Well, I'm starting a blog. I've been meaning to do it for some time now, but am just getting around to it. It's an odd thing. Blogging means that you think your life is interesting enough that people will want to read about it. I don't know if this is true, but I figured I would give it a shot anyway. This is a blog about my travels and quest to live fearlessly. Welcome.

- Christina

Friday 9 August 2013


Ah, finally time for the last blog post about our U.K. trip. From Edinburgh, Scotland we flew to London, England. When we arrived in London we had to figure out the public transportation system. It was extremely confusing at first, but we got the hang of it pretty quickly. We stopped off at our hostel and settled in. Then we headed off to explore. We walked around a little bit and got ourselves used to the tube (underground train system).

David in the tube station. 

The next day we went to do a free walking tour of the city (put on by the same company we used in Edinburgh). Once again, the tour was wonderful and filled with so many facts about the city. It seemed like we walked the entire city in the 3 hour tour. London is huge, especially compared to the tiny city of Edinburgh which we had been in last. After the tour we stopped off at a pub for some traditional food and drinks. David and I shared some fish and chips and bangers and mash, with beer of course.

On our tour we saw Buckingham Palace, and learned about it's history, so the next day we went back to see the changing of the guards. Everyone who has been to London talks about seeing the changing of the guards, so we figured it was a must-see. We had no idea what to expect, I mean is it just guards changing shifts? Well, we decided to check it out. We got there a half an hour early and the place was packed. People were crowding the streets and police were directing foot traffic. We finally managed to squeeze our way in so we could see through the gates. I guess it's more than just guards changing shifts, I thought. Soon the guards started pacing back and forth in a very calculated manner, and a while later a band came out and played a song. They then continued to stand neatly and walk in precise steps. This lasted for like an hour. Honestly, it was ridiculously boring. I don't see what the big deal is. Besides the 3 minute song played by the band, you were just watching guards with stern faces walk in a calculated manner over and over again. But, at least we saw it, right?

People waiting to see the changing of the guards.

Guards standing. 

After that my feet hurt and we were starving, so we decided to walk around the city in search for food. After lunch we headed to Picadilly square, which is the main shopping area, and then Harrods, which is a famously huge department store. David and I realized that we aren't much for shopping, and left as soon as we arrived. I guess that kind of thing is fun for some people, but we just aren't into wandering around and looking at stuff we cant afford/don't need. So, we decided to go to some museums instead. At the science museum we saw the Imax 3D movie "Under the Sea," which was pretty cool. We ended up coming back the next day and doing the "Legend of Apollo" 4D experience because it was half off, but it wasn't as good as the ocean one.

 "Under the Sea" 3D

That night we went to a pub crawl that was put on by the same company that does the free tours. The crawl started at a bar, went to two more, and then to two clubs. We met a nice brother and sister from Ohio (I think?) who were traveling in London. At the first club I was ready to dance, but the friends we made didn't want to, so I was standing there nursing my beer and contemplating when a fellow traveller came up and started talking to me. He asked if I was from America, and when I said yes he said that he could tell because I wasn't dancing. Well, I took immediate offense to this (not literally. I wasn't mad, but I felt the need to immediately prove him wrong!). I grabbed the girl we were with and we started dancing, but her brother refused! He just stood there pouting until I grabbed his hand and forced him onto the dance floor. We ended up having a great time. It seemed like people in London have more fun when they're in clubs dancing, and are less worried about how they look. David and I left early at the last club so we could catch the tube back to our hostel. Overall, it was a really fun night!

The next day we went to Camden Town. We were weary of going here because we'd had bad experiences with tourist shopping traps -like I said before, they just weren't for us. Camden was totally different. We loved it! It's this section of town full of tiny booths that sell everything you can think of: crafts, clothes, home decor, food... oh the food. We walked around jut looking at all the unique things and drooling over which food to eat. That's when we discovered Dutch Pancakes. They are these little tiny pancakes covered in Nutella, strawberries, and powdered sugar. Literally the best thing I've ever eaten. Ever. They were so good that we made the journey to Camden Town again the next day.

Camden Town.

Dutch Pancakes!


So happy. 

On our last day in London we went to Shakespeare's Globe theatre (well, a reproduction of the Globe). It was so cool. We had a really awesome tour guide (we learned that they make all the difference in your experience). We sat in the seats and looked down on the stage while learning the history. The Globe is still a working theatre and they have shows for as low as $5, but they book up quickly. I wish we could have been able to see a show. 
Trying on Shakespearean props. 

The Globe stage.

Outside the Globe.

After the Globe we went to rid the London Eye. This is a huge ferris wheel with glass pods that fit up to 20 people. From the top you can see all of London. It was a really cool experience to see London from that view. Because we had been there for a few days we were able to identify most of the major buildings.
On the Eye.

Glass Pod. 

Well, I think that's about it. The next morning we headed to the airport. We weren't too jet-lagged when we got home. Overall, our trip was amazing, but we were ready to be home. I cannot wait to go on more adventures!

Thursday 1 August 2013

Edinburgh, Scotland

Hi all, I know this is very late considering we got back from our trip over a month ago, but this blogging business is hard! It takes a lot of work and time, so I've been putting it off. Sorry.

Anyway, after two weeks in Ireland and Northern Ireland we headed back to Dublin and caught a plane to Edinburgh, Scotland. The ride was only about an hour, and we arrived in Scotland in the evening. We spent two nights in Edinburgh (pronounced: ed-in-bur-uh-- we were corrected on this many times). We had no idea where we were staying that night, so we found the nearest hostel and crashed there. It turned out to be an old cathedral that had been turned into a hostel. Walls were put up to become dorm rooms, and you could still see the cathedral ceilings while in the hostel dorms. The place was very cool, and unlike anything we had stayed in before. There was one downside though; it smelled like weird old shoes/popcorn. It actually made me kind of sick. Needless to say, we spent one night here before looking for a new, non-smelly place to sleep. It was sill neat though, see:

Cathedral turned hostel in Edinburgh.

The next day we went to explore Edinburgh. It is a relatively small town that sits on the base of an extinct volcano. We walked round the town and soon headed to Edinburgh Castle. The castle was built right into the side of the mountain/extinct volcano. It looks like something out of a movie. The castle towers over the small town, and from the top you can see everything. We walked the cobblestone streets within the castle walls, explored dungeons and jail cells where prisoners were held, and saw the Scottish crown jewels. The Edinburgh Castle was amazing. 
 Strategically placed castle. 

 Within the castle walls.

 Swords for days...


In a jail cell.

You can't actually take pictures of the jewels, but here's the sign. 

After the Edinburgh Castle we went to the National Museum of Scotland (we quickly learned that anything with "National" in front of the name is almost always free- woo hoo!). This was a huge museum full of history and science. We had an amazing time just wandering around and soaking up the culture. That was it for our first day in Edinburgh. 

 Space suit up!


 Moose skeleton.


Totem pole. 

The next day was our last in Edinburgh. We only had two days, but honestly it was enough. The town was pretty small and we didn't have a car to go anywhere else. It wasn't like in Ireland where we could just drive wherever we wanted to go. So on our last day in Edinburgh we went on a great free walking tour of the city. We had heard about a company that did free walking tours and decided to try it out. It is mostly young people who give the tours and they work off tips. We had an amazing tour guide who took us all over the city in the 3 hour tour. He taught us so much about Scottish history and customs. We loved the tour so much that we decided to do it again the next day, but in London! More on that later though. After the tour we went to a traditional Scottish pub for lunch. David had the haggis, which was traditionally all the "nasty" parts of the sheep cooked in it's stomach, but it now something similar to our meatloaf. It was beef/lamb cooked in a bag, with gravy on top. It was actually really good. I got bangers and mash, which is a dish I learned to love while in Ireland. Its sausages, mashed potatoes, gravy, and vegetables- what's not to love?

After lunch David wanted to do a "Scotch Experience" at the world's largest private collection of scotch. It was kind of expensive and I had already toured the Guinness and Bushmill's factories, so I decided to skip this one. I just went back to the National Museum and walked around some more, there was still tons to see. We met up after the tour and talked about what we had seen. David had a great time at the Scotch experience. He told me how he tasted scotch from different parts of Scotland and how you could really taste the difference based on where it was made. For dinner we stopped in a little Italian restaurant and had some delicious pizza and enjoyed a glass of wine, mmmm.

 A panorama of the world's largest private collection of scotch. 

 David being sexy in front of some scotch ;)

Wine :)

And that was about it for Scotland. I wish we could have traveled around and seen more of the country, but we just didn't have time. We headed off to London next, more to come...

Monday 8 July 2013

Northern Ireland

     After a blissful 10 days in the Republic of Ireland we headed to Northern Ireland. Many of you, like me, may not know that Ireland and Northern Ireland are two completely different countries. They have different government systems, political leaders, currency, etc. The history behind the split and how it still affects the residents today is fascinating, but we'll talk more about that later. Our first stop was in Londonderry or Derry (the name depends on if you're loyal to the U.K or not). We arrived in Londonderry late and didn't do much except hang out with our host. Our host for the evening was James, a scientist and author. He writes books on phenomena such as Stonehenge and Newgrange and their acoustic/astronomical properties. James was super interesting to talk to, he knew so much on a variety of topics.
     The next day in Londonderry we went to the Bushmills Whiskey Distillery. It is one of the only working distilleries that you can tour. We learned all about how Irish whiskey is made. It was a super cool tour, although the barley smells like sour oatmeal and I was getting a tad woozy. IN the end we were able to try a Whiskey. David tried the distillery's signature blend, which you can only get there. I had a yummy concotion of warm water, cinnamon, honey, and whiskey. It was delightfully warm.
Getting our drink on.
     After the Bushmills distillery we headed to our main Northern Ireland destination, Belfast. Here we stayed with Phil, a seasoned CSing host who's hosted over 300 people over the past 7 years. With Phil was Yanly, a fellow CSer originally from Colombia, but living in London. Our first night in Belfast we attempted to walk around downtown, but it was raining pretty hard and honestly we were just tired. We ended up going with Phil, his son, and Yanly to the movies to see Man of Steel (mmmmmm, Superman). 
     The next day we took Yanly with us to the Giant's Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. Giant's Causeway is a section of beach where the rocks have been shaped by volcanic activity. ALmost all the rocks are perfect hexagrams or octagons. It doesn't look real. We had a fun time climbing around on the rocks, which are the perfect size and shape of climbing, and admiring the ocean. The rope bridge, which is a few miles away, was originally built by fishermen to get to their boats. It was quite smaller than I thought it would be, and in really good condition. The walk across was short, and we were then on a small island. We took our time exploring the island before heading back across the bridge. 
 Giant's Causeway. 

David way up on the top!

Going across the rope bridge.
     On our last day in Northern Ireland we did something awesome (I'm about to geek out for a second). We went to the Game of Thrones exhibition at Titanic Studios- where they shoot! If you don't know what Game of Thrones is, it's a book to TV series and it's pretty much the best thing ever. We had only heard about the exhibition the day before and it was the last day, as well as our last day in Belfast, so we were super lucky- oh, and it was free, awesome. They had a ton of neat GoT stuff, but most importantly we got to sit in the Iron Throne. It was a replica of the one they use on set, but it was still awesome. Anyway, here we are. David looks far too good sitting on the Iron Throne.  
 House Stark banner. 

     The last thing we did in Northern Ireland was also awesome. We met up with my friend Jenni's friends, Kyle and Ashleigh. They took us to lunch at a cute little cafe over a flower shop, which I guess is quite common there. We then went to the Knockage Monument, a war memorial. From atop a hill out can see far out into Belfast and across the coast. Kyle and Ashleigh then took us to a Protestant neighborhood to show us some of the murals painted on houses. Kyle taught us so much about the troubles in Northern Ireland, the conflict between Ireland and Northern Ireland, and between Protestants and Catholics. It was surreal to be in a country that is still deeply segregated by religious beliefs in 2013. Here are some anti-IRA (Irish Republican Army) murals in a protestant part of Northern Ireland. 

If you're interested in the conflicts in Northern Ireland I would definitely look into it. It is a country with so much interesting history. Also, there were no soldiers walking around with guns. We were told to look out for this, but once we got there we learned that hasn't been a common occurrence in ten years. So, that was it for Northern Ireland. We said goodbye to our new friends: Phil, Yanly, Kyle, and Ashleigh and headed back to Dublin to catch our flight to Edinburgh, Scotland. Scotland post will be up soon. 
David, me, Phil, Yanly

Sunday 30 June 2013

Ireland: Land of a Thousand Welcomes (Part 2)

And so our voyage around Ireland continues...

     The previous posts were all from Ireland's West Coast. This part of the country is more developed and has bigger cities with more attractions. The East side of the island, which we explored next, is full of small towns, natural wonders, and breathtaking scenery.
     KILLARNEY: We arrived in Killarney, dropped off our stuff at a hostel, and headed for Killarney National Park. This is a huge, 26,000 acre park. The grounds were beautiful. We walked through until we reached Ross Castle. We took a tour of the castle, and being fairly exhausted, we headed back for the night.

 Ross Castle.
     In the morning we took a bus tour of the Ring of Kerry. This tour circles the peninsula in Kerry and boasts some of the most beautiful sights in all of Ireland. Unfortunately for us, this was the day of our worst weather. It was so cloudy, foggy, and rainy that we could barely see anything! We couldn't complain though, we were extremely lucky with weather for the majority of our trip. Luckily our tour guide was very experienced, he had been doing the tours for 40 years, and he was able to ensure we had a good time. He taught us a lot about Irish history, real-estate, cows, and fuel. One of the most interesting things he showed us were the famine ruins. In the 1800s the Irish suffered through the Great Famine. There was simply no food, and many died. The houses the people lived in were extremely small, usually one roomed buildings made of stone. Many of these houses still lay on the country side. Our tour guide said that someone, who doesn't even know it, owns them, so luckily for us they can't be torn down. Although we didn't get to see the traditional Ring of Kerry sights, we still had a great time and gained some valuable knowledge.

 Ring of Kerry.

 Famine House.
The last stop on our bus tour was at Torc falls. It was a short hike up to see a beautiful waterfall. 

     DINGLE: The weather was much better the next day, so we decided to drive to the Dingle peninsula. On our way we came across a beautiful beach, and decided to stop. The weather was sunny and warm, but with a bit of a breeze. The beach was beautiful. I did not expect the water in Ireland to be so clear and blue, it almost looked like the beaches in the Bahamas!

     Now it was off to explore the Dingle Peninsula, which was full of beautiful coastal sights and many historical ruins. While driving along the coast of the Dingle peninsula, it was amazing how much history Ireland has. Off the side of the road you can find forts from 500BC, ancient oratories, and intact famine ruins. It was mind-blowing to be immersed in so much history. 

Famine House.

 Gallarus Oratory.
      Once we were done driving the Dingle peninsula, we had to find a place to stay. We had stayed in hostels the 3 previous nights, and it was pretty expensive and not nearly as fun as CouchSurfing. We headed to a cafe to use their Wifi and started looking for CSing hosts. We found Paddy and Sean, and they let us come over right then! Paddy and Sean are musicians who play in an Irish/Latin band, neat right? They welcomed us right away. It just so happened that Paddy's computer had broken when they were trying to record a song, and David was able to fix it for them. Paddy was so excited. He said it was fate that brought us together. They took us to a really cool Irish pub that had traditional Irish music. That was the first time we heard the bodhran, a traditional Irish hand drum. The atmosphere in the pub was something we had never experienced before. It was clam, friendly, almost family like. Everyone knew each other and welcomed strangers. Everyone was there to relax and have a good time. One of the things that David and I loved about Ireland was the friendliness of the people. In Ireland if you are sitting at a table with 3 empty chairs, those chairs are not off limits. Those chairs are for friends you haven't made yet. It is customary to sit down and introduce yourself, and enjoy the strangers company. Everywhere we went we felt at home and as if we were with friends. I love Ireland. 

     MOHER: Ah, the Cliffs of Moher. This was one of the things I was most excited about! The Cliffs of Moher can be compared to the Grand Canyon. For those of you who think it's not all that special, and smartly remark "how long do I have to look at it?" this isn't for you. I loved the Grand Canyon. David and I stayed all day admiring it's beauty. The Cliffs were the same. They were breathtaking, both because of their beauty, and because they were scary as hell. The cliffs have a 702 feet vertical drop into the Atlantic coast, and only some parts of that are fenced. We walked along the cliffs for a while, and then headed back up the other side. There's not much to say about them, and pictures don't do it justice. Just go, trust me. The visitor center was really cool. It was built in the side of the hill, hobbit style. They did this so they didn't take away from the natural beauty of the cliffs. 
 Visitor Center.

Don't fall off!
     After the cliffs we went to our next hosts' house. Here we met Derek, Christian, and Ashling. They were three young Irish students living in Lahinch, a small surf town- yes people surf in Ireland, we were surprised too. Derek, Christian, and Ashling took us to a pub and we just hung out talking. On our way back to the house Derek made us link arms in the middle of the street, do a dance, and sing a song. He said it was Lahinch tradition, but people seemed to be staring, lol. He then took us to look at the shore, although you could barely see anything at night. We had a wonderful time with them, and they are truly our fiends now; that's the beauty of CouchSurfing. 

     DONEGAL: From Lahinch we took the coastal route all the way up to Donegal, which was our last stop in the Republic of Ireland. We drove most of the day and didn't get to our host's house until dinner time. All of our other hosts had been young people like ourselves, but this time we decided to stay with a family. Sharon is a meditation coach that lives in the blue-stack mountains with her four kids. She welcomed us into her home and we had our first home-cooked meal in almost 2 weeks. Sharon was amazing. We sat up late talking with her, and had another talk in the morning. She was wise and gentle, and very easy to talk to. She gave me some wonderful life advice, and I am very happy to have met her. After our one short night with Sharon we went off to explore the Slieve League Cliffs, per her suggestion. They were similar to the Cliffs of Moher, but much smaller. Unfortunately as soon as we got there it began raining, and we had about a mile walk back! We ran back to the car and decided it was best to cross the border into Northern Ireland and meet up with our host there.
Slieve League Cliffs.