I had a plan for what my 22nd birthday would be like; I would be sitting in a cozy pub on a windswept, lonely peninsula, listening to traditional Irish music and sipping a frothy half-pint of Guinness.
And what was my 22nd like in reality? Well it was in Ireland, but that’s where the comparison stops.
My birthday began at a middle-of-nowhere airport in Belgium. I took a stressful Ryanair flight to Dublin (is there any other kind of Ryanair flight?), made my way downtown and then boarded a five-hour bus ride to Cork. Cork is known as both the Real Capital of Ireland and as the country’s most food-centric city so I was excited.
Upon arriving I wandered the city with my unforgivably heavy backpack until I found a hostel. Apparently I’m way too cool for reservations these days.
My first order of business was to check out the English Market, Cork’s well-known farmers market that Samantha Brown featured on her travel show. (Um… I swear I don’t get all of my travel advice from Sam, honest.)
I ended up buying some hearty soda bread, white cheddar and buttered eggs for dinner, though I wanted much more. Unfortunately food shopping gets a tad complicated when you perma-live in hostels.
Side comment – Is it just me or is Irish food nothing like English or Scottish food? Irish food is surprisingly delicious and artisanal: black pudding, smoked salmon, Dublin Bay scallops, hearty soda breads and Kerry Gold… who knew!
When I asked the hostel employees where I could find a pub in town with traditional Irish music, I was told, “You’re never going to find traditional music in Cork. You’re going to have to go to a little town for that.” I think I could hear my Irish music-obsessed heart break.
And then by way the magic of hostels, a group of guests formed, all in the pursuit of going out together that night. There were nine of us, and as the Brits might say, we were five froggies and four yanks.
We started off the night drinking and chatting at a lively pub. The nine of us were struggling to communicate through our Franco-anglo language barrier, but strangely enough we began speaking more easily with one another as the night went on. It seems that alcohol is the true universal language.
After the pub we tried (and failed) to get into several clubs around town. Strangely enough, no one would let us in because two of the girls in our group were under 21. I thought that only happened in the puritanical U.S.!
So long story short, we ended up at the trashiest club I’ve ever been to, and that’s saying a lot. It was kind of like the Jersey Shore meets working-class Ireland if you can picture that.
Let me start out by saying that the club had a chess theme. As in the dance floor was a black and white chess set lined with 10-foot tall pawns, knights and castles, all illuminated by neon green lights. The music was so loud that I was concerned I would have permanent inner ear damage. And we actually saw a girl-on-girl, hair-pulling cat-fight on the dance floor. It was madness.
So the moral of the story here? Sometimes you don’t get what you wish for, and that’s A-OK. My birthday didn’t involve craggy coastline and quaint cottages, but it did involve girl-on-girl cat-fights, Guinness and a birthday kiss from a cute French guy. And for your 22nd, I don’t think you can do much better than that.
Have you ever celebrated your birthday in Cork, Ireland? Was it as crazy as mine?
So I’m taking off for Paris… tonight, around 10 pm! I”m really excited but also nervous… What if the family doesn’t like me? What if I’m truly incapable of driving stick?
In other news I was featured on IAMPACKED.com! I shot this picture of my travel essentials which they then featured on their website. I truly cannot live without my Kindle and cameras, and now that I’ll be a Parisienne I will naturally need some red lipstick.
Side note – Isn’t my brand new EOS just gorgeous? Sigh.
Anyway, here are the reasons I’m excited to move to Paris. (Which I still can’t believe is happening.)
So here the stuff I’m incredibly excited about. I think this list says a lot about my priorities. (Cheap wine is so low just for appearance’s sake, I assure you.)
1. City life
Moving back to my quiet suburban town after four years in Chicago was a bit of a change. It turns out I’m just really not cut-out for suburban life. I hate malls, I can barely drive and I think being home alone in a house is scary… there are just too many entry points!
I’m excited to be able to walk to my morning latte and to take a cab home after a night out at the club. It’s just more of my natural habitat, shall we say.
2. Farmers Markets
It’s wild game season in France, which means there will be lots of game meats like wild boar and pheasant, as well as fall produce like mushrooms, truffles and chestnuts. I’ve spent five summers in Europe but have never gone in any other season, so it will be exciting to see what fall, winter and spring have in store.
This winter will also be my first snow-free winter, knock on wood.
3. Cheap wine
Decent wine in the U.S. is at least $15 a bottle. In France you can buy a good wine for $5! That’s a huge plus.
I’m excited to take on a new language. For the past three summers I have been working in Paris and while I have learned some French, I never took it in school so I have a shaky foundation. When everyone back home says, “Oh, so you must be fluent!” I have to woefully shake my head. No longer!
While I’m apprehensive about going back to school (ugh… when will I be a grown-up again?), now it’s all in the name of a language I’m dying to speak! (And only six hours a week, which helps.)
Some of my very close friends live in Paris, and there are a few other people in Europe that I’m excited to see. I am also hoping to make lots of new friends, and am going to amp-up my networking. I even have plans to grab coffee with a few travel bloggers!
Overall I’m just happy to have a new start and to try something I’ve never done before… living in Europe for nine months. I live for adventures and surprises so I can’t wait!
So what do you think about the reasons I’m excited to move to Paris? Good ones or not so much?
I would love comments if anyone has some tips on how to parallel park and drive stick. I truly do not know!
Hey everyone, happy Saturday! First a few blogging points:
Sorry I have messed with the design of this website so much this week, dear readers! I have been trying to think of a tagline and design that represent me as a writer/blogger, and I think “one travel-obsessed girl living around the world” pretty much sums it up.
Also I have been changing my photo of the week between Friday and Saturday, but I think I’m just going to stick with my original idea, Saturday – it just has more pizzaz!
Anyway, back to the photo of the week. These photos of the week are technically from last week but please forgive me – I leave for France on Monday so I haven’t been as shutter-happy recently.
I went duck hunting (post soon!) with my dad, sister and good friend Elliot last weekend. The fall foliage and blue lake were just beautiful. And while I didn’t shoot any ducks on this trip, I did shoot some photos.
So please, help me decide – which “shot” do you like best?
My dad, the captain of our expedition. Warning to future boyfriends – this man could shoot off a chipmunk’s stripes in the dark. (Feel free to steal that expression.)
I loved being in nature for the day. There’s nothing like Michigan in the fall.
A shot of my little sister, Bee, looking fly in camo.
A very handsome dog fiercely protecting his shore.
Warning: The following post contains mature themes and lots of Pink Palace Ouzo. Those related to me or under the age of 18 should not proceed.
Solo female travel can be tricky, but solo female travel at a party hostel can be even trickier.
Walking into a club by yourself? Awkward. Walking into a club by yourself wearing a pink satin sheet that barely reaches your inner thighs? Mortifying. Please hand me a shot of ouzo immediately. (more…)
First, let me introduce the Pink Palace. It’s a hostel located on Corfu, a mountainous, pine-covered island in northwestern Greece.
The Palace is basically a massive party hostel where the branding goes like this – everything will be pink, and everyone will be wasted.
The first day was blissful – I spent it sunning myself on a rocky beach with the turquoise Mediterrean lapping at my feet. The Pink Palace truly has some of the best beachfront property on the island.
The Pink Palace is run like a compound. You stay at the Pink Palace, as well as eat every meal, party and do all of your activities there.
The first day I asked the woman at the front desk if she had any recommendations for a good lunch spot. The woman eagerly responded, “You don’t have to leave! We have a very affordable lunch right here!”
When I assured her that I wanted to try something in town, she responded grimly, “Well I’m afraid I can’t recommend you anything.”
It was kind of like that movie The Island. This is the world. This is all that there is.
The lunch I rebelliously procured in town.
The guests at the Pink Palace were overwhelmingly Canadian, with some Australians and Irish as well. There were so few Americans that I was specifically introduced to the one American girl on staff. I think it was the first time in my life I’ve ever heard, “Wow, that’s so cool! You’re from Michigan!”
I met a group of Canadians the first night at dinner, and they were sweet to include me with the group for the rest of the trip. One cute Canadian even taught me to play pool.
Luckily, my visit coincided with the bi-weekly pink toga party. Here’s the drill – rent suspicious-looking sheet, have staff tie it on you, adjust sheet to avoid public nudity, have boys buy you ouzo shots and let employees smash plates on your head.
And yes, I had a plate smashed on my head which surprisingly hurt. I guess it’s my fault for not drinking more ouzo.
The next morning I signed myself up for the booze cruise, an all-day boat trip run by the Pink Palace. It was basically a herd of drunken twenty-somethings jumping off of rocks and exploring bat-caves while under the influence of box wine. Naturally, “I’m on a boat, motherfucker!” was blaring in the background.
So in the photo in the left you will see a pale girl in a black bikini on top of the rock. That’s me. By that point I was just so thrilled to get off of that rock that I was barely scared of jumping; I was already so high on adrenaline from the harrowing climb-up.
Oh and on the right is a Spanish model named David who didn’t speak of word of English.
Our conversation started off like this:
“So what is it that you do, David?”
Me giggling, “Oh, well of course you are.”
As the only person on the boat who spoke Spanish (I’m not bragging, seriously…) I helped interpret for David and the other booze cruise guests (Okay, I’m bragging. Mainly because I had a reason to talk to a Spanish model.)
Towards the end of the day people started to get really drunk and things started to get weird. Really weird. Let me just say this – after witnessing a few bacchanalian, man-on-man events, I practically wanted to jump ship.
A lot of people asked me if had fun at the Pink Palace. Yes, I had a blast and I’m glad I went. (Did you see that model?) One disappointment was that I was there in the middle of July and the Palace was a little dead; the occupancy was only about 200 out of 700.
As for absorbing the local culture? The only Greek culture I absorbed was via pink-colored ouzo shots. The Pink Palace bus driver was also named Socrates, if that counts. And while I like a good party, I was ready to move on by the end of my stay.
The rest… you’ll just have to ask me in person.
Strangely enough the story of my Dublin trip begins in Chicago. It all started when I met an Irish guy named David at a bar called the Irish Oak.
After a brief chat, David handed me his Google business card. While we never got together in Chicago, I sent him an email a few weeks before leaving for Dublin. The lesson here – hang on to business cards! Especially if they say Google on them.
John Mulligan’s via Yelp. When I arrived in Dublin I called David, and he took me out for drinks at John Mulligan’s (and by drinks I mean Guinness, naturally).
David described Mulligan’s as an “old man’s pub” and told me that it was one of the last old-fashioned pubs in Ireland. I loved everything about it: the red-lacquered walls, the seasoned clientele, the sassy wall plaques and the fact that it was founded in 1782.
The next day I spent the bulk of my time at the beautiful and green Trinity College campus (why didn’t I apply there, seriously?)
I went there to see The Book of Kells, a religious manuscript that was created by Celtic monks more than a thousand years ago. According to Wikipedia, it is widely regarded as “Ireland’s finest national treasure.”
The Book of Kells via the Examiner
After seeing the book I highly agree. The book’s designs are so impossibly tiny they seem to have been painted by butterflies, and the script is raised and glossy as if it were nail polish. The admission price was 10 euros but it was totally worth it.
I next happily stumbled upon the statue of Molly Malone. Don’t know her? She’s a famous fishmonger and prostitute who now lives on Grafton street. There’s even a song about her that is known as Dublin’s unofficial anthem.
Per David’s recommendations, I headed to Merrion Square to see the famous Georgian doors. I snapped away like a wild-woman, determined to photograph every door in the square. I even asked an elderly gentleman who was retrieving the paper if his house was a museum. I shouldn’t be allowed in public.
David wrote me an email to meet him and his friends for dinner. On my walk to the outskirts of Dublin I stumbled upon a few pieces of interest, including more Georgian doors.
I met David and his friends for a Guinness (question – why is Guinness drastically better in Ireland?) and then headed off to The Chop House for dinner.
The food was great. Like amazing. Like how-is-Ireland-not-a-huge-food-destination amazing. I ordered Dublin scallops with black pudding and the combination was Michelin-quailty genius. And it was reasonably priced – my dinner cost only 14 euros.
After dinner we met up with some more of David’s Google friends and pub and club-hopped for the rest of the night.
Sometimes you should be a responsible, culture-focused traveler. And sometimes you should take blurry pictures and drink mojitos in an Irish club.
I want to thank David and all of his amazing friends for showing me the city over the weekend. It was so much fun hearing their stories and getting to know them, and getting a glimpse into what Dublin is really like.
Overall writing this makes me miss Dublin, and especially my beloved Ireland which I never tire of visiting. But I’ll be back. And I know a half-pint of Guinness is waiting for me.
Have you ever visited Dublin? Did you hang out in Merrion Square too?