Excursion to Dublin Highlights

<Originally posted by Ashlyn Keil, an English major at CSU currently studying abroad in Galway, Ireland.  Visit her blog page at https://ashlynabroadblog.wordpress.com&gt;20160207_153057(0)

I went to Dublin as part of the first CEA Study Abroad Program Excursion, and here are all the fun places we visited, along with as many pictures as I could take!

Guinness Brewery Tour

This was the first stop on the tour — and I mean literally. We got off the bus and it was straight to the huge Guinness signs.

And the tour was impressive.

There were 7 floors of information and exhibits — all the way from what the ingredients that are used and the whole process of making Guinness, its entire history (marketing, transports, the famous horse, etc), to a Guinness Academy where you can learn how to pour Guinness properly and receive a certificate.

Oh, and the best views of Dublin that you can get on Floor 7 – the Gravity Bar, which is a circular room lined with windows where ticket holders can get a free pint (or soda, but who would do that on the Guinness tour?) and check out the city from above.

The favorite part of the tour for me (not being a beer lover) was, of course, the cooking section, where I snagged two recipes for Guinness Chocolate Truffles and Guinness Chocolate Mousse.

All in all this was an impressive tour that increased my appreciation for how much care and thought and effort is put into making every barrel of Guinness, even if I won’t be the one consuming it.


National Leprechaun Museum

This was a fantastically entertaining visit that was right near the center of the city on our first day — how we could not go the National Leprechaun Museum?

Our tour guide was the best I’ve ever had in terms of knowledge, confidence, and all-around enthusiasm.

She yelled, danced, told creepy Changleing stories, and took us through multiple rooms in the museum that depicted different Leprechaun-themed places. If she hadn’t been so great it wouldn’t have been half as fun of a tour.

She taught us about how the stereotypical, international green-clad Leprechaun came out (apparently viewers of the “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” film didn’t remember that the king of the Leprechaun’s was dressed differently than the traditional ones that followed him, and Lucky Charms followed suit, and the image hasn’t changed since).



Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle (or the remaining part of it anyways) was pretty nice, especially in the morning sunlight — our Program Coordinator let us know a little of the history and told us that there are still government offices in use today in parts of it (and the new parts that were built attached to it).

According to the official Dublin Castle website, the remaining south-east Record Tower “functioned as a high security prison and held native Irish hostages and priests in Tudor times” (dublincastle.ie).

I was thinking how long it would have taken to build such a perfect circular turret by hand (the castle was completed by 1230).


Viking Splash Tour

This was also one of my favorite experiences this past weekend, even though it was quite chilly in wintertime, cloudy Dublin.

This was a new experience for me:  I’d never heard of or even seen a DUKW, which is basically a boat and 4×4 truck developed by General Motors for use by soliders in WWII. The one we rode in was quite old (I forget the date exactly at the moment) but it was in fantastic shape for how old it was.

Go check out their website for all the history on these fascinating contraptions:  http://vikingsplash.com/about-viking-splash/history-of-dukws/

I, sadly, don’t have any pictures for this particular event, since my hands were covered in two pairs of gloves and I didn’t really want to freeze my fingers off taking them off to take a picture with my phone. But that’s what Google Images is for, right?

Our tour guide was fantastic! Hilarious and very well-versed in every site he had taken us to see. He had obviously been doing the tours for some time.

And the best part of this was the Viking yell we had to do (with fists up and a nice, terrifying roar) to each of the “kinds of Celts” that we would encounter while on the road:

  • the Lost Celts (tourists looking at maps)
  • the Unsuspecting Celts (people walking along with their backs to us, not paying any attention)
  • the Cappuccino Celts (people sitting outside enjoying coffee/tea)
  • the Competition Celts (those on the the other tour buses going around Dublin)

Needless to say this was a fun time for us and for the laughing pedestrians that looked up to see us (a lot in cheesy, plastic Vikings caps) “roaring” at them. Best part:  we actually scared a young girl, who laughed and held her hand to her chest as she watched us go by.

National Museum 

This is where the “Perserved Bog Bodies” comes in:  our Program Leader decided that we couldn’t not go see the National Musuem’s exhibit on them.

It was pretty amazing:  actual preserved bodies that had all been murdered in some kind of nasty way (axes, decapitation, you name it) and thrown into bogs only to be found and now put on display.

Visit http://www.museum.ie/Archaeology/Exhibitions/Current-Exhibitions/Kingship-and-Sacrifice for mrore fascinating info!


Overall it was a great, busy weekend full of fun experiences, and I hope to return to focus on a couple specific places and spend even more time in Ireland’s capital.


Three places in France that will surprise you

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at amandaelizabethblahg.wordpress.com)

The very first time I visited France was July 2014. I traveled through a tour group with my family, and the tour took us to Paris, France. Paris has always been a top destination on my travel bucket list. Indeed it is a very typical travel destination however, the stereotypical image of Paris always appealed to me. I loved the idea of a city so full of romance, class and midnight magic. I loved the picturesque image of strolling across the Pont des Arts, marveling at the scenery and taking in the moment as the light reflections project off the thousands of metal locks that contain a promise of a lifetime. However, after spending a couple of days in the supposedly romantic magical city, Paris did not fulfill my expectations. Perhaps my expectations were 70% based off pure fantasy and movie-like assumptions, but deep down I knew that there had to be a lot more to France in general than what I experienced in Paris.

Fast forward to October 2015 when four great friends hop on a bus headed to the French Riviera. I have to admit, the French Riviera was not on my travel bucket list and I originally had no desire to travel there this time around, but nevertheless I decided to go on the trip because I traveled with three of my closest friends here abroad. Needless to say, the company was the deciding factor. Fast forward again to the end of the trip, on the grueling bus ride back to Rome. The French Riviera in all its greatness and glory, definitely took me by surprise. From the gorgeous Exotic Gardens in Eze, to the crystal chandeliers and the red carpets where some of the greatest high rollers once stood in the Monte Carlo casino, the south of France was a place of beauty, wealth and tropics.

Nice, France.

  1. The entire city of Nice, France.

The panoramic view of Nice, France was one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. Orange roof top houses litter the entire city, ranging from big to small in size, but all with the same iconic orange roof. The houses are along the coast which is lined with lush green palm trees right next to the turquoise blue waters. Our first day in Nice was spent snorkeling in those turquoise blue waters. Snorkeling was both exhilarating, frightening, yet calming all at once. After the initial shock of diving into the freezing cold waters wore off, I began to adjust to the water’s temperature and dove under, excited to see what lay beneath the water. Colorful fish swam under my flippers and around the beautiful coral reefs. At one point, we even spotted an octopus ,hidden between two corals, which began to change colors as it sensed us swimming nearby.

Exotic Gardens, Eze

2. Exotic Gardens in Eze.

After what seemed like 200 stair steps later, we finally arrived at the top of the Exotic Gardens. Unlike your typical garden most likely featuring bushes of colorful roses and tulips, cacti of all shapes and sizes covered the Exotic Gardens. Maybe it was the fact that these cacti were 50 shades of beautiful green, some spotted with small pink flowers, some towering and tall and some short and stubby, but the gardens were portrayed almost tropical-like, despite all the cacti. At the top of the gardens, we came across a picture perfect area where you could look out and feast your eyes on a full panoramic view of Eze. It was that view that made the 200 stair step climb worth it. It was that view that made one secretly smile and feel absolutely breathless.

Monte Carlo Casino, Monte Carlo

3. Monte Carlo Casino in Monte Carlo.

Welcome to Monte Carlo, home of the rich and famous. Home of the high rollers, big spenders and classy party goers. Home of the 18,000 Euro jackets in Chanel and the 800 Euro leather shoes in Gucci. Monte Carlo is a place that forces one to physically stop and take everything in. From the many flashy Lamborghinis zooming around the casino, to the thumping music coming from the exclusive rooftop clubs, to the brightly lit store signs to only the most expensive clothes and shoes imaginable, Monte Carlo is the definition of glamour and wealth. Stepping into the Monte Carlo Casino itself felt as if I just stepped into a movie scene from James Bond. Huge sparkling crystal chandeliers hung from the ceiling and the casino itself was full of slot machines, and Blackjack and Roulette tables in the back. Security guards patrolled every inch of the casino, including near the bar where one could purchase an 18 Euro glass of champagne.  Unfortunately, my luck at the casino ran out rather quickly, and I did not win the millions I needed to quit school and travel the world for life.

Castles, Markets, Churches and a Stone-cold Kiss

(Originally posted by Katie Virostek, a junior at CSU studying abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland.  You can access her blog here: https://travelingwithoutmymomanddog.wordpress.com/page/2/)

Saturday I took a day trip to Blarney Castle and Cork City, which is in the very southern part of Ireland. The day started very early at 8:15 am — I have quickly realized that when I return home and back to American people time I will have a very, VERY difficult time getting used to waking up early. My earliest classes here are at 10! After about a two hour bus ride, which I definitely napped during, we arrived at Blarney Castle. We started the day the only proper way- with much needed tea/coffee and scones at the tiny local hotel. Once the caffeine kicked in we made our way onto the castle grounds to explore a bit. Blarney Castle is the home of the Blarney Stone, which you can kiss once you walk to the top of the castle. Because our tour group consisted of 150 students, it took us about 45 minutes to actually walk the 100 stairs to the top and kiss the stone. To kiss the stone you lay down on your back, hold on to two iron bars with your hands while a worker holds on to your hips, lean your head all the way back, and MWAH! Kiss the stone. I actually really enjoyed doing this, even though it looks really scary. Those who kiss the stone are said to have bestowed upon them the gift of eloquence. I will leave that up to you to decide if it’s true or not.

Because we had to wait so long in time we didn’t have time to properly explore the rest of the grounds, which includes a lake, fern garden, and water garden. We did survive the Poison Garden, which contains a wide array of poisonous plants. One that I came across and found rather humorous was cannabis, which is illegal in Ireland. A totally unexpected find for me. Our leader joked that this is probably the only place you could find it growing and not get in trouble for it. I’m not going to touch on that subject any more though.

After Blarney we drove another half hour or so into Cork city, which has the River Lee running through it. Cork is a lot bigger than Limerick and the term “city” is more appropriately used to describe it than Limerick.  We got lunch at Cafe Mexicana, where I had some incredible enchiladas. We then visited the famous English Market, which is like the Milk Market but for Cork and a bit nicer. It contains some of the best foods from all over the world, including some ice cream that I got post lunch.

Once we finished up at the English Market Sally and I walked to St. Anne’s church, which houses the Shandon Bells and Tower. You actually are able to climb the tower and ring the bells yourself, but we got there too close to closing time to be able to do that. The tower itself though is pretty iconic, and we enjoyed the walk over.

I’m excited for fall to start here! I’ve seen some amazing pictures of fall in Ireland, and I cannot wait to experience it firsthand.

Stranded in a Strange Surrounding Week One

(Originally posted by Cory Odom, a CSU student studying abroad in Spain.  Visit the blog page at https://strandedinastrangesurrounding.wordpress.com)

My name is Cory Odom, and I have just arrived at strange land that the locals call…. Espannyeah?


It would seem I am not alone on this voyage through this country. I met a woman who people tell me is my mother here, as I go in for a hug (A common greeting where I am from) I am met with two kisses to each of my cheeks. Yes, you heard me correctly. Without being bought dinner, this stranger kissed me on my face. I am told that this behavior is common, so it would seem that this land is full of loving people. May the lord have mercy on my soul.

This woman speaks in a language I can barely understand at a rate I cannot comprehend. I hope that if I smile and nod enough I can make it through this experience.

I have discovered a word of seemingly magical qualities. Vale, or Ball-ehh? One can never be sure, but it has the power to progress a conversation without having any idea what is going on. I will use it often as I cling onto any hopes of comprehension, but for now I will take a quick nap and will get back to writing later today.


My quick nap has rapidly turned to days straight worth of sleep. I can only guess what day it is. Today the other survivors and I walk around the city of which we now inhabit while a learned man bombards us with questions. Now is my chance to show my intelligence and mental prowess. I will come back boasting stories of my quizzical victories.

UPDATE: I h20150903_102632ave answered all questions incorrectly, and I must remember to never talk of this day again.

Later at an ungodly hour I find a bar.  I stay in the bar for what seems like an eternity before I decide to leave. Confident in my navigational prowess I head off to my house. I should be home in no more than 25 minutes.

UPDATE: It would seem as though all the streets here look identical. I have spent the last hour wandering around the streets of this town at 3 in the morning. Do not worry for me, for I am sure that nothing bad has ever happened to a lost tourist wandering alley ways so early in the morning.

I find my way home, by this time it is 3:30 in the morning, and I quietly unlock the door to my new home so as to not wake my surely sleeping family. As I open the door my mother tells me that I am back early, and that she did not expect to see me here for another couple hours. When retelling the events of my evening to this woman, I leave out my wandering in hopes to maintain my rapidly diminishing manliness.


Today we explore a place called Madrid? The place is indescribable, almost like…..

DAY FIVE:20150906_185839-1

I awake today with a start, as today is the day that I get to run with the bulls! This is a story I have heard of this land for years, today I will finally be able to cross something off my bucket list.

UPDATE: My host mother has forbidden the idea of running with aforementioned bulls. But my Facebook friends don’t need to know this fact…

I spend the next couple of hours watching other men fulfill their dreams of participating in the event, even one man who later got gored (Remember to never tell host mother she was right in not letting me run).

And when that day ended, I had to prepare for classes. Apparently they expect me to learn here.

What you won’t think of when you hear the word “Oktoberfest”

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at amandaelizabethblahg.wordpress.com)

Oktoberfest is typically known for its steins of beer, lederhosens and dirndls, sausages the size and length of a small child’s arm and the enormous extravagantly decorated beer tents that could fit thousands of people. Most individuals who do attend the festival would come back and rave to their peers about how many steins they chugged, the ridiculous amount of money they spent on carnival rides and all the moments that were probably forgotten in the mix.

In the midst of all the crazy festivities, sometimes one just needs to get out and explore Munich and experience it for more than just a party. Sometimes one just needs to hop on a bike or a random train and go for a ride.

Biking around the streets of Munich, Germany felt as if I was biking through a fairy-tale. The architecture and medieval-like designs of the buildings resembled castles fit for kings and queens. Past the massive castles and bell towers were wide and lengthy tunnels decorated and tagged with unique artsy designs. Unlike the typical graffiti filled tunnels, the art designs on the tunnels in Munich were full pictures that fit perfectly on each wall. None of the designs overlapped one another. Riding through these tunnels put me in a state of pure awe and amazement as I zipped past each mural-like design.

Next stop: The Eisbach River. This river is completely unlike any other river I have seen or heard of. As a California native, I have seen plenty of surfers surf…in the ocean. In Munich however, surfing comes with a bit of an unique twist. The surfers of Munich catch their wakes… in the middle of the Eisbach River. The speed and intensity of the river’s current was enough to sweep anyone under and away if they were not cautious. Watching the surfers ride the wakes and then proceed to swim in and out of the rushing rapids with ease, was enough to shock any bystander.


Three castles, one tunnel, ten surfers, and one of the most exhilarating, scenic bike rides later, it was time to head back to the steins of beer, lederhosens and dirndls, sausages the size and length of a small child’s arm…and a carnival ride that blessed my eyes with the greatest panoramic view of Munich.

Another way to escape the insanity is to go up. Cough up the eight euro, pick a set of swings, and prepare for the gorgeous view, adrenaline rush as the ride lifts you up and takes you around and that infinite feeling of being up so high you feel as if you were flying. As my feet lifted up from the ground, I watched the ground, the thousands of people and festival grounds shrink smaller and smaller. The view that was presented before me was absolutely breathtaking. Munich’s iconic castle-like buildings, dome structures and intricately decorated apartment buildings were presented in full panoramic view. I lifted my arms and tilted my head back, embracing the wind and the feeling of flight. I absolutely enjoyed Oktoberfest for the steins of beer, lederhosens and dirndls, sausages the size and length of a small child’s arm and everything it is typically known for. But I also enjoyed it for its hidden surprises and adventures.

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The Milk Market

(Originally posted by Katie Virostek, a junior at CSU studying abroad at the University of Limerick in Ireland.  You can access her blog here: https://travelingwithoutmymomanddog.wordpress.com/page/2/)

This morning I had the pleasure of going to the Limerick Milk Market with my API group. It is located in the City Centre under this big white pointed tent, almost like a circus tent, and also in the streets surrounding the tent. It runs every Friday-Sunday, with Saturday being the busiest day. What an awesome place. If you are hungry, do NOT go there because you will buy everything you see and eat it right away. While I did not see any milk, there are TONS of other goods you can buy, including some non-food ones. Cheese, fruit, vegetables, fresh fish, coffee, tea, bread, any kind of dessert, candy, honey, chocolate, flowers, tools, clothes, jewelry, scarves, greeting cards, you name it, they probably have it (except milk).Images of the Milk Market milk-market1

For now I somehow managed to only buy croissants, a Lemon Meringue Tartlet, and baklava. Do not doubt that I will be making several trips here before I leave.

In one of the clothing shops I also ran into a Cincinnati Reds jacket. What country am I in?!

For lunch we went to a local bistro called Papaz. They are famous for their sandwiches, and let me tell you they did not disappoint. I got the meatball one…….yum. To be noted is that they aren’t served in bread, they are served in more of a pita or gyro pocket. To end the day we walked through a small local art museum and through the People’s Park. Limerick has a lot of cool things to do for not being a huge “city,” and I look forward to more weekend trips into the city.

That’s all for now, folks! If this post didn’t make you hungry, you are a strong soul.



The Awe of Rome at Night

(Originally posted by Amanda Thompson, a CSU student currently studying at John Cabot University in Rome, Italy.  Visit her blog page at amandaelizabethblahg.wordpress.com)

I have just completed my first full week of attending John Cabot University, and residing in Viale Trastevere in ROME, ITALY. Weekdays are usually spent walking back and forth to three different JCU campuses, lounging by the Tiber River, and weaving in and out through cobble stoned alley ways littered with quaint Italian pizzerias, cafes, and ristorantes. Each weekday is an adventure in itself, even though I am still working on establishing a set daily routine. Back at home in Colorado, a set routine was feasible and easy to establish…for that is where my comfort zone lies, as well as familiarity and stability. However when in Roma…one could easily immerse themselves in an adventure whether it may be dodging aggressive cars and buses left and right just to walk two blocks to the nearest grocery store, or if that adventure is found at 3 a.m., lost and confused in the heart of Rome.

Which leads to last Friday night…and this night was just a tad bit different than Katy Perry’s version. In this case, last Friday night, we went trekking in the dark, in search of a bench mark, then abbiamo trovato il colosseo.

At around 3 a.m., the night owls of Rome were starting to find their way back to their homes. The restaurants and bars began to shut off their lights and stack up their chairs one by one. Everyone and everything seemed to start to settle under the moonlight…all except four. My friends and I wandered the empty cobble stoned streets, questioning the way back to Viale Trastevere. We finally asked a local Italian who led us in the opposite direction…and straight to the famous grand Colosseum, which was vibrant and lit up, illuminating all that surrounded it with its yellow lighting. Despite the pain in our feet and the heaviness in our eyelids, the four of us stopped in awe of the monument. To me, the Colosseum appeared to be even more breathtaking at night, without all the crowds of tourists and vendors surrounding it. What a sight.

Colosseum at night

Colosseum at night

Even if the local Italian man led us in the wrong direction, I was glad he did. Maybe he knew these four soon to be locals needed one last adventure before the sun came out…or maybe he just did not understand our broken Italian.

Cheers to the confused Italian local and to the beautiful lit up Colosseum. Cheers to getting lost. Cheers to the spontaneous adventures that makes everything worth it. I can’t wait for what the next 4 months will bring.