dover castle or explored the town for that time. But, we had already checked in and so we couldn't leave the dock. I just sat on the bus and read my book which wasn't too bad at all. 
We were on the bus a lot this trip!
We finally got on the ferry around 11. I liked the ferry haha. I got to eat my lunch in a comfy chair overlooking the English Channel, play some card games and watch a great tennis match on a TV (it's going to be so weird to have one again). Then we had a few hours on the bus to Brugge. Brugge is AMAZING!! I had no idea what to expect of Belgium, but it might just be my favorite country we've been to. If I had to pick one word to describe Brugge I would say quaint. I actually think that word might have been invented just for the purpose of describing this city. It was really something out of a fairy tale. All the streets are cobblestone and all the buildings are small and squished together. There is a canal that runs through the city and it's looks like a little touch of Venice. To add to the amazingnesss, the weather was glorious; I didn't wear my coat once. After we checked into our ibis, we walked through the city to get a feel of it and then we took a boat tour. The boat tour was SO beautiful! The lighting was perfect and the town is just so... quaint:) For dinner we went to a restaurant right on the main square and got delicious omelets; for some reason we were all really craving them. Belgium is also famous for their fries, which they call frites, so we had to stop by a frite shop to accompany our omelets- yes, they do have whole restaurants for just frites. They were very yummy and unlike any French fry I have ever tasted. 
The main square

Me and my Annie before the boat cruise

On the boat

Cruisin on the river

Sooooooooooo delicious

We walked up and down the streets a bit more and then we couldn't help but visit one of the hundreds of chocolates shops. I wasn't really hungry but I knew I had to try just one Belgian chocolate; after all, that is what they are famous for- well, that and waffles, but we'll get there later:) Anyway, Belgian chocolate is beyond amazing!!! I don't think I will ever have chocolate again once I come back to the US because it doesn't even compare haha. We spent the night in our room having a girl party full of chatting and tv-fun.

Tuesday morning Paige and I got up early for a run. Brugge was extra fun to run on because of the rivers and canals and sunshine and flowers and pretty much just everything! It was gorgeous. The breakfast at the hotel was also really good. In the morning, we had an appointment as a big group for the chocolate museum. It was interesting to see how chocolate is made and it's history, it was kind of like walking through an episode of unwrapped on the food network. After the "choco story", we headed out to try the famous Belgian waffles. We found this little shop that was making them fresh and we each got them.... To our great disappointment they were nothing special. Tasted a little better than like a Denny's waffle:( We were sad. But, nothing could ruin Brugge! Paige, Carly and I hikes the 366 stairs to the top of the highest tower in the center square of town. It was SO worth the hike! It was a gorgeous view; kind of reminded me of Prague. When we got back down to the bottom, we found our friends at the favorite frite stop and headed up to the grocery to buy water and I ended up getting lunch. I got a baguette, ham and cheese to make a sandwich and apples too!

Biggest Chocolate Egg!
Hey look! We're pieces of Chocolate!
We look happy.. but this was the bad waffle
Love these little streets

The big tower in the center "market" or square
A better picture of the Tower

Views from the top of the 366 stair tower

The itsy bitsy stairwell we climbed up

We saw yet another waffle place and these ones looked really good, so in an effort to redeem our idea of a Belgian waffle we all bought one to split.... It was incredible!! Like no waffle I have ever tasted! Nothing will ever compare, the end.:) to wrap up our time in Brugge, we soaked up the sun, walked around and bought souvenirs. I was so sad to leave Brugge and I am determined to go back.
At least we didn't leave Belgium (my new favorite country). We drove to Ieper. There we went to the Flanders field WWI museum. It was an amazing museum an I learned so much, I really enjoyed it. Afterward, Paige and I went to look at the Merien Gate. It's this huge WWI monument/arch with the names of thousands of British soldiers who lost their lives in the trenches of WWI in the surrounding area. Then Paige and I walked on top of the wall that surrounds the city. Yet again, Ieper was a quaint and pretty little town with a beautiful cathedral in the middle. 

Merien Gate      

Then it was off to France! I had only been to Paris so I had no idea what to expect with the smaller city of Aimens, but it was adorable. At first, all we saw of the town was a modernized city, but when Paige and I went running in the morning we found the beautiful old town area. Little shops, restraints and houses lines the Somme river and a massive cathedral stood at the center. We ran across the river and through a beautiful park. We got to see lots of the city. After breakfast, we went back to the cathedral. Now, we have gone to A LOT of cathedrals an most of them look pretty much the same... But this one was different. The Amiens Notre Dome is the biggest Cathedral in Europe! It is ginormous!! It was also a lot more beautiful inside than some others we've seen. It was really cool.

Its so HUGE

France in the sun!

Our London Lovies group (that's what we have named our close group of friends haha -no, it's not second gradish, we love it:) well, we spend a lot of time talking in the cathedral about how amazing our experience here has been, how fast it's gone by and how much we still want to do before we go home. I can't believe I only have one month left in Europe!! Where did time go?! It's sad but at the same time it's exciting. I can't wait for my family to be here and I am starting to miss home. Anyway back to the journey, we grabbed some lunch and hopped back on the bus. We drove to a Canadian memorial and historical site of the Somme battlefield. This was were the largest battle took place in WWI; 60,000 men died in one day. It's is indescribably horrible. It was very cool to walk through the trenches and no mans land of the Somme. It was sunny and green and beautiful and not the way it would have been years ago. It was really great to learn more about WWI this trip. 
Walking through the trenches

Shell craters

The German trench

Well after the battlefield, we drove to port, drove on to the ferry, boater across the channel and drove home. It was such a wonderful trip to Belgium and France! And, everyone MUST go to Brugge once in their lifetime!!!
The English Channel on the ferry home


Sunday, March 20, 2011

St. Patty's Day Excursion

Never in a million years did I think that I would ever be in Ireland for St. Patrick's day!!
It was worth it, but we had to be ready to leave at 3am Tuesday morning- a Paris repeat.  We made it to the airport way too early, which really means something since I always have to be extra early:) Our big group couldn't fit on one flight so we were split in two groups. One left at 6:30 and the other at 8; I was on the 6:30 flight. We flew on the dreaded and supposedly evil Ryanair- some girls had some big problems with them during travel week and basically called them the devil. So, I don't know if it was because I was expecting the worst, but it wasn't too bad. Now, the horrible part was the two little kids in front of us during the plane ride. All I wanted to do was sleep since I had only gotten a meager 3 hours of sleep and the little kids couldn't help but be extremely noisy; then, the poor little things threw up all over everything. Anyway, in the end, we made it to Ireland and I got a green stamp in my passport!!:) we had to wait at the airport a couple hours for the other half of our group. Once they arrived we jumped on the most comfortable coach in the world and headed into Dublin. It's pretty funny, but our very first stop in Ireland was to the Guinness Beer factory and museum. I know I'm surprised myself that BYU payed for our tickets, but hey its the culture of Ireland. With our tour ticket was a free drink. The bartenders thought that we were the weirdest group of students all ordering diet coke and sprite haha. I learned all about how to make beer if I ever need that in the future:)
Yay Beer haha

To our surprise, we stayed at a pretty nice hotel with a wonderful breakfast and extremely comfy beds. We were all extremely exhaughsted  so we grabbed some lunch at the local Tesco and took a good nap before exploring Dublin. We walked around the city, did some browsing and took our time. Dinner was scheduled at the oldest pub in Ireland- the Brazen Head. We all ate together in a party room and it was fun to all be together for a sit down meal. The food was amazing, definitely the best pub food I've had. Our first day in Ireland was great.

Wednesday we were all on our own to choose what we wanted to do and how we wanted to spend our day. Paige and I ran around the city in the morning and got a feel for where the major places we wanted to go were. After a yummy breakfast, Paige, Kaylee, Sharon, Ramzi and I made our way over to phoenix park. It is the largest city park in all of Europe- over 7200 acres! It was beautiful. We enjoyed walking around the park for a while and then we stopped and ate our lunches on a sunny hill overlooking a pond.

Next we visited St. Patricks Cathedral and Trinity College. We did a little bit of shopping on one of the main pedestrian streets and I bought a claddagh ring in a little market. Claddagh rings are an Irish tradition and depending on which way you wear it the ring says if you're heart is open or if you're heart is taken.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

Mine's the little one:)

Attempted dinner at a Pub

By 3 o'clock , we had been walking for a very long time and so we went back to the hotel and took a little nap. Afterward, I meet up with the other girls and we went to dinner, did our needed shopping for our St. Party's day outfits and had a party in our hotel room.  Thursday was St. Patrick's day in Dublin and man was it a party! Paige and I ran in the morning over to the big park and then we ate some breakfast. We spent a good hour and a half getting ready for the St. Patty's festivities. We were decked out in the green and it was so much fun! We headed out to the main street and got a good spot for the parade. It took quite a while for the parade to start, but we had too much fun dancing in the streets and taking pictures to notice.

Our 3 Euro green shoes!
The parade finally started and it was the weirdest thing I've ever watched! Haha the person who created it must have been on drugs. It was odd but hilarious. All along the street all you could see was a sea of green- the city was really crowded for all of the festivities. We got lunch at subway and ate it in our hotel lobby; you can never go wrong with subway:) then we headed back out into the maddeness. Not too many people were drunk yet, it was just a lot of people ready to have a good time. We walked up the pedestrian street toward one of the squares looking for some Dancing that was supposed to be going on but we couldn't find it. Paige, Carly, kinsey and I got stuck in a park and had to jump a pointy fence to get out- all while making sure the cop 20ft away didn't notice us haha. Once we escaped the park, we explored the St Patty's day carnival; it wasn't quite lagoon status but it looked fun. We power walked back to the hotel because we had to use the bathroom so bad and it was hilarious. Then we hopped on the bus and said goodbye to Dublin- it was perfect timing to escape the mad drunkenness that was sure to ensue. We arrived in Kilkenny an hour later. I LOVE Kilkenny Ireland. It was a perfect little Irish town. When we got there the little town was winding down their St Pattys day celebrations ad everyone was headed to the pubs. We found the teenage concert in the main square hilarious and we grabbed some pizza for dinner. The hostel was so great! The first time I can say that. It was clean and the lady who ran it reminded us of Sukie from Gilmore girls:) We went to bed listening to the crazy drunks yelling in the streets outside haha.
We found lots of Kegs on St. Patty's day

Friday was a wonderful day! Kilkenny was so beautiful to run in. Paige and I ran along the river and it was gorgeous. We ran past the castle, some ruins and through the green countryside. After breakfast at a little cafe we went and explored the castle. The castle grounds and gardens were so beautiful and our tour of the inside was cool and I learned a lot. We didn't have nearly enough time to explore Kilkenny; I really enjoyed this little place.
Rose Gardens... minus the roses:)

There are Daffodils everywhere right now

Living in Santa Fe, I have come to love fields of green grass SO much more!

The Castle

In the afternoon, we got back on the bus and drove to an even smaller Irish town called Cashel. The drive was so beautiful through the rolling green hills of Ireland. Though there wasn't much in Cashel I really loved it. We were there to visit the Rock of Cashel- it's an old ruin on top of a hill in the middle of the town. The views from the top were gorgeous. After walking around for a bit, some of us headed down into town but Paige and I decided to walk down into the countryside and walk through some more Abby ruins. They were so pretty and had a great view of the Rock of Cashel.
View of the Abbey ruins from the Rock

Rock of Cashel in the background

Yes, we all bought matching Ireland sweatshirts. Not touristy at all.

Sister Crowe

Afterward, we headed for the airport. If you can't tell, we are on the coach a lot and this is when I'm thankful for my literature class. We have to read a book a week for the class and I love it. It feels like reading for fun and not for school. Our flight home was not on Ryanair but Aer Lingus- a Irish company. We all love Aer Lingus! Haha comfy seats and amazing headrests; oh and we could take more than one bag on the plane which was extremely needed for those who bought souvenirs. We got back into London really late friday night. It was a successful Ireland trip. Now two days and then Belgium and France!!   I was so excited to have Saturday free in London! I just love this city and it has really become home. I slept in a bit and then went on a great run. It was SO gorgeous outside!! The sun was shinning which is quite the treat and the sky was clear and bright blue. The warmth was great but the flowers and green of spring were the best!! Hyde park was beautiful as always, but St. James park was SO gorgeous; I was just so happy:) the grounds of the park was completely covered in daffodils and all of the trees ate in full blossom. Let's just say that I was so happy it didn't feel like I ran 8 miles. I spent the rest of the day running errands and doing homework even though I would have rather been in the park. We went to dinner at Chipotle for Liz's birthday and it was soooo yummy! I hadn't been there since I was like 12 so I was excited to try it again. It was such a fun night. I love my girls here so much!! I'm so lucky to have made such wonderful friends while I've been here. I'm pretty much just the luckiest girl in the world right now:)