I think that I literally have lost track of time this past month. My inability to keep up with each week has been a gift and a curse all at once. Time has been passing me by so quickly because for the past month I have been on a whirlwind of adventures. However, I have also failed to realize that my time here in the UK is also coming to a quick end 🙁
So taking it back to the beginning of November, on Thursday, November 11th, myself and three of my friends ventured off to Leicester Square in London (the cinema and entertainment centre of the capital) and stood outside in the cold amongst thousands of people for the Harry Potter & The Deathly Hollows Premiere. It was an amazing experience just to be in the presence of so many dedicated fans, although we could only really see most of the event from the big screen tv’s they had overhead. Nonetheless I got to see the red carpet and was super excited because it was the first premiere I have ever been to, and what’s cooler than going to the Harry Potter Premiere in London?
The next day, on Friday, my British Life & Culture class went on a really cool field trip to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre & to Parliament. I personally loved the tour of the Globe Theatre because our guide was charismatic, outgoing, and a very good actress if I do say so myself 🙂 The most interesting thing I learned on the tour was about the reconstruction of the Globe. The original Globe was built in 1599 built by Shakespeare & his playing company the ‘Lord’s Chamberlain’s Men’. The modern reconstruction of the Globe Theatre, named “Shakespeare’s Globe,” opened in 1997 and was founded by the actor and director Sam Wanamaker. Wanamaker built the site approximately 230 meters from the site of the original theatre that had been destroyed by a fire in 1613.
So this year was my first time experiencing Thanksgiving away from my family. For most of my friends I have made while studying abroad, it was our first time being away from home for the holiday…and due to our sadness of not being able to participate in the festivities in America, we decided to make our own version of Thanksgiving the Tuesday before the actual holiday! A big group of us students, about 19 in total, all gathered at my friend Sven’s apartment in Central London and made a grand feast!!! Each of us made a dish that is a tradition in our household and shared in the good times of laughter, wine, football matches, and DELICIOUS food!!! What made this occasion even more special was the fact that we invited our friends studying abroad from Hong Kong, China, along with several of Sven’s friends that were from Australia & Sweden. It was the most diverse Thanksgiving I have ever shared in meeting other students that were Indian, Pakistani, and of course us Americans!!! It was extremely fun to expose our newfound friends to the traditional feast that we partake in every year! I’m pretty sure they all loved it just as much as we do =]
On Thursday, Thanksgiving night, myself, fellow New Paltz students Elexis Goldberg and Mike Dauernheim, and our friend Sarah from Michigan all camped out at Stansted Airport awaiting a 6:20 am flight to Cork, Ireland. We had a delicious second Thanksgiving meal beforehand put together by the lovely abroad staff at Kingston. This was another dinner that involved bringing a favorite dish to pass around with your table so we all contributed in preparation for the meal. Right after we ate, we took the train to Central London, hopped on a bus, and then travelled 2 hrs. to the airport.
We spent the night in Cork and on Saturday morning we went to the Blarney Castle; the castle originally dates from before AD 1200, where a wooden structure was believed to have been built on the site. Although no evidence remains of this, it was replaced by a stone fortification in about 1210 A.D. It was destroyed in 1446, but wasy rebuilt by Cormac Laidir MacCarthy, Lord of Muscry. The castle is now a partial ruin with some accessible rooms and at the top of the castle lies the Stone of Eloquence, better known as the Blarney Stone. It is tradition while visiting the Blarney Stone to hang upside down over a sheer drop to kiss the stone, which is supposed to give the gift of eloquence.
Saturday night we took the train from Cork to Dublin to spend the remainder of our weekend adventure celebrating my 21st birthday!!! We arrived at our hostel that was literally in the heart of Dublin; Christ Church Cathedral was next to it, we could walk right onto Trinity College campus, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral was also a hop, skip, and a jump away from where we stayed. We dropped off our bags and then met up with Mike’s friend Connor who is studying in Limerick , Ireland for my first experience going on a ‘pub crawl.’ That night we went to several different pubs around the city meeting interesting people from all over. We met a group of German students in one of the pubs and they sang me ‘happy birthday!’ The best part of the whole night was when it started snowing at exactly midnight on my birthday 🙂 We ran outside of the pub to take pictures and had a big snow fight in the streets of Dublin. According to weather reports: with extremely low temperatures, that particular night was recorded as the coldest night in Dublin!!!
The rest my fabulous birthday weekend was spent touring the Jameson Distillery & Guinness Factory. Sunday we went to the Jameson Distillery and had guided tour of the company where the magic of Irish Whiskey is made! The company was established in 1780 when John Jameson established the Bow Street Distillery in Dublin. With annual sales of over 31 million bottles, Jameson is by far the best selling Irish Whiskey in the world, as it has been internationally since the early 19th century when John Jameson along with his son (also named John) was producing more than a million gallons annually.
At the Guinness Factory on Monday, we did a self-guided tour of the company which was amazingly cool. It was a lot of fun to venture out on the tour ourselves because it is 5 floors of straight informational galleries and machinery. Guinness, the dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness in Jame’s Gate, Dublin, is one of the most successful beer brands in the world. A distinctive feature is the burnt flavour which is derived from the use of roasted unmalted barely. We actually got to taste test the barely before it was brewed and also sampled a free pint of Guinness’s after our tour was over. One interesting fact I learned about Guinness is that the reason there is a thick creamy surface at the top is because the beer is mixed with nitrogen when being poured. It is popular with the Irish both in Ireland and abroad and it should come as no surprise that it is the best selling alcoholic drink in all of Ireland where the Guinness Company makes almost 2 billion annually!!!