All Good Things Come to an End

It was hard to decide what we wanted to do on our last day in Ireland. We knew we wanted to get out of the city, we just weren’t sure how far out. The Cliffs of Moher, Galaway, and Bray were all recommendations but we decided on a 30 minute train ride to Howth, which was also highly recommended. Howth is a small fishing village on the coast of Dublin County. 

The train ride was quite quick and easy. What was hard was actually finding the train station to leave from. We were given a map with the DART station on it. Unfortunately, we were a bit confused at where we were even starting so we ended up walking for about 15 minutes, turned around and walked about 5 minutes back until a nice delivery man noticed our sweaty, wrinkled up faces staring at our map. He gave us directions and as it turned out we turned around about two blocks away from the station. 
When we arrived we walked along the harbour. It provided a gorgeous view of a lighthouse on the other side of the bay as well as an island they refer to as, Ireland’s Eye.
Ireland’s Eye
We scoped out the different restaurants to figure out what we wanted to do for lunch. For obvious reasons the restaurants specialized in seafood. We were sure we would be getting something fresh and nothing short of amazing. We settled on a fish ‘n chips stand that was served the traditional way, in a paper bag. It was greasy, fresh, and awfully yummy. 
Ireland’s Eye with Howth Light House
Well fed Sea Lion
Happy in Howth
Bag of Fish ‘n Chips
Light House of Howth
Lovely Howth

We only spent a few hours in Howth, but we were very happy with our decision to visit. That evening we had plans to go to the famous Temple Bar area for dinner at Gogarty’s Pub. It came highly recommended from my classmates. The first two floors have live Irish music, while the top floor is their restaurant. The bar was packed by the time we got there so we had food in the restaurant. Once again, we left full and satisfied! They even gave me an Irish CD.

The Temple Bar
After dinner Justin had his heart set on going to O’ Donoghue’s, the famous Irish pub known for their famous Irish music. We were told it is the most talked about pub in Ireland. As we approached the pub it was quite small, but Justin remained bright eyed as we entered. There was no live music and it wasn’t that full. I immediately thought, “This is the wrong O’ Donoghue’s.” And as my thought turned into words I heard Justin exclaim, “This is great. This is exactly how I imagined it!” 
As I giggled and made my way to the toilets without working faucets, Justin ordered us our first round of ciders. We sat for a while, guzzled a couple more ciders, and enjoyed the ambiance of the candle lit pub. Then Justin leaned in to talk to one of the bartenders. He said with a proud smile, “Sir, I heard you are the most famous pub in Ireland. Is this true?” The bartender then had to break the news, “You’re thinking of the O’ Donoghue’s on Merrion Row. They are famous for their music. We are famous for our pints, and that is what really matters.” 
The “Famous for our Pints” O’ Donoghue’s
We had a good laugh afterwards and made our way back to our hotel to end the night with an Irish Coffee and Irish Hot Chocolate. I can’t wait to enjoy more of those this fall/winter.
Irish Hot Chocolate

We headed back to England the next afternoon for one last night. After a very long tube ride, trip through Victoria station during rush hour which resulted in a brief separation, and the Gatwick Express, we made it to our final hotel near the airport in the evening.

As we concluded our time in Europe together we felt so happy. Happy that we have the means to travel, happy that our time in Dublin and London was nothing short of amazing, and we were happy to just spend time and live life together. 


Many Old Things

We were eager for our second day on the sight seeing bus tour. We had plotted out which stops we wanted to get off at and which ones we’d get picked up at. Our first order of business was a little education at Trinity College. Trinity College houses The Book of Kells, and has a library with over 2,000 first editions. It was marvelous. 

Trinity College Campus

The Book of Kells
Illegal Photo of the Library

Although our experience at Christ Church was less than amazing we decided to check out St. Patrick’s Cathedral. After all, the cathedral was named for the man we celebrate every March 17th by consuming loads of green beers. As it turns out they don’t think St. Patrick ever step foot in the cathedral. However, it is rumored that he often preached from the garden outside of it. 

Blurry Photo at St Patrick’s Alter


Keg Full of Coins

St Patrick’s Garden

After experiencing a little spiritual tourism we needed some food. We were both really looking forward to lunch at Ireland’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. The food was spectacular. We both enjoyed some Cottage Pie, which was a special that day, as well as some Irish Cider. 

Waiting Patiently for our Pie 
Behind the Bar 
Outside Seating
The Brazen Head

The Irish Cider didn’t wash down the cottage pie well enough and it was decided some Irish Whiskey was in order. We headed towards the Jameson Distillery. Like Guinness, I wasn’t a huge fan of whiskey heading into the tour, but hoped to leave enlightened. I wasn’t a Guinness fan by the end of the brewery tour but maybe Jameson would be different. 

This tour was guided which we much preferred over the self guided Guinness one. We were also able to take along a special 4th of July drink on our tour. Tours are always more fun with whiskey, right? I ended up enjoying the drink much more than I initially thought. The tour was about an hour and just like Guinness, Jameson has been around since the 1700s! 
Jameson Tour

Jameson Tour

Happy Birthday America, Love Jameson

During the tour the guide asked for four women and four men volunteers. The volunteers would participate in a whiskey tasting. The tasting would feature the best selling Scotch Whiskey, Johnnie Walker; the best American, Jack Daniels; and of course, the best Irish, Jameson. I think it was the whiskey already in me, not to mention the ciders, but I quickly volunteered and was accepted. I didn’t know a thing about whiskey and now was my time to learn.

At the end of the tour we were given our free glass of Jameson that came with our tour. I had mine with sprite and a lime wedge. Justin had his his favorite way, with ginger ale. Justin hung out in a different area of the room while I participated in the taste test. Some of the volunteers still preferred Jack or Johnnie over the Jameson, but I certainly loved the smoothness of the three times distilled Jameson. Who am I? Do I really like whiskey? Turns out, I do.
Whiskey Tasting

Official Whiskey Expert

We Love Jameson!

On our bus ride home we enjoyed the sunlight. We reflected on our first 4th of July out of the country. Even when Justin was deployed he was home for the 4th. We were happy to celebrate it with such wonderful people. The Irish love America and were happy to wish us a Happy Independence Day often. We even saw an airplane towing an American flag over the Dublin sky. 

Happy Birthday America!
Enjoying our Ride on top of the bus.
Irish Sun

I was certainly happy to be a citizen of the best country in the world, but with roots going straight back to Ireland.

Hello Ireland!

Today was the day we were to part ways with England and head over to Ireland. We had a fantastically long tube ride to Heathrow Airport. We were both happy to finally get there and check our luggage. You really get to understand why “backpacking” is more favorable than “suit casing” through Europe.

Our flight was delayed by about an hour. Weird, that hasn’t happened at all this trip! The flight was about 50 minutes. It was like we were flying to Chicago from Minneapolis. I love short flights! When we arrived we were greeted by our first Irish man in customs. He made customs a breeze and wished us the best and hoped that we would enjoy his country.
We were then greeted by another Irish man, our cab driver, Brian. He was fantastic! He took us through the city center on the way to our hotel to point out some of the things Dublin has to offer. He didn’t even charge us for the detour. He gave us some great travel tips, recommended a place to eat near our hotel, and again wished us the best and hoped we would enjoy his country.
The Barge
Four Levels of Great Pubness

It was recommended to us by many that we take advantage of a Hop on, Hop offbus tour. We recommend the red bus versus the green bus if you ever find yourself in Dublin. We also had a super fantastic driver pick us up every morning named, Brendin. We didn’t get him for the whole day, but he gave us a great discount, and provided some tips on what we should see and do and when.

City Sight Seeing Dublin
Check out Those Seats!

Our first stop was Kilmainham Gaol. We started at this prison because the guided tour provided a lot of information regarding Ireland’s history. Including the war with Britain to gain their independence as well as their civil war. The prison held many prisoners during the Irish potato famine and political prisoners during the different wars.

Outside Kilmainham
Narrow Paths Outside Cells
Center of Prison
Justin Looks Happy to be in Prison
I Should Remain in Prison for This Photo
A Painting Done by Mrs. Joseph Plunkett

There have been quite a few movies filmed inside the prison, as well as a U2 video, to help pay for the restoration of the prison. Some former prisoners even helped with the restoration when it was opened for tours.

After becoming a bit depressed and scared from the prison (they talked about ghost sightings!) we headed to Christ Church. We also toured an exhibit called, Dublinia, which is attached to the church. Dublinia is the name of Dublin when it was first established by vikings. Justin was more impressed by Dublinia than he was the church. I was the exact opposite.
Justin at Dublinia
Christ Church Sanctuary
Lighting a Candle
Christ Church
Christ Church

The most logical place to go after visiting a famous cathedral is of course to the Guinness factory! I am not a big fan of Guinness, mainly because I have never really tried it. I started the tour with high hopes of becoming a Guinness lover. The tour was not guided which left a lot of reading up to the visitor. This probably wouldn’t have been a problem if we weren’t absolutely starving. After a level or two of reading about beer making (you don’t actually see any brewing there), we decided to bolt and head directly to a cafe a few levels up. Here I was able to get my first taste of Guinness…in a stew!

We decided to not go back down to read the rest of what they had to offer, but we did stop on the advertising floor to see the history behind the Guinness ads. A free pint came with our tickets and I was advised by a couple of classmates to wait until the gravity bar to get my pint or you can learn how to pour the perfect pint. I was interested in having more of an experience so Justin and I learned how to pour the perfect stout!
Pull Tap Forward and Fill to Guinness Text
Let it Sit
Push Tap Forward and Fill to Top
Result- The Perfect Pint
Certified to Pour & Enjoy

I didn’t become a Guinness lover after the tour. I enjoyed it, but Justin did help me by taking a few sips otherwise we may have been there for awhile. We made our way to a very packed Gravity Bar, and I was more than happy that we didn’t wait for our pint. We did get a few nice pics since the Gravity Bar overlooks all of Dublin.

Gravity BarΒ 
Gravity Bar
The Mountains of Dublin

We had a fantastic dinner at a pub called, The Hairy Lemon. ItΒ was recommended by our hotel staff. The service was great, the bacon and cabbage was great, and overall the atmosphere was great!

The Hairy Lemon
After our first full day in Dublin we were in love. We loved the city, but even more than that we loved the people.


A Day of History

Justin and I had one full day in London to take advantage of together. We planned on rising bright and early to do as much as possible. As it turns out, we both slept in! Clearly, we both needed sleep so we didn’t let it get to us.

I had waited the 3.5 weeks of my program to go to the Tower of London with Justin. I skipped it every time the students went because Justin had never been either. As we got ready that morning to head to the tower Justin said, “Great, I love that place.” What does he mean? Turns out, the two other times Justin had been to London he actually toured the tower! I was a bit disappointed since we could have planned to do something else, but since I had waited to go, there was no skipping it now!

Outside the Tower of London
Tough Guard
He’s Tough too.


We wanted to join a guided tour led by a Beefeater, but they postponed our tour by an hour. We knew we needed to keep moving so we had to mosey on by ourselves. We wandered towards The Crown Jewels, because what else could be more exciting than a bunch of crowns and tiaras studded in diamonds and gems? The answer is nothing. That was the best part of our self guided tour.
He Calls This the Sandahl Thumbs Up
Tower Bridge in Background

Our next destination was sure to excite Justin. He loves history, especially the history of World War II. He will even admit that it is his favorite war. For those who find it weird to have a favorite war let me clarify. He isn’t a war hungry person, he simply finds the history behind it fascinating, especially from the perspective of someone currently in the U.S. Military. With that said, I mapped out a plan to go to Winston Churchill’s War Rooms, which is part of the Imperial War Museum. This was also a self guided tour; however, a free audio tour was available. We decided to make the most of it and were certainly pleased with the audio guided tour.

Churchill War Rooms
Excited to Start the Tour
The War Rooms, Left as They Were at the end of World War II

Although I am not a self proclaimed history buff, even though I wish I were, I really enjoyed the war rooms. I was even able to listen in on a phone call, previously recorded of course, between Churchill and FDR. I also made a comment to Justin that as we entered the area of the war rooms I expected to go further under ground. This area was designed to hopefully withstand the German’s bombing attacks. As the tour continued we found out that there was about 5+ feet of concrete above us and was known as, The Slab.

The Slab

We had a lot of things on our list to visit that day, but we both started to lose steam in the late afternoon. We were able to walk for quite some time and enjoy the city on foot which provided some great photo opportunities.

Although we travelled a lot on foot, we also spent a lot of time underground. The two times Justin visited London the majority of their travel was via taxi cabs. The tube was a new experience for him, and not to toot my own horn too loudly, I think I impressed him with my navigation skills as we never got lost or turned around.
Hold on!

The last visit we made was a little bit outside of Central London. It was such a great time to be in London. We were there about three weeks before the opening ceremony for the Summer 2012 Olympics. Talk about energy throughout the city! I wanted to make sure Justin was able to see the Olympic Park while he was there. Β We headed towards Stratford to visit Westfield’s, the largest mall in Europe, which I have mentioned in this blog earlier.

Olympic Mascot
Olympic Mascot

And I won’t bore you with more details on the Olympic Park since I have already done that. Justin was glad we made it, five minutes before closing, so he could say he saw the Olympic Park, even if it was from the viewing area at the mall. (They don’t let anyone else get closer. Unless you know how to get past England’s military guards.)

That evening we enjoyed a nice pie dinner at a local pub and took in the scene of the Euro 2012 final. Spain whooped Italy pretty good.


Many people asked how I was going to be able to leave Justin for three and half weeks. The first year we were dating and the first year of our engagement there were plenty of nights spent apart. The longest we went was about seven months during the deployment. Being used to it doesn’t make it any easier, but we knew it was survivable.

I woke up early to meet Justin at Gatwick Airport Saturday morning. I navigated the tube to Victoria station to then took a train to Gatwick. The first ticket I purchased was for the slow train, so I ended up having to buy another one for the Gatwick Express. I arrived to Gatwick about ten minutes after Justin landed and then waited about an hour and half for him to finally clear customs and get his luggage. I was starting to get a little nervous as the people continued to come out and none of them were Justin. I was also afraid we wouldn’t find each other, but it turned out to be quite easy which left us both relieved.

Our first order of business was getting us to the hotel. Justin wanted to drop his luggage and clean himself up after a long day of travel. We were also both very hungry and opted for some fish ‘n chips at a restaurant within walking distance of our hotel. It wasn’t the best fish ‘n chips and let me tell you, I am basically an expert now.

Justin needed a quick nap as well to hopefully combat his jet lag before we left for the Regent’s Park area. I wanted to show Justin were I had spent the last three and a half weeks, and we planned on meeting our friends Jenny and Patrick for dinner.

I Love Regent’s Park!
Channeling My Inner Sandahl- Eyes Closed
The Queen’s Rose Garden

I Love Finding New Things In The Park- Waterfall
Regent’s Park
Outside Regent’s College

It was a quick tour of the park and my school, but at least Justin was able to see where I spent a lot of my time in London. We then met Jenny and Patrick at a local pub, The Volunteer. I had been there a couple of times, and I knew Jenny had been there a lot as well, but meeting there was the only way I was going to be able to show Justin the Regent’s Park area since our time in London was limited. 

Jenny and Patrick have been engaged for just a few months and it was fun to be able to take them out to celebrate! Unfortunately, the night passed us by without us getting a group photo. Dang it! We stopped for ice cream after dinner to finish off the evening. It was wonderful to be able to spend so much time with Jenny and Patrick during my month in London. Girlfriends are the best! 
On our walk back to the hotel Justin and I were greeted by fireworks. What a great day!

Good-Bye Y’All

I cannot believe how quickly the end of the seminar came. I was very happy the time flew by fast only because that means it was enjoyable. Which it certainly was. Although the second to last night brought upon some less than needed drama, it was overall a fantastic trip with some wonderful people.

Our final site visit was to Freud Communications. They are an international public relations agency who is handling the communications for the Olympics. It was by far the best site visit. I don’t think any of us expected to be blown away like we were. They have some very impressive clients throughout the world, but there is something very different about them. Many international agencies will have satellite locations in different areas of the globe; however, they wanted to keep everything under one roof. They wanted to be able to guarentee all clients received the same “Freud” experience. Therefore, all of their communication strategies come from their London office. Too bad too, they’d be an amazing company to work for.  As I have said before in previous posts it has been a great experience visiting with current public relations practitioners. It provides even more motivation for me to get back home and start my career.

After visiting Freud four of us headed towards Piccadilly for one final show. Phantom of the Opera is celebrating its 25th anniversary on the West End. Our visit to Her Majesty’s Theatre to see the production was a great way to end the seminar. We all enjoyed some champagne and an amazing performance.

We had one final night to enjoy ourselves and our new friendships. About 8-9 of us went to a jazz club on Dover Street and enjoyed some very expensive dinners and drinks! We also shared a few dances on with the “adult” crowd as well. Unfortunately I didn’t get a group shot. I am sure someone did, and I will have to wait to steal that from Facebook.

Cassie, Me & Alexis With Matching Rum Punch
Tacy, Talar & Gloria

The rest of the evening was spent packing. Some of the group decided to attempt to pull an all-nighter in hopes to have a better chance of sleeping on the flight home. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to check into my hotel until about 4pm the next day and pulling an all-nighter has never been an option for me. My body just doesn’t do that. Luckily, my roommate picked up on that early on and was compliant and tried to take care of her packing before it turned into the wee, wee hours of the night. I think we were both set for bed by 2:30am.

The coach bus taking most of the group to Gatwick was set to leave from Regent’s at 5:20am. Ouch. I got up with my roommate at 4:50am. I helped her bring down some of her bags and said good-byes to the other students. It was sad to see them go, but I knew I was ready for the next part of my adventure…Justin coming! 
I snuck in about another 2 hours of sleep or so and then got up in time for me to check out of my dorm room. I shared a cab with Irene, another student who extended her stay. Luckily, we were staying just a few blocks from each other in the Canary Wharf area. It turned out to be a really neat area. It seems a lot more like NYC or Chicago versus London. 
I was able to drop off my luggage and then go meet my friend Jenny to return an museum pass to her. At one point I was walking past Regent’s Park and heard a familiar voice counting. Sure enough it was Jenny outside with her class. I snuck, well not really my ID was still valid, back into Regent’s to enjoy a free Starbucks. My roommate visited so often her punch card was full, but she never got to enjoy the perk. I stayed long enough to catch lunch as well. I only had a pound and a half left on my meal plan and tried to pay for the remainder with cash. The gentleman working the register ended up giving me the rest of the meal no charge. Lovely. After lunch I met Jenny again during recess. 
There isn’t much to do while waiting to check in to a hotel when you are really tired. So, I went shopping on Oxford one last time. I also shopped around the Canary Wharf area once I headed back towards the hotel. We were situated near two malls. I ended up finding a great workout clothing  boutique, Sweaty Betty.

Sweaty Betty Purchase
We used points for our visit, which is a very good thing because hotels in London right now are ridiculously expensive. They upgraded us to a suite that overlooked the canal and we had access to the executive lounge which means free food and drinks!

Marriott West India Quay
Our View

The remainder of my evening was spent lounging, but I was able to sneak in a three mile run which felt really awesome! I also obsessively checked the status of Justin’s flight. His flight out of Charlotte has a similar fate to mine- delayed! It wasn’t quite as bad as mine, but he did leave about two hours later than scheduled. Either way though, I slept soundly knowing he was on his way to London!


Final Days

As our days together as a class drew closer to an end mixed emotions were presented. Many were sad to be leaving London, even though they were eager to return to their homes in the states. Personality clashes also seemed to become more apparent which made me thankful that only two days remained of the seminar.

Wednesday of last week came quickly. Most of us still had things on our lists that we needed to check off before the end of our seminar on Thursday and flights out on Friday. Luckily, I still had a week left abroad so I didn’t feel quite as rushed, but if I wanted to enjoy some of the sites with me new friends then we needed to get going.

Wednesday morning we had a site visit. We went to St. Pancras International which is a large train station, where the Eurostar leaves from, in London. This is the same station we left from when we went to Paris for the day. The station is quite remarkable and hearing about the public relations strategies the station uses was a treat. It was fun to hear what the gentleman had to say, especially as some of his advice went against our traditional teachings at our Universities. Regardless, I think we all took something away from his talk.

Statue at St Pancras
Bottom of Statue at St Pancras
Event at St Pancras

After our site visit a couple of us decided to head back towards the Design Museum so we could finally see the Louboutin exhibit. I have always had more of a thing for purses and bags versus shoes; however, I still know a good shoe when I see one. Louboutin does some amazing and artistic work with his shoes. Some of course were not wearable shoes, but the craft behind them is impressive to say the least. The Design Museum also has the Olympic torch that will be used at the start of the games as well as some lace from Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding gown. 

Tower Bridge With Olympic Rings Down

That evening we knew our website had to be finished as it was due Thursday morning. However, we discovered another “late” night just like the zoo’s. This time it was at the Science Museum and we all know how much I appreciate a good Science Museum. So, Cassie, Alexis and I made our way towards South Kensington and enjoyed some white wine and learning. They really do go well together.

At the museum we were able to enjoy the exhibits after hours. They also have different shows and a silent disco. The Silent Disco was bar far the most fun I had in London during my seminar. Each person wears head phones that can channel in to two different DJ’s on site. You tune in and dance! So simple. There is no music around you- it is all in your head. It is silly, but unexpectedly amazing!
The American Flag, Me, Cassie and Alexis
Science Museum
We Love Silent Discoing!

After the late night at the Science Museum I rushed back to the college to finish up my portion of the website. I was prepared to crank it out as quickly as possible so the next group could log on. (only one group was able to edit at once) What I wasn’t prepared for was the amount of drama that was about to go down in the dorms involving my classmates.

I won’t bore you with the details and frankly I don’t have a drink that is required when retelling the story, but I felt as if someone had plucked me from my life on Windmill Drive and played a prank on me by sending me to the Twilight Zone, which is also known as dorm life. Things eventually did calm down a bit, and I spent the rest of the night packing my suitcase just in case I had to check into my hotel one night early. My roommate and I chuckled about what went down, in our room I might add, but didn’t involve either of us, and finally made our way to bed.
I was delighted there was only one more night after that one, that I had to sleep in the dorms.