Category Archives: Northern Ireland

Ireland Playlist

When visiting Ireland last summer, I knew that we would be doing a lot of driving from town to town so I packed my iPod full of songs that carried a similar theme. It was mellow, thought-provoking music that had stories to tell.

Like I’ve previously mentioned in my Belize Playlist post, I carry an iPod Shuffle when I travel because it’s super light, is only $49, and can hold hundreds of songs. Mine in particular is pink but I’m positive that they have multiple colors you can chose from.

When it comes to songs that I will want to listen to, I’m all over the map. So this playlist is a bit eccentric. I tried to stay within a general theme but it got a little skewed. It happens.

I know that “The Parting Glass” by Cara Dillon is an Irish song often sung at local pubs and it’s beautifully recreated every time you hear it. It’s often done in a slow, melodic whisper and there have been times I’ve heard it done in an almost thunderous way, showing jubilation. Regardless, it’s a beautiful song.

So, without further ado, here’s the 30 songs that composed my Ireland Playlist!

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My Study Abroad Adventures

I’m a college student. I love to travel. So naturally, I took advantage of the study abroad programs offered at my college. There’s about 9 to choose from, ranging from places like Costa Rica to Ireland. Every trip has a course tied to it that you take while in country. I’ve been on two and will be going on my third in three weeks time.

The first study abroad trip I went on was to Derry, Ireland. I left in early May of 2012 and spent 15 days in country for the class. I then stayed a week and a half later traveling on my own and then my mom met me for a trip to London and Paris. mommaparis

Let me say this; I LOVED my study abroad experience. Granted, every college is different and every trip within that college is different but I have yet to experience or even hear of a trip that wasn’t amazing.

Ireland was fantastic, a place I’ve always wanted to visit and the group that ended up going was 14 girls. Nuts. We all had serious apprehension before leaving but it was actually one of the better experiences of my life. We grew to be very close, albeit a few cat fights, and actually still keep in very close contact to this day. Two of the girls I went to Ireland with are now some of my best “traveling buddies”.

The way in which the trip was set up was easy to understand. We stayed at a local bed and breakfast, went to class three times a week for four hours a day and then had the rest of our nights free. We had planned “excursions” to places like Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills Whiskey Distillery, Belfast and the Titanic Museum, and only one guided tour of the city (thank goodness). 401711_10151133175688135_246478389_n

What was awesome about this planned trips was that we were still able to see things as tourists even though we were there for school. It also allowed gave us more of Ireland for our money.

Speaking of money; in total I spent $2300 for 15 days in Ireland. This included airfare, the program fee, food and souvenirs. The program fee included hotel, entrance fees, the cost of the class and transportation. Not too shabby.

I mean, I’ve never claimed to be a “thrifty traveler” but I like to save money where I can. Yes, I could have traveled throughout Ireland on my own for cheaper but I was gaining credits while abroad. I think that’s awesome.

Ireland was awe-inspiring. The history was rich and the people seemed to have this unabashed pride for their country. The greenness of it all is almost overwhelming and there are times where you’re silent, for there are no words to accurately describe the beauty of this country.

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My next adventure was to Belize. Belize kind of fell in my lap.
Two weeks before I left for Ireland, one of my professors told me about a scholarship they were giving away to go study abroad in Belize. I figured why not and filled out an application. As luck would have it, I won. All expenses paid (minus airfare) to Belize. SWEET.

So, a month and a half after I got back from Ireland, I began the paperwork for Belize and left two weeks later.

Belize was a complete 180 from Ireland. I frequently get asked about which trip I liked better and there is literally no way to compare the two.

caracolllBelize was a different world. Humid and jungle and animals and no air conditioning and true adventure. It was perfect. We arrived in Belize City and ran at about 100 mph for the next 15 days.

We saw Guatemala, we saw Mayan ruins of all kinds, we stayed in local villages, we went spelunking in an ancient Mayan Offering cave, we jumped from cliffs and rode waterfalls.

The class for this trip was Tropical Ecology and instead of sitting in a classroom for a few hours a day we would go into the jungle and learn from locals how different plants interacted with the environment, their medicinal uses, their spiritual properties. All of it. So if you’re a hands on learner, look for a trip like this.bz

I can honestly say, wholeheartedly, these trips changed my life. They opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that the world offers us that we’re sometimes too afraid to take advantage of. We’re in this world that most people know very little about and studying abroad gave me a chance to completely shift my world view. If you’re thinking about going, do it.

I will forever be grateful I went and I will always value the memories that I have from my time studying abroad.

The Best Places To Grab A Drink In Derry, Ireland

When one thinks of Ireland, they think of rolling green hills, beautiful music and drinking. Whether your poison be whiskey or a pint of your favorite brew; Ireland satisfies all. Derry, Ireland isn’t on the top of everyone’s must see list but it’s on mine.

It’s charm and appeal is second to its numerous options for drinks. Here’s a list of a few of my favorite places and why;

Paedar O’Donnell’s

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This was hands down my favorite spot and I went here at least three times a week. There is a full band every night that plays traditional Irish music and is adorned in flags from all over the world. It’s rustic oak pillars and line of Guinness’ waited to be topped off is a helpful and unnecessary reminder of where you are. You can expect to pay 3 Pounds for a pint of your choice and about 4 or 5 for mixed drinks. If you are going to go anywhere in Derry, go here.

Bound for Boston

For those who like to listen to live music while getting their drink on, this is the place to go. They have live bands every night playing everything from covers to original music by start up bands. Bound for Boston has an extensive selection of beer and the bartenders are more than willing to help you out. The atmosphere is laid back and the crowd is a younger bunch but it also has booths on either side offering a little more privacy if you’d rather enjoy your music alone.

Tinney’s

Tinney’s will always hold a special place in my heart solely for the music. If you love Irish music or just want to hear a collection of locals playing the music they grew up hearing, come to Tinney’s on Tuesdays. The bar is downstairs and has a normal selection of beers and spirits with TV’s playing the football matches on repeat but head upstairs for the music. Starting at 7 they play music for a couple hours and if you’re lucky, other tourists will join in with songs from their country. I had the opportunity to hear a Japanese folk song, a Spanish lullaby and a Kenyan chant. Absolutely incredible.

Ice Wharf

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The Ice Wharf is where I went for a majority of my meals in Ireland; they were inexpensive,  had great food, and even better beer. You could get a hamburger and fries with a pint of Guinness for 3.99. Can’t beat it. They offer a wide selection of foods from the typical meat and potatoes and potatoes and more potatoes that so customary in Ireland to chicken tikka pizza. All of their meals are affordable and the drinks are the same. You can get fish bowls full of liquor for under $10 and pints for under $3.

On a final note, there isn’t really a bad place to get a drink in Ireland. The people are extremely friendly so when in doubt, ask a local.

A Brief Glimpse At Belfast

Belfast is a city that seems to bustle at every turn but walk into any pub and time has stopped. The dust that lines the top of the shelves is easily an inch thick and the wood has started to warp in places from use. The once shiny metal stools have been hardened into a matte black from so much use. The bartender knows everyone that walks in and has the eyes of someone who truly has seen it all. But walk back out those front doors again and you’re slapped with reality.

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My visit to Belfast was a short one, with short being an understatement. The majority of the 5 hours I was there was spent in the Titanic Museum, an ode to the tragic ship but beautifully displayed. It’s a 5 story tale from first drafts to it’s fate at the bottom of the ocean. With artifacts recovered from it’s watery grave and donated by it’s survivors it tells the stories that would have never otherwise been heard.

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Belfast was also my first experience with a double decker bus. I know, so touristy. But admit it, you had a moment too. But, my moment was disrupted by snickering locals who laughed at the American tourists. What can you do?

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Derry: A City of Mistrust, Bloody History and the Nicest People You’ll Ever Meet

Derry is just like any other border town. It just so happens to border Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and has a tumultuous history. The British have always fought to claim it as theirs and the Republic has fought to keep it as their own. Neither is right, neither is wrong. It’s just a city that has been the apple of everyone’s eye.

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It’s worn down by it’s tough exterior and it’s massive walls that encircle the city give it a mean demeanor. The streets tell tales of a storied past. The stones whisper of wars and famines and droughts. Take a guided tour of the walled city and they’ll tell you everything you’ve ever wanted to know and even things you didn’t even know happened right before us.

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U2’s famous “Bloody Sunday” sings about the tragic day when the “Troubles” came to head and many brave souls lost their life. But this town, although harrowed in it’s past, is nothing but lively and strong.

I stayed in the Derry side of Derry/Londonderry at a Bed and Breakfast called the Clarence House. Every morning my group and I were awoken to a full Irish breakfast; coffee, tea, biscuits, sausage, eggs, pancakes, juice, blood sausage, bacon. This full meal allowed us to skip lunch and save some money which is always a plus when traveling.

The pub fare was much better than expected. I thought I would be eating potatoes and some kind of meat with every meal (partially true) but the influences that carry throughout their dishes is unexpected and refreshing. I recommend the Sheppard’s Pie, Guinness Stew, and the Baby Guinness.

As anyone will in Ireland, I drank my fair worth and none of it is bad. Try it all. Enjoy it all. Definitely drink a Guinness.

I was in Derry for 15 days and literally fell in love with the charmed city. Although its residents will ask you, “How could you ever love this bloody place?” The rolling streets (and sometimes unbearable uphill’s), the small shops and pubs that you always envisioned in Ireland call to you from every corner. But what I fell in love with most about Derry were it’s people.

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I’ve always considered myself a cultured person, I’ve done my fair share of traveling and I always seem to be drawn more to the people than the city itself. I feel as through the residents of any city are what its true core is. A city in of itself is just that, buildings and churches and roads but with people; it comes alive. You see the true colors and the spirit that’s shining through.

Derry’s people were like none other I had ever met. Anyone would offer you a ride, buy you a pint, tell you stories and cook you dinner if you had asked. Their incomparable hospitality and good nature almost takes you by surprise, I had always heard the Irish would talk your ear off but I couldn’t have imagined what I experienced. Some of my dearest memories will always reside in Derry.