Monday, March 20, 2017

Don't Kiss Me, I'm Not Irish

>>> Hello Ireland <<< 

Cliffs of Moher

Hello memories and moments I'll cherish forever.

Hello neighborhood friends, old friends, and dearest friends.

Hello Irish coffee, green beer, parades, and feather boas. 

Hello Dublin. Hello Cliffs of Moher. Hello Cork. 

Day One: Dublin

the girls and me at Phoenix Park

I have to say, there's nothing that compares to the giddy feelings I experienced walking to Mochaland Cafe in Dublin, Ireland to greet three of my dearest friends. I caught them at the end of their lunch on Wednesday, and after an espresso we headed over to Phoenix Park where Rob joined us. 

Dublin was beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed the quick bits I saw while we toured through the day I arrived. If I would've rushed, I could've made a tour of the Guinness Factory and poured my own pint, but seeing as I don't even like Guinness, it didn't hurt me too much to miss out on that bit of Dublin tourism. 

I did, however, get a great dinner at a traditional pub, and we hit up Temple Bar in the evening. The streets around Temple Bar were so alive... it was such a fun vibe, and I completely understand why Dublin is a favorite of so many people I've spoken with. When we entered Temple Bar as I attempted to squeeze through a crowd, I was greeted with a fairly (*very*) unwelcome kiss from a fairly (*very*) intoxicated man, but weirder things have probably happened at Temple Bar.

We enjoyed the playful atmosphere of the bar, and we all got a particular laugh out of the song "Seven Drunken Nights". The live singers seemed to get a special kick out of that one as well. Rob made friends with a handful of people, as usual, so we can add a couple from New Jersey (I think it was NJ anyway?)  to the long list of strangers we've made memories with. With an early morning and lots of driving ahead of us, we called it an early night!
cannot miss these opportunities with my (one quarter) Mexican best friend
this gave us a solid laugh inside  Temple Bar

Guinness marketing campaigns through the years at Temple Bar

Day Two: Cliffs of Moher

Chels and me... You can just barely see the castle on the other side in the distance

After a couple hours delay waiting on our rental car, we headed out to the Cliffs of Moher around noon on Thursday. Once Rob announced that driving on the left side of the road wasn't too uncomfortable, we all relaxed and really enjoyed our roadtrip through Ireland. Here in Europe we rarely ride in cars (with the exception of my trips back and forth to soccer), so we were all pumped to just enjoy the ride. We took one lunch break at Obama Plaza before we passed Limerick, but we made good time getting to the Cliffs. 

When we were renting the car, the man in Dublin told us we were unlucky because we wouldn't see the cliffs on such a cloudy day. I'm excited to say that Irish man was hugely mistaken, and the weather was perfect for us to see the cliffs. 

Please just look at these amazing photos:

This was definitely one of the moments I stopped to think about how crazy it is that I have these opportunities this year. Even to witness such immense natural beauty was a dream, but to be there, in Ireland, with my best friends... I swear no one gets this life. I could for sure tear up just thinking of how much my parents, friends, and BGSU have given me in this year abroad.  Blessings on blessings.

After we left the cliffs and road just a short way along the coast around sunset, we stopped at O'Connors Pub for dinner. It was a great meal, and it was just what we needed before hopping back on the road to finish our day by driving to Cork, returning the car, and checking into the hostel.

The rest of the days: Cork

This was stop #1 on our St. Patrick's Day tour of Cork!

Wow. Time flies when you're having fun.

Friday was St. Patrick's Day, and while we slept in more than many are accustomed to in Bowling Green, we were still some of the first out and about to start our day. 
Oh, and we found Bowling Green Street

We didn't find any green eggs & beer, but we did find great Irish Breakfasts and Irish Coffees. The hostel we were staying at gave us shamrock temporary tattoos, and the pub where we found breakfast had green hats and ridiculous shamrock glasses laying out for us as well. I gladly snatched those, and we found some cheap green feather boas to complete our looks. 

The feather boas were a perfect throwback to sophomore year Halloween when my friends and I went out as a bachelorette party, and left pink feathers trails all throughout Bowling Green, Ohio. 

I guess you could say we haven't changed a bit (it was Hozier's birthday, not ours).

Cork, Ireland, you are welcome for the green feather trails.

Anyway, it was a crazy fun day. We met up with Logan, who was Kelsey's neighbor growing up, and he invited us to join his university friends for their parties that afternoon. The day went as you can imagine with a parade in the early afternoon, and bars into the night. I wouldn't trade the stories or the hilarious memories for the world.

Saturday we were up and at it, trying to make the most of our day, although bad hostel coffee and sitting down seemed like a good idea for the first bit. Eventually, despite some confusion with the directions of bus line 215, we made it out to Blarney Castle, and we kissed the Blarney Stone. 
Kels and me at the castle

The gardens around the castle were super pretty and we really enjoyed this trip out to the castle, but I have to say the stone was quite underwhelming. It's supposed to give people who kiss it the gift of eloquence, but I still feel no more eloquent than the girl who woke up Friday morning with the goal of consuming green beer more or less all day. 

Saturday evening we met back up with Logan and two of his awesome friends from the day before for dinner in Cork. The place we ate had a really cool vibe, and it reminded me of something we mind find in a college town in the U.S. This dinner was also less expensive than a lot of options we saw, and I really enjoyed my meal. Throughout these travels, I'm really missing U.S. prices, but at least Irish people speak English; it's a super nice bonus to travel places where you have the ability to ask for help when you need it.

Anyway, we considered hitting up another bar in the evening, but with 6am flights on the horizon, we called it an early night instead. 

At 4:30am on Sunday, our alarms rang, and by 5:00am, Mary, Kels, and I were on our way to the airport. Saying goodbye was sad because it meant our perfect St. Patrick's Day in Ireland Adventure was over, but it was not sad because of separation because we're meeting back up in Barcelona this weekend!

Is this really my life? Yeah. It really is.

Love, Julie

my eyes turned green for this picture

"Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home" -Tyler Knott Gregson

P.S. High quality photos from Kels coming soon!

Exchange life is crazy, and I'm just uploading this blog with what I have on my camera. Kels has amazing pictures on her camera (shoutout to VCT besties with photography specializations), so I'll add those to Facebook and maybeee even this blog at some point!

P.S.S. Life in Strasbourg

In case you're thinking "Wow, is Julie Kessler even taking courses this year?" I'll have you know I'm covering a lot of bases to make all of these travel plans work. 

Working around my soccer schedule has been just as challenging as working around school recently, since we have such an important match coming up April 2nd. I've also gotten pretty lucky with timing of exams and cancelled classes on a few occasions, but I've also been smart about getting work and studying done ahead of time... 

When I'm in Strasbourg, I definitely have a tough time balance catching up with responsibilities and enjoying my friends and our amazing city, but it's 100% worth it to squeeze in the adventures while I'm here on this side of the Atlantic. 

Family Reunions

>>> Hello Family Reunions <<<

Last weekend my best friends from Bowling Green and I reunited in Ireland. It was an amazing weekend, and I can’t wait to share about it… In my next blog.

// Working from behind, as always, I want to share about a different reunion. Maybe an even sweeter reunion because these people were so fundamental to my love for this city I’ve spent a year of my life in. I’m talking about reunion in Strasbourg when over the course of two weekends, my dear friends Tomas, Aaron, Ana, and Francisca all came back to visit! //

In the month of March, many of my closest friends from last semester were able to come back to our city. My heart was so full! Introducing these dear friends to friends we’ve made this semester, and visiting our favorite Strasbourg places together was so perfect.

Citadelle Park with the pals

We definitely enjoyed the old favorites—Jimmy’s and Au Brasseur—and we also explored some new places, like Citadelle Park and the Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art. We laughed as we enjoyed old favorite drinks, snacks, and even ravioli, our go-to easy meal. Our time together was as fleeting as ever, but we made the most of every minute.

Pushing weight limits in my double nest hammock with Natalia and Kika

For me, this reunion was so important because it was a needed reminder that all of our friendships will long outlast that one fall semester in Strasbourg. This goes for not just the friends who were able to come visit, but all of my “Strasbourg Family” from the fall. When I got to see Tomàs, Aaron, Ana, and Francisca, each reunion felt so natural. Occasionally we got caught up reminiscing, but really we just spent our time making more sweet moments together. Just having everyone here to fill up my apartment, even just to sit around and do nothing together, was so nice; La Marne 415 feels a lot more like home that way. Plus, as silly as it sounds, I’ve really missed my affectionate friends. Face kiss greetings and salutations had become so routine that I really grew to miss them, so it was refreshing to return to that super social lifestyle where I couldn't escape the affection.

Wow. Wasn’t that time together perfect?

Strasbourg's weather was so good to us

A huge “thank you” to my friends who escaped their real life internships or demanding academic calendars to come home to spend time with me. We can’t all be on exchange forever. I know you made sacrifices to see me, and I appreciate it so much. I'm positive this isn't the last time we'll make sacrifices to see each other, and I can't wait to see where we can get together next. Brazil and Colombia make strong arguments, but the U.S. has a ton to offer as well. 

Goodbyes were still hard, but they’ve gotten so much easier as I’ve seen how sweet our friendships can remain even from afar. 

Thanks to everyone who read this for keeping up with my year abroad! Just 42 more days until I head home, and a bunch of exams and adventuring to squeeze in before I do!

Love, Jules
“Wander with wonder and the whole world becomes home” –Tyler Knott Gregson
Also pumped because I'm going back to see Kika in Portugal before I go home

P.S. A separate shout-out goes to my friends who weren’t able to come back for these weekends of reunion.

      I know you all would’ve been here if you could’ve.

  • Clara, I love your love so much. Thank you for reaching out so often and so intentionally to keep “Euro Girls” close. Cheers to years of voice message week summaries, so we all stay updated on each others’ lives.
  • Floris, I hope you had an amazing birthday in Amsterdam this past weekend, and I hope you keep your head above water with your internship.
  • Joana, Portuguese Princesses were down one that weekend, and I was so aware of it every time I saw a dog on the street and didn’t have to restrain you. I miss you early.
  • Troy, I’ll see you when I see you in the states, and I’m glad I can count on endless snaps of your meals until then. It’s comforting to know I’ll come back to Ohio with a friend who knows how much Strasbourg means to me.

Monday, March 6, 2017

February Trip Recap

>>> Hello Nomad Life <<<

I am so lucky to have found best friends here who are as passionate about travel as I am, and I cannot thank them enough for taking on this most recent adventure with me. So thank you, girls. 

For the sake of my own efficiency, for my friends & other readers who clicked on my link but don’t have time for this,  and for the beautiful day in Strasbourg I’m missing out on to blog right now, I’m going to keep this blog post short. Like really short.

I spent ten days exploring Berlin, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Oslö, and I have a whole new heart for each of their cities for a multitude of reasons.

Berlin, GermanyMy days in Berlin included some pretty intense history lessons on a number of free tours, and Natalia’s Colombian friends made it a blast.

"Many small places do many small things that can alter the face of the world" - Afrikanisthe Weisheit
East Side Gallery, Berlin

A hole in the orgininal wall by the Topography of Terror museum

Natalia and I in the square with the Brandenburg Gate

A view of the city from the top of the Berlin Cathedral

Natalia, her amazing Colombian friends, and me at the Charlottenburg Palace
Nati and I found currywurst at the street market in Mauerpark
This coffee from Tres Cabezas in Berlin tasted like Saxby's coffee, and I felt so at home!

I loved the exhbition on Cornelia Schlieme's work at the Berlinische Galerie, Berlin's art and architecture museum

Inside the Bundestag building, Germany's parliament sits directly below this dome

Copenhagen, DenmarkCopenhagen was beautiful, and I particularly enjoyed learning about the community of “Freetown” Christiania although it definitely put me outside my comfort zone.

The Little Mermaid statue is definitely more underwhelming than Mona Lisa

Cintia, Natalia, and me in Little Amsterdam in Christianshavn, Copenhagen

Nyhavn, Copenhagen 

The girls and I laughed at this sign in Copenhagen because this is our experience in France for sure.
"Exceptional closures" are not nearly as uncommon as you would think.

Stockholm, SwedenMy two days in Stockholm were so nice; the river was frozen beautifully, and the way the city was laid over multiple islands, with Gamla Stan  or “old town” in the middle, was really neat. 

Town Hall is on the left, and this sunset reflected beautifully off of the fractured ice.

The wind is Stockholm definitely reminded me of Bowling Green, and made me feel at home.

The girls and I on our way to the Vasa Museum

The Vasa Museum hold the Vasa, the only 17th century ship in the world that is almost fully intact.
(extremely well-preserved because it sunk 1300 meters into its journey out of Stockholm) 
Stockholm was very cold and very beautiful.

One day we ate where the Nobel Prize for Literature winners have dinner,
and even though we were in Stockholm, the meal of the day was less expensive than many restaurants in Strasbourg!

Oslö, Norway Oslö will forever be a favorite city simply because I had so much fun with Cíntia and Natalia on our last day of the trip. Olsö snowed six inches throughout the day, and my South American friends were relentless in their snowball fights with each other. I felt like I was watching kids play, really.
At the Opera House in Oslö. My first impression was "Wow, this looks like the Wolfe Center at BGSU". A quick Google search revealed to me that the Wolfe Center was designed by the same Norwegian architecture firm that designed this Opera House! Crazy coincidence!

we had so much fun throwing snowballs and wandering throughout the fortress

Nati and I enjoyed the Nobel Peace Prize Museum, and the current exhibition on President Santos (her Colombian president). It was a very cool experience for both of us; for Nati because Colombia's conflicts are naturally so personal, and for me because I was able to view Santos's work for peace in Colombia with newfound appreciation because Natalia has been so open with us about Colombia's struggles.

One last thing! Please don’t take my brevity as a lack of appreciation for these cities! They were absolutely beautiful places, and they are all deserving of a super long blog post individually… I’m shorting them a lot.

I hope you've enjoyed the photos and the quick updates!

Love, Julie
A photo from a visit to the  olympic stadium in Berlin