dork = dublin + cork and now rachel = dork for such a lame word merge but i just couldn't help myself.

this past week was a quiet one, which was fine by me as it gave me time to rest up for my first big irish expedition which took place just this weekend.

it took me a few weeks to get acquainted with ireland and comfortable with the idea of traveling out of limerick.  i get a little intimidated by unfamiliar public transportation (a result of growing up in the rural midwest) and i'm a homebody, so once i got here and began to establish my routine within the city and my internship i was content with staying settled for a while.  silly, because, duh hello i am in ireland, but i just chalk it up as some coping mechanism of sorts.  a temporary one, though, and by the middle of last week i was itching for an adventure, welcoming new scenery and an exploration of unfamiliar lands.
i was invited by my supervisor to attend a seminar concerning crisis management and supporting international students during times of crisis in dublin hosted by ICOS, the irish council for international students, on thursday.  i was so giddy about the opportunity to meet other local professionals in the field and have open conversations and learn from them about supporting our students to the best of our abilities during challenging times and i was on a high all week from it - i love my job.  so thursday morning i happily hopped on a train (my second-ever train - my first real train i may dare to say, as the one other was a 12 hour overnight train ride from granada to barcelona, an entire beast of its own) and headed to dublin!  
it was my first time in the city and i'd planned to arrive much earlier than necessary so i could grab lunch and wander a bit before the seminar started in the afternoon.  dublin is quite lovely actually - i really liked it, and i'm not much of a city girl.  there were cute shops and restaurants on every corner, historic monuments, government buildings, parks, tourist attractions and local hang-outs all very centrally located.  considering its size, it felt very quaint and calm.  i grabbed a panini at a little cafe and spent the morning winding through city center.
after the seminar (which WAS AWESOME, ps) i made my way back to the train station where i met up with jordan, one of my close friends whom i met at work at eastern!  jordan just graduated from EIU and has been traveling around europe the last three weeks and so generously made a stop in ireland so we could spend the weekend together!  from the station, we grabbed a train to cork, where we'd planned to spend friday.
last fall, jordan and i worked together on fridays which we quickly deemed "rachdan fridays" to make a long friday afternoon a little more enjoyable.  we continued the tradition of little fri-dates during the spring and just so happened to be in cork together on a friday -the ultimate of the ultimate rachdan fridays.    
i did really enjoy cork, but it was not at all what i expected.  i don't know what i was thinking!?  it was bigger and hillier than i'd imagined and very shopping-oriented.  river lee runs through cork and parts around the city center, putting downtown on a little island in the middle of the river.  it only takes about 15 minutes to walk from one end of the island to the other, but the city is constantly buzzing between each end point.
we didn't have any serious intentions for cork or things we wanted to check off our list which are my favorite kinds of days in cities.  we scoped out a city map the evening before and got an idea of a few of the things we'd like to see - the cathedral, sit atop one of the hills for an overlook of the city, st. anne's church, the bell tower, university college cork (this list addition driven by yours truly #studentaffairsproprobz) the english market, st. patrick's street, and whatever we could stumble upon in between.  we decided we'd make a bit of a loop around the city to hit up each attraction.
although we had the best of intentions, we managed to get so turned around and spend 87% of the day lost and confused.  haha jordan and i both humbly consider ourselves to have fairly keen senses of direction, so cork was a total shot to our self-esteems.  we couldn't ever find our location on the map and managed to miss the largest, most happening shopping street smack dab in the middle of city center all day until our last hour.  so. much. confusion.
i think my favorite part of cork was seeing university college cork.  it's like something out of a fairytale land and it was lovely getting to interact with professionals on campus and see students in action.  the campus houses the most stunning little chapel as well as an inviting student center and modern academic buildings.

the president's office at UCC - if i didn't want to be a college president before, i think i do now!
by friday afternoon we said peace out, cork! and headed to limerick.  i was so pleased to play host and share my new home with jordan.  i took her out for the best fish and chips at bobby byrnes pub that night and we called it a night shortly after.  

we were both feeling a little run down saturday morning, so we took it easy that morning and slowly made our way to the milk market, my favorite part of limerick.  it was so special to share this with her and i think she thoroughly enjoyed it as well.
i grabbed my chocolate croissant, as per routine, and we easily convinced each other to sample all of the cheese samples, try an adventurous market snack for lunch (we each got a leek potato and cheese pastie - YES - and a lemon and sugar crepe for dessert) and grab some fresh market treats to have for dinner later.
after the market, we did a little shopping and we walked to see st. mary's cathedral and st. john's castle.  aside from a little drizzle in cork, we were lucky to have beautiful weather.  we went on a final mission to find the stormy teacup, a little nook of a coffee shop i'd heard about, and we spent the afternoon chatting over tea, a rachdan specialty.
we made our way back to our hostel where we had dinner - baguettes with ham, turkey, brie, and fresh strawberries, like the true europeans we both secretly are.
and doritos.  we also had doritos.  okay?  like true americans.  i'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that.
what a refreshing weekend this was.  there was something so fulfilling about having a familiar face and close friend to visit and explore the area with.  i don't think i realized how isolated i was feeling and how much i needed some friend time... friend time and company and adventure was exactly what this weekend offered, and my heart could not be left feeling more full!



alternatively titled: an almost-never-ending bank holiday well spent.

this past monday was a bank holiday in ireland (yay, bank holidays!) which i decided to make the most of by taking a day trip to adare, a small village 20 minutes or so outside of limerick. 
i was a little worried with it being a bank holiday and all about the accessibility of this small village and whether it would even be worth the trip on a day like today.  will the buses still run?  if so, will they operate according to the regular route timetable?  will stores be open?  will there be food?  more specifically, will there be ice cream?  will the sun still rise?  very legitimate concerns about the workings of bank holidays i did have, you see.
i did my research as thoroughly as possible.  i grilled the four different hostel desk workers i encountered in the 24 hours leading up to monday.  i asked another guest whom i thought was irish but turns out she is south african?  i made phone calls.  i searched every bus website and travel forum imaginable.  after the irish south african simply reassured me that "oh silly, a bank holiday just means the banks are on holiday.  everything else is open and running."
so she didn't say the "oh silly" part but she was surely thinking it, because, duh.  bank.  holiday.  i pretended like i of course absolutely knew that i was just testing her irish south african knowledge and then i quickly grabbed my things, scurried away, and off to adare i went!

adare is the absolute sweetest, most quaint little town.  it is the epitome of rural ireland: rolling hills, castle ruins, abbeys, little cottages, and building fronts and doors representing every color of the rainbow.  it's simply lovely.  it's rather small and the main street is smattered with different boutiques, cafes, a hardware store, a couple of restaurants, a hair salon, some lodging facilities, the usual.  there's a creamery just outside of town, a golf course, and a beautiful park smack dab in the middle of the action.  there is also a really nice heritage center as you come into town that offers food, tours, light shopping, and free public restrooms!  a european rarity!

i spent the afternoon just wandering the streets, popping in and out of the shops on the main drag, walking a little big outside of town in every direction to scope out a hidden abbey or castle ruins.
one sign pointed very passionately towards the "creamery!!!" which triggered the ice cream alarm within me and instilled some sort of magnetic pull between us that led me swiftly to said creamery, about a half a mile outside of town.  it was a large, hot pink building with walls on each side and a gate closing off the front.  as i got closer, it turned out that the "creamery" was a fudge/gift shop?  and closed on mondays?  deceit is what i felt i tell you.
by then i was sweaty and dusty and hungry, but i made another lap around the little village before settling down at the bus station.  (PS, i'd actually considered running a 5k in adare that was hosted by the local abbey to raise funds for the school.  it was on my birthday and i thought, what a way to spend a birthday!  better things came up, but it was nice to see adare in action and try and imagine a 5k taking place in the little village.  hashtag hills hashtag i would have keeled over and died mid-run so i shall thank God for looking out for me on that blessed day).  by this time it was about 3:30 - the bus back to limerick was due to arrive at 3:45.  i'd seen one pass about 15 minutes before i walked back to the station, but i knew another one was expected in 20 minutes so i thought i'd take advantage of that time and walk through the park.
i should have trusted my instinct and taken that first bus - i'm not sure if they were off schedule or there was a hold up in the route, but i ended up waiting until after 5:00 for the next bus to come along.  i got caught up on a crowd of french students who couldn't speak english and an angry old irish man whom i accidentally gave away knowledge that i was the only other english-speaker in the group and got stuck listening to his angry ramblings and trying to translate them in to weak hand gestures to the french students.  we were all a little confused and i was definitely panicking inside, picturing myself walking all the way back to limerick because surely that 3:15 bus must have been the last bus that was ever running for the rest of eternity from adare to limerick and my phone was dying now i'm going to be stuck here - AND I HADN'T EVEN PACKED SNACKS.  I ALWAYS PACK SNACKS - rotting from hunger and loneliness.  have i mentioned i am a catastrophizer?

i remained externally calm and whilst internally cursing myself for not pretending to be french too so i could ignore mr krabs, the bus stop troll.  the funny thing is, just the night before i'd spent time with a french girl whom i'd met in the building i'm staying in... we giggled as she taught me how to say numbers 1-10 in french and i shared with her the difference between "kettle" and "cattle" and "three" and "tree."  i'm saying i think i could have passed!  before too long (and before i had to whip out my mad french skills, much to everyone's relief) the familiar big green bus rolled up and on i jumped, spending the short journey back to limerick reliving my beautiful day spent in adare.



this here is one of my firstest and bestest irish friends (FBIF), sharing with me all of the wisdoms and wiseties of irish immersion.  the following is a guide on the proper vocabulary to be used in order to sound like a proper irishman, as told by FBIF:

ride = lift
trunk (of a car) = boot
chips = crisps
french fries =  chips
gasoline = petrol
vegetables = veg
stroller = buggy
shopping cart = trolly
band-aid = plaster
job/position = post 
(dollar) bill = note
leash = lead
bus = coach
planner = diary
schedule = timetable 
pitch = field

i'm finding that the irish are exceptional conversationalists with gooooood senses of humor.  they're always initiating genuine conversation, all-the-while laughing and joking away, a trait that i appreciate because it says so much about their culture.  conversation etiquette can be quite telling; the one thing that irish conversation style tells me is that it plum rocks.  it makes navigating the "language barrier" (a term used ever so lightly of course) that much more exciting. 

and there ye have it, mates!



time is FLYING.  i want to bottle it up, saving it forever, only releasing it little by little so i can be sure to seize each moment before it passes me by.

week 2 in ireland has officially come to a close.  how has it been 2 weeks already?  time flies when you're having fun, and fun i have been having.
pretty views from the look out at king john's castle
last monday, the day after my birthday, we hosted our visiting study abroad group to a tour around limerick city.  it was a treat to get to tag along as this was my first time seeing many of these parts of town, too.  talk about the perfect gig, huh?  

we started at st. john's castle where we got to tour the museum, climb through the castle itself, pretend we are princesses... (oh wait, was that just me?) and do some shopping before stopping for lunch at the locke bar, a local favorite.  after lunch we spent some time at st. mary's cathedral in limerick city, right across from the locke bar.  it's a lovely cathedral of the church of ireland and is the oldest in-use building in the city, dating back to its foundation in 1168.  following the cathedral, we crossed the river to tour the hunt museum, a landmark in limerick that houses the collection of +2,000  pieces of art and antiques that were collected by john and gertrude hunt in the 20th century.

st. mary's cathedral
 little prayer trees in the cathedral

on tuesday morning we were off to the cliffs of moher!  this morning trip was paired with an afternoon at bunratty castle and folk park.  a fun-filled day if i do say so myself.
on our way to the cliffs we swung by lahinch, a sweet little beach town where the major surfing in ireland takes place.

the cliffs are ireland's most popular tourist attraction, and rightfully so, as they stretch across a significant part of the western irish coast, serve as view points for a handful of other sites in ireland such as the aran islands, the mountains in galway and loop head to the south, and were even featured in pop-culture favorites like harry potter and the half blood prince and the princess bride.

seeing as the cliffs are in ireland and on the coast, visibility is pretty low more often than not.  that said, we couldn't have gotten a nicer day - warm, sunshine-y (now this is stuck in my head help me), nary a cloud in the sky... and visibility was crystal clear.  we could see the aran islands from shore and each of the cliffs stretching out.

after our morning at the cliffs, we went to bunratty castle and folk park.  first, we made a pit stop at mcgann's for lunch in doolin as well as swung through to see the burren.
the tomb at the burren
bunratty castle is a medieval fortress near shannon town that has been preserved and is decorated with household items and decor from the 15th and 16th century to represent the time period in which it was in use.  there is a folk park surrounding the castle full of little cottages and shops set up to represent historic irish village life as well as bunratty house and garden, a refurbished victorian home from the early 19th century.  it is such an adorably quaint experience.
bunratty castle
bunratty tea room
the one thing i knew i had to do at bunratty was visit the tea room and have a piece of apple pie, so immediately following my tour of the castle, i headed straight for the tea room and did just that.

tea and apple pie for one, please!

the sweetest end to the sweetest few days.