“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

Tuesday, December 14, 2010



Well, I am back from my last API Excursion. Natalie and I took a trip to Sevilla on Saturday with Carmen to explore the city a little bit. Once again, we ended up having a bit of bad luck!

Our plan on Saturday was to eat lunch and then tour the Catedral – which is not only one of the largest in Europe, but one of the most impressive. As it turned out, the Catedral had special hours posted for the Christmas holiday and unfortunately, we wouldn’t be able to visit on Saturday. So, we decided to walk around the city and shop. I have never in my life seen any place filled with that many people. Granted, it was a Saturday, it is the holidays, and all of the shops were having sales. I still was not expecting to see such a crowd. I think that literally every person who lives in Sevilla was out that day. In addition, I also saw a very large number of twins, more specifically, twin boys. Everyone was dressed to the nines and really enjoying their afternoon out. 
One of the many Nativity scenes that can be found throughout the city. This was one was located inside a hallway of the Catedral

Horsedrawn carriages everywhere.

Outside the Catedral.
After shopping, we went back to the hotel to do homework. Around 8:30 we met up with Carmen to walk to the theater where her brother Juan was waiting to join us. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to see one of the best comedic-theatrical performances there is in Spain put on by a group known as Tricicle. The theme of the show was laughter and it was fantastic because there was almost no dialogue during the performance. It didn’t matter. We literally did not stop laughing the entire time. It’s amazing how universal laughter is – we didn’t need to understand any language in particular in order to me amused. After the show, the 3 performers were waiting by the exits to greet the audience. We got lucky and were able to take a photo with one of them. Check it out!

Starbucks in Sevilla! Just for you MB!

The next morning, we went to tour the alcazar, another impressive site there in Sevilla. Although, I must say, there are alzacars everywhere in southern Spain, and there comes a point in time, where they all start to look the same. This particular one served a different function. It was used as a place for royalty and religious figures to stay and hold meetings. Although it appeared to have Arabic influence, all of the writing pertained to the Catholic religion. 
Outside the Alcazar

Notice the beautiful, detailed work on the walls and ceiling

The highlight was the Peacock! Actually...several of them...about a dozen that walk the gardens freely

We got lucky and one of the males opened his feathers.

After, we decided to try the Catedral once again. No luck. Carmen went and spoke to one of the workers about the schedule. I had to keep reminding myself that we were in Spain – and schedules here (if you can even find one) are basically worthless. The woman said that we could enter at 4:30 and that at 5:30 there was a special mass and dance that we could attend. So…we decided to take the later train and hang around for a bit. Carmen took us to this great tapas bar to kill some time. On the walk back to the hotel, we overheard a chorus in the street. I was so excited! Here in Spain, they have their own version Christmas carols. Not exactly Jingle Bells and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. It was still pretty cool to hear in person and I bought a copy of their CD to take the music back to the States with me. 
Singing in the streets!
We reunited again at 4:30 but guess what…? We couldn’t get into the Catedral! What a surprise!!! But we would still be able to get into the mass/dance, so we really couldn’t complain. I guess I should probably tell you a bit about this “dance.” Evidently, in the 16th century, the religious figurehead at the time permitted a group of boys to perform a short dance on the actual altar of the Catedral during a mass. This was something incredible and very rare. Well, the only way that the tradition could be carried on was for the boys to wear literally the EXACT same outfits each year. Surprisingly, these costumes have endured centuries of use (only to be repaired a few times) and the tradition lives on. Now, when I first heard about the “dance” I was excited. I was expecting an actual, well, dance of some kind. It turned out to be something entirely different. The event began with an abbreviated version of a Catholic mass. After the homily, a small orchestra and a children’s choir walked down the aisle and situated themselves on the altar. Next thing I know, 2 rows of little boys in costumes come down the aisle and form 2 lines in front of the altar. The music starts playing; the choir starts singing, and the little boys start “dancing.” In reality, they were just doing calf-raises and turning around in circles. There were 4 songs that lasted a total of about 10 minutes and that was it. Then the boys left and the priest continued with mass where he had left off. Needless to say, I was a bit disappointed in the performance and the weekend in general. I thought we would have been able to have better use of our time. I still had the opportunity to see some things that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen, so I guess it was worth it.

Those boys looked so miserable the entire time!

I can’t believe I’ve got 9 days left – into single digits now! I just have to make it through the last of my school work and then its smooth sailing! I can’t wait for Christmas!!!!!!!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

I found my roots!

 Hello everyone,

I have just returned from a fabulous trip to Ireland and I have so much to share!

Our trip started out with some bad luck. Our flight from Malaga to Dublin was delayed and rerouted to Belfast. From there, we had to take a 2 hour bus ride into the city and then find our way to our hostel. For those of you that hadn’t heard…the entire country of Ireland got hit by a horrible snow storm last week. While it is typical for some parts of the country to get snow during the winter, it was almost unheard of for the entire country to get hit that hard, that early into the season. So, on the bright side, I guess we can say we were part of history!
A snowman! This was taken outside of Dublin Castle

 Last Friday (the 3rd) was our first full day in Dublin. The city sponsors free walking tours so we decided to take advantage of the offer. It turned out to be a great way to learn about Dublin. Our guide, Dave, was born and raised there and it was great to hear his perspective on the city and the overall economic situation in Ireland. He knew a lot about the history of the country, which was also great. Over a period of about 2 hours we saw all the best parts of the city (or at least tried to): Dublin Castle, Dub linh Park, Temple Bar District, the Bank of Ireland, Trinity College, and St. Stephen’s Green. 
Dublin Castle

Dub linh Park (there is a helipad under the snow)

The Temple Bar

Dave also shared an interesting fact with us: about 15 years ago, when they were excavating to build the City Council building, a Viking community was discovered. At that time, the city was faced with a huge dilemma: excavate the historical site and relocate the City Council building or build anyway. The final decision was to build anyway and only a tiny portion of what was found was actually excavated and put into a museum. I personally believe it is disgusting that the city built over such an important part of history, which is now lost forever. 

Anyway, the highlight of the tour, and one of the highlights of the trip, came as I was standing outside of The Temple Bar. I had bumped into a few people who were walking opposite me on the sidewalk. As soon as that happened, our tour guide shouts to the group “Hey everyone, see that lady that just walked past? Yeah, well, you just walked by the President of Ireland.” I couldn’t believe it. I had literally walked into President Mary Macalese. Very cool. 
I was so shaken - I fumbled for my camera and this is the best pic of her I could get..she's walking off in the distance on the left hand side of this picture.

 Later that day we toured the Guinness Storehouse. I didn’t really have any expectations, but it turned out to be more of a museum. The best part was obviously the free pint of Guinness, up in the Gravity Bar, which had a 360° view of Dublin. 
Enjoying our pints of Guinness!

The view from the Gravity Bar

The next day, Saturday (the 4th), we spent the morning touring the city on our own. There were a few sites that were closed the previous day due to the snow, so we made another attempt. We were able to get into Christchurch, St. Stephen’s Green, and St.Patrick’s Cathedral successfully. 
Natalie with the birds in St. Stephen's Green

Teri built a snowman!

St. Patrick's Cathedral
Then it was time to board the bus to County Cork! About 4 hours later we arrived in Fermoy, a small town in the middle of the countryside about 30 km outside of Cork City. We had found a great Couchsurfing host that was willing to spend time with us and give us a place to stay for a few days. At the bus stop, we were greeted by Jim (JC for short) – the head of the Crilly family. Our host, Sarah, was stuck in the city at work and the roads were so horrible, she couldn’t make it home. Fortunately, her parents were kind enough to fill in for her that night. Jim drove us home in his little bright yellow Volkswagen Beetle and within minutes we arrived at this stunning home in the middle of the country. There, we were greeted by his wife and their 2 dogs: 1 short-legged Jack Russell named Chloe (she is 2 years old) and 1 long-legged Jack Russell named Max (he is 19 years old!). 
Me and my new friend Chole

The beautiful Crilly Family Home

We immediately felt right at home and I couldn’t have been happier to be around dogs! Finally! We weren’t expecting home cooked meals, but the Crillys insisted on cooking for us. That night we had a great meal and great conversation. Jim, a veterinary epidemiologist, and his wife have lived all over the world: Mongolia, Yemen, Iran. They had some amazing stories. Jim had asked what we were doing in Cork and I explained to him that my great-grandmother’s family was originally from that area. In fact, based on my research, she had grown up in a town called Riesk that wasn’t more than 20 minutes away. Little did I know at the time, Jim is a big fan of genealogy searches and really wanted to help me find the family home. He left the table for a bit and came back with a couple of phone numbers. Evidently, not many people live in Riesk so he thought it would be best to get in touch with some farmers when we got there, since they are guaranteed to always be home, working on their land. I couldn’t believe he was so willing to help, and I was very excited about going on an adventure the next day!

On Sunday (the 5th) we woke up to frost covered countryside. The temperature had dropped over night and everything was frozen. Jim wanted to take us on a walk to show us the country side, so we grabbed Chole and headed out! 

Beautiful view of the countryside
By the time we got home, there was a traditional Irish breakfast on the table waiting for us. Once again, we had not anticipated food, and could not have been more excited to eat a proper breakfast (which included homemade scones and jam). At this point, Jim had advised against us traveling anywhere. Our plans to find Riesk that afternoon and our plans to travel to Dingle the next day were put on hold. We spent the day inside by the fire.

At around 1 I was getting antsy. I went outside to sit with the dogs for a bit and that was when I asked Jim about a possible journey to find Riesk. After consulting a few maps, we eventually came up with a route that would be best. Next thing I know, we are getting into his car and hitting the road. We go as far as we can with the help of the map before we ask for help. The main problem is that Riesk is such a small town, it isn’t on most maps and there are no signs on the roads leading you where to go. The first man we spoke to told us we had gone too far and needed to go back the other direction. So, that is what we did. We drove another quarter of a mile before Jim pulled over to speak to a man who was outside in his driveway. Jim leans out the window and says to the man, “Excuse me, can you help us? We are looking for Riesk. I’ve got an American in here looking for her ancestors.” To which the man replies, “Well, you’re in Riesk. Who are you looking for?” I shout out the last name, Geary, the maiden name of my great-grandmother. The guy says, “I’m a Geary,” and he proceeds to wave his wife over to the car. 
The newly remodeled Geary family home

The original part of the house
The next 20 minutes went by so fast, I had no idea what was happening.  As it turns out, the man in the driveway and his wife, are Stephen and Katherine Geary. Stephen’s great-great grandfather (Timothy) would be my Gee-Gee’s great-uncle (the brother of her grandfather John). 
Timothy and his wife Catherine - and their son

Not only that, but his aunt is a woman named Annie Reardon, a cousin of my Gee-Gee, who had showed my family around Ireland when they had visited over 20 years ago. The next thing I know, Stephen and Katherine are showing me around their home, which is the Geary family home, but has since been renovated. They are showing me pictures and offering me tea, and telling me story after story. It was a complete and total whirlwind. I still couldn’t believe what was happening. We exchanged contact information, posed for a few pictures, and then Stephen showed us around. We stopped at Annie Reardon’s former house so that I could take a few pictures. 

The outside of Annie Riorden's house
We then went to the schoolhouse which was built in 1901, meaning my great-grandmother would have attended school there. Our final stop was to the Templeboden Cemetery. After a bit of searching, we eventually found the Geary family plot. 

The schoolhouse built in 1901

The Geary Family plot

The unidentified headstone also on the plot
It was quite the day! We followed it up with another great meal and then X-Factor! Later that night Sarah came home and we stayed up for a couple of hours talking to her. She is such a great girl and we had an absolutely wonderful time with her. 

The next morning Sarah took us on a long walk and then took us into Cork City to meet up with her boyfriend and some of their friends. They showed us the university (which we all fell in love with) and then took us into the downtown area to walk around and see the shops. It was lovely. I was so happy to be in a place with Christmas decorations. It really put me in the mood to go home for the holidays. 

After dinner we taught the family how to make s’mores using their fireplace. Then Sarah straightened Teri’s hair…a shocking experience…and showed us some of her pictures from Africa, where she had volunteered for about 6 months. She had an incredible time over there and I have never seen more beautiful pictures!
The next morning, we made our way back to Dublin. I was a bit disappointed that we hadn’t made it to Dingle or Galway as we had planned, but how could I complain…we had just spent close to 4 days with an incredible family in Cork. I can’t say enough about the generosity and hospitality of the Crilly family. I’m not sure how our trip would have been if we hadn’t been fortunate enough to stay with them. 

So our last few days, Tuesday and Wednesday (the 7th and 8th) were spent in Dublin. We went back to the same hostel we had originally stayed at since we had such a great experience there. We met some awesome people as we were cooking dinner and decided to all go out together on Tuesday night. We went out to The Porterhouse Brewery to try some locally-made beers and had a great night.
On our last day, we FINALLY made it into Trinity College, and then spent the rest of the day just walking around and exploring the city.
Porterhouse Brewery

Reflecting on the trip, it still seems surreal to me. I have to keep looking over my pictures to convince myself that it actually happened! While I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to do as much traveling as I had hoped, it is just an excuse to go back!

Unfortunately, I am back in Spain now! I’ve got a couple of exams, a presentation, and a paper to work on before I can head home. I still can’t believe that I have less than 2 weeks in Cadiz; it feels like just yesterday that I got here! 

We have an API trip to Sevilla this weekend, so look out for another blog post (a shorter one, I promise) sometime next week.

Can’t wait to see everyone when I get back! Less than 2 weeks!!!!!