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Dublin 2011 - Student Blog

St. Stephen's Green by Grace Andrews

A favorite spot among many of us studying in Dublin this semester, St. Stephen's Green is one of the best parks in Dublin; it provides a nice change of atmosphere and surroundings with all of the vivid green grass, trees, and bright, cheerful flowers. Located south of Grafton Street, in the heart of the city centre, you can find almost anyone at St. Stephen's Green on one of the rare sunny days in Dublin. Upon first walking into St. Stephen's Green, visitors see an enormous, inviting arch that begins the journey for the gates that enclose St. Stephen's Green, as well as the walkways to ponds and statues.

The Fusiliers' Arch is a memorial to those who died in several of the wars Ireland was involved in. Their names are written under the arch, so as you look up, you can see the names of each casualty.

St. Stephen's Green can't help but take our breath away as we walk in. The glorious trees, manicured gardens and stretching pond are a vision of imagination. It is the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the tall, grey city.

Not only adorned with nature, St. Stephen's Green also features many of Ireland's artists through sculptures or fountains. These pieces of art often act as a meeting point for people in Dublin, or as you can see, a great place to sit and enjoy lunch!

This contemporary sculpture, "Famine" by Edward Delaney, is found towards the end of the St. Stephen's Green loop. The stone walls behind it act as an enterance or exit as well as the east gates for the Green.

At the last leg of the loop around the Green, we came up to a pond. Here we found ducks, swans, and other little birds flocking to patrons for bread and snacks! The greenery, gazebo, and the bridge tucked behind the trees made for the perfect last sight before we headed home.

St. Stephen's Green is the perfect place to relax and enjoy some fresh air. Every visitor seems to make a new friend, even the swans can attest to that.

Shades of Bray by Kirsten Sneeringer

Falling in love in Ireland was completely unexpected but a welcome surprise. Not with an accented ginger, mind you, but the coastal town of Bray. We arrived by DART ((Dublin Area Rapid Transit) on a clear and comfortable day and I knew immediately I had made the right choice by going. The whole way to our stop, the view from the DART was incredible: coastal homes and boats docked by the shore. As soon as I stepped off the train, I heard the ocean and my heart skipped a beat. I did not know it yet but my love affair had begun.

Hurrying along, I made my way towards the sound most dear to my heart. When it was in sight, I took off running, shedding various articles of clothing and my shoes as I went. Halfway down the beach I remembered the warning that Irish beaches were rocky. I cursed and limped towards the ocean, slowed only by the fact that it hurt too much to run at full speed. I was so excited that I felt like an overweight child that had to suffer through the meal to get to dessert. At last my feet hit the water and, freezing temperatures aside, it was beautiful. I ran, skipped, chased birds, and twirled in the ocean. The locals that were on the beach laughed as I swore at the rocks that hurt my feet. An elderly man towing behind his grandson, an apparent Young David Spade, stopped to watch my rapture at the sea they seemed to take for granted, shook their heads, and continued on their walk. Like any teenage affair, it ended all too soon. I was beckoned out of the water to do other "fun" things, such as hiking until my legs fell off and my lungs gave out. We left and I felt unfulfilled, wishing I could stay for just five more minutes.

All week I felt the tug of Bray in the back of my mind. I wanted to go back, I needed to go back, I had no choice in the matter at this point. We called off our trip to Galway and back we went. I struggle to find an exact reason why I fell so quickly but, like all true love, a real reason does not seem important. In Bray, I saw colors brighter and more beautiful than I have ever seen. The countryside was alive and the ocean was incredible. I was learning to see life not just in black and white but shades of Bray. I felt at ease, happy, and comfortable with the world I was occupying. This second trip would have to satisfy my need to be there.

We sat on the beach, ate our chips, and discussed life. We talked about our past, our futures, and the in-between that is now. We ran through the water and through the barriers that we put up. Bray brought us together in a way that Dublin never did and is everything Irish that Dublin is not. It is mountainous, green, and coastal, with local cuisine and color. I left that day feeling more satisfied but hungrier than ever for everything that Bray is. Even now, I feel the tug in the back of my mind that I need to go back soon. I can tell already that this is just the beginning of a lifetime love affair.

Please Do Not Go Beyond This Point by Lillian Fleskes

Danielle, Ally, Erin, and I were four hours into our bus tour of Galway when it was finally time to see the Cliffs of Moher, one of Ireland's top visitor attractions. At 214m high, they range for 8 kilometers over the Atlantic Ocean. This is what we had all been waiting for.

We were eager to get off the bus and explore the Cliffs until our honest and rambunctious tour guide explained that already this year, nine people had died on the cliffs. We looked at each other in shock and fear and began to re-evaluate our decision. After three minutes or so we realized our guide's intention to scare us. He said the people died from making stupid decisions while on the edge of the cliffs.

The bus pulled up to the entrance of the Cliffs of Moher and everyone started hustling off while simultaneously getting their cameras ready. The four of us walked up the cement stairs to find a good view. At the top, we looked to our left and grew silent, amazed at the beautiful site nature created.

After snapping numerous pictures of the cliffs and of each other, we headed towards the part of the cliffs that did not have a cement walkway but seemed to be where all the people were. To get to this spot you had to climb over a short cement wall and a few muddy rocks. As soon as you made it over the wall you were greeted with a giant sign that read "PLEASE DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT." Clearly, no one took this sign to heart because there were hundreds of people walking up and down the muddy, unsupervised path.

When I saw how close we stood to the edge, I stopped. "There is no way I am going all the way up this," I told Ally.

She agreed. Being extra cautious, we took some pictures and headed back to the safer part of the cliffs while Danielle and Erin daringly continued up the muddy path.

Being Blessed by Bobo's by Raven Andrews

It was the biggest and juiciest one of its kind I had ever seen; perfectly presented the way I like. It definitely looked like it had potential but part of me was still unsure. I thought about it, I even took a picture of it. I knew that eventually I had to actually do something, so I did...

But first let me explain how I got myself into this unpredicted situation.

Sunday evening I was in my room, alone, with wet clothes sprawled out everywhere they could possibly dry. I was bored, hungry, and just plain old sick of being in my room! I called my neighbor Kierstin and we soon set off for St. Stephen's Green.

The weather outside was not too cold so we wandered aimlessly. We saw plenty of couples, making me sad that it couldn't have been my boyfriend walking with me, as well as teenagers throwing leaves on one another. We even stopped to snap pictures of swans and with statues. My excitement over the children in the playground led to a discussion about my interest in being a teacher and before I knew it we were out of the park and on a street we'd never been.

Neither of us paid any mind to the fact that we could get completely lost. We saw a Chinese fast-food restaurant, a number of pubs offering authentic Irish menus, and a food market where I bought a box of Cadbury mini rolls (DEE-LISH!). By the time we left the market I was hungry, and since I wanted to wait before opening my box of chocolaty goodness, we stopped at Bobo's. The hamburger joint offered a special which included a burger (with or without cheese and fixings), chips (French fries), and a soft drink for 10 Euros; we were all over that!

I'm not sure about Kierstin but I was a bit nervous at first because I didn't know what to expect. We talked as we waited and eventually one of the three Asian waiters brought over our plates, which were pretty much identical disregarding the larger amount of fries on mine.

It was the biggest and juiciest one of its kind I had ever seen; perfectly presented the way I like. It definitely looked like it had potential but part of me was still unsure. I thought about it, I even took a picture of it. I knew that eventually I had to actually do something, so I did...

I covered my fries in ketchup, cut my cheeseburger in half, and said my grace. This was it. I picked up one half of the gourmet Irish burger and though I was scared that the special Bobo sauce I requested would be disgusting enough to make me lose my appetite, I took a bite. It was pure bliss in my mouth. I looked up at Kierstin, who hadn't yet taken a bite, and let out one word, "Wow!" All I could think about was how soon Ireland and I had a rekindling of our love, this normally doesn't happen until there's a serious problem in the relationship!

Kierstin was taking her first bite by the time I was taking my third and at that moment we were both raving about how delicious our Sunday dinner was. The party sitting next to us waiting on their meals had to have known this was our first trip to Bobo's by the many times an "O-M-G" or "Awesome" passed through either of our lips.

We finished what we could of our cheeseburgers and unanimously voted that this would be the designated burger joint while in Dublin. I didn't want to leave Bobo's, I just wanted to stay and order everything on the menu to make sure it was all as good as what I had just eaten. Unfortunately, it was getting dark and it still remained that we had no idea where we were in the city of Dublin. So we paid at the register and headed out the door to make our way home.

We walked straight, assuming we'd see something familiar that would lead us in the right direction. As we walked, we talked about Bobo's, how perfectly seasoned and tender the patty had been, how neither of us used ketchup on the burger because it just wasn't necessary and how that had been my first time eating a burger with no ketchup. We probably sounded like crazy people the way we praised the food in our stomachs, but we were completely justified.

After I had a few slight heart attacks thinking we were truly lost, we saw a familiar landmark and used it to get back to our apartment building where we told our roommates about our amazing new discovery. They weren't as excited as we were. They hadn't yet been blessed by the amazing-ness called Bobo's!

Guinness is Good For You by Nic Elie

The Guinness Storehouse is one of Ireland's most famous attractions and rightfully so. Last weekend we got the chance to find out firsthand. I kind of felt like I was going to Disney World. It was a self-guided tour, so we were free to go at our own pace. In my opinion, self-guided tours offer a more personal experience-you get to discover things for yourself. After the gate we walked into the world's largest pint glass, which makes up the whole of the building. The architecture was awesome. The original 9,000-year lease signed by Arthur Guinness in 1759 was in the floor under glass.

We began the tour after a quick introduction to the facility and its history. We walked in and saw what looked like a giant sandbox filled with barley. People were putting their hands in it, and I decided to eat one grain. Kirsten and Raven advised against this but I ignored them. Looking back, it probably wasn't the smartest thing to do but I am still here writing about it and pretty healthy.

The Storehouse is set up so that you witness every step in the making of Guinness from the ingredients at the beginning to the brewing to the advertising of the finished product. It was really cool to see, in great detail, how something you like is made. We finished the tour with the Gravity Bar at the top of the building. The location provided a 360-degree view of Dublin and its surroundings. I could see my apartment complex. As we were about to leave, I spotted a double rainbow.

Politics and Belgian Grub by Carolyn Shields

"This is the beer your father had when he was here," Luc said in his Belgian solemnity that seems to accompany every man in Belgium. His little white beard divided his gruff face, and he wore a red sports jacket that set off his broad chest. He said the police did not wear uniforms in Brussels, so you would never have known Luc worked as a cop judging by his outfit. I wouldn't have been surprised if he had handcuffs stashed in one pocket. He had the eyes of constantly being on alert, though he took the day off to show my friends and myself around Brussels.

I narrowed my eyes at the German (or French? Or Dutch?) menu and snapped it shut. "Well, I'll have that then," I said smiling. Me and my little beer knowledge. The only other beer I had in my lifetime was a Guinness.

"So what is the government like here in Belgium?" David asked in the little shade that the umbrella offered. It was so hot that we were actually sweating, though it was late September. I had on my new sunglasses and wished that the Grand Place's shadow would stretch just a few feet farther to save me from the sun. I wiped at the sweat beads above my lip and thought about 'home,' or Dublin, where the rain was probably pounding down on the alley outside my apartment. I was sure that Grame, the nice street vendor who sold magazines for the awareness of the homeless, wasn't outside in the gales.

Luc sighed at David's question just when our beers arrived from a French-speaking waitress. "Belgium has no government."

I choked on my cold, lemony beer. "No government?!"

"Really. Huh. Wow," David mused, sipping his Charmay Bleu.

I looked over at Emily. She didn't look nearly as freaked out as I was either. She fingered her glass carefully, probably trying to decide if it was appropriate to not finish a beer, and then deciding not, she took another cautious sip.

Coming from America where the government has a say in nearly every aspect of your life, I couldn't come to grips with Luc's statement. How can a country exist with no government? I looked around at the Grand Place-tourists snapping photos of the ancient gilds, kids laughing obnoxiously loud in their private school uniforms, beggars rattling their cups under the noses of those drinking their beers, and the waitresses squeezing between all of this-how can this exist with no government? Shouldn't there be chaos? Or people rioting in the streets? Fires or gunshots down an alley?

"We have a French government, a German government, a Dutch government, and Brussels has its own government as well," Luc added.

Wait, now Luc is telling us that Belgium has four governments? I thought of my dad. I could picture him so easily here at the Grand Place, talking politics with Luc, settling their international ecstasy case over their beers. Warm Belgian sun. Long shadows. Tourists. Snap, snap, snap.

My dad's main issue with the American government is that it's so large that nothing gets done. I decided this is what Luc must have meant-there might as well be no government if four of them are operating on their own agenda for a country the size of Maryland. Then again, the European Union was stationed in Brussels, which was slightly ironic.

Once we all finished our beer and Luc generously paid for them, he led us to Mannekin Pis, a world-renowned Belgian statue of a young boy urinating. On the way we stopped to get a Belgian waffle. Mine overflowed with whipped cream and strawberries, and I wondered how I was supposed to conquer it with nothing but a cheap little fork that I ended up breaking. I had to pierce the waffle for some time until I gave up and used my hands. Chocolate stores surrounded us on either side, all displaying beautiful creations like chocolate ducks or bunnies, or rows and rows of variety.

If heaven had a scent, I was pretty sure I was inhaling it. Syrupy and chocolaty sweetness was on every corner within a mile of Mannekin Pis, and I almost envied the statue for being in the heart of such a wonderful world forever.

So I was in a country with a fallible government. It's not like it worried me or concerned me. I was only there for three days. I put the thought in my pocket. I would save it, mull over the Belgian crises (which involved a debate about splitting the tiny European country into two, Luc added later), and pray for it later. Right now I was in the midst of a dream, surrounded by tourists with sticky fingers and chocolate on their noses, smiling at a statue of a boy peeing.

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