Month: November 2012

Rewards

A funny thing happens when you travel. Somewhere along the point where you bought a ticket and you post dopey pictures on Facebook, everyone suddenly thinks you’re way cooler.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate this. But more than one person, usually people whom I used to be close with but I have grown apart from over the years, have messaged me in some form or another and said something along the lines of, “Glad to see all you have accomplished in life! I’m so proud of you!”

Not that this is a bad thing in the least; I feel very happy and fortunate to not only talk to these people once again, if only for a fleeting moment, and of course be in Italy too and spending my semester across the pond. But one thing that kind of gets to me is this: why is it that travel is what has validated everything else that you have accomplished?

I’m gonna toot my own horn here a little bit- although high school was a lot of fun and I made the best friends I think I will ever have and I really figured out what general direction I wanted to go in during life, I was kind of a mess. I was always upset over this and that, stressed out and sad and making silly teenage drama something of a big deal. College started out rough, but now I feel that I’ve done pretty well for myself: I finished my Honors thesis last year, I will graduate next semester with two minors, and I’ve held various positions in my University from editor-in-chief of the Honors Newsletter, Features editor and Senior editor of our University paper, president of the Honors Student Council, writer for our literary magazine, tutor in computer skills and English, and Supervisor for our alumni contact program of the Annual Fund.

So now I have to ask: why is it that one semester of running around Europe suddenly makes you successful?

Well, it doesn’t. That’s all. Maybe what you have done becomes more visible to people throughout your lame photos that you send to your friends. But the point I’m really getting at here is that you don’t need some obscenely expensive trip to prove you’ve done something or change yourself into someone important.

I think that many of us held the notion that after leaving from our semester abroad, we would be totally different people- enlightened, mature, responsible, independent. Have we retained some of these skills throughout the few short months? Yeah, probably. But I think that in part, they were already there.

So students abroad, don’t fret that you didn’t have some Great Revelation throughout the weeks you were chugging wine on Via del Proconsolo or that you didn’t find yourself within one of the many airports you trekked through. Hell, you could have done those things within the comfort of your room. If everyone at home wants to think that now you’re something great, then let them. But the truth of it is, if you made the conscious decision to abandon your mom, your dog, your comfort, and basically everything else you’ve ever known to hop on a plane with fifteen (or zero) random strangers for three months, you probably weren’t as awful as you thought to begin with.

 

Pretty sure I was already this weird before I bought a plane ticket.

Milano: Just Stay at the Airport

So when my dear friend Alex and I departed Budapest, we landed in Milan so she could catch her flight home out of Milan the next day (sad!) After two flights and an unpleasant layover, we were happy to arrive to our hotel in Milan only to see this…

Yeah. It’s a far cry from the Marriott we enjoyed in Budapest, let me tell you. When we walked into the room, I immediately saw we had one bed to share (yet again…) when I had gotten two. The guy at the front desk told me it wasn’t a big deal and “they’re the same price anyway.” What happened to the customer is always right? Oh yeah there were also pubes- yes PUBES- in the bed and I don’t think the sheets had ever been washed. I slept in my sweatshirt and hoped that at the very least, the lock worked. DON’T STAY AT HOTEL VERONA. JUST DON’T.

But anyway, after I dropped Alex off around 8:00 am, I had like three hours to kill before my own train came and I would be en route to Florence. So why not see Milan for a little?

I was there for, like I said, three hours, and trust me, this is enough time to see all the sights. First, I stopped at their Duomo, which is a pretty nice church to say the least. Not as good as Florence’s Duomo (my own personal opinion) but whatevs. When it was built, it was made for all 40,000 residents of Milan, so needless to say it’s not little.

Then I headed over to the Galleria next door which is basically just a big shopping and people-watching center. Unfortunately for me, since it was 9:00 am, there were no people to watch, just this bull’s balls to step on the floor which is apparently good luck.

I also walked on over to Sforza Castle where the equivalent of the Medici family in Florence lived, gandered through their own little city park and fed some ducks, and strolled Via Dante, a huge pedestrian-only pathway that has some shops. This is literally all there is to see in Milan and everything will cost you an arm and a leg. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Honeymooning Across Hungary

Luckily for me, this past week, I had a THIRD person come visit me here in Italy, which is literally a miracle. Unlike my own parents who I begged and pleaded to visit (note: they didn’t) my best friend Alex from home booked her ticket basically as soon as I signed my name on the dotted line in the study abroad office.

Even more luckily, when her mother and aunt found out that we were going to Budapest, Hungary for the weekend, they decided that this was the perfect opportunity for them to go to Hungary, a place being that since they have Hungarian roots, they have always wanted to visit. When we got off our plane and got on the sketchy bus to drive to our hotel, we were delighted to see that instead of staying in a per-us shitty hostel, we were staying at the beautiful Marriott on the Danube River. The day before, Alex and I had shared a twin bed. Here’s just the view from the window.

After passing the eff out and waking up at- god forbid- 8:00 am, Alex and I walked over to the Four Seasons a few blocks away (!) to have a beautiful breakfast with her aunt and her mother. Then, we booked a ticket for the double-decker tour bus and saw some of the city.

On our very rocky bus ride, we saw the House of Terror, which is a museum that explores the Fascist and Communism regimes that dominated Hungary. Fun fact: Later that day, we were in a cab and our cab driver was telling us about when he was a kid in Hungary and communism was in control. His words:

Communism wasn’t even all that bad. Now, everyone works too hard and the banks take all of your money. Everything you see on television about Communism is 50% fabricated. 

Uh, okay. He also mentioned to us that he doesn’t like the Italian women because they all have mustaches. Go figure.

We also stopped at Heroes’ Square, which features the Millennium Memorial. To me, this square is just a bunch of museums and a zoo that cost money so obviously, I did not attend. The memorial itself in the center is dedicated “To the memory of the heroes who gave their lives for the freedom of our people and our national independence.”

If you walk past the square a little bit though, you will see Vajdahunyad Castle, which is a replica of the stereotypical “Transylvanian castle” (the only place I have ever wanted to go in life) and even though it’s really of no historical value I think it’s cool anyway. Plus there’s a nice ice rink.

We also strolled the Christmas markets, which were pretty sweet because Hungary loves Christmas. This is pretty nice for me because over in Italy, the weather still feels like fall and it isn’t really Christmas-ed out, but Hungary is decked out in their hot chocolate and ornaments and fur and… rooster balls? Fried? Well, okay.

The next day, Alex and I went to the Szechenyi Baths, one of the public bathhouses in Budapest. This reminds me a lot of the movie Spirited Away (if you haven’t seen it, don’t worry about it). Supposedly, the hot outdoor baths have mineral water that cures all ailments, but really, it’s a big outdoor pool, people. The strong whirlpool is fun for kids (read: me) and it feels nice to be in a swimsuit outside in 30 degree weather, but really it’s a pool that’s gonna make you out 12 euros. You are also gonna see a lot of dudes in Speedos and a lot of… other things… you didn’t want to see. Old people, they just don’t care.

That day also just happened to be Thanksgiving. Obviously Hungary doesn’t celebrate Turkey Day, but everyone’s got a Thanksgiving menu for the American tourists. I’m sure Alex and her family were sad to be away from home on Thanksgiving, but honestly, I couldn’t have asked for a better time. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t driving hours to go from dinner to dinner, house to house, because my parents are divorced and thus I am required to spend the day in my Ford Focus. I wasn’t getting yelled at for not making it to every house on time, nor was I subject to my sister’s idiocy or my father’s screaming. Instead, I ate a nice meal at the Four Seasons with my best friend. We all ate, we talked, and then we went to sleep. I think this is how holidays were meant to be. You’re not supposed to be driven out of your own house because your family can’t pretend to like each other for more than fifteen minutes. I’m gonna start going away more often.

Budapest is a cool place and is worth a look, but not really more than two days. To be fair, I didn’t learn too much historical significance because I was busy hanging out with my best friends and taking really dumb pictures. Whatevs. We all need a break from learning and smelly hostels once in a while.

An Ode to Rudeness

I’m from New Jersey.

Go ahead, do it. Judge me. Think about how I’m rude, obnoxious, uneducated, loud, dirty, and I drive like a maniac. Am I some of these things? Yes, probably. But I also don’t look like this:

Just because you are from New Jersey, or really anywhere else in the world, means that you live up to their stereotypes, as I’m sure anyone with half a brain can figure out. But one thing I gotta say: as rude as New Jerseyans and New Yorkers are portrayed to be, Italy is much worse.

Don’t get me wrong here; there are tons of people in Italy who smile at me in a non-creepy way and yell out BUONGIORNO! when I walk by when I can barely even articulate words because it’s 9:00 am, but there the vast majority seem to be pissed that I’m even in the country. They’re pissed I don’t speak Italian, they’re pissed that I’m on the train, they seem to be pissed that I’m even breathing. So I have to ask, Italy; why so blue?

I’m sorry that sometimes I have to ask you for directions. I’m sorry that my Italian is mediocre at best, and I’m sorry that I literally cannot find one thing on this shitty map and I guess I’m sorry that my presence upsets you so much, because really people, I’m just trying to see the world here. Chin up, Italy. Have a cappuccino and put your best smile on.

The Wonders of Sobriety

Being that most people who study abroad are juniors in college, many of them haven’t hit the much-coveted 21-year mark yet and feel the need to milk the bars in Europe for all they’re worth, blowing their money on beers before they are shipped back to the States and they have to go back to overcrowded frat parties and badly mixed drinks for a few more solid months.

Since I’m already 21, I don’t fit into this category (anymore). Don’t get me wrong, when I was 20 I would have killed (literally, actually killed people) to be at the bar with all my friends, where I heard, from my good 21-year-old friend Jesse, that “everything you could ever want is there, from rainbows and unicorns to all the best loot you can imagine.”

However, I’m grateful to have already been 21 for a good while before coming here, because I feel absolutely no impulse to blow all my money (and time) on getting drunk. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for going out and having a good time… on the weekends. When I have nothing else of value to do. But when it’s Wednesday and I have class at 9:00 am the next day with my crazy Italian professor, then no, I don’t really feel like going to the bar with you. Sorry.

I totally understand that people come abroad for different reasons. Some people come to solely travel, like myself. Some come to live; to learn the culture and go out to eat and study Italian. Some come to shop and come home with a coveted new Italian wardrobe. And others come to party. This is okay.

But before you choose to spend yet another five euros at the bar (for the first twenty minutes…) think about this- all that spent money on shitty drinks on Monday nights could have gone towards your trip to Switzerland, a beautiful steak dinner with your new Italian friends, or a pair of fancy Italian leather boots bargained for at the San Lorenzo market. Your memories of Florence don’t have to be a haze for you to know that you had a good time. A balance exists, you just have to find it within the piles of pasta and gelato.

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Everything I drank for this night I did so in the comfort and cheapness of my own apartment. WIN.

The Red White and… Green?

In the days of the bobble that we now live in, I will admit something very shameful- I used to be a plastic water bottle girl. Tragic, I know.

Anyway, (sorry, poor segue) Europe, among its eight zillion differences from the good ol US of A, loves the environment. Unlike in America, where we spend more time debating if global warming is real and talking about what a dbag Al Gore is, in Europe, they actually do this thing called recycling. And they don’t do it because a faux president made a video or because gas prices are obscenely high, but they do it just because they do it.

For example: In Italy, you have a limit of how much electricity you can use per household, and if you go over it, you don’t get some bullshit fee that you could probably argue your way out of at the end of the month but instead they simply shut off your electricity. In my apartment, this happens literally at least once a day. The washing machine and the oven can’t even be on at the same time and if someone is straightening their hair, just forget it. I have been trapped in the kitchen more than once in the dark, haunted by past American Horror Story episodes.

When throwing away garbage in Italy, you don’t have the opportunity to choose what is recycled and what isn’t. If you’re lucky enough to live in a place where a garbage man picks up your trash, you better sort it yourself into one of four categories or else the police will actually come looking for you. True story.

Also, since every grocery store is the size of my living room and you can only buy as much as you can carry on your back, huge cases of water are simply out of the question unless you could 1. find a pack of water and 2. be devoted enough to make two grocery store trips. Instead, most people invest in a cheap reusable water bottle, which is more cost-effective, green, and also colorful. Plus, you can refill it in the bathroom sink instead of pulling one out of your fridge. Who knew?

It’s always funny to me when people say “global warming doesn’t exist” or what we do the environment simply doesn’t matter. There are approximately 7 billion people in the world, overcrowding this world, and you think they have no effect on this planet? Really? The debate on if global warming exists is insignificant. The fact that one day, the trees that you’ll be saving are the ones in your yard is what should really matter. You don’t care about the environment for yourself? That’s fine. But when your grandkids have to go to a museum to see a tree and they’re pining away for the Lorax, you’ll be wishing you had the decency to put those papers in the blue bin instead of the green.

In Europe, recycling isn’t a choice or a nice thing to do. It’s simply what you do, as natural as brushing your teeth. Don’t get me wrong, I love America with all my heart, and I’m no hater. Red white and blue all the way. But we could learn a few things from our friends across the pond.

Repeat This.

Out of the zillions of things that I kind of wish someone would have alluded at to me before I stepped onto a plane (“Maybe you should bring more than five shirts.” “An extra charger will be useful for when you blow them all out.” “You should really be working more in the summer before you leave instead of spending so much time at the beach bar”) one of them that was mentioned to me which has remained true is to keep an open mind. 

This struck me the most when my friend visited from back home last week, who had a hard time with the various eccentricities that cloud Italy like:

1. How my apartment’s electricity switches off at least twice a day

2. Some people get drunk and run around screaming on all the days that end in “y”

3. Any listed times for public transportation have a buffer period of like a year

4. You will get whatever food the chef feels like making

When these, and various other things happened to us, she asked me, “Doesn’t this bug you?” when I realized, no, it actually doesn’t. If I was a random visitor and not well prepared, if I was me three months ago, then yes it would.

But thank you, advisor, for really stressing me to actually keep an open mind and not wholly freak out every time things don’t go my way. This truly is the most important thing in study abroad and perhaps in life: it is very easier to get frustrated, angry, irritable, and downright aghast when things don’t go your way. But if you stop for a second and think to yourself, Okay, what is the other side of this? What are these people thinking? your experience is going to be a whole lot happier.

For example: Those girls who drink every night? Maybe they don’t have the money to travel every weekend like you do, so they’re making up for it by having a good time when they can. That chef who gave you the wrong order? This is his favorite dish and he knew you were going to like it. The fact the bus is like twenty minutes late? Maybe this is teaching you that you need to walk a little faster and stop buying so many cannolis when you should be at the bus stop already.

So spend an extra five seconds thinking about the situation. Take a breather and a laugh after you realize you are lost- again- and yes, the tour group has already left you behind anyway so you might as well begin that self-guided tour now and make some friends. Trust me, having an open mind here in Italy, as well as back in America where you can argue your way out of anything, will take you farther than any plane will.

Nomad Couture

“I don’t know anyone who breaks as many shoes as you do,” says my boyfriend, after I tell him that I broke my fourth pair of shoes this semester.

Which, may or may not be a valid observation. Studying abroad, aka traveling more than you most likely will travel in your entire life ever again within a three month timespan, takes a lot out of you, and a lot of out your… stuff. For example: I often find myself silently praying not that I have a safe flight or that the bus is on time, but instead that Please, PLEASE let my backpack make it, just one more week. That’s it. I promise I will stop drinking so much beer. 

And it doesn’t stop there with my backpack. Mostly, this applies for shoes, since those (and, come to think of it, basically everything I own) cost less than $20 and has the quality to reflect that. Not only do I just happen to break many things, but I also walk a lot and get lost a lot and lose my stuff a lot. SORRY OKAY!

Anyway, the great thing about studying abroad is even though you started accidentally dressing like a gypsy, you’re basically a nomad anyway so it’s kind of acceptable. (“This ten-year-old backpack is so handy.” “This shoes with these ginormous holes in them are so comfortable and it’s easier to tell when it’s raining.” “I love this big ugly jacket that some idiot must have accidentally left in the dumpster.”)

Now that I only have two pairs of shoes left when I came here with literally like ten, everyone keeps telling me that I have a great excuse to buy some nice Italian leather to take home. But what I’m really thinking is I could get myself a really nice steak with that money instead, and I’m gonna need the space in my suitcase that those shoes would have taken up since I plan on taking home a hell of a lot of four euro wine.

Also, this thought process makes you see that things are just that- things. Italian leather boots are still just a pile of leather you’ll be sick of in a few months, and a beautiful patterned jacket is just something you’ll need when it rains. Instead, the only thing fashion matters for when you have no money and no space in your suitcase is if your Facebook pictures will still look okay so all your friends can be jealous of all the fun you’re having.

So now, when my shoes break at the airport during the security check I’ll actually be glad, because this means I can take out my spare pair and that’s one less thing I’ll have to carry on my back. Will I still look like a crazy bag lady when I get back home and have my wonderful closet back? Probably not. But for now, it’s kind of nice to jump in the mud puddles, get soaked in the rain, and leave clothes in the hostel that you’ve been wearing for a week straight.

I Think Romance Missed the Flight.

Today over some wine in my Pairing Food with Wine class (thank you, study abroad), I overheard this conversation, which really isn’t very out of the ordinary:

Girl 1: “I don’t do very well in relationships because I’m just like ‘The Man.’ He will always be texting me and I’m just like, ‘I don’t care.'”

Girl 2: “Well I mean, like, the only reason I said yes to my boyfriend because he was just like, ‘Everything is gonna stay exactly the same while you’re in Florence. Just email me like once a week to let me know you’re alive. ‘ Which is great for me because I just want to do my own thing.” (Also, to note, this girl also said that this boy surprised her by flying out to Florence to visit her and bought her a ticket to Paris and then asked her out on some famous bridge).

Girl 3: “I just want to be single because c’mon, I’m 20-years-old. I don’t want to be tied down because who knows where my job will take me? Or graduate school? My mom always says that a boy can follow me around if he wants to as I travel the world, but I better follow my own dreams.”

Fifty years ago, this conversation would have been jaw-dropping! Unbelievable! Coming of age for its time! And yet today, in a world where women rule anyway and the only thing you need a man to do is… well, nothing, it really just sounds a little silly to me.

Here’s the thing. I totally get that you want to be independent, free to do anything you want, go anywhere you want. But at what point did this mean that you had to cut any sort of romance out of the picture? When did romance lose its fun and just gain a hell of a lot of anchors?

I don’t think you have to be a bitch to be independent. I don’t think that you need to declare that you’re swearing off men because you want a career, or decide that you’re only going to do random hookups or pretend not to care about anyone because you don’t want to end up like Your Friend’s Mom’s Best Friend who got married at 21 and had five kids and now spends her days crying, watching soap operas, and doing laundry.

Being in a relationship or admitting to actually like someone isn’t what makes you uncool. What makes you uncool is when you stay holed up in your room all day Skyping your boyfriend and writing sad emails to your mom when you could be out exploring this beautiful city. Fortunately, the amount of these people is rather limited, so I think you can all stop declaring what awesome bitches you are and instead admit when you actually like someone because guess what? “Liking” is a natural human emotion. Who knew?

Now later on in the conversation, I heard this one:

Girl 3: “We were both so whatever about it, that now me and my guy back at home have been hooking up for like a year and haven’t done anything about it. I’m kind of over the random hookups and I got that out of my system freshmen year, but it would be weird to try for anything with him now.”

Girl 1: “Yeah, I get you. I have been hooking up with this older guy for a long time, but he has already graduated and has a job and I want to live in Chicago, so it’s a little late to try for anything.”

So, now the truth creeps out, just a little bit. What is odd to me is that these “empowered” women have no problem fighting for their careers, but yet they are so willing to let guys who they have come to care about actually walk on them a little bit by making them feel like a random hookup is all they can ask for if they want to have fulfilling lives outside of a serious relationship.

Guess what, ladies? You CAN have it all. The great thing about being an empowered woman in 2012 is that not only can you have a fulfilling career, caring friends, an extraordinary education, and a great family, but you can also have a dude alongside you that also serves as a best friend. A man doesn’t mean staying home and cooking and doing laundry anymore. It means another person, among many, to care about. It doesn’t make you lame or “tied down” or anything other than the person you already were, if you don’t choose to make it that way.

And this exactly qualifies for your time abroad, too. Okay, yes, if your boyfriend is getting pissed you can’t text him when you’re at the Florentine soccer game for one hour, that is a problem. A major problem. But no one ever said that because someone kind of likes you who happens to be 3000 miles away at the moment, you have to stay holed up and be lame. There are lots of secret American girlfriends, all over Florence, who have someone waiting for them at home and can still go out and get just as smashed as you. Trust me.

Irlandia the Beautiful

Even though it is literally raining half of the days out of the year in Ireland, trust me, it does not bring anyone down. Instead, no matter what the weather, the season, or the occasion, you can find the Irish being their jolly selves… usually jollily getting drunk.

This is only one of many things that we found out about the little island almost immediately after our budget flight landed in Dublin with the sky basically falling down in big pellets of rain. Unlike in Italy, where we are often snubbed and usually pushed and/or lied to, everybody in Ireland just seems pretty psyched to be. As idiot tourists, we were often confused and lost, and at no point did the Irish ever express anything other than politeness and friendliness.

Oh wait, hold on. There was that one time where at the first night out, at The Temple Bar (one of oldest and most famous bars in Dublin) this waiter told me to fuck off after I asked for a glass of water. But see… this is because they would rather you drink the Guinness, since this means that you’re more likely to want to dance and sing to Galway Girl later in the evening, plus they’ve already assumed that you two are best friends.

Being that the Temple Bar is a popular go (especially for tourists) we went there on our first Thursday in Dublin, hoping to escape some crowds. We didn’t. It seems that no matter what time of day (or night) that place is poppin with live music and people jumping and swigging bears and eating ham sandwiches (which is perfectly suited for me). Another great part of this pub atmosphere is that it doesn’t matter if it’s 10:00 am or 10:00 pm. People are still dressed the same, cozy warm in their layers and jackets, and they’re still doing the same things- smiling and drinking beers.

On our first full day in Dublin, we got acquainted with the city, obviously of course with a day of rain. Unlike in Italy where people dress for the tundra in 60 degree weather, during the day some people don’t bother wearing jackets and at night, girls run about in their short skirts and sky high heels, hoping that their straightened hair will escape the rain and that their goosebumps will subside under the warm 45 degree Fahrenheit weather.

Dublin reminds me a lot of Seattle, Washington, with its constant rain and thus sort of drabness, but in a more purposeful way. The gray buildings and forgotten cobblestone streets want to stay that way, and they don’t really care if you think they’re ugly. They actually think it’s kind of funny, which is obvious from the various jokes that embalm this city. For instance, apparently someone thought it would be nice to put up a plaque commemorating the death of a priest. After some searching, the City Council determined that this priest never even existed and it was just a kind of weird joke. The City removed the plaque (which is on River Liffy) but then they figured hey? Why not? and put the plaque back for everyone to have a laugh at.

Another example? Half of Dublin Castle looks pretty, for lack of a better term, castle-y. It’s made of brownish-grayish stone and looks pretty old and like it probably does something important. The other half of the castle looks like a giant pile of rainbow legos. Why did the architect do this? Because he felt like it, that’s why.

We also stopped by Trinity College (the Harvard of Ireland), where, if you pass nearly impossible tests, you can live and eat there for free… but everyone will most likely hate you, as well as the Forty Steps of Ireland, where a scene from PS I Love You was filmed. Plus, we strolled on through the Ha’Penny Bridge, which used to be owned by some guy who made everyone pay half a penny to pass, and St. Stephen’s Green, as well as a couple other sights.

That night, we went on a pub crawl in Dublin, a pretty typical Friday night anywhere, except for once we were going to actual pubs. Sketchy dive bars or places that dads and kids alike hang out, they were actually a pleasant change from nightclubs where creepy dudes try to feel you up when they think you’re not paying attention and you can’t even hear yourself think over the music. Instead, we danced to Irish music at O’Neill’s Pub as locals cheered us on for our poor Irish jigs and shared thick beers on the bars of places that looked like painted over basements, complete with sawdust and 80’s movies playing on the walls.

The next day, we woke up to drive the three hours to the Cliffs of Moher, a sight you have probably seen in quite a few movies, including Leap Year. My roommate and I, Vanessa, climbed the cliffs and breathed in the fresh, crisp air (along with some more rain), gazing over the cliffs and the Atlantic to the various islands that sit in between.

After the Cliffs, we drove another hour to Galway, where instead of driving through highways and street signs we drove through country roads filled with sheep where we had to actually stop and pull over if another car was coming. In Galway, an adorable old man named Liam showed us around the quaint city including how the town itself is built into the original outside walls of the place and the exact spot where Jane Joyce’s lover, Richard, killed himself and continued to haunt her and her new lover’s mind for the rest of his days.

So is Ireland all about getting drunk? No, not really. They love their beer, but probably because it makes them even more able to enjoy their beautiful country, their lively pubs, their springing music, their smiling neighbors.