Saturday, September 5, 2015

Day Out in Dublin: The National Leprechaun Museum

For many of us, one of the first things we think of when we think "Ireland" (aside from stone fences and sheep and Guinness) is leprechauns. Such a part of Irish history and folklore they are that there is an entire museum dedicated to these mischievous little fellows in Dublin. 

While I admit that the entire place is a bit of a tourist trap-it's not so much a museum but a storytelling experience--I still learned a great deal about "the little green men" including the fact that they don't wear green! 

So here are a few Leprechaun Myths debunked, and what I learned along the way. 

Leprechaun Myth #1: They Wear Green

Contrary to popular belief, leprechauns do not always wear green. In an agreement between the humans and the more fairy folk of Ireland, the humans were granted Ireland from the ground up, and the likes of the leprechauns, faeries etc. were granted Ireland from the ground down. Due to this, it is extremely hard to keep green clothes clean when living underground. Therefore, the leprechauns wear brown.

The Irish blame the myth that the leprechaun wears green on one man: Walt Disney. Disney visited Ireland in the 1950's and was so enchanted with the Emerald Isle that he made the film Darby O'Gill and the Little People. 

In the film, many of the leprechauns wear the traditional brown, however, one (the king) wears green. Since this character predominated the film, "the idea stuck in people's heads that the leprechauns wear green," said my tour guide. 

Thus, Disney generated the fashion choices for leprechauns ever since. But don't be fooled, you try to live underground and keep a green suit clean!

Leprechaun Myth #2: There are no Female Leprechauns

Think about it. Do you remember any stories featuring female leprechauns?  Not really? 

Well, it's not because there aren't any (as I'd been told--my knowledge of the practicalities of reproduction notwithstanding) it's because, like typical Irish mothers, they are kept so busy in the home they have no time for any outings or shenanigans. 

Leprechaun Myth #3: Leprechauns are Only a Bit Smaller Than Humans

Me, after being shrunk to leprechaun size
In actuality, leprechauns are quite small, even the most ordinary chair takes a great effort to climb. During a visit to the Leprechaun Museum, you'll be shrunk to leprechaun size and get to see for yourself just how small the leprechauns really are. 

This part of the tour was a bit silly. However, it offers a great photo opportunity, how often do you get to pose on a giant chair? 

If you're into folklore, I would recommend the tour. Like I said before, it's more a storytelling tour than an actual museum, but you get to hear some great stories. My favorite is how Giant's Causeway was made (it's not from volcanic lava and water!). 


The elusive pot of gold

Thanks for reading! Don't forget you can find more photos of my adventures on Instagram at www.instagram.com/calleyabroad/ and on Twitter @calleysofalley

Until Next Time!

Cheers!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"God Himself Could Not Sink This Ship!" Return to Belfast: Day No. 2,


Hello everyone! So, in Part I of this post you followed me along to St. George's Market, took a tour of Belfast City Hall, and accompanied me on a famous Black Cab Taxi Tour of the murals and sights of the city. 

As exciting as all that was, I was super excited for Day 2 of my trip. I had several things planned out for the day, and they all revolved around the tragic ship, RMS Titanic: Taking a Titanic Discovery Tour, viewing the Robots exhibition at Titanic Belfast, and going aboard the SS Nomadic. 

For those of you who don't know, I'm a huge Titanic fan. I even spent a whole summer reading about nothing but the doomed ocean liner. I learned a lot, not only about the ship, but about the time and the ideas circulating at that time, the gaps between the wealthy and the poor and the class divides, many of which would fall after World War I. 

I spent the night in the International Youth Hostel in Belfast, and I have to say that I would highly recommend it to anyone staying in the city. It was clean and quiet and the staff was incredibly friendly and always up for the craic. And I can't say enough about the Causeway Cafe, located on the ground floor of IYH. They serve up a ton of options for breakfast and lunch. I wish I had gotten the Belgian waffles because they looked spectacular. However my breakfast was still good too, as I was served up toast and croissants, a bowl of cereal (Oh! How I've missed Cheerios!) plus tea and orange juice. 

So, after charging my phone and finishing breakfast, I took a cab to Belfast's historic Titanic Quarter, named of course after the ship who received its life's breath from the sweat, blood and tears of the city's workmen.

As soon as I set eyes on that spectacular museum rising distinctively out of the landscape and the giant yellow Harland and Wolff cranes, I knew I was indeed home. The museum's architecture (to me) combines the prowess of the ship itself (it is actually the same height as Titanic) and the menace of the iceberg that proved to be its undoing. 

First up on my itinerary was a Titanic Discovery Tour, a must in my book. I'd advise booking your tickets online, that way you're guaranteed a spot. This tour points out some of the more significant aspects of the Titanic Museum--little tributes you may not have noticed on a normal visit--and gives you access to some of the more restricted parts of the grounds.

The reason that I wanted to take the Discovery tour was because of one particular stop on the tour: The drawing offices of Harland and Wolff (the company that designed Titanic). It was here where young men, including Thomas Andrews, worked away on the White Star Line's latest pride and joys. Long tables covered in draft paper and rulers and pencils would have lined the vast interior. Natural sunlight would have poured in overhead from the large sun roof. 

Then and now. H & W Drawing offices c. 1911 and Today
Today, the drawing offices are empty, devoid of the life that they would have had only a hundred years earlier. Today, they are shabbily kept, with chipped paint and some boarded up windows. However, there is still a bit of magic left in these buildings. You can still feel the energy that would have circulated throughout the building. The hopes of so many, contained on a sheet of paper that would be transformed into iron just a few metres away. 

I was lucky to take the tour when I did, as my tour guide pointed out that this was one of the last tours that would have access to the drawing offices. The green light had recently been given to turn them into a hotel, just another addition to the rejuvenation of not only the Titanic Quarter, but also Belfast itself.

Next, after my tour concluded, I went back into the museum to view the special "Robots" exhibit. Titanic Belfast plays host to several exhibits and conventions throughout the year (in fact, there was a tattoo convention going on on the fifth floor the day I visited). The advertisement for the exhibit boasted that C-3PO and R2-D2 would be there, so of course I had to go!

There were many other robots there I didn't know (I'm not a huge sci-fi person), but I was not disappointed with R2-D2 and C-3PO. There they stood, C-3PO with that semi-panicked look on this face and R2 ever calm. They were definitely the biggest attraction there and I had to wait a good long time before getting to take my selfies!

And finally, it was time to go aboard the SS Nomadic, the last surviving White Star ship and the ship that brought (among others) John Jacob Astor and the unsinkable Molly Brown aboard the Titanic at Cherbourg. The tour is cheap (a mere 6 pounds/10 euro gets you all access to the ship, including a guided tour). 

When you board Nomadic, you're entering the same way J.J. Astor and Molly Brown would have--into the opulent first class area, complete with intricate wood work carvings, plush red cushioned chairs and a full bar. Additionally, I was told to tour the toilets before the tour and I'm glad I did, as they were magnificent. Fully restored with the elegant bowls and fittings from Crapper (so when you hear someone say "It's going down the Crapper" that really was a real name for a toilet, not just some slang!).

It was aboard Nomadic where passengers would have sat for the roughly 40 minute journey from land to liner. You can sit on the benches or gaze out the portholes or lean against the bar as (the tour guide said) J.J. Astor would have done "and ordered himself a Tom Collins."

However, Nomadic was not just for first class passengers. It was intended for first and second class use. However, on that fateful voyage in 1912, it also delivered third class passengers aboard Titanic.  Classes were markedly divided, with gates and railings used to keep the classes separate. 

Nomadic certainly echoes it's bigger sister ship, Titanic, and several times I felt as if I was aboard the doomed ocean liner itself, or alternatively, in the iconic film. While down in the crews quarters I could imagine the ship filling with water and Rose running with her axe in an effort to save Jack. 

You can also stroll aboard as well, touring the various decks. You can even have your own "King of the World!" moment on the bow of the ship, if you please. While on deck you can just imagine how exciting it would have been to be ferried across the way on this little ship to a larger ocean liner that would take you across the ocean (hopefully).

Additionally, Nomadic has a rather storied history itself, having been kept in use after the sinking of Titanic. It played an integral part in the World Wars, ferrying soldiers. At one point it was even sold and used as a casino! But now, restored to its White Star Line glory, it's ready for many more years at home in Titanic Belfast.

After that, I met my new friend Michelle for lunch (Pizza Hut), and then it was (sadly) time to head home. I had such an amazing time in Belfast. I learned so much about the city, and about Titanic, and I got to meet one of the best ladies in the entire world.

It is trips like that you really realize that everything really does happen for a reason and sometimes, not being totally in control is a good thing. I can't wait to go back to Belfast and explore more and visit Michelle, I feel like Taylor Swift with all these amazing and wonderful women in my life...now if only I could find a Calvin Harris! Haha!

Until next time! Remember that you can keep up with my day-to-day adventures on Instagram at calleyabroad and on Twitter @calleysofalley !

Cheers! 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

"Many the Hour of Sweet Happiness" Return to Belfast: Day No. 1

Signing my name to the Peace Wall
When I'd left Belfast the first time in 2012, I vowed that I couldn't live my whole life without returning However, I didn't foresee the path my life would take that would lead me back to Belfast so soon.

As I sat waiting on the train at Connolly in Dublin, I was excited to be going back to the city I'd fallen in love with 3 years earlier. However, I was anxious as well. I've been through a lot in my life since my last visit. I was worried that I had changed so much that I'd no longer feel the same love and kinship with the city.

As soon as I stepped off the train though, all my fears disappeared. Belfast is still  my city. I still felt at home while walking its streets and still felt alive by the bracing sea air. I spent only two days in Belfast and more happened in those two days than about a month in Dublin. Since that's the case, I could never condense it all into one post. so here is my fires installment of my two part series. I hope you enjoy and this inspires you to visit!

Day 1

I'd probably planned my trip to Belfast more thoroughly than any other I'd taken. There were so many places and things I wanted to see and do that I didn't get to do the first time--chief among them visiting St. George's Market and Belfast City Hall. 


St. George's Market (only a few minutes walk from Belfast Central Station) is a giant indoor market. You can get almost anything you want there--from handmade and unique jewelry to arts and crafts to bright silvery scaly fish and terracotta crabs. 

I can only imagine what my cousins would have thought of the spectacle. I had to laugh as I thought what their reaction would be walking past a crate of slippery, slimy eels. 

As I walked in, I happened upon a jewelry stand, fitted out with all sorts of rings, bracelets and earrings. Almost immediately I happened upon a bracelet, a simple black patent leather braided cord with a simple charm--an anchor. How fitting is that? 

After St. George's, I walked to Belfast City Hall, the place I most vividly remembered from my first visit to Belfast. City Hall rises majestically from the middle of Donegal Square. Topped with a copper dome, Belfast City Hall could itself be a palace or a cathedral. 


You can take a FREE tour of City Hall at designated times throughout the day (even on a Saturday). The building is full of history, it was the host to parties for kings and queens (King George V and Queen Mary among them), and played a pivotal part in fight for home rule in Ireland. 

Inside, it's a brilliant display of stained glass windows and plush carpets. You can even sit in the Lord Mayor's chair (I did). There's even something very special in the largest room in City Hall--a sideboard that was supposed to be installed on board the Titanic in Captain Smith's quarters, but it's delivery was delayed and it was spared. This gives you an idea of the kind of glamour that was lost in the tragic sinking of the ship. 

Now filled with the history of the city I wanted to take a famous taxi cab tour of West Belfast, the areas that are cordoned off according to your religious lines. Catholics on one side, with Irish flags waving sparingly, and the Protestants, with the Union Jacks plastered upon anything that would stand.


However, before I set off for one of these tours, I needed some sustenance. So I decided to get lunch (fish and chips, of course) at one of Belfast's oldest establishments, the Crown Liquor Saloon. 

The Crown dates back to 1826, and is spectacular inside and out. Fitted out with individual "snugs" for a private dining and drinking experience, and spectacular architecture.  Since the downstairs bar area was rather crowded, I went upstairs to the dining saloon to have my tea first and then my fish and chips. I had a romantic table in the corner, where I could watch the traffic in front of the Europa hotel, which was one of the the most bombed buildings during The Troubles. 

After filling up, it was time for one of the famous taxi tours of the city. I has taken one before in 2012, however, that was before I read Caroline Oceana Ryan's "Adventures In Belfast" (you can read my review of it here). Now that I had such an intimate portrait of the city in my head, I wanted to see it again with new eyes.  The Falls Road and Shankill Road are the main thoroughfares in the city, controlled by the Republicans and the Loyalists, respectively. Each one is decorated with colorful murals, dedicated to the various martyrs and causes close to the heart of each side. 


The murals really are spectacular, colorful and touching, yet menacing at the same time. Seeing gunmen painted on the sides of walls with smiles on their faces--that part was the most shocking. Having your cab driver (mine was spectacular) point out places where, just 30 years ago, people were gunned down in the streets, was eerie. It was an uneasy yet necessary part of knowing Belfast. 

You can even sign the Peace Wall, one of the walls separating the Republican/Catholic and Loyalist/Protestant sides. Bill Clinton did it in 1995, and I did it, too!

My tour cost around thirty pounds, and it was worth every cent. I definitely recommend taking a tour when you're in Belfast, it gives you a much better idea and appreciation for the city. 

So, after my cab ride, I was too close to my hostel to head back to the city centre, so I wandered into a Starbucks (not my most international experience) to have coffee and charge my phone. While there I met the most wonderful girl, Michelle. We instantly hit it off because she wants to move to America, and I of course want to live in Belfast! It was one of those experiences where you feel you've met someone at the exact right time in both your lives. We must have sat in that Starbucks for 3 hours talking about everything, and now we're like best friends! She's even coming to visit me in Dublin in a few weeks!

That brings me to an end of Day 1 of my visit to Belfast! Stay tuned for Part 2!!!

Don't forget to check me out on Facebook at www. facebook.com/withoutanchor; on Twitter @calleysofalley ; on Instagram under calleyabroad ; and on Kiss From the World!


Then and Now: Me in front of Belfast City Hall in 2012 and 2015

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Being An Expat: The Highs and Lows

As I sit here writing this, I can't help thinking about what's going on at home right now. It's July 4th, 2015. My family has gathered together to watch the annual parade in my hometown. My mom will have bought ice cream bars. She will have gotten out the red tablecloth, which has each one of our names delicately embroidered into it. Every time someone new comes to the house to watch the parade, they're asked to sign the tablecloth and by the next July 4th, their signature stands out, embroidered by my mom. The candy will have been thrown, the political campaigners will have shaken people's hands. My grandpa will have found some business or politician to give him a hat. I know the scenes by heart, however, I'm not there. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm very happy with my life here as an expat in Dublin. And I don't for a second regret my choice to come here. That being said, being an expat isn't all fun and games--sometimes it's effing challenging. But nearly every disadvantage has it's advantages as well. Here are just a few that I've come across in my (nearly) four months of being an expat.

#1: You're A Foreigner
Downside: You're foreign--which means you have none of the built in perks that comes with being a citizen of your chosen expatriate country. And so, because of this, you inevitably have to deal with the red tape that comes along with it. I spent a total of 7.5 hours at the GNIB just to get my work authorization component to my visa. Then there's the rigmarole of getting a PPS number (like a social security number in the U.S.). Then there's a tax certificate. And you must have all 3 before you can open a bank account--as one leads to another. 

Then there's the steep learning curve when you arrive. What bus do you take? What the f***is a 3-in-1? What's a kip? For me, they may speak English in Ireland, but learning the slang is like learning another language. 

Upside: You're foreign. Which means you're exotic. People want to know where you came from. They want  to know what it's like in America. You get questions like "Is Wal-Mart really like everyone says?" (Answer: Yes). You're automatically interesting because you come from somewhere else [that many people have never been]. You've instantly got something to chat about with that cute guy at the pub or that nice lady on the bus. 

Another upside is that you can play the "dumb foreigner." You tip a waiter or waitress too much? "I didn't know we weren't supposed to tip, I'm American." "What's that officer, you can't park on the side of the road that has the double yellow line? Oh, I'm American, sorry." You get cut some more slack than you would have had you been born and raised in your chosen country. 

#2: You're Away From Your Family And Friends
Skyping with one of my best friends
Downside: You're away from your family--at holidays, at tough times. Despite the wonders of the internet and the miracles that are Skype, Viber, and WhatsApp, these just don't replace a face-to-face in-person conversation. Some things, like hugs, just can't be transferred via electronic communication.

Further, you're most likely in a different time zone. The majority of times, if my friends are going to have a crisis, it's going to be in the evening--which is the middle of the night for me 3,000 miles away. So when my best friend needs to call me to rant about her jerk of a boyfriend dissing her and she needs to cry--I'm asleep and may not hear the phone ring. And vice versa--If I'm having a crisis, it's probably the middle of the day where they are. Everyone is at work--and unavailable to talk. It can make for very lonely periods. 

Upside: You're away from your family--so you miss out on the majority of the drama. When you're at home, not one thing goes without you hearing about it. But being 3,000 miles away, you tend to only hear about the BIG stuff--your friends and family tend to let the little things go. And you can offer somewhat more impartial advice since you're removed from the situation--literally. 

#3: You're No Longer A "Tourist"
Downside: You're no longer a tourist--so some things may lose their shine. The first time I came to Ireland, I made it a mission to visit the General Post Office (GPO), which was the center of the pivotal Easter Rising of 1916 (for more info on that, check out my post on the Easter Rising 99th Anniversary celebration). I wanted to feel the bulled holes that scarred the pillars. Now, I walk under the shade of the GPO every day on the way to work. I hardly ever think about the history behind this place. And that's sad. These famous landmarks have just become the background of my everyday life. The Ha' Penny Bridge becomes that thing you cross to get to Super Valu before it closes. The Spire becomes the best place to cross O'Connell Street. You suddenly become just another Dubliner in some tourist's photo. 

Upside: You're no longer a tourist--you're a local. You become the person people stop and ask for directions. You start to know where the 747 bus stops, and the 16, and the 38A, and the 123. You're able to direct tourists to Jervis Street, and Parnell Street, and St. Stephen's Green. You no longer feel lost because you know your way around. This strange and big city becomes your home and you become a Dubliner in some tourist's photo. You're no longer just another tourist--you're home. And when you realize that, when your new city becomes as familiar as your old town, then you know you've changed, and changed for the better. 


The GPO, now part of my every day routine


Well, that's all from me for now. In case you missed my announcement on Facebook earlier this week, I'm now blogging for Kiss From the World, an online travel and people magazine! So you can also catch up on my blog there, under Calley Mize. I'll be periodically posting on there as well, maybe re-editing and adding to some previous posts, so be sure to check it out!

Cheers! And thanks for reading!

Calley

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Down By The Sea! Day Trip to Howth

I needed to return to the sea. Long-time readers of this blog will no doubt remember a post I did awhile ago about names in the sand and my love of the water. 

I've been in Ireland almost four months now and, while I love the hustle and bustle of Dublin and my job, I've found both of these to be taxing on both my spirit and my mind. I knew instinctively that there was one place and only one place that could give me the strength and serenity I craved--the sea. 

And so with this in mind I boarded the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) and began my 20 minute journey (yes, only 20 minutes!) to Howth. This charming little fishing village is a gem on the Irish east coast. There is no end of fancy restaurants, fish and chip shops, and golf and outdoor gear shops to keep you occupied. But, I had only one intention--to get to the sea and as quickly as possible. 

As soon as I felt that light sea breeze on my face and heard the crashing of the waves, all my present troubles went away. Every wave that crashed upon the rocks carried away some small worry or anxiety I had. 

At first I picked a spot on one of the wharves, letting my feet dangle over some of the rocky outcroppings. There the sea is deep and untamed and sailboats and fishing boats go by with the regularity of a ticking clock. Even though tourists of all shapes and nationalities surrounded me I could pay them no mind. It's always been like that for me and the sea. No one and nothing can get in between the peace that the sea brings to me. I had such a lovely view of this gorgeous peninsula. You really just have to sit back in awe of the beauty that you are privileged with seeing while you're here. 

Little by little I could feel, not just my spirit, but my soul as well, being renewed with every wave and every breeze. 

The rocky beach, taken from my rock
After a while sitting on the wharf I decided to venture further out, to some of the more rocky beaches where the water was shallower and occupied by fewer people. I found a large rock near the water and could sit on it alone and let my cares drift away. At one stage the waves became stronger and my rock became an island, soaking my shoes and handbag. I had brought along Maeve Binchy's Light A Penny Candle and some of the pages got wet in the adventure. It made me smile because it reminded me that at one point I thought these were the kind of adventures only had in books, and look at me now. Further, I can always point to my copy of the book and say "Look there, see that book? That's the one I took to Howth with me and got all wet!"



Delicious min-buns
After the waves took over my rock, I decided to explore the market. If you go to Howth on a Saturday or Sunday, you should check out the market, where no end of fare is showcased. There is jewelry peddled by travelers, fine bone carvings, waffles and fish and chips and ice cream, and my favorite--mini-buns. These tiny little things, a variation on cupcakes, are much wetter that a traditional cupcake, so much that you can eat one with a spoon. Mine was topped with whipped vanilla pudding frosting and a chocolate flake. 

Also, what is a trip to the sea without some traditional fish and chips?  If you're going to get fish and chips in Howth, you'd be a fool not to stop at Beschoff Bros. Not only was the service lightning fast (this seriously puts Jimmy John's to shame), it was DELICIOUS. I had the North Atlantic Fresh Cod Meal and it was to die for. The chips were cooked just right (not too crispy, not too soft) and the fish was as light and flaky as anything you could hope for. Served with a lemon wedge and some ketchup, it was heaven.  Take a takeaway container from Beschoff Bros. and find yourself a seat by the sea, you can't go wrong. 

My fish and chips meal by Beschoff Bros.


The Church of the Assupmtion
After eating I walked up the hill to Howth's Church of Assumption to say a quick prayer and light a candle for my great-grandfather. The 10th anniversary of his death is coming up this July and I wanted to make sure I marked it in some small way, and also to thank him, because I know he watches over me and would be so proud to share in this journey with me. 

I was blessed with good weather on this mini-holiday. Just as I was hopping on the DART for home it started to rain and I felt like I couldn't have gotten luckier. 

Every time I come to the sea, I am a different person. I was a naive and overwhelmed first year law student with a broken heart the first time I saw the west coast of Ireland. I was a happy and jubilant girlfriend when I etched my name in the Galveston sands. I was an unsure and worried person when I set foot in the Monterey, California waters. And now, I am a brave and adventurous woman, coming to Howth alone, to restore myself. 

There's a line in Gone With the Wind, where Rhett Butler tells Scarlett that the land of Tara is "the land from which you get your strength."  Truly, I feel that the sea is from where I get my strength, and I make it a point to never get as run down as I let myself get this time. I headed back on the DART renewed and full of strength, slightly sun burnt, but hopeful. 

If you're headed to Dublin in the near future, please don't miss out on Howth. It is truly a great place, and you never know, you may see me there!

Until Next Time, Cheers!

Calley

For more info on Beschoff Bros. check them out here . 







Sunday, May 31, 2015

Two Months & Counting in Ireland! My Top Fashion Must-Haves

On 17 May I celebrated my two-month anniversary in Dublin, Ireland.  All in all I'm having a wonderful time, and I'm so happy with the life that I've managed to create for myself here! Further, I've learned a lot. So, I thought I would take some time and share with you a few of the things I've learned (sometimes the hard way) about living in (or visiting) Ireland. First, I thought I would let you in on some fashion must-haves. 


What To Wear
Ireland is famous for having all four seasons in one day. As a door to door fundraiser for a children's charity I'm outside for at least 6-8 hours per day and I've seriously experienced a bright sunny day go to rain showers turn to hail stones turn to a scorching hot day and back again. All in about 2 hours. Here's a few pieces that I've found to be incredibly helpful when navigating the finicky Irish weather:

A Good, Sturdy, "Dublin" Jacket


Me in my "Dublin" jacket
with Queen Elsa from "Frozen"
You can't go wrong with one of these green denim numbers. Everyone wears them here. They are warm enough to protect you against that biting Irish wind, but light enough that you don't feel like you're lugging around another person on your back. I got the one pictured at Penney's for about 15 euro. I wear this thing every single day and it makes me look and feel like a true Dubliner.

A Cross-Body Bag

When navigating the crowded streets of Dublin, it's much easier and safer to have a cross-body bag than just a hand bag that you have to carry. Plus it leaves your hands free to take photos and carry all your shopping bags!

I got the cross-body bag shown in the picture at Penney's (again) for 1 euro! I've since had to buy a new one since I destroyed the zipper on my old one, but they are so handy to have!










Wellingtons

This one should go without saying. Wellingtons (or "wellies") are a must have here. Since it rains nearly every single day in Ireland, you're always going to be in need of them. And, since they are so needed around here, they come in every color and design you can think of. 


I definitely make a statement in mine (pictured). I picked them up at Dunne's Department Stores for 15 euro. To make them more comfortable while I'm working I bought some foam insoles to help cushion my feet. I also wear wool socks (another pretty good thing to have) while I wear them so my feet stay warm AND dry. 

I wouldn't suggest bringing your own wellies when you visit, as they're going to take up a lot of space in your suitcase. So, just pick up a pair when you get here, you'll definitely be able to find them. 

Other things that I've found handy to have include a wallet with a change compartment, jumpers/sweaters (lots of them), and tights of every different color.

But one of the most important fashion lesson I've learned is that it doesn't matter what you wear. Everyone has their own distinct style here in Dublin, and you can wear whatever you want, there's no such thing as being "out of style."

Apologies for taking so long to post, it's been a wild ride so far. Thanks for sticking with me and reading this! Love you guys and I'll do my damnedest to get some more posts to you soon!

Cheers!




Sunday, April 12, 2015

Dublin 2015: The Easter Rising 99th Anniversary Celebration

The GPO 
This past Monday was a big anniversary here in Dublin--it was the 99th Anniversary of the pivotal Easter Rising, which left the city in ruins but propelled the country toward independence. In celebration, O'Connell Street literally went back in time to 1915, the year before the rising and gave people like us a glimpse into life was like in Dublin in 1915 and what led to the Rising. 

Covered by one of Ireland's top television networks, RTE, and aptly named "Road To The Rising" this was one event that was not to be missed. As I said before, O'Connell Street, home of the General Post Office (or GPO), played host to numerous displays and exhibits, complete with actors in period costumes. 

I had so much fun at this event, it was so cool getting a chance to step back in time and really feel the atmosphere around that incredible time in Irish history. 

Among the displays were various models of cars from the era, along with motorcycles and steam engines. Spectators like myself were also treated to a protest march and even a c. 1915 wedding. 


The most moving thing to me were the memorial wreaths laid at base of the GPO in honor of those that were lost as part of the Rising and the Irish fight for independence.  It was such a beautiful and quiet tribute to all those that lost their lives fighting for some bigger dream. 

If you pass through Dublin, remember to stop by the GPO, where you can still touch the bullet holes from the Rising. You can literally put your hand on a piece of history, which is incredible to me.

So, take a few minutes and scroll through some of the pictures I took from that day, including the recipe for a Gur Cake (which, I have to add, was fantastic!).

Until next time! Cheers!

Or, as we say here in Dublin, Slainte!
c. 1915 Wedding outside the GPO
Gur Cake Recipe (5 stars!)






Actors in period costume inside the GPO


Stilts!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Ode to a Suitcase: Saying Goodbye to an old friend

Old Red aka Monster
In my last post, I mentioned that my suitcase lost a wheel coming down the stairs at Barnacle's Hostel. Well, due to this unfortunate circumstance, I have been forced to replace him--Monster/Old Red as I referred to him.

I know it seems silly to get sentimental over a suitcase, but he and I have had a special relationship. He accompanied me on my first ever solo journey to meet up with my then-boyfriend in Houston and see his hometown. It was just me and Monster, standing at the airport, anxiously awaiting my first solo flight, my first time navigating an airport all by myself, my first time going to a city I've never been to all alone. 

And, most recently, it accompanied me on probably the craziest journey I've ever taken--my year abroad in Ireland. In one tragic second there was a snap and then I saw what had happened, my suitcase had just lost a wheel...broken beyond repair. This resulted in me basically dragging my suitcase through the streets of Dublin as I moved between hostels, the poor guy's bottom half getting scraped up and starting to rip out the bottom. 

So, with great deliberation. I made the heart wrenching decision to say goodbye. I decided while I loved Monster, dragging my belongings behind me, ripping and scraping him against the cobblestones, wasn't a very practical way to travel.

I chose to replace him with a 45 euro pink 1.9 kg. hot pink suitcase from itLuggage from Penney's. All of my stuff fits comfortably, and this one has padded handles which I have to admit, is really nice. I haven't come up with a name for her yet (she's pink, it has to be a she, right?). Only time will tell if I spent my 45 euro wisely, but I look forward to all of the new adventures I'll have with her, and look back longingly at my adventures shared with Monster. 

I hate to leave him in this hostel, to be thrown out, but I think I would get in trouble if I tried to cremate him. Instead, I'll say goodbye here. 

Goodbye Monster, you've been with me on some of the best times of my life and I'll never forget you!

Love forever, 
Calley

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/withoutanchor or on Twitter @calleysofalley

Until next time! Cheers!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Week 1 In Dublin: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly Americans

My knight in shining armor! Dublin
Castle
Greetings! It's been such a long time since I posted anything, but I've been moving all around Dublin bouncing from hostel to hostel while I find somewhere permanent to live. 
As I muddle through my second week of being an expat, I thought I would update you on some of my experiences and let you know what I've been up to...plus share some pictures!

Week 1
So, I arrived on St. Patrick's Day, which may or may not have been the wisest choice since the buses were delayed/rerouted and the streets clogged with people. I honestly didn't have that great a day, lugging my suitcase to my first hostel (Abigail's Hostel on Aston, it's a great place by the way!) I passed out on the couch in the lounge while I was waiting to check in to my room...and slept through the parade! As in, the St. Patrick's Day Parade in Dublin. Out cold, I was. 

Anyway, after I came to, it's been all go-go-go. I'm getting used to some Irish/European things, like the euro, and I'm getting a better sense of direction (aided at times by Google Maps).  Also, I've been moving around hostels quite a bit (thanks to the apartment search not going as well as I'd like) so I'm getting to know the city, the landmarks, the good parts, the bad parts, etc. 

I've stayed at 3 hostels so far: Abigail's on Aston Quay (pronounce "Key"), Abraham's Hostel on Gardinier Street, and Barnacles in Temple Bar. All have been highly satisfactory, each one offering up your basic hostel amenities (free breakfast, OK beds, wi-fi). 

Abigail's is great because it had a wonderful lounge/common room/kitchen. The rooms were spacious and the location is great. There's a Super-Valu right next door, which is where I discovered my newest obsession: Bourbon Biscuits. Seriously. Google them. These little chocolate biscuits are addictive. 

My second hostel was Abraham's Hostel, which, situated in a less-classy neighborhood, is still a great place. I felt like this place was the real "hostel experience." Tucked into all floors of a renovated building, you wind your way throughout to get to your room and to the breakfast room, which can wind up being a fun adventure when you lose your way! It was in Abraham's where I met Jessica, a really fun girl from Oregon solo-backpacking through Europe and stopping in Ireland for a few days. She and I instantly hit it off and within a few hours we were off to Temple Bar to re-visit one of my favorite pubs!


Stephen James, live at The Old Storehouse
This brings me to Stephen James. If you go to Dublin, you need to go to the Old Storehouse on Crown Alley in Temple Bar and hear him play. He's great, and I don't say that about just anyone. I first heard him play at the Old Storehouse my first time in Dublin in 2012, my friends and I bought his CD and I've had it playing on my computer ever since. He's a unique artist, playing both Irish folk tunes ("Wild Rover", being my favorite) with his own unique cover of contemporary favorites (like "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran) and older classics ("Brown Eyed Girl" among others. 


Over the next few days, Jessica and I wandered around Dublin. We found ourselves at Dublin Castle, which is where I found my knight in shining armor (I named him Henry) and took some really great photos. 

To take a really intensive tour of Dublin Castle, you have to pay for admission, but even without admission you can wander around the courtyard and the gift shop, and don't forget to take your selfie with Henry!

Jessica and I also went on (part of) a walking tour of the city, which was really educational, giving us a good background into the history of the city and some bits of culture that might be missed otherwise. Our guide even gave a glimpse into what real Irish, or Gaelic, sounds like...and let me tell you, it is not phonetic!


Next, I took Jessica St. Stephen's Green. As you know per a previous post, this is my favorite place in all of Dublin. The first few days in Dublin were spent here, sitting on a bench, reading Maeve Binchy's "Scarlet Feather," which takes place in Dublin and mentions St. Stephens.  I'm not going to lie, my first few days in Dublin were rough, just getting settled in, but after I went to St. Stephen's Green, I started to believe that everything was truly going to be okay, and that everything would work out. And I think it had a similar effect on Jessica, who hadn't been a fan of Dublin when she arrived. A little stroll through St. Stephen's and everything is okay, that's the power of the place, and that's why I go so often. So, if you're in Dublin, you might see me sitting on a bench, I'll be reading a Maeve Binchy book. 



Sadly (for me, not for her) Jessica departed for Scotland and I moved to Barnacle's Hostel in Temple Bar, which, if you want a great location, you can't get better than right there. It is literally a 30 second walk to THE Temple Bar, and a minute walk to The Old Storehouse. In Barnacles I met the three nicest Canadian girls, all backpacking around Europe for a few months. They were great fun, making me feel really comfortable and not making a huge ruckus when they came in at night (it's hard enough to sleep in hostels without your roommates coming in like the Huns attacking). I really loved getting to know them, and I was just a little bit jealous of them having friends to travel with (having just said goodbye to Jessica a few days before).  We're all friends on Facebook now, and I can't wait to follow them on their travels!

On the Working Holiday business side of things, it took nearly 7 hours sitting at the Guarda Office but I officially have my work authorization! And I've started the process to get a PPS number (for taxes) and should get one within a few days. Slowly but surely I'm making it!

On the downside, I still have not found a place to live permanently, though I am looking like crazy. I have lost one umbrella (I replaced it for 5 euro at Penney's), one wheel has fallen off my suitcase, which means I'm basically dragging my belongings behind me (I may be looking for a cheap replacement here soon if I have to move to many more places). On the bright side, my legs are becoming super ripped with all this walking and dragging suitcases around. 

I did have one encounter with the "Ugly Americans," as I call them, at my firs hostel. A group of American girls on St. Patrick's Day. They came equipped dressed in green, complete with faces painted with shamrocks and their own individual bottles of Smirnoff. They showed little remorse when one of them sat on my cereal bowl at breakfast and smashed it onto the floor.

This brings me to an issue I've noticed that I want to point out, and this applies to my American readers, don't be THAT American traveler, please. Yes, Ireland has a history of drinking and having a good time, but, that being said, there is more to Ireland than beer and the pubs. Ireland is full of wonderful people, full of amazing architecture and stunning sights. It's alright to go out and have a good time, but I notice the more I'm here that it's the Americans, in all their loud and neon-colored-clothing glory, that are the loud ones, the ones breaking things. So don't be like that. Appreciate Ireland, all 100% of it, and respect it. 

That's all for now, thanks for being so patient! Hopefully by my next post I will have a place to live and some more exciting news!

Don't forget to follow me on Facebook at facebook.com/withoutanchor and on Twitter @calleysofalley. 

Cheers!
At the Disney Store on Grafton Street




Sunday, March 8, 2015

Chicago: The Lows and the (REALLY REALLY) Highs!

So, I won't lie, Chicago and I have not been friends in the past. My visits to Chicago have involved a bitterly cold and rushed one-day visit when I was 11, a trip to watch my then-boyfriend graduate from basic training in the Navy and meeting his parents for the first time (YIKES), and taking my first bar exam (double YIKES). This time, upon taking bar exam #2, I was determined to make some new (good) memories with Chicago. 

While I was studying for the exam, my aunt (and travel companion) was looking up the best of Chicago. She was the one who suggested we get the CityPass*, which I HIGHLY recommend. You definitely save quite a bit, plus you get faster admission to the featured destinations, which is a definite plus, as standing in lines gets old quickly. 

While I would have preferred it be a LITTLE bit warmer while I was there, I realize it could have been way worse, and while it wasn't 100% smooth sailing (see "Lows") I actually had a good time. So here's a list of my "Lows" and "Highs" while in Chicago.

LOWS

1. My poor cab hailing abilities in a semi-blizzard
Cold, tired, hungry and ready to go home with no cabs to be had. Stranded in the middle of Greektown. A rush-hour snap blizzard. All those describe what was happening minutes after finishing the bar exam. It took nearly an hour and 45 minutes standing in the cold and wet trying to hail and trying to call a cab. I finally got one, but not without a meltdown on a poor University of Illinois Chicago employee whom I (in a torrent of tears) asked "How do you people live in Chicago?!" 

2. Losing My Aunt in the Elevator of the Crowne Plaza Metro
Yes, I lost my aunt on the elevator. We were checking out of the Crowne Plaza (moving to Comfort Suites to be closer to all the sights), and I was helping my aunt unload our luggage from the elevator. I had just gotten my luggage and our groceries out of the elevator and had turned back to help my aunt move her luggage out when the doors shut in my face. All I could do was watch in horror as the little screen above the doors indicated that she was on floor 3...4...5...6...7...8...9...all the way up to the top. And this particular elevator could only be operated with a room key...which I had in my pocket--so basically my aunt was stuck until the car was called back to the lobby. Luckily, it wasn't long before the car started descending and the doors opened and HOORAY, there was my aunt. It only took us about a minute before we started laughing about it and it quickly became one of the best stories about our trip.

3. Getting on the Wrong Bus and Ending Up Who Knows Where
On the way to Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) my aunt and I boarded bus 151--however this particular 151 was heading AWAY from the Willis Tower instead of towards it. Unfortunately, by the time I realized and was 100% of my mistake, we were in a portion of the city I did not feel comfortable standing in and waiting for another bus. So, after riding the bus all the way to the end of the line and being directed to another bus by the driver, we were finally heading in the right direction.

When I told my mom what had happened, she had the perfect response: "Well, you might as well see it all while you're there." Well said Mom, well said. 

4. The New "Vikings" Exhibit at the Field Museum
Nearly every bus stop boasted a sign advertising the new "Vikings" exhibit at the Field Museum--the posters were mainly closeups of grizzly looking men staring menacingly into the camera, trying to instill you with fear.

 However, once inside the exhibit, the Vikings are made out to be dull, quiet and peaceful people, hunter-gatherers, as it were. While the jewelry on display is beautiful, the exhibit itself is, well, boring. I felt like that high-school student being made to read a book that had you yawning from the first page.  There's a lot of reading involved-it was more like reading pages of a book stuck on the walls. I felt like so much more could have been done with this exhibit--more interactive displays, live action short films...anything. It was definitely a disappointment. The moral of this story is to not believe everything you read on a bus stop advertisement.

HIGHS

1. The Hotel!
I cannot say enough for my hotel, Comfort Suites at 320 Michigan Ave. Previously, the nicest hotel I'd stayed at was the Radisson Blu in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This hotel, however, knocked that one right out of first place. First of all, it's in a great location, just a short bus ride from anything, and really accessible. Add friendly and helpful staff to that mix and you made me a fan already. 

Then there's the ROOM (or should I say suite?) itself. Complete with a full kitchen (including a refrigerator, stove, dishwasher, microwave and toaster) plus a washer and dryer, I felt like I was in heaven. Additionally, you've got a great view--my room looked directly out onto the Tribune Tower and the Wrigley Building, as well as the Chicago River.

Further, when you stay at Comfort Suites, you've got everything you could want: A giant breakfast that will keep you satisfied all day, complimentary coffee and tea in the lobby, as well as fast and friendly service. 

If you're going to staying in Chicago, please stay here, it's a wonderful place. It made me believe that Chicago and I could be friends after all. 

2. Shedd Aquarium
I'm a huge fan of aquariums (see my post on Monterey's fabulous one!) and Shedd does not disappoint. There's a different variety of aquatic wildlife on display here than in Monterey, including dolphins, beluga whales and monkeys. 

I especially liked this alligator I snapped a photo of as he was waiting out the crowds. He was definitely one of my favorites. 

In addition to the alligator, of course I loved the turtles...of which there were many--from the very moderate sized to the GIANT. The dolphin and beluga exhibit is a really neat sight to see, but you should make sure you get there around a feeding time, as that's optimal viewing time. Otherwise they don't come up to the surface very often and you'll have to view them in the downstairs viewing part, which is not as cool as seeing them above water. I love the layout of the dolphin/beluga exhibit: looking directly out onto Lake Michigan, making it seem as if their habitat extends into the Great Lakes.

Further, this is a spot included on the CityPass, so you really have no choice not to get one and go!

3. The Ancient Egypt Exhibit at the Field Museum
After the Vikings Exhibit proved a disappointment, I was somewhat apprehensive about the Ancient Egypt Exhibit, but I didn't need to be, because it was awesome.  Even if you're not into mummies and hieroglyphics and the like, it's still a worthwhile experience. 

First of all, you're given the real almost Indiana Jones like treatment by literally descending into a tomb via a spiral staircase and end up in a cool and dim crypt. Then you get to behold mummies of all shapes, sizes, castes, and (how shall I say it?) un-mummification.  Wander in awe through all the various displays, showcasing different examples of the evolution of mummification and decoration. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderfully preserved these people are, hundreds--thousands of years after their deaths and yet they are still HERE.  It's just such an interesting concept.

Also, there's a small shrine dedicated to the Egyptian cat goddess, Bastet, whom I posed with on my visit. This exhibit was definitely NOT a disappointment. My aunt and I both agreed this was the best part of the museum. So, skip the Vikings and head over to the Egyptians!




4. SkyDeck Chicago


Last, but definitely NOT least, was SkyDeck Chicago. Located on the 103rd floor of Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower), SkyDeck is one of those experiences you can't get anywhere else. I mean, where else can you walk out 103 floors above the streets of a city and see for miles?

In several cantilevered glass boxes high above the Chicago streets you can see the city laid out in all its glory. I have to admit, I had some trepidation initially stepping out onto these little glass rooms, but soon the awe overtakes the fear. I recommend taking tons of selfies. The one shown above I took while lying down at the edge. I think I even saw one girl doing a handstand inside (or at least attempting to do one). 

Of all the attractions I've visited and experiences I've had in Chicago, the one above the city tops them all. There's something about seeing the vastness of the city laid out beneath you that is really humbling, as well as exhilarating. And while I don't relish another trip to Chicago, I've taken some really good memories away from that week...I'd say maybe Chicago and I have moved from being enemies to maybe the beginnings of a friendship. We'll see...

Thanks for reading everyone! And thanks for all the support for my MIA status these past couple of months while I've been studying for the bar. I can't wait to add "attorney" next to my Blogspot description. 

Until next time! Cheers!

*For more information on CityPass, click here

P.S. If you are visiting Chicago, look out for the latest graduates of Great Lakes Naval Academy, you'll be able to spot them because they'll be in their dress uniforms (either their white or navy ones, depending on the season). Be sure and congratulate them, they worked hard getting through basic training to start defending the USA!!!