Spring Break Day 2: March 25th, Paris

Hello everyone!

Welcome back to my 8 days of posting! Today you’ll hear all about day 2 in Paris, which was one of my favorite days in Paris altogether! I’m actually going to split day 2 into two posts, one for tonight and one for tomorrow, as it was a very action-packed day ans it’s hard to fit it into one post. Today I’ll talk about what we did before lunch, and tomorrow we’ll go over lunch and what we did afterwards.

So, on that Sunday morning we woke up “bright and early,” which for me means, like, 9, which Auntie did, in fact, laugh at. Anyways, we woke up around 9 and ate breakfast downstairs at our hotel. The cost of staying at our hotel had included breakfast, which was a very nice surprise as food in Paris doesn’t come cheap! There was a full spread of croissants, pain au chocolat, cheese, cereal, and baguettes. Yes, that’s right, baguettes for breakfast. There was also a huge juicer against the wall that made fresh squeezed orange juice that tasted delicious.

After our breakfast, Auntie and I headed out with a map and vague directions to where we could get tickets for the hop-on-hop-off tour. I made the mistake of forgoing a coat and decent shoes because it was PARIS I wanted to be FASHIONABLE, which meant repeatedly telling my aunt that I wasn’t cold while visibly shivering. I’m not always the most practical person, but my mother always said “beauty is pain,” so it’s not really a surprise that I wore a cold-shoulder blouse while on top of a moving bus in 40-degree weather just because it’s Paris.

Basically, we got to the bus stop and got a two-day ticket each, as the tour company we chose- Open Tours- had 3 different routes to explore. For our first route, we chose the basic Must-See-Parisian-Sights route, with the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, etc.

The bus drove right through the center of the Louvre’s grounds, through an unbelievably tiny passageway in a wall. Honestly, if my elbow had been resting on the edge of the bus it would have hit the wall. From there it crossed the Seine to pass the Musée d’Orsay, which used to be a train station. The initials still on the walls of the building, PO, stand for Paris-Orleans, the line that was once active there. Then, we drove through the Place de la Concorde, where the guillotine was once stationed. Now there’s a carousel and a park, and the U.S. Embassy. It’s just as eerie and vaguely uncomfortable as it sounds. From the center of that square is one of the best views of the Arc de Triomphe, which stands at the other end of the Champs-Elysées. That is where the bus turned next, down the infamous street. It was much different than I expected. I guess I had anticipated more designer shops and those Parisian stereotypes of high fashion. Instead, there are several McDonalds’, a Disney store, a Gap, and a bunch of other run-of-the-mill stores. The only designer store I saw was a Louis Vuitton, which was in a 6 or 7 story building with chandeliers and gold accents. That was more of what I expected.

The Arc de Triomphe is also less glamorous for those who don’t know that it’s literally in the middle of a traffic circle. We didn’t stop there, but I still got nice photos. There’s an eternal flame in the ground at the center for the “Unknown Soldier.” A group of feminists once placed flowers at the base of it and said that the only person more unknown than the unknown soldier is his wife.

Then, stop #13, the Eiffel Tower. It’s even bigger than you think it is. No, trust me, it is. We didn’t get off to see it until that night, because it’s even better when lit up, but it’s still impressive during the day. From anywhere you are in Paris it’s easy to find the Eiffel Tower in the skyline. After the Eiffel Tower, the bus passed by the Hôtel des Invalides, which holds the army museum. It is also where you can visit Napoleon’s tomb, which lies under a golden dome. This marked the end of the first bus ride, so we decided to get on the next one to see Montmartre, the district famous for the Moulin Rouge and Sacre-Cœur  Basilica. It’s also famous for being the artist’s district, once being the home of famous artists like Renoir, Picasso, Degas, and even Langston Hughes.

Montmartre is very different from the other parts of Paris that we had seen. Wide roads give way to winding alleys with outdoor markets; mainstream shops give way to seedy adult stores and burlesque theaters. Everything is bright and loud and bustling, and at the top of the massive hill that the neighborhood is named after sits the pristine white domes of the Sacre-Cœur. It was built with a certain type of white stone that is self-cleansing in the rain, so no one ever has to wash it. We were taken aback by the line to get in, but then my aunt remembered that it was Palm Sunday, and mass was starting in 20 minutes. The inside of the church was crowded and had that very distinct Catholic church atmosphere, the smell of incense and the hanging feeling of guilt. It was beautiful; there were intricately designed chapels along both sides of the room and  beautiful statues throughout.

After we left the basilica, we decided to look around Montmartre and find some lunch. Just behind the church is a thriving neighborhood of narrow, cobblestone streets and portrait artists and caricature artists peddling their goods to tourists eating at sidewalk cafes, and that is where we found ourselves having our lunch. Each of us had a croque monsieur, or a ham and cheese sandwich. We both just took in the sights and sounds around us, deciding on what to do next, which you will hear all about tomorrow!

Until next time,


Spring Break Day 1: March 24, Paris

Hello, everyone!

Welcome to day 1 of my 8 days of posting! If you didn’t read my post from earlier, I’ll be posting daily about my Spring Break trips to Paris, Dublin, and London!

So my first day of spring break started with getting up early- 4:30 in the morning- and getting on a 5 a.m. bus to Dublin Airport for my flight to Paris, where I was meeting my aunt. Even though it was so early, I was as excited as I’d ever been. Once I got to my gate, my excitement faded when I saw not one, not two, but over twenty frustrated small children also waiting for my flight to Paris. Nevertheless, I tried to stay positive. I ended up falling asleep on the plane for a little while, which eased my grumpiness towards the screaming kids.

Finally, after what felt like 5 hours but was actually under 2, we landed at Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris. It took forever to get through passport control and get my luggage- they checked my carry-on due to the fact that it was a full flight- but I eventually managed to reach the end. I was meeting my aunt at the Starbucks on the second floor, but  I couldn’t find my way to it for the life of me! After asking an airport employee for navigation, I spotted my aunt. It was literally like out of a movie; both of us squealed and ran towards each other, hugging.

The two of us hopped in a cab and headed to our hotel, the Ibis Styles Lafayette Opera at cinq Rue de Trévise, s’il vous plait! In true European style, we were stuffed into a tiny room with twin beds and a tinier bathroom, but on the plus side we had a gorgeous view and a balcony!  One thing I noticed about Paris is that no matter where you are in the city, everything around you is gorgeous. The architecture is so uniquely Paris that it’s impossible to forget where you are.

It was only around 2 p.m. at this point, so after a change of clothes and some lunch we decided to walk to the Louvre Museum, which was a little over a mile from our hotel. To get there we walked through the Palais Royale and its gardens, which were beautiful and expertly manicured despite the lack of flowers, it being March. We arrived at the Louvre in only about 20 minutes, and we quickly made our way inside, where we were pleasantly surprised to find that as I am a student residing in the EU, it was free for me to go in. This is actually very common in the EU- students between 18 and 26 can get discounts to a ton of the major attractions and museums.

As amateurs, my aunt and I had no idea how big the Louvre is. It’s the largest art museum in the world and at the moment it holds over 35,000 pieces of artwork. To make a long story short, we walked a lot more than we expected to! Something that I had already known was that the Mona Lisa is seriously underwhelming. Like I mean ridiculously! It’s a fairly small portrait done in dark colors in a room surrounded by 20-plus-foot scenes done in vibrant colors and decadent frames. When it’s put into perspective, the Mona Lisa is one of the least impressive works in the Louvre. Personally, I don’t even think it’s the most impressive Da Vinci painting at the Louvre- that spot is reserved for La belle ferrionnère. Despite this relative disappointment, the artwork at the Lpuvre is breathtaking. There are wings for every type of art, from sculpture to jewelry, to paintings, to furniture! Eventually, the both of us were exhausted and made the collective decision to leave.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at an odd restaurant for dinner. It was an old train car shoved into a building and converted into a pizza restaurant, which was really too cramped of a space for much comfort, but the pizza was really good. Finally, after our long day of flying and walking, we decided to call it a night, with plans to get on a hop-on-hop-off tour the next morning to see all of the quintessential Parisian sights. Tomorrow night you all get to hear about the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Champs-Elysées, etc.


See you next time,



Hello, everyone!

It’s been a little while since I last posted and I’m sorry for that but I have something special planned for this week! For the next EIGHT days, I’ll be posting about each day of my spring break. Yes, that’s right, starting tonight I’ll be posting daily about the 8 amazing days of break I had! Please stay tuned for updates.

The first post, which will go up a little later, will be about my first day in Paris!

See you in a few hours,


One Day in Dublin: What To Do, What To Skip

Hello, everyone!

The weekend before last I got to spend two days in Dublin with my sister, Meghan, and my cousin, Cynthia. While we had planned on having two full days to see the city, complications with our hotel led to us really only having the second day. Even still, we had a really great time and managed to fit everything we had wanted to do into our day. So, here are two things you NEED to do, and one you can skip!

For the first of our must-sees in Dublin, we have Kilmainham Gaol– pronounced kill-main-um jail- located just a short cab ride from the city  center, in Dublin 8. It sits just across the street from the Irish Museum for Modern Art, which holds a beautiful lawn that we explored while we waited for our tour time. The Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1796 on what was called “Gallows Hill,” and is well known for holding a variety of political prisoners as well as your average criminals.

It’s perhaps best known for being the place of imprisonment and execution of the prisoners from the 1916 Easter Rising. One of those prisoners that I was interested in learning about was Countess Constance Markievicz, who was one of the military leaders of the rebellion, even as a woman in 1916. She, however, was not executed, and went on to live a fulfilling life and had a very successful political career. Another of those prisoners was Joseph Plunkett, who was allowed to marry his wife, Grace Plunkett (nee Gifford) just seven hours before his execution. She would later become a prisoner in 1923 when the government rounded up known rebel sympathizers, such as Grace and other 1916 Rising wives and widows, and put them in Kilmainham Gaol for three months during the Civil War.

Kilmainham Gaol’s history goes far beyond what I was able to tell here, and I HIGHLY suggest visiting for yourself! It’s only €4 for students to take the tour, and you really do learn so much!

Our second stop on that day was the Guinness Storehouse. I originally didn’t want to go, as I don’t really like beer and it seemed like a tourist trap, but my sister and cousin convinced me. I am certainly glad they did, because it was really fun! Think of it as a Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory-esque tour, but it’s beer instead of candy. It had some really cool features, like a waterfall and a mirrored wall of lights that acted as the bubbles in a pint. (By the way, there are apparently 30,000 bubbles in every pint of Guinness.) While not nearly as educational an experience as the Gaol, the Guinness Storehouse was definitely fun. I learned how to taste Guinness correctly and I got to buy a shirt that I can wear for  St. Patrick’s Day for the rest of my life! While it wasn’t my favorite part of the day, it was a close second.

Lastly we stop at our third attraction of the day: St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Personally, I say skip it. Actually, I did. I had gone in last month with friends and they charge you €6 to go in and walk around this church with a gift shop literally in the same space as the altar and everything. It felt very capitalist and cheap, and not in a remotely good way. They are literally selling scarves and whiskey chocolate and Ireland-themed cheeseboards in a famous historical church and I felt VERY weirded out by the whole thing, so when Meg and Cynthia wanted to go in, I decided to sit it out. I had a very enjoyable time on one of the benches in the beautiful park next to it, actually, and I remain comfortable with my decision not to waste €6.

While I didn’t love everything we did, I really had a great time in Dublin. I got to spend the day with two of my favorite people, and I got to go to a history museum so that was really all I needed from my trip. I ended that weekend very satisfied and looking forward to the next one… St. Patrick’s Day Weekend in Galway: coming soon to your internet!

Until next time


Snow Days in Limerick!

Hello, everyone!
This week has been quite the week, let me tell  you! Ireland has been hit by the so-called “Beast from the East,” one of the worst storms since 1982. So far we got about 3-4 inches of snow, but that’s a ton for Ireland. The University of Limerick actually gave us two snow days for it! Yesterday consisted of a mad dash to the nearest supermarket for last minute groceries and a lot of hot chocolate and movies from bed. One downside to being in Ireland is that Amazon Instant Video and Hulu actually don’t work here! I can only watch Netflix, which has different movies and shows than the US version of it, as well.

When I awoke this morning, I was welcomed by a fresh coat of snow on the ground and the sounds of a snowball fight outside my window. The International Society here at UL is actually hosting a huge snowball fight on the main campus at 5 today! UL Accommodation also held a snowman building contest this afternoon through Instagram. It seems funny to all of the American students from the Northeast, as the Irish students are very panicked and awed by the whole situation, whereas it’s a fairly regular occurrence back home.

All of the notifications from the university have called this a “once in a lifetime” experience, as Ireland doesn’t normally get snow. Even though Ireland is further North than Massachusetts, the Gulf Stream comes up and blows through the West of Ireland, which brings temperatures up. Therefore, Ireland gets rain almost every day, but anything more than an inch of snow is unprecedented. There are only about 5 plows in Limerick County! One of my classmates said that she saw a plow and it was a truck with a bucket attached to the front, rather than a formal plow like we’d see back home. The whole experience of having a snow day here is really funny to me, because for once the American students feel more comfortable and like they know how to act and get through it, while the Irish students are confused.

All in all, these past two days have been a great opportunity for some down time and some fun that I haven’t had time for! I can’t wait to see what else the next two and a half months bring me!

Until next time,


4 Things You Need To Know About Lisbon

Hello, everyone!

Last weekend I had the incredible opportunity to visit Lisbon, Portugal for three days with my dad. Before going, I knew next to nothing about Portugal aside from the fact that their food specialty is sardines. I am happy to say that I learned so much from this trip that I didn’t expect, so here are 4 things you may not have known about it!

The Portuguese language is actually closer to French than Spanish!

It is! I was very surprised to hear this from our tour guide, Leonora from Withlocals. I am a French minor at UML, so we were talking about foreign languages and she told me that it’s easier to learn Portuguese if you know French, and vice versa, as opposed to Spanish, because Portuguese and French have the same grammar and most of the same words.

There was a giant earthquake in 1755 that completely destroyed Lisbon, but the city and its culture have survived!

On November 1, 1755, a giant earthquake with a magnitude of 8.5-9.0 hit Lisbon, followed by fires and a tsunami. Just within the city, between 10,000 and 100,000 people died, whether by the earthquake or any of the subsequent disasters. It decimated Lisbon, but with time the city was rebuilt and the culture of Lisbon- Lisboa, in Portuguese- thrives today.

The food is the best part of Lisbon– especially the pastéis de nata!

I will never stop raving about the food in Lisbon! From the more traditional foods like pastéis de nata, a custard tart, to amazing steak and ham, everything was amazing. For breakfast I highly suggest Bastardo, the restaurant in the hotel we stayed at (which is also phenomenal). The breakfast buffet here had so many options that ranged from cereal to eggs and sausage to cake! The environment is lovely, too- all of the chairs are mismatched and it has a very homey feel to it. If you want to have the best pastéis de nata in Lisbon you have to go to Pastelaria Santo António. Leanora brought us there during our tour and my life will never be the same! For just €1 apiece you can have the best dessert in the world!


The city is full of hidden gems– even though the architecture may not be anything special on the outside, Lisbon’s buildings are full of beauty!

We learned during our tour of the city that though Lisbon isn’t full of breathtaking architecture and art like Italy or France, it holds its own humble beauty. When Portugal was still a kingdom, the Jesuits, a Christian order, came to Lisbon and started building churches. They didn’t like having extravagant exteriors, but once you go inside these buildings it’s unbelievable. They are filled with intricate chapels laced with gold and marble, and these are only the less extravagant ones. Most of the churches that held riches and beautiful statues and art inside were destroyed with the earthquake, so it is crazy to see these beautiful places and think that there were even better ones before.

The Portuguese people take immense pride in their country, as they should. They are kind, humble, and welcoming to visitors, so it is certainly a place I will return  to in the future.

Until next time,