Irish Travels: Part Four

After a late night out with the locals and tourmates the night before , it was time to bid Derry farewell. That morning we were headed to our next destination: Galway, Ireland. Contrary to popular belief,  Galway was actually made famous by Steve Earle’s song titled “Galway Girl” long before Ed Sheeran came around. After Earle’s song was featured in the film “P.S I Love You” it became a sensation and can often be heard in pubs around Ireland. That being said: For the love of God, do not ask them to play this song. Despite truly enjoying this song, it becomes significantly less enjoyable after hearing it five times in one night. Rest assured, there will always be a tourist who will request it and you will get your fix.

Now before we arrived in Galway, there was one very important stop on the way: The Mountains of Connemara, specifically, “The Twelve Bens.”  As the name suggests, it is a mountain range consisting of twelve mountains with a water filled valley in the centre. These mountains captivate your attention and snap you out of the haze that is brought upon by only sleeping for two hours the night before. They demand your full attention. Wrapping my scarf tightly to my neck, I was overcome with a sense of tranquility. With the mountains as our only companions, time stood still and the stresses of every day life dissolved. Life was good. It is moments such as these that I come back to during times of hardship to remind myself that total tranquility is possible and that they will come again.

Galway, Ireland

After being cleansed all of life’s troubles in the mountains and sleeping the rest of the way, we arrived in Galway, Ireland at last.  Out of all the cities in Ireland, I have to say that Derry and Galway are two of my favourites. What drew me in most about Galway was it’s Latin Quarter. This section of the city is beautiful with it’s cobblestoned streets, tiny boutiques, pubs, and great restaurants. As you walk down the cobblestone streets, shop signs command your attention with their bright shop faces in bright assortments of yellows, blues, greens, and every colour of the rainbow you could think of. One cannot help but be cheery when walking in Galway. In addition bright coloured shops and cobble stone streets, there is often street entertainment to be found in Galway as individuals sit perform in the middle of these walkways for all those passing by. During the warmer weather, patio seating is opened up so that individuals may enjoy the entertainment going on around them. Whereas, The Connemara Mountains provided me with the tranquility I needed, Galway was waiting in arms reach with all the entertainment and joy I could possibly imagine. Regardless of whatever mood you may have been in prior to entering Galway, you are sure to leave Galway with a smile on your face. For those looking to learn some of Galway’s history, take a moment to visit Galway’s City Museum. Within the museums’s walls you can learn about archaeology, art, natural history, along with Galway’s maritime history.  Galway is a place for adults and children alike and is a city that should not be overlooked when planning a trip to Ireland. Stay tuned for my trip to Inis Mor.


(Above: Latin Quarter- Taken from Trip Advisor page about Latin Quarter)


Art found in Galway City Museum 


Spanish Arch in Galway

Irish Travels: Part Three

Next stop: The Giant’s Causeway.  I repeat next stop…. The Giant’s Causeway.

Forced from under the warm protective layers of blankets, I was assaulted by the Irish  cold that morning. I grudgingly fumbled onto our tour bus half asleep, almost certain I had forgotten to pack some of my belongings in the commotion to get on the bus.   It was way too early for any sane human being to be awake, and yet it had to be done.  By sacrificing my sleep, I would be earning something much more valuable, the chance to visit The Giant’s Causeway. For those who are reading this and have no idea what The Giant’s Causeway is, let me give you a brief background on this wonder.  The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is made up of thousands of hexagonal basalt columns which are the result of ancient volcanic eruptions and erosion. As lava emerged from the depths of the earth’s core,  it cooled and hardened and would go on to make the spectacular hexagonal columns you see today.

However, this isn’t the only story regarding the formation of The Giant’s Causeway. As the name of the heritage site suggests it was created by giants! Yes, you read that correctly. As the legend goes, The Giant’s Causeway was the result of a feud between between two giants: Finn MacCool (of Ireland) and Benandonner (of Scotland). You see, these two giants had it in for each other and after fighting for many years, Finn had enough! Finn was determined to fight Benandonner once and for all, and so he created a causeway of stepping stones connecting the two lands together.  However, Finn’s bravado was soon deflated. As he inched closer to Benandonner, Finn realized that Benandonner was a lot larger than he originally thought and hastily ran back home in terror.   With Benandonner hot on his trail, MacCool’s wife had to think quickly and using her quick wit she disguised her husband as a baby in an attempt to hide him from Benandonner.  At last Benandonner arrives demanding to see Finn, however upon seeing Finn’s “baby”, he decides that if the baby is that giant how big is the father! It is now Benandonner’s turn to flee and upon running back to his homeland of Scotland, he destroys the causeway behind him, severing the only path to one another once and for all.

Whether you believe this was caused by giants or volcanic eruptions, the fact remains that a trip to Ireland is not complete without visiting The Giant’s Causeway. I am always blown away by what nature is capable of and the raw beauty found within it. Standing amongst these hexagonal columns makes one feel so small and yet simultaneously part of something so big. Nature truly is a force to be reckoned with. Pair this with the folklore of the formation of the causeway itself, it reminds me of the stories that have come from those before me and the stories that will be written after I am gone. Up to this point, it seems like I have been saying every single place I have visited is my favourite. I would like to take a moment that the places I have visited before and the places I have visited after although beautiful in their own right cannot compare to Ireland.  With its rich folklore and raw beauty, it is like glimpsing into the past, present and future all at once. It truly is a magical place.

(Once again I would like to apologize for the quality of my photos, at this moment in my life I barely knew how to hold a camera. I mean to be fair, I still have trouble)

Derry, Ireland

After journeying from the land of giants, the next stop was Derry, Ireland which we would call home for the night. It is at this point that we leave the land of mystical beings, and return to the Ireland’s darker past once again. You see, just as Belfast was heavily affected during “The Troubles” conflict of the late 60s until the late 90s,  so was Derry.  Upon arrival, our tour guide informed us that we were scheduled for a walking tour with one of the locals to learn about it’s complicated past. As we walked along the streets, the tour guide spoke of fights that broke out within the very streets we walked through and the casualties that ensued.  Just as the black cabbie driver in Belfast teared up, so did our local guide in Derry. It was evident that this was not simply their past but their present and that they lived with these memories in their mind every day.  As we walked through the streets, our tour guide explained mural after mural and the people depicted in them. He spoke of an event called Bloody Sunday in which a civil rights protest would become a massacre, killing many innocent civilians in its wake. He spoke of those that had been lost and the personal connection he had to one of the deceased. As we continued on our tour, we stopped in front of a mural of a little girl who had become a casualty during this turbulent period in Derry’s history. Our guide informed us that she was simply walking down the street when a stray bullet struck her down and killed her. More heartbreaking was how after her death, her father would sit on a bench near the spot she was killed and talked to her as if she was still alive.  One thing I really appreciated about Ireland was the fact that they do not try to hide their history.  Living in a country that is stereotyped as being kind and nice, we often forget about the atrocities that were committed in my own country’s past. I think all countries could stand to benefit from being open about their past, in order to recognize what was done wrong and how to bring change into the future.

Travels in London: Part Three

Hey everybody,

If you’ve made it this far, you have now read about London’s great galleries, museums and theatres. However, my discussion on London would not be complete without recommending you some of its famous landmarks and beautiful green spaces. This list is by no means a full comprehensive list of all the things to visit, but rather some of my favourites. Without further ado, let us begin.

Buckingham Palace
If you are going to visit London then it only seems right that you visit the residency and administrative headquarters of the monarch. It is not only a residency, but stands as a representation of the British royalty and its power in England. It is a beautiful structure and situated in front of it adding to its beauty is the beautiful Victoria Memorial, dedicated to the late Queen Victoria. This memorial is absolutely stunning with its marble structure and gilded bronze. It is the perfect place to take stunning photos and witness people from all the corners of the world congregating together to visit the palace. If you are visiting Buckingham Palace, be sure to find out when the Changing of the Guard takes place as it is a sight worth seeing complete with marching and music.  Although I did not see this during my visit three years ago, I was able to witness the Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London which was equally mesmerizing.

Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial

Hyde Park and St. James Park

Now after visiting Buckingham Palace, make your way north for Hyde Park or southwest for St. James Park. These two parks are full of lush greenery and friendly wildlife. If you are looking for a peaceful afternoon, these parks will provide you with a sense of calm and peace as you walk along the lake. If you decide on Hyde Park, consider renting a bike from the Barclay’s bike rental stands in Hyde Park to explore the large park.  For those looking for more recreational activities, during the warm weather rowing and pedal boats are available for rental to glide across the Serpentine lake. If you are short on time, I would recommend visiting St. James Park instead which offers the same lush greenery but is not as large as Hyde Park.  In addition, St.James Park is perfect for photo taking opportunities as the London Eye is visible in certain areas of the park.  Whichever park you choose, you will not be disappointed. If you have time to visit both, then go out there and enjoy. If you are pressed on time, St.James Park will lead you to your next destination: The London Eye and Big Ben.


St.James Park

The London Eye and Big Ben

I have lumped these two together due to the fact that they are both in very close proximity to one another. Now I’m going to be honest in that during my entire time I was in London and even during my most recent visit, I have only seen the London Eye and have never actually gone on it.  If you are wondering why I have not stepped foot into one the little pods that make up the London Eye, my answer is simple: the line is too bloody long. Thus, for those wanting to take a ride, my advice to you is to buy tickets in advance and go early.  I cannot comment on the views from the London Eye but a quick google search yields many positive reviews in regards to the the incredible view from The Eye.  So I only hope you have better luck than me and manage to make it on one of London’s most well known landmarks. After your successful ride, visit Big Ben if only for a photo opportunity. It is a short walk from The Eye and although the clock tower is currently undergoing renovations, it is still a beautiful tower to see despite the construction.

Big Ben 

The London Eye 

Tower of London and Tower Bridge 

Next up on your itinerary is the Tower of London. The Tower of London is a historic castle which is better known for its history as a prison. Take a stroll through the complex and educate yourself on the torture that occurred within these walls. Within Wakefield Tower, you will find replicas of the torture instruments used on the prisoners of the tower. After learning about the torture that went on, bring yourself to a happier place by seeing the Crown Jewels which are housed in the Tower of London.  After you have walked around the Tower of London,  Tower Bridge can be clearly seen from the yard where you can continue with your photo shoot.  And with that you have crossed off two more places to see in London.


Tower Bridge 


Tower of London (Crown Jewels are in this building)

Markets

Now when you get to London you will notice something very quickly…. it is very expensive!  My advice to you is if you are looking for cool vintage items or cheap food, then head over to the various markets scattered across London. If its vintage items, music, and fashion you are looking for then Camden Market should be your first stop.  If it is food you are seeking, head over to the Old Spitalfields Market for an array of different foods to try from meat pies to Chinese noodles.  With a full belly and a one of a kind vintage piece you have now maneuvered through two of London’s markets.

Camden Market- Again you will have to excuse the camera quality on this one. 

Final Thoughts 

So you’ve made it to the end! I hope my guide on London has been helpful and informative in making the most out of your trip to London. As mentioned, the places I have mentioned are by no means a comprehensive list of places you should visit but rather the places I found most intriguing that I believe others will appreciate. There are many more museums, galleries, landmarks, green spaces, and markets to discover and this is just the starting point of your adventure. For those who live in London, I hope I have done well in representing the city you call home.  There is so much to see in London and I am sure that my next visit will only lead to new discoveries. If you have any questions, feel free to send a message. I am always happy to suggest additional places and/or talk about my experiences abroad.  Below I have left some suggestion of British literature both fiction and non fiction which might be of some interest to you in getting a better understanding of London’s history and culture.  Happy Travels!

Book Suggestions

Fiction
Sam Selvon- The Lonely Londoners
Night Haunts- Sukhdev Sandhu
The Buddha of Suburbia- Hanif Kureishi

Non-Fiction
London in the Twentieth Century: A City and Its People – Jerry White

Travels in London: Part Two

Hey readers,

The last time I left you guys, we spoke about London’s diversity and some of my favourite museums and galleries worth visiting in London. As previously mentioned during my discussion about the Victoria and Albert Museum, theatre plays an incredibly important part in British culture. Therefore, it was pivotal I visit several theatres during my time in London. An important thing to keep in mind is that there are more theatres in London than you can count on your hand. Each of them perform different plays and have their own unique appeal. Thus, do your research and find a play which interests you. Below I will discuss the three theatres I visited during my trip.

The Royal National Theatre

The Royal National Theatre is one of the most prominent theatres in London and quite massive. As one of the most prominent theatres, it also means it costs quite a bit to see a show.  If you are looking to get good seats, you will have to book in advance on the theatre’s website. If you are a short, near-sighted person like myself then do yourself a favour and splurge in a ticket closer to the front of the stage when booking. You will thank me later.  For the average individual, sound does travel well in this theatre and the seating is arranged in a way that the view of the stage is general unobstructed. During the performance I watched, scenes transitioned seamlessly and the lighting and sound crew did a phenomenal job of conveying the mood of the scene unfolding below. The National Theatre is definitely worth a visit if you can dish out the pounds.

Shakespeare’s Globe

The Globe is modeled after a theatre built by Shakespeare’s playing company during the end of the 16th century.  Like the name suggests, it is a globe shaped theater in which there are three ring shaped galleries: the lower, middle, and upper. In the center of the ring, is the Yard. For the cost of about 5 pounds, you can experience the action first hand standing for the entirety of the show in the yard. By standing in the yard, the action comes to you. During the performance, some of the action will unfold in the very place yard you are standing in as well as the stage. For those up for the challenge of standing for roughly 2 and a half hours, please do so. It is definitely an unforgettable experience, even if my feet were not happy about the entire ordeal. My only advice is to wear comfortable shoes and to be prepared for wet weather as the Globe has an open ceiling. With that said, pack your ponchos and runners and get going!

Fortune Theatre

Last but not least is Fortune Theatre.  My study abroad course was slowly coming to an end and while sitting on the carpet with three other classmates in a cramped student dorm, we decided to see one last play.  The play was The Woman in Black. What this theater lacks in size it makes up in sheer spirit. The performance had very few props, but with a little imagination needed from the crowd and the enthusiasm of the actors it was worth every dollar.  Rather than the small size of the theater being a con, it allowed for a much more intimate experience.  In short, do not dismiss a theatre simply because of its size as you may find yourself liking it more than the prominent big name theatres.

Final Thoughts

It can be overwhelming when trying to decide on the “best” theatre to visit in London. My advice is that everyone is different, and what one person might consider the best may not necessarily be the same as your “best”.  Thus, follow what interests you and choose the plays with the most appealing story line for you.  While The National Theatre had a grandiose beauty and stunning visual and audio, the grandness prevented me from enjoying the drama unfolding below.  As a result, I much rather enjoyed The Globe and Fortune Theatre which offered a more intimate experience of theatre.  That concludes my section on London’s theaters. Up next I will discuss some of my favourite landmarks and green spaces in London. Thanks again for reading!

First Post- Carolina’s Travels

I have been contemplating creating a travel blog for quite some time now. In doing so, I merge my two loves: writing and travelling.

My love for travel was ignited in June 2014. It was my first time travelling without my parents and I was headed to the United Kingdom.

It was during this trip I learned more about myself and began to grow into the person I am today. I do not travel simply to cross off countries on a list. Rather I travel to embrace the diversity in the world and appreciate the beauty of different cultures and landscapes. My travels have made me become more understanding, outgoing, patient and humble. It has helped me better understand my own cultural identity and appreciate the differences and similarities between cultures.

In creating this blog, I hope to share the memories that have stuck with me and changed the way I see the world and others. I hope to inspire you to get out and explore the world. This blog is more than a medium to tell my story. There is so much pain and destruction in this world, we often forget there is so much joy as well. I hope to remind you that there is so much good in this world even when things look bleak.