Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Reunion!

I made the startling realization the other day I left Ireland 2.5 months ago, I've been gone almost as long as I was there.  It's such a strange feeling, on one hand it's an experience I'll never forget but now it feels more like a dream.  Luckily, since it was a study abroad opportunity through the school the group of us that went are still in close proximity to each other and able to hang out.  With the snowy weather starting up, we decided a girls reunion was necessary this weekend.

Friday night 7 of us got together at my townhouse for a movie night and catch up session.  Over oreos and candy we caught up on the crazy events of winter term and lamented that we never saw each other anymore.    We may not be living together and seeing each other 24/7 but even after 2.5 months we still get along and love hanging out.  It's a great example of how study abroad opportunities help get you out of your comfort zone and are a chance to meet some wonderful new people you might not have otherwise.  We ended up watching Pitch Perfect, which if you haven't seen it go and do so now.  Don't worry, this post will be here after you're done.  The movie was absolutely hilarious, perfect chick flick for a girl's night.  The girls and I are also planning to form our own all girls acapella group at Mercyhurst.  Of course we can't sing, so we'll admittedly be lip syncing to the songs from the movie, okay not really but the movie does inspire the feeling you should get up and form a group.

The majority of my time is taken up by grad school applications, job applications, and homework so it's nice to take a break with great friends and remember life before things got absolutely insanely busy. Sometimes you don't have to go out and spend money to have a good time, just grab some friends, a great movie and pile on the couch and just relax.

The girls during our trip to Rome!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Breakfast Bonding

Breakfast has to be my favorite meal of the day.  So any restaurant that only serves breakfast is going to be a top contender as my favorite.  In Erie there's this great little, home-run restaurant called The Breakfast Place.  It's one of my absolute favorites because of its homey atmosphere, huge portions, and budget friendly prices.  Whether it's late on a Friday or Saturday night and you have the munchies or if it's just a regular morning out, you can't go wrong with the Breakfast Place.

This weekend my mom was visiting so naturally I had to take her to the Breakfast Place.  I love when my parents come to visit because I get to show them around this place I've started to call home.  My mom's been to the Breakfast Place before so she wasn't surprised by the large portions or cheap prices that accompanied them.  It was a great time to catch up with my mom and chat over cups of coffee and delicious food.  We even ran into a one of my friends also there with her parents! You can't go to the Breakfast Place on a weekend without seeing someone you know from Mercyhurst.

Sunday I got coerced into going to the Breakfast Place again (okay, so it didn't take much) with my roommate and a few friends who graduated and were in town for my other roommate's birthday.  Again, such a great time.  We people watched, caught up on each other's lives, and of course ran into other people from Mercyhurst.  Ordering too much food was also on the agenda for the day, but you don't get The Breakfast Place every day!
A typical table at The Breakfast Place!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Mighty Fine

Confession: I love donuts, a lot. Dunkin' Donuts, Tim Horton's, store bought, homemade - doesn't matter, I'll eat them.  So, this blog is dedicated to not only the best donuts in Erie but the best donuts I've ever ate.

Mighty Fine Donuts in downtown Erie is hands down the best place to go for donuts in town.  After a crazy week of midterms I was more than ready to come home for Christmas break.  Before leaving, I met up with my good friend Adrianne (she's a blogger too - check her out at www.adriannemercyhurst.blogspot.com!) for breakfast and a catch up session before hitting the road.  No better way to prepare for a 6 hour road trip than delicious donuts, hot coffee, and great company.  I know I've been raving about the donuts, but they're worth it.  You can tell they're freshly made, still slightly warm and perfectly soft.  Freshly brewed diner coffee is the perfect compliment to the donuts.

I wouldn't be telling you about the place just for the donuts though, it's more than that.  The atmosphere is great, definitely has a local feel.  The employees know the orders of most of the customers by heart and start putting it together right when they walk in the door.  In the early morning hours the shop is frequented by older men reading their newspapers and discussing current events.  I loved overhearing the opinions of the men on what was wrong in the world and how it should be fixed.  Nothing like old man banter and gossip to make breakfast more enjoyable.  I've only been to Mighty Fine Donuts in the morning, but it's open 24 hours.  As a college student the only thing I love more than donut places are donut places that open 24/7.  Next time I have a big exam to study for, I'm planning on doing so at Mighty Fine Donuts with a few donuts and plenty of coffee to help get me through it.

Don't be afraid of trying new places! We all know the chains have good food, but you never know what local gem is waiting to be discovered!

(Sorry there aren't any pictures in this post.  It was early and I was much more concerned about eating than documenting my experience. Hope you can forgive me!)

Monday, 17 December 2012

It's the most wonderful time of the year

One of my absolute favorite things about moving places is finding new local shops, restaurants, and cafes.  One of my other absolute favorite things is a warm drink on a cold day.  This week I killed two birds with one stone and went to two great, local Erie places known for their winter beverages.  First up was a trip to the small general store, Fuhrman's.  The store is fairly small but they sell some great local products.  It's so homey feeling, especially during the holiday season.  I did a little Christmas shopping and grabbed some stocking stuffers and then picked up the one thing that gets me in the door regularly - the apple cider.  Honestly, Fuhrman's makes some of the best apple cider I have ever tasted.  You're able to buy it in 16 oz, 1/2 gallon or 1 gallon bottles.  I decided to just go with the 1/2 gallon because I'm heading home for Christmas break soon and didn't want to leave excess in the fridge for a couple of weeks.  Didn't need to worry about anything seeing as the bottle was finished by the end of the night.  I was so excited about drinking the cider a completely forgot to get a picture of the actual drink, so you'll have to just head over to Fuhrman's yourself and check it out!
Fuhrman's decorated for Christmas!

The next place I went to this week was Romolo's Chocolate.  My best friend was in for the weekend from Boston and if there is one thing she and I love it's catching up over a hot beverage.  While it might normally take place at Starbucks I really wanted her to experience "Erie" and she doesn't like coffee anyways so a cup of hot chocolate seemed much more fitting.  We checked out the store first and picked up some chocolates for gifts (and let's be honest, for ourselves too) and then headed over to the cafe section.  We both went with their signature hot chocolate and were not disappointed.  The creamier and more chocolaty the drink, the happier I am.  It was the best cup of hot chocolate I've had.  Their desserts and snacks also looked quite delicious although I didn't end up getting any this time.  Definitely wasn't let down with the trip to Romolo's by any means and it's worth a venture during any time of the year.
Romolo's


Friday, 7 December 2012

Getting into the Christmas Spirit

Well I'm slowly settling back into life in Erie, the number of mornings I wake up thinking I'm in Ireland are growing fewer.  Thankfully I'm living with a great group of girls and there are always fun excursions to be had.  This past weekend we had a roommate bonding day and ventured out to a Christmas tree farm to get into the Christmas spirit.  We may not be allowed a real tree in on campus housing but, my roommate Kylie's photography class assignment was more than enough reason to traipse through a tree farm for the morning.  Also, if you're going to do a traditional Christmas activity it provides the perfect opportunity to break out your very best ugly Christmas sweater.  So obviously we geared up. Several of us had either never been or been so young we didn't remember ever going to a Christmas tree farm.  Before you start on about the horrors of fake, plastic trees or precut real trees you really can't blame us.  Kylie's from Florida and I lived in Asia for 7 years before coming to college, not too many tree farms you can go cut down trees at in those areas.
Searching for our perfect Christmas tree!
We treated it as if we were really going to get a tree, picking out our favorites and comparing them to each other.  There was an obvious division in the group, those who wanted a Charlie Brown tree and those of us who wanted the tallest, fullest, most grand tree in the lot.  Luckily there were no serious arguments and no blows were exchanged.  We found the perfect tree we all agreed on (unheard of!) that left us wishing we could actually take it home with us.  But we settled for a wagon ride back to the car park and free cookies in the shop.  We may not have gotten a real tree, but just going out to do something fun like pick one out is what college is all about.
Rocking our ugly Christmas sweaters with
the perfect tree!

(All photos provided by my lovely roommate Kylie!)

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Home Sweet Home

I know, I know, it's been awhile since my last post! In my defense, it's been an absolutely crazy month and I'm going to attempt to condense it for you into this one blog post.  As the title suggests, my journey in Ireland has come to a close and I am back stateside to finish my senior year.

My last week in Ireland was a whirlwind, one full of last minute trips to take in the sights, walks around Dungarvan to try and embed every detail in my memory forever.  One of my favorite places we went the last week was the Copper Coast.  We explored an old copper mine and took in the spectacular views of the Irish coast.  After, we stumbled upon Dunhill Castle, an old castle completely covered in ivy.  We climbed up to it, explored the inside and some brave souls (me not included, I'm terrified of heights!) climbed to the very top.  There's nothing quite like climbing a ruined castle to remind you that you're in Ireland.  The views were breathtaking and it honestly was just so nice to take in the sights.
Hi ho, hi ho, it's off to work I go!
At the abandoned copper mine
The group at the top of the Dunhill Castle ruins

Spending time in our little town was also great.  Knowing it was our last week, we felt the need to completely explore every nook and cranny.  I browsed through old sweet shops, local stores and grocers and found my favorite store in the process.  A new art gallery opened in Dungarvan shortly before our departure and sold only local artisan products.  There were beautiful paintings as well as hand knit products (I bought the most comfortable pair of socks!) and other items featuring the owners own illustrations.  I honestly wanted to buy everything in the entire store.  I wouldn't mind going back to Dungarvan just to visit that gallery again.

It was sad to leave Dungarvan on Sunday but I was lucky enough to have another week across the pond in Scotland.  I took the opportunity to visit one of the graduate schools I'm applying to, the University of Edinburgh in Edinburgh, Scotland.  I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to visit the university because it made it so much easier to determine if I actually liked the university in person as much as I liked it online.  Needless to say I feel in love with the city and campus as soon as I stepped foot off the train.  There's just something about walking through the city with the historic Edinburgh Castle to your right and cliffs, hills and open fields to your left.  The city is a great metropolitan center with a variety of things to do.  Also, the campus was absolutely beautiful.  I think I fell in love with every building on campus.  There was a great mix of modern buildings, like the building housing my program to old, historic buildings like those housing the law school.  There was nothing I didn't like about the school.  I just need to finish up my application and wait to find out if I've been accepted. Fingers crossed I get in, I'll be sure to keep you updated!

Unfortunately my time had to come to an end and I flew back to America.  It's been nice to be back though. I spent a week at home spending time with my parents and two of my best friends from high school came visit for Thanksgiving so it was great to see them.  We went down to Virginia to see my aunt, uncle, cousins, and gram for Thanksgiving which was so much fun.  I got to hang out with my adorable little cousins Rowan and Harper.  I loved just spending time with my family after being away for so long.

Me playing with my little cousin Rowan
on Thanksgiving day
After a week at home, I'm back up in Erie and started winter term.  It's nice to be back, I actually feel like a senior now.  It's great to actually be living with my roommates and we have a lot planned (stay tuned for a post about our epic adventure we're taking on Saturday!).  Plus I finally get to catch up with friends, some I haven't seen since May.  It's only been two days of classes but everything is in full swing.  I'll be sure to keep you all updated on my adventures stateside in Erie!

Friday, 2 November 2012

Just touched down in London town!

One of my absolute favorite things about being over in Europe is the ease of travelling between other European countries! I took full advantage of it this past weekend and met up with a friend for an eventful weekend in London.

Friday was a whirlwind of walking around London and checking out the sites such as Big Ben, the London Eye and the Thames. Nothing I love more than stolling along the London streets and being able to see such iconic sites.  That afternoon I went to a showing of the new Bond film Skyfall. Yup, I got to see it a full 2 weeks before it was released in America. I won't spoil it for anyone who is awaiting its stateside release, but I will say it was absolutely phenomenal and I loved it.  After the movie the plans for the day were nowhere close to being done.  I spent the night at the O2 Arena for the Muse concert.  I'm not the biggest Muse fan but they're the favorite band of my friend, Steve, who went with me.  I'll admit, that concert completely converted me though.  They put on a great show and they sounded so much better live than recorded.  The energy was fabulous and even though we were in the nosebleed seats it could not have been a better concert.

 

Train performing before the game!
The other major plans for the weekend included the American football game with the New England Patriots (my team!!) playing the St. Louis Rams.  Steve got tickets ages ago and offered me one knowing I was a huge Patriots fan.  Fun fact: the game was my first Patriots game I've ever attended.  Also, it was my 4th NFL game but 2nd outside of the US. Anyways, so upon getting to Wembley Stadium, the day I thought couldn't get better did when I found out Train was putting on a pregame concert! I absolutely love Train and it was awesome being able to see them perform live before the game.  After they finished, the national anthems started.  The organizers of the event did a great job with this, playing both the American and British anthems.  But I think my favorite part was everyone had a little colored flag on their seat and during the anthems held them up to form on one side the British flag and on the other the American flag.  It was such a cool moment.  The game itself was just as exciting as I had hoped.  While the Rams came out and scored first (I'll admit, they had me worried during that drive) the Patriots went on to score 45 unanswered points.  So glad my first Patriots game ended with a win!

Me & Steve at the game cheering on the Pats!
Unfortunately the end of the game meant the end of an incredible weekend.  Flew back to Ireland on Monday to confront real life and classes once more.  However, I'm so thankful for the opportunity of studying abroad and it enabling me to have weekends like this one.  I would never have been able to attend the Patriots in London otherwise!
 
Until next time!