Ireland and a Wicklow County Adventure

Dani Langevin grew up Summit County, Colorado. Currently she is a junior at Colorado State University. Now it’s time for her to embark on my study abroad adventure with Semester at Sea for a four month journey around the world.

[Originally posted September 23, 2013]

This was by far the best day of Semester at Sea so far! It was time for me to get away from all of the cities and people, so I peaced out to a little town called Glendalough (pronounced Glendalock) in Wicklow County by myself for the day/night. I took a 100-year-old bus service out there and ended up in a town that consisted of a hotel, hostel, restaurant, and 2 sweater shops. I ended up seeing some of the Schuchardt family (a family on the ship that consists of a professor with his wife and 7 of their 8 children) on the bus on the way there – it’s impossible to fully escape, but it was good to know that I was going in the right direction. The town was perfect! I walked 5 minutes up the road to the hostel which is tucked back in the trees. After dropping off my bag I wandered through an area with the “Round Tower” back to town. Once in town I ended up talking to this Irish man who was watching a sweater shop for his friend. We talked for at least half an hour about his life story and my adventures thus far. It was interesting to find out that our paths could have crossed at some point in time! He had been to Aspen, Colorado and he has a friend that lives in Breckenridge. It’s a much smaller world than anyone could imagine! I was also surprised to find out that he knew so much about what was going on in Colorado with the floods. It’s amazing how much other people know about the United States compared to how little the general American population knows about the world. After talking to him for a while he told me about a few good hiking spots and sent me on my way.

"Glendalough" meaning "Valley of two lakes"  is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park with its world famous Round Tower was one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland. Image obtained from the following URL: http://www.nolancoaches.ie/visit-beautiful-glendalough/

“Glendalough” meaning “Valley of two lakes” is located in the Wicklow Mountains National Park with its world famous Round Tower was one of my favorite places to visit in Ireland.

Image obtained from the following URL: http://www.nolancoaches.ie/visit-beautiful-glendalough/



A few minutes later I found myself at a map. Too bad I couldn’t read it. So I took a picture of it just in case and started to walk in the direction of the mountains. Turns out I began on a relatively popular path through an “enchanted forest.” That defeated the point of having time to myself, so I found someone with another map. Basically I told her that I wanted the hardest, longest and least populated path. So there I found myself following the “red hiker” on the Spinc path. After about 3km I was out of the populated area. Then it was just me and nature. I hiked over mountains, through forests, around valleys, by lakes, and down 600+ wooden stairs. There were sheep everywhere at the top and a few deer, although they didn’t look like the typical Colorado deer.

I did come across a few people, mostly locals. All of the locals were incredibly friendly and, like the Irish man at the sweater shop, they all wanted to know about me just as much as I know about them. One group of people sticks out most to me. A group of three people was biking up behind me and stopped at the top for a snack. When I got to the top they started asking me all about myself and I ended up talking to them for a while. Like the Irish man I had met earlier, they also asked about the floods in Colorado. The lady gave me a granola bar and they shared their gummy bears with me after telling me that I still had a ways to go – that saved me because I did not prepare properly for the length of the hike. When we parted ways they pointed me in the right direction and I was off again.

There was one point during my hike where I got to the summit of one of the mountains and crossed a marshy area via a boardwalk. Then the boardwalk ended and I found myself in an area without a trail. Luckily I have hiked enough to have the skills to find my way back to some sort of trail. As I descended I began to see more and more people that had done the shorter hikes and eventually I ran into the Schuchardt family again. I was talking to Rachel (the mom) as her kids and husband laid in the freezing cold waterfall stream below. After an incident with the youngest one falling, I walked back to the town with them.

I thought I had found a quiet place to escape and be alone, but with 600 Semester at Sea students in Ireland that was nearly impossible. While looking out of the Schuchardt’s hotel window I saw Ryan, Shiloh, and Dana (friends from the ship) and ended up having dinner with them. 9pm rolled around and somehow I managed to make it back to the hostel in literally the pitch black night.

The next morning I had to catch an early shuttle back to Dublin. Glendalough did not disappoint and I will definitely be back someday.

I guess Colorado has had a huge impact on me. I love nature and the mountains especially. Throughout the past few ports I have discovered that city life is not for me. From here on out I am going to try to get out of the city as much as possible to see the true natural beauties of each country.

You Only London Once.

Dani Langevin grew up Summit County, Colorado. Currently she is a junior at Colorado State University. Now it’s time for her to embark on my study abroad adventure with Semester at Sea for a four month journey around the world.

“One hundred and fifteen days.
Seventeen cities.
Fifteen countries.

This is the story of my life before, during, and after the best four months of my life.Ready, set, go!”

[Originally posted August 23, 2013]
Buckingham Palace (where the Queen (who owns all of the swans) lives for 2 months out of the entire year because she claims the palace is too small for her)

Buckingham Palace (where the Queen (who owns all of the swans) lives for 2 months out of the entire year because she claims the palace is too small for her)

We arrived in London around 13:30 England time (so 6:30 Colorado time) and the adventures began with customs and finding our way to Central London via Taxi. Our taxi driver fit 4 girls, 6 large suitcases, and 5 backpacks into our taxi and drove us to the city. The first thing I noticed was the mass amount of cars on the tiny streets. The roads are usually two lanes wide, but the cars are right up next to each other with little room in between. They are also very aggressive drivers and do not stop for anyone.

Once we checked in the wandering began. There is so much to see, but I’ve also realized that London is a very “touristy” city. The lines are ridiculously long to see the attractions, but they are so worth it! We went on a walking tour (Free…SCORE!) one day and then explored on our own the next. Here’s a list of the attractions we saw/did (and I will post pictures below) – Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, local pubs, Buckingham Palace & the changing of the guards, Trafalgo Square, telephone booths, London Eye, the Shard, China Town, Shakespeare’s Globe, The National Gallery, Harrod’s (I have never seen so many designer clothes in my whole life!), Hyde Park, and a lot of walking.

After staying in the hostel for two nights I can say that I don’t think hostel living is for me. Not that it’s not convenient and cheap, but people are coming and going at all hours which makes it incredibly difficult to sleep. I also found that they are not very clean probably for the same reason of so many people always being there.

So far I have met an incredible amount of people – SAS (Semester at Sea) and non-SAS!!! They are from all walks of life, which makes for such interesting conversations…I have met Germans, Australians, Americans, Brazilians, Canadians, Argentinians and of course English natives.

Even though I didn’t spend a ton of time in England, I was able to see most of the main attractions and begin to understand the culture. The best way to describe the English is to say that they are less stressed about life and therefore do not worry about much. For example, they will run into you on a street corner and not think to say excuse me…Or in a restaurant the waiters are not in a hurry to get your bill to the table. To Americans this comes off as rude because we are used to constantly saying “excuse me” and having instant gratification. It would take months to get used to the different cultures, but within the 3 days that we were here we had to learn fast.

Speaking of learning fast – crossing the street is probably the most difficult task here. Instead of looking right and then left you have to look left and then right when crossing the street. And some streets are only one ways but are not clearly marked that way. And they do not have street signs, which makes getting/giving directions almost impossible. Directions end up sounding like: “you know that pointy thing at the corner where we saw that man playing the saxophone? Turn right there and then when you see that red shop of the corner turn left.” But then the problem is that you come to a five way street and are not sure which road is left.

To avoid the streets completely, take The Tube. It is an underground transportation system similar to the subway in New York and is relatively easy to figure out (except when you are trying to take The Tube for 2 hours with all of your luggage for 4 months…Thank you to everyone who helped us up and down the stairs!)

Anyways…London was a great experience. I am glad that I was able to experience the culture – attractions, streets, pubs, food, and people.

The London Eye (a giant enclosed “ferris wheel” that overlooks the entire city. You can see almost all of Central London including all of the attractions that we explored in London).

The London Eye (a giant enclosed “ferris wheel” that overlooks the entire city. You can see almost all of Central London including all of the attractions that we explored in London).