Thursday, 23 October 2014

Let's Go... To Edinburgh

Let's Go To Edinburgh:
Exploring the Gothic city
Here are some of my personal recommendations to make the most of your trip!

Standard Touristy Things To Do:

Edinburgh Castle

Okay every person I have ever talked to prior to their trip to Edinburgh told me that it was on their list to go to the castle. Now I am a bit of a castle connoisseur myself but this particular castle is a waste of time. For one, it is expensive. Two, it isn't all that spectacular on the inside of the castle. Thirdly, it's expensive...really, does anything else matter? When you are travelling on a shoe string you need to be very particular with the places that you visit, especially when they cost money...I'm telling you to avoid purchasing a ticket as it's NOT worth it. Unless you've got the money to spend and enjoy mediocre tourist traps, then by all means go for it!

However! I do recommend you walk up and around the perimeter of the castle as it's really nice around the castle. You can even be super touristy and take a picture in front of it, don't worry I won't judge you...I did it too. Although there is a better angle of it if you go through Princes Street Garden!

Climb Arthurs Peak

DO THIS! It's completely free and while the hike is a bit tiresome, the views from the top are gorgeous and totally worth the exhaustion! It is super easy to get to but make sure that you are climbing the right hill as there are 3 next to each other. Don't worry though, as there are plenty of signs directing you which way to go. Although if you want to be adventurous and take the path least taken - or carve your own path - all the better!

I recommend bringing along a picnic and a bottle of wine that you can enjoy at the top. Although you might need to crack open the bottle during the journey to make the trip that much more exciting ;)

Calton Hill

Do it! It's basically a tourist right of passage and you can get awesome pictures up there. There is also another great view of Edinburgh and if you want to pack a picnic (if it's not freezing cold) it would be a great way to spend an afternoon.

Walk Along the Royal Mile
Okay you literally can't avoid walking along the mile during your trip as it's right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh. There are some cute shops and pubs along the mile but keep in mind that things are way more expensive here!

The Meadows:
The ideal time to visit the Meadows is definitely during the beginning of spring when it is cherry blossom season since it's absolutely gorgeous, but it is still a perfect place to have a picnic if it's nice out!

Princes Street Gardens:
Gorgeous! Just beware of smooching can get a bit depressing if you are by yourself. Personal experience.

Holyrood Palace:
You need to pay to go inside and explore the grounds but a quick peak through the gates is free and its close to Arthurs peak if you want to check it out...if you want to pay to go inside be my guest, I never did but I was also broke.

Wander, Wander, Wander:
There are so many cool nooks and crannies around the city, you just need to explore them!

Things To Eat:

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties
When in Scotland, you must try Haggis at least once! Many pubs have this as standard pub fare so it isn't difficult to find and while it may sound repulsive, don't be turned away by it as it's really good!

Chips, Cheese and Curry 
I swear by this. It is my drunk food of choice but I'd honestly eat it any chance I got. You can get this at most chip shops but I recommend my favourite - Clamshell (it is located on the royal mile right next to the Starbucks and won't be hard to find)

DeepFried Mars Bar
Another must try delicacy in Scotland. I wouldn't recommend it if you plan on counting your calories, but it's still a delicious treat. You can also get it at the Clamshell chip shop!

Cullen Skink
This is more traditional highland fare but you might be able to get it in Edinburgh. It's a type of fish stew and it is amazing! I can't remember if I've seen it served at any of the pubs I've been to but even so it's an excuse to take a trip up into the highlands which is something you should already be doing if you're in Scotland!

Places to eat:
  • Clamshell Chip Shop 
  • The Elephant House
    • (They have really good coffee and food, and it is known as the 'birthplace of harry potter' so there are messages to JK Rowling all over the bathroom walls in the Girls bathroom which is kind of cool! While this is a bit touristy, I did find that it was a lovely place to get some writing done as the atmosphere was very cosy so bloggers and writers alike should get on that!)
  • Nandos
    • (Since you are in the UK, it's kind of a right of passage.)
  • Miros Cantina Mexicana
    • (A pretty good mexican restaurant if you're feeling tacos...which I always am)
  • Piece Box Cafe
    • (My friend told me about this place and it serves fresh pie every day...and who doesn't like pie!)
  • FYUL Cafe
    • (A cute little cafe that serves good coffee and decent food. They were also one of the only places that served American style crispy bacon with their breakfasts instead of the lame back bacon that British places usually have)
  • The Basement Bar
    • (Another cozy, eclectic restaurant that has a cool vibe to it but food and drinks are on the pricier side)

Nights Out:

Cab Vol
This place is one of my favourite places because they serve RedStripe on tap and since I am not a huge fan of UK lagers, I depend on my RedStripe. There is a pub on one floor and a club in the basement; I prefer the former.

I love this place because it has great beer on tap, a brilliant atmosphere and live music which is the ultimate trifecta of good pubs. If you are looking for a low key and laid back night than this is the place for you to hang out, dance and grab a cheeky pint. Also, all the bands that I've heard play live sets here have been top class, so if you like live music than you'll love this place.

The Hive
Okay this is your quintessential student club. There are cheap drinks (free entrance SOMETIMES) and it smells like piss and body odour...yum! My Friend swears by it (she's crazy) but you can guarantee a packed house. Don't come before 12 am though because it is completely dead but it definitely gets crazy after that. Also a tuesday equals INDIE NIGHT! Which plays ALMOST better music than the other nights...and its free.

If you are into heavy metal rock and people who dress in black and wear spikes to succumb to the stereotype of 'Emotional' Individuals or Goths...which sounds terrible but it is free entrance ALWAYS... then this is the place for you. I actually loved this place because it also serves redstripe and it sometimes has awesome music. You might have to suffer through some horrible screamo songs just to hear a few classics like "Stacy's Mom" and "Teenage Dirtbag" that will come on and make it all worthwhile.

And if you want some live (and chill) music check out Jazz Bar on Chambers Street. It's super tiny and you may need to pay a cover fee but it has a really awesome rasta/1950's piano bar vibe and if you can snag a seat then you are sorted!

If you have the misfortune of going out on a Monday night where there aren't many options, your best bet would be Why Not? Nightclub which is located on George Street (a couple of streets down from Princes Street). Check out their Facebook Page to put your name on the guestlist for free entrance (while this isn't my favourite place to be...its a monday night so there's not much else offered). Another option that will make any lame night fun is to create a scavenger hunt for your mate and then swap them when you are at the pub. This way you can make a normally boring night into a fun game, and if you're really best friends, you can use it as a way of inducing embarrassing moments like my mate Tina and I did when she came to visit me.



There is nothing else to say. You will fall in Love with this place. It is heaven. Think of a giant Forever 21 with the prices of Walmart...yep that is pretty much it.


Also if you are a beer connoisseur (like me) you should know that Scotland is famous for their Ales (as well as Scotch but I hate Whisky so who cares about that ahaha). If you want to try some microbreweries check out BrewDog House on Cowgate. They have a great selection of ales and the atmosphere in the pub is quite cozy and laidback (sensing a theme?).

You also have the option of pub hopping as there are pubs EVERYWHERE (literally every other shop is a pub) but I recommend the ones in the Grassmarket, specifically The Last Drop.

**Steer clear of any pubs claiming that they are the smallest or most famous in Edinburgh. It is a massive tourist trap, a blatant lie and an excuse to charge people a ridiculous amount for a mediocre pint. **


If you have time, here are some other options you have to make the most of your trip to Edinburgh!

Cramond Island (Check out my blog post here for more info)
Portobello Beach (A lovely choice if it's nice out! Although I wouldn't plan on going swimming any time soon because you're in Scotland, and it's freezing 95% of the time)

I hope you have a lovely trip to Edinburgh and if you have any questions/concerns, feel free to leave me a comment below and I will gladly help you out. I've become a bit of an expert of Edinburgh since I've lived there for almost 7 months and had my share of experiences (check out my Hogmanay adventure to revel in my misfortune) so I should be able to give you some advice no problem. :)

Monday, 1 September 2014

The Red Telephone Box Library

The Red Telephone Box Library

I am sure many of you who actually know me have heard me talk about this at one point or another but for everyone else who is still living in the black, prepare to be enlightened..

The Story of the Red Telephone Booth
....well a shortened and very content specific story about the libraries within the booths, not really the booth itself.

I can tell that you're already incredibly captivated as a result of this fabulous title aren't you? Okay okay, I'll stop stalling and get to the point...

When most people think of Britain, a couple of things come to mind:
The Union Jack Flag
The "Keep Calm and Carry On" war slogan
London (Big Ben, London Eye, Tower Bridge)
The Queen
And of course...
The famous red telephone boxes.

Despite their importance in British Culture, they have become quite redundant nowadays since everyone uses cellphones. For this reason the phone company BT (British Telecom) started removing them from various county's as a result of their disuse. It was also starting to get really expensive for the company to maintain them especially when they weren't being used as much anymore.

However many local communities wanted to keep the booths because of fact that they are a British staple and have thus attracted a lot of tourists to their small towns. After a lot of thought the company offered up a compromise: the townships could retain the booths in exchange for a measly £1 as long as the company removed the telephone. Thus the Adopt A Kiosk idea was born!

With an empty booth grew a plethora of opportunities! Some were made into greenhouses, flower
shops, and art galleries, while others became libraries and book exchanges. There are the select few that have gone the unfortunate route into becoming public urinals...but I chose to forget about those, as I'm sure most do.

I thought that a small book exchange was a brilliant idea and as soon as I discovered this hidden treasure, it went right on my bucket fact, I became a little bit obsessed.

The clock ticked on as the days went by and many months past, and I had still not gotten the opportunity to witness this brilliant phenomenon. My time in Europe was coming to a end as my final days approached and I thought that I was going to miss my chance...but then it happened.

After a spontaneous road trip through the English countryside had me delaying my return to normalcy I happened upon a magical little town with, you guessed it, a red telephone booth library.

I have never been so happy to step foot in a library in my life. Does this make me a nerd? Eh, who cares!

This library (along with many other telephone booth libraries) works on a trust system. It's a book exchange so you need to bring a book in order to take a book (hence the term, book exchange duh?!). Being a nomadic traveller means I don't really have space to carry around books since they usually weigh more than necessary, so I was on the hunt to find a book to exchange.

When I came across a copy of the Odyssey in stage version at a church book drop in the Cotswolds (give a donation and take a book) it was almost as if we were destined to find each other. Seeing as the Odyssey is my favourite book and my major is dramatic arts, the combination of the two made a perfect contribution to the telephone booth library. After writing a personal inscription (finding a book with an inscription makes the experience that much more exciting) and shamelessly promoting my blog on the back pages (hey, I had to!) I hid it quite cleverly in the depths of the other books and took a hilarious book about the piss offs of humanity (typical British humour) in exchange. I hope who ever finds the book will have an exciting Odyssey of their own!

If you ever find yourself in the United Kingdom, take a look at this Blog to see if there is a red telephone booth library close to you! It will change your life!

Okay that's being a little melodramatic. It won't change your life, it's just pretty freaking cool.

If it does change your life, you might need to reassess your priorities. But don't feel too bad as I am in the same boat as you ;)

Police Box Ice Cream Shop?! Count me In!

And if books don't excite you enough, get a load of this beauty that my friend from Glasgow, introduced me to: The police box ice cream shop. Anyone who has watched Doctor Who will be familiar with the infamous police box known to Whovians as the TARDIS. Well, like the telephone boxes, police boxes also have become redundant and are being removed. Glasgow has four police boxes that remain, one that sells Scottish memorabilia, one that sells coffee and donuts, one that is merely a landmark and the last being an ice cream shop. Edinburgh also
has a spin-off of this in the form of a bright pink frozen yogurt stand. Pretty ingenious if you ask me!

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Home Bittersweet Home

Home Bittersweet Home

Well lovelies, I am back in bum-hole Mississauga and already experiencing a huge bout of travel-sickness (not to be confused with motion sickness). I really miss travelling and it's going to take a while to mentally get back into the swing of things and relax my nomadic ways for the time being.

I think the hardest thing that I am trying to wrap my head around at the moment is the fact that nothing has really changed since I've left. Yeah there are a couple of new developments here and there in regards to architectural differences (ie. new buildings, stores, pubs, etc...) but people and lifestyles? The exact same. 

Falling back into the same old routine was just too easy and that scares me. I hate routines. Routines are comfortable and everyone knows that 'comfortable' does not exactly mean exciting. I think living spontaneously this past summer with no idea where I would end up the next day is something that's going to be hard to shake but that's not necessarily a bad thing. A little spontaneity is good. It keeps life interesting!

I feel like I am on one level mentally and it's completely different to everyone else here and this logic is hard to comprehend. Of course I don't blame anyone for being content with their small comforts but it's hard when I have changed so much over the course of 14 months and everyone else has seemed to have remained the same; stagnant like water. If you don't filter out the bad and have fresh water coming in, then all your left is with dirty sewage waste...and I can't live that way. Not I'm not saying that everyone is to be compared with dirty sewage waste (oh god no!), that came out a bit wrong...let's just say that for someone whose been travelling for a while, I have become a little cynical of small town/city life.

But I guess this is something I have to get used to for now as I have one more year left of University before I graduate and set out into the big bad world for real this it bad to want to get it over as soon as possible so I can move to Europe for good? I think since I dipped my toe into the pond this past year, I'm ready to dive head first into the ocean (I don't know what it is with me and the water analogies at the moment but I'm sticking with least I'm consistent!). Once an adventurer, always an adventurer!

And these past 14 months have been an adventure alright! Although I didn't have that hot and steamy Italian fling that I was vying for, and have probably embarrassed myself more times than any sane person should in a lifetime, it has still been an amazing adventure and I wouldn't have changed it for the world (yes even the bad bits, although I could have done without them...okay that's a total lie, I would have changed them if I could).

So England, I was sorry to leave you behind but I can promise you that I will be back before you know it! 

To all the lovely people I have met along this journey I will miss you all so very much and hopefully our paths will cross again someday :) 

I know this is sounding so final and everything but this does not mean that I am stopping my blog right here! Oh goodness no! I still have plenty more stories to share with you and now that I have this brilliant insight into European travel, I'm sure you are all dying to get the 411. And don't you worry, just because I am back in the homeland does not mean I won't find ways to embarrass myself so I'm sure you won't be missing out on much!

Stay tuned for my next post which I will post on Monday (I PROMISE I WILL) and hopefully I will get a few more posts out within the next month but I'll spread them out so you're not bombarded with them all at once.

If you have been following my adventure from the beginning you are one dedicated person! And I say person because I seriously doubt anyone other than my mother or father reads all of these posts...and I don't even think they read each of them but who can blame them? But seriously, thank you for reading and hopefully enjoying them (although if they're crap I would have really preferred you let me know that in advance to the embarrassment). If it wasn't for you readers this would just be a public diary and that would be a little sad...I have too much pride to resort to being casted on the same level as Jenna Hamilton (for any Awkward eh okay it was worth a shot).

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Greece Lightning: The Curse of Zeus

Greece Lightning
The Curse of Zeus

I am sitting in front of my computer, drinking a delicious banana smoothie and blogging away when I notice a man outside the apartment sweeping his balcony in nothing but a tiny black speedo. With absolutely no shame whatsoever. An absolute legend. I must be in Greece!


By now most of you are probably wondering where the hell I've been for the last few months. I kind of dropped off the radar for a bit and postponed my blogging.... Yeah, sorry about that! But the good news is that I now have a lot of things to share with you! So you should be looking forward to a few new blog posts within the next couple of weeks focusing on  the beautiful country of Italy and a little bit of insight into the AuPair experience. Hopefully this will make up for my absence, but then again "Absence makes the heart grow fonder".

Yes, I totally used a cringe-worthingly cliched quote right there. Deal with it.

So on to Greece now shall we? 

If you haven't already gathered this from the title or first sentence of this post, I'm in Greece right now; specifically Athens. Coming to Greece was a bit of a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing but in all the crappy things that have happened since arriving, I'm still grateful that I came. Okay scratch that...frankly, things have sucked but there is always a silver lining!

Before I delve into my particular case of bad luck in this country, I should give a little bit of background into my bad karma and the apparent curse of the gods. As most of you know, Greek mythology has always played an important role in Greek life. These being from the myths and legends of the many Gods and Goddesses of Olympus who rule over the lands and possess the power to control the weather, the waters, the earth; and also our fate, our fortune, our life and our subsequent deaths. Now being a huge comic book nerd, periodical freak of nature, and huge appreciator of Homer's The Odyssey, I have always had a deep fascination with greek mythology. Partly because the history and the brilliance of each god and divinity is well thought out, but mostly because it is just so freaking cool! Yes the thought of having these giant, immortal and all-powerful gods ruling over us and controlling our lives is quite terrifying, but you have to admit that there is a sort of allure to the whole thing. And it isn't really scary as long as you don't get on one of their bad sides.

Now I have been known to have a certain misfortune when it comes to luck, love and the elements, and while I don't believe I personally offended the almighty gods in past occurrences, they all seem to have it out for me. Particularly Zeus. This seems to be the only explanation to the fact that I bring the bad weather wherever I go. 

I know. I know. You're probably thinking that I am being overdramatic and paranoid, and that it's just coincidence that bad weather is attracted to me, but let me give you a couple of examples:

I'll start with Los Angeles, California as it is the place where I first noticed that I brought the bad weather. Now if you know anything about California, you've probably heard that it doesn't rain very often...if ever. Seriously though, forest fires and earthquakes are more common than rain is. When it does rain people genuinely believe that the apocalypse is coming. I kid you not. Even if it is just a few rain droplets! Well you can imagine everyone's surprise when I come to visit the state for a week and it rains 3 days during the time I'm there. Very strange indeed.

Okay now lets talk about this summer in particular. Throughout my time in Italy all I kept hearing was people exclaiming that the weather is very strange this summer. Usually it is 30 degrees out, clear skies and nothing but sunshine...this summer however was a lot of rain and chilly mornings and I think we only had less than a week of hot weather. When I explained my bad luck with weather to my AuPair hosts they just laughed and said it's just coincidence. That was until they checked the forecast for the day after I left: clear skies and nothing but sunshine for the rest of the summer. Coincidence I think not. 

Then I come to Greece and am informed of a major storm coming my way ironically just as I am landing into the country. Then rain, rain, rain. As soon as I told of my affinity to bad weather to my couch surfing hosts they laughed and said, "That's why! Okay which way to the airport?" 

To be honest I actually quite like the rain. Maybe this is why I like England so much...I'm a bit of an enigma when I come there as it's always raining regardless if I'm there or not.

So that is my curse from Zeus, and we all know my curse from Aphrodite in the love department, so now let's look at a product of their union: Tyche, the goddess of fortune and luck (okay we don't know if Zeus was actually the father, it could have been Hermes for all we know as the gods liked to get around, but either way I'm clearly cursed in the matters of fortune.) I really don't want to get into this a whole lot as it will turn into a long rant and I'm not fond of airing my dirty laundry to the public, I will just summarize my misfortune by saying this: I was scammed. I was promised a job that never materialized and instead was left stranded in Athens with little to no money and a massive cloud of stress over my head. Oh yeah, and it was also raining...

Fortunately I was able to catch my bearings and adapt to all this, and for that I have so many people to thank for supporting me during this tough time.

This past month has been a roller-coaster of epic proportions...and not one of the good ones. More like the ones you have to wait in line for ages for but are able to claim the golden front seat, so it was worth the wait. However when you finally get on the ride you find out midway that you have a faulty seatbelt, so you spend the entire ride with your eyes closed, hyperventilating like a lunatic and clinging on for your dear life. You breathe a sign of relief when you survive the twists and turns, and praise the heavens above for not plummeting to your death, but as you come to the end of the ride your seat mate conveniently turns to your side and unloads their lunch onto your lap.

Yep...that pretty much explains it.

But enough of the bad things... let's look at all the good things that have happened since I arrived:

  • I met some awesome people while couchsurfing who have become close friends to me and who were able to help me out when I was at my lowest.
  • I had my first drum lesson with my first host in Athens and in turn was able to fulfill an old childhood dream.
  • I learned to seriously budget my money so that I only spent 1 or 2 euros on each meal. This is an invaluable asset to have when backpacking and it has taught me to be resourceful. Instead of going out to eat I would cook at home and if I had to eat while in the city I would buy fruits and vegetables at the market, haggle with the merchants at the bakery to get cheap bread, and then buy inexpensive tzatziki or hummus at the grocery store. Also, I mostly drank water while travelling and since Athens has clean tap water (which actually tastes good!) I was able to refill my bottle up wherever I went!
  • I got to see some of the amazing historical sights that Athens has to offer and delve into my passion for greek mythology.
  • I got to fangirl when I went to the Ancient Theatre of Dionysus and saw everything that I had studied in my major, come to life in front of me.
  • I got to explore Athens on the back of a motorcycle
  • I got to swim in the sea for hours and relish the perfect temperature of the water.
  • I got to eat LOTS and LOTS of souvlaki which were all super cheap, super delicious and still happened to taste completely different from one another.
  • I became an expert of the Athenian metro system.
  • I learned to haggle my way into getting cheap jewellery at the markets.

And most importantly...

  • I have learned that people will continue to surprise me. Yes, sometimes for the bad..but mostly for the good.
So yeah, things kind of went sour when I got to Greece but I've met some awesome people who were so incredibly supportive and while life has continued to kick me in the proverbial balls, I have had no other choice but to suck it up and learn from it. I guess this is just to let everyone know (who has ever told me that they are 'jealous' of my travels /or/ wishes that they were in my place /or/ is just curious to find out what I'm up to right now) that things aren't perfect. I'm human and bad things happen to me. This isn't saying that I regret my travels (hell no!) and am warning people off travelling (obviously not!), it just means that you should always be prepared for the unexpected. I wasn't, but I am now. We live and we learn.

Thank you for everyone who has supported me on this adventure and who have followed me through the ups and downs of life. I'm sorry if this wasn't the happiest read but I can assure you that I have plenty of funny stories to entertain you with in my next few posts. 

And on the bright side, the clouds have lifted (metaphorically and literally) and the rain has stopped! Maybe this is a sign of good things to come?

Thursday, 15 May 2014

20 Reasons Why...Sleeping in an Airport Sucks

20 Reasons Why...
Sleeping in an Airport Sucks

  1. It's noisy
  2. There are crying children
  3. They are also sitting right next to you
  4. The ground is hard
  5. Your butt is now numb due to said hard floor
  6. You can't actually sleep for fear of having your stuff stolen...even if you don't have anything worth losing (except your dignity but you are sleeping in an airport for Christsake so you've already lost that)
  7. You are in a bloody airport so it's not exactly 5 star accommodation
  8. Food and drinks are really expensive...and while you REALLY want a beer right now, you can't afford the 10 quid for this liquid goodness so instead you resort to inhaling the air around you (Spoiler Alert: it isn't as good)
  9. The lights are fluorescent and completely blinding/irritating to the eyes
  10. You are also sitting underneath a giant neon billboard
  11. And you can't move as your butt is numb
  12. And there is this metal pole jabbing into the small of your back making any and every position you move into, incredibly uncomfortable.
  13. There are never any outlets so you can't charge your electronics and watch a movie to kill time
  14. Instead you drain every tiny bit of your battery on useless apps until they refuse to turn on and you need to resort to other mediums of entertainment
  15. This leaves people watching and writing/reading
  16. You don't have a book so reading is out
  17. People around you are all either sleeping, reading or crying babies, and not exactly stimulating entertainment
  18. Also they all have sleeping bags and seem much more prepared for this than you are
  19. You resort to writing but it turns out that you have nothing better to do than write this list and think about how depressing your life is at the present moment
And Finally...

   20.  It's a Freaking Airport, what did you expect Woman?!

...dear god I need sleep.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Challenge #1: The Happiness Project

Challenge #1:
The Happiness Project

I mentioned ages ago that I was going to incorporate a new series of challenges into my blog but that idea got pushed aside for awhile and then I forgot altogether (Unlike my Youtube Odyssey which I completely abandoned for reasons being...well I am a complete tool, that's why). But now that I have some time freed up, I decided to start it up again (the Challenges, not the Youtube videos...that's a lost cause, for now). I am not sure how many challenges I will end up doing but for now I am just going to make them up as I enjoy! 

I am not sure if any of you guys noticed the new page on my blog entitled 100 Happy Days but if you haven't had the chance to check it out I will give you a brief introduction to better acquaint yourselves with the purpose of this challenge. 

There is a website called 100 Happy Days which challenges people to be Happy for 100 consecutive days.

The Challenge is plain and simple. Find something every day that made you happy! And if you don't have time to post a picture everyday at least jot it down. Make time to be happy. It is probably one of the easiest and most rewarding thing you can do.

So I decided to start this challenge on my 21st birthday to celebrate another year older, and in turn, another year happier. If I can do this challenge, so can you!

To find out more about the Challenge check out their Website and I also go into better detail on this page in my blog.


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Crimson and Clovers: A St. Patrick's Day Adventure in Dublin

Crimson and Clovers:
A St. Patrick's Day Adventure 
in Dublin, Ireland

As I step foot out of the massive flying contraption that landed me onto this beautiful island, I take a deep breath and soak in the fresh Irish air. Butterflies flutter inside my stomach when I think of how much excitement this week has in store for me. All those years of dreaming and now I am finally here in the glorious land of luck and leprechauns! Nobody pinch me.

I carefully walk down the steps of the aircraft and shuffle behind the other passengers as we make our way to customs. Even though I try to keep a calm and cool composure, I can't help but feel my lips curling up into a smile and the rush of euphoria at a new adventure! After months of sitting static in Scotland, I am finally breaking through those chains and embracing freedom *sigh* it is such a relief to be somewhere new.

I practically float through customs, showing the Irish officers my passport. "Welcome to Ireland!", the man says to me with a sparkle in his eye. "Have a Lovely St. Patty's Day Weekend." My conservative, one-sided smile (one that I use to appear professional and friendly in certain circumstances like airport security) falters for a second as I am slightly taken back by the gracious attitude. After a moments hesitation, I quickly right myself up and flash him my pearly whites. Of course! I think to myself abashedly. How could I even question the famous Irish hospitality? I think I am going to like it here!

I hop on the Airlink bus heading towards the city centre and take a seat at the very back near the window. Placing my knapsack tightly between my feet I delve into my coat pockets to retrieve my earbuds and place them into my ears. Scrolling through my playlists I search for the perfect song to start off my journey. Mentally kicking myself for not having of made a playlist already for this trip (a total amateur mistake), I have to resort to my library of songs. Thank goodness I have such an eclectic taste as there is always a song to fit my mood.

After debating between the relaxing and chill tunes of Rudimental's Home Album (always a perfect choice for any trip) and the brilliant works of the Who (of which I am most partial to), I come to a standstill. While both were perfectly sound choices, I opted instead for a little Chuck Berry because while I'm not in Louisiana, I'm still feeling pretty Johnny B Good right now. As the first couple of cords ring through my ear, I sit back, pop my shades on and enjoy the journey. Hello Dublin! Jocelyn has arrived. 

It's not too long before Chuck's smooth vocals are interrupted by a commotion and I open my eyes to an elderly couple sitting directly across from me. They are arguing about the lack of comfort offered from the seats of the bus. The lady adamantly tries to cause a scene while the man is cowering his red-faced embarrassment in his hands.

My internal cynic starts working in overdrive: Are you seriously upset about the bus seats? Where do you think you are lady?! You are on a bloody bus for christsake not a 5 star chauffeured limo. Pull your 5 cent bump-it quiff out of your arse and smell the daisies! My Goodness, some people...

I roll my eyes behind my shades and start to turn up the volume on my iPod when all of a sudden I catch a slight movement out of the corner of my eye. The Lady thought it would be perfectly okay to put her 50lb duffle bag (something made out of fabric found in goodwill curtains) on the seat next to me instead of on the luggage rack. And if this didn't tick me off enough she then declares, quite loudly if I must say, "Some people are so rude and cannot respect the elderly. How am I supposed to move my arthritis-ridden feet when I have this bag in the way?" She says it with a jab and I feel her eyes directed at me. I look down at my feet and see a good 3ft distance between my bag and her feet. My eyebrows furrow and I go back to listening to my music intent on ignoring her pettiness. No way is some lady going to ruin my trip! Hell no. 

Drawing my attention back to my music I note that Chuck's voice has faded into Ian Browns and I fall right back into the lyrics.
Your knuckles whiten on the wheel
The last thing that your hands will feel
Your final flight can't be delay-

"Excuse me?" I am interrupted once again and start a bit in my seat out of surprise when a slight southern drawl catches my ear. Ah, American. Now, I am not one to stereotype but woman you are not helping the case. Okay I know it's incredibly childish but my imagination decides to work on overdrive. Next thing I know it I'm picturing a giant bucket of KFC chicken in her hands and a thick handlebar moustache on her face. With this absurd image burned into my brain I can't help stifle the snicker that escapes my lips. I feel her eyes narrow at me and shoot daggers into my lens. A crippling feeling starts to build within me and the urge to fight rises to my throat, but I chide my petty thoughts aside and decide instead to concede. There really isn't any point is there? I lift up my knapsack and rest it onto my lap while the lady breathes a satisfied *huff*. Oh boy, what a great start to the week!

In amidst this juvenile feud I now notice that I have missed my stop. Absolutely fantastic! I pull out my phone and text Corin (my couchsurfing host) this information and she informs me that I can easily get off at the train station and take the tram back to Connelly. As the bus pulls up to Heuston Station, the last stop, I quietly pick up my bags and without a second glance at the immature lady and her poor husband, I make my way off the bus. I say a polite Cheers! to the bus driver and he gives me a knowing wink and nods his head in the direction of the back of the bus. I laugh and smile at him in return. Well, at least some people can understand my pain.

The tram station is located directly across from the rail station so I don't have to walk very far which is good because I am now in no mood to navigate myself, and god knows what I will do if I happen to run into the couple again. I purchase my ticket and sit down on the bench next to the timetables. It's only a 5 minute wait for the next tram so I pull out my iPod and turn the music to Sweet Child of Mine. Guns n' Roses always pumps me up when I am feeling out of sorts so I knew I could definitely count on it to pull me out of my bad mood.

When I reach Connelly station twenty minutes later, I look around for Corin. I must look like a complete nutter because I have no idea where to go. Thankfully I see a girl walking up to me with bright red hair that frames her face like a lion's mane and I am sure it is her. Not wanting to be wrong though, I wait until she waves in my direction and breathe a sigh of relief.

We take the Dart (Irish interrail) to her house in Blackrock but before we stop by her place we head over to a restaurant for a bite to eat because I was starving. I had eaten earlier in the morning before I left for the airport since the student union was open for breakfast and I just couldn't resist. I mean really? They make these awesome breakfast rolls with eggs and bacon that literally melt in your mouth. Pair that with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (or in my case, concentrate...) and I am set! Unfortunately I have a stomach of a growing prepubescent boy so it usually doesn't last me long until I am famished once again. Since I left the airport and went straight on the bus ride from hell to meet Corin, I hadn't had time to eat any lunch so you can bet I was starving come dinner time.

She took me to a place called Johnny Rockets (of which I recently found out is actually a popular
American restaurant franchise but since I have never been there I disregard that knowledge). It was an adorable diner-style restaurant that had a 60's soda pop vibe to it. I absolutely adored it. We ordered these amazing Oreo Milkshakes and they tasted like heaven in a cup. I think I have reached Nirvana. They were that good!

After we finished up our meal we headed over to her place and well...this is where things got a little complicated.

As we walked up the steps to her place my heart raced in anticipation. She had told me that she lives with a couple of guy roommates so obviously the first thought that runs through my brain is: I hope they are hot. I mean c'mon! I am only human! She said that one of the guys...lets call him Bob for anonymity (but in all honesty, I actually don't remember his name), had recently gotten surgery and was a bit apprehensive about me staying at their place for a couple of days as he wanted to be able to walk around in pj's (like I would really care) and there was also the matter of me being a relative stranger (of which I can totally understand to some extent). So I was ready to dazzle them with my Canadian kindness and sweep them off their feet, but nothing prepared me for what happened next.

As Corin opened the door we are greeted to a guy wearing a neck brace and looking ever so slightly worse for wear. He is staring directly at the feet and refuses to make eye contact with either one of us so I can only assume that he was feeling a bit embarrassed. Without looking up he says to Corin, "You didn't get my message" (a comment that should have been a question came out as a statement. As if he was so bloody sure of himself). He then goes on to moan about his surgery and how he is in pain and licking his wounds like the little - okay I am getting agitated just thinking about him.

Basically Corin takes him aside and discusses matter privately in the other room while I wait around awkwardly trying to make conversation with the other two guys in the room. They, unlike Bob, seemed pretty normal and not at all agitated that I was there. Seriously, I have no idea what was up with the guy! Someone pissed in his cheerios.

While Corin was still talking with Bob I put my bag in her room and then went to the bathroom to freshen up. Fifteen minutes later Corin comes back and she takes me aside in her room. She seemed ruffled about something so I can only imagine what Bob had said to her. I thought maybe he wasn't feeling well or something happened...but what I didn't expect was what she said next: "So apparently you can't stay here." My jaw literally drops. I am completely and utterly speechless.

"I know." Corin says red-faced with embarrassment. "Oh my god, I am so sorry. I have no idea what to do! He is just being completely unreasonable."

I am still in shock from the whole situation so it took a while for me to formulate an adequate response to the matter...and a couple pints of course. Which is why we grabbed our stuff, said our goodbyes (of which Bob was sitting nice and pretty in his room, nowhere to be seen of course) and headed to the pub. I felt so bad that Corin had to deal with that nutter as a roommate! If he was my roommate I would have beat his scrawny arse for talking to a person like that, let alone a lady! Oh I had some words to say to him but I kept my mouth shut because Corin was in a bit of a tight situation.

See she only recently moved in to the place a couple of weeks ago and she pays rent to Bob (the freak of nature). But Bob isn't the landlord exactly, he sublets the place and pays the rent to the landlord. She also never signed any rent agreement or contract (big mistake!) and so she was in a relatively awkward situation as she didn't want to get kicked out herself.

I felt so bad for her but it also left me in a bit of a predicament..I was now in desperate need of a place to sleep for the rest of the week and it being one of the busiest week/weekends, finding a place that was cheap, let alone available, was next to impossible. But Corin, who felt really upset and embarrassed for the scene that her roommate caused payed for me to stay in a hostel out of her own pocket! I had no idea she did this until we got to the hostel and while I definitely appreciated it, I never expected her to do something like that. Goes to show you how many awesome people you can meet travelling!

The next few days were much better. I met a fellow Canadian girl at my hostel and we went out for dinner at this place called the Bison Bar near Temple Bar. We were recommended this place by the hostel receptionist and were told that they marinate their meat for 15 hours each day so when it's gone, it's gone. The restaurant was very busy but it had an awesome rustic, western vibe. Luckily we found an empty table and then went to the bar to order our food.

I ordered the half rack of ribs, onion rings, potato salad and an iced cold pint of Carlsberg. I know what you're thinking, it's Ireland! I should be drinking Guinness. But honestly, guinness is not my drink. I had a pint while I was here but I am not a fan of stout, as I prefer to stick with my lagers.

Okay the ribs though, were godsend! They were so juicy and tender, and the meat literally fell right off the bone! I will have dreams about these ribs for the rest of my life, they were that good!

On Friday I went exploring throughout the city. A friend of mine recommended the Abbey but unfortunately it was closed until June, so instead I went to the National Gallery as it was free and I love art. There was some really nice artwork at the gallery; a bit of Picasso, a few Monet and more than a couple Rembrandt...but the gallery was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. After going to the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam I guess my expectations were a little high but I thought it would be slightly more than 1-2 levels...I was wrong. But it was still a pleasant experience!

I had gotten through the entire gallery in under an hour and still had a lot of time to kill so I went to a nearby bakery and grabbed a quick lunch. Then I went back to my hostel, took a short nap and decided to head over to Temple Bar to join in on the festivities.

Even though it was still only 6:30pm people were out celebrating! It was lovely to see everyone in green, chugging pints of beer and singing (really bad) renditions of Chelsea Dagger (not an Irish song in any sense but you can't really blame them as they were all foreign). I even joined in on a few beer funnelling shenanigans...yes in the middle of the street! Gotta love the Irish! :)