Casey Byrne Dublin
Greetings from Europe!! It’s hard to believe less than a month ago I had never left the country. Now I can say that I have been to 5 countries across Europe! This semester I am studying at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. I am one of about twenty students from Notre Dame at Trinity. There are about thirty-five other students also studying in Dublin at University College Dublin which is about thirty minutes outside the city.
The week before our semester started some friends and I decided to travel on our own. So, we packed our bags and planned a jam packed week that included three countries in five days. Our first stop was Prague where I was lucky enough tospend two nights. It might have been because this was the first country outside the US I had ever visited but Prague was magical. In the moment, and now reflecting on it, it’s hard to imagine a prettier city. This was a view on the St. Charles Bridge which is a famous bridge in Prague. We spent the day walking around the city and taking in all the cobblestone streets and snow covered roofs. While I’m sure Prague is beautiful in the summer as well, it was hard to beat the view that had everything coated white with snow. Prague is such a charming city and just wandering an ordinary street has the prettiest view as you can see.
After spending two nights in Prague we took a train to Vienna, Austria. Taking the train between these two cities was the way to go as it was cheaper and allowed us to see sites in the countryside. Vienna was quite cold when we got there and we spent most of the afternoon huddling together in our coats trying to stay warm. We visited the Schoenbrunn palace which was beautiful. Behind the palace is a hill we climbed that had various sculptures and fountains. I’m sure that when the gardens are in full bloom during the summer it would be gorgeous.
After a night in Vienna we grabbed a bus to Munich where we would spend our last night. While visiting these places allowed or so many new experiences, by the last day we were definitely ready to head back to Dublin and spend a relaxing night in. Munich was a really cool city and we essentially hopped from pub to pub. It was awesome having amazing pretzels with anything we were drinking. After our night in Munich, we flew back to Dublin for orientation. The week was so busy it was hard to believe that we still hadn’t even begun our study abroad program.
Our first week of study abroad was filled with orientations and time spent getting to know the other Notre Dame students we would be with. Our first weekend in Dublin a group of us took a quick day trip to Howth, which is a thirty minute train ride outside the city. Picture a miniature version of the Cliffs of Moher and you’ve got Howth. We took a group pic of course, peep me there in the middle with the gray sweatshirt. It was great to get outside for the day and spend time seeing the Irish countryside. We ended our trip with a great meal of fish and chips. It’s hard to believe all we’ve done in this short period of time but that makes the possibilities for what we can do this semester that much more exciting!! Until then, as we say in Ireland, “Sláinte” (cheers!).
It’s hard to believe another month has passed abroad. This month took me all over Europe as I spent many weekends traveling. The first few weeks in Dublin were spent becoming closer to other Notre Dame students abroad with me that I didn’t know as well. It is very nice to now feel as if I’ve been friends with these people for much longer than a month. Traveling across Europe and navigating foreign countries airports and transportation systems will do that to you.
The first weekend in February I spent in London. This also happened to be my birthday weekend which is why I wanted to spend it with friends from Notre Dame studying at the London program. I didn’t realize how much I missed the city feel until I arrived. Dublin is a very quaint city, but it doesn’t quite have the large city feel. With only 500,000 people it doesn’t have the energy I’ve come to know from large, built up cities. There was a ton to do in London and we found ourselves constantly on the go. We saw Buckingham Palace and Westminster Cathedral. Coming from Washington, DC I was used to all museums being free. However, coming to Europe I learned that this was a luxury I had taken for granted. Any museum or church we wanted to enter we had to pay a hefty fee of around 50 euro. We decided it was worth paying to see the Tower of London, an old Castle right by the Tower Bridge.
We had an early morning flight out Monday with the Super Bowl late Sunday night. With the time difference between the states, the game didn’t start until about midnight. This knowledge, combined with the prices in London, meant that we decided to forego a place to sleep Sunday night. We found a pub to hang out Sunday night, bringing our bags with us, and watched the game until it was over at 4am. At that point we made our way to the airport to wait out our flight. Overall, a very fun weekend in London.
February also took me to Amsterdam and Switzerland. Amsterdam was super pretty. The canals were gorgeous to walk around and we took a canal cruise that allowed us to see the city better. Amsterdam has a few museums that, like London you have to pay for, but the Van Gogh museum was particularly beautiful. We had a housing fiasco in Amsterdam when we tried to fit five girls in a single room that only had two twin beds. After some finagling we were able to get an extra room thankfully, which made the rest of the trip much easier.
Switzerland was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. We spent a night in three different cities which meant we were always on the go but had the opportunity to see a lot. Our first night was in Lucerne which is a water front town with the Alps in the background. We then spent a night in Interlaken where we hiked around the two lakes. Finally, we spent a night in Zurich which was by far my least favorite city in Switzerland. Switzerland in general was incredibly expensive. We actually ended up saving money by only eating at grocery stores. For every meal we would pop into a grocery store and get something to eat which kept the total cost down. Let’s just say I ate a lot of chocolate and croissants.
It seems crazy that I am already writing another one of these. The months just fly by when you’re having fun. March was definitely the month that has gone by the fastest so far. Maybe its because Dublin and the people I’m with are beginning to feel like home and I have my routines down, but I also think that the increased travel and time off due to Spring Break led to time moving faster as well.
At the beginning of March I spent a weekend in Brussels, Belgium. I can confirm that Belgium does have the best waffles in the world. Waffles are a cheap 2.5 euro for a plain one. You know waffles are good when you can eat them, and want to eat them, completely plain. The main square in Brussels might’ve been the most ornate and beautiful squares I have yet to see in Europe. We went on a walking tour and had a great, engaging tour guide that definitely added to our Belguim experience. We also took a quick day trip to Brugge, a city about an hour outside of Brussels. Brugge is much older and has an adorable main square with bright colored townhouses that make for great photo backdrops.
Brussels was just the first stop in our spring break week. We then headed to Lisbon, Portugal. As we only had two days here we tried to make the most of it and remained very busy. We landed the first morning at about 9am and were unable to check in to where we were staying until 4pm which meant a long day carrying our bags. We took
the train to Sintra, Portugal where there is a beautiful castle and palace. Of course to see this, you need to hike for about an hour. Hiking with heavy backpacks doesn’t sound like it would be much harder but trust me, we were ecstatic to not have to carry them around the next day. Our second day in Portgual we got breakfast right on the main square which gave us a beautiful view. We found a food market which was surprisingly cheap and hung out there most of the day, walking around and trying the different local food.
After our quick trip to Lisbon, we flew to Barcelona. Barcelona is my favorite city by far. It helped that the weather was gorgeous and we were able to wear sundresses. La Sagrada Familia, a famous Cathedral, was absolutely breathtaking. By far the finest piece of architecture I have seen and I don’t anticipate anything surpassing it. We went to a large, famous food market off of the main strip for several meals as the food and prices were unbeatable. One night we went outside of the city to a popular overlook known as The Bunker.
We all sat there for about two hours watching the sunset over the city. Overall, Barcelona, in both the food and the sights, was one of a kind and I can’t wait to go back.
Following this busy spring break, we had to get ready for the greatest holiday of all time: St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, Ireland. Dublin the days preceding the holiday were unlike I’ve seen it. The streets were constantly crowded and the pubs we were used to going to casually were now in high demand. The city experienced a surge of tourists from all over, including many other Notre Dame students studying abroad. These tourists included one of my best friends back at ND and one from high school. They were both in for the weekend which made for a great time. We all went to the Guinness Factory, the first time for me, and got to drink a pint at the top with a 360 degree view of Dublin. The parade itself was incredibly fun but pretty typical for a St. Patrick’s Day parade back in the states. I’m glad I can forever say I experienced St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland, but it was definitely a tourist holiday.
The next weekend, I stayed in Ireland and traveled to the west to visit different towns and the Ring of Kerry, a ring of famous mountains surrounding the town of Kerry. It was a weekend with lots of driving, the farthest we went was about 6 hours from Dublin. However, the views were spectacular. We were able to stay in a resort that our program directors coordinated. You forget how nice a real bed is when you’re used to skimping it at hostels. The sunsets and mountain top views we saw were gorgeous. Everywhere we went had a backdrop of green mountains with thousands and thousands of sheep. Since it’s the spring it seemed every sheep had a lamb traipsing behind it, which just added to the
beauty and enjoyment of the weekend
With the end of April approaching, my time in Dublin is almost complete. This semester has been the busiest of my life and the time has flown by the fastest of all my semesters at ND. This month the constant traveling and little sleep definitely caught up to me as I had a very bad cold that lasted over a week and the immediately after came down with pink eye. This meant that it was also the perfect time for my family to visit, as I think everyone can agree they most want to see their mom when they’re sick.
The first weekend of April, just two days after I had gone to the doctor for pinkeye, I flew to Paris to meet my parents. They had flown there directly from the states. It was super nice to travel without staying in a hostel or eating at the cheapest places we could find. Our first night there we took a river cruise around the city for an hour and a half. It left at 7pm, a time I highly recommend as it starts during golden hour but ends at night with the Eiffel Tower glittering along the backdrop. Here is the Eiffel Tower from the view of our boat along with a picture of my mother and I in front of it (peep the glasses I’m wearing because of my pinkeye).
The next day we continued through Paris seeing sites such as Notre Dame Cathedral and the Sacre Coeur. Given the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral, I’m very lucky that I was able to see it. Following the weekend with my parents in Paris, they returned to Dublin with me. One afternoon that they were there we spent touring the Guinness Factory Storehouse that has a great lookout over Dublin. It was really nice to be able to show them around the city I’ve been living in. The free meals at different pubs were even better!
Following the weekend with my parents, I had another visit from home. My random freshman roommate, Claire, and I are very close and have roomed together every semester we’ve been at ND. Claire is also abroad, studying in Toledo, Spain this semester. Claire flew to Dublin to spend the weekend with me. It was super nice to be back with someone who I’m so close with. It made traveling a breeze. We stayed in Ireland, traveling to the West. We took a train to Galway and spent the night there. Galway was a very cute town with streets full of pubs and live music.Following the weekend with my parents, I had another visit from home. My random freshman roommate, Claire, and I are very close and have roomed together every semester we’ve been at ND. Claire is also abroad, studying in Toledo, Spain this semester. Claire flew to Dublin to spend the weekend with me. It was super nice to be back with someone who I’m so close with. It made traveling a breeze. We stayed in Ireland, traveling to the West. We took a train to Galway and spent the night there. Galway was a very cute town with streets full of pubs and live music.
The next day we took a ferry to one of the Aran Islands, Inis More. It’s a very rural island with a population of about 800. We rented bikes and rode around the whole island traveling to a look out on a part of the island with higher elevation. With only a few pubs on the island, they were pretty busy and we didn’t stay out late before turning in to bed early.
As my time in Dublin begins to come to a close, I have to look back on everyone in the program that has made my time here so wonderful. While most of the pictures and stories I include are from weekend travels, I spend most of my time in Dublin. It truly is a lively city full of welcoming people and good craic. The other students in my program helped organize a formal during April that was a night for everyone to get dressed up and spend together. It was great to see everyone looking there best and be able to spend time together, as our program winds down.