County Kerry, Cork, and Kissing the Blarney Stone

My time in Ireland is quickly coming to an end…. In one week, I will be in the air on the way back to the states.  I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by, and how much I have learned and gotten to see the last few months.
DCIM100GOPROGOPR1664.My most recent travels took me down to the southern region of Ireland. I decided to take off to adventure around the Ring of Kerry, the Dingle Peninsula, and Killarney. I really do like all of Ireland, and there are so many beauties around this country, but this area might be one of my favorites that I have traveled to. Killarney is the town that I stayed in, and I found a small guesthouse above a local pub that had food, drinks, and live music every night. The pub was a great place to hang out in the evenings, especially for someone traveling alone since it gave me a bit of company.

img_4001I spent two full days in County Kerry, and the first day was spent on a tour to the Dingle Peninsula. I went on a group tour bus that takes you on a coastal drive and has many stops along the way. We stopped at Inch Beach, which is a beautiful little stretch of coastline that sticks out from the peninsula. The beach has stunning views of the mountains surrounding you on both sides, but the water is awfully chilly and I couldn’t feel my feet for about 20 minutes because I DCIM100GOPROGOPR1649.decided to put my feet in the water. While driving around the peninsula, there are beautiful overlooks and panoramic views of many different sights. At one point, we could see the Skellig Islands, which are these odd little islands off of the coast that have an old Christian Monastery on them,img_3923 and are also where the final scene in the most recent Star Wars was filmed. We then continued to drive on until we reached the most western point of the country, meaning its the closest I have been to home since I have arrived here. We also stopped in the town of Dingle, where I had some of the best fish and chips I have tasted, and made a stop at a little farm where I got to pet and hold a 10 week old lamb!

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The next day, I took a tour bus to the Ring of Kerry and Killarney National Park. I really don’t know which day I enjoyed more, because the views and scenery everywhere were simply stunning. While driving around the ring, we learned some words in Irish, saw the Dingle peninsula from the other side of the bay, drove IMG_3998.JPGthrough villages with names that I cannot properly pronounce, ate lunch at one of the most scenic restaurants in Ireland, and I even got to see a dog riding on a donkey. The views were just breathtaking, and sometimes didn’t even feel real. I walked up to the top of a hill that we were stopped at for a little while, and I had spectacular views 360 degrees all around me. There was something so peaceful about just sitting right there, with no one else around except the views of the mountains and the sea. The views on the ring were quite impressive, but then we drove through Killarney National Park where there are lakes nestled in the valleys of all of the mountains, and I was yet again fullsizerender-21amazed. I really cannot put into words how much I loved this place, how beautiful it was, and as lovely as the pictures are, they will never fully show the true charm this place has.

 

This weekend I ventured back down to another area in the south of Ireland, and visited Cork and Blarney Castle. Cork was neat, and the accents in Cork are definitely something else. Blarney Castle isn’t too far out of Cork, and this is where the famous “Kissing the Blarney Stone” happens. It is said img_1945-2that if you kiss this stone, it will bring 7 years of good luck, and it is almost essential to visit if visiting Ireland. I got to kiss the stone, and then we walked around the castle grounds and gardens, and headed off into the village of Blarney. While walking around the gardens, we found the Wishing Stairs, which is said to grant any wish of yours if you can walk up and back down the steps backwards with your eyes closed. Of course we all had to try this, and I think the only reason I gopr1719-0001didn’t fall and break anything was because of those 7 years of good luck I must be getting from kissing the Blarney Stone. The rest of the gardens and the village were really nice, and I am glad I finally got to see the southern part of this country!

 

As much as I don’t want to leave this place that is beginning to feel like a second home, I really am ready to get back to my real home… So many things remind me of home and how much I miss it. I went swing dancing the other night, and it made me think of Dad and all of our dance sessions. The lakes in Killarney made me miss my lake view at home. The mountains everywhere remind me of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The beaches remind me of all of the years I spent at Sunset with my family. Even when I was packing the other day, DCIM100GOPROGOPR1652.my music playlist was on shuffle and played “Carolina In My Mind” by James Taylor. I’ve never left home for this long, and I think being away from it has made me appreciate it even more than I did before. Ireland has been great, and as thankful as I am for all of the new places, faces, and experiences, I have never been more excited to fly back home. Cheers to one more week here, and to this trip that I will forever be thankful for!

 

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Birthday Adventures, Amsterdam, and Barcelona

IMG_3196.JPGJust wanted to start off by saying that I am overwhelmed with the amount of love I have been given on my birthday this year! From all the sweet birthday wishes, the cards, the cakes, and the multiple celebrations, my 21st was definitely special and unforgettable. I am so grateful for everyone back home that made my birthday a special day, but also for everyone I have met here. I had all sorts of sweets and treats, and ended up having celebrations a week after my actual birthday. I am so glad I got to spend my 21st here, and I also got to do a little bit of traveling as well!

The last few weeks have been extremely busy. I had a conference for work up in Belfast, Northern Ireland at the beginning of last week, and got to spend some time with my lovely coworkers. They took me out for drinks that night, and all celebrated my birthday a day early. Also, our conference was in the Titanic Center in Belfast, where the Titanic was built. Watching speakers give presentations from what looks like the Grand Staircase from the Titanic was a really neat conference environment.

For my actual birthday, our trip coordinator got our group together for dinner and we all had a fun night celebrating!

IMG_0255.JPGLast weekend, some of our group headed over to Amsterdam. Amsterdam is definitely much different than I expected…. I will say that the city is unlike any other. The city is simply beautiful, built around the canals, filled with bicycles rather than cars, and there are flowers, markets, and lovely pancakes and waffle shops everywhere. Also, lots of cheese stores and cheese museums. I loved all of this, and enjoyed walking around the city and getting to IMG_0189.JPGsee the beauty of it. There are also parts of Amsterdam that definitely showed me the different culture of the area… It was a slight culture shock to me regarding some of the things that are legal in Amsterdam to say the least…. But it was still a lovely city, and I enjoyed my three days there. I got to stay in a little IMG_0249.jpghouseboat on the canal in the heart of the city, and looked out my window to a beautiful view down the canal. I also got to ride a hop-on, hop-off boat through the canal from different sightseeing areas, which I loved. Getting to see the city from the canal is a neat way to get around. The last day, we headed to a windmill in the city with  a brewery, and enjoyed some good food and beer from the brewery at De Gooyer Brouwerij ‘t IJ. I wish I had more time to travel out to the countryside to see all of the windmills, but I am so thankful for my few days in this unique city.

img_3486This past weekend, a few of us headed to the wonderful city of Barcelona in Spain. After a rough flight due to a sinus infection, we got to our airbnb in this wonderful little apartment in the middle of the city. We walked around the city for a little while, went to the La Boqueria market, saw the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and ended the day with a spectacular fountain show at the Font Màgica de Montjuïc. The next morning, I took off to the mountains about an hour outside of Barcelona by train. I left pretty early and got to spend most of my day in the beautiful area of the mountains called Montserrat. When I arrived, it was pretty foggy and hard to see, but I still started hiking up around the top regardless. It was kinda neat just sitting on the edge of a mountain, and slowly watching the fog clear and reveal these beautiful panoramic views. I really needed a day to unwind and to destress, and being in Montserrat was exactly what I needed. The little monastic site was one of the neatest places I have visited so far, and my visit was complete by hearing the Boy’s Choir, L’Escolania, perform in the Basilica. I took a cable car up and back img_3626down the mountain, and I got the entire cable car to myself on the way back down the mountain, and had the best views all around me. When I got back to Barcelona, I met back up with my group and we all hiked up to the bunkers and had amazing views of the city around sunset. The last day in Barcelona, we shopped around, got some coffee and pastries, walked around the park at Park Güell, and enjoyed one last Sangria from Spain before heading back to a cold, rainy Dublin.

img_3645For now, I don’t have anymore out of country trips planned, but I am just trying to enjoy the last three weeks I have in this country while I can… I am definitely ready to come home and see my family and friends, but I do love Ireland and will miss this place so much. I’m so grateful for the friendships I have made here, and also for the experience to work over here. I have learned so much, been given lost of wonderful opportunities, and I have really enjoyed being part of a community health organization. I have the most amazing, supportive coworkers, who are so much fun to be around as well. Here’s to a great last few weeks in Ireland!

 

London, Irish Dancing, Fire Alarms, and the Wicklow Mountains

Sitting at the table with my cup of tea and biscuits and I am realizing that in 7 weeks from today, I will be back in the states for my first full day at home… Time is flying by way too quickly, and I cannot believe I am almost halfway through my journey here in Ireland. From spending a weekend in London, journeying into Ireland’s mountains, saying goodbye to a friend going back to Mississippi, setting off the fire alarm for my first cooking class, and taking Irish dance lessons, Ireland has been keeping me overly occupied.

img_2991I’ll start with an update on the work I am doing over here. I
am instructing a cooking and nutrition class with about 12 participants, and this past week we made our first recipe! Overall, the class was a success…. other than we set off the fire alarm and had the entire building evacuated. The oven we were using was dirty from previous users, and it started smoking, so technically it wasn’t really our fault and none of our food was burnt or suffered from this unfortunate situation. It caused a bit of drama for a few minutes, but img_3033everyone was fine and all of the food was great. The class had decided the week before that they wanted to make pizza and chips. I thought this was a little strange because in the states, I do not typically think of pizza and french fries being served together, but it is common here and it was what the class wanted to make. Since I am supposed to incorporate nutrition and healthy eating into the class, we made healthy pizza and chips. In Ireland, zucchinis are called courgettes, so we made courgette chips (aka zucchini fries) and everyone in the class really enjoyed them!

As for traveling, two weekends ago I traveled to London for three days with my dear friend,img_0045 Rebecca. Rebecca and I are both southern girls from small towns… We thought Dublin was a huge city, and then realized that London makes Dublin seem small.  I really did enjoy London, but 3 days was the perfect amount of time because it can be a little overwhelming. The first day, we got settled into our hostel and then decided to walk around for a few hours. We walked through Hyde Park, Kensington Palace and Gardens, saw Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and just explored around in the heart of the city. We took a bus to Oxford the following day, and spend some time img_0073walking around the city and the campus. The campus is absolutely beautiful, and it was a really neat little town. From Oxford, we decided to go to Blenheim Palace, and saw the palace from the outside, but then walked around the park and gardens. This place was SO MUCH FUN. The gardens have the second largest hedge maze in the world, and it is supposed to take 25 minutes to get through… We made it out in 16! Along with the maze, they also have these life-size game boards that have puzzles to solve… These puzzles had us spinning in 70 circles in a img_0089row, running across the game boards in frustration, and we spent at least 30 minutes collaborating with other visitors trying to solve these little games. Eventually we figured them out, and realized how much fun we were having with something so simple. The park around the palace had beautiful views and a neat walking trail, but also sheep in the hills that Rebecca and I hopped an electric fence to try and pet. img_0050Turns out sheep do not like people as much as we like them. Our last day in London, we attempted to figure out public transportation, and ended up at the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. We walked around this area, saw St. Paul’s Cathedral, enjoyed some beautiful views at a rooftop bar, and then headed to the London Eye for the ending to our trip. We decided to do the Champagne Experience on the London Eye, and enjoyed a bubbly glass of Pommery Brut Royal 500 feet in the air, taking n the best views of London while watching the sunset. The London Eye was a great way to end the trip, and London was a really neat city!

Rebecca had to leave to go back to Mississippi this week, but our entire group all decided to have some fun for her last night in Ireland. The group of us all got together to watch and learn some Irish dancing, and we also heard some traditional Irish music! We all had lots of fun, but please do not ever ask me to show you the Irish dancing I learned. We all got a good laugh at each other, but Irish dancing is definitely not for my uncoordinated two left feet.

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My most recent trip was a day trip down to Glendalough and Kilkenny, which are both less than 2 hours south of Dublin. Kilkenny had a beautiful castle and was a neat little town, but Glendalough was absolutely the highlight of the trip. Glendalough is an old monastic settlement in the Wicklow FullSizeRender 15.jpgmountains, and there are lots of trails to hike around that have scenic views of mountains and lakes, along with a cool Monastic City to walk through with old church and building ruins, and a tower that reminded me of something from Rapunzel. Glendalough was absolutely marvelous, and the sunny weather only made it better. I img_0112definitely want to spend some more time in the Wicklow mountains, and hopefully I will get lucky enough to have weather as great as this weekend!

As for other updates, I realize that I am beginning to say words and things like they say here… I also have learned some phrases in Irish!  I have been converted from a coffee addict to a tea addict, and I have at least 3 cups of tea a day. I am beginning to miss home even more, and all my family and friends. I find myself wanting to FaceTime everyone much more than I did the first few weeks. I really miss certain foods from back home as well. The food here is great, and I have tried lots of new things, but there are definitely lots of things from back home that you cannot find here. I really cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by here, but I have to say that Ireland has overall made me feel right at home. I am looking forward for more travels in the near future, including Amsterdam and Barcelona!

 

Three Weeks in Ireland: Adventures in the North, East, and West.

I have been here for three weeks now, and I am still amazed and in love with this beautiful country! I definitely miss my people back home, but I know I’ll be back in the states in no time. These three weeks have flown by, and I have had so many amazing memories and experiences already. I apologize in advance for the lengthy post… Time got away from me last week, and I have so much to catch up on!14324333_1243602935699757_3223693960832594036_o.jpg

Since my last post, I have explored bits of the east coast outside of Dublin, headed over to the west coast, and wandered into Northern Ireland. I love the other interns here in our group, and it has given me awesome friends to travel with.

The first stop we traveled to outside of Dublin was to the north, in the coastal village of Howth. This little village was full of _mg_0547-2character, with coastline hikes that had stunning views, where we spent a good few hours hiking up some of the hills. We
also were typical tourists and took way too many pictures, bought some souvenirs in the market, and enjoyed some fish and chips. I would love to go back here and get to see more of Howth if I have the chance, but I know there are so many other beautiful areas to explore as well.

_mg_0528The following day, we took the train down to Bray, a coastal town south of Dublin. This day was mostly spent doing the Bray to Greystones Cliff Walk, and while the views were absolutely amazing, it was a pretty long hike. We walked around 9 miles just that afternoon, but had a very scenic walk along the coastline with some historical sights along the way.

During the week, things really began to pick up with my internship. The organization I am working with focuses on community health, and I will be doing a variety of things throughout the next few months. I am slightly nervous, but also excited to see how everything turns out! We are starting a new cooking class that is for the community members to come learn basic cooking skills, and I will be doing nutrition lessons in the class as one of the class leaders. Along with the cooking and nutrition lessons, I am assisting with our exercise classes and weight loss program, and providing support to individuals as needed. I also get to help out with one of our play and therapy programs for kids with disabilities! I really am so thankful for these opportunities, and I love the team that I get to work with. Although I sometimes struggle understanding everyone when the really strong Irish accents come out, I am adjusting really well to the environment!

img_0026This past weekend, two of the other girls and I took off to Galway, a coastal town on the western coast of Ireland. Galway is much smaller than Dublin, is equally as beautiful, and I wish I had more time to spend there. We spent Friday just walking around the city, explored the beautiful college campus of NUIG, enjoyed some local pubs, and listened to some lovely Irish music on the shop streets.

img_0036The next morning, we headed off to the Cliffs of Moher. While the bus ride up left us all car sick, the views were worth
every second of it. Everything I have seen so far has been beautiful, but these cliffs far surpassed my expectations. I only wish I could put into words how thrilling it is to sit on the edge of these beautiful cliffs with your feet hanging 700 feet above ocean waves crashing into the rocks.

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Sunday brought us to Northern Ireland where we made a few stops, including to Belfast, to a few film locations of Game of Thrones, to this rope bridge to a deserted island, and to Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway consists of 40,000+ basalt columns that were naturally formed years ago, and was a pretty neat place to see, despite the pouring rain we endured throughout the day.

Now it is Monday, and I must say that today has been not so grand. I currently have bronchitis, I got stung by a bee, and my glasses were broken today… Although the last 24 hours hasn’t necessarily been the highlight of my trip,  I really cannot complain too much after reflecting on everything that I have experienced the last two weeks in this beautiful country. I can only hope that the next two months are just as amazing as the last 3 weeks here, and I cannot wait for more of these adventures.

 

Dublin, Ireland: Week 1

I would say that my first week in Dublin has been rather successful! I have walked 45+ miles in one week, drank my first Guinness, had an Irish pie, drank multiple cups of tea (even some with milk in it), got lost in the middle of the city, played the tourist around Dublin, and I have met some amazing people. I even found the rock climbing gym!

As most of you may know, I am spending three months this fall in Dublin, Ireland for a Community Health Development internship with a health and wellness based nonprofit. Today was my first day at the internship, and I am excited to be working with this organization! They coordinate many wonderful programs, from cooking classes, health and exercise programs, and structured play for children with disabilities. It was a long first day, and I am a little overwhelmed with information, but I think that I am really going to enjoy the experience and learn many new skills the next few months.  It is much different this semester as I am not in school for the first time in years, but not having to worry about the stress of classes, exams, papers, and lab practicals is extremely relieving.

I am here with a program that coordinates all different kinds of internships abroad, and finally got to meet some of the other interns today. We all seem to get along pretty well already, and I can’t wait to get to know everyone a little better. We already have some sightseeing trips planned outside of Dublin for the weekends! I was the first to arrive with our group, so I spent the first few days wandering around the city centre getting lost. I have learned at least one new word every day, and I am getting more accustomed to the Irish accents and lingo the longer I am here. My host family is a younger couple with an adorable dog named Charlie, and they are beyond wonderful! They have been very welcoming, and have made me feel right at home here in Dublin. After only a week, I love the city and the people, and I am already amazed by all of the beautiful architecture, castles, cathedrals, and gardens I have seen.

I’ll post updates as I have time while I am here, and will hopefully get some beautiful pictures to share as well! I miss everyone back home already, but I know these next few months are going to be unforgettable!

To My Pappy: Thank you.

Pappy,

On Thursday, you flew away from your worldly home and landed on God’s celestial shore. While I miss you already, I know you are home and filled with joy. Your time came to fly away, and I am glad you are at peace in a better place.

I wanted so badly to see you again, but I am happy I got to spend the time that I had with you. There are many things that I wish I could thank you for now, and so many memories from the past 20 years that I cherish, so here are just a few….

Thank you for supporting all of us.

Thank you for teaching the grandkids how to wash, peel, and cut potatoes into absolutely PERFECT french fries.

Thank you for teaching us, from a young age, how to make the world’s best biscuits and that no one’s biscuits are better than Pappy’s biscuits.

Thank you for the times you took me to Dairy Queen after my dance class to get me a chocolate dipped ice cream cone. You sure had a love for eating, and for making sure we were all well fed.

Thank you for the precious memories made at Sunset Beach.

Thank you for dancing with me.

Thank you for your singing. While I wouldn’t say your favorite songs were ever my top picks, I have been whistling them the past few days, and they will always make me think of you. Those songs will always be special to me; I will always remember the joy it brought you to sing with my dad.

Thank you for loving me even though I wouldn’t let you hold me when I was younger. For whatever reason, men without beards scared me, and I am sorry for all the times that I cried when you were around. At that age, I couldn’t tell that you had a big heart full of love to give.

Thank you for your unpredictability. Life around you was always entertaining, and you kept us laughing with your stories and comments.

Thank you for the memories of your boat rides where you would yell, “Yabba Dabba Doooo!”

Thank you for always having candy in your little side-table cabinet every time the grandkids came over. I remember a year or so ago, I came over to pick up Mimi. I opened the candy cabinet and saw that it was empty. You had not expected me to be there, so I did not think a thing about it. When I came back later that night, you told me that you had restocked the whole thing just for me. You even bought my favorite candy.

 

Thank you for complimenting me and telling me that I was beautiful when I didn’t believe it.

Thank you for the long, handwritten notes I got in cards and notes from you. You wrote the sweetest messages, and never failed to make me smile.

Thank you for being an amazing example of how true love can last, and for loving Mimi with all of your heart.

Most of all, thank you for your love. You had a contagious love to share with everyone around you. You seemed to have an ultimate goal of putting a smile on someone else’s face, and you had endless amounts of joy to share. You were a strong man, Pappy, and I am so glad to have been a part of your life. Thank you for all you have done. You will always hold a special place in my heart.

Right now, I hope you are dancing on your Yabba Dabba Doo boat while singing “I’ll Fly Away” and eating a good bowl of homemade ice cream in Heaven. Love you, Pappy. I’m happy that you are finally home.

 

-Kori Lynn

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