Monday, February 24, 2014

Not a Fan of Starfish and Turkish Delight

It's been a while! It's already February 24th and that means that I've been living in Ireland seven weeks from tomorrow. Wow. Half the time it feels like the days are dragging (seven weeks isn't that many, right?) and half the time it freaks me out there we hit the midway point in our academic semester. Last week. Yeah, you read that right. Classes here only go until the first week of April. 
We've been keeping busy with every day life in Galway. Our newest mission is to try as many little cafes and restaurants in Galway as possible. So I'm trying really hard not to drift to my favorite haunts (even though I spent two hours on Sunday reading at my absolute favorite lunch spot). Sarah and I tried out a French Creperie on the way to school one morning and it was delicious! We also splurged and bought ourselves a nice dinner at an Italian restaurant. I had this fancy pizza with feta cheese and sun dried tomatoes and it was the closest thing to American pizza I've found so far! I may be half Irish but the Italian part of me is so not impressed with the food here.


Of course we were starting to feel the effects of all this eating so we searched out a local gym and signed right up! Sounds pretty average but it's grown to become one of my favorite parts of living here. I'm used to running five days a week so giving that up for five weeks was difficult! But now I'm back on track and enjoying the nice hot showers the gym has.



On top of that, I finished up a novel I've been working on during our nights in. And during class. And early in the morning when I can't sleep. So all my writing creativity has been geared toward that and this blog has been neglected. The first draft is all done though, so there should be much more time for blogposts in the future!

On Friday, Sarah and I ventured to the Salthill Aquarium, which was about a mile and a half from our apartment. It was my first time in Salthill and it definitely isn't the city! It's catered to beach tourists, especially during the summer months. It's filled with condos and B&Bs and rich people. God granted us a miracle and though it was windy on our walk over, the sun was out and the sky was blue. The Aquarium is supposedly one of the largest in Ireland. I'm not an expert on Aquariums but as far as I could tell it deserved the title because there were a shit ton of fish. Like, it got to the point where I was excited to see the Kelp Forest because it wasn't fish. And they weren't cool fish either, but brown and gray fish with the creepy eyes. There's no need to look at me like that, buddy.
Still, it was neat to do something different and they had other gross things like eels and lobsters so the day wasn't a total loss. Not to mention the billion starfish. We headed over to the starfish pools with all the little kids to listen to some young, hot marine biologist tell us how messed up starfish are. You think I'm kidding but these things are no joke. You can hack them into little pieces and they will just multiply. Remind you of anything? Hydra, guys. Hydra. And we all know how badly that could have turned out if Hercules wasn't around.
Starfish = evil.
On our way home, we walked along the beach just in time to be pelted by the lovely Irish rain I've come to hate more than having slow wifi. Still, all the seashells were pretty and it was great to be out in a wide space instead of cooped up on the streets of the city. By the time we got back we were wet and cold so we stopped into a cafe called Sweetie Pies that we've been wanting to try. They're known for their decadent cupcakes and yep, they were good! 

Touching the butt!
Kiss anyone?
Bloodthirsty little things.



On Saturday, Sarah and I decided to take a trip out of Galway and headed for Athlone, which is situated in the middle of Ireland. We're taking a class on the Development of Castles and during last week's lecture, we talked about Athlone Castle so we thought: why not take a trip there? There's something to be said for living in a country where you can wake up on Saturday and decide to go visit a centuries old castle. 
Athlone is located right on the River Shannon (we have the River Corrib here in Galway) and had that small town feel. That and a lot of shoes sales. Every time we rounded a corner, there was a shoe store begging for us to come in and spend money. Good thing we have iron will power. We marched right past those sales taking with us only crumbling hearts and full wallets. 
Our destination was Athlone Castle which was about a fifteen minute walk from the bus station. The castle was impressive; you don't quite understand how big these things are until you're standing at the base and realize your neck is craned all the way back just to see the turrets. There has been little renovation done to the outside but the inside was made into a state of the art museum. We wandered around the museum for about an hour, reading all about the history of the castle and the town (uh, there was a war, and uh, people died). They had fun things to do too, like playing the Irish version of the Oregon Trail. I only killed two hundred of my men (the trick is to make sure they have plenty of beer) and stormed the castle without the enemy taking over. Go me. I was a little more impressed with the actual sword I got to hold. Man, I have got to get myself one of those. I felt powerful just looking at it.
We had this one little hiccup to an otherwise pleasant experience. There was this older lady who shadowed us the whole time, repeatedly warning us not to touch anything and not to take too many pictures.
Whaaaat?
"Girls, a few pictures should be enough."
"Just make sure you don't touch anything."
"What did I say about the pictures?"
Did she think I was going to sell them on ebay? All I wanted was proof that I held a sword. 
If I thought I needed a babysitter at twenty-one, I would have brought my own. Along with a flask because man, she was annoying. We managed to ditch her after she corralled us into a theater to watch some movie about another war. ("Just go in here, girls. I'll shut the door for you, okay bye."). 
After the castle, we had a couple hours to kill so we headed back into town to look for food, stopping first at a old-fashioned sweets shop. We don't have many of these in the States but they are everywhere in Ireland. You just go on and there are a million kinds of candy behind the counter and you pick and choose what you want. I wasn't going to get anything until I spotted Turkey Delight (from Narnia, duh) and we sweet-talked the lady into pretty much giving us two pieces because we're American's and don't know what it is and would really like some. Want to know what I found out?
Turkish Delight is disgusting.
If I didn't like Edmund before, I certainly don't now.

With my sword. 




For lunch, we followed a sign that read Beans & Leaves and pointed down little alley. And that, ladies and gentleman, is where I found Heaven.
Beans & Leaves boasts healthy organic food from simple ingredients and my god, it was wonderful. For lunch, I had fish and chips (french fries) with a cup of tea. The fish was golden and flaky and melted in my mouth and the french fries were honest to goodness french fries not the weird kind they serve here. So yeah, lunch was good. But dessert…it was on a whole different level.
All lunch I was seated facing this colorful, attractive dessert blackboard that was just watching me. So I did what any other good, salivating customer would do and ordered myself some dessert. Because I'm trying new things, I opted for the Apple and Almond Tart.
Guys, I can't even explain it to you.
It was like a wonderful cloud pastry that didn't even taste real. Let me put it this way: it was so good, I would pay thirteen euro for a bus ticket just so I could get it again. There are baked apples on top and some kind of apple crumble filling with toasted almonds and powdered sugar over top. I'm still thinking about it two days later. 
After that, we walked past the shoe sales with our eyes tilted toward the skies so as not to be tempted and hung out at the bus station until our ride home arrived. 
So that's what I've been up to. Going to class, eating food, and going to the gym. Oh yeah and visiting ancient ruins and learning about man-eating starfish (okay there are no man-eating starfish…that we know of). I'll try to update sooner next time!
Apple and Almond Tart with a spoon of whipped cream.