“Booze and Grooves”

My friend Ben came up with it.

When I left for Ireland last month, he told me he expected my adventures to be titled “booze and grooves” and to disregard liver health. I’m only listening to his first suggestion.

This weekend we had a class trip to Northern Ireland! The history of division between the British/Protestants vs. Irish/Catholics is jarring yet fascinating. One of the first things our tour guide in Belfast said was, “This is the most dangerous part of Belfast… If a taxi honks at you, sprint back to the bus as fast you can. That’s the most important.”

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Illegal murals are a big part of the culture. They are all political statements rooted in the violent divisions that manifested only two decades ago.

I was that student who asked, “Are you being serious?” He answered with a straight face, “Does it look like I’m kidding?”

“No, sir.”

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But later he told us that he was kidding, and we all laughed (*nervous relief laughs for me*). We still couldn’t really open our mouths about religion or politics though.

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I must admit that I felt uncomfortable in Belfast for the first half of the day, but after visiting the peace wall, going downtown, and learning about the government at the Parliament building reassured me that peace is being pursued.

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They even served us afternoon coffee, tea, and biscuits during our break, which was the cutest. I am officially a fan of digestive biscuits dipped in tea.

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Witnessing and experiencing the city made for one excellent history lesson!

For dinner that night, a bunch of us went to Robinson’s and ate inside a “snug”, which we learned was the ladies’ corner back in the day, where we might have been served alcohol if the men of institution were feelin’ nice enough. Coincidentally, we were a bunch of ladies gathered in a snug on Thursday night. But we bought our own drinks 🙂

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I ordered the shepherd’s pie, which was more like sloppy joe with a lot of mashed potatoes on top, but I was fine with that.

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Pretty much demolished the whole thing. Then it was time to get wild and cuh-razy at the Crown Liquor Saloon, ooo la la.

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Megan and I had not bought an alcoholic drink in Ireland until that night, so we both bought Jameson Gingers and celebrated! Everyone else was probably more excited for us than we were for ourselves, but I appreciated the energy.

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Jameson Ginger is probably one of my favorite drinks that I’ve tasted in my short and limited experience with alcohol consumption, but it still doesn’t compare to the taste of ice cream.

So Megan and I enjoyed our drinks, but we’re more willing to put our money towards a happier cause— dessert. It was still super fun to actually go out with people (I’m such a square usually).

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We still went to bed before 1 am, only after watching an Irish dating show on TV.

On Friday morning, Megan and I grabbed breakfast at cafe approximately 20 paces from our hotel lobby. I ordered porridge with banana, honey, and peanut butter, and it ROCKED. The oats were cooked to a texture that was doughy and satisfying, and the addition of whole milk was life-changing.

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At first, I wasn’t sure if there was peanut butter in there because it was hidden by the banana slices, but after asking, the waiter said, “It’s in there! A surprise underneath. There’s enough for two in there.”

“Enough for two people.” I laughed when I finished the bowl, because that’s how much peanut butter I always put in my oats.

Megan and I went on a brisk walk around the city (brisk because we almost got lost) before our class headed to Giant’s Causeway!

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It was just as beautiful as the Cliffs of Moher!

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The unique part of Giant’s Causeway is the rocks. There are tens of thousands of rocks shaped like hexagons due to how the volcanic lava solidified and cracked over the period of hundreds of thousands of years.

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But you could also choose to believe that giants did it. 😉

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photo from my friend Cassandra!

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PC: Cassandra

Yet another beautiful experience in Ireland.

Not a beautiful experience? Rushing to buy Irish stew with brown bread for lunch and having the butter packets melt from the heat of the stew all over your paper bag on the bus.

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Megan: “Butter disaster 2016.”

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The stew was delicious though!!

One pit stop on the way to Derry for the Games of Thrones fans:

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I don’t watch the show, but if you do, does this look familiar?? (p.s. my friends spotted the whole cast inside a bar on Thursday night!)

Next stop was Derry/Londonderry (depending on whether you’re a Nationalist or a Unionist). We toured some more murals and the big wall in the middle of the city. It was so nice to move the legs and witness some stunning views of the whole city.

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Our hotel was a 15 minute drive out of the city, so we settled into our rooms before taking a taxi back in for dinner. HOWEVER, everything on a Friday night was closed! Megan, Cristen and I wanted to go to a restaurant called Blackbird for a wagyu beef burger (per my mom’s recommendation), but they told us that they stop serving food at 5pm.

Wut.

Disappointed, we walked around to find another restaurant, but everything except the bars and some random fast food places had their gates down. So strange. We decided to go a chain chicken restaurant called Nando’s, which was still a good dinner!

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medium spice chicken on a super grain salad bowl

I was satisfied, and I had missed green vegetables. AND AVOCADO.

Then we wanted ice cream, so the waitress at Nando’s suggested Joe Jackson’s inside a mall down the street. I got the honeycomb and strawberry cheesecake flavors, which hit the spot!

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The night wasn’t what we were expecting, but it was still a delicious and fun adventure. We also successfully hailed a taxi back to our hotel, which was a win.

Also, we had to put key card into this slot by the door of our hotel room in order for the electricity to work. Different!

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Saturday morning, I ate a whole grain roll with peanut butter that we bought the night before for breakfast.

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There was a big gym in the hotel, so I took full advantage during our free morning. I was STOKED to be using gym equipment for the first time in a month!

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I warmed up and did three sets each of:

  • 10 Bulgarian split squats each leg + 20 jump lunges
  • squats (varying weights) + 20 squat jumps
  • 12 deadlifts (105#) + 30 side jump lunges

Then I did EMOM 10:

  • 5 squat cleans (65#)
  • 8 burpees over the bar

That EMOM absolutely crushed my entire being. I don’t often think “I’m dying” after a workout, but this one made me feel that way.

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I stretched my legs and did some lat pull downs, military presses, and tricep pull downs to finish.

Naturally, two days later, I still can’t move anything in my body.

A bunch of us ordered lunch at the hotel restaurant before hitting the road back to Dublin. It was a bizarre experience in that the service took so long and no one really knew what was going on, but we learned that the restaurant isn’t usually open and prepared to serve 15 hungry kids at that time, so everyone was just discombobulated.

The servers were very kind though, and the food was great! These fries…

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I ordered a toasted beef, brie, and tomato sandwich, which I ate on the bus.

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The rest of the day back on campus involved unpacking, roasting brussels sprouts, and jamming out to Disney music with my friends.

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Sunday morning was some play, but mostly work. We have essays due this week!! First, Megan and I went to Mass in city centre, which was a lovely 2.5-mile walk. Then we met up with Cristen at Brother Hubbard for lunch. This is one of my favorite restaurants that I’ve been to Ireland so far!

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I ordered the Turkish eggs menemem, which included herbs and roasted peppers on toasted sourdough. Best scrambled eggs ever.

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Megan shared some of her pulled pork with me too, which was so tasty.

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We walked back to campus, where worked hard for the rest of the day. There was a break for grocery shopping and dinner in there somewhere. And dessert! Megan and I picked up desserts from Bread and Butter on our way back from lunch earlier, so we used them as incentives to get work done.

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I’m always down for carrot cake.

I also got to FaceTime Rachel at night!

“Work hard, play hard” is a fun motto to live by, but then it reverses to “play hard, work hard,” and I’m really feeling that vibe right now. Time to go finish this essay! And hopefully some yoga to streeeeetch.

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overnight oats in a jar that I just ate 🙂

Hope you all have a kick-butt week!!

(p.s. apparently there have been some issues with the commenting system on my blog, so I apologize!! I’ll try to get the problem fixed ASAP!)

So tell me:

Have you ever been to Northern Ireland?

What is the coolest geologic phenomenon you’ve ever seen?

What is your favorite alcoholic beverage? I need ideas for next time!

Two things you did this weekend!

Living Life on the Edge of a Cliff

Ireland keeps one-upping itself.

Just when I think, “THIS IS MY NEW FAVORITE PLACE EVER,” I go to another place, and I have to say the phrase again.

This weekend, I went to two of {seriously} my two new favorite places ever— Howth Cliffs and Cliffs of Moher. You could say that I was living life on the edge.

Thursday— Irish Sports

Before I get into the cliffs, I need to tell you about how we played Gaelic sports on Thursday morning. Instead of 2.5 hours of sitting in class, our contemporary Irish society class headed to the “pitches” for some traditional Irish sports (praaaaaise).

Sport #1: Gaelic football. I would describe this as a cross between soccer, American football, and rugby, played with a volleyball. I was pretty bad, but it was fun to try.

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[source]

Sport #2: Handball. The drills for this were a pain in the ass, but playing the actual game was fun! I liked this one the most. It’s basically squash without a racquet and with a softer, smaller ball.

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[source]

Sport #3: Hurling. Sounds horrendous already, doesn’t it? Well I played horrendously too. It’s like lacrosse + field hockey + baseball + do whatever the feck (← apparently an acceptable curse substitution here, even on daytime TV) you want. Just kidding, there are rules, but there are too many rules to remember for a rookie.

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I learned afterwards that our young instructor for the day was one of the best Irish sport athletes in the country, so… good. He saw me miss the ball about 10 times.

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that chin sweat.

Despite my skill deficiency, I had such a blast learning about the history of the sports and how to play them! Irish moves and grooves, I dig it 🙂

Friday— Howth

Howth is pronounced with a long ‘o’ sound. So like “oath” with an ‘h’ in front. Just FYI, because I wouldn’t have known.

My mom got back from her two-week tour around Ireland, and her sister was also in town! I met up with them on Friday morning for breakfast at Restaurant 104. I opted for a big, late breakfast including a goat cheese, spinach, and red pepper omelette. Then mom and I split a scone with butter, jam, and CREAM (← game changer).

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We had no plans for the day, but my aunt asked us, “Have you ever been to Howth?” I had not been, but Rachel told me I had to go, so Friday was the day! We took a fairly short rail ride out to the beautiful fishing village, and just did our tourist thing. Lots of looking around and photographing!

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The highlight of Howth is the cliff walk, so I took off on one of the paths while my mom and aunt stayed back at the beach. I wish they came along to see the beauty of the cliffs, but it was a blessing in disguise to do a solo hike.

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As I walked up the initial road, I saw some gorgeous properties along the coast. I told myself about 100 times during the whole cliff walk, “I want to live here.”

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wild blackberries!

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help, no one here to take photos with me

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I cannot explain how at peace and in awe I felt throughout the 1.5-hour walk around the cliffs. The wind was strong, the ocean was mystifying, and the solitude was rejuvenating. God exists, man.

On the walk down, I passed by some more cute houses and an abbey.

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I would have done the longer hike path, but I didn’t want to keep Madre and my aunt waiting too long. Plus, I was so parched. I ran out of water early on in my walk, so I needed hydration ASAP.

I met up with the ladies at Starbucks for some water and snacks, and then we popped into a lovely tea house for afternoon tea and cake. My aunt and I shared a pot of wonderful spearmint tea, and then we all shared a scrumptious slice of carrot cake.

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some of the best carrot cake we’ve ever tasted!! SO moist, and I’m not sorry for using that word.

Our eating schedule was weird with our late breakfast and dessert-lunch, so we ate dinner about an hour later at a restaurant called Deep. All the seafood restaurants looked fantastic, since we were in a fishing village after all.

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literally right from the boat to the market to the restaurant

We share calamari to start, and then I ate a decadent “open fish pie” for my entree.

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It looks like it’s just mashed potatoes in a dish, but there was so much fish underneath! Cod, salmon, and some others that I could not identify. Comfort food at best. Mom also shared a big piece of her fish + chips with me. The crust was perfect!

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My meal also came with a dessert (“my preciousss”), so I ordered the apple crumble. It was hot and the perfect sweet ending to a pretty sweet day.

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Thank you so much, Madre and Auntie Xay for an incredible day in Howth! And happy birthday to Auntie Xay as well 🙂

Saturday— Dublin

I had some work to do, so I laid low with Madre in my dorm room. She basically filmed a documentary of my life to show Pop, which I thought was hilarious. I did some homework, laundry, and a nice dorm workout in the morning/early afternoon. For my workout, I did a slowish 12 minute workout, followed by the first day workout in the free CodyApp KaisaFit challenge! I ♥︎ Kaisa.

After a shower and finishing up laundry (mom spoiled me and folded it all for me while I worked!), we walked to a late lunch at the Lovely Food Co.

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I ordered the superfood salad for some veggie power in my life. It was everything I could have wanted and more. I think it had roasted veggies, broccoli, seeds, homemade croutons, and halloumi cheese, among other things.

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Mom had the smoked salmon and crab sandwich per my recommendation. She shared a quarter of it with me + some of her tomato soup.

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And since Lovely Food Co. has some of the best desserts, we had to order one to share. She chose the spiced pear cake, which was another score. Moist, perfectly spiced, and just sweet enough.

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We went grocery shopping for my week ahead, and then an hour or two later, we walked to Mass with my friends Megan and Cristen. Then it was already dinner time at Dall’Italiano! My aunt also met up with us after her day of touring Dublin city centre.

We all craved pasta, and we left satisfied.

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I got the fettuccine with beef fillet, onions, and mushrooms in a red wine sauce. Molto bene! I have 1/3 of it in my fridge for leftovers 🙂

Then it was time to say farewell to my mother for three months (and my aunt for even longer probably!). So sad, but it was great to spend so much time with her in my first month in Ireland! She had a lot of fun on her tour too.

That night I FaceTimed with two of my favorite people too— Rachel and Joe! I’m not that homesick, but I do miss my friends dearly.

Sunday— Cliffs of Moher

FaceTiming Rachel until late at night made the 5:50 wakeup call a little rough. But a nice 45 minute walk to the bus stop was enough to wake me up! Plus overnight oats.

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ugliest breakfast ever, but one of the most delicious

Megan, Cristen and I took a Paddywagon Tour, which was informative, entertaining, and eventful. One person needed to pee really badly (not me this time! although I very much empathized with her), one person got bus sick on the side of the road, a couple people almost got left behind, and the tour guide was great but also passive aggressive.

I’d recommend the tour though!

We brought our lunches, which we ate at 10:30am on the bus due to our early breakfast.

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red pesto, cheddar, hummus, basil, and rocket sandwich (threw whatever I had in the fridge into this thing and it was so tasty!!)

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Our first stop was a revisit of Dunguaire Castle, where Megan and I experienced a medieval banquet last weekend. It was just a quick photo stop this time, but it was extra pretty with this cool cloud effect going on.

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Our second major pit stop was the Burrens and the Mini Cliffs. The views were stellar even there.

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The wind was straight-up concerning though. Cristen is a very petite lady, and we all agreed that she should not come close to the edges of the mini cliffs, because there was a legitimate possibility of her blowing off.

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can you see what I mean?

Our bus driver then rushed us over to lunch in Doolin, where we all had dessert, since we had already eaten our lunches. I bought this huge slice of sweet and rich berry bakewell gateaux.

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holy moly way too much sugar for one person

Then it was time for the CLIFFS. OF. MOHER.

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They really are as phenomenal as people say they are. It was too magnificent to be true, especially since we lucked out with the weather!

So Rachel came to the Cliffs over the summer and took a jumping photo with them, so I obviously had to take one as well. Take one: too narrow of a pathway and way too windy for comfort.

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Megan: “Alison I don’t think you should jump.”

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Me: “Yeah you’re right. Safety first.”

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Compromise.

But then later, we found a less windy and broader spot for the photo.

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Then Rachel posted this photo to her social media:

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mirror image, I say 😉

It was a nice steep climb to the highest point of the cliffs, but man was it worth going up there [twice].

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Megan: “Gets to the peak. Drops on knees in prayer.”

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As always, photos can never do these kinds of places justice. If you ever get the opportunity to go to Ireland, go experience the Cliffs of Moher for yourself.

We stopped by Bunratty Castle before our 2.5-hour trip back to Dublin.

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Manmade things are just “meh” now and forevermore.

I wanted all the movement and all the veggies and protein for dinner at around 9pm. Before I ate, I did a quick 10 minute HIIT in my room to get the blood flowing and to spend some extra pent-up energy.

I finished up my big bag of rocket (arugula) with a can of salmon + hummus, tomatoes, and some unpictured carrots.

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I ended the night with blogging and FaceTiming two more friends from Boston— PJ and Louis. YAY!

Monday— WorkWorkWorkWorkWorkWork

So many things to do now, so little time!!

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But this weekend was more than worth it.

Hope you all have a marvelous week!! Go outside and feel the wind in your hair if ya can.

So tell me:

Have you ever played a foreign sport before?

Have you ever taken a solo hike?

Have you ever been to the Cliffs of Moher?

What is the most beautiful natural phenomenon you’ve ever witnessed?

Two things you did this weekend!