Jim had a very brief tour of London before we were off the next day for Cork, Ireland!
We left on Easter Sunday and came back this morning. The morning started out hilarious: at the bus stop, we met these three guys who offered us cheese fries and asked if we had any cocaine to sell them. It wasn't until we got to the airport that Jim asked me, "...so who were those guys?" and realized that I did not know them either. Our luck of meeting people continued upon arrival in Cork. We spent the first few hours at the Bru Bar, in our hostel, talking to these two Irish men named Frosty and Nigel. They told me the adorable story of how they met their wives, tried to arrange a marriage between their friend Frank who came by and I, and kept buying us beer. The only sour moment in this meeting was when they turned the music on for us to all dance and Frosty got a little ahead of himself: he picked me up, realized he was a little drunk, and fell backwards into the bar. I have a couple sweet bruises from it.
This hostel was the absolute best for meeting people. We made so many friends, like Auntie Mike (a Kiwi who is applying to be the pub drunk), Katrina (the adorable Kiwi bartender who always danced with me), Franziska and Sven (the German brother and sister who made Auntie Mike so emotional when they left), Mike (the New Jersey hating Oxford man), Craig Judge (the quick-witted Kiwi always on the uptake with dirty jokes), Leanne and Simon (the married couple who used to live, but still work, at the hostel), and Ash (another Kiwi bartender who challenged me to flip over 21 coasters in a stack and catch them at once, not expecting me to win). Besides for one jerk the first night getting mad at me for pulling Katrina away from his creepy dancing, everyone we encountered in Ireland was awesome.
What was really cool is that I got to spend my 21st birthday in Ireland... but what was even cooler was that I got to celebrate Anzac Day! I have always seen Anzac Day on calendars on my birthday but I never really knew what it was. Since it is an Australian and New Zealand holiday, and our hostel was all full of Kiwis (what the New Zealanders call themselves), I finally got to celebrate the holiday with a barbecue and beer. Simon was the grill-master of the barbecue, grilling up delicious sausages... and this is where the challenges began.
My birthday challenges.
It started out with the bunny ears. Auntie Mike said he had a present for me, and came down with a pair of fuzzy pink light up bunny ears and said I had to wear them all night. Well, fine. I'll rock the bunny ears. Then Simon yells, "Hey, Kate! I have a challenge for you!" and points to a 2 foot long sausage on the grill. Everyone starts laughing, like, "There's no way this girl could eat all that."
This girl did eat all that. I ate a two foot sausage... and this was just the beginning.
The bunny ears are nothing, and I dominated that barbecue... so why stop? Katrina, Leanne, Craig, and Auntie Mike then dedicated themselves to coming up with 21 challenges/funny things for me to do before midnight on my birthday. Some of these challenges were embarrassing, like singing "Happy Birthday" to myself in front of a crowd like Marilyn Monroe or getting a girls phone number. Some were just funny and odd, like getting someone to buy me a shot of milk and shadow walking someone down the street. All challenges were completed though, with just a few minutes to spare. It was definitely the best birthday ever.
Jim and I also went up to Blarney for a day and walked all around the Blarney Castle. The property is absolutely beautiful, which was almost spoiled by some jerks who left their garbage all over the ground and I picked it up for them. We climbed all the way to the top of the castle to kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Legend has it if you kiss the stone, you will be blessed with the gift of gab. If you have never seen a picture of how you're supposed to kiss the stone, please look it up to understand this. It was absolutely terrifying. I sit down, and this lovely old man holds me as I lean back to kiss it.
"Oh no, my love, you have to lean back much farther! It's the stone all the way at the bottom!"
Now, I hadn't eaten all day and I was already feeling very panicky and dizzy. Lean back even more? Ah, NOW I'm completely aware that I am sitting over a hole in a ridiculously tall, crumbling castle and leaning back through the hole upside-down with just my poor arm strength on the bars and an old man holding me from my death. If he chose that moment to have a heart attack, I'd fall straight to my death. I kissed the Blarney Stone though, so maybe now I'll be an even smoother talker.
They had a sign post with the difference between "Baloney" and "Blarney," which was pretty hysterical: "Baloney is telling a 50 year old woman she looks like she's 18. Blarney is asking a woman how old she is so you know at what age women are most beautiful." Blarney is laying it on thin enough where everyone loves it, baloney is laying it on thick enough where everyone hates it.
Ireland was absolutely beautiful. Cork is a lovely town, and Blarney was the perfect image of rolling green. It was nice to see green for the first time in a while. Natural green. If I had to sum up Ireland in one word though? Beer.
The conclusion is simple. Ireland: Conquered. Family style.
Some friends from the hostel! From left to right: Jim, me, Auntie Mike, Katrina, Franziska, Benjamin, and Sven in the front.