Ireland quickly became one of my favorite places. From the friendly people, the delicious traditional meals, the live Irish music, the ridiculous coastline, the unpredictable and crazy weather, the vibrant and frequent rainbows, and the best tasting beer on earth, it was a great time! During the five days we went to Galway for one night and took a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, went up to Northern Ireland to the Giant's Causeway and stopped in Belfast on another day trip, toured the Guinness Storehouse, explored Dublin, and much more.
On our day trip to Cliffs of Moher the weather was atrocious! The heavy wind caused the little bit of rain to feel like pellets smacking you in the face! Despite the latter, the coastline in Ireland is jaw-dropping. The Cliffs of Moher are 200m (over 600ft) of 90 degree rock faces jutting up form the Atlantic. Don't go to close to the edge!
Another part of Ireland that I marveled at was the history that lies there. The castles, monesteries, and countryside villages date back hundreds and hundreds of years. Our concept of history and distance are much different than the people here in Europe. While speaking with a guy from Manchester, England, who I met at Isaac's hostel in Dublin, I became aware of something that made me ponder...
...When an American gets in their car, we don't think twice about driving a few hours here and a few hours there as we skip across state borders and go for five hours without thinking twice. 200 miles to us....who cares. Now, ask a person from Ireland about driving the same distance, and you've just gone across the entire country and gone straight off the coast into the Atlantic. America is a big place, 'nuff said.
Now lets talk about history/ time. In America, many people would consider one hundred years a long time. It depends on who you talk to, of course, but the point is that our concept of time is VERY short compared to the Europeans. One hundred years to them is like a blink of an eye because the history here is so rich, dating back centuries before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. As I see roman walls, medieval fortresses, and royal palaces, it is hard to believe that people actually existed there so long ago! It is odd to me to think that the same place we got to by a gasoline guzzling tour bus to snap photos of a rickety rock structure, is the same place that humans had to protect themselves from invasion! Imagine that, living during the time when the barter system was used to trade goods and services, and swords were used for protection!
I very much enjoyed the time I spent in Ireland and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to travel to Europe. Hostels are cheap living, and are also great for meeting cool people.
Amsterdam for me was a short day and a half visit. But, it only took one step out of Central Station to feel how unique of a place it is. The bicycle culture is fascinating and is unlike anything I've ever seen! The canals, brick buildings, windmills, countryside, among other things... make it a place I need to go back and spend more time in the future. We rented bikes and toured around most of the city, biking through the center of town, Vondel Park, along the Amstel River for miles, and more. One of my favorite parts are of course the canals. Not only do they function as the city's defense system from flooding, but they come hand-in-hand with bridges which are all over the place! Everywhere you turn is another spectacular photograph, especially at nighttime when the water reflects all the lights. I will be go back one day without a doubt and give Amsterdam the time it deserves!
I then traveled to Lisbon, Portugal with my mom for a few days, and took a day trip to Sintra. Lisbon is a picturesque city that has a vintage feel to it and differs from Barcelona in many ways, notably the topography, language, and architectural style. Barcelona is FLAT, until you reach the mountains around the perimeter. Lisbon is everything BUT flat. Within a minute of getting out of the taxi i saw steeper slopes than I've seen in all of Barcelona. Another stark difference are the stone mosaics that cover the ground throughout the entire city. The white colored Limestone blocks create the backdrop for the dark gray Basalt stones which form intricate patterns. The red roofs of the buildings, which can be seen from a number of vantage points throughout the city, reminded me of my visit to Prague when I was in high school.
We took a day trip to Sintra to see Palacio de la Peña, which is about an hour north of Lisbon. I was very impressed with the bus driver who navigated some intense switchbacks heading up the mountain to the palace, especially since it was a one lane road and we had to constantly yield to smaller vehicles. Peña Palace is very colorful and decorative in the style of nineteenth century Portuguese Romanticism. Each bedroom was built in a different style and with varying techniques of concrete, stone, wood, and frescos. In 1995, Sintra Hills, where the palace and park are located, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It was an enjoyable few days in Portugal.
Now in Barcelona and time to get back to the grind of working on the project after two weeks of memorable traveling! It all came and went so fast, as always.