Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

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Friday, April 13th was magical! I took a visit to the Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden (right outside of London) for The Making of Harry Potter. Every corner we turned had something new and exciting from the movies, and I swear I took a picture of every inch of the studios. There was so much to see, and the pictures really don’t do it justice. It started with a short movie about how Harry Potter became popular throughout the world then Daniel, Emma, and Rupert came on screen to share their experiences from their time spent at the studio. Then, the doors to the Great Hall appeared and we were able to begin the tour. It took Cassie and me about 4 hours to complete the whole tour because we wanted to spend time seeing everything and listening to everything Tom Felton was telling us on the audio guide.  We saw everything from the costumes and wigs they wore to how the creatures were made to the sets of the Burrow, the Ministry of Magic, the cupboard under the stairs, Diagon Alley, and different rooms of Hogwarts.

We saw how the mandrakes work, the creepy baby Voldemort from the last movie, and replicas of Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Gambon, Emma Watson, Tom Felton, and James and Oliver Phelps (they get the same one but it has a detachable ear so they can just put it on when they need it for Fred) that are used as doubles in the movies. Did you know whenever Hagrid needs to carry someone they use a floppy replica that is only about 80% of the actual size of the actor to make Hagrid appear bigger? For example, when Harry is being carried by Hagrid in Deathly Hallows Part 2, it’s not Daniel Radcliffe but a lookalike doll. And they were incredibly lifelike and creepy. Believe me. Emma’s was spot on, and I couldn’t look at it for too long without being freaked out. They also used a replica for Katie Bell when she was being thrown around in the air in Half-Blood Prince because, as the cute little old lady who was explaining it told us, you can’t legally thrash a human being around like that.

The tour saved the three best things for last: Diagon Alley, the scale model of Hogwarts, and the wand room. Diagon Alley really got to me. Everyone knows my obsession with the Weasley twins. As soon as we turned the corner to Diagon Alley, the bright colors (and the 20 foot version of one twin) of Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes caught my eye. The detail put into this one shop was incredible. The Puking Pastilles display was out and running. Every toy and gag gift was painted with such color and detail that it was hard not to spend an hour staring into the windows of the joke shop alone. There was so much to see everywhere. The filmmakers put so much work into creating this magical world but we don’t really get a chance to see on screen all the detail they put into every single set. It was wonderful to look at everything up close and see what we are missing out on because it was tucked away behind the actors. The scale model of Hogwarts was breathtaking. It was much bigger than I was expecting but was exactly what I wanted to see. We were at Hogwarts!!! Ahh! It was beautiful. Words cannot describe the feelings we all had when we saw it for the first time. And last but not least, before you exited into the gift shop, was a room full of beautiful wooden wand boxes. In the center was the following quote by JK Rowling:

No story lives unless someone wants to listen. The stories we love best do live in us forever. So, whether you come back by page or by the big screen, Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home.

After reading the quote, I looked closely at the wand boxes to see each one had a name on it. After trying to pull on a box and realizing they weren’t going to move, I finally looked at the man working in the room. He told me that each box had the name of a cast or crew member and every single person who worked on the eight films was represented. The best part was that no person was more important than anyone else. JK Rowling was surrounded by crew members I’ve never heard of. The trio was split up (as were the twins). Dame Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, and Helena Bonham Carter were mixed throughout the people as well. It really showed how important each and every person is to the filmmaking process.

Also, the Burrow is officially what I want my house to be like when I’m older. Everything was perfectly mismatched and the window in the kitchen was amazing. (Once again, it was something I never really paid attention to in the films.)

P.S. This is only a small fraction of the pictures I took. Apparently WordPress has an upload limit and I have exceeded that limit. 😦 So, from here on out, my blog posts will not include images. Sorry! If you want to see pictures from now on, please check my Facebook.

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France: Land of Pastries and Turtlenecks!

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Well, this blog title comes from a song called “Two by Two” from the Broadway musical The Book of Mormon. But I think if my favorite tap-dancing Mormons really went to France, they’d say “France: Land of Crepes and Public Displays of Affection!” Okay, that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily, but it’s true. Crepes are everywhere. The crepe vendors are to Paris what hot dog vendors are to New York City. Unfortunately, I forgot to eat one while I was there, but I did have some other lovely street vendor French food. Hot dog fromages are my new favorite thing. They’re hot dogs in french baguettes with melted cheese on top. DELICIOUS. Now, for the PDA. People were making out EVERYWHERE. People of all ages too. We saw a couple in their mid-to-late 50s making out in the park near the Eiffel Tower. The grossest one of all, though, was the couple in the subway station. How unromantic can a place be! Of all places in Paris to do that, the subway station would be my absolute last choice. Gross.

Anyway, my spring break in Paris was absolutely beautiful! We started the trip off perfectly: a visit to the Eiffel Tower! It was already dark when we arrived on the train from London to Paris so we checked into our hotel and took the Metro straight to the Eiffel Tower. Seeing it all lit up at night had us all saying “I can’t believe we’re here!” over and over again. It was also the first of many times I felt like Carrie Bradshaw that weekend so that made me happy. The rest of those times generally came when I realized that Katie, Anna, Janie, and I had formed our version of the famous Sex and the CIty walking line. You know, the one that looks like this:

Besides the lack of Manolos, did we do it right?

Paris was amazing. On Thursday, we spent about an hour in the Louvre where we saw the Mona Lisa and watched an art student recreate a painting. It was beautiful, and due to my lack of artistic skills, I was amazed watching the girl paint away. I’m always so impressed that someone can just set up an easel and start painting a picture, but again, I have no artistic ability. My 8 year old cousin has more ability than I do and I’m almost 20.

After spending some time watching her and exploring a little bit more of the Louvre, we went outside to the park surrounding the Louvre. We sat for an hour in lounge chairs by a fountain. I got sunburnt of course, but it was worth it. It was quite the spring break. You all can have your Panama City and Miami trips. I’ll take Paris any day.

We then walked down to the Arc de Triomphe (which was unfortunately closed due to a strike) and then down to the Eiffel Tower. We were able to grab some street food and eat in the park near the Eiffel Tower. It was the most beautiful view I’ve ever had during lunch. After lunch, we decided to climb the 674 stairs to the second tier of the Eiffel Tower. My fear of heights was kicking in a lot by the time we finally reached that second level and you had to pay to go all the way to the top so we decided not to go any further. However, it was a stunning view and we were able to stay up there until sunset. Seeing that from that view (as well as Paris lit up at night) was perfect.

Friday we made our way to Versailles and Notre Dame. Both were absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen as much gold as I saw in Versailles. Louis XIV may have been a little crazy, but he sure knew how to build a palace. Notre Dame was the first Catholic cathedral I’ve stepped in since being here. Because of Henry VIII, every cathedral I’ve seen in England has been Anglican. They’re all beautiful, but Notre Dame was very emotional for me. We didn’t get to stay for an entire Mass, but what we did get to see was one of the most beautiful experiences. And I was extremely excited to see a statue of my saint, Therese the Little Flower! Because she’s from France, she’s quite popular in Paris and it was another emotional moment to see a small shrine to her in Notre Dame.

Saturday, we went for a change of pace: DISNEYLAND! It was nice to get out of the city for a bit and to have something a little familiar from home. It was different though, of course. All ride instructions were spoken in French first followed by English, and the video that plays before the Tower of Terror was in French with English subtitles. While it felt somewhat familiar, it was still an interesting cultural experience. We also got a glimpse of some parenting styles in Europe, and they are quite different. One couple let their two year old run in the bed of flowers that form Mickey’s face at the entrance of Magic Kingdom. Parents in the US would have freaked out and the child would have been crying after listening to their parents scream at him. Another mom let her son hit and pull on the little girl in front of them (who they did not know by the way) while waiting in line and never said a word. However, when that same son didn’t move up in the line with the rest of the group, she punished him by pulling his hair. It was quite different from anything I’ve ever seen at either Disney park in the States, and Katie, Janie, and I were shocked.

Two things I want to bring home with me from Disneyland Paris? Toy Story Playland and Crush’s Coaster. I know we have a small Toy Story area in Orlando, but this one had three rides: a Slinky-dog ride, an RC racer ride, and an army man Parachute ride. They were so much fun and the area was adorable. Crush’s Coaster is a rollercoaster based off Finding Nemo, and it was a blast. You sit in turtle shells (four people in each shell who are back-to-back), and ride in an indoor rollercoaster. It was a long wait, but it was well worth it. We were expecting a little kiddie ride because most of the people in line were families with small children, but it was just as fun for us 20 year olds. It’s not quite as intense as Space Mountain or Rock n’Rollercoaster, but it did spin you in circles and had some pretty big drops. It was a blast and we were giggling throughout the entire ride. If the wait hadn’t been longer than an hour, we would have gone on it probably 3 more times.

My favorite part of the day, though, was the family we met while waiting in line for The Orbiter, one of the last rides we rode. While we were waiting, this French mother behind us opened up a box of chocolates and started passing them out to the rest of her family members (two children and two adult men and because of the language barrier, we couldn’t figure out how they were all related). They had two left over so one of the men turned to us and offered it to us in broken English. We asked if he was sure and he said “Absolutely!” so we took it and split the two pieces between the three of us. Then, the same man picked up the young boy and put him on his shoulders. The young boy (probably 5 or 6) started singing in French and giggling like crazy. We had no idea what he was singing, but we clapped along and laughed with him. After the singing party, the little girl asked the boy to play one of those Miss Mary Mack-like games with him. The boy wasn’t understanding at all, but I knew exactly what she wanted to do so I played with her. Again, even though we didn’t know what the other was saying, we were still having a blast together. One of the fathers knew a little English and was asking us questions like why we were in Europe and if we were enjoying ourselves. He then translated everything to the man and woman with them. We rode the ride, and after it was over, they came up to us, said goodbye, and we never saw them again. However, those happy little kids and their extremely nice parents were the perfect way to end a day in one of the happiest places on Earth! It was so nice to be able to communicate with someone even when we didn’t speak the same languages.

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Day Trips Around England

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I’ve been on a few day trips to nearby towns and cities in England during my time here. None of them were big enough to write a full blog post, but I thought I’d give you a quick summary of the towns I’ve visited.

  • Nottingham is a great little town about 35 minutes away by train. It has fantastic shopping (Primark, I love you forever and ever), good restaurants, good concerts (Florence + the Machine of course!), and wonderful people. For credit for my music class, I went to Nottingham with friends in January to see a symphony. The music was absolutely wonderful, and because it was my first symphony, it was very different from anything I’ve ever seen before. However, the best part of the night was meeting the man who sat next to us, Simon. Before we had even spoken to him, he asked us if we wanted ice cream at intermission. We weren’t quite sure if he was really offering to buy us ice cream so we politely declined. He then continued to offer ice cream to everyone in our row. I will never, ever know why on earth we turned down his offer for free food. After the symphony, Scott, Ryan, and I stayed to talk to Simon and his wife. We were the last 5 in the theatre besides the ushers who looked like they really wanted us to leave. He asked us what we were doing in England and gave us plenty of tips about where to visit and what to do. He was the best local I’ve met, and I so enjoyed talking to him. I wish we could have stayed to talk even longer but we sadly had to make our way back to Harlaxton. (January 20, March 6, March 28)
  • York was not the best day. The weather was absolutely horrible. It was cold & rainy, and the wind was stronger than any I’ve ever felt. It really puts a damper on a trip when the weather is awful. The city was nice. It had a wonderful little market and a great museum about trains that my cousin Ethan would have loved. If the weather wasn’t so disgusting, I probably would have more to say about this city, but the weather really overshadowed the good because it made it difficult to walk around. (January 21)
  • Cambridge was one of my favorite places. We didn’t have enough time to do everything we wanted in this little city, but it was wonderful. The city had beautiful museums, wonderful cafes and bakeries, and of course, the gorgeous university. I could have spent longer than a day here, but I’m glad we went back because it snowed that night at Harlaxton. We spent 2 hours playing in the snow, having snowball fights, and building snowmen. This entire day was perfect. (February 4)
  • London is my favorite city in England and probably my favorite city that I’ve been to in Europe altogether. If not my favorite, it’s definitely in the top 3. Janie and I decided to take a day trip to London on a Wednesday after class to see two shows and walk around this beautiful city. We also took a relaxing weekend trip to London another weekend when everyone was gone. We spent a few hours in the park, enjoyed some theatre, toured the Tower of London, and saw the Crown Jewels. It was nothing too exciting but it was wonderful to have that weekend and that day trip. I love this city, and I will definitely miss being an hour away from it when I return home. (February 17-19, March 7)
  • Grantham is the town closest to Harlaxton. It’s only about 3.5 miles away so there’s a shuttle service that takes you into the town for free when you need to run errands. I’ve been in numerous times to pick up food, laundry detergent, and other living necessities, but I spent two recent Saturdays in town while everyone else took trips. It’s not a huge town and there’s not much to do, but it’s great to walk around on a nice day. There’s enough shopping to satisfy a girl and there’s usually a little market on Saturdays. I also particularly enjoy the consignment shops of Grantham. Each one is for a different charity, and the clothes, books, and movies are all in excellent condition. Harlaxton hosts a costume ball for the students towards the end of the semester so I managed to get my awesome costume for about 10 pounds at the consignment stores in Grantham. For someone on a tight budget and for someone who doesn’t want to travel all the time but needs to get away from the manor, it’s perfect. (March 10, March 17 and others)

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West End Shows

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Since my first weekend in London in January, I have had the opportunity to see seven West End shows. It makes me extremely happy to be so close to a city with a thriving theatre district, and it makes me even more excited about the possibility of spending the summer in New York City. I thought I would give a quick review of each show I’ve seen.

  • Les Misérables (January 13): This show is considered a classic so I knew I had to see it, and I am so glad I did. It was so beautiful, moving, and intense. The ending had Janie and I both in tears. The acting was probably the best I’ve ever seen live, and the singing, especially by the main actor, gave me goosebumps. I’m excited to see what Tom Hooper will do with the movie later this year because he has a lot to live up to. If this show is anywhere near you, go see it! I think it’s one of my top 5 favorite musicals of all-time.  Grade: A
  • Billy Elliot (February 17): I adore everything about the movie and since this show just closed in New York City, I wanted to see it before I left. Again, I cried during the show because parts were so beautiful. Some parts were a little slow but the young boy who played Billy had more talent in his pinky than I do in my whole body. His dancing was flawless and he was a great actor for a boy his age. I recommend it, but see the movie first. It’s better. Grade: B+
  • Legally Blonde: The Musical (February 18): I absolutely adore this movie and this musical. This movie has been one of my favorites since I was young, and I’ve seen the MTV recording of Legally Blonde: The Musical before but it was so wonderful to see it live. Janie and I were both pretty homesick when we decided to rush for tickets to the show. For those of you who don’t know what rush is, you go to the theatre on the day you want to see the show when the box office opens (or usually a few hours before in order to get the best tickets) and get really cheap seats to the show. We got up a little later than intended so we arrived at the theatre with only about half an hour until the box office opened. Luckily for us, they still had seats for 10 pounds. When we arrived for the show later that night, we learned that our seats for only 10 pounds (about $16) were in the very first row! It was so fun to see it so up close and the show is so happy that it instantly cured our homesickness. I prefer most of the original Broadway cast to the cast we saw, but it was still fantastic. Grade: B+
  • The King’s Speech (February 24): I kind of already gave a review of this in my Oxford, Bath, and Stonehenge blog post, but I absolutely loved this play. The actors were full of emotion and portrayed the inspiring story of King George VI very well. I can’t think of enough good things to say about it. It was phenomenal although I’m not sure if I would have been able to follow the story as well if I hadn’t seen the movie. Grade: A-
  • All New People (March 7): I LOVED this play. It’s probably my favorite of all the shows I’ve seen. It was written by and starred Scrubs and Garden State actor Zach Braff. He did a fabulous job. The story followed a lonely man on Long Island in the winter who is visited by three surprise guests as he’s about to commit suicide. It was full of dark humor but also really thought-provoking scenes. It made you truly think about the idea of loneliness, people who are in your life but may not really be there for you, and people who you never expected to care about who have changed your life. I thought about this play for many days after. I still have these thoughts rushing back to me as I write this. It was phenomenal, and if it ever transfers to the US, I recommend it to everyone! Also, on a side note, I met Zach Braff afterwards, and he is currently tied with John Gallagher Jr. as the nicest guy I’ve ever met at a stage door. He took time with each person to talk, take pictures, and sign tons of autographs. For people who didn’t have someone to snap a photo, he took the camera, held it out, and snapped their picture for them. It was so cool to watch him with his fans. You can really see he cares. When the person next to me took my picture with him, she turned it around to ask me if it was okay. He stopped, looked at the picture, and exclaimed “CUTE!” before leaving. He was awesome. I have so much respect for him now. Grade: A 

  • Crazy For You (March 7): This show is the definition of fun. The plot and the music aren’t that great, but the dancing and the songs were so lively that you couldn’t help but smile. And everyone knows I love a good tap number and that’s exactly what this musical had. It definitely had us smiling and dancing in our seats. It wasn’t my favorite, but it also wasn’t the worst. Grade: B
  • Singin’ in the Rain (March 30): SO MUCH TAP DANCING. I adored every second of this musical. The cast had the same energy and happiness that made the movie so wonderful. They even made it rain on stage, and the cast really enjoyed getting the audience wet. I wish I had been sitting in the first few rows for that scene because it sounded and looked like a blast. I left feeling incredibly happy and wanting to dance and sing in the rain. Grade: A-

I also had the honor of seeing Florence + the Machine in concert in Nottingham, a town about 30 minutes away from Harlaxton. She was absolutely flawless. I’ve never heard anyone with a voice and range like hers. It was definitely one of the best concerts I’ve been to, and I hope to see her many more times in the future. She was so full of energy and so excited to be performing. She didn’t stop jumping up and down, twirling, and dancing the entire time. I don’t know how she does all of that and keep her voice so perfect. It was incredible. Grade: A

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Let’s go to the mall, everybody!

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Harlaxton hosted a costume ball last night for us! Everyone, including our professors and their families, got dressed up in their best costumes, went to a fancy dinner in the Long Gallery, and danced the night away in the Great Hall. Enjoy my pictures above.

I decided to go as my favorite secret Canadian pop star, Robin Sparkles, from the TV show How I Met Your Mother. For those of you who don’t watch the show and don’t know who she is, here’s her most popular music video. Isn’t she great?

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One month.

One month. 31 days. That’s how long it will be until I am running through the Louisville airport and up to Mom, Dad, and Kyle to give them the biggest hugs ever. A lot of people are sad we only have one month left, but I am content. I’m happy with my time spent here at Harlaxton, but I’m also extremely ready to see my family and friends at home. I’m ready to hug my parents, brother, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents. I’m ready to eat my mom’s and my dad’s home-cooked food. I’m ready to see my brother run track.  I’m ready to go home and tell them all about my time here. I’m ready to meet Emma.

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But I’m also excited about what these next 31 days will bring. A visit from Uncle Patrick and Uncle LeLan, a trip to Amsterdam with them, the end of classes, a visit to the Harry Potter set in London, final exams, and a 9 day trip in Italy. It sounds like the perfect way to end the semester.

Before we left, we were told in a pre-departure meeting about the W-curve of studying abroad. Basically, it’s where you get really excited while planning the semester then you fall down in excitement as the time for you to leave gets closer and you realize you have to start saying your goodbyes soon. Then, your excitement spikes up again with the newness of the country you are in and the newness of the traveling you get to do. However, about midway through the semester, your excitement falls as the newness wears off, the stress of classes takes over, and homesickness settles in. Excitement once again peaks as the end of the semester nears and you’re ready to finish the semester strong but also get home. Let me tell you, that W-curve is the most accurate curve I’ve ever heard of in my life. I went through all of those emotions, including the homesickness settling in at exactly the midway point. My Oxford, Bath, and Stonehenge trip left me wanting a hug from my family. Then, I returned back to Harlaxton after that trip to learn that my aunt Erica was in labor. Emma was born and I spent the rest of the week longing to be home. Delta also decided to change my flight on me that week and that caused a whole new wave of stress and sadness. I cried a lot between February 24 and March 1. It was an awful week. Ireland helped boost my emotions as I realized that I only had a few trips left, and now I’m almost as excited as I was when I arrived here. I’m ready to finish the semester strong and enjoy as much as I can out of the 31 days. (How much can you really enjoy, though, when you have a term paper to write?)

Sometimes, I can’t believe we only have a month left and other times it feels like time is moving so slowly that the month will never end. But I’m so very ready for everything coming up in my crazy life.

See you in ONE MONTH family, Allison, Brenna, Ryan, Kajen, and Jana! I hope you’re all ready for big hugs. I won’t let go for a long time. I just need to finish this British Studies paper first. 🙂

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The second homeland!

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March 1st through March 4th was spent in my second homeland: Ireland. While my dad is a full-blooded, born-and-raised German, my mom’s side has a little bit of Irish blood, something my grandfather is quite proud of. I know he was extremely jealous I was going to Ireland so I want to dedicate this post to him. Sorry to make you wait so long for it, Papa. I hope it was worth the wait.

We left for Dublin on Thursday night and immediately settled into Paddy’s Palace, a nice little hostel where my only complaint was the freezing cold shower. This hostel also happens to run one of the most famous tour groups of all-time: Paddywagon tours. We decided to take two one-day Paddywagon tours of Ireland so we spent very little time in Dublin, which is my only regret. I really think I would have enjoyed touring in the city, but the tours were wonderful so I can’t complain too much.

Our first day was spent on a beautiful tour to the Cliffs of Moher. We had to get up pretty early to make it on the tour so I was quite tempted to fall asleep on the bus. However, you simply can’t fall asleep when you look out your bus window and see landscape like this.

The grass was so much greener than anything I’ve ever seen. It was like all of Ireland was a golf course. I couldn’t stop staring. In fact, most of the pictures I took are pictures of the green grass. There are not enough words to describe the intense beauty of this country so I invite you to look at my slideshow of pictures above. It was the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen.

Our Cliffs of Moher tour took us up the extremely interesting and rocky “mountains” of Ireland. I put mountains in quotation marks because the mountains were more like hills. They were extremely small, especially compared to the last mountains I saw in Germany: the Alps. On our tour, we got stopped on a small road because a horse owner was trying to put his uncooperative horse in a trailer. Our tour guide was cynical, sarcastic, and a little bitter the entire day so this really angered him. He reluctantly got out to help the man with no luck. The owner gave up, and the driver got back into the bus to continue our tour.  The road led to Corcomroe Abbey, old Abbey ruins that are surrounded by a beautiful cemetery.

We continued our drive and finally reached our destination: The Cliffs of Moher. If you’ve seen The Princess Bride or Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, you’ve seen these cliffs featured in those movies, and they’re even better in person! The sound of the perfectly blue water crashing against the cliffs was beautiful, and the cliffs were absolutely stunning. If it was a bit warmer and a lot less windy, it would have been the perfect place for a nice picnic.

My day tour on Saturday had me up even earlier. We made our way from Dublin to Cork, and even though we only had about 45 minutes in Cork, I loved this city. It’s on my list of places to return to because what we did see of Cork was lovely. They had an incredible food market that was visited by the Queen herself a number of years ago. If I had a bigger budget and a refrigerator, I would have bought every meat, fruit, vegetable, and dessert there.

After leaving Cork, we made a quick stop in Kinsale. There wasn’t much to do in this town so it was only about a 20 minute stop, but the houses and colors of the town really gave it character. It was so interesting to see houses painted bright blue, yellow, lime green, purple, red, and pink. I kind of wish it was socially acceptable to do it in the States because the bright blue homes were my favorite. The houses and stores had so much charm.

We then headed towards Cobh (pronounced Cove in Gaelic). This wonderful little town on the coast was the final port of the Titanic, the Lusitania, and also the last part of Ireland that many immigrants to the US saw. On our way there, our bus driver (who was much better than the tour guide the day before) played “My Heart Will Go On” because he knew that a bus full of girls would absolutely love it, and we did. When we arrived, Anna and I had some other girls on our tour take a picture of us in the famous Titanic pose because it seemed completely necessary. We then had lunch on a pier and got caught in a hailstorm. We walked in the Titanic museum but only to go to the gift shop where I, of course, bought some postcards for the collection I’ve been building. Once the hail passed, we enjoyed walking around the town, seeing the Cathedral, and enjoying all the monuments to those who died on the Titanic. It was absolutely perfect for someone like me.

Then, it was time to kiss the Blarney Stone! We made our way to the Blarney Stone which was much higher than I expected. I made the HUGE mistake of turning around and looking behind as I laid down to kiss the stone. Because I’m kind of (okay, really) afraid of heights, it kind of freaked me out. There were bars blocking people from falling, but there weren’t enough to comfort me. The older man who held everyone helped me relax and then guided me towards the stone so I could kiss it and receive the gift of gab. After conquering my fear of heights, I decided to go exploring the poison gardens and the Rock Close gardens of the grounds of Blarney and both were absolutely beautiful. The poison gardens had crazy plants including mandrakes (HARRY POTTER!) and a spot for marijuana. The Rock Close was full of legends of fairies, witches, and magic. The grounds surrounding the castle were actually more fascinating to me than the castle and the stone.

I loved Ireland and am already ready to go back. After looking at all the tours Paddywagon offers, I realized there are so many fabulous places throughout the country I would love to visit, and like I said earlier, I’d love to spend some time in Dublin as well. I can’t wait to return to this beautiful place. Anyone want to go with me?

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