Friday, June 17, 2011


Alright, just kidding. I didn't go to Africa. But almost!

After experiencing the giant pain that is Ryanair and suffering through a four hour flight with the world's least classy, drunkest, most obnoxious "Hen Party" (Irish bachelorette party) complete with pink cowgirl hats and booty shorts, I arrived in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the capital city of the Canary Islands. The Canaries are an autonomous community belonging to Spain located about 62 miles off the coast of Africa. Pretty cool.

After the cold and rainy weather of Ireland, the sun and sand of Gran Canaria was very much welcomed. As with everything I experienced in Europe, I felt a little like I was dreaming as I stood on that beautiful tropical island. And wearing flip flops for the first time in months was pretty freeing.

Kristi, Carli, Dan, Taylor and I hopped a bus to our hostel in downtown Las Palmas. The drive along the coast was absolutely breathtaking, but when we arrived, we were a little confused. There didn't seem to be a lot going on, and our hostel was in a bit of a sketchy area. After Carli haggled/harassed the proprietors about the rate we had agreed to for the week, we finally settled in. Somehow the day had passed, and the evening too, so by the time we went to get dinner, it was close to 10 p.m.

And nothing was open. Not even those generic Chinese restaurants you can find anywhere in the world. We walked and walked the deserted streets of the capital city, not really sure where the island's 900,000 residents were. Finally we stumbled upon this fancy Japanese/Thai/Fusion/Confusion restaurant where our very helpful and attractive waiter let us know that the party happens on the southern part of the island, about an hour away from where we were staying.

CRISIS. It was spring break. We had come to "make party" (as Europeans always translate), and our only opportunity was an hour away from our hostel. No. Wrong. We left the restaurant full but frustrated. That night, we tried looking for available hotels in the south, specifically in Playa del Inglés which we discovered was the beach resort town we had been planning for. The guys, who had been responsible for booking our Canary trip, refused to take any responsibility. There was a lot of hostility. A lot of general crankiness.

The next day (Wednesday) we paid some more euros to take another bus to the south, where we walked around all day in the heat with our suitcases attempting to find a place to stay. We quickly learned that it was some kind of European tourism week, a festival or something, so everything was booked except this really expensive resort-type deal. OF COURSE. After lots of sass and general disagreement, we eventually agreed to stay at the resort for two nights (while still paying for the other hostel). The guys, low-maintenance as they were, needed their own room. So instead of paying for one room (where the five of us would have easily fit), we paid for two. Whatever. I still have lots of not good feelings about that whole situation.

But it hit me that I was still in THE CANARY ISLANDS, so I should probably have a blast. So I did.

We discovered the most delicious salad on the face of the earth, the Canary Salad. Which we proceeded to eat like four more times over the course of the week. In that time we did a lot of flirting with the waiters, these old Spanish guys who really couldn't get enough of us.

Lettuce, tuna, tomatoes, avocados, eggs, cucumbers, carrots, pineapple. Perfection.

Every day pretty much went like this: Wake up, hit the beach (where we were, with the exception of these two Irish lads, by far the palest people on the island), Canary Salad and gin & tonics (Bloody Marys for Kristi), more gin & tonics, beach, fruit parfaits and stealing Wi-Fi at McDonald's, gin & tonics. Usually in that order but not always.

The water was pretty chilly..

View from our balcony!


Oh hey Audrey! 

It was perfect. Our resort pools were perfect. Our resort bar was perfect. The only downside was that Spain is very receptive to topless older women. I'm trying to think of specific antics to write about, but most of them are very odd and very much inside jokes (Hello Kitty stickers, trolls, mixing drinks in the pool bathroom, etc.)

On Friday night, we (reluctantly) returned to our hostel in Las Palmas after days in the Panama City (Florida) of Europe. Saturday, we walked around the city, did a bit of shopping, and nommed some more McDonald's. We had to be up so early on Sunday to return to Genève that sleeping was really out of the question. Instead we hung out on our hostel roof, looking at the stars and shooting the breeze until our taxis arrived at some heinous hour to take us, and all the junk we had acquired, to the airport.

Las Palmas!

Adios, Gran Canaria!
After Irish adventures, beaches, and lots of bickering, I must admit I was pretty happy to get back to our Geneva home, French, and the Rhône.

I'm not really sure how I've gotten through this post without crying. Probably because I haven't yet added pictures. I have been feeling so, so nostalgic lately, especially this afternoon, watching ANTM in beautiful Roma.

I can't believe I was ever ready, excited even, to come home. Which means it's about time to figure out how I can get back to Europe as soon as humanly possible.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Long Overdue: IRELAND

My oh my, this post is way way way overdue. But I have been pretty busy re-enjoying everything that America is all about (i.e. burgers, driving, things that cost a dollar)..


When in Europe, the only logical thing to do is to go to Ireland for St. Patrick's Day. So that's exactly what we did.

Early Thursday morning, we boarded an AerLingus (what a name) flight to Dublin and arrived in the country of green. In a word?


Imagine the biggest party you can think of and then multiply that times 100. I have never seen so much green, so many Irish flags, so many drunk people in one place in my entire life. Once we arrived in the city center, we found our hotel and immediately went to the parade. Absolutely ridiculous. Irish people are sooooo freaking happy.

So naturally, we found the nearest pub and ordered a round of Guinness.

The rest of the day was a blur of green, beer, and Irish music. We spent the majority of the day in the Temple Bar District, possibly the biggest block of celebration in the world. It was the world's most perfect St. Patrick's Day. We (somehow) all made it back to the hotel unharmed, all rolling in from our respective adventures.

The next day we recovered, walked around Dublin, went to the Guinness factory, shopped, etc. Overall, Dublin was a great place to visit. It was a nice break from all the French for sure.

Early Saturday morning, we took a lovely cab ride back to the airport where we had to pick up our rental car. WHAT A PAIN. Unbeknownst to us, you have to be like 30 or something to rent a van in Ireland. So we learned that the seven of us, plus suitcases for a week+ of travel, would be stuck in a five-seater. SOMEHOW we wedged everyone (and everything) in and were on our way. After probably two hours of sleep (generous estimate), Terence managed to be pretty boss at driving stick and driving on the wrong side of the car and on the wrong side of the road.

For those who say half the fun is getting there, it's clear to me that they have never been to Ireland (where almost all the fun is getting there). What an incredibly beautiful drive. Absolutely breathtaking. I don't know how to appropriately put it into words, and pictures of course will never do it justice. So if you can make it to Ireland, go to the countryside. Especially if you love sheeeeeeep. There are copious amounts of sheep in Ireland.

Eventually we made it to our destination: Galway, a city on the west coast of Ireland known for its vibrant cultural life. Roads of restaurants and pubs and sweater shops everywhere. I'm pretty sure all I did in Ireland was eat incredible food and drink lots of beer. It was absolutely perfect. I didn't even take very many pictures, which is pathetic, but I think it's okay because it means I was too busy soaking it all in. Now that I am writing this in June, I am thinking about how I should have just taken the time to do this back in March because of how fuzzy things already are. I remember everything, but I'm not so sure about the chronology. I know that I loved Galway, although it was super cold and rainy there in March.

On Monday, we squashed into the car again and began the adventure to Dingle, Ireland. Well. It's a lot more entertaining looking back on it now (from my comfortable bed in June in Ohio), but I truly could have done without the Dingle adventure to say the least.

On the way to Dingle, we detoured to the Cliffs of Moher. I'd love to go back there in the summer when it's not 40 degrees and raining, but it was stunning nonetheless. It was one of those times where I just had to take a minute and think about how lucky I was to be able to be seeing this.

The drive to Dingle was a gorgeous drive, but it got a little less gorgeous as it was closing in on darkness and we weren't there yet. (It's especially important to keep in mind that we had something like a 9 am flight to the Canary Islands out of Dublin the next morning). We finally arrived around 9 pm and commenced driving around looking for our hostel. After half an hour of no luck, Taylor went into one of the only open stores to ask where it was..

Two minutes later, he came back out laughing. "Well, apparently our hostel isn't even in this city," he said, and it took everything I had in me not to punch him in the face. We'd been in the car for probably eight hours, had nowhere to stay, had been spending ridiculous amounts of money, and had to leave at 4 am to get back to Dublin. NOT FUNNY. I was annoyed. Kristi was annoyed. Everyone else thought it was hilarious; I really envy their senses of humor.

Regardless, we found a B&B where we could stay for the night, had an expensive (but tasty) dinner at the only open restaurant, found the only open bar (full of Americans), and went to sleep around 2 am. Right. Young adult decision-making is absolutely terrible. Two hours later, we were on the road again, cranky as all get out. But all that matters is that we made it to the airport in time. Next stop, Canary Islands!