Wow. It’s already Tuesday, over a week into my trip, and I’ve only posted once! There is plenty happening, but internet is rare in most of the places we stay. Therefore, let me start back at Tuesday – my second day in Ireland.
Not much happened on Tuesday. Unfortunately my ankle was still bothering me from the night before so I decided to stay and rest at my friend Flo’s apartment while my travel partner Jed headed up to Belfast for the day. While he explored beautiful Northern Ireland, I napped, ate a delicious pasta lunch that Flo cooked for me, and watched the European version of “Dating in the Dark.” I managed to skype with my dad for a while to fill him in on the ankle situation, and eventually headed to bed early.
The next morning we woke up nice and early to say goodbye to Flo, who was headed off to his internship, and so that we could make our bus on time. We had a 30 minute walk to the station consisting of drizzling rain and faulty suitcase wheels (Jed’s, not mine!). We ended up buying bus tickets from Dublin to Rosslare instead as they were cheaper – we didn’t want to start our Eurail passes quite yet, or else we’d be over our allotted 15 days. We had to get to Rosslare in order to board the ferry that would take us from Ireland to France. 3 hours later, we arrived at Rosslare Harbor and enjoyed a cheap lunch outside with a beautiful view of the water. Since we still had our entire luggage with us (2 suitcases and a backpack each), everyone was staring. A French couple asked us why we were carrying so much, and when we explained that we were exchange students from Texas, we could hear others nearby saying, “Ooh la la, Texas!” It was great. We made it onto the boat, which had about 4 stories to explore. There were French people everywhere! After a little nap, we grabbed dinner and headed to the Gaiety Lounge – where a performance of popular songs was carried out by a fantastic male Irish singer supported by a handful of dancers. After the show was over we chatted with two Irish guys that we saw reading a French phrasebook, and while we were all talking, a French couple came up and tried to get us to speak in French with them because they saw the phrasebook too. Being my awkward self, I froze and said nothing. I’m still self-conscious about speaking French with natives but I’ll definitely have to be getting over that soon!
On Wednesday, we had a very strict itinerary: disembark, take the 11:45am train to Caen to drop off our luggage with a friend, take the 2:45pm train to Paris to meet up with my friend Cedric, and take the 8:00pm train to Brugge in order to check in for our hostel in time. If we missed one train, our plans would be shot, and we wouldn’t have a phone to let our friends know that we would be late. Just a disclaimer. Anyway! After a rough night of sleep, we packed up and waited about 20 minutes to catch an elevator to the disembarkation floor – every time an elevator came by, it was full, and since we were each carrying two large suitcases, it was basically impossible to fit in anywhere. We finally made it off the boat and took a bus to immigration. After that, we grabbed a taxi to the train station where we were told that no, there were no trains to Caen, only busses. So, of course we hopped on the bus as soon as we could find it (after a bit of confusion, but thanks to a local Frenchman we were successful). We were able to call our friend Jonathan from a payphone to let him know that we’d be late. Since we’d be late, we were counting on missing our next train from Caen. We made it to Caen with 6 minutes to spare before our train to Paris left, and although we were pessimistic, Jonathan was SUPER helpful. He basically grabbed our luggage and shoved us onto the train. We made it!!!
Two hours later, we were in Paris. Luckily enough I spotted Cedric right away, and after the traditional “bisous,” we started making our way out of the St. Lazare station. I was very thankful to be with a Parisian, because this place was confusing! Since we only had a couple of hours before our train to Belgium, we decided to walk to the nearby Sacre Coeur. Hundreds of steps later, we were looking over the whole city of Paris, and I even got a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. After catching our breath, we stopped at a restaurant for crepes (of course) where the waiter treated us very rudely after figuring out that Jed and I were American. I guess that’s what you get in Paris. Finally we headed back to Gare du Nord, where we awaited our train to Belgium.
Wednesday was really absolutely insane. From start to finish, we were moving nonstop, trying to make trains, trying to catch up with people, trying to find time to eat, trying not to pass out. But in the end, everything actually worked out. We made it to Caen, we made it to Paris, and two hours later, we made it to Brugge, Belgium.
pictures: (1) our view during lunch (2) leaving Ireland (3) sunset on the deck (4) more sunset (5) glimpse of the eiffel tower from sacre coeur