God Bless Hiking Boots

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When we arrived at the airport in Norway, we had absolutely no idea what our plan was. We originally thought that the two boys would be joining us on Tuesday. However, because of exams and whatnot, they weren’t coming in until Wednesday. It was only Monday, so we now had a period of 48 hours with no housing. We probably could have managed 24… but two days is pushing it. Ordinarily, I would have already had everything planned out. Not this time! We had no housing and no idea how to transport around. Kelly and I had looked at transport and the weather a while back, and we were nearly convinced that Norway would be the death of us. Transport was showing buses and ferries taking 10 hours with multiple transfers, housing was ridiculously priced, and temperatures looked like they would be freezing cold with snow…

It turns out we were fine!

The weather was beautiful when we got to Norway, and fortunately for us remained pretty good the entire time. We figured out where to go and how to get there. We are alive and well with a ton of great memories!

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We chose a more inconvenient airport to save hundreds of dollars.  Good ole’ Ryanair always has our back. From London, we paid 9.99 Euro to get there, and only 22 Euro to fly back into London. A flight straight to Dublin was way out of the range of what I was willing to spend. We decided that choosing this airport was one of the best decisions because we not only saved money, we also got to see even more of Norway!

This was the tiniest international airport I have ever seen. We couldn’t just stay there for the night because it wasn’t open 24 hours. I looked up hostels again… cried internally about the prices and decided to think about Plan B. I started looking up churches in the area to see if there was any sort of help or advice they could offer. There was an international church that looked hopeful. Ali called and talked to a pastor, who said he would see if there was anything he could do.

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Ali and Kelly fell asleep in the airport, so I had to stay awake and finish figuring out what we were going to do. I figured out how and when and where to go to bus to Stavanger, where we would be meeting up with Greg. Fortunately I noticed that we had to take a bus to get to our bus… otherwise we would have been just waiting around the airport until we got kicked out. Also, thankfully we had three people, because both Ali and I’s payment cards locked up on us. Jelly came to the rescue and was able to loan us money 🙂

I had to stay awake in case the pastor tried calling us. I knew I needed to stay awake because I didn’t want to miss the call or bus we needed to take. However, I was so tired from running on only one hour of sleep that my eyes were open but my body was twitching. I tried finding a place to charge my laptop so that I could continue researching while also keeping myself awake, but I couldn’t get to the outlets without bothering Ali. So… I just sat there, staring at the phone. I did withdraw some money and filled up my water bottle! On the bright side, the little sunroom we were in was a great place to sit, with the sun warming the entire room! (no pun intended)

Once we were on the bus to get to the bus we needed, we found out that the pastor couldn’t help up. The international church was associated with a seminary, and their facilities were full. I guess that is a good problem to have! But just like that, we were once more homeless.

Once at the bus terminal, we had three hours to wait until the bus for Stavanger arrived. I was able to find an outlet and got back on my laptop to try and find housing. Someone had once suggested the website “airbnb” accommodation. I found a couple of options that seemed relatively cheap for Norway. I filled out my information, got verified for the website so that they knew I was actually Mallory Stuckwisch, and sent yet another desperation plea (motif for this vacation) to a woman named Karin. I made sure to continue creating a list of alternatives in case this fell through.

By the time we left the bus terminal, Karin still hadn’t responded to my request. Finally on the bus, which fortunately had wifi, I received a response! She said that the website showed an inaccurate price. However, she didn’t want us staying on the street at night. Her daughter had just left that very day to move to New York for work. She said that she wanted to help us because, and I quote, “I hope that someone will help her also :)” She ended up making the price cheaper for us and even came back a second time without me asking or prodding or hesitating at the first deal and lowered the price even more! What would have cost us over $40 a night a piece ended up costing a little over $20/night per person. She also continued to check up on us the entire bus ride and offered advice for getting to her house.

The bus ride alone was worth the cost of the transport ticket. It was around 2 and a half hours of driving through Norway, and it was absolutely gorgeous! We got to see all the beautiful lakes and mountainous terrain. At one point, the bus driver stopped the bus and everyone got off without a word. We were really confused because this was only an hour into the ride. We exchanged confused looks with the bus driver before he finally said, “Ferry. You can’t sit in here.” None of us had realized that the bus had driven onto a ferry!

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Upstairs, we sat at a booth by the window and then decided to check out their food options. We ended up all three getting some Norwegian dish that the lady insisted we try. I tried finding the exact name of what we ate, but it appears as though there are tons of names for it. Potetball, raspeball, komler, klubb, komper…. Whatever the name, it was a sausage surrounded by a potato/flour dumpling. Additionally, it was soacked in butter with bacon pieces. I can feel my cholesterol levels rising as I type. It was really interesting, tasted pretty good, and didn’t actually cause heart failure. It did, however, sit heavy on our stomachs.

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When we got into Stavanger, Ali was able to get a map pulled up so that we could find the street we needed. She got us to the street, which wasn’t too far away, but the next task was finding the house number. We ended up running across the freeway a few times, fighting construction, facing a roundabout… you know, all that fun stuff. (Sorry, Mom!)

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We finally found house 62, but weren’t sure what to expect from this point on. Jelly worked up the courage to press the buzzer. Nothing happened. Jelly once more pressed the buzzer, but this time it made a noise!! Karin stuck her head out of a window upstairs and said something about how she would be down shortly. She led us around to the back basement, which was newly renovated. We each had our own room. The floors were heated. We had showers!

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Karin brought us ham on bread, fish soup, and a bottle of wine. I am picky when it come to fish, but this was delicious! After eating, I took a shower, ate, and went to bed because I was sleep deprived. Ali and Kelly ran loads of laundry because Karin was kind enough to let us use the washer, drier, and soap! I was really happy to get my socks washed. Karin also told us that she could drop us off in town the next morning if we wanted because she was going in for work.

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We ended up deciding to sleep in because we desperately needed it. I got up around 11 and decided I was ready to head out and explore. With my huge penguin project done, I was free!! Ali and Kelly said they needed to stay back and study, so I was prepared to head out alone. In the end, Jelly ended up deciding she would go see Stavanger with me! We found the simple way to get to town that didn’t require running across the freeway. (You’re welcome, Mom!)

Once in Stavanger, we started by walking around the lake. Then we wandered over to the fjords and walked along the water, admiring the huge boats. We found our way to Old Town, which had cute cobblestone sidewalks and little white houses. I also found a cat that looked almost identical to Finn!!

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After this, we headed back towards the water so we could head the other way and not get lost. Kelly found a building with her name on it that she wanted a picture with, so we strayed from the water. While we were over there, we happened upon a slack line! Kelly and I tried until we each went from one plastic base to the other. The middle part was the hardest because it is so shaky! When I started getting better, Kelly took a video. However, the time she chose to record, I hardly made it a step. The next take was better 🙂

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We went back to walking along the water once we had both successfully conquered the slack line. Next, we found a playground made out of old metal pieces. It was like a junkyard turned playground that was big enough for adults. There were a bunch of bright red balls and we discovered that they were secured in place but still squishy! I bounced across the top of them. Then my foot landed between two of them and I plopped right on the ground into the sand.

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We moved on and found where we needed to be for the ferry the next day. After this, we decided to risk cutting through the land to head back to Karin’s. We found the tower landmark and walked through the streets where all their shops are. We brought food back for all of us, and then shortly after, Karin came down to check on us. She brought us leftover sandwiches from her work, so we had lunch for the next day!

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At some point after Jelly and I returned, we all fell asleep on Ali’s bed. I was curled up at the end like a dog. We had to have napped for over an hour. We were still exhausted from lack of sleep. We did get some more laundry done, I blogged about my parent’s visit, and Ali and Jelly were confronted by a guy from Barcelona who was occupying the fourth room. He said something about there being standing water in the bathroom. There was water on the floor because there was no curtain or glass or anything to stop the water, but I think he exaggerated just a tad about the depth of the water 😉 We had tried our best to squeegee!

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The next morning, we got up and gathered our belongings. We didn’t hear back in time exactly when we were meeting up with the boys, so we had to leave without saying goodbye to Karin. That was pretty sad. We do have her address for a thank you note though!

We stopped in a a few little markets to find protein bars and also water to fill up our bottles since we weren’t sure at this point whether it was safe to drink from the tap. Next we went in search of hiking boots for Jelly since we were upping our hiking game that week. I fortunately had boots I had bought back in Ireland.

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We sat at the ferry port and waited for the boys, while eating our sandwiches from Karin. We weren’t there for very long when Chris and Greg showed up. Ali took them back to the sport shop to get a knife, map, and compass. When they came back, we jumped on the ferry that was departing and headed over to Tau. We were able to find a bus to the campsite once we got off, and arrived at Wathne Camping!

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When we showed up in the reception cabin, they were a little surprised. It turns out that they didn’t have our reservation in the system because their server was down and they had forgotten to write our names down after we emailed to reserve. They were very apologetic and were able to arrange a cabin for the first two nights. The second two nights, we were moved to their other building down the road. It was a holiday weekend for them so they were completely booked those two nights! The building we got moved into was an old restaurant converted into living space. There was plenty of room and a professional kitchen! Not that we had a need for it, but we had a deep frier even!

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It turns out that Betty and Sam are missionaries from Texas. They have been in Norway for 20 years. They were extremely helpful the entire stay! Sam drove us where we needed to go and would pick us up when we were done. They offered advice for trails around the area. They were just in general very friendly, wonderful people! My favourite thing was Betty’s sweatshirt that said “Grandma’s Gems” with all of the names of her grandchildren and rhinestones.

The first night we were there, we sent Greg and Chris to get groceries. Ali, Kelly, and I explored the campsite. We hopped on rocks, my foot fell in the water and my waterproof boot wasn’t fully tied, and we took pictures. After leaving the lake area, we headed over to huge rocks overlooking the road. We were perched there waiting to see Greg and Chris go by in the car. We waited for a long while and didn’t see them. Finally, it started getting chilly and my feet were still wet, so we decided to head back. I slipped on the gravel on the way down and Jelly sort of caught me from behind.

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It turns out, they had been back for a while! We must have just missed them when we moved over to the rocks. When we got back into the cabin, the boys were cutting up potatoes for dinner. We sat in the living room area eating cashews 🙂

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The next day, we set out to find trails. It was rainy and cold out, so it was hard to get motivated to get going. I got dressed in my most waterproof thing– a dress– and went out. At first we just walked along not really on trails. We found an area of huge moss covered rocks that was cool and the ground was really squishy everywhere! Greg decided we should go back and ask for real trail, so after seeking Sam’s advice, we went to the Hamrane forest trails.

Even then we eventually ended up off the trails again, roughing it up hills in the forest. My foot once more fell into water and my shoe was once more tied improperly. We climbed up several sections of huge rocks that would slip out from under you if you weren’t careful, and maneuvered over, under, and around brush. Jelly’s poor little legs couldn’t reach as far as the rest of ours, but I kept telling her that it would be worth it! And it was!! There were points where we could see pretty well over trees, we had fun, got exercise, and found a waterfall!

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They were discussing whether they wanted to go up higher on the waterfall, but I convinced them that we should head back because there was a huge, black scary storm front coming in. We used the “controlled fall” technique so Greg called it, and scrambled down the mountain. Just as we hit the bottom, it started pouring! We ended up inside a gated pasture and had to hop a fence to get out. People went down the driveway and then sat there. They were probably wondering why we were in their livestock fields. I had on cotton leggings that were soaking up all the water… Chris had a windbreaker that did a better job of retaining water than repelling it. So, it was a race to get into our cabin. Once inside, we warmed up with the heaters and then sat out on the front porch until the rain started coming inwards.

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The next day, Friday, it was absolutely beautiful out! We headed into town where we caught a bus for Preikestolen. This hike was only 2.4 miles each way, but it was on elevated surfaces that challenged my level of fitness. Chris, Greg, and I were pretty far ahead of Ali and Kelly because we walk fast. The terrain changed so much throughout the hike– it went from forest to rocky to bog to snow! It even hailed on us a few times!!

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Once we made it to the top of Pulpit Rock, I sat on the edge of the cliff, which was 600 meters above the fjord. To put it into context, the Cliffs of Moher only reaches 214 meters max. The best place to sit was the corner. It sort of tilted down towards the water, which was frightening, yet exhilarating. One of the scariest parts is the deep cracks along the plateau. At some point the Plateau will fall down into the water, but scientists say that it’s safe for now 🙂

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The views from Pulpit Rock were surreal! Eventually Ali and Kelly caught up, and we ate our sandwiches on the cliffside. Jelly is afraid of heights, so I am proud of Kelly for getting as close to the edge as she did!! After eating, we climbed up the mountainside to get a bird’s-eye-view of Preikestolen.

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We all hiked down together. Kelly built a snowman. Since she is from the San Francisco area, she isn’t used to snow and got super pumped about it being all around. The best part was when she started screaming “Owww, it’s stinging me!!”

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Once at the bottom, we went down to the lake. We stood on some rocks and then found a little hut that we sat in. At one point, three girls went past on a canoe. We all stared at each other and laughed. We headed back up to the lodge, where we found out that we had until 9 for our bus. So, we sat overlooking the lake.

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The next day was beautiful again. We were going to go to a waterfall, but Sam was busy building a tool shed. He picked us up and brought us back to the campsite, until he could run us to the buses.

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We ended up going back out to Preikestolen, but went canoeing this time. They wouldn’t let us put three in the canoe even though there were three benches, so we had to rent an extra kayak. They did only charge us for two hours, instead of the four we rented them for!! Kelly and I paddled together and we did better than expected, especially when I would count out loud. For some reason being in a canoe made me channel my inner Native American, and I kept wanting to sing “Colors of the Wind.”

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We shored the boats on the other side of the lake and hit some hiking trails. The hike down to the fjords wasn’t bad. It was tricky in places and required some climbing because of water puddles. But it was fun! I fell into a bush at one point.

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Ali, Kelly, and I relaxed on huge rocks overlooking the fjords as Chris and Greg went on exploring.

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The way back up was rough. I couldn’t breathe. At one point, I told Greg and Chris, “I am stopping. I need air. Now.” So, we waited for Ali and Kelly to catch up. I was able to catch my breath in the meantime. We made it back to the canoes and Ali and Chris switched turns on the kayak. We spent the next few hours drifting and lightly paddling around the lake– or in Ali’s case being lightly paddled around the lake. The alcoves were all fun to explore! At one point I leaned against the back of the boat and Kelly leaned against my knees, and we just closed our eyes and listed to the baby waterfall next to us. I also discovered on the way back that I am capable of rowing a canoe solo for a good distance. I had Kelly stop rowing because I wanted to see if I could do it. Once our time was up, we put the canoes back. Ali tried pulling the canoe further onto shore for me, but didn’t realize that I was already standing up and making my way out of the boat. She pulled as I was precariously balancing, and I ended up flying backwards into the canoe. Better than in the water 🙂

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We missed a bus by a few minutes and ended up having to hang around the lodge for an hour and a half before the next one at 8:50. I sat outside for a tiny bit and appreciated the campfire smell, but it got cold quickly. Jelly and I headed into the lodge, where we could still see the lake while drinking hot chocolate and sitting on reindeer pelts.

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When we got back to Tau, we were hungry and couldn’t get ahold of Sam. So we walked in search of food. We ended up finding our way to Tau Cafe and Pizza. We defeated two large kebab pizzas, one even had french fries on it! We had to eventually move the party outside because they were closing for the night. Finally, Sam showed up and took us home.

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The next morning, Sam took us to the ferry port before his church started, since Greg and Chris had to be back for their flights later that day. We hung out for a little bit outside before Chris got on his airport shuttle. The coffee shop we were waiting outside opened at noon, so the rest of us migrated inside and enjoyed some coffee and pastries. Afterwards, we headed over to the water and sat on a huge mirror bench/piece of art? and talked while watching all the people go by. We went up to the tower before getting Greg to the bus stop.

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Once he was gone, Ali, Kelly, and I waited around until 9 pm when we could go to the airbnb place I had found for the night. We hit up the deli for sandwiches and took them with us to the apartment. We were just in one room this time and it was pretty much a living room… there was a table for us to eat our food! We unintentionally broke the number one rule for staying at their place: no pork. (I am assuming it was a religious thing?) I had read that off to Jelly and Ali when I was booking the place, but Jelly didn’t hear me and Ali didn’t realize that it was for the place we were staying. I didn’t pay attention when we were ordering food at the deli and both Ali and Kelly had food with some form of pork. I realized while we were there eating… so we quickly finished up the food. I told them that we could not leave any behind! I ended up having to conceal some of the evidence because Ali couldn’t finish her sandwich.

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We tried to be super quiet because the couple who owned the place were in the next room. But it was the cheapest we could get and we only needed it until  5 AM. I was so tired that sleeping on a mattress on the floor didn’t phase me. They told us that we were the best guests they have ever had. We were honestly just really tired, so we didn’t have much energy to be rowdy even if we had wanted to be.

Waking up in the morning was once more terrible, but our host was super understanding about the time we had to leave and locked up behind us. We got on our bus at 5:45 and made it to the airport by about 8:30. This was again the tiny international airport. They only had three flights going out that morning– two of which were to Oslo, Norway and then there was ours to London. Jelly and I got to sit together on this flight, which isn’t usual! Also, I was able to see Norway from the sky since I had a window seat (my favourite!!).

We arrived to Stansted around 11:30 am and had to go through passport control, which took forever! Afterwards, we camped out at Starbucks in the airport once we checked back in and went through security again. We once more had two Starbucks a piece. Like I said last blog, that may seem excessive, but it was necessary. Jelly and Ali needed to study for their exams the next day. I journaled about all of this! Our flight finally left at about 10:20 pm. After arriving back in Dublin, going through passport check, and taking the aircoach home, it was 1 AM. We were wiped out and ready to sleep!

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I am incredibly glad that Greg suggested this trip. The hiking, views, experiences, new people… EVERYTHING! It was all worthwhile!

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Back to England!

The week James left was a rough one. I was trying to catch up on sleep, while also finishing a huge project and getting ready to leave for our next European adventure.

On Tuesday I went into Dublin to try and get work done on my project. While in the coffee shop, I got the news that my grandpa had died. I held it together for the most part while I was in town… It helped knowing that he was ready to go, and that he was now free from the disabilities and pain he has suffered since his stroke nearly 21 years ago. The hardest part for me was feeling helpless because I was an ocean away from everything and everyone.This isn’t something they mentally prepare you for when going abroad. Nevertheless, I am thankful to have been able to call him my Pappy. My grandpa has been an incredible influence in my life and many others I am sure. He showed love to everyone, whether that was with a huge smile on his face, a verbal “Me love you,” or a kiss on the cheek of a stranger. Despite the stroke, seizures, cancer, and more, he continued to stand firm in his faith and sang “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus” until his last day.

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My pappy with the finch I sent him from Poland.. He loved watching the finches!

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Here was a post from my mom on facebook that I wanted to share:

“2 Timothy 4:7
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.

My dad was a marathon runner until his stroke 21 years ago. He persevered and never cared that there was only one man he could beat and always came in next to last. The good news is: My dad won his first race today. He received his crown of righteousness and went to be with Jesus.”

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Rather than getting bogged down by sadness, I have tried focusing on thankfulness instead. Thankful that I had a grandpa who tried his hardest to be a part of my life, despite the disabilities. Thankful that I had a grandpa who cried into my shirt last Thanksgiving because he was so happy to see me. Thankful for all the popsicles from the “ice box.” Thankful for all the laughter he brought through the years. Thankful that I was his “Little Man.”

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Ali and Kelly bought me every flavour of Ben and Jerry’s they had at the store, and we cuddled. That helped me feel a little better 🙂

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I didn’t get everything done I needed to get done– laundry, project, planning for the trip I was about to leave for… I was a mess. But, I threw clothes in a bag and left Thursday morning for England.

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The next week was revision week for UCD. Revision week is an actually dead “dead week.” No classes. We were told by other students to just use this time to travel. Since I only had two finals, one this past week and one next week, I didn’t have any problem taking this advice 🙂 It was also a much needed distraction from everything that week.

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We arrived in London on Thursday morning, and navigated to Hoxton, where our lovely hostess Angela was waiting for us. Looking into accommodations for London, I was a bit taken back by the prices. Since we love our community at Dublin Vineyard Church, I figured it was worth a shot to look up Vineyards in London for help. Angela answered my desperation plea, and was kind enough to take in three college girls.

Angela’s Vineyard is missional based. One of her avenues of service is the Ivy Street Family Centre, which works to foster a warm and inviting atmosphere for children and caretakers in the community. She let us use the Family Centre as our base, and as a result were able to not only save money, but also meet lovely people. Angela was super, super sweet and we absolutely loved her. We admired her laughter, hospitality, and willingness to go above and beyond to make us feel at home.

Angela showed us her flat and the Family Centre, which was adorable. The puffballs, banners, and children’s artwork definitely brought me back to my mom’s kindergarten class. After this, we set out to meet up with Greg, who was also in my blog about Saint Patrick’s day! We decided to take the tube so that we didn’t lose daylight. After walking through Hyde Park and then grabbing a bite to eat, we covered a ton of ground. We saw the Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace, St. James’s Park, Big Ben, the Eye and more. Ali and Kelly’s feet were dying, and by the end of it they were hobbling around. It was pretty hilarious. I have been blessed with the ability to walk for long distances, and pretty quickly at that. We rested in a pub until we got kicked out. Like Dublin, they close pretty early at night.

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We took the tube back, but got a little lost coming out from underground. Unbeknownst to us, the stop we ended at had about 5 different exits onto the street and we happened to pick the wrong one. After walking a ways in the dark and cold we realized that nothing looked familiar and so we backtracked. Jelly found a 10 pound note just laying in the empty sidewalk, so it really was worth getting lost.

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The next morning, we had tea with Angela and were able to get showers at her flat. She also offered breakfast, but we had already told Greg we were coming to his place for breakfast. We appreciated the thought though! Since showers took longer than anticipated, we ended up taking the tube again so that we could make it to Greg’s before noon. By the time we got there, he already had breakfast ready for us! We did provide a watermelon. I stood gawking at the beauty of the watermelon, Ali decided we should buy it, and Jelly paid for it with the money she had found the night before. We have gotten pretty good at teamwork.

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After breakfast, we went back through Hyde Park and then through the Natural History Museum. The gemstone section and earthquake simulator were both highlights. They also had a complete stegosaurus right inside, and an escalator that appeared to go through the center of the Earth. The museum was very interactive and FREE! Jelly was not a fan of the arthropod exhibit. Ali pretended to chase Jelly with a spider, and I was pretty sure that she was going to have a coronary occlusion. But, I am proud of Jelly for making it through the exhibit!

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After the museum, we went to Harrods, a huge, expensive department store. It was strangely entertaining to look at the prices people are willing to pay for material goods. The only thing I bought there was food. We ate macaroons– I had a pistachio and a tea flavoured one. The pistachio was amazing and I could have had about 10 more.

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We then went into the actual food area, and it was fascinating to see all the different sections and types of food they had. I was tempted to get a creme brûlée donut with the hard caramel layer on top (Lesson from previous blog: James wouldn’t have liked it). Instead, Jelly and I got a pistachio and creme donut to split. It was even better than the macaroon. Yes, I did get real food too. I had the meat filled pastry known as a Cornish Pasty. Traditionally they were food for miners, but they taste just as good being food for Mallory. We went outside to eat, in part because we were paupers compared to some of the other people in that shop…. or we at least acknowledged that we don’t have the finances to afford stuff in Harrods. We ate our food on the only porch steps on that block that didn’t say “No Sitting.” Pretty sure there was intended to be a sign, but we got to sit there due to the technicality that there wasn’t actually a sign.

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After going back into Harrods to use their bathrooms and look at the ridiculous prices in their alcohol section, we went back to see everything we had seen the night before only in daylight this time. The guards were out at Buckingham! Apparently you can tell whether the Queen is in by looking at the flag, and she was never in when we passed by. At St. James’s we saw the ugly duckling and squirrels! There was a lady feeding and talking to the squirrels, which was pretty cute.

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Ali wanted to go into the art museum to see Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field” painting. It was free, so we went inside. We lost Ali because she ran off and the building was huge! We were able to locate the painting, but Ali was nowhere to be found. There was a guy who did a really amazing quick sketch of the painting in his notebook as we were standing there waiting. Finally, Ali found her way back to us and we made our way out of the museum. Greg, being the gentleman that he is, made us a couscous dinner that night 🙂

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The next day, we spent a good deal of time in Hoxton. I still had a lot of work to do on my penguin project. We decided later that evening to try and go back into London to watch Wicked. We took the bus this time and hit rush hour. The bus was so packed that no one could move and people would miss their stops because they couldn’t get around others and out of the bus!! We didn’t make it back into the city in time and didn’t have the appropriate clothing anyway, so instead we went and got Indian food. We feasted on nan and I had my favourite Indian dish of Chicken Tikka Masala. We then moved on to a coffee shop and ate ice-cream. Greg also introduced us to Turkish coffee. It has the grounds in it still and it’s very strong, but very delicious! You aren’t supposed to clear the cup because of the layer of fine grounds on the bottom that looks like sludge. Greg had us take sips at the end and the grounds just coat your mouth in black. We have great pictures of Jelly, but I will spare them from social media.

The next morning, we went to church with Angela. Her Vineyard is partnered with a local church for services on Sunday. This was the first time I have ever had wine during communion and also my first time with the common cup. No grape juice in baby plastic cups! It was nice to even just be able to sit in a pew with Angela in a family atmosphere. Afterwards, they had coffee and a celebration cake for someone’s birthday. We headed back to Angela’s house after church and she made us a nice home-cooked meal for lunch… Chicken, rice, and vegetables THAT WERE WARM! We also helped her daughter make tissue paper leis. For school, they had to pick a country for a project, and her group had picked the United States ironically enough. They were featuring Hawaii… that Indiana corn wasn’t appealing enough I guess. We had a blast having craft time and even learned a cool knot in the process.

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After lunch we headed back to meet up with Greg. We missed the marathon that was going on that day, but did see a bunch of people walking around with medals. I kept working on my project since I had to get it done that day before moving on to the next part of our trip. Ali went to church with Greg, and Kelly stayed back with me. Greg and Ali brought back gyros, and I will be forever grateful. We hung out a little bit and then headed back so we could try and get a little bit of sleep.

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We only got about an hour and a half of sleep since we were aiming to be at the bus stop around four for the coach. Our group is slow moving in the morning, so we have to allot ourselves enough time to get moving– we also had to get everything together, fold blankets, and lock up. At the airport, I woke up still so tired that I was slightly confused as to where I was. Going through security at Stansted, my entire bag was dumped out on the table for a more thorough search. There was really nothing in there besides clothes, so I am not sure what they thought they were going to catch me with. Fortunately after the entire airport saw my wardrobe for the week, the security lady packed my bag better than I had previously done 🙂

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Once inside the airport, we still had plenty of time. We ate egg muffins and were major white girls, getting two Starbucks drinks a piece. Two might seem excessive, but it was necessary. I was even more white-girl because I video-chatted James in the airport. He had called to tell me about the super awesome day he just had (it was still the previous day for him pretty much).

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On the plane, i got put in the emergency exit row again, so I had lots of leg room and an empty seat next to me. The flight was only about an hour, so I stayed up and journaled. Journaling is the reason why I can blog in at least some detail 🙂

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James Takes on Europe

If you have Facebook, you may have already seen the albums, but now you can read about a highlight of my time abroad: James came to visit me!! After my parents came, I had about two weeks to rest up and get ready for round two of hosting in Ireland. James made his first trans-Atlantic flight and arrived in Ireland on April 11th.

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I took Dublin bus in the morning to go pick him up from the airport, and had jitters the entire way there. It was really strange to see him in person and not behind a computer screen after such a long time! We headed back to UCD, so that he could drop off all of his belongings and relax. However, we had to be careful because jet lag hit him hard. First, I walked him around campus. Then Ali and I pulled our mattresses into the kitchen to make the floor more comfortable for James’s favourite card game, Pounce. Jelly left to go to the “Bouncy Ball” for trampoline club, so then it was down to Ali and I to keep him awake.

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We made him eat food, watched a movie, and were able to successfully make it to around 9 or 10 when it was safe to let him sleep. Jet lag still didn’t treat him well even after he went to bed. At 2 in the morning, I found James awake in the kitchen. By 3, I was asleep on Ali’s floor, but he apparently woke back up around 4 am went back to the kitchen where he talked with Kelly and Ali, who were still up.

On Sunday morning, I had to literally drag James out of bed, and then we headed into town for church. Afterwards, we headed on to the farmer’s market in Dun Laoghaire. It was a little rainy out and there weren’t a ton of vendors. We still got lots of bread, lemon poppyseed muffins, a falafel wrap, and lamb kebab! We walked over to the pier with our wraps and sat on giant rocks overlooking the water. The weather cleared up beautifully, and we ended up walking along the pier to the lighthouse and back. The rest of the day we spent relaxing back at my apartment because it got a little chilly, and James was still tired.

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Monday, I had class and a field trip, which occupied me until about 5pm. However, when I got back, James and I walked to “The Goat Bar” for some food. It was here that we first discovered that people in Ireland can’t understand James when speaks (a trend that continued the rest of the week). As we were leaving, we saw a wallet laying out open in the middle of the intersection. James ran out and picked it up to see if we could find identification. It turned out that belonged to an elderly lady living in Dundrum. I knew that it wasn’t much more than a 25 minute walk to Dundrum, so I plugged her address into my phone and we set off to return it. We had difficulty finding her exact house. We finally knocked on a door and was told by a lady that the woman we were looking for was just next door. We knocked on the right lady’s door a few times before we finally got her to open the door. We returned the wallet and she said, “Here I thought you were coming here to steal from me!” She offered to give us a reward, but we declined and headed back to UCD. We treated ourselves to ice-cream, and then tried to get to bed at a decent time since we had to be up at 4 the next morning.

Getting up was a struggle, but James and I headed back to the airport to hop on a flight to Barcelona. James has a goal of visiting every Spanish speaking country, so I agreed to help him knock this one off his list. When we got to the airport everything was a blur because it was way too early in the morning, and my eyes did not want to stay open. I was able to get some sleep on the short plane ride, and woke up in time to see the beautiful mountains and water as we were flying into Barcelona.

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When we got off, James and I could not find each other because I was way in the front of the plane and he was way in the back. After passport check, I tried waiting for him, but somehow we missed each other. After watching the last person get through passport check for what I later found out was two flights worth of people, I left the arrivals. I think it was about 45 minutes of looking around and trying to message James, who hadn’t been able to figure out the wifi airport, before we finally saw each other. I am pretty sure James was more worried than I was. He told me he just kept thinking about how I didn’t know Spanish, but I have enough travel experience that I am sure I would’ve survived 😉

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I drank some coffee and somewhat woke up as we waited for our shuttle into the city. We were dropped off on Las Rambla, where we strolled down and back. We made sure to watch our belongings closely, because pickpockets are notoriously everywhere. Las Rambla was beautiful, with huge trees lining both sides of the sidewalk, street vendors, and performers. We spent a little bit of time watching the statue people, who had painted themselves all over. They were supposed to do something when given money, but one of them just sat completely still as a group of frustrated guys tried everything to get him to move. I don’t know how he never busted out laughing.

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We walked through the narrow alleys and then were going to try and find the Gothic Quarter, when we got hungry. While we stopped to take pictures, I overheard a private tour guide say something about food to an old couple from the U.S. that he was with. So, I told James we were going to follow them since he would know where to eat better than us. They unknowingly led us to a place that I quite enjoyed.

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This is where I learned that James is a pickier eater than I am… I just really like food, weird or otherwise. I had a sample platter and James was able to get seafood paella like he wanted. The problem was that he didn’t much appreciate the complete shrimp and oysters they put in the dish. I found the shrimp with it’s antennae quite entertaining– I ended up being the one to peel it for him to eat. In James’s defense, the oysters were gross looking, but I am glad I got to try them! His meal also came with creme brûlée, which I was happy about because it meant I got to eat some! I was appalled to learn that James does not like the caramelized top layer. Not okay, but I still like him 🙂

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After eating we took a quick look at a church near-bye, and on the side of another building found water spigots that people drink. Of course we drank from them as well!

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Afterwards, we set off for our next stop. James perked up at this point because he was super excited to be seeing La Casa Mila. We started with audio tour guides, but quickly gave up and wandered along without them. We found our way to the roof, where we spent some time exploring. There were pretty good views of the city and lots of towers, stairs, bridges, and nooks to roam around. At one point, I crawled in a cubbyhole, and when I came out, I scared two poor women walking up the steps next to it. The rest of the house was fun to explore and was much different than any other building I have seen.

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James had planned to have us sit in a cafe next, because even though he hates coffee, he continues to support my addiction. We found our way to a cute place, which had donuts shaped like little men and women! James used his Spanish skills for ordering, and I was pretty impressed!

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After hanging out and cooling down from the warmth outside, we decided to navigate ourselves to La Sagrada Familia. We walked, talked, and even took time to sit on a park bench for a while, and we still made it there ahead of schedule. Until we could go into the building, we sat in the park near-bye and ate popsicles. The outside of the church, is still under construction, even though it was started in 1882. Elaborate design and lack of funding don’t make for a good combination apparently. Walking inside, you are immediately struck by all of the colors from the stained glass reflecting off everywhere. The ceilings were incredible as well. We went up the tower during our time slot, and were able to see out over more of the city.

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We walked around another park and then decided to start finding our way to the airport. Figuring out the taxis was a disaster, because we hadn’t seen anyone else hail one in order to know the proper procedure. As we were walking, there was a taxi pulled off to the side and the driver was talking to a woman standing just outside her car. I told James that it looked like they were saying goodbye and we should wait to catch him because that would be our best shot. He wouldn’t listen to me, and as we continued walking, the taxi I had pointed out passed us. At this point it was going too fast and was on the opposite side of the road, so we couldn’t get to it.

I convinced James to go into a hardware store to ask for help. The guy told us we were crazy for getting a taxi because buses are cheaper. He gave us bus directions, which I realized would take us too long, and after convincing I was able to get James back on the taxi idea. By some sort of miracle, James hailed a taxi. We made it to the airport and the price was exactly what I had told James that it was going to be when we were planning for Barcelona. It really wasn’t expensive at all (definitely cheaper than a Dublin taxi)! As we were heading back to the airport I said, “So what lesson have we learned today?” to which James responded, “Listen to Mallory.” 😉

We flew home, and by the time we landed were exhausted. Then we hit passport control…. I have an Irish immigration office card, so I was fine, but they questioned James a ton. They even went so far as to find a charger for his phone so he could pull up the flight itinerary saying he was leaving the next Sunday. After a long time, they gave up and let him go with a valid visitor stamp that said he had to leave by Monday.

The next day, we slept in a little before I started studying for an exam I had that night. After my exam at 6 pm, I went back to the apartment and got James motivated to get up and moving so we could go into Dublin and eat. We ended up at Jo Burger, where James discovered his love of Irish beef. The next day we went into the city again and started with Little Ass, my favourite restaurant in Dublin. We took our burritos and ate them on the lawn at St.Stephen’s Green because it was a beautiful day! After eating I took him to the Chester Beatty Library, Temple Bar Area, over the Ha’penny bridge, and onto O’Connell street. We walked on to the Garden of Remembrance where we sat and relaxed for a while. Then, I made sure we hit the donut shop on the way back 🙂 We took our donuts and sat in the lawn area at Trinity College before heading home. That night, after my Skype interview for a job, we ordered pizza and then decided to end our day with a movie.

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The next morning we had to get up early and head into Dublin with Ali and Kelly. There, we boarded the Paddywagon for a Cliffs of Moher tour. When they let us off at the baby cliffs, we headed straight for the edge. James decided to run over to a far away corner. As I was yelling at him to be careful, he yelled back, “Natural Selection!” Eventually, I too found my way over to where he was. When we got back on the bus, the tour guide stopped at us and said, “You two are crazy, just thought you should know.” When we made it to the actual cliffs, I wouldn’t say we were any more careful. The heights were insane and the fact that they didn’t gate it off was even crazier. I really enjoyed hanging my feet over the edge. Ali, Jelly, and I, made a Jelly Sandwich by squishing Kelly in between us as we laid next to the edge, soaking up the sun. James and I made it back to the bus area early enough to stop in for ice-cream. He got Bailey’s and Schnapps flavour, which was fantastic! The bus driver referred to James as spiderman multiple times over the intercom.

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When we finally got back into Dublin, we stopped by for more donuts, and then tried going to the Brazenhead pub so that James could have a pub experience. However, they were too busy, so we settled for a pub next door. It was here that James was able to try the Irish specialty: Guinness. He doesn’t like beer, but handled it better than my family and I did!

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The next day, I took him by train to Howth. When we got there, we ate fish and calamari next to the water. As we were sitting there, the wind was blowing my hair around so much that I could hardly see. However, I did look over just in time to notice a sea lion staring right at me! It was huge and had to have been no more than 10 feet away!! I got so excited and pointed at it trying to get James to look. As he turned, the sea lion huffed and flopped sideways in the water. After finishing up our lunch, we walked over to Howth market and along the way saw a lady doing water color paintings by the water. We bought little Vanilla cupcake bowls and ate them outside, and then walked down and back along the pier. We eventually made our way up to the cliffs overlooking the water, where we hiked along the trails and admired the yellow flowers everywhere.

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We finished our hike with soft-serve ice-cream, of course 🙂 Then we headed back into Dublin, where we once more ate at Jo Burger because James was hooked.

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The next morning, I had to take James back to the airport. It was really hard and really sad because I had a fantastic week. It’s back to video chat until I go home in a few weeks and we are next door neighbors for the summer.

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