Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Crown Jewels / Palaces / Until We Meet Again

Today, we reached the end of our journey here in England. Tomorrow morning, we will board a plane and head back home to the states, taking with us new memories, new vocabularies, new souvenirs and tchotchkes galore. I will miss my weeks spent in Europe dearly, and though I'm ready to see everyone back home again, I would gladly stay here another three weeks. But before we start the tears, let me backtrack a couple of days....

starting with Sunday. After a couple days of taxi riding, we were ready to take on the subway to assist with our heavy-duty sightseeing. We started our morning by hitting up the London Tower, where we'd planned to go on Saturday but arrived too late. Nevertheless, it was worth the wait. We went on a guided tour with a large group around the interior wall of the castle (inside the exterior gate) and learned about the royals who lived there, the royals who were beheaded there (lawfully), and the prisoners who were kept in the Bloody Tower....including Sir Walter Raleigh, who spent years of his life in a tiny cell there.

After the guided tour, we lined up to see the most prized possessions in all of London town, the creme de la creme: the Crown Jewels. Now I love diamonds and jewels as much as any girl, if only because I like watching them shine. But I was truly taken off-guard by just how gorgeous and ornate these crowns were. Each and every one of them was so decadent, so magnificently superior to any other diamond-encrusted thing I've ever seen that I could not believe my eyes.

It sounds like I'm embellishing my story, but this was real life. My pulse started quickening and I could feel my heart beating a little faster. It was ridiculous, but these gems actually caused a physiological thrill in me. It was perfect.Unfortunately, we couldn't take any pictures in the gallery (believe me, I tried to sneak one). But I guess it's better that way, because a picture couldn't possibly do justice to the real things.

After spending some hours on the grounds, we got Subway for lunch (my brother was so happy) and made our way back to the underground where we rode to the Empire Theatre. When I was a senior in high school, my boyfriend David directed his own feature-length film. I was in it; that's how I met him. And that film, DAYLIGHT, is showing next month during Frightfest (film festival) at the Empire Theatre in London. It was unreal to see a film that he directed and I acted in written on a Frightfest schedule in London, England. One of the employees told me they sell out every year...1,300 people come to this event! Like I said, unreal.

We left the theatre district and walked around Leicester Square for a bit before heading back on the subway. As it was nearing dusk, we headed for Westminster. Our main goal for the night: ride the London Eye. Just about sunset time, we got up into the air and could see the entire city silhouetted against the setting sun. It was a most gorgeous night, and this time, I got to take pictures...these ones don't do the real thing justice, either.

Following our ride on the Eye, we had dinner at an Italian place on the same road as Troia. That road is completely owning it, because that restaurant was also wonderful. We ate outside to enjoy the cool weather, but the inside of the place had Godfather and Goodfellas framed photos everywhere. These Italians were legit.

We caught the subway after dinner, and all was fine...until we came out of the subway ten minutes later and it was pouring rain. Freezing cold rain. We ran the two blocks from the sub station to our hotel, myself shivering in shorts, and collapsed on the beds.

Monday was an early morning, but an exciting one: we were going to tour Buckingham Palace! Only open for two months of the year while the Queen is on vacation, the first day for tours was on Saturday, just after the Queen and Prince Edward left for Balmoral Castle in Scotland. Because of this, the morning changing of the guards ceremony was extra jam-packed, with lines ten-people deep outside the front gates. Still, I snaked my way through and got a couple good views of the guards' bearskin hats. Whoo! Thrilling.

As you can imagine, the Queen's home is also not a place where they want you taking pictures of the inside, so I have no photographic evidence to show for my visit, but oh my stars, it was extravagant. Did you know they have 78 bathrooms in the palace? 78 bathrooms!! I can't even imagine. They have hundreds of bedrooms and windows out the wazoo. I counted 78 on one wall facing the inner courtyard. As you can see from this lovely picture taken from the Internet (BBC), you would have to multiply that one wall by 8 to figure out how many windows are on every side of the palace. That comes to more than 628 windows.

                  And that's not including that lump on the southwestern corner.

We spent the better part of five hours there, touring the State rooms inside and then having lunch on the back lawn. It was really a splendid afternoon. From Buckingham Palace we took the subway to another type of palace: Harrods department store on Brompton Rd. One of the most famous department stores in the world, Harrods instantly made me understand why.

You could spend days in the place, which is about eight stories tall and takes up an entire city block. Inside and out, the store is such a sight to see. Whole floors are dedicated to Menswear and Womenswear, one floor allocated to each. Another floor is just food, all types: meat, fish, bread, cupcakes, quiches, chocolates, cheese, juices, wine, cakes, etc. etc. etc. Another floor is just books, cards, souvenirs, and home decorations, while another floor is for music and electronics (including a stunning TV not yet available in the U.S.).

We really only had time for about three floors, and we were there for three hours. I'm telling you, that's a day's worth of entertainment, easily. I can't wait to go back. When I get married, that is where I'll be registered. One set of bedsheets I saw cost 1100 pounds...but don't worry, you have a few years before the wedding.

Once Harrods closed, we shopped the souvenir shops along that road for almost an hour (Jeanine was not happy about this because she was wearing heels and let everybody know it), then finally made our way back onto the subway as it began to rain for the third night in a row. We stopped at a grocery store and I picked out some dinner, while my family ordered room service once we got back to the hotel. Dinner would've been incomplete, though, without a delicious cupcake from Harrods to seal the meal.

So: here we are, back at Tuesday. This morning was rainy and cool, which was a nice change of pace from rainy nights and sunny mornings. We started it at Abbey Road, taking a taxi to the spot where John, Paul, George and Ringo famously crossed the street with no apparent traffic to be seen. Let me tell you, though, either traffic has significantly increased in this spot over the past 50 years, or they blocked off that road for their shoot...hmm...

                Hard to tell the difference, right?

Despite the lot of cars that honked at the several Beatles fans beside me, and despite all those fans who also wanted their pictures taken, I got my turn, and I crossed that road happily. We thanked the cab driver for stopping and headed on to Kensington Palace, the estate where dozens of royals have historically resided, and where Will & Kate plan to live after visiting her parents with little George.

The grounds were beautiful, even in the morning fogginess and scattered rain, and inside the museum building on the property we learned all about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's love, marriage, and leadership in the 1850s. It was quite interesting, much more than I expected. Also, after all these royal exhibits and museums, I think I know more about the history of England's royalty than I do about past U.S. Presidents.

Several hours later, we walked through the public park outside the palace and got back into the subway. We rode around for picture taking for an hour or so, first to Buckingham Palace--which was now much less crowded outside--and then to Trafalgar Square, where we got some pictures with a lion.

Going on 7pm, our last stop of the day was at Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, a staple of all big cities and a personal favorite for me. We spent an hour touring before they closed, getting pictures with the likes of Tom Cruise, Bob Marley, and even Holly Golightly.

Finally, our night ended back at the hotel, where we got dinner at one of the restaurants on the main floor. The last meal of the trip is always a deeply reflective one, and tonight John shocked everyone by saying he'd have liked to stay a bit longer. John is a homebody, and no matter how great a vacation is, he's always ready to get back home to his friends, his video games, and his cat. But the fact that he wanted to stay really says something about this trip, even more-so about the places we've visited over the past 17 days. It's been a whirlwind trip, but I've been grateful to have it all, and I promise that this, my first time in Europe, is one I'll not soon forget.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

When In London

Thursday marked our last day in Edinburgh, and Scotland, before heading on to England. We woke up to a foggy sky and chilly weather, but I loved it. Our first stop was the Royal Yacht Britannia also called the HMY (Her Majesty's Yacht) Britannia. Docked in Edinburgh since the 1990s, it can now be rented out for wedding parties and other events, but formerly belonged to the Queen of England. She sailed around the world on it at least once every year of her life before it was docked; in the '80s, the yacht celebrated 1 million miles sailed. Good thing it's not a car.

During the tour, we enjoyed tea & cakes on board in the upper dining hall, overlooking the water, but indoors (which was good, as it had started raining). The yacht was docked right by the large Edinburgh mall, so of course we made a little bit more time for shopping afterward. Leaving the mall, we caught a cab to our next tour: the Edinburgh Dungeon tour.

Most of the Dungeon tour took place in musty, dark rooms and halls, with sudden sounds and actors popping up from behind to scare you...it was like a spook house with commentary. Each new room meant a new actor, playing the role of someone who would've lived in Edinburgh in the 18th century...for instance, William Burke & William Hare, who began murdering people and turning in their bodies to the medical community to be used as cadavers, which they were then paid for. We also learned about gruesome torture techniques, many of which I knew, some of which I didn't. All sounded terrifying, but I'm constantly fascinated by that stuff. Probably because I didn't have to live with any of it.

The next morning, we woke up early because we had a flight to catch. Friday, however, was not a great morning. Our flight was delayed for three hours, which we spent sitting in the airport. After we finally were able to board the plane, however, they kept us on the tarmac for another hour and a half due to some other issue. I slept for most of that time, and half of the flight as well (which was just an hour...for all that!).

We finally ended up at the Heathrow airport, an hour's drive from London, around 5:30pm, and got a cab that took us straight to our hotel in the city. After the long hours spent at the airport and then the drive in the cab, we were all exhausted. But...surprise! My mom and dad had planned for us to attend a musical on our first night in London, not expecting any troubles with the flight that day. The show was Matilda, a musical based off of the book by Roald Dahl (one of my absolute favorite children's movies), so I forgot all my desire to rest and got ready in no time flat. The show started at 7:30, so we all had to book it. We ended up being a little late and missed the first few minutes of the show, but the next 2.5 hours made up for that entirely. The show was absolutely stunning. The set work was great, every scene change was flawless, Matilda was darling (and had a beautiful voice), and the Trunchbull was played by a man, who portrayed her as horrifically ugly and yet hilarious. I loved every last bit of it, and yes, I was crying at the end. But hiding it, obviously.

                            I can't even look at this. I'm tearing up. 

After the show, the streets were crowded with young couples because the theatre district is aptly surrounded by bars and pubs. Finally, though, we found a place called Ed's Diner, a Londoner's version of Johnny Rockets, and we sat at barstools around a big, U-shaped counter. I kept putting 50 pence in the mini jukebox on my section of the counter, playing Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross, while others requested songs by ABBA and Simon & Garfunkel. I even got up and danced at the end, when they were about to close and my mom was chatting with our waiter about his hometown in Germany. It was a good night.

Saturday was my baby brother's sweet 16th birthday, and our first real day of exploring London. We started the day with breakfast at the hotel. We're staying at a Hilton here in downtown London, so while it wasn't complimentary, you can bet that breakfast was delicious.

We then walked a few blocks from the hotel and grabbed a double-decker bus, touring London from up top while my shoulders and nose got burned by wind and sun. It was a hot, hot day, but the tour was wonderful...we saw where Brad Pitt stayed when he was here for the World War Z premiere a few weeks ago, drove right past J.K. Rowling's house, and saw the hotel where Kate and her family stayed before she and Will were married (in addition to learning a lot of rich historical facts about the city, of course).

We hopped off the tour bus along Westminster Bridge, getting dozens of traditional Big Ben/ London Eye pics before walking across the bridge (in the blazing sun while I was wearing jeans, I might add) to Westminster Abbey itself. Now, I don't like to over-exaggerate things unless it's in a sarcastic, ironic way, but I honestly have no words for the inside of that abbey. The size and scale of it is staggering; walking through, I think it's impossible not to dwell on the age of the place, how many kings, queens, knights and scholars have stood where you are standing. To be in a place where Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, and Handel (among others) are all buried was beyond comprehension for me.

After spending an hour or so in the abbey, we headed back to catch the bus and it started raining. It was quite beautiful, though...it's almost more beautiful in London when the sky is gray and cloudy than anything else. In some places, the rain just fits.

Our bus ride led us to the Tower of London, where we were headed for a tour before it closed for the day. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time left before closing to really enjoy the tour and not speed through. Luckily, the tickets were good for the whole week, not just Saturday, so we decided we'd come back Sunday afternoon.

We got some Ben & Jerry's ice cream and hung out in gift shops for a little while to get out of the rain. After it let up a bit, we headed out towards the Thames River for a boat cruise/ tour. We rode along the Thames for 45 minutes up at the top of the boat, taking in the sights just before sunset. Among other things, we saw an exact replica of Shakespeare's theatre in the round, and The Dove, a pub where Hemingway allegedly spent much time. Those two were especially exciting for me.

After our ride, we were back on the Westminster side of the Thames (the other side is the London side, although they are both actually London) and decided to find dinner. After searching for about 20 minutes for something other than Italian, we finally found a Mediterranean place called Troia. They had great food (I got a fantastic Greek salad), and for dessert we surprised John with a big slice of chocolate cake, his favorite. The waitress was super sweet and came out singing 'Happy Birthday' to him.

Dinner knocked us out, and after we'd stumbled around to some souvenir and grocery shops, we hailed a taxi and ended back at the hotel.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Great Scots!

Three days in Scotland has almost converted me. Like Ireland, Scotland has been perfect...but in a slightly different way. The natural beauty of Ireland is what really got me; in Scotland, it's the stores. I could come back and spend a vacation just in Glasgow shopping for days. You know, if a journalist's salary supported that kind of lavish lifestyle.

We started Monday morning early by flying from Dublin to Glasgow, having a quick breakfast in the Dublin airport before boarding. Once we landed, we took a bus from the airport to the city station and walked the few extra blocks to our lovely hotel, called Thistle.

We lounged in the room for just a little bit, trying to stay up-to-date on Kate's pregnancy with BBC & various news stations. Kate still working on it, we left the hotel and walked down the road outside, full of shops and little restaurants. We stopped at a place called Biggar's for lunch (my suggestion), which was a great little coffeehouse playing American tunes from the '90s.

And I said, what about Breakfast at Tiffany's?

Following lunch, we took another open-air bus tour of the city (because why not?), during which Jeanine got to see a lot of gorgeous historical landmarks as well as some fantastic shopping streets. Up to this point, the only real shopping we'd done was for groceries & souvenirs, but what's a trip to Europe without getting some great clothes? We didn't get any that day, but I wasn't going to forget.

After the tour, we decided to head back to the hotel to take it easy for a bit...my brother and dad swam in the hotel pool, I read, and my mother took a nap. Once the guys got back and showered, we all went to dinner at a fantastic French restaurant a couple blocks down from the hotel, called La Bonne Auberge. This roughly translates to "The Good Inn" in English, but believe me when I tell you that title is greatly underselling it.

This restaurant was magnificent. I can't remember the last meal I had that was so great. French cuisine is pretty much always marvelous, as far as my experiences have proved, but this was exceptionally exquisite cuisine. I had fish with Cajun spices on a bed of au gratin potatoes for my main dish, and ordered creme brulee (my love) for dessert. Flawless, I tell you. Flaw-less.

Anyway, after dinner I floated back down to earth long enough to cross the street and enter CineWorld, the largest & tallest cinema anywhere in the world. About 15-20 stories tall, this building is impossible to miss walking down the street in Glasgow. We saw Monsters University finally, and it was just as great as the first....a little less heartwarming, but much more hilarious.
Day 2 in Glasgow: Monsters University hadn't ended until late Monday night, and of course we stayed up late watching the news (Kate had had her baby boy just before our French dinner!), so Tuesday morning we enjoyed a day of sleeping in late. Like, 11am late. It was a nice (if lazy) change of pace. We watched the news again in our PJs, showered, and then hit the streets for a late brunch.

Not finding any place that would make a seemingly exceptional breakfast at noon, we headed back into our new-found favorite coffeehouse, Biggar's. I then consumed about ten pounds of pure sugar by making the mistake of ordering Belgian waffles with syrup, which I assumed would come on the side. No no, with syrup in fact means they drench your entire plate in syrup (& powdered sugar--an added bonus!) before setting it in front of you to eat. Well I was hungry, so I ate it. And now, in totally unrelated news, I probably have diabetes.

I'd tell you what happened after breakfast, but it was all a blur. Let's just say, shopping happened. FINALLY, shopping happened. I got some lovely little things I didn't think I could find back in the states, including the most precious peach-colored dress ever (personal opinion, but also fact).

Shopping led to us hopping back on the bus and riding across town to the Necropolis of Glasgow, right by the Glasgow Cathedral. And if there's one thing I love more than shopping, it's probably walking through 300-year-old cemeteries. Sincerely, I looove cemeteries, and this was probably the most gorgeous I've ever entered, even more than the ones I visited in New Orleans, pre-Katrina.

Instead of explaining this in words, I'll simply show you with pictures:

All in all, it was one of the best days of the vacation. We caught the last bus back to the shopping street, and I stumbled upon a small taco shop called Pinto. We hadn't had Mexican yet on the trip (they do not have Mexican foods in Ireland, as confirmed by Adrienne), and this was a pleasantly delicious surprise. The Irish may not be big on Mexican cuisine, but the quesadillas in Scotland were muy excelente.

This morning marked our third in Scotland, but sadly we've now left Glasgow. We caught a train this morning at Queen's Station from Glasgow into Edinburgh, just an hour's ride away, and being here is slightly like being in a Van Helsing film. All the tall steeples outlined by the sky and the many small, dark alleyways (called "closes") do the trick, giving the city a somewhat spooky feel (which I absolutely love).

After taking our bags to the hotel, we walked around the city, which was again heavily populated with cute stores full of precious things I felt I couldn't live without, so we stopped in several of them before getting lunch at a place called Southern Cross Cafe. We ate outside and had a great view straight down the road, perfect for people-watching (mwa-ha-ha).

We decided to burn off that lunch by touring the Edinburgh castle, an enormous fortress at the end of the road that's comparable to Edward Scissorhand's home. Inside the walls, we got a breathtaking view of the city below, saw the Crown Jewels of Scotland, and the room where King James VI was born...at age 1, he became King of Scotland, and by the time he was 30 he'd become King of England. You could say he was doing alright.

Following that tour, more shopping ensued, then dinner at a French pastry shop called Patisserie Valerie (how cute is that?) before we joined a night tour of Mary King's Close. Mary King was a woman who lived in Edinburgh in the 17th century, and a close, as you recall, is another word for narrow street or alleyway. There are many of them in Edinburgh, but the ones from 400 years ago were covered over in the 19th century by the city chambers. The street level was moved up, and now all those former homes are musty, dank, hollow chambers underground. We went on a 45-minute tour with a tour guide who acted and dressed as a resident of the close from the 1600s. It was somewhat creepy and so much fun. My whole family loved it.

Now, we are back at the hotel room, preparing for bed. Tomorrow, we plan to ride a yacht and visit a dungeon. And, perhaps, go shopping again. :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fifty Shades of Green

Seven days of spotty WiFi later, here I am. The days blur together so quickly that it's hard to remember all the incredible things we've seen and done this past week, but that's what cameras are for. And believe me, all my pictures are getting backed up nightly. I don't think I could handle another incident like Beijing.

So, with some pictures to help me out, let me give you a little rundown of the past six days....

Wednesday, 7.17 : We all enjoyed a delicious last buffet breakfast at the Holiday Inn before leaving Belfast around noon. From there, dad drove the rental for the entire 4-hour drive from Belfast (N. Ireland) to the village of Bunratty in the county of Clare (the Republic of Ireland). We arrived in a large parking lot, facing the gorgeous pale yellow facade of the Bunratty Castle Hotel, where we stayed that night.

A short walk down the road from the hotel put us face-to-face with the towering Bunratty Castle, which has been standing since the 15th century. We ate dinner that night in the castle...a medieval banquet complete with traditional Irish music, servers in medieval garb, and old Irish fare (only knives and hands could be used for our food, which included soup and ribs among other things). We also had some delicious mead, which dad and I quite enjoyed. :)

Thursday, 7.18 : We began the day quite early, taking a 90-minute drive to Blarney Castle. This was thanks to myself hassling my dad the night before, upon learning we might not have time for the trip on top of an already packed day. Ever the stubborn one, I promised to wake my butt up early so we'd have time to make the trip; I was not about to miss kissing the Blarney Stone in Ireland, ya know? So, of course, we did it. Each of us made the trek around the grounds and up to the top of the castle where you kiss the stone by leaning upside down over an open space between the floor and wall of the castle. Totally, totally worth it.

After the castle, I got some delicious ice cream that was basically pure cream, but geez, it was delicious. The grounds were beautiful, the sun was extra hot as the morning wore on, and that ice cream was perfect. It was a good morning.

Upon leaving Blarney behind us, we headed back the other way, first driving the 90 minutes toward Bunratty and then another 90 past it to reach the Cliffs of Moher. If you've ever seen Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, you've seen these badass cliffs onscreen. They're quite recognizable:

We spent approximately 3.5 hours there, walking around, sweating like crazy, scaring my mother by hiking a trail near the edge of the cliffs, etc. It was a breathtaking view and there was a great breeze coming off the ocean. As the sun sagged lower in the sky, we finally left the cliffs and headed to the nearby county of Doolin to have some dinner. We ate at a pub called O'Connor's...undeniably the most Irish place we'd eaten thus far. I kid you not, it smelled like beer and chips six feet from the doorway. After we were completely stuffed, we drove to Galway, landed at our B&B, and called it a night.

 Friday, 7/19 : After an easier, more relaxing morning, we eased into breakfast in the central dining room of the B&B home, where other couples were already eating. The morning was cool, but it quickly heated up outside and we decided to take an open-air bus tour around Galway to start our day.
Let me tell you something...Galway is a beautiful, precious, cozy little place right on the beach. And I loved it. It reminded me of being in Charleston, SC, which is another beautiful beachy town.

After the breezy tour on top of the bus, we walked along Shop Street, a scrunched up little walking street enclosed by pubs, bake shops, storefronts, and street artists trying to make a buck with their neat crafts. A friend of ours from the states actually compared it to Harry Potter's Diagon Alley. I think that's a perfect description.

We enjoyed lunch at a pub called Taaffe's, where I got my official Guinness of the trip, free with our bus ticket. They had great food and we ate outside so we could listen to the street artists play music and people watch all the tourists and locals. We then found a little craft market squished between some rows of stores and perused the shelves of the vendors. I walked away with an adorable giraffe key chain.

We continued to check out the shops, enjoyed some ice cream in the park, and then headed to the little town of Roscommon, about an hour's drive away, to meet up with our neighbor Adrienne from back in the states. She, her parents and two brothers lived in the house behind us all the time they were growing up, and for the past two years, Adrienne (now 25) has been doing mission work with an organization called OM (Operation Mobilisation) Ireland: http://www.ie.om.org/

She took us to dinner and then we all went back to her house for coffee, cookies, and catching up. My parents stayed the night in Lacken House, while I stayed at the apartment with Adrienne and her roommates. I stayed up until probably 2:30am, just reading and taking in the absolute quiet of the countryside.

Saturday, 7/20 : The next morning, Adrienne and I picked up my family and toured her work before dining at a lovely little place called Gleeson's where I had a delicious fruit scone. Following breakfast, we parted ways with Roscommon and headed on for Dublin.

Dublin was such a fun, fun place. That's the only way I can really think to describe it. I felt like I was in a big city back in the states; that's how comfortable I was there. The first thing we did was settle in at our hotel, Trinity Lodge, which was right in the heart of the city and has also put up Martin Sheen, according to a framed picture of him and the manager in the lobby. After setting down our bags, we took the night easy, taking another open-air bus tour and spying on the city from up above, a city that was just waking up as the sun was setting.

One thing I learned quickly was how wild Dublin is at night. A big drinking town (well, country, for that matter), Dublin is full of drunk men and women nursing drinks in one hand and snuggling each other's bums with the other. We ate at a pub called the Auld Dubliner for dinner; we ate upstairs, but downstairs at the bar we could hear the laughter of drunk 20-somethings and a cover band playing American tunes. We also met two IU alum upstairs who chatted us up and who I'm pretty sure were slightly drunk, but it was a good time. The people you'll meet halfway around the world from your own backyard.

Sunday, 7/21 : Sunday morning was a perfect example of that. After walking to morning mass with my family at St. Theresa's Church downtown, I had an insane "what are the odds" moment. Spotting a guy in mass with an IU jacket on was cool enough; realizing moments later it was Kyle--a guy I knew from my freshman year on my dorm building's judicial board--was even crazier. What are the odds?! We chatted for a bit, I introduced him to my mom, and he said he'd been here for the summer on a business internship...what a place to intern, I'd say. Well done, sir.

I should also mention that before mass, we had the most amazing pancakes at a place called Fixx Coffeehouse. Simultaneously thin and fluffy, drizzled in strawberries, blueberries, and berry sauce, they were simply divine. Top that with coffee, and it was the best breakfast Dublin could've offered.

We spent a good part of the afternoon shopping in places that looked interesting and visiting little shops suggested to us by Adrienne. One of those suggestions was Avoca, which is a European hybrid of Anthropologie and every cute vintage store you've ever been in. Oh and also they have a cafe, a bakery, and a children's section. They had everything. And I absolutely fell in love. *sigh*

Between shopping, we spent some time touring the campus of Trinity College--started in the 4th century by Queen Elizabeth I--where we saw the Book of Kells (a thousand-year old text written by monks). It was so neat to see the pages still intact...barely, mind you, but still intact and legible. We also saw a library upstairs in the same building with hundreds of thousands of old books from the 16-18th centuries, books currently being restored by the college. For someone who is in love with books, let me just say it was sooooo incredible.

We finished the day by getting dinner at a famous restaurant called Bewley's, which has hosted the likes of James Joyce and Bono, among others. From there, it was a short drive across town to our hotel by the airport....we had to be prepared for our 6am wake-up call and early flight. Our destination this morning? Scotland.