Thursday, July 28, 2011

Crete

For one of my planned trips a few of us decided to go to Crete!  We stayed with a Drexel co-op abroad student in Heraklion.  This city is the capitol of Crete which is part of the country Greece and also known as Iraklion.  Crete is an island that lies to the south to Greece's mainland so our journey from London was about 3.5 hours.  A group of four of us arrived around 11 pm Crete time to the hot weather we were waiting for all summer.  Luckily, our host was able to guide us around such an unfamiliar country.     London has offered a lot of cultural diversity but in a much more subtle manner than our experience with Greece. 

Our first authentic Greek meal was at a Taverna right in the area.  Taverna food is served family style so everyone can either pick with their forks out of the dish for the table and put their food on smaller plates.  We tried about eight different dishes and yes, real Greek salad!  The feta cheese there was amazing and so fresh.  The salad had large chopped tomatoes and cucumbers pieces with whole olives and then a block of seasoned Feta placed on top and a light oil dressing on the veggies.  We were first given a basket of bread, both soft and toasted cubes and bottles of water since they cannot drink the tap water.  Then we had a dish of chopped potatoes in a herb oil (perfect for bread dipping), a version of fried zucchini, beef and mushroom dish as well as a few others.  At the end of your meal, the server brings out desserts for the table which included melons, a sweet honey and lemon pastry, and a plate of Greek yogurt with berry sauce.  They also conclude the meal by bringing out a vessel of raki which is a Turkish spirit with an anise flavor.  Everyone is encouraged to take a shot of the beverage, (on the house), including the waiter.  

Desserts on the house were typical for the Greek restaurants in Crete.  Even sitting with friends for wine at a restaurant by the water we were given a huge plate of fruit, pastries, and cookies to munch on.  While  there was some language barrier, our waiters and even a cook asked us about our stay in Crete.  

The next day we went to the beautiful beach.  This particular beach was right below the hotel that is provided for the Drexel study abroad students.  The water was so warm and perfect.  

Crete had a lot of vendors for tourists, stores, and coffee shops (including Starbucks).  The most enjoyable part was walking around and just exploring the streets.  For breakfast one morning, we walked through a street market with clothes, jewelry, fruits and vegetables and then stopped at a local bakery for a treat.  Greece is known for all of their sugar and almond cookies but they also have delicious donuts and flakey chocolate croissants as big as your head.  

Being on an island, there is always water near by so it was nice to just walk along the coast and docks.  The people of Crete would be up early and stay up late.  Any time of day or night you could find people out and about, (although Sunday was a less active).  People really enjoyed just sitting for a few hours with a coffee or ice cream and spending time with those around them.  Crete was a really unique experience.  I was able to see some aspects of how a country in an economic crisis survives.  There were areas of poverty where things felts quite grungy but also a lot of beauty.  The experience has opened my eyes on things I should no take for granted like fresh water.  


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Weekend in Wales


As part of the FIE program we were also given the opportunity to go to Wales!   Wales is still part of the UK but several hours outside of London.  We traveled on two trains to get there, the second one offering a more scenic view of the beautiful cascading hills of the countryside farmlands.  We were quite cut off from the city of where we were getting acquainted with at the Eco Lodge with Preseli Venture.  
            We arrived in the evening to our outdoor weekend destination to a fantastic dinner of vegetable lasagna and apple pie a la mode.  The evening was set for settling in and relaxation in preparation for the rest of the weekend.  Saturday morning greeted us at 8am with breakfast and then a hike!  My Drexel group stayed with a few other groups from Florida and California Schools that also study at FIE so we were a bit divided among the groups but I still had half of my familiar Drexel faces.  Our 4.5 miles hike started off with a drive about 15 minutes down the road, which by the way were single lane but both directions (we were all so amused by this).  We were dropped off with some words of guidance and a map.  Luckily, the path was quite self-explanatory so no M.I.A. students.  When I typically think of a hike, I envision the typical forest of tall trees and a few wild animals.  However, I was gladly mistaken to a phenomenal view of the ocean and hillside the Wales coast. 
The coastline and beautiful blue water
The water was beautiful blue and the hills created their own blocks of colors from the different vegetation and pastures.  The most prominent pasture was of the sheep.  With an area that seemed to be endless, there must have been hundreds of sheep grazing.  Approaching a narrow bend and ledge, we encountered a sheep straggler which we eventually had to pass.  The question as to how to do this became an issue.  As we slowly approached, he became scarred and ran to the edge of a cliff so he pretty much needed to be talked off from the plunge of the ledge and he then raced past us in scattered direction without a clear way to get back into the pasture with his fellow sheep friends.  Our hike ended with a pebbly beach to rest at and enjoy the view.
 
If you look closely, you can see the sheep approaching the edge
After lunch, the next activity was “coasteering”.  Basically, it’s a combination of climbing, swimming and cliff diving.  We first had to suit up in layers upon layers of protective gear then headed off!  To my surprise yet again, out instructors took us for a lot of rock climbing.  The tiny white barnacles on the rocks’ surfaces allowed for great foot traction but painful hand contact.  I found myself scaling the sides of cliff walls and rock formations with only the fear of falling keeping me on track (as well as my group).   Gradually, we were given the option to jump off different heights of cliffs until we reached the final tallest one of our adventure.  About half the group declined and I braved it two times, (I didn’t climb up all of those rocks for nothing after all!)  The hardest part is overcoming that you wont hit the rocks against the wall on the bottom.  While the other jumps seemed quite brief, this last one felt like I was falling for sometime until my body cut deep into the water below. 
After debriefing for the remainder of the evening, our last day’s activity was sea kayaking.  Previously, I had only canoed and usually found that at some point I would be tipped out.  Despite the ruff currents of the ocean, I managed to stay afloat at sea.  Kayaks actually absorb the shock of the changing waves as long as you manage to stay in the correct positioning for your body.  After getting use to some of the steering and paddling techniques, I completely enjoyed our trip along the coast.  Sometimes I just had to stop paddling and just gaze at the scenery.
The pebbly beach! A sign that our hike was in the right direction.


The trip really allowed me to explore the coast from above on our hike, amongst the cliffs and rocks coasteering, and then in the water, sea kayaking.  Wales was a beautiful adventure weekend that definitely explored a side of me that I’m not usually in tune with.  A weekend was just the right amount of such physical adventure for me for a while!  

Monday, July 25, 2011

Weekend on the Italian Riviera!

Ciao!

For the last four days, I have been in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world.  The Italian Riviera is famous for it's yachts, beautiful beaches, excellent seafood, and scenic views all around.  I was fortunate enough to be able to experience all of these things!  On Thursday, our whole group took a bus to Genova where we took a small walking tour and learned some history about the town.  Genova, like all of the other towns in the Riviera is located right along the Mediterranean Sea. 

View of Santa Margherita

A fountain in Genova


From Genova, we got back on the bus and traveled to Santa Margherita.  Santa Margherita is another town in the Italian Riviera.  Our bus ride was a little windy, but by the time we arrived at our destination, it was well worth the ride.  We pulled up on the coastline, right along the crystal clear blue water.  Immediately after disembarking the bus, we headed straight for lunch which for us was focaccia bread.  The Riviera is famous for focaccia, which is more or less a flatbread that can have toppings or even fillings.  Pesto is also famous in the Riviera region, so it made the most sense to get a pesto focaccia!  In Santa Margherita, the group stayed in two hotels that were right by a public beach.  We spent the rest of Thursday laying out by the Mediterranean. 


On Friday, we took a group trip to Portofino.  Portofino is the most famous of the Italian Riviera locations because it is the wealthiest.  In fact, while we were there a few people even saw Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas.  Portofino is rather small, and only accessible by boat, so we took a ten minute ferry from Santa Margherita to get there.  When we pulled up, the port was filled with yachts and sailboats galore!




We walked around Portofino past designer stores and expensive souvenirs up to a castle that sits atop a hill giving a spectacular view of the boats on the water.  From the castle, we even saw the villa that Dolce and Gabbana stay in when they visit!  Many spring/summer and or resort collections are designed with the Italian Riviera as inspiration, and it is clear to see why upon visiting.  

After spending the afternoon in Portofino, the group came back to Santa Margherita, and we were free for Saturday and Sunday to do our own thing.  I went off with a few friends back to Genova on Friday night.  Saturday, we did a famous hike amongst five villages along the coastline about an hour and a half from Genova known as the Cinque Terre (the five towns.)  Some towns are a twenty minute hike from one the next, but two of the towns are a 2 hour hike.  I didn't do the whole hike, but I had friends who hiked to each of the five towns and they said it took five hours!  Each village is distinctly different and quaint and they all have beautiful views of the sea.  I hiked to two of the towns, and took trains to the other three.  

On Sunday, we were back in Genova where we found the most beautiful private beach.  The water was amazing, it was so warm and clear, and the bluest of blues.  The beach was only a few hundred meters from where we were staying.  It was a fantastic beach day, and were not ready to come back to Torino for school, but we knew we had to.  


The weekend was phenomenal and filled with beautiful sites.  I highly recommend the Italian Riviera to anyone and everyone!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Celtic Tiger

Upon arrival to Ireland the phrase ‘Celtic Tiger’ was mentioned numerous times. It became clear early on that this time had a huge impact on not only the layout of the city but on the people of Ireland. After covering the Celtic Tiger in Seamus’ class I have learned of both and the reasons that it has since fallen. The Celtic Tiger was the most important economic boom that the country of Ireland has ever seen. Known as ‘The Boom’ or the ‘Economic Miracle’, the Celtic Tiger has the world in awe of its growth and economic success. In the years 1994 to 2000, this small country grew in astronomical proportions. The year 1994 marked the unofficial birth date of the Celtic Tiger; its growth advanced at a historically unprecedented average of 6.9 per cent annually. This development is easily attributed to two main causes today, an increase in the amount of people working and an increase in working productivity. During this period not only did the workforce nearly double, but the growth of output per worker grew 3-4% greater each year. The answer to how such growth took place in such a short amount of time is hidden within both internal and external influences, which allowed for the previously stated causes to emerge.
A view of the Docklands
Docklands Development Authority
Understanding that the Celtic Tiger was not nearly as systematic as hoped, it is evident that for Ireland, the country fell into a great economic boom partly consciously and partly by luck. This mixture lead to a great deal of change for the country and unfortunately has been a learning experience in disguise as yet another recession has hit. As a study abroad student, it is interesting to note the extreme growth that the Celtic Tiger has left behind, particularly in the case of the Docklands. On our tour of the Docklands we learned of the major plans undertaken by the Dockland’s Authority. Although many of the projects were completed, there were various towers including the U2 tower, which were never started--- due to the lack of funding. Our tour group was literally the last group to pass through the Docklands Authority building. It was extremely daunting to hear the amount of stress and sadness that was in the voice of one of the members fully invested in the project as she relayed her story. This authority, comprised of well-established individuals, worked for most of their careers on what is unfortunately considered to be a failure. In my personal opinion the Docklands promise huge potential. Once Ireland comes out of its recession the Docklands will surely attract the public they once hoped to. The Docklands is just one of the many places visited where traces of an economic boom are extremely apparent. 


Irish Politics: Visit to the Leinster House

Politics in Ireland vary from politics in the states. It is more likely for Irish politicians to single handedly reach out to specific sectors of the country and physically gaining supporters by knocking door to door. This seems unusual to the average voter in the states. It is more likely for Americans to meet local politicians rather then the big names. The political system in general is very interesting and appealing to me, however there are various aspects that I have yet to uncover.
While visiting the Leinster House a picture was painted, the Civil war lead to the creation of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. These two political parties are evidence of what remains of the conflict today. These parties have had both tremendous success and downfalls throughout the years following the Civil War. Present day, after the 2011 general election, Fine Gael is Ireland’s largest party. The party represents and has identified itself with the values of social democracy advocating a liberal agenda. Thus it is seen as a centre-right party.  Its supporters are large farmers and businesses. Today Fine Gael is a member of the Christian Democratic European People’s Party. It is viewed as a more conservative party, adopting a less nationalist position on Northern Ireland.
Eamon de Valera founded Fianna Fail in 1926. This party initially began as a radical anti-treaty party with such supporters as small farmers and workers. Today the party is associated with a more republican outlook, but considers itself neither Left Wing nor Right Wing. Fianna Fail is the political party who was in control during the years of the Celtic Tiger, and responsible for the spending habits, which are were seen reminiscent of that of a more left wing party. Due to the economic crash, the Fianna Fail have fallen out of favor and instead replaced by the Fine Gael.
It is not just these two political parties that are responsible for the past history of Ireland’s politics, a third party exists, the Labour Party. This party is considered to be the centre-left and social democratic side of the Republic’s politics. It is the second largest party and has partaken in coalition governments with both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael in past years.
These three parties, direct descendents of the division of the Civil War’s opposing sides, continue to govern Ireland today. It is important to note the history of Ireland and its growth via these politic parties. Because these events are still new, happening within the last 100 years, lingering ties to each side are apparent when looking at both the Fianna Fail and Fine Gael parties.
Politics in Ireland, as I have learned are extremely competitive. It baffles me that only about 15% of the seats held are by women, considering there is an even split in the population ratio of male verses female. We have covered the issue in class and have addressed it in writing, however the topic is still open-ended for me. Today the president, Mary McAleese is the face of governmental politics for the country while the Taoiseach is currently and historically always has been male. It was made clear to us throughout our studies that the president, unlike the American President has much less power. It is largely a ceremonial position. This is all very interesting and new to me, I hope for the future of Irish politics however, that more females move into power to more evenly represent the public

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

History Around Dublin

Inside a cell at Kilmainham Gaol

Learning about Irish History has proved time and time again to be of utmost importance to my foundation of understanding the Irish culture.  Having a solid background in Irish history has allowed me to appreciate my time here even more. I have learned about the countries hardships as well as its success, enriching my relation to the society I have grown to know and love. Being in a foreign place for such a limited amount of time has inspired me to take in as much as I can before I disembark. Due to this I have visited a wide assortment of historical landmarks. Of the places visited my favorite has been my trip to the Kilmainham Gaol.

The jail holds an immense amount of history within its protected walls. With thousands of prisoners once held within its grounds due to the potato famine, various political movements, and crimes; my visit was incredible. I was able to walk into a cell and around the premise, the same as Constance Markievicz, who was elected to Westminster parliament in 1918, once did. The jail also plays an important role in the events leading to the War for Independence. As does another important building located locally as well, the General Post Office. Along with the jail, the GPO is one of the most important buildings in Irish history. Its significance lies in its involvement in the Easter Rising--- an event which inedibility lead to the beginning of Irelands fight for Independence. While visiting today, you can still see the bullet holes that mark the buildings front columns.
A cell kept in original condition
The Post Office proves to be truly iconic in the involvement of the Easter Rising. This historical event was a result of an extremist attempted to overthrow British Rule. Visiting the museum located directly inside with Roisin was highly helpful in piecing together these events. Although Britain was prepared to grant Ireland Home Rule, a group of nationalists plotted to demand a free Republic of Ireland. Although the Easter Rising was not necessarily successful, it sparked the beginning of the War of Independence. After this rising, the British took into custody the 14 men responsible for the event. Of which were then held in Kilmainham Gaol, and executed one by one within its walls.
Because of Britain’s unjust retaliation against the leaders, the Easter Rising gained the support of the Irish people. Thus snowballing into war. After a very involved series of events, the Irish War for Independence ended in a standstill in July of 1921. Britain agreed to a truce, as it was loosing popularity with its own people. Although this treaty marked Britain’s recognition of Ireland, it did not recognize the Irish Republic as the Irish had intended. Due to this fact, the treaty caused continued angst amongst the Irish people. It was believed by some that the lives lost during the War of Independence were lost fighting for the Irish Republic, not a Free State. This became the dividing factor within the country itself--- because the treaty established Ireland as the Irish Free State, Britain was still in the picture. The treaty also gave Northern Ireland an option to opt out and remain a part of the Britain, which it did. The official Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in London on December 6th, 1921.
General Post Office
Although the country did not receive proper recognition for its efforts to control all of its counties, the Irish people were relieved the fighting had stopped. Despite the favored support by the pro-treaty public, the Anglo-Irish Treaty divided the nation into two opposing sides. It was the pro-treaty side who believed that the treaty was not “ultimate freedom… but the freedom to achieve” (Michael Collins). On the other hand, the anti-treaty opposer’s believed the treaty gave “away Irish Independence” and “acknowledged the head of the British Empire as direct monarch of Ireland” (Eamon de Valera). At this point in history, the Irish members of the IRA and political figures part of the Dáil, who had been fighting on the same side, divided and became enemies essentially overnight.
For me to have the opportunity to not only learn about the history of this nation, but to visit the actual places that most of these events occurred is so incredible. There is an immense amount to be learned and putting a ‘face to the name’ of sorts makes all the difference for a foreigner. Although I am one hundred percent an outsider looking in, I feel as though I have a huge tie to the country given my understanding and appreciation of its history. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Lago Maggiore


          Over the weekend I went to the most amazing place.  Italy is blessed with a series of lakes, some of which share a border with Switzerland.  With my program, we all traveled to lake Maggiore.  It is right next to lake Como, where George Clooney famously owns a house.  Lake Maggiore is just like lake Como except filled with less American tourists.  The lake sits in a valley so that everywhere surrounding the water is mountainous and beautiful.  Our field trip was to Stresa which is one of the towns along the lake.  From Stresa, we took a ferry for a few minutes across the lake to get to one of the most amazingly beautiful places I have ever seen.  Amidst the lake is aptly named Isola Bella, or “beautiful island.”  ‘Beautiful’ isn’t even a strong enough word to describe this site.


This is the view pulling up to the island
            Upon pulling up by boat, you are greeted by a small island emanating greenery.  On the island is a palace with a garden.  From the boat you receive a view of the garden, and it looks otherworldly.  Ivy covers tall structures and statues are carefully placed at all heights of the almost three-story high garden.  It looks like Atlantis, or something out of a dream.  At a closer look you can see a huge array of colorful flowers.  From the time the ferry pulled up, until after the ferry left the island, my jaw was on the ground.  There are few times I have ever been in awe, but this was definitely one of them.

Here I am with the three friends on the ferry!
            Our group of fifty took a tour of the palace on the island.  The interior was classically baroque, and was filled with pastel colors and ornate décor.  It was amazing and so inspiring.  After seeing room after room of pastel blues, and pinks, each adorned with morano glass chandeliers, we came to a long hallway with a series of seven extremely ornate tapestries.  Woven into these tapestries were silk and gold threads.  Each tapestry took around ten years to make.  After the hallway was a large gate with an entrance to the garden. 
            The garden was just as unbelievable as I expected it to be from the exterior view.  There were stairs laden with ivy and plants that lead up to lush open space lined with purple, blue and pink flowers.  Then up a few more stairs was another layer of the garden; this one had a huge sculpture with different statues that reminded me of a sand castle.  There were also white peacocks in the garden that just walked around and would let you get really close to them.  The whole tour, my jaw was open because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

This is inside the palace.  The room was so tall I couldn't fit it all in the picture!


Here are some of the sculptures that you can climb stairs up to and walk around

This is a view of the lake from the garden 

This is just some of the beautiful garden

White peacock!

            After the garden our group got back on the ferry to Stresa where the rest of the group came back to Torino, but three friends and I decided we wanted to spend the weekend on the lake.  We stayed in a hotel in the town next to Stresa called Verbania.  Verbania was absolutely beautiful!  We were right on the lake and the town was even less touristy than Stresa.  On Saturday we took the most amazing bike ride and stumbled upon an open market.  The views, like the one below were nothing short of incredible.


Mi manca a tutti!  [I miss you all!]

Ciao!


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Trip to Northern Ireland


There is an immense amount of unrest that still lingers in Belfast, a Northern city in Ireland. Visiting this part of the country may seem unsafe to some, but thankfully we were well kept after. The FIE program has given its study abroad students an incredible opportunity, one that many visitors simply never see.
The Peace Wall- Belfast, Northern Ireland

The most incredible part of the trip was visiting the peace wall located in the heart of the conflict. Representing the division of a highly controversial religious disagreement, the peace wall remains a symbol of unity. It was my initial reaction that the wall marks the start of a new united country ruled to this day by Great Britain. It was brought to my attention that although the wall offers a sign of peace, it also represents the extreme division between the two opposing religious groups, Catholic and Protestant.  The wall is a literal barrier that separates the two groups. However, while visiting the wall, onlookers will find how powerful the use of words can truly be in uniting not only a society but bringing together a variety of people from various backgrounds. Its presence is most certainly appreciated by visitors and quietly screams the cries of support of millions from around the world. The tradition of signing the wall was passed onto us as students connecting the stories and history of the country that we have called home for the past five weeks.
While in the North, there was an abundance of murals painted to commemorate the various events of the struggle. One of my personal favorites is of a priest waving his white handkerchief to single a ceasefire on Bloody Sunday. The amount of emotion that is evoked while looking at these specific scenes made me appreciate the sense of peace these people now know.



Mural depicting a scene from Bloody Sunday- Derry, Northern Ireland

Lovely Places to Go



Amazing shops and eateries are to be found throughout Dublin. As you can imagine I have only nearly begun to uncover these lovely places. My favorites so far includes a café called The Lime Tree Café, located on the North Side of the Liffy, by Kilmainham Gaol--- which is a must see all on its own. The café has such a warm house feel, serving a variety of sandwiches, soups, and freshly brewed coffee and teas. The service was wonderful and all the ladies working spoke with such delight when welcoming you.
Om Diva, George's Street Arcade
The South side has quite a large selection of shopping options. Whether or not you fancy more of the mainstream well-trafficked shops such as River Island, BT2, Topshop, and Dunnes… or rather love to meander through small boutiques such as Carousel, Costume, and Smock… or sift through awesome second hand shops such as Oxfam and Harlequin, the South side is the place to go! So far Om Diva has been one of my personal favorites. Located right outside of George’s Street Arcade, this store offers the best of all words. On the bottom level you will find consignment items, all second hand finds needing an even better home the second time around! The main level offers cute reasonably priced less known brands, offering both accessories and clothing on uniquely beaded hangers. Upstairs, I could hang out for hours upstairs, the walls were decorated with original sketches and photographs. This is the home to the designer pieces, each more special then the last! You can find intricate headwear as well is asymmetrical designs and homemade jewelry. Needless to say I have gone back multiple times!
Riverdance was just one of the many highlights of my trip here in Dublin! The Gaiety Theatre is beautiful, I felt at home there! As a dancer, I was so excited to experience the show and note the differences and similarities of the Irish production in relation to my own experience. Although the show was not exactly what I had anticipated, I enjoyed it non-the less. My hesitation came from the differences in production from that of Broadway shows. To my surprise, there were an immense amount of differences. The lighting and sound were definitely to note, as well as the simplicity of transitions. The dancing was impressive and the dancers percussion was spot on! But there was a lack of professionalism that was apparent, for anyone who hasn’t already, I would say that you need to go see a show on Broadway!!  Overall it was an amazing experience, and something I wouldn’t have left the country without seeing.


Inside Om Diva


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Irish Language, Visiting the Abbey

The Irish language is one that the Irish tend to feel one of two ways about… there are those that are extremely passionate about preserving this Celtic language and those that are far from enthralled to learn the language in school. After talking with some locals, the Irish language taught in school is very basic, providing students with a very limited array of talking points. On the other hand---there has been, from what I can tell, a recent trend for enthusiasts to revive the use of the ancient language.
Language is a huge defining factor in terms of ones nationality. It is a regional aspect that ties people not only to one another but also to their family lineage. Ireland is the home to many influential writers; four alone have been recognized and given the Nobel Peace Price for their work. Of these four writers is William Butler Yeats.
Yeats himself was an idealist. Throughout his work, he acknowledged the fact that Ireland was a separate entity, unique in its rural simplicity. His work based off a fanaticized land that he dreamt about while away in London. Due to his relocation, Yeats formed a strong sense of nationalism towards his home country as he remembered it. Yeats wrote about this pride in the rolling hills and his rural life so much so, that this was often the only part of Irish society portrayed. Every piece of Yeats’ work included this idealism and played to his thoughts on nationalism, of which spoke volumes to his concept of conserving Irish heritage. 
In addition to diving into the work of Yeats, we were fortunate enough to visit the Abbey Theater. This historical monument has offered great works of literature performed on its stage since 1904. The play Translations was exceptional. One critic was quoted, “More than thirty years since it was first produced, Translations is now regarded as a modern masterpiece. Subtle and resonant, it’s a political drama, a historical tale, a funny and clever play about language and a tender love story”. Brian Friel’s, Translations was an amazing introduction into the series of events that almost forced the Celtic language out of use. The Anglicization of words, started with the renaming of the Irish landscape. Taking place solely around the structure of a hedge school, the audience is told the story of the importance of language for Ireland’s people.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Prêt-à-Portea

Today I had a fabulous tea at the Berkeley hotel in the Caramel room.  Not a typical tea house but do not be mistaken!  If you want sheer elegance with a fashion twist, this is your destination.  Seven of the ladies in my group including myself went.  I had found the place a few weeks ago just looking for a fun tea place online.  We had to book in a few weeks in advance because they have limited seating but, it was well worth it.  

The tea was called Prêt-à-Portea, which translates to Ready to Wear.  Yes, fashion tea.  This included "cakes and fancies" inspired by fashion designers Tom Ford, Chloe, Tory Burch, Miu Miu, Jil Sander, Marc Jacobs, Stella McCartney, Roger Vivier, and Victoria Beckham.  Please ooh and ah.  Such an experience.   

First off was a selection of loose leaf teas to choose from, I chose the Pear Caramel, appropriate for the Caramel Room :).  So delicious I must say.  I actually previously purchased a bag of Caramel loose leaf tea but I haven't tried it yet because i'm looking for the perfect tea siv but now I'm eager to taste it!  The service was so lovely and proper including the waiter putting the napkin on our laps.  We next were served a selection of tea sandwiches- egg&mayo, tuna, salmon, cucumber and a chicken roll.  

After our sandwiches, we were served a three tier selection of desserts and savory canapes.  I was surprised to see such a selection for a set tea.  Even more surprising, refills were unlimited!  This meant more of anything we wanted all included in our fixed tea price.  I really enjoyed seeing the adaptations of the Summer/Spring collections into food.  Every six months the venue changes the desserts to comply with the fashion season.  

With our tea, we 
decided it would be most appropriate to dress for the occasion.  I purchased a vintage cream and gold horizontal striped dress from a vintage shop on Brick Lane.  There was a large selection of vintage shops and other fun venues- definitely one of the best markets I've been to so far.  I also was able to pick up a hat from another shop.  I was really on the hunt for a fascinator but they tend to be quite pricy so when I found a hat for  £12, I jumped at the deal.  I ended up cutting the decoration part off of the actual hat and then re-sewing the pieces that I wanted for my fascinator and then bobby pinned it into my hair.  Unfortunately, I did not have all my resources readily available, (i.e. feathers, hot glue gun...) but I was able to concoct a decent looking piece I would say.  

I really had a lovely afternoon and highly suggest fashion tea at the Berkeley, just don't forget your reservations. The price is a little high for regular tea but perfect for a treat.  




Why so Green?

There is something to be said about coming into a country almost completely blind, the findings to be found are completely unwarranted and met with an open mind. Dublin is on the opposite end of the spectrum when it comes to a communal city in comparison to many of the cities found in the US. As has been ingrained in my head--- sitting through five hours of class four days a week, Ireland has gone through its fair share of hardships. To my surprise, although both the age and the composition of the society suggest otherwise, the community is very closely knit and well aware of its roots. The people share ethical similarities and work together to make strides towards an even “greener” country, if you will.

From day one pressure on American students to be more conscious have not only been verbalized, but made clear in a completely tangible way.  We were all allotted 4 “energy cards”, a system that works similarly to pay as you go. Its essentially a way to rationalize the amount of energy we use and make us all aware that once its gone, its gone. Turing off lights, turning off hot water, as well as turning off our appliances is a must if we plan to take hot showers by the end of our trip week five.

In addition to energy conservation, plastic bags are a rare find. Everyone here shops with reusable bags, if you need a bag there is a cost attached. Despite efforts for this in the States, Dubliner’s do a much better job at sticking to this idea. Even if you are in need of a bag, because I don’t know… lets say you forget to pack it along with your essentials for the day i.e. an umbrella, chances are you’ll be given a paper bag, which if there is one thing to be learned- paper bags are hopeless when it rains.  Perhaps that’s the reason reusable bags have caught on so well here? 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Dublin

Hi everyone! My name is Kristia and I am currently studying in Dublin, Ireland. My time here is fairly short so I hope to write as much as I can to report on all of the amazing aspects that this small city has to offer.

A little about me, I am going into my forth year at Drexel University studying Design and Merchandising and am ecstatic to be abroad. My program is unique in that it is a dual city study program so I have to opportunity to study at the Dublin Business School in Dublin, Ireland and take classes as an FIE student in London, England. I will be spending equal time in each country with trips planned to see more of Europe.

I recently just came back from a weekend get away in Paris, which was absolutely amazing!

The first few weeks here in Dublin, have been jam packed with historical information and sight seeing. Venturing on different excursions has allowed us to understand not only Dublin, but beyond the city as well.

The dual city program has attracted in total 15 American students, 14 of us are girls and one sole boy. This alone poses as an interesting and fun experience. Thankfully we live in an apartment complex or student housing known as Blackhall Place with other foreign students. Thus far we have befriended French students, and are looking forward to meeting the incoming Austrian and Portuguese students.

Despite what my fellow classmates might think our location has been a learning experience in disguise. We live on the North Side, which is in reference to the central division of the city known as the River Liffy. The North Side is commonly thought of as the less endowed side, providing a home for many low-income homes. However, this side of the city has a lot to offer. It is the home to Kilmainham Gaol or Jail and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. The main attraction on this side of the river however is Henry’s street. It is the central shopping location, cheaper then the South’s Side equivalent, Grafton Street.

The people of Dublin have welcomed us with a hundred thousand welcomes, “Cead Mile Failte”. The society overall in general is much friendlier then any you will find in the states. When asking for directions, people are more then happy to take the time to explain in detail the best way to get there. In all the public here is very knowledgably and extremely reliable when pointing you in the right direction. 



Our living accommodations!

Amazing Italian Day Trip


Ciao from Italy!        

          Over the weekend I got to see some of the most picturesque Italian countryside imaginable.  Located only forty-five minutes by bus outside of Torino our whole group traveled to a northern area of wine country called Piedmont.  First we went to visit a medieval castle.  It was the first castle I've ever visited, and while it wasn't as large as many other castles in Italy, a lot of the original furniture was inside.  There were decorative paintings on the ceiling from the 1400's and the color and detail was all still in tact.  I had to ask the woman giving a a guided tour of the castle whether or not it had been restored, but she replied with a think Italian accent that it was all "oreeginal."  Below is the exterior of the castle.  It stood tall on a hill with a 360 degree view of the amazing countryside all around.


After visiting the castle we drove a very short distance, only a few minutes to a family owned winery.  After all, Piedmont is a famously known for wine.  We went to an authentic Italian home where the house, winery and store were all located on the same property to taste their products for ourselves.  The matriarch of the family cooked for my entire group.  This means she made lunch for fifty people!  She was so pleased to feed us all, and we were all beyond pleased with her food!  Everything we ate was locally grown.  There was antipasti (appetizers) consisting of bread, a local cheese made with goat’s milk, and assorted jarred sun-dried tomatoes, zucchini, and other types of vegetables in olive oil all made and packaged by the family and sold with their wine.  For lunch we had fresh pasta in a meat and olive sauce sprinkled with fresh basil.  To accompany the food we first tried a white wine followed by a red.  Then we had a second red wine to follow the first.  The second red wine they brought out was called “Barolo.”  We then learned that this type of wine could be purchased for 14 euros (roughly 20 dollars) but sells for around $1000 in the US depending on the year it was made.  Of course our meal was followed by dessert where we had a plate of small baked goods.  Two different types of the dessert were native to Torino, and I had one of the best cookies I’ve ever had in my life.  It was an almond cookie with the most amazing texture garnished with a candied orange rind.  And of course there was a dessert wine to accompany our sweets.  It was white and bubbly and sweet, and quite possibly one of the most delicious things I have ever consumed. 




This is a picture of the group of us taking up three extra long tables in a courtyard right outside the house of the family owned winery.



Above is the Barolo wine.  Our bottle was from 2006, which is supposedly a great year for this particular winery. 

            To top off all of the food we were so graciously fed, the area we were in was unbelievable.  Pictures cannot do it justice.  We drove into a valley, therefore we were surrounded on all sides by rolling hills laden with villas (beautiful Italian houses) and sunflowers.  If I only got to see one thing in Italy, I would have been content with that view.  





          Ahead of me is a full week of classes.  I made the decision to take an Intro to Italian course so that I can learn the language, as almost no one here speaks any other language other than Italian.  So far I have been learning a lot, but I still have so much more progress to make!  In a few days we will travel to Lake Maggiore which is located near to Lake Como (where George Clooney famously owns a house.)  I hear it's supposed to be beautiful, so of course there are more pictures to come!  Until then, I'm left to explore the city of Torino.  Our school is located right next to the arena where the winter Olympics in 2006 held their ice skating.  It's fun to walk around and be face to face with the Olympic rings!


           There is still so much more exploring left to do!  Until my next post, ciao!










Monday, July 11, 2011

Bath Time

 So as a part of the FIE program, my group was able to go on a guided trip to Stonehenge and the town of Bath. We started out the day quite early, a little before 8:00 am for a bus ride about 90 miles outside the city to head to Stonehenge first.  Stonehenge is listed at one of the 7 Wonders of the United Kingdom as well as one of the 7 Wonders of the Medieval World.   For the summer solstice sunrise, it is a main attraction because there is a stone that lies outside the stonehenge circle that lines up with the the appearance of the sun.

Prior to our visit, a lot of us believed the stones of Stonehenge were place by some extraterrestrial force which, is what created such mystery.  However, our lovely and delightfully witty tour guide, informed us that there were tribes that lived in this area that some how placed them.  The mystery of the complete story is still in the midst because there are still so many piece pieces to the puzzle.  The stones are quite deep in the ground and weigh several tons each.  They were thought to have been taken oven on a boat but the weight would logically just be too heavy for the boats they had at that time.  It is estimated that the Stonehenge structure is about 3500 years old and it was used as a ritual piece.  The remaining structure is only a fracture of the original circle formation.  Research teams have been continuously finding artifacts that have led to new discoveries so it seems the story is always shifting a little.  There is still many legends about Stonehenge which makes this such a tourist attraction still.


After Stonehenge, we also visited Bath to see the Roman baths as well at the delightful surrounding town.  The architecture of the Bath house was very beautiful but the water had a certain green glow.... 


After walking around the Roman Baths and stopping at the gift shop, ( I was trying to decide if I should have "Bath" themed bathroom :D ), we ventured off on the cobble stones of Bath.  There were a lot of traditional retailers but a good variety of the little shops that you just cannot find anywhere.  We stopped in a hat and fascinator shop, (fascinators are more or less smaller clipped in versions of the hats), which carried some of the amazing hair accessories that women in the UK traditionally wear to special occasions such as weddings.  The fascinator fashions and hats were the talk of the town, (who am I kidding, the world!), from royal wedding.  We may even have to consider having some for the next D&M kiosk :).  

Those who know me, know I like to find the diamond in the ruff; the hunt is half the treasure!  So I love any kind of markets or rummage sales, charity and consignment shops.  Just off one of the main roads in Bath we spotted just a small market called 'The Walcot Street Saturday Market.'  They had a lot of antique serving sets as well as jewelry so I picked up a couple of gifts.  Overall, a great day and perfect view of the country side on the ride home!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Post from Italy!

My name is Casey and I am writing from Torino, Italy!  I am traveling with a group through the University of Nevada, but the program is called USAC (University Study Abroad Consortium.)  There are about fifty students studying in Torino with me, and almost 95% of them are from California.  Suddenly, being from Philadelphia makes me interesting and exotic, who knew?
            Torino is Italy’s fourth largest city.  There is a population of almost one million people.  It is located in the northwest between the French border and Milan, so often the Alps are visible.  This city is very authentic in that it is filled with families and locals.  Almost nobody here speaks any English!  They are also not accustomed to foreigners, so the group of us fifty Americans all stick out like carrots in a gumball machine.
            Being foreign in a place like Torino isn’t easy.  Classes have not started yet, so the group has spent the majority of our time exploring the area.  It is very different from home in that technology is not the main focal point of the day.  Our apartments do not have any Internet access.  In fact, we have to be at school to get online which makes posting to the blog a tad difficult, but it also slows me down in a good way.  Already being away from one major form of technology, I made the decision not to get a European cell phone.  I figure, people used to meet up with one another before the invention of the cell phone, why should today’s day and age be any different?  Of course I have a phone that can make international calls in case of emergency, but for the most part I am taking myself out of my Americanized mindset and into that of Italy.
            Additionally, I was introduced to the idea of “culture shock”.  I am currently immersed in a culture I knew little about and my “American mannerisms” are easily detectable.  This is one of the major differences between studying abroad, and traveling abroad.  I am living in the city of Torino for just over a month.  They already know me in some of the coffee and gelato shops, and I can’t get away with being American forever, so there are certain things one needs to know.  

This is a list of important things I’ve learned since I’ve arrived:
  1. Cappucino is only consumed prior to 11:00 am and is considered rude to drink after this time because the milk is very heavy and shouldn’t come before a meal.
  2. Money is never exchanged from hand-to-hand.  Instead, euros are placed either on the countertop or table for the servers to pick up on their own.
  3. Tipping is also considered rude as Italians pride themselves on their work and are insulted when you try to give money for it.
  4. There is no Italian word for ‘design’.  Even though Italy is chock full of it.
  5. Torino is the birthplace of tic tacs and nutella!



This was my very first machiatto in Italy!  Sooo delicious.  And below is the caffe I got it at :D




This is the view of Torino from on top of the Lingotto mall (which was once the home of Fiat, the car company.)

More is on the way.