Two Days in Kiev, Ukraine

The Ukraine was never high on my list of top places I wanted to visit when I moved to England. I had always fantasized about the Colosseum in Rome, the Northern Lights in Iceland, and the Lourve in Paris. These are just a few examples of places that have been on my “bucket list” for a long time. Mostly due to pop culture, Eastern Europe hadn’t really crossed my mind. Then, I moved to England. From England, flights to Eastern Europe can be incredibly inexpensive. A whole new part of the world opened up to me for short weekend trips – Budapest, Prague, Vienna, etc.

Kiev didn’t cross my mind until Conor and I watched the first episode of Chernobyl, the HBO hit show. After the first episode, I was so intrigued by Chernobyl, the disaster, the story, the mass human movement that came after, as well as the surrounding areas that were affected. Immediately, Conor and I looked it up – you can, in fact, visit the Exclusion Zone (in which the Chernobyl powerplant is located) and it’s safe to do so. Over 60,000 tourists visit each year. We basically looked at each other and said “F*ck it, let’s go.” Neither of us had been to the Ukraine before and it was such a unique opportunity to witness first hand the power of humans to create, destroy, lie, and rebuild. Additionally, the more we researched Kiev, the more we wanted to visit. It seemed like a beautiful city, a mixture of incredible, splendid architecture from the Gothic period to the overbearing, intense soviet architecture.

We booked a two day Chernobyl tour bookended by two days in Kiev. I will leave the tour of Chernobyl for another post, but I will tell you about Kiev and the amazing experience we had.

We found roundtrips flights to Kiev in the middle of June for £60 each on EasyJet. We were only going for five days so we packed backpacks to travel lightly. Five days might seem long to travel with just a backpack, especially as a girl, but it can be done! I packed one pair of jeans and two long sleeves (for the tour we needed clothes that covered the whole body), one midi dress and one sundress – the weather was HOT while we were there. I packed my running shoes and sandals. Easy peasy if you plan ahead and don’t overpack (one of my biggest travel flaws).

For accommodation, we stayed in two different hostels. The first night we stayed in a hostel that would be close to the pick-up location for our tour the next day. This was located on the other side of the train tracks from the main part of Kiev. It was definitely more local and residential, which is why I am glad we switched to a different hostel for the days after our tour. The second hostel we stayed at was Dream Hostel in the center of downtown Kiev. It is marketed incredibly well online and has great reviews. I can attest to those positive reviews. Conor and I stayed in a private room, which was very clean and had everything we could need. The reception area was welcoming and helpful. There was also a cafe, bar, and outdoor seating area. The only downside in my opinion was that even though there seemed to be a lot of people staying there, it wasn’t too social. Conor and I only talked to one other person. Most seemed to be in groups traveling together, not really interested in making friends. We were only there for a short time though and not over the weekend, so it could be that during the week is a little slow. Overall, I would definitely recommend this hostel.

Since the pound goes very far in Kiev, Conor and I were able to go to a couple really nice meals for relatively cheap. There are definitely cheaper places to go to than we went to as well – we hit up a couple cafes during the day. But since it was a vacation, we splashed out a bit – and by that I mean we spent £50 total on a meal at the nicest hotel in town…rooftop sushi. It was so delicious and an incredible experience for super cheap compared to the equivalent in London. Moral of the story, you can travel to Kiev and spend almost no money and still have a great time, or you can spend a bit more money and also have a great time! Depends on your budget and what you’re looking for.

b-hush at the Intercontinental Hotel
After seeing the Chernobyl Museum, we stopped across the street at Dom No. 10.

Walking through Kiev was time consuming – the city is HUGE. And hilly. But I got more than enough steps in and I loved every second of it. There is always something new around the corner, and usually something very different from what you just saw. Kiev is a beautiful mix of old and new, having the feel of a Western European city yet proudly Eastern European. It was different from anything I’ve ever experienced, but it also felt slightly familiar. Yes, the language was a bit of a barrier, but most people spoke English from passable with hand gestures to as fluent as I am. Armed with Google Maps and a Ukraine SIM card, Conor and I were unstoppable tourists. We virtually ran into no problems, there’s even Uber in case you’re far from your hostel late at night! Overall, I would 100% recommend putting Kiev on your bucket list.

Below are some of the highlights from our sightseeing. I felt like we saw a lot, but there was still so much we didn’t see, so it’s not an exhaustive list but you should definitely add at least a couple of these to your itinerary.

St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral
Very Soviet train station
St. Sophia’s Cathedral
Independence Square
National Opera of Ukraine
A.V. Fomin Botanical Garden
St. Andrew’s Church
National Museum of the History of Ukraine
View from Volodymyrksa Hill

Dana’s Do’s:

  • Look for cheap flights and carry light to make the most of your budget.
  • Stay in a hostel for the social experience.
  • Take time to just wander the city – there’s something new around every corner.

A Gallery of More Pictures Because I Love Them All

Attending a Cambridge University May Ball

I kicked off May Week by attending the Trinity May Ball on Monday June 17th. It was a spectacular night, exemplifying how to do a fireworks show right. Before I get ahead of myself, let me start from the beginning – dining.

Conor and I decided to go for dining tickets because we thought our chances would be better than if we tried for the general pool (it’s almost impossible to get tickets to Trinity if you are not a Trinity College member). Our strategy paid off and we were able to snag two sets of dining tickets! We invited along our Oxford friends Ben and Seline to join us. The night started with a champagne reception and photographs before moving into the hall for dinner. The dining option is always tricky because it means you could be too full to take advantage of the food stalls offered at the Ball and the food could be substandard to what one would expect for paying so much extra. However, Trinity DELIVERED on their dining option. I was blown away by the six course meal, as was everyone around me. The dessert particularly was displayed wonderfully and was incredibly delicious. I know I am overusing adjectives here, but I cannot describe the tasty dishes enough.

After dining, we had a second champagne reception. The line for oysters was still ridiculously long so we skipped that part, much to Conor’s dismay. We made our way to the riverbank to watch the fireworks show at 10:30pm. It was a shocking sight to see the river filled with punts, people spilling over into each other, pissed and having a great time. The punt companies hire out their punts for a pretty price to community members who want to see the fireworks show up close. A few particular rowdy men thought they would be cheeky and make a break up the bank for the party, but were quickly tackled to the ground by security. The crowd loved it!

The fireworks show was possibly the best part of the night. It was timed to music, ranging from the Greatest Show (apt) to Coldplay. There were fire cannons that kept time to the beat and an incomprehensible number of fireworks. Of course, the John’s committee were watching from across the riverbank to see what they would have to beat the following night at their ball.

Trinity offered a range of food and drink stalls, along with a ton of seating options – something many people took advantage of. One of the cooler seating options was igloos – clear plastic frames that unzipped with pillows and blankets inside for those who wanted to rest for a bit. They were packed the whole night. I enjoyed the Willow Bar the most because of it’s somewhat secret garden-esque feel – walking through the willow branches before happening upon a cocktail bar lit up with twinkle lights.

The headliner – Becky Hill – was a smash as the main stage tent filled when her set began with students screaming the lyrics and girls being hoisted on to shoulders. She was a fun, hype live act. While I only knew one song, I still had a great time dancing along to the rest of her music.

One thing that did disappoint were the fair ground rides. There was one which was a spin on a ferris wheel – people were strapped into cages that went upside down while also going around like a ferris wheel. Conor and I waited in line for about twenty minutes before the people coming off the ride started saying it was not a good time and not worth the wait. We quickly exited the slow moving line and headed to the dessert tent.

My favorite food stall was the Yubba Yubba donuts (throwback to the Keble Ball review!). As always, there were warm and delicious – the perfect snack at 3am.

All in all, I was very impressed with the Trinity May Ball, as I expected to be. I think it would have been more fun with a larger group of friends, but with the tickets difficult to come by, this is not always possible. Other than that, Trinity had everything on offer to make the night spectacular. I will definitely be on the lookout for tickets in the future.

Little Weekend in Lisbon, Portugal

With one month to go until final exams in Cambridge, I decided to take a short weekend trip to Lisbon, Portugal. One of my best friends from Ohio State University studied abroad in Senegal this past semester and we decided to meet up for a fun weekend away before she flew home to Boston for the summer!

Lisbon has gorgeous weather for the middle of May. Warm but I still brought a light jacket with me as it could get windy in certain parts of the city.

We booked an Airbnb in the heart of the city, just up the street from Marques de Pombal Sqaure. It was in a quiet residential building just blocks away from the bustling promenade.

Unfortunately, I missed my flight on Friday morning out of Stansted, which you can read about in a separate post! I was able to get on a later flight, arriving Friday night. That put a little wrench in our plans for the first day, but Amanda managed to see the Textile Museum and walked around the streets of Alfama.

When I arrived, we went for dinner at Time Out Market around 10pm. It was late but the place was absolutely packed. It’s a warehouse transformed into a marketplace with a bunch of food and drink stalls lining the outside of a massive rectangle filled with tables upon tables of people enjoying dinner and drinks. We had burgers and a pitcher of Sangria! I definitely recommend Time Out Market. There are so many options for food, ranging from seafood, to burgers, to a hog roast!

Delicious burger from Time Out Market!

On Saturday, it was an national holiday so all the museums and heritage sites had free entrance, so the city was very crowded! Amanda and I walked around the city, a total of 10.2 miles for the day. First we walked down to the market in Rossio Square. It was a small market with a few stalls from which we tasted some cheese and fruits.

Then we continued to walk down to the coast, stopping in the Praca de Comercio, a large square near the water with a massive archway and restaurants and shops lining the perimeter. We took a few pictures here and continued walking along the coast and up the hills to the Castle of Sao Jorge. The line to get in to the castle was massive so we skipped that and kept exploring the streets of Lisbon.

We took a short break to eat lunch at a cute cafe overlooking the city. I had sushi and Amanda had a seafood risotto, both were so tasty! We had a glass of wine and toasted to being in Lisbon and to having a fun, relaxing weekend.

We continued on our way, exploring the streets and hills of Lisbon. I am obsessed with the tiled buildings and all of the colors! Lisbon is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth walking through just to see all the different designs.

We ubered to Belem Tower, which was a bit of a wait but totally worth it to see the historical site and the views from it overlooking the water! Getting to the top of the tower was a pain because of the way the stairs work. The way up is the same way down so there was a three minute period when people could either go up or down, alternating. When we got to the top of the tower there was a line snaking around the whole area of people waiting to go down. We waited thirty minutes, but at least we got to enjoy the views.

After Belem Tower, we walked back to the center of town. We walked past the Archaeology Museum and the famous monastery! In front of both of these, there was a massive cultural parade happening. All the signs were in Portuguese, so I am not quite sure what was going on. Some of the participants were dressed up as witches and devils, but others were dressed in more contemporary clothing. There was loud music, singing, and dancing. Down the street, we stopped at the famous Pasteis de Belem for drinks and pastries. The pastries were delicious and definitely worth the wait! The restaurant is massive and every seat was taken with lines out the front doors, but it is one of the must go places in Lisbon!

We walked back to the center of town and back to our Airbnb where we changed for dinner and freshened up. We went to PARK for drinks at sunset overlooking the city. This bar was recommended to us by a friend who had recently visited Lisbon. We walked to the bar, which was a little difficult to find at first. The bar is on the top floor of a parking garage! Pretty cool and different. It was packed because of course everyone wants to see the sun set from a rooftop bar. And we were not disappointed.

Reminded me a bit of San Francisco!

After drinks we went back to Time Out Market for dinner because it was a short walk down the road. On our way we passed a bunch of bars that looked like fun so we bookmarked those streets for the next night! At Time Out, we ate at different stalls, but the sangria was so good that we had some more! We got back to the Airbnb a little earlier than Friday night because we had an early morning planned for Sunday!

Sunday morning we headed down to the train station, bought tickets, and took the train to Sintra. The round trip tickets cost 5 euros! Great deal! The train ride was about half an hour and passed quickly. Once we got to Sintra the bus tickets to Pena Palace were 6.50 and left from right outside the train station. It took about thirty minutes to get up to the palace. Tickets into the palace were another 7.50 for the student concession. We hiked up the hill to the palace that sat at the very top of the hill (good shout because after that walk I can’t imagine anyone wanting to invade this castle). The palace was gorgeous! So many bright colors and fun tiles. We walked around the whole thing, climbing some stairs and walking along the outer walls. We ate lunch at a cafe in downtown Sintra next to the train station as we waited for our train.

After Sintra, we trained back to Lisbon and took a short nap in the Airbnb. Then we went out and walked through more of the town. We found some small markets in different areas with stalls that sold fresh food, jewelry, and hand bags. I bought Conor cooking salt from one of the stalls that smelled so delicious! For dinner we went to another restaurant, Lost In, that overlooked the city at sunset. We ate tapas style- a cheese board, oysters, chicken ramen soup, and salad with a large pitcher of sangria. I definitely recommend this place! If you want to sit inside you will need a reservation, but the back patio was great because the weather was nice and the seating was really comfortable!

After dinner, we went back to the same area from the previous night that we had passed. It was full of bars and popping with young people. We went to a couple different bars, one was a tequila bar which was fun. The staff were playing the live show of Marc Anthony on the television and speakers. The bartender was singing along and it was a fun vibe! Then we walked up a hill to a bar with live music where we tried Ginja for the first time. It’s a Portuguese liquor and we had seen it around for the past three days, so we finally bit the bullet and tried it. It comes in a shot glass but it is meant to be sipped. It kind of tasted like licorice, but a little sweeter even. Not something I would order again, but definitely glad I tried it!

On Monday, we had a quick breakfast at Stanislaw before I left to catch my mid-morning flight. Stanislaw was a cute, green healthy looking cafe that we walked past on our way to the cafe we originally had picked for breakfast. It looked to good to pass up! I definitely recommend it if you’re looking for a healthy twist to breakfast. I also had a delicious side of yogurt and granola not pictured here. To be fair, I did leave most of my salad uneaten because for some reason salad in the morning is not my thing, no matter how delicious and fresh.

My weekend in Lisbon was short but I feel like I saw so much of the city! It is definitely doable in two-three days. Any longer and I would have done another day trip or spent more time in some of Lisbon’s museums. My favorite parts of the weekend were definitely the food and walking through the hills of Lisbon. I took more pictures than I should have of colored buildings and tiled buildings that I won’t bore you with here. I was just blown away by Lisbon’s beauty I couldn’t help myself. This was one of my favorite European cities and I definitely recommend to anyone who wants to see a small part of Portugal on a long weekend away!

Attending an Oxford University Ball

I attended my first official Oxbridge ball at Keble College, Oxford last weekend. This massive college transformed itself to Gaia Machina – a rebirth of the earth through a machine that rebuilds the ecosystems after humans destroyed it. A very new-age, green theme to fit the growth of the sustainability movement. It was very edgy and different. Overall, I had a blast with Conor, but it some areas it was underwhelming. As a ball planner myself, it was hard to turn off the critical part of my brain and just enjoy the event. Below I will give an overview of everything Keble had to offer, what I partook in, and some final thoughts.

Typical ball pictures in front of the Rad Cam

All of this information could be found on their app. The app was available for download a few days in advance but none of the information was released until around 5pm on Saturday evening. Their app was informational and easy to use. There were different tabs, such as Ents, Music, Food and Drinks, that could be sorted by location or time. There was an overall map, though it wasn’t very functional or interactive, but worked. I was able to favorite certain things, which then showed up in the My Ball tab which I liked. There were also push notifications which were helpful throughout the night. There was a menu that had additional tabs for How to Use the App, About the Ball, Committee, Sponsors, Charities, and Settings.

Food:

  • Yubba Yubba Doughnuts
    • These doughnuts were to die for! They were freshly made in front of me, with a choice of chocolate sauce or cinnamon. I chose the chocolate sauce and Conor chose the cinnamon – there was not a wrong choice, both were an incredible, delectable treat.
  • Bittenclub Gyoza
    • These gyoza were absolutley worth the hassle of a line. People streamlined for these when they first arrived, pushing and rubbing up against one another. It was basically a gyoza moshpit. But it was so so worth it! These were delicious bite sized portions, which I went back for later during the main headliner when there was no line! (pro-tip here from a beginner)
  • Alfonso Gelato
  • Dough and Deer Wood-Fired Pizza
    • This line was one-hundred people long the entire night. Waiting thirty minutes to an hour in line for one slice of pizza was not a priority for me, so I skipped this stall, but it smelled delicious. It did have an awkward placement, right next to the toilets.
  • The Missing Bean
    • This cute little stand was placed at the front of the college where the champagne reception was. It was run by the kindest humans! I ordered two Earl Grey’s, which were delicious and the wait was about five minutes!
  • Piadina Project
  • Taste Tibet
  • Mac to the Future
  • Los Churros Amigos
  • Kelly’s Occasions Fondue
    • I was so excited for fondue! But by 10pm it was ravished and turned off. Unfortunate for people who wanted to miss the crazy rush in the beginning of the ball to avoid any chocolate spills on dresses and suits.
  • Breakfast

Drinks:

  • Sipsmith Gin Bar
    • This was my favorite bar! It had really nice gin (according to Conor because I am still learning) and Fever Tree tonic! The drinks were delicious and pretty! Waited less than five minutes every time.
  • Cocktails in Tunnel of Light
  • Cocktails in Mechanical Meadow
  • Tap Social Movement
  • Gaia Bar
    • This bar had the typical mixer drinks- rum and coke, vodka and lemonade. It had a bunch of seating with music. A nice bar to sit and enjoy the atmosphere.
  • Nectar Valley
    • This was the main stage bar with really nice cocktails. I had a Sex on the Beach, which was incredible! They also offered Uptown Spritz, Black Russian, Passionfruit Mojito, Virgin Moscow, and Virgin Sex on the Beach. As well, there were shooters- Baby Guiness, Skittles Bomb, and Jager and Apple. The staff kept the drinks flowing throughout the night so there was never a wait!
  • Wine Bar
    • The wine bar was next to the Shisha which had a bunch a space heaters around. It was a chilly night, so Conor and I spent a lot of time at the wine bar, soaking up the heat waves, and watching the light show projected onto one of the buildings.
  • Alc-au-Lait Milkshakes
    • These were my favorite drinks of the whole night! I had a Bailey’s chocolate milkshake and it was so good! There were four different kinds of alcoholic milkshakes – the bottles were out next to each section so you knew what you were grabbing. I thought the presentation of the milkshakes was great and they came in small cups, which was the perfect portion for a dessert drink.

Music Entertainment:

  • Kate Lomas
  • Isobel Hambleton
  • Green Bean Machine
  • LVRA
  • Sigma
    • Sigma was the headliner for the ball and did not disappoint! I wasn’t sure if I would recognize any of the songs, and I didn’t, but the beats were pretty standard for that EDM/pop vibe so it was super fun to dance along too! Conor and I got pretty far into the center of the moshpit, which was fun for a little bit, but then people actually started moshing and I am not a fan of that (my friend tore her ACL in a moshpit once).
  • Stir Fry Dons
  • Deep Cover
  • Early Hours
  • Goodness
  • Silent Noize
  • ABBA Gold Tribute Band
    • Everyone loves an ABBA tribute band! People came rushing back to the main stage to sing and dance along with ABBA! It was definitely a highlight of the night!

Entertainment (non-music):

  • Tunnel of Light
    • This was a hallway connecting two bars that was covered in light bulbs that changed colors! It was a cool feature wall where a lot of people stopped to take pictures.
  • Caricature Artist
    • I was really excited for this until I actually got to it. There was always a long line because the artist was spending about twenty minutes on each drawing. Her mistake was using colors to paint the drawing. It was a drag because obviously it was really popular but the wait was up to an hour or more, which was ridiculous for something that could’ve been 3-5 minutes per drawing.
  • Planetarium – Nature Dome
    • This was also underwhelming. The wait was about 15-20 minutes to enter a blow up dome with a planetarium show inside. The show lasted about 5 minutes and wasn’t that memorable. Apparently in the past, the dome was twice the size so wait times were shorter, but this year they went with a smaller dome.
  • Light Show
    • Double Take Projections put on an amazing light show on one of the main faces of the college. It was a story about the theme of the ball- Gaia Machina, lasting about eight minutes. Then there were cool projections that played off the architecture of the building, staggered at various intervals for the rest of the night.
  • Shisha
    • While I didn’t partake in the Shisha, this was the only area of the ball with outdoor heaters, so I spent time here, eating the doughnuts and gyoza and drinking wine and tea. This was also the area from which I viewed the light show.
  • Stilt Walkers
    • The stilt walkers were dressed as giant tree people – it was like having a bunch of Groots walking around. They were another fun photo opportunity.
  • Jingo Glitter
Drinking my alcoholic milkshake in the Tunnel of Light

From above, its clear that my priorities at the event were more non-music entertainments focused, food/drinks, and then music focused. I was underwhelmed by the offering of non-music entertainments. There really wasn’t much to do besides music and queuing. I think Keble spent a lot of their budget on music acts, without accounting for what the guests would want to be doing besides listening to music. Additionally, it was quite cold so most guests wanted to be inside or doing things that didn’t involve standing in the cold. By 2am, the only offerings were the Silent Disco and the food and drinks that were left. The ball ended at 4:00am. So for 2 hours, they only had one entertainment option for a limited number of people. Granted by 2am, a significant portion of the guests had left. Conor and I left around 2:30am because of the lack of things to do. By that time, we were had been drinking for awhile and were also full, so I would’ve liked a chill non-music offering.

For my black tie outfit, I bought the black jumpsuit at New Look for about 25 pounds and my black booties are from Francesca’s (I’ve had them for a few years). I did see some girls wearing sneakers, which by 2am I was quite jealous of. Most of the men wore typical black tie, while being a little playful with ties and pocket squares.

Overall, I really enjoyed my night. Conor ended up running into a lot of people he knew from his undergrad in Oxford, so I met a lot of people and had a good social time. The food and drink offerings were great! More non-music ents would’ve made the ball incredible. But definitely would give it a solid 7/10.

Travel Tips and Tricks: Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day

This year my boyfriend and I visited Dublin, Ireland for a long weekend over St. Patrick’s Day. I have been planning this surprise trip since December as a birthday present for Conor, who was born lucky on St. Patrick’s Day! Since it was a surprise, I also got to do all the research and planning for the trip (my favorite part!).

How to get there:

Since Dublin is just a hop skip and a jump away from Cambridge we had a few option for how to get there. However, the time constraint limited these options.

  • Drive: the drive would have taken nine hours, so this was less preferable since we had to leave on Sunday the 17th due to other commitments.
  • Train: this would have required multiple stops and changes, as well as the ferry ride, so also not preferable, though doable.
  • Fly: the short flight would only cost us about 4 hours in total travel time (including airport time). And there are great deals over the holidays to take advantage of! So, I chose this option.

Flight:

I chose to fly Ryanair because of the low fares, and only because of the low fares. We flew out early Sunday morning and came back Tuesday evening. For such a sort trip, we only needed backpacks, no extra cabin baggage or checked baggage necessary. I paid extra to pick our seats, but that was the only add-on. I was able to score two round-trip tickets for the low price of $126 (I booked while I was in the U.S. for Christmas). If we were going for longer, I would have looked at other airlines because the fees on Ryanair add up quickly so it might be more cost effective to book with another airline that has higher ticket prices but better benefits. For us, this ended up being the cheapest option as well as the most time-effective. Upon arrival, we bought AirLink Express round trip tickets for 12 euros to get into the city center and back on Tuesday.

What to do:

I researched things to do in Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day as well as other tourist things to do since we would be there for three days. I mostly used Pinterest and TripAdvisor

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

  • St. Patrick’s Day Parade: We arrived in the city center around 11:15am and the place was already packed, the streets lined with thousands of people decked out in green, ready to watch the multitude of marching bands and people waving from the back seat of convertibles. It was an incredible sight to see.
  • Temple Bar: The bars in this area didn’t open until noon or 12:30pm so we grabbed some fish and chips from a local stand in the meantime and walked around to check out all the different potential bars to stop at. Across the river from the Temple Bar area were also a bunch of hotels and pubs serving rowdy parade-goers.
  • The Temple Bar: As in the most famous bar in Dublin. This was our second stop and it was packed with young people from all around the world, drinking, singing, and dancing along to the live music. This bar is massive, I lost count of how many rooms we walked through. This was definitely the St. Patrick’s Day vibe we we’re here for!
  • Al Vesuvio: We stopped by this restaurant after seeing a sign for it on the main road during a desperate search for a free table. We ducked into the alley and around the back into a courtyard where the restaurant was located and were sat immediately (lucky!). It was an incredible Italian lunch and didn’t break the bank. I had a pizza and Conor had a pasta dish, paired with a glass of wine. The atmosphere was incredible, we were sat in an underground cavern with low lighting and decorated by shelves of wine bottles. I highly recommend and would definitely go back! There are definitely other places for lunch, but I would recommend making a reservation somewhere or be prepared to wait awhile with the mass of people all getting hungry around the same time.
  • St. Stephen’s Green: We walked past this park on St. Patrick’s Day because it was closed to the public, but visited it on Tuesday. It is great for a midday stroll or to sit and rest your feet for a bit. There are a few coffee shops nearby where you can grab a drink before walking around the park.
  • Dublin Castle: I was surprised by Dublin Castle, we stumbled upon it trying to find our way to St. Stephen’s Green. It is free admission and there are lovely gardens with memorials for different people. We didn’t go inside the castle, but we walked around the gardens and the grounds.
  • Old Jameson Distillery: We visited the distillery on Tuesday and were wowed by it. There is an amazing gift shop, which we would have taken advantage of but our carry-on luggage wouldn’t allow for it. In addition, there is a cocktail bar upon entering that serves unique and fun whiskey cocktails! I had a hot chocolate with whiskey and Conor had a orange old-fashioned. We sat at the bar for awhile and watched other cocktails being made, all of which looked gorgeous and delicious! There are a multitude of tours, differing in length and price. Unfortunately, we did not have time to do any of them.
  • Royal College of Physicians: This was a unique stop for us and required an appointment. The Royal College of Physicians has a small collection of Napoleonic artifacts, including a toothbrush, powder boxes, soap, and allegedly a piece of Napoleon’s coffin! Conor is fascinated by Napoleonic history, so I booked the tour of the collection as a surprise for him. Granted it is a small collection, but it has a fascinating history and I would recommend it for any history buffs!
  • Other places we visited in Dublin:
    • Christ Church Cathedral
    • National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
    • National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
    • Trinity College (not the Book of Kells)
    • Bunsen Burger
    • Cleaver East (tasting menu)
    • Oscar Wilde Statue
    • Merrion Square Park
    • Walked along the Seine

Places to Stay:

There are many places and ways to stay in Dublin. For a holiday like St. Patrick’s Day, it is important to book early!

  • Hostels: There are many hostels in the city center that cater to short stays for young people. The prices are unmatched. However, it is important to do your research about the place you’re staying at, the area it is in, and the proximity to where you want to spend your time. A private room in a hostel is just as expensive, if not more so, than a hotel. I would recommend this option only for those who are comfortable sharing a room.
  • Airbnb: This is a great option for staying in the city center, and there are some really cool and unique places to stay. Again, make sure you do research about the area you are in (safety first!). The prices vary, but you can definitely find a moderately priced place that won’t break the bank!
  • Apartments: Similar to Airbnb, there are apartment rental sites you can look at for places to stay. They specialized in, you guessed it, apartments! This may be difficult for a shorter stay, but prices and amenities are very similar to what Airbnbs offer.
  • Hotels: This can be the most expensive option, but you can also find moderate prices with great amenities! In addition, hotels have the added benefit of safety and security, but still do your research.

Conor and I stayed at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Dalkey, a small suburb of Dublin. I debated staying in the city center until I found out we could stay in a castle instead! There were a few other castles that have been turned into hotels, but the Fitzpatrick was in a great location and was the same price as the Airbnb I had been looking at in Dublin’s city center. We took a quick and cheap train (3 euros) to Dalkey on Sunday night and then a short taxi ride to the hotel (if it wasn’t dark we would have walked). The hotel was incredible- the staff were friendly and helpful, providing dental kits and a shaving kit; the buffet breakfast was delicious and plentiful; and the rooms were elegant, clean, and ours overlooked the sea! I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone wanting to visit Dublin and stay somewhere unique.

On Monday, Conor and I explored Dalkey by hiking through Killiney Park which overlooked the sea and Dublin. We hiked down to the waterside and walked along the road overlooking the water. The views were gorgeous in the clear afternoon. In town, we went to Dylan’s Park where we could see Dalkey Islands and learned about the folklore surrounding the church and fort on the main island. For lunch, we ate at Ouzos, a small restaurant in town. We walked back to the hotel afterwards.

In the evening, we took a taxi to Johnny Fox’s Pub in Glencullen (Conor’s dad recommended it). It was a fun pub, full of those ironic and punny signs and local characters. We had dinner and drinks while listening to live music. It is the highest pub in Ireland, 280m above sea level! I highly recommend to anyone looking for a local pub out of the touristy parts.

It was a whirlwind of a trip, but one of the best travel experiences I have had! My biggest takeaway: do your research and planning, but have a little flexibility to be spontaneous!

Tackling the Difficulties of Finding a Job Abroad

Job searching, my sadistic lover.

When I first began the job hunt, about two months ago, I was wide-eyed, gleaming with excitement, clicking “Save” on every job posting that remotely interested me on LinkedIn and Indeed. I was so excited to begin the journey to my dream job. Two months later and I have bags under my eyes and a love-hate relationship with LinkedIn’s “Jobs” function, but, surprisingly, I haven’t lost hope that I will find and land a job I am actually excited about.

Being 23, I read a mix of Facebook statuses that range from university acceptance letters to pregnancy announcements to the cynical friend who has been job searching for a year and still can’t land a position in their field. Encouraging.

Alas, do not fear, my worried friends, for I am no cynic. In fact, in some cases, like the decision of what to do with the rest of my life, I am entirely optimistic. As I am new the realm of job hunting, I may not be able to offer seasoned advice, but I still think my journey thus far can be helpful to others who maybe haven’t started looking yet, or maybe (like my poor anonymous Facebook friend) are feeling really lost and hopeless in their own search.

When I first started thinking about careers, all I could focus on was working in the education department of museums, so I only looked at jobs in the education department of museums, select museums at that. However, after a conversation with my loving father, I realized that pigeon-holing myself so early was probably not the best idea. In addition, I realized that there were actually other areas in museums I found fascinating, like exhibits and program management. Furthermore, I asked myself what about these jobs do I like and can other jobs, outside museums, offer the same excitement and fascination? Yes! In fact, that loving father I previously mentioned, he went down a rabbit-hole of museum and cultural sector related jobs and industries, and came back up with one of the coolest jobs that I had no idea even existed. Museum and heritage consulting. I could work on a new project every other month in a new museum in a different department or sector! It’s like having your cake and eating it too! And BOY are there a ton of these consulting firms out there, it’s incredible!

Basically, what I am saying, is that I expanded my view of careers I am interested in because I figured out it’s not the career that matters, but what I find interesting, exciting, and engaging that matters. If a career can give me those feelings, I will apply to any job in any industry.

My job hunt is in its infancy, I know that. Most people apply to a hundred jobs, some people apply to five. It depends on a variety of factors and your job search is probably very different than mine. But I am not getting discouraged. Actually, I think the more I job hunt the more encouraged I get- I just keep finding more and more jobs I would want, and that is really exciting. It also offers me the opportunity to see my first job as a temporary job, one that can help me grow and expand into another position or industry down the line. I have so many years in the workforce ahead of me that my first job won’t be my last job. With this knowledge, I am sitting back, relaxing, and taking it one job application at a time.

To be transparent, I have applied to fifteen jobs in the past two months and heard back from a resounding zero. Am I disappointed and discouraged? Not at all. My name is out there, they have my resume and cover letter for the future, and there’s another job application waiting on my desktop. I can apply to five or five hundred, all I need is one to say yes. My odds look pretty good.