A Night Out in London

After finally finishing all of my academic adventures at Oxford, these past five days mark the true start of my summer. I’ve been in a class of some type since January and having these last three weeks of summer to relax is perfect. On Saturday, my family joined me in London for a week-long tour visiting London and Rome. Today we’re headed to Rome, where we’ll spend two days before flying back to the U.S. on Saturday.

Arguably the best part of this second mini-adventure is being able to finally see Real Katie. Traveling and seeing all of the amazing sites in London and Rome are obviously incredible, but after three weeks of being apart, the sites make a great background to Katie and I’s pictures.

Tuesday night, I had the incredible opportunity of having a night out, just the two of us, in London. Before our date really began, we went on a wild shopping spree and spent several hours walking up and down Oxford Street going in and out of different stores, often not buying anything. Our date really started that evening at one of the “hidden gems” of London. Queen Mary’s Rose Garden located in the center of Regents Park was an absolute masterpiece. Walking through the garden was an absolute sensory explosion. The massive silver and gold gates welcome you into this foreign world filled with colors and aromas. As you walked along the stone path past flowerbeds filled with fiery red and hot pink roses, Katie and I couldn’t help but just stop and saw “wow.” The entire garden was a living painting, artfully stroked by a creative and divine artist. Aside from the colors, the smells of the garden slapped you across the face at every turn. Every individual flower had it’s own unique and flavorful note that tickled a different part of your nose at every turn. Just when you thought you were used to the smells of the garden, a soft English breeze would waft a new smell up your nostril.

The only bad part about the garden was leaving, we had reservations at this floating Chinese restaurant in the garden and this place did not disappoint. We were welcomed by a smiling, but small staff and escorted to our table by the window overlooking a small stream, which circled the park. Each dish we ordered from crabs to curry playfully delighted our taste buds and left us with our own personal food babies to carry around the rest of the evening.

After dinner, we were making our way back to the London Underground station when we walked past a rack of bikes available to rent. After coaxing me past an irrational fear of bicycling, Katie convinced me to ride our bikes through the park. Besides from being faster than walking, the bikes gave an entirely new perspective to the park. The wind blew a little faster as we flew past the joggers, walkers, and people playing soccer. It was a completely new experience I’m glad Katie talked me in to.

As our night drew to a close, we made our way back to the last stop of the night. Gordon’s Wine Bar located right near Covent Gardens was a dark and intimate atmosphere. The wine bar was simply a hole in the wall which led down a flight of stairs to a room that looked as if it was dug out of a cave that same morning. We ordered quickly and managed to sneak into a table in the corner of the room. Around 40 people filled this tiny cave and although it was loud, it felt quiet. The candle lit tables made Katie and I’s time together feel like a secret. Although we were definitely yelling at each other in this loud cave, it felt like we were just whispering back and forth. It was the perfect ending to an insane day of walking and biking across parks and gardens.

For anyone looking for date spots in London 10/10 would recommend all the places we went, and make sure to bring a camera.

Four Things Any Potential Oxfordian Should Know

It’s over

Wow. I can’t believe it. Three weeks of living the Oxford life has ended. It feels like it went so fast, but so slow at the same time. On one hand, it feels like only yesterday that I was walking into my bedroom tucked away at the top of St. Mary’s Tower in Brasenose; on the other hand, I feel like I’ve lived in Oxford for a year. I’ve had so many insanely incredible experiences and met so many people that although I’m ready to move on, I’m going to miss it.

For anyone thinking about visiting Oxford, I want to give you several warnings. First, Oxford is old. Real old. Like it makes the Founding Fathers look like a group of toddlers. Although this means not every building has AC, not every street has even sidewalks, and not every restaurant has Wi-Fi, there is something much more valuable invisibly pulsing through the air.

Second, regardless of why you’re going to Oxford, you’re going to learn something. Whether you’re a future OU Honors or OU Law student taking a course through the university, or a lifelong learner visiting a museum or pub, you will see or hear a new fact that blows your mind. I learned more about British Literature in three weeks than I ever could’ve learned taking a class at OU for a semester. Being here exposes you to so much intellectual richness, your IQ can’t help but go up ten points just by being in Oxfordshire.

Third, traditional English breakfast is required at least once a day. Every restaurant serves their own version of it until at least 11am. Even if you love to sleep in, there’s still time. Some of the best meals I had on my adventures were before noon. Even if you don’t have time to sit down and eat it, go to Taylor’s Café on High Street and grab an English Breakfast for takeaway. It’s everything on an English Breakfast shoved between two baguettes (just ask for no tomato, it’s not really worth it).

But, of all the lessons I learned at Oxford, this one is most important: TRY STUFF. I’m a person who loves to think about doing adventurous things, but when the opportunity knocks, I normally lock my door or don’t answer. I did my best to not let that happen this trip and I had so many new experiences. I had Moroccan food in Ireland, I had Bahai sauce in London, ate Kung Pao chicken at a three-star hygiene restaurant, I went to a museum about an author I haven’t read, I steered a boat with an oar, had a pint a pub, and watched French soccer in England. It might sound idealist and insincere, but adventure really is out there if you give it a shot.

So what’s next? Tonight I am reunited with my family and begin a mini adventure over the next week. I mean, why should I leave if I don’t want to?

He Didn’t Inhale

After being in Oxford for three weeks, I’ve observed that someone can learn just as much history being in pubs as they can in museums. Pubs across Oxford usually date back to at the latest the 1300s. They were founded out of necessity for housing travelers, and they were the perfect meeting locations. In most of the places I’ve visited, finding a pub is like finding a Starbucks in an airport, you can’t walk 30 feet without seeing at least two. However, unlike Starbucks, each pub is different and tells a unique story.

One of my favorite pubs I had to pleasure of visiting was the Turf Tavern. This pub is located down the sketchiest alleyway around the corner from the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. Tucked down a winding alley that most people would have to turn sideways to shimmy down, Turf Tavern claims to be one of the oldest pubs in Oxford dating back to the 1200s. It’s claim to fame is, first, the walk snaking back to the open air garden, second, being the bar that was famous for housing the Harry Potter cast when they filmed at Oxford, and third, being the bar where Bill Clinton famously “Did not inhale,” when smoking marijuana as a Rhodes Scholar in Oxford (this one is especially funny because the bar had a large sign marking the table where he sat). Purely the atmosphere of the pub was amazing. You walk in through this doorway no higher than five and a half feet and have to constantly duck while you’re in this building. It’s dark and quiet, but you can tell that it’s kept the same environment since it’s creation almost 800 years ago.

Another fantastic Tavern we had the glory of visiting was in Dublin, Ireland. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland and again, had an amazing atmosphere with rich history. The pub claimed to have been built in 1198 and has consistently housed brilliant thinkers and writers as well as other famous people too. The pub was a favorite of Jonathan Swift, who was the Dean at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, James Joyce visited this pub as he worked on his novels, Garth Brooks claimed it was his favorite place in Ireland and frequently played at their tiny venue. Photos line the walls of famous visitors from Will Ferrell to Macklemore. This pub is deceivingly large. When you walk through the first entryway, which is simply an arch in a wall, you are greeted with a massive outdoor seating area in a beautiful courtyard. You snake through the crowd to one of three separate indoor rooms. Each room is lined with dark wood tables and chairs and has corner booths perfect for a quiet meeting.

Regardless of all the museums I’ve visited, I’ve discovered that there really is history everywhere and a pub is no exception.

Punting

Venice is known for its beautiful and romantic waterways constantly teaming with gondolas powered by men and women effortlessly stroking through the streams. In Oxford, there is a similar tradition called “punting”. Very different from the football kick completed on fourth downs, punting is using an extremely long metal pole to push a five-person raft through the shallow parts of the River Thames. The raft is an elongated rectangle and has two bench seats facing each other with a slightly elevated platform where the punter stands to power the boat. The punting vessel also comes with a small oar for steering and being used to try to decrease the jolt of smashing into the stonewalls of the river.

So this adventure obviously sounds peaceful! Just casually rowing up and down the river with some friends; I mean, the gondoliers make it look so easy, right? Nope. Being a true Oxfordian now, I felt as if I should at least try out this tradition. A group of us made it down to the river yesterday afternoon and although the weather was beautiful, dark clouds were ahead for our trip. Because we had twelve people and the boats were only able to fit four or five, we broke up into three boats.

Our ‘punting master’, using that term very loosely because he gave us absolutely no instructions on how to punt, gave us a good route to follow down the river. It was a pretty easy loop where we rowed down a little way, circled around this little island, and back to our originals starting point. We had one hour to get this done or otherwise face having to pay more for an extra half-hour. We weren’t worried about running over time because the trip was short, but solely based on our initial launch from land, I should’ve been more anxious. It turns out pushing a boat through water in a straight line when you’re standing at the back of it, is very difficult. The first punter in our group, the brave soul, absolutely rocked. She shoved the boat down the river, not quickly, but did well avoiding all of the other things filling the river. We came head on with real, motor boats several times and she did well to not have us die; however, when it came time to turn around and come back, we ran into some issues. First, we got stuck in a tree under a bridge where the punting stick was too long to fit under and we had to use this tiny oar to paddle and push our way out of this brush. Then on the way back, our group struggled to get the boat in a straight line; watching our group go down the river would be similar to watching a toy racecar that had both its left wheels broken: we were simply bouncing off the right side of this brick wall over, and over again using the oar to push off the grey-brick wall when we inevitably got stuck.

Even though our total distance traveled was less than 300 yards, it took us all the way up to our full hour to get back. Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to even try to punt because I was in charge of using the oar. Because we only struggled to turn left, I was constantly rowing on the same side and I woke up this morning with an embarrassingly sore shoulder. Punting is a fantastic way to spend a summer afternoon in Oxford, but next time I’ll hire a professional.

Flat Katie

The hardest part about leaving the U.S. was knowing I couldn’t see any of my friends and family for an entire month. For example, I was used to seeing Katie every single day and as of today I haven’t seen her in real life in over 22 days. HOWEVER, as I was leaving she gave me one of my favorite gifts I could use during this trip: Flat Katie. Flat Katie has a lot of the same qualities of real Katie, but at the same time is very different. The biggest difference you’ll notice when you meet Flat Katie is that she is very quiet. She doesn’t talk very much and although she has the same facial features, she really never actually opens her mouth ever.

Another huge difference is that Flat Katie isn’t very affectionate. I mean, I know she cares about me and loves me, but Flat Katie never gives you a hug or pats you on the back, she’s very kind but in an “arms length away,” type of way. These two things make her so much unlike Katie and although she looks similar and has the same smile, it’s just not the same.

However, on my travels around Europe this summer, I’ve tried to take her everywhere I go! She’s a great person to talk to on a trip and she’s a fantastic listener. We’ve gone to some pretty fantastic places and I have a couple pictures of us hanging out at scenic locations.

My favorite Flat Katie story from this trip so far, is on the plane ride over. I had picked up some pretzels for us on the ride because we were both hungry after a long day of traveling. When the pretzels finally showed up and I gave a couple to Flat Katie to eat, she completely rejected them! She wouldn’t open her mouth supposedly because the pretzels were too “salty” for her. I love her, but this level of high maintenance hurt my feelings.

In all seriousness, Flat Katie rocks, but I miss the real Katie. In less than three days I’ll get to see real Katie again and I’m so excited. This trip has been fantastic, but missing someone is inevitable when you have such great people in your life.

Dr.BenMorgan

Today I officially finished my class. Over the past six weeks our class has written five papers on three books. It’s not a lot, but exerting this much energy during summer was harder than I thought it would be. The first three weeks of this class were in Norman. Every day from 10:30-12:45, our 17-person class would have an exciting discussion or debate about what we had read the night before. At the end of the week, we would sit down write our paper, and start the next book. It was a cycle that got extremely tiring (especially because it was summer and I just wanted to sleep in). However, the second half of this class took place over here, in the mother land.

The second half of this class took place abroad, and the structure was very different. This portion of the class was taught in the traditional “Oxford Style.” You have one meeting a week with your professor where you defended what you have learned that week. That’s it. It’s a tough discussion where through arguing your points with someone incredibly intelligent, you learn much more information than you could just from someone telling you facts. Over the past month, I’ve had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Ben Morgan.

Dr.BenMorgan (always pronounced by saying his name as one word with no spaces) is an absolutely brilliant literature scholar with Oxford. Something that I found so interesting about the Oxford Style of teaching is that it is completely common and acceptable for students to go to their professors’ homes or apartments and have discussion. This is what our group did. Every week, my partner and I would take the 27-minute walk from Brasenose College down High Street for a mile, walking past shops, restaurants, and houses. Although the walk was long, there were always several indicators we were almost there. We would walk past a pub that we stopped at almost every trip to use their restroom (and not buy anything), we would walk past the mile track where Roger Bannister was the first person to ever run a sub four-minute mile. We would finally come to our only turn on the journey at Chester Street marked with a sign pointing towards St. Alban’s Church, but the alignment was off, and they were missing a period so it looked like “STALBAN’S CHURCH.” Dr.BenMorgan lived on the road and his English home was so welcoming. Dr.BenMorgan is in his early 30s and is the quintessence of an English scholar. Incredibly nice, always complimentary (even when he’s correcting you), constantly offering his guests tea, listening to our work, nodding and letting out a scholarly “Hmmm” after good points, and always listening.

Our meetings would last exactly an hour from 4:00 to 5:00, he would always start by offering us tea and water. Then either my partner or I would read our paper aloud. Dr.BenMorgan would sit and listen to the essay and after parsing through our jumbled thoughts, he would offer critiques, advice, and always end with a compliment. We would then spend the remaining time tying what we wrote about to several key moments in the text. After every meeting with Dr.BenMorgan, I came out thinking something absolutely different about the book I had read. I have learned that authors work so hard to bring nuances to life and really give readers a message far beyond the simple storyline. Dr.BenMorgan has taught me to find those nuances and to never be satisfied reading a paragraph once. And that is the Oxford Style.

Although I’ll probably never see Dr.BenMorgan ever again, it has been a truly amazing and once in a lifetime experience to learn from someone so ridiculously intelligent in one of the most academic environments.

English Breakfast

Out of everything I have experienced in England, one single event has consistently blown me away and excited me every night beyond my wildest dreams: breakfast. Breakfast, aside from being the most important meal of the day, is treated religiously in England. You don’t mess with someone’s opportunity to have tea and baked beans before noon. Aside from being adored only slightly less than Winston Churchill and the English National Football Team, breakfast is delicious. For those of you who haven’t had the joys of experiencing an English Breakfast, every breakfast contains the same traditional components.

First, every breakfast has eggs. These eggs can be scrambled, over-easy, poached, or fried, but they exist and they are the item that undoubtedly means you’re eating breakfast. Second, every breakfast will have at least one type of meat. This can come as bacon, sausage, ham, and sometimes turkey. Whatever kind of meat it is, it’s delicious and a crucial component of adding the necessary protein to the meal. Third, every breakfast contains some carb-rich and bready item. Normally this is toast. Not complicated and it may not seem important; however, this toast is the edible sponge used to sop up all the delicious remains left from the meal. At this point, I’ve described a typical breakfast most people would get at IHOP or Denny’s; but this is when the British get crazy. The most important and easily identifiable item on an English Breakfast: baked beans. Most people are initially turned off by the ideas of eating beans for breakfast. I was in those same shoes, but if you give them a chance, the magical fruit will blow you away (pun intended). They add a unique flavor to the meal and crucial juices that make eating the toast and meat worthwhile. These four items make up the crucial components of a traditional English Breakfast; however, these next items are often tacked on top in an effort to make the best meal even better.

On top of the main ingredients, many people will add a grilled tomato or mushroom in a worthless effort to make this meal appear healthier. English Breakfasts are obviously supplemented by breakfast tea or coffee to drink, but fruit juices such as apple juice often make the meal even better. Lastly, some form of breakfast potatoes can be added, but are not required. Potato cakes, and hash browns work to make the breakfast more filling while adding a tool that can be used to push eggs and beans together onto your fork, making the overall consumption of the meal easier.

Beyond just what the meal contains, I really love how readily available the meal is. Most restaurants have breakfast until 1pm and offer the ridiculously massive meal relatively cheap. When a board advertises a “five-pound” breakfast, there is a moment where I have to consider if they are advertising the weight of the meal or how much it costs.

Without a doubt this meal has been the highlight of my day every day. In an effort to be honest and to show you how serious I am about breakfast, this picture of a traditional English Breakfast was actually taken as I was eating the meal for dinner.

The Tip of the Spire

If you looked at Oxford’s skyline, you can tell why the place is called: “The City of Spires.” Massive church steeples dot the 38 individual college campuses across the university. Each individual college can have multiple spires reaching to the sky. Today, I got to do something no other tourist is allowed to do:  go to the highest one.

Magdalen College, pronounced Mod-Lin here, houses one of the oldest, and by far the tallest spire across the Oxford skyline. Although our guide stated it’s, “only four stories up,” this spire takes a solid 15 minutes to climb. Speaking of the climb, it’s not an easy one at all. If you want to see the picturesque view from the tip of Oxford, you have to climb the world’s tightest spiral staircase made with the world’s thinnest steps. I have no way to prove either of those but I have a feeling it’s true. The spiral staircase goes up through the narrow, shoulder-width tower and never seems to end. Even as a person not petrified by heights, I was uneasy climbing this monstrosity. As the dimly lit staircase began to let in more natural light, I could tell we were reaching the top of the tower; however, at the top lay one more 12-rung metal ladder requiring me to hop up and grab on.

It felt as if I had just climbed a mountain, but to tell you the view was worth it would be an understatement. Our professors had told us we could see all of Oxford from this tower and they were not kidding. For miles in each direction we could see the sky-touching spires gallantly resting below us. To the south, we saw the beautiful English countryside in a way that is only viewable from a plane. To the north west, the historic colleges and buildings of Oxford dwarfed down to small stacks of brick. The photos could never do this justice. The building was beautiful and experiencing the wind and the height of the tower after persevering through the climb was an experience only students of Magdalen College are typically allowed to partake in.

The 500-year-old tower was originally built as a bell tower to alert the city of any attackers coming from the east. It housed a gunnery for most of its early existence, but now the most popular event happens on the 1st of May every year when the choir students at Magdalen welcome the spring by climbing to the top of the tower and projecting their songs across campus.

Simply being allowed to go up in this tower as a tourist was amazing and an experience I’ll never forget. It’s hard to believe we only have five days left.

“Hey Glasses!”

After having some time to reflect on our journey to Dublin, there is one specific event that stands out from the rest. This one story was really the only frightening part of our perfectly executed adventure between Oxford and Dublin (sorry mom).

For the first time in my life, I got to ride on a ferry. It was essentially a massive cruise ship going from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin, Ireland. The boat ride was a measly three-hour parse through the ocean and the ship was so spacious and fancy no one in our group was worried about a thing. We had brought a deck of cards, and we had been playing several card games for about two-thirds of our trip in an effort to pass the time. The ferry was supposed to port around midnight Irish time, and the only part of the journey left was traveling the six miles from the port to our apartment located just south of Trinity College in Dublin City Centre. At about 11:15,  as the Dublin skyline was in the distance, two gentlemen strolled over to our seating area. Our group of six had commandeered two small tables and pushed them together to create an adequate playing surface for cards. About five feet off to our left there was a small booth and another table. These gentlemen initially just sat down side by side at this booth and table and said nothing. Two minutes pass by and one of the gentlemen starkly shouts, “Hey!” in the general direction of our group. The unquestionably Welsh gentleman was probably five-foot ten-inches, bald by choice, and in his mid forties. He proceeded to ask for our help. He had three phone numbers written down, and wanted one of us to call them all and see if any of them were in service. Instantly our group is getting some negative vibes from this menacing looking pair, but the braver of us six stepped up and called each number from our seat.

Attempting to be aware of our surroundings, my head is up out of my phone as our group was briefly taking a break from the cards. The second gentleman begins talking to his accomplice who is still rattling off foreign numbers to my friend when he notices me looking in the direction of his voice. In a bone-chilling and menacing whisper he looks at me and asks, “What are you staring at?” This man was significantly younger than the first, but more intimidating. He had a crazy look in his eye and exuded the persona of a loose cannon. He was also bald by choice, but was closer to six feet. In a vain attempt to hide my nervousness and discomfort with the whole situation, I not-so-confidently, but sarcastically replied, “I thought you were talking to me. I like to look at people when they talk.” Although I pictured this as a confident and appropriate response, the sarcasm may have been too strong and was not received as well as I had hoped. Instead of responding, the man stared at me with piercing eyes for a solid 15 seconds. Then, without breaking eye contact, uttered something to his “mate” that sounded completely foreign. He stood up, and walked to our table, and grabbed the deck of cards from off our table. “Do you want to see a magic trick?” he quietly and slyly asked to our group. We could tell whether we answered yes or no, we were going to see a card trick so we answered, “Sure.” After our fearful response, I was anticipating to have a card shoved into my eye socket, but instead he put the deck of cards in his pocket and said, “poof, they’re gone.”

In this instance, I thought he was going to walk away and keep them, which I was perfectly fine with because the deck was using a sharpie written Joker as the eight-of-hearts; however, his older friend stopped him and told him to give us the cards back. The younger man offered a counter point and said, “No, we’re actually going to play cards now.” So he went back to his booth-seat and said you guys come over here. I didn’t like the look of this, and I was still petrified of being assaulted on a ferry, so I didn’t move. Three of my friends, however, stood up and made their way to his table with their chairs. The man was fiddling with the deck, found the Joker acting as the eight-of-hearts, crumpled it up, and threw it on the ground. I thought I was in the clear, but instead, the young man shouts, “Hey Glasses!” This took me a second to process and when I realized “Glasses” was the endearing nickname I had been given, I looked up at him. He continued, “come over here and play.” After being called glasses, I felt as if I was teleported back into a bad 1980s sitcom about high school. So, naturally I took on the stereotypical nerd-role of “Glasses-kid,” and replied, “No thanks, I have some homework to work on.” I didn’t receive a response again, but I figured I was in the clear.

I had lied and didn’t have any homework, so I opened up a blank word document and stared at it like I was thinking really hard. Meanwhile, three of my friends are playing this card game called, “Life.” He elects not to explain the rules to them and instead decides to just penalize them every time a card is played incorrectly. About three-fourths of the way through this game, he casually announces to the group in his strong accent, “If I win this game, each of you owe me 15 Euro.” Each of my three friends rejected that because, first, they don’t understand the game or why they’re losing, and second, I’m not sure if they had 15 Euro between the three of them. After the game was “over,” and by “over” I mean he stated: “I won,” he requested five Euros from everyone. Each of my friends rejected his collection request and obviously upset he said, “Fine! I’ll just take these cards.” For the second time, he shoves the deck of 51 cards into his pocket. One of my braver friends says, “Actually, we were still playing with those.” The young man’s response is simply to wave him off like a king waves off a peasant and aggressively say, “Move please.” My friend does not move, partially because he’s standing his ground, but also because we’re on a boat, where is he going to go? The young man stands up with a fire in his eyes and a staring contest happens for what feels like the longest five seconds in history. The older of the two men interjects and tells the younger man to leave the cards. He doesn’t shift his gaze away from my friend and states, “Okay, but you guys can play 52 card pickup.” In my head I think, “Nope, it’s only 51, you crumpled up the eight-of-hearts,” but I decide not to say that after remembering how well the first sarcasm was taken. The young man takes the deck in his hand, bows the cards facing away, begins to attempt to send the cards flying into the air, but as he flicks, only three cards separate from the deck and all the others fall to the floor in a clean pile. Like a supervillain who failed to make a fear-inducing exit, he scrambles to pick up all the cards, and tries again. He takes the cards in his hand, bows them away, begins to flick and gets about six cards out of his hands before the stack again falls in a clean pile on the floor. After two failed attempts, I’m trying to hold in laughter, and he is obviously upset and embarrassed, so he picks the cards up, fans them out like a Chinese antique fan, and simply flings them in the air. Although he walks away laughing, it was definitely a failure and my friends and I were left in a weird emotional soup featuring: fear, confusion, and a desire to crack up laughing.

Although this story may have ended well for us, it still was one of the more intimidating moments I’ve encountered. This was by far the scariest part of our adventure but because it ended with our saboteur completely falling on his face, it ended up being far less emotionally scarring than it should’ve been.

Irish Chipotle and an 1,100 Year Old Book

 

During our second day of adventure in Dublin, we spent the day scrambling around to finish our short list of things. The last 24 hours started at 10:30 with heading to Trinity College. Trinity is sort of like the Oxford University of Ireland, but it was founded about 300 years after Oxford. The campus is gorgeous and even though it’s located smack in the center of the city of Dublin, you feel teleported to another world. The massive grey-brick buildings line the grid-organized campus. Trinity as a whole is beautiful, but one exhibit particularly caught our attention. The Book of Kells and Trinity Library houses some of the most artfully created manuscripts of the New Testament gospels. The manuscripts were printed in the 800s, and by printed, I mean slowly and monotonously slaved over by monks and artists in monasteries around Ireland and England. Brushes were dipped into hand made ink-dyes and colored onto the pages. The symbolism put into every page continues to amaze tourists and visitors. Walking into the small room housing the collection really was awesome. Just to know that these books have seen over 1,100 years of history still blows me away. As the exhibit sadly ended and we walked away from the ancient collection, we headed to the Trinity College Library which houses a copy of every book printed in England or Ireland, but is more famous for the 38 busts of writers, scientists, and other academics that line its main walkway. Even though we were actually not allowed to touch any of the books in this part of the library, being in this room made my IQ jump at least 20 points.

After exploring Trinity College, we set off north heading across the Liffey River. It was about lunch time and we were pretty hungry. We didn’t really have any particular type of food in mind, so when we came across a restaurant with a sign “Mexican Burrito Bar,” we were hesitant, but optimistic. Although I started having second thoughts about going to an Irish Mexican burrito bar, I was warmly welcomed by a system I am far to familiar with. We walked in and were welcomed by a short line forming. At the end of the line stood a smiling face, a stack of warm, flour tortillas and a buffet bar running perpendicular to the line filled with rice, beans, meats, vegetables, salsa, sour cream, and shredded cheese. IT WAS IRISH CHIPOTLE. Although I was slightly upset about not finding a traditional Irish pub, I had been craving the warm embrace of a burrito full of rice for almost a week and this was exactly what I wanted. The chicken was seasoned and tender, the tortilla was soft and welcoming, and the salsa was flavorful and explosive. It was magical.

After experiencing Irish Chipotle, we continued walking around making quick stops at a couple places including a sight exhibition from the Trinity College School of Science, and the James Joyce Center. Our long day slowly came to a close as we walked back south of the river to our last stop, the Brazen Head. The Brazen Head is the oldest pub in Ireland dating back to right before 1200. Walking into this pub was the strangest feeling of simultaneously being teleported back in time, and into the future. The pub had a fantastic outdoor garden area to sit and even though you could tell this place was from 800 years ago, there were TV’s sprinkled around on the walls, and free Wi-Fi access. We relaxed, rested our feet and then made the final trek back to our apartment.

The day ended early for us yesterday and this morning, at the stiflingly early time of 05:45, we woke up, cleaned up, and hopped on our ferry headed back to England. Our Irish adventure had come to a close and we are headed back to Oxford. Ireland blew me away and even though we only spent 72 hours in the historic country, I learned more than I ever could’ve imagined.

By far the saddest part about leaving, is that I have to start another paper on the journey home.