A Travellerspoint blog

Stirling: Home of Braveheart

rain 15 °C

Sorry I haven't been on here! It doesn't help when you have to pay for wifi at your hostel, and it only lasts for 24 hours till you have to pay again! Ridiculous! Anyways here goes!

Yesterday I literally flew out of my hostel in Glasgow. I had met a guy who I just didn't get a good vibe from so I'd been avoiding him the last day and didn't want to risk bumping into him in the lobby. I got into Stirling just before noon, checked my stuff, and went out to explore the town. And what do you think I found? A mall :) Of course I went shopping! I found a really good second hand book store, and I've been looking for a new book for a couple of days now, and I found like 4!! So I got 2, and one's a really big one, so I'm going to try and read it really fast and pick up another book before I go. They were super cheap too! So I was happy about that. I also got a couple new items of clothing and cute new shoes and.. oh you probably don't care that much! Haha. But I did find the CUTEST shirt that was WAY too big but it was only 5 pounds and is now my new sleeping shirt, check it out:
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Cute! I also found some great pre-made vegan food from Marks and Spencer, so I got meals to last me the next 2 days, and it means I get a break from cooking so I was all smiles! I went to an early evening showing of My Sister's Keeper, which was sooo good, I even cried! And if you know me you know I don't cry in movies, but I definitely was tearing up quite a bit. When I got back to the hostel I finally found some guys who spoke English: Wolf from Baltimore, John from New Zealand, Ian from Scotland, and Mike from Aussie, and we ended up going to 2 pubs, checking out some live music, and Ian was showing me some local beers.
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Didn't make it a late night though. Today I got up and the sun was shining and all was great! I headed out to the post office to mail some overdue post cards, then made my way up to Stirling Castle. And when I say 'up' I mean WAAAAY up. This friggen town is built on a hill, and man am I out of shape! I passed everyone on the way up, though, so it wasn't just me! Seriously it was quite the hike up the road to the Castle, but it was really cool. Was pretty pricey for what you get though, so I'm not sure I would do it again. It gave beautiful views of the whole city, however, so I guess it was worth it. And the gift shop was awesome! The tour didn't teach me much, and it was pouring rain and crazy-windy by the end, so I headed back to my hostel for a little break from the elements.
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OH I did learn something crazy: they are renevating the castle (I think they're always revovating castles) and they are putting in these tapestries that take a team of women 4 years, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day to make 1. And they've only done like 4 of like 20! Kind of crazy, and I don't think I appreciate them as much as some people would, but here's a photo.
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After warming up and drying off I caught the bus out to the William Wallace monument. The bus driver dropped me off and was like, in the typical Scottish way, "You just go 'round the corner, up the wee hill, and then right and you're there love!" I'm like ok thanks! RIGHT up a huge ass hill, and like a ten minute walk after that! Anyways, got there, paid the entrance fee, and the ladies like, "It's a ten minute up the wee path, dear, or you can take the courtesy shuttle." I'm like oh I'll just walk up the wee path. 20 MINUTES LATER I'm soaking wet from rain and sweat and I'm at the effing monument. And my calves were burning.
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So you get in and you walk up these teeeeny tiny stairs. The monument was built in the late 1800's, and it must have been built by very thin people because you could hardly fit 2 people on the stairs. If someone was coming up, the people going down had to stop and wait. And it was a loooong way up: 264 stairs! With 3 different stopping points on the way up. I couldn't help thinking that if you were a big person, you'd have to make everyone wait at the top so you could go up because there's no way you would fit!
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Anyways it was really interesting; it told the story of William Wallace, and a little bit about other noble Scottish men, and about the making of the monument. At the top is supposed to be an amazing view, but the weather and mist proved otherwise, and you had to focus more on not being blown away than how far out you could see.
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Tonight I went and saw Harry Potter. I'm really into the movie theater right now apparently! Hey, it's been a while! It was really cool because I'm pretty sure there were shots of some things I've seen over here. Pretty sure, anyways. And it was one of those moments when a) you realize you just saw a movie, for the second night, all by yourself! and b) you walk out of the theater (or, sorry, cinema) and forget you're in Scotland! That second part was really cool. And other than the brattiest little kids I've ever met and apart from me yelling at them halfway through (even though they barely understood my accent) the movie was awesome! I totally have the hugest crush on Ronald Weasley :)

That's another thing I forget to say in past posts: it's so funny the different words we use. Like chips are crisps and fries are chips, and if you go to get fries and ask for fries, some people won't even serve you until you say chips! And when I ask where the washroom is they look at me like I have four heads. I hate saying 'toilet' it's such an ugly word! Ian taught me that real ladies say 'the ladies' anyways so I'm gonna try and adopt that one. Also, it's a damn good thing I got new shoes before I left because they are saving my life! All I do is walk around, and here all I do is walk up ginormous hills! But I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow; something I've been waiting for forever! Hope everyone is well and that's in sunny in your part of the world! I'm very jealous! :)

Posted by kvandervegan 01:50 Archived in Scotland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (10)

Let the Games Begin!

semi-overcast 17 °C

TODAY WAS AWESOME! Went just under an hour's train ride away to a little town called Balloch, where there was highland games going on. Got there, wandered around the little shops, and a lady had a "Scotland 2009 Vancouver Island Dancers" coat on! I couldn't believe it. So we chatted and I actually ended up sitting with with a group of 60 highland dancers and their families from the island! Jasmine and her daughter Julia were from Port Alberni. How awesome is that?! The dancing was amazing; I was in heaven! I even saw a couple of people I recognized, and one guy, Issak Lisak, who I've danced against like a million times! Crazy small world we have. AND there were lots of boys in kilts! Haha they were old men, but still! Not too much else to say but I did take like a hundred pictures so here they are!
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Today I wasn't feeling 100% so I slept in quite late, and then walked around Glasgow and into the cathedral grounds and such. No good pictures, however! Anyways, off to Stirling tomorrow. The weather here is crap at the moment, but I'm in Scotland and it's supposed to rain, right?

Posted by kvandervegan 11:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged events Comments (5)

Glasgow and Beyond!

overcast 16 °C

WOW I've been a wee bit busy, as they say in Glasgow! But it's about time to update this baby and get on with things!

I got into Glasgow at about 1 yesterday afternoon after a really long train ride (first one, by the way!) and checked into my awesome hostel 5 minutes away from the train station, and was helped by a very cute Scottish reception boy! Haha, just a bit of fun but anyways the hostel is unreal; I'm on the 8th floor so I have a great view, awesome bar in the lobby, really good breakfast (for a change!), good, clean kitchen, nice rooms, I could go on! It's the EuroHostel, if anybody wants to stay here I highly recommend it!
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Anyways I quickly got changed and headed out to find Mono, an all-vegan cafe I've been dying to get to, and I hadn't eaten since 6 am so I was starved! I found the place easily and it was unbelievable! Super cute, suprisingly big and inexpensive, and a huge, all-vegan menu! It took me forever to decide because I actually had choices! I could choose off the WHOLE menu and that NEVER happens! I'm lucky if I have 2 choices! As a vegan, you eat whatever you can, and I'm never unhappy about that because I'm not a picky eater, but to have a full menu to choose off of was something else! All you vegans out there should be very jealous! Anyways, I got the staple: huge bean burger with lettuce, tomato, caramalized onion, mushroom, and melted vegan cheese with a salad and fries. It was unreal, like UNREAL lol. Serously, check out there menu here:
http://www.monocafebar.com/food.php
very cool for me! I talked to the girls working there for a bit and it was so cool, definitely made me want to open one at home! THEN I saw a sign advertising that they needed a supervisor and I actually thought about it! How awesome would it be to live in Glasgow and manage an all-vegan cafe? Super awesome!! Still thinking about it! Will go back for another before I leave, for sure. THEN no sooner I walk across the street and right into a vegetarian pub! The 13th note is a mostly vegan bar serving pub food and vegan cocktails, with vegetarian options as well. I took a look at their menu and noticed that they had vegan ice cream! So of course I got some and chatted to the bartender. They have live gigs there every weekend and a few weekends ago they had a band playing until really late, and the band members went out to McDonalds and bought bangers (pretty sure that's what she said she had a really thick accent!) for all the fans in the room, and the staff actually made the band members take the food outside and eat it. HOW cool and bitchy is that?! Haha I loved it!
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Aftert that I just walked around and checked out the sights, shopping, etc. Also walked by the River clyde and got a couple of photos.
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Yesterday night my roomate, Maria from Argentina, and I got all dressed up and went downstairs to Osmosis, the bar attatched to the hostel. We met a couple of guys, a group of guys from Ireland with incredibly thick accents, and a solo guy, Sean, from Aussie. We were all getting kind of hungry so we set out for some food and found a japanese/indian place that had AWESOME veggie sushi, like baby corn rolls and veggie rolls with smoked tofu, mushrooms, avocado, etc. Yummy! This blog seems like it's all about food lol but to be fair I've hardly eaten out this whole trip, so I've been eating like a queen in Glasgow! Anyways after dinner (at 10 pm, everyone eats super late here) we found a bar called Common, serving 1 pound drinks that we just couldn't resist! And they were actually drinks like full bottles of anything (Bulmers, Bacardi Breezers, Stella, anything! Double highballs were 2 pounds!) We actually met up with Sean's roomates there Jordan and Jameer, both from California, totally by accident, and had fun drinking and dancing and admiring all the Europeans' dress and style. We also watched Jordon's crazy dance moves that unfortunately left the ladies running AWAY from him... haha. The 1 pound drinks made it easy for everyone to buy rounds; a round for 5 people was the cost of 1 drink anywhere else! So Maria and I had a couple of drinks then walked back to the hostel around midnight.
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This morning I was up bright and early for my full day tour to the Highlands, Loch Ness, Inverness, and various other cities on the way up. The tour was a little pricey, and I knew I would be spending most of my time on the coach, but I had to do it just to go up and see more of Northern Scotland. We drove up, stopping a couple of times for tea and pictures. We had a stop at the Three Sister Mountains in the highlands and there was a random bagpiper (really bad too lol) who's probably there everyday. Even though he was horrible, it made for some cool pictures, but hard to get just him in the picture as all the tourists were rishung towards him to get pictures. Very cool though!
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We drove through a bunch of little towns, and the tour guide was a really nice, funny, very scottish old man. He knew every little detail about every town, so that was good. We finally made it up to Loch Ness, with a stop to look at the remains of the Urquehart Castle, which was blown up when the family evacuated it way back when, so that no one else could live in it. That's one way of making sure nobody wrecks your house.. blow it up?!
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We took a little hour long cruise of Loch Ness and searched for Nessie with no such luck (boooo). Met 3 flight attendant from Dallas, Texas, who REALLY wanted to see her! They were cool girls though, and definitely made me want to be a flight attendant one day! They actually do charter flights, and they flew over a whole bunch of the golfers for the British Open, and they wait in Scotland until it's over then they take the golfers up to Canada for another tour, then they go home. So cool! They've been everywhere! Anyways, the boat cruise was nice, and then we were on the road again. We covered over 600 km's in one day, so it was a lot of driving, but beautiful scenery, and probably a once in a lifetime thing! The cafe that we stopped at for lunch had veggie french onion soup too, so I was a happy camper!
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Got back into Glasgow just before 8 and organized my trip to southern Loch Lamond tomorrow for the highland games! The girls at the tourist center were amazingly helpful, and saved me from going 2 hours further to a different games, so that was good! Very excited for tomorrow; probably gonna take it easy tonight; even though the bar literally right next to me is hopping, I might just go to bed! Happy birthday Dad (yesterday), I sent him a postcard 10 days early from Dublin and it got to him right on time! Hope everyone's well at home, and that you're having better July weather than I am! It rains a lot here as well, but I'm loving it :)

Posted by kvandervegan 14:25 Archived in Scotland Tagged train_travel Comments (3)

Insane Belfast

overcast 15 °C

Have you people been watching the news? I came to Belfast at a crazy time. I really didn't realize I was in the middle of a religious war zone! Here are some links to some of the stuff that's been going on the last couple of days here:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/jul/14/belfast-riots-real-ira-blame
http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gp6UW1fDAkX96n9BTR_z9ikWFNUw
I'm fine and no need to worry at all, it's just a huge religious holiday that I walked into. But anyways, more on that below!

Yesterday morning I got up and did some laundry for the first time this trip. I lucked out because you can actually do your own in the hostel; normally they'll do it for you for an arm and a leg, or you go to a laundromat. Anyways that took up the whole morning, then I went out shopping! I didn't make it too far within the city, but I headed out on a main road and to the newly built Victoria Center which was massive and awesome. I bought a couple of things, but could have bought a lot more!
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A girl from my hostel and I have been trying to recruit more people to join us on a Black Taxi Tour, because if you don't have at least 4 people it costs you more, so we finally found 5 more people and booked our tour. They go around the Protestant and Catholic areas of Belfast and tell you a little bit about the history, and they go through the different murals that are painted all over the communities from both sides of town. It was an unreal tour, very insightful, very unbiased information. First we went to the Protestant side and looked at their murals. All beautiful, some chilling; the blue one with the gunman on top is soo creepy because it was painted so that wherever you are the gun is pointed at you. Like I walked past it and the painting moved and the gunman followed me it was unbelievable and very creepy! The protestants are the ones who want to stay a part of Brittain so they all had the Union Jack flag and colours displayed.
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Next we stopped on the Protestant side of the gates that seperate the two sides of the city. The gates were built in the seventies and rarely, rarely opened to let people go from one side to the other. Now the gates open from 7-7, Monday to Friday and are closed on weekends. It is unreal that the gates still operate! The people here are still that divided, they don't even go to the other side unless they have to, for work deliveries or something. They all have different schools, post offices, businesses, etc. The businesses are said to be fair labour in that they have to have an equal mix of both sides, so they are getting better. The other thing they got 10 years ago when the peace movement came in was unbiased, uninvolved police. The police are fair anywhere, are said to not have a religion, or at least not while they are working, and if not they would lose their job immediatly. I just cannot believe how divided this city is, and that I had no idea about it before I came here!
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Next we went to what is known as the Berlin Wall of Belfast, because I guess it has some resemblence to the Berlin Wall. Lots of graffiti and a new peace sort of design done, with people all over the world commenting about the troubled times. Something to see!
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Next we went through the gates, and there were kids throwing rocks at each other from both sides. The driver said he normally would have stopped but that it wasn't safe. The kids weren't just playing they were actually doing it out of hate it was unreal! I didn't think it would be like this at all! It's amazing what religion and politics can do to a place!
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We then went to a memorial garden dedicated to remember those Catholics who were lost due to battles and bombings and fires and raids, etc. The houses right next to the dividing wall had bomb guards, and all the windows are made of plastic so they won't break. Just veru recently the city put up a higher fence above the original wall because people were still throwing rocks, pop bottles, bombs, etc. over the wall. Unreal! I asked when the last time someone was injured because of the division and he said a man was beat to death just a couple of weeks ago! The Catholic side didn't have any colours displayed or anything, but both sides were very uneasy feeling and chilling. Everyone on the tour could feel the uneasyness in the air, it was something else.
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To finish off the tour we looked at the Catholic murals, and were taught a little bit more about the Catholic's side.
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I got back, made some dinner, and when V, a guy in my room from New Zealand came back with some more guys staying here who were on his day trip tour, we all went to the store to get some booze, and we hung out in the common room all night and chatted. It was relaxed and fun!
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Today I went shopping (suprise!), got a couple of pins of Northern Ireland to add to my small but growing collection, and basically just walked around for hours soaking up the gorgeous weather and the old party of the city. Off to Glasgow bright and early in the morning!!

Posted by kvandervegan 11:22 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged shopping Comments (2)

Beautiful Belfast: Carrick-a-Rede Island & Giants Causeway

sunny 18 °C

Well, highly unfortunately, the bachelor-party bus never showed, so I had to race to the other side of town to catch the last bus to Belfast. They must have changed their plans. But I did get a very scenic, hilly, green, 7-hour bus ride to Belfast, through Sligo and Enniskillen.
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I got into my hostel at around 9, and there was a crazy commotion going on outside. First off, the hostel is on a sketchy road, hence it being super cheap. Second, there was a sign on the door saying “DO NOT open door for ANYONE under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. ONLY staff can open the door.“ Third, there was NO ONE out in town. So all a very good start to Belfast. I hopped on my computer by the entrance door and next thing I know the doorbell is ringing like mad and the staff are trying to filter guests in and keep this crazy, drunken old Irishman out. There were 7 cops there escorting him away, a couple with HUGE military guns. Me and the girl next to me keeping looking at each other like “Holy crap!“ and “What the HELL is going on!“ Good times! A few minutes later 3 guys from my last hostel walked in. I had met them at one of the breakfasts in Galway, and properly introduced myself. Brett, Donny, and Adam were from Pennsylvania, and were all super cool guys. Brett wanted to stay in for the night, but it was Adams birthday so we decided to head out for a drink. We walked down the street and saw a beautiful city hall, amongst other things (Timmy's Ho's doughnuts anyone??), but it was DEAD. Nothing was open, no one was in the streets, and apparently some “Orange Day” holiday was going on, and there were going to be bonfires set around the town for the holiday. Also, the cop cars here are hilarious! This one actually stopped and "posed" for us haha, but they are ridiculous looking! The rubber at the bottom of them are to prevent the petrol bombs being thrown under them from the "troubled times" as everyone calls them, when the Catholics and Protestants were really fighting.
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The bonfires were starting at midnight, so until then we stopped at the one open bar we found and had a drink and watched some live music. Then we headed out to one of the bonfire sights. Apparently the Irish know how to do a bonfire; there were hundreds of pallets stacked up into a huge pyramid, with Republic of Ireland flags all over it and signs reading “Fuck the I.R.A.” and the like. Some religious holiday! We didn’t know then, but the holiday symbolizes when the 6 northern counties of Ireland joined the UK in 1690. It’s a very Protestant holiday as they are the ones who want to stay separate from the south, so the Catholics don’t come out on this day. There is still so much religious separation over here it’s crazy; I couldn’t imagine participating in something like this! It felt very eerie and cult-y and hateful to me, especially after being in Dublin and hearing their side to the separation and the wars and rebellion and stuff. Lots of people were out and wearing the union jack and the UK colours. And just after midnight the fire started and the tri-colour Irish flags burned away, and everyone yelled and chanted! It was crazy.
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The heat off of the fire was unbelievable. Everyone had to stay really far back, and we felt like we were being burned by the sun! It was so hot that the streetlights near the fire were curling downwards and melting. Unreal!
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This morning the three boys and I went on the Giant’s Causeway tour. I woke up at 7:55 and we were leaving to get breakfast at 8 so good times for Kelsey! Literally ran downstairs! Got some breakfast and headed out to Bushmills on the bus. Our first stop was the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It was a GORGEOUS day out so the pictures were outstanding. The rope bridge was 4 pounds, but the views were totally worth it.
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One little clutz move: I fell down these stairs and cut my leg and foot… highly embarrassing in front of the boys! But something I would do for sure lol.
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Our next stop was the Giants Causeway. We took the long way around and got some beautiful photos. It was suuuuper hot out so we had a really nice walk around the cliffs and hills, and got some good pics.
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We walked down to the Giants Causeway next. It was really neat; they were formed by volcanic rock like 55-61 million years ago when the pressure from underwater tsunamis forced the rocks upwards in these weird formations. It totally looked handmade but it’s not! Also got some greats photos here, and met a really nice girl, Heidi, from Las Vegas, who’s on her last week of 3 months of travel.
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I also got some pictures of some of the fields in Ireland and some sheep. Normally I'm on a bus so I don't get to take the pics but here they are.
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The last stop on our trip was in the town of Derry. The boys and I opted out of the guided tour to grab a very late and needed lunch. We stopped at one of the only places open and got some food.

Tonight I’m definitely going to take ‘er easy! Nothings open, there’s crazy people and parades and madness going on outside, so I’m staying in. Actually the tour group in Derry said that they watched police stopping people from throwing petrol bombs! I can hear the parade from the room, as well as two very drunk men yelling at each other outside. It’s a touchy subject and a big deal to these people, so I figure I’ll stay out of the way and I’ll wait till the mall’s open tomorrow, thank you!

Posted by kvandervegan 12:22 Archived in Northern Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (8)

Life is Good in Galway

overcast 12 °C

On friday night when I got back into my hostel is was LOUD; a group of 3 guys and a girl from Northern Ireland had checked in and they were there to party! Definitely warned me that I wasn't getting any sleep that night! Anyways everyone was sitting in the rooms and drinking and asking random questions and stuff, and Jenn, Kirsty and I joined in on the fun! We then headed out around 10 to the King's Head pub where we had a few drinks and checked out the live music. Dad you would have loved it the lead singer of the band was a babe lol, very Suzie McNiel-ish, and she had an AWESOME voice. They opened with an Allanis Morsette song it was great. Jenn, Kirstey and I were with Sprog and Karl, two guys from the north, and they all wanted to check out a club so we headed over to CP's. It was pretty lame as it was only 12 and the clubs don't get going till around 1. We still had fun it just wasn't busy.
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Saturday morning I got up (without a hangover) and went to the market down the street. It was really good, small market, with lots of fresh vegetables, bagels, olives, jewelry, flowers, cheeses, and bags, and a few vendors selling hot food. It was really cute. After that I wandered around town with a soy latte, checked out some second hand clothing stores, used book stores, found an organic, fair trade shop that sold chocolate I could eat (and good thing I was going crazy!) and other stuff. Also checked out some of the clothing stores, and limited my purchases to a cute necklace that was on sale! It's so hard not to buy the whole store sometimes. Actually, a really crazy, ABD thought went through my head as I was window shopping: If I cut my trip down to just a month, I could go CRAZY shopping here and have the most amazing wardrobe ever! Bad, Kelsey, BAD!
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When I got back into my hostel room, around 3 or so, mostly everyone from the night before had checked out, and Karl, Sprog, Gavin, and Jackie from Nothern Ireland were all hanging out and drinking, so I joined them. We had a great time! Harrison was also hanging around too, jutting in occasionaly with the most random facts ever. For example, we were talking about the years we were born, and he randonly pipes up with some fact about which monkey had the most vertebrae in it's tail it was strange.. but gave us all something to laugh about I guess? The four of them bought crazy drinking "hats" or touque, as I informed them! They didn't even know what a touque was, it was funny actually we kept getting words all mixed up we all have such different words for things! Another one was when I asked Jackie if I could use her flat iron to straighten my bangs, they all didn't know what I was talking about! They call if fringe lol, there was a lot of those moments throughout the night.
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We decided to head out, and on the streets at night are these people, I called them sign people or flaggers lol, they hold up signs to their bar or club, they hand out stickers for free shots or free entry or whatever, and they stamp you. We were "flagged"over by this one girl from Coyotes, who actually walked us to the bar, gave us free shots, and then went back to her spot. It's so weird but good advertising I guess! And it makes for a lot of extra employees like there were 5 girls from Coyotes alone all along the way to the bar. Anyways we had our free shot, and the boys kept buying more shots throughout the night, and lets just say we all got a little bit messy! We were doing aftershocks, which I've never heard of, but they totally live up to their name! You think you're ok, and then you get the aftershock it was crazy! But I had an awesome night with some awesome people!
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Today I head up to Belfast for 4 nights. The guys from the north were giving me all these ideas of what to do up there so I have lots to do potentially. And some good news is I'm getting a free ride up there! There was a group of 17 guys staying around Galway who are here for a stag party, and they said I could tag along because there's room on the bus! So I thought that was pretty sweet. 5 hour bus ride (at least) with a group full of young, crazy Irishmen... we'll see! Hope everyone at home is doing well and good.. miss you all!

Posted by kvandervegan 03:33 Archived in Ireland Tagged backpacking Comments (6)

Cathedrals and Pub Crawls and the Cliffs of Moher

rain 10 °C

Galway is sooo cute! Such a pretty, well made-up town. I'm staying at Barnacles Quay which is right in the middle of everything it's perfect. A little noisy, but awesome! I got into town yesterday at around 2:30, so by the time I got in and settled the day was almost over. I still managed to get out of my hostel and out to sightsee, despite everyone else wanting me to watch Wedding Crashers with them. Ok, if I wanted to watch an american movie at 3 in the afternoon in IRELAND I would have to be either dying or suuuuper sick or something like that. Like I came here to watch movies! Haha anyways, I guess I'm just on a different kind of trip than they are! Met a couple of really nice people right away at my Hostel: Katie from New York (who actually turned out to be a nut case lol), Harrison from California, and Marika from Alberta. But they were watching a movie so I headed out!
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I walked down a pretty little boardwalk by the water and saw lots of guys fly fishing off the railing. I popped into St. Nicholas's Cathedral and it was nice and big and pretty, and some girls were signing what I'm assuming were gospel songs. They were so loud and, for lack of a better word, gospely? The accoustics were awesome, and there was some pretty stained glass, but I just wasn't feeling the church vibe. I mean, they were charging you money to light a candle,which is just a bit silly. But that's as far as I'll go with that one! Very cool, my first time in a cathedral over here so it was good.
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I then walked through Eyre square and popped into some of the shops along there. The mall here is part of a really old building that they sort of threw a roof on and called a mall it's cool. I went into Dunnes and got some food that will hopefully last me the next three days, and then walked back to my hostel.

Last night was the last night of this Backpacker Pub Crawl that they're introducing to Galway. It's all over Europe, but it's the first time being in Galway so it was 5 euro to go, and you go to 4 pubs and 1 club at the end, and you get shots at each bar, the first being whiskey! Totally had to take a picture as I haven't had whiskey in almost 6 years after the incident that I'm sure most of you know about! I only had to buy two drinks because we were doing shots, which I only did two because I didn't want to be hung over for the Cliffs today, but I still had an awesome time!
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We had a really nice kiwi tour guide who's on a year long world trip himself, got a little working bug in Ireland and decided to try out the pub crawl thing for a week. Next he's going to the Middle East, so I wished him luck with that! Met TONS of people on the pub crawl: Two really nice guys from Belgium, two girls from Victoria, Jenn and Kirsty, Andy, a really cool girl from Montreal, Alberta, and two guys and a girl from London, Ontario. Lots of Canadians! Also met a guy named Bob from New Jersey, and a guy from California named Patrick as well. We got a couple of group photos.
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Got a really good sleep even though I banged my head like four times during the night because I'm THAT close to the ceiling! Haha feeling ok this morning though :) Headed off to the Cliffs of Moher bus tour today with Jenn and Kirsty, both from Victoria so we already had a lot in common. The bus ride out was about 2 hours, our tour guide was ok, tried a little too hard to be funny, but definitly full of information. He's just been doing tours too long I think! On the way to our first stop we saw a bunch of old ruined castles and churches. The people who own the castles today don't want to renevate them because as soon as they start to do that they have to pay taxes on them! Also we saw a bunch of churches without roofs because when Cromwell came in and invaded Ireland he didn't have a religion so he didn't want Ireland to have one either. He would take over these churches, murder the priests and monks, and burn the roofs off of them. How cruel!
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Our first stop was the Ailwee caves in the Burren of Ireland. The caves were discovered when an old man chased his dog into a hole when the dog was chasing a rabbit. He ended up going 200 m into the mountains and discovering all these caves. He didn't tell anyone for almost 30 years! He finally did and then they made it into a tour. It was pretty neat. The straw things coming down from the ceiling are formed from the calcium in the water, and develop 1 cm every 50 years! Some of them were over 1000 years old! It was a short, but good tour.
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All over the Burren were these really short walls built by hand in the 1800's during the potato famine. Men would get 1 penny for every metre of wall they built, all by hand, and with only stones - nothing to hold them together. There must have been miles and miles and miles of these walls it was a really desperate time.
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Next we went on to the Cliffs of Moher. They were beautiful! Not much to say other than that they are Irelands number one tourist attraction, with over 2 million visitors every year, and I can see why! It was a rainy, misty, foggy day but it was still beautiful. Got lots of pictures!
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There was a really big gift shop too where I heard the jewelry was cheaper than the other places in Galway and they were right! It took me like a half an hour to decide if I should get this necklace that I really, really liked and I finally did (thanks to advice of Jenn and Kirsty who helped me talk myself into it lol..) and I'm glad I did I love it!
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On the way back we passed a few more things, one of which were these sheets of limestone that were cracked after the ice age 12,000 years ago! They only let tourists here 2 months out of the year because they want to preserve the sight.
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Going out for some live music tonight I think. Galway has been really great so far, and I'm sure it will continue to be!

Posted by kvandervegan 01:04 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

Kilkenny & Cork

semi-overcast 14 °C

The bus ride to Kilkenny from Dublin was about 2 hours, and the countryside was ok. Lots of white and black sheep and tons of cows, but nothing too dissimilar from Canada. Besides all the sheep I guess. I got to Kilkenny and found my hostel and couldn’t get in because you either needed a code or needed the reception guy to actually be doing his job! Luckily in about 5 minutes a couple who was staying there was goin in and let me follow. The reception guy was out and a cleaning lady told me I could leave my bag in the hallway (RIGHT) so I hung out with my stuff for almost an hour waiting to check in. It was all good though, I didn’t mind too much.

Once I got out I wandered around Kilkenny, up and down the quaint little streets and side alleys and all the cute shops. Really neat little town.
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I got some wedges and half a cucumber and made my way up to the Kilkenny Castle grounds hoping to find some grass to sit on and eat my lunch. Did I ever find grass!
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The grounds were way bigger than I thought they would be, and the back side of the castle looked really pretty against a sunny, Irish day. I finished my lunch and was about to walk the rest of the grounds when a few clouds came in, no big deal right? Well by the time I made it over to the garbage can it was downpouring, no kidding, within a matter of minutes! It's unreal how fast the weather changes here! When it rains, it rains. It was coming down in criss-crosses, it was crazy! So everyone found cover for 10 minutes, and I had my trusty rain coat with me (always!) and walked around to the front of the castle to take more pictures.
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Very pretty grounds. Next I went to the Kilkenny Design Center hoping to find some jewelry and crafts and such, but it was all very pretentious and super pricy and very limited stuff, so I got out of there pretty quick. Definitely felt like I was being judged wearing my little backpack in such a nice place! So I continued to wander around, found the St. Francis Abbey brewery but I couldn’t find the entrance and I was getting really frustrated so I just found some dinner and went back to my hostel! Earlier when I was walking around I noticed a sign at the Paris Texas pub saying “Live every Tuesday night, The Kilkenny’s!” so I figured I would give that a go and check out some live music. I met up with Matt, a guy I met earlier that day at the hostel also traveling solo from Alberta. Close enough to home for me! Haha. Anyways he was down for some live music, so we went out around 8 and it didn’t start till around 10, so we got some pub food and drinks around the corner from where the music was, and had a nice chat.
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We got to the bar around 10 and it was starting to fill up, and then the band came out. The Kilkenny’s are four very attractive young guys from Kilkenny (obviously lol), two of them are brothers, and they play their own music, plus do covers of pretty much anything else. We could request songs even throughout the night. THEY WERE AWESOME; I haven’t tried you tubing them yet but I bet they’re on there and it’s so worth it they were so entertaining, so funny amongst themselves too always making jokes that I didn’t understand half the time but it was awesome. They started out with the song from P.S. I Love You that the guy sings to the girl in that bar sort of at the beginning it actually made my heart flutter! Haha how lame but I’m so not kidding. Matt had never seen the movie but I totally explained it to him lol. He probably thought I was the biggest dork! But he did thank me for inviting him out halfway through because he never would have known about the band and they were SO GOOD. They also played a cover of The Dubliner’s “7 Drunken Nights” or something it was awesome, and a few other songs that I’d definitely heard before. I had an awesome night, Kennedy you would have died!
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Before I left no one was checked into my 4-bed room yet, so I thought I had it all to myself, but when I got back at 12:30 there were 3 people sound asleep in bed, and I went to use the washroom and the lid was up, and I turned back into the room and sure enough there were 3 boys in there! I don’t know why that surprised me so much but I guess after a 20-bed all girl dorm you don’t expect to be sleeping with 3 guys, all of which I’d never met! I never did get to meet them either because I left by 6:30 the next morning for Cork.

Got to Cork after a 3 hour bus ride that I almost slept through, and was definitely under whelmed by the city. I don’t know if I totally missed something, but it really wasn’t that interesting to me! There was an old city gaol (jail) I could have gone to, but I’d seen the one in Dublin and didn’t feel like paying for it. Also, I would have gone to a really huge and grand-looking cathedral if a crazy, random old shop owner wasn’t following me around for 20 minutes! Don’t worry parents, it’s ok but I definitely wasn’t about to walk back his way to go see it!
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So I basically just walked around, bought an inexpensive but pretty celtic ring, and found an internet café to check up with my mom because the Cork International hostel doesn’t wave wifi (booooooo). ALSO I found this AMAZING vegetarian restaurant, selling tons of vegan stuff, including cakes and pies, mmm I was in heaven! And then below it was a veggie/health store that was the most amazing thing I’ve seen in my vegan life! Tons of vegan stuff from home-made cookies and bread and cakes to tons of flavours of vegan pot-pies (including creamy mushroom, which I read the ingredients to like 5 times because I was SURE I couldn’t have it but I totally could of!) and vegan tortellini and other FRESH pastas (this never happens!) to every kind of vegan smoked tofu you can imagine, and tons and tons of different veggie meats and sausages, my tongue was actually on the floor the variety was unreal. I could have made awesome things out of everything there, but I settled on a tofu and herb stuffed tri-colour tortellini with a creamy sundried tomato sauce made with soymilk. I made it for dinner and was in veggie heaven! Mom you would have died; omnivores you probably don’t understand but it was sooo cool!
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It’s 8 pm now and I’m probably just gonna read, write, organize, and head off to bed! Off to Galway tomorrow.

UPDATE on that last one: If you youtube The KilKenny's they're on there and they look pretty big.. no wonder they were so good!! Watch "Whiskey In The Jar" it's awesome lol.

Posted by kvandervegan 08:12 Archived in Ireland Tagged backpacking Comments (5)

I Heart Shopping and Irish Dancing

semi-overcast 16 °C

Sunday night a big group of us went to the Arlington Hotel to watch traditional Irish dancing. We walked through pouring rain to get there, but it was so worth it. There was a 4-piece band playing before and after the dancing, and they were really good, but the dancing was SOOO good everyone loved it and it really felt like I was IN Ireland.. which I am.. but you know. There were two girls and one guy dancer and they were very good. They did probably 5 dances, 1 without music it was awesome! I had a Bulmers cider that tasted like strongbow, and at 5.70 euro it better have tasted that good!
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Yesterday I slept in. Hey, I'm on holidays, right?! And then proceeded to go shopping down Henry Street, instead of making the daytrick to Wicklow, and it was amazing. I honestly could have bought the whole strip it was so fun. Even though I went by myself, I had a great time haha. I definitely didn't bring enough clothes (Bruno, if you're reading this you're probably rolling your eyes!) but seriously I didn't I hardly brought anything to go out in at night and everyone dresses impeccably cute here so I had to do something about it! I ended up getting 4 new tops, a long cardigan, and 2 dresses for 39 euro! That's like $63 so I did pretty good I'd say; there were tons of sales on! I could have bought a LOT more but I figured a) I don't have room or muscle power to carry anything else and b) I'm definitely gonna want to do more shopping when I get to Edinbourgh and London so I better save my money and space for then! It took me a while to repack everything so it could fit but it's funny how much space a shopoholic can find in her pack for new clothes :)

Last night I met up with Kennedy and Jordan at the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 1192! It was really small and cramped but that all just added to the atmosphere. There was a band playing as well. Had a good time chatting to my new Canadian friends but head to head back early as it was a 20 minute walk back to my hostel and I didn't want to do it alone in the dark. Got a really pretty picture of a bridge over the River Liffey; it's actually one of the oldest cast iron bridges in Europe!
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I just landed in Kilkenny, met a really nice girl named Racheal from Clonmel on the bus who seemed to know a lot about the places I'm going to next, so we had a nice chat! She was just at a big music fest in Belgium and that made me quite jealous!

Off to find some lunch, talk soon!

Posted by kvandervegan 08:32 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (6)

...Still Raining!

rain 12 °C

So I finally met some english speaking friends last night.. a young pastor and his wife, Sean and Michelle, from texas and a group of 5 med students from Minnesota. It felt great to finally talk to people!! They said I shouldn't have a problem meeting people elsewhere and that it was really strange that no one spoke English in my hostel the first night. So I got that out of the way!

The 8 of us went out to O'Sheas just down the street, where there was live music and plenty of locals. The music was awesome, and I was VERY temted to bust out a jig, but sadly didn't! I had actually heard some of the songs before so it was cool. There was a group of older couples trying to dance it was really cute. We all drank Guinness (of course!! When in Rome...) and ended up talking to a very drunk, wealthy old man named Shamus who was actually handing us 50 euro bills so we could buy rounds. We felt bad taking his money though and gave it back!
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Today I woke up, and had a quick breakfast. The free breakfasts aren't great, its like toast, coffee and juice, but nothing for me to put on my toast (choices are chocolate or butter) so I usually just have juice. I went on a free walking tour today with Michelle and Sean and it was really, really good. It was 4 hours long, very cute Irish tourguide, and he was super knowledgeable about everything Ireland and Dublin have gone through since way back. He took us to places I never would have found which was cool. I met a brother and sister, Jordan and Kennedy, from Ontario who were travelling together and they were really nice. They were at the very end of their 3-month tour of Europe. I couldn't believe they were brother and sister.. I don't know if I could handle travelling with my brother!! Sorry Pynn.. Anyways really informative, funny tour. And they're all over Europe so I'll probably hit them in every city they're offered.
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After that Jordan, Michelle and I went to the National History Museum of Artifacts. It was free, but lets just say I'd rather be doing other things! I guess I'm not a big fan of walking through a museum, looking at old bowls and knives and necklaces. It's cool for sure, and some of the artifacts went back to 2500 BCE, which really is just unimaginable, but I definitely won't be doing a lot of history museums. I'd rather go on tours and learn that way! After that I slowly made my way back to the hostel.
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I've been eating Indian food for 2 days straight now because that was the only store I could find that looked like a grocery store. All the grocery stores here have weird names and don't look like grocery stores from the outside.. but I've finally figured it out lol. I picked up a few things today. So far I've been eating super simple because everything pre-made has milk in it. Today I got some carrots and tomatoes and hummous and a bun so that should do me for tomorrow. So far I've been way under my food budget so that's good. It's weird taking time out of your day to shop for food like.. everyday! But I'll get used to it I'm sure!

Tonight we're going to a bar downtown with Irish dancing so I'm really excited for that. We invited Michelle and Jordan to come too so there will be a big group of us. I think tomorrow I'll take a day trip to Wicklow and Glendalough (where P.S. I Love You was filmed) and see some more of the country. 3 days was definitely enough for Dublin, but it was really fun!

Posted by kvandervegan 09:07 Archived in Ireland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (3)

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