Alex Clinton Dublin
Hello from across the pond,
My name is Alex, I’m a junior majoring in computer science and math and I’m studying at Trinity College in Dublin this semester. I don’t have a rigid plan for this blog so here are some of my musings and travel ~experiences~ from my first couple of months abroad.
College in Ireland is different, very different, from what I’ve become accustomed to at Notre Dame. An Irish friend of mine put it best when he described college in Ireland as a dayjob and college in the US as working with some breaks on the weekend. For example there is rarely weekly homework and your grade is predominantly determined by a final essay or test. The social schedule of the US is also somewhat flipped. Most gatherings, events, and trips to pubs take place on weeknights since a sizable portion of Irish students go home for the weekends. And while this difference has been a bit of a culture shock, it has allowed me to explore and branch out more than a typical Notre Dame semester would. I’ve had the chance to take weekend trips and begin to explore different parts of Ireland and Europe as a whole.
Luxembourg isn’t the first place you might think of visiting on a trip to Europe but Ryanair offered me a 30 euro round trip so I gladly accepted. Some friends and I arrived at around 8:30 on a Friday night with plans to check into our hostel and hit the ground running the next day. Having done our homework we knew all of the public transportation was free and that there was a chain of bus routes from the airport to the center of Luxembourg (yes the city is also named Luxembourg). Armed with google maps and the official Luxembourg transit website we made it to the first bus stop and hopped on the second leg. 5 minutes later we noticed that the bus was traveling the opposite direction we needed to go. While deliberating amongst ourselves where to hop off next, the bus pulled over, the driver got out, shouted “DONE” and walked off into the night. At this point it was 9:30, hostel check in closed at 10, and we were about a half hour walk away. After hustling through the Luxembourg suburbs, we made it in time and immediately passed out. The next day we took a train out to Vianden Castle where we toured the interior and perimeter and overlooked the countryside from atop. Here’s some pictures I took from one of the spires at the top of the castle and on the hike up.
Two weeks later, unknown to me, Ryanair had again decided my weekend plans when I spotted an enticing flight to Cologne, Germany. Again I didn’t have a precise and well defined plan for what I was going to do in Germany but the pictures of the Cologne Cathedral were enough to spark my interest. Fresh off our morning flight, a friend and I spent the day touring Cologne and saw some of the main attractions such as the cathedral and bridges (pictures from yours truly included). Our trip consisted mostly of walking around and seeing what we could find. We ended up putting down close to 40mi over the three days we were there and were content with how much we had seen when we started recognizing the same streets and shops.
While I have more trips and events to share (maybe if I run out of material in the next blog post) these two were the ones that got me most out of my comfort zone. Although it's ironic coming from me, I feel that I’ve learned the value of going into an adventure without a plan. Even though it’s tough to relinquish control, you earn it back in the form of experience and confidence in navigating what comes your way.
Until next month when I remember my blog,
Hello again to all my fans,
It's been a while since we last talked and there have been many trips and tales which I am obligated to fill you in on.
France was my first destination of March and to compensate for the fact that I do not speak a lick of French, I tried to learn some common phrases: Thank you, please, I’m sorry, where is the bathroom? The phrase I was most proud of was learning to say “excuse me, do you speak english” but my pride was crushed after being told I had been saying “excuse me do you speak to an English woman” the entire time. If you don’t have a plan B after the bus driver responds that he doesn’t speak English, you’re going to have an issue regardless. Fortunately some helpful pointing and smiling got me from the airport to my hostel eventually. The next morning I met up with one of my friends (hi Aidan if you’re reading this) to go visit the Louvre. Although we did buy tickets for the very first time slot, we were surprised to see the entrance area mostly empty (see picture for proof). But fear not, the city became more lively as the day dragged on and we visited the Arc de triomphe, the Eiffel Tower (twice, sorry for bragging), and a collection of small spots throughout the city. My time in France was rounded out by a visit to an authentic French farmers market (I recommend the goat cheese), lots of crepes, and biking around the gardens of Versailles (not cause we couldn’t get in or anything like that, I bet the gardens were cooler anyways).
The easiest way I can describe St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin is The 4th of July minus the fireworks, plus Guiness. The main streets were packed all over the city with a sea of green, parades running throughout, and a very high energy atmosphere. I had a difficult time explaining to a friend of mine that was visiting (I’m not sure you know this exists but hello Victor) that Dublin was not normally this chaotic. Regardless, St. Patrick’s day was a great time, aided by a generous two bank holidays which were needed and facilitated a quick weekend trip out to Galway.
If you ever get the chance to visit Barcelona there are two things you must experience: La Segrada Familia (one of the most beautiful works by the famed Antoni Gaudí) and Jamón ibérico (delicious ham). Walking into La Segrada Familia is like being in a rainbow. The spectrum of stained glass windows make for aesthetic pictures and friends that are sick of posing. Eating Jamón ibérico is like tasting a rainbow, if a rainbow tastes like smooth buttery ham aged to perfection. Optional things to do in Barcelona include: squid ink paella, walking down Las Ramblas, and going to an underground jazz club where you are the youngest person by 20 years.
I’ll save the rest for my next blog because I have no more plane flights booked except for the one back to the US (you’re welcome) and I have to go learn the material on the exams which count for my entire grade. Anyways, thank you for reading and until I remember the blog again ciao, cheers, and thanks a million.