Last week was my free travel week at DIS, and I was lucky enough that it lined up with Georgetown’s spring break! One of my best friends from Georgetown, Lianna, landed shortly after my midterm exam on Thursday afternoon to join me for the week ahead, which was quite a welcome site to see right after having a long day of wrapping up a busy week for schoolwork. It was awesome to be able to show someone from home all of the cafes and museums that I have loved. Just as nice as exploring some more of Copenhagen was also being able to chat about everything and anything over a few lazy mornings, which I had definitely missed having over the course of this semester.
In addition to visiting me here in Copenhagen, Lianna and I also made plans to visit our friend Katie studying in Madrid for the semester for two days and then to Dublin for the two days after that. Flights between European countries are usually only $30–50 and between 1 and 3 hours, which makes it relatively easy to get around on the continent (momondo.com is a great resource to find cheap and reliable flights in Europe). We landed in Madrid quite late, so we had a slow morning walking around near our hostel to get a feel for the city. Since Lianna and I don’t speak Spanish we waited to meet up with our Spanish-speaking friends to start exploring in earnest.
Palacio Real and the neighboring cathedral
Our first destination was the Palacio Real (Spanish for Royal Palace), which was stunning with room after room filled with decadent murals and furniture. I couldn’t help thinking about how both the Danish people and monarchy would not be fans of such a palace, as even the royal family likes to operate under as much of a pretense of equality as possible. People are accustomed to eating lunch at around 2pm and then dinner at around 9:30pm, which is incredibly late by American or Danish standards, but the quality of food was well worth the wait for my permanently impatient stomach. In the pre dinner lull, we visited the Prado, which is a museum chock full of paintings from influential artists, featuring the Las Meninas (learn all about it here–unfortunately, the museum didn’t allow any photography).
Above: me rowing a boat (and posing for a photoshoot), below: chocolate and churros, and the famous 1€ tacos
We started off the next day with breakfast at a Spanish cafe, before heading to Buen Retiro Park to check out the Crystal Palace and relaxing by rowing a boat on the lake. I thought I was able to row a boat, but I unexpectedly had to be schooled by Lianna and the three of us had to be careful not to turn it into a game of bumper boats with how many other boats were struggling much more than we were. Before we had to get ready to head to the airport, we wrapped up our time in Madrid with an absolutely iconic round of 1€ tacos at Takos al Pastor—if you ever end up in Madrid, the cheese, potato, and chorizo tacos are a MUST!
Christchurch Catherdal in central Dublin
The second leg of our journey took Lianna and I to Dublin, which I was very much looking forward to visiting since I’m sixth or seventh generation Irish-American and my mom’s obsession with U2 had definitely rubbed off on me. My first observation after landing was remarking to Lianna how I thought signs being in Irish Gaelic as well as English was a cool welcoming gesture, but once we got on our bus and started to go into the city we quickly realized that all signs were in both languages. I hadn’t realized that Irish education and use was mandated by the government, and even though English is the vernacular language for most, there are still communities who use the Irish language on a daily basis.
After a night on a maybe six-inch thick mattress, I was on a one track mind to head to visit the historic long hall of the library at Trinity College (which definitely more majestic than in photos) and then nearby Christchurch Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Some parts of Dublin definitely reminded me of Copenhagen: I kept accidentally calling Grafton St, a pedestrian shopping street, by its Copenhagen counterpart Strøget. We visited the Little Museum because I heard that it had a U2 exhibit, but it was also an unexpected crash course in Irish history thanks to our tour guide that introduced us to some key figures and artifacts from 20th century Ireland.
Views of the cliffside and sea (plus a DSLR selfie gone mildly wrong)
Our second day in Dublin was a visit to Howth, a fishing village with picturesque cliffsides that’s only a 30 minutes outside of the city center by train. We didn’t have enough time to make it out to the west coast of Ireland to see the cliffs, but this view was by no means second rate: the fresh air and the hike were so good for the soul. The hike ended with some muddy obstacles before we made it back into the town for a round of fresh fish and chips (which, to my discomfort, was also the envy of about 30 birds near us).
I know all of this traveling probably sounds glorious, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t come with a dose of homesickness. There are undoubtedly days where I long to be lying on Healy lawn with my friends or back home on a relaxed Sunday afternoon with my parents and cat. As I start to get further along, the weeks slide by just a little bit quicker each time until I realize that I’m pretty much halfway through my time abroad (?!?)—however, I think being conscious that I have a relatively short timespan has encouraged me to really take in each day, experience, and class that I have. It was a really cool—and humbling—experience to walk the same ground that I knew my ancestors had, and I am so grateful to have this opportunity to not only lowkey eat my way around Europe but to understand my history in a much richer light.