Last summer, my friend and I went to see Leap Year and fell in love with Ireland. We told ourselves we wanted to move to the country, meet an Irish chef that tells us how “lovely” and “gorgeous” we are, and grow a veggie garden based mainly off potatoes.
Well, my friend moved to Turkey and I moved to France, but I did go on an excellent countryside tour of Avoca, Glendalough, and Wicklow in search of said Irish gentleman. The first stop was through the Wicklow mountains, where they filmed PS. I Love You and Leap Year (as well as Braveheart and Excalibur, but who really cares about those?). There was a rowdy group of British girls that got out of the back of the bus and reinacted almost every scene by heart, which gave the entire bus a good laugh. Mostly, the scenery was breathtaking – the desolate mountains with lush greenery was exactly what I’d seen on the big screen.
Glendalough was a 6th century monastic settlement, which is first evidenced through the old buildings and cemetery full of Celtic crosses. It is amazing how much has survived through years – nothing you would ever see in the states. We then took a long walk through the woods, winding around the lakes and taking in the emerald landscape.
Avoca Village is outside of Dublin in county Wicklow, known for its handweaving mill owned by the store named after the village. Its beautifully woven clothes, ever so delicately dyed and crafted into blankets, sweaters, and hats are the main attraction of the visit. However, the unexpected gem inside the shop is their café. The endless salads, full of cheeses, grains, and were very refreshing and light compared to the normal tourist fare of heavy stews and breads. But then again, I couldn’t resist one of their delicious little cakes after my oh-so-healthy lunch. I was inspired to go to Avoca after reading this post by my favorite French/American/Irish food blogger.
Howth was another one of my favorite visits in Ireland. This is a beach town on the coast, just twenty minutes from Dublin by the DART train. You can hike around the entire penninsula, so be sure to pack a picnic and wear your walking shoes. The cliffs hanging over the water, the rocky beaches: it made for an idyllic day with my cousin, who also happened to be in Dublin at that time. We spent some time talking about our grandfather, who would have loved this coastal town.
After the passing of my grandfather last summer, I knew I really wanted to go to Ireland, where his grandparents were from. I decided that from Scotland I would fly into Dublin, and spend a few days there before heading back to the states. I knew I would have good luck when I arrived at the airport in Dublin, and a strapping young Irish man, tall dark and handsome with a sparkle in his eye, stamped my passport.
And luck I had. I spent the few days I had touring Dublin and its surroundings. What a beautiful country! I stayed in an excellent hostel, the Ashfield House, which was right across the bridge from O’Connell street, and a few blocks away from Trinity College.
My dreams came true when we took the library tour at Trinity College. While most people were going crazy over the Book of Kells, an ornate religious book written by Celtic monks, I was secretly snapping photos in the library. Nerd alert!
I was excited to visit Dublin’s oldest church, otherwise known as The Church Bar (that’s right, now it’s a restaurant and bar). It being closed, I made my way up to The Writers Museum, a cute little exhibit about Ireland’s most famous author’s and playwrights. Don’t miss the café afterwards for a yummy lunch – and I snagged a copy of The Dubliners in the gift shop.
Finally, my favorite thing to do in Dublin was visit Kilmainham Goal. This former prison played a huge part in Irish rebellions as well as the War of Independence, where most of the famous revolutionaries were jailed and sometimes even killed. It is a crucial part in understanding the city as well as the country. I highly recommend a visit here!
After a wonderful afternoon in Edinburgh, we headed to the place
where Kate met William where Craig goes to school. St. Andrews is a beautiful coastal town, just two hours north of Edinburgh by bus. It happens to be the birthplace of golf, as well as home of the beautiful University of St. Andrews, the most prestigious university in Scotland.
We settled in only to be welcomed by delicious treats from Craig’s friend; Millionaires’ Shortbread, coated with caramel and chocolate. With mugs full of tea, I was warmly welcomed into their home.
The next day we woke up, destined to eat one thing: full, English, breakfast. Settling into a booth at a lovely student joint, I had my second ever baked-beaned sausage-filled cardiac arrest on a plate. Tummies full, we followed the traditions of all St. Andrews students by doing the pier walk. Heading back, we checked out the beautiful old cathedral and graveyard. The rocky cliffs, beautiful ocean, and green hills were absolutely breathtaking.
Finally, we walked past the golf courses (Tiger Woods favorite – but who likes Tiger Woods anymore?), and onto the beach. There was a sand castle competition going on, and as we walked by we gazed at the quaint town above, postcard perfect.
I was very sad to leave this preppy little town – as well as say goodbye to Craig, the perfect Scottish gentleman and dear friend of mine.
What is your favorite place in Scotland?
I’ve been home for almost two weeks now, although it feels much longer. There were so many things that struck me as odd once setting foot on U.S. soil. Flying into Newark, I was shocked to be charged 5 dollars to use a luggage cart. The day after I got home, I met a friend for dinner near the mall. It was already 7:30, and I couldn’t believe the amount of cars in the parking lot; what is everyone doing here after seven? Aren’t the stores closed? I found the server to be so friendly, I thought it was cheesy. Why is she so enthusiastic about appetizers? At dinner we were served huge portions and then sent home with doggie bags. While running in my town, instead of passing cows, fields, and rivers, I ran by 611, Starbucks, and Wawa.
I forget words in English, which makes it seem like I’m showing off. I want to speak franglais at every opportuntity, which no one arounds me understands. I miss eating dinner with friends, planting ourselves around the table for hours, and talking.
A big smile came over my face when I saw my post on Anne’s blog, Pret A Voyager, this morning. My city, in the big lights! What perfect timing. Take a look at Verdun in summer on her blog, and be sure to check out her fabulous series highlighting all of the arrondissements in Paris.
Edinburgh is a gallant, fairy-tale kind of city. Home of distinguished economist Adam Smith, philosopher David Hume, and inventor Alexander Graham Bell, there is something special about this spot just two hours from Glasgow. Basically, my allegiance to world changing cultural discoveries were left aside when I begged Craig to take me to only one place in Edinburgh: the Elephant House, a café where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Mature, right?
The pilgrimmage was an easy trek, walking through the cobblestone streets and marveling at the gorgeous buildings stretching over the river. Once settled in, we feasted on soups and toasties – it was a cold day. Hard to imagine now that I am stifling in 100 degree weather, when I am staying in the house and making smoothies on the hour. But anyway, I felt a little bit inspired looking out at Edinburgh castle, breathing in J.K. Rowling vibes. You can be on the lookout for my next book
As we hiked down, we walked through the beautiful parks of Edinburgh. I spotted some of Scotland’s national flower, thistle. I used to work in a flower shop throughout high school, and I love spotting my favorite flowers in different countries.
I wanted to get away from the big cities of Scotland and see some of the countryside. Craig and I booked a tour through Rabbie’s, which I can highly recommend. We had a great tour guide, who was both funny and informative. I learned a lot about Scottish history and had fun along the way.
The first stop on our tour was to Loch Lomond. Scotland is famous for its lakes, even the most famous one with the monster Nessie hidden inside. We took a walk around the lake, brollies in hand.
Afterwards, we went to the beautiful Glengoyne distillery to take some single malt whiskey. The factory was absolutely beautiful, and it was interesting to learn more about the years of work that go into a single bottle of whiskey. I wasn’t the biggest fan – but I am more of a champagne girl myself.
It’s funny how the rain, fog, and clouds can change the scenery in Scotland at the drop of a hat. On the way to our final stop, we drove through the Highlands and met some Highland cows! They are particularly shaggy and also have horns on the front.
We didn’t let the rain stop us – our final stop of the tour was to Stirling Castle. The Queen happened to be there that day! Craig said that we had to get some scones, because they must have been good if they were served to the Queen. The castle was recently renovated, and everything was gorgeous.
I got to reunite with Craig in his hometown, Glasgow. A beautiful city, Glasgow was once a thriving economic center. The architecture alone is is amazing. Everywhere we walked, I was always looking up. Don’t miss the Glasgow Cathedral and the Modern Art Museum.
Check out these typical Scottish buskers – and do you remember Robert Burns?
Have you been so Scotland? I just fell in love with liquid sunshine (rain), brollies (umbrellas), and wee drams of whiskey. Next up came the Highlands, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews…
If there is one question that everyone keeps asking, it’s this: what will you miss about France? The easy answer is the obvious highlights of the savoir vivre French culture compared to American instant gratification. The beauty of an open clean road compared to super-highways filled with advertising and traffic jams. Long lunch breaks, even longer apéro time, and four hours at the table with friends. Going around the corner for a freshly baked baguette (or éclair, or millefeuille, or tarte aux pommes). Climbing cathedral steps in Alsace, wine tasting by the Garonne, biking through the Lorraine countryside. Country-hopping to Belgium, Germany, or Luxembourg for the day.
But what they don’t know is that the things I’ll miss the most don’t have anything to do with buttery croissants or road trips to Germany. Although that is all exciting and wonderful for me, it’s not what I’ll be longing for when I’m back in the US, eating peanut butter on whole wheat bread and leaving lights on in every room in the house (oh consumer societies).
I’ll miss the Lieutenants teaching us to dance “rock” (still never got it). I’ll miss singing weird ’80s french hits at la Planete. I’ll miss Wednesday night basketball practice. I’ll miss running along my favorite routes in Verdun and seeing my students, who never fail to make me laugh and remind me how precious life is. I’ll miss watching the sun set over the Meuse, going to Franck and Sophie’s for dinner, and escaping on the TER Lorraine with Christine via the stupid SNCF. I’ll miss Tony serving me my favorite beer at l’Estaminet, trekking ito the movie theatre in the bitter cold with Kristie, and cooking dinner with Craig. I’ll miss the people who took the time to get to know me and welcome me here.
Je ne veux pas dramatiser mon départ, mais j’aimerais exprimer ma gratitude pour les gens qui ont partagé leur vie avec moi. Pour tous ceux qui m’ont accueillie cette année, je vous remercie de tout cœur. Je n’aurais jamais eu la même expérience si je ne vous avais pas rencontré. Grâce à vous, je vais rentrer avec de beaux souvenirs et des histoires drôles de mon année à Verdun. Merci !