Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Paddy's Day

Hello again,
It has been a long time since I blogged about my Irish adventures, I hadn't had many of note in a while. However, this past week my friend Mike, who you all probably know, visited for his spring break. We went all over Dublin and saw the Wicklow Mountains as well. I brought him to watch a couple rugby games with a few die-hard fans. Of course, we saw a good number of pubs and restaurants. Then it was the chaos of St. Paddy's Day to end an eventful week! 
When he arrived on Saturday, we went to the Australian bar to watch the Irish Rugby team play against the French. After a beautiful victory, we went out to listen to some live music. Sunday we walked around the city, stopping at the General Post Office, St Stephen's Green and Christ's Church. 

These are a couple window shots from Christ's Church. Seeing as we went on a Sunday, the main church and crypt were closed, but that didn't stop us from sneaking up a staircase to get pictures like these. Afterwords we stopped at a pub to have a few Guinness. Monday I went to class and then we met up to go to the Jameson Distillery, which I had never been to even though it's around the corner from my flat. 

Tuesday was a day of adventure. On Monday we had decided to take a day trip somewhere in the mountains, so Mike could see what Ireland was like outside of Dublin. We decided on a tour through Wicklow County, including Glendalough, Sally Gap, and an old monastary that looked younger than it was. The weather started out less than spectacular, but by the afternoon, it was a gorgeous sunny day. 

 Wednesday, we ventured to the seaside town Howth, and walked around a trail on top of the mountain it is built on. After the hike, we treated ourselves to fresh seafood at a restaurant at the wharf. Unfortunately I got sick that day (not from the food), so once we got home I pretty much just went to bed.

Thursday we had plans to go to Guinness, by that time the city was packed with thousands of tourists coming in for the festival. When we got to the Guinness storehouse, we saw tons of people outside luckily they weren't all trying to go on tours at the same time we were. The best part of that tour, as anyone will tell you, is the Guinness and the view you get from the Gravity Bar reaching from above the rooftops above Dublin. It was a grey day, but you could see further than the pictures show.

Friday was when the real invasion started, every pub on a main street was crowded after 6pm. Luckily. we knew of a couple places that weren't well known, but they were packed with Irish instead of tourists. We made some friends and memories Friday night, just as my Irish friends all wanted. There was singing, dancing, and even a few pics taken (to be added later). 

 As is truly St. Paddy's Day tradition, it was a short amount of time between getting home on Friday and waking up on Saturday to continue the festivities. We went to the parade, which really is like nothing I'd seen before, it was full of dancers (not just traditional Irish), and floats that were huge moving displays if art. 
The parade was full of children and colors. I'll put up more pics soon. 

After the parade, we decided to watch the finals of the 6 Nations Rugby Tournament with a couple of friends, it was quite a ruckus when Ireland lost 2nd place to the English. We were exhausted from a week of being on our feet, but we still had one stop to make before we could end the night. So we went over to my friend Rush's flat to meet some of her friends. We were way to tired to be social for very long, so we left when our week of adventures finally caught up with us. Mike flew out early Sunday morning so he could make it back for an exam Monday, and I went to sleep! 

Altogether, it was an awesome week. I needed to see more of the city and country, and visitors are the best reason to do that! Dad comes in 1 1/2 weeks so I'll find some more to see! Hope you are all well.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday, February 13, 2012

Update on life in Dublin

Hello all!
I haven't posted in a while because I figure my everyday life can't be too exciting now that I've been living here for almost 6 months. I am still having a wonderful time in Dublin. It has really become a second (or third) home for me. I know that if I want to come back here, I'll be able to find friends and not have too much difficulty settleing in. In the past month or so not much has happened here. I had my 21st birthday a couple weeks ago which was wonderful. Any longing I had from missing Christmas was quickly dissapated by great friends.

I find that this semester is very different from fall semester. Now that I don't live with the other students in my FIE program, I find that the bond I have with my European friends have become stronger. I am much more independent now that I do more by myself. Without these girls, I don't think I'd be having anywhere near this good of an experience. Every study abroad student who returns home says that going abroad is what you make it. You'll only get out of it what you put in. Somehow, I must of ended up putting a lot into it, because I'm getting more out of it than I ever could have imagined.

I have had the oppurtunity to do some fun activities in the past month. I saw the poet Seamus Heaney live for a radio recording for RTE. The event was held in a large church and there was an enormous turnout for it. He answered interview questions and read some of his poetry. Of course, at the end he took questions from the audience. One question that stayed in my mind was some thing like "If you were on another planet, or somewhere that poetry wasn't making you any money, do still think poetry would come to you mind?" His answer was "yes, just as music is always with a musician and drama is always with an actress." It was amazing listening to him talk about his poetry and his life, especially because I wrote a paper on some of his poems in October. It was a fantastic experience.

I also had the opportunity to go horseback riding yesterday. I had been riding before, but not since my camp years. I had a feisty horse named Montana (which I figured was a good sign considering my love for people/ animals with state names). Unfortunately though, Montana was a bit of a diva. Which caused me to be even more tense that I would be moving around 6ft from the ground.Luckily, I had someone leading the horse, which I usually would've been unhappy about, but Montana was too crazy for just one person to be holding on to her. It was amazing anyway, we got to ride horses through the Dublin mountains, which is not something everyone can say, even in Ireland. I'd wish I could show a picture, but they didn't want us to take pictures because the flash would scare the horses.

That's pretty much it for now, just living the dream. I have a ton of school work to do between now and when Mike gets here in 26 days!! Then Dad comes a week and a half after that. So far, plans are to come back to Buffalo sometime in the 1st or 2nd week of May. Hope all is well at home!


Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Yankee comes to Cavan...


It's been almost a month since I posted, and since that month included 3 weeks that I wasn't in school and was to poor to travel, not too much happened. On the 18th and 19th of December, the American kids that were in my program all left. I knew it was going to be hard, and of course I got a cold that week so I had an excuse to stay in bed. On Tuesday night however, I was invited to a Christmas party of an Irish friend and had a fabulous time with her friends and some mulled wine. That Saturday, after a long day at the most boring job I've had yet, I took the bus to Cavan to see Anne Clarke and Bonnie and the gang.

Christmas Eve entailed Mass, hot whiskey, and bed. I was exhausted from work, and the boys (Paul13, Niall 12) were ready to sleep so that they could wake up to presents. Christmas morning was full of presents and a delicious breakfast. The rest of Christmas day was spent with visitors stopping by and eating Anne's delicious food.  The traditional food to eat on Christmas here is Turkey, so I finally got a healthy dose of Turkey (we only got a little bit on Thanksgiving). I also tried Christmas cake (awful) and Christmas pudding (worse), they just are not for me.

The trifle, however, was delicious. 
All sorts of relatives stopped by that day, I think everyone came to Anne's because I was there so it became the meeting place. We sat around and chatted, here are some pictures of the ladies.

From left to right: Aisling (daughter of Mary), Eleanor (daughter of Lizzie), Maeve (Mary), Ruth (Lizzie) and Anne Marie (Mary). Anne Marie lives in Dublin and has been kind enough to feed my college student stomach a couple of times.

 From left to right: Anne, my lovely hostess, who houses me and feeds me whenever I want to come, Maeve, Ruth, Anne Marie, Aisling, Eleanor, and of course Bonnie.
Monday we visited some more family houses, I met Jimmy (brother of Anne, Mary, and Lizzie) and his family. We made dinner (which is eaten in the late afternoon) and relaxed for the night. 

Tuesday was a day of adventure! It took a little coaxing to have Bonnie come with us because she had a cold, but in the end she came and we went to see where Grandma grew up!

First we stopped and the church she was baptised at, which you can see has had a bit of work done since. Then we stopped at the graves on Jane and John (my grandmother's mother and stepfather). 
This is the view from the grave (not too shabby)

We then continued on to Grandma Theresa's house, which is no longer standing, it's really just a field. However, across the road from where Grandma and her siblings grew up, a man named Willie Lyons (sp?) lives. He and his family were close to the Reynolds/Downeys growing up. He gave me this picture of Grandma and his brother, Francis. Bonnie and Willie were adamant on telling me how much I look like Grandma. 
I want that dress. 

We got to spend a while chatting with Willie. There is a great mystery in the family about what happened to my grandmother's father Michael Reynolds. He died before Grandma was born in August 1927, he was under 40, and the only records that would've helped were burned in a church fire years ago. Apparently, no one who was around then and is still around now has any idea what killed him. The search for answers continues, some of my more distant family members are very interested. 

After we had a chat with Willie, we stopped by his nephew's house and had a cup of tea. I got to have a lovely chat with his 8 year-old daughter who thoroughly enjoyed trying to copy my accent. I didn't want to stop hanging out with Wonderful Rachel, but it was time to head back to Cavan.

That evening, James (Anne's husband) had a party to go to for his Uncle Arthur's 90th birthday. We all went and had a pretty good time. This man is very popular, he decided that one retirement group was not enough, so he joined two to go on twice the adventures. Of course, at least half of each retirement group came to the party (in a pub) and the place was pretty rockin. It was a very good party. Wednesday, it was back to Dublin to celebrate New Years!

No extravagent plans for me on New Years, I decided to stay in and watch the New Years specials on television. I bought myself a bottle of cheap champagne that barely made it to midnight and relaxed after an 8 hour shift (my last apparently). It was a wonderful way to watch the London fireworks, and I do not regret the choice one bit! Since then, my time has been full of writing papers and reading. Class resumes on Monday and I have to find a new job!

That's all for now, folks. I hope everyone had a great Christmas and New Years, wherever you were. I'm sure I'll post after my birthday, so look for a new post then. 

Love to you all!

P.S. Here's a picture of Bonnie and I. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Here we go, Christmas!

Hello All,

Not really much has happened in the past couple weeks since my Italy trip and Thanksgiving. It's been mostly doing work for finals and trying to find a job. I finally was hired this week at a Macy's-like department store. I really don't care what I'm doing, as long as I have something to do in between Fall and Spring semesters. It looks like I'm going to go to Cavan for Christmas and spend it with the Clarkes. I'll make sure to take tons of pictures this time :)
Dublin is looking as beautiful as it could. All of the main shopping streets are totally decked out with lights and trees. It all looks so perfect; cobblestone streets lined with tinsel and twinkling lights. Today I went with my friend Rushda to find Christmas presents for everyone, and found some markets we had no idea existed! Finding hidden treasures in a big city is one of the best ways to feel at home.

I hope you're all doing well. I'm certainly going to miss the Linzer tarts at Christmas dinner and the mountains of snow that will cover Buffalo. I'll be sure to let you all know about Christmas and New Years when I can. Maybe some of you will be able to come visit me in 2012!

Lots of love to you all!

P.S. Here's my mailing address just in case ;)
Julie Parlato
BMG Group
9-13 Blackhall Pl
Dublin 7, Ireland

Monday, November 21, 2011

You Know What They Say....

Well, that was what I call an adventure.

We started in Rome on Saturday, arriving around noon. Thus began a week of "Do you speak English?" and "how do you say...?"  The Ciak Hostel was very good to us, we actually stayed in a separate building called the Secret Garden (a good omen for sure). After we got to our hostel and had a bit of rest, we decided to venture out into the city.We walked about 2 blocks before the Colosseum laid itself out right in front of us. In less about 10 minutes we were standing in front of it, mouths gaping. That first day, I'm pretty sure we all expressed how unbelievable it was that we were standing in front of a 2000 year old structure.

This was our view from the Colosseum.
Unfortunately, tours closed about 5 minutes before we got there, so we had to figure out what else we could do that day. From the Colosseum, you can see some awesome building less that a mile away. We had no idea what it was, just that it looked cool and we had nothing else to do. So we wandered towards it.

Turns out what we saw was the Piazza Venezia, which was completed about a century ago. Its architecture doesn't exactly fit into Rome's, but it is spectacular.

After some pictures around that area, we decided to go find some lunch. One main goal of this trip was to not plan anything in advance. As many of you will agree, sometimes the most picturesque spots or delicious restaurants are so far off the beaten track, you have trouble finding them again.

That's how we found our Sunday lunch and Monday dinner. Dining on a budget in Italy is not the easiest thing, but we stayed within our means and had some of the most delightful eats. Sunday was pizza and wine at a cafe located next to a church and a fountain on one of the sunniest days I've seen since August.
This is my wonderful funghi pizza with some pinot on the side. (and Tory's lasagne in the background)
Between Sunday and Monday, we hit pretty much every landmark and piazza we could find. We took a bus tour around the city so we could see it all. Here are some pics from the Colosseum.

  After seeing quite a few other places in Rome, Monday we planned to spend the afternoon in Vatican city. I really wanted to see St. Peters and the Vatican museum. Off we went. St. Peters is one of the biggest open space building I've ever been in. It looks like you could fit airplanes in there. Every piece of marble is ornately carved, the canvases painted, and the mosaics shining. In Rome and especially at the Vatican, I started to come to terms with the amount of people in this world. It started off as a random thought, but when I started to think about it thousands of people come to the Vatican everyday. Usually from countries with strong Christian ties, but also thousands just interested in the history of it. For some this is the holy place, others the root of all evil. The amount of people that come to the Vatican is no where near the amount of people in the world, obviously, but it did get me thinking.

Enough philosophy. Let's get back to travel. After leaving the basilica, we went over to the Trastavere neighbourhood. It's not really a tourist destination because there aren't any big landmarks. We walked down the Tiber and figured we would just find a restaurant as we walked. La Scaletta, I'm not sure if I could find this restaurant again if someone asked me to. It looked small, cheap, and very Italian so we decided to try it. It ended up being the best meal of the week. I decided on the Menu Touristo, and from that I chose the bruschetta, the house pasta (a cream sauce with panchetta and mushrooms, the most delicious pasta I've ever eaten... the girls too!), fried octopus, and creme caramel for dessert. Paired with a delicious wine. OH MY GOD. That's how good it was, no exaggeration (I have witnesses).

We cabbed back to the Secret Garden and prepared to leave for Florence! Getting to Florence provided a few problems but we sorted them out with some credit card use and positive attitudes. Upon arriving we found our hostel to be 5 minutes from the train station, and it was an adorable room too! We dropped of our stuff, had a bit of rest, and decided to go in search for the best pizza in Italy. On our way, we walked through the San Lorenzo market, passed by the Duomo, and actually found the best pizza in the world (according to Stephanie). A few tears were almost shed because of how magical this pizza tasted.

We also went to the Leather School of Santa Croche were we got some very pretty hand made Italian leather bracelets, despite the service. You have to go through some gates, a school yard an a bunch of low doorways to get into the leather school, which seemed excitingly authentic. But when we got there the pretentious woman working kept acting as though we would steal bracelets. She was just doing her job, but she could have hid her suspicions better. Obviously this annoyed me enough to remember it a week and a half later.
Nevermind her, Florence was still waiting for us. We found a bunch of gifts for our families and friends and went to go get some dinner. First, we stopped in at a bar that Amber's friend had told us about, One Eyed Jack's. And there, to my great surprise I found a beer named the Theresianer. I'm not sure if my sister, Theresa, has ever had this beer before, but I thought it was cool enough to document with a picture. Also, Theresa, I stole that glass for you! It will be one of many presents, but probably the only stolen one.
After a few drinks, we went to a mod style restaurant recommended by the bartender. I had seafood pasta, which was delicious, but in retrospect a bit overpriced. Once again, we wandered back to the hostel afterwards to recharge for another day of sightseeing.
Keeping in mind that through all of this, the sun was shining and the weather warm, the next day we set out to go into the Duomo. We had, unfortunately, gotten to the point where paying for museums and spectacles was getting a bit tiresome. The Duomo was free and beautiful. Unlike St. Peter's however, it was empty of pretty much all furniture and quite a few people. We went in, took some pictures and continued our tour.

I'm sorry to disappoint, but after the Duomo we went to go find David. He was a bit too expensive to see, and considering I can see him on the 198 travelling East or West whenever I please, I wasn't too disappointed.

I'm giving up the answer a bit early, but I'm going to tell you about the best part of the whole trip now, because it happened in Florence. By many recommendations from students who had already studied in Florence, we were told to climb a small mountain to see the greatest sights of the city. It took some time to climb and half a lung coughed up,  but we made it to the Pizzale Michaelangelo. There we sat on the South East side of the city a top some steps, watching sunset over Florence. As the sun went down, we could see the light reflecting off of the Duomo and the river. In some spots it looked like buildings were of fire from the reflection. We had a bit of a picnic and were in the company of many couples, but we had a spectacular view.

That was pretty much the end of Florence for us. I've got to keep a few stories to tell in person.
Off to Venice!
The Gondola Gang (Tory's Term)
We arrived in the dark and fog in Venice, unfortunately without directions to our hotel. Directions are pretty much useless in Venice. The map was difficult to read, there a waterways with walkways, without walkways, and then just walkways. No cars though, that was pretty sweet. As my dad put it, the city looks a lot like it did 800 years ago. We found our hotel situated by a very unfortunate looking dock, easily a past inspiration for a horror film. Once again, the people there were very nice to us, despite the language barrier. That night we just bought some snacks and watched a movie, exhausted from travelling. When we woke up the next day, however, we were refreshed and excited to see as much of the city as we could in the fog. The weather, had become quite chilly though, so that had an effect on the sights we saw. We did make it to St. Mark's piazza and had a gondola ride from the adorable Nicolas.

 So we did all the traditional things in Venice. It was a very beautiful place that felt much more Italian than the other cities. For our last dinner, we were directed to a traditional Venetian restaurant near our hotel. There we had the most delightful waitress who gave us recommendations on what  to order. I got a spicy seafood dish and tiramisu. It was the last night and I hadn't had it yet. That restaurant was the best place to end our trip. We walked back, fell asleep, and came back to Dublin on Sunday. We couldn't wait to get back.

Here are some more pictures for those not on facebook.

 A couple days ago, we all went out for thanksgiving. I was able to talk to many of you on that day. We went to the Woolshed, where they show the American football games. We sat around, had some beer and a real turkey dinner and watched the Packer game. I think it was the most fun I could have had 3000 miles away from home. Oh, and I made pie. Stephanie made the Frenck Silk, Amber the Pumpkin, and me the Apple. I'm sure I'll be able to add some pictures of that soon.

Love to you all and hope the holiday was wonderful!

P.S. This was my favorite picture!