Galway, Ireland

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If my grandmother could see the tea shop I’m sitting in right now she would cry from happiness. Why? Because the entire place is the dream of anyone who loves Victorian things. As my Couchsurfing host told me yesterday, “Everything is covered in flowers.” The name of the shop is Cupan Tae, and it’s pretty well known in the city, from what I can tell. That doesn’t take away any of the magic, though. There is classic 1920’s music playing in the background, and the room is small and cozy with baby chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. I love it.

I do have a bit of a bias, though, because the staff is using their charger to charge my phone, because I brought the wrong adaptor, and it died last night. Which means my ability to tell where I am or what time it is died with it. The shop is lovely, though, and it’s reminding me how much I miss small tea shops. Or just anything small and quiet. Small doesn’t really seem to exist in Paris and it kind of breaks my heart. Sitting here, I’m also realizing just how much tea I drink. I think I have a mild addiction.

Yesterday was so beautiful because I arrived on one of those rare winter days that’s sunny and not really cold. My Couchsurfing hosts were a couple (she was German, he was Irish) who took me on a much needed walk along the sea. I needed sea air so much. After our walk we jumped into this little restaurant, and I had the absolute best apple crumble. I don’t know why I always seem to be eating dessert when I travel. Believe me, it’s only when I’m traveling.

My Irish host reminded me so much of my grandpa, that it kind of made me homesick. You have to understand, my grandpa (every bit the stereotype of his Irish blood) is a storyteller to surpass all others. He can walk down the street, or go the grocery store, and come back with tales of daring deeds, near death experiences and his ultimate conquer of all feats. That being said, he is a quiet man. But when it’s time for a story, the whole room falls silent. We all know half the facts are exaggerated and that some things probably never even happened, but that’s okay. Its understood by the listeners that THAT is what makes the stories worth listening too. That’s how the stories are used to make you laugh, cry or want to venture out into the world and conquer it.

In the same way that some people learn to sing by their family being musical, I learned to tell stories from sitting and listening to my grandfather spin tales. Yesterday was very much like that. Everything we walked by had a story. Half of them probably weren’t true, but all of them were welcome. The best part was the thrown in profanities throughout the stories, which seemed not only natural but completely necessary – there were a lot of: “Christ almighty” “Shite” and “Fucking hell”. (I’m not swearing on my blog, mom – I’m quoting someone).

This weekend was so incredibly needed. I’ve felt so stale in Paris, and now I just want to curl up and write a hundred stories with a giant pot of tea. There’s something about coming back to this country, and something about being near the sea, that energizes and revitalizes me. In a way that no other place can.

The first time I came to Ireland I thought it would be that way when I traveled anywhere, but now that I’ve traveled so much more I’m realizing that’s just not the case. This is the exception, not the rule. I think my Couchsurfing host said it the best yesterday: “Sometimes, you just have a deeper connection with the land. I’ve traveled around, but I never feel as much as peace as I do in Ireland.”

I’m already planning my trip back in the spring\summer. I can’t wait.

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Berlin: Day 3

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I absolutely love football. No, not American. There is no tackling involved (at least not by the rules of the game). I mean the original football. You know, the one where you use your feet.

The last couple of years have been a revolutionary time for me. A lot changed, and a lot of things I had loved, but had suppressed in order to please other people, finally were allowed to flourish. Football was one of them.

Growing up I wasn’t allowed to play or really even watch sports, so I’m not a diehard fan; the culture is just not something I grew up with. But even as a kid I insisted on always playing “soccer” at recess. Yes, I loved the game, but I’d be lying if I didn’t also say I loved that I was taller than most of the kids my age, and could run like a horse (then everyone got their damn growth spurts). Oh, and I’m actually totally OK with the parental decision to keep me out of sports as a kid. It just wasn’t something we did, and my life has been none the worst for it.

BUT.
When I walk into a stadium and know there’s about to be a football game, I get the dumbest grin on my face. I bounce my legs up and down to the bass of the home team entry music, and my heart starts beating faster as I balance on the edge of my seat; all of these things occur completely subconsciously. But today, for the first time, I noticed them; and I thought, “Damn. You’d think I was in love or something.” And then I realized: I am.

Like I said, mine is a bit of a blind love, I don’t have favorite teams (although some loyalties – LETS GO SOUNDERS!) and I don’t know the names of every player and every statistic. If I’m perfectly honest, most of the time, I don’t care who wins – as long as it’s a good game. And today – today was a GOOD game.

If you follow football (or are a living, breathing human) you probably know that this year was the World Cup. And the victor, with seemingly little effort, was the German team.

Going to a European football match had already been on my bucket list for a while before Germany’s street cred went up exponentially so, needless to say, when I found out there was a Berlin v. Hamburg game happening today, I jumped (literally)at the opportunity.

But I had no idea how great it would actually be. Those moments when the home team made 1-2-3 goals made that game easily chart on the list of ‘Best events of my life’. If you’ve ever been to a German football match, you’ll know why. Watching felt like an honor.
Sitting amongst those fans – from young to old – I realized these people weren’t just half consciously at a game, they were living as part of a 90 minute event! And even though it seems like a clean defeat (at 3-0 favoring the home team), the game was neck to neck until the end.

Maybe it was all of the German blood stirring, or maybe it was just loving the game, but over the course of 90 minutes the people who walked into that stadium as strangers, left as friends. We sang together, drank out of plastic beer steins, chanted the whole 90 minutes and half froze in the frigid weather. But we laughed the whole packed out metro ride afterward, even though we couldn’t move because of overcrowding. It didn’t matter that some of us were speaking English and the rest German. We had witnessed a victory, and we left that field waving flags and carrying ourselves just a little bit taller because of it.

I honestly feel so honored, happy and moved that I got to experience the game today. It was the kind of thing that makes you feel like your life has been changed, even though you’ve only been sitting in a chair for an hour and a half. All I can say is: my heart is so full.

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