After the ferry ride to Dublin last night, we went on a walking tour to familiarize ourselves with the city. Though much smaller than London, Dublin is not exactly what comes to mind when you think about Ireland. It’s definitely still a city with buildings crowded together and cramped streets. But it was really neat to walk along the Liffey River that runs through Dublin as Dr. Wilber gave us more history on certain buildings and pubs as we walked past them.

What was most exciting was seeing the holes made by machine guns at the post office during the Easter 1916 uprising, which we learned a lot about before the trip by watching the movie “Michael Collins.” The movie was filmed where the event took place and made that piece of Irish history come alive for us.

USF Bulls at Newgrange! Newgrange is a neolithic structure that captures sunlight during the winter solstice. It was also used for burial and ritual purposes.

This morning, we took a tour bus out to Newgrange, which can generally be described as Ireland’s stonehenge. Except Newgrange predates Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids by about 500 years and were a Neolithic people who had a pretty increible grasp on astronomy. Like Stonehenge is set up for the summer solstice, Newgrange is set up for the winter solstice. A beam of line shines through a window in the roof and casts a beam of light all the way into the ritual/burial chamber son the inside, lighting up the pitch black chamber.

Most of the group seemed to enjoy Newgrange better because the architecture was more advanced and historians have a better grasp on what it was used for. I myself enjoyed Stonehenge better because of the mysteriousness and the part the Druids played in utilizing it later on.

One of the large Celtic crosses in the cemetery at Monastaryboice.

After that we went to Monasterboice, build before 521 AD. Some abbots and a parochial church have occupied the space but beyond that, little is known about the history of the place. A cemetery makes its home there and a round tower partially destroyed by fire looms high into the sky. The tour guide explained images engraved onto large Celtic crosses, which were taken from the Bible. Being a lover of cemetaries, I could have spent all day there. But we had to move on to get dinner back in Dublin.

Both Dr. Wilbers, myself, Torie, Carol, Emily, Laura and Lauren decided to get food at the reputed oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head, established in 1198. The place had several very old rooms lined with books, signed money from all over the world and various original advertisements for Guinness decorating it. We sat in a side portion that was mostly open to the elements but had a cover they maneuvered over it when it started raining as it often does in Ireland. I ordered boiled cabbage and bacon with mashed potatoes. It doesn’t get more Irish than that.

Note about the weather- it rains. A lot. The weather is very strange here. One minute it’s cold, windy and misty and the next the sun is shining and it’s hot. You really have to dress in layers but then you spend a good deal of time taking off jackets, windbreakers and long-sleeved shirts, just to put them back on again later. Because of the flip-floppy nature of this country, a lot of us have come down with minor colds and had to take a side trip to the pharmacy for some cough syrup. I know that a few of my lovely readers here got worried over the sea sickness part but DON”T PANIC. Everyone is fine. We are just a tad sniffly. Dr. Wilber noted that happens every time he leads the trip because of the weather change and the way it keeps switching back and forth while you’re there. Once we acclimate, things will be grand.

…time to wrap this up. We are at a 24 hour McDonalds (Yes, they have them here, too) utilizing the free wi-fi. I had to stalk a guy from a  short distance for an outlet. As soon as he left I bolted to the table and claimed it for me, Carol and Torie.

The Brazen Head, reputed to be the oldest pub in Ireland.

Mass Comm bulls at the Brazen Head pub 🙂

Off to Ireland

July 30, 2010

As I write this, I can feel the floor and dipping and rolling with the movement of the waves. The ferry that is taking us to Dublin is more like a cruise ship than anything, with several floors, restaurants, a game room and bar. The sea is fairly calm but it’s blustery and cold out on the deck. Some of the student sin the group are sitting on the middle level fending off sea sickness but most of us seem to be adjusting just fine. All of us are excited for Ireland.

After a hectic morning at the hotel when the wakeup calls failed to come through, we finally made it on the bus to the train station. From there, we headed to Wales to catch our ferry to Ireland. Both the train ride and ferry ride are three hours long but I spent the first part of the journey conversing with an Irish man from Galway, who sat next to me on the train. Chris is actually about my age and plays guitar at gigs around the country and is employed as a carpenter. We talked a lot about differences between American culture and Irish culture, politics, religion, Harry Potter- you name it, we probably covered it. As a result, the trip was quick and painless.

I just looked  up and can see land! Ireland, here we come!

The Tube is part of the London Underground subway system that is frequently used By London natives and tourists to get around the city since traffic is horrid. You can buy a one-way pass, a day pass or an Oyster Card, which subtracts money from your checking account each time you use the card. It’s the oldest subway system in the world. The train is very screechy and rickety as you’re on it and you have too either sit in one of the seats or hold one of the handrails. It’s definitely a cool part of the experience and you always see diverse and interesting groups of people.

A few students from this year's study tour travel on the London Tube to reach their next destination.

In the London Underground.

Dr. Rick Wilber showing the group the train route to our next stop.

Today we visited Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Globe Theatre for Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part I, the British Museum and Hyde Park. Here are a few group shots highlighting the events of the day:

Westminster Abbey. This is where the royal family holds weddings, funerals, etc. It is beautiful inside but not as big as a standard cathedral. There are a lot of really ornate tombs and memorials inside, including the famous poet's corner where Lord Byron and others are buried. We also visited the tombs of Charles Darwin and Isaac Newton.

St. Paul's Cathedral. This place is HUGE. Most of us attempted to climb the steps all the way to the top and nearly made it but ran out of time and head to head back down. Most of us are in decent shape and we were all huffing, puffing and sweating. Talk about shaky legs. Services are still held there and anyone can attend them.

Sitting in the stands at The Globe Theatre getting ready to watch Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I. The Globe Theatre is a replica of the original one and stands in the same spot.

The steps of the British Museum. roman columns adorn the front of the building and inside is an expanse of displays covering history throughout the world. The Egyptian section housed the Rosetta Stone, which helped scientists learn to read hieroglyphics.

Walking through Hyde Park.

Salisbury Cathedral on the inside.

Alright, here is a quick overview of yesterday:

We arrived at Heathrow International Airport at about 10 a.m. UTC and took a long bus ride to our hotel at Jury’s Inn in London. Once we got settled in, we headed out for a double decker bus tour to get an overview of the city then a boat tour on the River Thames.  Dr. Wilber and his wife, also Dr. Wilber, gave us some history as we walked back to the shopping and pub area. Eventually, we all split into groups to go eat.

Let me pause here to make a comment on the traffic in this city. It’s horrific. Our tour guide today told us that in Victorian times, the average motor speed in London was 10 mph. It is currently 8 mph. Around here, bicycles are the way to go, unless you decide to take London’s underground and overground train system, which we did frequently. The roads are narrow, vehicles drive on the left side (right side in the States, correct side in England, they say here)  and the vehicles are nerve-wrackingly close together as they are moving. Also, gas, called petrol here, is astronomical, coming out to about 1.08 pounds per litre, at about 3.8 liters per gallon. Yikes!

Stonehenge- also built by the same aliens that built the pyramids? 😉

This morning, we went down stairs to take advantage of the free breakfast buffet for our hotel then headed off in a nearly two-hour bus tour to Stonehenge, the ancient circle of stones in Southern England. The stones were  built and placed there at the same time as the Egyptian pyramids but little is known about its creators. It was built over nearly 1,000 years, completed it 1600 BC and abandoned by 1500 BC. The Druids found Stonehenge in about 700 BC and began worshiping there but by that point, it had already fallen to ruins. Now, pagans from all over the world travel there on June 21, the summer solstice, to witness the sun’s rays strike the center stone and cast light down the middle of the structure. I’ve wanted to visit my whole life and when we came up the hill and I caught my first glimpse, my heart nearly stopped beating. You can feel the energy surrounding the stones and the plains where several burial mounds dot the landscape. It’s my life’s ambition to head back during the summer solstice.

Then it was off to Salisbury. There we went to a pub for lunch and then to see Salisbury Cathedral and the Magna Carta. It was huge and beautiful inside, with many important individuals buried in tombs beneath the floor we walked on, as well as in elaborately decorated tombs.

Daylina Miller at the Roman Bath House. Not that anyone would want to bathe in it now...

After that we headed off to Bath, home of-braces yourselves, girls- Nicolas Cage and John Depp. There, we visited the Roman baths, which were built around 43 AD when the Romans came to England and were excited by the natural hot springs in the area. Bath houses were an important part of the Roman culture but after they left and the Saxons came in, burial grounds were built over them as the Saxons had no use for bath houses. Now, the remnants of the bath house are open to the public and glasses of spring water, thought to have healing powers, can be purchased for 50 pence. It tasted like well water, honestly.

At the end of the tour, we headed back to London to meet up in Covent Garden, a shopping and pub district. Two of my newfound friends, Carol and Torie, and I headed to a little Thai restaurant to eat and discuss the rest of the week’s itinerary before splitting off for the night. I headed back to the hotel and a few others stayed behind to enjoy the night life. Now time to wind down before our last day in London tomorrow where we will visit Westminster Abbey and see Henry IV at The Globe Theatre.

Covent Garden

Hello, all! It’s almost midnight here in London right now, going on 7 p.m. Tampa time. I don’t have much time to write this as the Internet fees for the hotel we are staying at are a little pricey. My posts will get better as we move on to Ireland and have better access to Wi-fi.

Long story short, today was mostly about traveling to London and doing a bit of sight-seeing to familiarize ourselves with the area. We took a flight from Tampa to Chicago, then from Chicago to London. The second oen was an overnighter and we were served two meals. I took advantage of the nifty TV screens attached to the back of each headrest and played Tetris and watched a couple movies.

Today we spent the day sight-seeing on  a double decker bus and a boat tour. London is such a fascinating place and so vastly different from the States. I have so much to share with you guys! But unfortunately, this entry will have to be short and sweet as I’m about to lose power to my laptop. One of the frustrations of study abroad is getting all the electrical appliances figured out and my adapter is not reading my power supply.

Details and pictures tomorrow!

At the Airport

July 27, 2010

The 2010 Ireland Study/Travel Tour!

Goodbye, Tampa!

Layover at Chicago O'Hare. Pizza? Of course.

Hello, London!

Hello, all!

Cool new discovery near Stonehenge in southern England, just in time for our trip! We will be heading out to Stonehenge on Wednesday, July 28.

Here is the CNN article about the archeologists who have unearthed “a second prehistoric henge-like circle only 900 meters away, which they hope will shed more light on the mysterious stone landmark.”

"The significance of Stonehenge is very much under debate but most theories suggest that the site was built for ceremonial use. Archaeological evidence has indicated that the monument is astronomically aligned, placing particular significance on solstice and equinox points. There has been some speculation as to whether the monument could have been used to predict solar and lunar eclipses. In addition, many scientists believe that Stonehenge could have had some spiritual meaning and ritual uses for the prehistoric people who built it." -wisegeek.com

T-3 days until the flight to Heathrow in London, England!