Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More Craic...

And now, Ireland - part 2...

Our last day of 2009 was spent traveling across the country. Galway lies on the West coast, on the Atlantic, while Dublin is on the East coast and the Irish Sea. Our only stop along the way was at Clonmacnoise. This former monastery lays in ruins on the Shannon River and offers stunning photo opportunities with its large collection of celtic crosses and large guard towers. This must have been a fantastically beautiful place to live when it was still inhabited by the monastic Christians over a century ago.

From Clonmacnoise, we made the rest of our journey to Dublin. Most of the bus dozed in and out whilst Eunan informed us of various aspects of the lives of the Irish, including healthcare, education and the economy. My most memorable moment from this sleepy ride was when Eunan told us that New Zealand lamb was the best in the world. I can't say I disagree. :)

Our hotels were located in Dublin 4, which at one point was the most expensive locality in all of Europe to buy property. After settling into our hotels, we took a short walk around the suburb before eating dinner and getting ready for our New Year's Eve party! At most Dublin bars on New Year's Eve, huge cover charges apply and reservations are an absolute necessity. So instead, the UMass and UDel bands were brought together at our hotel for a party worthy of bringing in the New Year. What a fantastic night. For the last four years, I have spent my New Year's at work. And while this is one of the most fun nights of the year to work, celebrating with your best friends at a bar in Ireland is a much more fun way to ring in the New Year. And about 4 hours into the New Year, I headed to bed. I had to get some sleep before the parade in the morning.

Friday morning was the day we had all been waiting for. Our parade through the streets of Dublin followed by a performance outside the Lord Mayor's house for her family and representatives from the American Embassy. This was one of the strangest parades I have ever been. 1. There were only three pieces to the parade: a 25-member police band, 25-member community band and the approximately 400-member UD/UMass band. 2. We did about 3 U-Turns. It was bizarre. Nevertheless, it was a wonderful experience. Our sound echoed off of the buildings that lined the streets. The vibrations from our warmup set off a car alarm. This was really funny, but also made tuning a nightmare...

After our performance, we had the rest of the day in Dublin to explore before returning to the hotel for dinner. After dinner, a bunch of ΦΜΑ brothers from UDel headed over to the UMass hotel to mingle with the guys there who are in the process of starting a chapter. It was fantastic just being able to spend some time getting to know them.

Next day? Exploring Dublin! Eunan gave us the full guided tour, showing us the Georgian style of housing that is prominent throughout Dublin, the government buildings and some other historical sites. We made our first stop at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Ironically, it is not a Catholic church, nor is there an official Catholic church in all of Dublin. However, this extremely old church has absolutely gorgeous exterior and interior architecture and a beautiful, yet ancient, organ. Our next stop was Trinity College and the Book of Kells. The campus looked incredible covered in snow and based on looks, I could totally go to college here. The only bad thing about the Book of Kells was the unfortunate rule against photographs being taken. These ancient texts have lasted for hundreds of years and surprisingly still have the vibrant colours that their illustrators intended them to have. Our final stop for the day was the Guinness Brewery, the "Holy Ground" in Dublin. I became a fan of Guinness for sure during this trip and there is none fresher than that at the brewery. My favourite fact from the tour? 2/3 of all Guinness is exported. That means that 1/3 of all of the Guinness consumed globally is consumed in Ireland. Just more proof that the Irish win at drinking.

Our last day in Dublin was spent first with visiting Phoenix Park and then we were let loose on the streets of Dublin for the day to finish up shopping and see anything else that we had yet to see. It was a fun day, wandering around in our groups looking for bandos from other buses. Cold day, but a fun one. Most people spent the last night in Ireland at the hotel bar, enjoying each other's company before we all came back to America the next day.

This trip was better than I ever imagined it would be. The chance to travel a foreign country with so many of my friends was just fantastic. I can't wait to be abroad again in the future with these people again.

Keep reading...


Sunday, January 10, 2010


Apparently going to the South Pacific, Down Under and Down Under Down Under wasn't enough to quench my thirst for experiences abroad. After a mere 20 days in the States, I boarded yet another plane, this time heading over the Atlantic Ocean. After my flights earlier this year, this one should have felt reasonably short. Just 5 hours!

However due to a late arrival, rain, fog and god knows what else, I was somehow able to watch half of the movie The Hangover before we even took off. I didn't sleep a wink on the plane but instead stayed awake with one of the UMass drum majors, Jon Swengler. Great conversation was had, many starbursts were eaten and I ended up with not only a new accessory for that random button hole that serves no other purpose on my pea coat, but also a fantastic new friend. Needless to say that it was a long travel day. Luckily, we had a 3 hour bus ride from the Dublin airport to our hotels in Galway; giving us plenty of time to sleep. After checking in and settling in a bit, all of the Delaware bandos boarded our coach buses and drove to the UMass hotel, where the entire band got out our instruments and rehearsed in an underground parking garage. Wow. I thought I missed band? I realised how much I missed it after that rehearsal. There's just something about making music with hundreds of other people that I really love. After rehearsal, we had a delicious dinner at our hotel (beef stew & bailey's cheesecake...does it get any better?!) and began making plans for the night. A group of eight of us hit the town, wandering around Galway until we found a suitable pub. Pub 1: full of elderly people. We stuck out like sore thumbs. However, clearly a classic example of an Irish pub. Pub 2: louder & a younger crowd. We had a blast here, including watching some guy pass out from either too much Guinness or too much whiskey. Or for combining too much of the two. This night was an absolutely incredible first night in Ireland and it was tough for any subsequent night to even come close!

Waking up early? Not my favourite thing to do. However, when you're greeted by a fantastic Irish breakfast, you feel much better about it. We then loaded our coach buses and headed out to the Burren. * A note about our bus driver. Eunan, or Smithy, was an absolute wealth of information about Ireland. He talked literally non-stop from Dublin to Galway and back again. His sense of humour was incredible and he had great delivery of all of his punch lines. Also, his voice was really soothing and it was quite easy to fall asleep while listening. One girl even said that her dreams had begun to be narrated by Eunan. In short, fantastic driver/tour guide. * The Burren is an area in the northwest part of County Clare that is known for its rocky terrain. Stone walls stripe the countryside and it was eerily familiar to the terrain of New Zealand. Our destination for the day were the Cliffs of Moher. These stunning cliffs rise from between 120 and 214 metres above the sea and offer magnificent views of the Galway Sea. This was an absolutely beautiful location to visit and the drive there was just as spectacular.

That evening, we went to the Latin Quarter of Galway where several pubs hosted us for "dinner" and drinks. I had fantastic luck in that I was able to find everyone I wanted to that night. After a bit of bar hopping and some late night snacking, we returned to the hotel in order to get at least a little bit of sleep before our first performance.

Our first performance in Ireland consisted of a cramped parade through the streets of Galway and a street concert for the Lord Mayor all the while being pelted with rain, sleet and snow. The most comfortable parade? Definitely not. But still, we were performing in Ireland! Yet another reminder of how much I missed this group. The rest of the day was spent exploring Galway with the altos and then heading to Munroe's for a night of Irish food, music and dancing.

Our second day of touring brought us to Kylemore Abbey. This Abbey is a former castle that was built in the mid-1800s and became an Abbey in 1920. This absolutely beautiful building sits lakeside in County Galway. It was a disgustingly cold and wet day but we managed to make the trek lakeside to both the Abbey and the neighboring church. This building now operates as an all girls boarding school. These are some lucky high schoolers.

That night, some of us trekked over to the UMass hotel to enjoy a different setting for dinner and drinks. They definitely had the nicer hotel in Galway. Worth the taxi fare there and back for a great dinner and birthday cake for Andrew's brother, Michael. It was a low key night, although the extremely intoxicated 16-year-olds from Dublin kept us entertained for a good portion of the night. This was the perfect way to close out our time in Galway.

In case anyone didn't notice...I fail at keeping things short, or getting them done in time.

More about Ireland, specifically Dublin, asap.

Until then,


Thursday, December 17, 2009

USA! Yay?

Its been 2 weeks since I've returned home to the States. And what a couple of weeks it has been. Adjusting back to American time and culture was both really difficult and really easy at the same time. So let's discuss the pros and cons of being back in the U S of A.

Good Things:
  • Getting to see my mom at the gate.
  • Real coffee. With cream. And Splenda.
  • Pizza. Real, delicious, 16 inches for $12, NY, thin crust Pizza.
  • Bagels.
  • Discovering Edam Cheese exists here.
  • Getting to see Kiersten after her first semester in college and baking xmas cookies to celebrate. Also, realising we ate 1/4 of the dough and made the cookies twice as big as they were supposed to be.
  • Christmas decorations with snow instead of shorts.
  • Visiting Delaware and hugging about 20 people I've missed way too much.
  • Continuing to hear "i hate you, you're tan" and "did you lose weight?"
  • Rediscovering the amazingness of the people that I live with at UD.
  • Learning to play the saxophone. Again.
  • The speed of the internet. And it's relatively low cost.
  • My dog still remembers me.
  • Diners.
  • Mom made a repeat Thanksgiving dinner. With Oma's stuffing. It seriously doesn't get better than that.

Bad Things:
  • My stomach CONTINUING to get mad at me whenever I eat. or drink. anything.
  • The whole stupid, 21-year-old, alcohol thing.
  • Realising that after being completely settled in with 3 people in a house, I have to start all over. With people who have been together since Sept. Luckily, I love them already :)
  • The obnoxious snail paced American legislative system.
  • Having to read the daily synopsis of Shortland Street rather than watching it.
  • Cold weather. (and yes, I know I said snow was good)
  • Everyone has the same accent as me. And now I chuckle when I hear it. For this, I personally blame Elizabeth Zucco, Lauren Baier and Maggie Ray. Maggie also gets blamed for pointing out the speed at which I talk. I am totally conscience of it now.
  • Newburgh <>
  • No positive exchange rate. When I have a dollar, its just a dollar.
  • Speaking of money, a pocketful of coins is not worth as much as I have become accustomed to. Also, the money all being the same colour is really boring.
  • The fact that everyone I spent the last five months with is a minimum of a four hour drive away. And a maximum of a 22 hour flight.
I'll update this if more things come to my mind.

Merry Christmas,


Saturday, December 5, 2009

So long Pacific...

In 5 hours, I leave Fiji and the Pacific behind me for (most likely) a long time. Let me tell you, the feeling is bittersweet.

I would almost rather say goodbye to my Dad at the gate and get on a different plane, bound back to Wellington. But at the same time, I'm super excited to see my family when I get off the plane in New York and to see long lost friends. It's going to be a whirlwind of three weeks until I get on yet another plane to head to Ireland. But that's a story for another day.

My day today was spent lying in a hammock for about 10 hours. I can only hope the plane is just as comfortable. I highly doubt it.

Can't wait to see everyone reading this and a few that aren't. :D

- Liam


Bula from Fiji!

With only one more day left in Fiji, I can't believe how fast this trip has gone. While the days have taken forever to end, they have somehow managed to speed up, as they always do.

Since our arrival in Fiji, we have been sweating. The weather here never gets colder than about 22 degrees celsius. And in Wellington, it never got higher than 20. So I'm certainly much hotter here.

On Friday, we took a tour down along the southern coast to Suva, the capital. From there, we boarded long canoes and were motored up the river for at least an hour, through the pouring rain to a remote mountain village. There, we were greeted with a ceremony in which we were able to sample kava, which is a local drink. It is not alcohol, but does numb your tongue as novacaine does. An interesting drink for sure. It was awesome to visit this village, try some local cuisine and meet the natives.

On Saturday we took a boat ride out to a smaller island and did absolutely nothing. A bit of sand, a bit of sun and a lot of dozing. Basically relaxing on a beach with a cold drink. An awesome day. Hopefully tomorrow will be a repeat.

Sorry for no pictures, but I can't access my laptop here.

Can't wait to talk/see you all on Sunday!

- Liam

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Family Affair

Hey everyone,

Sorry I've been totes slacking on this blog thing. The past week has flown by and there has been little time to sit down and write.

Right now I'm in a small town called Frankston South, which is about an hours drive south of Melbourne. The best part about being here has been meeting new family! My dad's cousin has lived here for the past 20-odd years and it has been fantastic meeting her and her family. Melbourne is an awesome city that suits me better than Sydney. There were many similarities to Wellington, minus the hills of course. A plethora of cafes and bars dot the city and I was lucky enough to visit a few with my new found cousins.

Since Canberra, we have driven down to Melbourne through the Great Dividing Range and along the coast of the Southern Ocean. Our first stop was Jindabyne which is a ski town. However, when its warm and sunny out it's hard to believe that snow ever falls here. But the signs for ski shops and snow chains assured us that it was indeed a ski resort town. Our main reason for stopping here was to climb Mt. Kosciusko which is the tallest mountain in Australia. At 7310 feet, its the tallest mountain that I have climbed. The hike itself was pretty easy, but started out with
a cloud surrounding us, cold weather and 30 mph winds.

Uncle Bobby and I were a little hesitant but we knew that the hike was #1 on Dad's list for the trip so we stuck through it. Luckily for us, just as we arrived at the summit, the sun broke through the clouds and we were able to see everything.

In the end, the tramp was pretty awesome and it's pretty cool to be able to say that I climbed the tallest peak in Australia. (These two pictures are of the same stream. One was taken when we were climbing up the mountain and the other on the way down. The difference is awesome).

After that it was two days of small towns and the coastline. The small towns absolutely reminded me of New Zealand. I love the small town vibe over here and it was great to be able to stop in some more, just to meet the locals, get a coffee and see what strange thing each one is proud of. The coast is also really pretty. Australia may have some of the most desolate landscape that I've seen on this trip, but they also have some of the most beautiful beaches.

And now I'm in Melbourne. The last two days have been great here and I'll be sad to leave my newly found cousins (and Australia) in the AM. But now its on to Fiji and then the USA. These past few weeks, and past few months have flown by and I have a new respect for time. It never stands still, so take full advantage of every minute.

More from the South Pacific soon,


Thursday, November 26, 2009

'tis the season

Kia Ora,

So in both New Zealand and Australia, the Christmas season starts immediately after Guy Fawkes Day (5 November). I must say that it is really weird seeing Christmas decorations in early November. In the US, we wait until after Thanksgiving before going full force into the season.

Well, today was Thanksgiving. Weirdest Thanksgiving of my life. No parade, no stuffing, no turkey, no pie, no Braveheart. It just didn't feel like Thanksgiving without these things. Our hope was to find a restaurant serving Kangaroo for dinner, but we were unable to do so. Instead, we went to a Chinese restaurant, where we all ordered duck. This immediately reminded me of the movie A Christmas Story. As the Christmas season in the movie ends, thus did mine begin. Once we left the restaurant, the Christmas lights across the street lit up and showed us that Christmas has truly arrived, both here and in the US.

Eat lots of turkey America. Happy Thanksgiving! :)

- Liam