Oxford Birthday

I had the pleasure of spending my birthday weekend in Oxford with my best friend/life wife/flatmate. She did her Master’s degree at Oxford and I’ve wanted to visit with her ever since we met. It was everything I imagined and more and I can certainly see why it is her favourite place in the world. I was really impressed with how friendly everyone was and not to mention the obvious: the gorgeous architecture!

Highlights:

  • Staying in Exeter College – our accommodation was a room where Fellows stay, absolutely STUNNING and massive! It was honestly the size of an apartment and we had 4 different rooms! The light was incredible and the room was so quiet.
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Entrance to Exeter College’s Dining Hall

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  • Fellows’ Garden at Exeter College – favourite spot in Oxford, you cannot beat the views! Not to mention the privacy and the beauty. There’s not a better spot when the sun is shining.
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The view from the Fellows’ Garden at Exeter

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  • Cream tea at Vaults and Garden (located in the garden of St. Mary’s) – we didn’t waste any time when I arrived, we pretty much went straight to V&G for tea and scones!! Their house blend is easily the best black tea I’ve ever tasted. I already miss clotted cream…

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Vaults and Garden

  • Climbed St. Mary’s – the views are incredible! Well worth the £4 and the 25 minute wait.
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View from the top of St. Mary’s

  • Iced dirty chai at the Missing Bean – my first dirty chai (chai latte with a shot of espresso) and I’m addicted! Not to mention I completely fell in love with the Missing Bean – it is definitely in my top 3 coffee shops I’ve ever visited!

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  • Pimm’s at The Bear – such a great pub! We didn’t eat there but I was very impressed with their menu. A big step up from normal pub food!
  • Blue cheese burger at Turf Tavern – some of the loveliest outdoor seating areas I’ve ever seen
  • Bagel (with a gorgeous amount of cream cheese) and iced latte to start my second day at the Missing Bean – this place knows how to do coffee. Easily the best iced latte I’ve ever had! So smooth.
  • Touring some of the other colleges: Christ Church (the dining hall is unbelievably impressive), Merton, Magdalen (the gardens!!! most impressive grounds)
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Christ Church Dining Hall

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Magdalen

 

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  • Exploring the Covered Market and buying 3 different cheeses (Oxford Blue!) and fruit for our light picnic-in-bed dinner that evening (the weather wasn’t great and our room was so comfortable!)
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Perk of being an adult:  being able to eat just this (+ a baguette and a nectarine) for dinner!

  • Champagne High Tea at the Old Parsonage Hotel – K surprised me with this for my birthday. This place is absolutely STUNNING and this was my first ever proper high tea!! I was so impressed with everything about this place: the interior, the exterior, the staff, the lovely royal blue ‘princess’ sofa I got to sit on, the champagne, the tea, the clotted cream and jam, all of the sweet and savoury foods (except for the macarons). We were sickeningly STUFFED afterwards, mostly from all of the liquid… we each had 2 pots of tea!! I physically couldn’t sit up towards the end of the experience but it was SO WORTH IT.
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The Old Parsonage Hotel

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  • Drinks at The Morse Bar (in the Randolph Hotel) – we originally went just for a glass of white wine (we are poor students + we were still full from high tea) but while we were drinking our wine, we were watching Jose the bartender/artiste make cocktails for other customers. I’ve never been SO impressed by a bartender’s care and passion for making cocktails. We were intrigued by a certain cocktail he made multiple times – he carefully peeled a lemon and daintily wrapped it around the outside of the glass and propped it inside the drink and for the grand finale, PERFUMED THE COCKTAIL!!!! We later found out he was perfuming it with vanilla, but oh my goodness did this blow our minds. We decided right then and there that we had to have whatever that drink was. Best £13 I’ve ever spent! It was the Morse Bar Champagne Cocktail and was invented by Jose and I’m convinced it’s my favourite and the most unique cocktail I’ve ever had. It was visually stunning as well – very fitting for a birthday girl! “An outstanding pre-dinner fizz – combines Calvados Apple Brandy with Champagne and a hint of lemon and vanilla”

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  • Breakfast at Turl Street Kitchen – my first time having ‘bubble and squeak’! I had never even heard of it before and absolutely adored it. Great inventive way to use the leftover veg and potatoes from the previous night’s roast dinner!

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  • Tour of the Bodleian Library– I did the 1 hour standard tour of the 15th-century Divinity School, Convocation House, Chancellor’s Court and Duke Humfrey’s medieval library. Absolutely stunning and well worth the £8 – our tour guide was fantastic. It seems like they limit the groups to 15 people. Be warned: these tours DO sell out, so get your tickets in advance!
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Divinity School

  • Exhibition at the Weston Library – we went to see one of their special collections and it was stunning! My favourite was Charlemagne’s purple and gold manuscript (mid-9th century)… so unique!

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  • Exploring various shops (Blackwell’s bookstore and Blackwell’s art & poster shop; Pod; leather shops)
  • Lunch at Vaults and Garden – veggie lasagne (exquisite!) with a salad
  • Cake (elderflower and poppyseed // avocado and lime) and iced dirty chai at the Handle Bar café (formerly known as Zappi’s) – absolutely loved this place!! It is located above a bike shop.

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It was really relaxing to not worry about anything other than my next meal and to explore a beautiful city with my best friend (except for the fact that I almost missed my flight back to Dublin – details in my next post). I cannot think of a better way to start my 28th year! On that note…

Is it just me or does the jump from 27 to 28 seem massive?! I feel like I just jumped from my mid-twenties to proper adulthood. This is probably because it coincides with finishing my Master’s degree but still. As sad as I am that today is the last day of August (WHAT!? Is it just me or did this summer fly by faster than usual?!), I have a fire in my belly and am so excited to begin my career and see what this next year holds for me. The next few months will very much be a transition period for me. I was hoping to submit my dissertation today but am (hopefully just) about a week and a half behind…nearly there!

I am going to enjoy my last few days/weeks of being a student and my very last month of student discounts. The next time I post, I won’t be a student anymore!

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August Thoughts

Dearest blog, we meet again… at the time we usually meet:  when I am struggling to write my dissertation.  I find blogging and writing creatively often helps me to write academically, so here I am.

I simply cannot accept the fact that it is the 1st of August. How did this happen?! Time is flying faster than usual and if it’s true that time flies quicker the older you get, I cannot imagine what life is going to be like when I’m a whole lot older.

I’m not ready for it to be August for a few major reasons:

  • This is my last official month of being a student and therefore, life as I know it will never be the same once August is over.  As much as I am ready to be rid of the stress that comes with being a student, I am not ready for such a big change and will never be ready to give up my ever-changing, flexible schedule that is always full of variety.
  • My dissertation is officially due this month, need I say more?   This is the most terrifying sentence I have ever typed! It is going well but is naturally causing me lots of stress and is eating up all of my energy. Summer college classes are not a thing here in Ireland and it’s getting old trying to explain to people how this summer is the most stressful time of my student life. “But aren’t you supposed to be on holidays?” NO! “Well, you deserve a holiday when you finish!” … If only I could afford one!
  • I am not ready to be 28.  I am very, very excited (and blessed) to be celebrating my birthday in Oxford with my life wife at the end of this month, but I am not ready to say goodbye to 27, my golden year. Twenty-eight just seems so much older. I still feel like a 14 year old a lot of the time. I am currently reading the book “The Defining Decade:  Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now” by Dr. Meg Jay and, while it is incredibly insightful and parts of it make me feel so much better about myself, I do wish I had discovered this book in my younger twenties and find myself wondering and worrying about the state of my life. Having said this, if you are a twenty-something, read this book now!! I cannot recommend it enough.
  • When August is over, I am officially facing the dreaded unknown. I will be in a major transition period and, while I know I will still be living in Dublin, I have no idea what I’ll be doing for work next month and if I’ll even have a job.
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Procrastinating going to the library to work on my dissertation by colouring

I must say, one positive thing about being a Master’s student trying to finish her dissertation is the ability and excuse to justify anything. Even though I’m as poor as they come, I can easily justify a take-away coffee every day and the occasional (but more occasional than normal) treat… because I’m finishing my dissertation and will do whatever it takes. Whatever gets me through!

Who knows where I’ll be in a month’s time. It’s terrifying but also a bit exciting. We all go through these major transition periods and I do have faith that whatever is meant to happen, will.

Are you going through a transition period right now? Tell me about it in a comment!

Beautiful June

June was the best month of my life – I had the most beautiful time with my family. They came to visit me in Ireland and it was our first time together outside of the U.S. My sister was here for 1 month and my parents were here for 2 of those weeks.

As a family, we did a bit of sight-seeing in Dublin, ate lots of nice meals, spent time with a few of my friends, hired a car to spend a day in Wicklow and travelled to Galway and the Aran Islands and stayed in a B&B on Inis Mór one night. My sister and I went to lots of places together – among the highlights: Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, Cork, Blarney Castle, Carrick-A-Rede Rope Bridge, Giant’s Causeway, Belfast and we even spent 3 days in Amsterdam. It was an extremely busy but extraordinarily beautiful month. Seeing how much they also love my “home country” literally meant everything to me and completed my love for Ireland.

Dún Aonghasa - Inis Mór, Ireland

Dún Aonghasa – Inis Mór, Ireland

I now genuinely feel like I am going through the worst breakup/heartbreak of my life. My sister was the last to leave yesterday, and ever since then, my heart literally feels like it was shattered into a million pieces. I am so thankful for the time spent with my family, but it is so sad to be alone after I spent every second with my sister (/best friend) for a whole month.

I will go into details in my next blog post, but I felt I was very overdue to publish at least a small update! I pretty much unplugged for this past month and it was lovely.

I am tired and am very deserving of downtime and “me” time. It’s only June and this has easily been the busiest year of my life thus far. From the 2nd of January until the 5th of June, I was literally slaving away on assignments for my Master’s degree. It felt like it was never going to end! 3 major essays, a group presentation, a massive portfolio and my dissertation proposal and I finished it all just in time – the day before my parents arrived in Ireland. I have one more portfolio to complete before the end of August but other than that, I finally have a break until year 2 begins in September. Before then, I am really in need of a sun getaway where I can spend a few days in the sun doing absolutely nothing! Though we are currently experiencing a heat wave in Dublin and I am roasting!! It’s rough without air conditioning!!

In other news, I simply cannot believe I returned from my round the world trip exactly 1 year ago today. Funny timing since my sister ended her travel journey exactly one year after I did (I left Lima on the 27th and she left Dublin on the 27th).

This past year has flown by – much faster than any other year. I am now preparing for my trip to Iceland! I leave in less than 2 weeks. Though I must say, planning this trip is more stressful than planning my RTW trip was, which I did not think was possible! I am hoping the exquisite landscape will all be worth it, and I am sure it will.

Summer 2015 Goals

As of Friday, I will officially be half-way finished with my Master’s degree. I cannot believe how time has flown by. Since my summer is about to begin, I need to hold myself accountable for my upcoming goals. In order to attempt that, I need to write them down.

My goals for summer 2015:

– Improve my Spanish. Whenever someone asks me if I speak a second language, I am highly embarrassed to have to say no. I am sick and tired of it. There is absolutely no reason why there are so many bi/multi-lingual people in the world and I can’t be one of them. I took 4 years of Spanish (2 in high school and 2 in college) and at the time didn’t actually want to learn, I only enrolled because it was a requirement. When I went to Peru last June, everything changed. I really want to speak Spanish fluently so am going to enroll in lessons this summer. After I master Spanish, I want to learn Italian.

– Volunteer and gain work experience. I need to make myself more marketable so I’ve reached out to a few organizations to gain some work experience this summer. I want to help the long-term unemployed (including the homeless, early school leavers, etc.) find work.

– Work more hours. I need to start earning some money!

– Figure out what topic I want to do my dissertation on. This is overwhelming but is a must! My dissertation proposal is due in September, at the start of the term.

– Travel. I’m looking to book my trip to Iceland this week. I’ve already booked a trip to Amsterdam with my sister. I’d also like to return to Italy this summer or early fall. I’m hoping to return to Paris with K at the end of summer where we will simply eat ourselves to happiness. I would also like to finally visit Kilkenny.

– Eat healthier and start an exercise routine. I said this in my New Year’s post and have not started yet. I had some health issues that prevented me from starting an exercise routine before now, but there is no excuse for the unhealthy eating. I am tired of feeling like crap on the inside and want to lead a healthier lifestyle. If anyone has any nutrition tips that helped you get started, as obvious as they may seem, please do share. I’ve done this before but feel like I am starting over.

– Be outside as much as possible and enjoy the gorgeous summer weather that Ireland has to offer. Growing up in Florida, summer was always a dreadful thing and never anything to look forward to. It’s the complete opposite here in Ireland.

What goals do you have for the summer?