May 30, 2012

final, dreaded, tear-drenched days in Ireland

As I am writing this blog post I am sitting in my bed back in Boone and feel as if two freight trains have hit me smack dab in the middle of the face. Jet lag is no fun people. I mean it! But anyways, I wanted to do a final update on what happened to end my trip with a BANG and all of the many reasons why I believe I should be allowed to live in Ireland.

Kinsale yacht club

 On May 26 we spent the entire day in the most beautiful town in Ireland thus far, Kinsale. Kinsale is a fishing town on the coast and is filled with hole in the wall shops and amazing local seafood restaurants. We go there early in the morning and explored a castle (what else) that was used to keep American and French P.O.W. They used to keep up to 600 men in the same cell at a time, the conditions were - to say the least - barely tolerable. The prisoners were sleeping and living in their own you know what. The castle is now a wine and beer museum (wonderful) so we got to see how most of the Bordeaux French wine makers actually originate from Ireland because of the fail of the potato crop. It was neat to see how the Irish have impacted even something as big and well-known as French wine.

 streets of Kinsale facing the water

Desmond Castle in Kinsale

where hundreds of prisoners would be kept.. in this ONE cell

After the wonderful castle, that was randomly placed in the middle of the streets, we had a big seafood chowder lunch in a lovely restaurant right in the heart of the town. There were huge chunks of local salmon in my seafood chowder and I have to say.. I have become a bit of a food quality snot now because of how much the Irish spoil you with fresh foods. There was a side of "brown bread" which I am going to attempt to make this summer in my bread machine because it is the most delicious, decadent, making me hungry as I type this dipping bread ever. We shopped a little and I bought a few history and Irish folk tale books at the Kinsale bookshop. All in all, it was a wonderful beach day that ended with overlooking the sailboats that covered almost every inch of the Atlantic Kinsale is placed on. It makes me want to cry thinking about it, "take me back" reason number 1.

 my seafood chowder and brown bread .. YUM!

 The Milk Market Cafe.. with the best seafood chowder around!

bookshop in Kinsale

 wonderful moss covered cottage in Kinsale

On May 27 we traveled back to Dublin stopping at Youghal (beach on the Irish Sea) and Kilkenny (farmer's market). We took the longest way possible on a bus with no air conditioning in 80 degree weather in order to see all of the cottages and livestock in the countryside. And hey, I'm normally not a complainer but this bus ride was HELL. But, the upside to the detour was that I got to stick my feet in St. George's Channel that leads to the Irish sea and took many, many pictures of cottages in the countryside that would make any person with a soul fall in love with Ireland. It seems as if everyone here farms one thing or another. I have never seen so man free-range cows and sheep in my life. Who knew that free-range farming still existed today, not America. Then we stopped at the Kilkenny farmers market (conveniently located in a STILL FUNCTIONING CASTLE .. what else, once again). I got a delicious homemade brownie and a celtic key-chain and friendship bracelet with Claire. I gotta tell ya', this whole "every bakery item is one euro" thing was about to kill me. I may or may not seem as if I am 300 pounds when you see me later today. No judgmenets, it was vacation. Then, seeing as to we had spent 7 hours on a bus, we got the entire night off! Our group got so close over the past two weeks that even our time "off" is spent talking about life in the pub in our hotel and killing one another's self-confidence in hearts (the card game).

 cute animals!

Youghal, Ireland (beach town touching the Irish Sea)

one of my favorite cottages in the countryside.. lace curtains and all

 farmers market!

the still inhabited, functioning, castle that the farmer's market is held in the back of

And finally, the dreaded and much-avoided topic of conversation, our last day happened in Dublin, Ireland. I feel like I am talking about a long, lost pet even writing this because my heart is so heavy with all of the great memories and times that I had to cut short because the trip was over. We started the morning by attempting to go to Dublin castle, which is where their president meets and is a still functioning castle, but got denied because our group was too big. Jerks. So instead, we had lunch and self-guided tours of the Guinness factory complete with free pints overlooking the entire city of Dublin. The Guinness factory is shaped like a giant pint glass and has about 8 floors of breaking down the process of creating the wonderful Irish beer, Guinness. At the end of the tour you go up to a 360 degree view of the entire city of Dublin even with the Wicklow mountains, where Guinness' water source is located. It was absolutely stunning. I could have sat up in that bar for days and days and observed the beautiful, buzzing, international city. After being dragged out of the bar at around 3pm (Irish time.. so who really knows the exact time) we ventured to "Christ Church". Christ Church was a church that was first built in 1050 A.D. and was used by vikings for a long time. After the vikings left, royalty moved in. Talk about a culture shock! We got to go inside the church and down in the basement which was found to be the crypt of all the old royal Englishmen that wanted to be buried in the crypt of the church. The royals had mass at Christ Church whenever they came over to Ireland to check on things. We even got to see Bloody Mary's gold plates that she donated to the church with her husband (the King of Orange). Afterward, we did a bit of last minute souvenir shopping and then stuffed our faces with Irish "Boxtys". Which are basically savory crepes stuffed with delicate meats and coated with rich sauces. I had the Irish lamb one of course, which melted in my mouth and I swallowed whole. After dinner, we decided to have one last "hoo-rah" at the pubs on Temple Bar Street. Which is ironically where my Ireland adventures kicked-off on my birthday night. We wound up at the same bar I turned 21 at and sang along with the local band obnoxiously over a few last pints. We discussed all the things we learned about Ireland and joked about how our first impressions were wrong of each other. After a few drinks we mosied our way back home and stayed up chatting until about 3am, to make sure we could sleep on the plane the next day of course.

 view of the mountains from the penthouse bar in Guinness factory

Bloody Mary's plate set

 one of the tombs in the crypt

 inside Christ Church

 Christ Church

my free pint of Guinness at the top of the tour

At around 7 am, on May 29, our trip members forced us to enter the bus to the airport and 19 hours later had us safely returned to Greensboro airport. The parents were like paparazzi and Alex and I just headed straight for the bus to school, avoiding all good-byes that would be tear-drenched. And that is how, I, Kate Lucas, got back to Boone from Ireland. With force, anger, and many tears. And now, I find myself wishing I had a cold pint of Murphys on my porch in Raleigh that I got to by helicopter to avoid any kind of travel that I will have to partake in today.

So, in conclusion here are a few tidbits I have learned from this AMAZING experience abroad:

-first impressions of people are almost never correct
-The Irish are deeply wounded by the English for the sole fact of they just got their independence not too long ago and are economically fragile on their own. :(
-Ireland has a lot of African travelers that are met with frustration and hostility for the way they treat other travelers
-"Travelers" are my favorite people in the world - they have beautiful hair and never become "settlers" traveling in horse-drawn caravans across the countryside seeking love and friendship and the old Irish ways (the best hippies ever)
-I would like to live in an Irish cottage one day with free-range cows.
-We can't judge the Irish for being upset with the English because we run in fear of the same prejudices against most Muslims because of 9/11 and the stigma we have all attached to that day.
-Beer to the Irish is not about just getting drunk every night, it is a way of boosting their economy and something they (for once) can take pride in knowing they are recognized Internationally for it, and respected for the many, great stouts they produce.
-It is just as hard, if not harder, to find a job here than it is in the United States.
-The Irish LOVEEEE President Obama.
-Irish baked goods are just as good as Italian and French baked goods, but cheaper!
-Irish love sailing.
-People in Ireland (for the most part) do not get braces and therefore are astounded by our straight teeth.
-Pub sessions, which are local musicians getting together to play traditional Irish music over a few pints, were once used as a rebel party meeting before the uprising in 1916, but now are just awesome jam sessions open to the public. Music was once banned by the English and if you were caught playing it your instrument was burned and you were tortured or killed for it because the Queen was afraid they were singing about how terrible she was. They were, of course, but since the Irish weren't free they didn't have the same freedoms they now have today to sing and play music freely. Now, since it wasn't too long ago this was banned, they play all over the streets of Ireland and in pubs every single night and devote their lives to music trying to bring back their old heritage.

the lace curtains everyone had in Ireland that I envied so badly

May 26, 2012

Titanic museum and some Irish "coffees"..

As you can tell, I've gotten a little slack in the blogging field the past two days. Mostly because we went to the BEACH yesterday to see the immigration museum and the BEAUTIFUL St. Colman's Cathedral, so.. can you blame me? But, I'll try and break down the last two days as best as possible.

St. Colman's Cathedral

Thursday, our trip went on a day trip to Cobh, Ireland .. the final port of the Titanic. We took a super slow train there and then spent the morning exploring the immigration museum. What I could gather was this, the potato famine screwed over everyone. The poor Irish in the 1800-1900s depended on the potato crop (which if you had 5 acres of you could feed a family of 5 on for 5 years) which completely failed in the early 1900s leading to a massive immigration movement. Everybody wanted a new life and turned to America for help (of course until the German's ruined it for everyone by sinking the Lusatania with American passengers on it). The museum was filled with pictures of the boats and all of the people that left, most of which would never return, saying their goodbyes to family and friends. When we got to the Titanic exhibit, I have to say I found myself a bit emotionally distraught. The first shadowbox I saw was filled with memorabilia of a 19 year old boy that died in the wreck. He had emptied a holy water bottle his mother had given him before he got on the ship and put a "Goodbye all." note in it for his family to hopefully someday receive. When they came to try and rescue the survivors, they found the bottle and were able to get it to his family and now keep it in this museum with his picture. 19.. can you believe that? Trying to start his life over and didn't make it until a mere 19.. I didn't read much more after this one.

After the museum we got to go see the most amazing Cathedral just rich with history. St. Colman's Cathedral overlooks the Atlantic Ocean from the top of one of the highest hills in Cobh. There are stained glass windows that tell New Testament stories and Old Testament stories intertwined for those that couldn't read in the 1700s and came to this church. The church has mosaic flooring throughout with three leaf clovers (which represent Ireland AND the Trinity), the fleur-de-lis,  and the harp (a national symbol of perseverance - music was banned at one time period and harps were burned and those that played them were killed by the government). We had a very cute older gentlemen play the Carolains for us and took us into the tower that the bells were all kept and let us sit out on the ledge overlooking Cobh. 200 and something steps later, the view was absolutely breathtaking. After that we headed back (not before gelato though of course) and got a few hours off before our pub session. The pub session didn't end up being any good that night so we headed out early and hit the hay. First early night since we've been here! Woohoo!

Cobh with St. Colman's Cathedral in the background

Friday marked our last day of classes. Our final class was on the Japanese Gamalan by Mel Mercier. He taught us how to play the COOLEST instrument I've ever seen. It was composed of different sized gongs, drums, and xylophones that you could bang the crap out of and still make beautiful sounds! We had an absolute blast until of course the boring lecture on Irish music that he tried to spice up, but, let's face it.. who wants to sit in a classroom for an hour when you're in IRELAND!? We finished our classes by everyone sitting in a circle and preforming for each other. Alex and I preformed 2 fiddle piece, there were 2 button accordions, 1 bagpiper, 3 singers, and 4 traditional Irish flute players. I have never been so nervous IN MY LIFE! Everyone had a few squeaks here and there which made me feel a lotttt better and I am super glad the whole thing is over. I know realize the extent to which I enjoy music by myself. Playing for an audience ruins the fun for me, I am not much of an entertainer.

 The beautiful UCC music building we've been going to everyday

all of us after our final performance

Afterward, we all got super lost and sweated to death trying to find the University College Cork main campus. It was tucked away down a super charming alleyway past a park (that was FULL of students sunbathing) and down like 10 streets of huge, extravagant houses. The buildings were stunning. Everything was rock covered in moss with cute, old doorways and located right on the water. There were weeping willows surrounding the campus and huge glass buildings that were more "modern" feeling. If I could pick any college in the world to go to.. I'd think this would be the one. They're going to have to drag me on the plan Monday.

 pub session by Jameson bottle candelight

Our pub session was earlier tonight, from 7-9. They asked us to play for THEM when they found out we were music students and they wanted to hear "traditional Appalachian music". Which, by the way, is actually a world-wide known thing and people really love to hear and wish they could play. Hannah and Ben sang "Hallelujah" with a guitar and the entire bar was completely silent. At one point, everyone even joined in.. IN A PUB. It was an absolutely amazing moment that I don't think I'll ever forget.

Weeping willow on the water at UCC campus

After that, we all went back to the pub in our hotel and had "Irish Coffee" (Jameson, coffee, homemade whipcream, and one spoon of sugar) and battled all night in an intense game of Hearts. I truly am shocked how close we have all gotten over the past two weeks, everyone here is so friendly and very at peace with themselves. This experience is coming to an end quick, and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get out of bed without a Murphys sitting in my bed when I get back to the States. I miss you all but WE HAVE TO MOVE HERE!!!!

Today: going to Kinsale the fishing town
tomorrow: traveling to Dublin and stopping in Kilkenny
Monday: Dublin castle, Guiness factory
Tuesday: flying home :(

May 23, 2012

penny whistle will be the death of my academic career

My dream cottage on the waterway in Cork.. yellow cottage with bright blue doors, lace window shades, and huge flower pots with wild Irish flowers...

So, today marked the end of my fiddle lessons and penny whistle lessons. Connie O'Connell, a local fiddler from a Killarney cattle farm, taught us a "fling" which is similar to a barn dance, a polka, and a popular slide all of which can be heard at most pub sessions. I taped him playing for later reference and if my internet wasn't so dreadfully slow I would try and post them for you all to hear. He was raised playing his father's fiddle after his father passed away and taught himself how to play by observing people in competition. He never had formal training and ended up learning so quickly and well that he entered himself into the National competition in Dublin and ended up WINNING the entire thing! Only afterwards did the judges comment on how he was holding the fiddle and suggested he learned how to correctly hold his bow. O'Connell went on to play with the legendary Padraig O'Keeffe's students Julia Clifford and Denis Murphy. I'd say that's a pretty credible claim to fame! How insane is that!?  And to think.. in the States we teach mostly classical violin that is so critical on finger placement and the way your instrument is held and handled which doesn't even matter here! You can win with the worst technique and stature and are just judged off of the sounds you can produce. I wish I had taken lessons here long, long ago! :)

me playing the Bodhran and Ben trying to stab me for my terrible rhythm ..

beautiful concertina from last night's pub session

practicing fiddle in our room

 Mary Mitchell-Ingoldsby has taught us a total of FIVE tunes on penny whistle: a hornpipe, reel, jig, slide, and polka. She has what you call "ballet" fingers that she constantly taps over her whistle so if she plays in pubs people can't see where her finger placement is in order to steal her tunes. She is incredibly talented and has coordinated almost all of our one-on-one lessons with our teachers. Mary can play the bagpipes, flute, and most whistles (which are similar to recorders). She is well known around Ireland for her style and her teaching of the whistle and bagpipes, her brother was the main bagpipe player in the band at the pub session I loved so much the other night! It's awesome how everyone in the music community here is either related or knows everyone else. Such a small world! On Friday we will all be preforming what we have learned over the course of the week and I have to say.. I have some serious practicing to do before I get anywhere close to wanting to preform in front of everyone. I sound like a dying duck when it comes to the stinkin' penny whistle.

The Franciscan Well pub and brewery

After an extremely dense lecture on the tradition of the Wren that ended at about 3 pm, Hannah, Ben and I ventured out to find the Franciscan Well Brewery near University Cork's campus. Remember that wonderful beer I told you about in my previous post "The Blarney Blonde"? Well, nuns used to brew it as well as "Rebel Red", "Purgatory", and a few other beers in an old convent called "The Franciscan Well". Beers there are extremely cheap and have the richest flavors I have ever had. I tried a new one today that is considered a "German brew", a wheat beer, called "Friar Weisse" that was unfiltered and had a smokey aftertaste. After having a pint or two at the convent (ha), we went through a second-hand crap-hole of a used furniture store and then got lost in the city center of course. My sense of direction is not good in the States or here and it just adds to the fun of being abroad. Luckily, you can trust locals here who will stop you if you are using a map and will give you extremely detailed directions on how to get back to our landmark hotel. But not of course before you stop for some sweets at "Sweet As..." the local sweet shop that makes my mouth water thinking of. All of the sweets are made in shop and come in all sorts of chocolate varieties with caramel, lemon, dark chocolate, orange, and coffee fillings. Today I got a white chocolate coffee tart. Afterward, we stumbled into the local music store "Crowleys" which has all sorts of wonderful instruments, even Concertinas (which look like little accordions but have keys like a piano would that look like light switches), and I found the fiddle book our professor, Matt Crunich, wrote! How cool is that! Now I will be able to come home and play you all some of the tunes he wrote down that are played in pubs!

The wonderful white chocolate coffee tart I had from "Sweet as..."

For dinner we tried an AMAZING chicken place.. the Irish version of KFC, Hillbilly's Friend Chicken. Here's the link to the restaurant: I think it's absolutely hysterical what their version of our food is, they think American's all live on farms and look like their from Texas. The lady at the restaurant got a kick out of some Americans coming in to try their "own" chicken.. which, by the way, is WAY better than any chicken I've ever had in the States. Even their chain, fast-food friend chicken is free-range. Come on United States.. WHAT ARE WE DOING?! The Irish are outdoing us at our own foods now!

If you can't tell by now I have to edit these posts a lot with updates that happen throughout the night and right now I am writing after a pub session and it's 1:09 here and only 8:00 pm in the States. That is why my writing gets progressively worse as these posts progress. But anyways, tonight we watched a session in 'The Gables'. It is a local pub uptown in what looks like a ghetto region, but I did learn a lot of slang from one of the men in the pub tonight and we ended up talking about sailing over some Murphys! Man, life is good!

Anyways, here is some slang that I learned from a local West Cork sailor (all quotes and examples are from him):

feen = boy
boroeu = girl
lagger = jerk (dick); or someone is drunk ... used in a sentence "Stop being a f***** lagger" or "Lad.. cut it out you are lagger"
gatt = alcoholic drinks
posh = someone that pretends to be rich but isn't (comes from back when the rich Irish owned a lot of sailboats and would wave goodbye from the port side of the boat and then would be homebound and wave hello from the starboard part of the boat. Posh = po - port side sh - starboard homebound
garda = police (or pigs they like to say)

Still to come:
-trip to Cobh, Ireland (the last port of the Titanic) and it's immigration museum - TOMORROW!
-Kinsale - a fishing town on the coast & it's beaches
-our final concert on Friday afternoon with all that we've learned so far (yikes)
-Gamelan lessons (drums and xylophones from Africa)
-a trip back to Dublin to see the oldest book ever written.. "The Book of Kells" which was written were Vikings were still around!

Gah, I can't believe we fly out in 6 days... I'm soooo not readdddy to leave!!!!!!!!

May 22, 2012

"ohh, i wanna dance with somebody!"

Ok, this just in! This whole post I did before the pub session and now.. I can't NOT update this post and publish it. HOLY CRAP! There were 16 musicians that were playing at once tonight (7 fiddles), all of them knew the exact same reels and then ALEX, my fellow fiddling comrade, joined in!!! He was able to guess the chords and sounded WONDERFUL! And then.. STARTED FOUR TUNES THAT THEY CAUGHT ON TO! So proud of him for stepping up to the challenge and putting himself out there, I wish I had the guts to do it! Our sweet dance teacher, Maggie, invited him into the group then bought us drinks and appetizers. Then, she got so drunk she asked me to go to the bathroom with her and we chatted about her American boyfriend (HA!) from South Dakota, ironic.

Maggie with President Obama!

 The Blarney Castle Hotel pub... where the session was tonight and all of the wonderful musicians

But.. before that... here is my past post:

Well I'll be...  never...  in my short 21 year long life.. have my legs EVER hurt this bad. Today was the day they attempted to kill us at University College Cork by giving us a two hour, no breaks for even water, Irish dance practice. We did however, complete a full Irish reel and hornpipe dance and I have to say.. I did a pretty darn good job! It was worth it, yes, and I will be able to take home the wonderful experience of learning two full Irish dances .. but.. I don't think my legs will ever heal. Our teacher, Maggie, might be the most wonderful dancer in the whole country though. Working with her has been a true honor. Though she may push us a bit hard, we got the privilege of watching her preform this afternoon and she can dance while playing fiddle and not miss a single beat. She has long, flowing red hair and wears bright red lipstick and AWESOME step shoes! She danced for Obama when he last visited and told us today she envies us for having him as a President. I love how every country I have visited talks about how much they love Obama over George Bush but as a majority our own ignorant people do not. But.. I won't get onto my views on politics right now.

 Maggie, my amazing dance teacher, and I

Anyways, the reason I feel as if it is necessary to blog today is simple: we just had a sing-off inside a hole in the wall fish and chips place with the Irish cooks. After a long day of hard, stressful shopping, we decided to try out this WONDERFUL fish place called "The Fish Wife" right across the street from our beautiful hotel, The Gresham Metropole. For five euro you can get a student dinner with friend Cod from the area and "chips" which in America is the exact same thing as french fries. While we were enjoying our delicate, melt in your mouth, steaming hot, Cod, Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" happened to come on the radio and the two cooks in the restaurant decided to start singing it, loudly. Then they proceeded to turn it up as loud as it could go which only meant one thing.. disaster for their restaurant. As music students.. we felt as if it was our duty to start screaming the words with them and literally scream-sang the entire song with the two cooks who couldn't stop laughing. I don't think the restaurant thought we were as good and cool as the cooks did, but oh well, as everyone here says "YOHO" (you're only here once). :)

My fish & chips (garlic and cheese style fries with fried Cod)

Tonight we will be visiting a pub in Blarney inside a well-known hotel to hear our dance instructor play fiddle and our professors will be playing. Alex, my fellow fiddling classmate, will be performing as well! He is so amazing at fiddle and this summer we will be playing quite a bit together back in Boone (luckily for me) so that we can eventually jam out together. I have much to learn. However, I will be Irish dancing with a few of the other girls to the hornpipes and reels that come on in front of our dance teacher. Wish me luck and good rhythm.. I may need it! But, if I get pictures of it I will be sure to upload them later and blog about how it went. I may need a few Murphys tonight beforehand but hey, you never know, maybe my calling in life was Irish dancing and somehow I'll do amazingly and there will be a famous dancer there that will ask me to stay here forever and perform! As they say in Hunger Games.. "may the odds be ever in my favor"!

May 21, 2012

the disney princess castle has been located

Good afternoon to all of my "lovely" American friends & family!

So today marks the end of my second full day at Cork University here in Cork College's music school in the beautiful, yet always humid, town of Cork, Ireland! Well that was a mouthful, eh? Waking up today I attempted to dress prepared for the insanely fluctuating weather and found myself at a loss of words.. the forecast read: 100% humidity. SERIOUSLY!? That's more unpredictable than Boone weather! Just waiting for that snow.. But anyways, no rain so it's been a rather "grand" day!

 My wonderful Cottage Pie & potatoes and Claire's local smoked salmon sandwich

As I am writing this, I am multitasking getting ready for a delicious dinner on Dr. Meister's dime at the most wonderful Italian restauarant, Milanos. It is in the city center and afterward we will head to another great pub session, this time filled with Cork College's own music students! I can't wait to hear them in action, we heard them practicing today in the practice rooms at school and it would send shivers up and down your spine to hear their folk music.

Drawn to the Flame - my favorite band here!

Last night, in the pub session, I fell head over heels in love with a band by the name of "Drawn to the Flame" which is made up of 2 brothers and the sweetest, always smiling old drummer by the name of "Johnny Bongos". I knew it was true love by the opening song, "Catharsis" which happens to be my ALL TIME FAVORITE Natalie Macmaster fiddle tune.. but this time.. on Irish flute. It brought me to tears and stirred so many feelings down deep I could of sworn God himself had his hands wrapped hard around my heart. I have never felt so moved in my life, not even on a sailboat. This trip has already given me more than I could've ever expected, or asked for. I bought the cd and had them autograph it.. they were so flattered and shocked, what a thrill to see such talented local artists still humble while moving their way up. The main player in the band, who could play all kinds of wind instruments and bagpipes, actually has his PhD in Marine Biology and chose to play music for a living instead. His brother was on guitar and friend on the drums. The drummer's whole family came to hear him play, including his at LEAST 70 year old mother with her dance shoes on JAMMIN in the back and cat-calling like she was born to see him play. What a beautiful sight, best "people watching" bar in the town. Needless to say, Mom & Dad, I couldn't be happier and you were totally right and I owe you always for this experience. (Call out.)

Blarney Castle!

But, before I go any further about this band and all of the wonderful people there, I need to explain what put me in such a good mood beforehand. I kissed a legend. That's right, a legend. At least.. that's what EVERY t-shirt at the Blarney Stone calls it. :) (Sorry Sig, no worries though.. it's a cold, inanimate object! :) ) Our group got to go to the BEAUTIFUL Blarney, Ireland today via bus and explored the dungeon, gardens, trees, random flower fields, Blarney Castle, and Blarney House (Disney Princess mansion) all before kissing the Blarney Stone. The actual stone itself sits on the VERY top of the castle roof hanging over the ledge.. you have to lay down on your back and be lowered off the side of the rock by this random guy while you kiss the stone and he whips you back up. I'd be curious as to how many people have been dropped off the side of the castle... But anyways, a lot of people ended up chickening out at the top and I, Kate Lucas, was not one of them. That's right, I kissed a rock and I liked it... :)

What ELSE do you do when you find the Disney princess castle? (The Blarney House)

Well, that's all for now, we are headed out to the pub! Summer school is miserably hard.. :) More to come later! Enjoy the States!

May 18, 2012

The quest to find the perfect lephracaun..

Well, it has been QUITE some time since my last post and I should forewarn you that I am running on little sleep and a looot of caffeine so my grammar and spelling are going to be a wee bit.. well, destined for failure. Today marks the end of day 3 on my Irish adventure and it's seriously hard to believe that I have only been here for three days. I guess I should start with the run down of the basics. From May 15-29 I will be in Dublin, then Cork, then Kinsale, then back to Dublin, Ireland for a "Traditional Irish Music" study abroad program. I am taking Irish Step Dance classes (one day in and already can barely walk), Gamelean classes (crazy drums and wooden xylophone looking instruments that make a very African sound), and of course.. the Irish fiddle. We met with our instructors today at the College of Cork which is located in an ancient church at the top of the city center in the town of Cork. Cork is located on a beautiful river which apparently has a lot of trout in it (according to a very old drunk Irish man). My instructor for fiddle is a sweet, sweet old man with an accent that is very specific to the area of Ireland he is from. Southern Irish sounds very sing-songy as opposed to the Northern accent that is almost British sounding and very monotone. He has us learning tunes by ear that he has picked up over the years from different pub sessions around the country and he learned from his family. Music is mostly orally taught and passed down through just remembering the sounds and trying to imitate them yourself. There is very few people I met that have had formal training and they are definitely not formal instructors with their teaching methods by any means, not that it would matter much anyways because I can only make out about 1/2 of what my professor is saying. Our grade is off of our attendance in local pub sessions and reflection papers on things we're learning from locals.. so I guess I'll share a few stories now and stop with the boring background information.. here goes, brace yourself!

Here's just a random place in Dublin but shows how much Irish pride they have. There are sports/rugby bars like this everrrrywhere.

Night one in the pub:
Well, at midnight seeing as to I turned 21, a few of us ventured out on our own to find a hole in the wall pub in downtown Dublin. Little did we know, there is an entire street dedicated to pubs and pub sessions (session are when local musicians come play for just free beer traditional jigs and reels) called "Temple Bar Street" in which they hand out wristbands for free shots and hate American tourists. The irony in their hatred is that it is just spun off the fact that we as tourists got to witness THEIR love for OUR music! We landed in an itty, bitty pub (not wider than a single wide) in which there were wall-to-wall locals screaming American songs such as "brown-eyed girl", "don't stop believin", and "fat bottom girls". They messed up about every word but were so drunk they didn't care and turned off any Irish music that came on. The funniest part of the night was not even the irony but the extent to which they party on a week night. There was a fat old man (in his 70s) running around twisting his shirt over his head, "like a helicopter" as Petey Pablo once put it, with his beer gut hanging out and hairy chest and belly exposed to the entire general public. Every girl loved him. It was the biggest culture shock I think I've ever experienced. Who woulda thought an old Irish man would have such a love for "Fat Bottom Girls" and U2 songs? :)  Needless to say, about 4 of us stayed for a few hours and experienced firsthand this American music love-hate relationship and observed the obnoxious drunks over a few local Irish beers such as Murphy's, Guiness, Blarney Blonde, and Smithwicks. What a 21st birthday...

Here are my two best gurrrrfrans on the trip & I at Temple Bar Street.. where I spent my 21st birthday!

Night 2 in the pubs:
I don't think I could've asked for a better way to bring in my legal drinking age birthday. NO words can describe what we witnessed in the pubs tonight. I learned more about culture, politics, southern pride, and farming in this one night than I have from entire textbooks about Irish "culture". The night started with our class arriving at about 8pm (early, I know), to watch local musicians perform on the banjo and violin. They were INCREDIBLE and drew a very local crowd (about 20 men and no women). My professor warned us that Ireland has a large population of Africans that can be very hostile at the beginning of the night, this statement made us all a little bit uncomfortable and wonder if he was just being racist. Then we realized, he was more than right. A Sudan man approached all the girls at the bar quickly upon our arrival that spoke virtually no English besides "Can I ask you a question, I like your hair and teeth." and "I am a man". We tried to be nice at first until he tried to KISS my roommate, Hannah, and then tried to kiss a boy in the group as well. We had already made friends with the local bartender who was telling us stories about his hometown and guessing which parts of America we were from and asking us about our politics and if we liked Obama (the Irish LOVE him because he is from here) who luckily decided he would come to our rescue. The Sudan man persisted to stalk us throughout the night even when told to go away and then tried to kiss the Irish bartender (who was a male as well) who then proceeded to tell him to "get the f out". A short and sweet gesture that put everyone at ease :). Then, I met two wonderful old Irish men - one I could barely understand and was missing his two front teeth, and one a local pub owner that was taking care of the old man. They told us that the best beer was Murphy's because it supports Cork's local economy and Blarney Blonde because nuns brew it in the local convent around the corner from our hotel. How ironic! He found out it was my birthday from some classmates and decided to buy our drinks all night and told us about how Irish people HATE Englishmen (which there were quite a few of at the bars that kept on making fun of us for being slow Americans that couldn't be trusted with fake teeth) and how much their local economy was hurting. Right now there is a huge political debate in Ireland over whether to start their own currency, called the Punt, instead of the Euro so they will no longer be impacted by Spain and Greece's financial crisis. The English get quite a kick out of this and make fun of all of the Irish for being poor and dumb. Needless to say, it got a little dramatic between the two groups of men throughout the night and we decided to not stay long enough to see how it all panned out. But, I did stay long enough to have my birthday diva moment and stand up for my Irish men friends (especially the precious 70 year old old man that held my hand when we left saying how glad he was we talked to him in barely legible English) and tell the English men to "F off" after they constantly harassed us from about 5 feet away about how dumb we were. They couldn't stop laughing then asked if I was from Texas because I looked like a farmer. Let's just say I didn't stoop to their level and respond.. I had a few words brewing but decided to not get locked up abroad.

Phew, I need to stop writing about my diva moments it just brings back strong feelings. :) So anyways, now would be the time you have all been probably waiting for and to answer the question on most people's mind when they enter Ireland.. "what the HELL do they EAT!?" Well, meat. Irish bacon (more tender than ham), blood sausage (or as they like to call it.. "pudding"), fried eggs, and toast with black current jelly (similar to blackberry jam) is the "traditional Irish breakfast". The eggs are local and the meat is all free range (which we witnessed while driving here from Dublin) and you can tell a SERIOUS difference. Lunch is almost always sandwiches. The main sandwiches that are served here are chicken and chicken stuffing (YUMMY), Irish ham and cheese, and egg salad (my favorite). For dinner there are several things served here that you can't go wrong ordering. First, for some reason they have extremely good Indian and Thai food.. their currys are to die for and super spicy. Then, there is fish and chips of course which is always good. And finally, the regular Irish dinner... meat and potatoes. Lamb to be specific and sometimes duck, but the Irish beef is insanely good and very, very moist and fresh tasting. So to put it nicely.. BRING TUMS IF YOU EVER WANT TO SURVIVE IN IRELAND. Or you will spend half of your trip in your beautiful hotel bathroom...

meat for breakfast! suprise.. :) the little black thing is blood sausage (aka black pudding)

Castles... holy crap, I found where Repunzel lived. We visited The Rock of Cashel (where the original St. Patrick's cross is) that dates back to the year 500 a.d. and his medieval coats of arms all over it. I have never been so smitten IN MY LIFE. We rolled in the grass hills (kid you not), climbed castle walls (probably not legally), read about 100 old royal graves, and pretended to be princesses wandering through the old town that surrounded the old King of Munster's "humble home". Interesting history lesson on that.. we learned from a local that half of the structure they are trying to raise money to rebuild currently because someone in the 1916 uprising tried to set it on fire because the Bishop used to live in the castle. They literally tried to smoke him out because there is no chimney! We will later be visiting the Blarney castle of course to kiss the infamous Blarney stone and I will for sure put pictures up of that as well.

here's a picture of one of the castles in Ireland called Rock of Cashel. It was in use for the King of Munster from 500 A.D. to 1101 then the Bishop lived there until someone caught half of it on fire to smoke him out and try and kill him. (drama drama drama!! :) )

Here is a beautiful Cork, Ireland street.. we ate at a restaurant in the inside of one of these cottages called "Granny's Kitchen" with about ten tables and the lady went out the back door after we ordered to just cook it in her house. Cute as can be. So much greenery and sheep throughout this area.

And finally, my personal favorite, the fashion. I honestly expected everyone to wear all black here like they do in Europe and boy was I wrong. I have never seen so many neon, bright patterns IN MY LIFE. It's funny that we get the reputation for having obnoxious American fashions. Most Irish (even the older crowd) wear very bright colored trench coats, wonderful boots, colorful glasses, and lots of high heels in funny patterns. Their clothes are very nicely made and relatively cheap compared to America. They are definitely ahead of us on a lot of trends, such as scalloped shorts that are to DIE for, and it's a very good thing I'm on a budget or I would come home with an extra piece of luggage filled with lace-up wedges and real leather boots. The men even wear very brightly colored things. Lots of linen pants, jeans, and very casual business wear. Everyone's hair is always styled, the women mostly tease and straighten their hair, and almost everyone has bleach blonde hair.. I finally fit in! :) Pretty much, to sum up the observations I've made thus far on the fashion in Ireland I can say about three words: bright, obnoxious, linen. Yup, I'm in love.

Anyways, I should probably get some sleep for once.. or go find a pub to crawl in to but I will try and update this at least one more time while I am here. I love you all and thanks for reading this super long update on Ireland. If you can't tell by how many words are in this post that I am travel giddy.. then I don't know when you ever will.